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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 14 June 2000

Today's Questions concern: Truth In Sentencing - School Zoning And Balloting- Budget Growth Forecasts - Immigrant Doctors - Maori Spectrum And Quest Communications - Bulk Funding - Government Procurement - R&D Taxation - Highway Patrol - ILO Conventions - Road Safety - Immigrant Doctors.

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 14 June 2000

The following are paraphrases of today's questions for oral answer. They are not complete or official, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings is Hansard, which is not finalised some days after the event.


SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS

Question 1.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Has he given consideration to policies for advancing truth in sentencing and appropriate application of preventive detention to prevent rape and murder by paroled prisoners?

A: Yes I have. The bill is flawed. Preventative detention can be used to protect the community in appropriate circumstances.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Do we have enough prisons for rape and murder recidivists?

A: There will always be enough room in our prisons for rapists and murderers.

Q: What would be the cost of Truth in Sentencing?

A: $800 million to $1 billion. That is amazing coming from a party that also wants a $5 billion tax cut.

Question 2.

Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What is the purpose of requiring state-funded schools to ballot for pupil places?

A: The current system takes the decisions out of the hands of parents and puts them in the hands of principals. Balloting ensures that the parents, not the schools, drive the decisions for selection of out of zone students to the 18% of schools to which this applies. The bill requires also that special character schools select in a fair and transparent manner.

Q: Nick Smith (National): How will education by lotto help close the gaps? In fact isn't all it will do, is drive up real estate prices in some areas?

A: The zoning arrangements here give effect to the policy described by Wyatt Creech but not implemented.

Question 3.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Treasurer Michael Cullen:

Q: Will the Budget economic forecasts be consistent with the sharp reduction in annual average growth forecast over the next year by both Business and Economic Research Ltd and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research?

A: Treasury budget forecasts will be released with the budget tomorrow.

Q: Does the Minister believe these forecasters are wrong to draw a relationship between business confidence and growth?

A: I notice a number of positive indicators at present including manufacturing and export growth. As with a similar loss of confidence in Australia I expect its impact to be shortlived, as the strength of the economy shows through.

Q: Are the forecasters wrong?

A: As the member knows there is a connection between confidence and growth, but it is by no means one on one. The confidence cycle goes up and down far more frequently than the growth cycle.

Question 4.

JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Why is the Government spending $11.8 million on retraining overseas doctors who were granted residency between 1991 and 1995?

A: Around 500 doctors were allowed into the country to practice in that period who found they could not do so. For two years after the problem was noticed nothing was done, it took a further two years to prepare a scheme. A scheme was about to be put in place last year, but there was no agreement.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Given that the money is the same as that announced by the previous government, why did she put this out as a Budget 2000 initiative?

A: Because while an announcement was made by the previous government no provision was made to fund it. It is estimated that around 300 doctors will apply. I cannot guarantee all will in the end be registered. They will have to go through a two part training programme before they can practice.

Q: What is being done about the doctor shortage?

A: We have reduced the cost of tertiary training. We are also exploring ways to assist doctors in business, and we have announced a rural subsidy of $7.5 million.

Q: How can the minister claim this was not funded by the last government when it was appropriated, and included in the Prefu?

A: While the previous government made an announcement, no money was put aside for it.

(Wyatt Creech - leave to table a report from the Minister of Health concerning funding - granted.)

Question 5.

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Sammuels:

Q: What measures does he have planned to close the gaps for Maori?

A: The closing the gaps package, which will contain plans for across the sector, will be announced tomorrow.

Q: Will part of that be an agreement involving Quest Communications to distribute some benefits from the Spectrum arrangement, but only to those on the Maori electoral role?

A: I am pleased that member has concerns about closing the gaps. I have no knowledge about any agreement involving the Maori Council and Quest Communications.

Q: Has he announced anything concerning Maori Land?

A: I have announced a boost in services to Maori land owners so they can utilise their own land better. There will be real measures in the budget for Maori education.

(Williamson - seeks leave to ask question to acting Minister of Communications - refused first - and then allowed.)

Q: Maurice Williamson (National): Question about Quest asked to Acting Minister of Communications?

A: Trevor Mallard: The proposal mentioned was turned down very quickly. A month ago.

(Maurice Williamson - leave to table a document - granted.)

Question 6.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Will he take steps to secure the employment of permanent over-entitlement staff in bulk-funded schools following the abolition of bulk-funding; if not, why not?

A: Schools have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the use of bulk funded money, and about what will happen if they fall short of enough money to pay all their teachers. I have undertaken to assure the employment of teachers who fall outside of the budget's for some schools. I am not prepared however to bail out schools who have hired staff in an inappropriate fashion.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Is it fair to breach contracts with schools and then to hold those schools responsible for breach of employment contracts? And was it him that the Michael Cullen was referring to when he accused someone of having a Robert Mugabe approach to contract law?

A: To the second part. No. I would like to thank Helen Duncan for her assistance in finding a solution to this problem.

Question 7.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What contribution does the Industrial Supplies Office's function of assisting Government departments to purchase New Zealand-made goods and services make to promoting employment and reducing the merchandise trade deficit?

A: A BERL report says that for each $1 million of imports a substitute of NZ goods would create 18.7 jobs. It also reduces the trade deficit.

Q: Why then is the Ministry of Commerce not using this section in its own department?

A: I have urged all departments to use the office where-ever possible. There is significant potential to thereby lower the trade deficit. I have recently received correspondence from Auckland Health asking for help on how they can purchase NZ Made. The Economic Development Ministry will be helping them with this. I do not believe the previous government got the best out of the office and we intend to get a better return.

Question 8.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:

Q: Is it Government policy to "allow all research and development expenditure, for tax purposes, to be eligible for full expensing in the year of investment"?

A: There are many ways to skin a cat and we have found a somewhat better one.

Q: What has been the response from small businesses?

A: The scheme has received considerable support from small businesses, especially those in the startup phase. This is to be contrasted with the previous government who did not try to skin the cat.

Q: Gerard Eckhoff (ACT): Why is the government now accepting Treasury advice when usually they ignore it?

A: The primary advice here came from IRD. I also have reason to believe that the Minister of Finance does not always accept Treasury advice.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): Isn't this a broken promise?

A: Compared with the promise to repeal the surcharge, no ifs, no buts, no maybes, this is not even in the same league.


Question 9.

CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Why did the Government decide to introduce a highway patrol?

A: The government is introducing the Highway Patrol in order to reduce the unacceptable level of deaths on our roads.

Q: Has he seen any reports on the initiative?

A: I have seen numerous reports applauding the decision. The AA response is notable. However I notice that the Opposition spokesman Brian Neeson has had nothing positive to say about this initiative, and just says he wants there to be more police on the beat. I advise the member to read the budget tomorrow. We have achieved more in six months than the previous government achieved in nine years.


Question 10.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

(Leave sought to postpone question - refused.)

Q: Does the Government intend to enable New Zealand to observe fully the International Labour Organisation Conventions 87 and 98 with respect to freedom of association; if not, why not?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) The ERB currently under consideration clearly states that as a principal it is intended that those conventions will be followed.

Q: Is the government going to "ratify" the conventions?

A: The ILO has looked at the bill and has welcomed the bill following a preliminary assessment.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green) How can the government reconcile its support of 87, without providing the right to sympathy strikes as asked for by the CTU?

A: The government's position is clear on this, there will be no provision for sympathy strikes. This has been explained to the ILO by the Minister of Labour.

Q: Yes or no. Will it be ratified?

A: The question has been answered. It is clear we intend to bring ourselves into line with those conventions.

Question 11.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What is the Government doing to improve safety on New Zealand's roads?

A: Too many people are killed and injured on our roads. We will fund a comprehensive road safety package. We will provide greater education, a highway patrol, increased emphasis on breath testing and community programmes. We believe education is as important enforcement.

Q: Have photo drivers licenses worked?

A: I agree that policies implemented by the previous government have worked. However targets have not been reached and that is why more resources are being put in.

Q: Will he educate Auckland's speeding truckies?

A: Driver education and training needs to be enhanced. The Highway Patrol will concentrate on highways and motorways.

Q: Are their plans to inject more money into road funding?

A: I know that that member will be joining the queue to congratulate the government tomorrow on its provision to Transfund.

Question 12.

Rt Hon WYATT CREECH to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What are the differences between the retraining package for overseas doctors announced pre-Budget last week and the package which the National-led Government announced last year?

A: The most important difference is that we got agreement from the doctors. After the member announced his programme the overseas doctors said the programme was ambiguous and hasty.

Q: Will the government assist young doctors with crippling student debts?

A: We should not play one lot of NZ doctors against another group of NZ doctors who have been forced to be on unemployment.

Q: How long do we think the supply of unregistered foreign doctors will last?

A: Not very long at all. We need workforce planning to ensure we have enough doctors. The market does not provide doctors, supply requires planning.

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