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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - June 22

Today's Questions concern: WHO Report – West Coast Package – Dover Samuels – MFAT And GE Survey - Dover Samuels – WHO Report – Fisheries Commissioners – ACT Allegations – ERB Success – Skill Shortages – State House Sales – E-Commerce.

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, 22 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

Questions to Ministers

Question 1.

Hon. Ken Shirley (ACT) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Does she accept the overall findings of the latest World Health Report 2000 released by the World Health Organisation this week, including the rating of our health system at 41st; if not, why not?

A: I have seen the report and while some may dispute some of the findings, this is a wakeup call to NZ. This is not good enough. Obviously the approach in the past has failed.

Q: (ACT) Does she accept the findings that many countries discount the value of private providers?

A: This report says that NZ’s health system is 41st in the world after embarking down a policy aimed at privatising health. This is a clear indication that we need to rebalance health policy. Key issues identified in the report are areas where we have outlined in our commitments in the budget. We are not weakening responsibilities and accountabilities. We are strengthening them. Even in this last year we have had four major safety problems. The top health performer in this report is France. The US did not come out very well at all.

Question 2.

Damien O'Connor (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: How will the West Coast package, signed yesterday, contribute to a positive future for the West Coast?

A: The package will enable investment in businesses exploiting the natural advantages in the region.

Q: How was the report received?

A: Reports show the package was received in a cordial manner marking the beginning of a new relationship. We are working on the SILNA issue and we would like to resolve it. I am quite sure the governance relationships will not allow the package to be used for the promotion of the road that the member (Rod Donald – Green) has in mind. Jobs will follow after the trust is up and running and investments are made.

Q: Does he believe this will increase state dependency?

A: I certainly believe it is important to preserve NZ’s indigenous forests on the Crown estate. There is no other region with large unprotected crown forests. This is not described as compensation.


Question 3.

Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: When she said yesterday that the Minister of Maori Affairs raised with her in January of this year the allegation of sexual impropriety, did he also raise with her the matters that he now refers to as "blackmail"; if not, when did she become aware of the "blackmail" allegations?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) The issue of threats was there from the outset.

Q: Why was it not referred to the Police then?

A: For the same reasons the other matters weren’t. If the member hasn’t received threats then he is very lucky.

Question 4.

Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Is it appropriate for New Zealand diplomatic posts to be distributing a questionnaire which asks "How organised are the opponents of GE in your country? Please describe in some detail their tactics, methods of operation, political connections, etc., and rate their effectiveness."; if so, why?

A: (Matt Robson on behalf) No it would not be appropriate for diplomatic representatives to distribute such a survey . The questionnaire was distributed by Trade New Zealand on behalf of a client – Life Sciences Network.

Q: Does he think the use of diplomatic letterhead is appropriate?

A: I was confused by this and I think it is a practice that should be reviewed.

Q: Did Trade NZ support the aims of the client?

A: Trade NZ does the job according to the client. It is not really a question.

Q: Is the minister aware of the vital importance of gene technologies to NZ’s economy? Or is policy driven by the need to maintain Green Party support?

A: Since the Industrial Revolution I have been aware of the importance of technology. The Government is undertaking a Royal Commission to determine the viability of these technologies.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): With regards to the statement from Jim Sutton yesterday – which exporters were assisted by this questionnaire?

A: I can’t say.

Question 5.

Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Is it correct that in January this year the only actions she took as Prime Minister in relation to the allegations involving Hon Dover Samuels, were to seek and accept an assurance from him; if so, were these actions consistent with her statement in April 1999 that "The Labour Government will set new standards - both in terms of behaviour and performance"?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) The action I took was to seek an assurance that criminal offending had not occurred. I was given that assurance.

Q: Is that the new standard of performance and behaviour of the Labour Government? And does the PM accept that her first concern should have been for the woman victim?

A: If the PM believed every allegation of sexual misconduct by members of Parliament then half this Parliament would be in prison right now.

Question 6.

Judy Keall (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: According to the World Health Report 2000, how does the New Zealand health system compare internationally?

A: The news is not good. This is the first time such a comparison has been made. At number 41 NZ has fallen significantly below lots of countries, just ahead of Croatia and behind Cuba.

Q: What was WHO’s assessment based on?

A: The WHO assessment was based on five indicators. The indicators were benchmarked. And the aims expressed in the report are exactly what this government is seeking to achieve.

Q: (Green) Should we invest heavily on preventative health measures and on creating a healthy environment?

A: Yes. We want as many NZers to have access to health care as possible.

Question 7.

Hon. Georgina te Heuheu (National) to the (Acting) Minister of Mâori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: Can he give an assurance that there will be no further delays in appointing the new Commissioners to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission?

A: There is no intention to delay the process. I am seeking advice from officials on completion of the process. I plan to fulfil the appointments consistent with the proper administration of the government’s business.

Q: How many existing commissioners will lose their positions?

A: Because the due process is not completed I cannot give the names or a specific date. I can only give an assurance that due process will be followed. I understand no formal recommendations have been made by Minister Samuels.

A: Winston Peters (NZ First): Will the appointees know something about business and something about fishing?

A: Those are definitely two parts of a whole range of skills that will be needed.

Question 8.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Having regard to written question No 10307 (2000), in the name of Rodney Hide, has any ACT member lodged with her office or any of her Ministers, allegations of a criminal offence against a Labour member other than the matter discussed in Parliament yesterday; if so, what action has she taken?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I am not aware of any such correspondence being received by me or any other minister.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) What then is this matter sitting on the order paper since June 6th?

A: I am advised that the PM is not aware of any criminal allegations being made in relation to that matter or any other matter.

Q: Can I ask the PM whether she intends to approach the ACT Party to clear the names of Labour members?

A: The PM does not put great weight on allegations made by the ACT party.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): If ACT does approach her with information will she undertake not to leak to the media?

A: I doubt the PM could beat the ACT party in leaking.


Question 9.

Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What specific and measurable outcomes will she use to judge the success of the Employment Relations Bill by, and within what timetable?

A: I don’t consider that simplistic measures are an appropriate way to assess the success of the bill. As part of the normal activities of the Department of Labour we will assess the development of case law and the use of services provided for under the bill.

Q: Max Bradford (National): Will she assess it on the basis of the level of violence as quoted in Grace Magazine?

A: The reference to violence in that magazine was in relation to the general levels of stress in the community and in particular to the casualisation of work and the stress that has placed on families.

Q: Would the level of stoppages be one level of success?

A: Undoubtedly that will be one of many measures.

Q: Is another criteria likely to be the estimated $4- $5 million increase in compliance costs under the ERB and should these be taken into account in wage settlements?

A: I will try to reduce compliance costs. One of the real tragedies of the previous government’s policy was the lack of commitment to researching and assessing the performance of the ECA. That is what we will be doing with the ERB – monitoring it.

(Max Bradford – leave to table article from Grace – refused.)

Question 10.

Mita Ririnui (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What is the Government doing to address skills shortages?

A: Skill shortages reflect neglect over the past decade. We will invest $281 million. We will invest in literacy, transition programmes and apprenticeships. The introduction of modern apprenticeships will take people through to levels three and four of the qualifications frame work. We are working closely with unions and employers on this.

Q: Maurice Williamson (National): Does the Minister accept that the major shortage of skills is in the life sciences?

A: I share the members concern and applaud the way he has championed that cause. We would like to put funding behind life sciences and move it away from the arts as that member suggests. There has been a positive reaction to the programmes announcement. The government is concerned about NZers training here, and then moving overseas. I have asked for work to be done on this.


Question 11.

Hon. John Luxton (National) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:

Q: Does the Government intend to sell any State houses or is there a permanent freeze on State house sales?

A: (Steve Maharey on behalf) There are currently around 59,000 HNZ properties. We intend to increase the number of properties. We will not sell more than 10,000 properties by the year 2002 as the previous government was planning.

Q: Why then is the government selling 30 state houses in Huntly?

A: I want to confirm on behalf of the Minister that it is this government’s intention to increase the number of houses not sell them. The previous government reduced the supply of housing by 11,000 homes. Because of this sell off we need to increase the number of homes to those seriously in need.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green) Has the minister discussed providing low interest low deposit mortgages?

A:: Can I invite the member to talk to the Minister on that issue.

Q: Why was the home buy scheme ended?

A: We ended it because we could not afford to continue to reduce the state housing stock.

Q: Is it responsible to sell these houses in Huntly when they are damaged?

A: Can I confirm to that member that the Minister of Housing is presently consulting with two other ministers on this issue.

(John Luxton – leave sought to table advertisement for housing – refused.)

Question 12.

David Cunliffe (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to promote e-commerce in New Zealand?

A: The house will be delighted to learn that we have a four pronged strategy for this. The government has dedicated over $11 million towards e-commerce development. This is very good news for exporters. Extra funding for Trade New Zealand will help small and medium exporters. The strategy plans to educate and deliver services to exporters.

Q: Maurice Williamson (National): Is the government going to lead in this area? And is there one initiative in this area that wasn’t proposed under the previous government.

A: The Trade NZ initiative was not one thought of by the previous government. I agree with the need to provide leadership, unfortunately the previous government got tied up in gadgets.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): What relationship is there between e-commerce and parallel importing?

A: There is a relationship and we will be coming back with some robust suggestions on this in due course.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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