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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 29 June

Today's Questions concern: Dover Samuels – Korea – Business Confidence x 2 – Tibet – Possums – Immunisation – ERB and Confidence - Youth Crime – Tony Blair’s Policies – Student Loans – University Deficits - Employment Committee Deliberations.

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, 29 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.


Question 1.

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

Q: Why does she believe it was all right for Mr Dover Samuels to be Minister of Maori Affairs for six months while his past was not generally known, but not all right once the information was increasingly public?

A: Because I have made a judgment that he cannot now be effective as a minister.

Q: Does she agree with the Maori Council quote that she sat on the issue?

A: No one sat on anything. The Labour Party did its best to deal with the matter internally. But the matter was known by the police from January.

Q: Was the police investigation in January February the same as that now?

A: No. That was mainly about threats to the minister. The fact that they were not concerned about Samuels criminality of the time indicates that they will probably clear him.

Question 2.

Chris Carter (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: What information did he receive on his recent visit to South Korea on the implications for New Zealand of this month's summit between President Kim Dae-jung and Chairman Kim Jong-il?

A: During my visit I had discussions on the recent North South summit. The cooperation between the North and South after 55 years of tensions signals a welcome reduction in prospects for future conflict. Engagement with North Korea also assists with Human Rights issues and disarmament issues. The more constructive approach by North Korea provides the basis to step up contacts with North Korea. I will meet with a North Korean minister at an ASEAN forum next month and will discuss this. I will certainly be raising the issues of human rights and weapons testing with North Korea.

Q: What changes is he looking for from North Korea?

A: The changes we would look to are changes in relation to Human Rights. Prison camps, detention centres and executions are a worry. There are also the economic problems that have led thousands to starvation.

Question 3.

Rodney Hide (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What responsibility does he take for the expected drop in business confidence that has been reported in the Independent Business Weekly as likely to be at the "lowest level in the (National Bank's) survey's history" with its Chief Economist saying the June results due out tomorrow were "horrendous" and "diabolical"?

A: Much of the drop in confidence is due to interest rates and rising transport costs, neither of which are in the Government’s control.

Q: Did he ever think that his policies would have the same impact on confidence as the crash of 1987?

A: No, I am confident that other material coming up soon will show growth in line with forecasts in the budget. The government has been engaging in a dialogue with business, and the returns in the latter part of the confidence survey are more positive. One of the interesting things in all these surveys is the difference between what people expect for themselves, and what they expect for the economy. So far ACT and National haven’t been able to create a recession.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): What are his views on the inflammatory language used in the survey?

A: I am always pleased to see economists using the full range of the English Language.

Question 4.

Hon. Bill English (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: How does he rate the success of his Government's bridge building with business given the expectation of "horrendous" and "diabolical" findings in the National Bank business confidence survey to be released tomorrow?

A: The survey was conducted before the budget, before good economic indicators, and before the latest round of discussions between business had taken place. I will be happy if the economy grows on the basis of export led growth rather than the unsustainable consumer led growth that took place under the previous government.

Q: How should the survey be interpreted?

A: There are differences between what people expect for themselves, and what they expect for the economy. It is also true to say that there were factors in late 1999 which were always going to see some slow down in the domestic sector this year.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Does the Minister accept that part of the problem is the ERB?

A: The member should not believe columnists in business newspapers. He should look to his own letters to business for part of the reason for the loss of confidence. It is certainly the Government’s position that the ERB will be good for all NZers who have the economy at heart. It will therefore be bad for the National Party.

Question 5.

Keith Locke (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff :

Q: What is the Government's position on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee's recommendation to the House last September requesting "the Government to convey to the Chinese Government New Zealand's request for negotiations with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to take place on autonomy arrangements for Tibet"?

A: The government has consistently urged China to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama. This has been raised on numerous occasions officially by me, once at the UN.

Q: Does he agree that Tibet is occupied by China?

A: I think it is important to realise that not even the Dalai Lama describes Tibet in that way. We and the Dalai Lama are promoting improved autonomy not independence. The experiences of Tibet are quite different from that of East Timor. China has had greater and lesser control over Tibet for a long time. I note that the Dalai Lama himself does not seek independence for Tibet.

Question 6.

Bob Simcock (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Was Mr Bill Gallagher correct when he was reported as saying in this morning's Dominion that the Government is frightened of big business, promoting smaller fry such as "possum pluckers" instead?

A: Mr Gallagher is a talented businessman. However I have to disagree with him on this point. While the government is supportive of small business it is also a supporter of big and medium sized business. I meet often with big business and am positively received.

Q: Will he listen to Bill Gallagher when he says that what he needs is a flexible labour market and low corporate taxes to create jobs?

A: This government is committed to a job rich economy. But it is not a case of jobs at any price. The ECA is based around the idea of driving down the incomes of workers. The Government wants to compete on the basis of innovation – not on the basis of low wages. I agree that businesses at the cutting edge of technology like Snowy Peak leads us to better development than we had under the previous government. I have sent to the ACT party one of the products of the possum company. I Rodney Hide he likes it. This government will produce more jobs than the previous government thought of doing in its whole life. I have seen a report in the SST where Max Bradford stated that his thinking isn’t too far away from the industry development policies of this government. I would like to thank Mr Bradford for his support.

Question 7.

Taito Phillip Field (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to improve immunisation rates?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) It is disheartening to hear of a whooping cough epidemic in the Waikato. This government will work towards a 95% immunisation rates. Immunisation is a critical issue for our government. I am deeply concerned that between 1992 and 1996 the gap between PI and other children has widened from 10% to 19%. A similar gap has grown between Maori and other children under the previous government.

Q: Why are their no hard targets in the health strategy document?

A: As the former Minister may know this is a discussion document. (To a Green Party question) Issues relating to mercury in vaccines are of concern to the government and will be subject to review. The health strategy identifies immunisation as a key goal. This government wants to meet the target of 95% by 2002 or sooner.

Question 8.

Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: With the slump in business and consumer confidence attributable in part to Government policy, what changes is she proposing to the Employment Relations Bill that will restore confidence and lead to businesses staying and investing in New Zealand?

A: At this stage of the bills process it is a responsibility of the Select Committee to report back any issues that are issues of confidence.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National): How does she plan to make sure there are sufficient changes to the bill?

A: I will give due and appropriate consideration to the report of the select committee which I am sure will address the issues addressed by the member. Consumer and Business confidence is of course influenced by a range of factors such as the millennium, interest rates and petrol prices. However I also note that more than half of those surveyed expect their personal circumstances to improve over the coming year.

Q: What will she do to restore confidence?

A: A few recent examples signaled in the budget include the industry and regional development strategy, investment in education and investment in research and development.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): How will he encourage NZers to stay here and contribute?

A: The ERB is based on the premise that productivity improves when employers and employees work together. The most important part of the bill is the bit that ensures people are consulted and that all issues of employment conditions are negotiated.

Q: Lockwood Smith: Why are we told at the Select Committee that changes to the bill are issues of Government policy?

A: Not being a member of the Select Committee I have no knowledge of the discussions there. As Minister of Labour I follow due process and I understand it is up to the committee to express its view.

Question 9.

Janet Mackey (Labour) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Did the Budget provide funding for youth crime initiatives; if so, what are those initiatives?

A: The recent budget introduced a range of initiatives. The $3.3 million package includes boosting youth aid staff by 27. Increasing youth at risk programmes to a further five locations. And providing an additional five non-sworn police staff to work on at risk programmes.

Q: Brian Neeson (National): Does the minister believe that $3 million is going to be enough?

A: I have to say it is over three million more than the last government provided. It will lead to 500 fewer victims of crime over the first three years.

Q: Has he talked to front-line police about problems related to the lowering of the drinking age?

A: Yes I have, and most are supportive of the new laws. There is general recognition in NZ and overseas that the Family Group Conference is the appropriate way to deal with youth crime.

Question 10.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she still feel that you "couldn't fit a slice of bread between us" when referring to the policies of her Government and the Blair Government?

A: The general philosophical positioning of the two parties are very similar. Each however has policies reflecting the circumstances of their own country.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Why is her government abolishing bulk funding of schools just as it is being introduced in the UK?

A: I have referred to similar positioning by the two parties. The policies that will be followed will reflect the circumstances faced in their respective countries.

Q: Jim Anderton (Alliance): Is she aware of a UK People’s Bank initiative?

A: I am aware that the Blair government is opening a “Universal” bank through its post offices. That is close of course to what our government is doing with its People’s Bank proposal.

Q: Nick Smith (National) Is the People’s Bank now a Labour Party initiative?

A: I want to give full credit for this initiative to Jim Anderton.

(Nick Smith – leave to table document – refused.)

Question 11.

Nanaia Mahuta (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What advice has he recently received on the student loan scheme?

A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) I have recently seen the report of the Auditor General. This report raises significant concerns, many that need to be looked into. One is the lack of research into the intended and unintended consequences of the scheme, for example whether the scheme impacts on decisions to have children. In the short time we have been in government we have halved fees to dentistry students, held interest rates low, and got rid of interest on student loans during study.

Q: If the government is committed to lowering the burden of student debt, why is $283 million of extra borrowing by students provided for in the budget?

A: A significant proportion of that reflects improved access to education and I will not be apologising for that.

Question 12.

Stephen Franks (ACT) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: In addition to Massey and Victoria Universities, which have publicly announced looming deficits and staff cuts, what are the other six tertiary institutions in financial difficulty and what advice has he received on the impact of competition on tertiary institutions?

A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) The competitive policies of the previous government are responsible for this. The member can view the 1999 annual reports and draw his own conclusions.

Q: The minister has not answered the question. What are the institutions? And Can the minister assure us that the ability to compete for students will not be denied to Canterbury and Otago?

A: I have referred the member to where that information is publicly available. This government is working closely with institutions to maintain security of service. I would acknowledge the efforts of Georgina Beyer in assisting with Wairarapa Polytechnic in particular.

Thursday, 29 June 2000

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Employment and Accident Insurance Legislation Committee Graham Kelly:

Q: Given the Minister of Labour's statement that it was over to the select committee whether to allow people who gave evidence on the Employment Relations Bill to comment on the effect of any amendments, can he advise whether the committee will enable those who gave evidence to comment on the effect of any amendments?

A: That is a matter for the committee.

Q: Is he going to ensure the committee will enable people to comment on the amendments? And if not why not?

A: The member will know that what happens in the Select Committee remains within the committee until it is reported back. I do not intend to breach standing orders.

Q: Has he discussed this with Margaret Wilson?

A: I heard the minister two days ago answer a question on this. As she said she has confidence in the Select Committee.


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