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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 5 July

Today's Questions concern: Grant Gillon – East Timor – Auckland Healthcare – Industry Development – ERB Changes – Armed Personnel Carriers – Varroa Bee Mite x 2 – Quit Smoking Programmes – Youth Minimum Wage – Maori Spectrum – Heritage and Culture Policy - Transmission Gully - Employment Committee x 2

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 5 July 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.


Questions to Ministers

Question 1.

Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Prime Minister Grant Gillon:

Q: In view of her statement that her Government "will set new standards - both in terms of behaviour and performance", will she support a motion to censure the Alliance Whip, Mr Grant Gillon, for his assertions of bestiality yesterday?

(Question cancelled by leave owing to the passage of a censure motion against Mr Gillon unanimously.)

Question 2.

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

Q: What issues will he be discussing with Xanana Gusmao during the East Timorese leader's official visit to New Zealand?

A: We will be discussing the role NZ can play in development. We will be discussing the constitution of East Timor. We will also be discussing defence, refugees and other issues.

Q: What are the plans for deployment of NZ Forces?

A: NZ contributed more than 1000 personnel originally. Now we have 660. We will be downsizing this force over time. The current mandate for the force runs till March 2001.

Q: What will happen after March?

A: The answer to that question depends on the situation in East Timor. Our feeling is that it will not deteriorate. We will be working with the Australians to develop a timetable for withdraw. I will be discussing this with Mr Gusmao.

Q: Will he apologise to Mr Gusmao?

A: I won’t be formally apologising. I think though that at various times made the wrong decisions on East Timor human rights have been taken by NZ Governments. I do not however expect East Timor to hold this against us and the rest of the world.

The CNRT is currently working through issues on the development of a new non-partisan Defence Force. The Falantil will probably make up the core of a new force. We might provide training and assistance to a new independent military force.

Over the last year we have provided $2 million of humanitarian aid and $2 million in governance development aid. We will continue to develop aid programmes in various areas with the East Timorese.

I know that Mr Gusmao is very grateful for the multi-party support to the action taken last year. I know he feels also very strongly about the lives of the two NZ army personnel lost in East Timor.

Question 3.

Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Can she confirm that Auckland Healthcare has not settled its funding agreement for the 2000/01 financial year because it is facing a $30 million funding cut on the previous year?

A: No. The member is wrong. In April he was wrong too.

Q: Given media reports are saying this is the cause of the problems. Can she confirm that the funding contract is not finished with A+ ?

A: An independent pricing review has been set up. The problem is that A+ does not agree with the pricing arrangements the previous Minister thought he had agreed last September – particularly over the adjuster. A previous Minister of Health Jenny Shipley said she was sick of negotiations taking place in public, perhaps the spokesman should take a leaf out of her book.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Is she concerned about safety concerns raised by nurses?

A: Both the HFA and Auckland Healthcare have been told that safety will not be compromised, and that this is not negotiable.

Q: What about pay demands of staff?

A: Negotiations continue on technical pricing. These will be negotiated with the HFA not the Minister of Health.

Q: If the price adjuster is the problem why does she not change it?

A: It is inappropriate for me to change this at this stage. We have to face up to the fact that at the moment we have to work with arrangements put into place by the previous government.

Question 4.

John Wright (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What response has there been to the announcement of industry development programmes to be implemented by Industry New Zealand?

A: There has been an overwhelmingly positive response. A phone line has had more than 200 calls since 6pm last night. The Wellington Chamber of Commerce says the programmes will make a “very big difference” and the Hutt City Mayor is also pleased. I heard a report that a former National Party Candidate Stuart Boag said the programmes are “certainly going to be helpful” and that they are “better than nothing” which is of course what the National Party did.

Q: How many jobs will be created?

A: When new businesses are established jobs will be created. Lots of new jobs will be created. None of them would have been if Richard Prebble and Jenny Shipley were still in Government. I have also seen a report in the Southland Times quoting Bill English saying that the National Party policy was clearly not supported by regional NZ. I welcome his support. Sustainable economic development is important for NZ. There will be a full monitoring programme focussed on these issues.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): Is this the Business Recovery package promised and how many jobs will be created?

A: Far more than the $10,000 pyramid scheme favoured by the ACT Party.

Q: What does the term pork barrel mean?

(Great laughter ensued….

Speaker – order do not answer the question.)

A: I would have said just look in the mirror.

Question 5.

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

( Max Bradford - leave to postpone question - refused.)

Q: Did she, at the Prime Minister's request, suggest changes to the Employment Relations Bill, as described in the Prime Minister's letter to business which says "There will be changes to the bill."?

A: (Laila Harre on behalf) As we have made clear since introduction our objective is legislation that is fair to both employers and employees. We have consulted widely. It is now up to the committee to consider the Labour Department’s report and Cabinet’s recommendations and then to report back the bill. The overriding objective of the bill remains the same. The bill recognises that relationships must be built on good faith behaviour and that there is an inherent power imbalance between employer and employee.

Question 6.

Ron Mark (NZ First) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: What is the current projected unit price of the new light armoured vehicles for the New Zealand Army?

A: (Phil Goff) There is at present no projected unit price as the Minister of Defence has not completed negotiations.

Q: Is his reluctance to share this information a price blowout?

A: There is no reluctance to share the information. The information is not yet available and won’t be until the best and final offer has been prepared. We do need new vehicles. Our M113s urgently need replacement. 8 out of 22 of them are unserviceable in East Timor. There is no secret that the vehicle used by the US, Canada and Irish is the preferred vehicle. And there are reasons for this.

(Rodney Hide - Leave to table the Defence Daily of October 1999 – granted.)

Question 7.

Hon. David Carter (National) to the Minister for Biosecurity Marian Hobbs :

Q: When will she make a decision on whether to eradicate or control the varroa bee mite?

A: A decision will be taken at a special meeting next Wednesday.

Q: Does the Minister appreciate that she needs practical cooperation of the industry? And does she know it is in favour of eradication?

A: Yes and yes. The delay in the decision will not affect any implementation. It is not a question of agreeing. It is a question of advice over whether eradication is technically feasible.

Q: Will she not concede that the Biosecurity portfolio is beyond her?

A: No.

Question 8.

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

Q: What steps is the Government taking to help people quit the smoking habit?

A: In addition to the $5 million a year set aside to assist Maori we have set aside another $6 million for nicotine replacement therapy for high to moderate smokers. Access will be determined through Quickline and GPs. A four week entitlement will be around the price of one packet of cigarettes. I expect the programme will be operational in time for a smoke free spring.

Q: Why haven’t more resources been put into stopping smoking programmes.

A: The money going in this year is more than at any time in this Parliament. Money also has to go into people affected by the costs of smoking on people’s health. I am proud of this money. The $20 million for Maori is over a four year period and the $6 million is also over four years – totalling $24 million. Around 48% of Maori smoke compared to 23% of the general population. It is appropriate that we supply assistance to Maori to give up smoking in an appropriate fashion.

Q: How much of this came from the Green Party?

A: Of the money $4 million came from the Green Party package topped up by $2.2 million from the Government.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): What assistance will be given to the mothers of Maori children who are not Maori.

A: They will be assisted if they are moderate to heavy smokers. This programme is open to any NZer who wants to quit. The main criteria is that they want to give up smoking.

(Keith Locke (Green) – Leave sought to table info on APC’s – refused.)

Question 9.

Gerrard Eckhoff to the Minister for Biosecurity Marian Hobbs:

Q: What criteria is the Government using to decide on whether to control or eradicate the varroa bee mite?

A: The criteria whether to eradicate or control is technical feasibility.

Q: Can she confirm that the criteria perpared for Australia meant that the incursion in Australia was replied to with eradication?

A: The incursion in Australia was of one bee swarm on a boat, not four years of established growth over half the North Island. It would make economic sense if it was feasible.

Q: What is the cost of eradication?

A: $50 to $70 million in the first instance. However that does not include the unquantified cost of eradication among feral bees. Overseas eradication has been attempted and has lasted four years and not worked.

Q: Is her indecision widening the problem?

A: Delay is not causing difficulty. The spread over winter months is likely to be minimal.

Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ): Can the minister say whether she is veering towards control or eradication?

A: We are considering both options and there are other proposals being put in front of us. Management is not doing nothing- it also has costs. It costs pollination and horticulture. Eradication costs taxpayers. MAF is looking at the costs of both very deeply.

Q: Who is the prime source of advice?

A: MAF and the Biosecurity Agency. They have gone out to discuss this with the industry, including beekeepers.

Question 10.

Sue Bradford to the Minister of Youth Affairs Laila Harre :

Q: What were the key findings of the Ministry of Youth Affairs' recent public consultation on the minimum youth wage?

A: The Ministry recently discussed these issues with employers. All major employers of young people were consulted. Most said that raising the minimum wage to 80% of the adult minimum wage would not affect their costs much, as they already paid over the youth minimum wage. A majority supported changes. Cabinet is yet to fully consider recommendations from myself and the Minister in this area.

It is not a state secret that Labour has some concerns in this area. I would like to meet concerns of my colleagues and have asked for options on the implementation on this to be prepared for me by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and DOL to discuss with my colleagues. The government has been very keen to avoid or mitigate any negative affects on employment of young people. In the end the government will have to decide whether maintaining youth rates is an ethical employment tool. I will be telling my colleagues that it isn’t.

The last significant minimum wage increase was in 1996, and as the member points out, the DOL models at the time suggested there would be an increase in unemployment, however none of the subsequent analysis has found this to have been the case in practice.

Question 11.

Hon. Maurice Williamson to the Minister of Mâori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: How will Maori benefit from the ownership of a management right of one-quarter of third generation radio spectrum?

A: It will provide immense opportunity for Maori to play a role in the information and technology fields.

Q: Will he give an assurance that benefits from this will be distributed to those at the bottom of the heap?

A: No one can give an absolute assurance but we are quite clear that we need to send the benefits to all Maori people.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Which article of the Treaty of Waitangi is this policy based on?

A: This activity is one that is encapsulated in all articles of the Treaty, in true partnership fashion. All Maori Government MPs were consulted over this decision. There was tough talking but a combined position was reached.

Question 12.

David Benson-Pope (Labour) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard:

Q: Why has the Government moved the History and Heritage Units from the Department of Internal Affairs to the Ministry for Culture and Heritage?

A: This government has set a goal that as NZers we value our heritage. The last government agreed in principle to merge these bodies. We agreed. The collection of cultural statistics will be transferred to the new department. It will also provide advice on broadcasting. It will be funded for these two new functions.

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Hon. Peter Dunne (United NZ) to the Chairperson of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee Harry Dynhoven:

Q: When will the committee consider my petition, co-signed by 24,155 others, calling on the Government to set aside the funding to enable the construction of the Transmission Gully highway?

A: Over its next two meetings it is considering two votes. It also has 12 petitions to consider. It will consider the members petition as soon as is possible, but will not commit to a time at this stage. If the member wishes to meet with me to discuss the committee’s workload I would happily do so.

Question 2.

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

Q: Can he give an indication of when the Employment Relations Bill is likely to be reported back to the House?

A: The committee is required to report to the house by 1 August?

Q: When will it be reported?

A: I can’t say what date because work is not finished. How long that takes will determine when the bill is reported back.

Question 3.

Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Chairperson of the Employment and Accident Insurance Legislation Committee:

Q: Will he be requesting the Minister of Labour to appear before the committee to discuss Government policy on the Employment Relations Bill, as she agreed to do in the House on 23 May 2000; if so, when?

A: The business of the committee is a matter for that committee.

Q: Why did he give different advice to the committee last night from that which has been given by the minister?

A: I am not prepared to divulge what goes on before the Select Committee all members are required to respect confidentiality.


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