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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 1 August

Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: John Tamihere – Baby Bashing – Special Education – ERB x 2 – Special Benefit x 2 – ERB – Burglary Response Times – Dover Samuels And Al Morrison – Whanau, Hapu and Iwi – FBT Changes.

Questions For Oral Answer Tuesday, 1 August 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

(An impassioned speech in personal explanation from Dover Samuels concerning his police record and recent reports of a case from 1962 in which a conviction against him was quashed by the Court of Appeal.)

Question 1.

(Winston Peters – leave sought to delay answer of question till PM could answer – granted.

Winston Peters - could the Deputy PM advise whether the PM will be present later?

Speaker - You have had that already.

Winston Peters - Can I ask my question now then?)

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

Q: Does she stand by her answer to my supplementary question to Oral Question No 3 of 26 July 2000, "Approximately 5 years ago Mr Tamihere's counsel, at his request, briefed me fully on the general matters that the member has alluded to. I saw the full statement of defence."?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) The PM stands by the information she gave to the house on July 26.

Q: Why did she say Mr Tamihere had disclosed all matters on 13th July when she knew he hadn’t disclosed this, which she herself said she knew of five years ago?

A: The PM is not willing to answer questions relating to information that she has solely as leader of the Labour Party and for which there is no ministerial responsibility.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Isn’t it true that Mr Tamihere misled the house?

(Speaker - There is no ministerial responsibility for comments that Mr Tamihere may or may not have made.

John Carter – could Trevor Mallard withdraw his remark about Rodney Hide?

Trevor Mallard – I withdraw and apologise.

Gerry Brownlee….Roger Sowry…. Michael Cullen….

Speaker – I did not regard the comments of Mr Sowry as threats. Points of Order can be allowed to run on occasion.

Winton Peters – Is it not a fact that when the PM puts her word into contention then we should be able to look at that.

Speaker – I will look at that.

LATER – AT THE END OF QUESTION TIME - A RULING: Speaker - the PM is not responsible for actions she took as the Leader of the Labour Party when she was not the Prime Minister. )

Question 2.

Bob Simcock (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What action, if any, does he intend to take to deal with Child, Youth and Family Service staff who were involved in removing a child from Palmerston North to Kaikohe and who is now hospitalised because of alleged abuse by the caregiver entrusted with her care and protection?

A: I can assure the member that the department is very carefully investigating its actions in relation to this case. A preliminary review indicates all policies and procedures were followed in this case.

Q: Does he agree that the department acted in accordance with procedures when no staff ever saw the child?

A: Both sides of the house know that the best way forward is to carefully examine the practice. I am happy to reveal all details to the member in relation to this case. I can think of no better person to review this than the person we have reviewing this, Judge Brown. I would like to also mention the investment in the base lines of this organisation so it can lift its performance.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): How long will it take before he accepts that the Judge Brown inquiry is insufficient?

A: I simply have to disagree. I believe the judge is running an inquiry into notification and placement that will enable us to improve this service. I can assure the member that there was an assessment of the care-giver before the placement took place in this case.

Question 3.

Nanaia Mahuta (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Lianne Dalziel:

Q: What are the key findings of the Special Education Review, released today?

A: The report - “Picking up the Pieces” - relates to the failure of SE2000 to meet its objectives. It states that funding is less predictable and that professional development has been patchy. A number of recommendations are made. The key recommendations I will be taking to Cabinet relate to expanding coverage of the funding system. And increased transitional funding. I plan to have changes ready for the 2001 school year.

Q: Will services remain consistent?

A: I wish consistency was a hallmark of the system. That is part of why we had the report done. I would like to thank the author. I am confident that this review will help us to meet the needs of children in the future.

Question 4.

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

Q: What recourse under the Employment Relations Bill will employees, who do not wish to become union members, have to negotiate their own collective agreements?

A: There is nothing to prevent a group of employees from joining together to negotiate individual contracts.

Q: Has he had any discussions with any Australian’s on this? And if not why not?

A: There is nothing under the bill to stop workers joining together to negotiate individual contracts. It is the way that the outcome is expressed that matters. I only encountered Mr Reith once and I am not entirely convinced a discussion would have been useful.

(Max Bradford – the Minister should apologise, she has offended an Australian member.

Speaker – there is nothing out of order.)

Q: Noting that there are thousands of un-unionised Australian’s who negotiate collective agreements -why is this not good enough for NZ workers?

A: We have provided an opportunity that Australians do not have – that is to form their own unions – we consider this a considerable advance.

Question 5.

Graham Kelly (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Has she received any reports on the contents of the Employment Relations Bill?

A: Yes. I am in receipt of the ACT summary. I have found 23 inaccuracies. Many of these are significant.

(Max Bradford – The Minister has no responsibility

Speaker – It’s her bill and she is entitled to make comments on it.)

Some of the significant errors include…. a list…. including a statement that Unions can terminate collective agreements from 1 July next year. These are simply incorrect.

(Speaker – next question.

Rodney Hide - leave to ask a further question - refused

Roger Sowry – Can a minister attack another party without giving them an opportunity to respond.

Speaker – I was a little tough there perhaps. I will allow Mr Hide his question.)

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Can the Minister confirm that the facts come from the minority report of the committee and that they have been through

A: No. I cannot. I will however be willing to table the ACT document and the list of errors – leave granted.

Question 6.

Belinda Vernon (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Does he believe that the special benefit is an entitlement or a discretionary benefit?

A: The special benefit is a discretionary benefit. We want a clear and transparent system that ensures fairness. The government has three principle objectives in management of benefits. Listed.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): What is the government doing to ensure that when beneficiaries approach the DWI that they will be informed of their entitlements?

A: Apart from making it clear to DWI that we want beneficiaries informed we will also be making available manuals for them to check for themselves.

Question 7.

Sue Bradford (Green) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What is the Department of Work and Income's best estimate of the number of people who meet the formula assessment criteria set out in the Ministerial Special Benefit Directive?

A: The current Ministerial directive requires an assessment and a qualitative test before application of the benefit. Forecasts of benefits are made by the DWI on the basis of trends. I would like to point out that the report covers the period 1993 to 2000 and that therefore questions might be better addressed to Mr Sowry. In response to the reports I have directed officials to examine the directive as a matter of urgency to see whether changes are required to ensure application is fair.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): Is he soft on welfare?

A: I know the opposition would like to portray us as soft on beneficiaries. We do have soft hearts, but we have hard heads. Over there the opposition has the opposite.

(Max Bradford – leave sought for the Minister of Labour to apologise to the Australian Minister in the Gallery.

Speaker – the member cannot refer to the presence of a stranger in the debate.

Michael Cullen – you cannot seek leave for someone else to do something.)

Question 8.

Rodney Hide (ACT) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: In relation to clause 65(3a)(ii) of the Employment Relations Bill, what is the Government's policy on protection of employees from "disadvantage" should a business be sold, transferred or contracted out?

A: The bill requires that collective agreements include a clause to meet the needs of employees in these circumstances.

Q: What is the difference between this and Section 66.

A: In substance very little. But in clarification it is useful. The government believes that the bill should not be prescriptive.

Q: Will the Minister support Green amendments to protect vulnerable members?

A: I have not seen the precise wording of the proposed amendment. But the bill as a whole precisely achieves that objective.

Q: Is the Minister aware of provisions such as this in the UK and Canada?

A: I am aware that the same situation does apply in other countries. I would not support an SOP on this but I would support further research.

Question 9.

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

Q: Has he received any information from the New Zealand Police on response times to burglary offences?

A: A recent two week snap-shot showed that nationally the time taken to attend burglaries was seven hours. Contrast that from the past when it was common for it to take three to five days.

Q: To what does the Minister attribute this pleasing result?

A: This government has made it clear that we want this addressed. We have set up performance requirements on burglaries and weekly meetings with Police focus on this issue.

Q: Brian Neeson (National): Isn’t this really down to us and our crime squads?

A: Everyone in this country knows that the previous government did not take burglaries seriously and that call centers were in a shambles under that government. The average response time in Christchurch was 4 hours. In Timaru it takes around 60 minutes! The average time in West Auckland is 14 hours at present and this is being improved.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): What about clearance rates?

A: I have some good news for that member. Clearance rates are also improving.

Question 10.

(Question held over by leave till tomorrow…)

Gerry Brownlee (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Has she or any member of her staff made any inquiry to ascertain the identity of the Labour politician who reportedly leaked news of rape allegations against Dover Samuels to the political editor of Radio New Zealand?

Question 11.

Mita Ririnui (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Social Services) Tariana Turia:

Q: What steps has the Government taken to ensure that policy development is addressing the needs of whanau, hapu and iwi?

A: (Steve Maharey On behalf of ) We will focus on the needs of Hapu, Whanau and Iwi. The benefits of participation by these groups are ownership of the issues, which can led to sustained change. For too long there have been top down policies.

Q: How will this address the security of young children?

A: I do not know what the member is referring to. There are a number of programmes to assist in this area.


Question 12.

Annabel Young (National) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:

Q: How much will the new Fringe Benefit Tax rules cost small and medium-sized businesses in higher taxes and higher compliance costs?

A: Compared with the current tax rules the new rules will reduce revenue by $64 million a year.

Q: Can the member confirm that this hike in compliance costs is his idea of a charm offensive?

A: Did the member hear the answer – the tax is being reduced.

Q: Rod Donald (Green) Given that FBT will be charged at the marginal tax rate of the employee - why hasn’t superannuation withholding tax been changed?

A: That is a good question and something that should be addressed. It would be unhelpful if the review looks at narrow things such as the entrance hallway rather than the overall design.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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