Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of:Health Reforms – Toxic Waste – ERB and The Dominion – Tax Changes – PM on the ERB – NZ’s Own Nazi Nail Bomber - .Timberlands Award – West Coast 1080 Drops – School Buses - Public Sector Training – Singapore Free Trade – Knowledge Economy And Agriculture – Al Morrison, Dover and the PM
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.
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Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What are the total and specific fiscal costs of health sector change?
A: $20 million was in the budget for contingency costs. The best estimate as of the 12th of May was $12 million. Not all decisions have yet been made therefore not all costs and savings can be established. The official cost of the 1993 million was $80 million. Treasury estimated the costs at $800 million. The RHA to HFA change cost lots too. The cost of the end of the HFA is not clear but $3 million has been put aside as a contingency fund for redundancies.
Ian Ewen-Street (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:
Q: In addition to the $3.8 million already pledged, how much will it cost the taxpayer to clean up the Mapua toxic waste site near Nelson, described as the most toxic site in New Zealand?
A:: The final cost to the taxpayer depends on the technology used for the job.
Q: Does she support a levy on the manufacture of toxic materials to pay for waste cleanups?
A: For some sites the government accepts it is responsible for the cleanup. There are three options for treating material. Vibration, slow heating or intense fire. The government will decide which technique it is to use. The cost sharing will be at least 50%/50% in all cases. Sometimes the government contribution will be more.
Owen Jennings (ACT) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: Is it Government policy under the Employment Relations Bill that individuals who want to negotiate a collective agreement must use their union, and is the Dominion editorial correct when it states under the Employment Relations Bill unions will regain their monopoly powers?
A: It is the policy of the Government that collective agreements are negotiated by unions. Groups can form unions if they wish to negotiate. As usual the Dominion editorial is wrong. Those members of a union who are negotiating for a collective agreement do have the right to strike after the period has expired to demonstrate good faith. The idea of a union monopoly is odd given that we have introduced contestability.
H V Ross Robertson (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:
Q: Is the Government planning any improvement to the tax rules governing interest deductions for companies?
A: Yes. We are moving to clarify the rules of interest deductions. I expect legislation on this to be introduced next year.
Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Whose "pragmatic voices" among employers and unions did she listen to, to achieve the objective set out in her letter of 9 June to thousands of businesses, to "have legislation which is fair to both employers and employees"?
A: Ministers and advisers have met to many people – too many to list. And many of these are pragmatic employers who want to get on with the job. It would come as no surprise to anyone that those organisations (listed by Max Bradford) would object . I note positive comments made by the Northern Employers and Manufacturers spokesman Alasdair Thompson. This morning an associate professor of law at Victoria University described the bill as fairly moderate by international standards. Had I introduced this bill during the term of the previous Labour Government I would have been accused of selling out.
(John Luxton asked to withdraw and apologise then swiftly ejected from the house.
Roger Sowry: Because you could hear Mr Luxton over the last two days you have ejected a member. This is a robust chamber. To have to leave on a first offence is grossly unfair when the member has a question.
Michael Cullen – This Point of Order is challenging your ruling. It has become a habit for the Opposition to not accept the decision of the referee. Your ruling was clear. Circumstances may vary, and if you judge events on their circumstances, how can more than that be asked of you?
Speaker – I will allow him to return for his question.)
Q: Max Bradford (National): Can the PM confirm that she expects her mailing of 80,000 fridge magnets through her office is going to be any more successful in convincing people the ERB is okay?
A: What I can tell the member is that if the National Party campaigns in support of the ECA it will lose.
Kevin Campbell (Alliance) to the Minister of Customs Phillida Bunkle:
Q: In light of the BBC documentary "The Nazi Nail Bomber", a report on hate crimes screened on Prime TV last evening, what actions is the New Zealand Customs Service taking to contribute to the protection of the community from the actions of individuals or groups engaged in hate crimes?
A: As a result of an interception of publications at the border a man was successfully prosecuted on charges of manufacturing bombs two weeks ago. It is clear in this case that Customs enforcement has prevented serious damage. The man had numerous weapons and lots of horrible books. There are many parallels between this and the nazi nail-bomber case. I applaud customs.
Eric Roy (National) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:
Q: What discussions has she had with her officials regarding the environmental award given to Timberlands West Coast Ltd for its sustainable forestry programme, and has she given any directions to officials regarding their participation in the joint West Coast Conservation Board/West Coast Regional Council Conservation Award?
A: I have given no directions on this issue. I was advised of the decision of officials not to attend the ceremony.
Q: Who forbade DOC staff from attending?
A: I am not aware of that. The Director General decided it was inappropriate to present an award for logging given the government’s decision to put logging on Crown Land at an end.
Q: Does she agree with Labour MP Damien O’Connor about this?
A: I have met with that member and his genuinely held concerns were discussed but I do not agree.
(Leave refused to tabling of Damien O’Connor statement. Leave refused for tabling of Customs seized book list.)
Ron Mark (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:
Q: What steps is she taking to maintain the natural beauty of the West Coast and to ensure it remains a safe and secure environment for flora and fauna?
A: This government has worked to end logging on Crown Land. That will create a secure environment for flora and fauna. We have done lots of other things too.
Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): What will she do to stop the discharge of 1080 poison into several West Coast catchments, rivers and lakes.
A: The application of 1080 is a vital tool to stop the predation of NZ’s forests to extinction The 1080 drops on the West Coast are being undertaken following consultations I myself have been part of. I invite the member to attend a briefing on those drops. In relation to another poison Sandra Lee said it was being phased out following raising of concerns.
Hon. Roger Sowry (National) to the Associate Minister of Education Parekura Horomia:
Q: Does he believe it is important that school buses are available to transport children to and from school; if not, why not?
A: Transport is needed to enable equitable access to education for all pupils.
Q: Roger Sowry (National): Will he support change to the ERB to make School Buses an essential service?
A: I am not sure about the alignment of the question with the ERB.
Q: Roger Sowry (National): Is he concerned that wild-cat strikes will leave students stranded at school as he indicated to the bus association?
A: Bus drivers are not under the ECA an essential service. We do not want to leave students stranded but I am not going to change anything at this stage.
Steve Chadwick (Labour) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:
Q: Why is Government increasing funding to the Public Sector Training Organisation?
A: We will
enable many people in the Public Sector to obtain
qualifications that will increase the capabilities of the
public sector. The programme compliments the Modern
Apprenticeships programme and opportunities to hire and
train apprentices in the public sector are being
Hon. John Luxton (National) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What benefits, if any, does he perceive for regional development in international free trade agreements?
A: Fairly obviously the benefits depend on the agreement. The agreement with Australia has been a success. Others might not be successful and might destroy jobs. All agreements should be scrutinised to ensure they deliver the benefit of more jobs in NZ. We have our own view on this to the Labour Government. If we have reservations on an agreement we will express them to the government. It is easy to design agreements to ensure job growth. A minimum wage formula that drives wage growth – as used by Europe – is one example of the possibilities. All ministers speak on behalf of the coalition. This coalition enables the members to retain their political integrity.
Q: Will concerns of Singapore over the Treaty stop an agreement? And is the Alliance leaking these details?
A: Our Labour colleagues know that the Alliance will keep confidential all negotiations. However the treaty is important, and it must be considered in relation to international trade negotiations. I have seen comments from Lockwood Smith that an agreement would not benefit NZ in the short term. That is not an approach NZ would like to take.
Q: Is this the first official split in the Coalition as reported by the NZ Herald?
A: We work constructively on all issues. We do on occasion reserve the right to have our own view. That position has not yet been reached however on this issue as the final agreement has not yet been finalised.
Damien O'Connor (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson:
Q: Do the Government's recent moves to invest in the knowledge economy include investment in the primary sector?
A: Certainly. The NZ Forest Research Institute is working on pine for bathrooms and kitchens – research enables the industry to convert low value products to high value products. Also developed a hand-held tool that measures a tree. This product has significant export potential in itself.
Q: Why is there no marketing expert on the Royal Commission given the potential of genetic engineering?
A: Biotech and Genetic technology are not the same thing. Genetics are part of a bigger thing called biotechnology.
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?
A: No Labour politician has been briefed which means that none could have leaked it.
Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Is the PM saying she will do nothing about this?
A: I can only repeat that I am not aware of any Minister
Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Is she calling Mr Morrison a liar?
A: I have no idea what the member is referring to. No Minister has been briefed. Can I refer the member to a statement from Rob Robinson of July 17th. Mr Brownlee’s question has the flavour of Roan Atkinson’s story of a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Did Al Morrison make it up?
A: If people want to know who Mr Morrison spoke to ask Mr Morrison.
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