Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Carol Stigley – Dover Samuels – Carol Stigley – Racing Industry – Secretary of Commerce And the ERB – GM Food Labelling – TOW Fisheries Commission – Farming Profitability – ERB – Maori And The State Sector – Whakatane Hospital – Nuclear Test Veterans
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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Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee
Q: Was there a dispute between herself and Local Government New Zealand representatives over her management of Rodney District Council matters; if so, what was the nature of the dispute?
A: Many issues arose in relation to Rodney District Council because the provisions had not been used before. We worked closely with Local Government New Zealand.
Q: Did she advise the Deputy Mayor of Rodney to not resign. And did Ms Stigley complain about this Ministerial interference to the PM?
A: The deputy mayor was left in a position of holding the fort. He rang me and I rang him back. I believe that what the deputy mayor did in holding the fort until the issue was resolved was wholly appropriate.
Q: Did Local Government NZ support the appointment of a commissioner?
A: In a letter dated March 31st LGNZ recommended I immediately appoint a commission. What I learned from Rodney is that when we are dealing with political issues it is best for me as Minister to meet with the elected heads of elected organisations.
Q: Was there a complaint to the PM?
A: I was given to understand from a third party that Carol had some issues. I do not know what those issues were however. I did not argue with or berrate Ms Stigley.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Having regard to the length of the police investigation into allegations against Dover Samuels, does she still stand by her reasons for sacking the former Minister of Maori Affairs?
A: The two issues raised in the question are unrelated the reasons for sacking the minister stand.
Q: Will she reinstate Mr Samuels?
A: I made the judgment – as I explained at the time – that the allegations swirling around Mr Samuels made it impossible for him to be effective as a minister. I stand by that decision.
Q: What will she do in the interests of fairness in the event there is a recantation of allegations against Mr Samuels?
A: It is not only those allegations that have been swirling around. There have been a lot of other matters carefully drip-fed which made it impossible for him to be a Minister.
Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee:
Q: Does she stand by her public statements that there was no breakdown in the relationship between herself and the chief executive of Local Government New Zealand, Carol Stigley?
A: I have stated on record that I have a constructive and compatible relationship with LGNZ. At no time have I demanded the resignation of Ms Stigley.. I have no responsibility for LGNZ.
(Leave sought to table a letter from Ms Stigley dated August – granted.
Grant Gillon - leave sought for her to quote from the letter – refused.)
Q: How can she reconcile this with notes from a meeting with her quoting the Minister as saying she could not work with Carol Stigley?
A: The last time I saw Carol Stigley was last Thursday evening at a conservation function where we had an amicable conversation. I am not responsible for the notes of other people from a meeting. The CEO of LGNZ does not work for me – the reason I did not express confidence in her is that that is not something for me to do.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) Did she or did she not say that she would not have Mrs Stigley in her office?
A: My words to LGNZ were that in future I would prefer to meet with them on a politician to politician basis.
Q: Did she tell the meeting that she had asked Jim Anderton if she could ban Ms Stigley from her office?
A: The Deputy PM has been in Parliament longer than me. I asked him if it was appropriate for me to have politician to politician meetings. He told me that they happened all the time.
(Murray McCully - leave sought to table notes of the meeting – granted.)
Martin Gallagher (Labour) to the Minister for Racing Annette King:
Q: What steps has she taken to consult with the racing industry, and why?
A: I recently held a racing forum in Parliament to hear the concerns and issues of country racing clubs. I have also consulted with others in the industry on RIB matters and appointments. The industry was relieved that we consulted them. This industry has lobbied for years for a GST exemption on dead horses. We changed it. (Laughter.) I have not had consultations with the industry on the ERB. I do note that there was a big drop in the number of apprentice jockeys under the ECA. There are major issues facing this industry, an industry that was not taken seriously by the last government.
Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Does he agree with the comments of the Secretary of Commerce, in a letter to him in relation to the Employment Relations Bill, that the Ministry had not had "adequate opportunity to consider the implications of the policy proposals" and "the business community may question the commitment of the Government to work with them"; if not, why not?
Q: Does he agree or not? If he does then does he also agree that the Ministry only had three hours to consider an important paper on the bill?
A: It is true that my ministry and others had a relatively short time to consider that first draft. The government campaigned on this policy. This government was in a hurry to implement its promises. Following these comments efforts to consult with the business community were stepped up. As a result business confidence is rising. All government departments had plenty of opportunity to comment after the first draft was introduced.
Q: Could he read this bill and comment intelligently in three hours?
A: The member has forgotten that my initial answer was yes. But I would back this bill against anything that he has done for economic development.
Sue Kedgley (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Did she vote to exclude food prepared at the point of sale (that is, take away, delicatessen and restaurant food) from the requirement for mandatory genetic labelling at the recent meeting of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council; if so, why?
A: There was no vote. Ministers reached a consensus on this issue.
Q: How does she square her agreement to this with the Labour Party’s pre-election pledge to label all GE food?
A: The agreement was found to give the consumer as much information as possible. To ask for labelling in these areas would have had high compliance costs. We have to work with our partners in this area.
Q: How does she square this with the fact that she has agreed to the same position National was advocating?
A: The position the Health Ministers reached is not the position argued by Mr Creech last year. If the member remembers it went to a taskforce which presented a range of options. We went with the best possible labelling regime we could.
Hon. Doug Kidd (National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: When will he announce the appointments to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission?
A: I will announce the members of the TOWFC as soon as possible, hopefully at the end of the month.
Q: Why did he withdraw a press statement on this last Thursday?
A: A genuine staff mistake.
(Later) Legislating a settlement is not an option at this time partly because it would just bring about further litigation.
Q: Given he has said it was a mistake - is he seriously asking us to believe a press release was written and distributed without his knowledge?
Damien O'Connor (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:
Q: What reports has he received on the profitability of farming in New Zealand over the past year?
A: Yesterday I received a report that the last season has been the best in 20 years. Farmer morale and confidence about the future is high after eight years in the wilderness. The prospects for growth in the rural sector is high. There are lots of new jobs for young people in farming and forestry.
Q: Is he aware of ACC costs being increased for farmers?
A: The ACC regulator has information showing that 80% of employers are better off under this government’s changes. This government believes these changes to ACC are necessary. As far as the ERB is concerned the government sees this bill as part of building a vibrant economy. Good employers won’t notice the difference.
Q: What is he doing about the boom and bust nature of farming profitability?
A: This will never entirely disappear. However the government’s determined efforts to build a more knowledge based economy will ensure NZ’s primary sector remains at the top of its game.
Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: In the Employment Relations Bill, is it the Government's policy that the 30 day rule will apply to every new employee who wishes to conclude an individual employment agreement?
A: (Laila Harre) The only time Clause 77 applies is when a collective contract covers the work in question. The clause relates to a situation where an employee joins a workplace where there is a collective agreement. For 30 days they are automatically covered by a contract with a minimum of the conditions in the collective agreement. After 30 days the employee is free to agree to a contract that is greater or lesser than the collective agreement if they wish.
Mita Ririnui (Labour) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: What steps has the Government taken to increase the accountability of the State sector for improving outcomes for Maori?
A: We have taken a number of steps to ensure outcomes are improved for Maori. Departments have been directed to provide a statement in their annual reports on their effectiveness on improving outcomes for Maori. These will be included in the 1999-2000 annual reports. Over time these statements will allow Maori to see what is being done for them.
Q: Sue Bradford (Green): What is he doing on equal opportunities in the State Sector?
A: There have been several discussions on bettering the position in the State Sector Act. Those have been tabled.
Hon. Tony Ryall (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Will she guarantee continued oncologist clinics at Whakatane Hospital?
A: I have been advised that there is to be a meeting on Thursday about the service. I am advised that there is a shortage of staff to run the service which is causing a problem. I intend to honour my promises but I cannot wave a magic wand and create a health workforce that is not there. I note it is also my understanding however that Whakatane will not be left without oncology services.
Q: Is this a downgrading, or is it a temporary accommodation for a staffing problem?
A: My answer to the latter part of the question is yes. Any cancellation of surgery at Whakatane hospital I have no knowledge of. If there is any cancellation then it may be due to a shortage of anaesthetists.
David Benson-Pope (Labour) to the Minister of Veterans' Affairs Mark Burton :
Q: Has he received any reports on the response of veterans and others to the Government's decision to give a $200,000 grant to the New Zealand Nuclear Test Veterans' Association?
A: Yes. I have a letter from Jenny Shipley that refers to the Labour Alliance Government grant and says it was agreed to by the previous government. What it fails to mention is that the undertaking was made and then reneged on. I have received correspondence expressing outrage from the Association over Mrs Shipley’s attempts to rewrite history.
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