SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 16 August
Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Tax And Crime – Doctors Strike – Whooping Cough – Singapore Free Trade And TOW – QC Appointment – Rodney Council – Singapore Free Trade – Parliamentary Sovereignty and the Treaty – Dover Samuels – Electricity Efficiency and Climate Change – Aquaculture – Jobs Machine
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
Mark Peck (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:
Q: Has the Inland Revenue Department had any success in preventing people from failing to provide necessary information for the administration of the tax system?
A: Yes Terry Rex Brown was convicted last week for not cooperating with IRD investigators. He is a Christchurch massage parlour owner whose cause was championed by Rodney Hide MP. IRD’s report shows that this man has a string of convictions against him including threatening to kill.
Q: Is he prepared to endorse the operations of the IRD?
A: The outgoing National administration left a huge mess in the operational side of IRD it will take some time to sort out those messes.
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Has the minister or his department consulted the Privacy Commissioner on whether the IRD has the power to uplift taxpayers medical records?
A: There is no doubt in my mind that in the cases of people like Mr Brown who invent all sorts of excuses that they are within their rights.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) Will he confirm that the IRD have failed to pursue any cases against Capital Markets and that in the BNZ Finance case it is clear that they should have? And that Capital Markets has now been effectively let off?
A: I can confirm that the IRD followed Crown Law advice on this and passed this matter on to the SFO who made decisions of their own, over which the IRD has no influence.
(Winston Peters seeks leave to table papers – objection?)
Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What action does she intend to take to avert the impending junior doctors strike?
A: I have done several things, but workers are entitled to strike and in this case they appear to be going to do so.
Q: Wyatt Creech: Will the Minister consider reviewing the money available to hospitals to help negotiate?
A: This wage claim is in its 18th month. If that member had any genuine concern he would have done something. $110 million more was put in the budgets. It is for hospital managers to decide what to do with that money. The Minister is not entitled to be involved in wage negotiations as the member knows.
Steve Chadwick (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What steps is the Government taking to increase the rate of immunisation against whooping cough?
A: The Government is making a new a-cellular vaccine available to all babies. NZ has an epidemic of this disease affecting 2000 people and resulting in 200 hospitalisations. We are committed to closing the gaps by immunising hard to reach children. We want to raise the current 45% immunisation rate among Maori.
Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:
Q: Is the article in the Dominion, 14 August, accurate where it is reported that "the Singaporeans remain uneasy about the Government's precedent-setting requirement that the [free trade] accord will be subject to the Treaty of Waitangi"; if so, what is the Government up to?
A: I can confirm that confidential negotiations are continuing and I am confident that both NZ and Singaporeans will be happy with the result.. I can also confirm that reference to the Treaty Of Waitangi was included in the instructions to negotiators issued by the previous National Government, which was supported by ACT.
Q: Will this treaty be debated in this house before it is signed?
A: The government would not intend to rely on support from ACT for anything. I am confident that any opportunity to get our goods and services into world markets will benefit NZ. This agreement could be described as getting a foot into the increasingly prosperous markets of Asia. I am absolutely confident that any mention of the Treaty will be to the satisfaction of both Singapore and NZ.
Q: Will he be relying on National and ACT to pass this bill?
A: I am sure it will go through an appropriate Paliamentary process. And I am confident it will attract overwhelming support in this house.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): Does the treaty have absolute preference in all trade negotiations?
A: I am not an absolutist so I do not know what the member is talking about.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters (NZ First) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:
Q: Will she be reviewing the process by which Queen's Counsel are appointed; if so, why?
A: Yes I am reviewing the process. As a first step I am preparing a discussion paper on it.
Q: Did she make recommendations relating to a particular lawyer?
A: There was no recommendation as such by me. There were lots of applications, all of which were considered. The decision process is by consensus. The fact allegations are made in court documents does not mean the incidents described happened. The process for decision making is set down very clearly. QC’s are appointed by the GG on the recommendation of the Attorney General concuring with the Chief Justice. We consulted with judges, the law society and senior counsel. The role of QC has developed in a variety of roles in different places. In some places it has been abolished. I feel it is appropriate that it be reviewed as it has developed here in a narrow way.
Q: In no circumstances then has she indicated her support for any particular application?
A: I have never explicitly said I would support any person. I had said that leadership in the profession should be a broadly interpreted concept. It is not my decision alone to promise anything to anyone.
Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee:
Q: Does she stand by her earlier statements indicating that she did not inappropriately interfere in the Rodney District Council dispute by making contact with the Deputy Mayor and asking him not to resign?
A: I stand by the statements I have made in this house.
Q: Can he explain then some comments of the Rodney Deputy Mayor reported in the Dominion in which he says you called him?
A: Mr Gosling’s claim he did not initiate calls to me is incorrect. I have a document here from an official who received at least three calls from Mr Gosling asking me to call him. I have concluded from this conduct of this matter that the member is about to rreceivean award for non-performance at the upcoming National Party Conference.
Q: Will she provide dates and times of these calls?
(Jim Anderton - Alliance – there comes a time when challenging a ministers word becomes harassment.
Murray McCully – I accept the comments from the minister. But can I ask for evidence?
Speaker - the Minister will answer.)
A: I have said I replied to calls from Mr Gosling. The official in Internal Affairs has confirmed that. That should be good enough.
Q: Will she table the affidavit she has referred to.
A: I will. (Leave granted for tabling.)
Q: Martin Gallagher – Labour - Did Murray McCully express any concerns on the appointment of a commission for Rodney?
A: No he did not. He supported the decision.
John Tamihere (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:
Q: What reports has he received supporting the proposed Singapore Free Trade Agreement?
A: There has been general acceptance among groups consulted. I am confident that key concerns of consulted groups will be addressed. I am surprised at the split and division in the National Party on the agreement however. I have been astonished to hear allegations that these negotiations are in secret. Business meetings have been held in national and regional centres. There have been four hui, and numerous briefings of groups, including unions. I have also received direct representations on this. If this isn’t extensive consultation I don’t know what would be.
Q: John Luxton (National): Do people opposed to free trade have rocks in their head?
A: If the National government wants advice on how to manage a coalition they should read our book that will be available in 12 to 15 years time. The government recognises the importance of the Treaty as a founding document for NZ. The government has been concerned to ensure that there is nothing in the treaty that would preclude treaty obligations. This is not novel and has been used before in the Uruguay GATT trade round. The final draft of the treaty has not been negotiated when it is it will be provided to all members of Parliament.
Q: What reports has he seen opposing the agreement?
A: I have had a small number of items of correspondence from groups I would describe as activists who are opposed to the trade treaty – and I might say – to capitalism in general.
Q: Has he consulted with the Alliance and the Greens?
A: There has been extensive consultations, with lots of questions and answers on both sides. All this has helped develop a state of the art agreement.
Rt Hon. Simon Upton (National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: Further to his reply to oral question No 7 yesterday, which version of Article One of the Treaty of Waitangi does the Government rely on in the exercise of its sovereign responsibilities?
A: This question relates to constitutional matters and should perhaps be directed to the AG. My understanding is that the Sovereignty of Parliament is not derived solely from the Treaty but from a range of sources.
Q: Simon Upton (National): When he spoke yesterday of the Maori Version of the Treaty only conferring a limited power on the Crown to make law did he mean…..(something complicated about health)?
A: Certainly not. The Treaty was made to build NZ together not wreck it. There are competing rights under the treaty, that is why it is important to maintain a partnership. So long as we are good and honest partners there will be a way through any difficulties.
Q: Simon Upton (National): What was he talking about then when he mentioned limitations on Crown Sovereignty?
A: I believe what I meant is that there are limitations in international law.
Hon. Roger Sowry (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Why did she not ask Dover Samuels for a Privacy Act waiver in order to view his full police record?
A: Because I asked him directly about his past.
Q: Can she confirm that the reason is that Chris Carter was undertaking some “detective work”?
A: I have never asked anyone to obtain the record. This morning’s Dominion accurately reported that Jenny Shipley had failed to back up her allegations and that this had undermined her bid to bolster her leadership standings ahead of the upcoming National Party conference.
Q: Did the PM know that her whip was undertaking detective work into Dover Samuels?
A: It is perfectly clear that he used the term extremely loosely.
Q: Has she seen any reports that Mr Sowry is trying to undermine his leader?
(Question transferred from Minister of Environment Marian Hobbs.)
Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson
Q: Has a climate change impact assessment been undertaken on the recommendations of the report of the Inquiry into the Electricity Industry; if not, why not?
A: No there hasn’t been a specific assessment done on the recommendations. The member will be aware that we have begun a significant work on climate change. We are taking care to ensure that changes in the electricity sector will be consistent with out plans. We have a high expectation that our plans for electricity will lead to a lower use of thermal generation than would otherwise occur.
Georgina Beyer (Labour) to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson :
Q: Is the Government releasing a public discussion paper on aquaculture reform this week; if so, why?
A: We are releasing it today. The demands of competing users for water space confront each other head on. The legal framework is out of date and fragmented. I have asked for consultation to improve legislation. The Ministry of Environment is closely involved. Because Aquaculture is so important we could look for growth if we have a sustainable development process that works. I am not in charge of the timetable for courts. There are messy issues in this area at the top of the South Island and I am trying to work them out.
Q: Will he impose a moratorium on new marine farm applications?
A: The gold-rush is speculative but a moratorium affecting all of NZ is not appropriate.
Hon. John Luxton (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: By what specific employment indicators will he judge the success of his "jobs machine", and what levels of those indicators will indicate success?
A: That member has opposed the creation of Industry NZ at every step. He has never outlined economic goals except to do nothing. I will judge Industry NZ a success of the ventures it is involved in increases jobs, incomes and revitalises the regions. We will do things that work and will not do things that don’t work. The objectives I have set are simple – lists 5 objectives – none of these objectives were followed by the former ACT National Government.