SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 17 August
Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Steven Wallace x 2 – School Funding – TPK Report On Wallace Shooting - Code of Good Faith – MPS and ERB – Competition Amendments - Roading Funding - Huts and Tracks – Ministerial Staff Conflicts Of Interest - Rural Health – Housing and Mental Health.
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
Hon. Tony Ryall (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Does she accept the conclusion of the Police report into the Waitara shooting that "there is absolutely no evidence race was an issue in this tragic event"; if so, will she immediately apologise for her earlier statement that relationships between the police and Maori in Taranaki "undoubtedly had a bearing on this tragedy"?
A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I accept the police have completed their inquiries into whether chargers should be laid. More investigations continue into other aspects of this. The PM has never accused the NZ Police of racism and stands by her original answer. The PM is keen to see relationships between Maori and Police improve. The PM is concerned that all NZers have confidence in the police and the PCA and the coroner.
Q: Keith Locke (Green): Does the PM agree that the practice demonstrated in Waitara of police pointing firearms at unarmed members of the public will result in more deaths?
A: I would not accept that police should only use firearms when faced with firearms. There are other circumstances in which the use of firearms is sensible.
Q: When will this PM answer the questions raised by journalists?
A: I would have to say that the PM is far better at answering questions than the leader of the opposition is at producing evidence.
Hon. Ken Shirley (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: On what evidence did she base her reported statement that police attitudes to Maori in Taranaki were poor and "undoubtedly had a bearing" on the shooting of Waitara man Steven Wallace, and does she now accept the findings of the Police report?
A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I never made such a statement and the fact was pointed out to the Evening Post at the time.
Q: Does she agree with Greg O’Connor that some politicians are following a racial agenda on this? And if so what is that agenda?
A: Since the PM was not operating to a racial agenda I am sure she has no idea what the agenda is.
Q: Does she not agree that her statements may have branded Police Officer A a murderer?
Helen Duncan (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: How will the $60 million injection of funds into schools and the removal of bulk funding, announced today, impact on educational quality and innovation in New Zealand?
A: Today I announced that schools will get a share of a larger funding cake. Schools will have the ability to choose what to use extra money on. I am amazed at the innovation that schools with little resources have shown.
Q: How many schools will gain extra funding and how much will they get?
2062 schools will have more money that includes 31% of bulk funded school. One school will get an extra $500,000. Tawa College will get more than $110,000 extra. The average gain is $36,000, enough for a teacher or 10 extra computers.
Q: Nick Smith (National): How will increasing funding to both poor and wealthy schools both help close the gaps?
A: More than half the money is going out in decile funding. One report said that Taupo schools risked losing $1.3 million. In fact Taupo schools received a $1.4 million increase in funding. Nick Smith’s muck-raking has been quite wrong.
Q: What about rural schools, and Kaikoura schools in particular?
A: From memory the allegation was that Kaikoura schools would lose $265,000. In fact they have gained more than $1 million.
Q: Nick Smith (National): Can the minister explain why the government is cutting funding by $63,000 at decile one Kawerau College?
A: That electorate is getting lots more funding. We will provide better incentives to get better staff to that school.
(Nick Smith – leave sought to table papers – granted)
Hon. Roger Sowry (National) to the Minister of Mâori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: In light of yesterday's Police report on the Waitara shooting, does he stand by the Te Puni Kokiri report of 3 May headed "Relationships between Police and Maori in Taranaki" as an accurate report and sound advice; if not, in what key areas was it inaccurate?
A: As the member knows there were inaccuracies in the TPK report of 3 May. A wrong police officer was named in relation to an incident in 1993. However rather than retracing political issues we might focus on improving the relationship in the future.
Q: Does he believe it was wise for inflammatory comments to have been made by the PM on the basis of the report?
A: I have confidence in parts of that report. Further investigation is needed into aspects raised in the report. Some Maori believe that police attitudes are responsible for the poor relationship.
Q: Will he be advising the PM to stop talking about this?
A: I occasionally advise the PM on some matters and I will continue to do do.
Graham Kelly (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: What progress has been made towards development of a code of good faith as envisaged in the Employment Relations Bill?
A: I am pleased to report that while we were discussing the bill Unions and Employers were meeting to discuss an interim Code of Good Faith. We hope to have this in place by October 2. The final Code of Good Faith is scheduled to be in place by April 2. CTU and Employers representatives will have identified most issues for the draft code but the final code will be based on experience over coming months.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Given the Code of Good Faith will have the effect of statute law and will affect all employers and employees will it be referred to the Select Committee?
A: I believe employers and employees are in a better position to judge these issues than the Select Committee.
Hon. Bill English (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Does he agree with comments made by the Governor of the Reserve Bank yesterday that lower business confidence has led to a deferment of new investment and employment?
A: In part. I think that rising interest rates and petrol prices have had a more significant impact in this regard.
Q: Does he think economists are not very bright?
A: I recall making a comment on one economist to that effect – but not all of them. I agree with Dr Brash that low confidence is out of step with the low dollar and the competitiveness of the NZ economy.
Q: Does he agree that the economy has contracted in June? And is it is fault?
A: One of the reasons why the second quarter is a contraction is because of the high levels of construction earlier in the first Q and fourth Q of last year. The forecasts in the MPS indicate that over the next three years labour productivity and wages are expected to grow more strongly than they have over the last seven years. It is very clear that the domestic sector has been very slack over recent months. The export sector on the other hand has been doing very well. We want to see export led growth not consumption led growth.
David Cunliffe (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:
Q: What recent proposal has the Government made to support small and medium sized business?
A: (Laila Harre on behalf) I have referred an SOP to the Commerce Select Committee on several competition issues. These changes are designed to help small and medium businesses.
Q: Has the ministry done any assessment on ERA compliance costs?
A: The government is sure that the ERA is consistent with other moves. It means that ethical employers will not have to compete with unethical employers using practices allowed under the ECA.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): When will a Buy NZ Made strategy be adopted?
A: I am sure that good advice from the Select Committee will be considered swiftly. Clearly some provisions in the ERA impose costs. We balanced these against the need for fairness and we think we did this quite well.
Willie Jackson (Alliance) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:
Q: What reports has she received on the Department of Conservation's visitor asset management policy?
A: The policy is driven by a need to provide a professional approach. These include thousands of huts and bridges and more than 11,000kms of tracks. The Cave Creek investigation identified systemic failure as a cause. DOC has since then reviewed all assets. Some huts have reached the end of their life and will need upgrading.
Q: How much will be spent?
A: I can advise that the amount spent annually on visitor asset management average is between $41 and $42 million. I have instructed my department to discuss hut demolitions with community groups. However some huts are unsafe.
Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Does she stand by her statement that "The Labour Government will set new standards - both in terms of behaviour and performance"?
A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Yes.
Q: Is it appropriate for an account manager for Porter Novelli – which has an account for Westco-Lagan – Tracy Bridges to have worked as a temporary press secretary for the Minister of Forestry Pete Hodgson, and for an Immigration Private Secretary to work part time for Morris Communications?
A: The second person mentioned is working part time on fisheries work for Morris Communications. I do not think any fish have applied to immigrate. With regards to Ms Bridges I do not believe there is any conflict of interest.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Have the heads of the SFO and IRD been accountable?
A: I am sure they have been accountable. However the decisions they make are made independently and this government has no intention to interfere with those decisions.
Peter Brown (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:
Q: In the light of recent comments he has made suggesting that more money needs to go into roading, will he tell the House when and how he expects to achieve this?
A: In addition to the initiatives announced in the budget two further work packages are underway involving roading issues. We expect to be able to make new decisions on this early next year. This government is engaged in consultation with stakeholders and local government over where costs should be carried. We intend to do this faster than the previous government had in mind. A minimum of $940 million is to be spent this financial year. There is an increase in roading projects being undertaken from 300 odd to 500 odd.
Q: What about Transmission Gully?
A: I have met on a number of occasions to discuss this matter. The current funding formula would not fund this till 2015. It is a difficult issue as the funding formula would have to be changed to fund this project.
Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Has she been informed of any recent problems with health services in rural New Zealand; if so, what is she going to do about them?
A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) I have had a number of reports on this. We are have put more money into several projects which help rural health services.
Q: Wyatt Creech (National): How does she respond to reports that a woman had to wait for 38 hours for a scan at Grey hospital?
A: I would react with considerable concern to those reports. However I have great confidence that finally we have a government that will do something about this.
Q: Wyatt Creech (National): When will she do something?
A: I think the member should not ask questions that make him appear foolish.
Sue Bradford (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What steps is the Government currently taking to address housing issues for people with mental illness?
A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) In four areas we are doing things. 1: We recognise that Mental Health does not exist in a vacuum. 2: We have money for 120 new community houses. 3: We have an extra $3 million for rental of community houses. And 4: we are introducing income related rents.
Q: Sue Bradford (Green): Can she confirm there is a five month wait for the mentally ill to access supported housing in Christchurch?
A: I can assure the member that is not true and people with accute needs are assisted immediately. We are committed to not only putting our money where our mouth is but also following through.