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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 7 September

Today's Questions concern: Alexandra Flooding – Costs of Groceries – West Timor Incident – Brain Drain – Fishing Company Character – West Timor Rescue – Urewera Art – Dover Samuels – Children’s Commissioner – Sustainable Farming – Mangaroa Prison - Cannabis Inquiry

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, September 07, 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

(Speakers Ruling: The notice of motion of John Tamihere MP is in order…The ruling was requested yesterday by ACT Leader Richard Prebble.


Notice of Motion reads:

2. John Tamihere to move, That the Mâori Affairs Committee conduct an inquiry into the actions of the Honourable Richard Prebble in relation to allegations made against the former Minister of Mâori Affairs and in particular determine—
1. whether, at the time of writing to the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and the Minister of Police, the Honourable Richard Prebble had received a complaint;
2. whether, at the time, a complaint had been made to the Police by the complainant;
3. whether, after writing to the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General, and the Prime Minister, the Honourable Richard Prebble questioned a person who was not a complainant;
4. whether the Honourable Richard Prebble knew, or could have found out readily, the truth of the allegations;
5.the circumstances under which the Honourable Richard Prebble arranged legal representation for the complainant;
6. whether the Honourable Richard Prebble or any other members of the ACT Party or staff or associates under his direction or instruction provided legal advice, accommodation expenses, travel expenses, or any other costs to the family of the complainant or to the complainant directly;
7. whether there was any duress placed on, intimidation of, or incentive paid to, the complainant, or to any associates, friends or professional persons associated with the complainant.


NOTE: This was not read out.

The Speaker said he emphasised that his finding that the notice of motion is in order in no way related to any views on its merits.

Winston Peters - Leave sought to put the motion - denied.)


Questions to Ministers Begin

Question 1.

JOHN WRIGHT (Alliance) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What will be the effect on Alexandra and the Central Otago region of the deed signed between the Government and Contact Energy today?

A: The deed signed today with Contact Energy formalises joint contributions to Alexandra. The crown has agreed to match the contribution by Contact Energy of $6.8 million. Cabinet will consider further the package on Monday and will be announced next Tuesday in Alexandra. This agreement has been reached because the Government and Contact Energy sat down constructively with the community and the others involved. The government refused to sit on its hands on this issue like the previous government. This government will be fronting up to the community. The previous government offered just $220,000 towards the $3.5 million cost of moving a swimming pool. The full package will also involve considering public amenity funding for Alexandra.

Q: Why does this minimalist package provide for no compensation at all?

A: That question coming from an ACT member is simply a joke. If he thinks a multi-million package is minimalist then he should talk to his leader who wants a minimalist government not just a minimalist package. I pay tribute to Contact Energy in this regard. Contact could have taken a hard-line attitude on this and said see you in court. The fact that they have fronted with $6.8 million is very good and illustrates that this government can work with business.

Question 2.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has he received any advice about how much the costs faced by New Zealand families have increased since he became Minister of Finance, following the election?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf).Yes.

Q: Can he confirm that the cost of a household basket of groceries has gone up by $17 under his government?

A: The short answer is I do not believe the member. With food price inflation running at 3%.

Q: Can he confirm that the standard of living for the poor has gone down with higher petrol, higher costs of cigarettes, and increases in mortgage rates?

A: For the average Maori family in South Auckland their rent will go down by $40 a week later this year.

Q: Does he accept his smart-alec comments and his appalling relationship with business have contributed to driving down the dollar and the $17 increase in the Anne Hercus a week cost of this to the average household?

A: This issue was raised last week by a much smarter member of the National front bench…

(Speaker – I regret those sorts of comments from the member…he will withdraw and apologise

Mallard – I withdraw.)

A: A very intelligent member of opposition Bill English beat the member to this line of questioning, he focussed on interest rates a few months ago. Since then they have dropped.

Question 3.

CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade :

Q: Has he received any reports on the situation in the West Timor refugee camps; if so, what do they say about West Timor and the implications for security in East Timor?

A: Lack of security means that aid workers can no longer operate in West Timor. Resettlement of refugees has ceased and cannot start again. If this continues we will see ongoing refugee driven guerilla activity in Timor. There is only one way to resolve this situation. That is to disarm the militia and separate them from the refugees in the camps. That is Indonesia’s responsibility. This message has been given directly to Indonesia, not only by NZ, but by almost the entire international community. President Wahid has given an undertaking to Helen Clark that two further battalions are being sent to West Timor to secure the camps. Unfortunately undertakings such as this have also been made in the past. President Wahid must now give absolute priority to securing these camps. The operation involving NZ helicopters last night was only possible thanks to the support of Indonesian forces.

If we do not have a resolution to this then there is the risk of civil war. On the other side as long as the camps remain they provide the base support for the militias. The guarantee I can give to the house is that as long as there is a risk of instability UN forces will remain in that country. NZ has played a disproportionate commitment to East Timor and this limits our ability to act elsewhere, such as in the Solomons.

Question 4.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National): to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Do the figures for the year to June reporting the highest level of New Zealanders leaving the country in the past decade indicate any response to his election night call for "those New Zealanders of talent and skill to come home and rebuild this nation" and how does this affect economic development?

A: In the 12 months to October 1999 NZ suffered a net loss of 10,000. In the 12 months to June NZ suffered a net loss of 9,000. In other words since we have been in office we have been losing fewer people than were lost under the previous government. The opposition should be more proud of the country.

Q: Bill English (National): Can he confirm responsibility for an email message headed Slim Jim’s Christmas List asking NZers to come back and is this why they aren’t?

A: It would be a good think for the country if most of the opposition did leave. The message I sent to overseas NZers was this….(appears to quote from a message to overseas NZers)…. What I offered them on election night was a spirit of hope, of care for every NZer. That is why they are there and we are here. Population experts at Waikato University analysis shows more NZers are returning earlier than expected. ACT and National tell them the grass is greener elsewhere, they go, look and find out it isn’t and they come back. We are here to welcome them back, unlike the opposition.

(Leave sought to table Slim Jim’s Christmas List – granted.)

Question 5.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson:

Q: What criteria will he use to determine whether an overseas company applying to own New Zealand fishing quota is "of good character" in terms of section 57(4)(a) of the Fisheries Act 1996?

A: Good Character mainly relates to the fishing practices of an individual. The applicant can not be a person of the kind referred to in the Immigration Act.

Q: What about the fishing company (Named – from Japan) involved in whaling and toothfish fishing is that bad character?

A: I am aware of those allegations . When the government makes its decision it will do so taking into account all the facts and in accordance with NZ law. Under the previous government responsibility for quota ownership was delegated to the OIC. We have revoked this and I and the Minister of Finance will make the decisions on this.

A: Why were foreign bids for quota ruled out earlier this year?

A: The reason the application was declined was not to do with good character. The reasons were made public some months ago when we made the decision. An overseas application such as this runs a risk of legal action unless an inscrutable procedure is followed.

Question 6.

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Does she plan to compensate the health sector for the rise in pharmaceutical costs they will encounter as a result of the significant decline in the New Zealand dollar?

A: I am advised that Pharmac protects itself against short to medium term currency risks.

Q: Will she start rationing medicine because of mismanagement by her government which sees the NZ Dollar weaker than the Fijian Dollar?

A: As I said Pharmac makes arrangements for currency fluctuations protecting us in the short and medium term.

Q: How will she help hospitals avoid deficits because of the dollar?

A: I suggest that they continue to support us and not the National or ACT parties.

Question 7.

GRAHAM KELLY to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: What role did New Zealand Defence Force personnel play in last night's rescue operation of aid workers in Timor?

A: Following an attack on UN staff in Atambua three NZ helicopters crossed the border from their base in Suai with a small contingent of soldiers. The soldiers ferried 43 UN staff in two trips using a base secured by the Indonesian TNI.

Q: The situation is continuing to develop. In excess of 90 UN workers have gathered in the Atambua area. They will be evacuated to East Timor. NZ troops remain on standby to assist with any further evacuation if needed.

Question 8.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH ()to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:

Q: Did she request that she officiate at the opening of the art gallery in the Urewera National Park visitor centre, and did she request that Tuhoe art be on display in the gallery on that occasion?

A: Of course I said I wanted to attend the rededication of the centre. It was a significant occasion and an opportunity to restore rifts that occurred as a result of the catastrophic

Q: Did the member invite the Fiji-coup supporter and activist Tame-Iti…

(Speaker no need for unnecessary adjectives…)

Q: Nick Smith (National): Did DOC act as agent for the sale of artworks by activist Tame Iti?

A: The display and sale of artwork is commonplace in a large number of visitors centres around the country. Listed….. and etcetera….. and etcetera….. and etcetera…..

Q: Will she release a letter confirming what I say under the OIA?

A: I have already advised the house that I have never met the regional conservator until two weeks ago. That member will have to accept my word on this or else place themselves in some jeopardy.

(Speaker – those final comments are out of order.

Nick Smith – leave to table a report to the conservator and a letter to Mr Iti – granted

Sandra Lee – leave to table a list of visitors centres that sell art – granted.)

I can assure that member I have met with a wide range of local people around these issues. It is common knowledge in this country that Urewera National Park has been causing controversy for some time. It is my intention to have a win-win solution in this park.

Question 9.

RON MARK to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What has been the total cost to date of the Police inquiry into allegations made against Dover Samuels which have now been cleared?

A: The police have not compiled the total costs of the inquiry yet. The greatest cost has been to Dover Samuels however, and especially his children.

Q: Will he be reimbursed for the costs of defending himself against vexatious complaints made by ACT leader Richard Prebble?

(Speaker – the first part of the question can be answered.

Prebble – Mr Peters has made a number of allegations that he cannot support and I am advised that police took the allegations very seriously and that is why it took so long.

Speaker the first part of the question may be answered. )

Q: Can the Minister advise whether Mr Samuels will be reimbursed.

(Winston Peters – it is the intention of the member to make a comparison in his question.

Speaker – the member is wrong.)

A: I do not know who will compensate Mr Samuels or his children.

Q: Is he satisfied the investigation was thorough?

A: All the allegations made by Mr Prebble were found to have no substance.

(Roger Sowry – Mr Mallard has made a thoroughly objectionable interjection

Speaker – did you make an offensive comment

Mallard – can I draw your attention to a matter of fact. In my view it was not offensive

Sowry – the Minister, when Mr Simcock rose interjected saying “on behalf of Bert Potter”

Speaker - I have told the member about that. He will withdraw apologise and leave the chamber.

Mallard – I apologise – then leaves.)

Question 10.

BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: How does he reconcile his answer to oral question No. 6 on 22 August that "the Commissioner [for Children] was advised on a number of occasions on the proper action to take in relation to that young person, and did not take it" with the Commissioner's reported comments that he had never been given any advice on the boy that he had not followed?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) On the afternoon of Friday the 28th of July there were two conversations between the HFA and the Commissioner of Children. In the first the HFA told the Commissioner that the child needed to see a doctor. In the second the contact details of a contact physician who was available to see the boy were provided.

Q: Will she pay these costs?

A: The misunderstanding was clearly unfortunate. I trust that the HFA are able to resolve this matter and keep it out of the media. This issue is clearly one of the HFA and the Commissioner having different views on what happened on Friday the 28th of July. I have suggested to them both that they resolve these problems.

(Bob Simcock – leave sought to table document – granted.)

Question 11.

JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: What were the factors that led to the introduction of the five million dollar Sustainable Farming Fund, and how does it further the Government's commitment to rural communities and their wellbeing?

A: The primary factors leading to the fund was a need to promote sustainable management of our resources. The fund gives effect to this.

Q: How does it fit in?

A: It complements other initiatives and is designed to fit between Industry NZ and Ministry of Environment funds.

Question 12.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: In light of the reported statements that four Mongrel Mob former Mangaroa prison inmates have received an undisclosed sum, and an apology from the Crown, what is the exact amount of taxpayer's money awarded to each and the exact wording of the Crown's apology on behalf of all New Zealanders?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) A condition imposed on the settlement by council for the complainant is that the amount remains confidential. I am therefore prevented from disclosing the sum. The apology is as follows:

--- Quotes the apology – See Parliament Wire ----

Q: Why won’t the minister tell Parliament and the country that one of the inmates serving eight years for kidnapping and rape has been awarded $90,000 and has bought himself a new Harley Davidson

A: I have no idea if that figure is correct or a figment of the members . I am advised that Crown Law advised the AG to commence proceedings for settlement. I am appalled at two things. One is the vigilante actions of the prison officers that . I am also appalled that the law requires us to compensate this scumbag. But that is the way it is.

Q: Can he confirm that the Mongrel Mob member has received 9 times the maximum compensation available to his victim?

A: I do not know the sum of money that has been paid. I am advised the confidentiality was imposed by the complainant and that the AG acted on the advice of Crown Law. If the member has any evidence as to the quantum I suggest he table it.

(Richard Prebble – leave sought to table the Sludge Report from SCOOP – granted.)

Question to Member

Question 1.

SIMON POWER (National) to the Chairperson of the Health Committee Judy Keall:

Q: Has the committee decided to hold an inquiry into the cannabis issue?

A: I have not been directed to make any public comment on this issue.

Q: Has a proposal been put the committee on this and voted on?

A: I have not been directed by the committee to make any public comment on this matter.

Q: Bearing in mind the fact she has the power to make a statement on this herself, has the committee resolved to have an inquiry? Yes or no?

(Speaker – the committee chair does not have such a power and she need not answer.)

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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