Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: PM On ANZAC Dollar – State School Fees – Brain Drain – Sky Casino Dishonesty Problems – Housing NZ Revaluation – Junior Doctors And Health Cutbacks – Suing Councils – Brain Drain – Auckland Rail Corridor – Maori and PI Advertising Scholarships.
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
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: What is her Government's policy on currency union with Australia given her comments that an Anzac dollar is on the political agenda, and will she raise the issue with Prime Minister Howard later this month?
A: The Government’s position is similar to the National Party Finance spokesman’s. We support debate. It is not officially on the agenda for Australian discussions.
Q: Does she agree with Australian Treasurer Peter Costello that this amount to an Australian takeover?
A: No. The questions that would drive any decision on this are whether this would be in the interests of NZ?
Q: How then does she explain Finance Minister Dr Cullen’s comments?
A: Dr Cullen has a long certain future as Minister of Finance. As Dr Cullen has said it is on the table for discussion by virtue of the simple fact that Frank Holmes and Arthur Grimes and others have commented on it and others appear keen to do so too.
Q: Is this being researched?
A: Yes. And it has been for some time. The PM did not raise this issue. She attended a business breakfast at it was raised by participants.
Q: Is she aware that the AFR asserts today that if we do agree then we will release control of interest rates to the Reserve Bank of Australia?
A: I would suggest that if we did go down this path then there would be a combined Bank of Australasia.
NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: Can State schools charge fees and do parents have to pay them?
A: No. They may seek a donation, but they may not assert that payment of the fee is compulsory or that it is a condition of enrolment. I am aware of a school in Auckland notifying parents of a $500 fee in an unacceptable manner.
Q: Does he accept that this puts schools in an unacceptable position?
A: Schools have, in any area, a range of socio-economic groups among their parents. To say to a poor family that they have to front up with $500 in order to send their kids to a school next door is unacceptable. This school has been cautioned for its conduct. We will be printing a prominent notice about this in the Education Gazette.
Hon JOHN LUXTON (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What impact will there be on economic development from New Zealand having the highest level of outflow in 20 years of people of skill and talent at a time when annual average growth in New Zealand is over 4%?
A: To those who say there are more skilled NZers leaving NZ. I say listen to BNZ economist Tony Alexander. He has been very critical of this government. He said migration figures should be assessed over longer periods. There is nothing unusual about the outflow in the last year as compared to trends of the last two decades.
Q: Luxton: Why would a high achieving NZer return to such a climate as NZs?
A: No one in NZ gets any pleasure out of talented bright NZers leaving NZ. I have said that what we have to offer is the best country in the world. If the opposition does not believe this then maybe they should leave too, and give us all a favour.
Q: Has he given up on luring talented NZers back?
A: All NZers want NZ to be as attractive as possible for all NZers.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): Is he concerned that the Singapore Agreement could lead to even greater outflows of people?
A: All developed countries in the world want more skilled people. Ours are going to Australia. Many in Australia are going to America. I do not know where the American’s are going but some say they are coming here. Statistics show that the numbers of NZ leaving have actually fallen under this government. The fact that the whole of this government is collectively involved in bringing back NZers with businesses overseas.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs Mark Burton:
Q: Is he confident that the law controlling casinos' administration, management and personnel is being complied with in respect to the Auckland Sky City Casino; if not, what does he propose to do about it?
A: I am aware of an investigation in 1999 into other matters. I am also aware of comments from a former employee. I am inquiring into this.
Q: Winston: Is he aware of the magnitude of dishonesty offences in the Casino (listed) ?
A: I will look into those matters immediately following question time. The member is correct that there should be a report directly to the DIA’s inspectors if there are any dishonesty offences.
Q: Winston: Did he say that the offences I mentioned were reported to the DIA?
A: The member misunderstood. Matters in May last year were reported. I was not referring to the matters raised in the members second question.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson:
Q: What is the Government doing to encourage greater investment in private sector research and development?
A: The scheme that came into operation on Monday is aimed at delivering additional technology to start-up firms. It delivers one dollar for every two dollars put up for R&D by the firm, up to $100,000.
Q: What effect is the scheme likely to have?
A: If the $11.8 million fund is fully utilised then it will raise the investment in R&D in NZ by private firms by 10%. The issue of tax treatment of R&D expenditure is under active consideration. I note that the opposition did nothing in this area for nine years for ideological reasons. The only countries in the western world with a lower private sector expenditure on R&D than NZ are Turkey, Greece, Portugal and Mexico.
Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:
Q: Does he stand by his statement that Housing New Zealand would suffer a loss in value only if it received no compensation for its reduced revenue, and his description of a Treasury report warning of a devaluation of Housing New Zealand assets by between $200 million and $600 million as "speculative"?
A: The report was speculative.
Q: Ryall: Can the Minister guarantee that the Crown Financial Statements will not include a writedown in the value of Housing NZ by over $400 million?
A: That will be revealed tomorrow when the papers are tabled. Normal fluctuations impact in the valuation of assets. The backlog of maintenance will also have an impact, as will the decision not to sell housing stock. This government will be compensating Housing NZ for the introduction of income related rents.
CLAYTON COSGROVE(Labour) to the Minister for Land Information:
Q: What has been the process that has led to the approval of the establishment of the Land Information New Zealand database called Landonline?
A: The project was approved in 1997. In 1999 the then National Government let contracts to complete the project . I have seen a surprising report on this from Nick Smith which warns that the project has all the hall-marks of INCIS. He approved this project. This sounds like a case of saying one thing in government and another in opposition.
Q: John Luxton (National): Does he have concerns and what is the Minister doing about this?
A: That member decided to continue with this project in spite of concerns about it. It is being overseen by lots and lots of people.
Q: What will the costs and completion dates be?
A: The decision on completion is yet to be made. We will receive a report form LINZ shortly and decide then.
Q: What are the cost overruns so far.
A: Costs are estimated at around $145 million. The decision to go to the next phase will be taken shortly by this government. The NZ Institute of Surveyors supports the project as does the NZ Law Society.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Has she received any reports suggesting hospitals may have to make service cutbacks to fund the pay increase for junior doctors; if so, what do those reports say?
Q: Has the minister seen comments by the CEO of Pacific Health that Tauranga Hospital could be forced into service cutbacks?
A: Pacific Health has made no formal notifications of any planned cuts. The report puzzles me. An additional $110 million went to hospitals this year out of a total increase of $412 million. This compares favourably with an offered $175 million increase for the entire health sector , announced by National before the election.
IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee:
Q: What action will she take to protect councillors should corporate entities threaten them with personal financial liability in an attempt to influence council decision making?
A: Threats are not without precedent and I do not believe that councillors will be diverted from their responsibilities by these threats (Threats from Fastcat Ferres Ltd.).
Q: Is he aware of any cases where threats have been successfully followed through?
A: I and my department are not aware of any such actions being taken successfully. Politicians in this house are protected by privilege. This will be discussed further as part of the Local Government Review.
PENNY WEBSTER (ACT) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: In relation to his reported comments on New Zealanders emigrating that "of course they are too high and we are trying to bring them down", what impact is the departure of New Zealanders of talent and skill having on his regional economic development strategies?
A: Every country is short of people with skill and talent and NZ will lose its share. As I said earlier there is nothing unusual about the outflow under this government.
Q: Will he ask them to come home again?
A: As NZers have become more educated the number of people classified as professionals and with technical skills has increased, this is not surprising. Recently there has been an increase of 3% in this classification of departures. This trend is evident back to 1994. One of the reasons Mr Luxton has given for NZers to leave is a lower tax ratee in Australia. Tax rates in Australia, as that revolutionary socialist paper The Dominion reported this morning. Tax rates in Australia are 47%.
(Webster – leave sought to table statistics on departures – refused.)
Hon MURRAY MCCULLY (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: What progress has she made to date in fulfilling her brief "to work with the Prime Minister to co-ordinate, develop and implement policies that will allow Auckland to grow in a positive and dynamic fashion for the benefit of Auckland and the rest of New Zealand"?
A: I am continuing to work across portfolios and with local government to coordinate policies for the benefit of Auckland.
Q: In relation to the request for $35 million for the TranzRail corridor?
A: The deal that is being done between the Auckland region and TranzRail does not involve the government… (Tizard - Mr Bradford appears to be having some trouble… Speaker….there do seem to be some strange noises in the house but please answer the question.)
A: The government has said that the corridor should be used at a price that NZ can afford. We have not yet got that deal. When we have then we will be participating.
Q: Does the Minister support tax money going to this?
A: Tax money already supports public transport through subsidies. We are not in the business of wasting public money.
Q: Ian Ewen Street (Green): Will the GST on petrol be directed towards this $65 million cost?
A: GST goes to lots of things. We need cost-effective solutions. The proposed agreement between ARC and TranzRail has caused concerns for Northland Mayors. And these must also be resolved.
Q: Murray McCully (National): How is the ARC supposed to request $35 million from the government without becoming involved with central government?
A: We are involved. The member is misreporting me. Again.
LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:
Q: What response has he received with regard to the announcement of Maori and Pacific Island advertising scholarships focusing on road safety?
A: Very positively we have applications from 69 people for the four scholarships. This is very positive.
Q: What else is he doing?
A: This government has allocated an additional $1.5 million to Maori and Pacific road safety issues. The LTSA have appointed Maori and PI officers to develop campaigns in partnership with communities. In designing the advertising campaign we noticed that there were very few Maori creatives in the industry. I believe these people will be snapped up.