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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - 14 September

Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: ANZAC Dollar – Crown Finances – Singapore Treaty Arrangements – Gloomy BNZ Economic Forecasts – Employment – Alexandra Flooding – TVNZ and Sky – ERMA And GE Cows – TVNZ and Sky – Crime Stats –Taxation Review – Singapore Trade Agreement – Select Committee Submissions On Trade Agreement.

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, 14 September 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

Question 1.

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: How does her statement that "Nobody is suggesting giving away the New Zealand currency to Australia." sit with the comments from Australian Treasurer Peter Costello that "we're not interested in any new currency" and "if someone came along and said we would like to adopt your currency and your monetary arrangements, we would look at them"?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) My understanding is that Treasurer Costello did not suggest NZ give away its currency.

Q: Does she agree with Dr Cullen on this?

A: The PM has made it clear that this is not on the formal agenda at this stage. However this government is making considerable progress with trans-Tasman relationships, unlike National before us. Bill English has suggested monetary union with both Australia and the US recently.

Q: Isn’t the truth that she is promoting this as a diversion from the fact the dollar has plunged?

A: I note that the Euro and the Australian Dollar and the British Pound have all fallen against the US Dollar. The NZ dollar is also at a record low against the US Dollar. We are now following the Australian Dollar very closely.

Question 2.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What are the main features of the Crown financial statements for the year ending June 2000?

A: A surplus of $1.45 billion was achieved. This is a lot better than in the pre-election fiscal update and demonstrates this government’s prudent fiscal management. The previous year’s surplus was a little higher. This surplus is better though because it was not made up of one-off gains through asset sales. The net worth of the crown is $2.4 billion ahead of forecast. Net debt is also down on prefu forecasts.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): What about business confidence?

A: I note that when his mate Daniel Silva came out on this he was promptly savaged by several business groups.

Question 3.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Following her meeting with the Leader of the National Party, does she believe that she has a win-win solution for Parliament's endorsement of the Singapore Free Trade Agreement with the Treaty clause that says, "nothing in this Agreement shall preclude the adoption by New Zealand of measures it deems necessary to accord more favourable treatment to Maori" within it; if so, what is it?

A: (Jim Sutton on behalf) Yes. It will be a win-win solution because all NZers will benefit from increased trade with Singapore.

Q: When she had her chat with the PM did she discuss what ACT might do?

A: It is quite obvious that the leader of ACT was not a party to the conversation and that this is why he has based his supplementary on something that has never happened.

Q: Does the government have to give Maori preferential treatment under the treaty?

A: No the treaty simply preserves NZs right to implement domestic policy in this area if it wishes without being challenged. Cabinet has decided the treaty can be signed and ratified.

Q: (Green) Does he agree the Treaty of Waitangi has preference over the WTO agreement?

A: This government takes care to honour all agreements. The meeting traversed all the issues that have been alluded here today about the perspective of the Government and the Opposition on this. There was discussion and a general meeting of minds on how to proceed.

(Richard Prebble – leave sought for Jim Anderton to ask a question – granted.)

Q: Jim Anderton (Alliance): Has he seen any reports on how the government has handled this issue compared to how ACT and National have handled it.

A: The PM has received numerous oral reports on this. The gist of which is that the coalition can agree to disagree, whereas ACT’s Stephen Franks accuses the National Party of dishonesty and describes National as mugs. Obviously these are not parties that agree to disagree.

(Gerry Brownlee – leave sought to ask a question – refused.

Nick Smith – leave to table “rocks in their heads” article quoting Jim Sutton – refused.)

Question 4.

Hon JOHN LUXTON (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What outcome did the Treasury build into the Budget economic forecasts for June quarter GDP, compared with forecasts from the Bank of New Zealand of a reduction of 0.9% and from the Deutsche Bank of a reduction of 0.8% in GDP?

A: The budget figures forecast growth on an annual basis not a quarterly basis.

(John Luxton later sought to table quarterly Treasury forecasts – granted.)

Q: How is the outlook for a contraction impacting on the operating balance?

A: On the most important basis, Treasury is sticking to its central forecast. The BNZ forecast is the most gloomy. Deutsche Bank a predicting a bounce back in September. WestpacTrust too is not expecting negative growth in the third quarter. Only the BNZ and ACT are. (to Rod Donald) There is lot to be said for new indices but turning our back on GDP would possibly subject us to international ridicule.

Question 5.

STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What are the benefits to the Government's employment strategy of the memorandum of understanding reached with mayors earlier this week?

A: The first point I should make is that unlike the last Government the Labour Government does have an employment policy. Mayors have been meeting together and with Ministers to discuss employment. We have formulated an understanding in a memorandum of understanding. We are planning to have a whole of government approach to this.

Q: What are the goals?

A: There are six goals (listed).

Q: (National) How have the goals contributed to the 10,000 jobs that have been lost?

A: Statistics recently said - concerning the June HLFS survey - that compared with a year ago labour market conditions have improved with over 17,000 new jobs.

Question 6.

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

Q: What contribution has the Government made to prevent flooding in Alexandra?

A: We have unveiled a generous package of $21.8 million to protect and rehabilitate the town. This allows residents to plan for their future. Floodbanks a meter higher than floods last year will be built. The Central Otago Mayor says the package met expectations. Others said it was close to what was wanted. The ACT party described the package as minimalist. I challenge ACT – the party that believes in not spending government money on anything - to say how much more it would have spent.

Q: Is this setting a precedent?

A: The issue of liability is a legal issue. That matter is sometimes drawn out in courts. What we have seen here is a government standing with its communities. God help those communities if the ACT party is ever in power.

Question 7.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:

Q: Does she stand by the statement attributed to a spokesperson in her office that she was aware of the special Television New Zealand Board meeting on Tuesday "but the topic was the draft charter and its application"?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Yes. But as the Minister does not get or set the agenda of meetings she does not know everything on the agenda. A draft charter has been developed and will be considered by the government shortly, it will then be made available for public discussion.

Q: Has she done anything decisive?

A: The first thing done was to turn down a proposal that contained a serious threat to the asset value. The Minister is working on maintaining the value.

Q: Can she deny that the meeting was in part to accept space on the Sky Network? And that this is controversial in the eyes of some directors?

A: The fact that a proposal is controversial is not a good reason for it not to be discussed.

Question 8.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: Does she have any concerns about recent actions by the Maori Advisory Committee [Nga Kaihautu Tikanga Taiao] of the Environmental Risk Management Authority in respect of decisions by the Authority; if so, what are those concerns?

A: (Ruth Dyson) An appeal to the High Court on this has been lodged. The authority will do everything it can to assist the court.

Q: Does she believe it is appropriate for ERMA to lean on its Maori Committee on this matter?

A: My understanding is that ERMA is comfortable with a request to supply full information.

Q: Following comments from the Minister of Maori Affairs, why has the minister done nothing to ensure ERMA has the necessary expertise to perform their duties in relation to Maori cultural matters?

A: I do have confidence in the board of ERMA.

Q: Why was the application for the experiment approved.

A: The application was lodged in 1998 and therefore fell outside the scope of the Government’s moratorium. It was assessed under the provisions of the HASNO Act.

Question 9.

KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:

Q: Was she correctly reported in the Evening Post on 28 August as saying she did not have any problems with Dr Armstrong talking to Sky about Sky providing digital transmission services to Television New Zealand?

A: Yes.

Q: Is it correct that the Minister has no problems with slashing the value of the business and that she has said so to the board.

A: No. The member confuses a number of aspects of TVNZ’s business. It is perfectly legitimate for an SOE to talk to people without first seeking permission from their minister. As part of the no-surprises policy there are now regular meetings between SOE Board chairs and their Ministerial share-holders.

Q: Is she aware that advertising agencies are inserting special clauses in their contracts and what is she doing about it?

A: I thought the previous question was accusing the minister of acting decisvely.

Question 10.

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What has led to the reduction in crime and the increase in resolution rates shown by the latest National Crime Statistics?

A: The increase in resolution rates have been achieved in response to police implementing government policy including the response times policy. We have kept our promises and commitments to crack down on crime. Total recorded crime dropped 5% or 23,000 offences in the year to June. This represents effective implementation of the government’s crime policies.

Q: Does he only take responsibility for minor crime? Or will he take responsibility for the record murder statistics?

A: ACT has been attacking the CIB for some time saying they don’t have resources. In fact there has been a greater resolution of homicides this year than the year before. The resolution rate for burglary has improved from 11% to 14%.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): What about increases in violent crime?

A: The statistics show there is no increase.

Question 11.

ANNABEL YOUNG (National) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:

Q: When will the membership of the tax review committee be announced?

A: Soon.

Q: Is the minister aware that there is a widespread belief in the community that he can’t find anyone for the committee?

A: The initial chair-person was not available because he was too busy. The second-choice was appointed Solictor General. I expect to finalise the committee list in 10-15 minutes with the Deputy PM.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Has he ruled out any supporters of flat-tax?

A: I am sure that no-one involved in sex-crimes in Christichurch – like his friends – will be on the committee. The committee will look at resource based taxation and there is no need for an internet campaign to be undertaken to ensure this happens.


Question 12.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What is the exact arrangement, which she has described as a "win win situation", discussed with the Leader of the National Party in respect to the Treaty of Waitangi clause in the Singapore Free Trade Agreement negotiations?

A: (Jim Sutton on behalf) Work is ongoing and I am confident the house will be able to demonstrate through a vote that there is majority support for ratifying this treaty.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is it not a fact that there is nothing so difficult to do as to climb off a high horse gracefully?

A: I suppose so.

Q: (Green) If the national interest analysis of the treaty is to be believed and there are no adverse consequences to this treaty, then why does the treaty need a reservation?

A: The government simply wishes to ensure it is not constrained in future policy decisions. In doing so it is following precedent. The previous provision in GATT has never been invoked or challenges.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): What is the arrangement?

A: The answer is yes. I answered that question at the beginning does the member want me to answer it again.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) He still hasn’t answered. What is the exact arrangement that is a “win-win” arrangement?

A: Work on the exact arrangement is ongoing. But the PM is confident that the house will be able to demonstrate through a vote that it supports the treaty ratification.

(Tony Ryall – leave to table crime stats showing increases in some classes of violent crime– granted.

George Hawkins – leave to table crime stats – granted.

Richard Prebble – leave to table two documents – refused.

Winston Peters – interjection (inaudible possibly “grumpy”)

Speaker – the member Winston Peters will leave the chamber.)

Question to Member

Question 1.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee Chris Carter:

Q: Will the committee call for public submissions on the Singapore Closer Economic Partnership Agreement; if so, how many days will the public and interested organisations be given to research, prepare and lodge submissions on this 183 page document?

A: Yes. The closing date is Monday the 25th of September.

Q: Why are only nine days being allowed for submissions when the October recess would give submissioners an extra 19 days without impacting on when the debate takes place..

A: The organisations most likely to have a view have already been consulted and are already familiar with most of its contents, and they are not expected to have difficulty making submissions.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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