Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: ANZAC Dollar – Teacher Registration – Dollar Woes and Oil Prices – Saving Whales – Evening Post Business Poll – TVNZ Charter - Industry Training –Oil Prices and Consumption – Constitutional Reform - Insider Trading – Mangaroa Prison Settlement – Benefit Levels
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 RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: In light of a One News Colmar Brunton poll showing a majority of New Zealanders are in favour of a common trans-Tasman currency and the Australian Treasurer Peter Costello's reported comments saying his Government was not interested, what is the Government's next step?
A: The government will continue to work towards harmonising tax and other rules. Like National’s Bill English we appreciate that over time currency union will be debated. There will continue to be discussion on this over the next couple of years – just as there will be discussion of Richard Prebble’s leadership of the ACT Party as it reaches 3% in the polls.
Q: Will the NZ Government promote a common currency?
A: No. While we will discuss it, it is clearly not an option at this time.
Q: What about the impact of the dollar on household budgets?
A: We are in about the same position as Australia in regards to the impact of the low dollar. In the long term I think we all agree that having a higher dollar would be better for the country.
HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard :
Q: What steps have been taken to ensure a consistent approach to teacher registration?
A: The government is currently considering submissions on a proposal that will apply a consistent approach. 85% of submissions support the idea of a Teachers Education Council. This bill will correct anomalies in relation to Kura Kaupapa teachers.
Q: Why are Kura Kaupapa teachers not subject to the same rules as others at present?
A: The separatist approach which led to this situation on this was led by the Hon.Tau Henare and supported by known Maori radicals such as Jenny Shipley and Winston Peters. This government is tough on poor teachers and we have done more in nine months on this that the opposition did in nine years. There has been a practice developing of protecting poor teachers – we will have proper standards.
Q: Why is he taking away powers of boards to disciplining teachers?
A: If schools do not discipline teachers properly we will come down on them like a tonne of bricks.
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What will be the likely impact on petrol prices of today's record low in the New Zealand dollar against the United States dollar and the 10-year high in crude oil prices, and what effect will any price changes have on regional development?
A: As with all economic news there are pluses and minuses. The key is to maximise the benefits and minimise the costs. The benefits are in higher export returns. The minuses are in import costs.
Q: Will he consider tax relief for families?
A: The situation is of course being closely monitored across all industries. NZ fuel prices remain lower than in Europe. It may come as a surprise but higher petrol prices actually hurt government revenues.
Q: What is he doing to encourage regional development?
A: The partnership between local and central government has been formalised. I look forward to a constructive relationship with local government in bringing down unemployment.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): What will he do to promote localisation of production and consumption?
A: NZ has the opportunity to lead the world in alternative energy policies and we will be pursuing those.
Q: Peter Brown (NZ First) Given the fact that consumption has not got down and the GST take has increased – will he even consider reducing petrol tax?
A: I can only reiterate the fact that as petrol prices rise revenues for the government decrease. We have three choices – reduce services – increase taxes or reduce the fiscal surplus. This last one will be the option the government takes. All countries in the world who are importing oil are in the same position as NZ is.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): What will he do about families?
A: It may come as a surprise to the member that she is ignorant of the fact that all kinds of currencies have been devalued over recent months along with the NZ Dollar.
(Tony Ryall – will the Minister table a report he mentioned from the Treasury – granted.)
Hon PETER DUNNE (United NZ) to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson:
Q: Will the Minister follow the lead of the United States and ban all Japanese fishing in New Zealand's waters?
A: The bi-lateral NZ-Japan fishing arrangement expired three years ago and since then Japanese vessels have not been able to fish in NZ. NZ quota holders have been able to charter Japanese vessels to fish NZ quota. I do not plan to ban the chartering of Japanese vessels, as that would primarily disadvantage NZ quota holders.
Q: Will he stop the Maruha Japanese fishing company – which is involved in whaling - from fishing and owning quota?
A: Maruha has been in NZ for 40 years. It is primarily involved with marketing fish in Japan. The government will decide whether they should own hoki quota in due course.
Q: Keith Locke (Green): Will he impose any form of economic restraints against Japan?
A: The government has no plans to engage in this at the moment. It is however a fact that the Minister of Conservation is working on how we can oppose whaling even more effectively.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What is his response to the findings of the Evening Post BRC Economic Index poll released yesterday regarding his performance as Minister of Finance?
A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) I have not seen the poll. Even if I had I would respond that I never respond to polls.
Q: Can he confirm that his charm offensive was offensive but not charming?
A: I haven’t seen the poll. I would however like to congratulate the member for reaching 5% in the Preferred PM stakes. I understand the view of my Associate Minister is that there was an improvement in business expectations shown in the poll. This appears to be contradictory.
Q: Why are his disapproval ratings so high?
A: Some things are inexplicable – like the National Party not getting rid of their leader yet. Mr Prebble still holds the record for the worst personal results in polls ever , and the fact he is attacking Mrs Shipley may mean he is feeling knives in his own back.
HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:
Q: What is the Government doing to support industry training?
A: This government has released money to industry training. The budget allocation this year for industry training is an 14% increase over last year.
Q: Is a review of Industry Training underway?
A: Yes. I have said so to stakeholders. I will release terms of reference later this month. Those in training have a very good chance of getting employed as there is a skills shortage.
Q: What will this mean for ITOs?
A: This means an increase in funding. We are backing those who are under-represented and those who have been performing well. 23 ITOs have received increases.
KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:
Q: Is the Television New Zealand Charter referred to in the article "TVNZ plan for kaftan wearers ..." in the Dominion on Saturday, the draft charter currently under discussion by Television New Zealand directors and the Government?
Q: If the Sky Deal goes ahead. What aspects of the charter justify reducing the value of TVNZ?
A: I am working on maintaining the value of TVNZ. Changes at TVNZ are already underway. Children’s content has been increased by 50%. Yesterday TVNZ announced the appointment of a double Emmy award winner to the drama area. TVNZ is also about to appoint new producers and correspondents in the current affairs area. Obligations to meet the charter are part of discussions that are continuing with TVNZ. The document in the Dominion is not the real charter – this will be made available on the Internet this afternoon.
(Richard Prebble – I think the minister should first table it in this house.
Speaker – I will consider that.)
Q: Will in future TVNZ broadcast live things live?
A: This is not addressed by the charter and will not be. Specific programming decisions are made by TVNZ management.
DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:
Q: What is the Government doing to encourage more efficient use of petrol and diesel, given the present worldwide trend in fuel prices?
A: EECA has prepared a number of tips on how to drive more efficiently. The ordinary driver can save money by making simple changes to their driving habits. The average driver could reduce fuel use by 10% or 20%. Driving at 90kmh rather than 110kmh saves around 25% of fuel. Removing your roof-rack when not using it can also help. The tips are also being promoted by most oil companies – all except one.
Q: What will he do to promote CNG and LPG?
A: The government is engaged in looking at role it should play, if any, in introducing new technologies to NZ.
Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:
Q: Does she consider it necessary to settle the question of how the Treaty of Waitangi is dealt with in legislation if constitutional reform is to be advanced?
A: A fundamental constitutional reform is not currently on the Government’s agenda.
Q: Given reported comments that it is the PM’s view that the treaty would need to be addressed for constitutional reform, what reforms is she referring to?
A: Presumably she is saying that if constitutional reform was on the agenda then you would have to address the treaty. There are more than 30 Acts with references to the Treaty of Waitangi many passed by a National led government. The Treaty as a document in its own right has never been incorporated into our legal system.
Q: Simon Upton (National): In view of her description on Mana Media of the constitutional arrangements as authoritarian and monarchist, can we assume she is referring to republicanism reforms?
A: The member unfortunately only heard part of the interview. I was responding to development in Canada. The comment I was saying was that the changes were consistent with a bottom up approach – which is the same as that supported by this government.
H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:
Q: Has he received any recent reports which suggest that the current insider trading regime is inadequate; if so, what action is the Government taking to address the situation?
A: Yes. There is a perception in the market that the regime is inadequate. We are reviewing Insider Trading law as a consequence. Our objective is to improve confidence in the NZ Share Market and helping investors.
Q: How will a merger with Australia impact on this area of law?
A: Several of the options being discussed would bring us closer to Australian law in this area.
Q: Lockwood Smith (National): How much does he believe his many reviews are contributing to business uncertainty?
A: All I have to say to that party is that at a time when NZers are supporting their Olympic Team that National Party is continuing to run down the country. Get behind the country.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:
Q: Which of her Ministerial colleagues did she consult with before approving the confidential settlement to former Mangaroa Prison inmates, and did she consult with the Prime Minister Helen Clark?
A: As AG I alone took the decision to settle after reviewing the file and taking advice from the Solicitor General. I consulted with the Minister of Corrections. I did not consult with the PM. I would not have had to settle if the government had not tried to cover up the illegal conduct of the officers involved.
Q: Nick Smith (National) Is this consistent with getting rid of secret payouts?
A: Those comments involved the payment of severance payments to state employees. They did not involve matters of the rule of law. A ministerial inquiry found that prison management sanctioned the use of hit squads to beat prisoners and leave them outside over-night as punishment. The evidence became so contaminated as a result of attempts to cover these events up that payments of compensation were required.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is the reason that she did not consult because she knew Phil Goff would say no?
A: No. I had no doubts about the Minister of Justice’s commitment to the rule of law. The confidentiality agreement was made to ensure settlement at the lowest possible cost. I have had nothing but support from the PM on this.
Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: Why did he say, as reported in the Dominion in response to a question as to whether benefit levels would be increased, "Not this term", and if he was incorrectly reported will the Government be increasing benefits?
A: At the conference I was asked if I could foresee an increase in benefits - I said I could not at this stage do so.
Q: Did he ask his coalition partners about this?
A: Of course we have discussed things with The Alliance and the Greens. The Greens support the government because they have read the comments of ACT about benefits.
Q: What is the government doing for beneficiaries?
A: A summary: Income related rents, informing beneficiaries of their rights, a $5 increase to the special benefits, we have abolished school bulk funding, we have increased hours for child care and we have restored cuts to superannuation.