Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Aussie Views On Overstayers – Singapore Trade Agreement – Bunkle On Inflation - Maori Child Welfare And The Treaty – Closing The Gaps – ERA Reaction – Bob Simcock’s Child Abuse Conference – Tony O’Reilly – Manurewa Prison – The Importance Of Ships – Bee-keeper Welfare.
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 to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:
Q: What impact will the Government's amnesty for illegal overstayers in New Zealand have on the objective of a common border and harmonised immigration policies with Australia?
A: No significant impact on the relationship is expected. I appreciate the support of some of Mrs Shipley’s colleagues for this policy.
Q: Were fears of overstayers raised by Australia?
A: I both consulted and informed the Australian Minister of Immigration. I also noticed that there were no impacts of similar measures made in 1991 by a National Government. If her government had enforced laws after 1991 we would not have the need to do this now. It is not correct to describe people who have been refused refugee status as refugees. It is true that there is an exemption to the amnesty for this group. Approximately one third of those classified as overstayers will be eligible. These numbers will be offset against immigration targets.
Q: Did he make his concerns, now public, known to her during consultations?
Q: Will this affect visa-free status?
A: I can guarantee that the outcome of the announcements we have made this week will have no significant impact on the relationship with Australia. And I repeat that if her government had enforced immigration rules over the last nine years, we wouldn’t be having to do this now.
ROD DONALD (Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:
Q: Given his statements on National Radio that "obviously I was ill informed then" because "floating the dollar didn't work as I expected it to", how can he assure the House that he is not equally ill informed about any cultural, social, environmental and economic costs of the Singapore free trade agreement?
A: Then I was a backbencher as the member is now. As a minister I have overseen an extensive process of consultation which his informed the government in all aspects of the agreement. I particularly note the support of the business community for this agreement.
Q: Rod Donald (Green) Which of several statements made by the Princes St Labour Party does he agree with. (Listed)
The Singapore Agreement includes an exemption for Creative Arts and allows policies to be advanced in this area in the same way that the Waitangi Clause allows closing the gaps policies to proceed.
Q: What about Nandor, the Melbourne Police and their horses?
A: I am prepared to make any sacrifice for my country.
(Rod Donald - Leave to table a press release from the Princes St Branch of the Labour Party – granted.)
Hon MARIE HASLER (National) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle :
Q: What monitoring of price increases is occurring by her ministry given the growing pressure on prices as a result of the falling New Zealand dollar?
A: Allow me to help the confused member who should know that my Ministry is not responsible for monitoring prices.
(Speaker - The Minister will apologise.
Bunkle - I withdraw and apologise )
A: This is the domain of the Department of Statistics. If prices are unfair then they can be addressed under the fair trading Act. The value of the dollar was misrepresented and uncompetitive under national.
Q: When will she acknowledge that NZ is on the wrong track?
A: I have no responsibility for prices. Price problems seem to me to be the unfortunate consequence of National’s ten year long failed experiment of opening up the economy and making us vulnerable to the weak dollar. That is why we need sustainable growth in NZ’s indigenous economy. It is perfectly clear to me that fluctuations brought about by the mismanagement of the National Party can not be attributed to this government.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why has she not been informed that it was the Labour that floated the dollar?
A: I do have a long memory. And I remember you supporting it.
(Winston Peters – I don’t know if you supported it Mr Speaker but I certainly did not – I described it as the Erebus economy.)
MAHARA OKEROA (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What is the Government doing to implement recommendations of the report of the Commissioner for Children on the investigation into the death of James Whakaruru?
A: The commissioner’s recommendations included recommending the affirmation of the TOW by ensuring Whanau, Hapu and Iwi were involved in developing policy on child protection. We are doing that. The Opposition is now chasing votes by repudiating its previous views. Is this something perhaps something that you say in Government but not in opposition. Every NZer has the obligation to be involved in ensuring all children are safe.
Q: What is he doing about the looming crisis?
A: Unlike the last government we have increased baseline expenditure in CYFS. We have also invested in communities. Unlike the last government we have put our money where our mouths are.
Q: Roger Sowry (National) Why isn’t he funding several programmes (listed)?
A: We have put more money into those programmes.
Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What are the trends, and what progress has the Government made, on closing the gaps between Maori and non-Maori in terms of levels of employment, income, and education opportunities?
A: I can report that the government is making outstanding progress. Including an increase of 100% in the placement of Maori beneficiaries in employment. We have done more to increase the opportunities of Maori and PI New Zealanders in nine months that the previous government did in nine years.
Q: Will he release a confidential MOSP report by Simon Chapple on the failure of the closing the gaps policy?
A: We have released two reports. One showing how wide the gaps were and another showing what the stats are now. We are not hiding.
Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ): Are there specific objectives for the closing of the gaps? If so what are they?
A: Yes it does and when we release them you can read them.
(ACT – leave to table a MOSP report into gaps – granted.)
GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: What reports has she received on employer reactions to the new employment environment?
A: On morning report this morning there was an interview with Tony O’Reilly, he said he did not think this would effect relationships in his Hamilton operation. This is a sensible view. I have also seen a recent report from the Wairarapa which says staff relations have improved at one firm, and less money has been spent on solicitors now they have adopted good faith bargaining. A major factual campaign will begin shortly to inform employers of how the new Act works.
BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: Can he explain why it was a "no-brainer" to ban the Child, Youth and Family Service's chief social worker from attending a conference where he could speak and listen to general practitioners, paediatricians, social workers and educators on child protection issues?
A: It was a “no-brainer” because the conference is being convened by the Opposition spokesman on welfare. It is a long tradition of government that officials do not get involved in politics. The Chief Social Worker interacts a great deal with these groups anyway.
Q: Is he willing to let any CYFS staff attend?
A: I know the member needs all the help he can get to develop his policy. Members of CYFS are regularly talking to these people and do not need to attend a National Party conference to find out about child abuse. This is not about reigning in the Chief Social Worker, it is about reigning in the Opposition spokesman on Social Welfare in his attempts to undermine public service neutrality.
GRANT GILLON (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What reports has he received about business attitudes to investment in New Zealand?
A: I have seen some comments from Tony O’Reilly, one of the highest paid executives in the world, he said, “provided people believe in the country, and there are many reasons to believe in NZ, then they will invest in NZ”. He is talking this country up while the opposition revels in talking the economy down. Dr O’Reilly himself is putting his company’s money where its mouth is. Heinz is moving all manufacture for Australasia and Asia to Hastings. “There cannot be a more eloquent way to say how much we believe in NZ than that,” he said. The Alliance has never been against overseas investment when it is in our national interest. Developing our agricultural and horticultural businesses is in the national interest. In the Dominion today I read about a $1 million investment in a Wellington printing company, opened by the Leader of the Opposition.
Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Is there a difference in investment that provides jobs, and investment - such as under National - in the form of the sale of state assets for short run gains and long time costs to consumers?
A: Yes. I am at one with my
former colleague in believing that.
WARREN KYD (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: Does the Government intend to build the Auckland men's regional prison in Manurewa; if not, why not?
A: A thorough site search is going on between Manakau and Huntly for a prison site.
Q: Isn’t the reason for relocation of the prison the comments of George Hawkins asking for the prison to be built far away from Manurewa?
A: No. The real reason for the move is that I inherited a department that was an absolute shambles under National.
Q: Is he accustomed to nimbyism among his colleagues?
A: I am accustomed to nimbyism from a lot of areas in this house. Mr Hawkins however is not one of the members I am accustomed to seeing this in. He is a very principled member.
PETER BROWN (NZ First) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:
Q: Will the tax review committee be considering a tax regime to encourage the establishment and development of a New Zealand international merchant shipping fleet?
A: Not as the first part of its work. It will not address structural questions. A shipping report will consider these issues, and these may feed into the tax inquiry later.
Q: Is he aware how important ships are?
A: I am sure he is aware of the importance of having ships. Cabinet hasn’t yet approved the membership of the review but I expect that will be done in early October. People have been approached to go on it. The normal procedures in appointments are being followed.
Q: Given that it has the support of Tony O’Reilly, will his government consider Mr O’Reilly’s idea of 10% company tax? If not why not?
A: No that will not be one of the areas considered by the inquiry.
(Roger Sowry – Point of order. Ministers are ducking questions.
Speaker –withdraw and apologise for that inference.
Roger Sowry – I have evidence.
Speaker – okay but this better be good.
Roger Sowry - the minister is not present today and the Minister of Broadcasting was not present yesterday when she was under fire…
Speaker – that is not evidence. Withdraw and apologise.
Roger Sowry - I withdraw and apologise. Point of Order. There are a number of cases recently of this sort of thing happening. The opposition has reason to believe that you should be watching this carefully. I remember vividly that Speaker Kidd at one stage also said somethings similar. You can see he is nodding.
Speaker – I refer the member to a ruling made back in the 1970s. It says a minister has an absolute right to delegate a question. I stress that no allegation can be made in this house about deliberate absence unless there is direct evidence of it. I can see none.
Mark Burton – can I inform the house that the Minister in question [Judith Tizard] is on overseas leave which was arranged some months ago.)
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: In view of her commitment in relation to the Auckland region's request for $35 million towards the purchase of the Tranz Rail corridor that she was "really happy to go and argue for that", what recent successes is she able to report?
A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) On behalf of my colleague I reply. I will always argue for solutions to Auckland’s transport problems.
Q: Now the Minister of Transport has announced that the answer is no, is this because she was insufficiently convincing?
A: The ministers representations have made a huge difference in Auckland. For example they have resulted in the removal of the cap on public transport subsidies.
Q: Why is this issue so hard?
A: Because for a decade the previous government had an artificial cap on passenger transport funding, it did not do enough.
Q: Keith Locke (Green) Is the unity of all local bodies in support of the deal a factor in favour of approval?
A: Unity is unusual and wonderful. I understand however that this proposal is one that in the longer term might have something going for it. For us the shorter term is more important at the moment.
Q: What has she done in particular?
A: I have had a number of wonderful successes on behalf of Auckland. These include working with the Minister for the Americas Cup.
DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:
Q: What is the Government doing to help beekeepers whose business income is severely affected because their hives have been infested with the varroa mite?
A: We have extended the rural assistance scheme to assist bee-keepers who have had their businesses destroyed by the varroa mite?
Q: Criteria will be the same as normal. The main variation from the standard is the extension of the time limit to two years. Up to 30 of 128 affected bee-keepers are expected to be eligible.
A: Does he know about reports from the US about an insecticide resistant mite?
Q: No. At this stage we have made a two year commitment. We will look at an extension if necessary when the deadline approaches. The scheme is administered by the Department of Work and Income. The scheme is expected to cost around $500,000 over two years. The first phase of the strategy is now virtually complete. All commercial bee-keepers within the area have treated their hives. Consultation on the second phase of the plan is now underway.
(David Carter – leave to table document about a resistant mite - granted
Lockwood Smith – leave to table a document on Jim Sutton’s views on currency union – refused.)