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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 4 October

Today's Questions concerned the subjects of: Unemployment Rises – Closing The Gaps – Double Jeopardy – Food Banks – Electricity Regulation –Consumer Confidence - Telecommunication Regulation – Auckland Transport Woes – Road Safety –Mangaroa Compensation – East Timor – Free Trade - Child Pornography Bill.

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 4 October 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.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Will he measure the success of his contribution to the Government's "Closing the Gaps" strategy by the rate of decline of Maori unemployment; if not, why not?

A: The success of the employment contribution to closing the gaps will ultimately be measured in a decrease in the rate of Maori unemployment as measured in the HLFS.

Q: How come there are more long term unemployed Maori?

A: I know this is a difficult area. The official measure of unemployment is the HLFS. What the former PM has to learn is that the register changes frequently as it is a tool used by the department – it should not therefore be relied upon. I have set a target lifting the numbers of Maori and Pacific Islanders who should be placed in employment.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Can the Minister confirm that of the 14,000 placements of Maori in jobs, 7,000 are now unemployed again?

A: As a member of the previous administration from time to time the member should know the previous government did not have targets for stable employment.

(Trevor Mallard – Mr Sowry, Mr English and Mrs Shipley are all interjecting.

Speaker – I will be the judge of that.)

Q: Does the minister recall saying he would release criteria on which the closing the gaps policy will be measured?

A: I do recall saying that and that paper is before a cabinet committee. After it has been considered it will be released.

Question 2.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Does he agree with the conclusion in the paper Maori socio-economic disparity, prepared for the Ministry of Social Policy, that education, employment and income gaps between Maori and non-Maori actually closed over the 1990s; if not, why not?

A: I don’t agree. I can only assume that Mrs Newman has not read the report as it says on page two that significant gaps between Maori and Non-Maori remain.

Q: Newman (ACT): Given that the Minister signaled yesterday that the policy has moved to one of dealing to disadvantage between all groups, will the minister get rid of racially based policies?

A: Thankyou for the neo-Marxist analysis. Can I refer the member to the speech from the throne.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) Has he read a book that advocates stealing if you are poor? And what does he think of it?

A: Yes. And I can understand why people may have felt that way under the previous government. That is not this government’s way however.

Question 3.

JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What consideration has he given to reforming the law on double jeopardy and why?

A: The Law Commission recently issued a paper on acquittal following perversion of the course of Justice. I am inclined to support the notion of a principled exception to the rule of double jeopardy. My preference is not to abolish the rule on double jeopardy in entirety.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): How many cases of perjury prosecution is he aware of?

A: It would be improper for me to be involved in any prosecutions.

Question 4.

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What advice has he received on the impact of increased food prices on low income families?

A: I receive regular advice from MOSP on subjects such as this.

Q: The Salvation Army is reporting an increase in the use of food banks?

A: Food banks were one of the only growth industries under the National Government. We think they are a blot on the landscape. This government is committed to assisting low income NZers.

Q: Can he explain giving so much to superannuitants and nothing to other beneficiaries?

A: We did not commit ourselves to increases as the member describes. We raised super to prevent 300,000 older NZers from slipping into poverty.

Q: Will he consider increasing base benefits?

A: No. However we have introduced a range of policies such as income related rents which will help poor NZers. There are many other things we have done to assist low income NZers – listed.

Q: Will he name the food banks who have reported a decrease?

A: I will do more than that. I will share my survey results on food banks when it is in.

Question 5.

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:

Q: How will domestic consumers of electricity get a better deal as a result of the Government's power package changes to the electricity industry?

A: The package has been designed to deliver fairness to all consumers – especially small consumers. Targeted price control for line companies will provide more security. The introduction of an ombudsman will give consumers somewhere to go.

Q: Will electricity prices fall?

A: It is not possible to predict electricity prices with confidence. I can say that the package will put as much downward pressure on prices as can be, short of command and control policies.

Q: Pansy Wong (National): Who will pay for the costs of the policy? And when will the changes be made?

A: The issue of timing is pretty much like this. The previous government had nine years in which they made a mess. Although I will need legislation to implement these changes I expect the industry to try to stay ahead of the government on this.

Question 6.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What factors have driven the latest decline in business and consumer confidence?

A: The factors are not known for certain. The major factors will be petrol prices and exchange rate volatility.

Q: Why has the job of invitations to the business summit been taken off him and given to Heather Simpson?

A: Nonsense.

Q: What does the latest confidence survey show?

A: In the latest survey 83% of businesses expect their business to stay the same or improve. There appears to be a commentator driven effect on results in this survey.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): What about stagflation?

A: One thing we will be doing is clamping down on tax evaders in the sex industry of the kind supported by that member. The member inaccurately quoted the Reserve Bank governor . I consider the stagflation scenario unlikely – it is not going to happen. Exporters are very confident at present.

Q: What about buy NZ made?

A: Import substitution measures are being adopted by NZ businesses.

Q: Bill English (National): Can the minister confirm that the NZ Dollar is trading at under US 40 cents?

A: I can confirm that the dollar today briefly touched 39.99 cents. And that this was in part in response to comments from the Reserve Bank Governor. However as I have said I consider this extremely unlikely.

Question 7.

CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Communications Paul Swain:

Q: What recent reports has he received on an agreement being reached between players in the telecommunications industry?

A: I have received a number of reports on telecomms. I note that an agreement between Clear and Telecom has been announced on the eve of the results of the government’s telecommunications inquiry. The previous government watched the bickering and did nothing to address it. Now major telecomms companies are talking to one another. This government has achieved more in nine months than the previous government achieved in nine long years.

Question 8.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:

Q: What advice has she given to the Prime Minister regarding assertions by the chairman of the Auckland Mayoral Forum and President of the New Zealand Labour Party, Mr Bob Harvey, that "our Government Ministers are driving around on their chauffeur-assisted butts looking uncomfortable and achieving stuff all" for Auckland's transport woes and that they were "hiding behind funding structures when big issues come up and scare them"?

A: I have no need to give the PM any advice on the comments of Mr Harvey whose stance on butts is well known. In addition we are well aware of Auckland’s transport problems.

Q: Is she aware of an exasperated letter from Auckland local government leaders?

A: I have received lots of communications from Auckland local government. We have done lots for public transport in Auckland.

Q: Is Mr Harvey’s butt one of the big issues that scares her?

(Speaker – that question is out of order.)

Q: What is she working on this week?

A: All problems are very important. I have been working on lots of problems this week.

Question 9.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What initiatives is the Government considering to improve road safety?

A: I am pleased to announce that tomorrow I will be releasing a major discussion document on making our roads safety. A variety of options will be presented.

Q: Are the Sunday Newspaper headlines correct that 90kmh speed limits are included as one of the options?

A: The document that will be released tomorrow has a large number of proposals in it. We will be receiving submissions on this. There is no government position on this as yet.

Q: Does the minister accept that one of the reasons for the fall in the road toll is photographic drivers licenses?

A: I do not think any one single measure could be held responsible for the fall. We have also done several things too which are also having an effect.

Question 10.

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Was the Attorney-General correct when she told the House that, in relation to the compensation paid to former Mangaroa Prison inmates, she had "had nothing but support from the Prime Minister"?

A: The AG enjoys my full confidence. That does not mean that we do not have the odd difference of opinion. However those differences are far smaller than those between that member and his leader.

Q: How can she explain her comments that she wanted the matter taken before cabinet?

A: My view is that the matter should have been referred to cabinet. However that in no way reflects on my confidence in the Minister and is quite unlike comments made by that member in the Koru club concerning dumping his leader. This government had to deal with this issue because the National government did nothing about it for so long. We will ensure that the truth on National Party bungling on this will come out. The first I knew about this was when a clipping was faxed to me in New York.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why has she not expressed her concern about the lack of compensation paid to the victims of these offenders?

A: Now that the criminals have some money it is open for their victims to sue them.

Question 11.

RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Has he considered any initiatives to encourage Indonesia to adopt a more positive approach to the disarming of the Timorese militiamen?

A: Yes. NZ has repeatedly pressed Indonesia to disarm the militias. Both I and the PM have emphasised this directly to the Indonesian President and Foreign Minister.

Q: Is the Minister prepared to consider a more forceful response such as banning military cooperation with Indonesia?

A: As the member may be aware we have suspended out bilateral defence cooperation with the TNI. While in Europe I made representations concerning stopping the arms supply to the TNI untill they behave in an acceptable fashion. NZ is working closely with a range of countries to pressure Indonesia. Yesterday I met with a Japanese representative and urged a meeting of a consultative group in Japan to put pressure on when it considers a request for several billion dollars in aid. The member should be aware that plans for an East Timor Defence Force of around 3000 soldiers have been approved.

Q: Can the Minister give us an assurance that our troops are adequately armed?

A: Yes they are. However it is something of a disgrace that the M113 APCs are a disgrace and that is why we have ordered new APCs from Canada.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Will he stop Indonesia attending a naval symposium in Auckland?

A: No. We would have to cancel the conference altogether to achieve that and that would have negative consequences to the entire region.

Question 12.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: Does he agree with the reported comments of Meat Board director John McCarthy that free trade is a lemon and that, in the unlikely event it was achieved, New Zealand would lose its preferential access to United States and European markets to much cheaper meat producers such as South America; if not, why not?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) No. A key objective of policy is to seek reciprocal trade deals. NZ would benefit considerably if it had tariff free access to other nations. NZ will host 3000 international students from China next year bringing in $60 million. That is just one example of the benefits of freeing up trade.

Q: John Luxton (National): Does he still believe the opponents of free trade have rocks in their heads?

A: In the context of the WTO round we have said that a balanced approach is what the Alliance/Labour government is supporting.

Q: Who has rocks in their heads?

A: I don’t know.

Questions to Members

Question 1.

ANNE TOLLEY to the Chairperson of the Government Administration Committee:

Q: What progress has the committee made in considering the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Prohibition of Child Pornography) Amendment Bill?

A: The committee is considering a number of issues in relation to the bill. No closing date for submissions has been set. A report back in February is expected.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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