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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 5 October

Today's Questions concerned the subjects of: NZBR Herald Advert – Santa and Jim – Electricity Consumers Rights – Stagflation – Australia And Immigration – Inflation – Youth Offending – Stagflation – Dioxin Pollution – Mangaroa Prison Compensation – Upton On Health Reforms – Baby Walkers.

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, October 05, 2000

The following are paraphrases of teoday'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.

(Richard Prebble – Where is Jim?

Speaker – that’s lowering the tone of Parliament, raising a point of order he knows is not valid.)

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Has he received any reports on organised opposition to the Government's economic policies?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) Yes I have learned of a campaign of the NZBR organised by Dr Lockwood Smith which ran a full page advert. The fact is that we have had considerably higher outflows of 20-29 year olds on several occasions including last year. I also note Roger Kerr’s admission that two of his own children fled the National Government. The reason we have net outflows at present is because the National minority government succumbed to racist pressures to cut inwards migration.

Q: Does he say he puts no weight on the views of these young people?

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Is the Reserve Bank Governor also part of this conspiracy?

A: I am sure the Minister has some very strong views there.

Q: Does he agree that migration is being driven by tax and labour relations?

A: No. Australia has more tax and a much more regulated labour market than NZ has. The net migration outflows are a result of the National Government responding to pressure from racist groups outside Parliament.

(Speaker - I do not think that is an appropriate thing to say. The member will withdraw.

Mallard – I withdraw.)

Q: Does he share concerns of many groups opposed to the Singapore Free Trade Agreement?

A: On behalf of the minister yes.

Q: What did he mean that it was organised by Lockwood Smith?

A: On behalf of the minister, just that.

The government is concerned to get more balance back into migration. It is not as bad this year as it was last year. Any government would be concerned at migration driven by the student loan policy’s of the previous government.

Question 2.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What response has he had to his letter to Santa titled "Slim Jim's Christmas list" when he wrote "Santa, All I want for Christmas is ... e-mails sent to all New Zealanders around the world to ask them to come home", and will any response help in achieving his economic development goals?

A: As the member may know Santa had a very busy Christmas. A reply is now to hand. It reads sorry I could not answer your letter earlier…. Quotes letter from Sant .ending “I hope to get what Mr English wants very soon, sincerely Santa.”

Q: What urgent action is the Minister prepared to take to the appeal of 600 or more young people seriously?

A: We are tackling a monstrous legacy of student loan debt created by the previous government. We are rebuilding a society on a new basis other than selfishness. And we are not whinging like tories.

Q: How many of the things has he got off his list?

A: Six things, including losing 1.5kgs. We will be trying to attract those who are being misled by the tories and their mates and invite them back to NZ. Lifestyle is a very good reason to migrate to NZ. We will be focussing on that.

(Lockwood Smith Personal Explanation:

I want to assure the house that I knew nothing of this advertisement. I knew nothing about it till I saw it in the paper.

Speaker – the member’s statement is taken and accepted.)


Question 3.

KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:

Q: What rights will electricity consumers gain from having electricity brought under the Consumer Guarantees Act, as the Government's power package proposes?

A: It will give consumers the same protections they have from other suppliers of goods and services. Consumers will have rights to have things fixed and damage compensated for. None of these guarantees presently apply to electricity.

Q: Will consumers have other protections?

A: Yes. We also have an ombudsman to deal with complaints. If the industry fails to progress this itself by early next year the government will legislate it. Low usage users will have a major improvement on this. This is a vast improvement on the system imposed by the former minister.

Q: What is being done about supply contracts?

A: One of the tasks of the governance board’s responsibility will be to draw up a model contract. This will include a range of consumer protections.

Q: Will the ministry of consumer affairs receive any extra resources to enforce these new rights?

A: Enforcement responsibilities fall with the Commerce Commission and yes they will receive more resources.


Question 4.

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

Q: Does he agree that the way for New Zealand to avoid the stagflation scenario is for households to accept that they are poorer, and not to seek compensation for decreased spending power via higher wages?

A: I do not accept that there is any realistic prospect of a stagflation scenario.

Q: Will he accept a cut in living standards?

A: I would say that unions are being very realistic about wage settlements at present and it would be interesting to compare that with salary increases for the more highly paid. The latest NZIER report is picking strong growth in the out years following short term turbulence. I am prepared to praise unions for doing precisely what the RB Governor is asking them to do. The governor of the Reserve Bank is independent in operation of monetary policy and independent in the comments that he makes.

Q: Has he received advice from officials on this and what does he think about the views of the RB Governor?

A: The governor is independent. I do not intend to open windows into that man’s soul.

Q: Bill English (National): So is he advocating a cut in living standards or not?

A: National Party policy seems to be in favour of inflationary wage settlements. This is very odd.


Question 5.

PETER BROWN to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: Prior to reaching her recent decision to permit up to 8,000 illegal overstayers to remain in New Zealand and in two years' time consider favourably their applications to become New Zealand citizens, was she advised whether there were any other countries upon whom that decision could impact; if so, did she consult with them?

A: Yes I consulted prior to my decisions.

Q: What response does she have to the Australian Minister of Immigration – quoted at length….

A: I am well aware of his comments. What I have said to him is that in fact the numbers to not increase as a result of these decisions.

Q: Why did she do this?

A: In order to make the new tough rules on overstayers effective. I am determined to make these laws effective. I have not made any ill-considered comments unlike that member who demanded I speak to hunger strikers. Refugees are not excluded, refugees are entitled to apply for refugee status, failed refugee claimants are not refugees. I support upholding UN statutes on genuine refugees.

Question 6.

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

Q: What reports has he received on the outlook for price increases over the next 12 months?

A: The NZIER forecasts CPI increases peaking at 3% and then falling to 1.6% a year.

Q: Then given that those figures are higher than wage settlements, will he then admit that his policy involves taking a cut in living standards?

A: I will say that our policy does not involve having an artificially high exchange rate and a huge current account deficit. The major implication of petrol prices has not been seen in pressure on wages. Unions have been very responsible about this. I also note that the RB Governor said that the stagflation scenario was “very unlikely”.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does the minister agree with the RB statement that there has been a fall in real incomes implicit in the

A: It is clear that there is an impact of real incomes of rises in oil prices. Nobody who knows anything about economics thinks that we should increase wages to compensate for this.

Q: Will he admit that the Government economic policy is a cut in living standards?

A: You can take it that that stagflation in the late 1970s was a result of irrational wage increases in response to rising oil prices. In this light tt is extremely unhelpful that the average Public Service CEO pay rise is going to by 9.5% as a result of policies put in place by the previous government.

Question 7.

JANET MACKEY to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What is the role of the taskforce on youth offending which he established this week?

A: The ministerial taskforce will draw together advice and build a coordinated package for implementation on the ground. It will report by 30th September 2001. I have received a very positive reaction to the proposal. The Insurance Council has said very positive things about this. There appears to be an increased awareness in the new government of seeking long term solutions to law and order problems – the council says. Strengthening the family unit is part of the solution. We need to insure that proper support is provided to at risk teenagers.

Q: Will the taskforce be looking at benefits for 16 and 17 year olds?

A: No it will not.

Q: Will it consider fingerprinting of children?

A: Fingerprinting is being considered to try and identify and deliver help to children who are offending at a young age.

Q: Will lowering the drinking age be considered?

A: Not by the taskforce. Liason with the police will be part of the taskforces responsibilities. I know that George Hawkins is very pleased with additional youth aid resources in the NZ police.


Question 8.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What action, if any, is he going to take in response to the Reserve Bank Governor's warning of the possibility of stagflation?

A: I have already indicated my view that there is no real prospect of that eventuating.

Q: Yes or no. Does the Reserve Bank Governor has his unqualified support?

A: The decisions of the Bank are independent therefore it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

Q: What is the government’s economic policy?

(Winston Peters seeks leaves for the Minister to have an hour to answer – denied.

Roger Sowry: Isn’t this a patsy question.

Speaker: I would have thought that some people might think it a toughie.)

Thank you for your help Speaker. I will say what it is not, It does not consist of inflationary wage increases. It does not consist of an unnecessarily high dollar. And it does not consist of replacing Mrs Shipley, all of which are things Mr English appears to support.

Q: What does it consist of?

A: The government will maintain fiscal discipline. It will support the export sector. It will maintain an open economy. It supports a sensible and rational labour market. It will support better skills development….shall I carry on.

Q: Why was Mr Anderton put up to comment on this yesterday?

A: Mr Anderton is as free to make his comments as is Mr Brash.

Q: Is the stagflation scenario supported by anyone apart form the opposition?
Q: Why was Mr Anderton put into the media to comment on this.?

A: Mr Anderton does not need the government’s permission to go on the radio. I declined to appear because I did not want to talk about things it would be inappropriate to comment on. I note also that the dollar rose today. The market seems to have commented on the stagflation scenario.

Question 9.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:

Q: Will the Government actively work to achieve an international agreement with the goal of ultimately eliminating release of persistent organic pollutants, including dioxins, into the environment; if not, why not?

A: The government will be working on this. I will be pushing for a strict interpretation of what is practicable. I will be looking for international action on this too. The objective of the convention is to protect the environment from persistent organic pollutants.

Q: Has the government’s position then shifted from opposing elimination?

A: The EU goal of total elimination has significant practical problems with relation to forest fires.

Q: When will the strategy be announced?

A: Internationally we are supporting the convention. Internally we are also developing a statement which will be to eliminate emissions as much as is practicable. The issue is one of tremendous significance. These are very dangerous chemicals. We have contributed the only survey of an entire population in the world which has rendered extremely helpful support to efforts to get an agreement.

Q: What is she doing about eliminating methane?

A: What we are talking about here are Dioxins and PCBs which are far more dangerous even than that members flatulence.

Question 10.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: Does she accept that she made an error of judgment in not referring her decision to approve a substantial and secret payout to former Mangaroa Prison inmates to Cabinet?

A: (Paul Swain on behalf): Given the information presented to me at the time I was confident that the decision was within my power. I accept that in the future matters like this ought to be taken to cabinet.

Q: Will she apologise?

A: At the time it was clear that the decision was within by delegated authority. I have accepted the views of the PM that in future these matters should be taken to cabinet.

Q: What was the result of the delay?

A: The delay significantly increased the risk to the taxpayer. Responsibility for this lies with the previous government.

Q: Why did the AG tell Parliament on the 19th of September that she had nothing but support from the PM on this when the PM didn’t know about it?

A: I quote from a headline. I did not know about it but I do support the minister. Of course in future any compensation relating to this nature would be taken to cabinet.

Q: Does she agree that the former inmates should have had to sue and fight for their compensation?

A: The PM and AG have had some differences of opinion on this matter. However the Minister continues to have the support of the PM on this matter.

Question 11.

JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: In light of the comments by Rt Hon Simon Upton, a previous Minister of Health, that the execution of the health reforms of the 1990s was, he thought, seriously flawed, what steps has she taken to ensure the mistakes of the past do not happen again?

A: Yes Mr Upton has admitted the National Party did a fairly appalling job on health. This is important and that is why we prepared our policy before the election and why we have released 29 cabinet papers on these plans. I can advise that the Ministry of Health warned the incoming government in 1996 that a better alignment between purchasing and policy was needed. We have done our homework on this. No hospital has written to me concerning wage settlements.

Question 12.

Dr PAUL HUTCHISON to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:

Q: Is she still convinced that baby walkers pose a serious injury risk?

A: Yes. Injuries have been very serious but the total number seems to be smaller than originally thought by Starship Hospital.

Q: Another 15 babies have been injured since February?

A: It has proved difficult to substantiate the initial source of information. We have worked comprehensively on looking for it. The source of most baby injuries is cots.

Q: Is it feasible to ban these walkers?

A: Yes it may be. However we need reliable evidence of risk. It is also necessary to consult affected parties comprehensively too. I am considering an interim ban on some kinds of baby walkers.

Q: Will she take responsibility for baby injuries?

A: Legally it would be very important to use the appropriate steps to move through the legal process. Cots, prams and strollers, walkers and high chairs are all sources of risks.

(Bunkle - Leave to table baby risk survey – Granted)

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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