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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –11 October

Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Ruling: Who Should Answer Questions– Super – Airways Bid For UK Air Traffic Control – Super x 3 – School Zoning – Tranz Rail – Dawn Raid Mistakes – Student Loan Interest Writeoffs – Inflation – Special Education – ERA Appointments.

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 11 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

(Speakers Ruling: On who should answer questions. Standing order 371 permits any minister to answer a question on behalf of a principle minister. Any minister has an absolute right to delegate. Two rulings quoted, one 26 years old. However, standing order 371 only applies when a minister is absent. When an acting minister is here then it is the acting minister’s responsibility to reply. The acting minister is in effect the minister. The Government must ensure this rule is followed. If the minister or (acting minister) enters the chamber after the question begins then they have to answer supplementary questions.

Trevor Mallard: I’ve never seen that.

Speaker: I will post this ruling to every member.

Trevor Mallard: Does this mean that the appropriate thing to have done would have been to transfer the question?

Speaker: That has always been an option available for the government.

Maurice Williamson (National) Motion congratulating scientist Alan McDermott on winning a Nobel Prize for chemistry. Applause. )

Question 1.

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

Q: Is the Government looking for multi-party support on superannuation; if so, is the proposal released yesterday negotiable?

A: Yes and yes – but with qualifications. However discussion would have to be based on acceptance of a universal benefit for those aged over 65 set at 65% of the average wage for a married couple. Individualised accounts would not involve privatisation and we are certainly against privatisation.

The bill will consist of two parts one dealing with entitlements and one to financing. Each part will be able to be signed up to by political parties.

Q: What is the deal with the Alliance?

A: I released the full details on that yesterday.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): What about ethical and domestic investment policies?

A: Those are difficult issues. On the question of ethical investment, we are certainly wiling to explore this further. The maintenance of individualised accounts does not mean it cannot be a state-run scheme. Some things to be discussed further include issues of timing, issues of investment policies, and issues of departures from recommended contribution levels. I am happy to work with parties before the introduction of the bill –out of the public arena – to try to find a consensus view point.

Question 2.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: What is the likelihood of the Airways Corporation gaining a return on their investment to date in attempting to secure the UK National Air Traffic Services contract?

A: Airways Corporation is currently receiving a monthly fee for consultancy services to the consortium involved in the bid. The government has instructed Airways not to take an equity stake in the bid.

Q: What would happen if Lockheed Martin were to sell off their air traffic control division?

A: The Airways is receiving a monthly fee for consultancy services. Obviously if the bid were to fail the benefits expected to Airways would not flow to the company.

Q: Is the minister satisfied core functions are being performed?

A: There is no evidence that involvement in this contract is detracting from core responsibilities.

Q: Why can’t the minister assess the chances of success of the bid, especially given that British Airways is making a not-for-profit bid?

A: It is not in my power to grant the contract. I think the chances of success have risen as other bidders have dropped out.

Q: What about the recent failure of the new high-tech air traffic control system?

A: I am advised that the failure was caused by a router and not by the new system.

Question 3.

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

Q: Does he stand by his statement that "If there's no surplus, you're in the poo anyway"; if so, in which years has a Labour Government achieved a fiscal surplus?

A: Yes. This government posted a surplus this year that was twice what was forecast.

Q: Bill English (National): Okay, but if it gets in the poo will he borrow to make contributions to the super scheme?

A: If the member was a little older he would know that the Labour Government has run lots of surpluses.

Q: Why is the surplus due to rise more under Labour?

A: Because unlike the previous government we will not fritter away the surplus on tax cuts.

Question 4.

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

Q: What response has been shown towards the Government's proposed superannuation scheme?

A: The response has been very positive. AXA said it was a bold view that had taken a long time coming. The Auckland Chamber of Commerce gave the government full marks. Even Mr Tony Alexander said it was a good idea.

Q: Apart from those who stand to earn millions of dollars managing the scheme, what response has been received from young members of the public who simply do not believe they will get their entitlements from you in 40 years time?

A: They are right that I will not be paying them as I will be 95-years-old in 40 years time. Mr Peters and the Greens have both been supportive. ACT has reserved judgment. National appears to prefer to make political points about me than to actually look at the issues.

Question 5.

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

Q: What other policies was he referring to when he said, in making the contribution to retirement income policy more certain, other policies would bear a greater proportion of the risk of variability in tax revenue and fiscal demands due to economic shocks?

A: If we have certainty of superannuation levels, and the government maintains that under conditions of shock, then it means that the government cannot cut the pension and arrange tax cuts as the last government did during the Asian Economic Crisis.

Q: Bill English (National): Can he confirm that Cabinet has not discussed whether contributions will take priority to health and education?

A: I can confirm that we will not be cutting the pension to pay for tax cuts for his mates.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Can he explain what he means about the fund running down eventually to nothing?

A: On present projections we will reach that point in around 100 years time. However we will also need to leave room for future governments to make adjustments.

Q: Bill English (National): Can we take then that the other policies referred to in the quote mean health and education?

A: No. Previous governments have managed to increase health and education spending and give tax cuts.

Question 6.

ANN HARTLEY (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What is the effect of the school enrolment provisions on parental choice?

A: The lack of a home zone gave parents the impression of choice. But in fact it was the schools who chose. Under the policy supported by the National Party nearly half the Maori parents who tried to enrol their children in schools with enrolment limitations failed. The same applied to only 10% of pakeha parents. The evidence is absolutely clear.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Will he name the racist schools?

A: There is no need to do so as what I have done today is tell people the facts. And to support a system where Maori parents have 20% of the chance that pakeha parents have to enrol their children is outrageous.

(Roger Sowry: He is accusing us of racism!

Michael Cullen: No he isn’t. He is just talking about the effects of a policy.

Speaker: The minister needs to choose his words carefully. If he is talking about the effect of a policy then that is of course all right.)

Q: What is to prevent school from employing a parent for an hour to get a child enrolled?

A: Nothing except for a requirement to act in good faith.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Why are the Ministry of Education denying schools additional classrooms?

A: That policy hasn’t changed with this government.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Does this mean 60% of Maori parents tried to send their children to out of school? And if this is the case then why has the government stopped them doing so?

A: From memory about 70% of Maori kids are in bottom four decile schools. The figure of 30% of Maori students in out of zone schools cannot be right.

Question 7.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: Will the Government take action to prevent Tranz Rail extracting monopoly profit from access charges for urban commuter services; if so, what will that action be?

A: Commuter rail services compete against other services. When monopoly issues arise there are provisions in the Commerce Act that apply. The government will be meeting with Tranz Rail later this week to discuss its plans.

Q: Will he ensure that NZers have access to public transport?

A: The government plans to meet with Tranz Rail shortly. It is premature to discuss this now.

Q: What is the government’s response to the sale of NZ Railways, given that it was supported by the Labour Party?

A: We are interested in whether the ACT party leader’s promise to save rail has been kept.

Question 8.

Hon MARIE HASLER (National) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: Does she stand by her statement that 6.30am is an acceptable time for an Immigration Service raid, and that "No, I don't describe 6.30am in the morning as a dawn raid at all."?

A: Yes. However the member knows I did not know the time of entry when I made that statement. I was originally advised that it was light at the time when the house was raided, and that the time of entry was between 6.30am and 6.45am. I have since been advised that entry came between 6.05am to 6.30 am. This is unacceptable and I have issued a directive that no house should be raided before 7am.

Q: Since daylight was at 6.43am, is she satisfied with the Immigration Service’s performance in this case?

A: I cannot take responsibility for something about which I have been misinformed. I have made it clear to the service that dawn raids are not to be allowed. They have let down this house. I will not defend my own officials when they have not even told me the truth. Because I have been misinformed about the circumstances I have decided to remove the flexibility and impose a blanket condition that no-one will be entering premises before 7am.

Q: Was a search for an appeal made in the electronic log?

A: Due to the large number of appeals filed last week, some were not yet logged on the computer. To avoid this in future we will be checking the paper records in future.

Q: How wise is it to tell all over-stayers they are safe till 7am?

A: I can confirm that the previous government allowed for an infinite variable to be applied and that 6am might have been allowable for shift workers. In this particular case the lights were on and someone was dressed and cooking breakfast. That said there will not be dawn raids in NZ. I will apologise for the actions of my officials in going in at an earlier time than they should have.

Q: Keith Locke (Green) Will she abandon inhumane instant deportations?

A: No I am not prepared to see that law changed. Those individuals have had over a year to lodge an appeal. For them to argue that an appeal that was lodged on the very last day should stand in the way……. I am sorry that will not be happening under this minister.

Question 9.

MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education):

Q: How many students are eligible to receive a full student loan interest write-off and what is the Government doing to ensure they receive it?

A: This week students will receive information on how to write off their interest. More than 130,000 students will receive this information. Wipe out information packs are being sent to all borrowers. They can reply by mail, phone or Internet. As much as 5% of students who are leaving have suggested that interest on student loans is a reason to leave. That is part of why we have wiped it out.

Question 10.

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What increase is the Treasury forecasting for the September 2000 quarter CPI, and what will such an increase in prices indicate about the pressure on household budgets?

A: The latest government CPI forecasts have 0.8% in the September quarter. Recent forecasts indicate it could be as much as 1.2% in the quarter largely as a result of rising oil prices.

Q: Can he confirm this is the highest inflation in any quarter in a decade?

A: No. But that said it would not be surprising given the movement in petrol prices in the quarter.

Q: Would he agree that low growth for two quarters and high inflation would indicate stagflation?

A: The BNZ is almost alone in thinking there will be a third quarter contraction. Food prices in general are not rising rapidly. Meat prices rising are reflective of raised returns to meat producers.

Question 11.

DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Lianne Dalziel:

Q: What changes has the Government made to special education as a result of the review by educationalist Cathy Wylie?

A: We have listened to the views of families and schools on this review. From next year there will be changes to the SES 2000 scheme – listed.

Q: What action has she taken on staffing and the role of SES?

A: A working group is being established to deal with staffing issues for magnet schools and specialist SES staff. In the meantime funding levels will be maintained at present levels. The government is continuing to consider recommendations in the Wylie review and final decisions are expected to be taken later this year. Everybody involved in special education has been invited to be involved in decision making. There are opportunities to think beyond the square here.

Question 12.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What criteria did she use to select the membership of the Employment Relations Authority and what organisations did she consult before recommending her selections to the Labour and Alliance caucuses?

A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) I made my decisions based on the job description which I prepared in April. I also consulted and considered the views of several groups including officials.

Q: Does he agree that Syd Jackson was a casualty on Tariana Turiagate?

A: For reasons of privacy I am not willing to state whether anyone even applied for a position on the authority. Of the 13 members of the ERA 8 were already members of the Employment Tribunal, appointed by the previous government.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): When she decided that six members would be unionists and that only two would ne employers how did she think this would be a decision made in “good faith”?

A: I am pleased that the minister reappointed eight of the members of the tribunal. I am very impressed with the members appointed.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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