Today’s questions concerned the subjects of: Ministerial Staff Costs – Buddle Finlay’s Bills – Dawn Raids - Homework Centres – Telecom Share Price – Telecom Herald Advert – Export Growth – Takeovers Code – NCEA – Youth Workers – Tranz Rail and Auckland – Defence Pay Rates – URGENT QUESTION: Christchurch Floods.
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 JOHN LUXTON (National) to the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services Helen Clark:
Q: (Michael Cullen on behalf) How many staff in total were employed in ministerial offices in August this year compared with August 1999?
A: In August 1999 there were 189 staff, in August 2000 there were 231.
Q: How is this cutting extravagant expenditure as promised?
A: In 1999 the 189 staff cost $11,258,961 in 2000 231 9,691,337
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): How many personal grievances are there?
A: I don’t know. I know that some departments have a grievance with that member over his written questions however. The present government is clearly getting value for money and I recommend others do similar.
(John Luxton – leave to table documents showing that departmental staff were not included in the 1999 figures– refused.)
DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: What reports has he received on the costs of legal advice provided to his department?
A: I have received a report from MFAT about Buddle Finlay contracts. Total payments made since November 1998 were $469,000. Of that $426,000 was paid under the National government. It seems Mr English’s allegations could be more accurately aimed at himself. Of the $1 million mentioned by Mr English in a recent release more than two thirds occurred under his government. He should do his homework.
Q: Green: How much has been spent on legal advice on the ASEAN agreement that has been rebuffed?
A: I don’t know, but I suspect nothing. The original questions about Buddle Finlay was asked by Murray McCully in written form and either he was lazy, can’t count or is trying to set Mr English up vis-à-vis one of the other contenders for the National Party leadership. The Ministry has provided assistance to the Fijian government with the prosecution of Mr George Speight.
Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:
Q: When was her office advised of the Immigration Service's intention to take action in regard to the Mila family?
A: My office was not specifically advised of the intention to take action against the Mila family. My office was contacted by an immigration consultant that morning about another case who mentioned the family in passing. My office was later advised by officials that a family was awaiting removal, but that there was no issue as the family did not comply with the well-settled criteria anyway.
Q: Is she lazy or negligent for not checking procedures?
A: The removal review authority received over 1000 applications in the last week leading up to the law change. Over 300 were were on the final day. Many of those were not put on the electronic system. We have decided to put in a check of a phone call to the removal authority so this will not happen again. The father and the grandmother do not have appeals lodged, but the service decided to keep the family together and bring them all back. I believe it is important to uphold the law. The family have been overstayers for three years. They have had the opportunity to lodge appeals for some time. The new law does not remove appeal rights it just requires people to appeal within 42 days of their visitors permits expiring.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): What other countries have such soft touch policies as a dawn to dusk curfew from action?
A: Because it is this government’s policy not to have dawn raids. We have to avoid having a culture of fear and intolerance.
Q: Peter Dunne (United): What will be done about the person who misled her?
A: That is an operational matter that I have passed on to the General Manager.
Q: Given that the legislation came into effect in October why did she not have the proper protocols in place?
A: All the individuals concerned were returned to NZ. And two other things have been done. I believe that is the proper exercise of ministerial responsibility.
HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: What reports has he received on the implementation of the Government's study support centre policy announced in the Budget?
A: The PM will this afternoon open the first centre in Aranui at Wainoni school. The centre will be funded with and will be staffed with trained staff. It is expected to service ma
Q: What further advice has he got on study centres?
A: The Ministry has 50 proposals before it now and several hundred more are considering them.
Q: Noting the budget provided only $1.5 million or one cent, per pupil, per day….
(Speaker – use a question word to start a question.
Roger Sowry – isn’t given a question word?
Speaker – no, of course not.)
Q: Is the minister surprised that Mr Lovegrove has described the funding as totally inadequate?
A: I will arrange a budget reading session for the Minister which will show there is $7.5 million allocated. Mr Lovegrove has made some comments on the scheme that have been described as, “ludicrous and narrow-minded” by other principals. Quotes a girl called Amber. I hope many NZ children find the “momentum to go higher” like Amber. I have been to the Mangere Bridge School and they are showing a lot of enthusiasm for the scheme now.
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Why did he issue a statement last week in which he said the sharemarket seemed to be over-reacting to possible regulatory changes in the telecommunications sector?
A: Because I was concerned the sharemarket might to be over-reacting to possible regulatory changes in the telecommunications sector.
Q: Is he concerned that Telecom has fallen more than $7.6 billion in value?
A: I think it is reasonable to say that telecommunication company share values around the world have been falling. The member might like to tune into CNBC and have a look
Q: Why don’t we need a regulator?
A: We would be inclined to look to enhance the powers of the Commerce Commission in an area rather than to proliferate independent industry regulators.
Q: Will there or will there not be a regulator?
A: Cabinet is yet to make its decisions on the recommendations of the inquiry.
IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Communications Paul Swain:
Q: How will the Government ensure that whatever form of regulation is applied to the telecommunications industry, Telecom will not "once again be given license to rob the public blind" as a full page advertisement in today's New Zealand Herald suggests?
A: The government is currently considering its response. The precise changes are being considered. The issue of providing bandwidth to NZ is one that we are considering and one we will be answering in December. The government has two key challenges. One is to provide the proper regulatory environment. The other is to help people to cross the digital divide.
GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Has he taken any steps to evaluate the effect of Government policies on export growth?
A: The latest report shows exports are up 17.2% on the previous year.
Q: Does he accept the advice of ABN Ambro who says the effect of the ERA will offset the competitiveness of the dollar?
A: I suspect he is trying to turn himself into a novelist. The NZIER forecasts more export growth and eventually an appreciating exchange rate.
Q: Rodney Hide: Does the minister have any concerns about the export of talent and capital?
A: I remain astonished that the opposition remains convinced that so many people are leaving. That level of self hatred I think is appalling.
DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:
Q: When is the Government proposing to introduce the takeovers code?
A: The code is to be released next week and will take effect from 1 July 2001. The revised code has had some small changes made to it, but it is substantially the same as one seen and discussed earlier. There has been significant support for the code. A survey of fund managers found that the lack of a takeover framework meant that there was increased risk premium for NZ. There is the need for some legislation to implement the code. It is extraordinary to me that ACT sides with the big guys against small shareholders. I urge them to get with the programme.
DONNA AWATERE HUATA (ACT) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: What training has been provided to secondary school teachers in relation to the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, and is he satisfied that the training is of the highest standard?
A: I have made two teacher-only days available in 2000 and 2001. Further professional development training will be available in 2002 and 2003. I am satisfied that the programme – now half way through its first phase is achieving its goal of getting people thinking about the NCEA.
( Donna Awatere - leave to table papers about teaching teachers to make paper darts – granted.)
LIZ GORDON (Alliance) to the Minister of Youth Affairs Laila Harre:
Q: What steps is the Government taking to improve the level of information available on young people's participation in the labour market?
A: We are taking a closer look at pathways taken by 16-19 year olds into work. We will be gathering information about working people aged under 16. We will be examining existing data and will do a qualitative research project. We will report back by the end of November.
Q: How many jobs will be created by this study for young people?
A: We are studying the pathways of young people into work. I am surprised that the opposition wants to create jobs for those under 16.
Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Will information be available for the review of the minimum wage later this year?
A: Some information will be available for the review from the study.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: What recent advice or assistance has she given the Prime Minister in relation to the Auckland Region's proposal to acquire the rail corridor from Tranz Rail?
A: I have advised the PM that the government needs to continue to work with Auckland leaders to lessen traffic congestion in Auckland.
Q: Why is Heather Simpson working on this?
A: Because we want to make sure we do it right.
Q: Do Tranz Rail’s announcements have any implications for Auckland.
A: Obviously the announcements will have implications for Auckland. I am encouraging the relevant parties to work through these issues.
(Trevor Mallard – Rodney Hide has said something horrible about the speaker.
Speaker – Did you Rodney?
Hide: - No.
Harry Dynhoven: Who was the member referring to then?
Hide: The Labour Party.
Speaker: The member is too smart by half. As Speaker I take my place very seriously.
Michael Cullen: How could the statement “Protecting a weak minister” refer to the Labour Party?
Speaker: I advise the member to withdraw and apologise.
Hide: I apologise.)
Q: Does the minister accept that Auckland local body access to the rail corridors is vital?
A: Nothing has fallen over since Tranz Rails announcement. We are all working towards secure access at an agreed price.
RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:
Q: Does he support a wage increase for military personnel serving in operational areas; if not, why not?
A: Yes. I am currently undertaking a review of pay. I am looking at pay across the defence force including operational and non-operational staff.
Q: Why hasn’t he exempted serving soldiers from paying income tax as he can?
A: The issue of base pay and conditions is at the core of this problem and that is why I am looking at the core of this. A job-evaluation has been done for 200 jobs and work is also being done on simplifying the pay structure.
Q: Given recent comments by the PM in East Timor, has he considered providing the PM with a minder?
A: I did discuss this with the PM before her visit to East Timor. Her comments have been completely consistent with what I have been working on. I can’t work out what the member is trying to imply.
Urgent question to the Minister of Civil Defence George Hawkins.
David Carter (National): Can the Minister update the house on floods in Christchurch?
A: The Avon and Heathcote rivers are overflowing in isolated pockets. Warnings have been given on evacuations. Several roads are blocked by trees and there is . High tide will be at 4.30pm today. No civil defence emergency has been declared. The Army has been requested to supply trucks and will be doing to providing assistance near the Heathcote river at 4pm.
Q: Will resources be made available for the emergency?
A: My information is that the police and the military have responded and will continue to do so.