Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Solomons Peace Keeping – Inflation – People’s Bank – Business Confidence - Buddle Finlay’s Bills – Parental Leave – Maori Fisheries Allocation – Takeovers Code – Police Car Chases – Backdoor Inflation (Packaging) – Income Related Rents – Marine Reserves – Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
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
GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: What support will New Zealand be giving to the peace process in the Solomon Islands?
A: Working alongside others NZ peace-monitors will be monitoring the terms of the peace agreement. NZ will also contribute $8million in aid.
Q: When will they be deployed?
A: An advance group will head to the Solomons later this week. That group will determine the size and composition of the peace monitoring team. It will also report on risks.
Q: Will there be any extra budget for this
A: None of those decisions can be made until we know what the size and composition of the group will be. If necessary funding will be provided for the group. The size of the NZ contribution is expected to be relatively modest.
Q: Is he confident the peace agreement will stick?
A: The agreement was signed up to by everybody who went to Townsville. The test will be to translate words into actions on the ground. This is however our best chance yet of bringing peace to the Solomons.
Q: What is the legal authority for the peace-keepers?
A: The Commonwealth is likely to be involved and the UN Security Council is likely to be consulted. The legal authority will come from the constitutional authority of the Solomons Government.
Q: What will be done about destructive logging?
A: Some assistance will be given as development assistance. The focus initially is to provide education and health services. The most important thing we can do is to restore stability and the rule of law, then the economy can be helped back onto its own feet.
Q: How many more deployments will be made before more staff are employed in the police and armed forces?
A: Any commitment we make will depend on the capabilities of the police and the armed services to undertake their assignments. NZ’s resources are stretched and that is why I said the contribution will be modest.
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What does a 3% annual rate of inflation indicate about the pressure on Kiwi families' budgets, and does he expect this pressure to get better or worse in the next six months?
A: The increase in consumer prices will have a varied effect on family budgets. The level of depreciation of the NZ Dollar is placing cost pressures on businesses. I presume the leader of the opposition is not proposing that NZ businesses raise their prices willy-nilly.
Q: Does he accept that the budgets of low income working families have deteriorated considerably?
A: Given average wage movements and CPI movements the phrase considerably worse off is an exaggeration. The two largest contributions to inflation were tobacco and petrol prices. After these are taken out the underlying rate of inflation is not that bad. If Mr English spent less time on his make-up and more on his superannuation policy he would be doing better.
Q: What should families do?
A: I have outlined a number of moves that have been made . Is it National policy to regulate petrol prices? And would she remove tobacco tax increases?
KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What reports has he received about the economic development implications of the banking sector for the New Zealand economy?
A: The banking sector is making record profits. A Massey University Survey says that in 12 months if the profit levels continue there may be reason for politicians to grizzle.
Q: Is he aware of any potential new entrants to the banking industry?
A: The government is currently considering a business case for a People’s Bank. Obviously if the banking sector is making record profits it would be beneficial to NZ for a NZ owned bank to keep some of those profits here in NZ.
Q: When will the loss making People’s Bank be announced?
(Speaker – the words loss making are unnecessary.
Roger Sowry – will this rule apply to Labour too?
Speaker – the meaning of the words in this case could be averted to in another way.
Sowry – Michael Cullen has so far attacked both Mrs Shipley and Mr English. Will the rules be applied evenly?
Speaker – I agree with the member that the earlier comments should have been ruled out, but no objection was taken at the time.
Wyatt Creech – Not only did the Treasurer make comments, he also asked a question about National Party policy.
Speaker – he shouldn’t have.)
Q: Can he confirm that there are proposals to levy profitable banks to prop up his People’s Bank?
A: Absolutely not. The member should ask his constituents if they want a People’s Bank. This government is entering into regional partnerships with all of NZ’s regions. I believe support for the People’s Bank is overwhelming. It has never been the intention to introduce a loss making bank. Any bank we introduce will have a strong business plan. If the members opposite actually considered for a moment the shipping of bank profits off shore they would support these proposals.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Why does he believe the economy will bounce back when the latest New Zealand Institute of Economic Research business confidence survey shows negative investment intentions and an expected decline in employment levels?
A: The latest export data shows the highest level of export growth in eight years. There will be a return to growth on the basis of that export performance. The government inherited an economic situation of reckless consumption led growth. If the former minister has no ideas on what to do about this it would be better to stay off Face the Nation.
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does he remember predicting the dollar would bounce back above 50 US Cents? Will he resign if in the third quarter the NZ economy shrinks yet again?
A: I notice that all the bank economists that that member likes to quote were predicting a Kiwi buying 60 US Cents by the end of the year.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): What about Buy NZ Made?
A: One of the upsides of a falling dollar is that it is the equivalent of tariff protection.
Q: Will families be better or worse off in the next six months?
A: That depends on the circumstances of individual families. We were in the past spending more than we were earning. That seems to remain as the policy of opposition parties. I wish members would acknowledge that there are structural problems with the NZ economy.
TIM BARNETT (Labour) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:
Q: Has he any further information in relation to oral question No. 10 of Tuesday 10 October; if so, what is it?
A: My reply last week was an understatement. I have now received advice that payments made since 1996 by Treasury alone amounted to over $2 million. Most of that related to the sale of state assets and the failed INCIS project.
Q: What has the government done to avoid spending so much?
A: As well as general polices of not spending money on consultants this government does not have a policy of selling sale assets. We will not be running up expensive legal bills to help hock off the crown jewels.
Q: Is the minister able to inform the house of the total amount spent on Buddle Finlay by the state sector?
A: Unfortunately not. All we know for sure is that once again Mr English has got it wrong. Again.
Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister of Women's Affairs Laila Harre:
Q: Does research undertaken by the Ministry of Women's Affairs conclude that employer-funded paid parental leave would not damage the economy, employers or employment; if so, does she intend to continue pursuing such a policy within the Government?
A: Yes and yes.
Q: In the light of that why is she going to do that when the PM says that employer funded leave will be instituted “over her dead body”?
A: The source of funding is one of a variety of issues before the government.
Q: What are the benefits of centrally funded parental leave?
A: Increased opportunity for staff to return to work. This would help small enterprises compete with large enterprises for skilled female labour. In 1998 the ILO reported that many countries provide paid parental leave. NZ has been criticised by the UN for its reservation in this area.
Q: Why will she continue with this when the PM has said that it is not Labour policy?
A: I think it should be patently clear to the member that this is a coalition government. The source of funding is just one issue of disagreement concerning this policy.
Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson:
Q: Does he accept the call from the Treaty Tribes Coalition for the Government to legislate the agreed optimum allocation model to stop the "destruction of $1 million of Maori wealth every month"; if not, what is he doing to resolve this issue?
A: I understand the frustration of the TTC. However I consider it essential that the Maori Fisheries Commission be allowed to do its job to avoid even more possibilities of litigation.
Q: Why doesn’t the government know that the OAM has the support of 70% of Iwi?
A: Until such time as a case presently before the Privy Council is heard or withdrawn the Commission may not present an allocation model to me.
Q: Is division in his Maori caucus on this a problem?
STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:
Q: Why is he introducing a revised takeovers code?
A: The government considers a new takeovers code will help the share-market and small investors. Evidence suggests the lack of a code is a concern to international investors.
Q: Why did the Minister not implement the 1995 code?
A: I returned the code to the panel to consider developments in the market since 1995. The panel made amendments to the code to improve it.
Q: How will this compensate investors for a lack of confidence in his government’s policies?
A: The National Party gets
curiouser and curiouser in its questions. When the National
Government was in power they passed the Takeovers Act and
established the Takeovers Panel.
Hon PETER DUNNE (United NZ) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:
Q: Are the Police reviewing their policy regarding high speed car chase procedures; if so, when will the review be completed?
A: (Phil Goff on behalf) The policy is monitored on an ongoing basis. This takes into account any recommendations from the Police Complaints Authority.
Q: As there have been 10 fatalities and lots of injuries, when will policies be changed?
A: The case mentioned is before the PCA at this time. There is evidence that the pursuit had ended before the fatality he mentions occurred.
Q: Why are police not trained in pursuit driving in their first 18 months in the job?
A: I can confirm the need for training and I can confirm that 600 police have been through a course on this in Auckland alone.
Q: Are car chases inherently dangerous?
Hon MARIE HASLER (National) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:
Q: Has she directed officials from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to investigate claims by the Consumers' Institute and the Hamilton Budgeting Advisory Trust of "backdoor inflation" as some suppliers reduce the size of products?
A: The Ministry investigate claims about the size of products.
Q: Does she agree that shrinking food packages hit poor families hardest?
A: The law is only concerned if there is deceptive packaging. My advice to consumers is to keep a close eye on the unit prices displayed in some stores and to reward those stores for doing so.
JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:
Q: What has been the response to the Government's restoration of income-related rents?
A: The response has been excellent. More than 40,000 applications have been made. To date the figures show that a majority of state house tenants will be $20 to $60 a week better off. Tenants will also be receiving some of their bond moneys back. It is interesting to note former Minister Tony Ryall’s admission that National is now back to the drawing board on housing policy.
Q: Will he confirm that Income Related Rents is a policy based on who your landlord is?
A: I notice that Mr Ryall is admitting that he is going back to the drawing board to find a new policy. The formula has been worked out so that noone will be worse off and I am not aware of any complaints.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:
Q: How many new marine reserves will be gazetted by the Government this calendar year?
A: (Phillida Bunkle on behalf) Seven applications are currently being considered. Each one will progress towards gazetting when conditions are met.
Q: Will she admit there will be none gazetted this year?
A: We have made real progress on this including allocating more money for biodiversity. In October the minister launched a discussion document on reserves that will clarify and streamline the process of creating reserves. In addition we have launched an Oceans Policy which will also help.
Q: What criteria was used to determine that 10% of the coast should be in reserve?
A: One criteria was the importance of reserves in protecting threatened fish stocks.
Q: Is there a plan for a Fiordland reserve?
A The area of the Fiords is particularly vulnerable and a review is underway. This is one of the more difficult issues to deal with.
Q: What reserves have been established by this government so far?
Questions to Members
ROD DONALD (Green) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee Graham Kelly:
Q: Will the committee hear late submissions on the Singapore Free Trade Agreement from local authorities which have expressed concern that the Government has not advised them about the Agreement's local procurement provisions nor consulted with them about the impact these provisions could have on their regional development and job creation programmes; if not, why not?
A: The committee has completed hearing submissions. We have received written submissions from several local authorities. There was not enough time to hear Christchurch City Council on this.
Q: Has the committee got advice on this?
A: That is a matter the committee is dealing with and so I cannot comment on this. Some submissioners seem to think the examination of the agreement is part of the consultation process. It is not. It is for the purpose of making a report to this house on the agreement.