Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Gloom Merchants (out of order) - Parole Law – The H Word and the PM - Immunisation Strategy – Seasonal Work – Mining on DOC Land – 1080 Slime Spills – Patronage Funding – People’s Bank Funding – ACC Medical Misadventure Claims – Dr Kingsbury’s Resignation From TEAC.
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
(Gerry Brownlee – who are the doom merchants in this question? Is this question in order. It looks like an epithet to me.
Speaker – question delayed. LATER: On balance I will not allow the question to be asked today.
Michael Cullen – I seek leave for question 5 to be asked later – granted.
// QUESTION ONE RULED OUT OF ORDER //)
MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Does he believe that the doom merchants have had a negative effect on economic growth?
STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: As up to 80% of prison inmates reoffend within 24 months of release, how many of the 610 serious violent offenders who are due for automatic release next year are expected to reoffend within 24 months of release?
A: Preliminary results from an analysis conducted in 1993 suggests 80% of offenders will reoffend in some way within two years. We do not think this is acceptable and we are working on ways of addressing it.
Q: Given that by the Minister’s estimates some 480 victims will be dealt to over the next two years will he support my bill?
A: No I don’t support the bill of the member. I support the reform programme of this government because it is more effective in my view. I have received advice that punishment out of all proportion to the offence would result from Mr Franks bill.
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: What did she mean by her comment, in relation to the use of the word "holocaust": "that word must never be used again in a New Zealand context ... and I do not want to see Ministers using the term and causing offence again"?
A: I was reporting what I had said to Mrs Turia and I meant what I said.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): When is an edict not an edict?
A: Mrs Turia has described it as an edict – I prefer the term strong advice myself.
Q: Is politics about this helping ?
A: No. And nor was it helped by the Leader of the Opposition stereotyping Pacific Islanders as climbing through people’s windows. As a history graduate I am only too well aware of the impact some populations have had on others. I say to the opposition that their bleating would be more worthwhile if they acknowledged this.
Q: Peter Dunne (United) Does she concede that she is responsible for all ministers not just Labour ministers?
A: The Deputy PM has just whispered in my ear that he is my loyal servant in this regard.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Is it appropriate for one of her ministers to use the “H” word in relation to colonisation in NZ?
A: I am on the public record on many occasions saying no it isn’t.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Given that answer, will she require the Minister of Conservation to apologise?
A: I didn’t require Mrs Turia to apologise and I do not require Mrs Lee to apologise.
JUDY KEALL(Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What steps is the Government taking to improve immunisation rates, in light of the National Health Committee's report which identified wide disparities in childhood immunisation rates as a significant contributor to socio-economic inequalities in health in childhood?
A: Immunisation is one of the most cost effective health care activities. While I was delighted to hear that the Pacific is polio free we have nothing to be proud about with relation to immunisation rates in this country. That is why we are working on increasing the rates. It is true that the previous government failed NZ children. The real difference with this government is one of commitment. We have already started a strategy to reach hard to reach children.
Q: Paul Hutchison (National): Does she accept that the plans to improve things happened under National?
A: No I do not accept that. In 1995 National wrote a strategy but implementation did not follow. National’s own committee on this reported last year that they had failed to reach hard to reach children.
Q: Why has Porirua achieved such a high rate?
A: The key has been providers working together. We must invest in immunisation and ask those in the community to work with us. It is cooperation not competition that will make this policy work. There is concern among parents about the monitoring of adverse affects. But information to parents needs to be balanced.
BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Social Services) Tariana Turia:
Q: Was her speech to a national hui on child abuse in Christchurch on Saturday checked and approved by the Minister of Social Services and Employment or the Prime Minister; if not, why not?
A: The member is confused. I was not in attendance at a conference on child abuse in Christchurch on Saturday.
Q: Please just answer the question, was the speech authorised?
A: I did not make a formal speech to the conference. We do not have to have prepared speeches for every event we attend.
Q: What issues were discussed at this conference?
A: I attended the conference and I quote from the booklet that says the hui is a national hui held every two years for workers in community development.
Q: Given the speech was off the cuff, did it represent government policy?
A: The heart of the speech that I made was about government policy.
RICK BARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What is the Government doing to ensure that the unemployed take up seasonal work opportunities?
A: (Parekura Horomia on behalf) Today in Hastings the Minister is announcing a new campaign to encourage job-seekers to take up seasonal work. This new campaign meshes with the DWI’s regional approach. I would like to acknowledge the assistance that the senior government whip has provided. A guide issued in the campaign explains how people will not be disadvantaged by taking up seasonal fruit picking work.
Q: Can the minister guarantee all job-seekers in areas where there is seasonal work will be available to work? And if not will he allow them to import labour?
A: People available for work, who have the skills, will work. I am not the minister of immigration.
Q: Will there be a repeat of headlines about fruit-growers no being able to find pickers?
A: It is always difficult to make guarantees but we will do a good job.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:
Q: Is she committed to stopping mining in conservation areas such as conservation parks, reserves and ecological areas, as stated in the Alliance conservation policy for the 1999 election?
A: Earlier this year I sought advice on Alliance and Labour policy on mining. I am considering a number of options presented to me on this.
Q: What will she be doing about Jim Anderton and Paul Swain offering easier access to conservation land.
A: Legislation sets out rules for access . Mr Anderton has views on blockages in terms of process and those were what he was talking about. Mining access arrangements are not subject to the same provisions as other commercial users of conservation land.
Q: Does she support mining in Coromandel?
A: The prohibitions on mining in the Coromandel were introduced by the previous government. I think a balance needs to be found not only within the DOC estate, but outside it. What the Deputy PM was referring to was the removal of blockages in the processing of applications for mining. It is not unreasonable for the Minister of Regional Development to advocate the efficient processing of applications where they are appropriate.
RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:
Q: What action is she considering to eliminate the dangers posed from the 35 sites containing dumps of deadly 1080 poison bait which she has confirmed now exist on the West Coast?
A: My Department has removed spoiled bait from two sites to further allay public concerns. I am advised that the other sites were not used to dispose of spoiled baits but for burning sacks and disposing os ashes.
Q: What confidence does she have about DOC given their slime trail they left through Woolston in Christchurch?
A: Given that members concern I expect that member to become a champion for Conservation funding. DOC decided on its own initiative to clean-up the Chesterfield site.
Q: Will she acknowledge there are serious public concerns about 1080.
A: I am not delighted with some of the problems that have occurred but I would point out that most of this 1080 was dumped under the term of the previous government.
Q: Will she be checking for other such dumps?
A: My department is taking an overarching review of different areas and the use of 1080.
ANN HARTLEY (Labour) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: How will "patronage funding" benefit Auckland?
A: Under the new scheme regional councils will be able to access additional funding for public transport on the basis of the numbers using services. The scheme also includes a kickstart fund to help with other costs of public transport.
Q: How does this help?
A: The new funding system abolishes the previous cap of $36 million. It offers the opportunity to make immediate improvements in public transport. Patronage funding recognises the value of public transport and helps people without cars.
Q: Maurice Williamson (National): Is it correct that Transfund are indicating they are unable to fund the purchase of the Tranz Rail corridor?
A: Transfund have not made a decision.
Q: How will this help Gisborne?
A: The new system applies to all areas including Gisborne. Auckland has indicated support for the new system.
Q: How much Transfund money will be freed up for infrastructural funding?
A: It will depend on what regions and cities decide to do.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: How does the Government intend funding the $80 million start-up costs of the "People's Bank" and what implications will this have for the Government's financial position?
A: (Mark Burton on behalf) There have been no final decisions made on whether NZ Post will proceed or on financing arrangements.
Q: If no decisions have been made then why is the Deputy PM saying NZ Post will sell its building?
A: They are not statements that I understand the Deputy PM has made. The Deputy PM continues to show his enthusiasm for the idea and that is a good thing.
Q: What will need to be done before decisions are made?
A: The board of NZ Post has commissioned an independent assessment of the business plan. If the board decides to go ahead it will seek shareholder approval. Cabinet will then consider whether it will provide funds for increasing capital. The responsibility for considering the range of options available rests first and foremost with the board of NZ Post.
Q: Is the government going to require NZ Post to fund the startup and is that why they are laying off postal workers?
A: The government will consider the benefits of any case brought to it, when that case is brought to it.
SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:
Q: How many claims has ACC received for medical misadventure in Northland relating to Dr Graham Parry?
A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) It is not appropriate to provide personal explanation about an individual. I will confirm however that ACC has approved claims relating to Dr Parry’s treatment. I cannot confirm the number of claims the member mentions. Prior to the introduction of the 1998 ACC Amendment Act ACC was required to report medical misadventure claims. I believe the change made in 1998 was a mistake.
Q: Is it possible for ACC to observe trends in medical misadventure from claims data?
A: Following this case ACC have decided to report to the Health and Disability Commissioner and the local HHS. It is a tragedy that this reporting was altered in legislation in 1998.
Q: Does she agree with Peter Davis who opposes levying doctors?
A: As I stated earlier the proposals of the chairman of the ACC board have been referred to the Minister of Health and the Minister of ACC is awaiting her response.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:
Q: Why has Norman Kingsbury, described by the Minister at the time of his appointment as chair of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission as a "renowned educationalist", and "a clear stand-out choice from amongst 250 nominations", resigned from his position, effective today?
A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) He is indeed the things he was described as. That is why he was appointed as chair and why he accepted his resignation with regret.
Q: Is the centrepiece of the education policy now in tatters?
A: Dr Kingsbury said in his letter of resignation that as the commission is now in good order it is appropriate for me to stand aside.
Q: What has the reaction been to the news?
A: The ITF said Dr Kingsbury will be missed.
Q: Did Mr Kingsbury tell the minister whether stamping out competition was compatible with vibrant institutions?
A: He stated in his letter that he wanted to focus on his work as the CEO of the NZQA. He had been working for 70-80 hours a week and was concerned that this workload would increase. Steve Maharey did not want Mr Kingsbury to resign.
(Maurice Williamson - Minister asked to table letter of resignation from Dr Norman Kingsbury.
Dalziel - I had notes which I will table – I haven’t got the letter.
Richard Prebble – she should go and get it.
Dalziel – I do not have the document and have not seen the document.
Roger Sowry – I think members have a right to expect that when a minister quotes from a document that she has actually seen the document she is referring to.
Speaker – Speakers ruling 110(3) addresses this. I will look at the issue in more depth and rule on this later.
Richard Prebble – Speakers ruling 362 is also clear. The minister must lay the document on the table. A resignation letter cannot possibly be confidential. It may be embarrassing.
Speaker - Speakers ruling 111 (4) addresses this. The Minister need only table the portion of the document she has quoted.
Richard Prebble – I think you may have disagreed with this rule in the past. And I think you may have in the past been right about that. I invite you to have a look again.
Speaker – That is an important point and I will look about it in more depth.)