Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Child Abuse – Bill English’s Optimistic Economic Report – People’s Bank – Airways Travel Expenditure – Food Banks And Food Prices – Business Confidence – Tribal Hosts And Guests – Employment Outlook – Cancer Treatment In Oz – Export Levels – Argentine Ants – Overstayer Amnesty Applications.
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
Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Social Services) Tariana Turia:
Q: Why does she believe that whanau should remove abused children to safety without police intervention even if the parents had committed criminal offences against the children, as she is reported as saying in Saturday's Northern Advocate?
A: The member has not taken the care to read the whole sentence. The first issue in cases of child abuse is: is the child safe now, not shall we go and get the police. That is what I was saying.
Q: Should criminal matters be dealt with by the whanau or police?
A: I think I have already answered that question. In making those comments I was in the process of addressing the opening of a family violence centre in Te Tai Tokerau.
(Muriel Newman – leave to table a report from the Northern Advocate – refused.)
LIZ GORDON (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Has he received any reports giving cause for optimism about the economic development environment?
A: I have seen a report stating that the economic environment looks set to turn in the Government’s favour. This report was prepared by the National opposition spokesman on finance Bill English for the National Party caucus meeting yesterday. It is certainly true as the English report states, that modest growth is expected in the September quarter but that it will accelerate thereafter. It is also true as Mr English says that “the easy bit is over” for the National Opposition. I think the Opposition is being justifiably fair to this government.
Q: John Luxton (National): Given that most of the optimism has been driven by the collapse in the dollar will he concede that the only positive thing the government has done is destroy confidence in the dollar?
A: The economic environment must be very positive indeed if the National Opposition says it is turning in favour of the government. I think the biggest threat comes from politicians talking the economy down. The memo from Mr English says National will have to be more careful, considered and thoughtful about what they say. This seems to be an admission that National MPs have been careless, ill-considered and thoughtless in the past.
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): What targets has he set in macroeconomic terms?
A: That the Labour/Alliance government will be in office for four times as long as Rodney Hide will be an MP.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why is this being painted as economic analysis when clearly it is in fact a leadership bid?
(Speaker – that question is not in order.)
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What provision has been made in the Budget for financing an estimated $80 million set-up cost for the People's Bank?
A: The board of NZ Post has not yet made a proposal to shareholders on financing. Since nothing has been received, no budgetary provision has been made.
Q: Are the reserves of NZ Post taxpayers money?
A: The exact nature of any capital injection is yet to be decided. Any provision will be subject to imprest supply and dealt with in supplementary estimates.
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): When he said the project would live or die on the basis of a rate of return, what rate of return did he have in mind?
A: I did not use the words “live or die”, I indicated that the business case would need to show a strong positive return over its life.
Q: What has been the cost so far of the proposal?
A: I do not know how much Treasury or CCMAU has spent on advice. Other costs have been born by NZ Post.
Q: What did he mean when he said no taxpayers money would be used?
A: That statement was made before the present business case was made. Since then we have a business case.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:
Q: Precisely what amounts have been spent by Airways Corporation on travel and associated costs each year since 1996 for Craig Sinclair, John Bole and Paul Woodbury and in which countries?
A: Staff travel is the responsibility of the board. I am advised it would take some time to collect this information. I am happy to provide this to the member when it has been compiled.
Q: Given that the media have been seeking this information since March is it not appropriate that it should be tabled?
A: Some of the travel costs are born by payments to Airways. Persuing legitimate business proposals is one of the functions of SOEs so long as they do not undermine core activities of that SOE.
Q: Is the Minister comfortable with this bid?
A: I can assure the member that none of the travel involves the use of flying carpets.
BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: Does he intend adjusting benefit levels prior to Christmas to compensate for the recently announced 2.9% increase in food prices?
A: Benefits were increased on April 1 2000 and will be increased again in 2001. I find this an extraordinary question coming from an opposition who cut benefits and have on several occasions not provided cost of living increases.
Q: With food-banks reporting increases in demand of 50%, what will it take to convince the minister that he is responsible?
A: In 1990 the Salvation Army gave out 4000 food parcels in 1997 they gave out 65,000 parcels. We have DWI people in contact with all food banks and are working to ensure everybody gets their full benefit – a complete contrast with the hash made by the previous government.
Q: How much better off will people be under Income Related Rents?
A: 132,000 family members will be better off by between $20 and $60 a week from December 1. Some families have not yet applied.
Q: Sue Bradford (Green): What will DWI do about making known beneficiaries rights to special benefits?
A: It is in the performance contract of DWI that beneficiaries know of all the entitlements they have. We do not know where food-bank usage has gone up and where it has gone down. Where it has gone up it has been because of nine-long-years of National Government.
MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What reports has he received about levels of business confidence?
A: ABN Ambro economist Rodney Dickens has said that confidence surveys may be misleading. This advice is backed up in a memo I have seen from Mr English. I have seen a report from Mr English saying members should not criticise the performance of the economy.
Q: Bill English (National): What is the minister saying to 80% of Kiwis who are facing a cut in their standard of living as a result of price increases?
A: I would say that that is a predictable comment to come from Mr English who can no longer criticise the performance of the economy and now has to be gloomy about rising prices. I have seen that some forecasts are predicting a falling current account down to 3% of GDP in three years. The member has discovered something self evident about statistics that when prices rise ahead of wages real incomes fall.
Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia:
Q: Who are the people she described in an interview on the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill as being like guests who are being given hospitality by tangata whenua?
A: The words I used were mana whenua. All those who are not mana whenua of a tribal area, and that includes the member and myself in Wellington.
Q: Tony Ryall (National): Does the minister honestly believe if you are not mana whenua then you are a guest in your own country?
A: I was clear when I was talking about tribal boundaries that you are a host when you are within your tribal boundary and all others are guests. Regardless of age, ethnicity, income level, sex or anything else, you are guests if you are not from the tribe of that area.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Are these concepts out of place in a country that wants to be one country?
A: I am more than happy to maintain that the values, cultures and beliefs of my people have as much place in this society as any one else’s.
Q: Tony Ryall (National): Should guests and hosts have different rights?
A: In certain situations. Yes.
GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What reports has he received about the outlook for employment?
A: I have received a number of reports. One of the most interesting was one from Bill that said there was very strong growth in the HLFS in September and that the labour market was looking “pretty good”. This echoes another report that I have from the Quarterly employment survey which shows an annual increase in jobs of 47,000. This confirms the trend indicated by the HLFS which reported the lowest unemployment rate in 12 years.
Q: What about Northland and the East Coast?
A: We are doing many things. The regionalisation of my department has had a marked effect in these areas. I would like to also mention the taskforce that is dealing with the East Coast.
(Belinda Vernon – leave to table report on food banks – granted)
Rt Hon WYATT CREECH (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: How many people are expected to go to Australia for cancer or other medical treatment in this financial year?
A: (Tariana Turia on behalf): It is difficult to say as these are determined on a case by case basis. I would however say that when the member was a minister 20 people were sent overseas for treatment at a cost of $1 million.
Q: Wyatt Creech (National): What confidence can we have in a health system when figures show that 69 cancer patients have been waiting more than six weeks for treatment?
A: I am unable to answer that question. If the member will put it in writing then I will attempt to answer it. Last year five children were sent to Australia for liver transplants. I support this and I do not support Mr Creech changing his views on this.
Q: If a District Health Board has shortages will it be able to contract with Australian providers to provide service?
A: I am aware that a majority of cancer patients are dealt with in Auckland. My understanding is that the equipment in Auckland has broken down and is being attended to. The government is conducting a recruitment campaign right now to attract more cancer specialists.
DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:
Q: What reports has he received about export levels?
A: (Paul Swain on behalf): Trade NZ informs me that exports have been increasing every month since December last year. In a very positive report from Bill English, former Westpac economist Bevan Graham says export growth is “rampant”. I have seen a very positive report from Bill to the National Caucus that says the economic environment is set to turn in the government’s favour. The report says businesses feel they have had their say and are now getting on with business. Bill English has confidence and is now supporting the coalition government’s programme. I suggest that opposition members heed Mr English’s advice.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): With the trade deficit standing at an all time record when will we reach a trade surplus?
A: We have a range of programmes in place. That member too also ought to read the memo from Mr English. ACT should also get positive too.
Q: John Luxton (National): What has the government done to increase exports?
A: I could talk about a whole range of things. The problem with those people over there is they cannot stand the positive news. They should listen to Mr English. He is the positive one.
IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for Biosecurity Marian Hobbs:
Q: As she stated that it is absolutely important that we keep ourselves biosecure for agricultural trading purposes, how will she address the spread of the current Argentine ant infestation and the risk this poses to our export prospects to Asian countries?
A: (Pete Hodgson on behalf): MAF believes the ant is a pest affecting households, but the impact on horticulture is considered minimal.
Q: Why has it not been declared an unwanted organism?
A: The ant arrived in late 1990. The other incursion at that time was the arrival of the National Government. They decided they would do no delimiting survey or take any action.
Q: What efforts are being made to protect native species from the pest?
A: We may try to eradicate the ant from an island sanctuary to protect native species using a special improved bait. I do not know the ant arrived by a used vehicle. We have a new standard for imported vehicles in train. This will go to the minister for consideration with submissions prior to Christmas.
Q: Has he seen any reports on Green Party biosecurity policy?
Q: When will it be declared an unwanted organism?
A: After 10 years of inaction we are now moving. We have a working group working on this at present.
Hon MARIE HASLER (National) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:
Q: Is she disappointed at the number of overstayers applying for work permits; if not, why not?
A: No. People need time to gather documents to support their applications.
Q: Is the NZIS in a position to handle this policy given the numerous personal grievances created by her outburst in this house that will end up costing the government thousands?
A: Yes. It is our expectation that the rate of applications will rise in the final month.
Q: Would the minister consider providing a method to incrementally pay the $500 fee?
A: I believe six months is enough to save up money to pay the fee.
Q: Why was the amnesty approved against officials advice from several agencies?
A: Because I was persuaded by community workers, MPs and many others. I saw many examples of hardship some of which were raised by Mr Richard Prebble of the ACT party.
(Jim Anderton – leave to table a report from Bill English to the National Party caucus – granted.)