SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 21 November
Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Widening Of Closing The Gaps – Regional Development – Defence Purchasing – Community Work Scheme – Mainland Stevedores – New School Gyms – Kaikohe Parole Office – Fiji Constitution – Auditing Closing The Gaps – Radiotherapist Shortages – NCEA Changes – Open Skies Agreement With OZ.
The following are paraphrased answers to today's questions for oral answer. They are not complete or official, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings is Hansard, which is not finalised till some days after the event.
SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Have new directions been given to the officials implementing the Closing the Gaps programme as a result of her announcement on 23 October that the Government was broadening the policy to focus "on lower decile needs across the board"; if so, when?
A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) No directions have been given since then because officials were already working to that brief.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): So has Closing the Gaps always been about poor and rich?
A: It is clear that not all NZers are disadvantaged. It is equally clear that not all disadvantaged people are Maori or Pacific people.
Q: Peter Dunne (United Future NZ): Which Government Department is now responsible for monitoring the impacts of this policy?
A: The Department of PM and Cabinet is primarily responsible.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Has the government altered the key result area concerning closing the gaps for Maori?
A: That remains a key result area for the government. But the PM has advised her committee that the policy should be broadened to all NZers.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): What does closing the gaps mean?
A: It means making sure all NZers have the ability to participate equally in NZ society.
JOHN WRIGHT (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Has he received any recent reports on economic or regional development; if so, what do those reports say?
A: Yes. I have seen a draft report from the Tai Rawhiti Development Taskforce which will be published later this week. This report provides direction for improving the East Coast economy. We are the first government to get all local groups around the table and talking about regional development.
Q: Is there anything aimed at teenagers?
A: Yes. There are plans to give teenagers the skills to get into work. We have also encouraged the NZ Army to run a recruitment campaign in Tai Rawhiti. 140 proposals have been put to the taskforce. Those will be analysed by local people who will decide where to put their money.
Q: Has he seen a study that shows a reduction in freight rates would create lots of jobs?
A: No I haven’t.
Dr WAYNE MAPP (National) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:
Q: Following the comments of Admiral Dennis Blair that New Zealand's defence should be focusing on high-technology equipment, will the Government guarantee today that it will retain the Orion aircraft?
A: I answered a similar question on August 23rd. A group of officials is working on this at present. These officials will report back by February 2001. In the meantime there will be no changes to the operations of the NZ Orions.
Q: Why won’t the government review its decisions?
A: The government does recognise the need to work with our friends. But in the end decisions will be made on the basis of NZ’s assessment of NZ’s needs, nobody elses. The officials group is investigating and considering all the civilian and military requirements for the Orions.
(Rod Donald – references to Pol Pot have been ruled out.
Richard Prebble – I think we should be able to make references to Pol Pot.
Speaker – I will judge each case on its merits. I did not hear the comment.)
TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What reports has he received on the effectiveness of the Community Work Scheme?
A: I have received a report from a DWI research unit. The research demonstrates that the probability of people getting a real job actually reduced when they were involved in the programme. The scheme was embraced by the previous government and is still defended by National and ACT.
Q: Bob Simcock (National): Why is the Minister committed to using research that compares apples to bananas?
A: The research was properly conducted. The evaluation tracked a base group of 22,000 participants. This is robust research and I will stand by it.
Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): How can he justify his campaign against a programme supported by more than 5000 organisations?
A: Because the one major piece of evaluation confirms that the scheme was a $33 million costly failure.
Q: How can the minister be expected to be taken seriously when he says that beneficiaries who do nothing at all have a better chance to find a job?
A: Because that is what the research shows.
(Muriel Newman – leave to table a Maharey question – refused.
Steve Maharey – leave to table a Muriel Newman speech – refused.
Bob Simcock – leave to table a DWI report – granted.)
Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: What steps, if any, has she or the Mediation Service taken to resolve the industrial action by the Waterfront Workers Union on the Bluff and Otago ports?
A: I have not been approached to intervene in this matter. I understand the mediation service have approached those involved in this dispute and have offered their assistance. I understand there is no lock-out but rather a peaceful picket – is the member opposed to peaceful pickets?
Q: Does the fact the mediation service has had to offer its services mean the ERA has failed?
A: The parties were free themselves to contact the mediation service. We waited for them to contact us. When they didn’t we contacted them. The local community is concerned about the importation of workers from the North Island to do work which locals are perfectly qualified to perform.
Q: What is the explanation for this dispute?
A: There is no demarcation dispute on the wharf.
Q: Is the minister aware that the concern is that permanent employees will be replaced with casual employees? And if so what will she do?
A: I am aware there is a concern about the casualisation of work. In terms of what will be done about it, it is a matter for the employer to be able to offer work and stevedoring services and it appears that Carter Holt Harvey has contracted this firm to supply services. The Waterside Workers Union is lawfully expressing its objection to the importation of North Island labour with the local community.
HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: What response has he had to yesterday's announcement that the Government will inject approximately $5 million into schools with substandard gymnasia?
A: Delight and surprise. The nine schools concerned cannot believe that after 10 years of waiting someone is finally listening to them.
Q: Why is the government making this funding injection?
A: We have a new curriculum coming into force next year. But at present the curriculum cannot be taught in some schools. We will be a healthier nation as a result of this.
Q: Is this an education charm offensive?
A: That is the first time I
have been described as charming. Four of the nine schools
requiring catch-up funding are girls schools. None are boys
schools. I find this interesting.
STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: Does he stand by his assurance to the House last Thursday that "The position of the parole office in Kaikohe is under control. It is being managed by the responsible officials."; if so, how does he reconcile this with today's New Zealand Herald report that staff were at breaking point and in a mess physically, and that the lack of supervision of offenders could result in someone being seriously injured or worse?
A: (Phil Goff on behalf): I stand by my answer of last week. Difficulties were found yesterday when five staff were away from work sick. The department advises that at no point has there been risk to public safety.
Q: Is one elderly staff worker supervising 60 toughened parolees sufficient?
A: The member, like the NZ Herald report he relies upon, is sadly misinformed. The office did not close early it closed at its normal time.
Q: How is he responding to concerns about the office?
A: The immediate needs of the office were met by seconding two replacement staff from Auckland. There are personnel problems in the office. The PSA has been contacted and a meeting has been arranged. The public have not been put at risk.
Hon PETER DUNNE (United Future NZ) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: What is the reaction of the New Zealand Government to the Fiji High Court decision that the Chaudhry Government be reinstated?
A: The HC’s decision was that the 1997 Constitution remans valid. I welcomed that decision on behalf of the government. I have urged all Fijian political parties to use this decision to establish a government of national unity and reconciliation.
Q: Will he support calls for a South Pacific Forum mission to Fiji to support the court decision?
A: The Secretary General of the Commonwealth is in the process of appointing a special envoy to Fiji. I think the challenge before us is to back those moderate members of the interim government and not the extremists. The interim government has said it will appeal the decision. It is likely that appeal will not be heard until early next year. The coup has caused enormous damage to Fiji. The formation of a government of National Unity would help to get Fiji back on the road to democracy.
Q: Keith Locke (Green): Who should the Government of National Unity be made up of?
A: The details of that decision are not for NZ to make. What could happen is that a government could be formed representing all parties from the previous Parliament.
Q: John Luxton (National): How many black-listed individuals have been allowed into NZ?
A: The point of the list has been to prevent people coming in. I understand one person has come to NZ for medical treatment. They will be sent home as soon as they are able to travel.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: Has he been informed of the Audit Office advice to the Maori Affairs Committee in relation to the Closing the Gaps strategy that:"There are a number of areas where there are no planned steps to obtain evidence of effectiveness of the ministry's expenditure on achieving desired outcomes."; if so, does he intend to take steps to rectify the situation?
A: I am aware that a confidential report has been provided to the Select Committee. I understand the report includes some information on auditing the Closing the Gaps strategy.
Q: Can I take it that the Ministry is not collecting evidence because it does not expect there to be any?
A: Definitely not. TPK is providing quarterly reports on efforts being made by departments.
Q: Will he confirm that the Maori Affairs Select Committee has written to him saying TPK has no benchmarks?
A: Yes. But it is critical that measurements are reasonable.
Q: Murray McCully (National): If the Audit Office made a similar finding about any other department would it be regarded as a national scandal?
A: To a certain degree yes.
JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What reports has she received on shortages of radiotherapy staff in New Zealand?
A: I have seen reports from officials warning National ministers about the looming shortages. Jenny Shipley, Bill English and Wyatt Creech were all warned. They did not heed these warnings which mean we now have a major problem. I cannot solve these problems overnight but we are working to fix them.
Q: Ann Hartley (National): Why has it taken her a year to call for nominations for her work-force advisory committee? Why is it not meeting till next year? And how will her talk-fest cure people of cancer?
A: That question shows the members lack of awareness. The member is not aware of the lack of work-force planning from her government.
Q: Apart from radiotherapy what other areas have shortages?
A: In mental health we have a drastic shortage of psychiatrists. But unfortunately they take 15 years to train. We are trying to recruit specialists overseas.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: Has the new National Certificate of Educational Achievement changed from that initiated by the previous Government under which students would receive percentage marks?
A: No. Because the previous government did not propose that students would receive percentage marks.
Q: Noting that we made it plain that people would receive percentage marks can he confirm that is still the case?
A: The cabinet paper in 1998 mentioned providing percentiles. No work was ever done on providing percentage marks.
Q: What is the difference between percentiles and percentages?
A: (Very funny answer concluding..) If Nick Smith was being marked under the NCEA he would get no credit for the carpet allegations.
HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:
Q: What are the major benefits New Zealand can expect as a result of the signing of the memorandum of understanding with Australia on the open skies agreement?
A: NZ will enjoy significant benefits under the open skies agreement secured by NZ yesterday. Airlines will now be able to make their own decisions on the number of flights and destinations without government restrictions. The agreement means airlines will face lower compliance costs. I would like to acknowledge the contribution made by Maurice Williamson.
Q: Penny Webster (ACT): Why does the Government wax lyrical about competition in the skies but not in education and ACC?
A: I would have thought the member would have noticed that there were such things as private schools.
Q: Harry Duynhoven (Labour): Is he working on an open seas agreement on Trans Tasman shipping?
A: It is important that we have a shipping industry in NZ.
Q: John Luxton (National): Why is he opposed to open shipping agreements?
A: We are having a review. The member is not listening.