Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Economy – Racial Unrest Over Closing Gaps – ANZFC Food Standards – Officials Advice On Gaps – Public Sector Leadership – Foodbanks Demand – Apple Deregulation – Super Scrutiny – Cell Phone Safety For Kids - Apple Deregulation – Tariana Turia And the Race Relations Conciliator – Consumer Protection For Gamblers.
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 till some days after the event.
SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS
MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Has he received any recent reports on the economy; if so, what do they say?
A: I have received a number of reports that the winter of discontent is over and the NZ economy is headed for a long strong summer. In the TV news poll optimists outnumber pessimists and in the National Bank business poll optimists
Q: Bill English (National): Has he seen the WestpacTrust survey showing household wealth is falling and why doesn’t he care?
A: Because as he pointed out in his memo export growth is rampant. I expect Bill English’s next report to his caucus to report that employers are happier with the ERA than they had been and that ACC premiums have fallen considerably.
Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): What reports has he seen on inflation next year exceeding the 3% band?
A: Monetary policy is a prerogative of the Reserve Bank. It does appear the band will be breached. It is not clear whether that will require monetary policy intervention.
Q: Bill English (National): What will he say to families that have less money this Christmas?
A: This country could not continue the consumption led growth phase that it was in. And don’t believe Bill English when he tells you the government is responsible for the oil price.
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: In light of the statement in the annual report of the Race Relations Conciliator that her Government's policies such as Closing the Gaps are "creating racial conflicts", what steps does she propose to take in response?
A: The government promotes inclusion not conflict. Government is tackling overall inequality and its programmes are tailored for specific community groups.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Is Closing the Gaps still government policy?
A: Tackling inequality is a government priority. We are also aware that one size fits all policies do not work well and so we are targeting some policies. Our policies are geared at helping those on lower and moderate income levels. That is why we contract with communities to get specific results in some communities.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is her view that the RRC is correct or not?
A: Dr Prasad was reporting what some people are saying to his office. At times this reflected misleading information put about by National and ACT.
Q: Ron Marks (NZ First): Will she reinstate Dover Samuels?
A: Closing the Gaps for all NZers is a priority for this government and I would hope all ministers can continue.
Q: Peter Dunne (United): Will Dr Prasad’s office be closed?
A: What happens to a report commissioned earlier this year has nothing to do with any specific recommendations regarding the office of the RRC.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Will she give radio spectrum to any other disadvantaged groups?
A: It is obvious lots of people are bidding for spectrum and not only Maori will benefit.
STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What was achieved at the meeting of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council last Friday?
A: NZ consumers had a major win at the Food Standards Council. It was decided to include information on saturated fats and sugars at NZ’s initiative.
Q: What is the time frame for implementation?
A: Two years to allow manufacturers. These changes will be helpful to those with heart disease and diabetes. At the beginning of this year I launched the code with Jim Sutton. Before I went to Australia I announced that we would push for the inclusion of these things in the standards code. The committee did not consider irradiation of foods.
Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is a boil-up good for you or bad for you?
A: A boil-up is bad for you.
Q: Will the Minister be setting up a Ministry of Food?
A: Many people go there for lunch already. Discussions continue on a food agency.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Which officials was she referring to in her answer on 21 November when she said that "officials were advised early in October that the Closing the Gaps programme should be focused on all disadvantaged New Zealanders"?
A: I reminded officials in my department, including Mary Anne Thompson, that the goals of Closing the Gaps are inclusive of all NZers.
Q: Given that SSC and TPK do not appear to know this, when will they be told?
A: I am sure they have been advised about this. Officials from all departments have been advised of this and they are expected to pass this on to their CEOs.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Have officials been advised in writing that the cornerstone policy has been changed? And can we have a copy?
A: I know of no advice in writing.
CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:
Q: What steps are being taken to foster the next generation of leaders in the public sector?
A: It is essential for good public sector management that capability is retained. We will establish a new executive group to create a core of 300 managers to be leaders of the future.
Q: What are the characteristics of these people?
A: A leader needs to be more than just a technocrat. They need excitement, charisma, style and to have personality.
Q: Is he considering diversifying the source of managers to include community leaders?
A: Yes. But that said, experiences with people from outside the public sector have been somewhat mixed in recent times.
BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: (Bob Simcock on behalf) Which foodbanks was he referring to when he said in the House that he had advice from "other foodbanks that there has been a decrease" in demand for food parcels?
A: I had in mind the Southbank community trust and the Auckland Methodist City Mission. Nationals obsession with this reminds me of a criminal returning to the scene of a crime. Having created the foodbanks the National Party is now obsessed with them. I am pleased the Auckland Methodist Mission has reported a slight drop in the demand for food banks.
Q: What reports has he seen?
A: In yesterday’s Chirstchurch Press an Anglican Cannon said he was very pleased with the arrival of income related rents. I can say that in 10 months we have lifted money for superannuitants and done several other things that would not have been done under ACT and National.
Q: Has he received advice from Muriel Newman that hungry people should consider stealing?
(Speaker – that question is not relevant.
Winston Peters – that member wrote that, I know it is rubbish, but she did say it.)
Q: Can he guarantee that the projections by the Auckland Methodist Mission of food bank usage increases will not come to fruition?
A: I can guarantee that usage will not increase by 1500% as it did under National.
DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:
Q: What steps is the Government taking to improve the state of the apple industry?
A: The government has initiated a review of pip-fruit exporting. A discussion document has been issued and changes are to be made with implementation from October 2001. Four options are outlined in the discussion document. Industry views on other options are also welcome.
Q: Does the minister agree that a relaxation in rules relating to exports would increase returns?
A: I have no way of knowing what would happen. I note however that 2.1 million trays have already by granted export consents for the coming season indicating a considerable increase over last year.
Q: What does control by corporates of ENZA mean for this reform?
A: It is a significant development that may well influence industry views.
Q: Gerard Eckhoff (ACT): Why will it take till 2002 for this to be fixed?
A: The system in place now was chosen by growers and overwhelmingly supported in a referendum. It is not sensible to change the system until the real facts of the first season can be considered.
Q: Is he concerned about control of ENZA by corporate interests?
A: I am concerned in that most growers assumed grower control would be retained. That said ENZA has done nothing illegal.
Q: Given that 40% of growers have sold their rights in ENZA will he support the end of the export monopoly?
A: I have pointed out to growers that control of the board was not the only aspect of the scheme that growers supported. They also supported a modified single desk arrangement.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Will he support the establishment of a special select committee, chaired by a non-Government member, to ensure proper and thorough scrutiny of his proposal to partially pre-fund superannuation; if not, why not?
A: No. I think it is unnecessary given other options available.
Q: Bill English (National): How does he reconcile his refusal with his public statements that the government recognises public anxiety?
A: There are plenty of other select committees available and suitable for considering the bill.
Q: What committee will consider the bill?
A: The Finance and Expenditure Select Committee on which all parties are represented. It would be hard to tailor make a committee as well suited as this one.
Q: What will be the timetable?
A: The committee will be responsible for deciding its timetable.
Q: Peter Dunne (United): Will the committee not be instructed to report back by a certain date?
Q: Bill English (National): Will sending it to a committee with a government majority count against the likelihood of its deliberations being accepted by the public?
A: The government does not have a majority on the FEC committee. That is one of a number of arithmetical errors the member has made thus far on this issue.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Will the Government be following the lead of the British health department by issuing health warnings on cell phones and distributing leaflets outlining the potential health risks of cell phones, especially for children; if not, why not?
A: I have been advised an information leaflet is about to be issued. The leaflet is based on a report that says it is unlikely that exposure is dangerous. NZ has already made this information available to consumers.
Q: Why hasn’t the government been more pro-active on this?
A: We have had information available to parents for a number of years. Earlier this year the HFA made available information about cell phones. I do not see how an independent public health agency could have done more than the HFA and the radiation laboratory. The member will also be pleased to know that the Ministry of Consumer Affairs is doing further work on this issue. I haven’t commissioned any work on this. The information from the radiation laboratory was sent to Parliament some time ago.
Q: What about cell phone towers and are there effects equally insignificant?
A: I cannot confirm the members assertions.
Q: Peter Brown (NZ First): Can I conclude that using cell phones is more dangerous than smoking cannabis?
A: No I cannot confirm that. Nor can I account for why the members attention has strayed from the point in that way.
GERRARD ECKHOFF (ACT) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:
Q: In light of his department's statement that "ENZA's privileged export right does not facilitate ... relationships developing between retailers and New Zealand growers" and its claim that "Depoliticisation of the industry will allow people's energy, time and money to be redirected into wealth creation for the sector", what advice has he for growers who are offered, but cannot accept higher prices by an independent exporter this season?
A: My advice to growers who feel they can achieve better returns through independent exporters is to encourage those exporters to apply to export and for them to make submissions to MAF.
Q: What will he do about the $100 million projection of losses expected this year due to his equivocation?
A: That figure is not a projection it is propaganda.
Q: Can he confirm that independent exporters are achieving higher returns than ENZA?
A: No. The facts aren’t in yet. It has been the unswerving policy of this government to ensure that growers have the say in determining the framework for their industry and the government remains firm to that. I would point out that the vast majority of shares in ENZA still belong to growers.
Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:
Q: Has she asked her colleague, Hon Tariana Turia, whether her speech to the Maori Nurse Educators Conference intended to assert that the Race Relations Conciliator's submission on the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill was based upon "an intellectual inability to comprehend the historical context of the Treaty, the history of this country, and of us as whanau, hapu and iwi", "a denial of that history and a lack of interest in justice, truth and reconcilation" and "hypocrisy and scaremongering"; if not, why not?
A: No. I have not considered such an inquiry of my colleague necessary as it is obvious that the comments did not relate to the Race Relations Conciliator?
Q: Was this a cold-blooded attack on the Race Relations Conciliator?
A: No other NZer besides the member has made such an assumption. The RRC has an independent as well as statutory function. I note that last year Tony Ryall acknowledged the statutory independence of the office and I follow that position.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) Can she pass on ACT support for Tariana Turia to keep speaking out on Government Policy as she has been doing?
A: I am sure the member can speak directly to the Minister himself.
Q: Did the Minister’s minder Steve Maharey vet the speech?
A: I was unaware that the Minister had a minder. I have since read the speech and I think the Minister should be commended for encouraging debate.
GRANT GILLON (Alliance) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:
Q: What reports has she received about consumer protection measures on gambling products and what do those reports say?
A: The NSW department of gaming and racing has recommended lots of changes to gaming machines.
Q: What has the NSW government done about this?
A: I am informed that the state government has welcomed the proposals. I am also informed that they are based partly on work being done here by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs.
Q: What will she do about online gaming?
A: The report is only concerned with gaming machines and does not take on the issue of online gaming. I agree that there is a need to tackle this issue internationally.