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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 29 November

Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Selling Health Changes – Exporting To Oz – Super Investment Policies – Buddle Findlay’s Billings – Super Fund Contributions – Greenhouse Gases – Closing Gaps – Public Health Focus – Rental Poverty Traps – Acts On The Net – Foodbank Demands – Long Term Business Visas.

Questions For Oral Answer Wednesday, 29 November 2000

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

Question 1.

Rt Hon WYATT CREECH (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Does she still stand by her comment that she did not need to actively sell the health changes; if so, why?

A: There is a high level of comprehension of the changes. For example even the National Party has agreed not to change them.

Q: Why then do the Alliance and Green Parties not agree?

A: Our colleagues are endeavouring to improve the health reforms because they understand and accept them. Previous health reforms cost $2.5 million in Amanda Miller TV ads which were later found to be misleading. Instead of producing misleading adverts I have released all the cabinet papers.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Has she come to the conclusion the health reforms aren’t worth anything and therefore can’t be sold.

A: No I haven’t. And I certainly wouldn’t want to be trying to sell the ACT party’s health policy.

Q: Which of the amendments of the Alliance and the Greens will the Government be adopting?

A: I will advise the house of that this afternoon when we debate the bill.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Why did the committee of the whole turn into a schmmozel last night?

A: I can’t account for the problems the National Party had yesterday.

Question 2.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Has she received any advice on any impact her reported comments in the Sydney Morning Herald of 20 November 2000 may have on New Zealand's exports?

A: I have seen a number of comments expressing a wide range of views following that badly written and misleading article.

Q: Why did she see fit to bag the NZ TV industry in the most widely read Australian newspaper?

(Winston Peters – Can I ask Richard Prebble, as his leader suggests, to behave himself.)

A: I most certainly did not bag NZ made TV programmes. I bagged NZ TV channels. We want more NZ TV on air.

Q: What did she mean by her comments?

A: I meant that NZ channels often offer very little choice. I have received lots of support for these comments including support from a columnist in a Sunday Paper (quoted).

(Roger Sowry – I would ask that the same rules apply while the question is being asked as when it is answered. There has been noticeable jeering and groaning from the Government benches.)

A: My comments were aimed at channels not high quality NZ programme makers of which there are many.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Given her support for quotas when will we see them?

A: The charter draft has been out for consultation. I believe we will have a charter in place next year. I believe we will also have progress on quotas next year.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): What about the comments of departing journalist Christopher Dore about Winston Peters?

(Winston Peters – what about the member who left his taxi-chits at a restaurant? Mr Prebble knows about that?

Richard Prebble – It wasn’t me.)

Question 3.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What are the investment criteria for the proposed superannuation fund?

A: Money must be invested on a prudent basis to maximise returns under the provisions in the Bill.

Q: What concessions will he be making to the Alliance now he has made some to the Greens?

A: The member should not put words in the mouth of the leader of the Alliance. As for the Greens I am always willing to respond to the rational concerns of the Green Party.

Q: John Wright (Alliance): How will politicians be kept out of investment decisions?

A: Investment policy decisions will be made by guardians who will be appointed in turn by a nominating committee. Investment of the funds will be at least two, and sometimes three steps away from politicians.

Q: Why is the fund limited to not acquiring a controlling interest of any company and to making ethical investments?

A: Doug Meyers would advise the member if he asked that long term prudent investment does contain ethical considerations.

Question 4.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: Has he received any further advice on Government payments to the law firm Buddle Findlay; if so, what does it say?

A: I have now received advice on payments over three years. Payments of $5.3 million were made to the firm by the previous government. About six percent of the payments were committed by this government. Bill English ought to do a bit of maths before he starts throwing stones. Nearly 60% of the funds were spent on the privatisation of state assets. What this shows is that excitement and charisma alone are not enough, members also need to be able to add up.

Q: Peter Dunne (United): Does he have any information on payments made by the TOW Fishing Commission to Buddle Findlay?

A: Not on me. If the member would like to put down a written question I will answer it.

Question 5.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Who advised him that his proposed superannuation fund's contribution to the cost of New Zealand superannuation "will be closer to 25 percent" at its peak because "the Government will receive a further revenue stream from the fund in the taxes paid on the fund's earnings" and, if he still stands by this claim, why does he do so?

A: The Treasury gave me the advice and I stand by it because noone else has advised me otherwise.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does he accept that the fund will have no macroeconomic effects?

A: In the absence of pre-funding it is most unlikely that so much money would have been saved. If we did not have the fund we would have to cut the pension or take money out of health and education.

Question 6.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: Will the Government commit to international leadership by example and take action now to reduce New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, even though the Hague negotiations did not reach a positive conclusion; if not, why not?

A: Because this government believes worldwide greenhouse gases must be reduced we will continue both domestically and internationally to pursue the reduction of emissions.

Q: What is the next step?

A: There are a number of steps. We plan to reduce CO2 in the transport sector through efficiency and public transport.

Q: How will EECA help?

A: Because energy use excluding transport accounts for 20% of emissions. EECA is developing a number of ways to achieve greater energy efficiency.

Q: How will we maintain international competitiveness?

A: One of the mechanisms being considered internationally is one that would help us – and that is emissions trading. We will ensure we are not left out.

Question 7.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Is she confident that the Government is now implementing its Closing the Gaps policy in accordance with her statement on 23 October that the programme would focus on "low decile needs across the board"?

A: The overall programme of this government is redistributive. We will undertake specific initiatives to meet specific needs.

Q: Is she aware that the apprenticeship training bill has not been changed to refer to need rather than race?

A: The programme is aimed at all young NZers. But obviously we do not want Maori and Pacific Island young people to miss out. We aim to make a difference not leave people in those communities to rot the way the last government did.

Q: Is she aware that CEO’s of government departments have been telling MPs that Closing the Gaps is a Maori and Pacific Islander aimed policy?

A: The overall programme of this government is redistributive. Within that we have specific programmes for specific needs. The status of Maori and PI peoples shows that they have been missing out disproportionately so far.

Question 8.

JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What organisational changes has the Government made to put a greater focus on public health in New Zealand?

A: We have established the Public Health Directorate which is the largest directorate in the Ministry of Health. This compares with a small Public Health unit in the Ministry under the previous government. The most important thing this government will be doing in health is implementation of the NZ Health Strategy and its goals. We will also be introducing a public health bill next year that people in public health have been asking for for some time.

Q: Why was the Select Committee told that there was no increase in the budget for public health?

A: That is because the member does not know what public health is. There was a considerable increase in funding for child immunisation in the budget. That is public health.

Q: Are large bureacracy’s the best way to help health?

A: Will ACT be voting for a stand-alone public health agency.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): What percentage of the 7.2 billion health budget will go to public health?

A: I can answer that in a written question. I can also provide exact staffing levels in the public health directorate after we pass this bill. For the moment several of these staff remain in the HFA.

Question 9.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:

Q: What steps, if any, does he intend to take in response to Auckland University economist Susan St John's statement that the income-related rents clawback rate means many families will be caught in a vicious "poverty trap" which could actually make them worse off if they get a job?

A: The poverty trap this government is removing is that caused by market rents for state houses. To quote the Salvation Army the market rents policy was very bad indeed. And to further quote from this NZ Herald article the Ruka family will now be able to afford fresh fruit and vegetables thanks to this policy which will put an extra $41 a week into their pockets.

Q: Will he confirm a clawback rate of 91 cents in every dollar earned?

A: It is a shame when the truth gets in the way of a good story. The person in this article that he is quoting has in fact got a job. I challenge Tony Ryall to tell people in his electorate that they will not get the $589,000 we are giving them to spend on food. This policy is good for people.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): Has the minister discussed the poverty trap issue with his colleagues?

A: The effects of the abatement structure for Income Related Rents are only one factor that affect the transition to work. We will be looking at the wider problem.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): Given his officials have confirmed a 91 cents clawback rate what incentive is there for state house tenants to get ahead?

A: If the member was concerned about state house tenants he would not have inflicted market rents on them.

Question 10.

DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: What initiatives is the Government taking to ensure that legislation is available on the internet?

A: The government has initiated a programme to make legislation freely available through the internet. This will assist public participation in the law making process.

Q: When will the project begin?

A: The project will begin immediately. When the project is completed we will have legislative access service comparable with those overseas.

Q: Why is she crowing about this when private providers could have provided this years ago?

A: Because for all the years we were in opposition the government did nothing at all. I know the member has been helpful

Q: Will the government be providing access to interpretations of legislation?

A: No the only access to interpretation via the government is through legal aid.

Question 11.

BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Does he accept reports from the Onehunga Foodbank, Auckland Methodist Central Mission, Salvation Army Social Services and Auckland City Mission that demand for food parcels is expected to increase this year; if not, why not?

A: One might ask why this member was not asking this question through nine long years of National government. In contrast to previous governments we are facing up to poverty. Income related rents will put millions of dollars into the hands of poor families. As rents drop we would expect foodbank usage to drop.

Q: Given foodbank usage has increased this year what makes him think income related rents will be any more effective?

A: We have great faith in the policy because everyone that understands poverty agrees that the major driver of foodbank usage has been the cost of housing. According to one report 73% of community organisations think that the Labour/Alliance government is heading in a positive direction. One commentator has described income related rents as the best thing so far in terms of social policy.

Q: Liz Gordon (Alliance): What is the government doing to address hardship?

A: We are working very closely with our Alliance colleagues on this issue. They have made many outstanding policy suggestions. One particularly significant one has been to advise beneficiaries of what their full entitlements are.

Question 12.

CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: Has she received any advice on the criteria that apply to long-term business visas; if so, what action has she taken as a result?

A: Yes. My advice has been that the requirement that a spousal partner also be eligible for a work permit has discouraged applications. I have now decided that spouses can be issued with a multiple-reentry permit. I am pleased to have been able to tidy this matter up.

Q: Marie Hasler (National): Is she not concerned about the overly bureaucratic process involved in applications?

A: There is some irony in the fact that it was her government that set up this process. This is one of the reasons we have had brought to our attention as a reason business migrants have been looking to alternate destinations.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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