Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: The Winston Clause – CYFS Care Funding – Ruddick Comments On Immigration - European Meat Imports and BSE – Housing Poverty Trap – Overseas Doctors – Foodbank Demand And Students – Indian and Nepalese Trade – Auckland Rail Corridor – Electricity Reforms – Public Trust Advertising – Radio Spectrum and Closing the Gaps – Arms Amendment Bill.
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.
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Tuesday, 5 December 2000
Questions to Ministers
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What is the purpose of clause 73(3) of the New Zealand Superannuation Bill?
A: The purpose of the clause is self-evident..
Q: Why does he think Winston Peters will accept this?
A: The clause does not simply say the government can change the law. The clause reflects an attempt to reach a broad consensus across political parties.
Q: Why does this clause have a period of two years?
A: That is something that came out of discussions with Mr Peters.
Q: Does he support individualisation of accounts.
A: No I think it would be inequitable.
Q: Does he support the public having a say.
A: They did have a say and they rejected it by 92% to 8%.
Q: Can he confirm no work has been done on conversion?
A: It would be a very different scheme indeed.
JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What is the Government doing to ensure that care services are provided for at-risk children?
A: I am pleased to announce that yesterday cabinet approved more money for care services. The demand for care services has been increasing steadily and sharply in August. Additional funding is in response to those demands.
Q: How will CYFS benefit from this regionally?
A: In Auckland $836,000 will go towards care services, excluding South Auckland. In Wellington around $500,000. In Canterbury around $600,000 will go.
Q: Why wasn’t this funding in the budget?
A: In our first year we have put $36 million back into the baselines of this organisation. This is additional above that. I am deeply concerned whenever a child is not looked after properly. Mick Brown will report in December and we will action his report immediately to provide the best care and protection.
Q: Did CYFS screen the Whangarei grandmother who nearly killed her grand daughter?
A: This matter is before the court at this time and these issues will be explored. I have asked for a report on this as has the Commissioner of Children.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:
Q: Has she seen the reported statement by Australian Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock saying "New Zealand has to focus on what it is that has led to a very significant movement of their own people." along with his intention to raise this issue with her; if so, what is her response?
A: I have seen the statement of Minister Ruddick reported in the Sunday Telegraph. Although I am not responsible for emigration I look forward to discussing related matters with Mr Ruddick next year.
Q: Has she thought of finding out why so many NZers are leaving?
A: In fact the loss of NZers is slowing.
Q: Has Mr Ruddick made any other statements?
A: Yes. In the context of the comments he made to the newspaper Mr Ruddick concluded in a question in a house saying that NZ and Australia both benefit from the free flow of people between the nations, and said “this free flow will continue.” Mr Ruddick also said, “There is no threat to the Trans-Tasman travel arrangement.”
Q: Does she have any evidence that would back up Mr Ruddick’s claims?
A: No. There is very little evidence of that. It is alleged we have dropped out immigration standards. We haven’t. Skilled migrants amount to approximately 50% of migrants to both countries.
IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Given that cases of bovine spongiform encaphalitis have recently been reported in 12 European countries, will she, for reasons of public health, extend the existing ban on British beef imports to imports of beef and sheep products from all of Europe and particularly to baby food containing beef or sheep products; if not, why not?
A: NZers have been very active in monitoring the situation in Europe. I have advised that our priority is public safety. We will continue to monitor the situation. We have no evidence at this stage giving us reason to ban sheep and beef meat from Europe.
Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Can she give an assurance that public health is not at risk through the importation of blood or food from Europe?
A: On the information I have received I can give that assurance.
Q: Why then were people who lived in Europe banned on giving blood?
A: It wasn’t us that did it. I note however that Australia now has a similar ban.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:
Q: In light of his comments last Friday when the Government's housing policy came into effect that he had received advice on the abatement rate and "one Ministry tells me that it's 91 cents, another Ministry tells me it's 75 cents", what is the actual abatement rate that State house tenants now face?
A: The abatement rate is 50 cents in the dollar for income over the threshold.
Q: Has he seen the Peoples Centre comments on the poverty trap? And does he agree?
Q: Do rents go up as a result of market rents?
A: No. The average saving is $36 a week for tenants.
Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Has he depleted the asset value of low income housing? And if so is that a positive or a negative?
A: It is hard to answer that question as I don’t understand it. I am not sure how you deplete the value of low income housing.
Q: Why would a state house family take on further work if it is abated at 92 cents in the dollar?
A: I think that figure is wrong. And if they want to work then they will work.
STEVE CHADWICK to the Minister of Health:
Q: What steps is the Government taking to help overseas trained doctors to meet New Zealand practice requirements?
A: I have announced a package in June to retrain doctors. The Ministry of Health has received a phenomenal number of applications. Recipients of training will be balloted and bonded so their assistance is retained. It is expected that up to 1200 doctors will meet the criteria. A ballot is considered the only fair way to deal with this.
Q: Why doesn’t she increase the funding?
A: The number of places offered is what the Medical Schools said they could provide.
Q: Will she support the members bill to reduce red-tape for overseas doctors?
A: We have expressed grave reservations about the members bill. I share the members views that something should be done but I do not agree that the members bill is the way to do it. There is no plan to assist doctors who arrived after 1995 – because they knew what the rules were.
Q: Is she pressuring the Medical Council?
BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What reports has he received regarding increases in the use of foodbanks in Auckland this year?
A: I have received a variety of reports from a range of foodbanks. Some suggest increases, some static demand and some declines. I am pleased that some are showing a decline.
Q: In light of reports that students are using foodbanks will he, as promised, restore the Emergency Unemployment Benefit to students?
A: What we have done is an example of what is done in policy and is then implemented. We have supported student Job Search which is the policy I campaigned on.
CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:
Q: What were the major outcomes of his recent trade mission to India and Nepal?
A: The main objectives of my visit were to promote NZ education through fairs. 2000 students came to these. We also sorted out other areas of cooperation. Finally with over 50 articles in major newspapers we substantially raised the NZ profile.
Q: Is he concerned about labour conditions?
A: The Indian government is actively engaged in improving working conditions. We will continue to work through the ILO to have these issues addressed.
Q: Did he discuss the proposals to give Nepal tariff free access with the Greens?
A: No. It was well known that Mr Rod Donald had previously supported the opening up of developed countries to developing countries.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): Is he concerned about children working in Nepal?
A: I was able to ascertain that people associated with NZ’s trade with Nepal have enabled some children to attend school and not make carpets all day.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: In light of her statement of 22 December 1999 that she would "work with the Prime Minister to co-ordinate, develop and implement the policies that will allow Auckland to grow in a positive and dynamic fashion for the benefit of Auckland and the rest of New Zealand", does she expect to announce Government support for the Auckland region's proposal to acquire access to the Tranz Rail corridor before the deadline of 8 December?
A: I will meet with Auckland mayors on Friday and discuss these matters?
Q: Does the minister understand the mayors want a clear and meaningful statement of support for the acquisition of the rail corridor? And will she give it.
A: I will advise the PM, as I have, that we will work with Auckland to reduce its traffic congestion problem. We do not have a proposal and we will not be getting one. Transfund will be making a decision on this.
Q: Does she agree with the PM that Auckland has focussed too much on the rail deal?
A: Yes I do. I think the PM is reflecting the frustration that we all feel that the assignment deal would not deal with congestion it would just transfer control of the rail corridor.
Q: What is she doing to move investment into public transport?
A: We have introduced a patronage funding strategy that will have a big impact. Part of the problem has been that not all regional councils have been quick in taking this up.
Q: Were the PM’s criticisms based on erroneous assumptions about public transport utilisation and plans of regional councils provided by the minister? Or did she get it wrong by herself?
A: The PM did not get it wrong. We are all doing our best to deal with these issues.
GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:
Q: Has he received any recent reports regarding the success or otherwise of recent changes to the electricity industry; if so, what do they say?
A: (Paul Swain on behalf) Yes. I have read a report where the former Minister Max Bradford says that things did not go as planned and consumers were the losers.
Q: What is he doing about it?
A: We have introduced a power package to deliver fairness to consumers. We tabled something about this in the house last week. As a result of National’s reforms retailers have been reluctant to pass on savings to consumers.
Q: When will targeted price controls come into force?
A: The Commerce Commission will be able to use its new powers as soon as the legislation is passed. The Opposition may like to ensure this does not take any longer than necessary.
STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister in charge of the Public Trust Office Jim Anderton:
Q: Will he investigate whether it is misleading or deceptive for the Public Trust Office to advertise "we'll make sure your will is carried out"; if not, why not?
A: If the member believes he has evidence of misleading advertising then he should know he has access to remedies available. I do not think the advertising is misleading so I will not squander money on an investigation as ACT seems to want. It is unrealistic to expect a complex dissertation on the law to be put on a poster. I would like to congratulate Public Trust on awards it has received for its annual report.
Q: Does he believe the new relationships bill provides people with what they want?
A: The Public Trust has outstanding support for the work that it does.
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: Is the Government's policy of reserving for Maori a quarter of the radio spectrum currently being auctioned still part of the Closing the Gaps programme?
A: (Paul Swain on behalf) This government is keen to ensure all NZers are able to take part in new technology in a new economy.
Q: What about poor people and Pacific Islanders? Will they get spectrum too?
A: I presume the Opposition shares the views of the Government given what it threw at Tau Henare and Alamein Kopu. The reason to introduce a competition rule into the auction was to ensure that there would be more than one player in this new industry.
Q: What has he got against Pacific Islanders?
A: This government is committed to including all NZers. This is about a new technology. It is not a treaty issue. We want all NZers to succeed.
Questions to Members
Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Law and Order Committee Janet Mackey :
Q: How many extensions to the report back date of the Arms Amendment Bill (No 2) have been granted and when does she anticipate that this bill will be reported back to the House?
A: To date there have been four extensions to the report back. It is up to the committee to decide when to report the bill to the house.
Q: Can she assure us she will not buckle to Cabinet Pressure to delay the bill still further?
A: I can advise the member that he is a member of the committee and he is welcome to come along at any time and take part in the debate.
Q: Will she buckle?
A: I think it is inappropriate for me to indicate how I am likely to vote before I have voted.
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