Today’s questions of the day concerned: Oz Migration And Benefits – NEST Copter Accidents – TPK and Department CEO’s Performance Pay – Criminal Immigrants – Trans Rail Corridors/National Rail Policy – Victims Rights – Auckland Transport Plans – Army Landrovers – State House Waiting Lists – Rental Relief For Charity Organisations – Misleading Soy Advertising – Rates Means Testing.
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
PENNY WEBSTER (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Was the Government warned that its proposal to restrict future social security entitlements in Australia would impact disproportionately on Maori and Polynesian people, "add to the brain drain, increase the cost of social welfare assistance in New Zealand by millions of dollars a year and 'severely' impact on future migrants who do not meet the criteria for permanent residency in Australia"; if so, what's in this deal for New Zealanders?
A: (Phil Goff on behalf of the PM) NZ has not proposed that entitlements to NZers living in Australia be changed. That is a matter for Australia to determine. We are seeking to ensure superannuitants and disabled people receive benefits. We are also planning on not paying benefits for people who have lived worked and paid tax in another country.
Q: I presume that was a yes. : And why is she calling the person who made this public a rat?
A: Anybody who maliciously leaks papers is to be condemned. That member has quoted from the NZPA. The NZPA has been consistent in one aspect of this and that is to get things wrong.
Q: What impact would there be if Australia made these changes?
A: There would be no impact on NZers now living there because they would be grand-parented. NZers in the future already face a two year stand down period for the dole anyway.
Q: Who among the executive is the rat?
(Roger Sowry: The PM has been correctly quoted saying that the person who leaked this was a rat. This is a cabinet paper and they have responsibility. I think that is a reasonable assumption.
Speaker – please rephrase the question.)
A: Who was the rat who leaked the paper?
A: The only rats I know in this place are those slinking away from a sinking Shipley. Discussions on this started when Jenny Shipley set up a taskforce on this in February last year. Australia has for years been asking for money. This government thinks there are bigger priorities than paying benefits to people who neither live nor work nor pay tax in this country.
Q: Is she intending to blame the previous government for these as well as her flagship Closing the Gaps poliy.
A: We want to put arrangements on a durable ongoing basis. We will now finally resolve this.
ANN HARTLEY to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:
Q: Has he received any further reports in relation to the safety record of the Northland Emergency Services Trust?
A: Further to an
answer last week in which I said I would be seeking further
information on incidents involving NEST helicopters. I have
that information now.
-In 1994 a NEST helicopter crashed at Whangarei
-In 1998 A NEST copter sank into sand at Piha and sustained engine damage.
- There was an incident in 1998 but no evidence NEST was to blame.
- In 1999 A NEST copter landed too close to some campers
The March 1994 incident was reported to CAA under a different name than NEST but the aircraft was under NEST Command at the time. The CAA did not know about the Piha incident. I hope there will be a settlement of this dispute early next year. The Auckland Emergency Trust has just received an award for 10,000 accident free missions.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:
Q: Is it Government policy to withhold bonus payments from Chief Executives of Government departments on the basis of effectiveness audits which measure whether departments are "making any headway in the coalition's stated aims of closing the gaps between Maori and non-Maori"?
A: The State Service Commission makes recommendations about performance pay of CEOs.
Q: In light of the Audit Office evidence that there were no planned steps made at TPK to audit Closing the Gaps will TPK performance audits influence performance pay of CEOs as promised?
A: TPK doesn’t make those the decisions the SSC does. In coming to a view on the performance the SSC places considerable weight on the views of the Minister.
Q: When will payments be made on the basis of closing the gaps.
A: The reduction of disparities was built into the current years performance agreements and this will be reported on at the end of current June year.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:
Q: Does she receive applications for New Zealand residence status from persons with criminal records within New Zealand and in their country of origin; if so, how does she treat them?
A: Yes I do receive representations from people declined on character grounds. I consider each on the basis of its circumstances.
Q: Why then did this person with many names, huge debts and facing numerous charges slip past her?
A: I am unable to discuss individual cases. The information he has provided has been followed up and I am grateful for his advice.
Q: What safeguards has she put in place for vetting applicants?
A: The reason the matter ended up on my desk was because of a 1995 court decision that referred to the issue, and suggested it be looked at. Five years latter I looked at it.
(Winston Peters - Leave to table a file obtained under the OIA – granted.)
Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: Has she advised the Prime Minister that the Government should support the Auckland region's proposal to acquire access to the Tranz Rail corridors; if so, how does she propose that that support would manifest itself?
A: I have advised the PM there are many complex issues relating to multiple lease arrangements over the rail lines. I have also advised that we should work with Auckland to assist Auckland with developing an integrated approach to Auckland’s transport needs.
Q: Is she aware of the view that her role is blocking Auckland’s access to the PM?
A: I see the National Party is trying so hard to dredge up reasons for nine years of its own inaction.
Q: What work is being done on a National Rail Policy?
A: The previous government seemed to take it for granted that Tranz Rail would always do all rail. No plans were made to deal with subleasing. We are now considering a national set of rules to govern the use of railways addressing issues including safety. We are considering whether service providers will be responsible for maintenance and safety of the line, and addressing issues of continuity of services across areas leased by different groups These issues include addressing matters several National members have expressed concerns about.
Q: Is she blocking access to the PM?
A: The member seems to forget the PM is and Auckland MP and she frequently meets in Auckland. 40 million are carried by buses at present 4 million are carried by ferries and 3 million at present by rail.
JANET MACKEY(Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: What are the changes he is recommending be made to the Victims' Rights Bill and why is he doing so?
A: When the victims rights bill was introduced last year I said changes were needed. In line with the viewpoint expressed in the referendum question at the last election we have now substantially rewritten victims rights. Victims will have lots of new mandatory rights under the new bill.
Q: Will all these rights be made enforceable by statute?
A: No. Two rights remain as principles in the SOP. The right to courtesy and compassion and the right to access welfare and health assistance to address victims needs. These haven’t been made mandatory because they are difficult to address in that manner. I have asked whether these two rights can be made mandatory in a meaningful way. We are suppressing victim impact statements because they had been found circulating around prisons by boasting inmates. In future access will be provided to statements but they will not be allowed to photocopy or take away those statements.
Dr WAYNE MAPP (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: What advice has she given to the Prime Minister about the progress made at last Friday's meeting between herself, the Minister of Transport and the city mayors on Auckland's transport problems?
A: I have advised the PM that my colleague Mark Gosche and I had a very productive meeting.
Q: Is Auckland only going to get sympathy?
A: We are working actively to help Auckland take up the patronage funding and provide more transport now. We are also committed to developing transport solutions for the people of Auckland. Transfund has not yet received a final proposal for funding. This cannot be considered until we have a National Rail Policy in place. Then the proposal will be considered alongside that policy. To do other would be putting the cart before the horse.
Q: Does she favour spending Transit money on Tranzrail’s suburban tracks?
A: The Transit strategy plan is a major advance for Auckland. Transit is now going to work to implement the Auckland Regional Land Transport Policy. The billion dollars will not all be spent on motorways.
Q: Will she explain some options being considered in relation to rail?
A: The first major advance is that local and central government are now working together. Former National Party Minister Warren Cooper once said to me that “if Auckland gets its act together it will be threat to national government”. That is why National kept Auckland at arms length for so long.
GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:
Q: Has any recent decision been made in keeping with the Government's stated commitment to re-equip the New Zealand Defence Force?
A: We have approved the purchase of 308 light vehicles to replace old army Landrovers.
Q: How will he make sure this is an open tender?
A: A UK consultant has written a statement of requirements which should improve the process following an earlier failed tender. In less than a year we have made more commitments than the previous government to upgrading defence equipment.
Q: Can he provide a guarantee that this will not blow out like the light armoured vehicle project that has blown out from $200 million to $750 million?
A: The price is not $750 million. And at the moment the member is well ahead of himself on the Landrovers the tender hasn’t even gone out yet.
Q What is the threat from submarines?
A: There will be no requirement to deal with submarine warfare in the specifications of these vehicles.
Q: What effect have Matt Robson’s comments had on Trans-Tasman defence relationships?
A: Not that this has anything to do with Landrovers. Yesterday I got a very pleasant postcard from John Moore. Relations have never been better with our Trans-Tasman colleagues.
Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:
Q: How does the Government intend to deal with the over 100,000 households renting in the private sector who are in receipt of the accommodation supplement and have rent to income ratios between 25% and 50% and may be interested in applying for a State house, as suggested by official papers?
A: People in serious need for a State house will receive priority.
Q: How will his plan to build 390 houses this year reduce the waiting list of 6000 families.
A: I suppose it would be interesting to ask Mr Ryall why he sold 11,000 houses and is now saying to this government……(speaker - order, order)…we are building more houses and we have stopped selling them. The sale of houses in high demand areas has created lots of problems. There is no great surprise in having a problem here given that houses were sold in areas where there is a need. We have been working with groups building houses and are negotiating with other people planning schemes. The average age of houses is 35 years old which means more money is needed to spend on maintenance and that therefore less can be spent on building new houses. We have to clean up an awful mess that was left by the previous government.
TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Housing Mark Goshe:
Q: What factors led to the Government increasing financial support to the tenants of Community Housing Limited?
A: Some tenants found renting privately was better than renting off CHL which at times was required to rent accommodation at above market rents. We are providing $2.5 million of rental relief to several community organisations this Christmas. Those 72 organisations will have a great Christmas thanks to this. We will deliver to those who need housing.
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain
Q: What were the terms of the settlement agreed between the Commerce Commission and Abbot Laboratories (NZ) Limited over claims that the label on infant soy formula reading "1st choice of doctors" breached the Fair Trading Act of 1986?
A: The Commerce Commission investigated the claim and advised that it was likely in breach of section 13 of the Fair Trading Act. The terms of settlement were withdrawal of the product and a review of compliance procedures of the company.
Q: Why then was the product still sold a month after the settlement?
A: If the member has information on that she should pass that on to the Commission. The action taken by the Commerce Commission should serve as a reminder to importers that imported goods must comply with NZ law.
Q: Is there any danger in this formula?
A: There was comment on merits of Cow vs Soy in the determination but the finding was not found on that basis.
Q: Are there high levels of estrogen in soy?
A: Any health issues should be directed at the Minister of Health.
ANNE TOLLEY (National) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee:
Q: Did she meet East Coast member Janet Mackey to discuss Mrs Mackey's plan for "means testing for rates subsidised by local and central Government"; if so, what was her response?
A: (Jim Anderton on behalf) We are reviewing relevant legislation which will include review of the rates rebates scheme which is one way that the government provides support to low income ratepayers.
Q:: Is she aware of plans to limit rates to a proportion of a families income?
A: Yes I am aware of reports on December 4th and 5th which say, “Janet Mackey is not calling for means-testing of rates”. She has since told me that the Dominion report misconstrued what she was saying. I understand that the income limit was last increased in 1990 and that this and the criteria for rebates remained unchanged through the entire term of the National Government.