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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - 14 December

Today’s questions of the day concerned: Police Funding – DIA Review Of Community Trusts – Food Price Increases – Minimum Youth Wages – Closing The Gaps – State House Privacy Issues – Police Savings – Sealords Sale To Nissui – ACC Double Payments – Foreign Students – Auckland Nurses Wage Settlement – Bathing Water Quality.

Questions For Oral Answer Thursday, 14 December 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 some days after the event.

SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS

Question 1.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does her statement that: "The police deserve our support in doing their job better" reflect Government policy?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) This government will always provide appropriate support to the police. It has not been the policy of successive governments to promise to fund pay increases in the public sector. This year’s budget provided an extra $86 million for police.

Q: What about the cost of guarding the PM’s house?

A: I suggest the member put that question down for the 13th of February.

Q: How does the PM reconcile her support for policing with closures of police stations?

A: The police in this years budget round were given substantial extra funding and flexibility. I do not think any other finance minister would decide differently. We have had assurances that the police will be able to cope with the resources they have available.

Question 2.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Is the Government proceeding with the planned review of the community trusts, which has been proposed by the Department of Internal Affairs; if not, why not?

A: No. The review has been stopped as it was not an appropriate way to deal with the issues involved. The review was an internal DIA initiative. We prefer to consult with the trusts rather than impose changes on them.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): Does he agree with the Deputy PM’s letter where it says the ASB Community Trust is controlled by the crown? And are the funds safe?

A: Yes the funds are safe. They would never be safe under Richard Prebble mind you. In a legal sense what the member says about the trust is true.

(Richard Prebble – I find that deeply offensive.)

Mr Anderton’s statement referred to the legal position and that is correct as the Minister of Finance appoints the members of the trusts.

(Owen Jennings – leave to table a letter – granted.)

Question 3.

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

Q: What impact will the 3.5% increase in food prices have on New Zealand families this Christmas?

A: It will depend whether they are superannuitants, workers who have got jobs or people in State Houses. Between August 1998 and March 1999 annual food price increases fluctuated between 3.6% and 4.2%. Families in NZ have everything to look forward to and that is why they are optimistic.

Q: Can he confirm that if we have inflation of 4% and wage rises of 3% that workers are worse off at the end of the year?

A: That would depend.

Q: Trevor Mallard (Labour): Can he confirm that Mr English’s figures suggest the average family is spending more than $900 a week on food?

A: There may be some very large families on very high incomes who spend that much on food.

Q: Bill English (National) Can he confirm that he doesn’t know or doesn’t care about families being worse off.

A: Did the member ask himself the same question last year when the same problem occurred.

Question 4.

LIZ GORDON (Alliance) to the Minister of Youth Affairs Laila Harre:

Q: What recommendations has she made to the Cabinet on improving the minimum pay rates of young workers?

A: I have recommended that the minimum youth rate be increased from 60% to 80% of the adult minimum, and that 18 and 19 year olds be treated as adults . These changes would mean a pay rise for an estimated 20,500 young workers. These recommendations have been supported by cabinet and will be announced this afternoon. Having read extensively about this there are arguments around every possible impact of these changes.

Q: Did she consider in making the recommendations she did the advice her department has given – that there will be a net loss of jobs?

A: My department has supported the recommendations I made. We do not agree with those who think young people should work for inadequate wages.

Question 5.

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

Q: Have any changes been made to the Government's flagship Closing the Gaps policy as a consequence of her statement of 23 October that the policy would be broadened to focus on "low decile needs across the board"?

A: Michael Cullen (Labour): The government’s focus has always been on reducing inequalities for all disadvantaged people.

Q: Has she seen criticisms from John Tamihere?

A: I have no idea whether she has seen them. But I am sure she has seen the quote in the NZ Herald from Jenny Shipley saying that National believes in Closing the Gaps.

Q: Now there is no longer a need for the Minister of Maori Affairs to drive the flagship policy when will Dover Samuels be reappointed?

A: I fail to see the connection between those two matters.

Q: What should we call Closing the Gaps now?

A: There is very little in a name as a Scottish poet once said, it is the outcomes that matter.

Q: What about the Waka Jumping Bill?

A: I am sure that will be passed in the new year.

Question 6.

SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:

Q: Does Housing New Zealand pass personal information, taken from tenants' applications for income-related rent, to the Department of Work and Income; if so, exactly what information?

A: Yes. Housing NZ tenants who are clients of DWI do have information sent to DWI.

Q: Are tenants informed that they do not have to agree to give up privacy rights?

A: There is a note on the form concerning privacy issues.

Q: Will he promise that special beneficiaries will not be worse off?

A: A special benefit would not be affected unless it related to accommodation costs.

Question 7.

BRIAN NEESON (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What savings is he considering in the review of the number and location of police stations?

A: (Paul Swain on behalf) There is no savings review on the number and location of police stations.

Q: Since it is obvious police stations are closing. Can he confirm that this is because there will be fewer police on the street.

A: There is a strategic review of police property underway. I can also confirm that we will not be consulting with aliens. The factors being considered in the review include demographics and various other factors. The objective is to optimise the delivery of police services.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): What about Wellington Central MP Marian Hobbs promises to keep stations open?

A: I find it unbelievable that that member continues to whinge about this when he supported a government that cut the police budget.

Q: Does the minister agree that cost cutting measures would not be required if the police were not arresting adults for victimless crimes?

A: The police are committed to stamping out crime and this government supports the police.

(Brian Neeson – if I am abused again then there will be disorder.)

Q: Brian Neeson (National): Since it is obvious police stations are closing, and that 3 recruit wings have been cancelled, will he confirm there will be less police on the streets?

A: No. We increased funding by $86 million. The National Party is making it up again.

Question 8.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson:

Q: Having regard to Nissui's rejected application in May 2000 because it was deemed to be against the national interest, can he provide an update on the negotiations to sell BIL's share of Sealords and, in detail, advise what has changed since May?

A: The TOW Fisheries Commission has applied for permission to hold quota in relation to a JV with Nissui. The application will be considered by the Minister of Finance and myself after the OIC has completed its assessment.

Q: This company is a whaling company?

A: We have no advice from the OIC on whaling. Nissui howevr has advised that it charters boats to whalers but makes no money out of it.

Q: Since press reports indicate that all quota will be held by TOKM is there any question for the OIC?

A: All I can say is that the press statements I read are the same ones the member reads. I have also read press statements to that effect. NZ law requires consideration of “interests” as well as “ownership” of fishing quota.

(Winston Peters – just because a company from abroad makes these claims….

Speaker – that is not a point of order.)

Q: Can he confirm that this investment will provide hundreds of jobs in regional economies for Maori?

A: I can confirm that the TOKM has made claims along those lines.

Question 9.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:

Q: Is he confident that the Accident Compensation Corporation has not double charged any New Zealand employers for employer account premiums?

A: ACC began collecting premiums for the first time in 1999. It has now sent out invoices for more than $700 million. I am confident that ACC have procedures to ensure errors are corrected. However with the volume of invoices involved I am sure there will be some problems.

Q: Will he insure that businesses will be refunded for double charging?

A: Legal avenues are available to anyone in this position. I repeat. This problem is a result of the National Party’s legislation of 1998.

Q: Why can’t he ask ACC to use more commonsense?

A: Under the 1998 Act the law was changed. The issue is a matter of the law and not simply a matter I can direct a solution too.

Question 10.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What reports has he received about protections in place to help ensure the safety of foreign students studying in New Zealand?

A: There are insufficient protections in place for foreign students. There is a voluntary code of practice but it contains no incentives nor penalties. In my view this is insufficient. The latest Education Amendment Bill includes mandatory standards for international students.

Q: Has he convinced the Alliance that selling education is a good idea?

A: I too used to be opposed to this. I have learned it is good idea and over time I am sure other members will too.

Question 11.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What additional funding, if any, will she be providing to Auckland Healthcare and other hospital and health services to cover the costs of nurse pay rises of up to 10.3% which are reported to be almost three times the budgeted amount?

A: The CEO of Auckland Healthcare and anyother HHS are required to manage costs including the costs of wage rounds.

Q: Will services be cut?

A: CEOs are required to manage operations and services budgets. They are required to manage within both those budgets. I have read with interest ACT policy that says we should erode workers rights, cut costs and provide better services. That sounds a bit nuts to me.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): What about the quotes from the CEO in the Auckland Herald?

A: The member might like to ask himself why there is a shortage of 200 nurses. The reason that is the case is because we have had no work force planning. That member ought to look in the mirror.

Q: Is the minister able to guarantee patient safety?

A: The Board of Auckland Health Care have given me no reason to be concerned about the quality of services at that HHS. There have always been some HHSes that have been slow to sign their contracts.

Q: Is this 10.3% pay rise fair an equitable, and will she be telling the PM that armed service personnel serving overseas receive the same increase?

A: I am sure the PM will have heard what the member says.

Question 12.

MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: How is the Government ensuring that the public can judge whether the water at our beaches is safe to swim in?

A: The government is working with councils on bathing water guidelines. These require reporting of microbial levels at beaches.

Q: What guidance is provided for monitoring beaches?

A: It amazes me that some members are not interested in this.

Q: How will the government carry out its intention given that resource consents sanction the discharge of sewage near bathing areas?

A: We are reviewing the guidelines to consider measurement of contaminations not only on the beach but also further up pipe.

Q: Why are tests not conducted on the surface layer of water?

A: There is contention about this on the North Shore. This is a serious issue, particularly for surfers.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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