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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - 14 February 2001

Today's questions of the day concerned: Student Loans – Tariana Turia’s Attendance At Waitangi – NCEA – People’s Bank – DNA Criminal Law Changes – Phillida Bunkle – Sustainable Farming – Hospital Waiting Lists – Apple Regulation – Vets Strike – Takeovers Code – Foodbank Usage.

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.


Question 1.

IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What consideration has he given to the suggestion of the Deputy Prime Minister that the student loan debt of science and engineering graduates be wiped if they agree to work in New Zealand for several years?

A: The Labour Alliance Government is committed to reducing student debt. We have already provided over $400 million to reduce debt. We will explore all ideas including the interesting idea of the Deputy PM.

Q: Is he proposing a two-tier system with Science and Engineering graduates as a new elite?

A: I can give the member an absolute assurance that that won’t happen. Thanks to what we have done loans are expected to be paid off 16% earlier in future.

Q: What is the decrease in student indebtedness?

A: For each individual student who started under this government, their debt will be lower than if they started studying under National.

Q: Can he confirm he heard about the Deputy PM’s idea in the media?

A: I can say that I enjoy a very close relationship with the Deputy PM and discuss ideas with him regularly.

Question 2.

(Jenny Shipley – leave to delay question till tomorrow – denied.

Shipley – I wonder who is hiding today.)

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

Q: Does she expect all Ministers to adhere to the principle of collective responsibility, as prescribed in the Cabinet Office Manual; if not, why not?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Yes.

Q: What did she mean when agreeing with the phrases in the Cabinet manual that say that disagreeing with Cabinet outside Cabinet once a decision is taken is unacceptable.

A: She meant exactly what is said, everybody agreed to those words.

Q: Does she approve of the attendance of Ministers at hui’s held by Sir Graham Latimer?

A: Yes she does. And she thinks the treaty should be observed every day, not just once a year.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Will the PM deny to this house that Tariana Turia informed her she would go to Waitangi regardless?

A: Yes absolutely. A story in the Dominion that said otherwise was completely without foundation and that should not surprise the member. It is fair to say that the Government was made aware of the importance of the hui and the PM was very pleased to give permission to her ministers to attend.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Why did she allow Tariana Turia to attend commemorations as a Maori and a human being, after saying that no Minister would do so?

A: Given that the member was attending the hui it was perfectly appropriate for her to attend official commemorations.

Question 3.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: How does the national certificate of educational achievement, as it is proposed now, differ from the qualification agreed to by Cabinet in 1998?

A: The NCEA will now apply to years 11-13. A literacy requirement has been included and changes have been made to the . This system was the child of Lockwood Smith, nurtured by Nick Smith and Wyatt Creech and then abandoned by Gerry Brownlee.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Is this simply a dumbing down of educational standards?

A: Parents can be confident that there are 65,000 combinations of grades possible for each subject under the NCEA. I have been working on ensuring there is a system of reporting that parents will understand. The member clearly does not understand the system.

Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ): Is he satisfied all concerns have been resolved?

A: No I am not satisfied yet. That is why I deferred implementation till next year. We still need to make sure there is sufficient funding for moderation and adequate reporting.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): What will the minister do to assure parents there will only be one system of qualifications in NZ.

A: No decisions I have made have made principals move away from the system. All my decisions have been in the conservative direction. All schools, state funded and integrated, will offer the NCEA. Private schools will be able to decide what to do for themselves.

Q: Did he attack NCEA in opposition because he has no ideas of his own?

A: The member is misleading the house. We did not attack NCEA vigorously in opposition.

(Trevor Mallard – leave to table documents – granted.)

Question 4.

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

Q: What will happen to the funds of depositors in the event of the "People's Bank" proving to be a commercial failure?

A: No decision has yet been taken on NZ Post’s proposal to set up a bank.

Q: What assurances can he offer to depositors who are keen to change as identified by Jim Anderton's market research?

A: The market research on the banking proposal was not carried out by Jim Anderton, it was carried out by NZ Post?

Q: Will the bank have prudential standards applied to it?

A: Yes. And very good ones too.

Q: If the bank is a commercial success will profit be returned to the community?

A: The government returns profits from SOE’s to the public as a matter of course.

Q: Has he seen a report from Finsec to the Green Party saying the bank idea is absurd?

A: No. But our policy on the bank, unlike ACT’s, is not written by a trade union.

Q: Is he waiting for the Reserve Bank to knock the idea over?

A: The member is, as his leader would say “a huge disappointment”, the Reserve Bank will not assess an application for registration until an application is made.

Q: Will the business of the government go through this bank? And is it not true that this would make the idea more viable?

A: That would certainly be true, but as Finance Minister I take the position that the proposal has to succeed on its own merits, irrespective of whether NZ Government business is put through it.

(Rodney Hide - leave to table Finsec report - granted)

Question 5.

JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What changes is he proposing to the Criminal Investigations (Blood Samples) Act 1995, and why?

A: The changes will assist in enabling DNA evidence to be used in court proceedings. These changes will help ensure that offenders are held to account and that the innocent are not prosecuted. When police are able to match DNA from a crime scene they cannot use that match to obtain a conviction without first obtaining more DNA from the offender. Since the offender cannot be compelled to give DNA they can avoid conviction. This is stupid and that is why we are fixing it. Mr Tony Ryall’s bill covers only one aspect of this problem. It doesn’t make sense to deal with two bills when one comprehensive bill would cover the area more effectively.

Question 6.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:

Q: Is the Registrar of Electors for the Wellington Central electorate making inquiries into the circumstances surrounding the enrolment as electors by Hon Marian Hobbs and Hon Phillida Bunkle; if so, what is the timetable for this investigation?

A: While I have no responsibility in this matter I have made inquiries. I am advised that there has been a request from Roger Sowry to investigate this matter. The Registra of Electors is seeking advice on this. The government is keen to support transparency in this matter. We will make inquiries and follow them through. I have not spoken to the Registra directly, I have only been informed that there has been a request for advice from the Crown Law Office.

Q: Is advice being sought from elsewhere?

A: I know of no other legal advice being sought.

Question 7.

GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister for Rural Affairs Jim Sutton:

Q: Is he satisfied with the response to date to the Sustainable Farming Fund; if so, why?

A: Over $4 million of projects have been recommended to receive funding from the fund.

Q: Is the government delivering on its promises?

A: Yes. This has been acknowledged by Federated Farmers. They said yesterday that the National Opposition obviously don’t take farming seriously given by the ranking given to their agriculture spokesman.

Q: Gerard Eckhoff (ACT): What is not sustainable about farming in Otago?

A: I have had the pleasure of visiting the members farm. At the time the member was complaining that the rabbit problem was unsustainable.

Question 8.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: In her statement of 11 February 2001 entitled "Hospital queues significantly reduced", on what basis did she assert that "significant improvements in delivering elective (non-urgent) treatment services has seen hospital queues drop by 56% in the first quarter of the 2000/01 year"?

A: (Tariana Turia on behalf) The statement was based on the information contained in the report. However I do recognise that we have given, inadvertently, incorrect information, and for that reason I apologise.

Q: Was TV sent to talk to Stephen Mills a person who appeared in a campaign advert?

A: I don’t know. However I can confirm good news about hospital waiting lists.

Q: Did she check her press release with the Ministry of Health, and if not why did she blame them?

A: The Minister did not blame Ministry officials for the mistake in her release.

Q: Roger Sowry (National() Did the Minister know that Mr Steve Mills, who she appeared on TV with, was the same Mr Mills that appeared in a campaign advert?

A: I am unable to confirm that.

Question 9.

OWEN JENNINGS (ACT) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: What assurances can he give apple growers that they are being fairly treated under the current industry regulatory framework?

A: The government is currently reviewing the regulations, fairness is part of this review.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): Can he give an assurance that ENZA will not enter deals with past directors that are beneficial to those individuals.

A: The member appears to be alleging a breach of the act and the regulations. If that is what he is doing then he should direct his complaint to the marketing board. If there is to be change to the system I hope it will be in place for the next season.

Question 10.

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What actions will she take in relation to the veterinarians' strike scheduled for Friday, which reportedly threatens to throw the pre-Easter $1.4 billion meat export processing season into turmoil?

A: The Minister of Labour has no specific statutory responsibility relating to . I have been kept informed about the dispute however.

Q: Has she been advised not to appeal the recent employment decision because she would have to appear on both sides?

A: No.

Q: What has she done?

A: MAF is actively considering further legal action in this matter.

Q: Will she make sure MAF is allowed to appeal the court decision?

A: No one is preventing MAF appealing. What is being considered is the legal arguments involved.

Question 11.

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: Why is the Government introducing a Takeovers Code from 1 July 2001?

A: The government is committed to improving confidence in the NZ Sharemarket. The code is an important part of achieving this.

Q: What difference would the code have made in the Montana Wines case?

A: A set of rules would have been applied and an independent panel would have supervised the process, this would have ensured that all shareholders were treated equally. Thousands of small shareholders would be better off today if the National Government hadn’t buckled on this issue in 1995.

Question 12.

BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What is his response to foodbank workers reportedly putting the Government on notice, saying that Labour and Alliance social policies are not working and that foodbank use is higher than ever?

A: The member may be interested to know that the very same foodbank worker he is quoting has also said that this is the quietest post Christmas period in several years.

Q: How can he explain the Methodist City Mission’s forecast of a 30% increase in demand?

A: Some foodbanks have seen numbers decline. Some have even closed. Why? Because this government is putting money back in the pockets of low income people. Major Campbell Roberts has blamed government policies throughout the 1990s for the increases in the use of foodbanks. Many of these policies have been reversed by this government. Unemployment is now at the lowest level in 12 years. This year we will increase opportunities for beneficiaries, that is what this government stands for. I am more than happy for the performance of this government to be judged on criteria such as the use of foodbanks. It won’t happen overnight but we are committed to getting rid of the need for foodbanks.


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