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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - 20 February

Today's questions of the day concerned: ACC Overcharging – Kiwi Bank x 2 – Sports Scholarships – Phillida Bunkle – New Baby Boom – TVNZ Charter Costings – Climate Change – Employment Relations Bill – Special Education Services – Health Reform Costs – Airways UK Contract Bid – Arms Amendment Bill.

:Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 20 February 2001

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.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:

Q: What remedial action is he taking to address ACC overcharging?

A: I have asked ACC to look at two aspects of the scheme. This is a one-off problem and a retroactive law change would make no sense at this point.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Why are hundreds of NZers being charged for 275 days not 274 days?

A: I will look into the matter.

Q: Murray McCully (National): Will you do something about what Ken was talking about?

A: Yes. As I said I will look into it.

Q: What can employers do if they feel they have been double charged?

A: ACC assures me that where double charging has occurred they will fix it quickly.

Question 2.

MARK PECK to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What expectations does he have in relation to the confidentiality of business plan documents considered by State owned enterprises?

A: I expect confidentiality to be honoured, especially when the person involved is a former PM, and especially when it concerns the safety of the workers in the SOE.

Q: What would reasonably be done with a document obtained illicitly?

A: A scrupulous person would shred a document such as that before they read it. It should certainly not be left lying on a kitchen table where an employee of a competing bank might read it.

Q: Bill English (National): Does he have the same view of documents leaked when Labour was in opposition?

A: This is different. What happened here was that “Some Tory Rat” has placed in danger a potential investment by the government?

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): I’ve got a copy of the report and no intention of shredding it?

Q: Next time the member is hiding in a van going through a picket line he might like to read an up to date business plan. It is in circumstances like this that honourable people such as the honourable Peter Burdon have suspicion cast upon them

(Prebble – leave to table business plan – refused.)

Question 3.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Further to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development's confirmation in the House that the "Kiwi Bank" "will not proceed unless it is financially successful", has he ensured that Government members have been made aware of the independent Cameron and Co report on the commercial viability of the bank and the report's most likely scenario if the bank were to proceed; if not, why not?

A: The Cameron report remains the property of NZ Post. All five models in the report show the bank showing a profit.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Is this like the BNZ in 1990? Hiding information?

A: The details of the proposal will be made public this afternoon, it is not usual to go through a series of veil liftings in advance of such an announcement.

Q: Does he know what Richard Prebble said on the plane this morning?

A: Yes. Apparently he had a copy of the report and he apparently said thought that Jenny Shipley could have used it better.

Q: What is the biggest threat to the bank?

A: Confused statements from the National and Act Parties.

Q: What has NZ Post said about the Cameron and company report?

A: NZ Post as advised the government that there are risks involved with the project. That said even on the worst case scenario modelled by the company their was still profitability. NZ Post has modified its business plan in response to the Cameron report.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Will the public be allowed to see who is telling the truth?

A: It would be an abuse of Ministerial power to order and SOE to release a report.

Question 4.

DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour) to the Minister for Sport, Fitness and Leisure Trevor Mallard:

Q: How many athletes have been awarded inaugural Prime Minister's sport scholarships this year?

A: By assisting athletes to study as well as do sport we release some of the pressure from those athletes and help them to gain the assurance of a profession they will be able to engage in after sports competing ends. The scholarships are for up to $10,000 a year. They can be used for study and sports related costs incurred by young athletes.

Question 5.

Hon BILL ENGLISH to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:

Q: What leadership has she brought to the Consumer Affairs portfolio during her time in office?

A: As a direct result of my leadership their has been several things done – listed several things.

Q: Bill English (National): How can NZ consumers have confidence when according to the Dominion the PM does not have confidence?

A: As the PM stated yesterday. Of course I have confidence in their work as ministers. The PM is quite clear that I am far more effective as Minister of Consumer Affairs than anyone produced by the opposition. The previous Minister, Marie Hasler, I understand, initiated nothing during her time as Minister.

(Marie Hasler – Mr Speaker. I have never been minister of Consumer Affairs. I did have the same flat as Phillida and I didn’t need new curtains or a dishwasher.)

Question 6.

JOHN WRIGHT to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What recent reports has he received about proposals for economic development initiatives?

A: I have seen a suggestion from the leader of the opposition. Apparently she wants Nzers to “go forth and multiply”. This policy could be called Gross National Reproduction.

Q: Will he be following this advice.

A: My wife and I have helped to raise ten children between us. But I doubt whether plans to have anymore would be well received.

Q: John Luxton (National): Can the Minister confirm the employment of 310 contractors and consultants by his department?

A: I am very proud of the work of the MED and Industry NZ. I doubt National should be talking about unemployment when it is so low.

Q: What about Laila Harre attending picket lines? How does that help?

A: To hear in this house that the ACT leader, a former member of the Labour Party, was sneaking through picket lines hiding in a van brings the ACT party to a lower level than I would have ever thought possible.

Question 7.

KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:

Q: Did she receive a report from Television New Zealand executives last year outlining programme purchase costs and lost revenue scenarios totalling tens of millions of dollars as a consequence of implementing the proposed Television New Zealand charter; if so, will she release that report?

A: Yes I have received two reports on this issue. But no I will not release a commercially sensitive document relating to an SOE in a competitive market.

Q: Did she dismiss claims of $100 million in costs as ludicrous? And why?

A: What made Mr McCully’s claims ludicrous is that the Government has made clear several times it will not be supporting TVNZ to anywhere near that level of funding to implement this policy. The charter will be introduced slowly.

Question 8.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister of Forestry Pete Hodgson:

Q: What immediate steps is the Government taking to prepare New Zealand for the adverse effects on climate change predicted by the latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report?

A: (Ian Ewen-Street on behalf): The government has begun. Late last year we began an assessment of impacts. We will do more sectoral and regional assessments of impacts.

Q: Is this being budgeted for?

A: Affects will be both positive and negative. Some of the near term effects will be positive. Costs in the long term will include insurance premiums and the like.

Q: Noting the report asks for sound research, why is he proposing to raid millions of dollars from NIWA NZ’s brains trust on climate change?

A: Landcare, AgResearch and NIWA have good scientists all of them. The decision to “re-gear” the CRI’s has nothing to do with this.

Q: How much do we contribute to greenhouse emissions?

A: We are very small emitters. However we have a very large coast and are very involved with growing stuff. Therefore we are likely to be effected greatly by changes in the climate.

Question 9.

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

Q: Does she agree with the Prime Minister's comments to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce in June 2000 that "We have sought a more level playing field in industrial relations and we have sought to build an industrial relations climate in which the parties deal with each other in good faith."?

A: Yes.

Q: How can this be so when a union official emails vets and tells them not to accept an offer and the government does nothing?

A: I have viewed the email and it is not as strait forward as is alleged. If it had been I would have thought legal action was an option. But the evidence wasn’t there in this case. Good faith is useful in reaching settlements and the mediation service has participated in facilitating over 700 settlements already.

Q: Is this a level playing field when several vets can shut down a billion dollar industry?

A: This dispute arose under the Employment Contracts Act. It was that Act that created the environment that it is now so hard to get a settlement in this case. This dispute is what happens when you try to resolve a dispute under the ECA. We have to pick up the actions of parties after years of not having Good Faith.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National) Since the Minister did not dispute the facts concerning the email? Is she now telling us that delegates can agree to a mediated settlement and then advise members not to support it?

A: The member appears to have a hearing problem. The facts do not support his proposition.

(Lockwood Smith - Will she then table the email?

Margaret Wilson Wilson – no )

Question 10.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Lianne Dalziell

Q: What was the basis for the Government's decision to establish a new directorate within the Ministry of Education to deliver specialist education services in the future?

A: Yesterday’s announcement was the government’s response to fragmentation in the SES. We have announced policies to fix it up.

Q: Are their any more matters to be addressed in the SES?

A: Yes. We have more concerns and so do parents. We have reminded Schools of their obligations under the Human Rights Act. Parents should not have to fight for their children’s rights.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Why is she so confident that subsuming SES within the Ministry of Education will fix things?

A: If the member had read the Wylie report he would know that the system is no working. We agree with SE2000 but the implementation has not worked. This is a significant improvement on what his government did.

Q: What does this mean for fund-holding schools?

A: We are making changes in this area from next year. In the past contestability was a problem for funding. Then SES was left being the only fundholder who couldn’t say no.

Question 11.

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

Q: Will she be giving Capital and Coast, Waitemata and Auckland district health boards any additional taxpayers' money to fund their transition costs; if not, why not?

A: No.: The government provided $20 million for transitional costs. The public want money spent on services not bureacracy.

Q: Given reports that costs will be higher than the amount allocated will she guarantee money will not be diverted?

A: No money will not be diverted. The hospitals say the costs have not been major. Quoted Bob Henare from CCH.

Q: Does she have a business plan with Auckland DHB?

A: No not yet. But we do have lots more signed plans than others did in the past at this stage.

Question 12.

PETER BROWN (National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: Is he concerned at reports that Lockheed Martin and its New Zealand partner Airways Corporation have been eliminated from the bidding process for the contract to run Britain's National Airways Traffic Control System?

A: Yes I am concerned because the reports are completely incorrect.

Q: If they are correct who will be held responsible? And what will be done about the expensive Skyline service that doesn’t work?

A: Indeed the reports are incorrect. We expect to have a decision on the shortlist of tenderers by the end of the month. I think they – Airways – have done a good job.

Q: Has Airways been having problems? Been distracted by this work?

A: No it has been doing very well both from a safety and a profit perspective.

Q: Does he think the allegations made by Mr Peters have had any effect?

A: I have seen no evidence that their has been any effect from Mr Peters allegations.

Questions To Members

Question 1.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Law and Order Committee Janet Mackey:

Q: When will the Arms Amendment Bill be reported back to the House?

A: It is the committees decision when the bill will be reported back.

Q: Is it possible that the committee could recommend the bill not proceed?

A: The member should come to a meeting on Thursday and can then put the case.


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