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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - 27 February

Today's questions of the day concerned: Australian Welfare Agreement – Wellington Hospital Cleaners Strike – Kiwi Bank – DPB And Liable Parent Contributions – Australian Residency – Jury Reforms – NZ Post Vs Prebble – Regional Economic Development – Separate Maori Education Authority – Airways Corporation And The Media – Violent Crime Increases – Hui Taumata Matauranga – ERO Review Costs.

:Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 27 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 till some days after the event.


Question 1.

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

Q: When she described the new social security agreement with Australia as a "win-win" deal, was she including the advice from official sources that it will "vastly increase the cost of welfare assistance in New Zealand and severely impact on future migrants who do not meet the criteria for permanent residence"?

A: I made the comment in the light of all the advice I received.

Q: What about the Sydney Morning Herald’s description of NZers as guest workers in Australia? Is this a “win-win”?

A: There is nothing in what was unveiled yesterday that makes Australia any more attractive as a destination for skilled immigrants.

Q: What was the highest priority in these negotiations?

A: That NZers retain the rights to travel and work in Australia, and that has been protected.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): Will NZers who are widowed in Australia no longer be entitled to widow’s benefits in NZ?

A: I understand they will remain eligible to emergency benefits in NZ. The Australians have been concerned since the mid 1980s about the flow of NZers across the Tasman. This is not new.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National) Will the PM guarantee that taxpayers will not spend more on welfare in NZ than they do currently as a result of the deal done with Australia?

A: I would be very surprised if that were the case.

Question 2.

SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Does she consider that Capital and Coast District Health Board should intervene in the dispute involving its cleaning contractor, Spotless, to ensure that Capital and Coast District Health Board is behaving in accord with the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act's social responsibility and good employer provisions; if not, why not?

A: The Chair of CCH has today advised my office that he is meeting with Spotless management today to discuss this issue. CCH is not the employer, Spotless is. Spotless is not subject to the Act. However I have been advised by CCH that they endeavour to ensure employers are good employers before they contract out work to them.

Q: With pickets and strikes in Wellington now following on the vet strike last week, what will she do to stop the failure of the ERA?

A: I remember plenty of strikes under the previous government. I think it is a bit rich for the member to raise the issue like that.

Question 3.

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

Q: How does he intend to ensure that any undertakings entered into with the Green Party in order to obtain their support for the "People's Bank" will be implemented?

A: I would expect to receive a report from NZ Post on any undertakings they have given to any other groups.

Q: Bill English (National): Are the Greens a bit Green if they have accepted simply an undertaking that NZ Post will not accept all people who want to become their customers?

A: I think the member has been a bit green in promising to sell the bank one day and changing his mind the next.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Can the Greens have a copy of the Business plan since we have one?

A: Maybe ACT should make one available.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Can he confirm that the Greens have asked for “Triple Bottom Line” reporting for the new bank?

A: Yes I can confirm the request has been made. I can also confirm it will be given serious consideration given the organic relationship between the Government and the Green Party.

Question 4.

JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Is the total amount paid out to domestic purposes beneficiaries offset by liable parent contributions; if so, to what extent?

A: Yes it is. The government collected $218 million from liable parents. This is approximately 10% of the cost of DPB benefits.

Q: What would be the effect of a boycott of payments?

A: It would be social vandalism. And I can also confirm that a group of people – who are suggesting these ideas – are being hosted by the ACT Party. These people have also advocated subversive uses for the internet.

Q: Is DPB on the increase?

A: No. From September 1999 to April 2000 there was a 2% reduction. We are working on removing the work test for sole parents this year. I would be happy to consult on those issues with Sue Bradford.

Question 5.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she stand by her statement in a press release of 8 December "that a New Zealand Press Association report alleging that New Zealanders will no longer get automatic residency in Australia is completely and utterly false"; if not, why not?

A: Yes.

Q: Can the house then take it that on the 8th of December it was false that we could not get residency in Australia? And now it is true?

A: The word “residency” implies nothing other than that a person can live somewhere. I do not know what dictionary the member is using.

Q: Is it completely false that if a NZ Family in Australia has a break-up and the woman was to come home because she couldn’t get the DPB in OZ, that if the children were born in Australia the woman would not be eligible for the DPB in NZ?

A: My advice is that women in such a situation would be entitled to an emergency maintenance allowance at the same rate as the DPB.

Question 6.

DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What are the main recommendations of the Law Commission report Juries in Criminal Trials and how does he propose to respond to them?

A: The better presentation of evidence is vital if we are to enter the 21st century. Some changes will not need legislation. Legislation will be needed for some recommended changes.

Q: Why should we have majority verdicts?

A: The most important one is to reduce the risk of hung juries. They average around 12% of High Court cases and 8% of District Court cases. The proposal would overcome the problem of the single “rogue” juror who is influenced by undue sympathy or prejudice in relation to the accused.

Q: Will jurors get paid more?

A: Yes. The level of assistance will be examined. Childcare and transport costs will be addressed before the select committee.

Q: Will juries in future be comprised of peers?

A: There is a problem there. Many of those called for jury service do not show up. We need to address problems jurors face in serving.

Question 7.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: In light of his statement to the House last Thursday that the issuing of proceedings by a State-owned enterprise against a member of Parliament would be "entirely up to the board of New Zealand Post", can he confirm that the directors formally resolved such a course of action; if so, on what date?

A: No. I am not a member of the board.

Q: Is it acceptable for the chairman of the board to initiate proceedings against an MP behind the backs of directors?

A: All decisions by SOE’s are made in theory by the board. On occasion the chairman and the CEO however have to make running decisions.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Could he explain why the issuing of proceedings against an MP was up to the board of NZ Post last week, when on the weekend he decided to tell the board he thought it should not appeal the decision?

A: I was informed of a decision on Wednesday about the legal action. Subsequently it has become a matter of considerable public interest. I have offered my views to the board on where it should be taken. I am pleased they have decided to get on with setting up and running the bank they have a mandate for.

Question 8.

KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What recent reports has he received about positive economic development in the regions?

A: I have had a report that “the farming sector in Northland is doing particularly well” and that there is lots of confidence there too. That was part of a report quoting the National Party whip John Carter. On the same programme a dairy farmer was quoted saying he would be $150,000-$180,000 better off under Labour than he had been under National. That farmer was National MP Shane Ardern. I agree with National MP Shane Ardern that National does not yet have enough momentum. Meanwhile another National MP Katherine Rich says people “aren’t mugs” and there is no point in being gloomy about the economy. I agree with her too.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Does the Government have a sustainability policy?

A: Yes we do.

Question 9.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Does he support the recommendation made by the Maori education hui over the last weekend for a separate authority to oversee Maori education?

A: I want to thank the member for his attendance at the opening of the hui. Had he stayed he wouldn’t have had to ask questions. There were more than 100 recommendations made by the hui of which more than 10 relate to an authority.

Q: Does he support the recommendation for a separate authority?

A: I do not have such a proposal. I note though that in 1999 the National Government directed that work be done on a Maori Education Authority. There are several different proposals on the table and more debate needs to take place.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Does he support it or not?

A: If the member had attended she would have known what the hui recommended. It did not make a specific recommendation.

Q: Can he confirm that over 90% of Maori Children are educated in mainstream schools?

A: I acknowledge that a separatist system, like that proposed by the National Party in 1999, would have problems associated with it.

Q: Wouldn’t this just be a fob off?

A: I am surprised he is describing a National Party initiative in those terms.

Question 10.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: How much credibility does he give to newspaper articles regarding the activities of Airways Corporation of New Zealand Limited?

A: I can only say it depends on which article in which newspaper?

Q: Why did readers of the Christchurch Press need to read an article on 7th of February paid for by taxpayers money?

A: I am not familiar with that article but would be happy to have a look at it.

Q: What is happening to British Air Traffic Control’s tender?

A: The Airways consortium Novares has not been eliminated from the tender, it is being held in reserve.

Q: Was this a pursuit of fool’s gold?

A: No. This proposal was originally presented to my predecessor. We have increased the oversight of this process.

Question 11.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: How does he reconcile a 4.8% increase in violent crime with his previous statement that "It is also a fact that our policies are working."?

A: Any increase is unacceptable to this government. Between 1990 and 1999 under National there was a 77% increase in violent crime. It is going to take some time to tame the bull in the china shop.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): What will he do about the spiralling rate of violent crime? Up 10% in his own electorate?

A: The member is very selective in the figures he uses and perhaps he would like to apologise for letting violent crime get out of control when his government was in the Beehive.

Q: What about his home town, where violent crime has increased at twice the national average rate?

A: It was National that let violence get out of control in this country. The blame should be allowed to lay where it falls.

Question 12.

MAHARA OKEROA (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Parekura Horomia:

Q: Why did the Government attend the Hui Taumata Matauranga called by Ngati Tuwharetoa last weekend?

A: Maori educational leaders from all over NZ gathered for this hui. This was an opportunity for the government to listen to the concerns of Maori.

Q: Which of the 85 recommendations should have priority?

A: As there are more than 100 recommendations it will take some time to respond. We have however made two undertakings. One is to have an ongoing discussion with Ngati Tuwharetoa about this. We will also be monitoring specific targets to see how we are doing.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Why doesn’t he support the recommendation for choice and accountability?

A: Government has undertaken to engage with Maori as the debate progresses.

Q: Does the Government have no policy on Maori education? And is that why it has gone fishing for one?

A: There was a commitment made during the election that we would engage. That is what we are doing.

Question 13.

Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: How much was appropriated for his review of the Education Review Office and how much was the actual cost?

A: $400,000 was appropriated. The cost was a lot lower than this at around $180,000.

Q: Will he admit now that he was wrong that the ERO should be absorbed into the Department?

A: The review was allowed to address the question of independence of the ERO, which the earlier one wasn’t. I now agree that the ERO should be independent, with two conditions.

Q: How will the changes affect education?

A: The review says that more effort should be put into improvement and less effort into compliance. We will in future have an “Assess and Assist” model which means that schools will not only know what is wrong they will know how to fix it.


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