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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - 13th March

Today's questions of the day concerned: Economic Performance - Biosecurity Fines – Foot and Mouth Concerns – PM Husband's Friendship With Pharmac Reviewer – Biosecurity Measures – People’s Bank Popularity – Brian Neeson's Missing Prisoner – Brain Drain – Christine Rankin Suing Sue Bradford - CRI Dividend Payments – Jenny Shipley Volunteer – Turning State Houses To Face The Sun.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 13 March 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.

SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS

Question 1.

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

Q: Has he received any recent reports on the economy; if so, what do they say?

A: Yes. Encouraging trade statistics, the best since 1993. A Standard and Poors rating upgrade, and good government accounts. The primary threats to the economy are external and results. Another threat is the ACT economic policy which would see a $7 billion tax cut.

Q: Bill English (National): Is he concerned about food prices?

A: Yes he is. We are also concerned about economic credibility.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is the economy doing well because of the climate and the low dollar?

A: I would like to say that the changes made by that member, and the changes made by this government, to the PTA have definitely improved monetary conditions and their impact on the economy.

Question 2.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister for Biosecurity Jim Sutton:

Q: Why was funding for the introduction of instant fines for bio-security offences at the border not included in the 2000/2001 Budget?

A: The real question here is why was this not funded back in 1997 when it was first authorised by the then National Government. The fines mechanism is in place and ready to go in July and that demonstrates our commitment.

Q: Why was the Minister of Biosecurity turned down on a request to implement instant fines on 1 April last year?

A: I can assure the minister that I have never been turned down for any funding request for Biosecurity.

(Jenny Shipley - leave to table a cabinet paper from last year – no objection.)

Q: Are instant fines a license to contaminate?

A: That suggestion is absurd. We have considered deporting people, yes. The instant fine is included for the benefit of accidental offenders. People who deliberately offend will continue to face the full force of the law as it stands now.

Q: Given that Cabinet has twice turned down funding for this programme, why has he claimed that he is speeding it up now?

A: Were it not for the extra resources agreed to this week, the scheduled July deadline would not have been met. This has released training resources to get this up and running by deadline.

(Jenny Shipley – leave to table something else – granted.)

Question 3.

DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour) to the Minister for Biosecurity Jim Sutton:

Q: What steps has the Government taken to allay public concerns about the biosecurity system in light of the foot-and-mouth outbreak in Britain?

A The government has agreed to fund a couple of key initiatives. The most important of these are improvements in checks on passenger baggage with more dogs and more x-ray machines.

Q: What has damaged efforts for biosecurity?

A: People’s biosecurity in this nation is put at risk by people like National Party informant and supporter Jenny Wood who make false declarations on entry to NZ. Here is someone who should know better deliberately making a false declaration. Scottish Police are now checking out where she was in Scotland and what she was doing so a decision can be made on whether to prosecute. It is interesting to note that the Leader of the Opposition tried to recall this woman’s boarding card from MAF records. For what purpose I do not know.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): What does this government really think about Foot and Mouth?

A: As far as I am aware there is no contradiction between my and my predecessors positions on this.

Question 4.

Hon PETER DUNNE (United Future NZ) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she stand by her reported comment to the Evening Post of 28 July 2000 that she had no recollection of meeting Dr Joel Lexchin, the independent reviewer of Pharmac's operating policies and procedures?

A: I refer the member to my press statement to 21st of September last year. Dr Lexchin is a professional colleague of my husbands, and I have met him on several occasions privately.

Q: What about Dr Lexchin’s emails claiming he knows Peter Davis and a friend of the PM?

A: I have just confirmed those facts already.

Q: Were there two reviewers?

A: Yes there were. The other reviewer was one closely associated with the drug companies, companies with which Peter Dunne was also associated?.

Q: I challenge the PM to provide some proof of contact?

(Speaker – that was not what the PM alleged.)

Q: Roger Sowry (National): Is this comment (quoted) from a book correct?

A: All that confirms is that my husband is a public health professional, and that he once edited a book in which I once wrote an article.

Question 5.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister for Biosecurity Jim Sutton:

Q: Does he consider that the "beefed-up border security measures" announced yesterday are adequate and appropriate for detecting biosecurity-dangerous goods entering New Zealand?

A: The measures will greatly enhance biosecurity. Previously over 90% of substances were intercepted. Now close to 100% will be intercepted.

Q: Why is something made from cows being imported then?

A: The product you refer to as far as I am aware, is not an at risk good. These matters are always under review however.

Q: Could we stop all trade and travel?

A: That would not be very practical. The policies being adopted by the government will ensure that NZ’s biosecurity risks are greatly reduced. A comprehensive review of NZ’s biosecurity is underway. We expect to have policy changes in place by early 2002.

Q: Why has the request made in Christchurch for an extra x-ray machine been refused?

A: It hasn’t. Additional machines have been approved.

Q: What about used cars?

A: Recent changes to import health standards are designed to help this. We need to keep the issue in perspective. We inspect 100% of all cars. This is a high rate of inspection and provides good security.

Question 6.

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

Q: What is his response to the poll showing that the number of people intending to put their money into the "People's Bank" has fallen since last June?

A: Rather less satisfaction than I received from a poll showing National’s poll rating falling to 33% and Labour’s rising to 46%?

Q: Will support affect its viability and when will he start supporting it?

A: I have frequently supported the bank in the public arena. The latest poll still shows many more people indicating an intention to switch than is necessary to meet the business case.

Q: Does he agree with the Deputy PM’s assessment that the return on taxpayer’s funds will be 23%?

A: My understanding is that he was citing the business case.

Q: How will NZ Post do what it has promised the Greens?

A: It will not be targeting the customers of Credit Unions and the PSIS.

Question 7.

CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: What concerns have recently been reported to him regarding the release of prisoners before their term has expired?

A: The opposition spokesman has been very concerned about the release of an inmate. It turns out the inmate he was concerned about, Paul Daly, has been escorted outside prison on four occasions, all under the previous National Government.

Q: Was Mr Brian Neeson courageous in going on TV and exposing his former colleague’s open door prison policy?

(Speaker – that is not a valid question.

Winston Peters – I request leave for Mr Neeson to ask a question and stop hidding in the corridor?

Speaker – that is not a point of order.)

Question 8.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: In view of the latest migration statistics which show a loss of permanent and long-term skilled New Zealanders overseas, will the Government be changing its policies; if not, why not?

A: As Minister of Immigration I have no responsibility for long term arrivals or departures. That is why I am the minister of Immigration not the Minister of Emigration. Now we have a secure agreement with Australia on the relationship I expect the flow of migrants across the Tasman to return to normal.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) Is she doing nothing? Is she indifferent to the loss of our future?

A: As the member found out last week when he put out a release, he does not have the correct figures. Furthermore I am definitely not planning on auctioning immigration places as proposed by the out-going ACT President.

(Richard Prebble - leave to table information from the Parliamentary Library – granted.)

Q: Is she aware of the editorial in the SMH by Hamish MacDonald and will she change the law as soon as possible?

A: That question was driven by a complete misunderstanding of what I said in my first answer.

Q: Were lots of the people leaving NZ in January and February fly by night temporary Kiwis?

A: The information we obtain from the card does not include the place of birth of people and so we cannot tell whether that is the case.

Question 9.

SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What is the estimated cost to taxpayers of legal advice, legal action and investigation by the Chief Executive of the Department of Work and Income to defend her position during her term of office, including the cost of legal action against individuals?

A: I have some information here which I could provide later to the member. Let me state first that any costs incurred by a person in her personal capacity will not be met by the crown?

Q: Did Rankin seek the Minister’s views before taking legal action against myself?

A: No. I was not given any prior advice. I have since sought advice from DWI about this. I was rung this morning at 11.30am and told that a letter had been sent to Ms Bradford by a lawyer acting for Ms Rankin. Members of this house have absolute privilege for what they say in this house.

(Sue Bradford – leave to table a letter from Christine Rankin – granted.)

Q: Would he have expected to have been advised by Christine Rankin about legal action.

A: Yes. While public servants are also citizens, and have ordinary citizen’s rights in these matters, because public servants ought to be seen to be neutral, they are encouraged to take extra special care with communications with Members of Parliament.

Q: Does he stand by statements he made about Christine Rankin being a “good public servant”.

A: The State Services Commissioner is responsible for matters relating to this CEO.

Question 10.

Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National)to the Minister for Crown Research Institutes Pete Hodgson:

Q: Does he intend to require Crown research institutes to make a special dividend payment to the Government, "probably more than once", with the money being used as early stage finance for ventures considered too risky to be able to raise capital in the mainstream markets?

A: Yes. We intend to re-gear their balance sheets and to retain the dividends in a venture capital fund .

Q: Is Labour breaking a promise made before the election? (quotes policy.)

A: Can I invite the member to go to the Industry Development Policy, and see whether we have retained funds from CRI’s within the “innovation system”. Can he then consider whether we have done just that.

Q: Why is he breaking a promise?

A: Leaving aside the issue of breaking promises I think the member should reflect on NZ’s ongoing science dividend policy.

(Dr Paul Hutchison – leave to table a page from the Labour Party manifesto – granted. )

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Is the Minister saying that surpluses are not used to fund science?

A: With one exception no. Landcare asked if it could do that last year and I said yes. That was an untenable position and that is why we are now taking the special dividend.

Question 11.

RUTH DYSON (Labour) to the Minister of Internal Affairs George Hawkins:

Q: Has he received any reports on the events of Volunteers Awareness Week?

A: We are on the third day today. To help publicise the day we asked MPs to take up the challenge to become a volunteer. 68 MPs took up the challenge.

Q: Has he seen any reports about how MPs took up the challenge?

A: Yes. I have seen a report that several National Party MPs went wading in the Avon river picking up rubbish. I understand Jenny Shipley was reluctant to get in the river with her colleagues….

(Richard Prebble – what has this got to do with Ministerial responsibility.

Speaker – I agree.

Winston Peters – Without wishing to disagree with the chair. I would like to hear more about the Leader of the Opposition, the Avon river, and what happened when a photo opportunity appeared. )

Question 12.

Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:

Q: What consideration will he give to former Labour housing spokesperson Graham Kelly's call for all State houses to be lifted up and turned north to face the sun, and how much would such a policy cost?

A: My Friend and Colleague did not call for that. My learned colleague has got it wrong.

Q: Does the minister now consider the 14,000 state house waiting list more of a problem than whether they face the sun?

A: I am aware of 10,000 houses that will never see the sun. These were mentioned by David Carter on TV, but they do not exist at all. We are embarking on an urban renewal programme for houses which are poorly constructed and/or badly needing maintenance.

Q: Will all new State Houses be required to maximise the opportunities for solar heating?

A: The bill before the Select Committee today requires that new stock is environmentally sustainable. All those things the Greens want we want too.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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