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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 15 March

Today's questions of the day concerned: Australian Apple Dispute – Dairy Merger – Beehive Wood – National Party Social Deprivation – Mallard On Dr Lexchin – Technology Venture Capital – Beehive Wood Wars - Mallard On Caygill Insurance Policy & National Party Precedents - Child Health And Housing – Cancer Treatment Waiting Lists – Oil Exploration Ratings Rise – CHH Vs CTU< /I>

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 15 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.
Thursday, 15 March 2001


Question 1.

OWEN JENNINGS (ACT) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: Will the Government immediately instigate World Trade Organisation proceedings over Australia's refusal to lift the ban on New Zealand apples; if not, why not?

A: No. An appeal to the WTO while the scientific assessment process in Australia is still underway would be unlikely to succeed.

Q: Given that the Australian’s seem to be being so mean to us, is the real agenda of this government isolation?

A: I do not see any merit in those allegations. As I told the house on 22nd of February I have not ruled out taking WTO action over this matter.

Q: What has changed since two years ago when he said the Australian’s should be hauled before the WTO?

A: When this government came to power the Australians instituted a science based system to examine the issue. We still hopeful for a positive outcome.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Does he believe the WTO should involve itself in biosecurity?

A: I believe a deal is a deal, and when a country enters a treaty it is entitled to expect its treaty partners to honour their commitments.

Question 2.

R DOUG WOOLERTON (NZ First) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Has he received any reports on the impact on small independent cheese manufacturers of the proposed amalgamation of New Zealand Dairy Group, Kiwi Dairies and the Dairy Board; if so, what do they say?

A: The government is continuing to receive reports and correspondence about this matter. These manufacturers want to be able to continue to innovate. We want them to do that too. Protecting the interests of minority groups is one of the key priorities of the government in this process. Good progress is being made. Government officials and the Merger Group are working to do a deal that is acceptable to everybody.

Q: What about organics?

A: If there are organic groups who feel disadvantaged they are very welcome to approach me or MAF officials. Ensuring small groups get a fair go is an integral part of this process.

Question 3.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Forestry Pete Hodgson:

(Nick Smith - Leave to replace the word “he” with “the Government”.

Speaker – I will allow that from the chair.)

Q: Will the government (not he) take responsibility for the use of tropical African anegre timber in the Beehive refurbishment given that the Cabinet minute specifically instructed officials that no native timbers were to be used?

A: We have.

Q: Will the government allow sustainably certified timber for his ministry to be used so it can set an example to the world?

A: You sir, (The Speaker), indicated today that the African timber will be taken down. And that is that.

A: I understand that this wood is also used in Te Papa. The foundation stone to that building was laid by a National PM and it was opened by Jenny Shipley. The member (Nick Smith) should check for bounce-back on his leader before he mouths off. Otherwise he may find himself demoted twice.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Why was sustainably sourced timber from NZ excluded?

A: I have the Cabinet minute here. Cabinet noted the intention to avoid using new native timber. We wanted to use recycled timber. We are going to do that.

Q: Will he direct the core state sector to restrict purchases to these categories of wood?

A: I will take up this issue when we get to question 7.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Isn’t all timber native to some country? And therefore isn’t the restriction not perhaps as exact as it should be? And now we know this, why are we trying to correct this at considerable expense?

A: Don’t try to tie me up in semantics.

Q: Isn’t this a bad cabinet decision? Isn’t he just trying to cover up?

A: No. We were advised that the plan was to recycle the timber currently in the Beehive. We thought that was a good idea and still think it is.

(Nick Smith - leave to table documents including one saying that the timber could not be recycled – granted.)

Question 4.

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

Q: What reports has he received on social deprivation and its effect in the education sector?

A: I have seen reports about hardship due to salary cuts of up to 43% causing problems for some families. I have heard for example about some MPs having to withdraw their children from private schools because of a loss of salary when moving to the opposition.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): When will he reverse bulk-funding of special needs students?

A: It is not quite bulk-funding. The member is probably wondering about units. I understand that by the middle of the year long term announcements will be made by my associate Lianne Dalziel.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Does he accept that food price rises are a problem for children and poor people?

A: The incomes of the lowest earning NZers have been brought up according to the level of inflation. I do have some sympathy for members opposite who are having to move because they are now on back-bench salaries.

Question 5.

Hon PETER DUNNE (United Future NZ) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Does she stand by her answer to question No 5 of 14 March, that "the chair of the Health Funding Authority made it clear that he would welcome suggestions. Given that, I sought a suggestion from Professor Peter Davis, a prominent public health expert, which was forwarded to the chair of the Health Funding Authority by a member of my staff."?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) Yes. It was originally thought a retired judge would be appropriate. That view changed. I was asked to suggest someone else.

Q: Why then did she claim in the past that she played no part in the appointment of the reviewer?

A: I am advised that the HFA chair in its informal discussions with the Minister asked her about three weeks before she approached Professor Davis whether she had any suggestions. She contemplated that for three weeks. And then she asked Professor Davis.

Q: When were new core competencies added to the job description of May 23rd?

A: I don’t know. I would have thought that David Caygill would fit the first part of your description as involving legal experience. What was also made clear about that time, was that operational procedures in Pharmaceuticals were also needed for the job to be accomplished properly. That is why the competencies were changed.

(McCully leave to table a letter – granted.)

Question 6.

MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson:

Q: What plans does the Government have to further increase the ideas flow within New Zealand's research, science and technology innovation system?

A: The flow of ideas out of institutes to the private sector has increased lots lately. There are however big gaps at the seed capital end of the venture capital market.

Q: Why would the government be better at picking winners than the private sector?

A: We are not better. The partnership proposal we are proposing is a private sector model. The finer points of the model are being discussed further including input from an Israeli called Ehrlich who pioneered a similar successful project in Israel.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why can’t the government pick winners? It does in Taiwan?

A: It is usual for the government to be involved in these schemes yes. We are going to do that with private sector delivery. There is a mood afoot that the innovation system will play a pivotal role in the transformation of this society.

Q: What is the minister doing to ensure that public research results are being made available to the public?

A: Pure science research results are made public as part of the pure science contract.

Question 7.

IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Forestry Pete Hodgson:

Q: Will the Government end New Zealand's contribution to the destruction of indigenous forests in other countries by legislating to ensure all imported timber and timber products carry Forest Stewardship Council certification; if not, why not?

A: Over recent months the government has been working with lots of agencies to develop and harmonise certification procedures. These are needed to ensure certainty about what is sustainably produced and what isn’t?

Q: Why should we not have the same certification for foreign wood as we have for our own?

A: The question is hypothetical. A number of agencies have been working on this for example in the Solomons on certifying wood. We expect certified woods, when available, to be used almost exclusively by manufacturers. I know this because they have been in my office.

Q: Can sustainably managed NZ Tawa be used as an example to the world to fix the Beehive, so that it does not become a permanent record of this Government’s environmental stupidity?

A: It would seem to me that that would be enough.

(Nick Smith – leave to table more documents – granted.)

Question 8.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What fees and costs did Dr Joel Lexchin and Hon David Caygill each receive as independent reviewers of Pharmac's policies, and what was the total cost of the review?

A: Considerably less than the $340,000 he paid to Michael Wall and Brian Mogeridge at the Tourism Board.

Q: Can he confirm that Mr Lexchin needed a legal insurance policy and that is why Caygill was appointed?

A: I can confirm that Mr Caygill is being paid less than that member paid him to chair the ACC.

Q: How much did it cost? And did it cost less than the judge would have charged?

A: From recollection the judge wanted $21,000 for 10 days work.

Q: Can the Minister tell the house why David Caygill was appointed?

A: I do not know. Another question will be required. I am sure it can be answered if he asks again.

Q: Can he explain why another lawyer’s appointment was cancelled to enable Caygill to be taken on?

A: I have been looking at precedents in this area. I would like to refer to Cathy O’Malley. (Disorder) The areas around this have been looked at very carefully by this government because we pride ourselves on these matters. Mary Anne English was appointed not once but to three separate organisations. In another case a contract was awarded to Rosemary Bradford the wife of Max Bradford for $5.8 million.

Question 9.

MAHARA OKEROA (Labour) to the Minister of Housing (Mark Gosche) :

Q: What benefits have been identified as a result of joint initiatives between Housing New Zealand and South Auckland Health?

A: A baby was narrowly saved from a death by meningitis.

Q: If he is concerned about health then why is a person earning $125,000 living in a state house in Mangere?

A: Mr Carter and the Dominion seem to think you can work these things out with a calculator.

Q: When did this person move into the house?

A: I understand they moved in before we became the government. What I am concerned about are those children who have died because of the housing crisis in South Auckland.

Question 10.

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

Q: Will she be providing more funding to reduce cancer radiation treatment waiting times in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin; if not, why not?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf). I increased the budgets for Radiation Therapy by 14% this year. Hospitals have already ordered three new linear accelerators and are working on more bunkers. The key problem is a shortage of radio therapists and oncologists, that is why we have increased the class size at training school by 53%.

Q: Why have periods now grown to 14 weeks?

A: The waiting list would not be there if Wyatt Creech had acted in April 1998. The Minister of Health moved quickly when she became minister. It takes up to 12 years to train some of these people. Wyatt Creech did nothing in the 16 months after he received this warning.

Q: When was this issue first raised with a minister?

A: Jenny Shipley as Minister of Health was warned about this in 1996. She did nothing. Hospitals are now working together to try and reverse the brain drain and bring specialists back to NZ.

Q: If salaries are a problem will she increase radiotherapist salaries to parity with those overseas?

A: If I take the advice of the Minister of State Services I will be advised that we cannot afford that kind of pay parity as a nation.

Question 11.

STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Energy Paul Swain:

Q: Does the Government have any figures about the current state of the petroleum exploration industry in New Zealand?

A: Yes. Members will be delighted to know that there has been lots of exploration lately. Oil companies are expected to spend $200 million on more exploring this year. This is very good news for New Zealand.

Q: How is NZ seen by Oil Explorers?

A: As a “very attractive target” NZ was the 24th most attractive place in a recent list, up 13 points from last year. The oil business like doing business with this business friendly government.

Q: Who should be believed about this you and Jim Anderton, of the environment or conservation ministers?

A: The former.

Question 12.

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

Q: Has she received any reports on whether the meeting of five unions in Rotorua yesterday to "discuss concerns" about Carter Holt Harvey's operations breached the good faith provisions of the Employment Relations Act?

A: No.

Q: What about comments that unions were planning to work together against the company, in an historic fashion?

A: Under the new bill, freedom of association is allowed, I am confident nothing illegal is happening here. There is no evidence there is any conspiring here and the member ought to know that.

Q: What about leaflets from Socialist Workers calling for Union bans on CHH products? Is that bad faith?

A: I am guided and reassured by comments from CHH who do not seem at all phased or disconcerted about these matters.

(Lockwood Smith – leave to table three documents – granted.)


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