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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 21 March

Today's questions of the day concerned: R&D Taxation Changes – Foot And Mouth – Rapid Growth Industries – Money For Art (or Nothing) – Sentencing Reform – Pulling The SAS Out Of The Gulf – Rosslyn Noonan – Muriwhenua Settlement – Dr Lexchin x 2 – Numeracy In Primary Schools - Maori Children’s Policy

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 21 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 Revenue Michael Cullen:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to encourage the private sector to invest in research and development?

A: I have announced today that from the 1st of April this year all R&D funding as defined by GAAP will qualify for an immediate tax deduction. Software developers will be able to write off all expenditure for example. I expect this announcement to be welcomed by the Opposition. We will introduce legislation for this next month which will be passed by the end of the year, but which will be backdated.

Q: Will this mean more R&D? And is lifting the top-tax rate therefore also a negative thing?

A: No. There is no evidence even that members opposite are doing less work because they are in a higher tax bracket.

Question 2.

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

Q: When he said in the House yesterday that "All realistic measures are being taken to ensure that New Zealand's defences against foot-and-mouth disease are as effective as possible.", does this mean there is nothing further the Government can or will do to prevent an outbreak in New Zealand?

A: (Pete Hodgson on behalf) Earlier this month I announced measures. Some of these are in place now. Others will be implemented in coming months.

Q: Does he believe that the government is panicking?

A: No I can’t. But I can say that I have a more detailed answer to her question of yesterday about a woman that went to Dartmoor and then walked through customs.

Q: Can the minister explain current measures?

A: Offshore NZ has suspended all imports of at risk products. At the border all luggage from infected companies is searched. High risk persons are interviewed, and if necessary disinfected. The risk to NZ of this disease is always high. It has just got a little higher. In South East Asia there have been 500 cases in recent months as compared to 200 odd in Great Britain in the last month. I have pretty much outlined all the measures, we also have an emergency response system for assessing possible instances of the disease.

Q: Will vehicles be decontaminated?

A: Used cars are a relatively low risk source of Foot and Mouth. They are a high risk source of forestry bio-security risks however. The government is moving to progressively inspect all cars offshore.

Q: Will he withdraw comments about Australia?

A: In respect of the issue of politicisation. Yesterday the member talked about a woman, Bev Seymore, who walked on Dartmoor and then walked through customs. Her baggage was x-rayed and she was interviewed. She was not searched or fumigated because she represented a minimal risk.

LATER: (Jenny Shipley – I have just called Bev Seymore and she says she was neither interviewed now questioned about being on Dartmoor.

Speaker – I will let the Minister reply.

Pete Hodgson – I have spoken to the person who interviewed the woman in question about an hour and a half ago. That is the source of my information.

Roger Sowry – this is the same Minister who doesn’t know what kind of wood was used in Te Papa. Is he planning to correct that answer.

Speaker – the Minister is under no obligation to respond to challenges. )

Question 3.

JOHN WRIGHT (Alliance) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What industries have been identified as having potential for rapid growth, and what steps is the Government taking to work in partnership with them?

A: We need more high value export industries. We are pursuing special approaches with several industries. Skill shortages were a problem in wood processing for example. We have looked closely at education issues. We are providing 2000 computers to East Coast schools.

Q: John Luxton (ACT): Why did he not mention the Dairy Industry?

A: Since this government was elected the Dairy Industry has been doing a great deal better than it ever did under his government. Mr Luxton might like to check with Shane Ardern who recently said Dairy Farmers were far better off under this government.

Q: When he helped Sovereign Yachts did he take any notice of other boatbuilders who said there was a need for RMA reform?

A: I am impressed that ACT is now interested in government intervention and assistance of industry.

Q: What about rail, roads and forestry?

A: The previous government did nothing to build the infrastructure to deal with forestry production assets coming on stream. We have appointed a steering group to advise us on this issue.

Question 4.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Clark:

Q: Has she ensured that all public agencies within the Arts, Culture and Heritage portfolio have complied with her statement "This Government wants to abandon the culture of golden handshakes negotiated in secrecy, and to abandon the culture of paying people to do nothing."?

A: The Government’s views on golden handshakes are well known to the public bodies in this area.

Q: Nick Smith (National): When asked about Historic Places Trust golden handshakes why did she hide the answer about a $50,000+ golden handshake?

A: Another more accurate question from Muriel Newman asked about settlements and received a clear answer. I would think that these settlements compare very favourably to huge settlements paid under the previous government like those paid to members and executives of the Tourism Board. The settlements were negotiated through normal employment systems and I assume the chairman was kept informed.

Q: How many payments have been made and how much are they?

A: That is the answer I have already given. The answer is two settlements with a total value of $30,500.

(Nick Smith – leave to table a different answer – granted.)

LATER: (Helen Clark – leave to correct answer – granted.

Helen Clark – the answer to an earlier written question was incorrect. The answer I gave today was correct.

John Carter - Can Roger Sowry now ask another question?

Michael Cullen – that would create a dangerous precedent I think.

John Carter – leave is sought for a question to the PM - granted

Q: (Nick Smith) Why did she not ask the original written question correctly?

A: (Helen Clark) I answer hundreds of questions. I do not know why it was answered in that way.

Bill English – will the government answer written questions accurately in the future?

Helen Clark – the earlier answer was not wrong it just lumped lots of information together. The oral answer was more specific. The advice I have is that while there were two settlements their was only one personal grievance because the other one was withdrawn as a result of the settlement.

Roger Sowry – why were the answers lumped together? Was it to hide information? Can we have an assurance no lumping together will be done in the future?

Helen Clark – I have no idea.

Bill English – the PM is taking no responsibility for her own answers. That is why we raised this matter. We want an assurance that whatever minion is responsible for lumping things together will stop it.

Michael Cullen – the information in answers is supplied by officials and the Minister is not directly responsible. The Minister’s responsibility is to correct information if it turns out to be inaccurate. The PM took the earliest opportunity to correct information.

Speaker – Ministers are responsible for answers and for corrections to answers.)


Question 5.

JOHN TAMIHERE (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What reaction has he received to his recent announcement on sentencing and parole reform?

A: There have been strong positive reactions. Norm Withers said the reforms addressed many of his demands. Media response has been very positive, typified I think by the NZ Herald that said it was a sensible and balanced response.

Q: What about the Police Association?

A: Yes. I received a letter from them this morning. They say it is the most workable and pragmatic solution they have ever seen, either here or elsewhere.

Q: Wayne Mapp (National) What about your comments on drug traffikers, burglars and white collar criminals getting early release?

A: The only place I have seen that quote is in Wayne Mapp’s press release. Either he made it up or it was badly reported by someone. The National Party cannot decide whether they like this bill or not. They are schizophrenic.

Q: When will he establish tented prison camps to kill possums and eradicate noxious weeds?

A: Many forms of animals are eradicated with firearms. I have no intention of arming prison inmates.

(Brian Donnelly – Schizophrenia is a sad a debilitating disease. While it is often used as a term of abuse, I wonder whether if it should be considered Parliamentary.

Speaker – I was listening. But I think it was used in a adjectival sense.

Winston Peters - I think it is still offensive.

Phil Goff – if anyone took offence I apologise. I meant to say the National Party was in two minds about the reform proposals.)

Question 6.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What factors did the Government consider before she announced that New Zealand would pull out of the United States-led coalition taskforce in Kuwait?

A: Advice was prepared by MFAT and the Department of Defence prior to Maj. McNutt’s death saying that the deployment in the Gulf ought to be reconsidered.

Q: What will she say to the family who feel Mr McNutt died for nothing because of her comments?

A: I rang Major McNutt’s family personally with the news and said I felt great sorrow that the life of a young and very talented officer had been taken in this way.

Q: Is this the end of deployments in the Middle East?

A: No. We retain 26 peace-keeping soldiers in the Sinai Desert and seven officers in Israel and Syria working on truce monitoring. The Cabinet mandate for Mr McNutt’s tour expired in March. We have received advice that the situation in the Gulf has changed recently.

Q: Does she understand the difference between the value of peacekeeping and the value of Special Forces liason?

A: The PM well understands the value of having forces stationed overseas. I also have the highest respect for the SAS, and where there are opportunities to deploy them we will do so.

Q: Would it be consistent with the NZ withdrawal of NZ frigates to withdraw Maj. McNutt?

A: The decision will be not to replace Maj. McNutt. We have nothing further to announce in relation to the Gulf.

Q: Is she saying the dangers of Saddam Hussein are now greater or lesser?

A: Mr Bradford may not have observed that international opinion has changed considerably on how to deal with Iraq. NZ’s change of position relates to that change in international opinion.

Question 7.

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

Q: Are media reports that former teachers' union leader Rosslyn Noonan is poised to become the new Chief Human Rights Commissioner correct; if so, what consultation has there been with the parliamentary Opposition parties?

A: I am not in a position to confirm any appointments at this stage. It is my intention to consult with the Opposition about this.

Q: Is the precedent being followed here that the Opposition will be allowed to veto Ms Noonan, and can I short circuit the process by saying that Noonan, a well known lefty, is unacceptable for this position?

A: I thank the member for his opinion. The process that has been undertaken has been to identify those people interviewed by the previous government, and to supplement that by calling for nomination. My understanding is that previous governments have consulted with the Opposition after confirmation of appointments by Cabinet. I intend to follow the same process. I note that in 1995 Tony Ryall proposed a non-partisan appointment process but that he failed to follow his own advice as recently as 1999.

Question 8.

DOVER SAMUELS (Labour) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Margaret Wilson:

Q: What progress has been made towards settling the treaty claims of the Muriwhenua iwi?

A: I am pleased to inform the house that yesterday I signed terms of negotiation with two of the Far North Iwi. This represents unprecedented progress.

Q: What is the status of negotiations with the other Far North Iwi?

A: The government is pleased with progress with the other three Iwi. We think it is important that the Iwi themselves determine the pace of discussion.

Q: When will she finish negotiations?

A: It would be presumptive to determine any time of arrival of a result from these negotiations. I have indicated to the two Iwi that I hope that the other three Iwi will come on board soon. I think two more Iwi may come on board sooner rather than later, and that the fifth Iwi still has some issues to resolve internally.

Q: What about Taranaki?

A: We are also making progress there.

Question 9.

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

Q: Why did the Health Funding Authority appoint Dr Joel Lexchin as the independent reviewer of Pharmac after his disclosure that he had "a reputation as being very critical of the pharmaceutical industry"?

A: The information the member sought was provided in a letter to his office yesterday. I quote from a press statement on this. “We changed the focus of the review in response to feedback. Given that change of focus Dr Lexchin and David Caygill were ideal.”

Q: Why then was Caygill belatedly added to the inquiry three weeks later, after terms of reference had been finalised?

A: The terms of reference were not finalised till August. The decision to add Mr Caygill was a decision the HFA made.

Q: Murray McCully (National): Was there legal advice about this and will it be released?

A: There was a lawyers letter from the Pharmaceutical Industry which I forwarded on to the HFA.

Q: Was the cost of the inquiry, including travel costs, far higher than the cost retired judge Ian McKay would have charged?

A: The total cost for the review was $35,000. This is a very good price for high quality reviewers such as these.

(Richard Prebble - Will the Minister table the lawyers letter.

Annette King – certainly. But I understand Peter Dunne and Murray McCully already have the letter.

Peter Dunne – I do not have that letter.

Annette King – I am advised it has already been released.

Peter Dunne – I have said several times I do not have this information. I want the house to be absolutely clear that I have been seeking this information for months. The Minister’s assertion to the contrary does not make it correct.

Annette King – leave is sought to table the letter – granted.)

Question 10.

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

Q: When did the Health Funding Authority cease attempts to engage what their correspondence of 30 May to potential reviewers described as a "senior member of the legal profession" with "status and credibility" and "experience and understanding of both public law and commercial law issues" for the role of independent reviewer of Pharmac's policies, and what new "core competencies" brief was issued which made Dr Lexchin a suitable appointee?

A: From the information I have received, from as early as 14th of March the HFA was considering appointing two reviewers. Terms of reference were announced on July 14th. They were finalised in August. During this time the HFA was trying to accommodate the views of the RMI and Pharmac. There were lots of streams of work on this.

Q: When was the decision taken to not seek a senior lawyer?

A: I am happy to table what became the terms of reference and the HFA’s core competency description. Quotes a press release from Sid Bradley again.

Q: How was the report of the review team received?

A: Glaxo wrote to the PM on March 15th indicating their support for the report’s key findings and saying that Caygill and Lexchin provided a good balance.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why does the government keep employing right wing free market people who can’t get a job in the real world to jobs like these?

(Speaker – I do not think that is a question.)

Question 11.

NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What reports has he received on progress with improving numeracy skills among primary school students?

A: I have seen clear signs of improvement in schools involved in the “Count Me In Too” programme. The programme takes teachers through how children think about numbers. It gives them clues about children’s numerical thinking.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Why has he dropped literacy and numeracy tests?

A: I would love to arrange a briefing for the member on the difference between teaching methods and assessment methods.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Why doesn’t he bring back national testing?

A: Because I axed that project to replace it for a far better diagnostic system.

Q: Will he make this great programme available more widely?

A: Watch this space and the number will come up.

Question 12.

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

Q: Has he or the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services given the Associate Minister, Hon Tariana Turia, a commitment towards implementing the Puao-te-ata-tu strategy which was written for the Labour Government in 1986; if not, why not?

A: Yes. A number of respected individuals have recommended this report to me including Judge Mick Brown.

Q: Does he agree with Tariana Turia that Maori children placed with strangers perform poorly.

A: Tariana Turia is an advocate of this, certainly. Family is always the first port of call but the interests of the child are paramount.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Was this strategy pre or post the Hawaiian loans scandal?

A: I am too young to remember.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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