Today's questions of the day concerned: Brain Drain – MIR – Welfare Adjustments – Child Assault – Historic Places Trust - R&D Taxation Changes - Foot And Mouth – NZ Shipping Review – Nursing Shortages - ENZA Consultation – Housing Waiting Lists & Foreign Students – Pacific Capacity Building
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.
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PENNY WEBSTER (ACT) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Is he concerned that in February 2001, on average 308 New Zealanders left New Zealand permanently every day, and what does this mean in relation to his "job machine"?
A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) According to Statistics NZ the number of people leaving NZ in February was distorted by the impact of speculation over changes to the Trans-Tasman travel arrangement.
Q: John Luxton (National): Have people been staying away because of the anti-business government.
A: I would like to highlight again the example of ex-pat Bill Lloyd who has come home with a luxury boat company and brought 400 new jobs with him to West Auckland.
GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: What reports has he received regarding any risk to New Zealand arising from re-entry of the MIR space station?
A: The government is receiving regular reports from an interagency committee. The latest information suggests that the crash site will be 3000km to the East of Stewart Island. NZ’s primary concern is for the fishing boats in the center of the crash zone. We have now found the vessels and communicated the message that they are in the way to them directly.
Q: What about Taco Bell’s target?
A: I have seen no reports on that. Since 1978 the Russian’s have de-orbited 80 space vehicles with no incidents. Before that there were some incidents.
Q: Why has the time and location of the splashdown changed?
A: My understanding is that the Russian’s are getting much better at this and that they haven’t had any accidents lately.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: Can he clarify what he meant when he said that the Government could have chosen to respond "modestly" when making the cost of living adjustments to social welfare benefits?
A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I meant that legally speaking the rates could have been increased by less than the CPI. In 1991 when the CPI was running at 4.9% National cut benefits by up to 30%. Had National been re-elected the increase to Super last year would have been a few cents, rather than close to $20 as it was under us.
SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: Can he confirm that the Government will review section 59 of the Crimes Act; if so, what are the terms of reference and the reporting date of the review?
A: Cabinet has considered section 59 of the Crimes Act in light of recent reports from the UN. Officials have been asked to investigate how other countries have dealt with the issue of child discipline.
Q: What about the recent case of the child beaten with a piece of wood?
A: I have looked at the case-law on this issue. In the majority of cases juries have been able to easily determine the difference between “smacking” and “thrashing” of children.
Q: Will he avoid sending mums being taken to court for slapping their children on the hand.
Q: What about the report that shows violence against children offenders have received lesser sentences than those convicted of violence against adults?
A: I wish when research is quoted to this house Mps would quote the thrust of the research, not just parts of it. The report found that people who had applied violence to children were more likely to end up in prison than people who had applied the same level of violence to adults.
A: Some European countries have banned smacking. Others allow the use of reasonable force and chastisement. Both models are being followed. I do not mean to imply that section 59 will or ought to be repealed. Up to 87% of NZers are in favour of not-banning smacking, to run against that level of public opinion would be foolish.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard:
Q: Was the Board of Creative New Zealand informed of the personal grievance claim by a senior manager within the Historic Places Trust against then chief executive Elizabeth Kerr that resulted in a substantial financial settlement, prior to appointing Elizabeth Kerr as chief executive of Creative New Zealand?
A: The Arts Council has the responsibility of appointments of Creative NZ’s CEO.
Q: What sort of signal does it send to the public service when a CEO involved in a substantial payout gets a substantial promotion?
A: At the time of the appointment the personal greivance claim had not been lodged.
Q: Does she have confidence in the Creative NZ CEO?
A: I have been advised by the Chair of the Arts Council that Mrs Kerr has performed excellently in her new job.
Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Had the person been male and involved in a sexual harassment claim and payout, would she have been so supportive?
A: The case that has been settled was part of a normal employment review which resulted….
(Speaker – Order.)
….from a difference opinion over a clause in a contract. The organisation decided to settle. Neither side is able to talk about the details of this settlement because of the confidential nature of the settlement. Many CEOs deal with matters such as this quite routinely. I am concerned that a very good manager is being attacked in this way.
Q: Noting this Government’s support for openness can the Minister confirm the following… (allegation involving legal instructions.)
A: I have no evidence that that has happened. This government does not support sexual harassment. Nor does it support the harassment of people doing their jobs.
(Judith Tizard – leave to table the CV of Elizabeth Kerr – granted.)
MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:
Q: What reports has he received on the reaction to recent announcements regarding changes to taxation legislation?
A: Yes. The CEO of Fisher and Paykel described it as a “bloody good step in the right direction”. Lawyers and accountants have also been very supportive.
Q: Annabel Young (National): What response has he had to the increase in the top tax rate?
A: From most of the country, great enthusiasm.
Q: Will he consider a wider review of software depreciation?
A: Most people are not seeking special concessions and arrangements, rather they want a clear and level playing field.
ERIC ROY (National) to the Minister for Biosecurity Jim Sutton:
Q: Can he give a categorical assurance that farm machinery entering New Zealand from the United Kingdom or Europe carries no risk of a foot-and-mouth incursion into New Zealand?
A: Farm machinery does present a risk. That is why MAF is targeting this area following the outbreak. 100% of used machinery is inspected.
Q: Why then did his officials inform the Select Committee this morning that there has been no discussion of the Government’s 13 point plan? Is this not a case of a government fiddling while Britain burns?
A: In the three weeks I have been Minister of Biosecurity I have noticed several things, one being that the previous government let biosecurity standards run down, and another that they are now being silly about it.
Q: What about farm machinery from Asia?
A: I am not aware of any trade in used farm machinery from Asia. But if there is some I am sure it will be very thoroughly inspected and disinfected.
Q: What is he doing about vermin in second hand tyres?
A: That is an important question and I should really research it properly.
Q: Will he ban farm machinery imports as other countries have done?
A: I do not believe that such a measure would be justifiable on biosecurity grounds.
PETER BROWN (NZ First) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:
Q: Now the Shipping Industry Review report has been made public, will he respond by announcing the direction he intends to take in regard to New Zealand shipping; if so, when does he expect to make that announcement?
A: A special Cabinet committee will meet soon to discuss the review. The response will be announced in due course.
Q: Are their three options, a NZ First favoured option, a union favoured option, and a do nothing option?
A: We will consider all recommendations and we will act accordingly. We are committed to developing sustainable transportation systems for NZ. Shipping is crucial to this. We will make sure there is a shipping industry left alive in NZ. I would be keen to work with the opposition and NZ First on this.
Q: Given that foreigners don’t care about NZ biosecurity, will he be insisting on NZ crews on NZ ships?
A: Unfortunately there are no NZ ships.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Can she explain what she is doing about nursing shortages in New Zealand?
A: (Tariana Turia on behalf) As the member knows there are currently 307 nurse vacancies in Auckland. The hospital is trying to deal with this in a range of ways. Salary increases are not the only answer. In a recent survey it was found that while remuneration was important, child support facilities, flexible working hours and return to work retraining were also important factors.
Q: What about the more than 1000 nurses that left the country in the last 12 months?
A: This problem is not unique to NZ. Victoria’s State Government is also addressing this problem and is meeting with Annette King shortly.
Q: Is the bonus to be made available to all NZers?
A: It is not for the Minister to interfere in DHB staff recruitment and retention matters.
RICK BARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:
Q: What was the result of public consultation on the future of the apple and pear export industry?
A: MAF received 121 submissions on its discussion paper. 64 supported full deregulation. 21 wanted the existing HEA regulations to be applied to the pipfruit industry. 21 wanted existing regulations. 4 wanted an exclusive single desk and 11 supported other options. Most growers and stakeholders want substantial change to pip-fruit marketing.
Q: When will the minister introduce legislation?
A: We will be making decisions by mid-year. Any new framework that is agreed to will be put in place by September.
Q: Why does he want to consult still further when change is required now?
A: Deregulation now would certainly destabilise the industry at a crucial time in the season.
Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:
Q: Why are 21 Housing New Zealand homes currently being occupied by foreign students in an area where 54 people are on the waiting list with urgent housing needs?
A: When housing NZ bought these properties from the Department of Corrections they were in a badly vandalised state. The current lease on these houses ceases at the end of the year.
Q: Does he agree that the Koreans in these houses should be in Halls of Residence?
A: Yes I do. Housing NZ had been led to believe the students living in these houses would be local students. Unfortunately that did not happen.
Q: Of the 36 state houses purchased in Upper Hutt from corrections, why were lots still uninhabited?
A: Because many of these were badly vandalised houses.
Q: Why did Housing NZ purchase badly damaged houses?
A: Because we believe in buying not selling houses and because the land is suitable for further development.
TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs George Hawkins:
Q: What progress has the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs made with the Government's Pacific capacity building strategy?
A: Pacific peoples’ representatives have identified priorities and are developing partnerships with central and local government to achieve their goals.
Q: What has been the response of stakeholders?
A: More than 5000 Pacific people have been involved in developing plans. I am delighted to say that 80% of the plans can be actioned within current funding baselines.
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