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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 27 March

Today's questions of the day concerned: Northland And Rail Policy – Submarine Detections – Biosecurity – Submarines And Apologies – Economic Outlook - Foot and Mouth – DHB Budget Deficits - Teacher Vacancies – Dover Samuels – Marian Hobbs – Maori Option – Historic Places Trust

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 27 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.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What is the Government doing to ensure that the rail infrastructure is in place to carry the 28 million extra tonnes of logging expected out of Northland over the next 10 years?

A: The Government is developing a National Rail Policy. It will deal with Regional Development issues.

Q: Will he consider the Green Proposal to own the rail track?

A: The government is committed to developing sustainable infrastructure and we will work with all parties to achieve this goal.

Q: Dover Samuels (Labour): What is being done about Northland?

A: Transfund is conducting an inquiry into these things. It has received a feasibility study. I will continue to work with my good friend Dover Samuels and other MPs on finding a solution.

Q: Is the government going to deal with appalling roads?

A: I have met with Northland councils and discussed what roads should be dealt with first. We will be listening to local government and economies, not ignoring them.

Question 2.

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

Q: Does she stand by her statement that the release of information by the New Zealand Defence Force on submarines detected by the Air Force Orions was "grossly incomplete and misleading"?

A: I refer the member to my press release of Sunday which said precisely that.

Q: Will she apologise to the Defence Force for using them to scramble out of an un-resolvable position?

A: My department has made it clear that this table needs a context – and that is that there have been no hostile submarine contacts for 35 years.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): What about the Dominion report this morning saying her officials knew about this? And will she apologise?

A: The department and I have been aware of this table for more than a week. My staff and I were not aware of its imminent release. Seeing openly declared submarines with binoculars does not justify spending $600 million on sophisticated detection equipment. My department was not aware of imminent release of that table, if they had been they would have sought to put it in context.

Q: Why did she claim this was an overt challenge to her?

A: The DPMC did not know that release of that table was imminent. They had already pointed out to the Defence Force that the table did not contradict anything in the Maritime Review upon which I based my comments.

Question 3.

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

Q: Is the quarantine declaration card, filled in by all people entering New Zealand, to be changed?

A: Yes. The card is being upgraded and improved. Specifically it will now include more background information, and more questions about where people go.

Q: Why is this necessary?

A: Because during the term of the National Government the card was simplified and this section was removed.

Q: Why can’t the government implement the instant fines regime faster?

A: The government is doing the most important things first. And that includes x-raying all incoming mail, and we will soon x-ray all baggage too.

Q: Why didn’t Marian Hobbs fix this?

A: Because she inherited a very rundown system. A system that had been stripped of resources over nine years. Minister Hobbs oversaw a very substantial increase in funding and set the scene for the rapid response of the government.

Question 4.

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

Q: Does she stand by her statement that "The truth is there are not submarines in the South Pacific. We've had Orions looking for them for decades. None have been found, none will be, because they aren't there."?

A: There is no evidence of covert submarine activity in the South Pacific.

Q: When will she take off her rose-tinted glasses and accept that defence policy should be based on reality and not her fantasies?

A: We will base our policy on reality. In three decades of looking the Air Force and Navy have found no covert submarines. And that is why we won’t spend a fortune on this equipment. There is no evidence that supports Mr Bradford’s claims of a threat.

Q: Does she accept there is no justification for her attack on defence staff?

A: The information should not have been released without a context, I have received an apology for that.

Q: Peter Dunne (United Future NZ): Is the reason the table wasn’t in the Maritime Review that someone in her Department refused to accept it?

A: I haven’t heard that no.

Q: Will she confirm Indonesian submarines were detected acting in a threatening fashion off East Timor in 1999?

A: My statements have been about the South Pacific. East Timor is not in the South Pacific.

(Max Bradford – leave to table two documents – granted

PM – leave to table a press report about Te Kaha – granted

Max Bradford – leave to table a press release about Te Kaha ….

Speaker – I think that is enough of that..)

Question 5.

WILLIE JACKSON (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What reports has he received about New Zealand's economic development performance?

A: I have seen a report today about the March quarter from WestpacTrust. It says interest rates will fall, unemployment will fall, and wages will rise. The survey identifies trouble brewing offshore but. However the biggest threat to economic development is the backward opposition of National and ACT. The only decline in optimism I have seen in my visits to regional NZ relates to fears about the return of National and ACT to government. They show a predilection to opposing regional development proposals.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): How does he square his views and confidence in NZ’s performance with falls in the dollar both on a TWI basis, and against the US Dollar?

A: The member ought to have a look at what is happening to other currencies too. When the Australian currency is deteriorating rapidly it usually affects us too and I would expect the member to know that.

Q: What about Monteith’s? And will he do something about foreign investment?

A: No one could be more concerned about regional development than I. And no one is fighting harder for Monteith’s than the member for the West Coast, and he has my support.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): What about the BOP crisis?

A: It may come as a surprise to the member that the BOP has improved lots under this government.

Question 6.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister for Biosecurity Jim Sutton:

Q: Does he stand by the comments of his spokeswoman that there is a "limited budget" towards what steps can be taken to combat foot-and-mouth disease entering New Zealand; if so, why?

A: Budgets are by their nature limited. Resource is being concentrated around the highest risk areas. These are the illegal importation of meat and animal products. The additional money we have put in will allow us to x-ray all passenger baggage.

Q: Will resources not be a problem?

A: Speaking from experience, within a week of taking over this portfolio I made a request to Cabinet for extra money and it was granted. We spent an extra $15 million on biosecurity last year, and have so far boosted expenditure by a further $13 million so far.

Q: Gerard Eckhoff (ACT): Will he confirm that we still do not have everything we need?

A: I would remind that member, who wishes us to farm Kiwis, which are not susceptible to Foot and Mouth I believe…

(Max Bradford – is this necessary.

Speaker – no.

Jim Sutton – I have forgotten the question.)

A: The greatest risk of Foot and Mouth to NZ is from Asia not the UK. We do have the facilities in place to do this job properly. We have had to cancel all leave and all offsite training.

Q: Can we take it then that he does not accept that the risk is rising?

A: I would have thought it was obvious to everyone that the UK situation raises the level of risk. So yes there is an increase, but many NZers have not been aware of the ongoing and serious risk of Foot and Mouth from other places.

Question 7.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she intend to make Dover Samuels a Minister inside Cabinet; if not, why not?

A: Today I have announced his appointment as an undersecretary.

Q: Winston Peters (ACT): Given that allegations against Mr Samuels were not proved, why doesn’t she restore him to Cabinet, or is his problem that he is a man?

A: I have never been aware that being a man is a problem. His appointment is something that he and I have agreed upon.

Q: Why is it appropriate to promote Dover Samuels back into the executive after eight months, whereas Ms Hobbs took just a few days?

A: I acknowledge the disappointment of the Opposition that last years events are being put behind us. Labour caucus rules say that where there is a casual vacancy the PM may make a nomination.

Question 8.

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

Q: What is her response to the warning from District Health Boards New Zealand that boards are predicting a $62 million funding shortfall in their first year and that they will be unable to meet public and political expectations?

A: Predictions of deficits are not new in health. The sector has a record of amassing large deficits over years.

Q: Does the Minister believe that the 0.5% increase in funding she has announced will meet concerns of DHBs?

A: DHBs will have concerns and it will be a tight budget. But I will remind the member that in 1997-1998 the deficit was close to $200 million.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): What about patient safety?

A: Can I assure the member that there will be 10s of millions of dollars going into health this year.

Q: How many boards are expected to be in deficit this year?

A: I don’t know, but I do know that the total amount of deficits will be a lot less than it was when that member was the Associate Minister of Health.

Question 9.

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

Q: What reports has he received on teacher vacancy rates at the commencement of the 2001 school year?

A: I am releasing today a teacher vacancy survey. It shows a far more positive picture than previously. The vancancies represent 1.1% of the work force in secondary schools and 1% in primary schools.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Can he confidently tell the house that there are enough teacher trainees for next year?

A: I think we have got enough. Yes. A lot will depend on the morale of teachers, and on whether they are attacked in their work by the member opposite.

Question 10.

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

Q: Is it her position that Marian Hobbs is a competent person to be in Cabinet but not Dover Samuels; if so, how does she reach this conclusion?

A: Competency to be in Cabinet is a common characteristic among Labour members, unfortunately there are no vacancies. I would have thought that findings by four statutory authorities on this issue would have been enough to shut up even Mr Prebble about this.

Q: Roger Sowry (National): If she has confidence in Ms Hobbs then why hasn’t she got Biosecurity back?

A: I offered Ms Hobbs all the portfolios back she previously held.

Question 11.

MAHARA OKEROA (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:

Q: How can the Government be assured that the process used by the Chief Registrar of Electors to support the Maori electoral option is effective and will be delivered in an impartial manner?

A: The Chief Registra of Electors has a number of checks and balances to maintain his impartiality in his role in this area.

Q: Is there any difference between what has been done this year and what was done in the past?

A: No.

Q: Can she give an assurance that voters will not be urged to enrol on the Maori Roll in preference to the General Roll?

A: Yes. The emphasis in the campaign will be on choice.

Question 12.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard:

Q: Have there been any further "golden handshakes" as redundancy payments, confidential settlements, payments for early contract termination or ex-gratia payments by the Historic Places Trust to any employees since 24 November last year; if so, what was the cost of each?

A: I am advised that since 24th November the Historic Places Trust has paid out on eight redundancies costing roughly $180,000. I am advised that these came out of a review and a restructuring conducted by the Honourable Nick Smith?

Q: How much was paid out under Nick Smith?

A: More than $400,000 was paid out under the Hon. Nick Smith, in addition to more than $200,000 spent on consultants for Mr Smith’s review.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Was the $30,500 paid out, the total amount paid out for these two settlements?

A: The total amount in the information we have been given is that figure, yes.


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