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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 28 March

Today's questions of the day concerned: Australian Defence Comparisons – Labour Market – Maori Lessee Compensation – Health Funding – National Rail Policy – Overworked Police – Teenage Dental Services – Historic Places Trust – School Roll Growth – Fire Service Pay Negotiations – Public Transport – Independent On Student Job Search

: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

SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS

Question 1.

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

Q: Does she accept the criticism of Greg Sheridan that New Zealand is irresponsibly running away from all modern defence obligations and is taking "the bludger's option"?

A: No. At any given time roughly 50% of the NZ army is involved in some way or other with the deployment in East Timor. This compares with 15% of Australia’s army.

Q: Has project Sirius been cancelled and if so then how can NZ interoperate with Australia?

A: New Zealand does not need to be able to do all the same things Australia can in order to be interoperable. We, for example, have no Collins class submarines, which is a good thing.

Question 2.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on the outlook for the New Zealand labour market?

A: In the past month I have received a number of reports on the labour market from a range of sources. Most forecast a strengthening market. And the market has not been improving because of migration as claimed by the opposition.

Q: When will he tell the 75,000 people, 4%, of the labour force that there are no jobs for them, and never will be?

A: Our job is to ensure that people move smoothly from one job opportunity to another. There are more people employed in this country now than ever before in this country’s history.

Question 3.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Is the Government proposing a change to the compensation package for Taranaki leaseholders this week, with very little notice, when the first Tribunal hearings start next Monday; if so, why?

A: Because at the very least there is very considerable doubt over the meaning of the current legislation.

Q: What is his response to tax experts criticism?

A: I have talked two times to the tax expert concerned.

Q: What has been the reaction of lessees?

A: Somewhat predictable. The underlying issue here is that there should be equity between those who took compensation based on the formula and those who are going to the tribunal.

(Rodney Hide – leave to table advice from PWC tax expert – granted.)

Question 4.

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

Q: Does she agree with the expectations of the Associate Minister of Finance, Hon Trevor Mallard, that district health boards should achieve net fiscal savings and that savings will be made available for Government priorities which may or may not be within health; if not, why not?

A: I can confirm that discussions have moved on since my last answer on this issue.

Q: Why is a report on this three months late?

A: Work is ongoing on fiscal savings and will be made available to members and the media when it is finished.

Q: Has she seen reports on the cost of health reforms?

A: I have seen a report that National thought it would save $500 million with its reforms, but that they actually cost $800 million. I can tell the house that our reforms will cost nothing like that.

Q: How many DHBs are forecasting deficits in the year to June 2001?

A: I don’t know.

Q: Does she believe that her 0.5% increase in funding will meet DHB’s needs?

A: I suggest the member wait for the budget.

Question 5.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:

Q: What did she mean when she said, on 13 December 2000, that "The Auckland region's proposal must be evaluated by the Government, in the context of New Zealand's national rail policy. Any decision made before such consideration would be putting the cart before the horse and risk short-sighted decisions being made."?

A: I meant that we wanted to make sure decisions benefit NZ in both the short and long term.

Q: Has she seen endorsements of the Green Party rail policy?

A: Yes and I welcome anyone, including the Green Party, to work with us on the solutions for Auckland and the country.

Q: Why isn’t she attending a meeting tomorrow that Michael Cullen is attending on this?

A: I shall be at a select committee tomorrow. That meeting will be part of the ongoing progress towards solving the problems Auckland has.

Q: Will there be a document after all this?

A: Yes. There will be a number of documents for interested parties to study.

Question 6.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Did overworked police officers and a lack of resources lead to the dismissal of relaid charges of alleged serious firearms offences against a Hawera man, as claimed by the Crown Solicitor, Mr Tim Brewer?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) This is a matter that is currently before the courts for sentencing. There has been a difference of opinion between the police and the crown solicitor about this, but it is not something in which the Minister should interfere.

Q: Will he apologise to the decorated police officer he has been attacking?

A: Does the member know where New Plymouth Is? Under the budget approved by Jenny Shipley and written by Bill English there was to be a $24 million cut in police spending.

Q: Does the Minister accept comments from police that they are doing little about organised crime?

A: What we have done is reverse police cuts, and have in fact increased funding for police by over $100 million. It is true that the police are stretched in some areas. They would have been far further stretched under a National Government.

Question 7.

STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What steps has the Government taken to improve adolescent dental services?

A: We have launched a package of services for these children.

Q: What steps were taken to develop this package?

A: We have worked with the sector on these changes. In a spirit of co-operation the NZDA has endorsed this policy.

Q: Are high-sugar diets part of the problem?

A: A diet full of carbohydrate is part of the problem and in this package education programmes are enabled.

Question 8.

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

Q: Does she stand by the Minister's corrected answer to written question No 21052 with respect to "golden handshakes" by the Historic Places Trust, that "Two confidential settlements for termination/redundancy were made to former employees by the Historic Places Trust between 1 November 1999 and 24 November 2000 with a total value of $30,500"?

A: Yes.

Q: Why then yesterday did the Minister say yesterday that the sum was part of a confidential settlement?

A: The Historic Places Trust has told me that the information is correct and that the other part of the settlement is confidential.

(Nick Smith – this is totally unsatisfactory

Speaker – I am not responsible for the answer as the member well knows. He has asked a question and has been given an answer that is where my part in this ends.)

Q: Has she sought assurances from the HPT that their answers are correct?

A: Yes. The HPT has explicitly confirmed the information it provided is correct.

Q: Did the personal grievance involve sexual harassment, and if so is it acceptable that the CEO negotiated the settlement?

A: I am advised that the PG did not involve sexual harassment, and that the CEO did not negotiate the settlement.

Q: Why are other sums involved in the settlement not included in this answer?

A: There were no other sums involved.

Q: What other parts are there then?

A: Confidential parts.

Question 9.

CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What steps is he taking to address school roll growth in the Auckland area?

A: Two new primary schools are being built to deal with new suburbs. Each school will initially have facilities for 260 students and they will grow over time.

Q: Will these schools help their communities?

A: I hope so. These new communities need a focal point for community activities and hopefully the schools will provide one.

Question 10.

LINDSAY TISCH (National) to the Minister of Internal Affairs George Hawkins:

Q: What will be the status of firefighters on community safety team contracts under the Fire Service Commission offer to the New Zealand Professional Firefighters Union?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) The Fire Service offer is presently being considered by members. The offer will have no immediate effect on CSTs.

Q: Why are CSTs being asked to accept a paycut of $15-20,000 while PFU members are being offered a 15% pay increase?

A: I don’t think any of those facts are correct.

Q: Will the settlement mean increases in expenditure or reductions in funding for volunteers?

A: No and no.

(Lindsay Tisch – leave to table a union newsletter – granted.)

Question 11.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What reports has he received on the Government's initiative to encourage greater use of public transport?

A: Already figures show record growth in public transport under the new patronage scheme. Only five months after this scheme came into effect Transfund has already increased funding by several million dollars.

Q: Does he accept that this has had negligible effect on congestion in Auckland?

A: I think it will have an enormous effect over time. There is an enormous amount of money being spent on Auckland roading, but I agree it is not enough. The problem was a lack of investment under the last government.

Q: Can he confirm that the government spends more than seven times as much on new roads as it does on public transport?

A: We hope later in the year to put an even greater emphasis on passenger transport.

Question 12.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What is his response to the article in today's Independent newspaper relating to "flushing out the facts underlying a bit of bragging about his accomplishments by Employment Minister Steve Maharey"?

A: This is a useful opportunity to highlight the success of our policies to place students over summer. The record speaks for itself, Student Job Search has placed more than 28,000 people in jobs over summer.

Q: Where more than 11,000 of these jobs for less than a week?

A: There is always a mix of short term and long term job placements.

Q: Bob Simcock (National): Are jobs that last less than seven days real jobs?

A: I call these placements, not jobs. I am also willing to give the member a briefing on this. This year as part of our package to assist students we promoted an exceptional circumstances benefit. This was paid to 1700 odd students who were suffering from hardship. We are committed to the introduction of a universal student allowance but not in the first term of government. We would hope to do this in our second term in government.

(Muriel Newman - leave to table an article from the Independent Newspaper – refused.)

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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