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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - 4 April

Today's questions of the day concerned: Employers On The ERA – Derek Quigley And Defence – GE Seed Contamination – Veterans And Agent Orange – Community Employment Creation – Broadcasting Taxation – Public Sector Summit – Human Rights Commissioner – Bush And Climate Change – NCEA – Police Association Criticism , Constable Gower – Early Childhood Funding Cuts – Electricity Industry Bill

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 04 April 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.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Has she received any reports about the opinion of employers on the success of the Employment Relations Act 2000?

A: Yes I have received an assessment of the Act by the Employers and Manufacturers Association. It says the ERA has earned a pass mark in spite of dire predictions.

Q: Does the EMA also identify problems in the Act.

A: Yes. The EMA gave a balanced report. They said there was still uncertainty about the dependent contractor provisions. They also expressed concerns about union access to workplaces. The EMA also says that events on the wharves have nothing to do with the ERA.

Q: Does she consider it a success that the police have to spend $830,000 defending Mainland Stevedores from the Waterfront Workers Union?

A: As I said earlier, the events on the wharf have nothing to do with the operation of the Act. Rather they relate to a longstanding dispute that we are attempting to address.

Question 2.

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

Q: Does she stand by her comment that her Government’s defence policy has “learnt a great deal” from the defence review chaired by Hon Derek Quigley; if so, why has she failed to act on its recommendation to “consider ways to enable more effective public participation in the formulation and administration of defence and security policy”?

A: Yes, and our government has made available an unprecedented amount of material compared to that member’s secretive government.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): When will she take Mr Quigley’s advice that politics should be put aside in this debate?

A: As soon as the Leader of the Opposition will accept Mr Quigley’s advice that warfare has moved on so far in recent times that the idea of a balanced force has also moved on.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): How significant is the fact that the A4s have never been used in combat?

A: Of course that sentence is significant.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Why did the government not take on the advice that they should not buy 105 LAVs all at once?

A: This government has deliberately opted for an in depth approach, and we needed enough equipment for training and for deployment.

Question 3.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: Can she reassure New Zealand farmers that they will not be held legally liable for accidental contamination of their seeds by genetically engineered pollen, as happened to Percy Schmeiser in Canada last week; if not, why not?

(Question deferred for a while… following an objection from ACT’s Gerard Eckhoff.

LATER: Speaker – the question is ruled out of order due to a lack of ministerial responsibility.)

Question 4.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she stand by her election year speech to the New Zealand Returned Services Association National Council, in which she stated that “The basic principle must be that the State accepts responsibility for damage done as a result of active service to the health of veterans and their families.”, and that, in relation to Agent Orange, “the State should err on the side of generosity”; if so, what will she do for the families of the likes of Vietnam veteran Evan McKenzie?

A: I stand by that statement. I believe Vietnam vets should be treated well, and I have asked that more progress be made for them.

Q: Why are we waiting when Australia has already done the research and developed the programmes?

A: I am not satisfied with the progress being made on this issue. I would be happy to receive a delegation from the veterans. My understanding is that we are looking at the restriction on part time work for veterans. We are also looking at widening access to free healthcare.

Q: What qualities does the Minister of Veterans Affairs have to deal with this, given that he refuses to discuss these matters on TV?

A: Mr Burton’s concern would have been not to get involved in discussing an individual’s circumstances.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Does the PM recall National reneging on an agreement regarding Operation Grapple veterans? And does she recall the progress made on Agent Orange? And is ACT simply headline hunting?

A: I have no quarrel with Winston Peter’s recollection of these matters.

Question 5.

TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to encourage employment creation and community development through community enterprises?

A: The government decided in Budget 2000 to fund community employment organisations, CEOs. These are expected to create new employment in their communities.

Q: How many CEOs are there? And what are they doing?

A: There are currently six in place, six being assessed and 35 in development. In one example a trust is planning to install energy efficiency measures in low income housing. Another CEO is planning a web design business. Last week I launched Artworks in Auckland. That is designed to develop work in arts related industries.

Q: Why are there thousands of employers having difficulties finding staff? And is Labour soft of beneficiaries?

A: We have enabled a seemless approach to moving on and off the benefit in areas where there is seasonal work. This has been applauded by employers.

Question 6.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:

Q: In addition to new taxes on videos and cinema tickets and new levies on commercial broadcasters’ revenue, what other tax mechanisms is she considering or has she considered to fund the Government’s broadcasting policy?

A: The government has rejected the imposition of new taxes to fund broadcasting.

Q: What is the purpose of the permanent legislative authority for broadcasting funding?

A: In opposition we were concerned that broadcasting funding was not ring-fenced, and that there was a risk of political interference with the fourth estate. We are continuing to look at ways to deal with this.

Q: Since the Minister has rejected all suggestions for raising funding, how does she intend to pay for a policy that will cost up to $100 million?

A: All costs from all sources are guesstimates. There are many variables. We will introduce the policies in such a way that costs are manageable.

Question 7.

DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: Did Ministers meet with departmental chief executives and the Public Service Association in a tripartite forum yesterday; if so, why?

A: Yes. I met with CEOs and the PSA yesterday. This involved myself, six CEOs and the PSA. It represents a new future for the PSA. The aim of these fora is to enable sustained dialogue in the public service. At yesterday’s meeting for example we discussed public service careers.

Q: How does this fit with the State Sector Standards Board Report?

A: These fora are a practical example of the implementation of recommendations in the report.

Question 8.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:

Q: What consultation took place with Opposition parties over the appointment of the Chief Human Rights Commissioner and the Race Relations Conciliator?

A: On Thursday the 28th of March I wrote to all party leaders. The letter said that because of a review the appointment was to be limited to 31st of March 2002.

Q: Are these all party activists in positions that should represent moderate NZ values?

A: No.

Q: How can she claim to have consulted?

A: I followed the normal processes of consultation that have been followed in the past. I followed what was required in the Cabinet manual.

Q: Does previous political activity preclude people from being appointed? How did Pamela Jefferies get appointed?

A: Previous political activity does not preclude people from appointments. People appointed need to have direct understanding of the issues involved. All the appointees do.

Q: How does her letter constitute consultation?

A: My advice is that that is the form that was used in the past and that is what I followed this time.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): Noting that Helen Clark approved of Pamela Jefferies in advance of Cabinet consideration, how genuine is her consultation given that Audrey Young in the NZ Herald reported the appointment a week before we were notified?

A: My understanding is that in the past Cabinet had followed the same procedures that I followed.

(Tony Ryall – leave to table a letter sent to the opposition four days before Cabinet even considered an appointment – granted.)

Question 9.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:

Q: Which nations have so far come out in support of the announcement from President Bush last week that the United States does not intend to ratify the Kyoto Protocol?

A: No other nations, Western or not Western, have expressed support of the US views.

Q: Have our views been made clear in Washington?

A: Indeed they have, by Phil Goff during his recent visit to Washington.

Q: Pansy Wong (National): Would the minister consider adopting permanent daylight saving hours to save energy?

A: Daylight saving by itself will not save the world. In a phone call today we have been told by the US that a review is underway by the US cabinet to determine what participation there will be by the US in future international negotiations.

Q: What about Australia?

A: The ability of the Western world to come within the Kyoto Protocol guidelines will require new technologies. NZ expects to take part in this, and for our participation to be part of NZ’s economic transformation.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Can the Minister assure us that the mild-mannered criticism of the US from Phil Goff on the Kyoto Protocol decision was not tempered by aspirations by this government for a US free trade agreement?

A: I can.

Question 10.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Does he agree that under the National Certificate of Educational Achievement the achievement standards of credit, merit or excellence are too vague?

A: I do not consider the standards based reporting as too vague. It was good enough for Wyatt Creech and it is good enough for me now.

Q: What about this report is not vague?

A: We had a question like this yesterday. I tried then to explain to the member that there are (displayed remarkable mental arithmetic) 262,144 possibilities under this grading system. This is not vague.

Q: Will the minister table his sums?

A: I am quite happy to do so, but there are no sums.

Q: Does assessment drive curriculum and is the National spokesman missing the point?

A: Yes.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Is the Minister as confused as I am about his “magic with mathematics” grading system?

A: The member appears to have things around the wrong way.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Given how many schools are introducing other examination systems, does he accept that the NCEA is seriously flawed?

A: At least two of the examination systems he is talking about are already offered in NZ. I would have thought the member would be more up to date than he is.

Question 11.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Has he been asked to apologise in relation to comments he made in Parliament about award-winning Senior Constable John Gower of Te Rapa?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) Yes.

Q: Did the Minister play any part in getting Clayton Cosgrove to ask his question? And will he apologise?

A: I was asked to apologise for doing something I did not do. I am pleased to report that burglary figures decreased by 20% in 2000 in the Waikato, and car thefts also fell in the Waikato. I thank the Waikato District Commander and his team for their good work.

Q: Did he play a part in Clayton Cosgrove’s question? Yes or no?

A: I received a written question. The answer I gave was correct. As a Minister I am required to answer written questions.

Question 12.

ANNE TOLLEY (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Did he consult with the working party developing the long-term plan for early childhood education before his announcement yesterday of cuts to the funding for Parents as First Teachers; if not, why not?

A: No. I was placed in a position because the previous government had not funded the HIPPY programme on an ongoing basis. I moved funding around to keep HIPPY going. A small amount of money has been moved from the Parents as First Teachers programme to keep the HIPPY programme alive. Her government made the HIPPY programme limited life. We increased funding for parenting and I am focussing funding on successful schemes. Some of the money I took to fund HIPPY was not being used where it was.

QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS

Question 1.

PENNY WEBSTER (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Commerce Committee David Cunliffe:

Q: When will the Electricity Industry Bill be reported back to the House?

A: It is due to be reported back on or before 15 May 2001.

Q: Did he authorise an official to release a submission to a party before it had been considered?

A: Matters to do with privilege concerning a committee remain privileged to that committee during its deliberations.

Q: Was proper advice sought by the Chairman before he dealt with this complaint?

A: I repeat. Matters discussed under privilege remain confidential until the committee has reported back.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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