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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 5 April

Today's questions of the day concerned: Historic Places Trust Confidences – Community Social Services – Win Win Agreement’s With Oz – School Trustee Eligibility – Auckland Cancer Treatment – Phil Goff In D.C. – Gisborne Cancer Inquiry Report – Compliance Costs For Business – DHB Funding – Sustainable Farming Fund – ANZFA Changes – Waterfront Mediation – Electricity Industry Bill.

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 5 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.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Judith Tizard:

Q: Has the Historic Places Trust had its lawyers write to an ex-employee, threatening legal action if she breached confidentiality; if so, how does she reconcile this with her statement that the confidentiality clause was "there to protect the employees"?

A: No.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Can she confirm that the HPT Chairwoman Cath Tizard breached the confidentiality clause as reported in NBR?

A: No. The trust’s lawyers have written asking parties whether they have breached the confidentiality agreement. This is because I have asked the trust to find out from parties whether the confidentiality agreement has been breached.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Will she give an assurance that there will be no legal action taken against this employee if she discloses the sum involved in the settlement?

A: The agreement says that the sums will remain confidential. This is an agreement between the HPT and the employee. I cannot give assurances on the HPT’s behalf.

Question 2.

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

Q: How will the Government be involving local people in decisions regarding the delivery of community social services?

A: On Saturday I will be launching the Stronger Community Action Fund. This pilot reflects the government desire to work in partnership with communities.

Q: How does this fit in with other initiatives?

A: Quotes from a letter from an Iwi representative, “this is as close to pure community development as anything I have seen.” Auckland City also likes the scheme. This is a major shift in the way we do things.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Is the increase in long term Pacific Island unemployed a sign of failure?

A: I have told the member before that unemployment is falling.

(Newman – leave to table figures – granted.)

Question 3.

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

Q: Does she stand by her description of the social security agreement with Australia as a "win-win" for both countries?

A: Absolutely.

Q: What is her response then to Dr Bob Burrell who says NZ is going to lose the best and brightest to Australia.

A: My response is to say that NZ was under great pressure to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to Australia. We are going to keep that and spend it on Kiwis at home.

Q: When did negotiations on this agreement begin?

A: In August 1999 when Mrs Shipley agreed with Mr Howard to have a thorough review. The Australian position has not changed since then. After reading the article I conclude that the problem was caused by the botched points system introduced by Australia in 1991. Net movement from NZ to Australia doubled under the last government because the last government did nothing about development at home.

Q: Is the $100 million in savings net or gross?

A: I thought the estimate was quite modest. The member ought to be well aware that Australia spends close to $1 billion on social security in Australia.

Question 4.

Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Is a person who has been bankrupt ineligible to serve as a member of a school Board of Trustees, yet a convicted child sex offender may do so; if so, why?

A: (Steve Maharey on behalf) There is indeed an anomaly in the law that allows sex offenders but not bankrupts to sit on school boards. I am working to fix this.

Q: Is the minister being casual about this?

A: No. I have asked for advice from the Ministry of Education within the next two weeks. Changes may be included in the Education Amendment (No. 2) Bill. While teachers in state schools must undergo police checks other school staff do not have to undergo checks. We are working to change this too. The safety of children is paramount.

Q: Is he aware of any sex crime offenders being elected in this round of elections?

A: No I am not. But can I assure the member that we are working to insure that we do know whether that is the case.

Question 5.

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

Q: Is it correct that the Auckland District Health Board is going to cut cancer treatment services at Auckland Hospital; if so, what assurances can she give to Auckland cancer patients that they will be treated within clinical guidelines?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Auckland Hospital does not have sufficient radiologists to operate all its equipment. To ensure public safety a decision has been made to close one linear accelerator.

Q: What is she doing about it?

A: The previous government was warned as early as 1996 that there was a problem. In April 1999 Wyatt Creech was told there was a serious problem. We have done lots to try and fix this shortage. The Auckland DHB has been working with the Minister of Immigration to get visas for overseas trained staff to operate equipment.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Given more than half of all cancer patients nationwide are waiting too long for treatment, does he agree there is a major crisis here?

A: A shortage of Oncologists is not the problem, a shortage of radiation therapists is the problem, we cannot produce these people out of a hat.

Q: Will the Minister pay to send patients to Australia?

A: I am advised that we are flying therapists in, and that that will be a more effective way of dealing with the problem.

Question 6.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Who did he meet during his visit to Washington D.C. this week and what were the key issues in his discussions?

A: I met with Secretary of State Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage. I also met representatives from the DOD and the NSC, as well as Congress and Senate members. We discussed lots of stuff. The meetings without exception were positive, and in response to interjections, were not short. The meeting with Colin Powell ran to twice the allocated time. The fact all meetings ran beyond time was an indication of how seriously this government was taken.

Q: John Luxton (National): What progress was made on the Free Trade Agreement with the US?

A: At most of the meetings I registered NZ’s interests in a closer economic partnership with the US. The response was very positive. My colleague the Minister of Trade Negotiations will be going to D.C. in a fortnight.

Q: What did he say about Kyoto?

A: I emphasised our concerns about the withdrawal from Kyoto of the US. And I emphasised the importance of this to our small Pacific neighbours.

Q: Did he explain to Colin why we didn’t want the F16s?

A: I did walk through the changes in defence policy in NZ with Colin Powell. He was impressed that we are not cutting defence spending. And he was impressed with the emphasis on the army.

Q: Did he raise the issue of the US Veto in the UN Security Council against sending a peace keeping force to Israel?

A: No. We did discuss Iraq however. And Israel in general. I noted also that the US is shifting towards New Zealand’s views on establishing a smart sanctions policy against Iraq.

Question 7.

Rt Hon WYATT CREECH (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she or the Ministry of Health received a draft or final copy of the report of the ministerial inquiry into the under-reporting of cervical smear abnormalities in the Gisborne region; if so, when was it received?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Yes. At 7.59am this morning. It was immediately forwarded to the printers for printing, in advance of the planned release in Gisborne on 10th of April.

Q: Why is the Ministry of Health getting five days to formulate its response when other parties are only getting two days?

A: The Minister is holding a meeting at midday next week where she will deliver the report directly to the women affected.

Q: Will there be any editing of the report?

A: As I said the report was sent immediately to the printers upon receipt. The report cannot be released until it is printed, it is also desirable that the Minister have time to read it before its release.

Question 8.

RUTH DYSON (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: Why is the Government seeking private sector help in its attempts to reduce compliance costs for business?

A: The government is keen to involve the private sector in its plans to reduce compliance costs. We have appointed a panel made up of several business people. The panel will report back by June 30th.

Q: What assurances has the panel received from government?

A: I have told the panel that we are committed to actively addressing their recommendations, whatever they are. In addition to the panel’s work from now on each piece of legislation and regulation will be accompanied by a public report on compliance cost impacts.

Q: Why then has the government increased compliance costs so much?

A: I have said to the panel that if they have problems with the Employment Relations Act then they should present them to me.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Are there any excessive compliance costs contained in statutes? If so what are they?

A: There are a wide range of them. I have said to the panel that they should come back with anything they want and we will consider them seriously.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Is it ironic that the first thing the panel has done is send out a seven page questionaire, thereby increasing compliance costs?

A: We like to have real information on which to base our decisions, and we do not support pyramid selling, unlike the ACT Party.

Question 9.

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

Q: Would a 0.5 percent increase in public hospital funding for the upcoming 2001-02 financial year represent a funding cut in real terms?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) The figure the member is using is incorrect. The real figure is a budget secret and will remain so.

Q: What does he say to the ASMS who say that the Government is about to make a fool of itself?

A: My advice to them would be not to listen to the National Party about the likely increase in funding.

Q: Will the minister confirm that funding increases to hospitals will be above the inflation rate?

A: What I can confirm is that the figure is not 0.5%.

Question 10.

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

Q: What progress has been made to date with the sustainable farming fund?

A: The second round of funding has closed, again over subscribed. There were applications for close to $39 million in funding, roughly 4 times the funding available. The quality of the applications is high. I am delighted this government can help rural communities.

Q: John Wright (Alliance): Why isn’t more money available?

A: From small things big things grow. I am sure we will retain the quality of the projects. And as the programme proves itself I am sure more funding will be made available.

Q: Gerard Eckhoff (ACT): What is the difference between unsustainable farming practice and sustainable farming practice?

A: I do not believe there is a future in farming Kiwis as he has advocated?

Question 11.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Will the House have the opportunity to debate and vote on proposed changes to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority, which would create a new structure for the regulation of New Zealand food; if not, why not?

A: Negotiations are continuing with the Australian Government. If legislation is required then that will be debated in the house.

Q: Will she guarantee that NZ will not lose sovereignty over its food supply?

A: Sovereignty also lies in the exercise of the royal prerogative.

Q: Has the Green Party assured the government it will comply with recommendations of the Royal Commission on GE?

A: I assume the Green Party will respond once the recommendations have been made, not before.

Q: Is the Minister considering whether food regulation will be sent to Select Committees?

A: I would be surprised if the part played by Parliament in these matters is reduced.

Question 12.

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: When she told the House on 3 April that the mediator's draft report had been distributed to the parties for their input, did both the Amalgamated Stevedores Union (ASU) and the Waterfront Workers Union (WWU) receive a copy of the report, or just the Waterfront Workers Union?

A: My understanding is that a copy of the report was sent to Mainland Stevedoring. My understanding is that Mainland Stevedoring has been sharing all its written information with the Amalgamated Stevedores Union. The mediator has twice tried to contact the ASU, and failed, he has now sent it a report.

Q: Why was the ASU forced to come uninvited to mediation proceedings?

A: My understanding is that the ASU has been involved all the way through. But that written communication has been sent via the lawyers whom the ASU and Mainland Stevedoring share. My understanding is that the ASU has played a positive role in mediation proceedings.

Q: Is she confident the mediation report will resolve the issue?

A: The mediator cannot impose solutions. The report is looking for ways forward for both parties to follow.

Q: What will she do to dispel the perception that the WWU is receiving favourable treatment because it is a Labour Party affiliate?

A: I am confident the ASU has been treated fairly.

(Lockwood Smith – leave to table January newsletter of the WWU – granted.)

Questions to Members:

Question 1.

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

Q: When do submissions close on the Electricity Industry Bill?

A: The committee set a closing date of 14 February 2001 for this bill.

Q: Is the chair willing to re-advertise this bill for submissions given the adverse affects on land owners.

A: No. We have however received some late submissions. In total we have received 82 submissions on this bill.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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