Today's questions of the day concerned: Community Services Card – New Prisons – Health Funding - Youth Justice Facility Location – Education Review Office – Social Services Agency Merger – Centennial Highway Accidents – Police Rapist – Good Faith Code – Security Threats To NZ – Telecomms Regulatory Changes.
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
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Does she stand by her statement that "Cabinet agreed that no person who is entitled to the community services card before 1 April 2001 should lose his or her entitlement as a consequence of the increase in the New Zealand superannuation rate."?
A: Yes. Nothing has changed.
Q: What is wrong with the card?
A: Any worker who earns more than the threshold will lose their card.
Q: Will she confirm that 48,000 low-income families are not entitled to the card. But that any superannuitant who has it already will keep it, even if they win Lotto?
Q: What savings will be made through this decision?
A: People go in and out of the card over a year. As the member knows it is very sensitive to $1 over the threshold. Therefore changes happen because of this.
Q: How many young soldiers will lose their cards because of pay rises?
A: I can’t answer that. Any person whose salary goes over the threshold loses access to the card because of the flawed system Jenny Shipley put in place.
Q: Having raised the threshold for superannuitants, can she guarantee to this house that any worker entitled to this card as of 1 April will not lose it?
A: No. The threshold is the same today as it was yesterday as it has been since last year when we increased it after three years of it remaining static under National.
KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: What support for building new regional correctional facilities has he received?
A: I am surprised that ACT’s Muriel Newman is campaigning against the Northland prison when their policies would increase the prison population by 55%. If there are 55% more prisoners then there will need to be 55% more prisons.
Q: Is there any truth to claims Corrections is looking for a new site in Northland for a prison?
A: The ACT Party seems to want truth in sentencing, but is not so keen on truth in press releases. No.
Q: What would be the affect of changing the proposed site for the prison?
A: It would be a waste of time and money. It would also probably lead to someone else trying to oppose the new location in an opportunist fashion. I am not happy to be building more prisons. However I can confirm I have built more prisons than any earlier minister.
Q: What about serious cultural issues relating to the Ngawha site?
A: Those will be addressed by the environment court. I have made no provision for an alternative site.
Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Can she give an assurance that district health boards will not cut services following any funding announcements for district health boards in the forthcoming Budget?
A: Announcements on DHB funding will be made as part of the budget. The member will have to wait till the 23rd of May.
Q: What about Warren Young’s statement from Lower Hutt saying their may be a reduction in services?
A: I suggest the member wait for the budget.
Q: Has any indication been given of fiscal parameters.
A: This government has made no secret of its funding intentions. Where National promised $150 odd million we have promised to increase health spending by $400 million over the three year cycle. A number of boards face deficits this year. This is however nothing new. When Roger Sowry was Minister the deficit reached $185 million.
Q: Does she consider consultation with the public is necessary to decide what to cut?
A: The public now know exactly what is going on in the health sector as a result of changes made by us.
Q: Roger Sowry (National): When will NZers receive extra services paid for by their extra taxes?
A: We put in an extra 6% into hospitals this year.
Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): What about claims from DHBs that they need a 3% rise in funds just to stand still?
A: I suggest the member wait for the budget. And also to see work done by DHBs to cut out useless waste in services through duplication.
MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:
Q: What reports has he received on changes to the company tax rate since 1990?
A: There have been no changes to the rate since 1990.
Q: When was the rate set at 33 cents?
A: That was set by the Labour 1987-1990 government and not changed by the National Government in ten years. I am not keen on cutting tax rates whenever business confidence goes down. Business confidence goes up and down every three months.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Has he looked at the Irish experience where the company tax rate is 12.5%.
A: The Irish intervened very heavily in the economy and provided lots of support for industry. They in fact did many things that would be contrary to ACT policy.
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: Who decided that the proposed new youth justice facility should be built at Mandeville instead of the previously selected site at Paparua, and what were the reasons for the change?
A: No decision has been taken to build at Mandeville. We are engaged in a consultation phase in relation to that site.
Q: Who decided not to build at Paparua. And is the project manager correct in saying that it was the Minister that interfered.
A: As I said there has been no decision on the Mandeville site. Of course as Minister I asked for that site to be investigated and for consultation to be undertaken.
Q: Were any plans made to build a facility in Jenny Shipley’s electorate?
A: Yes I understand that Roger Sowry had to backtrack on some plans to do exactly that.
Q: Why has land been purchased at Mandeville? And why was there a confidentiality clause involved in this?
A: We find a site. We then announce our intention to consult. No decision is made until consultation is complete. As the member knows the sale is not yet unconditional.
Q: What is the timeframe for the consultation?
A: We have been consulting since early April. We plan to finish this on May 26th.
Q: Has land been purchased or not?
A: We have not gone unconditional on the property at this stage.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Can the minister confirm that two sites were identified in the Rakaia electorate – which the Member for Rakaia is happy with? And why then did he Minister move to Mandeville. And why did he sneak into the electorate with the local member?
A: I can confirm that Jenny Shipley blocked an option on a former Air Force base. Maybe she has now changed her mind because she lives in Auckland.
(Roger Sowry – The Minister is being economical with the truth. There were three sites in the Rakaia electorate, two of which the member and local authority were happy with.)
Q: Why didn’t he consult with Clayton Cosgrove on this?
A: We did consult him. However unfortunately during the lead up he was in the USA.
HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: When will the Government provide a formal response to the Rodger report on the Education Review Office?
A: Today, I can report that cabinet was very happy with the thrust of the main report.
Q: When will changes be made?
A: Some have been adopted immediately. One of which is that there will be a two week delay between the release of reports to schools and their release to the public.
Q: When will there be more funding for ERO?
A: In the last budget there was a significant increase in funding for ERO over a five to six year period. Cabinet has also agreed to other recommendations which require further work, one of which is how to implement an assess and assist model. This is one recommendation that I was very supportive of. The process of moving to assisting schools will be gradual. This was a very cheap report. It was commissioned from a group that is not into big spending. While there was no recommendation to bring ERO back into the Ministry of Education there were lots of good recommendations.
Q: What new directions have been provided in the $178,000 report that were not contained in the Austin Report?
A: If the member wishes I can provide him with the two reports and he can see the differences. There was an additional issue considered in the report about being stand-alone or not. This was not addressed in the Austin Report.
Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:
Q: In light of the fact that written evidence released under the Official Information Act on the merging of the Ministry of Social Policy and the Department of Work and Income shows that the possibility of a merger was first raised by the Prime Minister in her request to the State Services Commissioner for his views on their possible amalgamation, on what exact date and in what way did the Prime Minister make this request?
A: Almost none of the assertions in the question are accurate. The issue was not first raised by the PM. It was raised inter-alia by lots of us over many years.
Q: Why are most details of the merger being released but not those early views from the PM?
A: Ministers have been talking about overcoming fragmentation in the public service for years. I asked for the PM to be supplied with a briefing on this. As State Services Minister my objection is to reduce fragmentation and enhance communication in the public service.
Q: On what date was he informed of the potential for legal action by Christine Rankin?
A: I want to take some care with this answer as there is a court case relating to this. From memory the potential for legal action was raised in late 1999 or early 2000.
(Richard Prebble – It is clear from the answer that the Minister is not aware he can answer a question about a judicial matter. The PM has not answered several questions too.
Muriel Newman – leave to table letter of 18th of December to the PM from the SSC – refused.)
Hon PETER DUNNE (United Future NZ) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:
Q: What action has he taken, subsequent to the release of the Wellington Coroner's report into accidents on State Highway One between Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki, to ensure the Transmission Gully Highway is constructed?
A: The Government has been reviewing roading policy for some time. Transit has begun purchasing properties for ecological mitigation on the Transmission Gully route. 13 of the 62 properties needed to be purchased have been. We are not sitting on our hands. Some work has already been done on this dangerous stretch of road and more work is planned.
Q: Should we believe the MP for Mana or the Minister on this?
A: The member should listen to the comments from the people involved, not what she reads in the newspaper.
Q: What about the environmental effects of this project?
A: There are considerable environmental impacts from this project. We are doing a number of things about this problem.
Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:
Q: Will he ask the Commissioner of Police to use his powers under section 32 of the Police Act 1958 to suspend without pay convicted rapist Colin McLean, rather than continue paying him $1,000 a week salary pending the resolution of any appeal; if not, why not?
A: At my meeting with the Commissioner on Monday I asked him to explore all avenues. I can inform the house that the Commissioner has used his powers under section 32 of the Act.
Q: Why won’t McLean be dismissed?
A: On Monday the 30th April papers were served on Colin McLean under section 32 of the Police Act.
Q: Can the Minister confirm that the Commissioner has had 17 months to deal with this.
A: On April 30th I told the Commissioner to get on with this.
Q: Why did the Minister tell TV last night that section 32 could not be used?
A: No amount of finger-pointing from that member will make any difference to this case.
(Tony Ryall – leave to table a transcript from the Minister, and an employment tribunal ruling – granted.)
GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: What progress has been made in establishing a Code of Good Faith to guide those in employment relationships under the Employment Relations Act?
A: Since October the interim code has been under active review. The review has been completed and a recommendation has been made to keep the code as is. I have followed that advice.
Q: What about advice from MAF that they have had problems?
A: That dispute was not under the Employment Relations Act and was not subject to those provisions.
Q: Is their scope to amend the code of good faith in the future?
A: Yes. I have asked the DOL to monitor cases in this area of the law.
Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: What evidence can she point to that New Zealand faces an "incredibly benign strategic environment", as she stated on the Face the Nation programme on 5 April 2001?
A: Extensive official advice.
Q: Then how can she square her position with the Australian Defence Minister Peter Reith who says that things are not rosy and benign in the way that NZ believes?
A: This is an area in which we have long disagreed with the Australians. Unlike the previous government we will not be reducing defence spending. But there is no evidence that spending 100s of millions more is necessary.
Q: Owen Jennings (ACT) Could the reason the Australians have a different view be that they have access to better intelligence than we do?
A: Were the member a follower of these issues he would be well aware that NZ’s intelligence relationship with the USA is a close one.
Q: When will she realise she is in cloud cookoo land?
A: I can quote from the EAB assessment that looks five years ahead which says that NZ is, “not directly threatened by any country and is not likely to be involved in armed conflict with anyone in that five year period.” This Labour Alliance government is going to make foreign and defence decisions for itself here in NZ.
(Max Bradford – leave to table a newspaper article and an article by Colin James - granted.)
DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Communications Paul Swain:
Q: What changes are being proposed to the telecommunications regulatory environment in New Zealand?
A: The Telecommunications Bill introduced today is a major step forward. Changes include a new commissioner, robust dispute resolution procedures, and number portability.
Q: Why are changes being made?
A: Because consumers could be getting a better deal.
Q: What protections will the Minister introduce to ensure rural users have services?
A: We have negotiated an upgrade in the Kiwishare obligations with Telecom.
Q: What about local loop unbundling?
A: The question was a key decision that had to be made. I am still convinced that it is not the right thing to do at this time.