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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 12 June

Today's questions of the day concerned: Prisoner Rehabilitation – Tax Scale Changes – Super Fund Borrowing – Yelashgate – University Funding – Teacher Training – Cancer Treatment Shortages – Elective Surgery Funding – Willie Jackson Vs The Govt – Community Initiatives – Welfare Bill Dispute – Whitianga Waterways Rehearing.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 12 June 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.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: What evidence does he have that the Government's rehabilitation programmes for prisoners are getting results?

A: No member in this house could be happy with the rates of reoffending in NZ. That is why I have asked for a report on how to reduce reoffending.

Q: How does he square his answer with the kidnapping and terrorism of a couple on June 1st by a gang member paid $90,000 by the crown in settlement of a Mangaroa Prison abuse claims?

A: If the member had been listening he would have heard me say that “some” reoffending had been reduced, and that “some” programmes were working. As for the matter the member raises, my colleague the Attorney General has had trouble clearing up the mess left by the National Government.

Question 2.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:

Q: What recent reports has he received on changes to the tax scales and what implications would they have?

A: I have seen a report from the opposition revenue spokesman saying that GST would have to be raised to 45% to compensate for losses to the revenue if a flat tax system were introduced. The effect of this would be very severe on low income earners.

Q: Annabelle Young (National): Does he agree that the paper does not suggest this is a good idea?

A: I note that the paper supports the lowering and flattening of the tax rate structure.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Has he seen a ready reckoner that says that the top 7% of earners pay 40% of all income tax?

A: The member should consider what proportion of wealth belongs to that group of people.

Q: Rod Donald (Green) Has he considered Green Party tax policy? In particular environment and resource based taxes?

A: There is a range of policy between flat tax rates and flat earth, we are somewhere in between.

Question 3.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: How does he intend funding the $7.6 billion cash shortfall required to fund the Government's investment activities out to 2005?

A: The formal domestic bond programme is only forecast for a year in advance.

Q: Can he confirm that this explanation means that the Government plans to increase debt by $3 billion over the next three years?

A: The debt to GDP ratio of the government is forecast to fall over the forecast period.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Can he explain how super will be easier to finance when this government is increasing borrowing?

A: As Finance Minister I am being far more prudent than that member was as Associate Finance Minister.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): What advice has he received that it is more prudent to borrow to fund the super programme, than to pay down debt?

A: Let me put it this way to the member. If the member has a super fund, as he does, that does not mean he doesn’t also have a mortgage.

Q: Bill English (National): Is that confirmation that Labour will borrow to put the money into the super fund.

A: No.

Question 4.

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

Q: Has she ever suggested that the leak of the agreement with Mr Yelash came from him or his lawyers; if so, why?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) My position on this matter is that the leak did not come from me.

Q: Why does she say that, when the document leaked to TV is clearly not the same document that was sent to Mr Yelash?

A: The PM has said that she did not leak it. And she has also said that she doubts anyone will admit to leaking it.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): How come then, that on the 16th of May the Attorney General said she was investigating the leak, if she doesn’t think that Yelash was the leaker?

A: My information is that the Solictor General has written to Yelash’s lawyer asking for an assurance that there was no leaking. This was required by the normal standards of duty of care imposed upon the crown when it enters into contracts.

(Winston Peters – leave to table a document – granted.)

Question 5.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: Will he be recommending to the Minister of Finance that funding for universities be increased beyond the 2.6% offer in the 2001/2002 Budget; if not, why not?

A: No. A 5.1% offer has been made to providers. They have till the 31st of August to respond.

Q: Will the Minister accept that the offer is in two parts, and that the first part was made to universities last year? And does he agree with Bryan Gould that when the offer was made last year it was also said that it was a one-off, and that the same offer would not be made the following year?

A: Yes and no.

Q: If increased fees are charged next year, will this be solely the responsibility of institutions?

A: If fees rise next year it will be because they have rejected the government offer.

Question 6.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What steps has he taken to encourage people into teaching as a career?

A: I have developed a $5 million package to encourage teachers particularly in the secondary sector, where a bulge of students is expected in coming years. This has a number of components.

Q: Will these measures be sufficient to meet demand?

A: No. We also need to ensure that teaching is seen as a rewarding profession. And therefore there will also be contract negotiations to improve conditions for teachers. There is not yet a teacher supply crisis. This is us being proactive.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Does the Minister have any idea how to stop the exodus of teachers?

A: I think the key to encouraging good teachers to stay in teaching in NZ is for the member, and others like her, to stop attacking them.

Question 7.

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

Q: Will she instruct or advise the Waikato District Health Board to reimburse a cancer patient who paid her own way to Brisbane for radiotherapy to avoid a wait of 8 to 10 weeks; if not, why not?

A: I have personally written to the patient to advise her of the criteria established by the previous government for such funding.

Q: Is she being fair and compassionate if papers show that 21 patients in Waikato have waited more than six months when clinical guidelines recommend a wait of four weeks only?

A: I find it deplorable and unacceptable that patients are waiting so long for cancer treatment. Particularly deplorable is that in April 1999 the then minister was advised that this year there would be a blowout. This government is trying to clean up a mess made by the last government four years ago.

Q: When was the government advised about this?

A: Jenny Shipley was warned in 1996. Her successors, Bill English and Wyatt Creech were also warned. This government has not cut funding for cancer services, we have increased it.

Q: Is she concerned that in her own electorate Wellington Hospital has lost one third of its radio therapists?

A: I am concerned about Rongotai, but not only Rongotai, I am concerned about all of NZ.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): What is her advice to people with cancer who cannot afford to fly to Australia?

A: My advice is that waiting times will improve as additional resources have been put into this area.

Q: What about Auckland, and papers that say that Auckland will not be funded for overseas travel for patients because of a contract dispute?

A: Whether Auckland decides to send patients to Australia or not is a decision that they make.

Question 8.

JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she received a report which indicates that the level of elective surgery was to be cut by $84 million this coming year; if so, what action has she taken as a result?

A: When Mr Sowry was Minister of Health in 1988 he was party to a decision to cut elective surgery budgets by $84 million this year. We were not prepared to allow this to happen and so we have put this money into baselines.

(Bill English – the Minister must not deliberately mislead the house about this.

Speaker – the member will withdraw and apologise.

Bill English – I withdraw and apologise.

Roger Sowry – for the Government to claim that the lack of provision for more than three years is a planned cut is stretching the truth.

Michael Cullen – the previous government could have put the funding into baselines, it didn’t.)

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Can the Minister confirm that the massive increase in elective surgery funding in 1998 came under NZ First.

A: Yes I can.

Question 9.

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: Has he seen comments from Mr Willie Jackson that "Maori issues seem to have been on a permanent back-burner with this Government" and that "You've got to wonder what those Ministers are doing in there, and that's what our people are saying."; if so, what steps does he plan to take to address those criticisms?

A: (Tariana Turia on behalf) I am well aware of the comments Mr Jackson has made, and I will talk to him about them.

Q: Does the Minister accept Mr Jackson’s statement that, with the exception of John Tamihere, you would not even know who some Labour Maori MPs were?

A: Having spent considerable time travelling around the country I am sure Maori are well aware of who we all are.

Q: John Tamihere (Labour) What are Maori actually saying?

(Speaker – the question is too wide.)

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Has Willie Jackson told the Minister personally he is on 12 months notice to improve his performance? Or is it the truth that he has proposed no performance standards, and that his statement was simply a post victory chest thumping rush of blood to the mouth?

A: I don’t have any responsibility to repeat any conversations between myself and Willie Jackson, or anyone else.

Question 10.

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

Q: What is the Government doing to promote "by community, for community" initiatives?

A: In the last week we have announced a $1.4 million investment in social service consortia in Wellington and Auckland. I want to congratulate the Pacific community and members of this house for their involvement in developing these new community social services. We have done a great deal of ground breaking work to develop “by community for community” social services. These have been well received.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): Why are appropriations to the community grants scheme reduced in the budget?

A: There was an unfortunate layout in the budget that led people to think there had been cuts. There wasn’t. In the 2000 budget there was one-off funding for the year of the volunteer.

Question 11.

SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What does the Government hope to gain by introducing a bill which seeks to deny income support to the spouses of New Zealand citizens who are lawfully in New Zealand and are eligible for permanent residency?

A: The change requiring spouses and partners of NZ citizens to have residency will close a loophole in the current law. To access NZ social security a person needs to be more than simply eligible, they need to have an actual commitment to living in NZ.

Q: What hardship will be caused by this bill?

A: The Minister of Immigration has advised me that most applications for residency are processed quickly. Where they are not processed quickly it is because of incomplete information, or concerns about the validity of the relationship involved. People already receiving benefits when the changes are made will not be affected. It will only affect new applicants.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Can the Minister advise whether he has support from the Greens or NZ First for this bill? Or is he relying on ACT support? And if so when will I receive my phone call?

A: I will ring you any time. I am sure we have sufficient support to pass this bill.

Question 12.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:

Q: How does she reconcile her decision to refer the Whitianga Waterways consent back for a rehearing, on the basis that she had no choice because the original hearing had not been able to consider the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park Act, with her decision on 28 June 2000 to grant consent to the Rodney District Council to discharge 8,000 cubic metres of sewage a day into the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park without a rehearing?

A: Yesterday the Department drew my attention to this matter. Unbelievably the renewal of the application for a discharge was originally sought in 1994. My decision in June last year was made on the basis of DOC advice. At the time the lack of a transitional provision relating to the HGMP Bill was not brought to my attention.

Q: Is she saying that her decision was illegal?

A: The legality of the Rodney application would be susceptible to judicial review. That member cannot have it both ways. He cannot say that I could have allowed the Whitianga Application through, and that the Rodney decision was illegal.

Q: Why was there no transitional provision in the HGMP Bill?

A: Because there was no provision when the bill was reported back from select committee. This matter was overlooked by the previous minister also. I am advised that a SOP for the HGMP Bill is now being considered and I am aware that the former Minister has already drawn the select committee’s attention to this.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Is there any difference in a practical sense between a renewal of an existing consent and a new permanent consent?

A: Although there may be a difference in a practical sense, in a legal sense there is no difference.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why is Rodney in the HGMP, when it is in fact nowhere near the Hauraki Gulf?

A: There was a robust consultation engaged in to determine that all local authorities knew whether they were in the HGMP or not. This was known as the Marshall Plan.

(Nick Smith - leave to table a consent – granted.

Sandra Lee – leave to table a letter from DOC – granted

Winston Peters – leave to table hansard – granted.)

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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