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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 26 June

Today's questions of the day concerned: Steve Maharey On Christine Rankin – Jobs Outlook – NZ Post Board Stoush – NCEA – Digital Divide In Schools – Ken Douglas On Kiwi Bank – TVNZ – Ben Smart And Olivia Hope – Passenger Services Rail Sale – Witness Relocation – Auckland DHB Resignation – Pacific People’s Road Safety.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 26 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.


Question 1.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What steps has he taken to implement the Prime Minister's commitment that her Government "will set new standards - both in terms of behaviour and performance"?

A: Many. One thing I would not do however is have a dinner conversation with Kevin Roberts and then deny it.

Q: Would blatant sexism and victimisation of people he is responsible for meet these standards?

A: The member is raising issues related to a court case and I will not be commenting on that. I will say however that there are two sides to every story, and she should wait and hear the other side. This PM expects delivery from her ministers and she gets it. She expects a commitment to public service and she gets that.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is he able to give the house an assurance that in his personal conduct he has never engaged in blatant sexism?

A: Yes.

Q: Jenny Shipley (Natioanl): If he is found to have fallen short of the PMs standards, will he resign, or will he be fired?

A: Following the members example I will be here for some time.

Question 2.

JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on the outlook for the job market?

A: More good news. Yesterday I spoke at the release of the TMP survey report. It records record high levels of optimism in businesses for taking on new staff. The trend is more important than the level and this is the sixth successive survey to report an increase in employment intentions.

Q: John Luxton (National) How are the minister’s own job prospects looking?

A: Very good.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): What about long term unemployed people? People with no IT experience?

A: We are helping these people in a variety of ways. The Minister of Education is introducing digital divide initiatives into schools.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Is it government policy to offer departmental CEOs job references and monthly outings, provided they go to Australia?

A: The Government doesn’t employ departmental CEOs the State Services Commissioner does. Perhaps she would like to ask him.

Question 3.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: Did the chair of New Zealand Post, Dr Ross Armstrong, follow appropriate procedures in conveying allegations of serious misconduct against his deputy chair, Mr Syd Bradley, to the Minister prior to raising those matters with Mr Bradley himself?

A: Dr Armstrong raised his concerns with me. I advised him of the appropriate response.

Q: Should an open public feud on an SOE board be ignored, as he ignored an SOE advertising for a Government member?

A: I am not ignoring this. I am paying attention to it. I am advised that an independent fact finding exercise has been agreed to by the board and that Mr Bradley has agreed to absent himself from discussions on the South Africa contract.

Q: What about Ken Douglas?

A: I am confident that this board can use its considerable abilities for the benefit of itself and the nation.

Q: When would he sack Ross Armstrong?

A: I would sack him if I felt he could not meet his responsibilities.

Question 4.

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

Q: What are the minimum proportions of external assessment for subjects per year level and for the total system under the National Certificate of Educational Achievement?

A: There are no set proportions of external assessment for each year and each subject. However the government has committed itself to a 60% external 40% internal assessment split for NCEA overall.

Q: How does this compare with the current system?

A: The NCEA has an average of 67% external assessment compared to around 40% in the current system. Schools recognise this and welcome it.

Q: How will he overcome the finding in a recent NZQA circular that 54% of internal assessments for School Certificate were too high, and 14% too low last year?

A: With training.

Q: What about NCEA fees?

A: I haven’t seen any proposals on that yet.

Question 5.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What steps has he taken to help to bridge the digital divide in schools?

A: Back in February the PM launched a series of partnerships with industry. One of these projects involved getting notebook computers to senior students in the Hutt Valley. Today students in two Wainui schools received their notebooks.

Q: Has he seen any other reports on laptops?

A: I have seen a report that their should be a laptop tucked under every students arm. The idea was Gerry Brownlee’s and lasted about as long as Jenny Shipley’s leadership is likely to.

Q: Is he concerned about students who do not live in his own electorate?

A: The criteria for this scheme were quite clear. Low decile schools that were able to hook up to the telco provider, and they are not all in my electorate. It is not government policy for all surplus government computers to be donated to schools, but there is a general policy to head in that direction. From memory around 1700 computers have been passed on to schools so far this year.

Question 6.

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: Has he seen the statement by Mr Ken Douglas, a director of New Zealand Post Ltd, that "If I was a politician and looking at this question, I don't think I would have made the decision to invest in banking, because there's already a pretty saturated market."; if so, has he enquired as to whether other directors of New Zealand Post Ltd have such serious doubts about plans to proceed with the People's Bank?

A: Yes and no.

Q: Why is the government pouring $80 million into the people’s bank when Ken Douglas can’t see the need for it?

A: This was a decision properly made by the board and is one that can continue to be debated by the board of NZ Post. In the paragraph before this in the newspaper report quoted from by the member Mr Douglas said there was a business case but not a political case for a bank.

Q: What about internal board civil warfare?

A: I continue to be convinced that the board of NZ Post can put their considerable expertise to use around the board table.

Question 7.

MITA RIRINUI (Labour) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:

Q: Why has the Government decided to re-establish TVNZ as a Crown-owned company?

A: The crown company model is the most appropriate for a state broadcaster. It allows it to have mixed objectives. SOEs can only have commercial objectives. For this government the value of TVNZ is not only in what appears on the balance sheet, but also through what it delivers on the screen. I am certain that this legislation will protect editorial integrity and independence.

Q: Given the challenges to funding this government faces why is she turning TVNZ into a burden on the taxpayer?

A: Because, Mr Speaker, I believe in public broadcasting.

Q: Will there be no implicit or explicit directives from her to TVNZ on programming. And if so why did she comment on several programs in the paper this morning?

A: The member might like to refer to sections 11 to 13 of the Radio New Zealand Act.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Would it be preferable to allow TVNZ to keep its BCL profits? And not pay a dividend?

A: I would remind that member that this government has increased NZ on Air funding for the past two years.

Question 8.

Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Does he stand by his reported comment that he wanted a further police search for two mystery objects which could be the bodies of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope, found in the Tory Channel last year in a Navy sonar search; if not, why not?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) In response to an article in the Evening Post last Friday I said it was important to recover what was on the seabed for the sake of the family. I was later advised by the navy that there was no evidence the bodies were there. In addition a private search also failed to find anything.

Q: Does the minister accept that the time delay means a new comprehensive search is now needed?

A: The member should be aware that at the time the sonar search was conducted, it was already two and a half years after the teenagers went missing.

Q: What is Inspector Rob Pope saying now?

A: He says that professionally he agrees with the decision not to go ahead with the search.

Q: If the police won’t fund this. Will the government help the government end the nightmare for these families?

A: The police do not regard costs as the primary obstacle . The police have already spent $5.7 million on this case. The reason the police have decided against a further search is that three years after they went missing they do not expect to find any more evidence.

(Phil Goff – leave to table documents from the navy and police – granted.

Tony Ryall – leave to table a report – refused.)

Question 9.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What action does the Government intend to take to ensure that passenger rail services are maintained for communities such as Invercargill, Dunedin, Oamaru, Ashburton, Napier and other centres on those lines, given its strong commitment to tourism, regional development and keeping commuter rail services for Auckland and Wellington?

A: While the future of these and other rail lines have not been confirmed we do want to see rail services continued. All regional councils can seek Transfund funding for rail services. The government’s current priority is an Auckland deal. Any announcements this afternoon from Tranz Rail will be monitored by the government.

Q: Does he agree that progress is slow in Auckland?

A: We haven’t failed to conclude a deal. We are still negotiating.

Q: Jim Anderton (Alliance): Can he confirm that an integrated rail policy is being developed for NZ by the MED and Ministry of Transport?

A: Yes I can.

Q: Have the Greens threatened to withdraw confidence and supply?

A: The parties that make up this government do not behave that way.

Q: Rod Donald (Green) Have their been any discussions with Tranz Rail on taking over the whole network?

A: The priority at the moment has been the Auckland deal. Other issues are neither on nor off the table.

Question 10.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Were Ms Deborah Te Pania and her children relocated to Australia with the assistance of taxpayers' funds; if so, does this case raise any policy concerns?

A: I have had no contact with Ms Te Pania. Her mother contacted me for some advice about her safety. She was referred to the NZ police and Corrections.

Q: Can the minister confirm that this family was helped to flee NZ because a serious offender who was threatening to kill her and her family was released early? And then convicted of threatening to kill but given a suspended sentence? And how has this innocent family received justice?

A: Each of the areas he has asked about are outside my area of responsibility. The information he seeks is not the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice. The judicial decisions he criticises are outside the control of any minister. Under the Crimes Act it is an offence to threaten to kill punishable by a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Question 11.

Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What is her response to comments made by Dr Sven Hansen that he had resigned as a director of the Auckland District Health Board because "almost incomprehensible" funding cuts to the health sector would eventually reduce services and staff and would put patients at risk?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) If Dr Hansen found the extra $330 million for health in this year’s budget “almost incomprehensible” I can only assume he would have found the $175 million increase planned by that members party “totally incomprehensible”. This government has provided an extra $412 million in the current year. I and other members of the government take concerns about patient safety seriously.

Q: Is it hard to take these cuts seriously given that there have been huge bonuses paid to DHB CEOs?

A: I doubt if there are any harder jobs than working in the health sector, and I share concerns among those people at these payments.

Q: What is her response to concerns about patient safety?

A: There will never be enough money to satisfy all calls for extra money in health or for any other portfolio. However where patient safety issues are raised, they will be addressed.

Question 12.

LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What progress has been made with providing resources for Pacific communities to promote road safety initiatives?

A: Yesterday I was pleased to launch a video on road safety in several Pacific languages.

Q: What evidence is there that Pacific people face greater risks?

A: Pacific children are 14 times as likely to be injured in cars. This video concentrates on pedestrian safety and on safety in cars.


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