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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 28 June

Today's questions of the day concerned: Christine Rankin – Secondary School Leavers – Christine Rankin And The PM – Wellington Police Numbers – NZ Post – Police Cars – DHB Funding – Border Control Measures – Court Fees – Child Labour – Knowledge Economy - School Leavers.

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 28 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.

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: When he said yesterday that "The Prime Minister does expect a great deal of her Ministers, and we do the best that we can to live up to it, although I have to say that at times I do fail.", on what occasions has he failed and with whom?

A: I have to confess that I failed to catch any fish when the members husband took me fishing on lake Taupo this year, mind you Trevor Mallard did. More seriously I have also failed to achieve targets for Maori work outcomes.

Q: Georgina Te Heuheu (National): Does his always appropriate behaviour include telling women what to wear?

A: I do always behave appropriately. It would not be appropriate to do the things the member suggests, and I have not done them.

Q: Would it be appropriate to mention whether a woman is childless and why does the leader of the opposition continue to mention that in relation to the PM?

(Speaker – that is not a valid question.)

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Do other failures include the record levels of un-allocated child welfare cases?

A: I do count as success $216 million of new funding for CYFS. I do count as a success the drop in long term unemployment.

Q: Georgina Te Heuheu (National): Has any woman member of the Government questioned him about his blatantly sexist comments?

A: I haven’t made any sexist comments. And no they haven’t raised it with me.

Question 2.

TIM BARNETT to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Trevor Mallard:

Q: Will the Government be taking any steps to track the employment, further education and training destinations of young people leaving secondary school?

A: We know that a large number of young people drop out of education with no direction. I am pleased to announce today that the government in partnership with Mayors will pilot a destinations and tracking project targeting 2000 school leavers. We want to collect data on both aspirations and destinations of school leavers. This will enable us to develop better tools to deal with young people.

Q: Will he revisit his views on loans and costs to students?

A: I am looking forward to a select committee report on this.

Q: What is the time frame for his project?

A: The pilot project will continue through till March next year. A report is expected in May.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Who was to blame for everyone calling him a wimp, and who caused him to get ripped?

A: The member sometimes causes me to get ripped. This is a question covered by the court case and I am looking forward to seeing both sides of the story told.

Question 3.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: When he asked in the House yesterday "Can the Prime Minister tell the House if it would be more likely for the Prime Minister to meet Mrs Rankin if Mrs Rankin turned up to meetings of all chief executives?", what specific meetings of all chief executives with the Prime Minister was he referring to and what were the reasons for Christine Rankin's failure to attend?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf): A meeting on 19th of May 2000.

Q: If he is implying that Ms Rankin boycotted a meeting, why is the minister and the PM so reluctant to go to court and testify?

A: The Minister and the PM are within their rights under the Legislature Act not to give evidence.

Q: Why does the PM speak to meetings of CEOs?

A: In order to foster common understanding within the public sector.

Q:When Ms Rankin did not turn up was she written to? Or is this just another example of character assassination?

A: Replying to an expert, I can only say I have no information on that.

Q: Has the PM attended any meetings of CEOs where Ms Rankin was in attendance?

A: Yes.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is there an explanation as to why she didn’t attend on the 19th of May? And why was the house told yesterday that she had not met Ms Rankin?

A: On the first point I don’t know. The PM has addressed one meeting of CEOs. If the member regards addressing people as meeting them then he will have met many thousands of people.

Question 4.

Hon PETER DUNNE (United Future NZ) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: How many frontline police positions in the Wellington and Hutt districts are presently vacant?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) In the city there are currently 15 vacancies. In Lower and Upper Hutt there are four vacancies. 20 new staff are expected in the district from the police training college shortly. They will relieve this shortage.

Q: How does he square that with my figures that say as of Monday morning this week there were 15 vacancies in Lower Hutt station alone?

A: The figures were given to me by the district commander no more than two hours ago. The most recent statistics for Wellington show a drop in reported crime in Wellington. At the same time there has been a 6% increase in clearance rates. That is an outstanding result.

Q: Given the series of violent attacks on women in Wellington recently, does he agree with the Minister of Police that crime rises when police numbers drop, and can he confirm there are 44 fewer police in Wellington now than there were a year ago.

A: There is no such connection with violent crime, no. Wellington’s staffing levels will increase to 750 officers by June 2002 following the output of several training wings.

(Tony Ryall - Leave to table a spreadsheet showing 270 vacancies in the NZ Police – granted.

Phil Goff - Leave to table a press statement from the Wellington District Commander – granted.)

Question 5.

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

Q: If the interim PriceWaterhouseCoopers report into Transend's operation in Spain and South Africa does "raise matters of concern" and "the New Zealand Post board is expecting more information next week", as he told the House yesterday, what action, if any, will he take against Dr Ross Armstrong, who said the report showed there was no substance to concerns raised by employees of New Zealand Post?

A: The anonymous allegations suggest impropriety. The report shows no evidence of that. However it does show process failures. That is why there is an investigation underway.

Q: Has he investigated an allegation of Visa irregularities in Madrid?

A: The anonymous letter he refers to has been forwarded to PWC, and the allegations will be examined before PWC completes its report. My role is only to intervene when serious action is required. We haven’t reached that point yet. The decision to take legal action against an MP was clearly within the board’s legal powers. However in my view it was inappropriate.

Q: Is he confident he has been kept informed about all important matters in relation to Transend?

A: I am waiting for a report. I believe I, as a responsible minister, have to wait for the facts before acting.

Q: When were Transend’s operations in Spain and South Africa first looked at, and who was in government then?

A: I believe National was in power then.

Q: With allegations swirling and damaging NZ Post, will he ask Ross Armstrong to report to him earlier than the end of next month.

A: A responsible minister must act on fact not innuendo.

Question 6.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Has the Government invested resources in the police vehicle fleet; if so, what is the level of that investment?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) We agreed this week to increase expenditure on the police fleet. We will see a total of more than 606 new vehicles, plus 80 for the Highway Patrol, purchased this year at a cost of more than $17.6 million.

Q: Why does the fleet need an upgrade?

A: Underfunding by the previous government resulted in an aging and therefore a less reliable fleet.

Q: Can he confirm that these are replacement vehicles?

A: Under his government they failed to replace worn out cars. We had over 100 vehicles that have done more than 200,000 kilometers. As a result of this we will have no vehicles like that.

Q: Will there be low-emission vehicles in the new fleet?

A: A high percentage of vehicles will be dual fuel vehicles?

(Tony Ryall – leave to table a document – granted.

Phil Goff – leave to table a document – granted.)

Question 7.

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

Q: What assurances, if any, can she give New Zealanders that district health board services will not be cut in the coming financial year as a result of health deficits?

A: As the Minister of Health has said repeatedly the current level of DHB services will be retained. This will be accomplished through increased efficiency.

Q: Is she aware that Taranaki DHB has been considering the closure of the Taranaki base hospital as one of its funding options to deal with a $10 million deficit?

A: It is my understanding that is not an option and that it will not be closing. Because of the positive changes we have made in health, DHBs are now working together and not competing with each other. Cooperation has resulted in joint purchasing of pharmaceuticals and several other efficiency gains.

Q: What faith can we have in what she says?

A: Concerns about funding levels are not new in the sector. We have given assurances that no services will be cut. And I give that assurance again.

Q: What evidence is there that the massive salaries being paid to DHB bosses, like the more than $400,000 being paid to the Auckland DHB boss, will result in better services?

A: None.

(Dr Hutchison – leave to table Taranaki DHB document – granted.)

Question 8.

MITA RIRINUI (Labour) to the Minister for Biosecurity Marian Hobbs:

Q: What impact are the more rigorous border control measures having?

A: A profound impact. Seizures are up sharply over last year. There has also been an increase in strip searches. As of 11am this morning 301 people have been fined $200 each for illegal importation. As far as I know we are the only country in the world to x-ray all incoming mail and luggage.

Q: (National) If these are such a profound success why did the government delay so long before implementing them?

A: The member should ask his colleagues that question. They passed the necessary law and then did nothing. We implemented these measures as fast as was possible.

Q: (Green) How can he reconcile the $100 million we spend on keeping alien species out, when we spend more than that inside this country on GE experiments making new alien species?

A: I regard border defences as our highest priority.

(Winston Peters - Leave to table a paper on cars – granted.)

Question 9.

RICHARD WORTH (National) to the Minister for Courts Matt Robson:

Q: Why has he decided to call a three month "time out" on the introduction of court fee changes he said "would improve access to justice for the majority of small users of the system, and make those at the top end pay a fairer share"?

A: I have decided to take this action to ensure the practical implications are fully assessed and are understood by court users.

Q: Would it not be obvious even to a rooky lawyer that increases in fees of up to 650% would deny access to justice to a significant number of NZers.

A: It would be if that rooky lawyer was not aware that the courts have the right to waive fees.

Q: What has happened following other recent fee increases?

A: Following recent increases in fees in the disputes tribunal there has been a marked fall off in utilisation of that court.

Question 10.

MAHARA OKEROA (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What has been done to bring New Zealand's approach to child labour issues in line with the highest international standards?

A: I am pleased to inform the house that we have ratified ILO Convention 182 on the worst forms of child labour and prostitution. This convention is ground breaking and has received a record number of ratifications.

Q: What steps will NZ be taking to comply with the convention?

A: The obligations provide a framework to ensure child work experience is non-exploitative. The Crimes Act has now been amended to comply with the convention. I have asked for a steering group to be established to ensure we meet our obligations.

Q: Is the member implying that we have not been compliant with this convention in the past?

A: What we discovered in our law, when we went through it, was that our crime laws were not in strict compliance in a technical rather than a practical sense when it came to child prostitution.

Question 11.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What reports has he received on the steps New Zealand should take to create a knowledge economy and maximise economic and regional development?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) A number of reports have been received on this.

Q: Has the Minister seen the comments of Dr Edward Walsh to the Competitive Auckland Forum that the first thing NZ needs to do is reduce its corporate tax rate?

A: I have been informed by the Minister of Finance that the Gentleman concerned will be visiting government shortly.

Q: When John Luxton asked him about innovation this morning at a Select Committee he asked for examples of innovation as a result of his initiatives? And he didn’t supply any! Why?

A: The MED is often overwhelmed in public by his advanced sense of humility. On his behalf I would like to mention his involvement in the bringing of super-yacht manufacturing to the former Hobsonville Air Force Base.

Question 12.

DONNA AWATERE HUATA (ACT) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What progress, if any, is being made in ensuring that young New Zealanders are leaving school equipped to participate in the modern economy?

A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) Many measures. We have better resourced early childhood education. We have also helped people in the primary and post primary areas.

Q: What kind of message is sent when he says in the Dominion that he is unconcerned at the growing number of drop-outs with no qualifications?

A: I began by mentioning early childhood changes. It is simply not possible to change school leaving outcomes in a single year of government.


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