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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 7 August

Today's questions of the day concerned: Knowledge Wave And Economic Policy – Benefit Policy – Jim, His Bank, And The Securities Act x 2 – Swearing At Public Servants – Jury Reforms – Air New Zealand – Legal Proceedings – Trevor Mallard’s Views On Cannabis Decriminalisation – ICT In Schools – Risk Taking And Tax Cuts - Te Reo Maori Funding – Closing The Gaps – Mark Burton and the FEC.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 7 August 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.

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

Q: Does she stand by her statement that the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference “absolutely confirms” the Government’s economic directions?

A: Yes.

Q: Why then does the OECD criticise her raising of income tax rates?

A: I can advise the opposition that the ghosts of Roger Douglas and his cohorts still stalk the corridors of the OECD, just as they stalk the corridors of our opposition here in NZ.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): How does the PM square her claim with the statement to the conference by the Governor of the Reserve Bank? Or was she at a different conference?

A: Indeed I was at the same conference. And I can advise that Dr Brash is employed for monetary policy, not broader economic and social policy. There were some very interesting notions at the conference, and we would welcome an opportunity to talk to the Greens about some of them further.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): When Roger Douglas was pursuing his free-market policies what was she doing?

A: I was sitting on the back benches, because I wasn’t part of that group, and I was travelling the world promoting NZ’s nuclear free policy.

Q: Will she reduce the corporate tax rate?

A: If the opposition felt so strongly about the corporate tax rate, then why did they leave it alone for nine years.

(Winston Peters – leave to table a list of cabinet names from the last Labour Government – granted.)

Question 2.

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

Q: What steps is the Government taking to ensure that the unemployed and/or those with low or no qualifications move into further education and training, or into a job?

A: Today I have announced a review to review $188 million of funding in this area.

Q: What is the relation of this review to overall objectives of the government?

A: The third report of TEAC noted that there are significant economic returns to be gained from lifting the skill levels of the lowest paid. The Knowledge Wave conference also looked for a tide to lift all boats, which is what this review is designed to do. One of the problems with these areas of training is whether it is for employment purposes or education purposes or both. We need clarity in the definition of what the money is for.

Q: What are the implications for providers of this review?

A: The terms for the review were developed in consultation with providers. This review is about building on excellent work already done.

Q: How can we have confidence in his programs when he won’t even answer my questions on his programs?

A: We now have the lowest rate of unemployment because we are focussing on paid employment, not make work.

Question 3.

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

Q: Did he receive written advice from officials dated 29 June 2000 in relation to comments by the Hon Jim Anderton regarding the New Zealand Post “People’s Bank” proposal that “In making this comment the Hon Jim Anderton and the Crown are in breach of the Securities Regulations.”; if so, what steps did he take as a result?

A: I received advice last year on Securities Legislation. At the time of the advice, a funding programme was being considered. I passed the advice on to appropriate ministers. Subsequently the proposal was not pursued.

Q: Bearing in mind that the advice said it didn’t matter whether the programme would proceed or not, why did he sit on it for 13 months?

A: Far from sitting on it I did precisely what was suggested in the advice, and forwarded the advice to ministers concerned. I have also received advice from a leading law firm that the comments by Mr Anderton did not constitute an offer of securities. Furthermore, I now have a Crown Law opinion that says that the comments by Mr Anderton were not an offer of securities.

Q: Who did he pass the advice on to?

A: The relevant ministers were Mr Anderton and Dr Cullen.

Q: Jim Anderton (Alliance): Can he confirm that the decision not to proceed with the share issue related to the cost of the issue of shares, around $5 million of $40 million being sought, and secondly that public policy in terms of private ownership of SOE’s would not apply in this case?

A: The advice I have accords with that assertion, and accordingly the board made that decision.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is it not a fact that the offer could not have proceeded after the comments made by Mr Anderton?

A: No. I have two legal opinions to the contrary. And as I said earlier the board made the decision on this matter.

Q: Can he confirm that he sat on the original opinion from CCMAU for 13 months, and that he has since relied on a two paragraph opinion from Bell Gully?

A: I passed on the advice at the time.

(Mark Burton – leave sought to table two documents, one dated 29th June 2000 and on dated 6 August 2001 – granted.

Peter Dunne – is that everything.

Mark Burton – I tabled the Bell Gully opinion last week.)

Question 4.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: When did she first learn that officials had advised the Minister for State Owned Enterprises that the Hon Jim Anderton had breached the Securities Regulations and what action did she take?

A: Mr Burton advised me of CCMAU’s view of 29th June 2000. No action was recommended and none was taken.

(Rodney Hide – she hasn’t answered the question.

Speaker – I can’t put words into the PM’s mouth.

Rodney Hide – can I ask my primary question as a supplementary?

Speaker - certainly.)

Q: When did she learn of the advice? And what did she do about it?

A: I will endeavour to put the member out of his misery, if it is possible. CCMAU’s advice was dated the 29th of June. It was sent to the Minister on the 4th of July. On the 17th of July a memo was sent to Mr Anderton and Dr Cullen. I was advised around the same time.

Q: Jim Anderton (Alliance): Can she confirm whether the advice from CCMAU was advice or a legal opinion? And if it was advice, then is advice of officials always followed?

A: Advice from officials is not always followed. I can see only that this is a memo from CCMAU and there is no indication it is legal advice. Subsequent legal opinions have confirmed our original view that there was no breach of the law.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does she accept that Ministers are not above the law? And if so, then how does she expect business people to treat our laws with respect, when a Minister can breach the law seemingly without consequence? And indeed, why did the government only seek alternative legal advice when I raised the matter in this house last week?

A: No one is above the law. In this case the balance of legal advice is that there was no breach.

(Winston Peters is very upset about not being given a question.

Richard Prebble – He is here on the basis of just 34 votes, and on that basis he has far more questions than he deserves.

Speaker - NZ First has 4.3% of the vote.

Winston Peters – leave to table election results form Wellington central – granted.)

Question 5.

BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: How does he reconcile his statement to the House that he had always behaved in an appropriate fashion with Justice Goddard’s judgment which went so far as to say that his use of indecent expletives was “Clearly … an inappropriate way for a Minister to address any chief executive, let alone a female one”?

A: Let me make three points. First, I deny absolutely ever swearing AT anyone. I find that accusation offensive. Secondly, what I said in court was that “I may well have sworn, but let me be clear it is the exception not the rule of my conduct”. Thirdly the opposition might like to consider whether they are in a position to throw the first stone. I know they are not.

Q: When will he apologise to Christine Rankin for abusing her?

A: I refer the member to the court record. I also would like to assert that the Leader of the Opposition is much more practiced at swearing than I am.

Q: Does he stand by his statement on July 1st that he did not do things he should not have done, and how does he square that with the Judgment of Judge Goddard?

A: While I respect the chief judge, I do not accept this part of his decision.

Q: What was the total cost of defending the case against Christine Rankin?

(Speaker – the question is too wide of the original question.)

Q: Does he accept that he behaved inappropriately?

A: If I did swear then it is the exception not the rule.

Question 6.

JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:

Q: What changes is he intending to make to the law governing juries in criminal trials and why?

A: I am proposing a number of changes. One will replace the requirement for a unanimous verdict with a 11-1 verdict. Secondly in some cases when cases are very complex there will be trials by judge alone. And thirdly people will be able to defer jury service for 12 months, and will be protected from dismissal by their employers. Cases like one in which one juror refuses to convict a bank robber on the basis that the banks themselves are robbers will be brought to an end.

Q: Since he is keen to make juries more representative, will he provide financial assistance for juror travel?

A: Yes that is an issue that has been referred to the CEO of the Department for Courts. The house may also want to consider increasing the rate of pay for jurors, though that will ultimately be a budget issue.

Question 7.

BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What are the possible changes to Air New Zealand that will involve regulatory approvals referred to in Hon Dr Michael Cullen’s press conference with the Australian Deputy Prime Minister, John Anderson?

A: The exact nature of and need for any regulatory approvals will depend on the nature of the final arrangement.

Q: Is he aware that Dr Cullen released confidential information in the house of Air New Zealand last week? And what assurances can he give that commercial confidences given to his government will be kept?

A: The answer given on my behalf by Dr Cullen last week was a widely held understanding of proposals.

Q: What assurances have been given by Singapore Airlines?

A: Both publicly and privately Singapore Airlines have expressed their commitment to Air New Zealand.

Q: Will Parliament be able to debate any decision to allow an increase in foreign ownership in Air New Zealand?

A: Parliament will have an opportunity to debate any significant decisions as it does usually.

Question 8.

SUE BRADFORD (Green) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: What steps does the Government take to ensure that legal proceedings taken by Government agencies are consistent with Government policy?

A: The Government acts to ensure its policies are consistent with the law. When there is doubt the government will seek clarification from the courts.

Q: Does the Minister consider it was a waste of money to pursue the Scobie case?

A: On the facts in that case because it involved a previous government’s policy it was important that the law be clarified. That is why the case was taken.

Q: Was the department operating outside the law in imposing stand down periods on sickness benefits prior to the amendments last week?

A: Sometimes the law is not as clear as we want it to be, and then we sometimes clarify it.

Q: Why did the government appeal the Scobie case?

A: The Solicitor General believed the Social Security Appeal Authority’s decision in the case required further clarification.

Q: Does she have any opinion on Jim Anderton’s alleged breaches of the Securities Act?

A: No.

Question 9.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Does he stand by his view, expressed at last year’s Secondary Principals Association Conference, that marijuana should be decriminalised?

A: At the SPANZ conference I supported a select committee inquiry proposed by Brian Neeson. I still hold that view.

Q: In light of the petition presented today with 36,000 signatures, why does he not accept the advice of school principals on this?

A: The petition will be presented to the Select Committee for consideration. I will read the report of the Select Committee and weigh the arguments for and against. Drug use can impair students learning and is linked to social problems.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): (Get a life Rodney!) Does the Minister think that expelling youngsters from school is an appropriate response to problems? And does he think that the money spent on prosecuting adults for possession would be better spent on education for youth?

A: The member has raised some issues that deserve debate and research. That is why I support the inquiry currently being conducted by the Select Committee.

Q: Brian Donnelly (NZ First): Does he believe the NZSTA would have gone to the trouble to collect these signatures if they thought decriminalisation was in the interests of 750,000 young people?

A: No.

Q: Brian Neeson (National): Since the Minister insinuated I was in favour of decriminalisation and am not, will the Minister tell us now what his view is?

A: He might be dopey and forget the unanimous recommendation made by the select committee that he chaired. We don’t.

Question 10.

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

Q: What reports has he received on successful information and communication technology projects in schools?

A: We are using new technology to enable the teaching of senior subjects in Te Reo Maori.

Q: What about unsuccessful ICT projects?

A: Some time ago I saw a report advocating laptops under every student aged over nine’s arm. Since then I have seen a report saying that the proposal had been “glamorised”. More recently I have seen reports on National education policy making no mention of the idea. It seems it took 78 days for Gerry Brownlee’s only idea to find its way to the rubbish bin.

Q: What about ICT in poorer schools?

A: I am happy to brief the member on that subject. An adhoc approach to ICT does not work. To provide simply hardware and not bandwidth, software and content does not work.

Q: Will he extend these successful ICT schemes to small rural secondary schools to extend subject coverage?

A: One of the key problems for these schools is bandwidth. The pipes need to be fat enough to allow two way video conferencing. We are working hard on that.

Question 11.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: In light of the report from the Science and Innovation Advisory Council, and in particular the statement that “The Prime Minister, as the leading citizen, must drive the change” to “Ensure that our tax, finance and bankruptcy regimes do not punish calculated risk taking” why has she ruled out tax cuts?

A: The question asked misrepresents the report. The report calls for Prime Ministerial leadership, not tax cuts.

Q: Why did she table the report at the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference?

A: The report was put forward as a contribution to the debate. It asks that we ensure that regimes do not punish risk taking. I am of the view that the tax regime does not. The bankruptcy regime on the other hand might do so.

Q: Bill English (National): Why does the PM go to business cocktail functions and conferences when she has no intention of doing any of the things suggested?

A: How disappointed the opposition must have been that the path they followed for nine long years was totally rejected by that conference.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Will the PM acknowledge that she was the Minister of Health between 1984 and 1990, and how can she claim to not be part of the free-market reforms that took place at that time?

A: As I have said often, a lot of mistakes were made by that Government, and I have done my best to get this government back on the right track.

Question 12.

JOHN TAMIHERE (Labour) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: What is the purpose of the $15 million community fund for Maori language projects announced on 29 July as part of Maori Language Week?

A: The purpose of the fund is to support groups to foster Te Reo Maori in whanau, hapu and Iwi. The government believes that improving Maori Health and education is a priority. The government also believes it needs to take a holistic approach to development. Cultural identity is a key part of achieving desirable outcomes.

Q: Could a National and NZ First member be on this committee?

A: Those partys did nothing about this when they had the chance. We have.

QUESTIONS TO MEMBERS

Question 1.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Chairperson of the Maori Affairs Committee John Tamihere:

Q: Has the Maori Affairs Committee taken steps to require Te Puni Kokiri to provide to the committee copies of monitoring reports for the programme formerly called Closing the Gaps previously promised but not provided to the committee by officials; if so, have those reports been delivered?

A: Yes. I am advised that the reports have been delivered to the Select Committee clerk.

Q: Is it the case that officials from TPK took on undertakings to deliver these reports on several occasions and that there were discussions with the PM’s office about this?

A: We will undertake to do our best to meet members expectations.

Q: Can he confirm that the committee has sent a strongly worded letter to officials?

A: Yes.

Question 2.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Chairperson of the Maori Affairs Committee John Tamihere:

Q: Has the Maori Affairs Committee taken steps to require the chairperson of the Cabinet Social Equity Committee to provide to the committee copies of monitoring reports for the programme formerly called Closing the Gaps previously promised but not provided to the committee by officials; if so, have those reports been delivered?

A: Yes. I am advised they have been delivered to the clerk’s office.

Q: Can the chair confirm that the DPMC instructed departments to cease providing such reports?

(Speaker – the member is not responsible for that.

Murray McCully – the question was about officials servicing the committee.

John Tamihere – I do not understand the question.)

Q: Can he confirm that officials have told him that DPMC instructed Departments of State not to provide Closing the Gaps reports in March.

A: Yes.

Question 3.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee Mark Peck:

Q: Is it correct that the transcript of the appearance of the Minister for State Owned Enterprises is not to be released until the Minister has viewed and, if appropriate, corrected it?

A: I point the member to the standing orders that provide witnesses with an opportunity to correct transcripts.

Q: Will he give an undertaking that the transcript will not be altered to delete the answer to my question about legal advice on Jim Anderton and the Securities Commission, namely (quotes the answer).

A: The transcript is a matter for the committee to sign off on.

Q: How will the transcript deal with the Minister storming out of the room and addressing the committee as he left.

A: I repeat, the transcript is a matter for the committee to sign off on.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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