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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 8 August

Today's questions of the day concerned: Climate Change And Forestry – Health Racial Bias Allegations – People’s Bank And PM – Tertiary Education Strategy – Jim’s Securities Regs Breach – Numeracy Teaching - ANZFA Changes – DHB Deficit Forecasts – Immigration Changes – GE Cholera Vaccine – Disability Strategy – Steve Maharey And Christine Rankin Fallout

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 8 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.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Has he seen a report to the Wood Processing Strategy Climate Change Group prepared by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research in July 2001; if so, what does he conclude from the report's analysis and conclusions concerning the impact on industry and regional development?

A: No.

Q: What would he say if he knew that the government’s determination to pursue the Kyoto Protocol will force $8 billion off the value of NZ’s forestry industry?

A: Apart from one or two politicians, of whom Ken Shirley is obviously one, most of the world want to see a positive outcome from the Kyoto Protocol. A study on this was initiated. The study is still in progress. A draft was written before the negotiations in Bonn. Once the final report is finished it will be considered. It is true that NZ faces a wall of wood to be processed in the future. It is important that as much of that is processed in NZ as possible. This government’s relationship with the forestry industry is far closer than the member’s government ever was.

Q: What would be the impact of processing industries moving away from areas such as Nelson in NZ?

A: It is a bit rich for the National Party to talk about the value of timber product processing in NZ when for nine years they did absolutely nothing to keep processing in NZ. When the full report has been presented to the government then we will make decisions. We deal with facts, not prejudices.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Will the government be advising the forestry industry to look at the opportunities under the protocol?

A: There are costs and benefits under the protocol. I have found the major players in this industry have worked constructively with the government.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Has he seen the draft report from NZIER and submitted to his officials. And if so does he accept that the agreement signed up to in Bonn does nothing to change the implications in that report, namely that it will lead to the relocation of industry to non annex one countries?

A: No.

Question 2.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Is it the Government's intention that residents of Tauranga, prescribed by their doctor to undertake treatment at the Hanmer Springs Queen Mary addiction centre, are unable to receive financial assistance for treatment unless they are of Maori descent; if so, what is the relevance of one's ethnicity in determining financial assistance to this prescribed treatment?

A: No.

Q: Then why do we have people in Tauranga being told that unless they are of Maori descent they will not receive financial assistance?

A: I am advised that the ethnicity of an NZer has no impact on entitlement to treatment at Queen Mary Hospital in Hamner.

Q: Given that the Minister is prepared to pay for people to travel to Hamner, why won’t she pay for them to travel to Australia for cancer treatment?

A: Some cancer patients have had travel to Australia paid for. I find this a shame, because the previous Government would not pay for oncology services.

Q: Is the Minister aware that a publicly funded Hep B programme in BOP has denied services to non Maori?

A: No. The Hep B programme was started by the previous government, and we have ensured that it is not race based.

Question 3.

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

Q: Does she include the establishment of a "People's Bank" as one of the "smart, active Government interventions to help move the economy upmarket" which she told the House yesterday was the key message of the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference; if so, why?

A: I can assure the member that the NZ Post Bank will provide a smart 21st Century banking service.

Q: What is her view on Michael Porter’s view that a Government owned bank is stifling growth in NZ?

A: Like all those who provide advice to the government, sometimes they get things right, sometimes they get them wrong. One thing I am sure of is that Mr Porter would agree with that Knowledge Wave and National are an oxymoron.

Q: What is the government doing that is smart?

A: Lots of things. National failed to move in any significant way in many areas over nine long years.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does she still believe the bank as a smart intervention given that CCMAU examined the key assumptions on customer switching and found the facts at variance with the core assumptions of the business case?

A: The People’s Bank is a far smarter way of developing the asset then letting the penny post go the way of the penny farthing and whither on the vine.

Q: Can she confirm that the People’s Bank will facilitate community owned banking?

A: This will be the only substantial nationwide community owned bank. This bank when it makes profits will see them come back to the people of NZ. There is no other bank that can say that.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): When will the bank make profits that will contribute to growth?

A: I refer the member back to the business case for the bank which she leaked extensively.

Question 4.

TIM BARNETT (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What progress has been made with the Government's tertiary education and training reform strategy?

A: Last week the TEAC began consultations on strategy development. We have also announced several other parts of our strategy as well. Tomorrow, next week and next month we will be announcing more progress. No wonder Maurice Williamson is so worn out.

Q: Maurice Williamson (National): Is it just by random chance that the extra $35 million that appeared yesterday is exactly what the vice chancellors have been asking for?

A: No it is by intelligent planning.

Q: What has the sector said about announcements?

A: They have been generally welcomed by the sector. Albeit sometimes cautiously.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT) Where did the Government manage to find the money? Especially when it couldn’t find $14 million for Community Services Card beneficiaries?

A: The money comes from the general fund. It is one off. It is contingent on a submission being made to us on how they will make Government policy work.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): What about student debt?

A: Thankyou for the members input. The government has moved a long way on this issue already. Changes have so far cost around $425 million.

Question 5.

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

Q: Does he believe he met the "new standards - both in terms of behaviour and performance", set by the Prime Minister, in responding to the CCMAU memorandum of June 2000 which stated that "the Hon Jim Anderton and the Crown are in breach of the Securities Regulations"?

A: The officials memo made just two recommendations. Both recommendations were actioned.

Q: Why did the Minister try to cover this up? And why doesn’t he refer this to the appropriate authority?

A: I considered the advice given at the time and took the recommended actions.

Q: Why was a public offering of securities rejected?

A: The NZ Post Board made that decision, and for reasons of costs and governance rejected the option of offering securities.

Q: Are we correct to conclude that the only advice the government had for 13 months was that the Minister had breached the law?

A: No.

Q: Can he confirm it is now the case that if any minister behaves in a way that officials believe they have broken the law, that the response will simply be to circulate that advice to other ministers?

A: No.

Question 6.

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

Q: What reports has he received on numeracy teaching in New Zealand schools?

A: Research shows that NZ performs below internationally acceptable levels in numeracy. The Ministry of Education has just published a study on this that evaluates a pilot programme run in the year 2000. It confirms the value of the professional development work we have funded for teachers.

Q: What were the findings of the report?

A: Dr Higgins report confirms that the programme run last year was a great success.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): What response has he given to schools complaining that they have fewer resources?

A: We have financed a massive increase in publications and professional development in the numeracy area. We are resourcing this vital area well.

Question 7.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Why has the newly constituted Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council, which allows agriculture and other Ministers to attend, held a meeting before the necessary legislative and Treaty changes have been agreed to by the New Zealand Parliament?

A: Amendments to the treaty which will give affect to changes in governance are yet to be agreed to by the Governments of Asutralia and NZ. I have in the meantime asked that meetings convened not be convened inconsistent with the existing treaty arrangements. This was indeed the case at the most recent meeting on 31st of July.

Q: Will NZers have the same opportunities to debate and vote on changes to ANZFA that Australians had?

A: The Minister of Overseas Trade Negotiations has already agreed that the treaty will be sent to a select committee for debate and submissions. Whether there is a vote is a decision for the Government to make.


Question 8.

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

Q: Has she asked the Ministry of Health for an update of hospital deficit figures since the Health Committee was advised that provision is being made for combined district health board deficits of $39 million by June 2002; if so, what is the latest forecast?

A: On the 6th of August I received a minute from the Ministry of Health that for the year ending June 2001 there was a deficit of $61.9 million. I am advised that the final estimates for the June 2001 year will be available in September.

(Lengthy debate over whether this answer was acceptable or not.)

A: Mr Sowry is confused, he has mixed up figures for the real deficit with speculation about the following year’s deficits.

Q: Roger Sowry (National) Why is she sitting on her hands with deficits spiralling to over $215 million?

A: The member has cloth over his ears. The figure I have talked about is the only figure I can talk about. The prediction for the 2001 deficit was for around $39 million. I told the select committee that I expected the actual figure to be under $100 million. The member has mixed up his years.

Q: Roger Sowry (National): How does she explain her statement that just because they run a deficit doesn’t mean they have money?

A: When under the previous government the hospitals ran a $219 million deficit I do not recall the member saying hospitals did not have money.

(Roger Sowry – leave sought to table a document confirming that he has his years right – granted.)

Question 9.

CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: What response has there been to the new policy of open work permits for spouses of long-term business visa and work permit holders?

A: To date, since April, the NZIS has received more than 1300 applications and has issued more than 1300 permits.

Q: Has there been any international reaction?

A: In June this year a campaign was launched by the Permits Foundation to enable spouses to have similar rights elsewhere in the world. We are clearly leading the way in this area.

Q: Will she review requirements for the long term business visa?

A: This policy was introduced under the member’s government.

Q: What about the brain drain?

A: I find that question ironic as we are relying on statistics from Statistics NZ. I have told the house on numerous occasions that statistics are based on departure card returns. The figures, non seasonally adjusted, in fact show a 300 net gain.

Question 10.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: Does she stand by her answer last week that 1,393 doses of the genetically modified Orochol Berna cholera vaccine were used in New Zealand since the voluntary moratorium on genetically modified organisms was introduced?

A: After more detailed analysis I can confirm that 1402 doses were supplied to doctors. Therefore no NZers travelling overseas were denied the benefits of this vaccine.

Q: Given that there were over 1300 doses used prior to the moratorium and a 95% reduction since it, will she accept that her decision to deny people protection from Cholera was incorrect?

A: No.

Q: Given the findings of the RCGM that there is a need for more research on horizontal gene transfer, will she give an undertaking not to release this into the environment?

A: Research has been done on this particular vaccine. What we do know is that the vaccine is of no risk to the environment. Last week I said that emergency supplies continued to be available and that 1393 doses were used. I did not say they were used during the period of the moratorium.

(Nick Smith – if we are going to have answers like this then we have a problem.

Speaker – this is a debating matter.

Smith – leave sought to table figures – granted.)


Question 11.

STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson:

Q: Has she received any reports recently that indicate progress is being made towards the objectives of the New Zealand Disability Strategy?

A: Yes. 11 key government departments have completed their action plans. From next year all government departments will produce plans. The plans include projects relating to HR. Communications, staff training, and projects in vocational services and access.

Q: Does the Minister agree that strategies need budgetary backing and performance indicators?

A: I certainly agree that the National Party’s strategies were useless. Ours are accompanied by action plans.

Q: How much progress has been made?

A: I have a report from the Auckland City Council on disabilities too. It is very exciting. Difficult though it might be for a one eyed Cantabrian like myself, I would like to place on record my congratulations to Auckland City.

Question 12.

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

Q: How does he reconcile his statement to the House yesterday, that he disagreed with the Chief Judge's comments relating to his language during meetings, with the Prime Minister's statement that she was "sure that he's taken on board what the Judge has said"?

A: The PM was setting a standard for the future that I accept. The statement in the judgment relates to one meeting more than a year ago.

Q: What recent reports has he seen on Mrs Rankin’s response to the court case?

A: Mrs Rankin is today reported as wanting to “get on” with her life. The opposition seem to be anxious to continue living in the past. I do not intend to take any further action myself.

Q: Does he understand that the Judge did not believe him?

A: That wasn’t his finding.

SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS

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