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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 4 September

Today's questions of the day concerned: Refugees – Refugees – Hong Kong Free Trade – ERA Appointments – Tertiary Fee Freeze – Mark Burton Inquiries – Road Safety – F16s, LAVs and CGS Advice – Adult Education - LAVs – Tertiary Funding

Questions Of The Day - 4 September 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.

CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What action is the Government taking regarding the Afghan refugees from the Tampa?

A: For humanitarian reasons and in response to a request from Australia we have agreed to take 150 Afghan refugees. Unaccompanied minors will be placed in the care of CYFS. Others will be accommodated at the refugee resettlement center at Mangere. Where there are concerns about criminality they will be housed in prison.

Q: What about the other 21 million refugees around the world, and those who will end up waiting longer due to these queue jumpers?

A: I believe all caring people would be concerned that we do what we can to help people in need

Q: What has been the Australian response?

A: Australia requested assistance. We considered that. We made an offer accordingly and from the PM down they have been very grateful.

Q: What assurance can she give that she hasn’t set a dangerous precedent?

A: We would not have made the offer, nor Australia the request, if we thought that would be the outcome.

Q: Keith Locke (Green) Does the PM agree that Australia is setting a bad example to boat captains who may now leave distressed boats and people to drown?

(The PM has no responsibility for the Australian government.)

Q: How can these possibly fit within the quota?

A: NZ like all countries has a flow of spontaneous refugees. We are also working through a large backlog of asylum seeker applications. There are currently 1800 people being processed.

Q: Is this not just a snide invitation for boat people to turn left for NZ?

A: What happened with the Tampa is unprecedented in recent experience. A Norwegian boat picked them up when their boat was distressed.

(Winston Peters - Leave to table a transcript of Kim Hill IV with – granted.)

Question 2.

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

Q: Will she guarantee that the vetting procedures she puts in place for the 150 refugees from the Tampa will ensure that no Afghan who has been involved in guerilla warfare, terrorist activity or other undesirable activity will be allowed to remain in New Zealand?

A: What the government will ensure is that the same procedures are used as have been for many years, including under the last government.

Q: What about radicals who have already been granted residency under her government including a former Afghan minister of foreign affairs?

A: I have heard about the former Afghan foreign minister. I understand he is a highly qualified person, as are many of the Afghanis who have made their home in NZ. The danger if we had done nothing is that a message would be left for ships to sail on and not come to the assistance of desperate drowning people.

Q: What does she know about these people that the Australian PM doesn’t?

A: Australia was drawing a line as to where it should be responsible for processing refugees.

Q: Are allegations of terrorism a shameful denigration of a person’s name?

A: I believe it is shameful to import criminal motives to someone in the absence of any evidence.

Q: Aren’t these boat people really hijackers? And how many countries are closer to this than NZ?

A: It is a matter of record that the countries who do the most of the accepting of refugees are first world nations. The burden on accepting refugees falls disproportionately on western nations which are rare in our part of the world.

Q: Is she satisfied that this man in no way puts NZers lives at risk?

A: In comparison to the Taleban . From what I have seen of this individual and his family he is a person seeking a new start who is well qualified to do so.

Question 3.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: Has he received advice from the Labour Party chairman of the Rimutaka electorate suggesting that New Zealand businesses and their staff will be adversely affected if the Government signs a free trade and investment agreement with the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong; if so, what action will he take as a result?

A: I have seen an interesting comment in the media. This Parliament wholeheartedly supports free trade but believes rules of origin are also needed.

Q: Has he asssured the workers that their jobs are secure?

A: This government froze tariffs for five years. I wonder why the Green Party opposes the freeing up of trade which would relieve countries from grinding poverty.

Q: How will free trade benefit NZ?

A: The CER agreement has created lots of benefits for NZ. The Singapore CEP Agreement is also showing good returns. Non-agricultural exports to Singapore are up by 26%.

Question 4.

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

Q: Does she have complete confidence in the judgment of the Minister of Labour, given that the Minister recommended the appointment of Ms Susan Bathgate to the Employment Relations Authority; if so, why?

A: Yes. Ms Bathgate was obviously qualified for the job.

Q: Is she concerned about her being paid three times by the public service?

A: The DOL is currently working those issues through with Ms Bathgate.

Q: Can she confirm that the Minister of Labour’s services have been exemplary?

A: I can confirm so with pleasure.

Q: Can she confirm that Hugh Rennie is now representing Ms Bathgate. And why is she taking so long to deal with this problem?

Question 5.

ANN HARTLEY (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What has the Government done to make tertiary education more affordable to students?

A: As of the 31st of August all tertiary organisations have accepted the fee freeze deal. We want to make tertiary education more affordable and we have kept our word. The fee freeze means fees are in effect more than 3% cheaper once inflation is taken out of the equation.

Q: Is he concerned about the quality of our graduates?

A: We have an outstanding tertiary sector and the Vice Chancellors are now saying we have a “very good outcome”.

Q: What else has been done for students?

A: We have also stopped charging interest on loans while people are studying.

Question 6.

Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What did she mean when she reportedly told the New Zealand-Australia mental health conference that some clinicians may be refusing to release mentally ill people into the community to protect themselves "just in case" something happens?

A: In my speech I made no reference to physicians refusing to release patients. My words “just in case” were referring to the climate of blame that mental health physicians have to operate under.

Q: Does she agree with the PM that the family shouldn’t hold its breath?

A: The last major mental health tragedy in Invercargill was in 1995. The Health Minister at the time Jenny Shipley approved an internal inquiry. I am pleased to say there is an external review now underway into the Mark Burton killing which will decide whether a wider inquiry is needed.

Q: What about the Like Minds Like Mine campaign?

A: We are committed to it. Though it was started under National they seem to have abandoned it. Quoted comments from Jenny Shipley supportive of the campaign.

Question 7.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What is the Government doing to assist young people to learn more about road safety?

A: The government has committed around $9 million over three years. We plan to assess the results of a pilot training scheme in schools to decide whether to make it mandatory. The current licensing scheme is losing $4.3 million a year because it was badly costed and funded by National.

Q: What about cannabis related deaths?

A: Officials are working on that issue. However it is difficult as there is no ready made test like there is for alcohol.

Question 8.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Defence Minister Mark Burton:

Q: Did the Chief of General Staff, directly or indirectly, use information prepared by an army officer outlining defence force costings for the F-16 deal so as to "apply as many funding formulas as possible" to ramp up the cost and make more money available for army purposes; if so, when did the Chief of General Staff receive that information?

A: The CGS provided no advice to me on F-16s.

Q: Noting that he did not answer the question. Is he aware of the statements made by Peirs Read that he was intent on destroying the airforce first and then the navy?

A: No. The document he refers to has the status of a letter. I will be making an announcement shortly on how this and other matters will be dealt with. I am concerned about conduct in all the services and to that end I will be making an announcement shortly.

Q: Is he aware that there are people who are prepared to give evidence about this conspiracy?

A: As I have said, such people will soon have an opportunity to make their views known.

Q: Why won’t he come clean with this house, otherwise it will stick to you?

(Speaker – not me.)

A: I can only suggest to the member that he waits for the announcement and then considers the implications of it for himself.

(Rodney Hide - He keeps saying he is going to make a public statement shortly. Why doesn’t he make it to the house.

Speaker – that is not a point of order.

Max Bradford - The minister has made a veiled threat to me. I invite him to explain himself.

Speaker – I heard what he said. But I cannot comment on the answer itself.)

Question 9.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Marian Hobbs:

Q: What are the problems facing the adult and community education sector?

A: A working party report on this was launched yesterday.

Q: What are you doing about it?

A: We have endorsed the report. We also have a dedicated unit to oversee initiatives in this area. It is not a question of picking one sector over another. All sectors are important. Parent literacy is important for children.

Question 10.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What reports has he received on rising violent crime in New Zealand?

A: Latest reports show an increase in violent crime. They believe this is due in part to a crackdown on domestic violence and anti-social behaviour.

Q: Are not the chances of being mugged bashed or rape now higher than ever before? And is he not worried about the colour of police cars?

A: The difference between our side is that side is that we are providing the cars. The police are very pleased with the steps we have made with dealing with violent crime including tougher bail provisions.

Q: Does people having a good time lead to violence as the police say?

A: No but people gathering sometimes does.

Q: Is it not a fact that for every week since that member took his seat, 66 additional NZers have been subject to violent crime, and his answer is to join with the Minister of Justice with a spinned re-release of government policy?

A: What is a fact is that we are better than they were. They let crime run unabated.

(George Hawkins – leave to table a media statement – granted.)

Question 11.

OWEN JENNINGS (ACT) to the Defence Minister Mark Burton:

Q: When did he tell his Cabinet colleagues that the Chief of Defence Force and the Secretary of Defence had recommended in a draft Cabinet paper in July 2000 the purchase of 55 light armoured vehicles with an option of 50 further vehicles and why was their cost-saving recommendation presented in the final C
abinet paper in August 2000 as an option only and not as a recommendation of the Government's two most senior defence advisers?

A: The option referred to was not a cost saving option. The option emerged during wide ranging discussions.

Q: What were the key facts that led the government to changing its mind?

A: It is one of the options that was put to cabinet. That option included 105 vehicles. It was a matter to timing. We decided to be prudent.

Q: Has he ever met Peirs Read to discuss the number of LAVs the army thinks are necessary?

A: The last time I met him was at a Massey University graduation ceremony. Shortly after I made a speech to the graduates.

Q: Has he presented full and final costings for the motorisation of the NZ army including new buildings and roads? And if not, why not?

A: No. The reason is that some of the issues are subject to decisions that have been made and others are to decisions that are yet to be made.

Question 12.

Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: Can he give a commitment that the quality of resourcing for universities next year will deliver high standards of tuition?

A: Yes.

Q: What about a memo to Canterbury staff that says there has been sustained pressure to accept this package, and that it still falls short of what is needed?

A: No I haven’t.

Q: What has he done?

A: We have contributed $67 million to an EFT funding inflation adjustment. We have provided more money to compensate institutions for the inflation losses in student fees.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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