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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 10 October

Today's questions of the day concerned: Mobile Phone Regulation – NZ Economy – UN Approval Of Air Strikes – Surgery Waiting Lists – Air NZ Bailout – CYFS Recruitment – Taranaki DHB – Radiotherapist Shortages – Defence Inquiry Powers – ICT In Schools – Iraq Policy – Judith Tizard’s Auckland Achievements (& The Mayoralty Race)

:Questions Of The Day – Wednesday, 10 October 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.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Did she or her Chief of Staff play any role in the Government's reported decision to propose amendments to the Telecommunications Bill to rescind the Government's commitment not to regulate mobile roaming, thereby allowing Zimbabwean-based company Econet Wireless with its Maori partner Hautaki Trust access to existing compatible networks; if so, what are the details of these roles?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I agreed with the ministers recommendation such a change should be made.

Q: Did Cabinet decide in December 2000 that there was no need to regulate mobile phones?

A: Yes we did decide that. Evidence presented to the Select Committee and other evidence presented convinced the Government to change its mind.

Q: Has the PM met with someone from the Zimbabwean Econet? And will Econet rip off Maori?

A: I do not have the information in front of me. We would not be biased against this company simply because it is from Zimbabwe and operates in Nigeria.

Q: Will the government decision increase competition or limit it?

A: There is of course a balance of considerations in these questions.

Question 2.

JOHN TAMIHERE (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What reports has he received on the state of the economy?

A: The prevailing view is that the NZ economy, although not immune from the fallout from 911, is better placed than most to deal with it.

Q: What specific advice does he have?

A: The leader of the opposition says the economy is okay. Standard and Poors have also reaffirmed their positive views on the NZ economy. The latest growth figures were for 2% growth in the June Quarter. The tax take is looking pretty healthy.

Q: Has he seen the report in the Sunday Star Times on Air NZ?

A: Mr Oram’s work is one of fiction almost from start to finish. I will deal with it more in answer to question 5.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Has he seen another report in the SST showing there will be a managed funds flop?

A: I note that ACT thinks that is a good question.

Question 3.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Following her statement to the House yesterday that the comments on 5 October by the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Hon Matt Robson, had been "discussed" with him, what commitment did she get from Mr Robson that he and the Alliance Party fully support her statement that "The Government believes that ... military action is justified under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter"?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) All members of the Government accept that the two relevant Security Council resolutions that reaffirm the right to self-defence, justify appropriate military responses to the terrorist attacks.

Q: How does the Government expect it will maintain the Alliance support for the war after there are thousands of civilian casualties?

A: The overwhelming majority of this house supports military action. I have no doubt that that will continue.

Q: What do the UN resolutions actually require?

A: They declare the terrorist attacks to be attacks on global peace and security. They require governments to bring the perpetrators of terrorism to account.

Q: How should Matt Robson’s statements be interpreted when he says military action should be authorised by an appropriate UN resolution?

A: I draw the members attention to my earlier comments, and to the fact that the Alliance voted in favour of the resolution on NZ troops in this house.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Does he believe Article 51 gives the right to take unilateral military action when terrorists are suspected to be in a country, and when the UN Charter requires all peaceful means to be exhausted first.

A: This is not unilateral action. While peaceful means are the first approach the resolution talks about “all necessary” means.

Q: Bill English (National): When would the Alliance withdraw its support? And has he discussed this matter with the Alliance?

A: The Alliance is more consistent in its views than was the member who two weeks ago was supporting his leader. The Alliance Party spoke for itself last week in Parliament.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Does the Minister remember how many countries supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, as Keith Locke did?

A: The only people who supported that was the Soviet Union’s satellite states.

Q: Grant Gillon (Alliance): What is the government doing about the resolution?

A: The resolution is a chapter seven resolution and is therefore binding. The Government is amending legislation to comply with the latest resolution. A report is being prepared on the response of the government in total.

(Winston Peters – leave to table an article by Keith Locke – granted.

Phil Goff - Leave to table the UN resolutions – granted. )

Question 4.

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

Q: Is she satisfied that the needs for patients requiring surgery are being met in a timely manner at present; if so, why?

A: I am satisfied we are making positive progress. If we take the latest figures we find there has been a 40.4% drop in the number of patients waiting six months for treatment over the last 12 months. The residual waiting list is also down sharply.

Q: Why six days after Tariana Turia answered a question have the numbers changed so much?

A: One of the good things that have happened since we became government is that we have better figures available more frequently.

Question 5

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Does he agree with reported comments in reference to solving the problems in Air New Zealand that "Only one thing stood in the way: “ the Government had to approve lifting Air New Zealand's foreign ownership cap to 49%. That should have been a formality."?

A: No the comments are very ill-informed. The cap was already 49%, and still is.

Q: Is it correct that the real problem in raising the cap was a disagreement with the Alliance?

A: No. (…very complicated answer given…)

Q: What about The Independent article out today in which Chairman Farmer contradicts him?

A: Given his track record I do not trust Mr Stone’s quotation of Mr Farmer. That recap proposal depended on the purchase of Virgin Blue, without it, it would not have worked. The original question related to the March 2000 application, it sought an approval which was granted.

Question 6.

MAHARA OKEROA (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What is the Government doing to ensure that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services can recruit and retain the best social workers?

A: In response to Mick Brown’s report $29 million was provided for recruitment. New employment agreements have now been put in place for 1700 social workers. I thank the PSA for their assistance. The minimum salary for an unqualified social worker increases to $30,000. Qualified social workers are now on a minimum of $35,000. The top rate has increased by 15% to $50,000. The average increase for a social worker is $3000 a year, backdated to July 1.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): Will in service training opportunities be improved?

A: There will be money for upgrading of social work qualifications over a period of about six years.

Question 7.

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

Q: What is her response to comments made by the general manager of the Taranaki District Health Board that the board was underfunded and that "The cost of maintaining the range of services for the population and the rural provincial services to the required standard is not sufficient to meet the way those services are delivered."?

A: I am advised that the MOH is working with the TDHB on its plan. A finalised plan will be presented to the government later. When it is finalised it will become a public document.

Q: Does she agree that to reduce the current deficit of around $7 million a whole lot of services would have to be removed?

A: I can confidently predict that Mr Grant’s comments will be proved wrong. He is a new boy who opened his mouth before he got his feet under the desk. Negotiations are proceeding well.

Q: To what extent does the underfunding of DHBs result from the health funding per capita being reduced?

A: It doesn’t result in that at all. In fact there is an overall increase in funding. My advice to Mr Grant is that just because he is a best friend of Mr English doesn’t mean he can say anything he wants.

Question 8.

JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What steps have been taken to ensure more radiotherapists are trained?

A: Radiation Therapists are trained in Otago. The intake in trainees is being increased from 26 to 30. They have suggested they could train as many as 40. The potential to accommodate more clinical placements is also being explored.

Q: Is this a long standing problem?

A: Yes. In fact in 1998 then Minister of Health Bill English was told about the problem. No action was taken by that government.

Q: What is the government doing to ensure that radiotherapists stay in NZ?

A: DHBs are working on how to retain radiotherapists.

Question 9.

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

Q: Will the inquiries into defence, one to be headed by Colin Carruthers QC, and the other to be headed by Douglas White QC and Graham Ansell, be held in public and have the power to subpoena or take evidence under oath; if not, why not?

A: I can confirm once again that the inquiry has powers to subpoena and take evidence under oath.

Q: Will he be ensuring that his support for an open public inquiry be communicated to the two QCs and Mr Ansell? And if not, why not?

A: I think I indicated in the principle answer what the powers are. I will ensure there is no political interference and corruption of the process.

Q: Will the findings be made public?

A: I can’t account for ill-considered comments from opposition members. I am happy to participate in the inquiry unlike my predecessor who was unwilling to give evidence under oath on anything?

(Max Bradford - I object…

Mark Burton – I withdraw.)

Q: Why is he being so coy about his view that this inquiry should be conducted in public?

A: I am far from coy. I am determined that these processes be set up properly. The inquiries will be conducted in an appropriate fashion and will be fully public in their findings.

Question 10.

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

Q: What progress has the Government made in increasing the availability of information communications technology in schools?

A: The Government has made significant progress in this. We have implemented a video conferencing network. Installed 1600 recycled computers in Gisborne and Wairoa alone. And we have made an agreement with Microsoft. We have made incredible progress.

Q: What advice has he received on his programme?

A: I have great feedback on cost savings due to the Microsoft agreement. 80% of schools are using TKI, which is also very good.

Q: Does he agree that the area that would make the greatest progress would be broadband into rural schools?

A: I agree that that looks like the most important area. However I have viewed some compression technology that may make that technology dated.

Question 11.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Why has she changed from Labour's position on New Zealand committing troops to a United States-led military action that she quoted on 5 December 1990 from a press statement from the Rt Hon Mike Moore regarding Iraq's invasion of Kuwait: "The Labour position has not changed. We seek a United Nations response. We reject direct military involvement. We feel New Zealand's interests are better suited by way of aid, medical teams, refugee assistance, and transportation than by sending fighting ships and fighting men."?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) In any instance of aggression NZ must make a decision on the best contribution we can make. In 1990 we advocated interventions without a military component. This time round we think a military component is required.

Q: Did the Government explore non-military options before committing the SAS?

A: Yes. The government began by offering diplomatic and intelligence capabilities. We also determined that you cannot negotiate with terrorists who live out of range.

Q: Why is force appropriate in this instance?

A: The threat of a new generation of terrorist activity was obvious in the mass murder of the New York and Washington attacks. Clearly force must be part of an appropriate response.

Q: Has she abandoned her 1998 stance when she said that any use of force should be mandated by the Security Council, and that the bombing of Iraq by the UK and US was a rogue action by two rogue states.

A: The Security Council in twice invoking Article 51 clearly authorised the use of force. The Greens have not threatened to withdraw supply.

Q: Rod Donald (Green) Does the killing today of four UN staff cause the PM to rethink the attacks?

A: The killing of the UN workers was appalling but so are the atrocities of the Taliban. (Applause)

Question 12.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:

Q: What are her top five achievements as Minister, in order of importance?

A: I congratulate the Member for BOP on his promotion to responsibility for Auckland. All of my achievements are important – but I will list now only five.
1. working on roads
2. making progress on rail corridor
3. improving public transport
4. working towards the regional growth strategy
5. participating in the Auckland business government forum.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): Considering the breath-taking achievements, why then would Matt McCarten describe her as the “Minister Responsible For Assisting the PM with Her Bag”

A: Because the Alliance candidate for the Auckland Mayoralty is making a political point.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): When assessing her achievements, will she regard the election of John Banks as a vote of no-confidence in her, given that he says he was pleased she endorsed Chris Fletcher saying he was petrified that she might endorse him.

A: Given what John Banks has said about Japanese Italians and homosexuals I am not at all surprised.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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