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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 31 October

Today's questions of the day concerned: GE Announcement x 2 – Maori and GE Announcement – Alzheimer’s Drugs – Southland Employment – Susan Bathgate – China & The WTO – War Against Terror x 2 – Susan Bathgate – Southern Institute Of Technology – Occupational Safety Legislation

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 31 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

(Margaret Wilson – leave sought to make a personal explanation – granted.

Wilson: In the course of answering question six I stated that I did not know she had warrants for other positions. I did know that. But I did not know she was being paid for those positions. I did not mean to mislead the house, but apologise if I did.)

Question 1.

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

Q: What process will she follow to progress the legislative agenda necessary for the successful implementation of yesterday's genetic engineering announcement, and which issues, if any, are still open for negotiation?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) It is proposed that legislation will be introduced shortly on the restraint period. Further legislation will be introduced next year in relation to other parts of the announcement.

Q: Will the Government seek the assistance of the National Party if necessary?

A: We are always willing to work constructively with the National Party when they are.

Q: What has been the response to the announcement.

A: A clear majority of commentators regard it as safe, smart and sensible.

Q: Under which rules will ERMA consider applications made shortly, before legislation is passed?

A: As the announcement made clear, the legislation will take effect from the date of the announcement.

Q: What about the Treaty of Waitangi clause?

A: The wording of any TOW clause is yet to be finalised.

Question 2.

PHILLIDA BUNKLE (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: (Grant Gillon on behalf) What initiatives will he take to promote New Zealand's economic development following yesterday's announcement of Government decisions on genetic engineering?

A: I believe the announcement means NZ’s status will not be compromised. Industry NZ has already financed a number of players in organics. We are also looking at working more closely with the Safe Food industry sector. Organics last year were worth $120 million. I believe this sector will grow to $500 million in four years. New Zealand has a market to meet and it is our responsibility to work with industry to help.

Q: Does his position on GE food have as much support in the Alliance as his position on the Afghanistan war?

A: The Alliance, like all parties, has a large range of opinions in it.

Q: Has he checked whether GE vaccines used on livestock will allow products to qualify as GE free in other countries?

A: The conditions around field trials of any kind are rigorous. And the removal of any material is reasonable.

Question 3.

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (National) to the Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations Margaret Wilson:

Q: Further to her answer yesterday regarding the Royal Commission's recommendations which made specific reference to the Treaty of Waitangi or Maori cultural issues, on what specific "matters" is the Government "currently engaged in discussion with members of the Maori caucus"?

A: The Government is currently involved in discussions on eight recommendations of the RCGM (listed).

Q: Given that those matters are still under discussion. Does this mean the Maori Caucus support is still up for discussion.

A: No. This is normal. Nothing has changed.

Q: What is the government’s approach to the Treaty?

A: To work in partnership with Maori.

Q: What allows the government to impose a superstitious world view on all of us?

A: The Government is engaged in a process of discussion. It is not imposing any policy except that which has come through the Royal Commission. And we are not imposing it, we are discussing it. The recommendations of the RCGM were the subject of considerable public submissions.

Q: What about Tinorangitiratanga?

A: We always think about that when we discuss the TOW.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) Given that FOMA and TPK gave submissions to the commission, why is she being separatist about this?

A: We aren’t. There is an assumption that the Maori caucus’s wishes oppose those of the RCGM. They don’t.

Question 4.

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

Q: Are there any other reasons for not funding a range of drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease than the advice of the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Committee; if so, what are those reasons?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) I am advised that there are not.

Q: Why then did she advise yesterday that only one drug is subsidised in Australia when in fact three drugs will be funded from tomorrow.

A: I understand there is some confusion about this matter. Pharmac has added over 500 drugs to its funded schedule in recent years.

Q: Given the number of NZers who would benefit from this, will she take a political decision and speed up the process?

A: I understand that the third drug will be considered next month by the committee. I also understand that the committee is willing to consider new information about the other drugs.

(Winston Peters - Leave to table an Australian press release – granted.)

Question 5.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on initiatives to address regional labour market needs?

A: I have received a copy of the Southland Times promoting Southland employment opportunities. We are pleased to be associated with this venture and have invested $10,000 in it.

Q: Noting that Southland currently has 329 job vacancies are any other regions experiencing similar problems?

A: Some are and some aren’t. This government has also been addressing problems in other regions.

Q: What would happen if the Minister fulfilled his threat to Southland Institute of Technology?

A: No such threat was made.

(Eric Roy – leave to table press report – granted.

Maharey – leave to table press release – refused.)

Question 6.

SIMON POWER (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Does she stand by her answer in the House yesterday when she said "I referred the matter of Susan Bathgate's availability to the department. At that point I assumed that the normal processes would take place. I subsequently found that she did have different positions. However, there is no rule against people having more than one warrant. The question is the payment for those warrants."; if not, why not?

A: I refer to my personal explanation and again apologise to the house.

Q: In light of her corrected answer. Did she not read the cabinet papers that require candidates to list other jobs. Or did she assume the other jobs were being done for free?

A: Yes I did read it.

Q: Is the issue one of holding multiple warrants?

A: No. Rather it is the appropriate arrangements that should be made when someone is being paid under one warrant and is working under another.

Q: Why did she assume the normal process would take place, when it had in fact already taken place? And why didn’t she assume that the remarkable Ms Bathgate would work for nothing?

A: The normal process is not to stop with the recommendation of the panel. So therefore I followed the normal process.

Q: Did she instruct that Ms Bathgate’s other sources of income be suspended? If not why not?

A: I gave no such instruction.

Q: Why is the Minister insisting this, when her interference meant there would not be a normal process, and isn’t this a plain old case of nepotism?

A: The member would know about that (I withdraw and apologise). It is my responsibility to ensure the best qualified people were appointed. The fact the ERA has been such a success is confirmation that that happened.

Question 7.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: What are the implications for New Zealand of China's accession to the World Trade Organisation?

A: Immediate and tangible benefits. At least $48 million of duties will be saved by NZ exporters. China’s accession will lock in China’s transition to a rules based economy and that is in everybody’s interests.

Q: What will be the impact on Doha?

A: I believe it will assist in the chances of a new successful trade round.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Does he leave with the full support of his coalition partners?

A: I can guarantee I have the support of my colleagues and I will do my best for NZ agriculture.

Q: Rod Donald (Green) What are the views of the government on human rights abuses in China? And will the government be pressing for China to uphold international human rights conventions?

A: The development of a more rules based economy will require a greater role for institutions in China’s government. In the long term I believe these changes will influence the evolution of civil society in China generally.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Does he mean he has support of the Alliance and Green members?

A: The fact that the former leader of the opposition does not know who the government is provides some insight into why she is no longer the leader of the opposition.

Question 8.

(Jim Anderton – leave to table a document referred to yesterday by Lockwood Smith – granted.)

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: On what information did she base her statement this morning, about the war on terrorism, that "I wouldn't expect the campaign to carry on in exactly the form it has for the long term. I think it will enter other forms where perhaps, you know, intelligence, financial measures, diplomatic action, etc come to the fore more than the military campaign has just recently."?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) On the basis of information provided by coalition partners and by common sense.

Q: Can she point to any statements by defence staff or officials or politicians from the UK or the US?

A: I will quote directly from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, military force may be an important factor early in the campaign but it will not be so important in the long term.

Q: What other actions are being taken?

A: Those mandated and required by the United Nations. They include ratifying international conventions. They include strengthening military capacity. They include eliminating nuclear and biological substances.

Q: Given the cautions made by US and UK politicians and officials that this may be a long term war, can the Government give an assurance that its commitment too will be long term?

A: Yes.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Will the government be bringing back the SAS in light of the fact that a majority of Labour/Alliance voters are opposed to their deployment as shown in a recent NBR poll?

A: Look again. An overwhelming majority is shown supporting military action against terrorists in that poll.

Q: Were her comments designed to give the impression that bombing would soon stop? And is this because she is worried about civilian casualties undermining support for the war?

A: What they meant was that the PM did not expect the campaign to carry on as it is for very long. There wouldn’t be any member in this house that is not worried about civilian casualties.

Question 9.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: In light of her reported statement yesterday that bombing raids inevitably cause civilian casualties, is she concerned about the increasing numbers of civilians being killed by the bombing of Afghanistan and will she support the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson's call for a halt in the air strikes?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) The Government is concerned with any loss of civilian life. Every casualty represents a human tragedy. The government is also worried about the larger losses of life due to civil war in Afghanistan. Everyone would support the general thrust of Mary Robinson’s comments.

Q: What then about the likely deaths of 100s of thousands of people by starvation?

A: The latest information from the BBC is that 80% of the bombing is taking place on the front line. Mrs Robinson’s comments refer to starvation in areas well away from the bombing. I also note that it was the Taleban itself that has prevented food going into Afghanistan even before the bombing started. It is vitally important that humanitarian action take place and some credit should be given to the US for committing $700 million for humanitarian assistance.

Q: If the PM’s statement this morning was not intended to indicate that bombing will stop soon, then what did she mean?

A: To quote Richard Armitage again, “there is no point in making the rubble bounce. You eventually run out of targets.” That is what the PM was referring to.

Q: Will doing nothing encourage or deter terrorism?

A: I do not think doing nothing is an option. And nor, to be fair to the Greens, do I think that is what the Greens are advocating. I regret to say that force is likely to have to be part of any campaign.

Q: Does the Government support the use of cluster bombs by US forces, given that they are the same colour as food parcels?

A: I myself also heard this news. This is a bad slip up that needs to be addressed.

Question 10.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Did she interview Ms Susan Bathgate before she recommended her appointment to the Employment Relations Authority despite Ms Bathgate not being interviewed by the selection panel; if not, on what information did she decide personally to recommend her?

A: No Ms Bathgate had already been interviewed.

Q: Is it acceptable that Ms Bathgate signed a press statement saying that said she had applied for annual leave when she hadn’t. And if not why hasn’t she been asked to resign?

A: These are matters being considered by the Auditor General and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to take action till the report has been provided.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Is the house to take it from her statement that it is acceptable for a judicial officer to sign a demonstrably untrue statement?

A: My understanding is that this is a matter in the terms of reference of the AG inquiry.

Question 11.

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

Q: Has he threatened to cut funding to the Southern Institute of Technology if it continues to drive fees down for polytechnic courses in Christchurch; if so, why?

A: No. The onus is on polytechnics to move to a cooperative approach. (Quoted from a release issued on Friday.)

Q: When he says he will not tolerate destructive competition, does he agree with his colleague Jim Anderton?

A: We have a shared world view that the Southern Institute of Technology is an innovative institution. Tertiary institutions in the 1990s were investing in branding, advertising and gaining market share and not in quality.

Q: Maurice Williamson (National): How can he hold the position he does when the Deputy PM said when visiting the SIT in Christchurch that what it was doing was great?

A: Easily. And why is that member not on the front bench?

Question 12.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What is being done to improve health and safety in New Zealand workplaces?

A: Over 400 deaths are caused each year by illnesses and accidents caused at work. We are not satisfied with this so today we are introducing a bill to change things.

Q: Given compliance costs are important, what is being done to minimise these?

A: The bill was reviewed by the Compliance Costs panel of my colleague Paul Swain, and advice is being sought from an industry panel on implementation.

Q: Why is this massively bureaucratic bill being introduced?

A: I can reassure the member that the purpose of this bill is to provide for better safety. We are doing that by ensuring everybody in the workplace is included.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) Why is she increasing compliance costs when private competition would be a far more effective way of reducing work accidents.

A: The members world view was rejected by the electorate.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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