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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 7 November

Today's questions of the day concerned: (Should Tariana Turia Answer Questions? – Point Of Order) - Textile Industry – Tariana Turia And The Prison Service – Sow Crates - Tariana Turia – Paid Parental Leave – Tax Review – Cancer Treatment In Oz – Tariana Turia – Modern Apprenticeships – Tariana Turia – Maori Development -

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 7 November 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

(Gerry Brownlee – leave for questions 2,4,8 to be answered by the Associate Minister of Corrections…

Gerry Brownlee – Tariana Turia has no delegation of responsibilities. Her role is to be an advisor on Maori issues. It is not even a role across the whole portfolio. The problem is that she herself has said she does have responsibility. Either she does or she doesn’t. There appears to be a contradiction between your ruling of 22nd February and standing order 363. If a member is acting in a role that has been assigned to them, therefore they should be able to be questioned. If that weren’t the case then we have a situation in which the media can ask the Minister a question, but Parliament can’t. We would ask you to give this careful consideration.

Michael Cullen – the questions could not be transferred as they are now written. The fact that the media can ask questions does not mean that the same questions should be able to be asked in this house. Long may there be a difference. In relation to the Minister’s responsibility, there is no delegation, there is simply an involvement in policy direction. She has a role but no final responsibility. I have no objection to further consideration being given to the matter however.

Richard Prebble – I think this is important. You have ruled on 22nd February that Associate Ministers are only answerable in their own right for matters that have been formally delegated to them. The standing order says that questions can be put to a minister in relation to public affairs to which they are connected. We are witnessing sophistry here from the leader of the house. Under the law no minister can instruct Corrections about transferring prisoners. If Mr Cullen is right then the question oughtn’t be able to be asked to the minister either. From your ruling the Associate Minister must be able to be asked questions about Maori prisoners. I watched her on TV last night saying she believed she could interfere with the treatment of Maori prisoners.

Speaker - I want to thank members for their contribution. I think my ruling is clear. associate ministers can only be asked questions about delegated things. Until quite recently no questions could be put to associate ministers at all. The fact that a question cannot be put to an associate minister does not mean they cannot be put to a minister. I have a list of delegations. The associate minister has no specific delegations. The Minister has political responsibility to answer to this house. It does not matter that he has no legal responsibility.

Richard Prebble – With the greatest respect you haven’t looked at my point. The Minister does have the delegated responsibility. The fact she has used it improperly does not mean she should not have to answer questions. There is no doubt she has delegated responsibilities in relation to Maori Prisoners. And

Michael Cullen – This issue is simple. The delegation issue is clear. Rather than any specific delegations there is only a general area of responsibility. As for the email Mr Prebble mentions. Ms Turia was acting minister at the time the email was sent. You cannot put down questions to acting ministers. Today I am acting Agriculture Minister. Any questions in the future about agriculture will not be put down to me.

Gerry Brownlee – I would ask you to reconsider your ruling. We can now have an associate minister acting with full responsibility of a minister but not accountable to the house or through the cabinet manual to the PM.

Peter Dunne - In your ruling you mentioned 1171. In this instance it is a possible construction that the associate minister may not have had the official responsibility for those actions, but did have the political responsibility.

Richard Prebble - I am obliged to Dr Cullen. It is an ingenious argument. What he appears to be saying is that there is no specific delegation, just a general one. Once the PM actually wrote the words you have a responsibility for developing policy for Maori prisoners, would appear to me she could be asked questions about that.

Ron Mark – What we are seeing here is a combination of concerns over the first appointment of these ministers. Where has this led us, We are still none the wiser about what we can question these ministers about. I would suggest this is an area that the Standing Orders Committee needs to take initiative.

Michael Cullen – Before 1995 no associate minister could answer any question. Let me read more from the letter. “There is no delegation of decisions regarding individual Maori offenders”….”All decisions on the matters above will be taken by me after taking into account your views”…. The one case that Mr Prebble has mentioned was when the Minister was acting minister, Members may not like it but questions are not put down to individuals but to ministers.

Gerry Brownlee – while Michael Cullen may say there is no specific delegation the fact there are words on a page means there is some delegation. The minister should be covered by the standing orders.

Speaker – There is one government and one government only. There is not two governments. There may be many parties. To Mr Mark I say, I do not shield anyone from question time. Not always to the pleasure of my former colleagues. I did take the point that this can be considered by the Standing Orders Committee. I regard them to be alive. Speakers ruling 116 is not relevant, there is no transfer involved. There is no delegation at all here and that is what my ruling is based on. I have to take this statement from the government as being clear. It is clear.

…. leave for the questions to be transferred to Tariana Turia refused. )

Question 1.

JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What reports has he received on the state of New Zealand's clothing and textile industry?

A: I have read a report in the Levin Chronicle headed, “National Blamed for State Of Industry”. The report says that years of neglect have created the mess. It is not just the clothing and textile industry, but industry in general. The very same report says that the Labour-Alliance coalition government is interested and helpful. It says that it is like a “whole new ballgame”.

Q: Warren Kyd (National): Has he read the Kapiti Chronicle that laments that Judy Keall had not read the report, and goes on to complement the National Government?

A: If the Government he was a member of was so good, why is he sitting so far back in the house. I have recently met with representatives of the industry to discuss things we can do to help.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): Can he confirm that this recent progress has occurred despite tariff reductions condemned by the Alliance Party? And that the government is persuing further tariff reductions at the WTO?

A: The truth is that this government has frozen tariffs for five years unlike the government that member would have supported if he had a chance.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Has he seen a report by Bill Rosenberg in today’s Independent that says 10,000 jobs are threatened by the Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement?

A: Changing Mr Rosenberg’s views on trade matters is something I haven’t got around too yet.

Question 2.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: Did his Associate Minister consult or advise him, the Prime Minister or the Secretary of the Cabinet that she had a conflict of interest in relation to the prisoner described as inmate A, according to the provisions of the Cabinet Office Manual; if not, why not?

A: The Associate Minister did not declare a conflict of interest because none existed. No conflict exists because she does not exercise any executive decision making.

Q: How is it that she has a close enough relationship to buy him a stereo but not close enough to declare it to cabinet?

A: I am not responsible for the fact that some people are more generous of spirit than Mr Brownlee. The Department has treated this matter no differently than it would an inquiry from any other member.

Q: What did the minister do when he learned about this?

A: I consulted my own judgment and common sense, and my officials. I discussed this with the department when the minister brought to my attention the fact she had a connection to an inmate placed in her care some number of years previously.

Question 3.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the (acting) Minister of Agriculture Michael Cullen:

Q: When he said, in the preface to the draft Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare 2001, that he was confident the codes of animal welfare "reflect the views and values held by New Zealanders with respect to the care of animals", did he believe that the confining of pregnant pigs in sow stalls where they cannot walk or turn around is acceptable to New Zealanders and reflects their views and values; if so, why?

A: The draft code was released last week for public consultation. Until such time as consultation is completed it would be inappropriate for me to comment.

Q: Can the minister confirm that if a dog were kept like some pigs that its owner would be prosecuted?

A: The draft code is designed to stimulate public discussion on such matters.

Q: What has he done to familiarise himself with these issues.

A: On behalf of the Minister I answer: In October I visited two pig farms. One using sow stalls. One not. In both cases high levels of animal husbandry were observed and animals did not appear to be distressed.

Q: Has he seen a paper that says that sow stalls protect sows from their bossy mates?

A: It is worth remembering that some of these methods were based on animal welfare reasons.

Q: Why is a dispensation being proposed for the Jewish community to slaughter animals without prior stunning?

(Richard Prebble – what has this got to do with anything….

Doug Woolerton – my question is about pig welfare.

Speaker – I would prefer a question to be put down later on this.

Richard Prebble – he is clearly wrong. Jewish people don’t eat pigs.

Winston Peters – My colleague simply wants to know whether this is part of the code.

Richard Prebble - I think the question should be authenticated.

Speaker – I rule it will not be answered.)

Q: Is the minister reaching the limits of his understanding of pigs?

A: What has emerged is that there are some behavioural problems for pigs, which is why this is being investigated. I can report with confidence that all pigs have access to dihydrogen monoxide.

Question 4.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: Does he think it was appropriate for the Associate Minister of Corrections, or her office, to send an email on 18 July 2001 requesting the opportunity to look at a file of an inmate in Kaitoke prison who wanted the opportunity to "review/drop [his] charges to manslaughter"; if so, why?

A: If a Minister requests information about an inmate it should be provided unless there is an obligation not to.

Q: How is it acceptable for this to happen?

A: The information being sought was not to influence the department, as the department does not have a role in the reviewing of charges.

Q: Does he consider it appropriate for the associate minister to intercede on behalf of an inmate?

A: I consider it appropriate for someone seeking their case to be reviewed to access information on their file. The fact that information may or may not help a process decided by the courts is something for the courts, not the department of corrections.

Q: When will he stop supporting his associate given her reported misconduct over the past 18months?

A: Mr Ryall shouldn’t rely on hearsay.

Question 5.

LIZ GORDON (Alliance) to the Minister of Women's Affairs Laila Harre:

Q: What will the Government's paid parental leave scheme provide from 1 July 2002?

A: The Minister of Labour and I have today announced a PPL scheme (see press release for details – lots of detail provided). The whole community will benefit from improved health of new mothers and babies.

Q: Given that 18,000 mothers will miss out, should mothers continue to take the advice of the PM that they should not concede on the basis of a press release?

A: The figures are wrong. Approximately two thirds of women in paid work will be eligible. Those who are not eligible will still be able to claim the parental tax credit.

Q: Is she concerned that the provisions do not comply with the ILO convention that we have ratified?

A: I am thrilled that when we report next year we will be able to lift our reservation on the convention concerning discrimination against women. As for the ILO, I am pleased, and I am sure the ILO will be pleased that we have made progress. I hope we are able to change the provisions to 14 weeks in the future.

Q: Will she apologise to women who took her advice that this would be in place by April 1 2002?

A: I can assure the house that every possible means of meeting the April 1 date was tried.

Q: What about self-employed parents?

A: The question was thoroughly canvassed. Given the resources available it was simply not possible to extend this package in that way at that time. One of the problems was that there was no means of verifying that leave was in fact being taken by self-employed women.

Question 6.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Does he consider the $985,000 of taxpayers' money for the Tax Review 2001 to be money well spent; if so, why has the Government rejected most of the report's recommendations?

A: Yes.

Q: Why then has the Government rejected a principle recommendation to role back the 39% tax rate?

A: I didn’t want to give a tax cut to ACT MPs.

Q: What was the principle recommendation of the review?

A: That the system works and fundamental reform is not required.

Q: Which page says the 39% top rate is a good thing?

A: None. But what it does say is that if you cut taxes you need to find new money and I note that Bill English says he doesn’t know where to find it.

Q: What about ecotaxes?

A: One of the members was an expert in the economics of taxation. The committee found that only a carbon tax met its principles.

Q: What changes will be made as a result of the review?

A: We will continue to work on chapters 5,7 and 8. The only chapter we have rejected is 6 on tax rates.

Q: John Wright (Alliance): What role should the review play?

A: It is designed to improve the quality of the tax debate. It has already done so improving the policies of both ACT and National.

Question 7.

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

Q: What are the advantages for the New Zealand public health system of sending cancer patients requiring treatment to Australia for radiation therapy?

A: The advantages are for patients who need treatment now. It is a short term option and no panacea. It is true however that it will help patients in NZ receive treatment within the clinical guidelines.

Q: Given she has already identified 110 patients eligible for travel, why doesn’t she bring radio therapists here, or pay overtime?

A: I agree it would be far better for treatment to be provided here. Unfortunately there is also a shortage of therapists in Australia too.

Q: Have patients been sent to Australia before?

A: Yes. Last year in Waikato patients were sent to Australia. Back in 1997 a radio therapist was brought in to deal with waiting lists.

Q: Given that as of noon today Wellington hospital was still waiting to be notified of criteria for eligibility, why is it taking so long?

A: That work is being done by clinicians. I believe patients will know very soon whether they are eligible.

Q: Did she hear criticism this morning from Dr Peter Dady?

A: Yes. And I respect the comments.

Question 8.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: Does he think it was appropriate for the Associate Minister of Corrections, or her office, to send an email on 25 July 2001 in relation to the prisoner described as inmate J, stating "I do not want [this prisoner] shifted" and " stop his transfer"; if so, why?

A: Yes, but it would be appropriate if the word “please” were included in the question. The word was used. It is important because it was a request. The email arose after a request was made at a very late hour by a member of the inmates family. They raised issues of procedural fairness. The acting minister of corrections quite properly passed on those concerns to the department. The inmate was transferred.

Q: How does he explain that, when he said in a written answer that the Minister has no statutory powers over inmate movements?

A: It is a request, not a direction. It was followed up with a polite amiable discussion with the CEO over issues of procedural fairness.

Q: What powers does he have over inmate movements?

A: Neither the minister nor the associate has any powers to issue directions on inmate movements.

Question 9.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on progress with the implementation of the Modern Apprenticeships initiative?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) Modern apprenticeships are about getting our young people real qualifications. As at the end of September there were 1640 young NZers in the programme.

Q: Are new opportunities being opened up by this programme?

A: Yes.

Q: Liz Gordon (Alliance) what is the distribution of MAs ?

A: They are in a range of industries and all around the country.

Question 10.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: Does he stand by his answer to written question No 14129 that neither he nor the Associate Minister of Corrections has ever declared a conflict of interest in relation to an individual inmate; if so, how does he reconcile this answer with the circumstances reported in the media regarding inmate A?

A: Media reports are inaccurate. No conflict of interest exists.

Q: How can he maintain that when the inmate is close enough to have the associate minister’s phone numbers and close enough to receive a flash stereo from the associate minister?

A: The minister properly stated to me and the department that she knew this person as a social welfare ward. The mother of this inmate has made representations to me, just as representations are made almost daily by members from the other side of this house about such matters.

Q: On what date did the associate minister first declare her personal interest?

A: Before she made any personal representations, because she wanted to make sure the department and I knew this.

Q: Since he is satisfied with the minister, why then is he reviewing procedures in her office?

A: At no stage have I ever suggested that there cannot be improvements.

Question 11.

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

Q: What is the Government doing to respond to calls made at the Prime Minister's recent regional hui for increased community control of Maori development initiatives?

A: This government’s intention is for Maori to guide their own development.

Q: How have you done this?

A: We have kept true to our election promise of being face to face with the people. We actively support aspirations and have been holding hui.

Q: Putting aside the puffery. Does the government intend to build on the fine social programmes developed during the term of the previous government?

A: Putting aside the huffing and puffing. Can I assure my colleague that Maori are pleased we are accelerating Maori development.

Question 12.

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

Q: Does she consider the actions of the Associate Minister of Corrections regarding individual inmates meet the standards she sets for her Government; if so, how?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Yes.

Q: Does it meet her new standards in terms of behaviour and performance? And if so what are they?

A: Yes.

Q: Which answer is correct, the answer in the Evening Post which says her conduct is less than desirable or the answer today.

A: The Associate Minister has done no wrong. She has answered as a woman with great heart and substantial intelligence.

Q: Bill English (National): Can she confirm the behaviour has damaged the public perception?

A: Absolutely not. Any minister is entitled to make representations on behalf of constituents.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): How is it that when Dover Samuels had swirling allegations he was dismissed, despite being proven innocent, and when female ministers have allegations they keep their limos and everything?

A: One female minister was reinstated. Another has not been. I have no fears about the masculinity of the male ministers and what may happen to them as a consequence.

Q: Can she confirm that it is her view that there is no difference between the role of an MP and the role of a Minister with a warrant? And if so what would her view be of the Minister of Health making representations concerning an individual patient?

A: I notice that that is precisely what question after question from the opposition requests the Minister of Health do.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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