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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –15 November

Today's questions of the day concerned: Economic Development – Susan Bathgate - NZ Economy – Tariana Turia – TPK Audit Of Training Programmes – Tariana Turia (And the Maori Land Court) – WTO Meeting Outcome – Susan Bathgate – NZ A State Of Australia? – Cancer Inquiry – Early Childhood Education Grants – George Hawkins And The Distribution Workers Union – ANZFA Amendments

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 15 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

Questions to Ministers

Question 1.

WILLIE JACKSON (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What recent reports has he received on New Zealand's economic development initiatives?

A: Today an international report was released saying NZers are among the most entrepreneurial in the world. This is the first time we have been involved in the report. The Government’s Economic Development programme is designed to foster this.

Q: Who is entrepreneurial?

A: Maori entrepreneurial rates were the highest in the world. NZ has the highest rate of women entrepreneurs in the world. NZ also has the highest proportion of senior entrepreneurs.

Q: If we are so entrepreneurial, yet Treasury’s long term growth projections are just over 2%, why does he disagree that government policy is responsible?

A: NZers have always been creative. What is different now is that the Government is now working in partnership with those businesses.

Q: What does the report say about Maori?

A: Contrary to some popular beliefs 24% of Maori are either trying to start a business or own a new business. This compares with 17% of Pakeha. The Government is doing lots to help Maori too.

Question 2.

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

Q: Is the signed statement by Ms Susan Bathgate, which says "The Complaints Review Tribunal has involved nine to ten days of sitting time since 2 October 2000. Those days were taken as annual leave" correct; if not, what steps has she taken in relation to this matter?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) As the member is aware the Auditor General has reported on remuneration. The report concludes there has been overpayment. I have now asked the Solicitor General to seek an opinion from independent counsel on the issues raised.

Q: How does she reconcile Ms Bathgate’s statement with a written answer from Matt Robson that says the Complaints Review Tribunal has sat for 20 days?

A: The minister intends to continue following the proper process and observe natural justice along the way.

(Richard Prebble – that’s not an answer.

Speaker – I consider it is.)

Q: What is being done from here?

A: The minister intends to speak to Ms Bathgate and the Chief ERA Member today about what to do next. Instructions are being prepared for independent counsel from the Solicitor General. The evidence to date does not suggest the Minister should not have confidence. However Judicial officers should be beyond reproach.

Q: When did the Minister first discover that Ms Bathgate is also working as council for the child and on the Student Allowance Appeal Authority?

A: Sadly I do not have the necessary information to answer that question.

Question 3.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

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

A: From the ridiculous to the sublime. The Reserve Bank MPS paints a picture of an economy in a strong position to weather an international slowdown. Unemployment is expected to remain low. Operational surpluses are expected to continue. The decision to cut the OCR has already put money in people’s pockets through mortgage rate cuts.

Q: What about the Super Fund analysis that says it will hurt government accounts?

A: Other analysis says it will help it. Conversations with business people find they are still quite bullish in the real economy. The latest Heritage Foundation economic freedom survey found NZ was the third freeest economy in the world, freer even than the US. NZ’s forecast growth rate is above the OECD average for next year.

Q: Rod Donald (Green) Is he reviewing plans to invest funds in international equities given RB comments that the international environment is very threatening?

A: I am sorry to disappoint the member. The US major sharemarket rose yesterday.

Question 4.

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

Q: Is he fully satisfied that the processes employed by his Associate Minister regarding advocacy for individual inmates will in future totally comply with the Cabinet Office Manual, and has he been absolutely assured by his Associate Minister that her conduct will meet these standards?

A: Yes.

Q: Since his own officials admitted this morning that they raised concerns well over 12 months ago, what did he do? And why didn’t it work?

A: Appropriate steps were put in place and they worked.

Q: What are the key areas the Associate Minister works on?

A: Policy issues regarding Maori inmates and women inmates take up 99.999% of our time. We have a lot to do due to reactionary policies pursued in the past.

Q: Stephen Franks (ACT): How can this not constitute nepotism and an abuse of power?

A: Because the Associate Minister is a great deal more intelligent than the questioner.

Question 5.

Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: What does the Te Puni Kokiri audit say about the success of Training Opportunity and Youth Training programmes in helping Maori improve their future prospects?

A: (Sandra Lee on behalf) The TPK effectiveness audit found youth training is working. With some adjustment to the contracting process they can be made to work even better.

Q: Since PTEs provide the bulk of these services. Has he or his colleagues told Steve Maharey to back off on PTEs?

A: The analysis is somewhat superficial. One of the problems is that some PTEs get people from the very, very bottom of the heap, and capacity building is necessary.

Question 6.

Dr WAYNE MAPP (National) to the Attorney General Margaret Wilson:

Q: Has she requested a report on the actions of the Associate Minister of Corrections who has directly contacted the Chief Judge of the Maori Land Court about a case involving David Churton, who has served time in prison for assault with a weapon; if not, why not?

A: (Matt Robson on behalf): Yes a report has been called for. And for the benefit of the member the Maori Land Court deals with land matters and criminal courts deal with criminal matters.

Q: How will she ensure that separation of powers is observed and ministers do not write to judges?

A: The Attorney General will give that advice to the Minister concerned.

Q: How will working NZers support capacity building if conflict of interest provisions are mocked by ministers supported by the PM.

(Speaker – question is too wide.)

Q: Has the AG informed the Associate Minister not to write to the police telling them not to enforce trespass orders against a person who has been convicted of firing a semi-automatic gun at a house?

A: I am certain that the AG would have given whatever advice is required to the minister.

Q: Given the importance of integrity of the system, will she give an undertaking to table the report she is requesting?

A: I cannot give that assurance on behalf of the AG.

Question 7.

CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: What has been the outcome of the World Trade Organisation ministerial meeting recently concluded in Doha, Qatar?

A: (Paul Swain on behalf) Trade Ministers agreed this morning to launch a new round of negotiations. It represents a strong mandate for negotiation. A separate declaration was made on patent rights and public health.

Q: How will this help exporters?

A: It is estimated that a reduction in trade barriers by half would benefit NZ GDP by 4%. In particular the outcome on agricultural exports is good. I am certain that the house would like to join with me to congratulate Mike Moore (Applause.)

Q: Lockwood Smith (National): What about the change in language from eliminating subsidies to phasing out subsidies?

A: I have not been specifically advised about that. However my understanding is that through negotiations the wording had to take into account the views of a number of countries. My general advice is that the wording is positive to us.

Q: Can he advise whether the Alliance and the Greens are opposed to free trade?

A: I can’t speak on behalf of the Greens. However I can say that both parties to the government signed up to the negotiating strategy we used.

Q: Why does he believe that the US will remove agricultural subsidies, when the US has just increased them by 60% for the next ten years?

A: This is a good news story for NZ.

Question 8.

(Rodney Hide - Leave sought to delay question – refused.)

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

Q: Was Susan Bathgate, on her appointment to the Employment Relations Authority, sent Higher Salaries Commission Determination No 50/2000 with clause 2 that states "This determination is made on the basis that the position is full-time and is subject to pro rata adjustment where that basis does not apply."; if so, how does the Minister conclude that "there is no blame attached to [Susan Bathgate] in this"?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) It is my understanding that Ms Bathgate did receive the document referred to. Matters relating to overpayment have been considered by the Auditor General’s report. Other matters are being considered by independent counsel.

Q: Did Ms Bathgate sign the letter confirming the conditions? And would she be expected to have understood Clause 2?

A: I do not have the information to answer the first part. And I assume the answer to the second part is also yes given that ms Bathgate is a lawyer.

Q: Given that she said that policies were not clear? How could clause 2. be made more clear by the Minister of Labour?

A: The leader of the house would have some involvement in that matter as well I should think.

Question 9.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Does he agree with John Spriggs and Grant Isaac, who state in their new book Food, Safety and International Competitiveness: the Case of Beef, in respect of the Australia New Zealand Food Authority agreement, that "Under the harmonized agreement, New Zealand becomes a State of Australia in terms of food production and trade."; if not, why not?

A: (Jim Anderton on behalf) No. Approximately 2000kms of ocean separate us from Australia. NZ is manifestly a separate nation from Australia in terms of International Trade.

Q: Given that on the ANZFA Council NZ has one vote out of ten, is he concerned that NZ can be overidden by Australian states on important issues?

A: This agreement actually enhances the safety of food sold in NZ. NZ appoints three members to the board of ANZFA. Accepting your weight in the world is part of the nature of partnership. The Green Party seems not to understand this. Understanding this principle is the key to why this coalition government works.

Question 10.

ANNE TOLLEY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Following the six month review of the Gisborne Cervical Cancer Screening Inquiry, which states that only eight of the recommendations have been completed and that 21 are behind schedule, can she confirm that all recommendations will now be actioned on time; if not, why not?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I am advised that the MOH is working on implementing recommendations in accordance with a revised schedule.

Q: Can she confirm that the MOH forgot to invite the women involved in the inquiry to the six month report?

A: I can.

Q: What action has been taken to date?

A: Work has started on 45 of the 46 recommendations and of these 8 have been completed. Work on some of the remaining recommendations will wait on legislative time being available.

Q: Can the minister explain what the purpose is of having a smear test if there is no assurance on its accuracy?

A: There is a systemic problem here that needs to be addressed.

Q: What about ongoing incompetence? And how can women have confidence in the MOH in such circumstances?

A: I understand it was in fact the lawyers who held up the invitations.

Question 11.

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

Q: What funding has he made available through discretionary grants for early childhood education services?

A: With the assistance of the Minister of Finance, we have allocated $8.2 million to 78 early childhood centers around the country. The grants provide capital funding for not-for-profit early childhood centers. The funding will provide more than 1000 new places.

Q: Will the funding go to those in the greatest need? Or to the Minister’s pet projects?

A: With one exception I have played no part in the selection of who receives the grants.

Q: Does the Minister understand the money comes from the taxpayer, and not from the Minister of Finance?

A: I want to thank the Minister of Finance who has found savings to enable this funding.

Question 12.

SIMON POWER (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Does he stand by the answer he gave in the House yesterday, in regard to a letter he wrote regarding two union officials who had had charges against them dropped, that "I wrote that because that is what the Police advised me."; if so, why?

A: Yes. As a point of clarification let me quote from the Counties Manakau police commander in his release yesterday.

Q: If he was not involved in operational matters then on what basis did he sign the letter to the Union?

A: Because I had no involvement in operational matters. That member was told that today in a Select Committee by the Commissioner of Police. Mr Prebble wrote to me earlier this year on behalf of a constituent asking me to “get some action taken”. I referred that letter to the police.

Q: Does the Minister agree with the Police Commissioner who conceded this morning that the letter to the union was inappropriately worded?

A: As I was not at the meeting I cannot confirm that. However I can confirm that the commissioner said that the letter from me did not influence the decision in this case. As always when I get requests from members of the public I refer them on to the police. And I reply with the response sent to me. I do not make things up.

(Tony Ryall - leave to table a “Dear George” letter – granted.

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

Questions to Members

Question 1.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee Graham Kelly:

Q: Will the public be invited to make submissions on the amendments to the Australia New Zealand Joint Food Standards Treaty being considered by the committee; if not, why not?

A: (Chris Carter on behalf) The committee has decided by a majority not to call for submissions on the amendments to this treaty?

Q: Given that Australians have had the opportunity to make submissions on this twice, why are NZers being denied the same rights?

A: The committee is still considering the treaty and all other aspects of its deliberations are confidential.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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