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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 13 December

Today's questions of the day concerned: Parole Reform Bill – Decile Funding – Mental Health Legislation – Parental Leave – Air Combat Wing – Fisheries Court Decision – Feds Views On Kyoto – Health Funding Announcement Reaction – Auckland Burglary Investigations – Waihi Mine Shaft Collapse – Auckland Police Recruiting – State House Tenancy Terms

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 13 December 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 WAYNE MAPP (National) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Is it his intention that serious violent offenders, including rapists, will be eligible for parole at one-third of their sentence under the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill; if so, why?

A: Under the present legislation inmates in this category are automatically paroled after two thirds, regardless of the risk they then constitute. The new bill allows for earlier parole for the rehabilitated, and for longer sentences to be served by those who remain a risk to the community.

Q: How does this meet the demands of 92% of NZ voters as expressed in a referenda calling for harsher sentences at the last election?

A: The net result of this will be to cost the country $90 million over three years. This is so because there will be 300 more inmates in jails. The current provision is clearly a nonsense. Someone who clearly still constitutes a risk should not be paroled after two thirds. Someone who is not a risk should not be kept in prison unnecessarily.

Q: Why does he keep claiming his bill is toughening the rules when it doesn’t?

A: I have been claiming that because it is true. In future aggravated murders will begin at a 17 years minimum.

Q: How can the Minister justify allowing vicious murderers parole at all?

A: That is a question that the National Party should have considered when it was in government. The Parole Board will have a paramount consideration under this bill, and that is the safety of the public. Why didn’t the National Party put a provision like that in place?

Question 2.

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

Q: What is the purpose of the decile funding system for schools?

A: (Steve Maharey as Acting Minister) The decile funding system supports schools in lower socio-economic areas. The decile funding system provides support that is needed in lower socio-economic areas.

Q: Is there a threat to the system?

A: I have read a speech from Opposition Leader Bill English saying that the system has huge problems. We stand for equity. Mr English stands for privilege.

Q: If the system is fair then why did the select committee decide unanimously to hold an inquiry into the inequities of the system?

(Helen Duncan – the inquiry is not into inequities….)

A: The committee arrived at a consensus that additional resources can help. We stand for fairness. There is a link between improved resources and outcomes, but the resources need to be deployed in the right places.

Question 3.

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

Q: Does she stand by her spokesperson's comment on 4 December 2001 that the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992 was "working fine"?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf): Yes. The Act is good legislation giving broad parameters for protection of both individuals and the community.

Q: What about the recent murder of a wife by a mentally ill man in Hastings? Surely this means the Act should be reviewed?

A: I know nothing other than what I have read in the paper. An inquiry is underway. I suggest that the member wait for the results of that before jumping to conclusions.

Q: How can she say there is no evidence there is a problem when it is on the front page? And what about Mark Burton? How many people have to die before she notices?

A: Whenever any tragedy occurs questions should be and are asked. But although isolated tragedies do occur there is no evidence linking more violence in our community to the treatment of the seriously mentally ill.

Q: Are patients being sent home early because there are not enough acute beds?

A: That is one of the factors. But I have to say there is not yet an established link.

Question 4.

LIZ GORDON (Alliance) to the Associate Minister of Labour Laila Harre:

Q: What are the features of the Parental Leave and Employment Protection (Paid Parental Leave) Amendment Bill designed to increase the accessibility of paid and unpaid parental leave for New Zealand workers?

A: The bill includes provisions which provide payment and that will help mothers. And the scheme also widens eligibility in several areas.

Q: How will the scheme impact on privately negotiated agreements?

A: It will not affect existing agreements covering, we estimate, one third of employees. Employees will also continue to get family assistance and other benefits while on parental leave.

Q: Will the loophole that allows workers with existing entitlements to double dip be closed?

A: I am sure neither employers nor employees would want us to do that. However as existing agreements expire the new system can be taken into account in negotiations.

Q: Given that ACC extends coverage to self-employed workers, why is it difficult to deal with self-employed mothers?

A: We have pledged to look at this after the first year of the scheme’s operation. We may also at that time look at other ways of helping those mothers.

Question 5.

RICHARD WORTH (National) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: With the benefit of hindsight, does he regret the Government's decision to disband the air combat capacity of the Royal New Zealand Air Force; if not, why not?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) Hindsight has in no way changed the factors relevant to the decision. It is important that spending be allocated to areas of greatest need and greatest priority.

Q: Does he agree with the PM that the Skyhawks are clapped out?

A: I am aware that they are over 30 years old. I am also aware that in that 30 years they have never been used in combat and have only ever been used for training.

Q: What was the priority and why?

A: A number of things. They included the upgrading or replacement of the C130s. The replacement of the Iroquois. The upgrading of the Orions and the replacement of the aging 727 transport aircraft. The constant and practical use of those aircraft makes them a priority over the A4s which are only ever used for training.

Q: If he is so sure he is right, why then won’t he table the documents dated January 17th 2001 and March 9th 2001?

A: The documents I presume have been withheld for the reasons he was given. In an ideal world we might have been able to afford this luxury. As it is we will be increasing operational expenditure by $700 million and capital expenditure by $2 billion.

Q: What about purchasing patrol boats?

A: The member is right that patrol boats are a priority and are overdue. However I would make the point that the army is the organisation that is most often deployed, and they have been deployed with clapped out equipment to both Bosnia and East Timor recently.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why wasn’t the demise of the Skyhawks an election promise?

A: It was clear that was our view. We supported the Select Committee report on this and so did Ron Mark, his defence spokesman.

(Winston Peters – leave to table a Ron Mark statement – granted.

Phil Goff – leave to table two Ron Mark statements – granted.

Rodney Hide – leave to table a letter from the Ombudsman – granted.)

Question 6.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson:

Q: What has been the Government's response to the Court of Appeal decision of 11 October 2001 involving several fishing companies against the Minister of Fisheries and the chief executive of the Ministry of Fisheries and, in particular, what is the Ministry doing now on scampi allocation that is different from the circumstances which led to Court action in the first instance in both the High Court and Court of Appeal and in which adverse comments were made about the Ministry and its chief executive?

A: We have reviewed management and we have begun consultation on options for bringing Scampi into the QMS.

Q: Is it not a fact that the Minister and his official have decided that they will simply ignore the Court of Appeal decision?

A: No. Which is why I said options, plural, in my primary answer.

Q: Is there a preferred option?

A: There are two options. One is the status quo. The second is a new one. The Ministry prefers the second. I doubt however that there will be a sudden outbreak of peace in this industry.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why is he persisting with defending officials which the court was very critical of?

A: I confirmed my confidence in the CEO of the Ministry of Fisheries yesterday. I notice that last time the member attacked the CEO he used much harsher language. I wonder why he has now gone soft.

Question 7.

GAVAN HERLIHY (National) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Does he agree that the Government is being "foolish" and "grossly irresponsible" in committing to ratify the Kyoto Protocol before our key trading partners and before the economic implications are understood, as stated by Federated Farmers president Alistair Polson?

A: No. As I said yesterday it would be irresponsible not to act on climate change. The protocol will not come into force until a large number of other nations have also ratified.

Q: Will he give an assurance a carbon tax will not be applied to farm animal emissions.

A: It is very disappointing that some normally responsible industry organisations have chosen to base their public positions on the most extreme and unlikely public policy formulations. Obviously we will look to adopt policies that maximise benefits and minimise costs to industries.

Q: Can he give a good reason why we should sign up ahead of Australia?

A: Because the protocol is the only agreement that offers any progress in reducing greenhouse emissions. That is why this government has declared its intention to ratify the protocol. Supporting Kyoto was also National Party policy under the previous government.

(Richard Prebble – this answer is PR rubbish…

Speaker – I don’t think he had finished.)

A: I would remind members that the protocol was signed in 1998 by then Minister Simon Upton. He of course was from the responsible, intelligent wing of the party. We will sign the protocol because it is the right thing to do. If Australia doesn’t then that will reflect badly on them.

Question 8.

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

Q: What has been the response to the Government's $3 billion cash injection into the health system?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) The government has announced the commitment of an additional $3 billion on health over the next three years. The reaction to this has been mostly positive.

Q: Has there been any other detailed proposals for addressing health?

A: I have seen a speech from Bill English saying that National is preparing a “rescue package” for health. However no detail is included as to how.

Q: Why did she say on Monday that the MOH was telling DHBs how much money they would get, when media reports indicate they still don’t know?

A: I deeply regret that I am not responsible for media reports.

Q: What about the critical NZ Herald editorial?

A: There is always a variety of responses to an announcement like this. This is one of the “too much too early” variety. We also get reaction of the “too little too late” variety.

Question 9.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What is his response to the claim in the December issue of the New Zealand Police Association Newsletter that burglary victims in Auckland have a three-day wait?

A: We have been the first government to enter into contracts on burglary response times. Police are working towards the target of 90% of responses within 24 hours.

Q: Why is it you can get a pizza in ten minutes but a cop takes three days?

A: Police work very seriously in dealing with crime, and they are getting better at it.

Question 10.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Associate Minister of Energy Paul Swain:

Q: (Ian Ewen-Street on behalf): What action will he take in light of the sudden collapse of a mine shaft in Waihi this morning, which put at risk the lives of three young children and led to the evacuation of up to 30 people from their homes?

A: I have received a preliminary report on this which attributes it to an old shaft begun in the 1900s which was not backfilled. I am pleased that families are safe and their needs are being taken care of.

Q: Will there be a genuinely independent inquiry into this?

A: When the 1999 subsidence happened a working party was set up involving several groups, which is due to report in 2002. The Mayor suggests that the current subsidence should be brought into the scope of that report. I agree with him. It is far too early to draw conclusions about what led to this subsidence at this stage.

Question 11.

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

Q: Is the fact that the Police have begun to recruit South Islanders specifically for work in the Auckland police districts an indication of the difficulty of recruiting police in Auckland; if not, what does it indicate?

A: I want to tell that member. No matter how hard he tries he will not be able to stop young men and young women joining the police.

Q: Georgina Beyer (Labour): Is a police officers place of birth likely to impact on their ability to do the job?

A: No. I don’t think it matters where police officers are born, Mt Roskill or Murchison.

Q: Why won’t he face up to the fact that his $1 million advertising campaign in Auckland failed?

A: The member should listen to my answers.

Q: What is his response to police officers who describe him as a “mad man”.

A: Some police also tell me that Mr Ryall is the most hopeless opposition spokesman they have ever met.

Question 12.

TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:

Q: Should tenants of State houses be concerned about their long-term tenancies?

A: (Michael Cullen): No. Although the leader of the opposition has suggested there might be a threat, opinion polls suggest this threat is an empty one.

Q: How are waiting lists managed?

A: On the basis of need. And they are not growing at 1000 a month as claimed by Mr English. Turnover in state houses has nearly halved since the introduction of this policy.

Q: What about not-needy state house tenants.

A: Experience is that people move out of state houses when they increase their incomes.

Q: What about fixed term tenancies?

A: They remove the connection between a family and their house and destabilise families.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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