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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 18 December

Today's questions of the day concerned: Peace-Keepers To Afghanistan – SAS In Afghanistan – Tania Furlan Murder Witness Payment – Murders And Police Resources – University Entrance / NCEA- Budget Cap/ DEFU – Business Compliance Costs - Dodson Report – Pacific Radio Network – DHB Funding Figures – Shop Trading Bill – Auckland Police Numbers

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 18 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.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Did she discuss with the British Prime Minister New Zealand's participation in the United Nation's mandated multi-national force in Afghanistan when she was in London; if so, what was the outcome?

A: Yes. I had discussions with Ton Blair and Jack Straw on this issue. I said we would consider assisting with officers, air-supply and on-the-ground personnel. The UN is expected to announce authorisation .

Q: What is the future extent of commitment to Track one?

Track one was endorsed by this Parliament in it’s debate on this.
Track two is the peace-keeping effort currently in formation.
Track three is the humanitarian effort.

I would have thought the opposition

Q: What level of confidence will the Afghan people have in NZ peace-keeping when NZ has been supporting the bombing ?

A: Given the positive response to the downfall of the Taliban I should have thought rather a lot.

Question 2.

Hon BILL ENGLISH to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Has the Government deployed New Zealand Special Air Service troops to Afghanistan?

A: It is not the policy of this government to comment on what the SAS does.

Q: Why is she willing to drop with the press the impression that the SAS are in action and then not speak to the house on this.

A: Nothing was dropped. The news media was formally being advised that NZ had notified the UN that it was acting under Article 51 and that its Hercules were in action in Afghanistan.

Q: Why is the government not specific about SAS activities?

A: Advertising there whereabouts and likely activities can only endanger them. Loose links sink ships. That is not the way of this government. It may be of the opposition.

Q: Will any troops be properly backed up.

A: NZ has had officers at the Centcom Command Centre in the US for some time. Any deployments we make will be fully backed up.

Q: What about humanitarian aid.

A: We identity three levels of need in Afghanistan. We are involved in all three.

Q: Can she confirm that the SAS are in the Hercules. Is she not saying so because of something to do with Jim Anderton?

A: The reason I cannot say anything is that loose lips sink ships.

Question 3.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Does he agree that substantial payments to witnesses should be disclosed during court proceedings to guard against witnesses altering their evidence to ensure payment, in light of the Tania Furlan case?

A: Yes. On Friday I announced a police-justice review into the process of paying witnesses. I believe the court should always be informed when witnesses are paid.

Q: Will he support an inquiry into the Tania Furlan case?

A: As to whether there will be an inquiry or not. That is up to the police. The important principle is to set up a process for payments to witnesses that is appropriate. It is currently the normal practice to advise the defence. I believe it should be a statutory requirement to do so. Perhaps also to notify the judge and jury. This could be incorporated into an evidence bill early next year if that is the determination of the review.

Q: How will this help ensure the worst murderers get life without parole?

A: The first thing that it is necessary to know in the case of a murder is if a person is guilty or not, and if scumbag criminals are being relied upon to give evidence, there might be some concerns in that area.

Q: Why not simply get the Crown to disclose all payments and anticipated payments to the defence immediately.

A: It is already practice to advise the defence. The question is whether or not the same advice ought to be given to the court so the judge and the jury can receive this knowledge.

Question 4.

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

Q: What action is he taking following 11 murders in the last two weeks and the statement from leading pathologists that their system was on the verge of collapse and there could be "monumental" mistakes in homicide and sudden death investigations?

A: I have had preliminary discussions with the police about this. The string of murders has pressed resources it is true. I am pleased to report that the police have made arrests in each of the murders this month. The number of murders this year is bad but it is below average. My confidence in the situation is now far better because the police are now properly resourced. I would remind the opposition that under them they were going to cut 400 jobs from the police.

Question 5.

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

Q: What steps has he taken to improve the academic standards of secondary school students entering tertiary education?

A: There are lots of new assessment tools available next year at the UE entrance including a new scholarship examination approach. (In sups) I am very concerned about the rabid market approach we inherited in the Tertiary sector, and we are dealing with that. With the NCEA we have a situation where the PPTA and [Former Auckland Grammar Principal] John Graham are in agreement about the approach we should have next year – and that is a good thing. The standard of the system will be very high.

Q: Does he agree with raising entrance qualifications?

A: No. It is a recommendation that does not take account people’s needs at different stages in their lives.

Question 6.

Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Does he intend to remain within his self-imposed budget cap on new spending, following reported comments from the Prime Minister that she would tolerate him exceeding it for a second successive year?

A: The question is the same as that asked a week ago. The only expenditure likely to be considered outside of the cap relates to security issues.

Q: Why does he think the PM said she wouldn’t mind the breach if that was not the intention.

A: Because the PM was deferring consideration of security issues. We have already said this.

Q: Noting he is borrowing $10.6 billion and investing $7.6 billion in his Super Fund, how credible is it to do this?

A: The borrowing figure covers all advances. Student loans and advances to DHBs and housing, things previously off balance sheet in the previous accounts. It also includes money for the acquisition of assets, defence equipment which was never budgetted by National and for Air NZ, and all net injections into SOEs. All those things.

Q: How can he convince us that he is not borrowing to invest when he is?

A: Only $100 million was required to be borrowed for the fund this year. Only $500 million will be borrowed for the fund next year.

Q: How stable is his prediction of a $3.8 billion three year surplus over the period.

A: It is treasury’s figure. The macro-economic forecasts are prepared by Treasury and it is not up to me to agree or disagree with them.

Q: I am asking him to say what the forecast says and how he defends it. Not whether he disagrees with treasury.

A: Apart from security costs we will be sticking to the budget.

Question 7.

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: What action is the Government taking to reduce business compliance costs?

A: I would like to thank the panel for their help with the government’s programme. We have a unit in MED advising departments on compliance costs issues. Business compliance cost notices will be available to select committees on regulations affecting business in the future.

Q: What about the power to local authorities to rate utilities infrastructure? What will that do?

A: That party had nine years to do something about this and didn’t do anything. Now they have the gall to talk about it.

Q: What about appeals to the high court under the RMA?

A: They will be provided for by SOP.

Question 8.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: Has he received the State Services Commission report into the activities of Major General Maurice Dodson, and when does he intend announcing what action, if any, he will be taking in response to it?

A: No.

Q: Given he either has it today or will receive it today. Would it not be fair to release it as soon as possible to clear Mr Dodson’s name?

A: I haven’t yet received the report.

Q: What does the report relate to?

A: It relates to allegations that an MPs file was inappropriately accessed.

Q: Will he assure us he will not drop this on Christmas-eve?

A: As soon as I receive it I will respond appropriately.

Q: Will he give it to Ron Mark?

A: I will consider the recommendations of any report I receive when I receive it and then take the appropriate action at that time. I will not be here on Christmas Eve.

Question 9.

LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour) to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs Mark Gosche:

Q: What initiatives does the Government have to foster greater communication among Pacific communities throughout New Zealand?

A: We have allocated $7.7 million for a Pacific FM radio network. This will run on a not-for-profit basis. It will cover 85% of the country.

Q: What will flow from this network?

A: Currently the only national broadcast media programme for Pacific people is Tangata Pacifica. This will complement that.

Q: Arthur Anae (National): I would like to congratulate the government for the delivery of one of my initiatives. How will this help with education?

A: One of the problems PI people experience is lack of access to information on health and education services. I acknowledge the member’s efforts in relation to this, it was a pity he couldn’t convince his friends up-front but.

Q: Why is he making this boast when it is only $2 million a year compared to $50 million for the Maori channel?

A: The difference in the costs between radio and TV are indeed very big.

Question 10.

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

Q: Has she given district health boards specific details of their funding levels for the next three budget years; if so, why have some district health boards stated that they are unable to comment because they have not been given enough detail on how much each region will receive?

A: The DG of Health has met with some board chairs to discuss their figures.

Q: Why did she state in her press release that they would know more, when they don’t know any more now than they did a month ago?

A: As I said there have been discussions with the chairs of DHBs on what will be provided. Further detail will follow in January. This will be a first for this kind of information.

Q: Should DHB members be allowed to comment on the funding spreads for DHBs?

A: I have no desire to gag DHB members and I am sure they will speak out when the wish to do so.

Q: What about the management pay rates being funded at international comparisons, while radio therapists aren’t?

A: The salaries for CEOs were set by the SSC not by the managers themselves. I know the member is sour about us producing a three year forecast and the feedback I have received has been very good.

Question 11.

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

Q: What consultation has she undertaken on the Government's policy on the Shop Trading Hours (Abolition of Restrictions) Bill, and what changes, if any, will she be proposing to the bill?

A: I am in the process of consultation with Government members. No decisions have been made yet.

Q: Would she prefer a secret and seedy process? What are the options?

A: There are several options. At least 6 or seven (listed). And I am sure there are probably other options too.

Q: What protections will there be for workers?

A: There will definitely be protections for employees. Express agreement will be required. Shop owners in malls should have similar rights we think too.

Q: What will happen to Rodney’s bill?

A: It is not my bill. It is a bill before this house. It will be up to members to vote on whether they are in favour or against it.

Q: Will the minister accept that Mt Maunganui feels disadvantaged?

A: My discussions from Mt Maunganui indicate they want to be able to open all days because those are the days cruise ships come in.

Question 12.

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

Q: What impact has last year's cancellation of recruit wings had on police numbers in Auckland?

A: The police budgeted for 620 staff at 30th of November and had 624.

Q: Does he accept any responsibility for the 60 vacant jobs - 21 in the CIB in Auckland, and 40 others, given that he cancelled two police wings from Porirua College.

A: The Police in Auckland have cleared up all the murder cases this month and they have had major drug raids and successes as well.

Q: Have the police got the money they wanted?

A: Every dollar they have asked for they have got. Yesterday the commissioner told me that the police were properly funded, and that has to be compared with the $50 million Tony Ryall was trying to cut from the police, and now he moans.

(Tony Ryall – leave to table a document with the PM saying the country was being fleeced – refused.

George Hawkins – leave to table a document about police cuts – refused.)

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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