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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 13 February

Today's questions of the day concerned: CCH Heart Surgery – Apology To Chinese – Growth, Kyoto and GE – Treaty Of Waitangi – Meeting The Queen – Decile Funding – Starship Hospital – Kiwibank – Gisborne Freighter Stranding – Radiotherapists – Singapore Trade Deal Performance – Palmerston North Gang Problems

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 13 February 2002

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.


Question 1.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: How many people are waiting for heart surgery at Capital Coast Health, and how many have been waiting longer than the six months recommended maximum time?

A: At the end of the last quarter there were 225 people waiting for cardio-thoracic surgery. I note this is a fall in the waiting list from the days under National.

Q: Can she confirm that the waiting list has doubled to 225 due to the cancellation of a contract with a private provider.

A: I am advised by CCH that they have the capacity to meet their contracts. Can I tell him that when he was part of the government 484 people were waiting for surgery. He wasn’t concerned about people dying then.

Q: Are there any Public Private Partnerships in NZ health?

A: Yes. There is an arrangement in Auckland involving Starship Hospital.

(Michael Cullen - leave to table several documents on innovation – granted.

Prebble - Will copies be made available to MPs?

Cullen – I don’t think we have enough.)

Question 2.

CHRIS CARTER(Labour) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Why did the Government decide to make a formal apology to members of the Chinese community?

A: The apology was made for past actions of NZ Parliaments, which in making law discriminated against the Chinese community. Many Chinese families were driven apart by these laws.

Q: Was an apology sought by the Chinese descendants of those who paid the poll tax?

A: Yes. One group of people have been working for nine years on the issue.

Q: How many of the 15,000 descendants of poll tax payees were invited to yesterday’s ceremony?

A: As many as we could fit in the Great Hall of Parliament.

Q: Is it correct that the government is now considering financial compensation for the Chinese? And will every ethnic group who have been misled and mistreated be compensated?

A: The government is going to enter into a dialogue with the Chinese community about a form of reconciliation which could involve support for the language and culture.

Question 3.

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

Q: How will the Government's policies to ratify the Kyoto Protocol ahead of our trading partners, place a two-year moratorium on genetic modification, fine employers for workplace stress, and set up more committees contribute to the goal stated in yesterday's Prime Ministerial statement of achieving growth rates "consistently above the OECD average for a number of years"?

A: I can assure the member that all this government’s policies contribute to sustainable growth.

Q: Since growth has fallen from 4% to 2.5% in the time her government has been in power, what will she do about it?

A: If he really believes that the National Party achieved 4% growth then he is sillier than some commentators think he is.

Q: Is the government in step with other countries on Kyoto?

A: We intend to move in step and not ahead of the consensus of major Western countries involved in Kyoto.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): What is her response to the modest 4% growth goal of her Finance Minister, a goal achieved every year for five years to 1996?

A: That it is a good target that no-one else has met for many years. It is the government’s understanding that many more countries will be signing Kyoto at a similar time to NZ. The treaty does not come into force until enough countries have ratified.

Q: Bill English (National): Why did she refuse to debate her economic package on Holmes with me last night?

A: The member will get his debate when he has something to say.

Question 4.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Will the Government publish what it understands to be the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi; if so, when?

A: Interpretation of the Treaty is a matter that has preoccupied the courts, Government and Maori for many years. This process is clearly an ongoing matter.

Q: Does that mean she knows what these principles are? Or does she agree with Victoria Uni Law Dean. Mathew Palmer that specific meanings to treaty clauses need to be appended to all legislation using the treaty?

A: The debate goes on. The government has developed principles to underline the treaty settlement process.

Q: Is partnership a justification for cronyism and racism?

A: The member is a lawyer and should know the difference between guidelines and other things.

Q: Does she understand the difference between the principles of the treaty and those of the settlement process?

A: I thank the member again for drawing attention to the fact that the principles of the treaty, and principles of treaty settlement are different things.

Q: Does she accept that the Maori version has precedence?

A: I am not going to say that. Governments have for years tried to honour the treaty.

Question 5.

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

Q: What are her arrangements on 22 February when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth arrives in New Zealand on a tour marking the 50th anniversary of her accession as New Zealand's Head of State?

A: I will be at a meeting with world leaders, and meeting with Swedish business leaders.

Q: Why is she going to Sweden for morning tea with a bunch of socialists?

A: I think lots of people would agree that there is more point in meeting national leaders in Stockholm than sitting at home while the Queen is at Huka Lodge. Meeting with overseas leaders and investors has clear benefits for NZ.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Can she confirm that the PM of NZ has always met the Queen on every previous visit here?

A: I am sure the Canadian PM will be thrilled to learn he is being described as a member of the ocialist left. When the Queen advised of the time of her visit I advised I would not be able to meet her. She is happy with that. I can also advise that I will use an alarm clock to make sure I get there on time.

(Bill English – leave to make a personal explanation – granted.

The PM raised the matter of where I was on Waitangi Day. I can advise that I was awake and in Manakau.)

Question 6.

TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Does the Government intend to cut funding to poor schools?

A: No. We do not believe poor schools are awash with cash as claimed.

Q: How important is decile funding?

A: We have invested more money in all schools. But we recognise that some schools require extra money because they have extra needs. All schools debate with all members at all times about decile ratings of their schools.

Q: Has he seen reports saying extra funding for poor schools is a good idea?

A: Yes I have seen a report in the Southland Times saying that some people need more of a leg up than others.

Question 7.

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

Q: Why did the Ministry of Health ask the Auckland District Health Board to "rethink" several projects, including the proposed heart unit for Starship Children's Hospital?

A: The Ministry of Health expects the board to live within its funds. And because the board hadn’t fully considered the capital programme I have asked it to look at it again.

Q: So are the board members who say they are trying to make $50 million of cuts correct?

A: The boards have an allowance for capital works and deficit maintenance of $106 million. They have to live within that.

Q: Should board members be able to talk to the media?

A: It is up to the DHBs to put in practices and controls about who speaks for the board.

Q: In light of advice that there are no combined adult and children heart units in the world, why does she want one in Auckland?

A: I have not ordered a rethink of the children’s ardiac unit as claimed. The Auckland DHB is not going to be bullied into making a decision about this in a hurry.

Question 8.

GRANT GILLON (Alliance) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Jim Anderton:

Q: Has he received any reports from his ministry on recent events which have lowered bank interest rates and banks' fees for consumers?

A: Last year the ministry of Consumer Affairs opened “bankline” for consumer complaints, and there were lots of complaints. I am pleased at reports of widespread support for the new Kiwibank from one end of NZ to the other. Even before the first Kiwibank opened Westpac dropped charges and the ANZ launched a new account for children.

Q: (National Member) Noting the comments in the NZ Herald from Jim Bolger saying it was great to open the first branch in Middle America. When is he going to announce the globalisation of his bank?

A: What a good idea. I will take that up with the Minister of Finance.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Can he confirm that the Cameron and Co. report assumed no competitive response from the major banks?

A: What I can confirm is that the business case for the bank expected a competitive response from the major trading banks, and it was right.

(Rodney Hide – leave to table a treasury paper – granted.)

Q: Winston Peters: When he heard Bolger say that NZers would always support a Kiwibank, did he find it hard to swallow, given that Mr Bolger supported the sale of a state bank?

A: I have always believed that wise people can change their mind when faced with the facts.

( Jim Anderton – leave to table an article – granted.

Question 9.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: Why did the Jody F Millennium sit grounded on the Waikanae Beach in Gisborne for five days before any oil was removed, and for a week without a single log being removed, when the Maritime Safety Authority has power to take action to avert a potential environmental catastrophe?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) The salvors could not get onto the boat due to weather on the first day they arrived. Removal of oil took longer for a range of reasons.

Q: Why did he not use his powers to prevent a potential disaster.

A: Because the salvors had the operation in hand. Work has been proceeding this morning to remove logs and an attempt will be made today to float the boat.

Q: In light of the three days taken to develop a salvage action plan, is there any evidence that the owners or insurers wanted to prevent the removal of oil or logs from the ship?

A: No.

Q: Noting that the salvage operators interests are purely commercial, why did the MSA and the Minister not use their powers earlier?

A: My advice is that it was not safe to move the oil off the ship in the initial phase of the operation.

Question 10.

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

Q: How many radiotherapists are now in training, and how does this number compare with 1999?

A: The total number of new entrants since 2000 is 82. The increase in trainees is significant. The number should have been increased in 1996 when the problem was first identified.

Q: Why has the government prevented Unitech radiotherapist traning?

A: The decision to train 38 therapists in Otago and Wellington was considered sufficient.

Q: How many therapists leave NZ?

A: It is well known that therapists have been leaving NZ over a number of years. This is a problem faced by many other countries too. NZ can never compete with the salaries in those countries, but the wage rise announced recently has helped.

Q: Does she agree with Dr Dady that patients will possibly die because of these delays?

A: That is only the view of Dr Peter Dady, it is not the view of the Cancer Society or anyone else.

Question 11.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: What reports has he received concerning any trade benefits to New Zealand since the Singapore Closer Economic partnership took effect on 1 January 2001?

A: The joint ministerial statement outlines fully the benefits in the first 11 months of the CEP. A copy of the statement is available on the MFAT website.

Q: Does he accept that the agreement has been a failure given figures showing imports are up, exports are down and the trade deficit is rocketing?

A: No. Singapore is experiencing a recession at present. Secondly, last year we increased oil imports from Singapore. However manufactured goods exports to Singapore are increasing and investment from Singapore in NZ has been assisted by several trade missions.

Q: Does the Minister have support to pursue a Hong Kong or US free trade agreement? And will he do so?

A: It is certainly our intention to do so. I expect cabinet support for this policy to continue. I also expect to have the support of all members of Parliament who appreciate that NZ needs to trade to survive.

Q: Will NZ sign Kyoto before Singapore?

A: The member should reflect on the fact that if NZ’s climate were destroyed by greenhouse gases because we did nothing, that our descendants would curse our memory. The compliance with rules of origin in the CEP with Singapore has been nothing less than excellent throughout.

Question 12.

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

Q: What are the Police doing to protect the safety of the people of Palmerston North in light of the increasing tension between gangs in the city?

A: This is an operational matter. I have been advised that apart from the homicide inquiry team three team policing units have joined Operation Police in Palmerston North.

Q: Has he raised concerns with Housing NZ and the Housing Minister about the taxpayer provided housing for these two gangs.

A: Yes. This morning.

Q: Are the police sufficiently resourced to deal with this problem?

A: I am confident that the measures the police are taking will be sufficient to restore order. This government supports the local people and we don’t like the gangs one little bit.


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