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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 21 February

Today's questions of the day concerned: Kyoto Protocol – NZ Support For The War – Sentencing Reform – Zimbabwe Election – Starship Cancer Treatment – Civil Court Fees – Policing Quality – Treaty Principles – Sentencing Reform – Kyoto Protocol – Car Impact Standards – Adult Literacy – NZ Post Financial Review

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 21 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.


Questions to Ministers

Question 1.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What reassurances can he give that, if New Zealand ratifies the Kyoto Protocol and Australia does not, New Zealand will not lose jobs to Australia in heavy industries such as the Glenbrook steel mill at Waiuku, Comalco's Tiwai Point aluminium smelter, and Milburn's cement works in Westport?

A: (Pete Hodgson on behalf) If any of these organisations were to move offshore, both the NZ economy and the global environment would be worse off. The technical name for this is carbon leakage. One of the principles guiding policy development is the avoidance of carbon leakage. The principles have been around for a while and it is time for the Leader of the Opposition to read them. There are many benefits to NZ economically from Kyoto. NZ will be a net seller not a net buyer of emission units. Kyoto will move this nation to a more energy efficient future. There is also considerable opportunity for NZ businesses in the technology area.

Q: Give us one reason why should be ratify before Australia?

A: I could give you six. If we were not to ratify the protocol we would not be able to be a net seller in the International community, would we.

Q: Is any nation more dependent on an equitable climate than NZ?

A: No. We need Kyoto more than it needs us.

Q: Who initially signed the document that leads onto the protocol?

A: The beginning of the process was in 1992 when National signed and ratified. In 1997 the then National Government negotiated, very ably under the direction of Simon Upton, and signed the protocol.

Q: Why is the government rushing?

A: It isn’t. Two other nations have already ratified, the Czech Republic and Romania. By the time we ratify we expect there will be close to two dozen other countries already ratified.

Question 2.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Will the Government withdraw from the United States-led coalition in Afghanistan now the war has entered a new phase with United States bombing raids aimed at opponents of the Afghan interim Government who are unconnected with the Taleban and al Qaeda, as reported in this morning's New Zealand Herald; if not, why not?

A: This government remains committed to working on a number of fronts to achieve long term peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Q: Can he give us an assurance the SAS are not being used in operations against opponents of the interim government?

A: We do not comment on deployments of the SAS.

Q: Is there still a threat from the Taliban and Al Qaeda?

A: Yes both inside and outside Afghanistan.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National): Have any Alliance MPs approached him following the Alliance Council’s resolution calling for withdrawal?

A: No. But I do recall that Bill English said he would, for reasons of political expediency, withdraw his party’s vote in support of the SAS deployment.

Q: How is NZ contributing to the broader goal of stabilising Afghanistan?

A: We are contributing defence personnel to the UN mandated peace keeping force.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT) Can he confirm the only casualties so far of the war are here at home in the Alliance Party?

A: I would have to say the major casualty is Bill English.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Does he recall the Greens telling us that thousands of people would die? Are we to take the word of Keith Locke over the UN?

A: The exact level of casualties is not known. What is known is that without the military action the Taliban would still be executing people in Kabul.

Q: Does he agree with George Bush that Iran, Iraq and North Korea are an Axis of Evil?

A: Whatever reservations we have about Iraq and North Korea, I do not think we have seen any evidence that they were behind the attacks of September 11.

Question 3.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Is it Government policy that sentences should deter other offenders; if so, why is there no sentencing principle in clause 8 of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill to require deterrent sentencing?

A: Yes. It is government policy that sentences should deter offenders.

Q: Why then is there nothing in the hundreds of sections in the bill allowing the Parole Board to make decisions on the basis of deterrence?

A: The Parole Board must have the safety of the community as its paramount consideration.

Q: Why is punishment omitted from the bill as a principle?

A: The sentence is the punishment. The overarching principle is that the punishment should fit the crime. This is the first time that has been put in law.

Question 4.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Will New Zealand still contribute election observers to Zimbabwe in light of the European Union decision to withdraw their observer mission?

A: Yes. And for two key reasons. The presence of observers on the ground will provide some protection against further intimidation. Secondly the presence of two eminently qualified observers will provide us with information about the result.

Q: What are the prospects of a free and fair election?

A: The possibility of such an outcome has been severely undermined by actions taken by the Zimbabwe Government.

Q: What will the Government do if the election is unfair?

A: The responses are likely to be largely taken within the Commonwealth. A demand will be made for suspension from the Commonwealth. And smart sanctions may be instituted.

Q: Will observers be a waste of money?

A: No. The presence of observers is likely to reduce the level of intimidation. And the opposition in Zimbabwe want them there.

Q: Is the government considering pressing for the suspension of Zimbabwe from CHOGM?

A: NZ will be pushing at CHOGM for clear power to suspend Zimbabwe on two grounds. I would be very surprised if President Mugabe turns up given CHOGM’s timing.

Question 5.

Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Is she concerned with media reports that the number of young cancer patients treated at the Starship children's hospital is under threat as Auckland District Health Board managers have been instructed to develop urgent plans to contain cost blowouts; if not, why not?

A: I have been informed that all that has occurred is that managers have been asked to look at their costs and patient volumes. It would be premature to draw conclusions at this point.

Q: Can she confirm that funding increases will be enough to continue services?

A: No-one should leap to conclusions on volumes that could be cut.

Q: Has she seen any reports?

A: I have seen the NZ Herald editorial that is supportive of the Auckland DHBs approach.

Q: In view of the fact that the deficit is already out at $72 million. How will costs be cut? Can she assure us volumes will not be cut?

A: I will give no assurances at this stage until the board has had an opportunity to look at its plan.

Question 6.

KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister for Courts Matt Robson:

Q: Why have civil court fees been reviewed?

A: Civil fees have been reviewed to increase fairness. The review has resulted in reduced fees for probate and the disputes tribunal. The changes address years of neglect by the National Government.

Q: Do the fees impede access to justice for individuals or community groups?

A: Anyone who can show the fees will cause undue hardship, or any group that can show a public interest value in their case, can have their fees waived by the registra.

Q: Did he override the working parties views? And will the money raised go to improve the courts?

A: There is a minister here who is capable of independent judgment.

Q: Can he confirm that the fee increases do not apply to the environment court?

A: Yes. I can also confirm that registras have the power to waive fees, and that an appeal can be made to a judge at no cost if this is refused.

Question 7.

Dr WAYNE MAPP (National) to the Minister of Police (George Hawkins) :

Q: What is his response to the campaign launched by mayors George Wood and Bob Harvey to get the Government to address the issue of declining quality of policing?

A: The allegation is not correct. The quality of policing has dramatically improved. The number of burglaries and motor vehicle thefts has fallen. Crime resolution rates have risen. I want to support the police.

Q: What will he do to stop the dramatic decline in police numbers on the North Shore?

A: I want to tell that member that the North Shore Waitakere District used to have 580 police last year and now has 597. I do not know why that member is quibbling about the distribution because that is not a matter at my direction.

Q: What is his response to Bob Harvey’s shame campaign?

A: I want to say that this Government is always interested in what Mayors have to say. They always want good things for their cities. I have to say that Mayor George Wood used to be the police commander in that area. It is a pity he never achieved the results being achieved today because he did not receive sufficient support from the National Government.

Question 8.

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

Q: Further to her answer to yesterday's oral question No 1, is one of the Treaty of Waitangi principles, to be formulated as policy and translated into legislation, that of tino rangatiratanga, as outlined in the November 2001 report of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission and defined as allowing "for Maori self-determination over their possessions; recognises the right of iwi to manage their own affairs; affirms the right to development"; if so, is this principle to be given effect across every sphere of the Government's responsibility?

A: (Margaret Wilson on behalf) The report is not government policy. We are currently considering our response to this independent report. As I said yesterday I am not aware of any reference to Tino Rangitiratanga in legislation in the terms quoted.

Q: Why would a group be adding such a new and huge dimension to treaty principles?

A: I can’t speak on behalf of the independent commission. They made those comments in the context of several groups who made submissions on academic freedom and provider autonomy.

Q: What does Tino Rangitiratanga mean?

A: It has been interpreted in many ways. In the 4th Labour Government’s formulation it was interpreted as meaning self-management. It seems to me that the principle comes down to “participation in decisions that affect one”.

Q: Does the PM think it would make for better law if legislation simply referred to the Treaty, and not to the very confusing principles?

A: That is one point of view.

Q: What is going on? And how are NZers expected to fit into this system?

A: People may have different interpretations on what these things mean. When the principles are in legislation they are expected to be both living and real.

Question 9.

Hon PETER DUNNE (United Future NZ) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Is the Government considering proposing further amendments to the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill; if so, what are they?

A: Yes. There are several minor amendments in an SOP I will present shortly. There are also three substantive amendments. One on the cap on the number of judges. One on the remand of teenagers to prison institutions – which has a sunset clause. And one on the setting of non-parole periods for sex and violence offenders, who would probably not receive parole, but who would technically be entitled to it otherwise.

Q: Why is victim representation in parole hearings not included in this SOP?

A: No groups are represented at parole hearings which are required to be professional in their makeup. Victims rights are also addressed in the Victims Rights Bill.

Q: What about teenagers?

A: There has been concern for some time about the holding of teenagers in police cells. The provision will provide immediate relief for this problem. In the medium term we are looking at providing more places for serious teenage offenders in new facilities.

Question 10.

ANN HARTLEY (Labour) to the Minister responsible for Climate Change Pete Hodgson:

Q: What is the Government's response to the reported statement by the Leader of the Opposition that it is making a "headlong rush to place New Zealand as the first developed nation to face commitments from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol"?

A: Those words are from near the end of a speech given by Bill English yesterday. Not only do we not seek to be near the first, but it is an impossibility for us to do so. The protocol does not come into force until 55 nations ratify, and until developed nations representing 55% of emissions ratify. In effect this means Japan and Russia must ratify for the agreement to come into force. The leader of the Opposition ought to learn to count. For the umpteenth time the Government has not yet decided on any particular policy formulation yet. But the idea of taxing the agricultural industry into submission has very little traction.

Q: In view of his reply, can he assure us that any carbon credits belonging to private people will not be nationalised?

A: The ACT party appears to be suggesting we privatise the gains and socialise the losses. It is the crown that has the liability under the protocol and it is the crown that will therefore decide who gets what. The government will announce a policy position in April. In the foreseeable future we are likely to be a net seller of credits. If there is no Kyoto then this country faces climate problems. We need Kyoto more than it needs us.

Q: Can he confirm that it is possible that NZ’s agricultural export competitors Canada, Australia and the US will not be bound by the treaty?

A: Yes I can. Which is why we need policies to be adaptable. We will implement a transitional staged approach.

Question 11.

BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What is the estimated increase in used car prices expected as a result of the new frontal impact standards, and which groups will be most disadvantaged by these price increases?

A: Initial estimates indicated the costs could rise by up to $4000 for cars off the boat. But this estimate predated competition impacts. People who want cheap cars can buy from within the existing fleet.

Q: Why did he ignore advice?

A: I didn’t. There was contrasting advice.

Q: Can he say what the safety benefits will be during the average 11 year life of imported cars?

A: One third of all fatal crashes last year involved a frontal impact. Tests show that 25% of fatal crashes are prevented when cars comply with the standards. These standards will save lives. Around 85 lives are estimated to be saved, and hundreds of injuries are estimated to be prevented by these changes over 18 years. No intervention by the government would see imports comply by 2009. In Australia and Japan these standards have been in place for several years. Do we not deserve this sort of protection?

Question 12.

TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Marian Hobbs:

Q: What progress has been made in the implementation of the Adult Literacy Strategy?

A: Excellent. Increased funding has been provided for a number of workplace literacy programmes resulting in a 98% increase in the number of Pacific Island participants in AL programmes. One employer found he was saving hundreds of thousands of dollars by educating his workforce.

Q: Why did the Government in 1999 can the previous strategy for a national test in literacy for children?

A: The answer is simple. The literacy programme we have attaches also to school, secondary school and adult literacy.

Q: Has the Minister any examples of individuals?

A: Yes. One learner has said “I had to leave school when I was 14 back in Samoa, I never thought I would get any further education, I feel very excited about it.” Who are we to deny that opportunity.

Questions to Members

Question 1.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee Mark Peck:

Q: Is the hearing of evidence on the financial review of New Zealand Post Ltd complete; if not, when is it expected to be?

A: The committee expects to report by its due date.

Q: How many letters have been sent to NZ Post saying their answers are unacceptable?

A: We have written five times. Three times routinely, and twice requesting further information.

Q: Can he confirm that had NZ Post told the truth the hearing of evidence would probably be complete?

(Speaker – that question is out of order as it pertains to the findings of the committee.)


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