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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 26 February

Today's questions of the day concerned: People Smuggling – Petrol Tax Increase – Pipfruit Deregulation – Kaitaia CYFS - Specialist Education Services – Tariana Turia And CYFS – Disabilities – Police Software Piracy – Party Hopping Act – Compliance Costs Study – Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation – Innovate Conference.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 26 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.

CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Why has the Government introduced legislation that will make the smuggling and trafficking of people into New Zealand criminal offences?

A: (Jim Sutton on behalf) This has become a lucrative activity for organised crime. Persistent rumours of ships coming to NZ have not eventuated. The bill we have introduced implements a UN convention on the traffic in immigrants. This will strengthen our abilities to deal with people smugglers.

Q: What penalties will smugglers face?

A: Up to 20 years imprisonment and fines of up to $500,000. There will also be increases in penalties under the passport act. The bill also provides for extra territorial prosecution for people who cannot be extradited for some reason or other.

Q: How will costs be provided?

A: That has been taken up with the Minister of Finance. The Minister of Immigration and Foreign Affairs will be attending a regional council in Indonesia over the next two days.

Q: Why does the minister believe in deterrence as Minister of Foreign Affairs for people who try to help people avoid immigration, but not for the worst kind of murderers.

A: It is the market at work.

Q: Will this result in discrimination against minorities from employers?

A: I can assure the member the bill is not targeted against victims. It is criminals that will be discriminated against.

Question 2.

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

Q: What would the effect of an increase in petrol tax of four cents a litre be on the economic development in all regions of New Zealand, and would he support such a tax?

A: There is potentially an important effect which is why I take a close interest. There is 100s of millions of dollars of wood locked up in East Cape for instance. Therefore it depends what the money is used for. If the money is used to unlock the wood in the East Cape then that will be good for regions. As for Auckland, at present congestion costs the whole country millions.

Q: Can he confirm that the tax will raise $85 million in regions outside of Auckland. And what will Manawatu get for its extra $4 million in tax paid?

A: In anticipation of the question I had a look at Manawatu figures. Manawatu has already had $22 million already spent. The National Party can’t add up between four and 22.

Q: Peter Dunne (United Future): How can he justify the additional tax when he is not prepared to use the existing petrol tax for the purpose?

A: Approximately half the petrol tax is used for roading purposes. Is he suggesting we take some of the $400 million out of the hospitals or something? This government is prepared to act and the country will thank them for it.

Q: What evidence is there from the last time the tax was increased?

A: In 1998 petrol taxes were put up by National. But inspite of putting up the tax they continued to ignore Auckland’s problems. They also ignored the regions and public transport.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): Why is an election promise being broken, when the problems of delays in roading lie at the door of the RMA not funding?

A: It is a bit rich for a party to complain about the RMA and roading when the questioner went to the last election with a flat earth, flat tax policy. The government with the support of the Green Party has put together this package and all parties can take some credit for this transport policy.

Q: Peter Brown (NZ First): Noting the reports only refer to petrol, is it fair that diesel motorists will not pay?

A: I can tell the member that the BOP has already had millions spent. And secondly it is fair that all sources of income be examined. Matters such as those the member raises will be looked at in due course.

Q: Bill English (National): If higher taxes are good for development, why has this raise been limited to 4 cents?

A: We invite the National Party to introduce an amendment to increase it.
Question 3.

CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Has he received any reports on the state of the pipfruit industry since deregulation by the Government last year?

A: Yes. I have had a number of reports that growers, processors and exporters are in great heart. And that communities are feeling much better than they did last year.

Q: How is ENZA doing now it has lost its powers?

A: The company may export 70% of the apple crop this year. Something close to that is backed by anecdotal feedback. The ENZA annual report mentions that deregulation has enabled cost savings and opened up added value opportunities.

Q: What about all the compliance and input cost increases under this government?

A: Orchardists are sick of the whinging and moaning of the opposition and they want to get on with adding value to the economy.

Q: Is this the same member who said that he supports collective organisations? Or is this another instance of the Maharey principle?

A: I would remind the member that at that time the Labour Opposition was defending the rights of producers to have the system of marketing they wanted. Once they had a government that listened to them they became more progressive.

Question 4.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Can he confirm a leaked, internal report that the Kaitaia Child, Youth and Family Services' office is seriously overloaded, was doing a less than satisfactory job with most of its cases, and that its social workers accepted violence as a normal part of family life?

A: The report does not reflect the current performance of the office.

Q: Why has he been saying it is an old report, when it was written in December?

A: The description of it was that it runs back over 12 months. It has not yet reached me.

Q: What has been done about the office?

A: This site has fallen short on performance in the past. Staff changes has been made to improve leadership. There are currently no vacancies in this office. Nor are there currently any critical or very urgent cases awaiting allocation to a social worker. I am advised

Q: How many cases are waiting for allocation?

A: There are 10 unallocated cases. They are all in a category where no child safety is involved.

Q: What are the causes of the problem?

A: The department was grossly underfunded by National for five years.

Q: What assurances can he give that social workers do not consider that violence is an integral part of culture in Kaitaia?

A: I spoke to people about this last night. They categorically deny that they think that.

Question 5.

NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What progress has been made on incorporating the Specialist Education Services into the Ministry of Education?

A: The SES will officially integrate with the Ministry this week. At a national level SES will be distinct internally within the Ministry. Corporate services will be shared. Regional officers will continue.

Q: What difference will be made?

A: I think children and young people will be better supported when making transitions through their schooling.

Q: Is the cost of this integration over $5 million? And wouldn’t that be better spent on children rather than spin and redundancies?

A: There are four questions there. One question was around additional money, no additional money has been used, working capital has been spent that was sitting there because the previous government would not use it on children.

Q: Is the minister happy with the SES performance?

A: Generally yes. I have not been happy with the national operation, their communications and their cooperation with their staff.

Question 6.

BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Is he concerned by media reports that Child, Youth and Family Services have concerns that his Associate Minister, Hon Tariana Turia, is interfering in operational matters?

A: No. The Associate Minister has responsibilities for aspects of the department’s work and she takes them very seriously.

Q: When Peter Douglas said he was concerned about pressure, was he referring to Turia?

A: No.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Can he give an assurance that his associate did not approach the department and influence them, or try and stop this report being published.

A: I certainly hope she has approached the department and worked with them.

Q: Why is this Minister constantly getting into problems in this area?

A: Let me make it clear. The paramount interest here is the safety of the child. However the legislation makes it clear that where there is available and appropriate kin care that is the preferred place to put that child.

Question 7.

STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson:

Q: Has she received any reports detailing Government progress over the last decade in removing the barriers that prevent people with disabilities from participating fully in the community?

A: I have received a number of progress reports on the Disabilities Strategy. I am not aware of any reports on Government progress between 1992 and 1999. One of the major barriers in the past has been a lack of awareness of issues. The Government’s during previous periods had no spokespeople in this area.

Q: Does she agree that sheltered workshops are slave labour?

A: I can confirm this government’s view that people in employment should be in paid employment for wages.

Question 8.

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

(Ryall - Congratulations offered to the police for the arrest in the Theresa Cormack case.)

Q: What is his response to the statement made on behalf of the New Zealand Police that "We know we're using copied software", and what actions have the Police taken to verify their supplier has the right to supply that software?

A: The police have sought and received assurances that the current supplier has the right to use the software.

Q: Have those assurances come from the supplier or the manufacturer?

A: The assurances have come from the supplier of a contract let when National was in government.

Q: What is his response to the warnings in the independent report?

A: The software is copied software not pirated software.

Q: Does he know of any other situation in which pirated software has been used?

A: Yes. National MP Maurice Williamson was once concerned that Ashton Tate software was being used illegally by the National Party.

(Trevor Mallard - leave to table a report about Max Bradford – refused.)

Q: What action would the police take if the license holder of the software was to indicate formally that the NZ supplier has no permission.

A: The company concerned should lay a complaint. None has been received for five years.

(Ryall - leave to table a letter from Integrated Security Solutions saying that there has never been a right to use this software - granted.

George Hawkins – leave to table several articles – refused.)

Question 9.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Associate Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Was it the Government's intention for the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act to apply to the parliamentary leader of a political party and at least two thirds of the parliamentary members of that party who leave the political party for which those members of Parliament were elected; if not, why not?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf): The Government’s intention was to maintain proportionality and avoid the problems that occurred in the previous Parliament.

Q: Does he now believe like Margaret Wilson that it is okay for the Alliance Party to split?

A: What happened in the previous parliament when the Green Party indicated their intention to leave but continued to vote with the Alliance was perfectly consistent with the Act.

Q: If the leader of the party was removed from his party by the President, what impact would that have?

A: Absolutely none. The President of a political party has no standing in this house.

Q: Did the teeth in the Act come from NZ First?

A: Not the teeth, but perhaps a winning grin did. The Act provides a process in which the Leader of the Party has to base their actions on reasonable belief. That is a process.

Question 10.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: Has he been informed of the study by Business New Zealand which shows that the Government has loaded an extra $26,000 in costs on an average New Zealand medium-sized business, and how does the extra $26,000 in compliance costs fit in with the Government's innovative New Zealand policy?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I have not been informed of this study. Which is not surprising as the assumptions in it are dubious.

Q: Do compliance costs matter?

A: Yes.

Q: Why are most NZ businesses reporting increases in their ACC levies?

A: Most aren’t reporting increases. The member is getting confused with self-employed people.

Q: What are some specific examples of what this government has done?

A: We have provided additional resources to the Environment Court. We have introduced an incubator scheme for new businesses. This is the second easiest country in the world to set up a business according to an independent study. There are reasonable costs involved in the protection of the environment and of workers. Clearly the ACT party doesn’t believe this however.

Q: Why would Business NZ have written this report?

A: Business NZ is a voluntary organisation, it has to drum up members, I also note that it is election year and lots of odd things happen in election year.

Question 11.

KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: Can he confirm that Brian Rees was held in Invercargill Prison past his release date, that he was paid $42,000 compensation by the Department of Corrections, and that he did not pay the $500 reparation he owes to his victim Michael Shanks; if so, is he satisfied with the way this case has been handled?

A: I can confirm that Brian Rees was falsely imprisoned for some time and received compensation. The amount is confidential, as is normal in our legal system. I am dissatisfied with some aspects of this case.

Q: Did he advise cabinet about this payment? And how does he reconcile this with comments of the PM in the Mangaroa Prison case?

A: No. And the PM is not right on every matter.

Q: What has the Government done to improve the lot of victims?

A: We have increased the budget for victim support services and provided them with mandatory rights for the first time in a bill presently before the house.

Q: Why does the parole reform bill not include provisions to enable the parole board to direct the payment of victims?

A: You will have to ask Mr Goff that.

Question 12.

JOHN WRIGHT (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What role will next week's Innovate event have in promoting innovation in New Zealand?

A: If we want more jobs and rising incomes we need innovation. Innovate is about show-casing our best. Up to 500 delegates will converge on Christchurch for this event. They will obtain practical innovation skills.

Q: Who are the innovators?

A: Some of the most talented. The Keynote address will be given by Nobel Prize Winner Alan McDiarmid. He will talk about commercialising a good idea. There is amazing innovation in NZ right now and innovators will come from a diverse range of fields.

Q: Does this conference come from one of the PM’s new committees?

A: The PM can take credit for many things, but I have to say this is one of my ideas. I hope that members of the opposition will come to Christchurch and hear the stories of innovative NZers. Innovate aims to inform and inspire a new generation of NZers.

Q: What about public participation?

A: The director of Weta FX will talk in Christchurch Town Hall about the Lord Of The Rings for free. There will also be two days of workshops for free. And the entire event will be broadcast live on TV.

Q: If compliance cost figures from Business NZ are wrong, then what are the true figures?

A: A recent international report found that NZ was one of the easiest countries in the world to set up a business. If that disappoints ACT then that is sad.


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