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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 28 February

Today’s questions concerned: Babies’ Hearts - Auckland DHB Deficit – Business Confidence – Palmerston North Home Care – Unemployment – Prison Payouts – Waste Management – Kin Care For Kids – Money For Jam - Police Recruitment – Vote Education And The Treaty -

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 28 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.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Will she instigate an inquiry into the ethical, legal and medical issues surrounding the removal and storage of dead babies' hearts and other organs obtained without first getting permission from the babies' parents; if not, why not?

A: The Auckland DHB is investigating the circumstances. I will certainly be interested in the outcomes. I consider the board’s investigation will clarify whether there are any wider issues requiring investigation. I extend sympathies for babies.

Q: Given the investigation has been underway by the Ministry for more than a year, when did she find out about this?

A: Last Friday. I have spoken to H&D Commissioner Ron Patterson, he states that it is his view that the practice relates to the Human Tissue Act that dates back to the 1960s. Urgent clarification is needed into the jurisdiction of his Commissioner’s office in relation to this matter.

Q: What was the Auckland Board’s response when it was first asked this question more than a year ago?

A: The query was made to the board when issues arose in Australia and the UK. I will table this response as soon as I get it.

Q: Is the Minister responsible for this?

A: An 0800 number has been set up. We will be seeking at the earliest possible opportunity to clarify matters for families.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Can the minister tell the nation, for those of us who have lost a child in infancy, who are wondering whether or not… in my case my child…. Does the Minister have any idea how people are feeling not knowing if their child is affected. And anxiety about not getting answers on the 0800 number.

A: Everything is being done to clear the 0800 backlog experienced this morning. Regrettably we are referring to times in the past that are no longer in existence. However, regrettably, it is also very difficult to change past practices.

Q: Is she concerned she was not informed about this earlier?

A: Yes.

Question 2.

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

Q: Will the Government cover the Auckland District Health Board's projected deficit of $72 million for the current financial year; if not, why not?

A: (On behalf of the minister) In view of the situation of the board I wrote to the board last year concerning long term viability. Adjustments to the capital structure may be required and we are prepared to do so provided the board takes all reasonable attempts to minimise expenditure.

Q: Will she accept responsibility for all cuts, reductions and reprioritizations of services in line with her letter suggesting a $59 million deficit is acceptable?

A: Nothing is new here except that members of the public on the DHB now have the opportunity to guide the board in their decisions.

Q: Has she read the NZ Herald?

A: Yes and I am very pleased with their editorial opinion.

Question 3.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has he received any reports on the latest business confidence survey; if so, what do they say?

A: Confidence has bounced back strongly. Firms are particularly confident about their own prospects. The rebound augurs well for Economic Growth. The downside risks in forecasts are now lessened.

Q: Is the surge in confidence consistent with other data?

A: Yes. Bouyant retail sales, increasing employment and the property market. It is also consistent with the latest opinion poll showing strong support for the Government.

Q: Is he concerned that growth is consumption driven.

A: The Current Account deficit has fallen from 8% to 4% recently. The domestic economy should be expected to make a contribution in times like these.

Q: Peter Dunne (United Future) How confident is he in the confidence?

A: Confidence survey’s are volatile, yes. But the reasonable indication is that confidence is high.

Question 4.

Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National) to the Associate Minister of Health Ruth Dyson:

Q: What is her response to the non-renewal of Palmerston North Home Care Services' contract to provide community care, and what guarantee, if any, can she give that services to frail elderly clients will not be disrupted?

A: In September last year a reminder was given to providers that their contracts would end on March 31st. Following evaluation of proposals seven met standards, eight did not. The providers have been notified of this. They have also been notified that service provision will not be interrupted if it is avoidable.

Q: What about Presbyterian support?

A: My initial reaction was similar to the members. But after receiving advice I have decided I will not accept a lowering of standards as that member clearly does.

Q: What is the Government doing about Home Care services?

A: We are identifying competencies so we can move forward with care and training.

Q: Is this callous disregard for the frail and elderly what we can now expect now we have second world health care?

A: I am very concerned that current services to clients are continued. The MOH’s view was that the providers who have been declined aren’t good enough. As for the member, frankly, being referred to as frail and elderly by a patronising member of Parliament wouldn’t do much for me.

Question 5.

MAHARA OKEROA (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on the movement of job seekers into stable employment?

A: I have seen a report that says more than 12000 stable employment outcomes were achieved in the December quarter last . This is 11 percent ahead of target.

Q: What about long term unemployed?

A: There was a 56% improvement in stable employment outcomes for people unemployed for four years or more.

Q: Has progress detailed in the report for last quarter continued?

A: Yes. January is also good too. A stable employment outcome is 91 days. I want to set higher thresholds in the future however.

Question 6.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: Why was he not informed of the nine payments to prisoners by the Department of Corrections, particularly in light of the Prime Minister's comment on the Mangaroa payouts when she said "That is why I have made it plain that such matters should be referred to the Cabinet in future."?

A: I should have been informed. The Department has admitted they should have informed me. They should listen to the PM in future.

Q: Given the strong comments from the PM, why did he not set up a system where he would be notified?

A: Such a system was set up. It is called if the CEO knew this should be the situation then it should be the situation. I am receiving lots of advice meanwhile on systems that also failed under the National Party. Since the 1999 case under the previous government there have been 10 settlements for unlawful detention. Seven were under the previous government so the score is seven to three to them.

Q: What about victims?

A: It takes time to overcome the years of neglect. However in this case it is not acceptable that reparation was not paid. I have asked the Department to investigate paying reparation in the future out of negotiated settlements.

Q: Is it true that National had questions about this lodged last week?

A: Yes, and I am also concerned that newspaper articles were not brought to my attention. I must say officials are extremely shame faced at the moment about this.

Question 7.

GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: What is the Government doing about the increasing amount of waste produced in New Zealand?

A: This Government recognises waste is a problem. The quantity of waste per person has increased 75% since 1983. We have developed a waste strategy which will be released tomorrow.

Q: What is different about this strategy?

A The strategy moves from end of pipe, to waste prevention. Importantly it has ambitious and specific targets for waste.

Q: What about the waste of lawyers time under the RMA?

A: There are delays in consents, true. But waste costs too.

Q: Why will voluntary measures work better now?

A: Because they were developed in partnership with local government. Many local authorities are already doing good stuff towards a zero waste objective.

Question 8.

(Bob Simcock – leave sought to defer question – refused.)

BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Social Services) Tariana Turia:

Q: What changes did she seek to the Te Pounamu strategy to improve delivery of services from the voluntary sector to whanau, hapu and iwi?

A: (Steve Maharey on behalf) I worked with CYFS to ensure the strategy was consistent with the ACT and with the partnership principles in Te Atatu.

Q: Does she still stand by comments she made about children never being placed in stranger care?

A: On Morning Report I said the following. Children should wherever possible be placed in kin based care, where that is safe. And that is not only my opinion that is the law.

Q: Is the minister satisfied with his minister?

A: Yes.

Question 9.

PHILLIDA BUNKLE (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Has he made any recent visits to assess the impact that Industry New Zealand's Business Growth Service is making to regional economic development; if so, what did he discover?

A: Yes. Only this morning I opened a new cool store for Anathoth. This company received a $100,000 contribution from Business NZ from the Business Growth Service. Anthoth matched the funding dollar for dollar. The contribution is helping them boost sales. They are No. 1 in some markets and No. 2 in others. And that ain’t funny. The company is selling jam for money in Australia. I told them the National Party would laugh and that is exactly what they are doing.

Q: Has anyone raised with him statements from Sealords’ CEO saying that the aquaculture moratorium is very bad indeed.

A: What that has to do for money for jam is a mystery to me. The regions of NZ are at their best in 30 years. For the first time they have a government that cares about them and they are celebrating it every day.

Q: What does the Business Growth Service do?

A: It helps business’s grow. We need hundreds of Anathoths. They are now four times the average size of a small company.

Question 10.

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

Q: Can he confirm that official Police human resources reports show this year's recruit wings 201, 202 and 203 were planned to have 80 recruits each, and how many recruits does each wing actually have?

A: Yes. There are four wings totalling 479 altogether in the police college. I am further advised that there are more sworn police people now than ever.

Q: Why are the police finding it hard to recruit?

A: Since last August there have been lots of calls to the 0800 number. 75 people are presently waiting to enter the police college.

Q: What increase has occurred in non-sworn police staff?

A: 200 under this government. The total number of sworn police is also at a record high.

Q: Can there be any surprise about recruitment problems given the PMs remarks on the Steven Wallace case, and will she be asked to apologise?

A: Perhaps the member did not hear. There are more police than ever.

Question 11.

Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What is the total value of every element of expenditure within Vote Education that is derived from the Treaty of Waitangi principles, and what are the principles against which such expenditure is approved?

A: The views of the TEAC are not necessarily those of the government. Tino-Rangitiratanga means self-determination.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Is the government contemplating the prospect of Rino…..Tino Rangitiratanga…

(Speaker – even I make mispronunciations…. Members should remember the prover about who casts the first stone.)

A: Not in the sense the member means it. The Treaty is about partnership.

Q: If it means self-determination then does that mean to say it does not mean sovereignty?

A: Yes.

Question 12.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What is the full list of taxes and levies that have been increased since November 1999?

A: In my portfolio we have introduced a 39% tax rate for a small number of Nzers. A minor change has been taken to resident withholding tax. We have adjusted tobacco, petrol and alcohol tax for inflation and increased taxes against smoking.

Q: What about my big list then? (quoted from)

A: We are doing lots for NZers. I will be releasing a discussion document with Peter Costello next week concerning inbound investment. I expect all initiatives to stimulate growth.

Q: How much money will be raised by all his new taxes?

A: Total tax as a proportion of GDP is slightly lower now than when we became government.

Q: Are there any more proposals?

A: Yes. There is a flat tax proposal from ACT. Everynow and then National announces a tax cut and then withdraws it by way of clarification.


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