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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 13 March

Today's questions of the day concerned: Zimbabwe Elections – Ross Armstrong – Economy – Parole Reform – Vote Health And The Treaty – NCEA – Pacific Island Health – NZ Post – Turia Speech – G-Men In Queenstown – Maori Business Facilitation – Armstrong And Wilson’s “Purposeful” Relationship.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 13 March 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.

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

Q: What reports has he received from the observers in Zimbabwe regarding whether the election there was sufficiently free and fair to be regarded as reflecting the majority will of the people?

A: I spoke last night and again this morning with observers. The clear message has been that the process has been so manipulated so as to be unlikely to reflect the will of the people.

Q: What are key factors?

A: Intimidation before and after the poll, to the point of torture in observed cases, access to the media, deliberate disenfranchisement and restrictions on observers both domestic and international.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National) Was NZ left lurking in the corridors at CHOGM?

A: No she was forthright and clear, on CNN and BBC. Nobody is in doubt on the PM’s stance or indeed NZ’s stance. Up to 1.2 million people were either ruled ineligible to vote or denied access to a poll to actually vote. Many people could not vote because they did not have ID. But their IDs were stolen by Mugabe’s thugs.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Will our kith and kin be left to be the targets of thugs? When will farmers be able to come to NZ?

A: I remember campaigning with the member against the racism implicit in the expression “kith and kin” when it was first used. If we accept people as refugees it will not be on the basis of the colour of their skin, but on the basis that they are refugees.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Did NZ not agree to sign a joint observer report? Did NZ not agree to sign a CHOGM agreement? Or was Muldoon right when he described Mugabe as a person walking in the bush shooting people, and was criticised for racism?

A: We made our view perfectly clear on this issue. We put observers on the ground. We will make up our minds independently on what action to take if the Commonwealth action is insufficient.

Question 2.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: In light of Dr Ross Armstrong being paid $80,500 as chair of Television New Zealand, $62,672 as chair of New Zealand Post Ltd, $39,000 as chair of Industrial Research Ltd, and $24,000 as a director of Kiwibank, does he believe it is appropriate that he holds all of these roles?

A: The former National Party official Ross Armstrong was appointed to two of the positions by National. One he holds as a consequence of one of those appointments. The final he was appointed into by this Government.

Q: What else has he been doing?

A: He has been acting as executive director of a CRI recently. He is being paid at a rate of $13,050. The methodology for paying Crown employees was approved by the Cabinet in 1997 when Bill English was a member of cabinet.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Would privatisation of NZ Post and TVNZ have been better for Ross Armstrong?

A: It is certain that if the two organisations had been privatised then the member would be having a lot less fun than he is.

Q: Can he confirm that Dr Armstrong expects to be appointed to two new positions in TVNZ? And is Armstrong really Helen’s little helper?

A: I can only presume he was previously Jim’s and Jenny’s helper, since they hired him.

Question 3.

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

Q: What recent reports has he received on the state of the economy?

A: Yes. The numbers for jobs and retail are good. And growth forecasts have been revised upwards by the banks.

Q: How is this reflected in the fiscal position of the Government?

A: The returns are well ahead of the DEFU forecasts partly on the revenue side and partly on expenditure side.

Q: If the fiscal outlook is so good why is debt increasing and why are taxes heading up?

A: The minister isn’t. Debt to GDP is falling.

Question 4.

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

Q: Did the Government base its decision to enable serious violent offenders to be released after serving one third of their sentence instead of two thirds on any evidence of violent re-offending by prisoners on parole and early release; if not, why not?

A: The Government’s decision was based on community safety being the critical factor. Under the foreshadowed amendment a minimum of two thirds can be set by the judge. In any event if an inmate poses a risk they will not automatically be released, as they will under the current law.

Q: Is the minister suppressing information on parolee offending (lists cases)?

A: What he failed to mention is that all the cases he mentions were sentenced and paroled under the current law, not the future law.

Q: What about the case of Kylie Jone’s killer Taffy Hotene?

A: We did consider that case. Hotene was released at two-thirds of his sentence. Under the present law the Parole Board could not hold him. Under the future law he can be held till the very end of his sentence.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Can he confirm that non-parole periods will only be used in extraordinary circumstances and will not pander to simplistic notions of being tough on crime?

A: The member is right that because it is election year we will hear lots of huffing and puffing this year.

Question 5.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What is the total value of every element of expenditure within Vote Health that is derived from the Treaty of Waitangi and those acts of Parliament which require observance and regard be paid to its principles, and what are the principles against which such expenditure is approved?

A: I am advised it is not possible to break down expenditure in the manner sought.

Q: If it is not possible to do that, why is her Government going around telling Maori all the things they are doing for them?

A: Because we are doing lots for Maori.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): How does equality before the law reconcile with her so-called Treaty Principles?

A: The Health And Disability Act requires the Treaty to be recognised and respected. In practice it requires relationships to be maintained with Iwi and Maori communities and that Maori participate in DHB decision making.

Q: What about hospital chaplains?

A: I have not cut hospital chaplain funding as claimed yesterday. The member has changed his tune. Funding remains the same at $1.5 million. What I have agreed to is that the money get paid as a national contract to the council. They may then decide what they pay Maori chaplains.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why is medical apartheid being practiced in Tauranga?

A: May I remind that member that there has been a separate ward for Maori under National. He was a member of the Government when that ward was established.

(Winston Peters – she cannot make those claims.)

Question 6.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What guarantees can he give over 56,000 level 1 NCEA students that their school qualification will not be compromised, following yesterday's PPTA announcement that teachers will not pass on marks to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority from next Monday, and that teachers will refuse to comply with directives and timeframes relating to assessment from NZQA from the middle of April?

A: (Steve Maharey on behalf) I can offer the guarantee that this government is prepared to negotiate a fair settlement for teachers.

Q: Roger Sowry (National): Given he described a previous offer of 7% over two years made under National as mean and miserly, how would he describe his offer of 3.5% over two years?

A: As fair and just.

Q: Roger Sowry (National): How so? Or is this just a case of teachers being screwed by the Maharey principle?

A: I will ignore that last remark. The offer includes super, non-contact time and up to 10% increases in pay for some.

Question 7.

TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What recent changes has the Government implemented to improve the health of Pacific Island people?

A: We have released an action plan towards improving the health status of Pacific people?

Q: What input did Pacific people have into this plan?

A: Lots. Extensive consultations were held, including more than 1 dozen fono around the country.

Q: Arthur Anae (National) What about Auckland DHB’s deficit problems?

A: I would like to thank the member for his support for the plan, and assure him that additional primary care funding will be focussed on South Auckland.

Question 8.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: What steps does he propose to take to ensure that there has been proper scrutiny of the operations of the New Zealand Post Ltd subsidiary Transend in South Africa?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) The board of NZ Post has responsibilities for Transend. If I had seen evidence of misconduct I would have done something. I haven’t yet seen any such evidence.

Q: What about the problems with the FEC? Is it his job to fix these?

A: No.

Q: Is Transend still in South Africa?

A: Yes. NZ Post is still working on the counter automation project there.

Q: Is he satisfied?

A: No not entirely.

(Winston Peters – a member called my colleague a “Ratu”. He should apologise.

Speaker – that is not a valid point of order.

Richard Prebble - we have a translator. Can we use him?

Speaker – what word did the member use.

Judy Keall – “Ratu”, meaning Chief in Fijian.

Rodney Hide – I don’t mind. That is probably the nicest thing she has said about me.)

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Was he advised about the millions of dollars in penalties NZ Post had to pay for not meeting its targets in South Africa?

A: I do not have that information.

Q: Is there anything for him to inquire into in relation to the FEC’s problems with the SOE?

A: It is not for me to direct the SOE. I am interested to see what the Select Committee reports on this matter.

Q: Has money been lost in South Africa?

A: No. I am advised that overall the contract was profitable for NZ Post.

Question 9.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment Tariana Turia:

Q: Was her speech to the Australasian Society for Traumatic Stress Studies on "Trauma and Colonisation" cleared through the Prime Minister's office or any other Minister's office; if not, why not?

A: The speech was forwarded to the PM. But the PM did not see it.

Q: Who advised the Minister the speech was okay for delivery?

A: Officials in the DPMC.

Q: What response did the Minister get from the audience at the Auckland University and from Maori people?

A: The response was positive from conference members. The perception of Tangata Whenua is that they are always subject to attack from the mainstream media.

Q: What did she mean when she said there was a conspiracy against Tangata Whenua (quoted from speech)?

A: I think the statement quoted is self explanatory?

Q: Will she bite her lip in future on the advice of the PM?

A: I don’t think that really requires an answer. The question really is that, the PM has been around for a long time, and as she says, the media always gets the last say.

Question 10.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Did her officials attend the high level conference of security chiefs in Queenstown this week, and what was the purpose of that conference?

A: I can confirm that a gathering of officials including the FBI director was held in Queenstown and that NZers took part. It is important that such gatherings, in the wake of 911, be held discretely and so I cannot comment further on the meeting.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Under what authority were US agents interrogating people around the resort as reported in the NZ Herald this morning?

A: I suggest the member phone the US Embassy if he wants to make those sorts of allegations.

Q: Bill English (National): Does she have the support of the Alliance and the Greens for this gathering?

A: This gathering was one that I approved. And I can say that it was only good for NZ.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Were any of the foreign agents here authorised to carry guns in NZ? And if so by what authority?

A: I am advised that the normal NZ practice in these matters was complied with.

Question 11.

JOHN TAMIHERE (Labour) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: What assistance has the Maori Business Facilitation Service provided to Maori?

A: The Maori Business Facilitation Service is set up to provide advice to new or existing businesses. Services including mentoring, networking and providing legal advice.

Q: How many groups have been helped by the service?

A: Lots. 294 people have started up new businesses but that is only part of their work.

Question 12.

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

Q: What has she done to improve the dental health of children living in Northland since she became Minister of Health?

A: I have done the following. I have increased funding, twice, introduced of an oral health service agreement, and held a successful symposium on fluoridation.

Q: How does that statement correlate with the observation that the decay rate is 45% worse than it was a year earlier?

A: Let me give him this figure. Between 1993 to 1999, the percentage of children free from decay dropped from 48% to 41%. Thank goodness we are turning that around. There has been no reduction in the quality of services provided under this government.

Question Questions to Members

Question 1.

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

Q: Has the committee completed its financial review of New Zealand Post Ltd?

A: No. The committee will seek leave to delay its report back till the end of April.

Q: Can he confirm an additional inquiry will be held?

A: Yes, we will be looking into the issues of accountability in general in relation.

Q: Has the chair been authorised to issue a statement?

A: Yes. And a statement will be issued.

Question 2.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Chairperson of the Privileges Committee Margaret Wilson:

Q: In light of media references to her personal friendship with Dr Ross Armstrong, does she intend to step aside from the chair of the Privileges Committee when the question of privilege relating to New Zealand Post Ltd is considered; if not, why not?

A: The matter raised by the member is a serious one. And so I propose when convening the committee to ask all members to declare their relationships with board members and executives of NZ Post before decisions are made on conflicts of interest.

Q: Will she declare a conflict of interest? Especially given her “purposeful” relationship with Dr Armstrong, as described by Dr Armstrong?

A: I do not consider I have a personal friendship with him. I have had one meeting with him in the past two years. To my recollection I have had no other meeting with the gentleman.

Q: Will she assure the house this allegation will be properly addressed?

A: Yes I can give that assurance. And I presume all members will assist me.


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