Today’s questions concerned: Nuclear Free Policy – SAS In Afghanistan – Business Confidence – Party Hopping Act – Afghanistan and Palestine Aid – Steven Slavich Parole – Kiwibank – Home Care Services – School Leaving Age – NCEA Implementation (PPTA Strike ) – Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement – Helen’s Meeting With George W.
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.
SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS
DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Does the Government continue to adhere to New Zealand's nuclear-free policy?
A: Yes. As did the Government’s of Jim Bolger and Jenny Shipley, and as do most NZers. I understand that the leader of the National Party however said recently, speaking from the US, that NZ should be more “open minded” about this policy. I can only conclude that NZ’s nuclear free policy would not be safe with National.
Q: What has she been told by the State Department about the Bush Administration’s views on this?
A: I am aware of extensive diplomatic dialogue in preparation for my upcoming meeting in Washington with the President. I record for the record that the US still disagrees with us over this. We have noted that, but we will not be changing our policy. NZ joined with Egypt, Sweden and others in the time of the National Government to promote Nuclear disarmament.
Q: What about the prospects of a free trade agreement?
A: We do not have a Nuclear Free policy to trade.
Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:
Q: Have New Zealand Special Air Service troops been deployed to Afghanistan; if so, what is the general nature of their operations?
A: Yes. NZ SAS personnel are in Afghanistan working alongside other nations combating terrorism.
Q: Is the NZ Parliament entitled to information on this? Or should it be left to find out what is going on from Israeli reporters, German tabloids and the White House?
A: I make no apology for putting the safety of NZ service people and their families ahead of the interests of that member. Special means special and it only remains special if you don’t trade in it. Australia is moving closer to our policy on this matter.
Q: Is NZ participating in the use of fuel air explosives?
A: There will be no comment on the specific location and activities of the NZ SAS.
Q: Will he confirm that the real reason for staying silent is to keep the Greens and the Alliance in the dark?
A: No because the member is wrong.
MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What recent reports has he received on the state of business confidence?
A: Two strongly positive reports were released at the weekend. One from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, and one from a TV1 Colmar Brunton Poll showing economic optimists outnumber pessimists two to one.
Q: Were survey recipients aware of the Kyoto Protocol?
A: I expect so.
Q: What about the fiscal position?
A: The latest data to the end of February shows tax revenues running ahead of schedule.
Q: Why then is the Government raising taxes?
A: Because the economy is doing better than anticipated the balance is higher. We do not intend to spend the extra however.
Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:
Q: When considering the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act 2001, did she or her officials consider a scenario where a party publicly and organisationally splits, but the leader of that party refuses to notify the Speaker that such a split should be acknowledged in Parliament; if so, what was their advice?
A: This matter was considered in a report from the Ministry of Justice. There it was noted that in India a similar provision allows for mass defections of more than one third of a party. This was considered undesirable however, and was not included in the NZ legislation.
Q: Will the Alliance Party be able to split then, and providing the Speaker is not notified, will all MPs be able to remain in Parliament? And if so will this defeat the purpose of the Act?
A: I can’t confirm that, but I would be happy to get a written opinion on this if the member puts it in writing.
Q: Is the bill designed to deal with internal party splits?
A: No. It is designed to deal with Members of Parliament who leave parties.
Q: What about component parties that split off?
A: That reminds me of an exam question. We will wait till the situation eventuates before we consider that matter.
Q: Is she concerned that the Alliance will go through contortions to avoid breaking the law? Especially given Mr Anderton’s statements in support of the Electoral Integrity Act?
A: I am not responsible for the internal affairs of the Alliance or any other party.
CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:
Q: Why has he allocated $1 million from development assistance funds to Afghanistan and Palestine?
A: The aid announced by my colleague Matt Robson allows NZ to provide assistance where it is needed. In Afghanistan aid is essential to return the country to stability. In Palestine there is a desperate need for medicines, food and shelter as a result of Israeli incursions into Palestine.
Q: Did the UN ask for this support?
A: Yes, UNSG Kofi Annan has described aid to Afghanistan as an investment in peace . In Palestine the UN has also asked for urgent help.
Hon PETER DUNNE (United Future) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: What responsibility does he take for the Parole Board's decision to release Shane Rogers, convicted for the murder of Steven Slavich in 1991?
A: The decision on parole rests solely with the Parole Board. Neither the Minister of Corrections nor any other MP can direct the board in relation to an individual case.
Q: In view of insufficient notification given to Mrs Slavich, is the minister satisfied with what has happened in this case?
A: I cannot comment on the decision of the board. In relation to the notice given to Mrs Slavich, I understand she received notification in June 2001 for the Parole Board hearing in March this year. She was reminded again towards the end of February. I regret that notice was a bit too late and arrived only days before the hearing. She was also personally contacted by the chair of the parole board Justice Heron.
Q: Ron Mark (NZ First) Now we know it is Mrs Slavich’s fault, what does he say to the NZ public who voted overwhelmingly for hard labour in prison?
A: I have never suggested it was Mrs Slavich’s fault. As the member well knows, the decision by the parole board was under current legislation. We cannot pass retrospective legislation in this area.
RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:
Q: Does New Zealand Post Ltd remain adamant it will have 300 Kiwibank branches open by May and how many franchisees have signed a contract with New Zealand Post Ltd to provide Kiwibank services?
A: It expects to have 200 branches open by the end of May. And eventually 300. Negotiations with Franchise Holders are continuing.
Q: Does he know that no contracts have yet been signed, because the contract is not completed?
A: I do know that work is progressing well. And that member would be well advised to get behind this bank rather than attacking it day by day.
Q: How is Kiwibank performing?
A: An announcement on the full roll-out will be made this week. Polls indicate support for the bank is back it its peak highs and appointments to open accounts in the pilot areas are fully booked.
Q: What will the returns be for franchise holders?
A: They will be realistic, unlike those unwittingly promoted by an MP in this house – a scam in which hundreds of NZers have been fleeced.
Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National) to the Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson:
Q: Why has she decided to halt the process of contracting home care services in the lower North Island?
A: Two reasons. To provide immediate reassurance to clients. And secondly to ensure issues of concern to the Ministry are addressed through a partnership.
Q: Will she act to remove the stress from those affected?
Q: Steve Maharey (Labour): Has she received any supportive feedback in relation to her action?
A: Yes. Providers, clients, local Labour MPs and the National Party have all expressed support for the development.
Q: Is she big enough to acknowledge that the MOH mismanaged this? And will she apologise for the stress and anxiety this has caused?
A: Last week in the house I confirmed by concern at this. I think the fact the decision has been reversed is an indication of the level of dissatisfaction. However I want to now be constructive about this.
Q: Dr Lynda Scott (National): Why did she take so long to do anything?
A: Three significant approaches have been made to me on this. The first by Steve Maharey, the second by members of the public and the third a pathetically weak question from the member last week.
(Richard Prebble – leave sought for Phillida Bunkle to ask a question – refused.
Gerry Brownlee – I think it would be useful if the Government gave an indication on whether Question time is to be used by Ministers to ask questions of ministers.
Speaker – there is nothing to stop local members asking relevant questions.
Roger Sowry – I am more concerned about Grant Gillon’s decision to deny leave for Phillida Bunkle to ask a question.
Phillida Bunkle – I dislike being defended by Mr Sowry less than I dislike being defended by Mr Prebble. I would have denied the leave myself.)
HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:
Q: What response has he received to the proposal for an education and training leaving age?
A: The response has been overwhelming. We have put several building blocks for this policy in place.
Q: What will this policy involve?
A: There will be a youth transition goal. The proposal does not involve an increase in the school leaving age. It does involve getting all young people into education, training or employment with an educational component, up to the age of 18.
Q: Why then are there so many dropouts?
A: I think this is a direct result of the National Party proposing to increase the leaving age to 18. We are cleaning up their mess. I have seen a report describing this policy as one of putting young people on detention. Comments like this show a woeful misunderstanding of the proposal. Mr English should know better.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: Is he confident that everything possible is being done to ensure the smooth implementation of the new National Certificate for Educational Achievement; if so, why?
A: (Steve Mahaery on behalf) Yes. Negotiations with the PPTA are continuing and the government is committed to reaching a just and fair settlement.
Q: How is the NCEA being assisted by musical chairs at the NZQA?
A: NCEA is in full operation now and is being managed well by that agency. Industrial Action is regrettable but NCEA is fully operational.
Q: How can he say that when teachers are not returning marks to the NZQA?
A: Because the system is now in place. Is being taught by teachers. If there is a delay in receiving marks that is regrettable.
Q: Does he accept that this is all his fault?
(Richard Prebble – Phillida Bunkle has been turned down again for the call. I think she ought to be able to ask a question in spite of ructions in the Alliance Party.
Michael Cullen – the member cannot seek leave for another member to ask a question.
Speaker – yes he can, a member can seek leave for anything, however I think the member has had a fair go already.
Prebble – leave sought – refused by Phillida Bunkle)
GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:
Q: What was the outcome of his recent discussions with his Hong Kong counterpart regarding the proposed Hong Kong-New Zealand closer economic partnership?
A: I have had a constructive and cordial meeting with Secretary Chow on this. Mr Chow understands NZ’s position. If Hong Kong is able to accept our proposals on rules of origin then I am confident we can negotiate a CEP that delivers benefits to NZers.
Q: What do the NZ textile, footware and clothing sector think about this?
A: They have been fully consulted with, and have endorsed our approach on rules of origin.
Q: Is it Labour MPs who are now causing problems with this?
A: The Government remains determined to achieve a trade agreement. We have consulted with National in order to maintain bi-partisan support for agreements of this kind.
Q: Is the new Alliance Government Party supporting this agreement?
A: There is no such party.
Q: Why are environment and labour standards not in this agreement? And was the comment on this in the Speech from the Throne merely a sop to the left?
A: We have a view on this in multinational fora. But they are not an absolute condition on our doing business.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Will she attempt to advance the security and intelligence relationship between the United States and New Zealand when she meets President George W Bush; if so, in what way?
A: The intelligence relationship is strong and has my full commitment. I am sure my visit will strengthen it.
Q: What about her comments as a new MP that the US were listening to her long distance conversations, and probably found them interesting? Will she be raising that matter with George?
A: I am sure that as a young Member of Parliament I greatly overstated my role in the world order at the time.
Q: Keith Locke (Green): What about the US enthusiasm to use nuclear weapons in their war on terror? Will that pose a problem for her?
A: I follow these matters reasonably closely, and I have not detected any US enthusiasm to use nuclear weapons in the war in terror.
Q: Does she continue to rule out a formal military relationship with the US?
A: As recent events illustrate we do not require formal arrangements to be helpful.
(Speaker – when Richard Prebble asked for leave for another member to ask a question I made a mistake. Members are not obliged to ask questions and cannot be made to do so.)
SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS