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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 26 March

Today’s questions concerned: Nuclear-Free Policy – SAS In Afghanistan #1 - Early Childhood Education Services- Teachers’ Strikes In Auckland – ACC Sexual Abuse Claims - Race Relations Conciliator – SAS Troops In Afghanistan #2 – Violent Offending – Caregivers And Autism – New Zealand Post And Transend - Financing For Development - Carruthers Report - New Zealand Post

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 26 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.

SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS

Question 1.

GRAHAM KELLY to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff
Has he received any reports in relation to the application of New Zealand's nuclear-free policy?

A: (Michael Cullen answering) Yes I have seen reports the Leader of the Opposition wants to invite nuclear warships to New Zealand, right now any warship complying with our nuclear free policy is welcome to New Zealand ports. I can only presume the National Party wants to invite a nuclear bomb into the country. The United States makes it clear that a full return to the ANZUS relationship will only happen with the revocation of our nuclear free policy.

Question 2.

Hon BILL ENGLISH to the Prime Minister Helen Clark
What is her response to media reports alleging that New Zealand officials participated in the decision to leak information regarding the activities of New Zealand SAS members in Afghanistan in order to ensure that her Washington trip went more smoothly, and which officials and members of her Government were aware of this decision?

A: (Michael Cullen answering) There is no truth in that allegation made on Radio New Zealand. The allegation has been denied and it would be just as useful to accuse the member of leaking information on his visit there. Withholding information on the activities of SAS members is on the request of the Special Forces and New Zealand Defence Force.

Q: Whether or not New Zealand Government officials were conspiring with the United States, was it useful for this information to be leaked prior to the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington to gain brownie points for her free trade deal?

A: There is an obvious error in that question in that the United States knew about our SAS troops without it being leaked.

Question 3.

NANAIA MAHUTA to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard
What has been the response to equity funding for early childhood education services?

A: The response has been very positive, I visited a Mangere kindergarten this morning and they were thrilled and congratulated this Government on recognising and dealing with the needs of families. The initial allocation was distributed to 1,121 centres earlier this month, further payments will be made in July and November at which time it is likely that more centres will be eligible. The funding is over and above the operational funding for centres and will be used to meet the needs of families in those particular centres.

Question 4.

Hon BILL ENGLISH to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard
What steps, if any, has he taken to ensure that tens of thousands of Auckland school children will be attending all classes this week?

A: Cabinet last week authorised an offer of between 3.6 and nearly 15 percent, the cost of last weeks offer is estimated and $125 million and all of those benefits flow to secondary teachers. I was very surprised that it was rejected out of hand. Negotiations will restart will as soon as the PPTA executive condones action which involves keeping kids out of school.


Question 5.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN to the Minister for Accident Insurance Lianne Dalziel
In light of recent media reports, is ACC "bracing itself for a flood of claims from sexual abuse victims" when it reintroduces lump sum compensation on 1 April?

A: No. First, lump sum compensation is not limited to claims from sexual abuse victims, and second, given that in all cases all injuries must have happened after 1 April 2002 the ACC is not bracing itself for a flood of claims from any groups. The Wakefield Associates mail drop has been the major cause of the increased claims to ACC’s sensitive claims unit, not one of these 3000 claims will be eligible for lump sum compensation under the new act. What is required to be eligible for a lump sum is a registered medical practitioner’s assessment of permanent impairment.

Question 6.

Hon TONY RYALL to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson
When did she become aware that the Race Relations Conciliator, Mr Gregory Fortuin, was mediating in the Alliance internal dispute, and does she consider his actions appropriate?

A: (Michael Cullen answering) I was notified on Friday evening that Mr Fortuin had acted as mediator and have no doubt he would have offered his good service in any similar situation but on reflection it does not seem wise to become involved in such proceedings. Mr Fortuin saw his role in this particular regard as not being related to the office of Race Relations Conciliator. Mr Fortuin has given the Associate Minister and assurance there will be no repetition of such involvement.

Question 7.

KEITH LOCKE to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton
Will he now confirm the report that New Zealand has SAS troops in Afghanistan; if so, what information can he provide on the nature of their mission?

A: As I told the house a week ago the SAS is in Afghanistan working alongside other nations in combating terrorism.

Q: Is the Minister concerned at reports that villages in Afghanistan being destroyed as a result of continuing US raids which the SAS could be involved in?

A: I do not publicly comment on the specific operations of the SAS, it is unwise and potentiallay dangerous to SAS members and their families.

Question 8.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY to the Minister of Police George Hawkins
What initiatives, if any, has he taken to curb violent offending which increased by an average 5.9 percent across all police districts last year, with a 16.4 percent increase in the Auckland district?

A: Some of the initiatives include increased funding to police and law enforcement teams with additional Government funding. The latest police crime statistics show overall criminal offences have fallen to a 13-year low and burglaries to a 20-year low, I think the police are doing a pretty good job. This is because the Commissioner of Police got the funding he needed, cars and police stations were upgraded and they have a good minister.


Question 9.

DIANNE YATES to the Minister for Disability Issues Lianne Dalziel
What support is the Government providing to caregivers of people with autistic spectrum disorder?

A: An extra $319,000 will be provided for training informal caregivers such as family members over the next three years and comes on top of $900,000 over three years to fund Autism New Zealand’s Early Bird programme. A post graduate diploma in autism for health and disability professionals began last year at Massey University, an advanced certificate in autism and severe communications disorders is being offered by Christchurch College of Education for the first time this year and the Ministry of Education is targeting at primary school staff in a programme to develop a good understanding of autistic spectrum disorder.


Question 10.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton
What was the nature of the work conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers in relation to the activities of New Zealand Post Limited subsidiary Transend, and can he give an assurance that all of the allegations summarised by lawyer Cameron Mander were exposed to a proper audit process?

A: PriceWaterhouseCoopers looked at a wide range of issues including policies, procedures and contacts and the Transend Board established a process by which allegations could be made anonymously and independently of NZ Post.


Question 11.

KEVIN CAMPBELL to the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance) Matt Robson
What challenges, if any, were presented to OECD countries at the recent United Nations conference on financing for development he attended in Mexico?

A: The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan challenged donor countries like New Zealand to reach the aid target of 0.7 percent of GDP in order to meet the goal of halving the number of people in absolute poverty by 2015. NZ committed itself to that target more than three decades ago. Many developing countries made a commitment to clean up their own houses of corruption and poor governance, this will ensure the aid gets to the right places as well as encouraging private sector investment. The world’s poorest countries are paying billions of dollars a year paying off debt, this money could be better spent on health and education. We will be supporting innovative solutions to relieve them of this burden.

Question 12.

Hon MAX BRADFORD to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton
What date was the Carruthers report presented to the Judge Advocate General of the Armed Forces, and when will it be released to the New Zealand public, as indicated to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee?

A: The Judge Advocate General was asked by the Chief of Defence Force to look at two specific matters. Colin Currthers QC has carried out inquires into those matters on behalf of the Judge Advocate General. I am advised the Judge Advocate General received the Carruthers report last week, but has yet to present his report to the Chief of the Defence Force who will release it when he has fully considered it. I have not seen any part of the report or have been briefed on it. This is the proper independent way to investigate claims and I will support its findings.

Questions to Members


Question 1.

RODNEY HIDE to the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee Mark Peck.
Does he intend to request that New Zealand Post Limited auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers appear before the committee as part of the financial review of New Zealand Post Limited; if so, on what date?

A: The member is a member of the committee and will be aware of the committee’s procedures in this respect.

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