SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –27 March
Today’s questions concerned: Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill – National Parks - Overseas Investment Commission - Gregory Fortuin - Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill - Principals Of Small Schools – Teachers’ Strike - Code of ACC Claimants' Rights – Rising Foodbank Demand - Auckland Mental Health Acute Units - Zealand Post Ltd Subsidiary Transend - Disability Issues – New Zealand Post
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
Hon BILL ENGLISH to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Given her statement on the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill "Of course it is a draconian Bill, but it is dealing with people whose behaviour is despicable", will she accept support for her Government from any person who leaves the party they were in when they were elected to Parliament at the election; if so, why?
A: (Jim Anderton answering) The despicable behaviour the Prime Minister makes reference to was the behaviour of MPs in the last parliament who ended up supporting the National Party in the last government after they were elected to once side of the House and then took their votes across the other. I have received no advice that any member of this parliament intends to leave their party.
JOHN WRIGHT to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:
Q: Have there been any recent additions to national parks and conservation lands?
A: I am able to confirm that the Labour Alliance government has delivered on its election commitment to end all logging of crown managed native forest. All 130,000 hectares of West Coast rain forest once held for logging purposes are being transferred into conservation land with 18,000 hectares being included in three West Coast existing world class national parks.
Q: What is the economic impact on the West Coast from the transfer of timberland forests to DOC?
A: The $120m invested in regional and economic development purposes on the West Coast have seen that region thrive. There are vast number of concessions being granted to a number of locals in the economic and recreational parts of the West Coast and the tourism growth in recent years is a direct result of the past creation of these National Parks.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Why did the Overseas Investment Commission give a confidentiality undertaking to Nissui in the acquisition of the Brierley share in the Sealords deal and did they make their Minister and the Minister of Fisheries fully aware of all aspects of the transaction?
A: The undertaking given related to commercially sensitive information, I am satisfied that all information was made available to Ministers for the performance of our statutory functions.
GERRY BROWNLEE to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:
Q: Following her discussions with Mr Gregory Fortuin regarding his mediation of the internal Alliance dispute, has she established whether the Hon Jim Anderton was correct when he said "Greg Fortuin gave his offer of service", or Mr Gregory Fortuin was correct when he said "I was asked and agreed to be a neutral, confidential conciliator."; if so, who is correct?
A: No, regardless of who initiated the mediation I regarded it as inappropriate for Mr Fortuin to be involved in that situation.
Q: Will she now ask Mr Fortuin to immediately resign?
A: I have not asked Mr Fortuin to resign. I have however considered the matter carefully and wish to discuss with him further in order to establish whether the office has been compromised.
Q: What perceived constraints does the Minister consider is on Mr Fortuin’s private activities given his public role?
A: The Race Relation Conciliator is obviously entitled to the same rights of free speech and free association as anyone else in this country, the question is whether there has been any damage to the office through his private actions.
(House breaks into a very lengthy series of Points of Orders over whose statement was correct Mr Anderton’s or Mr Fortuin’s finally moving on after a personal statement from Mr Anderton).
Personal Statement from Jim Anderton: I was hoping that the house might have some understanding of the way he went about his role. He was asked to mediate but by whom he was asked I don’t know, and I understood he had offered his service. It should not be assumed that anyone was lying.
STEPHEN FRANKS to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:
Q: Why does the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill automatically cut in half every sentence under two years?
A: For those sentenced up to one years it will maintain the status quo. For those sentenced for one to two years the new legislation will in fact enforce a tougher regime requiring inmates to serve one half of their sentence before parole eligibility when currently they are eligible for release after one third of their sentence. The new Bill will also make it mandatory for those sentenced up to two years to be subject to such conditions upon release that reduce the risk of re-offending, promote rehabilitation or meet the concerns of victims.
Q: Is the Government concerned only the public and victims will be deceived when Judges impose sentencing?
A: I understand his party (ACT) wants to introduce what is called truth in sentencing at an estimated cost of $886m, and the member has not explained that money will come from when they want to slash taxes.
ANN HARTLEY to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: What progress, if any, has been made towards ensuring principals of small schools can focus on teaching and learning?
A: I announced today an extension to the School Administration Cluster programme and an increase in funding from $1million dollars to $2.7 million. The programme helps small schools to work together to improve administrative efficiency freeing up time for principals to focus on professional leadership and teaching.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: Can he guarantee that secondary school children nationwide will not have their second term disrupted by industrial action; if not, why not?
A: Ministry of Education officials are ready to negotiate any time teachers decide to teach all the children they are required to teach. This Government thinks that $125m going exclusively to teachers is more than enough to settle this claim.
Q: Given that when National in 1999 settled the teacher’s pay claim at 7 percent over two years, and he described it at as mean and miserly and proposes to settle it at 3.5 percent, will he join the picket line for a photo opportunity as he did then?
A: While like the honourable member I think any publicity is good publicity I must point out the Government’s pay offer is between 3.5 and 15 percent.
HARRY DUYNHOVEN to the Minister for Accident Insurance Lianne Dalziel:
Q: What progress has been made on the development of a Code of ACC Claimants' Rights under the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act 2001?
A: Significant progress has been made on the development of a Code of ACC Claimants' Rights and the draft code, which I am releasing today, has been given Cabinet approval and is now open for public consultation.
BOB SIMCOCK to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What is his response to the Downtown Community Ministry saying of its foodbanks that "Demand is definitely up on this time last year. Normally things quiet down after school starts, but that just doesn't seem to be happening. The rising cost of living probably has a lot to do with it."?
A: My response would be to remind the member that benefits and superannuation payments increase form next Monday in relation to consumer price index increases. I have instructed WINZ to work alongside foodbanks across the country to ensure we see the end of the need for them over time. I expected that, like a supertanker, it would take time to slow down the impact of the cuts of the previous government and it will take this government some time to fix it.
SUE BRADFORD to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What is her response to the concerns expressed by nurses and support staff at a number of Auckland mental health acute units that staff shortages may create an unsafe working environment for patients and staff?
A: The problems of Auckland are longstanding and relate to an inequity of funding to that region over a long period of time, which is now being redressed. Some of the additional money is for workforce development and quality, one of the problems in mental health is the availability of mental health workers.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:
Q: What degree of confidence does he have in the activities of New Zealand Post Ltd subsidiary Transend on the basis of the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report which is qualified by that firm on the basis that the procedures "do not constitute an audit or a review", and in which PriceWaterhouseCoopers say they are "not responsible for the adequacy or otherwise of the ... procedures." and they "disclaim any assumption of responsibility for the adequacy or otherwise of the procedures requested" by New Zealand Post Ltd?
A: I have no reason to doubt the robustness of the report. This was not an audit in the strict financial terms of the word audit.
Q: Can the Minister then recall answering a question on the 12 March he not once but four times described the Mander report as an audit?
A: The word audit is used widely. I did not mislead the House it was not a full technical audit but was it an audit in the looser sense.
DIANNE YATES to the Minister for Disability Issues Lianne Dalziel:
Q: What measure is the Government taking to address the long-standing need for a cross-sectoral approach to disability issues?
A: Today I announced the setting up a new Office of Disabilities Issues within the Ministry of Social Development it will provide strong leadership and coordination across all sectors, it will support departments in implementing the New Zealand disability strategy.
A cross sectoral approach is needed because of the inappropriate placement of disabilities in a health context when there are disabilities issues to be addressed across Government so the response should be across government. The initial establishment costs are estimated at about $0.9 million and ongoing costs at $0.8million.
Questions to Members
Dr MURIEL NEWMAN to the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee Mark Peck:
Q: Does he intend to request from New Zealand Post Limited, as part of their financial review, a copy of the report prepared by Cameron Mander of Luke, Cunningham and Clere; if not, why not?
A: I invite you to talk to your colleague Rodney Hide who is a member of that committee.
Hon MURRAY McCULLY to the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee Mark Peck:
Q: Has he requested the appearance of New Zealand Post Ltd during April in order to finalise the financial review prior to the end of that month; if so, has he specifically requested that Dr Armstrong and Mr Toime appear before the committee?
A: As that member is a member of that committee he is aware of the answer to that question.