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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –17 April

Today’s questions concerned: Coalition Stability – Income Tax Cuts – PM’s Art Controversy (1)- Local Govt Bill And The Treaty – Zimbabwe - – PM’s Art Controversy (2) – Internet Support For Principals - Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill - Overseas Investment Commission – Sale Of Defence Land To Sovereign Yachts – Dismissal Of Teachers Council Head - Patronage On Public Transport

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 17 April 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.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: In light of media reports that members of the Alliance yesterday attended separate faction meetings in Hon Jim Anderton's and Hon Laila Harré's offices instead of their regular caucus meeting, and that the two groups did a deal to divide the Alliance's parliamentary funding 60-40, will these developments affect coalition stability; if not, why not?

A: The successful; outcomes of the meetings has been positive for all concerned

Bill English: Did she know about Jim Anderton’s plans to make an announcement after Easter that he would be leaving the Alliance and setting up his own party?

A: Obviously I am not a member of the Alliance, I had no specific advice of any decision nor the precise time when it would be announced.

Grant Gillon: How does she gauge the stability of the Government.

A: Quite simply it is always gauged by the ability to progress its policy and legislative programme and that has not been changed.

Ken Shirley: In view of the fact that five Alliance members holding Ministerial or undersecretary warrants that they are split on a ratio of four to one does she consider it appropriate that ministerial funding be split 60-40 as has been reported.

A: The reports I have seen that it is parliamentary funding that is being talked about that is a mater for parliamentary services.

Winston Peters: Does she not think what Mr Anderton is doing is an exercise in deception, device and artifice and plainly wrong?

A: I am not a member of the Alliance and do not intend to answer for them but the Electoral Integrity Act would make it clear that the members are carefully obeying its provisions.

Question 2.

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

Q: When were income tax rates last cut and what were the consequences of those cuts?

A: Income tax rates were last cuts in July 1 1998 there was no growth surge in fact it was followed by a technical recession with GDP contracting 0.2 percent in each of the next two quarters. Spending pressure exacerbated by the tax cuts lead the National government to cut superannuation the following year. I will also note the last cut in the company tax rate in 1998 was followed by the worst four quarters of economic performance in New Zealand’s history since the Great Depression.

A: What are the equity effects of cuts to the top marginal tax rate?

They increase social and income inequality. People on 40,000 will have to wait until 2006 to get a tax cut of $20 a year. Ministers will begin to benefit immediately and by 2006 will be better of $20 a day.

David Carter: Two thirds of New Zealand businesses pay personal tax, not corporate tax and does he not believe that lower tax for business in NZ will mean more, investment, more growth and more jobs and a better economy.

A: No, the company tax rate was cut massively in 1998 the growth rates in the following four years were –0.1, -0.2, -0.1 and –0.6 percent.

Rodney Hide: Given his observation of three or four data points without controlling for any other variables is he prepared to say that the overwhelming evidence is that tax cuts are positive for the economy?

A: In the 1980s President Ronald Reagan cut top tax rates massively, it lead to unsustainable growth but low productivity growth.. When President Bill Clinton started in office by increasing the top tax rate he had the best productivity growth rate in the US economy for many decades

Question 3.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Clark:

Q: What has she done to implement Labour's pre-election manifesto commitment that "we will ensure that New Zealand is regarded as a fair and honest player in the international creative industries environment"?

A: Assuming he interested in the matter the government has updated copyright legislation and revised the previous government’s parallel importing policy. Assuming the member is not interested in the matter I repeat I made a mistake in trying to help a charity and if they want to ask the same question everyday he will get the same answer.

Bill English: Does she believe as Minister of Art she has kept that commitment when she has generated international headlines over her signing of a painting she did not paint?

A: Over many years I have generated a lot of positive headlines for New Zealand.

Ken Shirley: On reflection does the Prime Minister accept it was both unfair and dishonest to pass off another person’s work as her own?

A: It was an error of judgement for which I apologise again.

Bill English: Can she confirm that if any other minister of the arts has acted in the way she did and caused local and international embarrassment why doesn’t she fall on her paintbrush and resign Minister of Arts?

A: The only consequences of my falling on a paintbrush would be to break it.

Question 4.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee

Q: Specifically what principles is she referring to in clause 4 of Part 1 of the Local Government Bill, which requires local authorities, "To recognise and respect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi, ..." and what is the authority for her answer?

A: (Matt Robson answering) Clause 4 of Part 1 of the Local Government Bill is acknowledgment by the Crown that it the Crown has obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

Winston Peters: Why can’t the minister specifically answer the question which is specifically what principles was she referring to in clause 4 of Part 1 of the Local Government Bill To recognise and respect the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and what is the authority for her answer?

A: The point is that the issues on the Treaty of Waitangi are set out in this bill they are set out in a number of bills, eventually questions in relation to the Treaty are decided by the courts and by the Waitangi Tribunal.

Stephen Franks: Why dos the government leave it to the Courts to decide on principles they can not tell this house?

A: There is a place for Parliament and there is a place for the Courts, the government makes legislation but ultimately the Courts make final decisions on interpretation.

Winston Peters: How on earth does he expect local government to interpret principles of the Treaty when neither he nor any of his colleagues has been able to define these principles?

A: There has been a long tradition of providing principle clauses in legislation.

Question 5.

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

Q: What action has the Government taken in response to events in Zimbabwe?

A: The g this week formally put in place a ban on travel to New Zealand on 20 key members of the Zimbabwe government, this action has been taken in conjunction with similar action taken by EU, US and Canada and is largely symbolic. A process is in place to ensure no arms sale or instruments which could be used as tools of oppression can be exported from New Zealand to Zimbabwe, we are also trying to get Zimbabwe excluded from competing in the Commonwealth Games.

Question 6.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: In light of her earlier statements that "To my certain knowledge, I am far from the only MP to have been assisted with a contribution of this kind" and "my inquiries reveal that this is far from unique, not only for politicians but for celebrities as well" and her statement to the House yesterday that "The advice I referred to was not about an existing member of Parliament", can she advise the House which of her statements is an accurate description of how many members she believes have passed off works of art they did not produce as their own?

A: There is no inconsistency, I repeat yesterday’s statement that the advice I referred to was not about an existing member of parliament.

Bill English: Given that at best the evidence she had was hearsay about one past member of parliament why did she persist to make public statements about politicians and celebrities?

A: I was advised that the practice in relation was not unique and that advice did refer to an excising MP.

Winston Peters: Given her words “To my certain knowledge, I am far from the only MP to have been assisted with a contribution of this kind” who not in Parliament is not an MP?

A: The advice I received was about a former MPs

Bill English: Given her failure to name one politician or one celebrity who has forged an artwork in the way she had why did she persist to make those statements which unequivocally accused them of forging art works when she knew that they were wrong?

A: The opposition has drawn inferences from what I said which are incorrect. What I was saying was referring to was advice about members previously in the house.

Question 7.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard :

Q: What progress has been made on a secure internet support system for school principals?

A: Last week I launched ‘leadspace’ (?) a onestop shop on the Internet for information and communication including a secure facility for principals to discuss issues with colleagues. It is part of the principals leadership and development programme to which this government has committed $17million over the next four years. Principals have been very positive.

Nick Smith: Of what possible use is sec to principals when again today thousands of teachers are not at school and having failed to resolve this dispute after three terms why s he even preventing mediation?

A: It is my understanding that mediation adjourned last week for party’s to consider the positions.

Question 8.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:

Q: Was the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill intended to cover members of Parliament who withdraw, leave or are expelled from the party they were elected to represent, but who continue to claim to be a member, whip or even leader of that same party for parliamentary purposes; if not, why not?

A (Michael Cullen answering) The intention of the Act was to maintain party proportionality throughout the parliamentary term.

Gerry Brownlee: Will the minister accept that the cosy and self serving little arrangement by the ten Alliance MPs is an outrage and disgrace?

A: Compared to Alamein Kopu with a Beehive suite with her own shower, no.

Winston Peters: How can the Deputy Prime Minister remain in his job and why doesn’t he recommend to do the honourable and seek a fresh mandate?

A; The Deputy Prime Minister stays in this government and I have no intention of telling to leave his job so I can take it over.

Question 9.

ROD DONALD (Greens) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Will he use the occasion of his forthcoming Foreign Investment function to announce that he is adopting the recommendations of Government and Green members on the Finance and Expenditure Committee that the Government will consider requiring the Overseas Investment Commission to consider the impact on social wellbeing, environmental sustainability and economic sovereignty when assessing whether an overseas investment will accrue the fullest possible benefit to New Zealand; if not, why not?

A: This function is not my function but an OIC function to which I am invited and given the nature of that it is not my place to unburden myself of thoughts on matters as serious as this.

Rod Donald: Is the real reason why the Government isn’t prepared to implement any of Government and Green members on the Finance and Expenditure Committee recommendations, such as expanding the National interest criteria to include environmental and social impacts, because of the US trade representatives want unfettered access to New Zealand’s dwindling supply of locally owned assets.

A: No, I have long been opposed to that move and it is not for the OIC in my view to pre-empt the function of local authorities and the Resource Management Act.

Lockwood Smith: Is he prepared to explain to the supporters of his Government how raising the regulatory hurdles faced by foreign investors into this country is meant to insists us to compete for the investment we need to take us back into the top half of the OECD

A: I am prepared to explain sensible economic policy to anyone.

Question 10.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: For what price did the Government sell the 4.03 hectares of defence land upon which Sovereign Yachts is based, and can he confirm that the General Manager, Defence Force Services, in a memorandum to the Chief of the Defence Force on 20 December 2000, stated that if the Government had "waited until the whole base was surplus and then entered into an agreement with the Waitakere City with regard to their plans for the area" the value "would have become between $7.5 and $10 million"?

A (Phill Goff answering): The Government sold the 4.03 hectares for the higher of the valuations received separately from two professional valuation companies which was $456,000+GST.It was sold to the successors of the former owner as required under the Public Works Act. I am advised by the Defence force that the values speculated upon in the memo bears no relation to actual market values at all. It is not zoned for residential and could not have realised the values speculated upon without rezoning and major development.

Question 11.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What new information caused him to dismiss the head of the Teachers Council, Kathleen Irwin, when the formal State Services Commission inquiry is reported to be only days away from completing its investigation?

A: I accepted her offer of resignation, when she later attempted to withdraw I dismissed her under clause 4.2 under the Eduction Act in order to make this position clear.

MM: Given the question marks over Ms Irwin in relation to both her employment dispute with Victoria University and the establishment of a private consultancy company with the same name and the Victoria institute that she directed were known toe the Minister prior toe the establishment of the State Services inquiry why was he not prepare dot wait for the outcome of the inquiry,.

A: Over the last dew days of last week I gave further consideration to the information supplied to me by Ms Irwin that while she was employed by the Victoria University and carrying out work through the University research institute she established her own company and carried at consulting assignments of her own account. I made the decision her behaviour was not appropriate for the head of professional body charged with the promotion of ethical standards.

Question 12.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What reports has he received about patronage on public transport in New Zealand?

A: Environment Canterbury advises me that patronage in Christchurch has grown by about 17 percent the last 12 months this followed on from an increase of about 1 million passengers in the year 2000-2001 the biggest increase since 1984. The Bay of Plenty are has had a 7.9 increase in public transport patronage in the last financial year.

Belinda Vernon: What reports has he received on the availability of rolling stock suitable for use on the narrow gauge Auckland rail track the government has just paid $87 million for?

A: I have reports on the need for interim arrangements because of the long lead in time for new trains and carriages for Auckland’s rail.

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