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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 23 April

Today’s questions concerned: Who Is The Alliance Leader? - Retirement Incomes - Sovereign Yachts - New Race Relations Commissioner – Alliance Break-Up - EU Trade Negotiating Stance - Rugby World Cup - Early School Numeracy - Ransom For Baby Kahu - Services For Students With Disabilities – PM’s Art Controversy - Auckland District Health Board Bonds

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 23April 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: Following Alliance MP Dr Liz Gordon's statement "[Hon] Jim Anderton isn't my leader and [Hon] Jim Anderton can't speak for me in Parliament and [Hon] Jim Anderton in fact can't speak for the Alliance in Parliament", who does she regard as the leader of the Alliance Party for the purpose of coalition management?

A: (Michael Cullen answering) Jim Anderton.

Bill English: Why does the Prime Minister not accept the word of the those MPs who remain members of the Alliance and who attended the Alliance Council meeting over the weekend and took part in a process by which they legally elected Laila Harre as the leader of the Alliance?

A: The two groups arrived at an arrangement as outlined indeed by Laila Harre on morning report yesterday

Richard Prebble: Does the Prime Minister recall saying on 17 September 1998 that the Mauri Pacifc should be renamed at the Save Our Salaries and Perks Party and surely this is the answer that Laila Harre should be called the leader of the Alliance and Jim Anderton as the leader of the Save Our Salaries and Perks Party.

A: The difference is the Mauri Pacific MPs defected from their party they were elected to serve and voted against that party in the house.

Peter Brown: Recognising that the Alliance Party has dispensed with Jim Anderton does the Prime Minister not share my view is the only honourable course is for Jim Anderton to resign?

A: No.

Question 2.

TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports, if any, has he received on retirement incomes?

A: There are presently 456,802 recipients of NZ superannuation and Veterans Pension.
We now have set retirement income at 65 percent of the average wage at the age of 65 and we are pre-funding for the future. This government will never cut taxes on the back of heightened insecurity for older people.

Taito Philip Field: Has he seen any reports that recipients of NZ superannuation should be subject to work testing

A: Yes, I’ve seen a report that implies the Government should be moving 805,000 recipients of income support off benefits and into work, clearly that number includes numbers of people receiving superannuation We now see that National proposes funding retirement incomes from those work test recipients on superannuation and forcing them to go to work.

Gerry Brownlee: Can the Minister confirm that the Cullen fund it has to return in excess of 9 percent a year in order to provide 10 percent of pensions in 20 years time, that Treasury advice has been that it will cut private savings and furthermore the vast amount of it will be invested offshore and what good would that be for the New Zealand economy?

A: No, No and it is up to the board.

Question 3.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Was she surprised to learn when she welcomed Mr Bill Lloyd's Sovereign Yachts project to Hobsonville declaring it to be "like a dream come true" that Mr Bill Lloyd was banned as a director in his home base of British Columbia for insider trading on 245 trades over a ten-month period, and what checks had her Government undertaken on Mr Bill Lloyd and his businesses in Canada before facilitating his project?

A: : (Michael Cullen answering) I am advised that financial position of the company was appropriately checked .

Richard Prebble: Now that the Prime Minister does know Bill Lloyd is a convicted insider trader does she still think it is a good idea to have sold 10 acres of prime land for $525,000 that Mr Lloyd has been able to mortgage immediately for $6million?

A: The sale process followed the strict criteria laid down, if it was New Zealand practice not to sell land to any person who had commercial problems in their past then all members of the ACT party would be homeless.
(ordered to withdraw and apologise for last comment)

Question 4.

Hon PETER DUNNE to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:

Q: What is the process for and timing of the appointment of the new Race Relations Commissioner?

A: (Phil Goff answering) The position of Race Relations Commissioner was advertised earlier this year and an independent panel interviewed a shortlist of candidates, following the action of Greg Fortuin withdrawing his candidacy it was decided to reopen the position, prospective candidates have until the 30th of April. Mr Fortuin remains in office until such time as his successor is appointed. There a number of excellent calibre candidates and it is my understanding is the decision will be made and the position announced by earlier June.

Question 5.

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

Q: Has she been advised by Hon Jim Anderton that five Alliance list MPs had their Alliance Party memberships revoked during the weekend; if so, what is the impact for coalition stability?

A: (Michael Cullen answering) Nil.

Bill English: Why does she endorse an arrangement which keep Jim Anderton as Deputy Prime Minister when he insisted at a Privileges Committee hearing that list MPs had to be a member of the party they represent?

A: The Parliamentary Alliance Party continues to operate as a single party.

Matt Robson: Is it the view of the Prime Minister that a few party officials meeting in a committee room can expel members of parliament or should that privilege remain with elected members of parliament.

A: It is a fundamental principal of this parliament that outside persons do not determine its membership.

Bill English: Why does the Prime Minister continue to endorse to arrangements which are a calculated deception?

A: The Government remains stable, it has a majority for confidence and supply and I note again the one thing the leader of the opposition never does is call for an early election.

Question 6.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: What reports has he received on a European Union trade negotiating stance on services and what effect, if any, will this have on New Zealand?

A: The European Union Commission draft service request list leaked to the Guardian newspaper in Britain has no effect on New Zealand, it is a draft position and can not be taken to reflect what this Government will sign up to in GATTS negotiations. As with all trade agreements we only want to negotiate results which help New Zealanders.

Lockwood Smith: What assurances can he give that our stance on services is fully backed by all members of the Government including both parts of the Alliance?

A: I am able to negotiate with full confidence knowing the Government is stable and united it its determination to advance new Zealand’s interests.

Question 7.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister for Sport, Fitness and Leisure Trevor Mallard:

Q: How did his statement that he would like to put "Heinekens in particularly uncomfortable places" when referring to International Rugby Board chairman Vernon Pugh and Australian Rugby Union chief executive John O'Neill help New Zealand learn from its loss of co-hosting the 2003 Rugby World Cup?

A: Not at all.

Nick Smith: What sort of example did he believe he was setting as Minister for sport and Minister of Education when teenage boys in the Hawke’s Bay are facing criminal charges or does he just think this is a laughing matter?

A: In hindsight the comment was not ministerial.

Penny Webster: Does he not think rather than regret his immature outburst he should apologise.

A: It is quite clear my comments were not ministerial.

Question 8.

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

Q: Has he received any reports on early school numeracy; if so, what do they show?

A: Today I launched the evaluation report on the government’s early numeracy project. The report found that children in the project schools made significantly higher gains in their maths learning than would have been expected of children not in the project. This was true of all children regardless of their gender, ethnicity or decile of their school. Given the success of the project we are making the project available to all teachers of year one to three students.

Question 9.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Why did she consider it was necessary to reveal publicly that the Government had agreed to underwrite a $3 million ransom demand for baby Kahu Durie?

A: (Michael Cullen answering) I answered questions at my weekly press conference once the need for confidentially had passed.

Q: Why has she compromised police confidentiality by disclosing several matter which the NZ police themselves had decided were not to be released?

The police had already revealed the fact a ransom demand had been received, the fact that it had been received and this in the public arena would inevitably lead to questions as to whether the demands had been responded. The police advised the Government they needed approval to proceed with negotiations because this was the best means of recovering the baby and identifying the kidnapper. The Police Commissioner could not have entered into negotiations without permission of the Minister of Finance because it exceeded his financial authority. The expectation was of course that the baby would be recovered without the money being handed over.

Question 10.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Lianne Dalziel:

Q: What progress has been made on the Government's decision to research effective services for students with physical disabilities?

A: A scoping project on integrated effective service provision for young people with physical disabilities. It was released last week and identifies the characteristics of effective services which will be the basis for detail research which will follow.
By identifying the characteristics the next step will be to relate those characteristics to existing service within a range of educational settings. The report makes it clear there is no one size fits all or one recipe in terms of approach.

Question 11.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What evidence, if any, does she have to support her statement "I will say to you with absolute certainty that I know that not only members of Parliament across all parties, but also so-called celebrities, often have people who will help them with this sort of thing", and will she name the members or parties she was referring to?

A: (Michael Cullen answering) I had been advised that that was the case and, no, I repeat my earlier statement that the advice did not refer to an existing member of parliament.

Question 12.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has the Government made an emergency funding grant to the Auckland District Health Board to avert a serious breach of banking covenants that would have allowed Auckland District Health Board bond holders to call in the bonds; if so, how can people have confidence in the Government's health policies?

A: No.

Ken Shirley: Can the Minister then explain the paper for the Ministry of Health to Ministers dated 13th February that provided an assurance of $5.8m equity funding which was used as a certi of compliance to its bankers in advance of Ministerial approval and does she think that was appropriate?

The Gov approved an equity injection, the sixth such for Auckland’s building project, the application did come in late from the Board but was within the agreed parameters for equity support for this financial year.

Judy Keall: Does the current government currently allow DHBs take on massive private sector debt?

A: No, there is no a Crown funding agency which provides finance at cheaper rates.

Roger Sowry: Is she confident the board will not require any further emergency grants this year?

A: The board did receive an emergency grant, they received an equity injection which we approved for this financial year, the problem was they got their application in late and I have been assured this won’t happen again.

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