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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 1 May

Today’s questions concerned: Funding Of Dental Courses – Maori TV – GE Contamination – Kyoto Policy – The Economy - Youth Offending - Regional Immigration Initiative – Teacher’s Strikes - Employment Relations – Government’s Standard - Telecommunications Commissioner
- New Zealand Post

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 1 May 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

First half hour taken up with opposition questions to the speaker over whether Laila Harre or Jim Anderton is the leader of the Alliance Party.

Questions to Ministers
Question 1.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What action, if any, does he intend taking in response to the recent High Court decision on the funding of University of Otago dental courses?

A: The High Court has delivered its judgement in a case brought to seek a review of a decision made in June 1994 by the then Education Minister Dr Lockwood Smith to reduce dental tuition subsidies. The High Court has ruled it was invalid and has no effect, I have asked for advice. There is the issue of immediate fiscal risk up to $15 million and wider constitutional issues.

David Benson-Pope: Has the minister seen paragraph 133 of the judgement which says the decision of Lockwood Smith was so erroneous it could only be categorised as irrational or unreasonable or unlawful?

A: Yes.
Maurice Williamson: Given the Minister railed heavily against the decision at the time would he agree that to appeal it now would the ultimate example the Maharey principle?
A: We will take careful advice from advisors and act on that sound advice.

Muriel Newman: Why should taxpayers subsidise overseas dental students when they have no intention to practice here?

A: Because we have lowered the fees New Zealand students are now returning to that course.

Question 2.

KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: In light of his reported comments that he was "more than certain [the board] would have" commissioned credit and security checks on Mr Davy, can he explain on what basis he made this assertion and whether he has personally confirmed that these checks were done?

A: (Michael Cullen answering) The responsibility for security and credit checks is now a matter for dispute between Millennium People and the board of the Maori Television Service. I do note that the contract with Millennium People stated that they guaranteed the quality of their candidates but I have been advised that the Minister of Finance has asked that the scope of the Ernst & Young inquiry being extended to cover this issue.
John Tamihere: Are you satisfied the board acted appropriately and promptly in dismissing Mr John Davy?
A: Yes and even more so after last’s extraordinary interview with John Davy on the Holmes Show.

Willie Jackson: When does the minister expected to be briefed by the board?

A: Am advised the board expects at least a verbal report form Ernst & Young tomorrow and will be able to brief the responsible Ministers shortly after that.

Winston Peters: How many contracts have Millennium People had with Government and before MTV had anything to do with them?

A: I am advised by the Minister of Finance that he is has asked for further information on that matter.

Katherine Rich: If it transpires that the board should have carried out credit checks on Mr Davy and this advise was ignored will he then ask for the resignation of the Chairman?

A: The Ministers will await the report before arriving at any further decisions.

Question 3.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Greens) to the Minister for the Environment Sandra Lee:

Q: Has she been briefed on the statement by the Mexican Government at the 18 April 2002 meeting of the biodiversity convention in the Hague that, at 95 percent of sites tested in Mexico, corn crops have been contaminated by DNA from genetically modified corn; if so, what implications does she see for New Zealand's policy on the release of genetically modified organisms?

A: (Pete Hodgson answering) No, I understand the Mexican government made an informal statement and will be releasing scientific data at some point in the future. Our two year restriction on the release of GMO’s allows for such things to be investigated.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Will the minister now acknowledge that it is impossible for non-GE and GE agriculture to co-exist and maintain there integrity longterms?

A: No, that science suggesting that first received publicity in Nature magazine by way of a letter, that letter was later disendorsed, on the other hand subsequent scientific investigations suggest the problem is not co-existence but that Mexico imports corns seed to make tortillas but instead of being eaten they are planted and that may be the source of the problem.

Jeanette Fitzsimons: Given the only seed entering New Zealand that has ever been tested was sweet corn how can he be sure that what is going in Mexico has not been happening here?

A: We test where we think there is a risk and that provides adequate cover.

Question 4.

Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Convenor, Ministerial Group on Climate Change Pete Hodgson:

Q: How will a three to six cent per litre increase in the cost of petrol, a three to seven cent per litre increase in the cost of diesel, a four to nine percent rise in the cost of electricity, a three to eight percent increase in the cost of gas, and an eight to 19 percent increase in the cost of coal, as outlined in the Government Climate Change Discussion Paper, improve New Zealand's standard of living or economic competitiveness relative to Australia?

A: The member has forgotten that the Government has committed itself to recycling money earned either through selling sink credits or emission charges back into the economy. That means the cost will be offset by money flowing back into the economy. Because New Zealand will be a net seller of sink credits the amount available for recycling will exceed the amount taken from emission charges.

David Carter: How will increasing the cost of electricity and petrol bills help improve the standard of living of average new Zealander’s and what way will the recycling flow back to those households.

A: The emission charges will be more than offset by the ability to recycle revenue because New Zealand is a net seller under the Kytoto Protocol unlike Australia which would be a net buyer.

Question 5.

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

Q: What recent reports has he received on the state of the economy?

A: The good news just keep rolling in investor confidence is up to near record levels, business confidence is resisting the usual autumn blues, the trade balance in March alone is in surplus by $451million and New Zealand has gone up two notches on the annual competitiveness survey.

David Carter: What does he think will be impact on business confidence of a seven cent per litre increase in the cost of petrol, a seven cent per litre increase in the cost of diesel, a nine percent rise in the cost of electricity, an eight percent increase in the cost of gas?
A: Faced of the choice of a labour led Government growing the economy and Dr Brash ensuring the brakes are always on, confidence will zoom.

Rodney Hide: If his Government so confident the economy is improving why are the beating up the idea of an early election?

A: Early election, late election we are confident.

Question 6.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Why does the report of the Ministerial Taskforce on Youth Offending contain no international comparison figures for violent youth crime, given its claim that New Zealand's youth justice system is generally working well?

A: (Paul Swain answering) The Ministerial Taskforce on Youth Offending acknowledged that the Children Young Persons and their Families Act 1989 is an effective way of dealing with youth offending. However it found the system is often not working well in certain areas. It is not possible to make meaningful comparisons between the level of violent youth crime in New Zealand and overseas because of the way statistics are collected.

Wayne Mapp: Will the Government be reducing the age of criminal responsibility from 14 to 12 as recommended to enable the Youth Court to intervene and turn young offenders around at an early age?

A: The way the Government is working in order to be able to implement the recommendations of the taskforce report is to ensure that young people get effective early intervention particularly concerning drugs and alcohol convictions.

Question 7.

KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What progress has been made on developing the regional immigration initiative, which aims to boost regional economies through immigration policy?

A: Today my colleague the Minister of Immigration and I are pleased to announce that Southland the wider Wellington region are the two regions to pilot an new regional immigration initiative. The pilots are partnerships with local authorities and seek to met the regions specific skill and investment needs through immigration policies.

Kevin Campbell: How can immigration help the regions?
A: The regions have become the powerhouse of economic growth and are now suffering from skill shortages rather than the jobs shortages they used to suffer form.

Question 8.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Will he accept responsibility for the third consecutive term of industrial action in secondary schools that is adversely affecting thousands of students' education, undermining implementation of the new National Certificate of Educational Achievement and disrupting extra-curricular activities; if not, why not?

A: (Steve Maharey answering) No, the Ministry of Education has been in mediation with the PPTA and continues to be available when the PPTA lifts its action.

Nick Smith: Does he consider the current teachers claim which averages at 3.2 percent a year are excessive when he was in opposition he though that the 3.5 percent offer was inadequate?

A: I have said before it is fair and just offer.

Helen Duncan: What is the current position in the negotiations?

A: The offers the Ministry has made to date are still on the table, the teacher’s new claim has not been formally tabled. When industrial action is lifted the talks can proceed at which time I expect it will be formally tabled and the Ministry can respond.

Nick Smith: Why has the Minister of Education headed overseas again to a attract foreign students and is he by so doing giving priority to making money from Asian students and why doesn’t he stay home and sort out this mess?

A: The minister planned this visit to Asia many months ago, he is there representing this country’s interest in export education, like most others thought this situation would be settled by now.

Question 9.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Has she received any proposals to change the employment relations environment?

A: I have instituted a process of evaluation of the ERA to identify areas of change if necessary.

H V Ross Robertson: Can the Minister inform the house if she has receive any feed back about the effectiveness of the Act?

A: Yes after declaring that it would repeal the ERA the National party has now announced it will retain the act. The bad news is that it will privatise the mediation service which will price it beyond employers and employees who use it.

Grant Gillon: What evidence is there of the effectiveness of the mediation service?

A: A survey of mediation clients has found 88 percent were very satisfied or satisfied with the service.

Question 10.

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

Q: Does she stand by her reported statement that her Government will set new standards - both in terms of behaviour and performance; if so, does she believe her Ministers have lived up to that commitment?

A: Yes, but of course like the member we don’t always achieve perfection.

Gerry Brownlee: What sort of new standards does Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton set when he autographs not signs, flouts the morality of the Electoral Integrity Act and promotes a new party which he will campaign for against the one he is in?

A: It is important the house accepts the word of the Deputy Prime Minister on the first matter, as for the affairs of the Alliance, I have no responsibility.

Rodney Hide: In light of her confidence in Jim Anderton, is she prepared to say that she fully accepts his statement over his doodle that he wasn’t even sure what it was for and that he had been asked to autograph some sort of memorabilia from his office especially when the school asked for something of his own hand signed by him?

A: I accept absolutely the word of the Deputy Prime Minister and if Mr Hide got as many letters as most Ministers he too would never see most of them.

Question 11.

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Communications Paul Swain:

Q: What is the role of the Telecommunications Commissioner under the new Telecommunications Act 2001?

A: The role is to resolve disputes over access to telecommunication services, to administer any obligations under the Act and to make recommendations on the regulation of further services.

David Cunliffe : How does the new regulatory regime compare to those in other countries?

A: The new regime is broadly the same as other OECD countries.

Alec Neil: How many mediations has the commissioner commenced and how many has he completed?

A: I am not aware of any because the person has only been in the job a little over a month.

Question 12.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: Does he support the unanimous recommendation of the Finance and Expenditure Committee that the Auditor-General should conduct an audit of the New Zealand Post Limited subsidiary Transend, and does he consider with the benefit of hindsight that he should have required a proper audit to be undertaken when allegations of serious problems in Transend first surfaced?

A: New Zealand Post has assured the committee and me that the relevant processes have already been improved but I am comfortable with the committee’s recommendations as is the board.

Murray McCully: Hs he seen the report of the committee describing the approach taken by NZ Post as ‘unhelpful’?

A: I have seen those comments and have already taken actions this year with the chairs of all SOEs to improve the relationship between the committees and the boards.

Rodney Hide: Does he accept deputy chairman Syd Bradley’s statement in his letter 6th sept 2001 to chairman Ross Armstrong that “our own company accountants who could not get management to act on serious accounting standard being breached’ and would not he expect such concerns to be brought to him?

A: I can say that the member that I do accept Mr Bradley’s direct assurance that the concerns are not any longer concerns that the issues were discussed in a proper manner within the board.

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