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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –14 May

Today’s questions concerned: New Jobs – Jim Vs Laila – (Defence Corruption Report Availability) – International Student Welfare – Queensland Media Tarts – Employment Growth – Cancer Treatment Shortages – ACC – Boy Racers - US Farm Bill – PM’s Views Of Laila Harre – TVNZ Charter – Meremere Prison Consultation.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 14 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.


Question 1.

GRANT GILLON (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Have 80,000 new jobs been produced since 1999; if so, have his ministry's economic development policies contributed to the production of these jobs?

A: The latest HLFS shows that over the last 2 years more than 104,000 new jobs have been created. The Labour Force Participation Rate is the highest since surveys began. The strategies of myself and my colleagues are directly responsible for this.

Q: What is the government doing for regions?

A: Last Friday I announced a wine research centre in Marlborough, earlier I announced a Forestry research centre, nobody has to call the SFO to find out where the money went. It is going to regional New Zealand. In one business after another throughout NZ, the people on the ground are acknowledging that this is the best government for regional NZ that this country has seen in decades.

Q: What about Simon Power’s criticisms?

A: Unfortunately Mr Power’s statement is totally wrong. In his Manawatu/Wanganui region hundreds of new jobs have been created. The unemployment rates in the regions are very low. Even in Auckland 33,000 new jobs have been created. I am sorry but the news is all good.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Is he claiming credit for his jobs machine in creating these jobs? And if so, how can the government afford the $170,000 per job cost of the 40 jobs at Sovereign Yachts in Hobsonville?

A: Noone can claim other than a whole of government approach to creating jobs. To my knowledge Rodney Hide was entertained on a Sovereign Yacht overseas and commented that it would be great if these yachts could be built in NZ. Now he is a knocker of this. There is a word for that but I am not allowed to use it.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why will he not admit that the principle reason for prosperity is the low dollar?

A: I have already acknowledged that it is a whole of government approach that has provided the environment. I have heard members opposite saying we are lucky. It is interesting that in nine whole years in Government the opposition was never lucky.

(Tony Ryall – leave to table two documents – granted.)

Question 2.

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

Q: In light of the Leader of the Alliance, Hon Laila Harré's reference to "[Hon] Jim Anderton's decision not just to leave but to fight - and bitterly - the party we built with him", why does she consider Hon Jim Anderton the Leader of the Alliance for the purpose of coalition management and why would she want him in her Cabinet if he has left his party?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Because he is.

Q: I think therefore I is. Why is it that she will not accept the word of one of her own members of cabinet?

A: Mr Anderton is recognised as the leader of the Alliance Parliamentary Party.

Q: Is there any need for a review of cabinet?

A: No there is not at this stage.

Q: Does she recall saying to the media that she was not prepared to go down in a hail of bullets with Jim Anderton? And why is she now defending the indefensible?

A: Because at this stage all we are facing is a hail of sausages.

(Maurice Williamson – this question seems to indicate that Laila Harre is the leader of the Alliance. Are the rest of us now to do so too.

Speaker – I consulted with the Clerk’s office. They said authentication indicated that Laila Harre was the leader of the Alliance though nothing was said about “in Parliament”. That is why the question is like that.

Winston Peters - leave sought for Laila Harre to rise and say if she is leader – granted.

Laila Harre decided not to take the leave to speak.)

Q: Bill English (National): Can the PM confirm that from her POV Jim Anderton is the leader of the Alliance?

A: Jim Anderton is recognised as the leader of the Parliamentary Alliance Party. Who is leading the Party outside Parliament is not something for standing orders.

(Gerry Brownlee – Just a point of clarification. We contend that Jim is in contempt of the house. However we now have a situation in which the Clerk’s office is accepting as verification a statement that Laila Harre is leader of the Alliance. Furthermore we now have evidence that Jim Anderton is actively campaigning as part of the Progressive Coalition. We have seen some documents on this, but the return address on here is to Jim Anderton MP. If Jim is sending people out stuff then how can he claim to lead the Alliance Party in here? This is proof positive that this house is being laughed at by Mr Anderton and his colleagues.

Michael Cullen – there is a method for dealing with contempt and it is not by way of point of order.

Speaker – Quite right. But I will have a look at that new material nevertheless.)

….followed by another point of order….

(Richard Prebble – I have heard that there will be a lockup for the media on a defence corruption inquiry report from Colin Carruthers this afternoon. But that we MPs will not be allowed copies of this report till tomorrow.

Mark Burton – I do understand that the report will be made available to MPs this afternoon.

Winston Peters – MPs should have access to this report at the same time as the media. This assurance is not worth the air it passes on.

Speaker – the member has given his word. It is not to be questioned at this stage.

Winston Peters – But when?

Mark Burton – I didn’t realise there was a problem. I will ensure copies of this will be immediately be made available.

Max Bradford – The Ministry of Defence have advised me that we cannot get a copy today at 3pm. We are presented with a situation in which we are not going to get access to this report till after the media have had it.

Mark Burton – I have arranged for copies to be sent to members as soon as possible.

Rodney Hide – as of 15 minutes ago we were advised that it was not possible because there were not enough copies of the report.

Mark Burton – copies will be sent over. I have made a phone call. I should perhaps provide further clarification. This is the CDF’s report and he is releasing it at 3pm.

Winston Peters – will the minister defer his press conference untill all MPs have the report.

Mark Burton – I will say again. An independent authority, the JAG has produced this for the CDF. I have not interfered. I would prefer now to get on with making sure this report is available. )

Question 3.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: What measures have been put in place to protect the wellbeing of international students in New Zealand and New Zealand's reputation in this area?

A: International education now earns NZ more than $1 billion each year. It is therefore important that we ensure the quality of pastoral care of students is maintained. A code of practice is now in place for international students.

Q: What does the code require for students aged under 18?

A: The code is particularly protective of under 18 aged students. Providers of accommodation must be police vetted. Students have to be interviewed once a term and providers of education have to inspect the accommodation.

Q: Why is this code accompanied by a levy?

A: For the purpose of monitoring students and for the benefit of promoting NZ education.

Q: Who is covered by the code?

A: All students on courses of at least three months are covered. Under an amendment to a bill presently before a select committee the code will also cover short courses unless specifically exempted.

Question 4.

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

Q: How does her office's comment that the Premier of Queensland had a reputation as a "media tart" support her "relationship building" trip to Australia, particularly given her statement that "we can't take the relationship for granted"?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Peter Beattie is a good friend of NZ and has gone out of his way to repair damage to NZ’s reputation.

Q: Will she apologise for her office labelling him as a media tart?

A: It is regrettable perhaps that the term was not confined to more appropriate use, such as describing Michelle Boag over the past 24 hours.

Q: What is the PM doing?

A: She is planning to promote NZ business in Queensland. She has lots of company CEOs with her.

Q: What are her priorities?

A: To expand trade with Australia. And to intensify the cross exchange on things like business law.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is her refusal to apologise for the phrase due to her thinking that the phrase is a compliment? Or is it that she finds it hard to apologise?

A: I have noticed the PM apologise rather frequently about one matter recently. I note that Australian’s are rather used to robust language.

Question 5.

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

Q: What reports, if any, has he received on employment growth over the last two years?

A: In the latest HLFS it is reported that employment levels have been growing for the past 8 quarters. There are now 104,000 more people employed than there were two years ago.

Q: What has happened to the unemployment rate?

A: It is now 5.3%. It is below the OECD rate, the Australian and the US rate. The number of unemployed is over 13% less than it was in March 2000.

Q: What about people working too many hours?

A: As one of those who works more than 75 hours a week – thankyou for the sympathy – one of the strategies we have put in place is the Working for Life programme. This can be viewed on our website and shows that changes in this area can be good both for productivity as well as for worker health.

Question 6.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Why was the MidCentral District Health Board's request to be included in the programme to send breast cancer patients to Australia for radiation treatment declined by the Ministry of Health?

A: (Tariana Turia on behalf) The capacity in Australia to take NZ patients is extremely limited. Consequently we have concentrated the programme in areas of greatest need. Other areas have not been excluded from this programme.

Q: Why then has MidCentral Health been told that it has been excluded from the programme? And are the circumstances of these patients (listed) acceptable?

A: I am unable to comment on an individual case. I can report back to the member if he provides me with the information.

Q: Why are DHBs still applying for funding to send patients to Australia when this was supposed to be a short term problem six months ago?

A: This issue is being managed by the Auckland Cancer Center.

Q: Why has Ms Gower waited 18 weeks for treatment? And why has she had to had surgery because MidCentral is not allowed to send patients to Australia?

A: I am more than happy to investigate the case raised today.

(Roger Sowry – leave to table a statement from a health official saying MidCentral Health cannot send patients to Australia– granted)

Question 7.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister for ACC Lianne Dalziel:

Q: Has she received any reports on the effects of reversing the privatisation of ACC; if so, what do they say?

A: Yes. I have received a transcript of an interview in which an expert says “New Zealanders are very well protected” by ACC.

Q: What about the risks faced by private insurers?

A: In the past 18 months Australia has seen the collapse of two insurers. In both cases government’s have faced multi-million dollar costs. Any suggestion that we privatise ACC would place NZers at serious risk in that regard.

Q: Why is the self-employed account likely to rise by 70%? And how is an internal fund in NZ affected by 911?

A: Motorcyclists…

(Brownlee – But I did not mention motorcyclists.

Speaker – It was a long question which may explain the confusion.)

A: I can advise that the rates that employers are paying now is considerably less than it was.

Q: What about the self-employed? And why have accidents increased?

A: The self-employed account has increased mainly because the number of injuries that are paid for under that account has increased substantially.

Q: What is being done about the culture in ACC?

A: The steps that have been taken include the public consultation on a code of conduct on patients rights. I invite people to contribute to that consultation.

Question 8.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY (ACT) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What action, if any, is the Government taking in response to calls for legislation to deal with the problem of boy racers?

A: Officials are working on a package to address these issues. And Clayton Cosgrove has a bill prepared to deal with aspects of this.

Q: If the government thinks this is important, why does it not introduce legislation now? And why is it allowing the torturous process of a private members bill to deal with this matter?

A: I understand then that ACT and National will support an urgency motion to get this legislation through. Last time around they didn’t support urgent transport legislation.

Q: What are the police doing about this?

A: Lots of things. And legislative change alone is not the answer. A balance of measures is required involving local communities.

Q: Precisely what will happen and when will it happen if the Clayton Cosgrove bill does not get through?

A: I am sure it will get support. But if it doesn’t then the Government has a bill going to Cabinet in July.

(Gerry Brownlee – seeks leave for the Land Transport (Street and Illegal Drag Racing) Amendment Bill to come onto the order paper as the first item of business today – refused.

Speaker – I need to first know whether the bill has been printed.

Clayton Cosgrove – I will tomorrow seek leave for the bill to be introduced if that will help the house.

Speaker – I will discuss this matter with the Clerk first.

LATER: Michael Cullen – a discussion has been had and leave is sought for the bill to be introduced after Question time, and for a one hour debate on the bill to be held this afternoon.

Winston Peters – why were we not consulted with on this.

Speaker – I will hear question 12 first.

STILL LATER: Michael Cullen - Following discussions I ask for leave for the house to introduce the Bill. Then take the first three items on the order paper before debating the first reading of the Land Transport Bill. The bill will now be in Mark Gosche’s name having been taken over as a Government bill.

Gerry Brownlee – can I seek leave for what Mr Cullen has outlined – granted.)

Question 9.

IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: In what ways will New Zealand be affected by the signing into law by President George W Bush of the Farm Bill?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf): The bill is disturbing. Clearly it harms NZ agriculture both in the US market and in third country markets.

Q: What will the NZ Government do to protect NZ rights not to eat GE food when the bill includes $35 million to campaign against labelling standards?

A: The US Government can spend its money as it sees fit. Our strong laws in this area will not be changed as a result. The government’s position is clear. There is a two year moratorium in place in order to provide time for us to decide what to do.

Q: Is the passage of this Bush Bill attributable to the PMs recent visit to the US, and her new relationship with him?

A: The capacity of the US Congress to pass pork-barrel legislation is not in anyway influenced by the visit of any single NZer.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): What about our free trade agreement?

A: The capacity of both NZ and Australia to negotiate FTAs with the US depends mainly on whether he receives fast track authority.

Question 10.

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

Q: Is she concerned that the Associate Minister of Labour addressed a stopwork meeting at Sky City on 1 May; if so, what has she done about it?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) No I am not.

Q: Does she recall her comments on the Minister’s speech to NZ Herald workers? And why is this different?

A: There is a difference between a stop work meeting and a strike.

Q: Is it normal for a minister to be invited to a meeting of this kind?

A: Yes.

Q: Given that she has previously banned the Minister from speaking at such meetings? How come she can now get away with it?

A: I think it is fair to say that Ms Harre knows a dispute when she sees one and this wasn’t a dispute.

Question 11.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:

Q: How is the Government assisting Television New Zealand Limited with the implementation of its Charter?

A: Yes we have put in $12 million for the charter. And we are allocating close to $70 million to NZ On Air on television. This will help.

Q: What has she seen in reaction to this announcement?

A: The funding has been described as great news inside the production and broadcasting industries. Our Opposition sisters appear to be a little confused however. We expect this funding to make a visible difference to what we see on screen. The charter will be implemented gradually and costs will therefore be managed.

Q: Will the charter be implemented on Channel 2 as well as Channel 1.

A: Programming decisions are up to TVNZ.

Question 12.

Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: What is the purpose of the $500,000 intended for facilitation, iwi consultation and cultural input for the proposed regional prison near Meremere?

A: The money is for facilitation, iwi consultation and cultural input for the proposed regional prison near Meremere.

Q: Can he guarantee that the $245,000 contract to Tainui will be spent wisely? And does he accept that the department has already made mistakes in this area by contracting a convicted fraudster?

A: I can guarantee that the money will be used wisely. In relation to the person mentioned his convictions did not relate to work for the Corrections Department and the Corrections Department was satisfied with his work.

Q: Would it be better for communities if the Department identified better sites in the first place?

A: I do not accept that it is traumatic as the member says.

Q: How is it that the Minister of Corrections can blithely hand out all this money, while at the same time ignoring the plight of corrections officers whose complaints relayed by myself were ignored?

A: Money is not blithely handed out by Treasury.

Q: Does he accept that the $150,000 paid to a Society that was liquidated, was unwisely distributed?

A: No I do not.

(Dr Paul Hutchison – leave to table three documents – granted.)


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