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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –16 May

Today’s questions concerned: Drug Education – Corrections Emergency Response Unit – Jim’s New Party – Youth Offending – Party Hopping Bill – Venture Investment Fund – Local Body Election Donations - MidCentral Health Cancer Treatment – Petrol And Diesel Quality – Mental Health Problems – Disabled Employment – Bursary Costs.

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 16 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.

DONNA AWATERE HUATA (ACT) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What evidence, if any, does he have that the compulsory health curriculum is deterring children from taking drugs?

A: (Marian Hobbs) The curriculum was mandated only on 8th December 2001, therefore no evidence could have yet been collated on this.

Q: Why have drug suspensions for primary students jumped five fold in just one year?

A: From our present statistics we can see that many people have broken the ten commandments regardless of attendance at Sunday School or not. The curriculum is not the only place where children learn. In 2002 and 2003 professional development in mental health is available on a national basis to schools. This includes drug education. These programmes reflect the curriculum and encourage schools to review and strengthen their whole school environment, and to collaborate better with communities and families.

Q: How does the Minister’s support for decriminalisation help schools in this task?

A: I cannot answer for the Minister on that. On behalf of the Minister, I understand this to be a matter for a conscience vote and not government policy.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Does she agree that the prohibitionist model does not help children with drug problems?

A: Schools must follow the law of the land. While the law stands schools need to follow it. Those who advocate for decriminalisation are not necessarily advocating for pot smoking for anyone or everyone.

Question 2.

RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

(Ron Mark - I believe we have become so constrained in the questions that will be accepted…

Speaker – The alternative was to rule the question out entirely. Matters before a court cannot be referred to in a question. This is the wording he is able to use.

Ron Mark – My concern is that we are dumbing down and neutering robust questioning of ministers.

Speaker – Questions must be in accordance with the standing orders. Standing Order 112 is clear.

Winston Peters – No it isn’t.

Speaker – The case is proceeding at this present time.

Winston Peters – The rule only applies if there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the trial, that is what 112 says. We want to know what that has not been made out by the Clerk of the House.

Speaker – I will have a look at this subject.)

Q: Has he been informed of the effects of recent publicity about the Emergency Response Unit; if so, has it impacted adversely upon prison officers, management and prisoners?

A: I am not aware that the publicity around this case has had any effect. I am aware that there is division among staff. I am advised that this will not threaten operations however.

Q: Does he recall my visit to him seeking his intervention in this matter last June? And what responsibility does he now take for what has happened to inmates in prison as a result of his inaction?

(Richard Prebble – The rules actually say that you cannot refer to a case. The member is seeking to affect the outturn of this case.

Speaker – I am inclined to agree.

Winston Peters – How come the public can discuss this case, but we can’t?

Speaker – We have much higher standards than newspapers. We have to be careful with the courts. The member may restate his question.)

Q: In light of my warnings, what is he doing to protect inmates and officers from abuse?

A: Those parts of what Mr Mark brought to my attention which warranted investigation have been investigated.

Q: Wayne Mapp (National): Does he consider he has been adequately informed by his department about the ERU, especially given his previous concerns about not being informed about payments to prisoners?

A: I have been adequately informed about this.

Q: What about cooked breakfasts for inmates?

A: I think most NZers would be surprised to hear that having a cooked breakfast is a privilege.

(Ron Mark – leave to table his draft questions – granted.)

Question 3.

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

(Gerry Brownlee – leave sought to have the question transferred to the Deputy PM – refused.)

Q: Given Hon Jim Anderton's statement that he plans to join the Progressive Coalition after the House rises, has he indicated to her whether he intends to resign as a Minister when he joins a new party, and would she still want him as a Minister when he joins a new party?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I have received no such advice from Mr Anderton.

Q: Given the PM has confirmed she will take no action against Mr Anderton when he joins his new party. Does that mean she now endorses

A: The premise and the conclusion are both incorrect.

Q: Has she promised Mr Anderton that he will be in her cabinet after the next election?

A: Mr Anderton has advised that he will make his final decision on what to do after the house rises. Assuming the Labour Party is reelected and Mr Anderton is reelected then he would be highly suited to being a minister.

Q: Does the PM agree that Anderton still has a two thirds majority of his caucus?

A: The PM has no responsibility for other party’s caucuses.

Q: Can she confirm her promise to Mr Anderton of a cabinet seat?

A: No I can’t. Nor can I confirm that any promise has been made to Don Brash in the unlikely event National is elected into Government.

(Winston Peters – Leave sought to table the Alliance website which does not mention Jim Anderton – granted.

Gerry Brownlee – Now this document has been tabled and says that the Alliance has only four member. Will you take that as a communication to you that this party has broken up.

Michael Cullen – The website is a party website, not a Parliamentary website. The opposition refuses to acknowledge a simple parliamentary fact that there are parties outside Parliament and parties inside Parliament.

Speaker – I do not accept responsibility for all tabled documents.

Gerry Brownlee – Leave sought to table some documents. One an envelope post paid for membership to the Progressive Coalition party.

John Carter – Leave sought to ask Grant Gillon a question – refused.)

Question 4.

JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What response has he received to the Government's new Youth Offending Strategy?

A: There has been a very positive response. The new Youth drug court, and the proposed day reporting centres, and the youth residential programme have all been widely welcomed. A positive response has been received from the Judiciary, the Police, Stephen Tindall, The Evening Standard and Grey Power.

Q: Wayne Mapp (National): What consideration has been given for reducing the age or criminal responsibility from 14 to 12.

A: As the member knows I have asked for a full report from my Ministry about the consequences of such a change. It is not sufficient simply to change this. A full programme would be necessary. While there are a great many young offenders, most of them are only going through a brief phase. The real problem is with a small group of hard core youth offenders numbered in the hundreds. That is why the strategy focuses on that hard core.

Question 5.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:

Q: Can she clarify her answers in the House yesterday by confirming that the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act 2001 was intended to allow members of Parliament to be expelled for party hopping during the period after the House adjourns but before an election, and that these provisions were included in the legislation?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Yes. The provisions do not make any distinction between before or after the house is dissolved, provided appropriate notice is given to the Speaker. The provisions of the Act are triggered by either the resignation of the member or notification from the leader of the Parliamentary Party.

Q: Is she concerned about the mockery of the word integrity?

A: No. The proportionality of Parliament continues to be maintained unlike what happened in the last Parliament.

Q: If a member joins a new party should that be notified to the Speaker?

A: As I said earlier, the Act is triggered either the resignation of the member or notification from the leader of the Parliamentary Party.

(Roger Sowry – By way of interjection the Minister of Finance said earlier that he had only one question to answer, and that is why he objected to leave for Jim to answer question three. I believe the Minister of Finance misled the house.

Michael Cullen – I think what I really said was that the only way I get to answer questions is by transfer, because the Opposition never asks me anything.

Speaker – Perhaps the Minister would like to withdraw his remark.

Ron Mark – This house is daily being brought into disrepute by this. Focus will eventually shift to the office of the Speaker. My question is. At what point will you step in to end this charade.

Speaker – I am satisfied with the integrity of my office at present.)

Question 6.

CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson:

Q: What progress has been made with the Venture Investment Fund?

A: Excellent progress. Yesterday we announced the fund managers who will bring $200 million to the $100 million provided by the NZ Government.

Q: What will these seed funds do?

A: By co-investing in these funds we are accelerating the venture capital sector. The managers are world class.

Q: Can the Minister tell us what measures he will put in place to determine the success of this scheme?

A: Usually the test is how much money is made. These funds will ensure that businesses are no longer starved of early stage capital.

Q: How does the amount of money available compare with research funding slashed from the engine room of the economy?

A: There has been no slashing. There has been an increase in funding for research in every budget of this government.

Q: Why do the criteria for investment not include ecological sustainability and other associated issues?

A: There are no criteria for investment. These are open funds. Nothing will stop investment in these areas.

(Ken Shirley – leave to table papers showing a slashing of funding – granted.)

Question 7.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee:

Q: Following a recent case in Wellington where a council election candidate declared electoral donations as anonymous even though she knew who the donors were, will she introduce amendments to the Local Electoral Act 2001 to bring it into line with the Electoral Act 1993 in order to ensure that local political candidates cannot declare donations as anonymous if they know the identity of the donor?

A: (Peter Hodgson on behalf) The Justice and Electoral Committee is presently conducting an inquiry into this. I am particularly interested in this matter and am waiting on the report of the committee.

Q: Is he concerned that in the meantime that she and the public cannot be certain that councillors are not removing themselves from matters

A: At the heart of the issue seems to be the meaning of the word anonymous. It has been assumed till now that it means donors who want anonymity. There is now concern that it means the candidate does not know who they are.

Q: (National member): Is she concerned about a donation given to an Alliance member in the name of Wylie Coyote?

(Laila Harre – that question has been the subject of a personal explanation.)

A: I think the member is making a fool of himself by raising the subject of National election donations given recent press reports.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Will he confirm that Fay Richwhite gave donations to the Labour Party of $1 million in 1997 and to the National Party of $1 million in 1993?

(Speaker – that question is out of order and the member knows it.)

Question 8.

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

Q: When was the decision made to allow MidCentral District Health Board cancer patients to travel to Australia for radiation treatment, and when was this communicated to the District Health Board?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) The Government has not excluded any cancer centres from applying. In view of the limited capacity in Australia there has had to be some prioritisation. There has been confusion about this matter however and both the DHB and the Ministry accept responsibility for this.

Q: What are the waiting times for treatment at MidCentral Health?

A: The number of people on the waiting list peaked at 215 in January. The number waiting more than six weeks has reduced between February and March.

Q: Why are people still travelling to Australia when this was supposed to be a short term measure?

A: It is short term and the numbers waiting more than six weeks have steadily declined. This is good news.

(Roger Sowry – leave to table several documents – granted.)

Question 9.

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

Q: What is the Government doing to improve the quality of petrol and diesel in New Zealand?

A: Quality standards are being improved. Diesel sulphur levels are being reduced. In petrol benzine levels are being reduced.

Q: What are the benefits to NZers from this?

A: Fewer emissions and better air quality. The announcements have been broadly welcomed.

Q: How much will it all cost?

A: Don’t know. Depends on several factors. Watch this space.

Q: Why have changes to benzine and aromatics been delayed till 2006 when they simply bring NZ in line with overseas standards?

A: There is a need for time for adjustment.

Question 10.

Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What urgent action is she taking to solve the mental health crisis that in the last month has seen mentally ill patients held in police cells, psychiatric patients sleeping on mattresses on floors in overcrowded wards of acute units due to lack of bed space and dangerously psychotic prison inmates on a waiting list for treatment?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) Continued improvements are underway thanks to additional funding.

Q: What is her response to studies showing so many mental health inmates entering prisons?

A: This is not a new issue. We now have a commitment from the Ministers of Health and Corrections to deal with this issue.

Q: What will the MH Blueprint progress report show?

A: Lots of new clinical positions. And increases in resources for Maori, children, young people and drug services.

Q: Are the problems in our prisons new, and if not does she not agree with me that we should have a Royal Commission of inquiry into deinstitutionalisation?

A: I can confirm this is not new. I do not share the view that a Royal Commission is the best way to progress what has been obvious for some time. We are now implementing the results of a review on this. Implementing the blueprint is the appropriate response in my view.

Q: When will she stop playing pass the patient with Matt Robson, and start coming up with active solutions now?

A: No amount of borderline hysteria will effect the fact that the blueprint is being implemented. In the Northern Area the additional funding is equal to 13 beds and 5 FTEs. (Figures also given for other areas.)

Question 11.

ANN HARTLEY (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment Ruth Dyson:

Q: What is the Government doing to ensure genuine employment opportunities are available for people with disabilities?

A: We are providing more than $40 million for initiatives in this area.

Q: How will the new money be used?

A: The priority for the first two years will be to strengthen vocational services. After that more effort will be put into employment.

Q: Why is there not more money being put in next year when only $1.06 million is going in?

A: The member may not realise that this is a big move. In my view it is better to implement such substantial changes in a careful way, rather than imposing something that goes wrong.

Q: How come the invalids benefit has increased so much?

A: There are many causes. One is an internationally recognised trend increase in the amount of mental illness.

Q: Liz Gordon (Alliance): Why is money being spent on repealing this Act?

A: To pave the way for treating disabled workers equitably. When the Act is repealed people with disabilities will have the same rights as all employees.

Question 12.

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

Q: Does he consider the A and B Bursary payments of $100 and $200 adequate, given the Government has increased the cost of sitting the exam in five subjects to $185; if so, why?

A: I think the payments could well be regarded as pointless. That is why we have been working on a high quality test for excellence with proper rewards.

Q: Can he confirm the advice of NZQA that the payments will be abolished in 2004?

A: Yes. But in 2005 when they are replaced with proper awards for excellence.


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