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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 22 May

Today’s questions concerned: Economy – Crown Law Opinion Mystery – Youth Unemployment – Millennium People Gagging – Skills – MTS And Horomia - Maori Authority Taxation – ACC – Mental Health – PPTA Settlement Costs – East Timor Deployment – Progressive Coalition’s Plans.

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 22 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

Question 1.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

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

A: It’s doing well.

Q: David Carter (National): Why then is the government offering so little to teachers?

A: It isn’t. The 1.8% increase is only part of the package that contains lots more things.

Q: John Wright (Alliance): What is the outlook?

A: The darkest cloud on the horizon is the National Party and its support for a unskilled workforce.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Is he concerned that the household savings rate has dropped to a –5.75%?

A: The member will need to breath deeply for a little while longer.

Question 2.

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

Q: Why did her spokesman tell the media that there was a Crown Law Office opinion which reportedly cleared the Prime Minister of art fraud, and given the answer on her behalf yesterday that "Crown Law itself has said there was no such report", what action will she be taking against her spokesman?

A: My understanding is that the office spokesman made a mistake. I accept that explanation. I do not go around Boaging my staff.

Q: Why did her staff provide misleading advice?

A: He assumed the existence of a report because he had read about the existence of a report.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Does she now agree that a spokesman on her behalf lied to the media about a report? Or is that the standard she now accepts from her staff?

A: I do not accept that a spokesperson lied. He said he was mistaken.

Q: Peter Dunne (United Future NZ): Has there been any legal costs? If so who is paying?

A: I will meet all my own legal costs on this.

Q: Bill English (National): Is she aware that media say that the original report came from her office?

A: I can’t confirm those reports no. I do not know of a report. Crown Law has said there is none.

Question 3.

KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What economic development schemes is he proposing to reduce youth unemployment in the regions?

A: I am pleased to announce that the budget contains money for pilot schemes in two regions. Although there are more school leavers in work now, it is still not good enough. We will be inviting regions to be involved after the budget announcement.

Q: What else is the government doing for young people?

A: This week I announced $1.7 million for youth enterprise projects.

Q: Why does the government not accept the DEFU forecasts for the numbers on benefits rising?

A: We have the lowest level of unemployment for 13 years and we have the highest level of labour force involvement in the history of the statistics.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green Party): What about the 3% increase in Northland unemployment?

A: The acute regions of NZ have had a significant level of attention and investment. Everyone knows that Northland and other acute regions are preparing for a significant increase in economic activity because that is what is happening.

Question 4.

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

Q: In light of his statement to the House yesterday that "Millennium People has not been gagged", will he agree to release any exchanges between Millennium People and the Maori Television Service Board, regarding who had responsibility for security and credit checks on Mr John Davy; if not, why not?

A: I am advised that these matters are still subject to discussions between the MTS and Millennium People.

Q: Does the Minister accept that documentation confirms that the Board had responsibility for this?

A: There are documents with assumptions in them. If there is a need for them to be made available they will be made available.

(Richard Prebble – could we have a Maori version of that answer please. I could not understand it in English at all.

Speaker – Order.)

Q: Does he have confidence in the MTS board?

A: Yes.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): If the documents from the accountants give him confidence? If there is a document that MP asked the MTS board to make checks? And if Mr Fox did nothing and did not tell the SSC, will he be sacked?

Q: Horomia: Does he want a response in Maori or English?

A: Prebble (ACT) I would prefer in Maori please.

A: (Translation) The correspondence and everything else will be made available to this house.

Q: Can he confirm various details about John Davy’s contract concerning his salary and responsibilities?

A: Part of the member’s assumptions are right. Part aren’t.

(Katherine Rich – leave to table three documents a letter of 13th March from MP to MTS, an email dated 13 March from MTS to MP, a copy of a letter of appointment for Mr John Davy – granted.)

(Speaker – could the Minister please re-answer the question and perhaps be a bit more informative.)

A: Part of the member’s assumptions are right. Part aren’t.

(Roger Sowry – that answer is exactly the same. Is he in contempt?

Speaker – I invited the Minister to answer. I am not responsible for that answer at all.

Gerry Brownlee – He used an argument and inference. That is not allowed.

Speaker – The member addressed the question. I am not responsible for the answer.

Richard Prebble – Standing Order 372 says an answer that seeks to address the question must be given. It wasn’t. His answer tells us nothing at all. He could answer that way to all questions. I think it would be helpful if you would say that this answer is insufficient.

Michael Cullen – You are merely the judge of whether an answer is given.

Speaker – What the member says is correct. This matter rests there.)

Q: Who is advising him on MTV? And why is he so badly informed?

A: I am advised by my Ministry and by the board when necessary.

Question 5.

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

Q: What steps is the Government taking to ensure that businesses and individuals have access to high quality and relevant skills?

A: This government is committed to ensuring skills match needs in the economy. Many more people are training while in employment than have in the past. We have also doubled our contribution to the Modern Apprenticeship program. In the year 2001 30% of participants had no previous training. What these figures indicate is that we are ensuring access for all, particularly those denied opportunities under the previous government.

Q: Is he concerned that most of the ITO trainees find there own way to training?

A: No I am not aware of that.

Question 6.

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

Q: Does she have confidence in the Minister of Maori Affairs given recent events involving Mr John Davy and the Maori Television Service; if so, why?

A: Yes. Because he is a good minister.

Q: How does the PM explain the documents tabled by my colleague? And why did the SSC not discover these?

A: Fundamentally neither the Minister, nor MTS are responsible for the failures of Millennium People when they were paid substantial amounts of money to do their job.

Q: Does she understand his incomprehensible answers? Or is she pleased with Mr Horomia because he wants to have an ineffective minister?

A: I have a very effective Minister of Maori Affairs.

(Several apologies made by Labour Party ministers. But not by Tariana Turia who instead accused Richard Prebble of making racist remarks.

Speaker – The Minister will withdraw and apologise.

Tariana Turia – I did say that Mr Prebble is racist.

Speaker – The member will withdraw and apologise.

Tariana Turia – I withdraw and apologise to you.

Speaker – The member will withdraw and apologise full stop.

Tariana Turia – I withdraw and apologise.

Tariana Turia – Is Mr Prebble now going to apologise for his comments to the Minister of Maori Affairs.

Richard Prebble – How is saying that answers are incomprehensible racist? The Minister is raising an invalid point of order.

Michael Cullen – That is not a point of order.

Speaker – I do not think that Tariana Turia should have raised that point of order. That is where that matter rests.

Rodney Hide – She has apologised for her interjection. You have not dealt with this matter properly. She repeated the allegation without censure.

Speaker – Members must not use the Point of Order procedure incorrectly.)

Q: Why is she up to her old trick of blaming the wrong person?

A: An agency is entitled to believe that when it pays good money for advice that the advice is competent. Millennium People’s advice was not.

(John Carter – The Minister of Education should be expelled for making interjections during the asking of a question.

Michael Cullen – The interjections were inappropriate. But the question was not in order either. It contained an ironic reference.

Speaker – I will be listening carefully from here on.)

Question 7.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Will dropping the rate of tax on Maori Authorities and their subsidiary businesses to 19.5 cents benefit Maori; if so, in what ways?

A: The legislation will benefit Maori Authorities which come within the precise definition in the Act. Some of these organisations are presently paying tax twice, and this removes that anomaly. This is in effect a withholding tax. This was advised by IRD for administrative convenience. This is because most beneficiaries of Maori Authorities pay their final tax at 19.5 cents in the dollar. Most beneficiaries of company dividends pay their final tax at 33 cents. If Maori Authorities were taxed at 33% then the beneficiaries would have to make a tax return to claim back the tax. This way we avoid administrative costs to the taxpayer of handling those returns.

Question 8.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister for ACC:

Q: What is the ACC doing to address the injuries that can result from trips, slips and falls?

A: Today we are launching an initiative in this area. It is true that lots of people treat this area as a joke. It isn’t funny. The costs are real and high. The campaign is aimed at householders, telling them to make their home as “Safe as Houses.” The campaign is targeted at handymen in particular. Men have 33% more accidents in their homes than women.

Q: Is this another Prime Ministerial advertising campaign?

A: The bath mat invitation cost less than 0.33% of the total campaign cost. We need to develop a sense of personal responsibility. Some things like getting into a boxing ring with just a few weeks training make injury prevention promotion very difficult in this country.

Q: What about ice?

A: One of the messages we must get across is that accidents don’t just happen. We can get people to be cautious in all environments.

Question 9.

Hon PETER DUNNE (United Future NZ) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to improve mental health?

A: (Tariana Turia on behalf) The Government recognises that providing coordinated services is necessary. To that end there are five interagency initiatives being undertaken in our plan involving 11 agencies.

Q: In view of Swedish studies showing long term cannabis users are more likely to suffer from mental illness, why does the plan not rule out decriminalisation?

A: There is no NZ evidence that’s supports the assertion made by the member.

Q: Why is the Youth Suicide rate tucked away at the back of the report?

A: It is true that the statistics are high. However they have dropped and a number of strategies are being implemented to address that issue.

Q: What about the closure of the Maori Mental Health Unit at Carrington?

A: There are many differing Maori MH services available in Auckland. I can assure the member that this will not mean that Maori have less access to MH services.

Q: Does she not accept that cannabis has an adverse affect on young people’s brains?

A: Having sat on the select committee, while people with a propensity for Mental Illness may have it aggravated by cannabis, just as it can be by alcohol, there is no evidence that cannabis causes mental illness.

Question 10.

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

Q: What is the additional cost in the 2001/02 and 2002/03 financial years of the latest proposed secondary teachers' settlement as compared to last year's proposed settlement?

A: There is an additional cost of $10 million in 02/03, $30 million in 03/04, and $30+ million in 04/05. There are also cost implications in the additional staff I promised as a side addition to the package.

Q: Why then did he say something completely different yesterday?

A: I was talking about the majority of the settlement. If he looks at my answer carefully that will be clear. There has already been an 8% increase in teacher salaries over the course of this government. This settlement will result in a further 7% increase in wages over the term of the settlement.

Q: What is the role of the task force on remuneration?

A: It will examine several issues relating to teacher pay and conditions. There is room for further issues to be added to the terms of reference.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Why aren’t schools able to negotiate individual performance agreements with teachers?

A: I think what we have seen is a clear difference across the house between their beliefs and our beliefs.

Q: How many schools will have to take wild-cat action before the Minister agrees that he can’t have a knowledge economy if he reduces the real wages of teachers?

A: We aren’t.

Question 11.

PETER BROWN (NZ First) to the Defence Minister Mark Burton:

Q: Did an aircraft carrying troops and others depart from Ohakea for East Timor on Tuesday 14 May 2002?

A: Yes. In fact two aircraft left Ohakea bound ultimately for East Timor on that date.

Q: Was one of these aircraft a UN chartered Russian plane, an unsafe plane carrying 210 armed forces personnel?

A: I can confirm that the plane was indeed a Russian charter plane. This followed the standard practice of the UN.

Q: Will he take personal responsibility for the safety of UN chartered planes in future?

A: As the member knows it is an operational requirement to ensure transport is safe. If evidence to support the assertions made initially is provided, then certainly I will investigate it.

Q: Will he confirm that the East Timor Government would welcome a continuing presence in East Timor?

A: Yes. And there will be one with 3500 personnel approximately. We will contribute to that. The time for the staged withdrawal of our major contribution has come.

(Rodney Hide – Leave to table the Minister’s own answers as evidence relating to Air Campuchea – refused. )

Q: Max Bradford (National): Rather than the Minister taking a hands off view of this matter. Will he not take the initiative to ask his officials and to check through MFAT perhaps the safety record of that aircraft?

A: Before I even get back to my office my staff will have already asked those questions on my behalf.

Question 12.

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

Q: If Hon Jim Anderton, Hon Sandra Lee and Hon Matt Robson join the Progressive Coalition after the House rises, as the Hon Jim Anderton and the Progressive Coalition have indicated they will do, would she sack them from her Cabinet as party hoppers; if not, why not?

A: I will consider that hypothetical question if it arises.

(Gerry Brownlee – That answer is highly unsatisfactory.

Speaker – The member has two more questions.

Brownlee – The Clerk requires authentication for questions. This is not a hypothetical question. These are facts advertised by Anderton and his party.

Speaker – Why then is the word “if” in the question, if it is not hypothetical.

Brownlee – We learn something new every day.

Speaker – Yes you do.)

Q: Is she still opposed to party hopping?

A: Yes.

Q: Is she dangling over the heads of Mr Anderton, Ms Lee and Mr Robson the possibility that she might sack them in order to keep them in line?

A: No

Q: Michael Cullen (Labour): If Mr Brownlee leaves the National Party after the house rises will she put my mind at rest that she will not make him a Minister?

A: Yes.

Q: If the members leave their party before the election will she regard them as party hoppers?

A: I will address that question if it arises.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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