SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 28 May
Today’s questions concerned: Jim & The Progressive Coalition - Red Tape Reduction – Treasury’s View On Tax – Nuclear Fuel Shipments – PPTA Settlement – Deaf Telephone Services – SSC Advice On John Davy’s Appointment – Overseas Aid Budget – Hobsonville Subdivision – Welfare To Work – MTS & Carbine Group – Double Jeopardy Reforms.
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
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton:
Q: What changes, if any, will be made to the Coalition Agreement, which he signed, or to current coalition management procedures, when he joins the Progressive Coalition Party before the next election?
A: The Leader of the Opposition continues to hope the coalition will get into difficulties. We will deal with issues which may arise calmly and sensibly.
Q: Does he intend to resign as a Minister when he joins the Progressive Coalition?
A: Like Peter Dunne I have already announced that I will not be standing for the same party in the next election as I currently represent. No one has asked him to resign. I have made it clear I will maintain the proportionality of Parliament till the election. However in every Parliament there comes a point when the house rises. Members of Parliament cease to be MPs on election day. There is continuity of Government however until a new Government is sworn in. I would have thought the member knew that.
(Ron Mark – he didn’t answer the question. It was long, orchestrated and deliberately vague.
Speaker – the minister did address the question.)
Q: How well has the Coalition Agreement worked?
A: Effectively to achieve its objectives. Both parties have fulfilled promises to the electorate.
Q: When he joins the Progressive Coalition will he resign from Parliament as envisaged by the Electoral Integrity Act?
A: I was elected a member of this Parliament. I have honoured and will continue to honour the commitments I have made. I have to thank the member for giving my new vehicle publicity.
Q: When he formally joins the PC Party and begins to campaign, will he give the house an assurance he will not use his office as Deputy PM to his advantage?
A: When this house rises I will remain an MP till the election. I will then seek a new mandate. I suggest the member does the same.
Q: Will the Minister resign as a minister before the election?
A: As I have said repeatedly, along with all other MPs I will seek a new mandate at the next election. More generally I will continue my full Ministerial duties unless and un-till I am unable to do so.
(Gerry Brownlee – Now he has made it clear he will not resign when the election date is set. Will you require standing order 35 to come into effect. And will you then act in accordance with the Electoral Integrity Act.
Speaker – The answer to the second part of the question is yes. I do not know when such a situation will arise however.)
MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What has the Government done to reduce compliance costs and red tape for New Zealand business?
A: We have done lots. We have given more money to the IRD to simplify tax for small businesses. We are also spending money on a one-stop-shop Internet portal.
Q: Are these policies in line with advice?
A: Yes, of officials and small businesses. But they run contrary to Bill English’s plans to quote “ensure regulations do more harm than good”.
Q: Would maintaining the moratoria on GE reduce compliance costs?
A: I am sure if we could un-invent printing, TV and the wheel that would reduce costs too.
RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: Is it correct, as reported in the New Zealand Herald, that at the traditional post-Budget soiree, he stood on a desk and said that the Treasury had asked him to confirm that it had not written the section of his Budget speech that said there was no case for cutting taxes to boost growth, and on what basis did he make the claim that cutting taxes won't boost growth?
Q: Can he confirm that Treasury is sitting in an empirical study that says the cost of raising the last dollar in tax is more than 50 cents?
Q: In due of the economists criticism, will he apologise?
A: No. I notice that economists were unable to produce any evidence to back up their views.
Q: Does he expect Treasury’s views on tax to be identical to the Governments.
A: No their advice is independent. My comment on the Treasury Input at the meeting was in fact a joke.
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade:
Q: Is the Government opposed to the shipment of plutonium, mixed oxide fuel and high level nuclear waste through New Zealand's 200 mile exclusive economic zone; if not, why not?
A: Yes. We have consistently and successfully opposed the shipment of nuclear waste through our EEZ.
Q: Why then will he not support my bill to extend the Nuclear Free Zone?
A: Because we have already successfully excluded those shipments through bilateral negotiations. We will not support the member’s bill because it breaches the UN Convention on the Law of The Sea. The member knows that. We are a small country. We rely on the rule of law. If we breach international law we lose all credibility.
Q: Have any shipments of waste come through the EEZ?
A: No, to the best of our knowledge. Last time there was a shipment we sent up an Orion. We have an assurance from the shipping states. When we won the rights under the convention to our EEZ we entered into commitments which we must now honour.
Q: What could we do about any such shipments now we no longer have a strike air force capability?
A: In the entire history of having a combat wing we never used them for that purpose.
Q: Why will he not seek to clarify under the convention our power to ban dangerous shipments that might endanger our fish?
A: We never traded away any rights. We have never had the ability to prevent shipments through the EEZ.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: How does the proposed secondary teachers' settlement of 2 percent for 2001, 1.5 percent for 2002 and 2 percent for 2003 equate to his claim on Morning Report that "This settlement gives on average over the next two years an increase of more than 7 percent, well above inflation," when inflation was 3.1 percent for 2001 and is projected by Treasury in the Budget to be 2.6 percent for 2002 and 2.5 percent for 2003?
A: (Steve Maharey on behalf) The average salary increased to $52,000 under this government so far this is an increase of 8%. When all factors are taken into account there is an increase of 7% by 2004 in the PPTA settlement package.
Q: How does 2 + 2 + 1.5 equal 7?
A: Treasury forecasts 6.1% inflation till 2004, the remuneration increase contained in the settlement is 7%.
Q: Is he considering more changes to the package?
A: Negotiations are not continuing. This is an offer now on the table waiting for the PPTA to ratify.
Q: Does he recognise that the fact that even if the package is settled there will still be an underlying problem?
A: Of course some people are going to be disgruntled. The way forward is to ratify so we can work with teachers again to ensure they get a fair deal in the future.
Q: Is it anticipated that NCEA payments will only be paid to teachers?
A: About 80% of teachers will receive the allowances. Other teachers will benefit from other parts of the package.
Q: How will paying kindergarten teachers the same as secondary teachers help the knowledge economy?
A: People get the same amount of money for the same qualification. The member is indicating his prejudice through his question.
DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Communications Paul Swain:
Q: What reports has he received on the response to the Government's decision to establish telephone relay services for people who are deaf or who have speech or hearing impairments?
A: I have seen a number of reports and press releases indicating the response from the deaf community has been very positive. We have celebrated this today at Parliament. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of those who campaigned for this. This will allow deaf people to access telephone services just like everyone else. This is a human rights issue.
Q: Why wasn’t this included in the Telecommunications Bill?
A: Two reasons. The first being that that party opposed that in the Select Committee stages. The second being that more work was needed. I am advised that that party opposed the inclusion of this in the legislation.
Q: How will this work?
A: The deaf person will be able to send a message by text to a call center who passes the message on. The system will work identically in reverse.
KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: Did the board of the Maori Television Service, or Te Puni Kokiri on its behalf, seek any advice or input from the State Services Commissioner in respect of the terms and conditions of Mr John Davy's appointment as chief executive; if so, what specific advice was received?
A: Yes the SSC was consulted on the terms and conditions of employment. The SSC provided advice on terms of employment and the remuneration package.
Q: Has he seen the statement from Hone Harawira that the board of MTS was very pissed off that the SSC refused to validate the appointment until it had done its checks. And if so how can we have confidence in the SSC report into this that makes no reference at all to the SSC involvement in this matter?
A: I am not responsible for Hone Harawira’s comments.
Q: What is MTS doing now?
A: Last Friday the establishment board announced that experienced Maori businessman Wayne Walden has agreed to provide interim management services. The board is extremely pleased someone of his calibre has agreed to take this forward.
Q: Given that the MTS board has no legal authority, who appointed Mr Davy and what was the authority?
A: The delegation was through TPK and it went through a full process.
Q: Is he concerned that the real reason the SSC took a once-over-lightly approach to this matter is that they were involved in it deeply? And if not why not?
GRANT GILLON (Alliance – Progressive Coalition) to the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance) Matt Robson:
Q: How will the newly increased overseas aid budget be allocated?
A: The 2002 budget saw a $4 million increase in the budget. I would like to see an increase from 0.24% to 0.7% of GNI.
Q: How will aid assist East Timor?
A: NZ has played a very personal role in the birth of this new nation. We will continue to support East Timor. We have committed $10 million to East Timor over the next three years. The commitment I gave in Monterrey is a commitment that a succession of NZ ministers have given. I have been working on a strategy for this which will be completed in June.
Q: How can the Government justify Helen Clark announcing in Indonesia that she is going to give $40 million in aid to Indonesia, when they have a bigger navy than ours?
A: We do not need a third ANZAC frigate, nor do we need one, that is why partly development work in Indonesia is important.
Q: Keith Locke (Green): In real terms hasn’t there actually been a decline in the Overseas Aid budget given that the increase is less than inflation? And isn’t it true that over the three years of this government, as a proportion of GNI our aid budget has fallen?
A: The member has pointed to many problems Government’s have with budgets. Increasing budgets has to be done in a planned way. The first step was to establish an independent agency to deal with aid matters. That step has been taken.
Q: Can he explain why the Government is seeking to reduce defence expenditure and simultaneously handing over $40 million to Indonesia?
A: The $40 million is over five years, and Indonesia is a very large country. The government is acting responsibly in attempting to address the poverty of overseas countries.
Q: What about third world debt?
A: We have given money to the fund to reduce debt. And we are taking part in the talks to bring together a new arbitration system to deal with debt cancellation.
SIMON POWER (National) to the Defence Minister Mark Burton:
Q: On what date did he consent to the subdivision of land at Hobsonville in accordance with subdivision consent notice SPW 21142 (RMA 200001937) issued by the Waitakere City Council on 18 December 2000, and what benefits, if any, for the Defence Force did he expect to accrue from his decision?
A: 9th January 2001. The benefit was to enable the defence land strategy to be implemented.
Q: How can he reconcile that with a memo, (quoted from)?
A: The memo did not accurately reflect the facts of the situation. In August 2000 the Government announced that Hobsonville would be disposed of in stages. As land is declared surplus it will be disposed of in accordance with the Public Works Act 1931.
Q: When he sold lot 1. did he think that $50,000 an acre was the going rate for watefront land in Auckland?
A: I did not sell any land at Hobsonville Air Force Base.
Q: Why then did Air Vice Marshall Adamson write expressing concerns about this matter to the minister?
A: Because such discussion is healthy in Government.
TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What reports, if any, has he received on initiatives to assist recipients of income support to move into sustainable employment?
A: I have received a number of reports about our success in moving people into jobs. Numbers on the unemployment benefit have fallen 69,000 under this Government. Employment placements in the last month were 58,000. This government’s policies work. Last week’s budget contained $120 odd million to support people moving into work.
Q: Brian Neeson (National) Why did he change the name of his bill?
A: Finding work will be far from optional. Under this government people get jobs. The name was changed because of the outstanding work by Sue Bradford on the committee. Unlike the work done by that member which was useless.
(Speaker - the Minister will apologise.
Maharey – I apologise.)
Q: Why is money being put into DPB to work programmes and not into training opportunities for unemployment beneficiaries?
A: The member is precisely right, that is why we are putting money into training.
KATHERINE RICH (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: Why did the board of the Maori Television Service invite proposals in February 2002 for the provision of studio facilities from the Carbine Group Limited, a company that was not incorporated until 8 March 2002?
A: The Board was looking to move quickly. I understand the service approached a number of companies.
Q: Since Carbine Group did not exist at the time of the Render, and BCL was the only other company invited to participate, and as they never had any chance of winning, how can dealings with the Carbine Group be anything other than a jackup?
A: There is no jackup.
Q: Are there any contracts between MTS and the Carbine Group?
Q: Can he confirm that Carbine Group is a front for the McPhees (Sp?)?
A: I am not aware of these people. I am not privy to that information. No. I can assure that member that Mr Walden is making sure the right organisations are selected to support MTS. That member seems to have a lot of incorrect information.
JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:
Q: What changes is he proposing to the rule on double jeopardy?
A: I will introduce next year a Criminal Procedure Bill to make an exception to the rule on double jeopardy. That exception will allow someone who has been convicted of witness tampering, perjury or jury tampering to be tried again on the same charges. Double jeopardy was never intended to protect someone from getting away with murder by intimidating witnesses.
Q: Is continually re-announcing policy a new tactic being employed by the Minister? Or is an election in the air?
A: The reason this law will come into effect next year is because it is part of a Criminal Procedures Bill. The reason it was re-announced this week is because Cabinet finally approved it this week. It is true that I foreshadowed this move when the Law Commission released its report.