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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 29 May

Today’s questions concerned: Nuclear Free Zone Extension – Party Hopping – School Funding – George Bush “Most Dangerous Man In World” – Criminal DNA Blood Samples Reform – Hobsonville Subdivision – Paparua Prison Death – John Davy And The SSC – Tourism Growth – Prison Sentence Length – Broadband Initiative – DHB Deficits.

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 29 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.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Has she made my New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill a matter of confidence in the Government?

A: (Jim Anderton on behalf) No.

Q: Does she believe small parties are entitled to stand on the policies they were elected on. If so will she be encouraging the Alliance to vote for this bill in accordance with their policy?

A: The Government has taken significant action to extend the range of important activities that NZ can be supportive of. In Opposition one does what one can to probe the Government. In Government one does what one is able to do in Government. We have worked bilaterally with transport states to keep shipments out of our EEZ.

Q: Does this bill serve NZ’s goals?

A: No. Because without the weight of International Law behind us any unilateral action would undermine our efforts.

Q: Does the Government now regret sending this bill to a Select Committee?

A: No. There is never any problem with democratic activity in this Parliament. The problem with this bill is that International Law would need to change in order for it to work. This bill could make us an International laughing stock.

Q: Has she discussed this bill with the Green Co-Leader?

A: In my capacity as Acting PM I do not know. If the member wants to know why this question has been asked, he should ask the Green Co-Leader.

Q: Is NZ’s Nuclear Free policy still an important plank?

A: As far as I am aware this Government has acted out of principle on this issue. And the party I was once a member of has a strong record of anti-nuclear politics.

Question 2.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton:

Q: Does the Coalition Agreement allow Ministers to swap parties before the election but still remain as members of the Executive; if so, does he consider this is acceptable?

A: I am appreciative of the opportunity to explain the situation again. Any decisions later this year do not affect the Coalition Agreement, which everybody says they continue to support for the continued management of the executive of NZ.

Q: What are the details of the deal with Laila Harre? And how does such a deal improve the reputation of Parliament?

A: I do not need any deal to know what is appropriate and not appropriate to do with the resources of Parliament. In terms of the need for a deal I would refer the member to the Electoral Integrity Act and Standing Orders. Which I do not believe the member understands.

Q: Has he been offered a deal by the PM where he is guaranteed to be a minister after the election?

A: There is no deal. But I have read a statement from the PM that suggests that people like myself and other Ministers from the Alliance Party have done well. And if we are returned then we will be welcomed by any Government led by Labour.

Q: Is there any integrity in campaigning for the Progressive Coalition Party while serving as an Alliance MP?

A: There is as much integrity as there was in the Green Party when they left the Alliance prior to the last election and stood against it at the 1999 election.

Q: Is the Minister telling us that he is staying with the Alliance for the money?

A: I resent the implication that anyone stays for the money. I was elected in Wigram by the people of Wigram. I stay as an Alliance Member till the election. And as far as I am aware I have a lot better chance of being elected again than many of my questioners.

Q: How can he as a self-proclaimed opponent of Party Hopping accept a salary and perks after quitting his party?

A: I haven’t campaigned against any other party and I haven’t joined any party. Every report I see about the new party is that we, they are extremely grateful for the publicity they get from the attacks from National and ACT.

(Point of Order – That was no slip by the Deputy PM when he said “We” about the Progressive Coalition Party. It is contempt to mislead this house. We have two letters one from the Democratic Party saying that their relationship with the Alliance ended in April. We also have a letter from the Progressive Coalition Party in which they say that the Progressive Coalition Party is seeking similarly free money for broadcasting purposes, and which further states that the Democratic Party is a subordinate Party to the Progressive Coalition Party. You are supposed to be informed of changes in Parliamentary relationships under the Electoral Integrity Bill. Two Questions. Is it a contempt for him to stand in this Parliament and say he is a member of Progressive Coalition Party? And secondly can I ask for a ruling on whether this is a contempt?

Speaker – I adhere to the standing orders of this Parliament. It is irrelevant as to whether a member has joined another Party. I have not been informed of any change inside this Parliament.

Gerry Brownlee – leave to table documents – granted.)

Question 3.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What changes have there been to the operational funding to schools since 1999?

A: This Govt. has kept its word to adjust for inflation. We have increased operational funding by more than inflation in fact. In fact the increase has been by 25%.

Q: What other reports has he seen on this?

A: I have seen a report that funding has been cut by an average of $7000 per school. In fact it has increased by $66,000 per school. The fact that the calculation was made by the Leader of the Opposition indicates that there are long term numeracy problems in our Education system.

Q: By what standard of new mathematics does he calculate these claims of increases, when everybody knows funding has not kept up with inflation.

A: In 2000 and 2001 there were increases of $27 million and $50 million net in the money going into schools. And the fact the Minister can’t do the maths without taking his shoes off is a disgrace. Operational funding has increased by $174 million, that’s the fact.

Q: Will he be taking remedial lessons in mathematics given that the 2.2% rate in his budget press release is wrong according to his own officials?

A: The rate in the press release is correct.

Question 4.

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Does he agree with Rod Donald that President George W Bush is "the most dangerous man in the world ... more dangerous than Mr Bin Laden"; if not, how helpful to New Zealand's international reputation are such comments by parliamentarians?

A: No. The comment was ill-considered and unhelpful.

Q: What sort of damage is done by the Green Party when it hurls one of the offensive insults possible at the US people?

A: Not much damage I don’t think anyone noticed till the member raised it in the house today.

Q: How and why is the Government supporting the fight against terrorism?

A: We decided to assist early on in the morning of the attack. We are doing this because the events showed that the organisation behind the attacks had no limit on its

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Does he support the US crusade against the Axis of Evil, and does he support US plans to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against seven nations?

A: The member knows this government is against both the use and possession of nuclear weapons. We have made our views on the Axis of Evil countries clear too, and we do not support attacks on Iraq in the absence of evidence of involvement in 911.

Q: What credibility does he have given he is dependent on the Green’s support to govern?

A: I think we have shown we have lots of credibility through our actions.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National): Is the fact that the Government is now struggling to pull together a trade agreement that was almost signed and sealed when the Government came into office due to the Greens?

A: No all that rubbish is a figment of that members imagination.

( EARLY ELECTION RUMBLE NO. 1!
Roger Sowry – Ane of our staff has been in discussion with the Clerk’s office and has been told that the last day for tabling papers will by June 11th. Why does he know something we don’t.

Speaker - The Clerk says he has given no comments to that effect.

Roger Sowry – One of the staff in the Clerk’s office has advised us of this date. If someone has got this wrong then perhaps you could advise us to that effect.

Speaker – I will get back to you on this.)

Question 5.

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

Q: What are the changes he is intending to make to the Criminal Investigations (Blood Samples) Act 1995?

A: A number of important changes are proposed in that ACT. The three key changes are giving police the power to obtain DNA samples from burglary suspects. Secondly it extends compulsory DNA sampling in prisons. And thirdly the bill allows the use of mouth swabs for DNA sampling.

Q: What is the effect of this?

A: This has the potential to bring in over 600 new DNA profiles from inmates increasing the database by 13%. There are very good prospects that some of these samples will match samples from crime scenes allowing unsolved crimes to be solved.

Q: Is this a violation of the Bill of Rights?

A: The Crown Law Office advises this is not in contravention with the Bill of Rights.

( EARLY ELECTION RUMBLE NO. 2!
Roger Sowry – I would like to be advised if this is the last member’s day. I want to know what will be happening with my bill.

Michael Cullen – Recognising the tremble running through the opposition at the prospects of an election. If the member had been talking to his whips he would know what progress will be made with his bill today.

Speaker – staff in the Table Office have been spoken to. Noone stated that documents could not be tabled after the 11th of June. If the member will name the person who provided the information I will take further action.

Gerry Brownlee – We are not mistaken about this. Is he implying we are making this up. We should not have to finger someone in the table office. It should be a case of the Government standing up and ruling out the possibility of 11th of June being the last sitting day.)

Question 6.

SIMON POWER (National) to the Defence Minister Mark Burton:

Q: Why did he consent to the subdivision of land at Hobsonville on 9 January 2001, in light of advice from the then Chief of Defence Force Air Marshall Adamson dated 19 December 2000 that "I am concerned that I have been asked to declare the relevant land surplus without sufficient surety regarding the responsibility for costs and management of risks."?

A: Because as I told the house yesterday the matters raised yesterday were taken seriously and were addressed.

Q: Did he also take seriously the concerns of Adamson about the possible loss of capital, and his views on reimbursement for the same from the MED?

A: The matters raised in the memo are best looked at further on in the memo where Adamson declares the land surplus. He was so satisfied and so declared.

Q: What was the purpose of the memo?

A: Cabinet had directed that the costs of the disposal be carefully evaluated. The issues raised in the memo were subsequently addressed to my satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of the Ministry of Defence.

Q: Is he aware that the $500,000 parcel of land is in fact worth $9 million?

A: Section 40. of the Public Works Act says the sale must be done at valuation by a registered valuer that is what was done.

Q: Since Housing NZ has signalled its intention to take the rest of the land, what affect will this have on the Marine Park plans of the council and Sovereign Yachts? And what affect will it have on the withdrawal plans of the Air Force?

A: The withdrawal plan is still in place. Second there is no agreement for the sale of any further land at Hobsonville. The member is correct that if there is another public work requirement for the land then that takes priority.

Q: When he consented, was he aware of a draft memorandum concerning a payment from the MED to Defence for the loss of capital value?

A: My involvement in the project was to ensure the Public Works Act was complied with. And it was.

(Simon Power – leave to table several documents – granted.)

Question 7.

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

Q: Has a male prisoner died at Paparua Prison in the last 48 hours; if so, of what cause, and what investigations will follow?

A: Yes. A male inmate was found dead in his cell yesterday morning. All deaths are subject of an inquest. The Prison Inspectorate will also carry out an investigation.

Q: Is it true that Prison Officers are being prevented from searching prisoners returning from home leave? And could this have contributed to this death, possibly as a result of a drug overdose? And will he consent to my call for a Commission of Inquiry?

A: I have no knowledge of such an order. If the member has evidence of such an order. And thirdly never has the member asked for a Commission of Inquiry into Paparua Prison.

Q: Are there more deaths in Christchurch vs other regions?

A: No. The Christchurch region has a lower percentage than the average over other regions.

Q: Do searches of returning prisoners include searches of their family members?

A: We can only search people if they enter prison property.

Q: How do death in custody statistics compare internationally?

A: Our rate is 1 per 1000 inmates. This compares favourably with many countries.

(Ron Mark – Leave to table a document – granted.)

Question 8.

MURRAY MCCULLY (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: Is it correct that the Maori Television Service sought advice or approval from the State Services Commissioner and from the two responsible Ministers prior to appointing Mr John Davy as chief executive; if so, what roles did the Commissioner and the Ministers play in the appointment process?

A: The SSC provided advice. Dr Cullen and I received a letter from MTS. I replied on behalf of the stakeholder ministers to MTS.

Q: In light of Hone Harawira’s statement that the SSC refused to validate the appointment until he had done his own checks, is he satisfied that the SSC was the correct agency to investigate this matter?

A: The SSC was not involved in any way with the selection and appointment of the CEO. The selection and appointment was a matter for the board itself.

Q: What has he done to ascertain the truth or otherwise of Mr Harawira’s statements on this?

A: The words are his own and I haven’t had time to talk to him. I am more than happy to do so however.

Q: Is the Minister aware that at the commencement of the Ernst and Young and SSC reviews steps were taken to remove files at MTS, including the deletion of email files, and will he convene an inquiry into this?

A: No I am not aware of that. I am above innuendo, but if the member makes available that advice I will have a look at that.

Question 9.

DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour) to the Minister of Tourism Mark Burton:

Q: What reports has he received on the contribution of the tourism sector to economic growth?

A: The latest international visitor survey shows that per visitor expenditure increased by 13%. This is an increase in more than $600 million in receipts in NZ. This was a key role of the Tourism Strategy to increase the yield per visitor.

Q: What is the Government doing to help?

A: We have allocated millions of dollars for initiatives. Initiatives in last week’s budget included an office in India, and work on cultural tourism. There was also money in the budget provided in related areas including Conservation.

Q: Did this growth occur in spite of or because of the government? What specifically has this government done?

A: One thing we did was provide a $2 million a rescue package for the Japan market. And that worked well.

Q: When will the Minister reduce tax rates for tourism ventures, or is that only for Superyachts?

A: I am not responsible for tax fortunately. But the superyachts are actually receiving refits too, and will be creating hundreds of jobs for Kiwis.

Question 10.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: Does he agree with the finding in the report by Philip Spier "Reconviction and reimprisonment rates for released prisoners" that "In general, inmates released after serving shorter prison sentences were more likely to be both reconvicted and reimprisoned than inmates released after serving longer prison sentences."?

A: It should be noted that the report goes up to 1998. I do agree that the most dangerous offenders should be imprisoned for as long as possible. I am sure the member will agree there are many factors that influence the likelihood of reoffending.

Q: When this report indicates huge levels of reoffending among teenagers, will he now make prison a genuine punishment for youths?

A: We have worked effectively in getting reoffending rates down. In the areas of Maori offenders, youths and disqualified drivers. I regard all these things as successes vis-à-vis 1998 when the report came out.

Q: Why did the Minister strongly argue for parole availability at one third of a sentence for all inmates?

A: I have never argued that everybody should receive one third parole. It would be illogical to do so given mandatory sentences for murder for example. I do advocate that parole be used effectively. Part of the reason is that when parole is used the reoffending rate is much better than when people are released at the end of their sentence. It has been proven that the reoffending rate on parole is reduced depending on the length of parole. ACT would like to get rid of parole altogether.

Question 11.

Hon DOVER SAMUELS (Labour) to the Minister for Information Technology Paul Swain:

Q: What reports has he received on the response to the Government's broadband initiative in last week's Budget?

A: The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Everybody has praised this initiative. NZ was called a progressive country in its broadband thinking by someone.

Q: What benefits will there be for Northland?

A: Heaps. Farmers will be able to take part in online auctions. Students will be able to access distance learning. This is a fabulous initiative by a fabulous government.

Q: Can the Minister guarantee a date by which all schools will have access to this technology.

A: The objective is 2004.

Q: What benefits has come from broadband spectrum allocation to Maori?

A: We have a number of reports on the importance of Maori being involved in telecommunications. Not only to receive services but also to take part in the industry.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Why did the government oppose local loop unbundling which is internationally recognised as the best way to facilitate broadband services?

A: As I have tried to explain on a number of occasions the idea that unbundling is the silver bullet is simply not the case. What the government has done is to drive competition through a range of different service methods. We know one silver bullet would not work.

Question 12.

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

Q: Why has the Government rejected the deficit forecasts in draft annual plans submitted by District Health Boards which predicted combined deficits of around $200 million in each year from 2002/03?

A: Because they were draft annual plans. Following advice we did not consider them justified. We thought further discussion was necessary.

Q: What cost-containment measures are being actively discussed with DHBs?

A: The Government is committed to a three year funding package for the sector. The MOH is working with DHBs to ensure they keep within the forecast path.

Q: What reports has she seen recently on changes to health services?

A: One from Southland and one from Tapanui both criticising National MPs.

Q: How can she claim DHBs are living within their means?

A: Over the three year path they are required to reduce their deficits and I am confident that they will do so.

Q: What about Kaitaia Hospital and Elm Court in Southland?

A: In relation to Elm Court I never made promises, in relation to Kaitaia the member is possibly alluding to a suspension in surgery due to the shortage of a surgeon. Kaitaia is faced with a health workforce shortage problem created by National.

SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS

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