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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 30 May

Today’s questions concerned: Superyacht Tax Exemption – Rural Primary Health Care – Party Hopping – Chicken & Antibiotics – Police Numbers – Police Funding – Who Is The Real Alliance Leader - East Timor Troop Plane – How Dangerous Is George W. – Community Learning – Comparative Tax Rates – Qantas Bid For Air NZ.

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 30 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.

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

Q: Will exempting super yacht crews from New Zealand income tax benefit the marine industry; if so, in what ways?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) The advice NZ received was that NZ was losing out on deals because the crews were subject to tax. Six boats with hundreds of thousands of dollars in refits left the country because of this.

Q: How come tax cuts in this case work?

A: In this case NZ like all other countries has never collected tax from these crews, because they leave. Nzers will get jobs refitting these yachts. I don’t know why the opposition opposes that.

Q: Will there be an effect on the tax base?

A: Crews generally only stay longer than the minimum period required to pay tax if they are having refits. Tax is being collected on the refits. We made the logical decision here.

Q: Will this apply to crews of racing yachts, other yachts, the land based support crews, and foreign journalists?

A: I think the answer to all of that is no. Sailing yacht crews pay tax. Double tax arrangements mean they earn a credit against their foreign tax liabilities.

Question 2.

DAMIEN O'CONNOR (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What additional funding has been allocated from Budget 2002 for rural primary health care initiatives?

A: Today I have announced $32 million over three years for rural primary health. This is based on the recommendations on the advisory group. This will enable reasonable on-call rosters to be maintained.

Q: What else has the Minister seen on this?

A: I have seen a National Party plan to commit half what we are committed to spending.

Q: Lynda Scott (National): Will rural doctors who do not join the Govt’s ideologically driven Primary Health Organisations get access to the new rural premium? Yes or no?

A: Yes.

Q: Phillida Bunkle (Alliance – PCP): What reports has she seen on the workforce?

A: I have seen reports recommending planning for the workforce dated back to 1996. We need planning.

Q: Why does the government not regard rural practice as a priority occupation?

A: Overseas doctors need to be able to be registered in NZ. We don’t want hundreds of overseas doctors working as taxi drivers.

Q: What about Waihi and Waihi Beach?

A: There will be additional payments to retain doctors in such areas.

Q: How was it that the unregistered doctors got into the country in the first place?

A: There was under Bill Birch a decision to allow a number of professions into NZ. It was from 1992 to 1995. Unfortunately they did not inform the people they had to be registered in NZ. It is only when we put in the $11 million for retraining that we have enabled some of them to work.

(Lynda Scott - Leave to table a report – granted

Annette King – Leave to table a press release and speech, and a press release from Federated Farmers – granted.)

Question 3.

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

Q: How does having Ministers join a new party before the next election contribute to the Coalition Agreement objective "to restore public confidence in the political integrity of Parliament and the electoral process"?

A: There are four objectives in the agreement. We are making good progress on all of them. No blustering in this house, and hoots from the Opposition will make any difference to that. I am doing a job for which I was elected. Working in a stable government that enjoys record levels of public confidence.

Q: Does he see any irony in the fact that he can refer to the PCP as “we”, and that doesn’t count in his Act because it is not in writing?

A: The “We” I was referring to was the “We” on this side of this house. It is like water off a ducks back. It is one of the freedom’s of democracy to choose who you will stand for. I am exercising that right.

Q: Has he ever seen worked in the PCP office, located over the road from his Alliance office?

A: No. And no National MPs will ever find me working there.

(Gerry Brownlee – The question of my colleague goes to the heart of the issue of notification under Standing Order 35. Yesterday I tabled a document from the Democrat Party. I draw your attention to the Paragraph in the document from John Wright and Grant Gillon that says, “we are no longer part of that component party for any purpose under the Electoral Act”. The two acts, the Electoral Act and the Electoral Integrity Act are now one. I contend that they have now given notification.

Speaker – I will have a look at the letter.

Winston Peters – leave to table a letter to the Governor General – granted.)

Question 4.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Can he assure New Zealanders that any chicken they buy is not contaminated with antibiotic resistant bacteria, as one supermarket chicken had tested recently was; if so, on what basis?

A: (Annette King on behalf) No. Naturally occurring bacteria are very prevalent in animals and humans. Resistant bacteria could be on a chicken naturally or come from human handling.

Q: What monitoring of this is being done?

A: MAF and the Animal Remedies Board have completed a review of the use of antibiotics in animals. There is monitoring of poultry. Nine poultry companies which account for 98% of production voluntarily participate in a monitoring program. Poultry in NZ undertake a voluntary regime to look at the use of antibiotics.

Q: Phillida Bunkle (Alliance – PCP): How do you minimise risks?

A: By washing your hands, cooking chickens thoroughly and by preventing fluids from uncooked chickens from contaminating other foods.

Q: Why won’t the government ban the use of antibiotics?

A: This Minister is no chicken. MAF doesn’t believe it is technically justified to ban the use. The measures already put in place means NZ is already ahead of most countries. If new evidence warrants it controls will be adjusted.

Q: What about irresponsible comments about food safety raised in this house?

A: I do not think these comments are irresponsible. Members are entitled to ask questions. We don’t have to agree with what they say.

Question 5.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Are the Police still projecting to have 1,912 sworn officers in greater Auckland by 30 June 2002, 119 short of their target of 2,031 sworn officers at that date; if not, what are the police projections now?

A: Yes. This issue has existed for many years. I am advised that as of May there were 2200 staff in Auckland.

Q: Does he think the projected shortfall of 158 officers in Greater Auckland is part of the reason for violent crime increasing by 20% since he became Minister of Police?

A: I do not think Police commit violent crime. Under that Government violent crime rocketed by 65% and they can’t forget it.

Q: How do staffing levels in the police compare with levels in 1999.

A: At the time of the change of Government there were 8767 police staff, as at this week there are 9213 staff. That represents an increase of 446 staff under this government. And we don’t need to resort to cardboard cutouts.

Q: Does he not think the fall in sworn staff in Auckland is part of the problem?

A: The number of police staff has increased.

Q: Can he assure us front-line police staff haven’t fallen in number?

A: There 1999 there were 7027 sworn police staff now there are 7201 sworn staff. That’s an increase.

Q: Tony Ryall (National) If things are so rosy on the Police Front Line why did he say that front-line numbers of police have fallen in all but three districts over the last 15 months?

A: I do not make up figures like that member.

(Tony Ryall – leave to table a response from the Minister – granted.)

Question 6.

JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What reports has he received on police funding?

A: In the budget Police will receive $960 million. Bill English proposed to spend $820 million on police. We are spending $140 million more than they would have.

Q: What else has he seen?

A: I have seen a report in which Tony Ryall incorrectly said that police numbers increased by 600 under National. National would have slashed police numbers. We have increased them by more than 900 more than National would have had.

Q: If things are so rosy with police numbers then why have 11 police been cut from the Gisborne district?

A: Police numbers are rosy. The Commissioner of Police decide where police are assigned.

Q: Can he confirm Treasury Advice that table 10 in the budget says the $27 million in the budget is for police pay, already decided, and that there is in fact no more money in the budget for police?

A: The member should look more closely at the budget.

(Hawkins, Hide, Ryall - leave sought to table several documents – some granted some not.)

Question 7.

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

Q: Does he consider that having an Alliance leader in Parliament and an Alliance leader outside Parliament contributes to the Coalition Agreement objective "to provide stable and effective long term government for New Zealand without losing the distinctive political identity of either party"; if so, how?

A: The position of a leader in Parliament depends ultimately on maintaining the majority of MPs in the caucus. We should wait till the votes in the next election are counted before we decide who has the confidence of the people.

Q: If he doesn’t have a deal with Laila Harre not to use Ministerial fund

A: As far as I am aware all Minister’s in this government know what money should be spent on what. There is no intention to use resources to promote any party.

Q: Does he expect to be consulted on the date of an election?

A: I believe we have provided good leadership for this country. Ultimately the decision on whether there is sufficient stability is one for the Prime Minister. There may well be consultations on that matter. And when the PM asks for my opinion she will get it.

Q: Why did he pursue Alamein Kopu all the way to the Privileges Committee?

A: The difference is that she did not turn up for Parliament. And when she left she went to a Beehive suite and still didn’t turn up to Parliament and gave a proxy to the National Party.

Q: Why doesn’t he just resign if he is not planning on using Ministerial resources for his campaign?

A: I do not need any deal to misuse the funds of Parliament. I have never done so. No deal has been made.

Question 8.

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

Q: What safety checks were undertaken before permitting 210 New Zealand troops to be transported to East Timor on a chartered Russian aircraft on 14 May 2002, and what specific reports of the airline's safety record were considered before approval was given?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) The UN assessed the aircraft by verifying that the company concerned was properly accredited and that the aircraft had correct standards of air worthiness.

Q: Can he confirm that the accident rate for Eastern European aircraft is vastly higher than NZ aircraft? And that the Minister doesn’t care?

A: Most of what the member says is incorrect. The aircraft had lots of valid certificates. It had written confirmation of standards of emergency equipment. The airline concerned has never had a crash, and the aircraft type concerned is not listed as ever having had a crash.

Q: Was the aircraft banned from landing in Australia?

A: No. That claim too is incorrect. The aircraft did in fact land in Darwin. The plane cannot land at night in Australia because it is noisy. I am informed there are no safety concerns with the aircraft.

Q: Why are NZ troops being transported on chartered Russian aircraft?

A: Because it is the standard practice of the UN to charter aircraft for such purposes. If there were evidence of any safety issues the CAA would not have allowed the aircraft to fly here. There is not a skerrick of evidence of any safety concerns with this.

Q: Can the Minister confirm that Campuchea Airlines was employed to make a troop rotation in 2001, but that the ICAA had audited the Cambodian CAA in 1999 and found they were not able to certify their own nation’s aircraft? And why if he can confirm that, why are our troops being carried around by tinpot airlines?

A: The CAA will not give permission for aircraft about which it has safety concerns.

Question 9.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Does he accept Rod Donald's statement that "in his heart of hearts, he [the Minister] knows that George Bush is extremely dangerous"; if not, what has he done to correct it?

A: No. The answer to the second question is that statements so patently lacking in credibility do not merit a response.

Q: Given his answer yesterday, does he think the American Embassy doesn’t read newspapers or listen to proceedings in this house?

A: I regret that unsustainable comments are made about world leaders by some members of this house. Including colleagues and former colleagues of the questioner who have made comments about Nelson Mandela.

Q: What is the state of our relationship with the US?

A: I think Colin Powell’s summation about the NZ US relationship is very accurate. We are very, very, very good friends.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Does he agree with author John Pilger that murder is murder regardless of whether you collude with it from Downing Street or crash a plane into a building?

A: No I certainly do not agree with that as I do not agree with many things Mr Pilger says. The situations are not comparable. When a terrorist group decides to mass murder 3000 people you can’t sweet talk them back to peace, you have to take action, that’s what the US did, and the UN backed that action.

(Richard Prebble – After a Winston Peters Question was ruled out - what was out of order about that.

Winston Peters – My question was whether they had ever discussed governing with a bunch of pinko fruitloops like Rod Donald or not?

Speaker – The Minister may comment.)

A: What I can say is that we will not enter into coalition with parties that we promise not to enter into as that member did in 1996.

Q: Given that his Government only has a mandate to Govern thanks to Mr Donald, will he apologise for Mr Donald to the US?

A: I never apologise for comments made by people for whom I have no responsibility.

(Rod Donald – for the member’s benefit we have conveyed our views on this directly to the US Ambassador.

Speaker – that is not a point of order.)

Question 10.

MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What initiatives is the Government taking to provide community based access to learning and assessment?

A: This morning I opened the first of two pilot learning centres in Porirua.

Q: Where did the proposal originate?

A: The proposal came from TEAC. The Far North and Porirua were identified as key areas in need of this sort of facility. The centre in Kaitaia will be opened on June 10th.

Q: What measures will he put in place for evaluation?

A: The pilots have two years to run. They are being evaluated in terms of whether they deal effectively with people with low or no qualifications, the people who they are targeted at.

Q: What is being done to improve the TOPS schemes?

A: We have just fully reviewed these schemes.

Question 11.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What is the basis behind his statement in the Budget that "the contention that New Zealand is highly taxed by developed country standards ... rests upon a misrepresentation ... of the comparative tax rates and structures of different countries"?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) It is misleading to compare headline tax rates because in other countries there can be lots of other taxes.

Q: How does he square his answer with the OECD report that shows only two countries tax income and profits at a higher level than NZ does, Denmark and Sweden?

A: The US has a 40% company tax rate and no imputation. The member has to be very careful about misleading people about what the actual tax rates in other countries are. We have a low tax rate, with full imputation and no capital gains tax. In the budget speech I quoted from a recent article in the Economist that looked at the total burden on companies. The article produced a figure of 9.5% of GDP for the US. A comparable figure for NZ is 7.5%.

(Rodney Hide – leave to table an OECD report – granted.)

Question 12.

BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What discussions, if any, has the Government or its representatives had with Qantas, directly or indirectly, on the possible sale of Air New Zealand shares to Qantas?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) None.

Q: In light of confirmation today from Air NZ, does he care to reconsider his answer.

A: Air NZ’s chairman has advised that the company has been in discussion with Qantas on a wide range of issues, including share deals. These discussions have been ongoing since May last year. Nothing has been agreed.

Q: What procedure would be followed should Qantas want to buy a stake?

A: We would expect Qantas to discuss its plans with the board. The board would then be expected to bring a proposal to Government.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Would any deal have a range of negative consequences (listed)?

A: Since the Government became a majority shareholder in Air NZ, the government has adopted a policy of not making comments on Air NZ. All comments on such matters are issues for Air NZ to comment on. The question of selling shares is not something that has been put to the Government. If it is it will be considered carefully.


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