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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 11 June

Today’s questions concerned: Election Date – Boatpeople – PPTA Settlement Failure – Economic Development – Early Election (Constitutionally Speaking) – Boatpeople – PPTA – Tertiary Commission Appointments – PM on PPTA – Premature Businesses – Refugee Detention – State Ward Truancy

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 11 June 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.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

(Much laughter and disorder.

Speaker – Order, the fun’s over.)

Q: When does she intend to announce the date of the election?

A: At midday today I announced the election for the 27th of July. I am looking forward to the campaign.

Q: What will be the key focus of the campaign?

(More disorder.)

A: I will be seeking a strong mandate to carry on with the work we have begun in our first term.

Q: Bill English: How much will she pay to resolve the teachers dispute?

A: I have made comments before about turkeys calling for an early Christmas. The PPTA know what they prefer when faced with a choice of bulk funding and individual contracts.

Q: Richard Prebble: Why won’t she be frank and admit that the real reason for the election is higher interest rates in November in marginal electorates. Plus the fact that export prices are falling, and because they haven’t succeeded in confronting violent crime?

A: We have just seen the outline of ACT’s election campaign which I predict will be rather unsuccessful.

Q: Winston Peters: Will the PM admit that by calling an early election she is throwing in the towel because her budget is in tatters.

A: It would be a rather odd economist who would say that this government hadn’t handled the economy rather well.

Question 2.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Has she been informed of the media report headed "Boatpeople in open seas bound for NZ"; if so, will she give a guarantee that these boatpeople will not be able to queue jump to get residence in New Zealand?

A: I have seen the report. I am not aware of whether the boat is anywhere near NZ. Last reported it was off the coast of Java.

Q: Richard Prebble: Will she make a statement this afternoon that no asylum seekers on that boat will be given residence here in NZ?

A: With respect to that particular boat. The SMH reports boat is so ramshackle that its propeller fell off.

Q: Is she preparing for the boat’s arrival?

A: We have been aware for a long time about rumours of boats. That is why we have tough legislation on the table that I urge members to pass this week?

Q: Bill English: Will boat people get residence? Yes or No?

A: Boat people will be dealt with in accordance with the Immigration Act. Boat people who are found not to be refugees will be dealt with. Genuine refugees will be dealt with in accordance with the UN convention. Our tough legislation shows we are committed to protecting NZs borders.

Q: Peter Dunne: Can she locate such a vessel if there is one?

A: I am very confident that our Orion Crews are able to keep an eye on the situation for us if a situation arises.

Question 3.

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

Q: Does she still have confidence in her Minister of Education, following the second failure to achieve a settlement in teachers' collective employment agreement talks?

A: Yes.

Q: Does she stand by her statement on Friday saying that the package was attractive?

A: Yes I stand by that comment. I hope the good faith processes will continue to work and that the Ministerial Taskforce will do good work.

Q: Will the Government negotiate?

A: Yes. And I am certain that what we will achieve will be vastly preferred to the bulk contracts and individual employment agreements promised by National and ACT.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata: Why didn’t she do something for good teachers earlier?

A: That is code for individual contracts and I will not support that.

Q: Bill English: When will she stop using education as a vehicle for political slogans?

A: Crocodile tears won’t impress anyone. Under this government teachers can bargain in good faith for a collective contract. This is something they couldn’t do under National’s ECA.

Question 4.

JOHN WRIGHT (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What reports has he received on the success of the Government's economic, regional and industry development programmes, and what do these reports indicate?

A: I have received a report that says that $6.6 million has been granted to 81 companies. The grants create jobs. During May 26 new projects received grants, including an innovative photo restoration company in Auckland.

Q: What about regional partnerships?

A: All regions of NZ are now committed to partnership plans. These are creating sustainable jobs. Nine regions are growing at over 4%. Several regions have received millions of dollars.

Q: How much faster would the regions grow if they weren’t paying extra tax under this government?

A: Much faster than they would under National.

Question 5.

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

Q: In light of comments from the Progressive Coalition that "The reality is there is absolutely no constitutional need for an early election and there doesn't seem to be any public will [for one]", does she intend to call an early election; if so, why?

A: I have called an early election to give an opportunity for the will of the majority of electors to be represented in this house properly.

Q: Bill English (Natoinal): Given there is no constitutional reason, can she confirm her real reason is high interest rates, health cuts and teacher strikes?

A: I seem to recall the Leader of the Opposition begging for an election. Now he is terrified of one.

Q: Rod Donald: Is the real reason for the election the failure of her non-defection legislation to stop Jim Anderton quitting his party?

A: As the member has observed people defect whether there is legislation or place or not. A mix of factors have turned this parliament into a farce, and the Leader of the Opposition might like to reflect on his contribution to that.

(Gerry Brownlee – Can the PM now explain what is going to happen with Jim now she has announced he is standing for another party at the election.

Speaker – Good try. But not in accordance with standing orders.)

Question 6.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phill Goff:

Q: What steps is New Zealand taking to prevent transnational organised crime groups smuggling illegal migrants to New Zealand?

A: We are taking a number of steps. We are working with other countries. We have made it clear to boat crews and captains what the consequences will be for them. And the passage of the bill this week creating an offence of migrant smuggling is obviously an important step.

Q: How has the message been communicated? And what is it?

A: The message is that crews will face 20 years in prison. The message to migrants is that the journey to NZ is long and dangerous. That message has been delivered both by myself and the PM in Indonesia, and also in a pamphlet distributed in migrant communities and sea ports.

Q: What plans does the Government have for dealing with the boat on the way here?

A: There are two reports on boats. One is an unseaworthy vessel probably headed for Australia. There are other rumours of larger boats being prepared. We are working with Indonesia to stop such ships from embarking. Finally if a boat does get here the crew will be severely punished with sentences of up to 20 years?

Q: Stephen Franks (ACT): But can’t they only actually be held for seven years in our soft jails?

A: The sentence is 20 years and is set at a deterrent level. That is so to prevent the benefits from outweighing the costs.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Why hasn’t the Government responded to Air Line concerns?

A: I am informed that their concerns are not a risk. To offend to the level of recklessness is a very high threshold. They would have to not give a damn about bringing people to NZ.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Can he give us an assurance that any boat that arrives will be turned around and sent home?

A: In the unlikely event a ship enters our waters it would be boarded and seized. The people wouldn’t be turned around. It wouldn’t be practical.

Question 7.

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

Q: Why did he reportedly tell the Principals' Council that "he was not prepared to re-enter negotiations", that "he saw no point in negotiating with a union that had no mandate from its members" and that "come July 1 he had no option but to offer teachers individual contracts based on the collective", as recorded in a letter to the Prime Minister and Minister of Labour from Russell Trethewey?

A: Teachers go onto individual contracts automatically unless rolled over everybody knows that already. Secondly it is not my role to negotiate. Thirdly union negotiators need a mandate to negotiate. That is why the PPTA is going back to its members for a mandate.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Where does he keep finding millions? And isn’t it any wonder that teachers are so frustrated with him?

A: I think people around NZ are getting a little unhappy about the confusion being spread by that member. That member who is promoting bulk funding and individual contracts. And that member who has misled the public when he knows the average salary for teachers is over $52,000.

Q: What steps have been taken towards a settlement?

A: We have agreed to a roll-over. Something that appears to be opposed by the other side of the house. We have also set up a taskforce independent of the negotiations. This is appreciated by teachers.

Q: In light of advice that industrial action by teachers will resume, why is the Government still negotiating?

A: It is the level of industrial action that is the issue. As long as students are being taught we will negotiate.

Q: Liz Gordon (Alliance): Is the NCEA being affected?

A: Level 1 is well underway. Some students have already achieved the required standards. It was a system that was set up by the National Party. But not funded by them. We have spent over $60 million fixing up their mess.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Does the Minister agree individual contracts will be better?

A: I do think we need to pay good teachers more. But I think there are better ways to do that than individual contracts.

Q: Why has he failed to resolve the dispute before the election?

A: I am an optimist. Secondary teacher salaries have increased on average from $47,000 to $52,000 under this government. This offer was fair and is much more than many NZers have received recently.

(Nick Smith - leave to table an email titled “What To Do When Ducks Go Bad” – refused.)

Question 8.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education):

Q: What announcement is he making today regarding the Tertiary Education Commission?

A: Yesterday Government agreed to appoint six new members to Transition TEC. It is intended their appointments will be further confirmed once the TEC has been established. We had 250 applicants. We got a shortlist in May. We agreed on the final list yesterday and showed them to our caucuses this morning.

Q: Is the Minister aware that appointments are not made once an election has been called?

A: These people were confirmed yesterday. They are being appointed to the Transition body.

Q: Why hasn’t he followed the advice of TEAC on this?

A: I think we have struck the right balance. The TEC has freedom to set policy within boundaries set by government, this balance will ensure its longevity.

Q: What about the Race Relations Conciliator?

A: The Race Relations Conciliator’s position is one we will be consulting on in the usual fashion.

Question 9.

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

Q: Is her statement to the PPTA Conference in October 1997, "You will be valued and treated with respect by the Government I will lead" current Government policy; if so, is her Government meeting that standard?

A: Yes and yes.

Q: Were her comments last Friday implying teachers were too dumb to understand the offer consistent with respect?

A: My comments have implied no such thing. Nor do I think the employment practices of this Government to ever be as bad as the National Party who lost David Dickens after just two weeks. We have no intention of putting teachers on individual contracts. We are bargaining in good faith around a pay increase.

Q: Given her apologies to the Chinese, the Samoan and Gay communities when will she apologise to parents and students for all the disruption her government has caused?

A: Crocodile tears cut no ice on this issue. Given a choice I am confident of what the PPTA will chose.

Question 10.

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Communications Paul Swain:

Q: How does the Government's business incubator development programme support the development of good information and communications technology networks in New Zealand?

A: The 15 incubators will receive money to help businesses start up. Most incubators cater for ICT companies. Some do so exclusively.

Q: How does the programme contribute to the wider programme?

A: This is part of a raft of initiatives designed to achieve the goal of this government to put NZ in the upper half of OECD countries.

Q: John Luxton (National): Why did the latest OECD report show NZ falling behind on ICT then?

A: The member knows that such comparisons are very hard to make. The point about the incubator programme is that it looks after good ideas.

Q: Does the Minister agree that rather than picking winners it would be good to help all small businesses?

A: Every successful OECD country has a similar programme. I would have thought the ACT member would get the hang of that.

Question 11.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Will the Government withdraw clauses 24 to 26 of the Transnational Organised Crime Bill pending a final decision in the refugee case before the High Court, in light of Justice Baragwanath's interim decision that the current Government practice of routinely detaining asylum seekers arriving at our border contravenes the Refugee Convention; if not, why not?

A: No it is not the intention of the Government to do that. Those provisions provide for the interim release of people who would otherwise be held. In his initial decision the Judge invited a legislative response.

Q: Why is he challenging the Judiciary by amending section 128 when the Judge says other provisions should apply?

A: Quotes from the judges decision where he calls for legislation. The judgement is an interim judgment. The judge has actually said to submissioners that Parliament should be the place to decide this. And even Keith Locke will concede that this is an improvement on the present situation. The new conditional release provisions do not require Judicial Review proceedings which the current law does.

Q: Given the affect of this decision is that bogus boat people will be let out. Will he give us an assurance that bogus asylum seekers will not be allowed to walk around NZ for years before they are deported?

A: That is not the effect. This is an interim decision. The judge talked of the need to balance the rights under the UN convention with precaution. We will find that balance.

Q: Keith Locke (Green) Isn’t this change just sugar coating on this policy?

A: No it isn’t. I refer the member to his own press statement where he said this would be an improvement. The fact is that the NZIS looks at each case on its merits. There is a high level of detention, true. But the detention facilities are not inhumane and they are not detained for long either.

Question 12.

BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Can he assure the House that the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services is meeting its legal obligation under the Education Act 1989 for all children in its guardianship to be attending school; if not, why not?

A: I can assure the house that every effort is made to assure the safety of all children in guardianship of the state. In the matter of schools lots of people are involved with making sure children are in school.

Q: In the case recently highlighted by my colleague, of a 14-year-old who has only had 13 days school in the last year - does he agree with the local CYF manager that this is a good chunk of schooling?

A: I can assure the member that every effort has been taken to ensure that this young man’s needs are met. I can also tell the member that the actual facts in this case are not those reported in the media.

Q: What about young adults aged over 16 and under 18 who move outside CYF guardianship but continue at school?

A: We hope they are looked after by the system.

Q: Will he assure us that the law is being followed in this case we have referred to?

A: The department has assured me that every effort has been made to ensure this young man’s educational and personal needs are met.

(Trevor Mallard – leave to table a document on average teacher pay – granted.)


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