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 some days after the event.
Belinda Vernon to the Minister of Finance Bill English:
Q: What are the pros and cons of the top personal tax rate diverging from the corporate tax rate?
A: The wider the gap the bigger the problem will be. I have seen reports now that Dr Cullen is offering to lower the company tax rate to under 30%. Now the Labour party is running on a policy of both raising and lowering taxes. As a result they will have to increase anti-avoidance measures to deal with the absurd consequences of their policy. Particularly the impact on self-employed people choosing to operate as a company. I invite that member to tell his urban faithful audiences that Labour is planning to drop the corporate tax rate just as he is telling business audiences. When you are a party advocating lowering taxes there are a large range of possibilities in what you can do - that is what this government is doing. Every politician in Australia moans about the tax-avoidance industry. The tax policy of Labour and the Alliance should be separated. At least the Alliance is consistent.
Hon. Annette King to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:
Q: Is the media report that she handed out a "vicious barracking to staff on Wednesday over a dismal performance by Health Minister Wyatt Creech in a television interview over immunisation" correct; if so, what was the nature of her concerns?
A: My criticism was of the lack of balance in one of TV1's stories. The important thing is for people to understand that this Government was the first Government to implement a comprehensive immunisation strategy in 1995. Annette King quite wrongly claimed we ignored advice from officials - this is patently untrue. We have achieved remarkable rates of immunisation as a result of the strategy and all targets have been achieved since the programme was implemented - except in 1997 for reasons that the member knows well. I can confirm that as part of the strategy a database was to be established. I am angry that it hasn't been. The HFA as it was being merged from four into one decided to defer this part of the strategy. So far as the dip in 1997 is concerned Public Health experts believe that media reports dented confidence in immunisation in 1997 and led to the dip in rates. On July 30 1997 a story was broadcast on Radio New Zealand linking immunisation with a disease. The Herald and Dominion then gave it prominence. Research since has failed to find the connection with the disease suggested in the story.
Hon. Peter Dunne to the Minister responsible for Radio New Zealand Ltd.:
Q: Can she guarantee that the provisions of section 7(1)(f) and (g) of the Radio New Zealand Act 1995 are being and will continue to be met?
A: As outlined in section 15 of the act it is the responsibility of the Board to consider contracting out news. Section 13 (1) prevents me from giving them an order on contracting news. I have already assured the house there are no plans to contract out news services. Unlike the Labour opposition I am a proponent of free speech. I will judge the board on what they do - not on what they think or talk about. Under the current RNZ board RNZ has achieved the best results in the ratings ever in the latest survey. In 1997 RNZ was $2.3 million in deficit - we have guaranteed them $2 million for three years to ensure they remain financially viable.
George Hawkins to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:
Q: Does she believe it is appropriate for the Minister of Police to request the names of individual police officers who have been publicly "moaning" about policing matters such as staff cuts so that they can "get a smack"; if not, what action has she taken to reprimand the Minister?
A: It is not appropriate for the Minister to get names of officers in this way. It is the responsibility of the Minister to pass on information concerning complaints made to his office to district mangers. This Minister Of Police has an excellent story to tell. The Labour Government reduced the number of police - this Government has increased the number by more than 900. And the public know that. Later today the minister will make an announcement on non-sworn police numbers.
.Arthur Anae to the Minister of Justice Tony Ryall:
Q: Why will this Government not consider a recommendation to raise the number of Maori seats in Parliament?
A: The number of Maori seats depends on the number on the electoral role when it rises the number of seats rise. I am aware of a proposal to increase the number of seats to 15. This would make each Maori vote worth twice a non-Maori vote. Is this fair? My advice is that under such a scheme the number of voters in Maori electorates would be 17,000 compared to 37,000 in non-Maori seats.
Q: (Helen Clark) In answering the question does he speak for Tau Henare?
A: I know the member is anxious again to endorse Mrs Turia's proposal. Yes I have. He has made it clear to me that he supports increasing the numbers on the Maori role.
Q: (Henare) Can he confirm that I suggested putting people on the role and then giving them the option of opting off the Maori role.
A: Yes I am aware that is what you suggested. I consider that the question of whether there should or should not be Maori seats is a matter for Maori to decide.
Hon. Jim Sutton to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:
Q: What factors is she taking into account in setting the date of the General Election?
A: The main factors are electoral requirements.
Q: Can she confirm that if she remains Prime Minister till 8 December that she will qualify for a Prime Ministerial pension.
A: I can faithfully tell the member I did not know that. However it confirms that the only thing the Labour party thinks about is how to get their trotters in the trough. Justice department advice is that there should be at least 43 days notice of an election.
Q: (Sandra Lee - Alliance) Can she confirm that one of the factors in timing the election will be ensuring she has the numbers to legitimately govern and if not how can she claim to be Prime Minister.
A: On the last confidence vote this Government kept its numbers while the Opposition numbers fell. I suggest the member learn to count.