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House: Questions Of The Day (1-6)

Questions For Oral Answer Wednesday, 16 June 1999

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.

Question 1.

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen to the Minister responsible for Radio New Zealand Ltd Marie Hasler:

Q: Did Mr Rayner absent himself from board discussions, formal or informal, about the possibility of contracting out Radio New Zealand news services; if not, why has he not been dismissed from the board?

A: As I told the House yesterday. There is no conflict on interest. As in any enterprise board members sign an undertaking to avoid conflicts of interest.

How does she consider that in the light of a document and meetings around the country and admissions that further documents exist.

Subsequent to allegations a legal opinion was sought. This information was provided in a letter dated 3rd of June 1999.

* Legal opinion requested to be tabled. Speaker - if she has a legal opinion she must table it - many points of order ---- Turns out there is no written legal opinion - Speaker - so that's the end of the matter.

My role is clearly outlined in the Act. I do not interfere in management decisions.

Q: (Cullen) Does the Minister have a written opinion?

A: I do not have a written legal opinion. I am advised that Buddle Finaly gave verbal advice to the board.

Question 2.

Alec Neill to the Treasurer Bill Birch:

Q: Has he received any recent reports indicating growth prospects; if so, what do they say?

A: The National Bank's regional survey showed economic growth up 1.8% in the March quarter this is a very positive sign. The largest growth in any quarter since 1994. Gains in North and South Island and in urban and rural areas. March visitor arrivals up 11% on 1998 and record high business confidence. In June job ads up 15% on last year. The Government's financial statements show tax ahead of forecast. Quarterly growth in March is very high in urban areas. Auckland 2.2% and 3.6% in Hawkes Bay. I am a very strong supporter of tax cuts and I am sure the National Government will announce tax cuts at the earliest opportunity. The private sector will continue to borrow and invest. The growing external debt needs to be balanced with the value of assets.

Question 3.

Sandra Lee to the Minister of State Services Maurice Williamson:

Q: Has the State Services Commission issued any warning to senior civil servants about the necessity to avoid taking political positions on controversial issues; if so, what monitoring, if any, exists to ensure public servants remain non-partisan?

A: A key part of the State Service Commission's role is to provide guidance to public servants in this area. The code of conduct was reissued in 1998. A new publication has also been provided to senior public servants about principles. The Labour party should cease its harassment of public servants.

Q: Richard Prebble raised allegations concerning a TPK employee using TPK car for campaigning purposes on behalf of the Labour party.

A: I was not aware until now, but I will raise the matter with the State Services Commissioner and will release the findings to anyone interested, be it the member or the media.

Question 4.

Rev. Ann Batten to the Minister of Health Wyatt Creech:

Q: Which organisation is responsible for investigating asbestos hazards in local communities, and why does it have that responsibility?

A: Under the Health Act territorial local authorities have responsibility for this. They also have powers to deal with hazards under the RMA. They are the best people to be involved because they are locally responsible and locally connected. An investigation at Flat Bush is investigating the hazard at present and the government has been assisting with this. This is clearly the responsibility of Manakau City. I am not accountable for the affairs of Manakau City and members who suggest otherwise are misinforming the public.

Question 5.

Hon. Phil Goff to the Minister of Corrections :

Q: When Marc Maurice was diagnosed as seriously unwell mentally and "unsuitable to be treated in a jail", why was he sent to Mt Eden Prison, where he died by suicide, rather than to the Mason Clinic?

A: This is a tragic incident that occurred a few weeks ago. After treatment at the clinic the young man was returned to Mt Eden. There are set procedures for dealing with such prisoners and an inquiry is now underway to find out what happened. I ask the Member not to pursue this matter until the report of the inquiry is available. The young man only died a few weeks ago and the family should be left to grieve. All of the Member's questions will be answered in the inquiry. I ask the Member again please do not pursue this matter in this place.

Question 6.

Belinda Vernon to the Minister of Education Nick Smith:

Q: What reports has he received regarding the new professional standards and higher graduate salaries negotiated in the recently agreed secondary teachers' collective employment contract?

A: The settlement has been uniformly welcomed as a positive step forward for education. The settlement is a balanced one. The only negative comment I have heard about the settlement is from the Labour party. They are disappointed there will not be a lot of disruption of schools. Pay rates in real terms have increased by 13% for starting teachers and 3% for top of the scale teachers. In real terms primary teachers rates have increased 14% and top of the scale by 17%.

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