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House: Questions Of The Day (7-12)

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 7.

Hon. Brian Donnelly to the Minister of Education Nick Smith:

Q: How much did his Ministry pay for the contract for Chapman, Tunmer and Prochnow to research the effectiveness of reading recovery?

A: These researchers are undertaking valuable work on literacy. The contract amounts to $93,000 over 7 years. If we are to improve teaching standards we need quality research. There is a healthy debate among researchers on literacy. This paper will be reviewed and will be published. I am confident it will advance literacy in New Zealand.

Question 8.

Trevor Mallard to the Minister for Tertiary Education Max Bradford

Q: On what date was his predecessor first alerted to questions as to the suitability of the former chief executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, and what actions did he take to remedy the situation?

A: (Maurice Williamson on behalf.) As a crown entity it is the board of the authority that has the responsibility for monitoring the performance of the former CEO of the NZQA. We were not aware of the problems till after the CEO had departed .

Q: How did this person receive a six figure salary following his resignation and appointment to a new job?

A: As I said in the principle answer it is for the board to make the decisions relating. That said we have not washed our hands of this matter and investigations will be conducted now the matter has been brought to our attention. The minister has asked for three inquiries. The terms of the contract are to be examined to find whether the payments conform to the letter of the law. An inquiry is also underway into travel and expense claims.

Question 9.

Rodney Hide to the Minister of Revenue Bill English:

Q: Has he any concerns that IRD officers with hardened attitudes may be driving taxpayers to suicide by the over-vigorous pursuit of debt; if not, why not?

A: I am concerned. However I do not accept the assertions at their face value. Some of the individuals who have committed suicide have been pursued by other creditors. In some cases IRD has been asked to pursue bankruptcy proceedings on the other creditors behalf. In general these people have businesses that are failing and this must be seen as a contributory cause.

Q: (Hide) Did an officer brag about how good he was at driving taxpayers to commit suicide?

A: I would be concerned at any such assertion. But I would say that the fact an allegation is made does not therefore make it credible. In general the facts do not stand up to the interpretation that the member is want to put on them. I would be concerned if there is a perception of unfairness concerning the IRD. The job of collecting tax from people whose businesses are failing is very hard. IRD has to be firm and even handed in these circumstances with all taxpayers. I am confident the inquiry will come up with useful recommendations. We need to balance consistency and discretion and fairness and [something else]. The committee should not allow themselves to be distracted by wild allegations.

Question 10.

Hon. Annette King to the Minister of Health Wyatt Creech:

Q: As the findings of the Durham report show that 20 percent of Wellington people are not getting the x-rays they need because they cannot afford them, was the Health Funding Authority aware of this problem prior to the report's release; if so, why has no action been taken other than talking about it?

A: What the report shows as well as has been recognised for some period. New funding is in train to help fix the problem. Importantly people with a need for an acute x-ray will receive x-rays at their public hospital.

Q: Why should patients have to wait months for x-rays and their lives in danger?

A: The period starts on the first of July and the increase in funding will take place from then. There is a difficulty establishing nationally consistent levels. While it may appeal to Annette King to drum up contracts for Capital Coast Health, what about those in Christchurch, Timaru and Otago. Why should people in one part of New Zealand receive fewer services than those in others.

Q: (Prebble) Does he concede that 20% of people have not been able to afford x-rays?

A: The Durham report studied GP access to x-rays. It is a complex paper. By doing a snap-shot of a small group of GPs it tried to get a view on what services are available. There are some concerns from the HFA about the quality of the data but they have nevertheless increased funding for x-rays to try to deal with the problem.

(Report tabled by Annette King into x-rays in Wellington.)

Question 11.

Gerry Brownlee to the Minister of Revenue Bill English:

Q: Has he received any reports from his department on its investigations into the business activities of Mr David Henderson, who has written a book highly critical of the IRD?

A: In a report dated 29th of May Inland Revenue responded in detail about the complaints made concerning Tanadyce.

Q: (Brownlee) Since this report contests the veracity of the report in the book does the minister believe Mr Henderson has something to hide?

A: Judging from a recent article in the Christchurch press Mr Henderson has quite a lot to hide . Mr Henderson has said he is happy to release the report to the media. However he has not made it available. IRD has made it available to the committee however in advance of submissions to be heard in Christchurch on Saturday.

Q: (Mallard) In light of his views that tax evasion is a moral duty is Mr Henderson an example for taxpayers?

A: If we were to have a flat income tax rate of zero Mr Henderson would serve us well. It is in the interests of Justice and fairness for him to release the report.

(Article from Christchurch Press tabled.)

Question 12.

George Hawkins to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: As the Police Commissioner has said that "INCIS had no impact on the risk assessment ... which led them to advocate an end to the cuts" to non-sworn police numbers, why did she say to the House yesterday that the decision had been taken after "We have considered further the delays in INCIS and other matters"?

A: (Wyatt Creech on behalf) The two things being discussed here are different and each one is correct. The decision not to cut non-sworn staff is connected to the delays in INCIS. The review of the police moved people from the herirachy into the front-line. A second review is looking at establishing a fair distribution of police through the country. This cannot be easily disputed as being fair - surely. The review enabled the government to add a further 120 front-line staff. The last Labour Government reduced police numbers. This government is providing police to do their job - fight crime.

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