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Questions Of The Day (1-6)

Questions For Oral Answer Thursday, 17 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.

(Point of order complaint from Jonathan Hunt about "ultimate patsy" question - No. 1)

Question 1.

Hon. Roger F H Maxwell to the Minister of Justice Tony Ryall:

Q: Has he received any reports on what international research suggests is the best way to reduce crime?

A: Yes. The international evidence shows fear of being caught and fear of being locked up is an important tool in reducing crime Stronger sentences are an international trend. This is part of a three point plan for reducing crime.

Q: (Phil Goff - Labour) Can he confirm that fear of apprehension is a far greater deterrent than fear of sentencing? And is the wrong emphasis the reason for the low rate of burglary clearance?

When a burglar is arrested he only cops to a few of his crime. That is why the clearance rate is low. Fear of apprehension is a key element in the crime reduction strategy. I have a report that Mr Dunyhoven (MP for New Plymouth) has promised more police while Helen Clark has said there will be no more police.

(Phil Goff - tabled a Justice Department paper.)

Question 2.

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen to the Minister of Finance Bill English:

Q: Is the payment of a golden handshake to an employee who resigns voluntarily from a Crown entity consistent with Government policy; if so, how many contracts contain such clauses?

A: (Bill Birch on behalf.) No it is not consistent with good public policy. Each crown entity is responsible for its own employee contract. However the State Services Commission would not assent to any provision such as that asserted here. The Government expects remuneration to be fair but conservative. There are all manner of conditions around redundancies resignations and retirements it is important that we do not generalise with these cases. It is not expected that boards are encouraged to promise payments on departure . I understand that the ministers of Finance and State Services are reviewing the area of staff contracts in crown entities including contracts between boards and CEOs.

Q: Can he confirm three other cases of six-figure payouts?

A: No I cannot confirm that. My colleague the Minister Max Bradford has asked the SSC to review the contract. That unquestionably will lead into inquiries into earlier contracts. Also a Crown Law opinion has been asked for on whether the payment conforms with the letter of the law.

Q: Has the NZQA set aside $2.3 million for disbursements and redundancy?

A: No. I am sure that is not a line item in the budget. But I am sure the Minister would be prepared to answer such a question if it were put to him.

Question 3.

Hon. Richard Prebble to the Minister of Maori Affairs Tau Henare

Q: Has the chief executive of Te Puni Kokiri issued guidelines to staff of his department on appropriate behaviour of staff who are seeking election to Parliament?

A: Yes. I have confidence in my CEO. He wrote to a possible candidate in December 1998 outlining his circumstances and obligations under the State Sector Act. I do not believe there is anything untoward in this. If there is I would like to see some evidence. I do not have any information on the allegations that are made. My CEO has not received any information on the allegations. If anyone has any substantive evidence please drop it on my table or on the CEOs.

Question 4.

John Wright to the Minister for Enterprise and Commerce Max Bradford::

Q: Has the Pork Industry Board application to take a case for action against subsidised pork imports to the World Trade Organisation been considered and approved yet; if not, why not?

A: (John Luxton) The NZ Pork Industry Board has lodged an application against increased imports of pigmeat. The first stage in this process is an investigation. The minister can then request a tariff which would have to be tabled in this house and gazetted. ( To supplementary from Mr Wright ) For a country such as NZ that is vitally interested in freeing up trade absolutely we refute any suggestions we should not be pursuing that objective . I suggest the member reads this mornings NZ Herald. NZ's domestic legislation reflects that any requirement will be carried out in accordance with WTO provisions. The Minister has not expressed a position with respect to this application. He must ensure the legislation is followed and that requires an investigation be carried out first.

Question 5.

Mrs Jenny Bloxham to the Minister of Health Wyatt Creech:

Q: Does the Government still hold the view that the privatisation of public health services, such as cardiothoracic services, is in the best interest of the taxpayer; if so, why?

A: The Government is committed to a publicly funded health system. A significant amount of health services are provided in the private sector. In tertiary services private providers are only approached where there is insufficient capacity. (In supplementary to Ken Shirley) I take the members point that the people want the maximum number of health services they can receive for their money. The decision not to award the Southern Cardio-Thoracic contract in the first place was taken a long time ago in the second place the new contract does not involve the same individual.

Question 6.

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

Q: Is the Government considering imposing further user charges on common diagnostic tests for serious diseases, including cancer; if so, why?

A: No. Scheduled diagnostic tests will continue to be paid for by the government.

Q: (Annette King - Labour) How then can he explain that officials were considering just three weeks ago whether to charge $20 for laboratory tests and that this has been shelved till after the election?

-- rumbles from the back bench...SECRET AGENDA

Retort: Phil Goff is the one with the secret agenda he is going to take over from Helen Clark as soon as he can.

The papers he refers to are ones not in the scope of government policy. The HFA has informed me that they are concerned some over referral rates are occurring in some areas and are running an education programme costing $1 million to address this problem.

(King tabled - document dated 26th of May 1998 - HFA document saying part charging is being deferred till after the election. )

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