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Questions Of The Day (7-12)

Questions For Oral Answer Tuesday, 22 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.

Annabel Young to the Minister for International Trade Lockwood Smith:

Q: Does he agree with the statement in the Leader of the Alliance's press release that New Zealand is being excluded from regional forums because of its commitment to free trade; if not, why not?

A: No I don't agree. The statement is arrant nonsense and ignores the facts. NZ has a longstanding relationship with ASEAN. Mr Moore's campaign does not signify failure but success and widespread respect for the New Zealand government's views. His bid has been so successful because of New Zealand's strong work. OECD research shows countries with open markets have achieved double the average growth rates of the group as a whole. Research by Auckland University show huge impacts in the wine industry. The evidence is conclusive that trade liberalisation delivers more jobs. I am always suspicious when comments are taken out of context. The facts of the matter are that Indonesia has carried out enormously rapid trade liberalisation, courageously. Malaysia has one of the lowest levels of tariffs of any nation faced by New Zealand exporters. The truth is that Asian nations have done a wonderful job of liberalising trade and have as a consequence lifted a greater number of people out of poverty in the process faster than at any other stage in human history. Those are the facts.

Question 8.

Hon. Phil Goff to the Minister of Justice Tony Ryall:

Q: With four known occasions where the processing and analysis of DNA samples has involved errors leading to actual and potential miscarriages of justice, will he now widen the ministerial inquiry into DNA into a more comprehensive examination of the handling, analysis and presentation of results from DNA samples; if not, why not?

A: I have asked the Ministry of Justice to report to me on the latest case. Until I have received the report I will not comment on the terms of reference. I expect to have the report to hand later this week. I appreciate the emotion in the member's question. Until I receive the report - which I will provide to the House - I would be derelict in my duties if I relied on media speculation at this stage. I take the responsibility seriously and I will not jump into the newspapers on this until the facts have been established.

Question 9.

Liz Gordon to the Minister for Tertiary Education Max Bradford:

Q: How much did Dr Douglas Blackmur receive in performance bonuses as Chief Executive of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority and was that the maximum available to him?

A: During the 2 years and 2 months Blackmur received bonuses totalling $22,000 (roughly) this was the maximum.

Q: Can he confirm that Blackmur also received two pay increases in 1998?

A: No. I can't confirm that. That is a matter I will be reported to on by the State Services Commissioner as I announced last week. All matters relating to Blackmur were matters relating to the board.

Q: (Mallard..)Can he remember who the Minister of State Services was at the time the contract was put in place?

A: It is not difficult to work out. (tittering) Oh so the member does know who it was. If the member knows the answer why is he asking?

(Liz Gordon sought to table document on performance of NZQA - small debate - objected to.)

Question 10.

Trevor Mallard to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: Will the "radical change" the Government is proposing to the structure of State entities involve Ministers taking responsibility for errors made by boards they appoint and monitor; if not, why not?

A: Crown entities cover a wide range of organisations including schools and RHAs - the government has been working through a range of issues in relation to exit payments and that work is nearing completion.

Q: Why is there no simple set of rules on this?

A: The simple reason for the lack of simple consistent rules is that across the range of entities there are a range of relationships with ministers. Some entities have statutory independence. Others such as the - HFA parliament expects to have a direct relationship with the minister.

Q: Does he agree with the statement that Mrs Shipley was the minister who approved this contract?

A: I am not able to answer the Blackmur question in detail because I am not familiar with the details.

Question 11.

Gerry Brownlee to the Minister of Police Clem Simich:

Q: How many extra police has the Government delivered in the past 12 months?

A: 200 in the past year. Very much in keeping with the commitment to deliver resources to police. This is on top of the 500 who will be delivered by the end of this year.

Q: (George Hawkins - Labour) How many non-sworn police were sacked in the police review?

A: 195 non-sworn police are due to be taken out of the force as a result of the review. In addition there are also a large number of senior positions which have been made redundant.

Q: (Prebble - ACT) Can he confirm that none of the extra police are for Wellington?

A: That is not correct. The number of police in Wellington District as opposed to what they had last year is being increased not reduced. The member should get his facts straight. Similarly John Winter has not been moved or dismissed he has simply returned to base in Christchurch. He has applied for a new position in Nelson and I wish him luck in that.

Question 12.

Harry Duynhoven to the Minister of Transport Maurice Williamson:

Q: Does the Government intend to back down on the fees being charged for bus driver licences; if so, what has changed since the fees were set to require this change?

A: I announced earlier today that changes are being made to bus-drivers licenses. We have listened carefully to the messages of the people who are affected. And we have responded to their concerns. I must stress that bus-drivers would not have been affected till May next year - the new changes will come into effect in October. When we had original consultations with the industry they were delighted with the idea of not having medical checks every year. It was only later when the calculations were made that it became clear that the five year cost would be high. Drivers - particularly part-time and rural drivers - want flexibility. We are giving it to them. I am pleased to report that the error rate in licensing is running at less than half of 1%. Operational matters are being fixed as the new system beds down. The dollars behind the charges are confirmed by the Audit office. The reason it costs what it does is because it is not simply a computer checking process - there are also people who check notes and other things. The $28 charged by the police is fair and reasonable.

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