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Questions Of The Day (1-6)

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 1.

Rt Hon. Helen Clark to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: What advice, if any, did she receive about the conditions under which John Hawkesby left Television New Zealand before claiming that he "got $1 million as he walked away from Television One"?

A: (Wyatt Creech on behalf.) - (Point of Order Creech - The PM is at the APEC women's conference. That is well within the scope of official duties. It is outside standing orders to draw attention to absence of members.) I am concerned about the exit payments made in some cases by SOE's and Crown Entities. TVNZ is owned by taxpayers, the facts must be established to find what is fair and reasonable. In March Mr Hawkesby was reported saying he was claiming $2 million. My comments are certainly within the range of what has been discussed.

Q: (Clark - Labour) When should we take statements literally, and when is she making things up?

A: The fact of the matter is that Mr Hawkesby was reported as claiming $2 million. I would expect that any responsible member of Parliament would be concerned at these sorts of payments being made by the taxpayer.

Q: (National) When did these types of payment originate?

A: They have their origins in the 1980s when the Labour Government relaxed the laws relating to senior management's availability to personal grievance provisions. I have no difficulty in principle with this. But in a handful of cases the payments have been excessive. The Government is committed to dealing with this problem.

Later: The PM was expressing her concern about excessive exit payments. I would have thought Pam Corkery would agree with this.

Question 2.

Dr Wayne Mapp to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: Does he agree with the Leader of the Opposition's reported claim that the Government's approach to economic policy in New Zealand is a neo-liberal, hands-off approach; if not, why not?

A: The fundamentals of the NZ economy are sound and consist of principles which have been endorsed by Labour's Dr Michael Cullen - who said - "we remain committed to the competitive economy we have created" in a recent speech. Ms Clark however seems to have a different view. The Government is continually assessing what can be done to improve economic growth. We are committed to lowering taxes. We are in the process of reforming ACC and lowering costs on NZ business. Right now are in discussions with the rural sector on a plan to reverse the poor performance of that sector. One of the recent payoffs has been that we have weathered what would otherwise have been a serious recession - an economic crisis, two droughts and record low commodity prices. We have come out of that recession very quickly. The issue now is how long we can grow the economy and how fast.

Question 3.

Jim Anderton to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: When the Prime Minister referred to the benefits of tariff reduction in her speech yesterday, why wasn't there mention of the level of New Zealand's total overseas debt and the impact of tariff removal on total overseas debt?

A: I am advised by the PM that the reason she didn't mention the impact of tariff removal on overseas debt is because there is no direct relationship.

Q: (Anderton - Alliance) Does he understand that cheap imports drive up the amount of debt?

Q: Which goods would he regulate and put the price up for. I challenge the member to campaign on the basis of raising tariffs and the prices of goods to New Zealanders. Is he going to put up the price for example of cars? Reduction in tariffs makes ownership of cars cheaper. List prices for family cars have reduced by $2000.

In reply to Michael Cullen - Labour: NZ has a clear view on the costs of protection on its economy. How would that member deal with Jim Anderton?

(Point Of Order: Cullen - He may be new to his job. He has no responsibility for my views. None at all.)

This Government has considerably reduced the amount of government debt. The level of private debt is up to individuals to decide.

Question 4.

Peter Brown to the Minister of Transport Maurice Williamson:

Q: Does he agree that if airline pilots had dual occupations it could, in some circumstances, prejudice aircraft and passenger safety?

A: Yes. The Government has addressed the problems of this through regulations which govern pilot safety issues.

Q: (Peter Brown - NZF) Can he confirm that co-pilot on City-Jet flights have to pay to fly in order to build up flying hours?

A: I have no idea what a co-pilot on a City-Jet is paid and I certainly do not intend to get into setting pay rates for pilots.

Question 5.

Steve Maharey to the Minister of Social Services, Work and Income Roger Sowry:

Q: Is he satisfied with the way Work and Income New Zealand is implementing the new childcare subsidy policy; if so, why?

A: I was not satisfied with the way the policy was being implemented. I have spoken to WINZ about problems experienced by both providers and parents. WINZ is working hard to address these problems.

Q: (Maharey) When will he sort this out?

A: I have not seen the survey the member talks about. But I have seen other documents complementing WINZ on its responsiveness. The problems appear to have arisen out of the government decision to extend the programme of assistance for childcare to parents of older children. It is regrettable if in any correspondence Social Welfare numbers are visible.

Question 6.

Hon. Ken Shirley to the Minister of Justice Tony Ryall:

Q: Does he agree with the reported claim by the Minister of Maori Affairs that the Race Relations Conciliator is undermining the position of Maori "by pushing a policy of multiculturalism which devalues the status of Maori"?

A: Maori and the crown enjoy a direct relationship under the TOW. The treaty plays an important role throughout government activities including in the Race Relations Conciliator's office. The office has statutory independence and operates within its legislative mandate. The commissioner advises me the Treaty plays an important role in the operation of his office. The Race Relations Conciliator does not consult me on his complaints. Under the Human Rights Act the office accepts complaints from all people. The office is fully aware of the Treaty as the founding document of the Nation.

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