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Questions Of The Day (1-6)

Questions For Oral Answer Wednesday, 23 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

. Gerry Brownlee to the Minister of Social Services, Work and Income Roger Sowry:

Q: Does he agree with recent comments that unemployment figures have increased by 85,000?

A: (Wyatt Creech on behalf) No. Absolutely not. The number of unemployed fell by 8000 in February. Nearly every figure in the interview is incorrect. People in responsible positions should supply the public with correct information. 4000 fewer DPB beneficiaries than at the same time last year. The proportions of DPB's cancelled due to return to work has increased from 22% to 32%. We are improving the situation.

Q: (Anderton - Alliance) Can he confirm that there were 103,000 jobless in 1984 and now 220,000 jobless?

A: It may have escaped the members attention but the population has increased in that period. The number of people in work is higher than it has ever been.

Question 2.

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

Q: In view of her reported challenge to Television New Zealand to release the range of figures under discussion with John Hawkesby, will she, as Prime Minister, require the Minister of State Services and the Minister responsible for the Fire Service, to release details of the payment made to Mrs Jean Martin when she resigned from the Fire Service; if not, why not?

A: My purpose in making the points I did, is that if we are going to discuss these things we should have one set of rules for people employed by Government departments, SOE's and Crown Entities. I remind the Members opposite that there are people in the public service who are aware that the Labour opposition wants us as Ministers to be aware of all their individual contracts. If that is what they are saying then say it properly.

Q: Does she accept that she misled the nation and that her standards are below those she stands for

A: I made it clear yesterday that I was led to believe that a settlement had been made. I now accept that it is not, and that it is still under discussion. I notice also that the man concerned is happy to have the details made public once finalised. While the Labour Opposition makes great play of this - in the late 1980s they made a flood of these excessive payouts. For example Government Print - there people got huge golden handshakes only to turn up doing the same job on Monday morning. We are going to fix this. Trevor Mallard has made great play of this. He was also here when many, many six figure sums were paid to individuals.. (much disorder) You won't win the election on dirt.

Question 3.

Peter Brown to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Why does she continue to have Ministers in charge of various portfolios when increasingly Ministers are claiming to be not responsible for the actions of their boards?

A: Ministers do have oversight of boards. Some recent incidents have highlighted problems and these concerns are being addressed. An announcement will be made in around three weeks. It is quite clear there are problems. But it is also true that there are 3000 crown entities, and the vast majority do a jolly good job.

Q: (Clark) Why not tell us what the payout was for Jean Martin?

A: The member is quite aware that the illustrations this week show that if we are going to disclose the details of all payment deals then we should be consistent.

Question 4.

Jim Anderton to the Minister for Enterprise and Commerce Max Bradford:

Q: When was the last time the Holidays Act 1981 was amended to extend the minimum annual leave entitlement, and is that entitlement being reviewed?

A: The minimum entitlement has not been extended since 1981. The review last year was to clarify, simplify and make more flexible - not change the entitlement.

Q: Is he aware that other countries have 1-4 weeks more leave than us and lower unemployment?

A: Yes I am. I am also aware that the US has only two weeks of entitlement and unemployment of 5.3%. The cost of extending leave by a week would be around $380 million to $420 million a year. This would be financed by reduced wages or fewer jobs.

Question 5.

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen to the Minister of Tourism Lockwood Smith:

Q: Is it Government policy that Bryan Mogridge and Michael Wall should return all the money that they received as a payment to leave the Tourism Board; if not, why not?

A: Yes.

Q: Does he then stand by statement that it would be unreasonable for them to get nothing?

A: Quite clearly where the Auditor General has indicated that in his view the way the payments were made was unlawful, the best way to sort this out is to have the money returned. That said the men involved have suffered some costs and losses as a result of this matter. It would therefore be sensible to negotiate a totally transparent and lawful settlement. I have been working on this for the past few weeks. I want to avoid costing taxpayers a lot more so I am trying to be as reasonable as possible . I hope to announce a settlement in the next few days. People will see we have a reasonable and fair outcome.

Question 6.

Rodney Hide to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: How much would a three cent cut to the top rate of tax reduce Government revenue by in a year and how does this reduction compare to the increase in Government expenditure that has occurred since 1993/94?

A: If the top tax rates were all moved down to 30% the cost would be $720 million. This compares to increased expenditure of $6.2 billion in the past few years. It is not the intention of this Government to fund tax reductions by borrowing. A cursory examination of the Government books will show that in the next financial year there is not heaps of cash for tax reductions. However National remains pleased to be in favour of lower taxes while Labour is in favour of higher taxes.

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