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Questions Of The Day (1-6)

Questions For Oral Answer Tuesday, 13 July 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.

Eric Roy to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: What action does the Government intend to take as a result of the United States decision on the importation of New Zealand lamb?

A: Can I begin by saying the Government is very angry with the decision. It is unacceptable. We have therefore decided to request a dispute settlement with the WTO. NZ can request a dispute settlement panel at the WTO to discuss the issue. The Government is absolutely committed to assuring the US is held fully accountable for this decision and steps are underway to ensure this happens.

Q: (Eric Roy) Is this an end to international trade liberalisation?

A: I do not believe this is the end to international trade liberalisation. New Zealand needs consumers. The recent APEC trade ministers meeting was positive. I am also pleased with statements from Washington this morning from John Howard and the US President signifying the importance of the APEC summit in Auckland in September to the process of insuring progress is made.

(Dr Cullen in a supplementary indicated the Labour Party's support for WTO action.)

Question 2.

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Does the Government intend to introduce and pass legislation making changes to tax rates, as outlined at the National Party Conference, before the election; if so, what evidence does she have that the majority of Parliament would support such a move?

A: This is the party that is going to reduce taxes. We have done it in the past and we are going to do it again. We will introduce tax cuts that benefit 2.3 million NZers. The vast majority of those people are middle income and low income NZers. We believe this is something many many NZers want.

Q: (Michael Cullen - Labour) Why not introduce the legislation now - doesn't she have the guts?

A: This party is going to bring down taxes over time. The Labour Party is going to put taxes up. I am much more likely to be able to get support to lower taxes that that Member will get for his plan to put taxes up. This Government believes that taxes should be reduced over time. We have brought taxes down on many occasions. The Treasurer has announced how we can do that next year and has indicated his priorities for the future thereafter.

Question 3.

Rodney Hide to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: Does his dollar for dollar commitment that every dollar in tax reduction will be matched by an extra dollar in Government spending on social services mark a change in Government policy; if so, in what way?

A: Since July 1 1996 the government has reduced taxes by $3 billion and we have increased health and education expenditure by more than that. In that sense the commitment is not new. However we are making a special commitment for the next term to follow this commitment. So the commitment is new but we have in place already the policy to meet this commitment. Our policy is fiscally prudent - far more so than Labour's promise of a $400 million increase in foreign aid.

(Several points of order on slowly developing chaos - "Annette King - stop backchatting me" - "Dr Cullen control yourself today" "My word Tax has got us excited" - Speaker Doug Kidd.)

Question 4.

Hon. Brian Donnelly to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Does she support the concept of quotas to ensure employment opportunities within the State sector are improved for Maori and Pacific Islanders; if so, why?

A: The Government does not support quotas we do support equal opportunities programmes. Good progress overall is being made.

Q: Supplementary Ron Mark - raised appointment of a Maori National party official with name suppression . (stopped before the individual was named).

("We are not going to allow the express breach of a court order" - Speaker - question ruled out of order.)

Question 5.

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

Q: As Canterbury Health identified the fault which has put 1,331 patients at risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis in April 1999, when was he advised of this problem, and is it acceptable to the Government for the hospital to wait three months before advising patients and clinicians of this risk?

A: These events are unacceptable to the Government. I have asked the DG of Health for advice on the type of inquiry necessary. The DG will conduct an inquiry into this and the inquiry should be finished quickly. The Health and Disability Commissioner will also undertake an inquiry which will take two to three weeks.

Q: Can he assure NZ there will be transparency in this process?

A: Yes I can. The Commissioner's reports are anyway and the Ministry of Health one will be too.

Question 6.

Jim Anderton to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: How does New Zealand's productivity performance in the 1990s compare with other developed countries?

A: OECD results for total productivity growth from 1993 to 1997 shows productivity growth comparable to our competitors. In late 1980s it slowed and then picked up in 1993. We are about the middle of the OECD in this. Buying back ACC repealing the ECA and backing away from free trade are hardly likely to help.

Q: How do we compare with Australia?

A: From 1979 to 1997 performance in both countries has been comparable. I am confident that in the next ten years - with good policies - we can do better than Australia.

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