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Questions Of The Day (1-6)

Questions For Oral Answer Tuesday, 27 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.

Rodney Hide to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Does she have confidence in the integrity of the Public Service?

A: (Wyatt Creech on behalf) Yes generally I do. New Zealand is served by thousands of responsible public servants. I am therefore very angry at recent incidents in which confidence in the public service may have been damaged.

Q: (Rodney Hide - ACT) How does she reconcile this with statements from IRD officials that criminals have networks inside the IRD?

(not really answered.)

Q: (Helen Clark - Labour) Why then did she call them, "jandal wearing.. unfocused individuals."

A: I would need to know the context. Overall the standard is good and most of the public servants are doing a good job. The Labour Party made many changes in this area and the framework is designed to ensure politicians do not interfere as Helen Clark seems to wish to. The Public Service is now much more efficient than it was prior to Labour Party reforms in 1988.

There are instances when the standards we would all like to be maintained are not maintained. When they occur the PM is disappointed. Because we all should have confidence in a neutral public service.

(Rodney Hide. leave sought to table notes of induction statements from an IRD official - granted.)

Question 2.

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

Q: Does she accept any responsibility as Prime Minister for the continuing controversy surrounding Government administration in areas as diverse as Work and Income New Zealand and INCIS; if not, why not?

A: (Wyatt Creech on behalf) As the member is aware the management of government departments is in the responsibility of the Chief Executives to run operations and of the State Services Commission to supervise. The PM is holding the State Services Commissioner responsible for that supervision.

Q: Given the purchase agreement between the Minister and WINZ why doesn't the PM hold Roger Sowry responsible?

A: Very convenient of Helen Clark to forget that she passed the legislation that created the responsibility arrangements we are concerned with.

Question 3.

Belinda Vernon to the Minister of Revenue Bill Birch:

Q: How do levies on income tax operate and is the Government considering these?

A: The only time I have seen the phrase used is in a statement from Dr Cullen.

(Point of order - Michael Cullen - Labour: This is subject to a personal explanation before question time? - speaker appeared inclined to change restrict answer line. Some points scored. Prebble - "I invite you to think very carefully about the huge extension you are making to members ability to debate. If this ruling is followed the Labour Party will have nothing to say to the PM for the rest of this term". Speaker - "indeed before the bold assertions of the member I said but that it does not remove the matter from debate". )

Birch continued.I have seen a proposal to put aside 8% of the total taxable income. That involves a huge provision for a superannuation fund. The provision would require a reduction in spending, higher taxes or higher debt. It will involve spending $1.3 billion a year.

Q: (Michael Cullen - Labour) Is the government saying that it is totally against partial prepaying of superannuation?

A: What the government is saying is that Michael Cullen cannot promise to set aside 8% of tax without increasing spending, borrowing or taxes by $1.3 billion a year.

Question 4.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters to the Minister for Sport, Fitness and Leisure:

Q: What steps has the Millennium Office taken to ensure that its financial and administrative affairs are totally in order and that staff are fully competent to carry out their roles?

A: All the normal procedures operate. The Audit Office. The Department and the Parliamentary Select Committee are all responsible for performance monitoring. The interim management report says the office is operating well. Staffing matters are a matter for the

Q: Why has the office employed a former employee of the equestrian federation that has had a financial disaster.

A: With regard to the appointment. That was made by the Secretary of Internal Affairs in the normal way. I have kept closely briefed on the broadcast. Through the BBC we will get a half-hour audience of over 850 million. I believe the broadcast and the millennium office will deliver huge value to New Zealand.

(Trevor Mallard - Labour - leave to table June 1999 bulletin of Equestrian Federation showing the losses - "we did not think it grubby enough to attack her personally" Trevor Mallard directed at Winston Peters - who then took great umbrage at aspersions.)

Question 5.

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

Q: Is the New Zealand Herald correct in reporting that forceful representations have been made to her by Dr Roderick Deane of Telecom and that as a consequence the Government has delayed the introduction of changes to competition law already approved by Cabinet; if not, when will the legislation be introduced?

A: (Wyatt Creech on behalf) The government has had regular discussions with companies throughout New Zealand about the Commerce Act including Dr Deane. The government is working on a proposal for the Commerce Act and when we make a final decision we will introduce it. (Comment from Helen Clark commented on).

Question 6.

Jim Anderton to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: In view of the worst ever June trade deficit of $1.7 billion, what policies is the Government considering in order to reduce the increase in imports?

A: The government does not intend to set out to reduce imports. That would involve tariffs which would increase the cost of goods to consumers or increasing interest rates an action which is not within the scope of government. The deficit will reduce as exporters earn more. I am confident that as world growth continues this will happen. CER has been very great benefit for New Zealand. The best way to improve it is to get on with negotiating it on a sound basis of free-trade policy which this government has and the opposition doesn't. We have done several things ACC Reform and Producer Board Reform to assist and other things which Labour is telling business audiences behind the scenes that it will not really get rid of.

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