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Questions Of The Day (7-12)

Dairy Restructuring - Defence Report - David Bale - WTO and Lamb - Plutonium Shipments - Defence Report

Questions For Oral Answer Tuesday, 31 August 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.

Hon. Jim Sutton to the Minister for Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control John Luxton:

Q: Has he considered the Commerce Commission's report on the proposed dairy reform legislation which expresses concern that farmers could be locked in without fair-value entry and exit opportunities; if so, will he slow the progress of the bill to give farmers more time to consult on the proposed legislation and take account of the outcomes of the Commerce Commission hearings?

A: The determination is not a report on the bill. The response to the application is a response to an application from the Dairy Board. The bill will only take effect if three further hurdles are overcome. The draft determination should be seen as an opportunity for the dairy industry to present further information on how they will manage the issues raised..

Q: (Jim Sutton - Labour) Can he confirm that there are lots of unresolved issues in this breakneck legislation?

A: Sharemilking agreements are governed by contracts and the relationship has long been clear. Fair value entry and exit is properly a matter for farmers to decide. Farmers will decide independently of this bill what rights of fair value they want. We believe this is proper. The bill is the outcome of a strategic approach taken by the dairy leadership who recognise a need for fundamental change and an overriding need for deregulation of their industry.

Q: (Owen Jennings - ACT) What will he do about sharemilkers?

A: There have been other changes made to share structure in recent years which were dealt with by farmers - not by the government - we believe it is appropriate to leave those matters up to dairy farmers and their contracts with sharemilkers.

Question 8.

Annabel Young to the Minister of Defence Max Bradford:

Q: Has he received any reports proposing a radical change in New Zealand's defence and security position?

A: Yes. Two. First is today's Evening Post report that says Labour will ditch Frigates and F-16s. The second is the report of the Select Committee yesterday. The opposition parties are saying to Australia, Singapore, and the US that we are not prepared to pull our weight. I am amazed that the opposition ignore the fact that New Zealand is surrounded by water. Any report that says we should dispose up our navy and air force should send a shiver up reasonable peoples' spines. What the Australians would say to such news would be unprintable. I invite members to read the defence assessment. That sets out a prioritisation of defence expenditure that is within this nation's capabilities.

Q: Does he agree with the Christchurch Press that an angry minister of defence brought down a whip on its members?

A: I am not inclined to. I am more inclined to believe independent commentators who have dumped on the report including an article in the Press yesterday saying that Australia regards New Zealand as a grasping neighbour. (Leave sought to table the latter article - refused.)

Question 9.

Trevor Mallard to the Minister of Internal Affairs Jack Elder :

Q: Do the Prime Minister's comments that Mr Bale's pay was excessive mean that the Government will require the resignation of Mr Thompson as head of the Lotteries Commission; if not, why not?

A: (Maurice Williamson on behalf) The PM, I believe and most of the house believes that the remuneration is greater that which would reasonably be expected to be paid to a crown entity of this sort. But I would like to point out that amendments passed by the Labour Party in 1987 set responsibility for paying Mr Bale in the hands of the Lotteries Commission. Mr Bale was first appointed in 1987 on a very high salary relative to anyone else in the public sector. Since that time his salary has kept relativity only.

(Trevor Mallard - I would like the minister withdraw that comment..

Speaker - that is not a point of order.)

.. last month my colleague outlined a series of measures to improve accountability arrangements. Yesterday the SSC issued a substantial new document which provides a comprehensive picture of good crown entity governance. Ministers are presently in the process of writing to all boards concerning CEO contracts and any risks they contain.

Q: Can the minister confirm a story in the Evening Post that Mr Upton knew of the proposed salary and did nothing?

A: What I can confirm is that the SSC asked the Lotteries Commission to give information in January 1998 and for a period of more than 12 months he did not receive adequate information, till May this year. As he said on Friday night the SSC believes the consultation process of the commission was inadequate.

Question 10.

Dr Wayne Mapp to the Minister for International Trade Lockwood Smith:

Q: Why did the Government decide to use the World Trade Organisation to resolve the dispute with the United States over its decision to impose tariffs on New Zealand lamb exports?

A: The WTO provides clear rules on global trade. It means a little guy like us can take on a big buy like the US. And as in our recent dispute with the EU on butter the little guy can win. I could have taken the advice of Jim Sutton who called for President Clinton to stay away from APEC.

Q: (Jim Sutton - Labour) Does he accept this is a serious failure and will he resign?

A: What this incident shows is deep divisions in the Labour Party on foreign policy. I have a letter showing disagreement between Mr Sutton and his leader on whether Labour should oppose the visit of Mr Clinton.

Question 11.

Jeanette Fitzsimons to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Don McKinnon:

Q: What arrangements are in place to verify the undertakings given that the Pacific Teal and Pacific Pintail, carrying plutonium-mixed oxide nuclear fuel, will avoid New Zealand's exclusive economic zone when they enter the Tasman Sea this week?

A: First of all the government has certainly expressed its disappointment about the route of the shipment. This is the first time we have had an assurance that the ship will not enter NZ's EEZ. This does not meet all our concerns but it is a step in the right direction. An interdepartmental committee has been established to monitor this situation.

Q: (Jeanette Fitzsimons - Green) Why doesn't he send an Orion so we know where it is?

A: While it is clear this is becoming a regular route there are also shipments going via Panama. The use of an Orion has not been ruled out. But we have availability to information which tells us where the vessel is as it is.

Question 12.

Geoff Braybrooke to the Minister of Defence Max Bradford:

Q: Does he stand by the Prime Minister's statement that "The Government's commitment to the defence of New Zealand is clearly spelt out in the 1997 defence white paper."; if so, why did the Government commit more than $400 million to the lease of replacement strike aircraft eight years ahead of schedule?

A: Yes absolutely. The Defence Assessment is the most comprehensive study of NZ defence needs that has been undertaken. The lease arrangement for the F-16s will give us nearly new aircraft at a price we simply could not pass up. We expect the F-16s to be operational in 2003, four years ahead of the replacement date for the A4s not eight as the member says. Clearly the opposition members have not read the assessment. The Labour Party has made up its mind it does not want combat capability. It wants a niche peace-keeping force that is isolationist in outlook. It was necessary to replace the Skyhawks. The government looked at a least cost option. This is it. The lease will also avoid the need for a 50 million upgrade to the A4s.

Q: (Ron Mark - NZ First) Can the minister say how much this will cost over the next five years? And what National's future intentions are in peace-keeping options - particularly will he be deploying the F-16s in any peacekeeping operations instead of soldiers?

A: That was a silly second question and I will not answer it. The information on costs was released under the OIA and the member can find it for himself.

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