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Questions Of The Day (1-6)

Clark And Shipley On Housing - Business Confidence - Stock Exchange Tax Allegations - Unions And Balaclavas - Party Deserters And Tax - Timberlands

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 1.

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

Q: As she has stated that her Government is determined to maintain a world-class social environment and that quality housing is a social investment that "underpin[s] our way of life, and the values that are important to us", does she agree with the Salvation Army that her Government's "big housing experiment ... has been ... disastrous"; if not, why not?

A: The leader of the opposition should check her sources. I have been advised by the Salvation Army that that is not the official position of the Salvation Army. Major Campbell Roberts was answering questions and these are not the views of the Head Office.

Q: (Helen Clark - Labour Leader) But why does she disagree with him?

A: On housing it was the Labour party that moved to market rents. It was this government that decided to assist everybody with their housing costs.

Q: (Jerry Brownlee) What would be the impact of a change?

A: 200,000 people would not get support if the Labour opposition….interrupted.

(Point of order: Michael Cullen - the PM must make statements that are correct and verifiable. Or we will have severe disorder in this house…

Speaker - these are matters for debate, these are supposed to be questions and answers. The government is not responsible for the policies of an opposition party and we can have problems with order if they misrepresent opposition policy. Please stick to something close to the facts.)

.. there have been many reports from the other side of the house about who would be helped. If we went back to state ownership of housing…. interrupted.

(Michael Cullen - She is now wilfully flouting your ruling.

Speaker - while the member may see the reference as applying to his party it was expressed in the hypothetical it is difficult to for me to stop that.)

.. in 1987 there were 1300 families waiting for urgent assistance…

(John Carter - National - I can't hear because the opposition are jeering - they don't like the truth.

Speaker - lets have a little bit of order now.

Michael Cullen - Mr Carter must withdraw and apologise for that remark.

Speaker - I can't find anyone who accepts that they said that so we shall move on.)

Question 2.

Belinda Vernon to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: What are the latest indicators for business confidence?

A: According to a recent survey a net 20% of businesses expect the economy to improve. This is consistent with growth of 3 to 4 per cent. Manufacturers are now the most confident about exports than they have been for six years. But there are risks. Inevitably industrial relations are important for business, there is now considerable uncertainty about industrial relations thanks to various statements from the opposition…

(Michael Cullen - We will take a Point of Order on each one of these types of answers…I refer you to rule 378 - references to what is supposedly happening is not necessary to this answer and the minister should be required to withdraw.

Speaker - the government can only answer for its own intentions not for those of another party.)

Q: (Michael Cullen - Labour) If he is so confident then why is he only charging Wellington business people $10 to attend a function in the Grand Hall?

A: For a member who has been here for some time he would know that it is a custom to hold functions in Parliament. And secondly that member knows that that audience has been hearing from him that the economic reforms are a failure but that he isn't going to change any of it.

Q: (Richard Prebble - ACT) Will confidence go through the floor if Michael Cullen implements the industrial relations policy he recently addressed to a meeting I also attended?

A: I can confirm that from what I hear from employers, yes, those measures would dent their confidence. More importantly from what I hear from employees who have collective agreements but who do not want to join Unions - they also have a problem.

Question 3.

Jim Anderton to the Minister of Revenue Bill Birch:

Q: Is he satisfied that the New Zealand Stock Exchange has been complying with tax laws in all material respects?

A: As far as I am aware the Stock Exchange has been complying with tax laws in all material aspects.

Q: (Jim Anderton - Alliance) Will he consider providing the information I will soon seek leave to table showing the Stock Exchange not paying withholding tax to the Commissioner of Inland Revenue?

A: The Commissioner would be delighted to receive information about tax not being paid. That said tax laws are often disputed and the taxpayer would only not be complying if they refused demands from the commissioner.

(Jim Anderton - leave sought to table papers - granted.)

(Winston Peters wanted to ask a supplementary question - but was denied leave to do so by the Speaker on grounds of time.)

Question 4.

Patricia Schnauer to the Minister for Enterprise and Commerce Max Bradford:

Q: Has he received any advice as to the impact on workplace relations if the right to negotiate collective agreements was removed from employers and employees and given exclusively to trade unions; if so, what was that advice?

A: No I have not as it is blatantly obvious what would happen. We need only look at the years…..interrupted.

(Trevor Mallard - Labour - he should be succinct and clear and since he has received no advice he has no answer to give.

Richard Prebble - ACT - replies are matters for the minister not the chair. The minister is perfectly entitled to say why he hasn't called for a report.

Speaker - Mr Prebble has been helpful.)

… prior to the ECA unions dominated employment relationships…interrupted

(Michael Cullen - Labour - I refer again to 378(2), the subject matter is the advice - there is no advice and therefore there is no answer to be given.

Speaker - that formulation of question is not new and the long established practice has been to let the answer lie with the Minister. That is not an invitation to go on at great length.

Michael Cullen - perhaps I have not made myself clear. The subject of the question is the advice and the minister has received no advice therefore the question ends there.

Max Bradford - the tactics of the Labour opposition are designed to stop me answering the question. I want to finish my answer.

Richard Prebble - ACT - these repeated points of order raise another matter. He says that unless answers are to his satisfaction he will create disorder. I represent back-benches and NZ First here. They are taking up the whole of question time. If Dr Cullen does it again he should be asked to leave.

Winston Peters - NZ First - Mr Prebble does not now, nor ever will speak for NZ First.

Wyatt Creech -National - It could be worth raising 16 - 7 - constant interjections and points of order are a breach of order.

Speaker - In my first ruling I was in effect referring to the spirit of question time. I have been consistent with that since I have been here. I am not going to get tied up in nit-picking at this late stage in this Parliament. It is in nobodies interests to do so. If the house becomes pedantic latter that is its choice but it will not happen today.)

… prior to the ECA there was a paralysing destructive effect on employee/employer relations in 1991 51% of NZers were unionised in 1997 only 19% belonged to a union. Under some parties policies you will have to belong to a union that is what is promised by the opposition.

Q: (Patricia Schnauer - ACT) Are unions already pushing people around in advance of the proposed changes?

(Michael Cullen - Labour - this question is out of order for a range of reasons. The notion of hoods in balaclavas negotiating contracts is ridiculous and cannot possibly be authenticated.

Prebble - I can prove that not only was that company picketed by people in balaclavas but that Labour's Mark Gosche can confirm this because he was on the picket line.)

Schnauer - can the minister confirm to the house we will see more examples of the Northern Distribution Union's use of hooded balaclava wearing people endorsing the Labour Party policy…

(Speaker - interrupted…those last comments are out of order…

Max Bradford - I would like to answer.)

….yes I have seen reports of this in the NBR on page 18. Yes it is clear that there are unions who would like to break the law.

(Rick Barker - Labour - 125(5) the minister cannot be hypothetical… the minister is making hypothetical comments about Labour Party policy and that is out of order.

Speaker - it is not out of order. The question is in order and so is the answer. In this hunting season everything is hypothetical.

Michael Cullen - Labour - I understand the answer was written by an ACT candidate - could he please table it.

Richard Prebble - I seek leave to table the NBR article - granted.

Max Bradford - leave sought to table another item on Helen Clark - granted)

Question 5.

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

Q: Is she prepared to rely on the vote of a member of Parliament who no longer represents the party to which he or she was elected, to pass tax cuts legislation; if so, what moral authority does she claim for that position?

A: The National Minority government relies on the votes of all its members. Those members have supported us well.

Q: Does she understand that the public have contempt for such members?

(Jerry Brownlee - National that supplementary is out of order.

Speaker - the member is on all fours.)

later…This government has and will continue to manage and govern this country effectively and to help the productive sector to do well. I suggest the member get used to watching us do that. The treasurer and myself have made it clear that we will decide latter whether we will progress tax cuts in this session. However it is clear that we are a party that cuts taxes while the opposition is a party that raises them.

Question 6.

Gilbert Myles to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Tony Ryall :

Q: Have there been any recent attempts by the Government to sell Timberlands; if so, by whom?

A: (William Birch on behalf) Not this government but I note that the former Labour government did attempt to sell the forest assets on the West Coast. Labour was unable to sell those forests that is why Timberlands West Coast was formed. I am aware of the loss of jobs in some cases or others, just as I am aware of the fact that the Leader of the opposition visited the West Coast at the weekend and didn't talk to the coasters. It is the attitude of the Labour Party that is a worry. Particularly the Leader who went to the coast at the weekend and didn't talk to the coasters - can she explain that?

(Speaker - no she can't answer questions.)

Gilbert Myles - Leave sought to table an article from Sunday Star Times - granted)

Q: (Labour member ) Can the minister give a cast-iron 410,000 jobs type guarantee…

(Speaker no you have lost your chance.

Roger Sowry - National - Leave sought for Damien O'Connor to ask a question.

Speaker - he doesn't want to it seems. He later changed his mind.)

Q: (Damien O'Connor - Labour) Can he guarantee he will not sell off the coast forests?

A: I am much more interested to know whether the member for the West Coast knew that the Leader was visiting the coast at the weekend?

(Winston Peters - Mr Mallard should not be allowed to call members to my right Tory worms.

Mallard - I withdraw and apologise.

Speaker - Well done.)

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