Questions Of The Day (2,3,4 and 6)
Industrial Relations - Fisheries Commissioners Payments - Violence In Schools - Health Funding Authority Fitout Audit
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.
(Note: Questions 1 and 5 concerning East Timor and Apec were moved earlier.)
Gerry Brownlee to the Minister for Enterprise and Commerce Max Bradford:
Q: Has he received any reports of discrimination against employees on the grounds of union status under the Employment Contracts Act 1991?
A: Yes indeed I have. The Court of Appeal addressed it in the Tranzrail case. It confirmed that companies are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of union membership. I have also seen reports that non-union members will not be entitled to paid stop-work meetings under Labour Party policy. That is discrimination.
Sandra Lee to the Minister of Finance Bill Birch:
Q: Since Treasury provided him with advice, regarding the payment of fees to the Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries Commission, that in part stated that "Given weak accountability arrangements on Commissioners - who are appointed by the Crown - fee levels require your approval."; what action, if any, has he taken to increase the accountability arrangements on Commissioners?
A: Fisheries commissioners remuneration is paid for out of the commissions trading activities. The Minister of Finance approves the payments after reference has been made to the SSC.
Q: (Sandra Lee) Were the payments in 1998-99 $915,000 or the $221,000 declared and will he make the fees subject to the Official Information Act, and if not why not?.
A: The source of the money comes from the trading activities itself. The second is that the only fees signed off by me are the benchmark fees. There will be other fees earned by commissioners which will not be subject to my approval. The fees were set at a high level in 1990 by the Labour Party. In 1994 I trimmed the fees from what they were when they were set by Labour and annualised them. Since 1994 the fees to the chair and deputy chair have not changed.
Mr Frank Grover to the Minister of Education Nick Smith :
Q: As 887 secondary school pupils were suspended for assaulting teachers and other pupils during the second quarter of this year, what measures is he taking to curtail the incidence of violence by pupils in secondary schools?
A: We have funded an anti-bullying programmes. We have also approved, this term, new rules on suspensions. We are of the view that alternative learning centres for some children are appropriate and we have funded those too with $37 million.
Q: (Frank Grover - Christian Heritage) Why have assaults on teachers increased?
A: Those figures are misleading. In assaults on teachers we are looking at less than one in 1000 pupils. Since the new rules were introduced there has been a 25% reduction in permanent suspensions. The new rules are working. And they are supported by principals. Nick Smith later accused Marion Hobbs of taking a PPTA line on violence in schools.
Rt Hon. Winston Peters to the Minister of Health:
Q: (Ron Mark on behalf) Is he satisfied with the outcome of the recent audit review of leases and fitouts of the Health Funding Authority?
A: I can advise that the Audit was carried out by Price Waterhouse Coopers. Given their reputation I can be sure we can rely on the quality of their work.
Q: How can he be satisfied when the audit was carried out by the own internal auditors?
A: If he had listened he would have heard that the audit was carried out by the PWC, an international firm of reputation, the terms of reference were approved by the Auditor General. As to the conduct of the audit it would seek to retain its reputation and I would be surprised if it was as limited as the member implies.
(Ron Mark later sought leave to table the report