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Questions Of The Day (7-12)

Polls On The ECA – Student Loan Interest – GE Food – Road Toll – Tomorrow’s Schools - Mental Health Funding

Questions For Oral Answer - Tuesday, 5 October 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.

Bob Simcock to the Minister for Enterprise and Commerce Max Bradford:

Q: What evidence has he received that New Zealanders want the Employment Contracts Act 1991 to remain?

A: Lots. There have been survey’s time and time again have showed change is not wanted as proposed by the Labour Alliance Bloc. In an AC Neilson poll two out of three respondents do not want a change to the ECA. And 75% of employees are happy about there present employment conditions. Between 1991 and 1999 - 278,000 jobs were created. Under the Labour government they lost 110,000 jobs. Another poll recently

(Pete Hodgson – Labour: Leave sought to table a poll with a contrary finding – refused.)

Question 8.

Steve Maharey to the Minister for Tertiary Education Max Bradford:

Q: Does he stand by the Prime Minister's reported statement that the Government had no plan to reduce student loan interest rates because she believes the current loan system is "the fairest we can do"; if so, why?

A: As the member should know interest rates are reviewed each year according to an agreed formula. At the end of last year we made two key changes to the scheme. 50% of repayments from now will go towards principal and interest rates while studying have been reduced by 25%. I also note that only half of all students have taken out student loans.

Question 9.

Jeanette Fitzsimons to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Will the Government review its policy on genetic engineering of food crops in the light of the petition containing 90,000 signatures to be presented today calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry and a moratorium on growing, selling and trialling genetically engineered foods?

A: (Wyatt Creech On behalf of PM) – The government has regulatory agencies to manage risk. These are ERMA and ANZFA. The legislation for ERMA is relatively recent. GM food cannot be sold in NZ unless it has been approved by the joint food council. We have also established a advisory council which has recommended a moratorium on releases of commercial crops.

The minister then said he supported Dr Gluckman’s chairmanship of the advisory council after his impartiality was disputed.

Question 10.

Peter Brown to the Minister of Transport Maurice Williamson:

Q: Is he satisfied that television advertising designed as a tool to shock drivers into complying with our road rules, and therefore to combat New Zealand's alarmingly high road toll, is working?

A: Yes. Since 1995 the advertising campaign in support of police enforcement has had a major influence in bringing down the roadtoll from 800 down to 502 – an all time record – achieved last year. This achieved at times of record road traffic.

Q: (Peter Brown – NZ First) Why then has the road toll increased so dramatically in Wellington?

A: I do not accept that it is escalating. The month we just went through was low. August was very bad - but the 12 month moving average is continuing to trend down. Road deaths have come down over the past four years by around 60 as traffic volumes have increased. An independent study says the campaign is successful. They estimate 1000 lives were saved in the first years of the campaign. Later he accepted that NZ had not been as progressive as Victoria Australia where better results had been achieved, however the results in NZ were nevertheless stunning.

(Winston Peters – sought leave to table paper – refused.)

Question 11.

Tony Steel to the Minister of Education Nick Smith:

Q: What new ideas is the Government advancing in school governance and management to build on the Tomorrow's Schools reforms?

A: We are committed to giving parents choice. We want to give successful schools more options for self management. The only opposition to our progressive policies have been from the teacher unions and from the Labour party. Schools who are keen on self-management of property can register their interest now. Other components of new policies are well underway. The interesting thing about the property trial is the wave of good schools who want to take it up and that Labour is only interested in taking New Zealand backwards. (Followed by brief discussion of National assessment regime.)

(Gilbert Myles – sought leave to table an article from the Dominion on Helen Clark and the de-institutionalisation of mental patients – refused. – note. this related to an earlier question, No. 5.)

Question 12.

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

Q: Does he stand by his reported statement that the Government is trying to do something about the $29 million shortfall in funding for drug and alcohol services; if so, why does the Health Funding Authority National Mental Health Funding Plan, 1998-2002 indicate that there is no new money for alcohol and drug services for the next two years?

A: Yes I do. Earlier this year we commissioned a report on gaps in alcohol and drug services. It is a benchmarking report and is preliminary only. More work is now underway. The HFAs funding for new services is in their budget – page references 32 and 34. Mental Health services have very generously funded since the Mason report. I should quote Mrs King from the paper tonight saying she will not promise the $30 million. Rather she will re-prioritise – if she is going to use that approach she should come out and say what she is going to cut. A ministerial committee has been convened to guide government drug policy.

Q: (Phil Goff – Labour) Why did he suppress the report and not act on it?

A: Phil Goff is wrong on both counts. I have already given two examples from the funding document of new funding. Secondly I did not know until after it was released that it had been released – on that point he is wrong.

(Annette King – Labour: Leave sought to table purchasing plans – refused.

Winston Peters – NZ First: Leave sought to table a speech from Helen Clark to the Richmond Fellowship in 1990 – refused.)

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