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Weekly news from the Select Committee Office

Weekly news from the Select Committee Office

25 February 2000 to 3 March 2000

Committee meetings

There were 15 committee meetings, all in the parliamentary complex. Three committees also went on site visits to the offices of Crown reporting entities within their subject areas.

Reports presented (15)

Committee on the Bill

· Accident Insurance (Transitional Provisions) Bill (4-2)

Social Services

· 1998/99 financial review of the Ministry of Housing

· Petition 1996/1 of Wendy Craig and 1499 others

Commerce

· 1998/99 financial review of Te Reo Whakapuaki Irirangi

· 1998/99 financial review of the Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited

· 1998/99 financial review of the Testing Laboratory Registration Council of New Zealand

· 1998/99 financial review of the Broadcasting Standards Authority

Government Administration

· 1998/99 financial review of the Building Industry Authority

· 1998/99 financial review of Government Property Services

· 1998/99 financial review of the Hillary Commission for Sport, Fitness and Leisure

· 1998/99 financial review of the Audit Office

· 1998/99 financial review of the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives

· 1998/99 financial review of the Parliamentary Service

· 1998/99 financial review of the Ministry of Women's Affairs

· 1998/99 financial review of the Ministry of Youth Affairs

Bills referred to select committees (2)

The Gaming Law Reform Bill was referred to the Government Administration Committee with a report due by 4 July 2000. This bill had previously been considered and reported to the House by the Internal Affairs and Local Government Committee in the last parliament.

The Nurse Maude Association Bill was referred to the Health Committee.

Changes in membership

Peter Brown replaced Ron Mark on the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee. Ron Mark replaced Peter Brown on the Law and Order Committee.

Committee notes

(for further information on an item, please contact the committee staff noted in brackets)

Commerce (Alan Witcombe, Ainslie Rayner)

The committee received an initial briefing from the new Ministry of Economic Development and then conducted the financial review of Solid Energy Limited.

The committee set a closing date of 14 April 2000 for the Business Law Reform Bill and the Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill (No 3).

Next week the committee will meet all day and conduct the financial review of the Ministry of Commerce (now the Ministry of Economic Development). The committee will then receive a briefing from the Securities Commission.

Committee on the Accident Insurance (Transitional Provisions) Bill (Marie Alexander)

The committee presented its report on 28 February. The majority of the committee recommended that the bill proceed. The committee received a total of 1057 submissions and heard 169 oral submissions in Auckland and Wellington.

The bill restores the Accredited Employer Programme, which was removed by the Accident Insurance Act 1998. The most significant of the committee's recommended amendments is the opportunity for self-employed people to elect in advance the level of cover for weekly compensation, including the cost of any necessary replacement labour.

The committee's commentary and amendments to the bill are available through a link from our website. Go to www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/publications and you will see the link to the report in the list of publications. From the next menu, choose "Bar-2 bill".

Education and Science (Claire Sullivan, Malcolm McNamara)

The committee conducted the financial review of the Ministry of Education. There was a wide-ranging discussion and issues covered included achievement and underachievement, "closing the gap", international comparisons, bulk funding, and decile rankings. Next week the committee will hear from the Education Review Office and the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology.

The committee has also announced that it will be conducting two inquiries. One inquiry will focus on investigating ways the teaching of reading can assist in "closing the gap". The second inquiry will focus on the issues of fees, loans and allowances and other issues relating to the resourcing of tertiary education. The committee has yet to consider terms of reference for both inquiries, nor has it set closing dates for submissions.

Finance and Expenditure (Graham Hill, Julian Kersey)

The committee met on 1 March to exchange information and views with the Public Accounts Committee from Sarawak and hear evidence from the Treasurer and the Secretary to the Treasury on the financial review of the Treasury, the Crown Financial Statements and the Treasury briefing to the Incoming Government. The committee will meet next on 15 March to hear evidence on the financial reviews of At Work Insurance and the Public Trust Office.

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (David Sanders, Andrew Fieldsend)

The committee will not meet next week. It will hear further evidence from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on its financial review at the next meeting on 16 March. The committee has also decided to call for submissions on the two petitions before it (Rhonda Thorpe on the experience of new migrants and David Wakim, on the release of Mordechai Vanunu). The committee will also begin consideration of the Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Bill.

Government Administration (Louise Sparrer, Lesley Ferguson)

The Government Administration Committee is undertaking its examination of the financial performance of departments and Crown entities. At its last meeting the committee questioned the chief executives of the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs and Statistics New Zealand. The Chief Ombudsman was also questioned on the performance of his office.

Concerns to emerge from the examinations were the performance of the Pacific Islands Business Trust and the potential liability the Ministry has for the non-performance of one of the Trust's subsidiary companies. The Chief Ombudsman, Sir Brian Elwood, advised the committee that the Office of the Ombudsmen was close to collapse and immediate action is required if it is to continue as a viable entity. The Government Statistician explained to the committee the cause of his department's error in the Consumer Price Index calculation late last year.

The committee will not meet during the coming adjournment week. At its meeting on 16 March, it will examine the State Services Commission, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Internal Affairs and the New Zealand Lotteries Commission.

Health (Nick Aldous, Sharon Woollaston)

At the meeting on Wednesday the Health Committee conducted 1998/99 financial review hearings of evidence on Health Care Hawke's Bay Limited and Southern Health Limited.

The committee will next meet on Wednesday, 15 March 2000. The committee will be receiving a briefing from the Ministry of Health on the recent publication Our Health, Our Future, the health of New Zealanders 1999. The briefing and subsequent questioning will be open to the public.

Justice and Electoral (Jayne Wallis, Andrew Fieldsend)

The committee continues to examine the financial reviews of government departments and organisations under its purview. On Wednesday the committee heard evidence from the Abortion Supervisory Committee, which was deemed to be a public organisation by the House so that it may be more regularly examined by a select committee. One of the Abortion Supervisory Committee's responsibilities is to keep the Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion Act 1977 under review. The Act establishes and sets out the ASC role and provides a framework for the provision of consultancy services to women seeking a termination. Several issues were discussed including the rights of the unborn child, the need for an emphasis on education and preventative strategies, and views about whether abortion is solely a health issue.

The committee also heard evidence from the Chief Parliamentary Counsel and the Support Services Manager from the Parliamentary Counsel Office on its financial review.

The Referenda Postal Voting Bill in now before the committee for consideration. The purpose of the bill is to create a generic statutory mechanism that will make it possible to hold postal votes for indicative government initiated referenda and citizens initiated referenda. The closing date for submission is 14 April 2000.

Law and Order (Tracey Conlon, Tracey Rayner)

The committee met on Thursday, 2 March and heard evidence on the 1998/99 financial review of the Department for Courts. Reports on all the financial reviews before the committee are due by 6 April. The committee will not meet next week.

Local Government and Environment (David Bagnall, Malcolm McNamara)

On 1 March, the committee heard evidence on the financial review of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. The committee focused on how the Commissioner prioritises tasks in light of the tight funding for the office.

After the meeting, during which the committee had also considered possible inquiry topics, the Chairperson (Jeanette Fitzsimons) issued a media statement announcing that the select committee had discussed a proposal to inquire into the management of the statutory responsibilities of the Auckland City Council in the Hauraki Gulf. The proposal, which was made by Owen Jennings MP, was one of a number of possible inquiry topics that have been suggested by members of the committee.

The committee is aware that some residents of the Hauraki Gulf islands, particularly Great Barrier Island, have expressed strong concerns about the management of the Auckland City Council's responsibilities. The committee also noted that there are current court proceedings relating to some of these issues. Members agreed that these court proceedings must be left to run their course without prejudice by any select committee inquiry. The Mayor of Auckland City has established a panel to investigate complaints against council officers. The committee is confident that this panel, which includes a former Justice of the High Court, is competent to give full and fair consideration to such complaints.

The committee considers that allegations have been made that are of a very serious nature and should be investigated by an independent agency of the highest level. The committee has been informed that the Auckland City Council has invited the Controller and Auditor-General to investigate the allegations made about the council's management of various affairs in the Hauraki Gulf. The Audit Office has given an initial indication that it will look into the allegations to the extent that its mandate allows, except where matters are before the court.

The committee has therefore endorsed the Audit Office as the appropriate independent agency to investigate these matters. In particular, the Audit Office has the expertise to ensure that the Auckland City Council and other relevant authorities are operating in full compliance with their legislative requirements. The committee will continue to be involved in the issue. The Audit Office has undertaken to consult the committee before finalising its terms of reference. The committee will also receive briefings on the progress of the investigation and will hear the findings once it is concluded.

The next meeting of the committee will be on 15 March 2000, when it will conduct the financial review of the Department of Conservation.

Maori Affairs (Kia Paranihi, Denise Te Karu)

The committee heard evidence from Te Puni Kokiri on its financial review.

Officers of Parliament (Adrian Carpinter)

This week the committee visited the Office of the Ombudsmen in Wellington. In the week beginning 13 March, the committee will visit the Office of the Controller and Auditor-General. The committee will also meet to begin considering the draft budgets of the Officers of Parliament for the 2000/01 financial year and alterations to their 1999/2000 appropriations.

Primary Production (Bob Bunch, April Bennett)

The committee heard evidence from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the Ministry of Fisheries as part of the committee's financial review of the departments' performance for the 1998/99 financial year and current operations.

Issues covered by the hearings include MAF's biosecurity and risk management, meat inspection and food safety, organisational issues relating to the Food and Biosecurity Authorities, the Ministry of Fisheries's research programme and processes, recovery of deemed values debt (currently at $18 million), Wellington/Wairarapa paua poaching (estimated to be 90 tonnes per annum), and devolution of fisheries services.

The committee will next meet on Thursday, 16 March and hear evidence on the financial reviews of Landcorp Farming Limited and Timberlands West Coast Limited.

Further financial review hearings of evidence are Land Information New Zealand and AgriQuality New Zealand Limited (23 March), and Asure New Zealand Limited and Terralink New Zealand Limited (30 March).

Social Services (Tim Cooper, Karen Smyth)

At its meeting on 1 March the committee heard evidence on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Children Bill. This bill, a member's bill, seeks to make the Commissioner for Children an independent Officer of Parliament. One of the main issues raised in submissions was whether the status of Officer of Parliament is the best instrument to strengthen the role and powers of the Commissioner * Something all submitters agreed was desirable. The committee will hear further evidence on the bill in Auckland on 13 April. The committee is not meeting on 8 March, but it has indicated its intention to meet on 15 March to hear evidence on the 1998/99 financial review of the Department of Work and Income.

Transport and Industrial Relations (Lyn Main, Sue Goodwin)

The committee met to hear evidence on the 1998/99 financial reviews of the Transport Accident Investigation Commission and Airways Corporation. The committee will not meet next week during adjournment but will meet the following week to hear evidence on the financial review of the Department of Labour.

Closing dates for submissions on bills

Committees are receiving submission on the following bills with the closing date shown:

Commerce

Business Law Reform Bill (14 April 2000) Sale of Liquor Amendment (14 April 2000)

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade

Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Bill (24 March 2000)

Health

Criminal Justice Amendment Bill (No.7) (17 March 2000) Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care) Bill (17 March 2000)

Justice and Electoral

Referenda (Postal Voting) Bill (14 April 2000)

Law and Order

Crimes Amendment Bill (No. 6) (3 March 2000)

Maori Affairs

Te Ture Whenua Maori Amendment Bill (28 April 2000)

Social Services

Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill (No. 6) (20 April 2000)

Transport and Industrial Relations

Airport Authorities Amendment Bill (No. 2) (5 April 2000)

General

You can find further information about select committees on our website at www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz. If you require additional information or have any feedback on the contents, please contact:

Carol Rankin

Senior Parliamentary Officer

carol.rankin@parliament.govt.nz

Compiled in the Select Committee Office, Office of the Clerk, 3 March 2000


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