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Weekly Select Committeee News Bulletin

SELECT COMMITTEE BUSINESS
9 June 2000 to 16 June 2000
Committee meetings
There were 16 committee meetings, all of which were in the parliamentary complex.

Reports presented (10)
Social Services
 Petition 1999/29 of Bruce Cheriton and 4058 others

Primary Production
 Fisheries Amendment Bill (No 2) (304-2)
 1998/99 financial review of ASURE New Zealand Limited
 1998/99 financial review of Terralink New Zealand Limited

Transport and Industrial Relations
 Petition 1996/761 of J M Wilson on behalf of the Willowbridge Hall Incorporated Society and 39 others
 1998/99 financial review of Airways Corporation of New Zealand Limited

Education and Science
 1998/99 financial review of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology
 1998/99 financial review of the New Zealand Qualifications Authority
 1998/99 financial review of the Special Education Service

Government Administration
 Whistleblowers Protection Bill (20-1)

Bills referred to select committees
The Fire Service Amendment Bill was referred to the Government Administration Committee with a report due on 20 July.

The International Crimes and International Criminal Court Bill was referred to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee with a report due on 3 August.

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

Commerce (Alan Witcombe, Matthew Andrews)
The committee will meet twice next week to hear evidence on the Economic Development (Industry New Zealand and Ministry of Economic Development) Bill and to consider the Business Law Reform Bill, the Shop Trading Hours (Abolition of Restrictions) Bill and the Sale of Liquor Amendment Bill (No 3).

Education and Science (Clare Sullivan, Ethan Tucker)
The committee now has until Monday, 19 June to present a report on the Education Amendment Bill. The committee is accepting submissions on the Education (Limiting Number of Universities) Amendment Bill until 30 June and the inquiry into student fees, loans, allowances and the overall resourcing of tertiary education until Monday, 24 July.

Employment and Accident Insurance Legislation (Marie Alexander)
The committee is not meeting next week.

Finance and Expenditure (Graham Hill, Julian Kersey)
The committee met on 14 June to hear evidence on the Taxation (FBT, SSCWT and Remedial Matters) Bill. The committee also met briefly late in the afternoon of 15 June to allocate the votes from the 2000/01 Estimates of Appropriation to subject select committees for consideration and report back to the House by 14 August.
The committee will meet next on the morning of 21 June to consider the Supplementary Estimates for this financial year. These were presented to the House on 15 June with the Budget and need to be agreed by the House by 30 June. Later in the afternoon on 21 June the committee will continue hearing evidence on the Taxation (FBT, SSCWT and Remedial Matters) Bill.

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (David Sanders, Andrew Fieldsend)
The committee gave initial consideration to the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Bill. The bill is part of the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This will create a permanent international court with jurisdiction over individuals who commit the most serious international crimes. The closing date for submissions is 30 June 2000. It is likely that oral submissions will be heard on 6 July.

Next week, the committee will give further consideration of the Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Bill. It will also consider the 1907 Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes.

Government Administration (Louise Sparrer, Lesley Ferguson)
The committee is presently considering the Fire Service Amendment Bill. The aim of the bill is to amend the Fire Service Act 1975 to:

 remove the Secretary for Internal Affairs from ex-officio membership of the Fire Service Commission
 increase the membership of the Fire Service Commission from three to five
 increase the quorum required for Fire Service Commission meetings from two to three members
 remove the present prohibition on a member or office holder of any association of employees serving on the Fire Service Commission.

The reason for this amendment is the long-standing and widespread recognition that the ex-officio position for the Secretary of Internal Affairs on the Fire Service Commission creates significant conflicts of interest with the Secretary’s role as an adviser to the Responsible Minister on the commission’s performance and policies. It is intended that with the removal of this position and the increase in the membership of the Fire Service Commission there will be greater flexibility in appointing appropriate personnel with the requisite skills and experience. The removal of the prohibition on employees or members of associations of employees being members of the Fire Service Commission is considered necessary to remove a possible inconsistency with the Human Rights Act 1993. The committee is calling for submissions on this bill as set out below.

The committee examined the Whistleblowers Protection Bill and has recommended to the House that it not proceed. The Bill has been superseded by the enactment of the Protected Disclosures Bill.

The committee is continuing with its consideration of the Gaming Law Reform Bill.

Health (Nick Aldous, Marcus Ganley)
On Wednesday the committee held discussions with members of the Public Bodies Review Committee of the Parliament of New South Wales on differing approaches to providing care for people with intellectual disabilities. The Public Bodies Review Committee, led by Milton Orkopoulos MP, is currently undertaking a major inquiry into the institutions responsible for overseeing the provision of care and support to people with intellectual disabilities in New South Wales.

The committee then moved into consideration on the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill (No 4) and the Alcohol Advisory Council Amendment Bill. This was followed by the hearing of a submission from the Ministry of Health on the Child Mortality Review Board Bill.

Next week the committee will continue considering the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill (No 4) and the Alcohol Advisory Council Amendment Bill and will also consider the 2000/01 Estimates.

Justice and Electoral (Tracey Conlon, Andrew Fieldsend, Fiona McLean)
The committee met on Wednesday to consider a number of items of business. The committee will meet next Wednesday to hear evidence on the Inquiry into the 1999 General Election.

Law and Order (Tracey Conlon, Tracey Rayner)
The committee will meet next week to consider the Truth in Sentencing Bill and the Estimates.

Local Government and Environment (David Bagnall, Malcolm McNamara)
On Wednesday the committee continued consideration of the Wildlife (Penalties) Bill, and commenced its examination of the Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Amendment Bill (No 2).

In relation to the latter bill, the committee released a further letter from Hon Marian Hobbs, Minister for the Environment, setting out further matters that the committee may wish to consider. These include:
 provision for regulations requiring test certificates (for gas cylinders, for example)
 clarification that approval is for the substance not the applicant in respect of the transitional parts of the HSNO Act.
 clarification that generic authority can be given for enforcement officers to have expert assistance when conducting inspections
 inclusion of the ability for enforcement officers to record images during inspections and investigations.
 provision for enforcement officers to require a scene to be left undisturbed and to take statements.

A copy of this letter will be sent to all submitters on the bill, and is available on request from committee staff.

Next week the committee will meet on Wednesday morning (21 June) to hear the submission of the Environmental Risk Management Authority on the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Amendment Bill (No 2). Some submissions will also be heard on the Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill. The committee will also meet in the evening of Thursday 22 June (having been given permission to do so by the House) to hear submissions on the Resource Management Amendment Bill.

MMP Review (Louise Sparrer)
The terms of reference for the review of MMP are set out in a press release shortly to be located at www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/programme/committees/pressrelease.html.

Mori Affairs (Kia Paranihi, Denise Te Karu)
The committee met on Thursday, 15 June to give further consideration to the Mori Purposes Bill and the inquiry into the mainstreaming of services to Mori. To assist it in developing a useful process for the latter activity, the committee requested a briefing from Te Puni Kokiri (Ministry of Mori Development) on relevant matters identified within the work done on closing the social and economic gaps between Mori and non-Mori. The committee will question the ministry further on closing the gaps issues at its next meeting scheduled for Thursday 22 June 2000.

Primary Production (Bob Bunch, April Bennett)
On Thursday, 15 June 2000, the committee reported back on the Fisheries Amendment Bill (No 2). The bill was introduced last year and most of it was split off and reported back as Fisheries Amendment Bill (No 3). The remaining five clauses were held over from the 45th Parliament and concerned two issues: the Fourth Schedule species and the introduction of South Island freshwater eels into the Quota Management System.

The committee also reported two reviews of State enterprises: ASURE New Zealand Limited and Terralink New Zealand Limited. Part of the chairperson’s press release on the latter is set out below:

“The committee draws particular attention to the sale of the Property Services Division of Terralink. The division was sold to a group of its senior employees as the result of aggressive management buyout action.

“The committee examined the valuation and selling price of the business and notes that there are several issues related to the sale, particularly the lack of information regarding the sales process. Other issues include the role of shareholding Ministers in significant asset sales and the need for State enterprises to protect their intellectual capital and safeguard against competition from employees.

“This situation sets a dangerous precedent for the sale and control of State enterprises generally and we have initiated an inquiry into the sale of the division to further examine these matters.

“Terralink’s continuing financial viability is questioned, with the committee calling the reduction in shareholder equity from $13.8 million in 1996 to $1.91 million in 1999 “a very unsuccessful outcome for the Crown”. The committee, however, acknowledges Terralink’s aim to achieve its first profit in the coming financial year and will closely monitor Terralink’s progress.

“One positive development is the refocusing of Terralink’s business on Geospatial services and the increase in operating revenue from $11.72 million in 1998 to $12.232 million in 1999.

“[We] also note the sale of the Survey Services Division, a loss-making part of Terralink, to staff in 1998. We expect the sale will have a positive impact on the financial viability of Terralink, but again we have concerns that there is insufficient information to determine whether fair value was achieved for the sale or if there was appropriate oversight of the sale process.”

The committee further considered its review into the 1998/99 financial performance and current operations of Timberlands West Coast Limited. The committee also further considered its inquiry into the sale of the Property Services Division of Terralink New Zealand Limited and has set terms of reference for an inquiry as follows:

 to inquire into the circumstances surrounding the sale of Property Services Division of Terralink New Zealand Limited to its former employees
 to inquire into the appropriateness of the decision to sell the division
 to identify any issues in relation to the sale for the governance and oversight of Crown entities
 to report its findings and recommendations, if any, to the House of Representatives.

The Controller and Auditor-General briefed the committee on his report Governance and oversight of large information technology projects, followed by critical questioning from committee members.

Next week the committee will further consider the Timberlands West Coast Limited financial review and its inquiry in to the sale of the Property Services Division of Terralink New Zealand Limited. It will also consider the Estimates.

The committee also wishes to remind anyone interested in making a submission on its inquiry into organic agriculture in New Zealand that the deadline for submissions is Monday, 3 July 2000.

Regulations Review (Shelley Banks, Fiona McLean)
On Wednesday, 14 June 2000, the committee heard of evidence from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on the Biosecurity (Ruminant Protein) Regulations 1999 (SR 1999/410). The Ministry of Justice and Federated Farmers of New Zealand also commented on the regulations.

There are concerns about the broad nature of the obligations provided for in the regulations. In particular, the definition of "Operator" in the regulations may be insufficiently clear and precise. All operators are required to prepare and register a ruminant protein control programme with the Director-General of Agriculture by 1 January 2001. The failure to comply with these requirements is an offence of absolute liability.

Another issue the committee questioned MAF officials about was the creation of absolute liability offences in the regulations. It is rare for New Zealand legislation to specify that offences are "absolute liability" in nature. There are only two Acts of Parliament that do so, and these are the only New Zealand regulations that specify absolute liability offences.

The Ministry of Justice raised concerns about the categorisation of offences. Federated Farmers of New Zealand also raised concerns about the consultation process. Industry groups felt that more meaningful consultation should have been undertaken about the policy of the regulations before technical drafting instructions were prepared. The committee's investigation is ongoing.

The committee next meets on Wednesday, 28 June 2000.

Social Services (Tim Cooper, Louise Gardiner)
Next week the committee will consider the Housing Restructuring (Income-Related Rents) Amendment Bill and the Estimates.

Transport and Industrial Relations (Lyn Main, Karen Smyth)
The committee heard evidence from Anna Andrews, who has petitioned for an inquiry into the co-ordination of emergency services involved in the rescue of survivors of Southern Air Flight 168 in August 1998.

The1998/99 financial review of Airways Corporation of New Zealand was reported back to the House. In the report the committee refers to a number of critical issues facing the corporation. These include congestion on the main trunk routes, the possibility of deregulation and competition in air traffic control, particularly for high-value international airports, and the joint initiative with an international consortium to upgrade the US Federal Aviation Authority’s ocean traffic control system. Since the committee heard evidence from Airways in March, there has been considerable public interest in the operations of the State enterprise. The Government has asked the Controller and Auditor-General to examine the corporation’s activities in the light of these new issues. The committee has decided not to address these matters further, until after the release of the Auditor-General’s report.

Petition 1996/761, relating to alarms at level crossings, has been reported back. The committee recommends that the Government develop a rule that requires all hi-rail vehicles below 20 tonnes to be painted a highly distinctive colour, to enhance their visibility. The petitioners were concerned that Tranz Rail’s service vehicles (known as hi-rail vehicles) do not automatically trigger level crossings and other alarms, potentially creating a dangerous situation for road users.

At the meeting on Wednesday 21 June, the committee will hear further evidence from the Automobile Association on Dr Otto Bauer’s petition seeking a review of driver licensing and testing fees and rules for older drivers.


Closing dates for submissions
Committees are receiving submissions on the following items with the closing date shown. Twenty copies of submissions are required.

Commerce
Economic Development (Industry New Zealand and Ministry of Economic Development) Bill (16 June 2000)
Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Bill (7 July 2000)

Education and Science
Inquiry into student fees, loans, allowances and the overall resourcing of tertiary education (24 July 2000)
Education (Limiting Number of Universities) Amendment Bill (30 June 2000)

Finance and Expenditure
Taxation (Annual Rates, GST and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill (5 July 2000)
Taxpayers’ Charter Bill (31 July 2000)

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
Inquiry into New Zealand’s economic and trade relationship with Australia (16 June 2000)
International Crimes and International Criminal Court Bill (30 June 2000)

Government Administration
Fire Service Amendment Bill (23 June 2000)

Justice and Electoral
Supplementary Order Paper No 25 relating to the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill (7 July 2000)

Local Government and Environment
Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill (19 June 2000)

MMP Review
Review of MMP and other aspects of the electoral system (31 July 2000)

Primary Production
Inquiry into organic agriculture in New Zealand (3 July 2000)

Social Services
Housing Restructuring (Income-Related Rents) Bill (26 June 2000)
Social Welfare (Transitional Provisions) Amendment Bill (11 August 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
ph: 471 9534, fax: 499 0486, or at carol.rankin@parliament.govt.nz

Compiled in the Select Committee Office, Office of the Clerk, 16 June 2000

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