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Weekly Select Committee News - 11-18 August

SELECT COMMITTEE BUSINESS
11 to 18 August 2000
Committee meetings
There were 15 committee meetings. Two were in Christchurch and the remainder were in the parliamentary complex. Some meetings were cancelled on Wednesday because the House was in urgency.

Reports presented (35)
Commerce
1. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Government Superannuation Fund
2. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Commerce
3. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Communications
4. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Energy
5. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Consumer Affairs
6. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Industry and Regional Development

Education and Science
7. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Education
8. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Education Review Office

Finance and Expenditure
9. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Audit
10. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote State-Owned Enterprises
11. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Revenue
12. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Economic Development
13. Fiscal Strategy Report, Budget Economic and Fiscal Update 2000 and the Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Finance

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
14. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Customs
15. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Foreign Affairs and Trade
16. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Immigration
17. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Defence
18. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Defence Force
19. Estimates for 2000/01 Votes Veterans’ Affairs

Government Administration
20. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Internal Affairs
21. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Tourism
22. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage

Health
23. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Health and Vote Health Service Providers

Justice and Electoral
24. Referenda (Postal Voting) Bill (326-2)

Law and Order
25. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Serious Fraud

Local Government and Environment
26. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Conservation
27. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Local Government

Primary Production
28. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Lands
29. Estimates for 2000/01 Votes Biosecurity

Social Services
30. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Housing
31. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Senior Citizens
32. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Social Services
33. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Child, Youth and Family Services

Transport and Industrial Relations
34. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Accident Insurance
35. Estimates for 2000/01 Vote Transport


Bills referred to select committees
The Films, Videos, and Publications Classification (Prohibition of Child Pornography) Amendment Bill (a member’s bill – Anne Tolley) was referred to the Government Administration Committee.

The Imported Used Cars (Commission of Inquiry) Bill (a member’s bill – Harry Duynhoven) was referred to the Commerce Committee.

The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill was referred to the Health Committee with a report due by 14 November 2000.

The Archives, Culture, and Heritage Reform Bill was referred to the Government Administration Committee with a report due by 4 September 2000.


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

Commerce (Alan Witcombe, SC-Commerce@parliament.govt.nz)
This week the committee gave further consideration to the Business Law Reform Bill and to the Shop Trading Hours (Abolition of Restrictions) Bill.

On 14 August the committee presented six Estimates reports as above. The committee recommended that the appropriations in respect to the votes be accepted, subject to further expenditure information on Vote Industry and Regional Development being made available to committee members before that vote is considered by the committee of the whole House in the Estimates debate.

Education and Science (Clare Sullivan, SC-ES@parliament.govt.nz)
The committee met to discuss the Educational Establishments (Exemption from Certain Rates) Bill, and had a briefing on the Wellington Community Law Centre’s report on the Communities Supporting Schools and Parents project. Next week it will meet the Associate Minister of Education, Hon Lianne Dalziel, to discuss funding arrangements for schools in 2001, and will receive a briefing on the recent report on the Special Education Service.

The subcommittee inquiring into the teaching of reading continued its hearings. It heard submissions from the public in Christchurch on 17 and 18 August, and next week will be hearing submissions in Wellington on 24 and 25 August.

Finance and Expenditure (Graham Hill, SC-FE@parliament.govt.nz)
The committee met on 17 August to consider further the Taxation (Annual Rates, GST and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. It will consider this bill further at its next meeting on 23 August. The subcommittee on reports of the Controller and Auditor-General will also meet next week.

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (David Sanders, SC-FD@parliament.govt.nz)
On Monday the committee presented narrative reports on five Estimates as listed above.

The committee was briefed by a delegation of members from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the South Korean Parliament.

The committee heard evidence from the New Zealand Human Rights Commission in relation to its inquiry into the role of human rights in foreign policy. The committee also heard evidence in respect of a petition on Mordechai Vanunu. The petitoner requests that Parliament ask the New Zealand Government to approach the Israeli Government to urge for the release of Mordechai Vanunu, an Israeli currently in prison for revealing state nuclear weapons secrets in 1986.

The committee will meet next week to consider a petition calling for a global whale sanctuary. The committee will hear evidence from Hon Jim McLay, Commissioner of the New Zealand Whaling Commission. The committee will also hear submissions on its inquiry into New Zealand's economic and trade relationship with Australia. Further consideration will be given to the Vanunu petition.

The committee will not meet during the parliamentary adjournment at the end of the month. However, a subcommittee will travel to East Timor to visit New Zealand personnel and hold discussions with UNTAET officials. The committee will later report to the House on this visit.

Government Administration (Fiona McLean, SC-GA@parliament.govt.nz
The committee concluded its consideration of the 2000/01 Estimates for Vote Tourism, Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage and Vote Internal Affairs. The committee presented its reports on these votes to the House.

In regard to Vote Internal Affairs the committee’s focus was on the completion of a review of the policy and regulatory framework for gaming. The review will address issues of problem gambling, mixed social and economic objectives, inflexible legislative framework, and cross-border electronic gaming. The gaming review is to be completed within a two-year time frame with any necessary legislative changes to the gaming legislation proceeding as a single package, for enactment by 30 June 2002.

In the committee’s examination of Vote Arts, Culture and Heritage, the focus was on a number of new initiatives, in particular the establishment of the New Zealand Film Production Fund Trust and the New Zealand Music Industry Commission, provided for in the Government’s cultural recovery package. Some members of the committee were concerned about the manner in which appropriations for these initiatives were made. Some members believe that in progressing these significant funding decisions through the 1999/2000 Supplementary Estimates there had not been sufficient time or information to effectively scrutinise the expenditure proposals. The committee also noted that the announcement of the cultural recovery package had preceded the Heart of the Nation planning report for the cultural sector.

Two petitions were considered, both of which relate to New Zealand’s intelligence and security agencies. One petition is from Rod Donald and others and calls for an inquiry into whether the Security Intelligence Service should be abolished. The second petition is from Keith Locke and others and calls for the abolition of the Government Communications Security Bureau along with its bases at Waihopai and Tangimoana. These petitions were referred to the committee before the House adopted sessional orders in March that would require further petitions to be referred to the Intelligence and Security Committee, which is a statutory committee.

The committee continued its consideration of the Gaming Law Reform Bill.

Health (Nick Aldous, SC-Health@parliament.govt.nz)
The committee has presented its report on the 2000/01 Estimates for Votes Health and Health Service Providers. The report comments on the Government's plans for the health and disability sector in 2000/01 and the proposed restructuring of the sector.

The New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill has been referred to the Health Committee for report back by 14 November 2000. The closing date for public submissions is 22 September 2000. Copies of the bill are available from Bennett's Government Bookshops.

Justice and Electoral (Tracey Conlon, SC-JE@parliament.govt.nz)
At its meeting on Wednesday, 16 August, the committee considered the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill and Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) No 25. The subcommittee met on Tuesday, 15 August and Thursday, 17 August to continue its consideration of the inquiry into matters relating to the visit of the President of China to New Zealand in September 1999.

The Referenda (Postal Voting) Bill was reported back to the House on Tuesday, 15 August. Under this bill, it will be easier to hold citizens-initiated referenda and government-initiated referenda by postal vote. Under the present law, special legislation is needed to hold such referenda by postal vote. Postal voting is seen as a practical and cost-effective alternative to the ballot-box method.

The committee will meet again next Wednesday to further consider its examination of the Inquiry into the 1999 General Election, and the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill and Supplementary Order Paper No 25.

Law and Order (Wendy Proffitt, SC-LO@parliament.govt.nz)
The committee did not meet this week.

Local Government and Environment (David Bagnall, SC-LGE@parliament.govt.nz)
An unusual situation has arisen from the committee's consideration of the 2000/01 Estimates for Vote Conservation. The committee presented its report on this vote on Monday 14 August, the date by which committees were required to complete their consideration of this year's Estimates. In the report, the committee recommended as follows:

 That Vote Conservation be referred back to the Local Government and Environment Committee for further consideration.
 That consideration of Vote Conservation by the committee of the whole House in the Estimates debate be deferred until after the committee reports finally on the vote.

The committee made these recommendations because it requires further information about how new funding added to the vote for implementation of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy will impact on the Department of Conservation's work plans and targets. In particular the committee noted that targets set out in the departmental forecast report do not incorporate the new funding, and that these targets had not yet been finalised.

In principle, the committee supported the extra funding represented by the biodiversity package and understood that work plans and targets were delayed pending finalisation of the New Zealand Biodiversity Strategy and the process of bidding for funding. However, the committee stated that it is not satisfactory for a select committee to be asked to approve spending plans in the absence of such details.

The House has referred Vote Conservation back to the committee, which must present its final report on the vote by 4 September.

On 14 August the committee also reported on Vote Local Government. The report focused on the major local government policy projects that officials of the Department of Internal Affairs will be working on in the 2000/01 year. These include the complete reviews of the Local Government Act 1974, local government funding powers, and the Local Elections and Polls Act 1976.

The committee concluded that it is not clear from the department's responses whether it is satisfied it now has the resources to meet its priorities. Integrating work on so many pieces of legislation is very challenging and complex for the department, and the committee will be monitoring the department's progress closely. The committee was also concerned that changes to address issues that have arisen in relation to the funding of depreciation may not be made in time for local authorities to take into account for their long-term planning.

The committee met in the morning and afternoon of Wednesday 16 August to consider the Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill. An early morning meeting was also held on Thursday 17 August to work on the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Amendment Bill (No 2). The latter bill will be considered further next Wednesday morning, along with Vote Conservation.

MMP Review (Louise Sparrer, SC-MMP@parliament.govt.nz)
The committee has established a subcommittee to work directly with UMR Insight Limited on the design and specifications for the polling it has decided to commission. The members of the subcommittee are Hon Peter Dunne (Chairperson), Georgina Beyer, Rod Donald and Hon Tony Ryall. Its first meeting will be on Tuesday, 22 August. Public hearings on submissions are now scheduled to begin in Wellington on 14 September.

The terms of reference for the review of MMP are set out in a press release located at www.clerk.parliament.govt.nz/programme/committees/pressrelease.html.

Maori Affairs (Kia Paranihi, SC-MA@parliament.govt.nz)
Since the end of June this year the committee has held hearings on the Te Ture Whenua Maori Amendment Bill. The bill has attracted submissions from a number of individuals and parties. Provisons dealing with landlocked land have given grounds for much comment and the citing of particular cases by aggrieved hapu whanau and hapu representatives. The committee has almost completed hearings on the bill.

Primary Production (Bob Bunch, SC-PP@parliament.govt.nz)
The hearing of evidence on the inquiry into organic agriculture in New Zealand commenced on Thursday, 17 August. Evidence was heard from: Federated Farmers New Zealand, BIO-GRO New Zealand, AGCARM - New Zealand Association for
Animal Health and Crop Protection, Meat New Zealand and New Zealand Dairy Board.
Two individuals also made submissions.

Earlier in the week, the committee reported on the two remaining votes it has been examining during the Estimates, Votes Biosecurity and Vote Lands.

The chairperson, Damien O’Connor, issued a press release about the report on Vote Lands, administered by Land Information New Zealand (LINZ). On the Landonline project he said: “Although LINZ has said its concerns about Phase 1 of the automation system are being addressed, we note the reports of difficulty in bedding down the problems in the Dunedin pilot. We are concerned about the uncertainty about Phase 2 and seek assurance that LINZ will narrow down the likely costs of Landonline's implementation especially in view of users being confronted with an additional cost of $22 million already. We also seek assurance that the use of operational surpluses to fund the capital development of the project will not affect the memorandum account surplus use in future to reduce fees and remove the automation fee. Coming on top of the project's delays and cost increases, we have raised a number of questions but trust that Landonline's intended benefits will ultimately be realised.”

Historical records held by the department will still need to be stored somewhere when LINZ branches close. Mr O’Connor said, “We believe that accessibility should be a major consideration for remote accessing of historical records.”

The Continental Shelf Delimitation Project expands the marine estate of New Zealand and is of considerable economic importance to the country. New Zealand has until August 2006 to make its continental shelf submission to the United Nations. The committee was told the project is on time and target in the areas where New Zealand has an overlapping claim with Australia. Mr O’Connor said, “We consider that the Continental Shelf Delimitation Project is one of the most important projects currently being undertaken by the Government. Its potential impact on the size of New Zealand territory available for developing sustainable use of resources is significant and is likely to have substantial benefit to the country. We encourage LINZ to increase public awareness about the importance of the Continental Shelf Delimitation Project.”

The committee also reported on Votes Biosecurity. It made repeated calls for improvements to biosecurity management, particularly in respect of passenger clearance, container and cargo inspection and harmonisation in the shared work of MAF and the New Zealand Customs Service. The committee also urged the Government to act promptly to address shortcomings in biosecurity management to provide the maximum level of protection for biosecurity and for the primary producing sector.

The committee complimented the Animal Health Board on its proposed bovine tuberculosis strategy. On the issue of what level of biosecurity risk is acceptable, the committee stated its belief that the appropriate level of protection is one which ensures biosecurity is as robust as possible.

The committee was divided on the Government’s decision to opt for management rather than eradication of the varroa bee mite. The committee considers that the incursion of the varroa bee mite raises questions about the analysis of pathways and the types of surveillance and response programmes required beyond the border. The committee urged the Government to address these issues in order to prevent future infiltrations of foreign organisms.

Next week, the committee will hear further evidence on the organics inquiry and receive a briefing from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry on the current apple export situation.

Social Services (Tim Cooper, SC-SS@parliament.govt.nz)
The Social Services Committee presented four Estimates reports this week as listed above. The most substantial of these reports was Vote Child, Youth and Family Services. This is its conclusion:

"In recent months considerable public concern has been expressed as a consequence of some tragic cases of children suffering at the hands of adults. New Zealanders are demanding answers to many issues surrounding the abuse of children. The department has often found itself in the firing line. The James Whakaruru report addresses some of these issues and we await the reports arising out of the Ministerial review of referrals, notifications and care placements. In this report we have identified a number of issues that we will follow closely over the coming months, in particular the outcomes of the domestic violence pilot involving the department, the Police and Women's Refuge; communication issues between branches; the work programme of the Residential Services Strategy; the Child, Youth and Mental Health initiative; and the Ministerial review. While we have highlighted important issues that question some aspects of the department's work, we wish to confirm our support for the department's workers in the difficult tasks they face each day. They alone cannot solve the complex problems that lead to the abuse of children. We encourage all communities to keep in mind the saying that 'it takes a whole village to raise a child'."

Transport and Industrial Relations (Lyn Main, SC-TI@parliament.govt.nz)
Two reports by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee on the 2000/01 Estimates were tabled in the House on Monday 14 August.

The committee noted a number of issues in its report on 2000/01 Estimates Vote Transport. Some of the issues included:

 Rule -making responsibilities have transferred to the Ministry of Transport from the various Crown entities. This transfer is reflected in a $4.985 million transfer from non-departmental output classes to the departmental output class of policy advice.

 New initiatives contained in the Safety (Administration) Programme cost $26.5 million in 2000/01. The Ministry of Transport expects these new road safety initiatives to save around 85 lives and prevent some 1800 injuries per year.

 The committee is pleased that the Land Transport Safety Authority (LTSA) is finally joining the Australasian New Car Assessment Programme (ANCAP). The LTSA is making the crash test information publicly available on its website and through information brochures.

 The committee feels there are some inconsistencies, and unreasonable impediments, with the compliance regime concerning rules on importing cars into New Zealand. A particular example raised by the committee was in relation to cars imported from South Africa.

 The committee raised the matter of inconsistency between the Estimates and the performance agreement between Transfund and the Minister. There is a fiscally neutral variance in four output classes. The agreement states that the variances will be adjusted during the Supplementary Estimates process. The committee recognises that such inconsistencies may arise as a new government develops new initiatives, and accepts that this as a valid explanation in this year. However in subsequent years it would be concerned to see such significant differences.

Some of the issues raised in the committee’s report on 2000/01 Estimates Vote Accident Insurance are listed below:

 The committee is concerned that details of expenditure for each item in non-departmental output class O2 with total costs of $347.46 million are not provided in the Estimates documents that the committee receives. The committee recommended these figures be provided each year to the committee that is examining the vote.

 The committee noted that ACC’s performance and efficiency is improving and hoped that these trends continue. Therefore, some committee members were surprised that the average premium rate has not decreased further. Some were also surprised at the size of the prudential margin built into the average premium rate and believe the ACC should further lower its premium rates.

 The Opposition members believe that the Government should amend the legislation to allow ACC to offer individual risk rating.

 The committee hopes that problems with CoverplusExtra are resolved promptly. The committee expects the Minister to keep it informed on a regular basis of the progress made in resolving the problems with CoverplusExtra.


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

Commerce
Chartered Professional Engineers of New Zealand Bill (1 September 2000)
Supplementary Order Paper (SOP) No 37 relating to the Commerce Amendment Bill (15 September 2000)

Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade
New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone Extension Bill (2 October 2000)

Government Administration
Casino Control (Poll Demand) Amendment Bill (23 September 2000)

Health
New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill (27 September 2000)

Justice and Electoral
Local Elections (Single Transferable Vote Option) Bill (1 September 2000)

Local Government and Environment
Tauranga District Council (Route K Toll) Empowering Bill (1 September 2000)

Primary Production
Foreign Fishing Crew Wages and Repatriation Bond Bill (4 September 2000)

Social Services
Children, Young Persons and Their Families Amendment Bill (No 3) (20 October 2000)
Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill (8 September 2000)


General
Next week, a compendium of Estimates reports should be available for purchase at Bennetts Government Bookshops.

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
at carol.rankin@parliament.govt.nz

Compiled in the Select Committee Office, Office of the Clerk, 18 August 2000

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