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Questions for Oral Answer

1. Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH to the Prime Minister: Are media reports that she is making no promises the Government will pick up all or any of the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference's recommendations correct; if so, does this represent the official Government policy towards the conference?

A. No sensible government would promise to pick up recommendations before they had been formulated.

S. Is one of the reasons that the Prime Minister is already saying that the government will not accept all or perhaps any of the recommendations of the conference because the conference like overseas experience shows like Ireland is likely to recommend cutting corporate taxes as one of the first steps in catching the Knowledge Wave?

A. If the conference does follow Ireland then it would no doubt recommend a strong and powerful compact between the Government and Trade Unions depending on centralised wage bargaining.

S. What is the aim of the conference?

A. To depend national understanding, of the challenges and opportunities presented by the Knowledge Society and the importance of knowledge in transporting our economy. It will be used in the weeks, months and years ahead to further develop the policies of the Labour/Alliance Government.

2. RODNEY HIDE to the Minister of Finance: In light of his answer yesterday to question No 6, under what circumstances would the proposal for a "People's Bank" be abandoned?

A. Nothing in my answer indicated that that the proposed People’s Bank would be reconsidered let alone abandoned.

S. Why doesn’t the Minister release official reports on the cost and benefits of the People’s Bank, or is he worried that if Tax payer’s find out the true cost and its impact on NZ Post then the NZ Post Board would have no option but to abandon this proposal for a bank, if not why not?

A. Some of the documents he refers to I have not seen, so I could not possibly have kept them secret – all I can say to the member is the proposal comes from NZ Post, it is convinced of its commercial viability – what the member wants to release into the public arena are aspects of the proposal that any commercial organisation would want to keep secret.

3. TIM BARNETT to the Minister of Justice: Is he planning any legislative changes to the rules determining residency requirements for registration for voting?

A. No, the current rules for determining residents will remain unchanged. By definition a holiday home is not a person’s place of residence for purposes of the Electoral Act. It would be unlawful to register as an elector at a holiday home, this is not th usual place of residence, simply for reasons of perceived political advantage. I am therefore concerned that info I have received is that the Leader of the Opposition speaking to a business group last Friday is alleged to have said that changes to the Electoral Act would make it possible for people to enrol from their holiday homes and vote there – and this would help National win seats like Taupo and Coromandel. If the Leader of the Opposition did give such advice she should retract it as not only is it unethical following it would be unlawful.

S. Wayne Mapp – Is this kind of question designed to assist people like Marion Hobbs who obviously had enormous difficulty in deciding where in fact they lived – Wellington Central, was it Waikanae?

A. As the member well knows the registrar of electors cleared Marion Hobbs, by ruling that she had been validly enrolled in Wellington Central.

4. Hon MURRAY McCULLY to the Minister of Broadcasting: In light of media reports that Telstra-Saturn has withdrawn from the planned digital television partnership with Television New Zealand, what are the implications of this withdrawal for Television New Zealand and for New Zealand's ability to catch the knowledge wave?

A. Telsta-Saturn has decided to postpone the launch of its satellite paid digital service. This does not effect Television New Zealand’s plans for a free to air service. It appears Telsta-Saturn is choosing to focus its business on cable and broadband communication. This is simply exchanging one form of communication technology for another and I expect the surf will keep rolling in.

S. Is it now the case that TVNZ had made a contractual commitment to transponder space costing over $12 million per year in order to provide a satellite digital service?

A. I am advised in any circumstances that Telsta-Saturn will honour all of its contractual obligations to TVNZ. A Telstra-Saturn spokesperson said this morning on a Holmes interview that it would be meeting all its commitments to TVNZ.

5. HELEN DUNCAN to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): How does he intend ensuring that the tertiary education system responds to the need for economic and social development in New Zealand?

A. NZ needs to become a knowledge nation – the contribution of our education system to tertiary education system is vital to economic and social development. Yesterday we released the first report of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission that set out the need for a tertiary education strategy. A new desirability test that will be able to weigh up where the funds ought to be invested and argued for a national score board that will tell us what contribution this is making to our economic and social development.

S. Will this be responsive to the needs of the Maori and Pacific Islands communities?

A. Yes it will – the document devotes two long sections toward Maori and Pacific peoples it talks about the need to develop quality programmes within a Maori context, and identifies ways to allow Maori and Pacific Islands people to enter into engineering science and technology fields. This strategy is targeted very heavily toward those learners.

6. Hon Dr NICK SMITH to the Minister for the Environment: How will delaying decisions on the recommendations from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Genetic Modification until 31 October help New Zealand catch the knowledge wave?

A. The government’s careful consideration of the commission’s report and the public consideration and debate can only enhance community understanding of both the opportunities and the risks surrounding GM. So mass circulling of the Knowledge Wave will be the result.

S. What implications do Green threats of withdrawing confidence from the government on technology, unless there is substantial compromise on the Royal Commission’s recommendations have, and can she assure the house that the biotechnology industry will not be undermined by some back-room deal with the Greens?

A. I have received no such threat.

7. MARK PECK to the Minister of Finance: What recent reports has he received on the state of the New Zealand economy?

A. Recent economic data shows a continued slowdown of the global economy, but here 17% of businesses expect general conditions to improve over the next 12 months, up 3% on last month, and the more important indicator in terms of own firms, was significantly stronger with 36% positive about their own firm’s prospects over the next year.

S. What is driving the positive National Bank survey and how does it relate to other economic data?

A. The figures are driven primarily by a buoyant export sector with a net 42% expecting real exports to increase over the next 12 months. There is also an improvement in the construction industry. This will even out growth across all sectors.

S. Professor Robert Wade of the London School of Economics who says New Zealand under a Labour Government risks becoming the first country in 50 years to lose its developed status. Does he agree with Dr Edward Walsh, the chair of the Irish Council for Science Technology and Innovation that the first thing to reverse this trend is to reduce the corporate tax rate, and if not why not?

A. The Irish increased the corporate tax for their manufacturing sector before their economic lift-off occurred. All the Irish leaders I talked to on my recent visit said the key factor that occurred prior to the lift-off in the late 1980s was the confact between the government and the trade unions which depended on a centralised wage bargaining structure.

8. Hon TONY RYALL to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education): Does the third Tertiary Education Advisory Commission report Shaping the Strategy contain any recommendations which would help New Zealand catch the knowledge wave; if so, which recommendations will he implement?

A. In order to catch the Knowledge Wave, we as a nation are going to need to be strategic in our use of our tertiary education resources. We are going to have to make some choices. This will include a nationwide score-card that will allow us to assess and evaluate progress.

S. What will be his first priority, to deliver the report’s recommendation to have a vision for a vision, or the report’s recommendation for the characteristics of the vision for the vision, or the Report’s recommendation for the desirability for a desire and how much more will he see or this government to promote to achieve that outcome?

A. My clear first priority is to give Mr Ryall a reading test because he has simply read out words without the full sentences or context for those words.

9. HARRY DUYNHOVEN to the Minister of Transport: What is the Government doing to ensure that the vehicles on New Zealand roads are safe?

A. On the 28th June I released for public discussion, a package of proposals aimed at boosting vehicle safety. This package proposes amongst other things that all cars entering into New Zealand meet a specified impact standards, more stringent border inspections, higher standards for replacement parts, requirements to replace worn out seat belts and airbags, and changes to the warrant of fitness regime. The Government is keen to receive public input on these proposals, and submissions to the LTSA close at the end of this month.

S. Why has the Government introduced this?

A. The purpose of these proposals is to ensure the public of New Zealand enjoy the benefits of advances in vehicle safety technology and will also assist to reduce our road toll.

S. How much more will low income NZ’s have to pay for a second-hand imported car as a result of the proposed changes and what impact will this have on their disposable income?

A. There could be an increase in the price of imported used cars for a period of time. In the short term some people may hold on to their used vehicles for longer. Others will purchase more modern vehicles and gain better protection. In time the overall fleet would become safer, which is the desired outcome. Poorer, low-income New Zealanders deserve safer cars.

10. ALEC NEILL to the Minister for the Environment: Does the Government intend to substantially amend the Resource Management Act to help New Zealand catch the knowledge wave; if not, why not?

A. No. In fact we need the RMA to ensure that the Knowledge Wave is clean and green.

S. Noting that the chief executive of the Waikato District Council said that unless you are a rich multinational company it is impossible to get through the quadmire of RMA – why will she not advance National’s sensible amendment that will make the RMA more workable?

A. Because that particular Bill went before the Select Committee and I have the upmost respect for the Select Committee process that is fundamental to Parliamentary democracy.

11. Hon BRIAN DONNELLY to the Minister of Education: What is the estimated cost of the unpaid sabbatical leave provisions in the yet to be ratified primary teachers' collective agreement?

A. Apart from a minor administration cost this policy is cost neutral. The NZEI and the Government have agreed to this provision because it is seen as adding value to the teaching profession.

S. Can the Minister explain why such unpaid sabbatical leave has not been offered to teachers in decile 7 to 10 schools and does he have any evidence that decile 6 schools have greater staffing difficulties than decile 7 schools?

A. The policy is targeted currently at 1 to 6 decile schools. But I would invite him to take the matter up directly with the Minister of Education.

12. IAN EWEN-STREET to the Minister of Agriculture: How will the Government give effect to the commitment in the Government response to the report of the Primary Production Committee on its inquiry into organic agriculture in New Zealand that "Government agencies will continue to support the development of the organics sector" if genetically modified organisms were widely released into the environment?

A. The Primary Production Committee reports there may be a need to examine the relationships between the organics sector and those sectors seeking to use genetically modifications in line with the findings of the Royal Commission. That remains the Government’s position, obviously we will give careful thought to the details of that over the coming three months.

S. Will the Minister assure the organics industry that users of GM technology will be held liable for any losses the organic growers experience as a result of their certified organics status resulting from GM contamination. And if not who will bare that cost?

A. I can assure that careful consideration will be given to those issues. Issues of liability in this respect are very difficult to decide.

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