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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today's questions of the day concerned: Waipareira Trust Money - Taxpayers Medical Records - Consultants - Petrol Prices - Hawkes Bay Meat Production - Spraydrift - Employment Relations And Strikes - Cannabis In Parliament - Super Fund - Whistleblowing - Tariana Turia And Moutoa Gardens - Fairness In the Workplace - TPK And Waipareira Trust Money.

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 15 March 2000

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.


Questions to Ministers

Question 1.

Rodney Hide (ACT) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she received any reports of Health Funding Authority money being incorrectly paid to the Aotearoa Maori Rugby League instead of the Waipareira Trust; if not, will she be seeking such reports?

A: No. But I have received the following information concerning clerical errors in mid 1998. The transitional health authority paid $140,000 into the wrong account. The following month $17,100 was lodged into the wrong account. In both cases the mistakes were due to clerical errors by the trust. I am satisfied that the problems have been dealt with.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Is the Minister satisfied in light of the fact that there are allegations about 30 forged cheques?

A: I have no reason to disbelieve the information I have been provided with in relation to this matter. I say to that member to stop the daily dose of sleaze and put the information on the table. All reports I have received from the HFA indicate the HFA is happy with the way the trust is operated.

Question 2.

Mark Peck (Labour) to the Minister of Revenue Michael Cullen:

Q: Has he received any further information with respect to the case where a taxpayer's medical records were sought under section 17 of the Tax Administration Act 1994?

A: Yes. In the particular case numerous attempts were made to contact the taxpayer defended by Mr Hide. He was a taxpayer with a history of involvement in serious crime including arson, violence and intimidation. There is no evidence that the taxpayer was intimidated into a nervous breakdown as claimed by the ACT member.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does the minister accept that the concern I raised was that the IRD can lift the records of any taxpayer.

A: The IRD tried more than 20 times to try to set up a meeting with the taxpayer. In the end they set up a compulsory meeting and were told the taxpayer could not attend for medical reasons. The IRD wanted to check the validity of the medical certificate supplied.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does the minister accept that the IRD should have simply asked about the medical certificate rather than used section 17?

A: When the medical certificate was not on a doctors letterhead and the taxpayer had the range of convictions that this one did I think the actions taken were completely appropriate.

(Michael Cullen - after being requested to do so - leave sought to table the report from the IRD on the matter - granted.)

Question 3.

Rt Hon. Simon Upton (National) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: How long does he expect it will take Government departments to eliminate the use of consultants?

A: It is not government policy to eliminate the use of consultants. Recently a letter was sent to three agencies to encourage them to reduce the use of consultants. The wording in this letter somewhat overstated government policy.

Q: Simon Upton (National): Does the minister have an assurance from the Deputy Prime Minister that he understands that this is the policy?

A: Yes.

Q: John Luxton (National): Will consultants be appointed by competitive tender in future, or will it appoint its friends?

A: The government generally has a policy of going to tender. There are occasions when it is not appropriate.

(Simon Upton - leave sought to table a letter from Jim Anderton to departments on consultants - granted.)

Question 4.

Peter Brown (NZ First) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:

Q: Is he concerned about the four increases to fuel prices this year, which occurred at short notice; if so, what action is he proposing to take?

A: I receive regular reports on energy issues. These indicate that price rises on petrol are inevitable due to the price rises in crude oil.

Q: Peter Brown (NZ First): Why hasn't he said that earlier?

A: I have always been of the view that when you have nothing special to add to a discussion you should remain silent. Based on its analysis officials consider that prices are lower than they would have been without the introduction of Challenge and Gulf to the market. That said, now the price margins are narrower we intend to keep them that way by amending the Commerce Act.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons: What is being done about encouraging alternative fuel vehicles?

A: The government is continuing to develop policy work on procurement of alternative fuel vehicles.

Question 5.

Anne Tolley (National) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Has he received any information or advice concerning potential barriers to export by Hawke's Bay meat producers?

A: Yes. Over the past four weeks there has been strike action at Progressive meats in Hawkes Bay. Yesterday I was contacted by an exporter concerned about this.

Q: Anne Tolley (National): Does the minister support secondary action being proposed by waterside workers to stop the export of Progressive Meats product?

A: No I haven't. However I am aware that the CTU has called upon the employer to negotiate in good faith. I believe the absence of an effective mediation service has possibly prevented a quick and good natured resolution on this point.

(Speaker - final warning to Gerry Brownlee on his interjections.

Gerard Eckhoff - leave sought to table letters from unions seeking to "heavy" progressive meats - granted.

Anne Tolley - leave sought to table a "leaked" letter from Waterfront Workers union threatening Progressive meats - refused.)

Question 6.

Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:

Q: When will she enact legislation to make spray drift at any detectable level illegal?

A: The HASNO Act will provide the machinery to decide what levels are acceptable. It will become illegal to exceed levels in air water and on land. I intend to have this act operating by mid year. I am confident that the new procedures will be far more effective in ensuring the health and well-being of NZers.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): Is the minister aware of the efforts being made by growers to reduce the nuisance?

A: There is no additional legislation. This is the bringing in of regulations under the HASNO Act passed in the last session of this Parliament.

Question 7.

Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What evidence can she provide that working days lost will not rise under the proposed Employment Relations Act?

A: Being unable to perceive the future I cannot answer this question. That said the bill is designed to ensure continuity of employment.

Q: Max Bradford (National): How can the minister argue that we will not see more industrial strife in light of the fact that we already see evidence of what will happen in the future with the waterfront workers in Hastings?

A: I am interested to see that the current dispute at Progressive Meats is taking place under the ECA. Under the ERA the dispute in Hastings would have had to be referred to mediation before workers could have gone on strike.

Q: If the minister were convinced that it would cause more strikes would she change her mind?

A: If the member could prove his claims through the gift of foresight then I am sure that this would be taken into account by this government.. Statistics show that since the 1970s there has been a reduction in the number of strikes in New Zealand. That said NZ has not yet experienced good faith bargaining

Question 8.

Rick Barker (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Does she plan any educational campaigns for members of Parliament and their staff on the health effects of using cannabis?

A: Perhaps I should having read recent reports that an ACT staff member was caught smoking cannabis in the Bowen House toilets. The ACT party should have explained this to their staff, that said it does appear to explain the somewhat dopey policies of the Employers Federation.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Does the Minister agree that it would be easier to educate people on this if it were not a crime?

A: I endorse the select committee report on this. One of the recommendations was that we ought to look at the criminal status of cannabis.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): In view of the ministers statement can she assure the house that she will not be discriminating between temporary staff members and members of Parliament when ?

A: No I see no difference and the staff member was not temporary yesterday?

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Does the minister agree that it would have been helpful if there had not been a cover-up of another earlier incident?

(Speaker that is out of order… Gerry Brownlee (National) objected strenuously and was asked to be seated.)

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Will the minister support random drug testing of Members of Parliament?

A: If we were to introduce any testing in this house perhaps we should start with breathing into bags.

( Gerry Brownlee (National) - leave sought for papers relating to an investigation into cannabis use in the house to be released for debate… leave denied…)

Question 9.

Dr the Hon. Lockwood Smith (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Can he rule out, in any circumstances, having to borrow to fund the Government's proposed superannuation fund?

A: The details for this are being developed. There will in general be no requirement to borrow to fund the payments.

Q: Does that mean he is not ruling out plans to borrow?

A: In normal circumstances borrowing is not marked for specific purposes. There has been a wide level of support particularly in the provincial press.

Question 10.

Janet Mackey (Labour) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: What mechanisms are currently in place to protect employees who make disclosures of information about serious wrongdoing by the employer?

A: Currently there is no protection for an employee in this position. Paul East introduced a whistle-blowing bill in 1996 which has since fallen on the back-burner. I am planning to put a proposal on the table next week which should protect employees in both the private and public sector. The present stalled bill only relates to the public sector.

Question 11.

Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Associate Minister of Maori Affairs (Social Development) Tariana Turia:

Q: Why did she withdraw from discussions which took place last Friday regarding the future of Moutoa Gardens?

A: As I explained on March 1 it was never my intention to represent the crown in those tri-partite discussions.

Q: Can I take that to mean that she has been excluded from Cabinet papers on this?

A: It is not my understanding that this matter is before Cabinet at this time.

Q: Does she believe good faith exists to resolve this issue?

A: Quite clearly there is good faith.

Q: Murray McCully (National): How can the Minister reconcile her answer with that of the Minister of Maori Affairs.

A: I am unclear what it is the member is asking.

Q: Murray McCully (National): Could she explain how the Minister Of Maori Affairs came to say that she attended the meeting as Associate Minister of Maori Affairs?

A: I don't believe there is any conflict. I took responsibility in the first meeting for organising the attendance of my Iwi at the meeting.

Question 12.

Taito Phillip Field (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: How will the Employment Relations Bill restore balance and fairness to the workplace?

A: Employees will be able to choose to bargain through unions if they wish. They will also be able to choose not to be represented if they wish. The process of development of this legislation shows that the government is moving in good faith towards fairness.

Q: Max Bradford (National): Long question ending…..what is fair about making directors and managers directly liable for wages in the event of liquidation?

A: The new bill gives real choice which was not there under the ECA. The essence of the bill is that all employees will be able to choose what is appropriate in their workplace.

Q; Sue Bradford (Green): Will workers be able to strike for the environment?

A: Under the legislation industrial legislation in pursuit of causes outside of the workplace will not be legal. Unions have the right to represent all employees that want to be represented collectively. And they have access to workplaces. They also have requirements on how unions are to be incorporated.

(Max Bradford… leave sought to table a table of work stoppages since the 1970s - granted.)

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Rodney Hide (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Maori Affairs Committee John Tamihere:

Q: Is the committee, as part of its review of Te Puni Kokiri, examining whether the Ministry has monitored the use by the Waipareira Trust of funding appropriated through the Ministry's vote?

A: No.

Q: Does he not accept that there should be such an inquiry and that he should step aside.

(Question ruled out of order. Questions cannot be asked about matters beyond his responsibility as chairman of the committee.)

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Did he draw to the attention of someone …. that he was the recipient of a beneficial loan from the Waipareira Trust?

(Point of order - John Tamihere… wanted to know if there was any limitation on the making of insinuations and the tabling of accusations against him.)

A: I do not understand the question.

(Winston Peters - leave sought to table the mortgage document referred to in his question - granted.)


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