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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today’s questions of the day concerned: Farmers And Guns - Air Force – IRD Commissioner – Prisoner Of Immigration – Youth Employment – Peter Ellis – Rimu Logging – TVNZ Performance - Chinese Exams – Kit Richards – World Water Day – Regional Development

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 22 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.


Question 1.

Ron Mark (NZ First) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What initiatives is he taking to improve the personal safety of families living in remote farming communities?

A: The government is working closely with police to ensure rural neighbourhood watch and other initiatives are strengthened.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First) Given that farmers face death threats from cannabis growers and prosecution from police – what will he do?

A: Farmers were warned today not to take the law into their own hands and I think that is excellent advice. I think this government has done plenty for the rural community including canning the police review – rural police are staying where they are and not moving to Auckland.

Q: John Carter (National) Will he decriminalise home invasion too because it is inconvenient to enforce?

A: We will have more success than National did when it passed home invasion legislation. I believe that fighting crime is the responsibility of the police and the communities they serve.

Question 2.

Dr Wayne Mapp (National) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: How will he ensure New Zealand has an effective Air Force since, in the words of an Air Force pilot, they are "absolutely gutted" and that the decision to cancel the F16 contract "does ask questions about the future of the air attack force"?

A: The RNZAF will continue to operate an effective attack force in the future. The future of the force is under review.

Q: Does he plan to take any measures against the pilots who have spoken out?

A: Matter of Military Discipline are properly the responsibility of the chief of defence staff. National has failed in the past to give defence planning policy coherence. The government plans to fix that.

Q: Peter Dunne (United) Have only two of the instructors taken up the retention bonus announced last week?

A: I am unaware of the numbers. I am aware however that retention bonuses have been paid in the past.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Can the minister name an enemy the Skyhawks could be used against to boost morale?

A: If I can begin to understand the question, I don’t think so.

Q: Does the minister support the establishment of a Defence Forces Association to fill a similar role to that of the Police Association to represent service personnel interests?

A: I have not received any such proposal.

Question 3.

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

Q: Does he have any concerns that a new permanent Commissioner of Inland Revenue has not been appointed?

A: Yes. It would have been better to have announced a permanent appointment. However we have had several problems in getting someone to take up the job in the face of ongoing personnel attacks from Rodney Hide. A large number of people have been approached for the job and there has been a consistent reference to the attacks made on the position from possible appointees.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is the minister saying that Commissioner Holland is competent given that he has sat around for years on the wine-box and has not acted?

A: Work continues on ensuring taxpayers responsibilities are met.

Question 4.

Dr Muriel Newman (ACT) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: How much is it costing taxpayers per day to keep Alexander Tishkovets in Mt Eden Prison, and is it fair to keep him locked up indefinitely because Tajikistan, his home country, is incapable of providing him with travel documents?

A: I cannot comment on the cost of holding someone in detention. The government’s attempts to return this man to his home country was thwarted when he told authorities in Moscow that he was an Irish Citizen. The man is the author of his own misfortune.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): In view of the estimated cost of $50,000 a year will she make it an urgent priority to sort this matter out?

A: He was the one that claimed he was an Irish citizen at the point of which he was about to be returned to his home. The Immigration Service cannot hold the man indefinitely. After 28 days of holding the man a judge’s permission is needed to keep him in custody every seven days. This is the procedure followed in this case. Refugee status was declined to this individual in September last year.

Q: Max Bradford (National): Can the minister assure the house that this man is not Danny Butler in disguise?

(Speaker – that question is not in order.)

Question 5.

Taito Phillip Field (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What initiatives does the Government intend to take to give young people opportunities to gain skills and job prospects?

A: This morning the PM launched the Modern Apprenticeship Scheme. This will widen opportunities for young people to learn in a job. We intend to have 500 people placed by the end of the year. The Employers Federation has given a “thumbs up” to the scheme. The government welcomes this support and would like to place on record its appreciation of the work of Marilyn Davies on this.

Q: Can he guarantee the new apprentices will get real jobs when they are finished?

A: In a number of recent surveys lack of skills have been named as the reason stopping employers expanding. We are aiming this programme at that shortage. This is only one of several programmes designed to improve skills among young people who do not want to learn in institutions.

Question 6.

Hon. Tony Ryall (National) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: Will the Government fund the legal representations of the Christchurch Civic Creche families to the ministerial inquiry into the Peter Ellis convictions?

A: Last week I received a request from some of the Creche families for assistance. I am sympathetic to the suggestion that the families viewpoint be represented. I have asked families for more information and am waiting for that before I will make my decision. I have never declined to provide funding as the member suggests. As for the legal aid received by Peter Ellis that was all received under the previous government. My reply to the families letter of March 14th asked questions and did not refuse the request. No request for assistance has been made by the staff initially charged in relation to the civic creche matter.

(Tony Ryall – Leave sought to table a letter declining the request for assistance.

Phil Goff – I ask what a member can do when another member misrepresents the document he has in his hand.

Speaker – leave has been sought, it can be granted or not, is there any objection – granted.

Phil Goff - leave sought to table another letter replying to families – granted.)

Question 7.

Rod Donald (Green) to the Minister responsible for Timberlands West Coast Ltd Pete Hodgson:

Q: Can he give a date when Timberlands West Coast Ltd's rimu logging will end?

A: No. The government’s policy is to stop indigenous logging on crown managed land as soon as possible. We are working through the issues involved in stopping rimu logging.

Q: What is causing the delay in cancelling rimu contracts?

A: From memory I can’t remember rimu contracts being signed after the release of Labour Party policy. It is in any event irrelevant as the contracts contain a cancellation clause which is presently being tested across the road in the High Court. A generous economic package is being prepared for the West Coast by officials. We are also trying to sort out a mess created by the National Government called SILNA. It is hard to know why a forest would be regarded as a liability when it is valued at $68 million? However inclusion of this in the economic development package is still being worked on.

Question 8.

Simon Power (National) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marion Hobbs:

Q: Is she satisfied with the performance of the board of Television New Zealand?

A: Shareholders have every confidence that Dr Armstrong the new chairman will ensure that the board performs to the government’s expectations.

Q: Simon Power (National): Who will be held responsible now Dr Armstrong has said that Rick Ellis’s job is not on the line?

A: I am very satisfied with the reasons given by Dr Armstrong for settling the Hawkesby affair. It is time to move on. The question of whether part of the dividend be reinvested in new programming or in biosecurity or something else is a decision that is yet to be made.

Question 9.

H V Ross Robertson (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Why has he decided to introduce a school certificate examination in the Chinese language?

A: I have asked NZQA to offer a School Certificate examination in Chinese this year. This puts it on the same footing as other international languages. In 1994 the previous government signed a protocol to promote the Chinese language. Nothing happened. Our decision recognises the assurance given to the Chinese government on this issue in 1994. I have documentation with me now that shows the National Party refused a request on this and that shows that Ross Robertson and Peter Dunne made submissions on this issue and that the ethnic affairs spokeswoman for the National Party (Pansy Wong) made no request on this.

Question 10.

Phil Heatley (National) to the Minister responsible for Timberlands West Coast Ltd Pete Hodgson:

Q: What instructions did he give to Mr Warren Young during his 45-minute meeting yesterday with respect to the most recent employment of Mr Kit Richards?

A: I gave no instructions to Mr Young. At the beginning of the meeting Mr Young advised me of the decision to stop Mr Richards employment. I thanked him for bringing this matter to conclusion.

Q: Damien O’Conner (Labour): Is the minister comfortable with the handling of this issue by the board of Timberlands?

A: Yes.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Did he give Mr Young an assurance that in future his government would obey both the spirit and the intent of the SOE Act when changing Timberlands statement of corporate intent?

A: When a manager of a company actively opposes his own companies statement of corporate intent then that is no longer an operational matter it becomes a political matter . And if it happens again then there would be another political response as there was this time – just as there would have been under any government.

Question 11.

David Cunliffe (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:

Q: On this United Nations-designated World Day for Water could she advise what steps have been taken to improve water quality at our beaches and waterways?

A: My ministry is taking a positive lead in improving water quality. A new website has been set up with information on water quality of beaches. Cigarette butts put in stormwater drains will end up on the beach. It is important for individuals as well as government to take responsibility for these issues.

Question 12.

Hon. John Luxton (National) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Has he made any representations to the Minister of Finance regarding Government investment in industry and regional development?

A: Yes.

Q: John Luxton (National): Does it concern him that the Minister of Finance’s proposal is to invest surpluses in offshore investment funds rather than in New Zealand or by paying off New Zealand overseas debt?

A: I have heard of no such proposals. The government is far too wise to do anything other than make good investments. It is a pity ACT members don’t listen. I know of no proposal to invest the majority of any investment fund overseas.

Q: John Luxton (National): Has the minister made any representations to the Minister of Finance on the many things the government has done to slow down regional development?

A: I know some people think I am responsible to everything, I do not think I am.


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