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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today’s questions of the day concerned: Nurse and Doctor Pay – Petrol Prices – Constitution Conference – ACC For Self Employed –Maori Health – Police Use of Nose Holds – Maori Health – Offshore SOE Staff – Brian Edwards – East Timor – Superannuation - School Enrolment Rules – John Tamihere.

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, 23 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

. Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she taken any steps since becoming Minister of Health to ensure that nurses and doctors receive better pay and conditions?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) I have recently written to all hospitals on this referring to the need to maintain cost neutrality. I expect negotiations to be conducted in good faith.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): How come she was so critical last year on this subject and then sent out such a similar letter to the one we sent our?

A: There are lots of differences between the letters.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT) Does the Minister accept that the bullet points represent a return to a tripartite wage round?

A: It would be helpful if the ACT party listened to National. The previous questioner said the letter was the same as last year’s. I am sure there will be negotiations between the Minister of Health and Minister of Finance about what cost neutrality means.

Question 2.

Grant Gillon (Labour) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What concerns does he have about regional variations in the price of petrol?

A: I am very concerned about the cost of petrol and the detrimental effect the high cost has on regions. I want to know also why Tauranga prices are 5 cents less than elsewhere. Either there is predatory pricing or they are over charging elsewhere. When oil has fallen 24% why has petrol only fallen 2%. The companies must also explain why prices are so much lower in Tauranga.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT) How come he is in favour of petrol price competition and not ACC competition?

(Speaker that question is off the topic… rejected initially then allowed.)

A: It is the judgement of this government that competition in ACC and the Health System will not and has not led to a better outcome for consumers.

Q: Peter Dunne (National): If his attempts to jaw-bone competition fail will he try to regulate petrol prices?

A: If jaw-boning gets an overnight response then maybe some more of it will help.

Q: Peter Brown (NZ First) Will he address the high tax on petrol?

A: I have to concede that the member’s leader appears to have been more successful in Tauranga than elsewhere. If tax is reduced on petrol then where should we increase tax to get the same revenue.

Question 3.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:

Q: How much sponsorship is Te Puni Kokiri extending to the "Building the Constitution" conference and why is taxpayers' money being spent on this gathering?

A: (Sandra Lee on behalf) The conference is convened by Victoria University and has Sir Paul Reeves, Sir Geoffrey Palmer and Dame Catherine Tizard attending – hardly a bunch of radicals. The contribution is $5000 far less than the $50 million asked for today by an ACT member in a Select Committee today for irrigation in his own area.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) Does this mean that the Government supports the position of one of the speakers who wants self-determination for the Far North?

A: TPK has not endorsed the ideas of any of the participants in the conference. It does however encourage an open debate.

Q: Michael Cullen (Labour): Is it correct that Parliamentary Services pays for the views of Rodney Hide and Richard Prebble? And does that mean we agree with them?

(Speaker… question is out of order)

Q: Simon Upton (National(): Why has TPK become a sponsor of this at the last minute?

A: TPK is interested in these issues.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Does the government support establishing a new constitution based around the Treaty and the Bill of Rights?

A: The government has a strong commitment to upholding the existing constitution of this country. We are also interested in the views of all NZers on these matters, including those of republicans.

(Richard Prebble – objected to the penalty of not being granted a further questions because of a Rodney Hide interjections. This is abhorrent and smacks of Nazism, he said.

Speaker – you were penalised because of Rodney Hide and he better be more careful or you will be penalised again. I will allow another question this time.)

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Is she aware that she has sworn an oath to uphold the law of the Queen?

A: I was responding to a question from the member on whether we would support discussion of the constitution. We would.

Question 4.

Graham Kelly (Labour) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has he had any further discussion with Federated Farmers with respect to accident insurance coverage for the self-employed; if so, what has been the outcome of those discussions?

A: Federated Farmers have engaged in constructive discussions which have led to changes to the bill. These provisions have now been publicly backed by Federated Farmers.

Q: Graham Kelly (Labour) What safeguards will be used?

A: Individuals will be able to appeal corporation decisions.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Has he seen any reports of disappointment in the Green Party among the business community?

A: As I understand it the Green’s were never going to vote against the bill even though that member said they would.

Question 5.

Dr Lynda Scott (National) to the Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia:

Q: What did she mean when she said, of Maori representation on the new district health boards, that a separate Maori funding authority was one option, but that "there's a lot to be said for co-purchasing arrangements"?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf ) The minister was referring to the provision of services to Maori.

Q: Dr Lynda Scott (National): Does the minister stand by her statements that Maori should be given an equal say?

A: I am sure she does stand by her comments in support of consultation with Maori, and I am sure that the Minister will respond to those comments.

Q: Simon Upton (National): Has she encouraged the Minister to explore her opposition to co-purchasing in public?

A: I am not aware of any public statements opposing co-purchasing from the Minister.

(Dr Lynda Scott - Leave sought to table a transcript of Morning Report - refused.)

Question 6.

Sue Bradford (Green) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What is the Government's policy in relation to nose holds, choke holds and similar tactics in dealing with people on demonstrations?

(…much disorder over the fact that Sue Bradford is probably the only member of Parliament these tactics have been used against…)

A: The government does not have a policy in respect of nose holds. However I am happy to take advice from the member on such matters.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): I will take that offer up. But how does this relate to protests in Auckland over WINZ?

A: The nose hold is one of a range of “minimal force” holds employed by police around the country. It is employed to remove people in confrontational situations.

Q: Will the police use all lawful means to ensure protests are not a danger to the public.

A: I can assure the member that this government will not employ buses to hide demonstrations from guests to this country.

Question 7.

Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King.

Q: Are media reports that the Government is considering that iwi organisations sit alongside new district health boards and have equal say in all decisions, as attributed to her Associate Minister, Hon Tariana Turia, correct?

A: The government is using all means to ensure that Maori have active and effective participation in Public Health Boards.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Given that the Minister has said that she wants all aspects of the reforms to be discussed in an open way is the Minister prepared to release information on the argument in the Labour caucus on this issue?

A: I would have great trouble doing that. I can say that the Minister and her associate had a public latte at the airport this morning.

Question 8.

Peter Brown (NZ First) to the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: Are there any circumstances in which it would be appropriate to permit senior management of a State-owned enterprise to reside, long term, outside of New Zealand?

A: Yes.

Q: Peter Brown (NZ First) Is it acceptable that three members of Airways including the CEO now reside in the UK and will do so for the next 12 months.

A: I will make inquiries into this now I know what is being referred to. I can also report that NZ Post has a senior manager in South Africa and another in Trinidad and Tobago.

Question 9.

Rt Hon. Jenny Shipley (National ) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Further to her reported indication that it would be difficult for Mr Richards to keep his job, and Mr Hodgson's comments in the House yesterday that behaviour such as Mr Richards' would invoke a "political response", is it her Government's policy that people employed by Government agencies will be subject to a direct "political response" including sackings if, outside work hours, they engage in political activities or express opinions opposed to the Government?

A: No.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National) Can the PM comment on whether or not she approves of money paid to Brian Edwards by her as an adviser when he was employed by Radio New Zealand?

A: Whoever RNZ hires to deliver its programmes is a matter for them. We expect public servants to behave professionally and in a manner that does not undermine their employers.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) Is there a double standard implicit in her support for whistleblowing legislation and her attacks on Air Force pilots and Kit Richards?

A: To my knowledge the legislation would not support a senior manager of an SOE using email to undermine his own statement of corporate intent. (To Rod Donald – Green) This government was clearly elected on a pledge to stop native logging and we will

(Jenny Shipley – leave sought to table two documents concerning Brian Edwards and RNZ and the Labour Party’s election expenses – granted.)

Question 10.

Chris Carter (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: What reports, if any, has he received on an upsurge in militia activity in East Timor?

A: I have received reports that this month incursions by armed militia groups into East Timor have increased. In the first 10 days of this month there were 16 “significant” incidents. The number of incidents in the last two weeks has reduced. The upsurge appears to have coincided with the takeover by UNTAET and the visit of President Wahid. They indicate low level Indonesian military opposition to President Wahid’s forward looking approach. The NZ government has made representations to the Government of Indonesia and we are keen that everybody in West Timor has the opportunity to return. We are also concerned that the camps are a source of militia activity – we would like the camps closed down.

Question 11.

Hon. Bill English (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What is the timetable for his proposal to legislate for the proposed superannuation fund, and will the legislation include provisions covering when, and to whom, the fund will pay out?

A: In order to staff the fund it would be desirable to pass legislation this year. Legislation would cover the issues referred to.

Q: Bill English (National) When will he resolve unanswered questions concerning the fund?

A: The most important question has already been answered – payouts will be made to those aged over 65 at a rate higher than 65% of the average wage. I note that so far the Green Party , National and the Alliance have not yet indicated their opposition to the plans and would like to discuss the plans with them.

Q: Will he then start multi-party discussions?

A: In theory yes. But last time we had discussions the National Party unilaterally broke them and waiting for consensus might take forever. One of the principals behind the scheme will be that we need to run surpluses for the next 25 years.

Question 12.

Helen Duncan (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Will the proposed enrolment scheme legislation enable schools or parents to have more choice about which school children attend?

A: The proposed enrolment scheme legislation will allow parents to choose where their children attend. At the moment schools select who gets to attend. Under the proposed legislation neighbourhood children will have first choice. Those from outside zone will be balloted. The bright, the rich, and those gifted at sport will not have preference. Every child deserves a quality education not just those with convincing parents. I did not refer at any stage to the closest school. Children will have the right to attend neighbourhood schools and other schools – they just won’t have the right to attend a non neighbourhood school ahead of someone from the neighbourhood. This policy is designed to improve the quality of education.

Thursday, 23 March 2000

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Chairperson of the Maori Affairs Committee John Tamihere:

Q: Are there any issues in the Maori Affairs Committee's consideration of the 1998/99 Financial Review of the Ministry of Maori Development that would cause him to stand down as chairperson of the committee?

A: No.

Q: Can he confirm that the definition of Maori organisations has just been extended to include organisations like the Te Waipareira Trust, that the Audit Office is now auditing the trust and that he is giving secret evidence in fraud cases concerning the trust?

(Interrupted….litigation over whether the question is in order…

John Tamihere – I am also a Catholic. Is that relevant? The Auditor General has advised that member…..we have not reported back yet on what we are reviewing.

Speaker – while a member cannot reveal details of what is occurring in committee the chairman can answer a question about what the review is about.)

Q: Richard Prebble (continued) – Is the fact that WINZ is now investigating misuse of subsidies by the trust and the fact he is involved in a court case concerning a former senior manager of the trust and his campaign manager reason for him to stand aside?

A: The member misleads the house. He should repeat those allegations outside the house. There is no senior member of the trust appearing court yesterday. I will provide a testimonial whenever I wish for whomever I wish. I am sick of the racism of this member.

(Two members sent from the chamber…

Richard Prebble – that answer suggests I am misleading the house. I ask him to withdraw.

Speaker – asked Mr Tamihere - did the member use the words deliberately misleading?

John Tamihere – I do not remember.

John Carter – Why were no further supplementaries allowed:?

Speaker - I have determined that is the end of the matter.)


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