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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day

Today's questions concerned: NZ Economy - Risks To Economy - Cycling Safety - Defence Policy - Cell Phone Towers - School Bulk Funding - Community Services Card - Doctor's And Nurse's Pay - Primary Health Services - Te Papa's High Priests - Refugee Hostel - CYFS Racism.

Questions For Oral Answer - Tuesday, 28 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.

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

Q: Has he received any recent reports on the outlook for the New Zealand economy; if so, what do they say?

A: I have received many reports. One from a WestpacTrust economist in the Otago Daily Times saying the economy was "booming". The author of this report Mr Bevan Graham started yesterday as economics advisor to the National Party. In another recent report he said the unemployment rate was alarmingly low - this should be of concern to the National Party.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National): What does he think about NZIER concerns?

A: My response to this is the same response I would have to several mistakes they have made in the past concerning Super and ACC.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): What progress is being made to find new methods of measuring economic success including the value of unpaid work and the costs of environmental degradation?

A: Some work is taking place in those areas but they are very difficult areas on which to come to any conclusions.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does he regret ticking off the Reserve Bank Governor now?

A: The member should look at what I actually said.

Question 2.

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

Q: Will he heed the warnings of the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and Standard and Poors that this Government's policies raise real risks to the sustainability of current economic growth?

A: I think the member is misquoting Standard and Poors. The report said that concern might exist if surpluses were reduced. This government does not intend to reduce the surplus and so a tighter monetary policy should not be necessary. I am delighted we did not get a downgrade from Standard and Poors. The main concern S&P had was that we might bail out heavily indebted private companies, that is not our intention and this concern may only be explained though looking at NZ from Singapore. We expect that industry New Zealand will be able to encourage effective efficient import substitution - we do not believe that inefficient import substitution is a good idea. The government has no plans to introduce rigid labour markets.

Question 3.

Sue Kedgley (Green) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: How does he plan to make cycling safer in light of the recent spate of cyclist deaths and injuries, including four on State highways?

A: I have met with a number of cycling groups. I understand that Transit NZ has investigated the incidents on state highways. I am also looking at these issues in relation to the development of the road safety strategy through to 2010.

Q: Will the minister fund cycle ways on state highways?

A: I understand cycle lanes can be funded but cycle ways cannot by Transfund. I intend to look at the provision of cycling ways and lanes particularly in relation to Christchurch.

Q: Roger Sowry (National): Can local authorities expect money in the budget for cycling?

A: I am meeting regularly with local government on this and I am sure they will be satisfied.

Question 4.

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

Q: Does he disagree with the comments of Rear Admiral Fred Wilson that "Any re-examination of defence policy, for whatever reason, must start with a restatement of national aims and desired outcomes."?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) I can only regret that the National Party did not follow this advice when it purchased the Charles Upham and F16s when they did not fit defence priorities.

Q: Wayne Mapp (National): When will the minister stop trying to stifle debate?

A: The decision that was intellectually corrupt and militarily corrupt was to put NZ troops into a combat zone like Bosnia with inadequate equipment. The overall configuration of the Air Force and the Defence Forces always needed to be considered before a decision was made to spend $1 billion on replacing the Skyhawks.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Does the Minister stand by his statement on TV of March 3rd when he said he favoured a balanced force?

A: This government will be after balanced decision making for its defence forces. Anyone looking at this in a balanced way would look first to the Iroquois helicopters and C130s which are being used constantly rather than the Skyhawks which have never been used in a defence capacity.

(Wayne Mapp - leave sought to table a magazine with critical comments from Fred Wilson - granted.
Phil Goff - leave sought to table comments from Wayne Mapp on the need for fighter aircraft - granted.)

Question 5.

John Wright (Alliance) to the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee:

Q: What concerns does she have about the pressures on local government and their communities caused by controversies over cell-phone towers?

A: I do have a concern that council notify activities whenever they have an impact on their local environment and residents. There is scientific difference on whether cell phone towers are safe. We need national standards in this area. Local Authorities already have the power to deal with this. In the last Parliament Alliance introduced a bill which would have prohibited cell phone towers within 300metres of schools - we will consider later this year whether we need national standards in this area.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Will the national standard include mandatory notification?
A: That is one of the issues that is under consideration. However close scrutiny of the RMA shows that councils already have powers to notify matters such as this.

Question 6.

Donna Awatere Huata (ACT) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: When does he intend to fulfil the requirement to consult with each individual Board of Trustees, as outlined in the agreement in relation to the fully-funded option scheme, before he cancels those contracts?

A: I refer the member to the Education Amendment Bill.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Why is the minister breaking bulk funding contracts for education at the same time as the Minister of Health is promoting bulk funding for primary health services?

A: I am not.

Q: What information does he have on Donna Awatere-Huata's campaign against the end of bulk funding?

A: I have received a letter from a bulk funded school complaining about Donna Awatere-Huata's use of a letter from it - and looking forward to the end of bulk funding. I have received a considerable amount of research saying schools have benefited from bulk funding and the flexibility involved in it. Under the Act introduced today there will remain plenty of funding and lots of flexibility.

(Point of Order John Tamihere - Labour - In Maori - Translation - Who is it that dares to trample over the Mana of the Maori member who raised an issue earlier on? And what happened to her applies the same to other Maori members.

Speaker - I will examine this matter and report back later.)

Q: Is he aware of schools which are panicking about the end of bulk funding?

A: I am not aware of any state of panic among bulk funded schools. I am yet to hear from a single school that will lose a permanent staff member as a result of these changes. I like Mr Tamihere am concerned at the trampling of Ms Huata's Mana by her party.

Question 7.

Ann Hartley (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: How many New Zealanders will benefit from the raising of the threshold for eligibility for the community services card?

A: Approximately 48,000 more people will be eligible. People with the card receive subsidies, $15 for visits to the doctor and $3 for prescriptions.

Question 8.

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

Q: Will she be seeking financial provision in the Budget specifically to fund a pay increase for doctors, nurses and other hospital staff or will pay increases for staff have to be funded from normal operational funding?

A: No and yes.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): How does this tie in with statements made prior to the election when she said a pay rise for staff at Waikato hospital of 2% was not unreasonable?

A: The member does not understand Industrial Relations. Doctors and Nurses are looking for other things than simple pay rises and these will be addressed in this current wage round. This government is committed to health workforce planning. This government will establish a health work-force advisory committee responsible for planning in the long term. This will be particularly helpful in the Mental Health area where there is a shortage of qualified staff. Any pay increases to staff will come from the fiscal envelopes of their hospitals. I do not believe that health professionals benefited from the health reforms under National.

Question 9.

Judy Keall (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What reaction has she received from health professionals to the discussion document on the future shape of primary health care and has she received any evidence to lend weight to a claim that doctors will not support the strategy?

A: The initial response has been overwhelmingly positive from all major health organisations involved in this area. Several positive comments quoted. The only negative reaction I have heard is from Wyatt Creech. The discussion paper proposes that primary care organisations take responsibility for the health care of a population of health consumers in a more holistic way.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): What will the future be for doctors who receive section 51 notices?

A: This is a strategy for the long term and will be introduced slowly. Doctors who wish to continue with Section 51 will be able to do so. I note however that many doctors have already joined Independent Practice Associations.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Given that section 51 notices will stay the same then what has happened to bring changes in primary health care?

A: Under our proposals more than just doctors will be involved, nurses and other health professionals will also be involved.

(Wyatt Creech - leave sought to table statement from medical Association - granted.)

Question 10.

Rt Hon. Jenny Shipley (National) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Clark:

Q: Who are the "high priests of the temple" who she said on Morning Report this morning were very critical of Te Papa?

A: My allusion was to those with expertise who may or may not be critical of Te Papa. Apparently the Leader of the Opposition would like to stifle debate. Her term the thought police ought to be used for herself.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Why are these people's views more valid than the 89% of people who visit Te Papa and are satisfied?

A: No one is saying that any ones views are more valid than others. However it would be foolish to disregard the opinions of experts. The Leader of Opposition should unplug her ears.

Q: Jim Anderton (Alliance): Has she any reports as to why the Leader of the Opposition is asking questions at number 10 or 11 and not at the beginning of question time?

(Speaker - that question is out of order.

Roger Sowry - most of the Government front bench are eating lollies could the rule on eating in the house be enforced.

Speaker - I do not think that is the sort of thing that should be raised by point of order.)

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Has the Minister visited Te Papa and discussed her concerns with staff there and if so when?

A: Of course I have visited Te Papa but I have found myself with less spare time than the member now that I am Prime Minister.

Question 11.

Chris Carter (Labour) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: What factors led to the approval of funding to save an Auckland hostel for refugee claimants from closure?

A: There were a number of factors that led to action on this. Specifically concern that the hostel would close due to a funding crisis.

Q: Does the government have any plans for the hostel?

A: The government is very aware of the adhoc nature of funding for the hostel in the past. A package is being prepared to address this and will be included in the budget. The previous government refused to provide emergency funding for the hostel last year and it had to go to Auckland City Council to remain open.

Question 12.

Bob Simcock (National) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Social Services) Tariana Turia:

Q: Does she stand by her statement, in regard to the Children, Youth and Family Services, that there is "downright prejudice within the organisation"?

A: Yes.

Q: Bob Simcock (National): Has she spoken to Steve Maharey about how sickened he feels about this, and is he similarly nauseated?

A: Yes I have. But no he is not similarly nauseated.

Q: Steve Maharey (Labour): What experience and responsibilities does the Minister have in this area?

(After objection from Roger Sowry - that the Minister clearly knew the answer as he was her minister - question ruled out of order by Speaker.)

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First) Is the minister aware of the difficulty of placement of Maori children in Pakeha homes?

A: I do not support prejudice in any area of department activities. I am committed to working with Child Youth and Family to address these issues which were ignored by the previous government.


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