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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day - May 18

Today's questions concerned: Sliding Dollar - Jenny Shipley PI Remarks - State House Rentals - Overseas Aid - Jim Anderton's Views On The Reserve Bank - Airways British Plans - Union Agents With Convictions - Cellphones And Kids - Maori Spectrum - Treaty Rights - TPK Report On Waitara - Arts Policy Launch.

Questions For Oral Answer - Thursday, 18 May 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.

Hon. Bill English (National) to the Treasurer Michael Cullen:

Q: With the continued slide in the New Zealand dollar and recent drop in business confidence about the outlook for the economy, what actions does he intend taking to ease the concerns of New Zealanders and the international investment community?

A: It would be useful to restate the details in the Monetary Policy Statement made yesterday. Growth is high. Investment is high. Unemployment is low. The balance of payments is forecast to reduce. The café owner in the Auckland Herald voted labour because she was fed up with the National Government. She says that she doesn't blame the government at all but just says fashions are shifting consumers to the Viaduct basin. I acknowledge that the dollar will appreciate during the next few years. However we think it will appreciate slower than some financial commentators expect.

Q: Is he concerned about Jim Anderton and will he tell him to shut up?

A: The present government is not run in a manner that would allow the Government to tell Mr Anderton to shut up. It is quite clear that the Alliance disagrees with the government in this area. The governor of the Reserve Bank has forecast an increase on the TWI to 58.5 by 2002, that is much more modest than seen in the last economic cycle. To achieve stronger growth we need to address a broad range of issues. Monetary Policy has recently delivered a more competitive exchange rate than it did in the early 1990s. The Governor is accountable for the judgments he makes on the economy.

Q: Bill English (National): Can he explain why everyone is so confused?

A: I do not think everyone is confused about the state of the economy. Apparently that member is and one Journalist on the New Zealand Herald.

Question 2.

Mahara Okeroa (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What criteria does the Race Relations Conciliator apply when making recommendations on allegations of racism under the Human Rights Act?

A: The RRC would consider a statement made under section 61. Under that section it is illegal to use insulting or inciting language that would bring any racial group into ridicule or contempt.

Q: Has a complaint been laid concerning the comments made by Opposition Leader Jenny Shipley about Pacific Island people climbing in people's windows.

(Speaker - one cannot impute crime or racism against another member.)

Q: Has he received any reports of the reaction of the Island community to Mrs Shipley's comments.

(Speaker - the question will be allowed because it is common knowledge that this comment was made in the house and reference was made to the RRC in the original question.)

A: I have seen a number of reports. I have seen one report from the RRC saying that if said outside Parliament the remarks would come close to breaching the act. I have seen another report saying that it was terrible that a politician was spreading racial stereotypes in this way.

Q: Tony Ryall: Is any action being taken about the PM's comments on West Coasters being feral?

A: I have seen no reports on this. And if the member thinks that it deserves one he should make a complaint.

(Speaker - Trevor Mallard - Labour - put on last warning.)

Question 3.

Dr Muriel Newman (ACT) to the Minister of Housing Mark Gosche:

Q: How will he eliminate the waiting list for State housing that he has said the Government's housing policy will create?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) By establishing a policy of income related rents waiting lists will continue. The people will be delighted however that state houses which were designed for them will be able to used by them again.

Q: Is he aware of rats biting children in State Houses when Helen Clark was Minister of Housing in 1988?

A: I have a strange feeling that that was related to a press statement issued by Roger McLay who had not visited the houses concerned.

(Muriel Newman - leave to table editorial from the Dominion from 1998 - granted.

Michael Cullen - that's the one.)

A: The previous government ran down the stock of state house numbers by 10,000. And planned to run it down still further.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): Can he confirm that some large families will pay more rent under the formula?

A: I can assure the member that will not be the case. Not very far in the future in fact from the 1st of December thousands of State House tenants will be better off than they would have been under the last government.

Question 4.

Grant Gillon (Alliance) to the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance) Matt Robson:

Q: What did the OECD's Development Assistance Committee Peer Review Report released earlier this week say about New Zealand's Official Development Assistance programme?

A: NZers deserve to be proud that the OECD praised us for our significant contributions. It called our aid programmes serious and credible.

Q: Will he act on advice in the report?

A: The report recommended that the time was right to map out a mission statement for the future. I will be announcing a working party to work on this shortly.

Q: Can he confirm that these programmes were overseen by Don McKinnon?

A: They were funded by the NZ taxpayer. I have no hesitation in praising his work and with the situation in Zimbabwe as it is, he deserves all the praise he can get. We need to find away to communicate the successes of these programmes to the public. (Why? Interjection) Because it contributes to a more peaceful and harmonious environment everywhere.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Is he concerned about aid money being used to help privatise other countries assets?

A: Yes I am and I am taking steps to deal with that.

Question 5.

Hon. John Luxton (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: How is it credible for him as Minister for Economic Development to say that monetary policy is "putting an axe into the economy" while the Minister of Finance supports the actions of the Reserve Bank?

A: (Pete Hodgson On behalf of ..) My views on this are well known. It is uncontroversial to say that high interest rates constrain economic growth. The review will address the question of whether using interests alone as a method of constraining economic growth is in the interests of the country. The Deputy Prime Minister does not need to change his opinion because of the polling of his party. The opposition seems unable to accept that two parties with different policies can work together in Parliament.

(Richard Prebble - there is a problem here with a Government Minister answering a question on behalf of the Alliance about the Alliance's relationship with the Government.

Speaker - yes I see the problem I will rule on this on Tuesday.

Pete Hodgeson - I am the Associate Minister what's wrong with it?

Speaker - I will rule on Tuesday. In the meantime answer the questions. )

Q: Is it Government policy to amend the Reserve Bank Act?

A: No it is not.

Q: Are the views of the National Bank economist inline with the views of the Minister?

A: He may not have heard the comments. I don't know. One of the most serious problems facing the economy is the current account deficit. We need to create new industries producing high tech high value products other countries want to buy.

Q: Why doesn't he shut up?

A: I repeat the government has no intention to change the Reserve Bank Act.

Question 6.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises:

Q: When, and in what form, does the Government anticipate receiving the $50 million that Airways Corporation claims it will earn for New Zealand taxpayers from the joint venture overseas with Lockheed Martin?

A: Under the current proposal as it has been described to me Airways would receive a 2 million pound fee on acceptance of the proposal and subsequently at the time of float shares worth 15 million pounds. The most recent advice from the CAA is that the safety performance of the company has improved over the last three years. I am happy to look into the matters the member has raised (Winston Peters asked about safety concerns). In January I clearly outlined that the Airways involvement should have been a purely consultant side involvement. I also sought assurances that offshore opportunities would only be sought if they would not compromise domestic responsibilities. At no point have I said that I am generally concerned with overseas ventures per se. That said the lines of communication between the board and ministers have not met the standard required.

Question 7.

Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Minister of Labour Laila Harre:

Q: What rights do employees have under the Employment Relations Bill to choose their own representatives for collective and individual employment agreement bargaining?

A: (Laila Harre on behalf) - Individuals signing agreements will decide individually who represents them.

Q: Does this law change mean that convicted Black Power members can become union representatives?

A: The way in which members choose to be represented will be up to them. However if any tactics are employed that are in breach of the good faith principles in the bill then there is plenty of remedies available.

Q: Max Bradford (National): What is the policy reason to remove the protection under S.11 of the ECA which enables any party to object to the person who is a negotiator?

A: The government does not as a matter of policy consider that those who have criminal convictions are not able to redeem themselves. However where tactics are employed that undermine the ability to negotiate in good faith then there are remedies.

(Max Bradford - tables cabinet paper saying people with criminal convictions will be able to become negotiators - extract page 4 - granted.)

Question 8.

Sue Kedgley (Green): to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Will she be recommending, because of health issues, that parents discourage their children from using cell phones; if not, why not?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) I support the recommendation in a recent UK report. However I do not consider at this stage the government should regulate this. It is a parental responsibility.

Q: Will our standards be updated in light of this?

A: The recently issued statement on frequency emissions is based on international reports.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Are the biological effects of cannabis worse and why isn't the Green Party opposed to that?

A: I am surprised the member is not aware that that issue was dealt with by the Select Committee in its inquiry.

Q: What will be done?

A: I am advised that there will be discussions about making this information available to parents and the NZ government is keeping a watching brief on these discussions.

Question 9.

Hon. Georgina te Heuheu (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:

Q: (Sandra Lee on behalf…) How will the decision to give a pan-Maori trust exclusive rights to purchase radio spectrum close the gaps for Maori living in communities on the East Coast, in the Far North and the Volcanic Plateau?

A: (Sandra Lee) The six Maori MP's have been asked to nominate groups from their communities to the trust.

Q: What will be done if the allocation ends up benefiting the few?

A: The government is keen to ensure all programmes benefit all Maori and not the few.

Q: Simon Upton (National): How much of the gap will this measure close and what else will be needed.

A: In order to close the gaps completely it will be necessary to have grace and good favour and understanding from every member of this house. Unfortunately in recent debates in this house that has not been forthcoming.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Who will be Maori under this deal?

A: The question is well prescribed in much legislation. You would start saying the person is a descendent of a Maori. All Maori will benefit under this trust. The government has no difficulty at all in ensuring there is transparency in the operation of this trust.

Question 10.

Georgina Beyer (Labour) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Dover Samuels:

Q: Has he received any reports that concern him as the Minister of Maori Affairs?

A: (Sandra Lee on behalf…) I was interested to see in the Evening Post that there is a difference of opinion in the National Party on the question of the allocation of Spectrum….

(Speaker - there is no responsibility for the National Party.)

Q: Georgina Beyer (Labour): What will help advance the cause of Maori?

A: In my opinion given the stinging response from Maurice Williamson yesterday to this proposal we need to start an education programme in this house. I look forward to the day that I do not have to explain why Maori have a treaty right to engage constructively in the NZ economy.

Q: Could Maori participate without this right?

A: No.

Q: Simon Upton (National): Why did the Minister say he was tired of having to justify treaty rights when the government has said this allocation does not relate to a treaty right?

A: That is what the government says and I stand by that. However the treaty right is the right that attaches to Maori as Tangata Whenua to be involved in every aspect of this country's development and in all activities the government is involved in.


Question 11.

Hon. Roger Sowry (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark :

Q: When and how was she made aware that the Ministry of Maori Development report of 3 May entitled Relationship between Police and Maori in Taranaki contained inaccuracies?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf…) The PM received a copy of the report yesterday morning.

Q: Will the PM now apologise for the unfortunate comments she made?

A: She has nothing to apologise about. There was an erroneous report in the Evening Post and the rest of her remarks about the sociological background to the incident are statements of fact. The CEO of TPK was told clearly that errors of this nature should not happen again.

Question 12.

David Benson-Pope (Labour) to the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Helen Clark:

Q: What were the factors which led to the cultural recovery package announced today?

A: (Judith Tizard on behalf) The previous government neglected the area to the extent…

(Speaker - order…. Please come to the answer.)

A: The factors that led to the package were that we found the sector as fragmented, dispirited and leaderless. We want to change that.

Q: What benefits will come from the package.

A: The funding will create jobs and economic opportunities in the area. There will be significant offshoots from this investment.

Q: Simon Upton (National): How long will it be till the Arts Sector thinks again it needs more money?

A: The PM has made it clear that there will never be enough money for the arts. This government is confident in the economy and the artistic sector.

Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ): How does she see the National Museum contributing to cultural recovery?

A: I am stunned that any Wellington MP would not see the economic benefits of Te Papa. They are considerable.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): When will local content quotas be introduced as promised in the Manifesto?

A: I am working with the Minister of Broadcasting on this issue.

Q: How will ordinary NZers benefit when there lower disposable income will stop them supporting the arts?

A: NZ Television is free. Hearing the NZSO on the concert programme is free. Going to Te Papa is free.


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