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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day June 21

Today's Questions concern: Speakers Ruling On Personal Explanations - WINZ Inquiry – Health Spending - Toothfish – ERB Changes – Fiji Coup – Native Logging In Southland – Minister For Auckland – Research And Development Vision - Children And Family Services - Asset Testing – Student Fees – WINZ Inquiry - Dover Samuels

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 21 June 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.


(Speakers Ruling – On personal explanations. Having considered what happened yesterday the Deputy PM was not out of order under 343 in his remark about pyramid schemes and ACT. On the question of the endurance of a personal explanation. The intent of the standing order is to avoid disorder should the member of a word be put in question. I see no difference in the personal explanation being made in a previous Parliament or not. As long as the member remains in the house I do not see how the word of a member can be challenged.

Winston Peters - What would happen if a contempt of Parliament occurred?

Speaker – All I am saying is that as long as the member remains a member, then the personal explanation cannot be debated or otherwise challenged.

Ron Mark – does that mean that if new information comes to light then the matter cannot be raised again.

Speaker - if that were to happen there are other methods to raise the matter – specifically an allegation of a breach of privilege can be raised. )

Question 1.

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

Q: What is the Government doing in response to the report of the Ministerial Inquiry into the Department of Work and Income?

A: The focus of reforms announced yesterday were two fold. We will end the corporate business model advanced under the previous government. We will reconnect with the public and with the regions. There will also be improved service to clients. A 1995 report concluded that coordination between local and central employment policy should be better coordinated. That report was signed off by Jim Bolger and I look forward to support from across the house. This government does not believe that the Community Employment Group should come under DWI it is appropriately located where it is.

Q: Peter Dunne (United NZ): Does he have confidence in Christine Rankin?

A: I have complete confidence that the CEO understands what is expected of her and I expect her to follow those directions to the letter. I also have confidence in the State Services Commission’s oversight.

Question 2.

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

Q: Of the $412 million additional taxpayers' money to be spent on health this year announced in the Budget, how much of that was actually new money as opposed to money already committed last year by the National Government as part of either the sustainable funding path or the demographic growth factor, and how does this amount compare with total increases in appropriation for Vote Health for the last five years?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) I can confirm that the new Government has committed $412 million of new money to health. This is a significant amount of money. This is a major improvement over what could have been expected from a National Government this year.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Is the reason this isn’t being answered that Treasury has informed us that only $137 million of this is new money and this is the smallest increase in the last five years?

A: I have had a look at the relative increase. Compared to last year when transfers were made the level of increase is roughly twice what it was last year. I have a press statement from October 1999 with the Minister saying his planned increase was $175 million. I invite the public to compare that with the $412 million we have committed.

Q: How will health services pay for wage rounds in the health sector in dispute?

A: Of course a budget does not provide for a claim made in an industrial action. But what I can say is that under National and ACT the budget would have been cut.

Question 3.

Kevin Campbell (Alliance) to the Minister of Customs Phillida Bunkle:

Q: Has a New Zealand flagged fishing vessel been refused permission to land toothfish in the port of Montevideo, Uruguay?

A: Yes I can confirm that a NZ registered vessel sold to a black-listed Norweigan company has been refused landing. NZ Customs supports this. There is a critical role for Customs in stopping fishing poaching. NZ may need to lead the way to achieve a multilateral approach.

Q: Why is this a matter for NZ Customs?

A: Because the enforcement of the documentation scheme is in the hands of Customs. We are supporting Uruguay Customs with this. There are other measures being considered to save the toothfish. Officials are currently drafting a paper on a multilateral approach to dealing with this.

Question 4.

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

Q: What are the fundamental principles of the Employment Relations Bill she said will not be changed, when interviewed by Radio New Zealand on 13 June, and what are the "hot spots" that will be?

A: The principles of good faith and mutual understanding in negotiations are the key principals that will not be changed. I am awaiting a report to identify the hot spots that will be.

Q: What did she mean when she said she had identified the hot spots? We want to know what these are?

A: I have received some submissions outside the Select Committee process from employers they are what I was referring to. I was not pre-empting the Select Committee. Clauses 6 and 154, 81, 66, 245 and 33 are those that concerns have been raised about.

Q: Max Bradford (National): Does she agree with Steve Maharey who said in the Evening Standard on May 6, “the government is not ideologically tied to the new ER bill and will change it if it causes a rise in unemployment”?

A: I haven’t read that quote and will not be commenting on it till I have.

Question 5.

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

Q: Who did the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meet with in Fiji and what was the message the Action Group delivered?

A: CMAG met with political parties including the government coalition, chiefs, churches, the military, judges and others. The message was clear an unequivocal. We condemned the coup. We urged a return to democracy. The responses varied among the groups. Speight’s supporters denounced the Commonwealth. The Military acknowledged the costs of the coup. They promised an interim civilian government would be set up quickly and said that Mr Speight and his group would have no role in this.

Q: What is going to be done if there is no progress?

A: The action taken so far is to suspend Fiji from the councils. If Fiji does not return to democracy then Fiji would be expelled from the Commonwealth.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): When groups supported sanctions what did they say?

A: A variety of opinions were put forward on this. A number of political parties and the trade union movement supported it. Others said that sanctions would lead to chaos and violence against Indo-Fijians.

Question 6.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith(National) to the Minister of Forestry Pete Hodgson:

Q: Which Crown-owned indigenous forests will be able to be logged as a consequence of a change in policy from that in the Speech from the Throne that refers to stopping native logging on Crown land to that released in Cabinet papers under the Official Information Act that "Government policy is to end indigenous logging on Crown-managed land as soon as is practicable"?

A: There has been no change in policy. The Speech from the Throne said moves had already been taken to stop some logging - this was a reference to actions taken to stop the Beech logging scheme.

Q: Will the logging in Southland be able to continue?

A: The forest being referred to has been effectively privatised by the previous government. It is on crown land but it is privately managed. Cutting rights have been passed to private owners on this under the Waitotu settlement.

Q: What progress has been made?

A: We have stopped the proposed beech scheme and we have proposed to end Rimu logging by March 2002. We are also committed to dealing with the SILNA issue in Southland. The moratorium has been extended quite a lot and now covers 40% of the total area.

(Nick Smith – leave to table papers – granted.)

Question 7.

Hon. Richard Prebble (ACT) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:

Q: In light of the New Zealand Herald story under the headline "Can this career be saved" and the comment she "hasn't done much to justify her salary so far, if the Budget is any indication", can she give reasons why her career can be saved?

A: If the budget is an indication of what my salary should be then I am due for a pay rise. Having won four elections out of the last four I will not be seeking advice from that member on how to keep safe seats.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): What will she say about the Auckland Herald Editorial and will she blame the CIA for the defection of members of Team NZ as suggested in that editorial?

A: I am surprised that the editor of the Herald did not read his own newspaper which carried a number of articles on things I have achieved for Auckland. Many things related to roading and road safety.

Q: Maurice Williamson (National): What has she personally achieved?

A: I have already been more useful in several months than that member was in nine years. Water and waste-water matters are progressing. The Minister for Local Government has papers on this.

Question 8.

Dianne Yates (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson:

Q: What is the Government's vision for research, science and technology?

A: The government is committed to transforming the NZ economy. Accordingly the budget increases investment by 10%. And we are back on track for an investment of 0.8% of GDP on Research and Development by 2010. Private Sector investment in NZ runs at one third of the OECD average. Successive governments have either complained or ignored this statistic. We are addressing it.

Q: How valuable can a vision be if the back-benchers do not know what it is?

A: We released the vision yesterday in a speech. Back benchers believe it is important and that it is important people understand it.

Q: What about life sciences?

A: I acknowledge that biotechnology is important to NZ. There is no mass exodus. NZ is in fact a magnet for research in this area.

Q: Does the vision include the science of organic farming?

A: The member will know that all science funding through the FRST is on a contestable basis. Minister’s are not allowed to say in law what research money is spent on.

Question 9.

Hon. Peter Dunne (United NZ) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Is he satisfied with all aspects of the operations of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services?

A: With very few exceptions yes I am satisfied?

Q: Is the minister aware that for nearly six years the chief social worker Mr Doolan has been commuting from Christchurch to Wellington for six years?

A: Yes I am. The person concerned is due to retire shortly. I needed to secure more than $30 million in funding to ensure the core services in this department did not collapse as of June 30th. I am not satisfied with the way the previous government left this department, leaving children at risk of losing services.

Question 10.

Dr Lynda Scott (National) to the Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson:

Q: On what basis did she determine that the cost of removing asset testing for the elderly would be more than $200 million?

A: (Steve Maharey on behalf) The figure in the article in the Press today was neither given to the Press by me, nor confirmed to the press by me.

Q: How does the Minister for disability issues reconcile her statement that asset testing is on the way out with the fact that only $10 million a year is being provided in the budget?

A: During the budget round I fought hard for funding for vocational services needed around this country and I will continue to fight on their behalf. Both parties in this government have always been committed to the removal of asset testing and that is what will happen.

Question 11.

Tim Barnett (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to keep student fees from going up next year?

A: I hope all providers can look forward to no increase in fees this year. Time does not permit me but this increase is part of a package that reverses nine long years of cuts.

Q: What has heading off increases become a priority?

A: We have decided to act decisively because fees have risen under the National Government from a flat fee of around $1300 to an average of around $3000 a year.

Q: Can he confirm that institutions were not negotiated with in Good Faith on this policy?

A: No offer has been made. No one is being forced to do anything. We will make an offer – and you know what – I am confident that it will be accepted. In this round we will not only stop the per-student cuts. Studyright will be phased out. And a far more optimistic level of funding has been established.

Question 12.

Belinda Vernon (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: How does he reconcile his view that changes announced in the Government's response to the Hunn Report will bring about "fundamental" change to the Department of Work and Income, with those of the beneficiary representative who doesn't "see that it will make any difference at all"?

A: I completely understand that some people have become extremely cynical about WINZ, after nine long years of vilification of beneficiaries by the previous government.

(Gerry Brownlee – it is provocative for the government to blame the previous government. It will lead to disorder.

Speaker – No it won’t lead to disorder, it will lead to further supplementary questions.)

Q: Given that neither of the terms “corporate culture” or “culture of extravagance” is referred to in the response to the Hunn report, is it not surprising that groups do not see anything being changed?

A: It may have escaped the members notice but ministers have met with beneficiary advocates on three occasions and their recommendations have been followed in our response.

Q: Bob Simcock (National): How can he say they will be better off when now they will have to front up to two bureaurats?

A: If he thinks the case management system works then how so when some case managers have a case load of 400 beneficiaries.


Q: Is it correct that the Minister of Maori Affairs has been stood down due to allegations of sexual impropriety as is being reported widely in the media today?

A: The Minister has made a personal explanation on this matter earlier today.

Q: Who is the Minister of Maori Affairs?

A: The acting Minister of Maori Affairs will be Parekura Horomia.


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