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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 24 August

Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Falling Dollar – Fire Service Irregularities – Defence Purchasing – Drug Imports – Doctors’ Student Loans – Singapore Trade Agmt. – Sandra’s Road – Fire Service Porn – Maori Child Abuse – Toxic Waste – Falling Dollar – National Archives – Health Committee – Relationship Property Bill.

Questions For Oral Answer - Wednesday, 24 August 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.

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

Q: What impact will the continued slide in the value of the New Zealand dollar have on low and middle income households?

A: It depends very much on how long the slide lasts. There are mixed impacts. For those working in export industries it will help, for others it depends on when price increases are passed through to consumers. The primary reason for the position of the dollar is due to the very bad Current Account deficit which was created by the National Government. Recently the link between price increases and a falling exchange rates has not been as strong as it previously had been. The dollar has been falling since 1997.

Q: How can we have a rising trade deficit and a falling dollar at the same time?

A: The major reason for the rise in imports is the increase in oil prices. That has nothing to do with the policies of the previous or of the current government. No questions have come from the opposition I notice on lowering mortgage rates.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Will the lower dollar help fix the current account deficit.

A: No one wants to see a dollar at the level it was in 1996. Now however the dollar has clearly been oversold. I have had a lot of technical advice on the movements in currency and the cause appears to be a lower than expected German business confidence result. Recent NZ business confidence surveys have shown an improvement.

Question 2.

Dianne Yates (Labour) to the Minister of Internal Affairs Mark Burton:

Q: What investigations has he made into the concerns raised in the House yesterday relating to alleged financial management shortcomings in the New Zealand Fire Service Hamilton office?

A: I have had the opportunity to consider the information tabled yesterday and I have some concerns. I have asked the Fire Service Commission for a review and report within seven days in relation to the papers tabled yesterday.

Q: Is he aware that the officer concerned has a long and distinguished record?

A: I expect a full review of the entire situation and I want that within seven days.

Q: Will the Minister assist the whistleblower in this case who has been sacked?

A: The members reference to this parties commitment to whistleblowers is correct. All these matters will be encompassed in the report.

Question 3.

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

Q: How will New Zealand be able to monitor its own seas in light of the Australian Government's statement that the Project Sirius "upgrade also would have enabled New Zealand to fully monitor its sovereign waters"?

A: Australia has not raised such concerns. The Minister of defence has made a range of comments some of which referred to the Orions. While acknowledging the Australian preference on project Sirius Australia has welcomed the commitment to spending made by the government. Mr Moore made reference to the Orions but the overwhelming content of is comment was to congratulate NZ on aspects of its decisions. This government has placed on record a very clear intention to make informed decisions on an informed basis.

(Wayne Mapp – leave sought to table John Moore’s statement – granted.

Ron Mark – leave to table a letter from Daimler Chrysler dated March 1999 on the APC tender – granted)

Question 4.

Grant Gillon (Alliance) to the Minister of Customs Phillida Bunkle:

Q: In the light of recent international seizures of designer drugs such as that by the Canadian Customs Service of 340,000 tablets of ecstasy, what contribution is the New Zealand Customs Service making to international efforts to curtail the trafficking of designer drugs?

A: Last week Customs intercepted a package destined for Australia. We coordinated a controlled delivery and netted $500,000 worth of drugs. So far this year customs has seized 8kh of amphetamines valued at $1.2 million. The government has restored funding cut from the Customs Service by the previous government. In spite of her rhetoric Mrs Shipley was soft on drugs…

(Speaker – will the minister apologise…

Bunkle – I apologise.)

Question 5.

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

Q: Has she seen the reported comments of a hospital chief executive, in response to her suggestion that hospital and health services help junior doctors pay student loans, that "I have no idea where hospital and health services are going to find the money from. There seems to be an assumption that the money is sitting there to be spent."; if so, what is her response?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) Yes. Bemusement.

Q: How then will she cope with the fact that new mothers suffering post-natal depression are being turned away from treatment?

A: It is clear there were gaps in the health system in NZ. Gaps that were there before we increased funding by $113 million. I have suggested a number of creative solutions to help our hospitals retain their staff.

Q: Is the low dollar blowing the health budget?

A: Not entirely.

Q: Do the creative solutions involve writing off debt, increasing salaries and reducing the hours junior doctors have to work?

A: Yes.

Question 6.

Rod Donald (Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: How will the possibility of cheaper imported clothing and footwear or increased beer exports, negotiated under the proposed Singapore-New Zealand closer economic partnership agreement, help the Government to achieve its goals of job creation, regional development and closing the gaps?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) As a high cost producer it is not expected that Singapore imports will have an impact on jobs. Increased beer exports are expected to help close the gaps for brewery workers. The Treaty provision in the Singapore treaty is very similar to that considered by National. One of the issues we were concerned about was country of origin matters. All exported items under the agreement will have to have at least 40% NZ or Singapore content.

Q: Given that government policies have seen the cross rate against the Singapore Dollar fall from 85 cents to 75 cents can he confirm this is the equivalent an increase of 13% in tariffs?

A: Yes. It is clear that the movement in the dollar has made NZ exports more competitive.

Question 7.

Hon. Dr Nick Smith (National) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:

Q: Will the Department of Conservation be spending $260,000 upgrading the Maungapohatu Road; if so, under what criteria was the funding approved?

A: The money is provided in the budget in an output class with $6 million. There has been no approval of this funding yet and given the recent media beat-up on this issue the unsafe bridges may yet remain unsafe.

Q: Will she table a report on safety of the bridges?

A: I am discussing the issue of what I should table and what I should not table with my Department. The member should rest assured that there is material concerning the bridges being unsafe.

Q: Nick Smith (National) Should we believe the PM or her on whether this funding will proceed?

A: That member has been here long enough to know that when an issue is politicised then it may be reviewed by the PM. The PM may also interested to review a $3 million bicycle track in that members electorate.

Question 8.

Rt Hon. Winston Peters (NZ First) to the Minister of Internal Affairs Mark Burton:

Q: Further to the answer given to written question 13850 (2000) concerning inappropriate use of the Internet within the Fire Service, how much effort was made to seek out those responsible?

A: I have today indicated to the chair of the Fire Commission that I expect a review of all the matters raised in seven days.

Q: Can he explain why the computer use by a senior officer to access porn sites did not result in the resignation of that officer (lists names of porn sites) ?

A: All the material he tabled yesterday is included in the review.

(Rodney Hide – ejected from the chamber by Speaker for an offensive remark that would bring the house into disrepute. He was told he could return for his question.

Winston Peters – leave sought to table computer user analysis report for a fire officer – granted.)

Question 9.

Bob Simcock (National) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Social Services) Steve Maharey:

Q: What does she mean when she says that Maori child abuse statistics must be seen in the context of colonisation?

A: I view all aspects of this through a process that includes the impact of colonisation.

Q: Who does the Minister blame for the death of James

A: I won’t answer that question because I do not think it is appropriate. I think the member should consider his question in light of his involvement with abuse himself….

( Bob Simcock - I take offence…

Speaker – was that a reflection on Mr Simcock personally.

Tariana Turia – no.

Trevor Mallard - It is a matter of record that Mr Simcock has admitted an involvement with Centrepoint and Mr Bert Potter.

Speaker – Gerry Brownlee asked to leave the house.

Simcock – I have made a personal statement on this and I am being misrepresented.

Speaker – I heard Mr Simcock’s explanation and it must be respected. Tariana Turia and Trevor Mallard will apologise.

Apologies….then Mallard also ejected…)

A: The media make it blatantly apparent every day what the impact has been of colonisation on Maori. In the year 2000 we are yet to see a restoration of the social and economic place stripped from Hapu, Whanau and Iwi in the 19th Century. I do not agree with the opinion on Dover Samuels that Maori have no-one to blame but themselves. We are not afraid to acknowledge that there is far too much child abuse. All families must be provided with an opportunity to speak against violence. It is the government’s role to support that.

Question 10.

Damien O'Connor (Labour) to the Minister for Land Information Paul Swain:

Q: What factors led to the Government's decision to provide assistance to landowners who unknowingly bought DDT or dieldrin-contaminated land from the Crown?

A: The government is aware of three families in Southland on contaminated farms. The government has introduced a scheme for the repurchase crown land contaminated when it was owned by an earlier government.

Q: How long have these families been waiting?

A: The owners have been living with this problem since 1993. It has taken this Government 9 months to do something the government could not resolve in seven years. The government does not know the full number of these sites and will deal with them on a case by case basis.

Q: Having bought the land what will be done?

A: Having purchased the land the government will re-mediate it and then get some money back when it sells the land again.

Question 11.

Rodney Hide (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: On what basis, when the dollar fell below 50 cents US, did he make his prediction reported in the Herald in December last year, that the Kiwi dollar should rise again before too long, and can he explain why the dollar subsequently fell to an historic low below 43 cents overnight?

A: The prediction was based on the exchange rate projections forecast by the Reserve Bank and Treasury. The major reason for the fall in the NZ Dollar is the strength of the US Dollar.

Q: How does German business confidence influence the value of the dollar?

A: I understand traders link the value of the Euro with Germany, the Australian dollar with the Euro and the NZ Dollar with the Australian dollar.

Q: What will he do about the currency?

A: In an open economy there is little the government can do in the short term about this. In the long term what will help is addressing the Current Account deficit and poor productivity growth – both problems left to us by the previous government.

Question 12.

Luamanuvao Winnie Laban (Labour) to the Minister responsible for National Archives Marion Hobbs:

Q: Why does the Government consider it necessary to have an independent department of National Archives?

A: An independent Archives is necessary to assist government accountability.

Q: The last government buried archives in the DIA and rammed down its resources. It also failed to review an out dated act. This government has increased the budget of Archives by 12% and has begun a review of a 1957 Act to bring it up to speed with computerisation of government.

Thursday, 24 August 2000

Questions to Members

Question 1.

Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech to the Chairperson of the Health Committee Judy Keall:

Q: Has the Prime Minister advised the committee that the Government may clarify a Treaty of Waitangi clause in the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill currently before the committee; if so, what arrangements will she make to ensure that the public have the opportunity to make submissions on any proposed new provision?

A: No.

Q: Has the chair of the Select Committee spoken to the PM about media reports about this?

A: No I have not spoken to the PM.

Question 2.

Hon. Tony Ryall to the Chairperson of the Justice and Electoral Committee Tim Barnett:

Q: When does the committee intend to resolve to report back the Matrimonial Property Amendment Bill including Supplementary Order Paper No 25?

A: As agreed by the business committee the committee is due to report by November 1 2000. It is up to the committee to determine the pace with which it deals with this.


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