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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 12 September

Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Singapore Free Trade Agreement – TOW And Singapore Agreement – Food Prices – PM On Dollar – Tertiary Fee Protection – Mangaroa Mobster Compensation – National Health Pamphlet – Foreign Investment – Overstayers – Elderly Respite Care Costs – Disability Strategy – Tariana And the “H” Word

Questions For Oral Answer - Tuesday, 12 September 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.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: How will the proposed Singapore Closer Economic Partnership affect the potential for economic development that respects labour rights, environmental standards and the control of foreign investment?

A: (Phillida Bunkle on behalf) The proposed treaty does not specifically address these issues. The minister has indicated a view that these issues should be addressed in treaties. The treaty will be subject to Parliamentary scrutiny during which all parties can make their positions clear.

Q: Is this a Trojan Horse for wider liberalisation?

A: Labour rights and environmental standards are increasingly important.. NZ abandoned the race to the bottom earlier this century when we established a welfare system. The proposed treaty will prevent any roll-backs on investment levels by Singaporean investors in the future. We are concerned about this. There are risks an opportunities in coming to a more rational approach to trade issues.

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Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Does the Minister also support Green MPs participating in a violent protest in Melbourne?

(Speaker – the Minister has no responsibility for Green MPs.)

Q: Are these the views of the Alliance or of the Government?

A: The answers I have given this afternoon are an indication that we are moving to a more mature notion of MMP government.

(Roger Sowry – Ministers must answer on behalf of their Ministerial responsibilities.

Speaker – True but she is also perfectly entitled to give party perspectives within her answer. )

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is the position she has outlined been agreed by the Labour Party and the PM?

A: There is provision in the Coalition Agreement for disagreement so long as they are clearly articulated in good faith. That is what we are doing.

(Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green) – I would like Richard Prebble to apologise about his comments about MPs involved in violence.

Richard Prebble - far be it from me to enlighten the member on this, but TV and radio reports show the protests have been very violent and that Green MPs have been involved in scuffles with police. This does not reflect well on this house.

Speaker – when the members in question return they may wish to raise this matter.)

Question 2.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Will she agree to remove reference to "more favourable treatment for Maori", in the proposed free trade agreement with Singapore, in order to secure the support of a majority of Parliament for the agreement?

A: No. Just as National included such wording in trade and investment negotiations – so has Labour. I am happy to table a paper on this.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Will she negotiate the text of the agreement?

A: What I think the Parliament would like to know is why it was alright for Mrs Shipley’s government to table the MAI agreement….

(Richard Prebble – She has no responsibility for the government.

Roger Sowry – Why should the PM want to be heard in silence? This is unheard of.

Speaker – Points of order will be heard in silence. This matter is a matter of dispute at this particular time. I would like the member to be heard in silence.

Roger Sowry – I can’t remember a PM asking to be heard in silence. She should not begin by introducing inflammatory content.

PM – I seek leave to answer the question not withstanding the juvenile banter from the opposition.

Speaker – the PM should be careful with her answer if she wants silence.)

A: Labour has accepted official advice on how to word this reservation. The wording is similar to that in the Gatt Agreement tabled in 1994 and an MAI variation tabled by a National Government. Officials have consistently advised NZ Governments on this. There is an overwhelming agreement in the house that an agreement should proceed. There is also a majority that would say that if an agreement is to proceed then it should include the standard reservation with respect to Treaty Settlements.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Does she have the power to - and will she sign the agreement anyway?

A: I do have the power to do so. But I do not intend to use it. Not only did National not oppose such references in the past, it in fact suggested them. ACT also did not oppose them.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Why has the clause been extended? And why did she not discuss this with the opposition?

A: It may have escaped the members attention that the Government was negotiating with Singapore and not with her at that point in time.

(Prime Minister - Leave sought to table two papers – granted.)

Q: Does she agree this agreement is too important to be derailed?

A: I would like to thank the leader of United for the constructive approach he has taken. I am confident that there is overwhelming support for this and I think it is important it go through.

Question 3.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What statistics has he received on food costs faced by New Zealand families over the last 12 months?

A: (Trevor Mallard on behalf) Food Prices statistics are out in July 2000 food prices were 1.4% higher than a year earlier.

Q: As food prices have increased only 1.4% a family would have to spend $1200 a week on food to suffer the increase. The average family spends $113 on food and groceries. Those on champagne and caviar diets should understand that that is not the lot of the ordinary family.

Q: Has he been to a supermarket recently?

A: I did my weekly shop on Sunday and I don’t know where the leader of the opposition gets her prices from.

Question 4.

Hon JOHN LUXTON (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What did she mean when she said "we don't source anything like a major proportion of our imports from the US so the other currencies we import from we've still got a reasonable relationship with"?

A: I meant what I said. The USD is not the only currency of interest to the NZ economy.

Q: Is she aware that the USD is more important than other currencies?

A: Yes. I am advised that there are no reliable statistics that relate country of origin of imports to exchange rates.

Question 5.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to ensure that the investment of students is protected where a private training establishment ceases to operate?

A: This morning I announced that the NZQA has a plan to insure students in respect to the risk of closure of their courses. In 1998 the National Government said students using PTEs are in a buyer beware situation. We do not accept that.

Question 6.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: Who is correct about the payments to the four former inmates, the Hon Phil Goff when answering an oral question on behalf of the Attorney-General last week when he said "I am advised that the condition of confidentiality was imposed by the complainant", or the lawyer for the inmates who said that it was the Crown that insisted on confidentiality, and why won't the Minister tell taxpayers what the payments were?

A: (Matt Robson on behalf). The Minister was wrong. Confidentiality was agreed by both parties, not imposed by council for the plaintiff. Many people understand that confidentiality in some cases maintains the integrity of the legal process.

Q: Is he concerned that the payments made were $45,000, $50,000, $70,000 and $90,000? And is he worried about the backlash?

A: Those figures are nowhere near correct. The backlash from the public will come when people realise how long this was swept under the carpet. The plaintiffs sought $5.1 million in damages.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): How is this consistent with the PMs promise to bring an end to secrecy?

A: This is nothing to do with secrecy in the manner the member is using the term. No one on this side of the house promised to undermine judicial processes.

Question 7.

JUDY KEALL (Labour)to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she received any reports describing the changes to the health sector which cause her concern; if so, what do those reports say?

A: Yes. I have seen a pamphlet full of twaddle and terminological inexactitudes which purports to be from the National Party.

Q: Is the Minister concerned that money is being wasted on spreading misleading information?

A: If the authors were really concerned about health they could have saved money on the pamphlet and immunised some children.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National) Will she confirm that the pamphlet includes the information that this year’s increase in health spending is the smallest for five years?

A: I can’t see any mention of what the member is talking about. But I would comment that every one of the points made in the pamphlet is absolutely wrong. For example – more bureaucracy, it says – by getting rid of a $100+ million HFA is a way of saving money – reducing payments to directors is another.

(Wyatt Creech – leave sought to table a pamphlet - refused

Annette King – leave sought to table “the real document” – refused.)

Question 8.

Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What recent reports has he received on foreign investment in New Zealand?

A: (Trevor Mallard ) The OIC has reported that in the six months ending in June net Foreign Investment was $900 million. This was more than under the same period under National.

Q: Why have the holdings of NZ Government bonds fallen so much? And is this proof of a lack of confidence?

A: I note a report by Craig & Co that says this is a trend that has been going on from 1997.

Q: Has he read a report from an Australian commentator John Hewson in the AFR saying that his government is a hopeless populist mess?

A:: I have read a nice report from HSBC saying Dr Cullen is quite reasonable in his comments on the exchange rates.

Question 9.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: Will she meet with an all party delegation of members seeking to discover the coalition Government's policy with regard to over-stayers; if so, when?

A: I have received a letter from several members asking to meet. I have signalled my availability to meet next Tuesday afternoon.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Given there are 25,000 over-stayers why won’t she tell us what the government policy is?

A: I look forward to meeting with the member next week.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why does she refer to a staff member in her office in the last sentence of her correspondence with Mr Prebble?

A: I asked the member to contact my by SPS to arrange an appointment and that in future he not slam the phone down in the ears of my staff members.

Question 10.

Rt Hon WYATT CREECH (National): to the Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson:

Q: Has she received reports on proposals to significantly reduce the daily rates the Government pays for long term geriatric residential hospital care; if so, how does she justify such a reduction?

A: A report from Price Waterhouse Coopers considered this.

Q: Is she concerned about comments that quality may fall?

A: I have some reservations about the model that PWC used as the basis of its pricing regime and I have raised these with the HFA. The Labour Alliance government opposes the competitive model of health-care delivery. We believe that NZ senior citizens deserve better.

Q: Wyatt Creech (National): Will she give an assurance that the cuts will not proceed?

A: I can say two things. The HFA is modifying the PWC model. Negotiations will continue and I will take a close interest in them.

Question 11.

DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson:

Q: What are the positive aspects of the disability strategy discussion document as it relates to older people?

A: The strategy contains key initiatives to fill the vacuums. This will address concerns of old people especially as they have the highest rates of disabilities. An aging population does not mean a more disabled or unhealthy population. That is why we have a strategy in place.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT) : Can she explain how Maori are treated both equally and unequally?

A: I would welcome a submission from that member on that point.

Question 12.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Associate Minister of Health Tariana Turia:

Q: Did she consider resigning last week; if so, why?

A: Yes. However I apologised for any offence I may have caused and the matter is now closed.

Q: Roger Sowry (National): How does she reconcile her meetings with senior ministers and her comments to Journalist Linda Clark that she wanted to be remembered as someone who never sold out?

A: I would like to make it clear to Mr Sowry that as far as my people are concerned I have never sold out.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Does she tell her people at home one thing and the PM another?

A: I am not noted for speaking with a forked tongue.

(Winston Peters – will she apologise for that – my colleagues have taken offence.

Speaker – there was nothing out of order in the answer.)

Q: Roger Sowry (National): Does the member now say she no longer agrees with the Taranaki Report which used the word “holocaust”?

A: Given that the National Party accepted that report in its entirety I consider it hypocritical for that member to ask me that question.

(Speaker – the member will apologise.

Tariana Turia- I withdraw and apologise for using the H word.

Roger Sowry – That is not an apology. Trevor Mallard is coaching her.

Speaker – I thought it was funny but could the Minister please stand withdraw and apologise again.

Tariana Turia – I withdraw and apologise. )


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