SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 3 October
Today's Questions concerned the subjects of: East Timor – Economic Growth Or Not – ERMA Maori Committee – Lower Dollar And Grocery Prices - Poverty – Samoan RNZAF Transport Incident - Superannuation – ERA Launch Party – Medical Professionals - Nurse Pay Demands – NCEA – Whinging And Sitting Duck Ministers.
Questions For Oral Answer - Tuesday, 3 October 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.
SCOOP COVERAGE BEGINS
CHRIS CARTER (Labour) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: What reports did she receive during her recent visit to East Timor about the work that our troops are undertaking as part of the United Nations peacekeeping force?
A: I received unanimously positive reports about the work the NZers are doing. Everybody expressed their very high regard for the efforts of the NZ troops. All the personnel I spoke to realised the importance of their work and appeared to be enjoying it.
Q: When will a decision be made on a fourth rotation?
A: Can I thank the Hon Doug Kidd for his useful report on East Timor. I think the member will infer that there are many representations coming to us asking us to stay. A decision will be made before the end of the year.
Q: Is there an exit strategy?
A: The answer to this question is something like how long is a piece of string. The commitment of the UN is extending longer than expected. Australia considers its involvement extending beyond the end of next year. I would not at this stage rule out a fifth rotation if there is not yet security in the area.
Q: What about the militias?
A: There is a lot of pressure on Indonesia right now. There is an important aid donors meeting in a couple of weeks. When I was in East Timor the UN representative was back in the UN briefing the Security Council. Everyone knows that it is a long way from Jakarta to the East Timor border and that the chain of command is not what it could be.
Q: Will a decision be made in discussion with the Australians?
A: Yes. The UN will also be needing to think about the length of its mandate. The East Timorese are considering a role post independence for army training, lots of which needs to be done to turn Falantil into a defence force.
Q: Will she provide pay incentives for service personnel?
A: There is a pay and conditions review ongoing. Pay will not be reviewed downwards. We are looking at that and I am optimistic that something can be done.
Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: How does he justify his comments that "the economy is much stronger under the stable coalition", when the New Zealand economy grew by 4.6% in the six months to December 1999 and contracted by 0.1% in the six months to June 2000, and how does that decline in performance affect economic development?
A: I note that the leader of the opposition conveniently changed my statement to fit her facts. The economy grew by 4.8% in the 12 months to June 2000 compared to far less growth in the year to June 1999. Real disposable income has also grown in the year to June 2000 at a fast rate.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Can he explain why he has on rose-tinted spectacles with the fact that in the latest NZIER consensus forecast the indicators are all getting worse?
A: Although activity declined in the June quarter there are lots of indications that economic activity will pick up in the September quarter. The new dairy season looks to be very good. Several technical factors impacted on growth in the June quarter and we expect a bounce back in the September and later quarters. This will be disappointing to the opposition who appear to like to wallow in gloominess.
Q: Grant Gillon (Alliance): What positive things are there in the GDP figures?
A: Business investment on plant and machinery rose in June. Exports rose in June. Import volumes also rose in June with lots of machinery. All these things suggest Nzers are investing in the NZ economy which augers well for the future.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Will he tell us what the growth rate will be for the next six months? And if not why?
A: Perhaps because I am not as silly as the former member for Auckland Central. (I withdraw and apologise) The reason I quoted annual figures in my release as they are more reliable. We will stand by the annual figures and we will see who is right in the end.
Q: What about buy NZ made?
A: I would think the value of the NZ dollar would encourage lots of people to buy NZ made – including their overseas trips.
Q: Jenny Shipley (National ): What about the drop in export turnover?
A: Members of this government support the economy. Unlike the leader of the opposition who prefers wallowing in the doom and gloom.
SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:
Q: Does she intend to take any action in response to the claim by the former chair of the Maori Advisory Committee Nga Kaihautu that ERMA wanted to "gag and restrict Nga Kaihautu from providing independent advice"; if not, why not?
A: (Pete Hodgson on behalf) No the minister does not intend to take action as she understands ERMA has done nothing to interfere with advice from Nga Kaihautu?
Q: Does she deny that ERMA put pressure on the group? And how then does she explain the comments of the chairman?
A: Yes. And the best evidence of this is that of the six members of the committee five have not resigned.
Q: What is she doing about Maori concerns?
A: We have established a Royal Commission which includes an ethicist and a Maori who brings a spiritual and cultural perspective. It seems to me that the Royal Commission was appointed five years too late which is why we have problems we have now. The advisory committee to ERMA is established under Clause 42 of Schedule one of the HASNO Act. It’s members were appointed by ERMA.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:
Q: What impact will the lower New Zealand dollar have on prices and household budgets?
A: A varied one depending on a range of circumstances.
Q: Are grocery prices causing problems for consumer confidence?
A: The main reason for the drop in consumer confidence is the price of petrol which is determined by the price of oil and the level of the exchange rate –neither of which are matters we have control over. Higher prices for agricultural goods on world markets are also reflected in grocery prices.
Q: Does he agree with Jim Anderton that Nzers have more dollars in their pockets and if so where are they?
A: Taxes are not up and cigarettes are not up for people who don’t smoke.
Q: Bill English (National): Can the minister confirm that food prices have not gone up for those who do not eat?
A: Looking at myself the answer is obviously No.
JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What reports has he received on the incidence and impact of poverty in New Zealand?
A: I have seen a report from Wellington Medical School that shows poverty cuts nine years off men’s lives and six years off women’s lives. This government is committed to closing the gaps between rich and poor. Four years ago Jenny Shipley said she did not accept that people live in poverty. Unlike Mrs Shipley we do not deny the existence of poverty.
Q: Given comments that increased food prices are putting health at risk of poor families does he agree with Mr Anderton that NZers have more money in their pockets?
A: In the last 10 months we have increased the minimum wage and changed lots of other things that also help poor people.
RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:
Q: Does he have the power to give operational directions to commanders in the field; if so, what are the limits on that power?
A: The Defence Act provides powers of control that are exercised via the Chief of Defence Force.
Q: Did he override authorities to send a Hercules to Samoa to pick someone up?
A: Following a request made by Katherine Rich MP (National) we made arrangements for a father to be brought to NZ to be at the bedside of a daughter dying as a result of a car accident. I did not at any time make any requests directly to field commanders. This action was taken under limited time and I stand by that decision.
Q: Does he realise that there was a commercial flight the man could have caught?
A: I am aware that at the time I was given only minutes to make a decision. I was not advised about any other plane and I absolutely stand by that decision today.
GRANT GILLON (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What are the implications for New Zealand's long-term economic and infrastructural development of a secure, widely supported and publicly funded superannuation scheme?
A: The implications are very substantial. We see an active role for the Government working in partnership with the economy. We plan to do this by increasing the net worth of the Crown as that will enable us to increase the net debt of the crown too.
Q: How will a growing super fund help NZ invest in its future?
A: The fund will mean that we will grow the level of assets we have. There is very little reason for not increasing debt if we have increased the asset base.
Q: Bill English (National): Is the Minister telling the house that he will be investing super funds in his economic development schemes?
A: No politician will exercise any power over this fund. I suggest to the member he go away and study crown balance sheets. A stable base for super means we can better develop a long term economic strategy.
Q: Rod Donald (Green): Should the fund invest ethically and in NZ?
A: The investment policies of the fund would be a decision of an independent body. Questions of ethics would be up to it. We want to have a scheme that will last for 40-50 years. This government has come to agreement about super and we are now challenging others to come to terms with our proposal – and then we are saying…..(Speaker - that answer is long enough.)
Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:
Q: What steps has she taken to achieve the goal of the Employment Relations Act as set out in the introduction to the pamphlet distributed to employers last week, "to build productive employment relations between employers, employees and unions"?
A: I am delighted to announce that I have approved today the interim code of good faith. The code as will the rest of the act improve relationships between employers and employees.
Q: Why didn’t she invite any employer groups to her party last night?
A: There was no exclusion of employers from the party. The party was held by those celebrating the new Act and was for those who had supported the Act. We assumed employers were having their own party and didn’t want to intrude.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): How much has the ERA contributed to the increase in those who have been unemployed for 12 months?
A: I would refute the fact that this Act has led to unemployment, and would like to point out a mistake in what Mr Prebble has said about the Act.
Q: Does the fact that the PM and her ministers last night led unions in a rendition of “Solidarity For Ever” have any implications for industrial relations in NZ?
A: I did not realise the member was so upset about not being invited. We will happily offer a rendition of Solidarity For Ever now if the member wishes.
(National - Leave sought for PM and her ministers to sing a song – refused.)
JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: What steps has the Government taken to further strengthen the health professionals regulations to ensure patient safety?
A: Yesterday I issued a discussion paper on a proposal to replace 11 Acts with a new Act. The professions, the public and the Government all recognise that it is not enough for professionals to practice without ongoing professional development. The conditions would cover all health professionals covered under this bill. A single act will give consistency, a uniform approach, transparency, simplicity and improved accountability.
Q: What safeguards will be provided for professionals who dob in their colleagues?
A: That issue is part of the discussion document.
Rt Hon WYATT CREECH (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:
Q: Will she review the level of funding available for hospital and health services so they can meet all the operational demands, including increases in the volumes of services that must be provided by each hospital and health service and pay increase demands of nurses and other hospital staff?
A: No. The Government has already increased the budget by 6.1%.
Q: What is her advice to hospital CEO’s who say they do not have enough money.
A: I hope to see nurses receive pay rises and I point out that the level of funding to hospitals as a proportion of health spending is growing. I have seen a statement from Mr Creech promising $175 million for hospitals this year. We have provided more than double that amount.
Q: How many hospitals are budgeting deficits?
A: Not very many.
Q: Does she stand by advice to HHSs that there must be productivity gains to justify pay increases?
A: I suggest the member get the second letter I sent to HHS’s.
HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:
Q: Why did he defer the introduction of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement from 2001 to 2002?
A: I deferred the introduction because the sector was not ready for the change. The deferral has provided more than $2 million to the change. Increasing numbers from a range of groups have indicated increasing confidence in the framework – including – I notice, the opposition spokesman. Under this system of assessment there will be more examinations in the senior school not less.
Q: Does he agree that this is not the system he would have designed?
A: Implementation of this design has suffered under Nick Smith but I do think that this will be an improvement. I agree with Wyatt Creech that the NCEA will help students.
Q: Why doesn’t he stand up to his officials?
A: It is a pity we didn’t have NCEA 40 years ago.
Q: Can he clarify that the NCEA will provide for external examinations of senior students?
A: For the 15th time this system will have more external examinations in the senior school than the current system. This is because there will be external examinations at the end of the sixth form – where there are none at present.
(Speaker – The Minister of Education will leave the chamber.)
Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers?
A: Yes. Which is more than the member can say about his leader whom he aspires to replace.
Q: Why then does she say in the latest Listener that it wouldn’t be wise for some sitting duck ministers to agree to TV interviews? And who are the sitting duck ministers?
A: The Mallard just left the house. On any issue on a given day any minister can become a sitting duck, as I am sure the opposition would agree. However there are no sitting ducks as easy to pot as the leader of the opposition.
Q: Why does he have confidence in her Minister of Defence when he ordered a fully ladened Hercules to land – a dangerous manouevre?
A: I wasn’t aware that landing a plane was dangerous.
Q: Who are the whinging ministers?
A: I have known all ministers to whinge from time to time. But none so much as members on that side do about their leader.