Today’s questions concerned the subjects of: Northland Prison – Inflation And Benefits – Social Policy Initiatives – Maori Claims To Oil – Home Detention – Part Time Prison – 1080 Poisoning – Health Reform Costs – Rural Sector Outlook - Home Detention – Business Compliance Costs – Industry Development.
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
NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: Can he confirm that the selection of a physically inappropriate site has contributed to the reported doubling of the cost of the new Ngawha prison to $80 million?
A: I do not know from where the previous minister obtained the figure of $40 million in a newspaper report. The original estimate was for $60 million. The site is not physically inappropriate.
Q: Have officials estimated the cost of building on a geothermal site?
A: Yes. The costs, as I am advised, are not out of proportion to the site. The reports are that it will not adversely affect tourism in the area.
Q: What benefits will the prison have?
A: The $60 million construction project will employ many people. The prison will spend over $10 million a year in the local committee on wages, food and services. If there are alleged cost blow-outs then they will have to be dealt with. I will deal with such issues on the facts.
Q: Was the prison supported by the Tangata Whenua?
A: Initially there was. A later hui determined that a majority of the local Iwi did not support their land being used and so their land is not being used.
Q: How can the Minister justify building a prison in a unique geothermal area that could one day be the Hamner Springs of Northland?
A: I am not an engineer but engineers have advised that there will be no problems. As for tourism there is a prison near Turangi.
Q: Wouldn’t it be better to have jobs in Northland rather than more prisons?
A: Of course we are concerned about Northland’s economy. At present some prisoners are sometimes sent as far away as Invercargill. This is not good for rehabilitation.
Q: John Carter (National): What other support has there been for the prison?
A: From local Maori, from the Far North District Council and from John Carter and Dover Samuels MPs.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What effect will the current round of price increases have on the purchasing power of welfare benefits?
A: As the member will be aware benefits will be adjusted by the CPI on April 1 next year.
Q: Given there will not be an increase till April can he confirm a bleak Christmas?
A: We promised many things before the election all of which have been delivered.
Q: Tim Barnett (Labour): What has been done in the past?
A: In 1991 the previous National Government decided to cut benefits by up to 30% at the time of high inflation. Is that what Mr English is supporting? In the early 1980s a National Government established a price freeze – does he support that now?
Q: Bill English (National): Will he reverse the cuts of 1991? And will he also confirm that 250,000 of NZs poorest people are facing the highest inflation in a decade?
A: All I can say is that in only 10 months we have made a huge difference.
TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: What is his reaction to recent reports that indicate social organisations are positive about social policy initiatives under the Labour/Alliance Government?
A: In light of the previous question it is pleasing to see a survey of organisations – reported in the Dominion yesterday - has found 73% of social sector organisations feel positive about policy developments by this government. I am happy to say that 58% of the citizens of the Albany Electorate – Murray McCully’s seat - support income related rents.
Q: Belinda Vernon (National): What is the response to Food Banks reporting that there are more people needing food, and less people giving? Or are they just talking the country down?
A: Food bank parcel requests increased by 1500% under the previous government. That is my answer.
Q: What is the Government doing?
A: We have established a working party that is very well supported among NGOs.
Q: Sue Bradford (Green): Is the minister aware of concerns among some organisations that some of the Closing the Gaps policies and criteria will harm their long term future?
A: The strategy is about providing more resources and it is about delivering polices in ways that are suited to target communities. It is not about making cuts to organisations like Barnardoes.
Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:
Q: Does he support the position of the Hon Paul Swain and the Rt Hon Helen Clark that whatever the Waitangi Tribunal says, it won't affect Government ownership of petroleum resources in New Zealand?
A: Both the PM and Minister were stating government policy.
Q: How can the minister advocate for Maori when he knows the PM does not support him?
A: This is a continuation of National Party policy.
Q: What will he be doing?
A: The Minister of Energy will be assessing whether the current regime is appropriate given ongoing obligations to Maori under the Treaty.
Q: How does the government decide which claims to follow and which to ignore?
A: There are several outstanding claims and we do not intend to ignore any of them. And we will also be taking directions from the Waitangi Tribunal.
Q: Does he agree with this? And can he confirm that it was the Labour Party that took these rights under the Petroleum Act?
A: My learned Maori colleague is quite right.
Q: Will he resign in support of his Maori Government colleagues?
A: Paul Swain and I used to work together in the past and I intend to remain in this cabinet for another decade at least.
KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: What consideration is being given to the possible use of home detention for inmates released at the end of their custodial sentence?
A: Home Detention for offenders who have served their prison terms is being investigated as another tool to monitor inmates upon their release. The clear success (low breach rate) of the home detention scheme is considered to indicate lots of promise as an option for supervision on parole for at risk offenders.
Q: Why is he so keen on home detention for violent offenders when he has spent months battling home detention for people on bail?
A: I have been debating the most appropriate use of Home Detention on bail with Mr Goff. I am not looking at replacing prison terms with home detention. Doing so is not on the agenda of this National/Alliance government. I do remember that the National Government was planning a more extended form of home detention than we have now.
Q: Does that mean the Evening Post was wrong?
A: Statements if correctly reported would have said that the Government is thinking of using home detention as an extra tool for the parole of dangerous offenders when they have served their sentences.
Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: What impact would a policy of allowing part-time prisoners have on the number of prison beds required?
A: Mr Ryall is putting the cart before the horse. I am extending the debate on this question so the answers can be found. I am looking at options for reducing prison numbers without compromising public safety. Full analysis is being undertaken.
Q: Why is he so soft on prisoners?
A: A famous German politician called Goebbles once said that if you repeat a lie enough then some people will believe it.
(Speaker – I am not interested in Herr Goebbles. The Minister will apologise.
Robson – I withdraw and apologise.)
This government received more than 50% of the vote. That is how we have a mandate.
Q: Phil Goff (Labour): Didn’t Labour in fact turn down National proposals on home detention for violent offenders three years ago?
A: I believe the Ministers recollection is right.
RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:
Q: Does she condone the dumping of 22 tonnes of deadly 1080 poison bait at the Chesterfield site on the West Coast by the Department of Conservation?
A: DOC gained consents and permission to dispose of the material at the site. I am advised that they will exceed requirements of the council for separating the materials into organic and non-organic compounds. I am advised that there is a legally designated disposal site in Christchurch and that is where they will take the 1080. It is inappropriate for the opportunistic use of 1080 by politicians. I am advised it is an important weapon used to protect against bovine TB.
Q: Nick Smith (National): How can she justify her comments on March 12 1997 criticising the use of 1080 poison?
A: My position on the use of 1080 has been consistent. I have advocated the use of aerial application in some areas and ground application in others. I have never spoken against the use of 1080. I am advised that after the accidental dumping of 50kgs of 1080 into a farmers pond it was measured that an adult would need to drink 40,000 cubic metres of water to get a lethal dose. I suggest the member have a drink. If we do not use 1080 then the forests of NZ will disappear rapidly and the consequences will be serious.
(Nick Smith - leave to table Hansard comments by the minister – granted.)
Q: Does she stand by her statements supporting the use of hunting to control possums?
A: I have already said there are a range of areas where different options could be applied. I apologise to the former Minister for being consistent.
Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:
Q: Did he approve one of his policy advisers appearing at the Health Committee yesterday to present an Alliance party submission that raised concerns of cost blowouts in the Government's health reforms?
A: (Laila Harre on behalf) Any NZer can make a submission to a select committee.
Q: Does the Minister agree with the concerns in the submisison about funding disparities for regions and the costs of bureaucracy involved?
A: All members of the government are concerned about the fragile state the health system was left in by the National Government. Responsibility for the health reforms is in the hands of the Minister of Health.
Q: Did the submissioner Dr Casey make it clear that she was not there as a member of the Minister’s staff in the capacity she was appearing before the Select Committee?
A: Yes she did.
Q: Can the minister confirm that his influence in cabinet is so weak that he is reduced to sending staffers to Select Committees?
A: I am sure that could not be confirmed because it is not true.
Q: Roger Sowry (National): What will the Minister be doing to stop this happening again?
A: The Minister does not intend to cooperate with any opposition led witch-hunts against any members of his staff.
GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:
Q: What recent reports has he received on the positive outlook for the rural sector in New Zealand?
A: I am delighted to report that the export led recovery has begun. The latest report on the outlook for the economy till 2004 is rosy for the rural sector and forecasts an increase in export returns from $14 billion to $17 billion.
Q: Noting that the good fortunes are due to the low dollar, and that the Minister of Finance says he has no impact on the level of the dollar, at what level will he as Trade Minister be stabilising it at?
A: I have no influence over the level of the dollar.
STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:
Q: Can he reassure New Zealanders that expanding the use of home detention is an appropriate response to the call to get tough on crime?
A: I can assure NZers that any use of home detention will be in the public interest. Getting tough on crime does not mean ignoring new methods. If the member understood the importance of rehabilitation he would realise that employment of offenders is good for the public. We are looking at options to keep high risk offenders in prison indefinitely. We are also looking at options to keep those who are not a risk to the public out of prison. I do have concerns about using home detention in inappropriate circumstances. Electronic monitoring would provide high level of assurance that conditions of release are being complied with when at risk offenders are released on parole.
Q: What are the lessons of Finland?
A: The lesson is in the holistic approach taken by the Finnish government.
(Franks – leave to table a report on South Carolina’s weekend sentencing law – granted)
H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:
Q: What are the Government's plans to reduce compliance costs for business?
A: Compliance costs are a concern to business. The government plans to deal with this under the banner “Simplicity 2002”. We plan to keep compliance costs down so people can get on with running their businesses.
Q: How will he engage business?
A: We will engage business through a Business Costs Panel drawn from the private sector. This government is determined to work in partnership with business.
Q: Lockwood Smith (National): Has the government increased compliance costs?
A: It is too easy to talk about the costs of the Employment Relations Act. That member should support these measures, like the manufacturers have today.
Q: Does the Minister agree with Roger Kerr of the Business Round Table who says that taxes are the largest compliance costs?
A: It is true to say that the tax system is a big compliance cost to businesses. That is why the IRD is working on reducing the costs.
Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:
Q: What progress has been made on implementing the Government's industry development policy?
A: (Phillida Bunkle on behalf) The Minister is presently chairing a taskforce on this in the East Cape as part of this. Several other aspects of the policy are well underway.
Q: What about a recent Waikato University survey that found that 92% of businesses did not understand the policy – if there was one?
A: After 10 years of no policy at all it is taking a while to communicate the policy. We have received 8 applications from the Bay of Plenty for regional partnerships. Word will soon spread.
Q: How many community owned businesses have been supported?
A: I do not know. I will try to find out and table an answer.
Q: Is one of the reasons that people don’t know what the policy is because criteria for support have not been developed?
A: No criteria are clear. The problem is that Bizinfo also needs more support.
Q: What about Northland railways?
A: I have no responsibility for that.
Q: Why doesn’t the minister simply accept that the policy has failed when the Waikato survey shows that in the Bay of Plenty 97% of those surveyed said the policies would have no, or a negative impact, on their businesses?
A: If the Bay of Plenty had more supportive MPs then perhaps more people would know about what is on offer.
SCOOP COVERAGE ENDS