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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day November 7

Today's Questions concern: Health Treaty Clause – Fiscal Surplus – Unallocated Children At Risk - The “H” Word And Sandra Lee – Singapore Brain Drain – Cancer Treatment Shortages – Employment – R&D Tax Deductibility – Solomons Peace Keeping – Whakapapa Links And Child Care – NRT Therapy – Foreign Qualified Doctors.

Questions For Oral Answer - Tuesday, 7 November 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.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Will she promote an amendment to remove any reference to the Treaty of Waitangi in the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Bill; if not, why not?

A: No. The bill is before the committee. I am aware however that the overwhelming majority of submissions on the bill are in favour of the clause.

Q: Why is she ignoring the Race Relations Conciliator’s advice on this?

A: The bill is still before the committee. The National Government claimed to be committed to Maori Health and signed agreements with Iwi on the basis of the Treaty partnership . I think the National Party should remember the words of former PM Jim Bolger, “that there are no votes for national in Maori bashing”.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT) Why are you installing permanent grievance clauses into legislation?

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A: The member is wrong. That is not what we are doing. We will continue with work began by National in this regard and I would urge NZers to support it.

Q: Jennu Shipley (National) Will we be subject to judicial interpretation of a preferential treatment clause?

A: There will be no preferential treatment clause. I know that member would like to see some. This is the member that saw Pacific Islanders coming through the window’s of NZers.

Question 2.

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

Q: What recent reports has he received on the Crown accounts?

A: The Crown Financial statements to the end of September showed a stronger than expected government surplus. Tax was up SOE earnings were up and expenses were down on forecast.

Q: Bill English (National) Is the Minister aware that in the HLFS there are 8000 new education jobs and where will he be getting the $400 million to pay them?

A: If that is the best the member can do then Mrs Shipley looks incredibly safe. That said one should not draw too much from the figures which so clearly cast doubt on selective assertions from Rodney Hide that tax revenue returns are low.

Q: Does he agree with the IMF that we might be on the pessimistic budget track?

A: No we are definitely not on the pessimistic fiscal track.

Q: Is he aware that there were 8000 new education workers in the HLFS? And where will he get the $400 million to pay these people.

A: As the member knows, one should not take too much notice of the HLFS survey in any single quarter as it is based on a sample survey. I am sure a sample could be found that showed a majority of left-handed Queen St farmers support Mr English’s bid for leadership of the National Party.

Question 3.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: (Tariana Turia on behalf): How many cases of possible child abuse which have been notified to Child, Youth and Family Services remain unallocated, and what assurances can be given that these children are safe?

A: I am advised that the number of unallocated cases stands at 3700 odd. Most of these are not child abuse cases. All unallocated cases are reviewed regularly by social workers.

Q: Does he support the call from the Women’s Refuge head to disband the department and start again?

A: No. The government does not believe it is appropriate to devolve statutory powers to the community sector. We are talking about powers of access and custody which rightly belong with the state. I do agree with Mrs Raukawa-Tait however that the department should get much more involved with the community in delivering services however.

Question 4.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH to the Associate Minister of Maori Affairs Sandra Lee:

Q: What duties has she performed in the last week as Associate Minister of Maori Affairs?

A: Last week I met with the CEO of TPK and lots of other people. I also had other duties in a range of different roles. (listed exhaustively)… on Monday I met with….on Tuesday I went…. on Wednesday….Thursday….

Q: Why did she use the term Holocaust at the weekend and will she apologise?

A: The hui I attended at Lincoln University discussed a range of issues. The massive depopulation of Maori in the 19th C. is a matter of historical record. If the member has another word he thinks is preferable for use he is welcome to send me a copy of that word.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Does she agree her figures were wrong? And where did she get the figures from?

A: I admit that there was a small error in the figures in my speech but the fact is that the numbers were reduced to one quarter of what they were.

Q: Why did she ignore the edict of the PM? And is it fair that her colleague has to apologise buts she does not?

A: The PM has banned no words for her Ministers to use. In discussions with my leader I have been asked not to use the word and I have agreed not to do so.

Question 5.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: What, if any, assessment was made of the effect of the Singapore closer economic partnership on the "brain drain"?

A: There was no specific assessment on the brain drain. However I am sure that the partnership will encourage talented NZers to stay. It will encourage productive investment by Singapore in NZ and will assist in opening up the Singapore services market.

Q: How does he respond then to a full-page advert from Singapore in the Chirstchurch Press taken by the Singapore government recruiting Kiwi professionals?

A: Singapore has obviously become aware of the great pool of talent in NZ. They would be doing this whether we had a partnership or not. NZers will be employed on the merits.

Q: Will the CEP encourage businesses to shift to Singapore?

A: No, the CEP will make it easier for NZ companies to access Singapore markets.

Q: Can he confirm that Green Party isolationist policies would be disastrous for NZ?

A: I would agree with the proposition of the member. I am sure that we would be deprived of opportunities if we followed the policies of North Korea.

Question 6.

Rt Hon WYATT CREECH (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Can she assure the New Zealand public that cancer patients will not have to travel to Australia to receive radiation treatment; if not, why not?

A: No. If urgent treatment is required it will be available and may require travel.

Q: Why is the waiting time for cancer patients getting so much longer?

A: It is a bit rich for Mr Creech to criticise us for capacity issues. This problem has been around since 1998 and was caused by the failure of National to deal with capacity issues following the introduction of cancer screening programmes. We have been confounded by a lack of trained operators and failing machinery.

Q: How many radiotherapists have left NZ?

A: No I don’t have the figures. But the major cause is not people leaving. We do not have enough trainees in lots of areas. We are reaping the rewards of a lack of planning. I think Mr Creech and his colleagues should admit that they did not plan and have left NZ vulnerable.

Question 7.

TAITO PHILLIP FIELD to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What recent reports has he received on the state of the labour market?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) The official measure shows a rate of 5.9%. The last time it was at this level was in June 1998. Labour Force participation rates are increasing. On the 13th of October the Ashburton Guardian said job adverts were at record highs. There is nothing in the article about whether this has been caused by the local member spending lots of time in Auckland and not in the electorate.

Q: What will the minister be doing to promote job-rich growth?

A: The minister will be delivering an employment strategy shortly.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT) Can he explain the discrepancy between the WINZ register and the HLFS?

A: The WINZ numbers are not and never have been an official measure of unemployment.

Question 8.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Is the Government intending to allow tax deductibility of research and development expenditure, as promised in Labour's election year policy?

A: As I announced at the forum we will be releasing an issues paper on part of this issue, the definition of development for tax purposes.

Q: Does that mean he has ruled out the pre-election policy? And will he start singing the same tune on this as the PM?

A: Yes, as we always do for ever and ever more. As the member is aware the issue at question is what is the definition of development. The issue is whether a defensible wall can be established. If the member makes an intelligent submission it will be intelligently considered.

Q: When will provisions be changed?

A: Changes are likely to be introduced from April 1 next year, even if legislated for later.

Q: Did the business forum call for tax cuts, and does he agree with the IMF about this?

A: It was no great surprise that the business community want tax cuts.

Q: Can he confirm that the PM is arguing in favour of fulfilling the promise and that he has been arguing against it and that he has won?

A: There are no winners and loses. The issue is what is the definition of taxation for tax purposes.

Question 9.

GRAHAM KELLY to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade:

Q: What decisions have been taken with regard to New Zealand's participation in an international peace monitoring team in the Solomon Islands?

A: Cabinet agreed yesterday to send 14 peace-monitors to the Solomon Islands. The group will consist of six police, seven soldiers and one MFAT official. An advance party of six will arrive in Honiara on Saturday. The NZ Defence Force estimates the military risk to personnel as low and the environmental risk as medium – mainly due to malaria. Weapons are being handed in in the islands at present. The situation does remain fragile and risks cannot be eliminated. The main thing is that the peace-keepers are wanted, and there will be a naval vessel present which will provide back-up if necessary.

Q: What is the legal status of the group?

A: A status of forces agreement is being negotiated. It will be in place by the time the group arrives. We are there because we have been invited, and we are there with the best wishes of the UN and the Commonwealth.

Q: Why is the $1.2 million being paid for out of the small Overseas Development Aid budget?

A: The cost will come out of an $8 million aid budget for the Solomons. This deployment is necessary for good governance. Staff will receive the same allowances as would normally be applicable for overseas deployment.

Question 10.

BOB SIMCOCK to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Social Services):

Q: Does her statement that at-risk Maori children should never be allowed into "stranger care" or be "raised outside whakapapa links" represent Government policy?

A: The 1989 Act states that where-ever possible contact with Whanau, Hapu and Iwi links should be maintained.

Q: What is the difference between where-ever possible and never?

A: I would like to refer the member to the fact that at the heart of the matter is the ignorance of the role of the child in Whanau, Hapu and Iwi. I believe that all children regardless of their ethnicity should remain within their families.

Q: Does anyone in this house want to encourage the caring for of children by strangers?

A: I would think that everybody in this house would support children being cared for by their families.

Question 11.

JUDY KEALL (to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: In light of her statement that smoking continues to take a terrible toll on New Zealanders, what steps has the Government taken to provide the nearly three-quarters of a million Kiwi smokers with a real opportunity to quit?

A: NZ has introduced one of the first programmes in the world to provide subsidised Nicotine Replacement Treatment. Smokers are eligible for up to eight weeks of subsidised NRT. The response has been overwhelming. They have been so swamped by calls that they have put extra advisers on. The option of taking legal action against tobacco companies is being investigated. We are preparing an SOP to address issues of smoking in bars and restaurants.

Q: Can she explain why taxpayers should pay for this?

A: The member is singing a very different story than he did on the day we raised the tax. I think that is a double standard the member has displayed.

Q: Why are smoking questions taken from the Census?

A: It is important to know the success of programmes such as the NRT policy but it is also important to know the success of other programmes?

Q: What can he do about people that are addicted to nicorette?

A: I suggest the member change to chewing gum without sugar.

Question 12.

Hon KEN SHIRLEY to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Does she accept that competent foreign-qualified medical practitioners face excessive red tape in applying for and attaining New Zealand registration?

A: I do agree that bureaucracy has been a problem for a number of years. This government has been addressing this issue in a number of ways. We have agreement with the Medical Council about temporary registrations. We are also making changes to legislation that will be introduced later next year. I would suggest that the member who knows two doctors struggling to get registration ask her colleagues – who made it even harder for American doctors to work here - to explain why they did that.

Q: Does she agree there is a perception that the Medical Council is a closed shop?

A: I don’t think any member would want to streamline measures to the extent that would throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Q: Does she not consider it absurd that doctors from the US and UK cannot practice in NZ?

A: That was the case before the last government made an amendment.


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