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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 23 November

Today’s Questions concerned the subjects of: Super Scheme – Forestry Jobs – RMA – Socio-Economic Disparities – Auditing Closing The Gaps – E-Government Consumption – Closing The Gaps At CYFS – Cop Cash Crisis – Charging Police Recruits – Consumer Trust Investment Policies - Secondary School Property.

Questions For Oral Answer Thursday, 23 November 2000

The following are paraphrased answers to today's questions for oral answer. They are not complete or official, the official record of Parliamentary proceedings is Hansard, which is not finalised till some days after the event.


Question 1.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Does he agree that the proposed superannuation fund will only contribute at most 14% of Government superannuation?

A: No.

Q: Why did he hand write on a Treasury Paper that there should be no need to tax the super fund, and then claim that tax earned on the fund

A: If the fund is untaxed then it accumulates at a faster rate. If the fund is taxed then the earnings will be lower. Treasury convinced me that their position was better – that is, to tax the fund. The fund contributes in two ways. Through tax paid on earnings and through capital draw downs. It would be possible to have a higher proportion of funding coming from the fund, but that would increase the level of contributions wanted up front. This would make it much more expensive for the present income earners. The government has always had a partial pre-funding scheme in mind. National is just quibbling around the edges.

Question 2.

ROD DONALD (Green) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What evidence did he have that Japanese-owned South Wood Export is creating more new job opportunities than it is destroying in Southland when he told Leeanne Buckingham of Sustainable Rural New Zealand that "it is widely recognised that forestry activities provide significantly more employment opportunities than farming"?

A: The evidence was provided in an OIC application.

Q: Will he add community impact to investment criteria for the OIC?

A: The government has already asked the OIC to be more careful in assessing impacts. In this case the project was given conditional approval in 1992. The couple selling their farm could not find any other buyer. I was not aware that the National Party was opposed to land diversification.

(Rod Donald – leave to table a Southland Times article – refused.)

Question 3.

OWEN JENNINGS (ACT) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: Is it the Government's view that, from a resource management perspective, landowners have no greater interest in the designation of protected areas on their properties than whitebaiters, duck shooters and trout fishermen; if so, why?

A: (Phillida Bunkle on behalf) No. The government’s view is that landowners have a special interest in activities on their land.

Q: Why then did the Minister say last night that landowners have no greater rights than recreational users?

A: The minister was pointing out that Mr Jennings’ narrowly focussed bill did not take account of the interests of other groups. The RMA gives landowners extensive rights for consultation and this government reinforces and reaffirms those rights.

Q: Does she think landowners should be compensated for protected areas?

A: The issue of compensation is one for the Environment Court and not the Ministry of the Environment.

Question 4.

JILL PETTIS (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on the extent of socio-economic disparities within New Zealand society?

A: Poverty is colour blind but it does call for us to make targeted responses.

Q: What are the drivers of poverty?

A: Research calculated poverty levels before and after housing costs. By introducing income related rents this government is addressing the main cause of poverty.

Q: Peter Dunne (United Future): Who is the lead minister on Closing the Gaps?

A: I answer questions like this because I am the Minister of Social Policy. After only 11 months of a Labour/Alliance government we have the lowest unemployment levels we have had in 12 years. I would have thought everybody would have thought that poverty should be above party politics. Unfortunately research shows that over the last nine years the National Government tried to ban use of the word poverty within some departments.

Question 5.

(Grant Gillon – under 365(3) questions are not supposed to relate to matters before a Select Committee. I am advised that this question was allowed because the matter is already in the media. That itself raises questions of privilege.

Speaker – the question is allowed.)

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: Has he been advised of the Audit Office comments that the management structure of his Ministry is unlikely to deliver the requested outcomes for the Closing the Gaps programme?

A: (Sandra Lee on behalf) Yes I am aware of the report before the Select Committee. However I do have confidence in my department to deliver.

Q: Given the concerns of the SSC does he believe any of the criticisms are valid?

A: Both the CEO and the Minister have confidence in the Department’s ability to deliver.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Does the Minister’s confidence in the CEO extend as far as to agree that it is not only monitoring that matters?

A: The minister does agree that monitoring is not the only important thing. It is common knowledge that the functions of the former Department were mainstreamed several years ago.

Question 6.

LIZ GORDON (Alliance) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Phillida Bunkle:

Q: (Grant Gillon on behalf) What innovations is the Ministry of Consumer Affairs making to educate consumers about the e-government environment?

A: Last week I launched a website for child consumers that empowers young people to be better consumers. It is the first website that is completely bilingual.

Q: Why is the government using the internet?

A: The internet reaches classrooms at no cost to the schools themselves.

Q: Lockwood Smith (National) Does the information the minister is supplying to consumers include the advice that for e-government to work efficiently people will need an ID number?

A: No. You do not need an ID to participate in this educational opportunity.

Question 7.

BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Is the nearly $12 million of new services being funded through the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services this year part of the Closing the Gaps programme?

A: Yes the government has targeted new funding at disadvantaged NZers but the figure is $9.5 million.

Q: What will he do to ensure mainstream organisations like Women’s Refuge are not shut out?

A: I recently launched a new initiative involving Women’s Refuge. Since the budget an additional $4.5 million has been announced for services purchased through CYFS.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Who is right about whether the funding relates to Maori or non-Maori, him when he says “No, no, no” or CYFS when they said “yes, yes, yes” to the Select Committee?

A: We have always made it clear that we stand against inequality and disadvantage wherever we find it.

Question 8.

RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: In light of yesterday's reported cash crisis within the Police, is he considering charging police recruits for their training; if so, what impact might that have on the ability to recruit young Maori, Asian and Pacific Island men and women?

A: There is no cash crisis in the NZ Police. They receive $86 million more under this government than they did under National. And police in training receive more than privates patrolling on the border in East Timor.

Q: Has he considered other cost-saving measures involving senior police officers?

A: We are considering all options and if the member wants to contribute I welcome him.

Q: How many recruits are Maori, Pacific or Asian?

A: 16.6% in 1999-2000 are Maori. That compares with 7.5% in the previous financial year. 3.1% identified as Pacific Island and only 0.6% identified as Asian.

Q: What did he mean when he told Radio New Zealand that the Police Association was manipulating the issue?

A: The attrition rate in the police is very low at present. Morale in the police is good at present.

Q: Does he agree with comments he made in April 1998 that the police college is a sitting duck when Treasury looks at saving money?

A: Anyone who keeps their head in the sand forever and a day will have problems. We will look at the Police College and at everything else.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): How many recruits could be trained if $21 million spent on enforcing marijuana laws was saved.

A: How much could be saved if so many people didn’t smoke marijuana.

Question 9.

BRIAN NEESON (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: What evidence does he have that many police recruits "have had the opportunity of getting some financial backing before they get there" to justify making police recruits pay for their training?

A: Many of them have told me so.

Q: What sort of a government is this that will spend $87 million on the arts, because the PM has nothing to watch on TV, but will make police recruits with mortgages pay for their training.

A: It is a progressive government that looks across all areas of government. Police recruits earn about $600 a week when training, and receive performance bonuses!

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Is the Minister saying that recruits will need to take out student loans? And will this be extended to the Army, Navy and Air Force?

A: I think the member has been reading Hans Christian Anderson overnight.

Q: Is he looking at charging police recruits?

A: I am looking at putting them on the same footing as doctors, teachers and nurses. I want a system that is fair to taxpayers.

Q: Will he or will he not charge police recruits for their training?

A: Anyone who makes up their mind before having all the facts is a fool.

Question 10.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:

Q: What will be the key features of changes to accident insurance legislation?

A: The key features of the new bill are as follows. (Listed….)

Q: What will lump-sum payments cost?

A: We think they would cost $60 million fully funded each year across all accounts.

Q: What will the guidelines be for providing lump sums?

A: An impairment scale and that should prevent expansion by the courts. The cost of lump-sums will be partially offset by the end of the independence allowance.

Q: Does he intend to remove work capacity testing? And introduce compensation for work stress?

A: No we will not be introducing compensation for work related stress. On the work capacity test we will align this more closely to rehabilitation.

Question 11.

(Max Bradford – leave sought to postpone the question – refused.)

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: Will he direct McKinlay Douglas Limited to drop projects initiated in October by the Ministry of Economic Development at his direction to review trusts, now that the Minister of Finance has ruled out "absolutely" any Government direction on the investment policies of consumer trusts; if not, why not?

A: (Phillida Bunkle) All the assumptions in the question are wrong. The government has never proposed to direct investment policies of consumer trusts. We have been asked to assess how trusts might be able to help regional development and that is what we are doing.

Q: Doesn’t his views contradict the Minister of Finance in the Dominion?

A: No.

Q: What other work is being done to assist trusts to become involved in regional development?

A: We have asked for two discussion papers and will hold a trust forum.

Q: Will the minister rule out any direction or inducement to trusts?

A: I can provide an absolute assurance that there is no question of directing the trusts. The question is whether the trusts should be audited by the Auditor General.

Q: What about payments to Graham Latimer?

(Michael Cullen – that has nothing to do with this question.

Winston Peters – yes it does.

Cullen – the Crown Forest Rental Trust has nothing to do with this.

Peters – my question is in order.

Peter Dunne – I agree with Winston Peters.

Speaker – this question is not about the activities of any particular trust but about trusts in general.

Cullen – the Minister of Economic Development has no responsibility for the forestry trust.

Peters – there has been enormous concern around this country about the actions of trusts.

Speaker – Mr Cullen makes a good point. There is no responsibility of the minister for this.

Peters – leave to table the Crown Forestry Rental Trust annual report – refused.

Phillida Bunkle – leave to table a letter – granted.)

Q: Max Bradford (National): How can the community trusts have any confidence at all in what he says given that the letter that has just been tabled makes it quite clear that the Minister has his eyes on those trust funds?

A: The trusts have confidence in the process because it is they who initiated it. There is no question of the trusts being directed to make funds available. What part of accountability do you not understand Mr Bradford!

(Max Bradford – leave to table a letter – granted.

Phillida Bunkle - leave to table a policy study report – refused.)

Question 12.

GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What action is the Government taking to improve property entitlements for secondary schools?

A: The current guidelines were set in 1972. In 1972 pupils were smaller. There was no need for technology suites. I am therefore starting work on a new code for the new century.

Q: What problems are there?

A: School size only has to change by one pupil to change entitlements. The current code focuses on medium sized schools. I want the code to deal better with small and large schools.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Why is the government introducing bulk funding for property while removing it from staffing?

A: If the member was right about what we are doing he might have a point. He’s not so he doesn’t.

Q: Nick Smith: How is providing money for five years of property funding not bulk funding?

A: There are a number of policy issues around. We made announcements about five year plans months ago. Today we are announcing that there are likely to be more entitlements. This is a new announcement and I happy to provide a briefing so the member will understand.

(Speakers Ruling – there is nothing wrong with replies to written questions answering multiple written questions.

Eric Roy – leave to make a personal explanation – refused.

Paul Swain – leave to make a personal explanation on an answer given yesterday to question 12 – refused.

Wyatt Creech – leave to table a report on the Health and Disability Bill – granted.

Roger Sowry – leave sought for Mr Roy and Mr Swain to make personal explanations – granted.

Eric Roy - I did not say anything about foreign investment in my question in question 2 today.

Paul Swain – I should have used the figure 0.07% of exports in answer to question 12 yesterday, not 0.007%.

Wyatt Creech – leave to table Select Committee minutes – granted.

Wyatt Creech - I think it is outrageous that the minority report on the Select Committee was altered by the majority.

Speaker – I will give this issue serious consideration.)


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