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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 15 May

Today's questions of the day concerned: Otahuhu Power Station – PM’s Defamation Settlement – Fiji Elections – Fiscal Responsibility – Modern Apprenticeships – DHB Budgets – Nuclear Guinea Pigs – Parental Leave – Construction Contracts – Gaming Review – Airways – PM’s Defamation Settlement

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 15 May 2001

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 till some days after the event.


Question 1.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: In relation to her decision not to exercise her call-in powers under the Resource Management Act 1991 in respect of CO2 emissions from a new thermal power station planned for Otahuhu, what specific alternative policies was she referring to when she reportedly spoke of new measures the Government is planning to introduce under its energy efficiency strategy?

A: As the member knows the draft energy efficiency strategy recently developed has five options canvassed for enhancing efficiency. It would be highly unlikely that the energy market will be able to support more thermal energy. A moratorium on new thermal stations would ensure old dirty plants continued to operate.

Q: Why did she not use call in powers as National’s Simon Upton did with Stratford to encourage forest planting?

A: When Simon Upton called in the Stratford Power Station he required the planting of trees, ECNZ later discovered this was not necessary to reduce emissions.

Q: How much would renewable energy cost?

A: The Minister of Energy is working on both supply and demand issues.

Q: Does the Minister agree that retiring old plants should have been a condition of allowing the new plants to go ahead?

A: No I don’t agree.

Q: What percentage of greenhouse emissions comes from power plants.

A: 7-8%

Q: What about the Waikato super dump?

A: Call in powers are to be used for issues of national importance. The super dump is an issue of regional importance.

Question 2.

Rt Hon JENNY SHIPLEY (National) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: Did she, on behalf of the Crown, approve the terms of the settlement between Mr John Yelash and the Prime Minister?

A: I was briefed on the settlement. It was agreed that Mr Rennie QC would proceed on the basis of that briefing. I was later informed of the settlement having been finalised.

Q: Did she or Crown Law include the gagging clause 7 which includes $35,000 of hush money in the settlement?

A: My understanding is that that was the decision of the lawyers who had been instructed.

Q: Rick Barker (Labour): Does the Minister consider there has been a breach of the settlement?

A: Yes I do. And for that reason I intend to table a copy of the deed of settlement.

(Leave sought to table deed – granted.)

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Which lawyers? Who did the instructions? And was the secrecy a great shock for the crown?

A: No the crown did not specifically ask for the secrecy clause. That clause did come as a surprise to me, but I understand it is not uncommon in some settlement agreements.

Q: Was the proper process followed by Ministers?

A: The processes involved are set out in the Cabinet Manual and they were followed in this case.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Why would it be a surprise for confidentiality to be requested? And isn’t it a fact that that would be asked for by the side paying out?

A: Yes it is true I never specifically gave instructions on this. I understand that Mr Williams QC raised the issue on confidentiality at the outset of negotiations because he wished to reach a settlement at that stage?

Q: Will she then clarify that she never asked for clause seven?

A: Yes no specific direction was made to include that clause. That is not exceptional. That clause was agreed to by Mr Yelash. And signed by him. It was not signed by the PM. No general or specific direction was given as to confidentiality.

Question 3.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: Will New Zealand assist Fiji with preparations for the August general elections; if so, why?

A: Yes. NZ has offered assistance to manage and fund the forthcoming elections. The aim of the assistance is to ensure the election takes place in a fair and free manner. NZ has repeatedly stressed the need for fair elections.

Q: Would the minister say what assistance is to be provided?

A: Personnel, technical and funding assistance will be provided. We will provide a computer system. The total value of the package will be around $700,000.

Q: How is the assistance provided to the police and the prosecutions service to try George Speight proceeding?

A: We went up and had a look, and found that the case was proceeding as it should. More assistance is being provided for this.

Q: Why has the Government abandoned the reinstatement of the Chaudhry Government?

A: We would have preferred the reinstatement. But it is clear that the fastest way back now is by a general election and with a fair and free vote for all.

Q: Is he concerned that the illegal constitutional review committee is still sitting?

A: An election date has been set for late August. We have no concerns about the election not being held under the 1997 constitution, that has been established in the courts. We expect to be able to have confidence in the result.

Question 4.

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

Q: Does he stand by his signed Statement of Responsibility in the December Economic and Fiscal Update that "I accept overall responsibility for the integrity of the disclosures contained in this Update"?

A: Yes.

Q: How does he explain then the omission of the budget blow out?

A: I never said I knew about any budget blow out. The cut off date for the DEFU was the 27th of November 2000.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Given his comments on the blowout being an exhalation, does he intend to retrospectively inhale up to $200 million of GST?

A: No. This is not a retrospective tax grab. The tax has already been collected. It has been paid by foreign customers of NZ schools and NZ tourism operators. If the institutions are prepared to refund the sums they collected to their customers then maybe they would have a case. But they should not be able to make windfall gains as a result of an unexpected court decision.

Q: Can the Minister reassure the house that when he signs the budget he will not be leaving out any more budget blow outs?

A: I am sure I will not be signing off any National Party attacks on fiscal prudence.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Is he saying that if the institutions haven’t charged GST to their customers then they will not be obligated to pay retrospectively?

A: Yes.

Question 5.

MAHARA OKEROA (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment (Employment) Parekura Horomia:

Q: What reports has he received on the outcomes for Maori employment from the Modern Apprenticeship Pilot schemes?

A: I received an evaluation completed by Skills NZ. The results for Maori were 22% of Modern Apprentices. Some barriers to participation are being dealt with by the programme. Nearly half all Maori modern apprenticeships are in forestry. Many others are in agriculture industries.

Q: What about Otago, which has only one apprenticeship?

A: Most certainly the programme is for Otago too, and if the local member would get more energy we would be more than happy to talk to him.

Q: What else is Skill NZ doing to encourage this?

A: Skills NZ is encouraging the promotion of this to young Maori, with pamphlets and by attending meetings.

Question 6.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Does she expect any district health boards to cut services as a result of their funding allocation for 2001/2002?

A: (Tariana Turia on behalf) The member will have to wait for the budget.

Q: In light of comments from the Minister of Finance on May 2nd, how does the government expect boards to work to eliminate deficits without cutting services?

A: I am concerned about deficits, but they are not new. In fact when Mr Sowry was Minister they reached $185 million. The government has made no secret of its funding intentions for the next three years. While National promised $175 million we are spending over $400 million.

Q: Will there be a substantial increase in health promotion measures?

A: My responsibilities as Minister of Health do not extend to directing decisions of DHBs.

Q: Isn’t the real problem that health spending is at a record low?

A: No.

Question 7.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Veterans' Affairs Mark Burton:

Q: Has he received any further reports on the involvement of New Zealand personnel in nuclear-related exercises at Maralinga in the 1950s?

A: I have received an update on this. It is clear from archives that the involvement of NZers was no secret. It was in the newspaper at the time. NZ asked to send up to 20 observers to the tests, and was asked to send five. We know at least two NZers were involved in the clothing trials. Archival material reviewed so far indicates that the men themselves were briefed on dangers. Officials will also be carefully checking other material on this material.

Q: Richard Worth (National): What about compensation?

A: I think it is much too soon to consider compensation at this stage. We are at the moment gathering facts. I think it is fair to say that this government has established its willingness to take care of veterans. Yesterday 5 payments were made to veteran Japanese POWs.

Q: Do we know what the health status of the individuals involved is?

A: We know that at least two of them have enjoyed relatively good health for their lives, one is dead and two I am awaiting news about.

Q: Does he accept that there was consent given by the officers?

A: One of the two key issues is consent and informed consent. It is too soon for me to have formed a judgment on that.

Question 8.

ANNE TOLLEY (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: In light of the Minister of Women's Affairs' comment that "It would simply be unthinkable that the Alliance would proceed with Budget negotiations without some confidence that we were going to make progress on this critical issue. And we did obtain confidence in that through the Budget discussion process.", will paid parental leave be fully appropriated in this year's Budget; if not, why not?

A: It will not be in the budget. I am sure the house will approve a scheme that will help women. We will try to implement the scheme by 1 April 2002.

Q: Is the government looking at a staged implementation?

A: There has always been the possibility of a staged implementation on the table.

Q: What is the point of advice from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs if they are wrong?

A: Even though we have lots of women in high positions at present - not all advice from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs is followed to the letter.

Question 9.

WILLIE JACKSON (Alliance) to the Associate Minister of Commerce Laila Harre:

Q: Have there been any recent initiatives to address problems in the construction industry?

A: Today we introduced the Construction Contracts Bill. This will help sub-contractors. It will invalidate pay-if-paid clauses from contracts.

Q: Why are the changes necessary?

A: Since the repeal of wages and liens protections in 1987 unfair risks have been passed on to contractors in the construction industry. The government has delayed nothing in terms of implementation of this legislation. This is the first piece of legislation of this nature before this house.

Q: Can the Minister advise what the effect of the 1987 repeal has been on Hartner’s creditors?

A: That conformed with a particular ideology of the time that held there should be no industry specific protection. Many years have passed since then and there has been opportunities to fix this. We have wasted no time in introducing a fix.

Question 10.

LINDSAY TISCH (National) to the Minister of Internal Affairs George Hawkins:

Q: When does he expect to complete the gaming review?

A: I hope to have submissions processed and legislation introduced by the end of the year.

Q: Is it a fact that most of the public meetings in this consultation process were held with minority groups and that only one meeting was held with the general public?

A: The Maori Community were identified as having a special problem with gaming. There were over 1280 submissions received so the public clearly made their wishes known.

Question 11.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: What percentage of the "intellectual property" value of Airways Corporation, which was to form part of the Lockheed Martin consortium bid for Britain's National Air Traffic System contract, was held by three senior executives, Messrs Sinclair, Woodbury and Bole?

A: It is not possible to assess the value of executives in the way the member asks. It is fair to say that these three have been valuable to Airways. Two of these three have left and Sinclair stays on.

Q: Is there not evidence now, given that Mr Sinclair has not been seen since he returned, that they did not have “unique skills” as they claimed?

A: I have met with Mr Sinclair. The other two gentlemen have been recruited into senior management positions, indicating their value. Internal appointments are expected to be made to replace these two.

Q: What is the ongoing relationship with Lockheed Martin?

A: I understand it is an important relationship.

Question 12.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: When she assured the Cabinet that she "was satisfied that the matter arose as part of the Prime Minister's ministerial duties", in relation to the defamation action brought by Mr John Yelash, what part of the Prime Minister's duties was it to wrongly call an Auckland actor a "convicted murderer"?

A: The Cabinet Manual sets out duties including advising the Governor General on the dismissal of Ministers. The PM’s comments were raised in this context. The Defamation admitted was using the word murderer instead of manslaughterer.

Q: Is this the first settlement for a defamation claim by the PM? And is it now a Prime Ministerial duty to defame members of the public?

A: I cannot confirm that, I haven’t done the research. In 1996 Jenny Shipley was indemnified in a defamation suit in her capacity as Minister of Health.


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