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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –25 July

Today's questions of the day concerned: Christchurch Hospital – Pepper Spray Deaths – Canterbury Health Cuts – ENZA Bailout – TVNZ Financial Woes – Climate Change Agreement – Southland Health Budget – Regional Development – Northland Health Budget – Electricity Line Ownership – MidCentral Health Budget – Maori TV Channel

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 25 July 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.

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

Q: Will she instruct the Canterbury District Health Board to ensure that their restructuring plans for the Christchurch Hospital emergency department do not put patient safety at risk or undermine the recommendations made in the Stent Report; if not, why not?

A: I won’t need to because I have already had that assurance.

Q: Why then do we have reports that three nurses put into the emergency department are now at risk?

A: It is obvious that the new broom has told the old hearth brush to brush some of her past under the carpet. And I’ll tell you what. That member has a cheek to raise the Stent Report….

(Winston Peters – the minister is provoking the house. But they should not jeer like untamed dribbling wolves.

Speaker – there is a standard of behaviour, true.)

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A: When that member was the Minister of Health she was given 18 pieces of advice in a report titled “The Patients Are Dying”, and she ignored every one of them. The mistakes addressed in the Stent Report were made when she was Minister.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Has she seen what Tony Blair’s government is doing in terms of privatisation of health services in the UK?

A: The member is poorly informed. We have worked with the private sector on a case by case basis.

Q: If patient safety is compromised will she accept responsibility for it and not blame the DHB?

A: I have passed on an assurance from the DHB and I am happy with that.

Q: Jenny Shipley (National): Will she guarantee that these nurses will not leave? Yes or no?

A: There is no danger of Canterbury Health going back to the state it was under her as minister.

Question 2.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: In the light of the deaths of two people after being pepper sprayed by the New Zealand Police, including the death this month of an intellectually disabled man, what steps has he taken to review the dangers to health of pepper spray and its use by the Police?

A: I have been briefed on this by the deputy commissioner. The first step occurred on the 8th of October 1999. The Coroner found in that case that the victim did not die as a result of the pepper spray, but of a heart attack after resisting arrest. A Coroner’s inquest will be held into the more recent death to determine its cause.

Q: Are the police using the spray excessively? And what is he doing about it?

A: I can inform the member that from 1998 to 2001 the spray was used in more than 4000 incidents avoiding more than 2500 assaults on police. Prior to the introduction of OC spray we consulted widely on the health risks. We have minimised these.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): Can he confirm that pepper spray has achieved the lowest level of assaults on police in some time?

A: I can confirm that it has saved a number of police from being assaulted.

Q: Stephen Marks (ACT): In light of Green participation in riots against democratic governments in Melbourne and Genoa could the Green Party members interest in this be personal?

(Speaker – that is not a valid question.)

Question 3.

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

Q: What is her response to statements by the chief operating officer of the Canterbury District Health Board that elective surgery will be cut this financial year as less money is available for elective operations than in the last three years?

A: I give more weight to the chair Syd Bradley who said the situation was manageable and was unlikely to affect patient services.

Q: In light of the fact that clinical directors were told to accept a 4-6% reduction in case loads, what assurance will she give that there will be no cuts in services?

A: No decisions have been made to cut any service. The level of funding for elective surgery in Canterbury is being maintained.

Q: Given that the Private Sector could undertake this surgery will she allow them too?

A: It appears that ACT isn’t up with the play with what is going on. The private sector already does assist the public sector.

Q: What about the Canterbury Neurology Department waiting list?

A: It is very easy to look at one waiting list. What is important is that there are 4500 fewer people waiting for more than six months now than there were when we became government.

Question 4.

RICK BARKER (Labour) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Will the Government consider bailing out the pipfruit industry from the ENZA foreign exchange losses, as the Hon Richard Prebble was reported as suggesting on Morning Report today?

A: I was fascinated to hear the ACT leader propose a tax-payer bailout. I understand this brain wave came to him after a discussion with a corporate ENZA director. The government has already refused to tax growers to pay for this, and is not very impressed with Richard Prebble’s suggestion.

Q: Is he surprised that ENZA is blaming the government?

A: Deregulation of this industry can not have come as a surprise to anyone. The consultation on this was transparent. In the ENZA submission to that consultation there was no mention of either Forex losses or legacy costs.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Given that in May ENZA wanted all growers to pay, and in June they wanted ENZA growers to pay, and now they want the taxpayer to pay, shouldn’t the government just treat these requests with contempt?

A: It is, I guess, human nature to want someone else to pay for your losses.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Wouldn’t this be a better thing to spend money on than a Maori TV channel that no-one will watch?

A: It is the government’s understanding that growers want to be paid full and fair value for their apples. They don’t want their money taken from them.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Noting that ENZA is in a monopoly position, and that they have already taken $4 million wrongly, is he prepared to consider legislating to fix this?

A: The government is ruling nothing out. There is an inquiry by the Apple and Pear Board which will deliver a determination on Friday. It would be premature to act before we have received this report.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): What is he doing about this?

A: I and my staff have engaged on a virtually daily basis with the parties in this matter. We have been very proactive in encouraging a negotiated settlement. There have been a number of suggestions from parties in this house, none of which have proved to be practical ways forward. There are a number of other avenues underway, including arbitration and the Apple and Pear Board inquiry, and the government will consider more drastic measures if all those due processes fail.

Question 5.

RODNEY HIDE (ACT) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:

Q: What plans are there for cost reductions in TV1 and TV2 in light of the media reports that if savings of approximately $60 million over the next three years are not achieved then the Television business faces the very real risk of making significant losses?

A: Any plans for cost reductions for TVNZ are operational matters for the board of TVNZ to consider.

Q: As the Minister of Broadcasting does she believe that TVNZ can save $20 million by cutting out morning tea muffins and asking staff to bring in their own pot plants?

A: I am confident that the board of TVNZ is taking a prudent financial approach to its business. Those questions are very much within the SOE’s operational ambit.

Q: Has she been advised that TVNZ will make losses of $77 million over the next three years.

A: The government has been given a range of figures to work with.

Q: How will changing TVNZ into a CROC governed by a charter improve its financial position?

A: Research has shown that NZ programs attract large audiences. I do not believe that implementation of the charter will result in commercial losses. Any discussion about funding for the charter will be part of the budget round for 2002.

(Rodney Hide - leave to table a CCMAU file note – granted.)

Question 6.

GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:

Q: What role did New Zealand play in drawing to a conclusion the discussion in Bonn for an international convention on climate change?

A: The NZ contingent was very effective. Officials played an honest broker role at various levels. At a ministerial level I played my role and the private sector also contributed. I was also involved in formulating the final agreement. The final agreement was really good for NZ. Environmental integrity and ensuring our ability to trade were our key objectives, and these were achieved.

Q: Did he tell delegates in Bonn that the government is raiding NIWA’s balance sheet, and that it will be requiring ongoing dividends from the CRI?

A: For the umpteenth time. NIWA provides some of the best science in the world concerning the upper stratosphere and that is paid for through the PGSF. The issue the member raises is a balance sheet issue which is utterly irrelevant and separate.

Q: Was the agreement accepted at the end similar to that rejected at the Hague?

A: It is similar but cheaper. There are fewer restrictions on trade.

Q: Who was more influential, NZ or Australia?

A: The Australians had concerns about legally binding compliance. These were not supported by the International Chamber of Commerce. We supported legally binding compliance and in the end the Australian’s traded away their objections.

Question 7.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: When she wrote to the Southland District Health Board saying that "The ability to manage within a capped budget and to continue service delivery at previous levels will be difficult even with efficiency gains and service reconfigurations.", did she mean that even if they cut staff and cut services they will still run a big deficit; if not, what did she mean?

A: I meant what I said.

Q: Now she has confirmed that even if they cut staff and services they will still run a big deficit. Does this mean that they will not be able to keep open Elm Court, NZ’s only public long stay care facility?

A: I have seen a report in the Southland Times that the hospital he refers to was a National Party lemon set up to fail. And I think Michelle’s new broom will be unable to sweep that one under the carpet.

Q: What has she done in Southland?

A: The government recently agreed to build a new hospital in Southland. The people of Southland have been waiting years for this.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Given that some DHBs find it impossible even to fund existing services within their budgets, how will they be able to meet new functional requirements in recent legislation?

A: There are no service cuts yet. As for new functions, DHBs have been given a very limited number of new functions at this stage.

Q: When she promised that she would keep Elm Court open what did she mean?

A: There has been no decision to shut Elm Court.

Question 8.

JOHN WRIGHT (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What recent reports has he received about the desirability of the Government abandoning hands-off policies and instead offering support and advice?

A: I have seen a report in the ODT of a business enterprise forum organised by the National Party in Dunedin. It quoted National Party member Bill English saying that he agrees that the National Party got itself into trouble by saying that it does not support business.

Q: Has the government abandoned hands off?

A: Yes we have. We have announced that the era of hands off is over. We are seeking a business partnership approach. The National Party, in spite of Mr English’s comments, meanwhile has voted against every regional development initiative we have proposed. I have to conclude therefore that there is no difference between the new broom and the old broom.

Q: John Luxton (National): What is he doing about the state owned electricity generators profiteering?

A: That question is in make-my-day territory! National’s Max Bradford introduced the system we now have. This government has a bill before it to deal with the mess left us, and the National Party voted against it.

Question 9.

Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: What is her response to comments made by the chief executive of the Northland District Health Board that "I'm very concerned that the Government has not provided enough money to run a clinically safe service next year."?

A: The CEO of Northland DHB has advised me that he has no recollection of ever making such a comment.

Q: Has she taken notice of the same person’s comments that they would have thought the Labour Government would care more about the plight of an area with a large minority and poverty stricken population?

A: Ken Wheelan has proved to me that he sticks closer to the facts than she does.

Q: What did Mr Wheelan recently say about misinformation?

A: I have seen a report in the Evening Post dismissing a media release from John Carter as “politicking”.

Q: Can she confirm that Mr Wheelan’s response to a request from her to save money was to suggest the closure of the Dargaville and another hospital?

A: No I can’t. That was one of several options and it was rejected.

(Leave to table a press release – granted.)

Question 10.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson:

Q: Are developers and new home owners required to pay for electricity supply cabling, lines materials and installation costs only to lose all rights to ownership of them once installation is complete and thereafter be required to pay a line charge; if so, why?

A: There is an alternative, but the effect would be the same.

Q: Why has there been a change, where in the past the lines companies paid for the installation, and now home-owners have to.

A: The economic rationale is that if a new connection is needed, then the home owner should pay for it. Where I come from it has been that way for decades. If the developer wants to build their own lines company they are entitled to do so. And in some cases they have.

Q: Is he confident that government policy on fixed charges will be implemented?

A: We have asked companies to do this. Most NZers now have access to this as an option. As soon as we get this legislation through then I will have

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Are Fay Richwhite involved in this shocking state of affairs? Is he going to hold an inquiry? And if not why not?

(Speaker – lets move on to question 11.

Winston Peters - you will recall that when ACT’s finances were raised Fay and Richwhite were listed as contributors.)

Question 11.

Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Why is the MidCentral District Health Board being placed under intensive monitoring by the Ministry of Health?

A: Because this government takes the performance of DHBs seriously.

Q: Does she agree with the chairman that the bulk of the deficit has come from things that cannot be avoided.

A: Like many DHBs the bulk of the problem at MidCentral comes from a wage round. This was due to a pent up problem created because it had not been addressed for some time. The National Party had a similar framework for high risk organisations.

Question 12.

JOHN TAMIHERE (Labour) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: What are the expected benefits of the Maori television service announced yesterday?

A: The service fulfils a treaty obligation to promote Te Reo Maori. The service will educate and entertain Nzers, and in the process enrich NZ socially and culturally. The service will also provide employment and training opportunities. Accountability arrangements will be specified in an Act of Parliament.

Q: Why has it taken the Minister so long, 20 months, to announce a process and funding. And how can we be confident that this will be up and running when he says it will be.

A: I have been the Minister for 12 months. I have done well in that 12 months. Watch the next 12 months.

(IN TE REO MAORI) Q: Willie Jackson (Alliance): Will they be only broadcasting in Maori?

(IN TE REO MAORI) A: It is for people like me who are conversant in Te Reo. It is also for Maori who are not conversant in Te Reo, and it is for others who want to learn about Te Reo.

Q: Why was a generous Sky offer rejected?

A: We have had several offers which are being considered.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Is this more money than that which is being given to Maori health and housing? And what about predominently Maori populated areas where there is presently no TV coverage.

A: We are working on coverage issues.


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