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Scoop In The House

1. KEVIN CAMPBELL to the Minister of Corrections: What reports has he received of opposition to longer sentences for the dangerous few and the safe and secure containment of New Zealand's prisoners?

A. I have a Waikato Times article showing several National Party MPs and former Ministers sharing a microphone in a cafe falling over each other to protest against the plan to build a new prison. Those MPs are members of a party that over the past ten years has called for longer sentences and now is shameless enough through opportunism they attack the government which is introducing longer and more effectinve sentences for violent and dangerous offenders.

S. How will the proposed changes to sentencing and parole legislation effect the rise in numbers of people in prison?

A.  The daily prison muster is expected to rise by about 300 inmates over four years and the soon to be introduced sentencing and parol bill which will see the dangerous few serving sentences that increase public safety. If we are to contain these inmates, and the bulk of inmates are in prison for more minor offences, then we need better
fascilities. Perhaps National would prefer that we didn't increase sentences for the most violent criminals..

2. Hon BILL ENGLISH to the Minister of Energy: When he said there was "an approaching [electricity] crisis - the prospect of a crisis", did he have a date in mind as to when it would become a crisis?

A. No.

S. Given that the Electricity market settlement figures show a $900 million increase in turnover for the 61 days of June and July compared to last year, can he assure the House that no Government owned generator is extracting a windfall of $900 million from its customers?

A. To the best of my knowledge no Government SOE is extracting $900 million of windfall profit.

3. GRAHAM KELLY to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade: What action has he taken to express New Zealand's concern to the Government of Zimbabwe about abuses of human rights and the undermining of the rule of law in that country?

A. Yesterday I met with Zimbabwe's High Commissioner to New Zealand on her first visit to New Zealand from Canberra, and I expressed NZ's strongest concerns about the deteriorating political and economic situation in Zimbabwe, in particular I raised the undermining of the judiciary and the press, the attacks on lawyers representing political parties or political representatives in court, the threat against diplomatic missions and international aid agencies and continued intimiation and violence against those opposed to President Mugabe's regime..

S. What other actions can New Zealand take to protect democratic and human rights in

A. In early October in Brisbane the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting is taking place and I have sought a meeting with the Zimbabwean Minister of Foreign Affairs, where I will raise those issues with him. Additionally New Zealand is working with the commonwealth to press Zimbabwe to uphold the Harare Declaration of Principles, ironically adopted by the commonwealth in Harare in 1991, which includes the principles of the rule of law, democracy, the independence of the judiciary, and just and honest government. We also support a commonwealth observatory team to visit Zimbabwe later this year and we will be pushing for international observers in the run up to and during the presidential elections in April next year.

4. BELINDA VERNON to the Minister of Transport: Has he received advice on whether the Air New Zealand board has a united position on what is the best ownership option for the company; if so, what does the advice say?

A. Air NZ's position is it prefers the Singapore option.

A. The Government does not have a preference between Singapore and Australia we have closer economic relation agreements with both countries.

5. PETER BROWN to the Minister for Accident Insurance: Is it the Government's intention that the Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Bill cover individuals injured whilst engaged in a criminal activity, and that they will receive financial compensation?

A. There are issues that will be addressed...

S. Does the Minister not recognise that the public wants a tougher line against criminals?.

A. This Bill and current legislation moves to address such concerns... I am confident that such applications will address those concerns raised by the member.

6. Dr LYNDA SCOTT to the Minister of Health: Has she reached any conclusions as to why the Canterbury District Health Board is going to have a deficit of at least $10 million this year after being in the black for the last few years?

A. No it would be inappropriate for me to reach any conclusion before the Canterbury District Health Board through its annual plan through the Ministry of Health and its local community.

S. Does the minister agree with the CEO of Canterbury District Health Board who when asked how the board got into this position, replied: "We received less funding this year we lost the one off funding for elective surgery waiting lists and the annual increase we received was less than inflation.And if so why has she so grossly underfunding healthcare this year?

A. It is the nature of one off funding that it is one off.

7. HARRY DUYNHOVEN to the Minister of Labour: How many employment relations education courses have been approved under the Employment Relations Act?

A.    30 Employment Relations Education courses by employer, union, and tertiary institutions have so far been approved.    The courses cover a wide range of skills that will help improve workplace relations, including problem solving, communications, and negotiations and also working together in good faith.

S.  How are the courses approved?

A. The courses are approved by the Employment Relations advisory Committee that is made up of employer, union, and educations ector representatives, the committee also makes representation to the minister on funding of the contestable fund. So far the fund has recorded 15 organisations either developing or delivering courses.

8. RODNEY HIDE to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises: Has he received official advice that the Deputy Prime Minister breached the Securities Act and the Securities Regulations when he proposed on the Holmes show last year to finance the "People's Bank" through redeemable preference shares and that he thereby exposed himself, the Crown and potentially the directors of the People's Bank and New Zealand Post Ltd to civil liability, and even criminal liability, with a fine of $15,000; if so, what action has he taken?

A. I received advice last year on securites legislation, at the time I received this advice a potential offering of securities by NZ Post was being considered. However this has been overtaken by events and no such offer has been made or is being contemplated.  

S. Is the Minister saying that the Deputy Prime Minister didn't break the law, and if he is saying that is he prepared to provide a transcript of the Holmes Show interview to Crown Law for an opinion and be tabled in Parliament. If not why not?

A. I received differing advice but more importantly the question is moot because as I have already indicated no public securities were issued by New Zealand Post and no such issue is being contemplated.

9. ROD DONALD to the Prime Minister: Will she be responding to the comment of Dr Dick Foster at the Catching the Knowledge Wave Conference that the "creative destruction of New Zealand by outside corporations [is] an issue I think you must address"; if so, what will that response be?

A. It is highly unlikely that I will be responding to all the suggestions raised from a three day conference.

S. Can the Prime Minister outline the purpose of the conference?

A. The conference is designed to encourage a free-flow of ideas and opinions.

10. Hon Dr NICK SMITH to the Minister for the Environment: Have any New Zealanders been denied access to benefits from genetically modified technology as a consequence of the Government's moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms?

A. Not that I am aware of, because no one can identify all the benefits from research. It is therefore difficult to assert that every New Zealander has either gained or been denied access to a benefit or to a risk associated tot he moritorium.

S. Why had the Minister in a letter on July 26 specifically denied thousands of New Zealanders travelling to cholera infected countries access to the vaccine that provides a 90% protection level compared to only 40% level for the conventional vaccine when the vaccine is recommended by the WHO, it's been approved by the government's own agency and is widely available in other western countries like Australia and Canada?

A. That vaccine did contain a live GMO and therefore wasn't under the moritorium able to get approval. So it couldn't be used in New Zealand. However, it did have Medsafe approval. And on this basis the government agreed that emergency supply to this vaccine continue to be made available during the period of the voluntary moritorium and I can tell you that 1393 doses were used.

11. MAHARA OKEROA to the Associate Minister of Health: What reports has she received in regard to the use and abuse of drugs in New Zealand?

A.   I would like to release publicly today a NZ Drugs Statistics Report that gathers in one place a diverse range of statistics relating to drug use in New Zealand over the last ten years to assist with evidence based policy formulation.

S. What does the report show?

A. It contains a collection of statistics and is the culmination of a two year project led by the Ministry of Health. The report will help in the evidence based approach that the Labour/Alliance Government is taking to address drug related harm in New Zealand under the framework of the NZ health strategy.  It includes age and population based statistics and identifies trends over the past ten years on alcohol, tobacco, marijuanna,and other types of drugs.

12. Hon MURRAY McCULLY to the Minister of Broadcasting: Does she stand by her statements in the House yesterday that the decision by TelstraSaturn not to proceed with its planned digital partnership with Television New Zealand "does not affect Television New Zealand's plans for a free-to-air digital service", "had no impact on Television New Zealand", and "does not affect the contract with Television New Zealand"?

A. Yes the statements reflect the advice I have received.

S. Does she still stand by her comments that even though Telstra Saturn plans to develop box-top-sets, on-screen email, shopping etc that this will have no effect on TVNZ?

A. A free to air digital service is still in the government and TVNZ's plans. The date of implimentation is yet to be set. I am confident that we will do this.

Questions to Members

1. Hon TONY RYALL to the Chairperson of the Finance and Expenditure Committee: For how many minutes did the Minister for State Owned Enterprises appear before the committee yesterday, and does the committee intend to call the Minister before it again on the same item?

A. The Minister appeared before the committee...... one hour 28 minutes, it is up to the committee to decide whether it wishes the Minister to appear before it again.

S. In light of Mr Burton's comment that he did not have infinite time to appear before select committees, why does the chairman consider that 28 minutes was sufficient to cover serious allegations about securities breaches by Mr Anderton, leaks from NZ Post and Minister's offices, concerns about power company price guaging and security of supply, and if not when will the Minister be back to answer questions?

A. The chair has expressed no opinion on such matters and indeed it is the
responsibility of the committee whether it requires the Minister to appear again.

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