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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 9 August

Today's questions of the day concerned: NCEA – Employment Stats – Auckland DHB Deficit – Suspended Sentences – Closing The Gaps Reports – Conservation Week – Steve Maharey’s Swearing – Public Transport – Ross Armstrong’s Lawsuit Against ACT – UN Small Arms Trade Conference – Ron Mark’s Military Expertise (and the LAV 3s)

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 9 August 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.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Does he intend the grade point average to remain as part of the National Certificate of Educational Achievement; if so, why?

A: (Steve Maharey on behalf) In my communications with teachers and principals it is clear people are looking forward to the arrival of the NCEA. More and more schools are prepared to implement the system. A communications programme is in train to inform people about the NCEA.

Q: Donna Awatere Huata (ACT): Will he concede that NCEA results will be rendered useless by insufficient moderation?

A: No I don’t accept what the member is saying. Moderation across schools will take place. Teachers are used to internal assessment and exams remain part of the system.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): Would it surprise the Minister that the NZQA told us that there is no explanation of the grade point average system in the booklet because it is too complex for parents to understand?

A: No. This is a competency based system. This is not a ranking system this is a standards based compentency system and that is what the grades mean.

Question 2.

LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

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

A: The Dept of Statistics released the HLFS data this morning. We welcome the reduction in the unemployment rate to 5.2%. On this measure the number of unemployed has dropped by 14,000 in the last year. When we watch the rugby on Saturday we should celebrate the fact that we have created a Carisbrook Stadium full of new jobs. There are now 36% fewer long term unemployed than there were when we were elected.

Q: Has he noticed that 82% of the new jobs are part time and that the total hours worked has hardly changed? Or does he no longer care about casualisation of the work force?

A: I know it is Mr Simcock’s job to be churlish, but yes I am interested that there are more service jobs in this latest report. The rates of unemployment have dropped in all regions. The rate of unemployment in Northland is now lower than it is in Australia.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Why does he gloat about figures when his written answer to me shows there are 94,000 people who have been on the dole for a long time.

A: We are not gloating. She may not like the figures, but they are improving. That member needs to stop whining.

(Muriel Newman – leave to table a Parliamentary answer – refused.)

Question 3.

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

Q: In light of the projected $62 million deficit at Auckland District Health Board and the cancellation of surgery at Starship Hospital, how does she intend to address pay concerns and nursing retention at that hospital?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) After 10 years of total neglect by the previous National Government I am pleased to report that this government is working closely with the DHBs to address five major problems in nursing in New Zealand.

Q: In light of two nurses organisations wanting better pay and conditions, can she say where DHBs will get money to attract and retain nursing staff?

A: We are committed to working with staff and management of DHBs to address the concerns of nurses.

Q: Has she received any advice about the 300 children not getting their surgery?

A: I am delighted to be able to confirm that Counties Manakau has offered Starship Hospital assistance. This government is committed to developing a workforce through planning. We are now having to deal with problems created by the deluded viewpoints of the previous government.

Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Why will she not accept that this is just one more crisis in a string of crises and that it is her fault?

A: If there was an essence of fact in relation to those allegations I would be willing to accept responsibility. We have taken significant steps to improve a dysfunctional health sector. We are now able to build robust cooperative health services.

Q: Sue Kedgley (Green): Is she concerned about the gender pay gap in the health sector?

A: I will remain concerned about that until it is addressed, but unfortunately it is outside my area of responsibility.

Q: What about the worldwide shortage of nurses?

A: We want to create a more cooperative and collaborative working environment in which young nurses will want to stay and work in NZ, or at least come back after their OE.

Question 4.

JANET MACKEY (Labour) to the Minister of Justice Phil Goff:

Q: What reports has he received on the effectiveness of suspended sentences?

A: I received a report from the Ministry of Justice saying that suspended sentences have failed and should be abolished.

Q: What are the net-widening problems identified?

A: The Ministry of Justice found that only around 10% of suspended sentences were given for offences that would ordinarily involve prison sentences.

Q: How can he accept a MoJ report when Mark Middleton received a popular suspended sentence, and when the Dominion reports today a judge saying that here is a classic case for a suspended sentence?

A: The fact is that even the courts on appeal have said that these sentences have been misused. The member cannot pin success on the back of a couple of cases when these sentences are being used in 1000s of cases.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): What about name suppression for MPs?

A: These reports have absolutely nothing to do with name suppression. The member is badly informed.

(Wayne Mapp – Leave to table a Dominion article – refused.)

Question 5.

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

Q: When did his Ministry receive advice from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet that quarterly monitoring reports would no longer be required in relation to the programme formerly called Closing the Gaps?

A: In March 2001 departments were told not to provide quarterly Closing the Gaps reports. These have been replaced with a new tabulated report.

Q: Murray McCully (National): Why did he lead members of a select committee to believe in June that the reports were continuing when they had in fact been cancelled?

A: If I misled the committee then that was untoward. However I will say that reports continue, and I am more than happy to make them available.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Can he provide any other explanation for why he withheld this information from a select committee?

A: I am more than available to front the committee and explain that matter. And I have that detail with me here now.

Q: Willie Jackson (Alliance): What has he done to reduce inequalities?

A: Lots of things. For example as the Minister of Employment said the rate of unemployment is down.

Q: Murray McCully (National): Why did he withhold this information from the Select Committee?

A: As I said at the time we have an amalgam of all those reports now in a table. And if you read it it says that is what we intended to do and that is what we have done.

Question 6.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee:

Q: What achievements can the Government claim that give substance to this year's Conservation Week theme "Unique New Zealand"?

A: As part of, and in addition to the $187 million biodiversity strategy, we have transferred lots of land into the DOC estate. We have created a new National Park. We have increased pest management, created several Kiwi reserves and eradicated rats from a couple of islands, hopefully.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green): Does she agree with a statement in the RCGM report on the lack of information about the impact of GM on the indigenous environment? And will she support increasing that lack of information before GE organisms are released?

A: The government recognises that the RCGM report is a critical document. I can assure the member that the considerations of the member will be uppermost in the Government’s mind when it replies to the report.

Q: Why is the government subsidising private indigenous forestry on the West Coast?

A: We make no apology for the investment of $120 million in the West Coast. The member may be interested to know that the West Coast is now the second fastest growing area in the country after Otago.

Question 7.

BOB SIMCOCK (National) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Which specific sections of Chief Judge Goddard's judgment regarding his personal behaviour or use of language does he accept as accurate, and which specific sections does he still not accept as accurate?

A: I repeat. I have the highest respect for the chief judge. I accept his decision unreservedly.

Q: When he said yesterday that “no-one’s perfect” was he referring to himself or the judge?

A: All of us.

Q: Jill Pettis (Labour): What does the judge say about conflicts of evidence in his judgment.

A: He says in paragraph 36 that when he makes decisions on credibility he does not mean to say that someone has been misleading the court.

Q: Does he accept that the judge did not believe he was telling the truth?

A: I stand by my evidence that I gave in court. As I have said, and as the judge said, we have all conscientiously attempted to assist the court.

Question 8.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: What examples has he received of positive trends in public transport usage in New Zealand?

A: We are beginning to see the benefits of the patronage funding scheme. Canterbury figures show the biggest increase in public transport usage ever. In Auckland the ARC’s patronage survey found that 21,000 people travelled into the city on public transport. This is 37% of the total commuters up from 34%. I have also received reports that more buses are being built.

Q: What do figures show for nationwide patronage?

A: Since the scheme was introduced public transport has increased by about 7-8% nationwide. Nine of 14 territorial authorities are now involved in the scheme.

Q: How much will patronage have to be increased to justify the most expensive bus shelter in the world, Britomart?

A: We are very pleased to be making progress in Auckland. We are encouraging Wellington Regional Council and Transfund to work through issues relating to the proposed interchange.

Q: What is happening with Tranz Rail negotiations on the Auckland rail corridor?

A: We will make the progress we expect to make when we come to an agreement. The timetable we are working to is well known.

Question 9.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: Did he ask Dr Ross Armstrong whether he had sought the approval of the Board of New Zealand Post Ltd and the Minister for State Owned Enterprises before the decision was made to issue proceedings against me over the publication of documents relating to the proposed New Zealand Post's "People's Bank"; if so, what was the answer?

A: As I have said previously I was informed after legal action was initiated. I asked the chairman if he had sought board approval. He said yes.

Q: Why is Ross Armstrong still in his job when he has received advice that Ross Armstrong should have consulted him before he initiated the legal action?

A: I am aware of the powers I have. I am also aware of the judgments I have to make, and I have made them.

Q: Was issuing legal proceedings appropriate?

A: No. However MPs also have a responsibility to act prudently and responsibly.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Why has he rejected the advice of his officials about serious constitutional issues in this case?

A: I considered the advice carefully. I took the action that I deemed appropriate. I note that it is surprising that a person who had a long history of involvement in the National Party is being described as a political appointee.

(Richard Prebble – leave to table a document dated 14th March – granted.)

Question 10.

KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister for Disarmament and Arms Control Matt Robson:

Q: What was the outcome of the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects which he attended in New York last month?

A: We made a consensus decision at the meeting on monitoring and on labelling of arms.

Q: What aspects are of particular concern in the Pacific?

A: Recent events in Bougainville, Fiji and the Solomons show the kinds of problems that small arms can lead to.

Q: Was Philip Alpers the only NGO person who went with him and if so why?

A: I can confirm that Philip Alpers was the person who came. And I can confirm that I chose the person who knew the most to take with me. We will pursue these matters at the South Pacific Forum. Pacific governments are working closely with us on this.

Q: Rob Mark (NZ First): Does he not understand that where there are attempts to stop the trade in firearms, nations tend to make their own and start exporting them?

A: I have no indication that the Solomon Islands is intending to start an arms industry.

Question 11.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:

Q: What advice did the Solicitor-General or Crown Law Office staff give the Government regarding the recovery of costs in the Rankin case, and was that advice to seek recovery of costs?

A: (Phil Goff on behalf) The Solicitor General recommended the crown not seek to recover costs.

Q: Will she table any advice she received on this? As the PM promised on the radio this morning?

A: The Solicitor General’s strong advice is that free and frank legal advice be kept confidential, not just in this case, but in every case. I have however requested a summary of advice from the Solicitor General and I am prepared to table that.

(Phil Goff – leave sought to table a document – granted.)

I would add that Mrs Shipley’s suggestion of a political tradeoff in this case is utterly without foundation.

Q: In light of the fact this court case has cost $500,000. And in light of the fact that the taxpayer is entitled to compensation, is the reason that costs were not sought that the government believes that it was morally in the wrong?

A: As usual the members question is riddled with inaccuracy including the claim on how much it cost. The advice on costs was made independently by the Solicitor General. The government has nothing to hide. The National Party has decided to side with the 19% of NZers who think the court got it wrong. While the PM said she would have no problem with reporters looking at advice, the solicitor General thinks otherwise.

Question 12.

RON MARK (NZ First) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Was she being serious and sincere when she said, on 28 March 2001, that she acknowledged my expertise in army matters?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) yes. The member had a distinguished army career but like my own academic career that is now a long time ago.

Q: Why then when I wrote to the PM about the LAV 3s last year did she not listen? And does she accept that embarrassment could have been avoided had she done so?

A: No.

Q: Have the members views ever been taken into account?

A: Yes. Mr Mark was a member of the committee that wrote the Select Committee report that underlines government policy.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Has the PM had any report on a letter from Henschel saying the tender specifications were aimed at only one vehicle? And a similar letter from Dailmer Chrysler? And can he explain why the Minister is still the minister after supervising this shonky tender?

A: We will wait till the final version of the AGs report is released before coming to any conclusions, though no doubt a draft version will probably appear on the ACT Party website sooner.

(Ron Mark – leave to table letter dated August 3 2000 – granted.

Ron Mark – leave to table another letter – granted.

Ron Mark – leave to table yet another letter – granted.)


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