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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 16 October

Today's questions of the day concerned: Business Opinion – Tizard’s Chris Fletcher Endorsement – Benefits – Air New Zealand Bailout – Education Crises – Pro GE Advert – Soil Sterilisation – Food Price Inflation – Dioxin – Auckland Roading – Drug Seizures – Judith Tizard’s Relationship With John Banks (And Matt McCarten).

:Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 16 October 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.

MARK PECK (Labour) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What advice has he received on business opinion in New Zealand?

A: As expected Business Confidence has fallen sharply in the wake of 911 as reported in the QSBO. However while general confidence is down, businesses remain relatively upbeat about their own expected performance.

Q: Has he heard any other reports?

A: I have heard that Bill English has held onto the shadow finance portfolio because the business community has no confidence in anyone else in the National Party.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does he agree with the Dominion report quoting an economist saying that confidence results could indicate we are headed into a fairly deep recession.

A: No. The survey has been at the same or similar levels on three occasions in the past three years, and there was no deep recession following each of those occasions.

Question 2.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Did the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues discuss with her her intention to publicly endorse Christine Fletcher for the Auckland mayoralty and to publicly criticise the Hon John Banks, and what advice has she given the Minister following the election of Mr Banks?

A: No. I have reminded the minister that she should be working well with all local government politicians. I have every confidence in Miss Tizard, a member who will always be more in touch with Auckland than the member for Clutha-Southland.

Q: Is she considering the advice of Matt McCarten that she should sack Miss Tizard for stupidity and having no class?

A: I put as much weight on those remarks as I do on remarks from Richard Prebble concerning John Banks, when he said he was not “too bright”.

Q: Can she give three reasons why she has confidence in Miss Tizard?

A: She is the local member. She knows the city inside out, and she has a depth of understanding of Auckland’s needs that the member will never have.

Question 3.

TAITO PHILLIP FIELD (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on the effectiveness of time-limited social security benefits?

A: There is increasing evidence that time-limited benefits have negative affects. They are punitive not progressive and the Labour/Alliance government rejects them. In a speech last night the default opposition spokesman on welfare, ACT MP Muriel Newman, said we need time-limited benefits immediately, either that, or a change of government.

Q: What is the impact of time limited benefits on children?

A: A Washington report found that for most families leaving the welfare roles, employment has not helped increase income. The findings are of deepening poverty for children.

Q: Muriel Newman (ACT): Has he seen all these reports (listed) saying that time-limited benefits are a great success?

A: Dr Newman has failed to see what real welfare reform is about. It is about removing barriers to opportunity. That is what we are doing.

Q: Sue Bradford (Green): How many former welfare recipients in Wisconsin have died? Or left the State? Or simply disappeared?

A: According to a report I have, 25% have returned to welfare. We do not know what has happened to the rest because no-one records where they go.

(Muriel Newman – leave to table articles – refused

Steve Maharey – leave to table articles – granted.

Richard Prebble – leave to table articles again – refused again.)

Question 4.

Hon DAVID CARTER (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Why did the Government not co-operate with Air New Zealand's request on 24 September 2001 to underwrite an $850 million rights issue?

A: It was not a commercially practical proposition. It was completely unbalanced proposition in terms of risk.

Q: Given that the strike price may settle at around 20 cents, what will he say to mum and dad investors told to hold onto their shares?

A: They couldn’t have sold them for 41 cents at that time. At that time the situation of Air New Zealand was precarious. A rights issue would have been beneficial to existing shareholders and prejudicial to the crown.

Q: Rod Donald (Green): Will the government be inviting the Australian Government to honour the spirit of CER and allow Air NZ to set down and pick up passengers in Australia?

A: We will be discussing such matters with Australia after their election.

Question 5.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What pressing matters awaited decisions by him when he first entered office?

A: The work had not been done on NCEA to ensure a smooth transition. The cost of primary teacher salaries was understated. The sector was divided by bulk funding. We got rid of that. There was some very good policy, which had not been funded. We funded it.

Q: Were there any good things?

A: Yes there were. There was a wonderful statement that the Tie system was “dopey”, and there was an admission that the student loan system was wrong.

Q: Nick Smith (National): Rather than trying to dredge up non-stories. Why does he not deal with the funding crisis. Or the disarray that the computer system for tracking students is in? Or is he more interested in playing politics?

A: Some people have short memories. And it is important that we all remember what a mess Nick Smith made of this portfolio.

Q: Were there issues in the early childhood sector?

A: There were some and we moved quickly on those.

Question 6.

Hon Dr NICK SMITH (National) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: Does she agree with the full page statement published in a major newspaper by all eight universities highlighting the importance of genetic modification field trials to New Zealand's medicine, agriculture and science sectors; if not, why not?

A: The government is well aware of the strong views of the University Science Council and I strongly endorse their advice to people that they read the report.

Q: How can the PM be openly contemplating extending the moratorium?

A: There are a wide array of concerns being expressed from all sides of the community. The health and safety of NZers and the environment is paramount for this government. As is supporting science and research.

Q: How is the government supporting science and research?

A: We have recently increased investment in RS&T to $485 million.

Q: Has she seen any statements from university scientists disagreeing with their deans? And are scientists split on this issue?

A: I totally agree that scientists are split. I was at a discussion recently at which scientists were disagreeing with each other on horizontal gene transfers.

(Nick Smith – leave to table two adverts – refused.

Phillida Bunkle – leave to table a memo from Monsanto on lobbying the National Party – granted.)

Question 7.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: Does she have concerns about the risks to soil from field trials of genetically modified crops, in light of HortResearch's decision to sterilise soil at the site of a former GM field trial with chloropicrin, a chemical commonly used in teargas?

A: I understand that HortResearch has agreed to carry out the sterilisation in response to local community concerns. The members response is to do nothing. My response is to find an answer to the alleged problem.

Q: Was this simply an effort to appease the Greens?

A: I repeat. I understand that HortResearch has agreed to carry out the sterilisation in response to local community concerns.

Q: When was the GE tamarillo trial approved?

A: In 1998, prior to the HASNO regime being put in place.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimmons (Green): Taking into account this case. And that there are gaps in knowledge, does she agree more lab research is necessary?

A: Whether I agree or not will be determined in the governments statements on this on October 31st.

Question 8.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of Consumer Affairs Jim Anderton:

Q: Can he confirm that food prices rose 7.8% from September 2000 to September 2001; if so, what implications does that have for Government policy?

A: Yes. The government needs to ensure that working people and people on benefits maintain their real incomes.

Q: Can he confirm that ordinary Labour households are worse off under this government?

A: I can confirm nothing of the sort. Superannuitants are much better off. Unemployment is at its lowest level in 13 years. And since when has ACT been concerned about these people anyway?

Q: Does the government intend to introduce price controls?

A: No. If price controls are not ACT policy then how is ACT proposing to keep these prices down?

Q: David Carter (National): Is he aware that this is the highest increase in food prices since 1990?

A: It may come as a surprise to the “proposed” finance spokesman for the National Party that CPI increased by only 2.4% for the September annual period. All groups including interest rates raised by only 1.7%. What about those figures does the member not understand.

Question 9.

MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to protect New Zealanders and their environment from the risks posed by dioxin?

A: The government recognises the need to take action now to protect future generations.

Q: What reports does she have on public attitudes to restrictions on public waste burning?

A: Surveys find that 93% of people are prepared to stop burning domestic waste if it helps public health.

Q: What will she do about creosote leaching into streams from the Palmerston North landfill?

A: I will write to the council and ask them on your behalf.

Question 10.

BELINDA VERNON (National) to the Minister of Transport Mark Gosche:

Q: Does he agree with the Prime Minister's reported comment that decisions on motorways were for central Government agencies and part of the overall complexity of roading decisions; if so, will he commit central Government agencies to assist the new mayor of Auckland in implementing the transport policies on which he was elected?

A: Yes. Transfund is primarily responsible for developing motorways. These bodies are committed to working with the new Auckland Mayor on this.

Q: Does he regard the overall roading programme as “ambitious and unaffordable”?

A: I do not know who the “word from Wellington” is that she is quoting. I can confirm however that we will do more than the previous government, who did nothing.

Q: What is being done?

A: Work has already started on several projects, listed.

Q: Keith Locke (Green) Is the minister concerned that the new Mayor may endanger the hard won consensus in Auckland?

A: No. The new Mayor has said he supports buses and roads, and he is expected to fit into the consensus.

Q: What about Transmission Gully?

A: Decisions on unfundable projects will be made in the next few weeks.

Question 11.

GRANT GILLON (Alliance) to the Minister of Customs Jim Anderton:

Q: Has he received any reports on seizures of illegal drugs entering New Zealand, and what do these reports advise?

A: Yes. We have just tabled the annual report for customs. There has been an increase in seizures of ecstasy and speed. The government is addressing this as a high priority. 700gms of heroin was seized from a passenger recently headed to NZ from Thailand. 14,000 LSD tabs were recently seized at Auckland mail center, and 25,000 ecstasy pills were found in a car gearbox.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): What about cannabis?

A: I have my views on that. The member has his. I think we should leave it at that.

Question 12.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:

Q: Does she stand by her statement to the House on 23 February 2000 that she would "work closely with Auckland's regional leaders" to address the infrastructure needs of the region; if so, how does she expect her description of the new mayor of Auckland, the Hon John Banks, as a "posturer" and her comment that we will find out now if he is "mad" to contribute to this close working relationship?

A: Yes I do stand by my statement and seven of the eight local body leaders have been reelected. I am confident that Mr Banks will work well with them and with central Government to address Auckland’s needs.

Q: Does she still adhere to the position reported in the paper yesterday that it is “John’s job to come up to scratch”?

A: The success of our relationship with Auckland local government has been due to the fact that we do not conduct it through the media. (much laughter)

Q: Chris Carter (Labour): What progress has been made with Auckland leaders?

A: I have been working with my colleagues and with Auckland’s leaders on a number of objectives.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Does she view it as a vote of no-confidence in her that 88% of Aucklanders did not follow her advice and vote for Chris Fletcher?

A: I did not state my preference for Chris Fletcher. I would see as a vote of no-confidence when I like him, and his leader, lose Auckland Central.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): Would she need to be sane herself to be able to gauge whether John Banks is mad?

(Speaker – that question is frivolous.)

Q: Does she agree with Matt McCarten that she will now find it hard to do her job? If not how did she take the comments from Mr McCarten?

A: As Matt McCarten also announced his intention to stand for Auckland Central, I take his statement as an expression of that and look forward to the race ahead.



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