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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day –18 October

Today's questions of the day concerned: GE Economic Effects – NZ Post Vs Richard Prebble – Unemployment Beneficiaries – Australian Troop Deployments – Unsafe Schoolgirls Convictions – Cloud Nine Immigration Arrangements – ERA Update – Hobbs Views On RCGM Report – Speed Cameras – Police Recruiting – Gaming Review – Maori Affairs Achievements

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 18 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.

PHILLIDA BUNKLE (Alliance) to the Minister for Economic Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What are the economic development effects of potential Government decisions on genetic engineering?

A: Over the last two years we have had a moratorium on the release. In that time the economic sky has not fallen in. In finalising its views over the next two weeks the government will take a precautionary approach. Government however also intends to ensure that science will continue. A major consumer movement is underway on food labeling. In my view no government or farmer can ignore that movement.

Q: Is the minister concerned the Greens will deny the Government confidence if field trials are approved?

A: Before this government was sworn in the Greens guaranteed in writing unconditional support on confidence and supply.

Q: What would be the effect of an accidental contamination?

A: There is no doubt that if a GMO which was dangerous to other crops was released without caution and without full knowledge of detrimental effects then that would be harmful. However this government is taking a precautionary approach. No decisions have yet been taken by this Government. Cabinet will make a final decision on October 29th.

Q: What are the implications of not allowing GE research to continue?

A: The world economy is increasingly dependent on knowledge. NZ has been a world leader in agricultural science and should remain so.

Q: Given the importance of the Green Party’s votes, is the Minister prepared to table the letter from the Greens?

A: I am happy to seek further advice on that matter and report back to Parliament.

Question 2.

Hon MURRAY McCULLY (National) to the Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: In light of the New Zealand Post board minute tabled yesterday which states that directors were merely "advised" of the decision to issue proceedings against the Hon Richard Prebble, does the Minister intend to take any steps to correct statements made by him to the House that the action had board approval; if not, why not?

A: No. Because the minute does not indicate I have made incorrect statements.

Q: Which words indicate board approval?

A: When an issue is raised at a meeting, and an action is suggested and no one dissents then it is reasonable to say the action is approved. That is a fair and reasonable inference from what happened here. Board members were advised of a proposed action that the CEO then left to undertake. Let me quote from my thesaurus on this.

Q: Does he have any certainty concerning spending of money on legal advice?

A: No I don’t.

Q: Murray McCully (National): Which word tells the minister there was approval by the board?

A: As I have said on several occasions, the process and actions taken by the board resulted in approval being given.

Question 3.

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

Q: What specific initiatives has the Government taken to encourage job seekers to make the transition to paid work?

A: There are now more people in paid employment than ever before in NZ history. Unemployment is now at the lowest level in more than 13 years. Today I have announced new funds for enabling employment in the regions. Several examples given.

Q: Why do we still have 333,000 people dependent on benefits?

A: We certainly inherited a problem from the opposition. And we are making real progress.

Q: Is one of his initiatives his flagship community programme that has created jobs at a cost of $28,000 a job.

A: It is still a flagship programme indeed. Can I invite Ms Newman to ask me another question shortly on this which will show the number of jobs has increased dramatically.

Q: When will the stand down period be reduced so that job seekers are not penalised for taking up jobs which do not turn out to be permanent.

A: We already do that for some jobs.

Question 4.

Hon MAX BRADFORD (National) to the Defence Minister Mark Burton:

Q: Has he advised the Prime Minister to offer an increased military contribution to the war against terrorism following Australia's decision to deploy 1,550 Australian defence personnel, including elite special operations troops, four F/A-18s, two P-3s, three frigates and an amphibious command ship?

A: No. Our decisions are made against our own resources, capabilities and commitments.

Q: Is the real reason that nothing more is being offered that the PM has had a hissy fit…(interrupted)

(Speaker - that is not appropriate…

Max Bradford – I am merely using a phrase used by the PM in the past.)

(question continued) … at only being offered “a significant pull-aside” with Mr Bush rather than a real meeting, like Mr Howard is having.

A: The question barely warrants a reply. Frankly I am appalled at this question given the level of commitment by NZ forces abroad at present. We have the greatest commitment abroad that has been underway for four decades.

Q: Have any requests been made by the US?

A: No.

Q: How has NZ’s offer been received in the US?

A: This morning the US Ambassador described it as a “wonderful” and “meaningful” contribution.

Q: Given Australia is offering FA18s, is NZ offering FA?

(Speaker – I am not allowing that question.)

Q: How many people are involved in our wonderful and meaningful contribution?

A: There will be no specifics. NZ’s current offshore deployment is greater proportionally than Australias.

Q: Has any Islamic nation provided troops for use in Afghanistan?

A: I don’t have responsibility for Islamic defence forces.

Q: Given we have two frigates tied up at Devonport, why can’t one of them be offered.

Question 5.

NANDOR TANCZOS (Green) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Does he agree with Gary Gotlieb, lawyer for three girls wrongfully imprisoned for aggravated robbery, who is reported to have said that "Police had tunnel vision and often believed they had the offender and then found the facts to fit the crime."; if so, how does he intend to address this serious accusation?

A: The Commissioner of Police has made a public apology to the three teenagers. No innocent person should be subject to this injustice.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green) Will he assure the house in light of comments by former Police Superintendent Brian Rowe, that if oversights are found to have been criminal that prosecution will be taken by the Crown and not left to the family as is the case for the family of Stephen Wallace?

A: A reinvestigation has been undertaken by the police. The Criminal Justice process has checks and balances, unfortunately they seem to have failed in this case. If anyone has broken the law or made criminal mistakes the police will take action. The Court of Appeal saw faults. The police are now looking to see where they made mistakes.

Q: Given that this investigation is looking at the specific case, will he be undertaking a systemic investigation?

A: The Commissioner of Police has assured me the Police will look into this and I take him at his word.

Question 6.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Immigration Lianne Dalziel:

Q: Following the Hon Jim Anderton's reported comments that he would help Cloud 9 remain in New Zealand by removing the obstacles preventing the chief executive's daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren from joining him in New Zealand, what influence did Mr Anderton have on her decision to "fast track" their residency?

A: (Jim Anderton on behalf) None. By the time Mr Anderton discussed the matter with me I had already made the decision.

Q: Gerry Brownlee (National): If the house is expected to believe this, are we also to believe that TVNZ will soon start spontaneously purchasing Cloud Nine productions?

A: If the member assumes that the Minister heard about this yesterday then he would be mistaken. The minister has indicated she will give consideration to other similar cases.

Q: Is fast-tracking only for the elite few?

A: The Minister has told me she would apply the same rules to any person in a similar position to Mr Thompson and his family.

Question 7.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: What reports has she received about developments in employment relations?

A: (Laila Harre on behalf) I have received the latest Stats report which says that the number of employees involved in stoppages has halved. There were 22 work stoppages during this period compared to 18 under the ECA. I have also received a report that says it is a balanced and practical piece of legislation. Employers are finding it easy to work with. The ERA is handling cases efficiently. Union membership is increasing. And few cases are going to court due to satisfaction at a mediation level.

Q: What about the PPTA strike?

A: I would have thought that both the Dept. of Stats and the DOL report would indicate there are no government concerns.

Q: Is it easier or harder to strike under the ERA?

A: Ironically it is more difficult. There is a new period of 40 days after bargaining is initiated during which action is prohibited.

Q: Will she reconsider the answer she gave in September last year that she expected productivity to increase under the ERA?

A: Clearly without seeing the document he has I could not comment. However I would say that his figures bare no relationship to ours.

Question 8.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister for the Environment Marian Hobbs:

Q: Does she agree with the Prime Minister's reported statement that the Royal Commission into Genetic Modification report was "thorough, balanced and measured"; if not, why not?

A: (Pete Hodgson on behalf) Yes.

Q: Can she state whether there is any truth in the NZ Herald article that states that the government is thinking about a further two year voluntary field trials moratorium?

A: I would urge the member not to believe everything he reads in the NZ Herald.

Q: Will he rule out the introduction of legislation on October 30th?

A: The government has taken no decisions, and is therefore not in a position to enact them.

Q: Does she agree with the Chen and Palmer report on liability?

A: I have read the report, and the government is considering its views along with those of others.

Q: Does the Minister agree with the Minister of Economic Development that the Greens will support the Government regardless of the Government’s GE position? And why then did the Green Co-Leaders shake their heads so vigorously?

A: The member is misquoting the minister.

Question 9.

RON MARK (NZ First) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: How has the decision to switch off fixed-site speed cameras impacted on frontline police staff?

A: While the decision is an inconvenience to police efforts to reduce the road toll. Police will increase the use of radar to ensure that people do not drive too fast. This month there will be another 25 highway patrol officers patrolling the roads to make it safer.

Q: Why has it taken him so long to take action to plug loopholes?

A: This legislation is the Transport Act which I do not have responsibility for.

Q: Will refunds be paid to people who have paid their tickets?

A: People should take the advice of their lawyers on that question.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Can the Minister give the house an assurance that no police officers have been tasked with targeting other police officers on their way to crime scenes?

A: If people go over the speed limit that is a matter for the police district commander, not me.

Question 10.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: In light of his comment "I wish the Police every success with the new [recruitment] campaign, and look forward to seeing the results of it in future Police College intakes.", why was the recruit intake for October 2001 deferred?

A: The latest information to me is that all wings planned for the 2001 and 2002 financial year will proceed at this stage. I am advised that some of the details are still to be finalised.

Q: Why will only 80 officers be recruited during a period that 120 officers are expected to leave?

A: The attrition rate in the NZ Police is at a lower level than it was under that member’s government.

Q: Tony Ryall (National): When will there be more police officers on the beat than there were when he took up his job.

A: Mr Ryall should stop making it up.

(Tony Ryall – leave to table three documents – granted.)

Question 11.

DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister of Internal Affairs George Hawkins:

Q: When will the gaming review be finalised?

A: I will be making an announcement on this later today. The review has been based on more than 1300 submissions. I would like to thank everybody who made submissions.

Q: What reports has he seen on the outcome of the review?

A: I have seen a report from the 26th of September that makes a lot of idle speculations about pokie machine revenues and taxation. It is from the Leader of the Opposition. What a load of rubbish!

Q: Will the government be making a tax grab for pokie profits?

A: Opposition members mischief making won’t help them. They are likely to be bitterly disappointed.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Is the minister prepared to rule out any increase in tax in any part of the gaming industry in this Parliamentary term?

A: The member should ask the Minister of Finance.

Q: What will he do about the Casino that is refusing to contribute towards problem gamblers?

A: I am deeply disappointed with one of the casinos. However we as a government have decided that vote health will deal with problem gambling as it is an addiction.

Question 12.

OWEN JENNINGS (ACT) to the Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia:

Q: What are his top three achievements as Minister, in order of importance?

A: I have been connecting Maori with this government, listening talking and meeting with them. That is my first, second and third achievement.

Q: Does he regard his government’s dropping of Closing the Gaps and the disbanding of the Closing the Gaps committee as a major achievement.

A: That is past history. We are making progress. Maori are energised and are accelerating Maori development.

Q: How does he explain his failures?

A: There was a long period in this country when nothing was done. We have been doing lots.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): How can he make claims when Maori housing is worse than it has been for 50 years? And when last year the highest number of Maori missed out on education?

A: Can I tell my respected elder that isn’t true. We do care about our people. And I care about the East Coast rugby team. And I am glad we cleaned up the Nelson Bays team.


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