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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 8 November

Today's questions of the day concerned: Tariana Turia – Auckland Moth Spraying – Tariana Turia – ACC Levy Collections – TEAC Racism? – Securities Bill – Tariana Turia - Customs Cost Recovery – PM’s Experience And Education (vs Tariana Turia) – State Sector Chief’s Salaries – George Hawkins Views On Tariana Turia – Disabled Access To Employment

Questions Of The Day - Thursday, 08 November 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.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: On what occasions and for what purposes did the Associate Minister of Corrections visit Paremoremo maximum security prison to meet with groups of inmates?

A: The Associate Minister of Corrections has visited Auckland Prison on six occasions since 1999. The purpose of her visits was to meet with inmates and staff.

Q: Is it not a fact that she has repeatedly met with privileged groups of inmates at Auckland Prison? And that she has in fact hand-picked these inmates? Is it not also a fact that they all came from Whanganui and that prison officers were excluded?

(Some concern over whether MPs could hear the question.)

A: There are very few facts in that tirade. Usually when MPs meet with inmates they know who they are, otherwise it is difficult to arrange the meetings.

Q: Are there many requests to visit inmates made by MPs?

A: No only a small number of MPs visit prisons, which is surprising given how many experts there appear to be in the house.

Q: Did he know about these visits?

A: Yes.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Were prison officers present at these private meetings with hand-picked inmates?

A: It is very hard to have a private meeting at a prison. How visits are to be conducted is a question at the discretion of the prison chief.

Q: Does he endorse the lobbying efforts of the associate minister to shift a prison escaper to a low security institution?

A: It is quite possible for a person to have a view on how close a prisoner is to their family.

(Nick Smith – leave to table a statement from Phil Goff criticising the government for not having Mr Thompson in a secure prison – granted.)

Question 2.

IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for Biosecurity Marian Hobbs:

Q: How has the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry delineated the area chosen for the aerial application of pesticide over west Auckland in order to control the painted apple moth and what new information is now available that could enable the area to be more accurately defined?

A: The area has been delineated. Information has confirmed the ongoing presence of the moth in places where ground spraying won’t work.

Q: Why hasn’t new pheremone technology developed by Dr Clearwater been used?

A: We know about Dr Clearwater’s work. Pheremones work on moths but you still have caterpillars and you need the insecticide to deal with the caterpillars. The moth is a significant danger to forestry and native plants. There are no known viable alternatives to aerial spraying to eradicate the moth.

Q: Why wasn’t this dealt with earlier?

A: MAF tried to do so but it has now spread to an area where ground work won’t work.

Q: How safe is the pesticide?

A: The pesticide contains BTK a biological pesticide that only affects caterpillars. We also have an 0800 number for concerned members of the public to ring.

Q: Ian Ewen-Street (Green): Why was Dr Clearwater denied access to material to develop his new technologies?

A: I understand there was a shortage of moths.

Question 3.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: What steps has he taken to action the Prime Minister's statement, about representations for prisoners, that "What we will be doing now is ensuring that Mrs Turia's staff have a clearer understanding of what is appropriate to say in letters and what isn't."?

A: I will continue to work with the Associate Minister on procedures.

Q: How will he ensure his Associate Minister has a clearer understanding when she has been quoted today saying she will not change her methods?

A: I always check with the person who has been quoted in the Dominion because I have found in the past that it is sometimes inaccurate.

Q: Are representations made often by MPs concerning prisoners?

A: Yes.

Q: What has changed since Tuesday night which would change the PM’s views on this and rebuke the associate minister?

A: The Associate Minister is a colleague. People who don’t make mistakes don’t do anything. The Minister does things.

Q: What procedures are in place?

A: All representations are referred to the department. All investigations are carried out according to a transparent procedure.

Q: Noting that the Associate Minister is a list MP and not a Maori Constituent MP how many times has she made representations on behalf of pakeha inmates?

A: The Associate Minister has a wide concern for all human kind.

Q: Why did she change her use of letterhead? Is it because he told her off?

A: It is not my practice to wave my finger. The fact that the Minister has chosen to use party letterhead shows that she does make changes when things are pointed out to her.

Question 4.

DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister for Accident Insurance Lianne Dalziel:

Q: What advice has she received on the compliance costs associated with the separate collection by the Inland Revenue Department of the ACC residual claims levy and what action is being taken to address these costs?

A: The panel made recommendations on this which we are implementing.

Q: What will this mean?

A: Employers and self-employed will receive one invoice in future instead of several.

Q: Nandor Tanczos (Green): Is he concerned about student loans being used to help Maori students to learn their stolen language?

A: No. I have seen no reports on this.

Question 5.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: In light of his early rejection of some of the recommendations of the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission's final report, will he reject recommendations 63 and 70 that recommend that financial penalties be imposed upon providers that cannot demonstrate they are meeting the needs of their Maori and Pacific learners; if not, why not?

A: (Lianne Dalziel on behalf) No. The report is advice, not a government decision. We want feedback and will be consulting widely before making decisions.

Q: Is this an example of racial discrimination?

(Michael Cullen – hold on a minute she can’t say that.

Speaker – please restate the question.)

Q: How does he respond to concern that this is an example of racial discrimination?

(Speaker – that has been ruled out by a comprehensive ruling from my predecessor. The question is out of order.)

A: This is just the commission’s advice. No decisions have been made yet.

Question 6.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Commerce Paul Swain:

Q: What is the Government doing to help improve confidence in New Zealand's securities markets?

A: The Government is committed to boosting confidence. We have introduced the takeovers code to that end. Recently we have introduced a Securities Bill to strengthen Securities law. In addition to the bill we are conducting a fundamental review of trading law. We are considering introducing criminal offences of trading breaches.

Q: Can he confirm that confidence is being improved through the Securities Commission inquiry into Air NZ to which at least one Press Gallery Journalist has been summoned? And is the PM helping this inquiry?

A: I will not comment on that. However I note that the PM has stuck up for Air NZ and it would be better if the Opposition would also stick up for New Zealand business.

Q: How will investing large amounts of NZ Government Administered funds overseas help confidence in the NZ market?

A: I understand there will be a range of investments undertaken by the agencies mentioned.

Question 7.

Hon TONY RYALL (National) to the Minister of Corrections Matt Robson:

Q: Does he stand by his answer yesterday that "The department has treated [the Associate Minister of Corrections'] concerns no differently than any other member of Parliament."; if so, why?

A: Yes I do. The department advises their decisions are made according to operational policy.

Q: Can he not see the difference between an MP writing to the department, and the Minister doing so on her official letterhead?

A: I am satisfied officials were not intimidated in any way. I deal with them on a daily basis. Some issues have been quite properly brought up by Mr Ryall however and we are dealing with them.

Q: What does the department do about requests addressed to him by MPs?

A: I address them to the department, receive a response and respond to them.

Q: What about requests made by Tariana Turia?

A: At present, at my instructions, the CEO can respond directly with notification to me. But we may change that.

Q: When did officials first raised detailed and lengthy concerns about the Associate Minister? And what did he do?

A: There are a number of matters we have discussed through. If the member wants to be more specific he can do so. I might note that my Department has occasionally raised questions about my behaviour too.

Question 8.

KEVIN CAMPBELL (Alliance) to the Minister of Customs Jim Anderton:

Q: What subsidies are provided by Customs for imported goods clearance services and does he believe the existing levels of subsidy are appropriate?

A: Customs currently funds the full costs of imports processing. This amounts to a subsidy and is inconsistent with the practices of our major trading partners. The government therefore intends to impose $16 fee for each standard import entry. Australia and the US impose processing fees. Australia imposes a fee ranging between AD$27 and AD$51. US imposes fee between US$25 and US$425 per transaction. The removal of this subsidy will put everyone on a level playing field.

Q: What is he doing about the closure of a Customs office in Nelson?

A: We are opening them elsewhere.

Q: Will he use extra revenue to beef up biosecurity?

A: It is not appropriate for me to determine where extra revenue will be allocated.

Question 9.

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Whom was she comparing herself with when she said "I speak from the experience of having a very high degree of education and having a very clear idea about what to say in representations, not everyone is so qualified."?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf) Lots of people.

Q: Does the standard of conduct required by cabinet members vary on the basis of their experience and education?

A: No. She is just saying that she is experienced and educated and that that equips her well to make certain representations.

Q: Do MPs learn from experience?

A: I am seeing more evidence everyday that members on the other side of the house are learning from the experience of changing their leader, and wishing they haven’t.

Q: How might the PM view the lack of judgement shown by the Associate Minister of Corrections in using letterhead for representations in relation to a whanau member and who deserves a medal, against the case of Ella Henry who merely included her business card in a letter and who was forced to resign?

A: The person referred to in the question is not a member of Ms Turia’s whanau. Mrs Turia took a state ward into her home, and basically, she is being pilloried for that compassion.

Q: If Ms Turia deserves a medal, why then is she now harshly suggesting that Ms Turia lacks judgment?

A: I am not aware of the comment.

(Tony Ryall - leave to table the PM’s “late rebuke” – granted.)

Question 10.

Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First) to the Minister of State Services Trevor Mallard:

Q: Has he received any reports indicating the people of New Zealand consider the appointments, salaries and conditions enjoyed by public sector chief executives are appropriate and represent value for money; if so, what do those reports say?

A: (Margaret Wilson on behalf) No. But the minister has received the report on the renumeration of public service CEOs.

Q: How is $165,000 salary justified for a ministry that delivers just $2.7 million of outputs.

A: The salaries are set by the SSC. It undertakes a survey in the private sector and local government.

Q: Does she support paying enough to attract the best people?

A: Yes. Especially at the moment when there is a skill shortage in NZ.

Q: Does that mean she has confidence in Michael Wintringham?

A: Yes.

Q: Does her concern to pay people properly apply to nurses and soldiers too?

A: Yes and that is why we brought in the ERA.

Question 11.

Dr WAYNE MAPP (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Does he agree with the police officers who described Matthew Solomon Thompson, the prisoner the Associate Minister of Corrections tried to have transferred out of Paremoremo, as a "bad, bad criminal, shocking criminal", and "extremely" dangerous?

A: I have no responsibility for prisoners or what other individuals may think about them.

Q: Does he agree with Mr Goff’s statement about the Thompson escape, “Why were these men, two of whom threatened police, housed in the medium rather than the maximum security wing”, and how then can he support Ms Turia’s attempts to move Thompson to an easier prison to escape from?

A: I note that when the prisoner escaped in 1998 and spent the time sipping champagne in a spa bath in the Coromandel, Nick Smith was the Minister responsible for his incarceration. I support all my colleagues.

Q: Does he agree people should be awarded medals for attempting to transfer dangerous criminals to low security prisons?

(Speaker – the Minister has no responsibility for that.)

Q: As Police Minister does he believe people should be awarded medals for attempting to transfer dangerous criminals to lower security prisons?

A: I think police should get a medal for improving the number of crime resolutions to the highest level ever.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Has he given any consideration to the resources required to recapture this prisoner should he escape?

A: If I was the Minister of Corrections I would give that consideration but I am not.

(Ron Mark – the minister is ducking the question.

Speaker – the member had a point. But he shouldn’t be so rude.)

A: If he escaped then we would look at it then.

Q: How can he say he supports the police if he fails to condemn Ms Turia for attempting to move a dangerous prisoner convicted of pointing a gun at a police officer?

A: I find it easier to support my colleague than Nick Smith who let him out to swan off to the Coromandel.

Question 12.

STEVE CHADWICK (Labour) to the Minister for Disability Issues Ruth Dyson:

Q: What is the Government doing to improve mainstream employment opportunities for people with disabilities?

A: Recently I released a document on vocational services. It reflects our commitment to enable people with disabilities to gain real jobs.

Q: How is it that the number of people on invalids benefits has increased by so much?

A: The question was unfortunately entirely unrelated.

Q: What is the government doing to address anomalies which occur when mentally-ill people move into paid jobs and get kicked out of their housing?

A: Again an unrelated question. For some people the inability to get back on a benefit is a major disincentive. We want to remove that disincentive.


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