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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 13 November

Today's questions of the day concerned: SAS Troop Deployment x 3 – NZ Post Board Minutes – Volunteer Workers – SAS Deployment – Humanitarian Aid To Afghanistan – Tariana Turia – Reading Report – Tariana Turia – TV Standards – Susan Bathgate’s ERA Appointment.

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 13 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.


(Defence Minister Mark Burton – leave sought to correct earlier answer - granted.

The total paid to Communications Trumps by the NZ Army since 1996 was $773,000 not $439,000 as earlier stated.)

Question 1.

GRANT GILLON (Alliance) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What reports has she received about the Government's offer of SAS troops to the international military action against terrorism?

A: (Acting PM Jim Anderton on behalf) I have received two reports. One saying that the Alliance voted against withdrawing support. Another saying that the leader of the National Party told TV News last night that he might withdraw his parties support of the SAS deployment. While they support the deployment they might not vote for it.

Q: What about the review?

A: I am advised that the review will be based on facts, principle and policy. In the case of anyone else, I can only quote Mr English saying, “the day may come when National may cease to support her government on matters of National Interest”.

Q: Bill English (National): Can she confirm that National supports the troops in Afghanistan, in contrast with the bickering in the Alliance Party.

A: If that is so then the National Party would not threaten to withdraw its support.

Q: Has the PM seen any reports from the ACT regional conference? And who cares what the Alliance thinks?

A: If the ACT party had a conference in Auckland at the weekend it is a great surprise to me and the rest of the country I expect.

Q: Keith Locke (Green): Has the PM seen other reports saying that an overwhelming majority of speeches at the Alliance conference were against the troop deployments?

A: The Alliance Conference voted by 86 to 51 (58%) to request the caucus to review its position.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): How far up Mr Anderton’s back will the PM’s hand have to be in order to tell him whether it will be facts, principle or policy that dictate the Party’s decision?

A: The PM has seen the criteria on which the Alliance is basing its review. The PM has expressed her full confidence in the democratic and constructive approach being used by the Alliance.

Question 2.

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

Q: Is her statement that "the Government is not reviewing" its offer of New Zealand SAS troops based on her reported belief that the Alliance conference resolution to review support was a sop to leftists, and her doubts that the Alliance position will change; if not, what was it based on?

A: (Acting PM Jim Anderton on behalf) No. It is based on the fact that Parliament passed a resolution supporting the deployment.

Q: How much credibility will the review have since he has already said publicly that the Alliance cannot change its position?

A: I have said no such thing.

Q: Does this mornings crash of an airliner alter the position?

A: No there is no reason to change the position. So far there is nothing to indicate the crash resulted from terrorism. The fact that an act of terrorism can happen at any time should strengthen resolve to fight against terrorism however. Any democratic party is able to review its opinion.

Q: Keith Locke (Green) Will the review take into account the views of many in the Alliance that putting in troops creates more fertile conditions for terrorism rather than combating it?

A: Of course the review will take into account the views of Alliance members. It will also take into account the views of Nobel Peace Prize winner Kofi Annan who says the UN is on the front-line of the anti-terrorism fight. I can assure the house I had no discussions with the PM before discussing the terms of reference with my ministers. I advised the PM after.

Question 3.

JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Green) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she still agree with the resolution of this House on 3 October which included total support for the approach taken by the United States of America in response to the terrorist attacks in New York on 11 September?

A: (Acting PM Jim Anderton on behalf) Yes. Parliament passed a resolution on this and there has been no change to that position.

Q: Does this total support continue in spite of the use of cluster and daisy cutter bombs, and in spite of the rising toll of civilian casualties? And if so why?

A: I can only quote Kofi Annan who said the only way to win against terrorism is to work together. The main thing is that the action is within the framework of the UN. And that is the policy of the Alliance and of the Government.

Q: Are all parties still in support of the war against terrorism?

A: Every party in this house bar one supported this when the resolution was put, and the government hasn’t shifted its position.

Q: Why did the PM say that the Alliance view on the war was not a coalition breaker?

A: In this coalition government the views of each party on a wide range of matters is respected. Consequently this coalition has lasted well.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): Given the Alliance’s review. Should an SAS troop need to call in fire-power support will the government first ask for the Alliance

A: The SAS hasn’t got any daisy cutters as far as I know. The Government when it sends operational troops into conflict

Q: Would a massacre of lots of civilians in Kabul by the US allies, the Northern Alliance, as is feared by many people cause any change the government’s support for this action?

A: The kind of circumstance the member has raised could cause members of this government to look seriously at it. That is a fair point to raise and obviously all nations around the world would be looking at that.

Question 4.

Hon BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What is his response to minutes of a meeting of directors of New Zealand Post on 21 March 2001, in relation to the People's Bank, which attribute to Mr Ken Douglas the view that "it is not helpful for the Deputy Prime Minister to be using selected parts of the business case", and to Mr Syd Bradley the criticism that the degree of the Deputy Prime Minister's involvement was "a major concern"?

A: The comments were in an internal discussion that has since been overtaken by events.

Q: What assurance can the Government give that the bank will not be run by Jim Anderton?

A: The two board members are our appointments. We don’t appoint stooges.

Q: Does the board consider that Kiwibank has a bright future?

A: The business case has been modified and the board considers that it is sound and that the bank will contribute to the overall profitability of NZ Post.

Q: Was Mr Bradley right when he said there were compelling reasons to stop the proposal?

A: There is healthy debate within NZ Post and occasionally within the Labour Party caucus about things.

Q: What role will Mr Anderton take in the opening of People’s Bank branches?

A: I have no idea. Nor what role Jim Bolger will take. However I suspect that in this case Jim A plus Jim B makes for a sound banking system.

Question 5.

ANN HARTLEY (Labour) to the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector Ruth Dyson:

Q: What reports has he received on initiatives to support volunteering in New Zealand communities?

A: Lottery Grants Board contributions to Year of the Volunteer activities have been increased to $750,000 this comes on top of the more than $2 million the government has put into the year of the volunteers. We have supported volunteer centres. We have also set up web based volunteer resources. With the aid of this funding there will be a lasting legacy from the year of volunteers.

Question 6.

Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (ACT) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: In light of her reported statement that "I've made it clear the Government is not reviewing the offer that it made" in relation to the decision to offer SAS troops for the war against terrorism, what regard, if any, is Cabinet having to the Alliance Party's announced review of its support for the war against terrorism?

A: (Acting PM Jim Anderton on behalf): Cabinet’s approach to this issue is based on Parliament’s resolution and there has been no change to that position.

Q: Does the PM believe the Alliance review is just a PR exercise for Alliance supporters?

A: The PM believes that the Alliance’s decision to review is entirely positive and she awaits the outcome.

Q: Are all Ministers united in their support of the Parliamentary Resolution?

A: All members of cabinet have confirmed that they maintain their support for the resolution.

Q: Bill English (National): Now it is clear the review is just a piece of political theatre…

(Michael Cullen – that is out of order.

Speaker – could the member please rephrase.)

Q: Can she confirm that the Alliance review is a piece of political theatre?

A: If the National Party says it is going to do something and it is only a piece of theatre it may well be so. When the Alliance says it is going to do something it means it.

Question 7.

PHILLIDA BUNKLE (Alliance) to the Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Official Development Assistance) Matt Robson:

Q: What progress has been made on the humanitarian aid package offered by the Government to assist with the crisis in Afghanistan?

A: I have just had an update from New York from Phil Goff who met with a UN official this morning. He says the meeting went very well. The UN expressed its gratitude and said it was drawing up guidelines for assistance.

Q: Does the Minister agree with this statement, “I am sure that providing only aid will not stop terrorism. I am equally sure humanitarian assistance is needed ”?

A: I am in agreement with the Foreign Minister. On Nov 10th I outlined an aid package on offer. If and when aid is delivered an appropriate minister will travel with the aid party.

Q: Can the Minister confirm that the humanitarian aid will not clear the conscience of a Government that is killing many innocent people and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes?

A: I met with some Vietnamese today who said that in wars of liberation it is regrettable that people die, but they do.

Q: Is the minister 100% in support of the bombing of Afghanistan?

A: I don’t think any members are 100% supportive of bombing Afghanistan. I am supportive of appropriate action taken against

Question 8.

Hon TONY RYALL to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she stand by her statement that Matthew Solomon Thompson was "a young man who, many years ago, had been placed as a State ward in [the Associate Minister of Corrections'] home by the Department of Social Welfare"; if so, why?

A: (Acting PM Jim Anderton on behalf) Yes. Because it is correct?

Q: Why did she contribute to the impression that Thompson was not a member of Tariana’s family when she herself admits that Thompson lived with her on and off for a considerable period over eight years?

A: The associate Minister will not welcome me saying this. Last weekend Tariana Turia celebrated her 39th wedding anniversary. Over those years she and her husband have looked after so many children they can’t count them.

Q: How many MPs have had state wards placed in their homes?

A: I don’t know. But I doubt there are many members in this house…

(Richard Prebble – it is a dangerous process for Ministers to get up and speculate about such things. It is none of his business.

Speaker – I agree. I have always said that members private lives should not be brought into this chamber.)

Q: Why did the PM tell this house that Thompson was only placed with her for a year many years ago when the relationship was close than that?

A: I don’t know the detail. All I can say is that the compassion shown by her should not be criticised.

Q: Was the reason the PM sought to spin the impression that Ms Turia only had a passing interest in Thompson because if it wasn’t a passing interest…

(Parekura Horomia – I would hope that members opposite would understand whanautanga and that they would be more culturally sensible.

Speaker – that is not a point of order.

Trevor Mallard – I would like you to consider whether in this particular case the placement of a person in a house for a year puts them into the category of a family member and therefore not appropriate to be dealt with in this house.

Speaker – I am allowing the question. )

Q:(continued) …because if it wasn’t a passing interest then she would be more clearly in breach of the cabinet manual in seeking a new security classification for Mr Thompson?

(Tariana Turia – I never sought to lower the security rating. He is not telling the truth.

Speaker – I would like an assurance the Minister was not saying the member was lying.

Tariana Turia – he was misleading the house in his ignorance.

Speaker – I want the minister to withdraw.

Tariana Turia – I withdraw.

Richard Prebble – I would like the Minister to make a ministerial statement on this if she has a point to make. This is not a proper use of a point of order.

Speaker – I thought differently. I will listen to the tape.)

Q (continued):… because if it wasn’t a passing interest then she would be more clearly in breach of the cabinet manual in seeking a transfer for Thompson to a low security prison?

A: The PM is not prone to confuse. My experience with the PM is that you never die wondering what it is she is saying?

Question 9.

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

Q: What is the Government's response to the Education and Science Committee's report on the teaching of reading in New Zealand?

A: The government supports the views behind the report. We place a high priority on literacy. The report affirms our current strategy and many of the recommendations are already embedded in Government policy. I would like to acknowledge the work of Wyatt Creech on literacy. We are already beginning to see the results of this increased investment. Thankyou Dr Cullen for putting the money in.

Q: Donna Awatere-Huata (ACT): Does he stand by the suggestion he made today that teachers need both phonics and whole language, when phonics is not properly supported?

A: If that members views on literacy were adopted her name would be pronounced D-or-nn-nn-a.

Question 10.

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

Q: What specific measures has he worked on with his Associate Minister to ensure that "appropriate procedures and processes are followed" regarding contact with the Department of Corrections about individual inmates?

A: The associate minister have put the following procedures in place. She will put matters on MPs letterhead and forward them first to my office. I want to thank the member for bringing this matter to my attention.

Q: When did he first raise his concerns about the associate minister with the associate minister?

A: Over a period of time both of us have sought to perfect our performance as ministers. And once again I would like to thank the member for his assistance.

Q: Can he confirm that he first raised concerns over 12 months ago? And what is his view on Tariana Turia’s comments that she will not change?

A: Over time issues have been raised and they have been addressed. Further issues have been raised and they have been addressed too.

Q: When did he raise these matters with the PM?

A: From recollection I raised the matters with the PM at the same time the PM was raising matters concerning me with me. At some of those meetings discussing me I have raised other ministers. All has been resolved amicably.

Question 11.

DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour) to the Minister of Broadcasting Marian Hobbs:

Q: What reports has she received about the standards under which free-to-air television broadcasters operate?

A: The first major review in 30 years has been undertaken and has been released last week.

Q: What has been changed?

A: The code builds on in-depth research into children. Broadcasters are now expected to acknowledge that children stay up later on Fridays and Saturdays and in the holidays. In addition the code reflects the rights of children not to be identified.

Q: What about quotas?

A: Work is in progress on quotas.

Question 12.

SIMON POWER (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Does she stand by her answer in the House on 31 October 2001 where she said "Ms Bathgate was a serious candidate for the chief position. She was also well qualified in her experience in legal practice and her experience in sitting on tribunals."; if so, why?

A: Yes. Ms Bathgate had experience as chair of the complaints review authority a position she was appointed to by Doug Graham in 1995.

Q: How can she reconcile that with the fact that Susan Bathgate has had the highest number of appeals against her decisions.

A: My understanding is that there haven’t been decisions on the appeals yet. Once they are in that might be a valid question.

Q: Was the correct process followed for Ms Bathgate’s appointment?

A: Yes.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Can she deny that she suggested to her mate Susan Bathgate apply for the chiefs job?

A: I assume she applied for the job because she thought she was qualified. Ms Bathgate and I have met once in two years. Normally I meet my “mates” more than once in two years.

Q: Wouldn’t it have been appropriate for her to step down?

A: There is no wrongdoing that has been alleged to Ms Bathgate at this stage. I suggest we all wait for the AGs report on this.


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