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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 14 November

Today's questions of the day concerned: Tariana Turia – Phonics Report – Skill Shortages – Tariana Turia – Opposition Health Policy – Police Interference – Susan Bathgate – New Medical Official – RTLBs – Health And Safety Bill – Communications Trumps – Mosquito Imports

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 14 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 Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Did she and the Associate Minister of Corrections discuss the Associate Minister's "special relationship" with Matthew Solomon Thompson; if so, on what date was it first discussed?

A: (Acting PM Jim Anderton on behalf) The PM met with the Minister and the Associate minister last Tuesday and was briefed on the nature of the relationship.

Q: Since the PM knew about the real extent of the relationship. Why did she tell NZers Thompson was only placed for one year?

A: I understand the Minister of Corrections has taken the appropriate action at the appropriate time.

Q: What reports has he seen on this?

A: I have seen a report from the former National Eastern Maori candidate. He says Mr Ryall is barking up the wrong tree. He says he has defended Ms Turia as an MP simply doing her job. I have another report from the Maori Council chairman, and National Party supporter, Sir Graham Latimer who says the call for an inquiry is absurd. He says that in Maori eyes Ms Turia is morally obliged to respond to calls for assistance from her family.

Q: Why is this relationship not special enough to be a conflict of interest, but special enough to lead for calls for it not to be discussed in this house as it involves family?

A: As far as I know Ms Turia was not asking for something for herself. Concern for someone else is not a crime on this side of the house.

Question 2.

DONNA AWATERE HUATA (ACT) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: Why has he, as reported, dismissed almost all the recommendations of the Education and Science Committee's inquiry into the teaching of reading, which were supported by all members of the committee from Labour, the Alliance, National, New Zealand First and ACT New Zealand?

A: I am not responsible for media reports. Yesterday I gave a media conference on the question of the report. It was an extensive media conference, and I issued a press release. I am not responsible for the reporting of that.

Q: Does the Minister deny that he stated on TV last night that the report was outdated. And does he also deny that his response to 45 of the recommendations is the same and that it is in effect a rejection?

A: Part of the problem with the report is that it was written over 18 months. The members relied on information given at the beginning and which was not updated.

Q: Is he concerned about assessments about whether policy is working?

A: I am very concerned. And I am also pleased with the latest results. Monitoring systems have shown great improvements. 8-year-olds have gained substantially in their reading. I want to accept though that there is still a very real problem with older children who missed out.

Question 3.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What initiatives is the Government taking to address skill shortages?

A: The Government is acutely aware of the need for a better match between jobs and those seeking work. Cabinet has now decided on a skills information action plan. (Maharey - leave sought to table details – granted). Skills shortages emerge for a number of reasons and occasionally industry needs to step in. It is clear that job-seekers also need information as part of the solution.

Q: Bob Simcock (National): Are we short of artists?

A: I understand we are short of artists in bovine excreta. I wonder if the member would like to register under that name.

(Speaker - that answer is not good enough.

Maharey – I withdraw and apologise.)

A: The programme released last week has been applauded by everyone but him.

Question 4.

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

Q: Further to his answer yesterday that "at various times there are issues that the Prime Minister has raised with me as Minister in various capacities. At some of those meetings I have also raised issues about other Ministers, and occasionally about the Associate Minister.", specifically what concerns did he raise with the Prime Minister about the Associate Minister, and when?

A: I believe I have to make it very clear to the member who appears to be a bit slow. Apart from last week I have never had a formal meeting with the prime minister about the associate minister. There has never been reason to do so. I have occasionally raised matters with the PM informally, including about the presentation of matters.

Q: Is it not a fact that one year ago he raised concerns with the PM about the use of letterhead and the issuance of instructions? And is it not a fact that nothing happened?

A: No that is not correct. I have never had that much time with the PM, she is very busy. The associate minister did not influence the running of the prisons in any undue way.

Q: Stephen Franks (ACT): Has he considered whether scandalising a judge of the High Court might be considered exerting undue influence?

A: I would certainly be concerned if that had happened, but I have no evidence it has.

Q: Ron Mark (NZ First): When discussing kids in prisons and sex in prisons with the PM did he dob his associate minister?

A: I couldn’t have.

Question 5.

JUDY KEALL (Labour) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she received any recent reports on future changes to health policy; if so, what did they say?

A: I have seen a report that says National will not release its health policy till after the budget next year. In other words National plans to do nothing else other than whinge and whine till then. The report said Mr Sowry was vague on ideas. In other words he said nothing and confirmed the public impression that the National Party doesn’t have a health policy.

Q: Roger Sowry (National): Is the Minister prepared to predict the level of DHB deficits next year?

A: No I don’t think I would. But if we were to add up National Party deficits when they were in government, we will never reach that.

Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Has he seen any reports on ACT’s health policy?

A: I am sure all those who are computer literate will be able to look at ACT’s health policy. And I am sure they will be pleased that ACT has one.

Question 6.

SIMON POWER (National) to the Minister of Police George Hawkins:

Q: Has he been directly involved in any operational policing matters since becoming the Minister of Police; if so, why?

A: No I have not. I consider it is my duty to be well briefed however. In matters concerning operational issues however I have no role.

Q: What role was played in the dropping of charges against two union officials involved in a violent protest?

A: The union wrote to me and I handed it on to police.

Q: Is he clear that it would be inappropriate for him to give a direction to police? And is it not obvious that handing over a letter to police is a direction?

A: It is obviously not a direction.

Q: Why did he write to the National Distribution Union saying why criminal charges were dropped?

A: I wrote that because that is what the police advised me.

(Simon Power – leave to table letter – granted.)

Question 7.

HARRY DUYNHOVEN (Labour) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Has she received any reports relating to the determination of Ms Bathgate's remuneration?

A: Yes the AG has reported on this. He found that there was an overpayment and that it was caused by weak procedures and a lack of policy on multiple warrants. Although the report shows no reason to withdraw Ms Bathgate’s warrant I acknowledge that ERA members should be beyond reproach. I have therefore asked for an independent opinion on whether there are any grounds for an investigation.

Q: How appropriate is it for someone to pay back a salary overpayment by selling her holidays?

A: That matter was never referred to me.

Q: What about the signed statement given to TV that was clearly false?

A: There were two interpretations of that statement. This government does observe due process. It is for that reason that I have asked independent counsel to report to me.

Question 8.

Dr LYNDA SCOTT (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Why is the Ministry of Health advertising for a new position of Principal Medical Advisor and what will be the role of this new position?

A: I am advised that the Ministry is looking for a physician to provide leadership. The appointee will be seconded from elsewhere in the sector. The appointee will be responsible to the DG of health and will report to the Minister of Health.

Q: Why is yet another bureaucrat needed when there are already over 180 new health bureaucrats?

A: The person is to be a senior clinician not a bureaucrat. There are a number of occasions when this advice would be very useful.

Q: How will this help funding shortfalls?

A: One person will not be able to solve all the problems. However someone who is well connected will be able to provide good advice.

Question 9.

HELEN DUNCAN (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education Lianne Dalziel:

Q: What steps is the Government taking to ensure the effective governance, management and practice for resource teacher learning and behaviour clusters?

A: There are a number of teachers who do not understand RTLB. We are planning to help them. The schools who have been using RTLB will have to free up the person so they are a genuine resource.

Q: Can she concern this initiative was started under National?

A: I do note that the former spokesperson on education has not kept up. We have done heaps and there is more to come.

Q: What has been the response to schools to the RTLB initiative?

A: Acknowledging that the National Party did come up with this idea. Of all the parts of SE2000 this was the part best received by schools.

Q: Why have RTLBs not been brought underneath the learning support centres?

A: They haven’t been opened yet.

Question 10.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Labour Margaret Wilson:

Q: Does she consider the typical response of Auckland businesses surveyed on her Health and Safety in Employment Bill, that "If the Government wants to stop business in its tracks they are going the right way about it.", is a fair comment; if not, why not?

A: No. This government has done more to promote business than any previous government.

Q: Can the Minister tell us why the Minister of Commerce is holding out an olive branch on this bill?

A: The Minister of Commerce and I have been working closely on this and if he had read to the end of the article he would have noticed that I supported the Minister of Commerce’s comments. As I stated in the Dominion this morning we are willing to listen. Our willingness to listen was shown in the Employment Relations Act.

Q: What about jailing people for stressing their staff?

A: I take on board all comments intended to assist staff and their employers. I shall await advice from the panel once they have completed their investigation.

Q: Will she now give us an assurance the bill will not proceed until the panel has reported?

A: No we will not be preempting what people have to say.

Question 11.

RON MARK (NZ First) to the Defence Minister Mark Burton:

Q: Can he assure the House that the expenditure of $773,315 of taxpayers' funds by the New Zealand Army with Communication Trumps for public relations advice was justified and represents a sound investment; if so, how?

A: (Michael Cullen on behalf): No in respect of the great majority of expenditure I cannot.

(Ron Mark - I have in written answers five different figures on this.

Speaker – will the member ask his question.)

Q: Noting the figure now stated, why was the figure previously stated as five different sums? Can the army count?

A: I am sure the Defence Forces are not covering up anything.

Q: In which year was expenditure the highest?

A: The year it was highest was in 1999. The expenditure in 2000 was under half of that figure.

Q: Given that Trumps has been paid this sum. What was the extra undisclosed $300,000 spent on.

A: Five sixths of the expenditure was made under National. And the bulk was spent on three documentaries. I note that expenditure is continuing to fall under this government.

Q: What has been done about those who provided the wrong information?

A: Discipline within the armed forces is a matter for the armed forces.

Question 12.

IAN EWEN-STREET (Green) to the Minister for Biosecurity Jim Sutton:

Q: Following the discovery of larvae, suspected to be of the Asian tiger mosquito, in used machinery from Japan, will the Government now insist on 100 percent off-shore inspection, decontamination and fumigation of all new and used vehicles and tyres; if not, why not?

A: (Marian Hobbs on behalf) 100% of used tyres are fumigated on arrival. All used cars are inspected or fumigated either on departure or arrival. New cars and new tyres are not a biosecurity risk.

Q: Why has the Minister resiled from the election policy?

A: MAF reviewed its policies and found there were problems with the policy.

Q: Will the government ever take action? Or is it simply waiting for a disaster or disease outbreak first?

A: It is still the government’s goal to inspect all cars offshore. Unfortunately because it hasn’t signed an agreement, Japan is unable to provide certification for anything other than plant products.


To Minister Of Education Trevor Mallard

Richard Prebble (ACT) Q: Has he seen a report of protestors picketing a school in Hamilton, and a report that the board thinks it may be forced to close the school?

A: Yesterday afternoon I was briefed on this issue. I have indicated that it is my view the school should be kept open. But children should be kept safe.

Q: Does he know what the protest is about?

A: I think the member is right. There is some doubt about the resolution sought by the protestors. I understand it relates to an incident last year when one of the people was served a trespass order for being abusive.


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