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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 27 November

Today's questions of the day concerned: PM’s Confidence In Cabinet – Regional Dev. – Air NZ Bailout Boost – Air NZ Board – Cancer Treatment Payments – Super Provision – Electoral Defamation and the BOR – Cancer Treatment Safety – Ron Mark’s Military Records – Auckland School Crowding – New Plymouth Student Loan Investigation – NZ Venture Investment Fund

Questions Of The Day - Tuesday, 27 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 BILL ENGLISH (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: Does she have confidence in all her Ministers; if so, why?

A: Yes. All work hard in the interests of the nation.

Q: How can she have confidence in Laila Harre who has been named by Jim Anderton as one of a group of people working against the coalition government?

A: The member sitting next to me says he never said that. And the minister mentioned is part of an Alliance caucus who are unanimously supportive of maintaining a long term coalition relationship.

Q: What about Margaret Wilson’s attempts to put journalists in jail for criticising politicians?

A: I have complete confidence in the Attorney General who is a far more eminent lawyer than that member will ever be.

Q: Why is the Alliance so deeply divided and why does she tolerate a minister like Laila Harre?

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A: The honourable Laila Harre has at all times observed cabinet collective responsibility. I invite that member to look back at the rag-tag government he was a part of.

Q: Winston Peters (NZ First): What is evidence she has concerning the eminence of Margaret Wilson?

A: She the founding dean of a Law School and a member of the Law Commission.

Question 2.

JOHN WRIGHT (Alliance) to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: What impacts is it expected the Regional Development Conference being held in Rotoroa this week will have on regional and economic development?

A: The conference will look at making the most of the growth that the provinces are experiencing under this government. Regions will share their ideas and their successes. Regional leaders have waited 30 years for this and they had to get a Labour/Alliance government to get it.

Q: Who will be attending?

A: Me and the PM for a start, and over 600 regions will be represented by people from all over the country. Some overseas embassies are even coming.

Q: How come seven out of 10 business people do not know what Industry NZ does?

A: Even three out of ten is more than would have known about what happened under the National Government for regional development – nothing.

Q: What about the war in the Alliance?

A: Fortunately the member is not a member of our caucus himself. Our caucus this morning unanimously supported the role our government is playing. Last night I was congratulated for bringing together the foresty industry.

Q: What impact will the conference have on much needed rail investment?

A: If National hadn’t sold it we would be in a better position than we are now. This government has shown in its planning for an integrated strategy that it has a grip on these issues.

Question 3.

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

Q: Why has the Government agreed to commit a further $150 million of taxpayers' money to the recapitalisation of Air New Zealand?

A: There are a number of uncertainties about airlines in general and Air NZ in particular. It is considered necessary to make this money available to ensure confidence in the company?

Q: Why did he say in the past that the $885 million was sufficient?

A: That was the best advice at the time. And if he cares to look at a statement the previous day, 7th October, he will see it was foreshadowed. I always indicated that the Government would consider further requests of funding if and when they were made.

Q: Rodney Hide (ACT): Will there be yet more money?

A: I don’t anticipate any more money. I am sure that we will be providing far less than the $8 billion that party has promised in tax cuts.

Q: David Carter (National): Following the advice to shareholders from the PM to hold their shares. Is he now advising shareholders to sell or hold?

A: Unlike the members family who kicked him out of the family business I do not advise shareholders to do anything.

(Michael Cullen – I withdraw and apologise.)

Question 4.

STEPHEN FRANKS (ACT) to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Has the Government agreed on representation of Singapore Airlines and BIL on the Board of Air New Zealand; if so, what will their representation be?

A: The board has already been reduced to eight members. It is not envisaged this will be the final board.

Q: Have BIL and Singapore got assurances of representation on the board. And what about concerns that major shareholders acted against the interests of Air NZ?

A: They are not so assured.

Q: What rights will BIL and Singapore have in the future on the board?

A: All shareholders have the rights to nominate directors to be voted upon by shareholders. Under the proposal the Government will have more than 80% of the voting rights.

Question 5.

Hon ROGER SOWRY (National) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Why did the Government decide to restrict retrospective payment to only those cancer patients who commenced radiation treatment in Australia on or after Thursday 6 September 2001?

A: Any others who were in Australia at that time receiving treatment will be considered for funding on a case by case basis.

Q: What about two Auckland women, Judy O’Connor and Sandy Taylor, who were told they would have to wait four months for treatment in NZ, who went to Australia on their own bat, and who have now been told they fall outside the criteria?

A: I have no specific information about that. I am advised that Auckland DHB is following up on some cases.

Q: Why is the government spending $1.6 million on sending women to Australia while turning down a pay settlement for radiation therapists for the same amount?

A: If we doubled the pay, we would still have a shortage of therapists.

Question 6.

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

Q: What recent reports has he received on the future provision of New Zealand Superannuation?

A: I have seen contradictory statements. One from Gerry Brownlee and one from Bill English,

Q: What about international reaction?

A: Moody’s says the fund will help the economy.

Q: Does he agree that if $2 billion was invested last year it would have lost more than $300 million and that it would take several years of above average returns to make up the losses?

A: I am pleased that the Opposition has noticed that equity markets move both up and down.

Q: Can he confirm that the fund will not grow the economy?

A: I am pleased that ACT has now admitted it does not change the size of the NZ economy, they had been saying the exact opposite.

Q: What about the US recession?

A: It is not my strategy to invest overseas. The guardians of the fund will decide the strategy.

Q: If the guardians decide to invest in NZ will he not oppose them?

A: Yes.

Question 7.

Dr WAYNE MAPP (National) to the Associate Minister of Justice Margaret Wilson:

Q: Did she consider whether the criminal defamation provision in her Supplementary Order Paper to the Electoral Amendment Bill (No 2) would be inconsistent with the protection of freedom of expression contained in the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990?

A: No. The right of freedom of expression is not absolute. It must be balanced against intentions to undermine the electoral system.

Q: Given she did not consider that, has she discussed this with the PM who is the only member who has been involved in criminal defamation proceedings?

A: Everyone was consulted and the PM won her case.

Q: Would intent be required for prosecution?

A: Yes it would. While the provision is silent on this, the courts would interpret it in that way. Quotes from a court case on Section 55 of the Electoral Act.

Q: Why are radio and TV left out?

A: I am pleased the member has drawn that to our attention and we will in fact cover those as well.

Q: Given the absence of this provision since 1992 without problem, what mischief will she address in this provision?

A: It is important in the current environment, especially given the ownership of the media, for victims of this to be provided with a remedy.

Q: If the minister is so confident in her interpretation, why has she backed down to the Green Party?

A: We do not have a majority. We have now gone into consultation and are now including the word “knowingly” to make it clear. And also on a belts and braces basis the word “recklessly”.

Question 8.

SUE KEDGLEY (Green) to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Is she satisfied that all women who have received concentrated courses of radiotherapy as part of their treatment for breast cancer were informed of the possible higher risks of future complications and gave their informed consent for the procedure; if so, on what does she base this confidence?

A: These are clinical questions. All patients have the risks and benefits of treatment explained prior to treatment.

Q: Is the minister aware that some women have stated publicly that they were not told about the higher risks? And what will she do about it?

A: I would not be surprised if patients were not told that, as some of those statements are not true. It is not an experimental treatment and there are no greater risks on a cosmetic basis as asserted. I am advised that variations in treatment are similar to those used elsewhere in the world.

Q: What then about the comments of three eminent doctors, (quoted)?

A: Clinicians do differ in their approach to treatment. The schedules used in Auckland were a result of a collective decision by Auckland clinicians.

Q: Why were women not told that they would expose themselves to greater chronic risks? And was this a breach or not of the code of conduct of practitioners?

A: I am not sufficiently familiar with the code to make an intelligent comment on that. I will inform the Minister of the assertion that women were not told about the difference between the treatment they were offered and normal treatment elsewhere.

Question 9.

GERRY BROWNLEE (National) to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: Did Major General Dodson access the personal defence records of a current member of Parliament; if so, can he assure the House that it was not in response to questions being raised in the House by the member concerned?

A: Phil Goff on behalf) Yes. That matter is the subject of an inquiry. Question as to why the records were accessed will be answered by that inquiry.

Q: Can he assure us there was no intention to gain undue influence over a member who was asking public interest questions?

A: The inquiry will be done independently and will provide appropriately the information sought. The crown is bound by the Privacy Act. Files are not released externally to the military.

Q: Owen Jennings (ACT): Can he deny that PR staff have threatened Ron Mark with exposing information from his file if he doesn’t pull his head in?

A: It has never been drawn to the Minister’s attention that that is the case. If that is the case I suggest the member raise evidence of that with me as quickly as possible.

Q: Why should we have confidence in the old boy’s network dealing with this?

A: He should be careful not defame the integrity of the SSC and the individuals running this inquiry.

(Winston Peters – that is a serious allegation. We have experienced inside snow-jobs from the old boys network often in this country.

Speaker - I judged that the minister’s answer to be in order.)

A: The minister of Defence first raised the matter with the inquiry on the 17th of October. He also raised the matter with Ron Mark. I understand that Mr Mark was satisfied with that, and grateful for the courtesy. As for the terms of reference being dated today, it was considered prudent to put this in writing given the recent events.

Q: Where in these terms of reference is there any mention of propriety?

A: The terms of reference ask to find out how many times the records were accessed and why and what the rules were. They also ask the SSC to advise on whether the rules are adequate.

Q: Why can’t the Minister make a simple statement of confidence in the Major General?

A: It is appropriate in the circumstances, with serious allegations like these, that an independent inquiry answer these questions.

(Winston Peters – leave sought to table the terms of reference – granted.

Phil Goff – leave to table the Evening Post editorial – refused.)

Question 10.

H V ROSS ROBERTSON (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What steps has he taken to ease the pressure on local schools of increased enrolments in Howick and Manurewa?

A: Cabinet agreed yesterday to the establishment of two new schools. The budget approved is approximately $34 million.

Q: What consultation has taken place?

A: Establishment boards have been appointed for both schools. The members reflect the communities. The boards will appoint the principals and establish policies for the schools.

Q: What about Papamoa? Are schools only being built in Labour electorates?

A: That is constantly under review. And I have mixed messages from the locals about the need for that school. There are mixed messages from Tauranga and Papamoa.

Q: Who is providing the view that there should not be a school in Papamoa?

A: It is not a question of if, but when.

Question 11.

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

Q: Why did he wait until 23 November before announcing a fraud investigation into the possible misuse of the student loan scheme and the activities of the Practical Education Training Centre in New Plymouth?

A: (Trevor Mallard) In May I asked for an investigation into this matter. Since August there have been no more student loans approved for PETC. It would not have been appropriate to take action before investigations had been made. The risk of litigation by PETC always overhung the decision.

Q: Can he deny it took over two weeks to start the investigation? And can he give an assurance that there is nothing else like this going on elsewhere?

A: Yes. And I can assure the house there are no other cases of this scale. We have made interim measures to prevent anything similar happening in the future.

Q: When will this situation be resolved?

A: The careful approach by my government is designed to maximise the recovery.

Q: What about extreme profiteering in education courses? In particular for an expensive driving course?

A: Until now the powers have not existed for proper audit and to check of the equities of the situation. If the member has an specific examples he should notify us of them. We want to be guardians of the public purse. We were left very exposed to this sort of thing by the previous government.

Question 12.

DIANNE YATES (Labour) to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson:

Q: How much interest has the venture capital community shown in the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund?

A: Quite a lot. The NZVIF recently issued its call and has received 44 expressions of interest. Many have already raised the funds needed. 16 of the proposals will go forward to the next round.

Q: What information does he have that the fund will meet its objectives.

A: Applications have been received from several countries in spite of a difficult investment climate. This level of interest will accelerate the venture capital market in this country.

Q: What new money has been committed to this? And does he deny that his government has made a dismal investment in science this year?

A : $100 million new money in capital was put in. And on the basis of that information the member should rephrase his question.

Q: Did the money come from the CRIs?

A: We are progressively gearing the CRIs. We have received $50 million in special dividends from them and we will put it to good use.

(Winston Peters – leave to table a press release from the ACT party – granted.)


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