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SCP HOUSE: Questions Of The Day – 12 December

Today's questions of the day concerned: Workplace Learning – Work Testing DPB – Cancer Treatment – Middle East Violence – Pharmac Funding – US Free Trade Negotiations – Police Wrankling - Aquaculture Moratorium x 2 – Gifted Students – Painted Apple Moths – Kyoto Protocol – Terrorism Bill

Questions Of The Day - Wednesday, 12 December 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.


Questions to Ministers

Question 1.

DAVID BENSON-POPE (Labour) to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: What reports has he received on participation in workplace learning?

A: More than 60,000 trainees and 22,000 employers are involved, an all time high. Modern Apprenticeships will rise to 3000 next year. This is the real Knowledge Wave at work. This was encapsulated in a report issued yesterday. I want to acknowledge the assistance of employers and unions in getting workplace training moving.

Q: Liz Gordon (Alliance): Is this opening opportunities?

A: A significant proportion of qualifications have been achieved by people with low or no previous qualifications. Workplace learning is a winner.

Q: Since most training is provided by private providers, why is there a Moratorium on PTEs?

A: As I said yesterday, the moratorium on PTEs does not apply to TOPs and Youth Training.

Question 2.

Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What specific evidence, if any, has he received that the work testing of sole parents has not led to more sole parents being employed and lower numbers on the domestic purposes benefit?

A: Analysis released earlier this year shows the current work test regime is severely flawed.

Q: What about reports from Treasury and the Social Development Ministry that say the opposite?

A: The reports show that causality cannot be linked to the work test.

Q: What assistance is being introduced for sole parents?

A: We are introducing a system of individual development plans for sole parents. Over time this system will produce better results.

Q: How does the Minister explain to working mothers why he is ideologically opposed to asking sole parents to work just a few hours a week?

A: I am not ideologically opposed to anything. We want real jobs and to lift the capacity of sole parents to get real jobs when they can.

Q: If sole parents will not be work-tested, why is he retaining sanctions for parents of young babies?

A: The sanction applies to people who will not develop a plan. This is focussed on their development.

(Muriel Newman - leave to table two reports showing that work testing helps – granted)

Question 3.

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

Q: How many cancer patients have been reimbursed the costs of radiation treatment received in Australia?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) Applications from five patients have been approved. I am advised that there has been a delay in making payments. I hope they will be made by the end of the week.

Q: Why was Sandy Taylor told last week the money would be paid by Friday, but not paid? And why have her calls to the Minister’s office not been returned?

A: I share her understandable frustration.

Q: Given that only five reimbursements have been approved, how many applications have been received?

A: I am not aware of any that have been declined.

Q: What proportion of funding will be spent on keeping radiation therapists in NZ?

A: That is not a ministerial responsibility.

Q: Does she realise that these patients have endured separation from their families, and financial hardship? And will she return their phone calls?

A: I am happy to return phone calls and will do my best to ensure the payments are made by this Friday.

Question 4.

GRAHAM KELLY (Labour) to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Phil Goff:

Q: What concerns has he raised with the Israeli ambassador concerning the continuing violence in the Middle East?

A: I firstly raised with the ambassador NZ’s concern at suicide bombings which have taken 25 Israeli lives. I also raised with her concerns that the nature of the retaliation was counter-productive.

Q: What specific concerns does he have about the Israeli response?

A: There are a number of concerns. Israel has effectively given extremist organisations such as Hamas a veto right over peace negotiations. Killing civilians also undermines Yasser Arafat. It is also counter-productive to bomb the police stations and kill the police officers who are needed to combat terrorism.

Q: Does he agree with Keith Locke that “Sharon’s airstrikes are no-more an answer to terrorism than George Bush’s air-strikes against the Taliban”?

A: No. I think that air strikes against the Taliban were essential. I do not think air strikes help against Hamas however. NZ currently has 33 peace-keepers in the region. We would be prepared to make a further contribution to keeping the peace once there is a peace to keep.

Q: Why is this government attempting to intervene in a conflict that is 2000 years old and 10,000kms away when we have no expertise in that area?

A: The reason why the Middle East is so important is that it could well be a catalyst to further terrorist attacks around the world. We have expertise too. NZ peace keepers have served continuously in the region since 1982.

Q: Does he believe the bombing of Afghanistan and Palestine has created an environment that produces more terrorists or less?

A: The Taliban has been overthrown now thanks to air strikes. Without those strikes progress would not have been made. The military strikes against Afghanistan came after three years of UN resolutions and three weeks of warning.

Question 5.

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

Q: How much of the new health funding announced earlier this week will specifically go to Pharmac for the purchase of pharmaceuticals?

A: (Ruth Dyson on behalf) I anticipate there will be an increase. Details will be announced in the budget.

Q: What about alzheimers drugs?

A: Since 1994 over 530 new drugs have been added to the pharmaceutical schedule. There is a process for adding new drugs.

Question 6.

CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour) to the Minister for Trade Negotiations Jim Sutton:

Q: What implications for New Zealand trade are there arising from the United States House of Representatives approving trade promotion authority for the Bush Administration?

A: TPA will give the Bush Administration the ability to negotiate without line by line approval from Congress. It improves the prospect of a CEP with NZ.

Q: Will Agriculture be included in any negotiations?

A: I can assure NZ farmers and producers that any CEP signed by a Labour-led government will include agriculture. The exclusion of agriculture from NAFTA is why we are not prepared to join in with that agreement.

Q: Will we join with Australia in negotiations or not?

A: Prior to the Australian election the Australian government made clear its preference to approach the US unilaterally. That approach was not successful prior to the election. We would prefer a joint approach with Australia to the US on a CEP.

Q: What gains are there likely to be through a bilateral agreement?

A: The government’s No. 1 priority is multilateral negotiations under the WTO. However we also recognise considerable benefits can be gained from regional and bilateral agreements.

Q: What implications are there to the tariffs imposed on steel?

A: The US has demonstrated its commitment to trade liberalisation through its support for the WTO round. We are disappointed with protectionist advice proffered to the President on steel by special interest groups.

Q: What about the 10 year subsidy program for US farmers?

A: The US is at liberty to subsidise its farmers as long as it does so within its WTO obligations. So far it has done so.

Q: What is the first step?

A: To have informal discussions with Members of the HOR and Senate. These are proceeding in an encouraging manner.

Q: Has he sought to initiate a discussion since the election with the Australians on this?

A: I do not propose to tell the member the details of every conversation I have.

Question 7.

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

Q: What is his response to the media report that states:

Q: "we have a Minister clashing with his uniformed legman over things as minute as traffic car livery. The [Minister's] line on using landlines rather than mobile phones has also rankled with Robinson's rank and file. The Minister's way of settling Robinson's hash is to snaffle more power over him through law changes that would make the thinning blue line a dotted one."?

A: The Dominion editorial is nonsense but hugely entertaining.

Q: What is his response to the media report that describes the minister as an “irascible know-it-all in red”?

A: The Saturday morning Dominion editorial is always a satirical piece designed to amuse bureaucrats over their Saturday morning lattes.

Q: Why did the Commissioner write so obsequiously to the Minister then?

A: The Commissioner and I often talk about raising standards and we are having huge successes.

(Tony Ryall – leave to table a letter – granted.

George Hawkins – leave to table three documents – refused.)

Question 8.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (NZ First) to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson:

Q: Do the people within his Ministry who have promoted the aquaculture moratorium include the person who was the chief executive of Challenger Scallop Enhancement Co Ltd, which opposed the expansion of aquaculture recently in Tasman and Golden Bays?

A: Everyone in the Ministry is required to act in accordance with the Public Service Code of Conduct. I am confident of the integrity and objectivity of advice. With regard to the person referred to, he has no responsibility for aquaculture.

Q: How can he say that when Michael Arbuckle is the leading policy analyst in this area?

A: It is a matter of record that in January Mr Arbuckle passed all his delegated responsibilities in this area to someone else in the department. Why must the member play the man not the mollusc?

Q: Who else has opposed the expansion of aquaculture lately?

A: Just about everybody.

Question 9.

Hon GEORGINA TE HEUHEU (National) to the Minister of Fisheries Pete Hodgson:

Q: Will he guarantee that all marine farmers who currently hold coastal permits will be able to continue operating after the moratorium proposed by the Resource Management (Aquaculture Moratorium) Amendment Bill is lifted?

A: Yes. The recent announcement will have no effect whatsoever on people who already have permits. The purpose of the moratorium is to interrupt applications that have not yet reached hearings, not to disrupt present farming operations.

Q: Will compensation be paid for the cancellation of property rights?

A: The question is hypothetical and relates to a situation which will not arise.

Q: What has the Maori Caucus said about this and Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi?

A: Nothing.

Q: What about Marlborough District Council’s claims the moratorium does not apply to them?

A: My understanding is that Marlborough DC already has a coastal plan in place. I would be surprised if the AMAs would not apply to them however. My best guess is that the MDC would need to present a variation on its coastal plan and present that to the minister for approval.

Question 10.

NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour) to the Minister of Education Trevor Mallard:

Q: What advice has the Government received on the development of a new policy framework for gifted and talented students?

A: (Marian Hobbs on behalf) A working party was set up in May this year. It’s task was to give advice on a new policy framework in this area. Good work was done in the late 1990s, but no strategy was prepared.

Q: Why would the government take this report seriously, when everything else the government has done has undermined talented students?

A: Talented students are not necessarily identified in the way he thinks they are.

Q: Can he confirm this work arose out of policy work pressed for by NZ First?

A: The member is absolutely correct.

Question 11.

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

Q: Does he have complete confidence in the way the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is managing the attempted eradication of painted apple moth in West Auckland; if so, why?

A: Yes. I stand by statements I have made. What would I do differently? A number of things. And if I had we could have begun spraying this month.

Q: How has the programme been strengthened in recent days?

A: We have identified the need for extra project management expertise. MAF is engaging support in this area.

Q: Why did the Minister not step in and ensure the moth was not eradicated two years ago?

A: We have been pretty busy dealing with Salt Marsh mosquitos and Varroa mites let in by the previous government. It was necessary to do a delimiting survey first. It was not possible to complete this survey till this month.

Question 12.

GAVAN HERLIHY (National) to the Minister of Agriculture Jim Sutton:

Q: Does he believe that signing the Kyoto Protocol will be positive for New Zealand's pastoral sector?

A: Yes. Global warming is a scientific reality and its consequences are serious for pastoral farming. Doing nothing would have been negligent which is no doubt why a National Minister signed the protocol.

Q: What about massive drops in output forecast in recent reports?

A: The member should have listened to my answer. If he had he would have heard that a National Minister of Environment signed the protocol in 1998.

Q: What are the implications of the protocol?

A: That depends on decisions yet to be taken. We are working to minimise losses and maximise gains. I have little taste, I must say, for the scare mongering of the opposition. While it is quite true that NZ is in the unusual position of having lots of gases coming from pastoral farming, that means we will end up with a competitive advantage in the science of pastoral farming emissions.

Q: Does the farming industry understand the implications of climate change?

A: Dealing with greenhouse gases is a difficult problem, but it pales into insignificance in comparison with the problem of raising the awareness of the problem among the opposition.

Questions to Members

Question 1.

KEITH LOCKE (Green) to the Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee Graham Kelly:

Q: How many submissions has the committee received on the amendments to the Terrorism (Bombings and Financing) Bill?

A: The committee has received 143 submissions of which 63 wish to be heard.

Q: Where will the committee be hearing submissions on the amendments?

A: As the member will know we agreed to meet in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

Q: Max Bradford (National): How many submissions support the bill and how many oppose it?

A: While the written submissions have been tabled more than 40 are still to be heard and I am not in a position to make that information available.


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