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Pete Hodgson's Moment Of Glory? - Question 3

Questions For Oral Answer Wednesday, 1 September 1999

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 some days after the event.

Question 3.

Alec Neill to the Minister for Enterprise and Commerce Max Bradford:

Q: What importance does the Government attach to flexible labour markets for productivity and competitiveness in the economy?

A: (Bill English on behalf) We attach considerable importance to flexible labour markets . Unlike the opposition we have one position on industrial relations, that is choice for employers and employees of terms and conditions appropriate to their business. This has resulted in huge benefits.

Q: What is the minister's view on this quotation? - lengthy quote of Michael Cullen on whether or not Air New Zealand pilots should be able to strike in support of Ansett pilots.

A: The statement gives the strong impression that secondary strikes and sympathy strikes would be legislated for…

(Pete Hodgson - Labour - Point of Order - the Labour party has made it clear secondary strikes are not part of its policy.

Speaker - A member read a quotation and he said that it was his impression that it meant something.)

In response to questions about the Ansett strike a labour spokesman said . "If Air New Zealand pilots want to strike that is their democratic choice…." - and those are the words of Michael Cullen.

Q: (Pete Hodgson - Labour) Is the minister aware that the productivity series shows that between 1984 and 1991 there was 1.5% productivity growth and that since the ECA has been 0.5%, and will he acknowledge that the ECA has been a failure?

A: That sums up the issue exactly. The Labour party is saying to some audiences that the ECA is an abject failure and to others that they aren't going to change it. They can't both be right.

(Tevor Mallard - Labour - the treasurer has deliberately misled the house by suggesting that Labour members have made comments when he knows that to be untrue.

Richard Prebble - ACT - If a member is making an allegation of deliberately misleading the house then that is a matter of privilege and should be made with the privileges committee.

Speaker - Mr Mallard raised a matter of privilege he knows the appropriate course to be taken.

Mallard - it is quite right that the opposition is concerned, this is because the situation appears to be that ministers are able to make things up in this house with there being no immediate recourse.

Speaker TRYING TO RULE - I have not sat here for three years and not observed that parties tend to present the policies of other parties in less than the most advantagreos light. I would be failing in my duty if I were to say that the opposition accurately comments on government policy. Does this surprise anybody? The claim is that the Member has misled the house. The question now is that people are objecting to assertions about policies. Is it not? That becomes a matter of interpretation. The member cannot ask me to determine the facts. That is not my role. Whether something is right or wrong is not for the chair to decide. It can't be and never has been. Members can challenge answers in supplementaries. That is the nature of question time.

Jonathan Hunt - Labour - Can I suggest the Minister table evidence that Labour has said it will not change the Employments Contracts Act.

Prebble - I am quite willing to table a letter that says to employers that they will not be affected by Labour's labour policy. (leave sought to table)

Hodgson - I am Labour's labour relations spokespersons ---- much disorder --- when you have control I will continue - as spokesman I have been told that Labour members have said that nothing will happen to the ECA. I demand that my honour be upheld otherwise I will make a personal explanation.

Speaker - That is not a matter of point of order nor is it a matter for personal explanation.

Richard Prebble - I seek leave of the house for Pete Hodgson to tell us what Labour's real policy is - leave refused.

Winston Peters - I am confused could you please put that question again.

Grant Gillon - I propose the five minutes be granted at the end of question time.

Speaker - leave put again for a 5 minute speech on Industrial relations - LEAVE GRANTED VERY ODDLY.

HODGSON SPEECH BEGINS:

Hodgson only managed to get a few words out before Prebble insisted he stick to the policy…

Our policy is to replace the ECA and this is why?
In 1990 the government justified its decision to impose the ECA on:
- increasing productivity
- lowering unemployment
- increasing wages

Since then productivity growth has slowed. Unemployment has risen and wages have fallen. Labour will replace the ECA because it has failed.

(John Carter interrupted - the member must stick to the topic.

No topic exists in a vacuum and never will. The sooner we listen the sooner the five minutes will be up.)

Hodson continues…Labour will replace the ECA because it has failed.

We will replace it with legislation that brings us within the key conventions of the ILO. For the first time since I was born we will move to what is internationally regarded as best practice.

We will also introduce a new concept - good faith bargaining. The aim is to constrain behaviour so this sort of thing that is happening today - argument - will not occur over the negotiation table.

Some things that Labour's policy does not mean:

It does not introduce compulsory unionism
It does not return to national awards
It does not require any form of compulsory arbitration
It does not allow secondary strikes

(Winston Peters - He has 30 seconds to go I move an extension as I don't understand - Speaker he has two minutes to go.)

The message of Labour to the worker is join a union. If you join a union then you join the agreement. The worker can decide on entry to a work place whether or not to join or form a union. There will be no impediment on the worker's rights. In market terms we are giving consumer rights to workers. That is the essence of our policy. That is the key issue to grasp.

Finally we will also impose minimum conditions. And health and safety are important too…

APPLAUSE FROM OPPOSITION - CALLS OF "MORE MORE MORE".

(Richard Prebble - seeks leave for the member to have another five minutes to explain the policy to give unions the monopoly right to negotiate contracts on an employees behalf.

Speaker - has great misgivings. This is going on too long, he says.

Speaker - leave put to house. (interrupted)

Richard Prebble: If the opposition wishes to object they can but I think the clarity on what we are arguing about will help.

Jonathan Hunt - we would be delighted to have another five minutes but obviously the member is going to have the right to put his observations in context

Jim Anderton - Mr Prebble can get his answer by reading the policy. I think this is a wilful play by ACT at the expense of every other member in this house.

Speaker - We will extend question time to deal with this yes. Lots of people lost supplementaries yesterday.

Speaker - Leave put for extension - not granted - speaker moved to close question.

Patricia Schnauer - ACT - this is the third question day taken up with disruption on Labour relations. Today I believe there has been a disruptive action by some members. The point I am making is that there has been unfairness in supplementary questions.

Speaker - the member is right - but the members own leader sought leave and then the whole house agreed and he has since made a number of points probably more than you would have made. Lets move on.)

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