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Questions Of The Day (1-6)

PM Comments and Rising Poverty – Housing Retort – Shrinking Economy Explained – Whakatane Hospital Discrimination? – Death Of Mrs Heenan (not asked) – Govt View On Anti-defection Legislation

Questions For Oral Answer - Tuesday, 5 October 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.

Following a compendious tabling of papers...

Question 1.

Rt Hon. Helen Clark to the Minister of Social Services, Work and Income Roger Sowry:

Q: Following reports from teachers, health and community workers that "Cases of children turning up for class with empty bellies and no lunch are becoming worryingly common.", does he stand by the Prime Minister's statement, with respect to her Government, that "New Zealanders ... are proud of what we have done"; if so, why?

A: We have taken many steps to deliver better services to families. Next year 50,000 families will pay no tax. We have taken steps.

Q: Helen Clark – Labour: Is he then happy to blame individual families for their poverty and disadvantage?

A: That member shows a belated interest in people of low incomes. That member was part of a government that saw the gap between the poor and rich grow at a huge rate. We are making changes to walk alongside the poor rather than ignoring them - some discussion of the importance of having breakfast - The Labour party failed to mention that in that article it was mentioned that… “There is a trend in some schools where it is ‘uncool’ to take lunch to school.”

Question 2.

Eric Roy to the Minister responsible for Housing New Zealand Ltd Tony Ryall:

Q: How are the waiting lists for urgent State housing needs affected by rental policies?

A: Under the government’s policy there were 15 top priority placements and 111 priority cases a total of 116. Under Labour there were 1400 families on waiting lists. Assisting 60,000 people while discriminating against 250,000 other people is not fair.

Several patsy questions referred to the tenure of NZ’s housing stock under Helen Clark and the previous Labour Government.

(Grant Gillon – Alliance: Leave sought to table Alliance housing policy – to better inform the minister – refused.)

Question 3.

Jim Anderton to the Treasurer Bill English:

Q: In view of his reported comment on 21 June 1999 that as Treasurer he would emphasise good economic management, what are the most recent reports he has received about New Zealand's current account deficit and GDP growth?

A: In the June Quarter GDP fell 0.3$ this was largely due to the fact that exports fell by 4.8% due largely to the lagged effect of the drought on agricultural commodities. The conditions remain bouyant for strong growth with 0competitive exchange and interest rates and forecast global growth. We cannot control conditions in export markets nor the weather. The test of good economic management relates to things the government can control. The government is keen to advance policies that make it more likely that businesses will invest. ACC, ECA and other reforms proposed by the opposition will not encourage one business to invest – those policies are anti-growth and anti-business. The level of confidence amongst exporters are at a six year high. What they want to back them up are government policies that reduce their costs. Legislating monopolies for collective bargaining will not reduce the costs of one business. Not one. (Baiting continued...)

Question 4.

Hon. Richard Prebble to the Minister of Health Wyatt Creech:

Q: Is the statement in the advertisement for the position of Health Promotion Manager for the Whakatane Hospital that "Pacific Health acknowledges health as a Taonga under Article 2 of the Treaty of Waitangi" Government policy; if not, what action has he taken to correct this taxpayer-paid advertisement?

A: Under the law the recruitment of staff is an operational matter and not one for me. The advertisement does not reflect government policy.

Q: Richard Prebble – ACT: What does it mean then?

A: Government policy requires acknowledging the special relationship under the treaty and for action to reduce the long-standing disparity in health status of Maori. The advertisement is a matter for the organisation and they need to decide the reasons they published it.

(Some discussion about whether Richard Prebble’s original question was racist – speaker strongly discouraged such disorder. Annette King apologised and then asked “what accusation did I make of the member…..mic turned off…” Trevor Mallard - “the member did not accuse the member of being a racist but of making a racist comment” – speaker – “where a remark is taken as offensive – particularly in that area - it is required to be withdrawn.” Dover Sammuels – took offence at pronunciation of Taonga. Richard Prebble – apologised for his pronunciation and sought leave to table something – he was refused.)

Wyatt Creech continues...reducing the disparity of Maori has been a long-standing aim of the government. This is to make it equitable for all NZers.

Question 5.

(Michael Cullen – Point of Order - objection to question on basis of authentication saying the question misrepresented history. Speaker – there is authentication that it was but not that it was introduced by the Labour Government. The question is allowed with amendment.)

Winston Peters – NZ First – tried to table three documents attacking various other members and particularly Richard Prebble – refused.)

Gilbert Myles to the Minister of Health Wyatt Creech:

Q: Is the tragic death of Mrs Christine Maire Heenan further evidence that the policy [amendment: introduced by] in effect during the Labour Government to place mental health patients into the community is a failure and has resulted in the deaths of a number of New Zealanders?

(Winston Peters then objected strongly to the rewording of the question which Gilbert Myles forgot when he first started to read it.

“With all due respect I do not wish to change the question because I researched that question and they did introduce that policy.”

Speaker – okay then – don’t ask it. Is that all right?

Myles – yes.

Speaker – okay then.

Winston Peters however was not happy about this…. Eventually the speaker cut the discussion off.)

Question 6.

Hon. Dr Michael Cullen to the Prime Minister Jenny Shipley:

Q: Is her Government prepared to support anti-defection legislation to ensure that following the election no members of Parliament will be able to change parties; if not, why not?

A: Wyatt Creech On Behalf – National believes that any changes in this area as with any other electoral reform issues should be discussed with the public. We are pledging to hold a referendum into MMP for this reason. National did not support Dr Cullen’s bill as it would have given too much power to party heirarchy’s. I can also see that Dr Cullen wants to use this bill to keep Damien O’Connor from defecting... much disorder...

(Speaker – imputations were advanced and I thought it was a draw.)

Q: John Carter – National: What would be the effect of such legislation?

A: No matter what a person’s view was they would have to stay in the party. It would mean absolute control over caucuses by party leaders. Recently one member accused their leader of being a bully. Should they have to tolerate that? Sandra Lee should be more careful about who her party selects – quoted from Pam Corkery on the immortality of Jim Anderton.

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