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HOUSE: First Question Session For New Government

Revolving Roles: Clark, Cullen, Tizard, Harre, Maharey, Anderton, Burton and King front up to their first Parliamentary Question session - SUBJECTS COVERED: Monetary Policy - Government Policy - Minister For Auckland - ACC - Mental Health - Youth Rates - Student Benefits - Winz - Derek Quigley - Computer Contracts - Possums - Universities

Questions For Oral Answer Wednesday, 22 December 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.


SPEAKER: Members are referred to standing orders - 365 and 372(2). (Note: This must have worked as it was with one notable exception a remarkably orderly question session…)

Question 1.

Rt Hon. Jenny Shipley to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: Does he agree with the Associate Minister of Commerce in her view, reported in the Dominion of 16 December 1999, that ``NewZealand's independence and sovereignty were at stake unless the Government washed its hands of the `monetarist experiment'''?

A: The Government operates a monetary policy not a monetarist one.

Q: Jenny Shipley - National: What process did he use to get Jim Anderton and Laila Harre to change their position and sign a policy targets agreement with the Reserve Bank that has been described as the "status quo"?

A: We had very happy discussions and were happy to sign the agreement.

In supplementary - Jo Stalin comments raised by ACT's Rodney Hide - Cullen: "I have no responsibility for Jo Stalin".

Question 2.

Jill Pettis to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Q: What action has the Government taken to implement the policy programe outlined to the electorate by the coalition partners prior to the election?

A: The new government has moved rapidly to implement several policies. We have also outlined a comprehensive set of policies in the Speech From The Throne for the next three years.

Q: Richard Prebble - ACT: When will the government get around to implementing its dedicated fund policy on Superannuation and why hasn't she done so already?

A: The new ministers have held their warrants for 12 days. By public agreement we have been active. We will be adjusting superannuation levels on 1 April 2000 consistent with our election pledge. Over the coming year we will move on implementation of the dedicated tax for super scheme.

Q: Bill English - National: Why wasn't Jim Anderton's Public Trust "bank "scheme in the Speech From The Throne.

A: The speech was long enough already don't you think?

Question 3.

Hon. Richard Prebble to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:

Q: What does she believe her ministerial responsibilities are, and what, if anything, does she expect to achieve in her portfolio?

A: My ministerial portfolio responsibilities will be to work with the PM on Auckland issues. I will work dynamically in the interests of helping Auckland grow and thereby in the interests of the rest of New Zealand.

Q: Can she make an assurance that she will not take into account Green policy stance of "no more motorways".

A: I reiterate that we will work with the PM and the city of Auckland.

(Prebble accused the Chairman of bias - flagrantly - that he was protecting a "weak minister"

Speaker: You know you are out of order.

Prebble: No I don't - you are out of order.

Speaker: Withdraw or apologise or leave the chamber.

(brief pause..)

Prebble I withdraw and apologise.

Prebble had been outraged that McCully had not been given an opportunity to ask a supplementary - the Speaker after getting is apology changed his mind and allowed the supplementary.)

Q: Murray McCully - National: Was she quoted correctly about reviewing Infrastructure Auckland.

A: If the member had bothered to read our policy he would see that it was always our policy to review Infrastructure Auckland. We will not be forcing Auckland to sell Ports of Auckland which is its largest asset.

Question 4.

Liz Gordon to the Minister of Youth Affairs Laila Harre:

Q: What advice has she received regarding the human rights implications of age-based minimun wage rates?

A: Lowering the threshold were not options considered in a recent review of the minimum wage. The government has sought options for protection by the end of February. I am hopeful that progress will be made shortly on this issues.

Q: Has she considered the human rights of youths who will lose their jobs if youth rates are changed?

A: This government as the previous government has read lots of reports on this. I would say the jury is out on the question of youth rates. There is a study in the former ministers own electorate….. (interrupted by Speaker).

Question 5.

Gerry Brownlee to the Minister for State-Owned Enterprises Mark Burton:

Q: What does the briefing paper to him from @Work Insurance say about claims incidence rates in the last six months, and has he informed the Minister for Accident Insurance accordingly?

A: The incidence of claims at present does not allow you to predict full year claims rates.

Q: Gerry Brownlee - National: Can he confirm the claims rate is far lower than expected and that further premium falls may be in the pipeline.

A: No as I say the full-year claims rate cannot yet be predicted. I can confirm that there is a recent case in which a man was refused cover because "gravity" is no longer covered. He injured himself moving his head to get away from the hoof of a cow - but had he left it there and been kicked he would have been covered.

Question 6.

Mark Peck to the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen:

Q: What reports has he received on problems with costs of computing systems in Government departments?

A: I have also received information about a LINZ computer system currently costed at 147 million - way over budget. The Land Online project like INCIS has been plagued by delays.

Q: Roger Sowry - National: Can the minister guarantee all computer contracts undertaken in the future will be completed on time and budget?

A: I can guarantee there will not be the string of expensive stuff-ups we had under the previous government. I can confirm that if the ex-PM had not been so foolish as to grant that Select Committee inguiry - into INCIS - and had ordered a Ministerial Inquiry instead there would be far fewer lawyers making lots of money.

Question 7.

Belinda Vernon to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: Does he stand by his statement in the Press of 20 December 1999, regarding whether he had confidence in the Chief Executive of Work and Income New Z ealand, ``I can't right now. We've made that clear ... We don't have confidence.''?

A: Yes. I stand by my comments. Since then however I have had a very constructive meeting with the executives of WINZ.

Q: Belinda Vernon - National: Why did it take ten days for the minister to "turn weak at the knees?"

A: The member will have noticed that the government has been very busy over the last nine days. This government believes that to restore confidence in WINZ it is important to change the way it operates. It will adopt a "public service ethic" and when it has done so we will all be able to have confidence in it. All the senior public servants working with me are dedicated public servants. As for the CEO of WINZ she said she understood clearly the expectations that were being placed on her and she said she would deliver on them.

Q: Sue Bradford - Green: What have you done to ensure relations between staff and beneficiaries on the front line improve?

A: That has been part of our discussions with Mrs Rankin.

Question 8.

Rod Donald to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:

Q: What measures is the Government putting in place to assist tertiary students who are unemployed over their summer holiday period and who are not eligibl e for the community wage for students?

A: I have asked the feasibility of a student wage subsidy over the Christmas period this was in our election policy.

Q: How does he expect students to eat and why does he refuse to reinstate the emergency unemployment benefit for students?

A: Students do have access to the community wage under certain circumstances. We are examining a wage subsidy as rapidly as we can to see if that is also a possibility for assistance.

Q: Belinda Vernon - National: How does he reconcile that with promises made in opposition to restore the benefit.

A: I do recall a statement to that effect. And I recall that shortly after that we released our policy on the student wage subsidy.

(Belinda Vernon: Leave sort to table a press statement from Maharey on restoring the emergency student summer benefit - refused.)

Question 9.

Dr Wayne Mapp to the Minister of Defence Mark Burton:

Q: What procedure was used to appoint Hon Derek Quigley to undertake the review of the contract to lease F-16 jet fighters, including the date when Mr Quigley was first approached through to the decision being made to appoint him?

A: Mark Burton: Mr Quigley was contracted by the Department of PM and Cabinet in a contract signed on 15th December. He was approached after discussions on the government formation process were completed..

Q: Wayne Mapp - National: Were conflict of interest considerations in Cabinet Office guidelines followed.?

A: As far as I know they were.

Q: Richard Prebble - ACT: Can he confirm that Derek Quigley [a former ACT member] was appointed because the government thought it knew what answer he would give?

A: To the best of my knowledge all appropriate procedures have been followed I would of course review any situation should the circumstances require it.

Question 10.

Hon. Brian Donnelly to the Minister of Health Annette King:

Q: Has she received any reports on the appropriateness of the mental health care provided for the perpetrator of the recent incident in Rawene in which three innocent vi ctims, including two young children, were murdered?

A: No.

Then to a supplementary question: No Minister of Health could give a guarantee that their will not be another tragedy as a result of Mental Health problems - but I can confirm that this government. Yesterday I met with the Mental Health Commission on implementing the blueprint on mental health services - we will negotiate a funding path for that programme.

Question 11.

John Luxton to the Minister for Industry and Regional Development Jim Anderton:

Q: How many of the 1,000 new job opportunities he identified at the end of November in the possum industry have been created and filled as part of his industry policies since he reportedly made it clear that he and his caucus had hit the ground running at that time?

A: I have been informed by the possum fabric makers who made the APEC jackets that with a minimum of government assistance they could create over 300 jobs. I will work over the summer on this with my Cabinet colleagues.

Q: John Luxton - National: When will we see action from this government on creating these jobs?

A: After all of 10 days in office I can assure the minister that we will do more for jobs than his government did when it got rid of support for the car assembly industry and got rid of 10,000 jobs. I will be investigating a national bounty scheme. There are also opportunities here for the teaching of bush skills to youngsters involved in this industry.

Q: Jeanette Fitzsimons - Green: Has he seen reports that suggest a bounty scheme may not be the best method to eliminate possums?

A: Yes I have and the government is interested in the possibilities for employment creation and that will be a new thing in this country.

Question 12.

Dianne Yates to the Associate Minister of Education (Tertiary Education) Steve Maharey:

Q: Does the Government consider cost a barrier to students undertaking tertiary education; if so, what action is he taking to address this?

A: This week we have already started to introduce policies to help. Several of them.

Q: What other issues will he be addressing?

A: Apart from the review of the student loan scheme the government has decided to establish a Tertiary Education Advisory Commission to suggest other ways to allocate money.

Q: Roger Sowry - National - Given borrowing is down $100 million this year can he assure us it will be lower next year?

A: No I can't. As the PM has said we would welcome more students in the tertiary sector. In addition we have made every effort to ensure that students know they will have to pay back what they borrow and that it is spent on living expenses.

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