Today's questions concern: GE Salmon Trials - F16s - NZ's Peacekeepers - IRD Mailout And Medical Records - WINZ Bonuses
- F16s - Telecommunications Monopolies - Judith Tizard's Workload - Doctors And ACC - Hawkesby - Energy Efficiency - ACC
Questions For Oral Answer Thursday, 24 February 2000
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.
Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green) to the Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs:
Q: Can she give an assurance that no genetically engineered salmon eggs, which average 5 mm to 7mm in diameter but could
be smaller, escaped through New Zealand King Salmon's 4 mm wire mesh screens during the term of the last Government?
A: I have raised this issue with ERMA. I have their assurance that there is no evidence that eggs may have escaped.
Q: Jeanette Fitzsimons (Green) What monitoring will be undertaken to ensure that no genetically modified salmon have
A: I understand the seriousness of what you are asking and understand that MAF will be the body administering it.
Q: Does the Minister have confidence for ERMA?
A: Yes I do have confidence. However The Royal Commission may recommend changes for the way GMO's are managed in NZ.
ERMA is the independent authority responsible for controls. Their determinations are in the public domain. Further
issues will be considered by the Royal Commission.
Q: Ken Shirley (ACT): Is the Minister aware that GM Pine Trees have been planted in NZ for many years.
A: I am aware that there is much genetic modification that has taken place both to our plant and animal life.
Hon. Max Bradford (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Has her Government made up its mind to cancel the F16 contract?
Q: Max Bradford (National) When the PM finally decides on this issue will she take into accounts made by Paul Dibbs,
A: No I am much more likely to take into account the views of Major General Cosgrove who has praised the contribution of
the NZ troops in East Timor. The government will make a decision when it has received Mr Quigley's report and considered
it. The government has asked Mr Quigley to write the report because he has great expertise in the area. We are concerned
in general about the defence capital plan which if implemented in full now would cost double what it would have done
when it was written.
Q: Max Bradford (National) Can she confirm that MGEN Cosgrove appreciates air support?
A: He can't have relied on the NZ Skyhawks for air cover because they weren't there.
Dianne Yates to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: What recent reports has she received in relation to New Zealand's peacekeeping activities?
A: I have received very positive reports from Kofi Annan and from MGEN Peter Cosgrove for the contribution of out troops
there. We are reviewing our defence purchasing plans so they are consistent with the likely tasks of forces will be
Q: Max Bradford (National) Is she aware that NZ troops would rather be supported by NZ air cover and Naval Support?
A: No I am not aware of any such view held by the NZ army. It is highly likely that NZ peacekeepers will in the future
serve alongside other forces. There is no more sense in chipping that we rely on others than there is to say that the
Australian's rely on us for foot soldiers.
(Max Bradford - leave sought to table paper - granted.)
Q: Ron Mark (NZ First) - can she confirm that the major concern of soldiers is about pay, conditions and equipment?
A: I entirely concur with the view of Ron Mark.
Rodney Hide to the Minister of Revenue Max Bradford:
Q: What consideration did the Inland Revenue Department give to privacy issues when it mailed a letter to all taxpayers
earning over $60,000, in a distinctive envelope marked with an orange band?
A: Very little I can imagine because the envelope is used for lots of mailouts..
Q: Has he had any complaints from people who have been told that they must be lucky to earn so much when they went to
pick up their mail?
A: No. No and No. Last year 540,000 of the same envelopes were sent to those whose earnings were around $38,000 a year.
Q: Are you concerned about taxpayer privacy?
A: Yes. However to protect the integrity of the tax system it is sometimes necessary to use section 17 of the Tax
Administration Act. In a recent case in an investigation referred to by Mr Hide the complaint concerned someone in the
Special Audit category - that relating to drugs, crime and gangs. When investigations are being undertaken into crime
and gangs suspicions may arise when the person says they are too ill to be interviewed.
The postal campaign was simply to inform people about their liabilities which, surprise surprise, some people did not
Hon. Brian Donnelly (NZ First) to the Minister of Social Services and Employment Steve Maharey:
Q: Have bonuses been paid to any members of staff within WINZ who were in any way involved in the payment of student
allowances or tertiary fees; if so, were bonuses awarded for exceeding the expectations of their managers or exceeding
A: No. I am informed that payments were made to 40 people none in the student loans or allowances area. I will be
instructing WINZ to review the operation of staff bonuses to ensure they are granted based on measurable performance.
Q: Was the Minister informed there were likely to be problems with Student Loans in December?
A: Prior to Christmas the government was looking at this area to find out if problems would arise.
Hon. Roger Sowry (National) to the Prime Minister Helen Clark:
Q: Does she stand by her comments, as reported on last night's Television One News, that Defence officials have not
given "any reliable advice" on exit costs for the F16 deal?
A: Yes. I haven't seen anything from them.
Q: Can she confirm that the head of defence is the same head of defence referred to by her Minister of State Services as
incompetent , but who cannot be removed because a large golden handshake would need to be paid?
Q: Why have Treasury officials been sent to Washington.
A: Because the cost of exit is obviously a consideration. Treasury officials were considered to be the best qualified to
give advice on this.
Q: Will the PM confirm that Treasury said the F16 deal was the best deal one could expect?
A: If the money were there and if you agreed on the priority to be given to this area then that might be what they would
think. These are big ifs.
(Richard Prebble: Point of order - raised a question of authentication concerning the question arguing that there is no
local line monopoly and that the question is therefore out of order - rejected by Speaker)
Kevin Campbell to the Minister of Communications Trevor Mallard:
Q: Will the ministerial inquiry into telecommunications consider the issue of unbundling Telecom's local telephone line
A: The issue of unbundling will be considered by the inquiry because the question of bundling has not been addressed
here, while it has been considered elsewhere and dealt with. It seems to be extraordinarily rare for the local loop to
be owned as it is in New Zealand. I think the associate minister's comments are fair and that there are monopoly prices
in NZ. and I think that reducing prices on a street by street basis is something NZers would find unreasonable.
Upgrading number portability is an issue that will be addressed. There is a view in legal circles that the Commerce Act
may not be sufficient to manage this area.
Q: Richard Prebble (ACT): Would he like to review what he said about Telecom being a bad company?
A: Telecom does lots of wonderful things. It also in my opinion acts in an anti-competitive manner on occasion. I have
been aware for several months about uncertainty about expansion plans by Saturn, which were delayed awaiting more
certainty in this area.
Hon. Murray McCully (National) to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister on Auckland Issues Judith Tizard:
Q: What specific progress has she made to date towards fulfilling the ministerial responsibilities she outlined to
Parliament on 22 December as working "with the Prime Minister to co-ordinate, develop, and implement the policies that
will allow Auckland to grow in a positive and dynamic fashion for the benefit of Auckland and the rest of New Zealand"?
A: I have had discussions about possible policy initiatives with lots of local bodies and other groups including
Q: Is she aware that there is a growing view in Auckland that Heather Simpson has some relevant papers on this and has
attended some meetings and that .she is in fact the Minister responsible for helping the PM with Auckland issues?
A: This government works with its staff rather than has its staff working against it. We have been working with several
councils on the pre-implementation phase of a project to deal with a solution for North Shore transport problems.
Q: Has she noticed any difference between being the member for Auckland Central and becoming a Minister?
A: The main difference is that I am now talking to several councils outside the Auckland isthmus and that I am also
talking to groups outside Auckland altogether.
Q: Does she think she deserves an LTD?
A: No one other than the PM has an lTD they are all Ford Fairlanes.
Harry Duynhoven to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen :
Q: Has he been informed of any reports from medical practitioners regarding the proposed repeal of the Accident
Insurance Act 1998?
A: I have seen a number of reports from practitioners concerned about both the complexity of treatment claims,
compliance costs, and about the under-reporting of accidents. These then listed in answer to a supplementary. Some
doctors are avoiding paper work by treating patients instead under the GMS scheme.
(Gerry Brownlee - asked an angry question and was told that he would not be asking anymore today by the speaker.)
Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech (National) to the Attorney-General Margaret Wilson:
Q: What are her responsibilities as Attorney-General when she either sees, or sees the potential for, a Minister by his
or her actions to expose themselves, their departments or entities in their portfolio area to legal risks?
A: The AG encourages ministers to take legal advice when legal issues affecting their actions arise.
Q: Has she advised her PM that the arbitration report in the Hawkesby case could not be used in High Court proceedings
but that statements from the PM and other ministers in this house can be and that they are the reason TV3 is now suing?
A: In that instance I am sure legal advice was taken. I have advised all ministers that when they need advice they
should seek it. I am not their nanny and I do not advise them to come to me every time they think they might need legal
advice. They are responsible ministers.
(Leave refused for the tabling of a paper by National concerning ACC.)
Georgina Beyer to the Minister of Energy:
Q: What does the Government plan to do to address the current state of energy efficiency in New Zealand?
A: The government is serious about energy efficiency. The recommendations in the recent PCE report are generally in line
with Government policy.
Q: Why does the minister think promotion of efficiency is good for NZ?
A: It is at the heart of this government's energy policy because it shows the most cost-effective way to make the
economy more competitive and it addresses environmental issues at the same time.
A: (In answer to Pansy Wong question): Yes it is true that Labour Party policy includes retrofitting state houses with
insulation and to possibly using procurement policies to ensure alternative fuel vehicles are used by the Government to
speed up technology transfer.
Rt Hon. Wyatt Creech to the Minister for Accident Insurance Michael Cullen:
Q: Has he received or been informed of any reports on the extent of the savings that have been made in workplace
accident insurance costs by charitable, social service and community work agencies as a result of the introduction of
competitive workplace accident insurance, and indicating that these savings have enabled these agencies to spend more on
their "core business"?
Q: Since he has received that information is he prepared to give an assurance that Plunket workplace insurance costs
will not raise again on the reintroduction of a compulsory monopoly scheme?
A: I am confident the new scheme will be better than the old. It is clear that in the past many categories of work -
such as women's refuge - have been inappropriately classified in the past. A new classification has been established for
them. Some of the organisations were also confused about what they were paying for and what they were getting. The
Richmond Fellowship in particular got its figures seriously wrong. I am very, very, very confident that the new premium
rate will be lower than the present rate once the new scheme is launched.