INDEPENDENT NEWS

ACT seeks Parliamentary scrutiny

Published: Wed 22 Dec 1999 03:51 PM
The ACT Party today put in four separate requests for an urgent debate to the Speaker. The letters covered the F16 contract, the West Coast Timberlands contracts, the bulk funding contracts and Christine Rankin's contract as the head of WINZ.
"It's extraordinary fact that the new Government appears to be about to break contracts with the United States, with New Zealand timber mills, with 30% of all schools and possibly with the chief executive of the country's biggest state agency," Mr Prebble said.
"Parliament should certainly debate these issues and there is more than enough time to do so prior to the Christmas break. I would have expected a government that only this week in the speech from the Throne said its goal was to restore respect to Parliament, would have itself set aside time to allow Parliamentary scrutiny."
Mr Prebble released copies of the ACT letters which set out the issues the ACT Party believes needs to be discussed.
Dear Mr Speaker
Application for urgent debate under standing order 376
I seek an urgent debate on the government's stated intention to cancel the F-16 fighter plane contract.
The matter is: a) of recent occurrence.
The Prime Minister stated on the second of December that "she had every intention of reversing the deal with the USA" (Evening Post 2 Dec 1999)
Cancelling the F-16 contract is a ministerial responsibility. requires the immediate attention of the house.
The issue is urgent and important. The importance of the issue can be judged by the fact that the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, telephoned the Prime Minister and raised the issue. The New Zealand Herald reported that President Clinton telephoned the Prime Minister and said that the aircraft were "a good deal for your country and a good deal for ours."
The US Ambassador sought an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister and stated to the media "a promise is a promise".
The breaking of a contract is always serious. If the reneging is by a government and will affect New Zealand's defence and security it is very serious.
It appears possible that the government may give formal notice of termination of the F-16 contract at any time. The cost is somewhere between no penalty or $30 to $100 million. (Evening Post 15 December).
An important aspect of this matter is the claim by the Prime Minister Miss Clark that "Cabinet had learned from officials yesterday that the Defence Force could not meet all of its current spending commitments within budget forecasts." (Waikato Times 14 Dec)
"We have to look at the priorities within defence baseline spending . . . Clearly defence has commitments which will exceed that" the Prime Minister told reporters.
This is a very serious allegation. If true it means that Treasury's Fiscal Update issued before the election did not correctly record defence commitments.
This compromises the whole of the government accounts that parliament and the public are entitled to rely upon.
The matter is of the highest importance involving the defence of the nation, our relations with our allies and the integrity of the treasury forecasts.
The House is to shortly adjourn . A decisionregarding the F-16s may happen at any time. It is importand and urgent that the House debate whether the Treasury fiscal update is inaccurate in the way the Prime Minister claims.
This matter needs to be considered now.
Yours sincerely
Hon Richard Prebble CBE
LEADER,
ACT NEW ZEALAND
Mr Speaker, Application for Debate on a matter of Urgent Public Importance Under Standing Orders 371 I request a debate this afternoon on a matter of urgent public importance namely the Government's action to change Timberlands West Coast's Statement of Corporate intent removing any reference to the harvesting of beech. (a) This is a case of recent occurrence, (b) The matter involves the Ministerial responsibility of the Government.
The action has been taken in recent weeks by executive decree without reference to Parliament and inevitably results in the SOE breaking signed contracts with the following companies:- Starwood Products Karamea Sawmilling NZ West Coast Beech Ltd Whiley & Co Lumber Specialities Gunns Veneers Ltd Interior Timber Products Brieden Holdings
The signed contracts have conditions obligating Timberlands West Coast Ltd to obtain resource consent pursuant to the provisions of the Resource Management Act.
Ministers from the Government-elect took action to abort the resource consent hearings where over-riding evidence confirmed that the West Coast beech scheme is truly sustainable.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has reported that the supply of beechwood should continue in perpetuity in keeping with the provisions of the West Coast Accord signed by the Crown in 1986. This accord has been deemed by the High Court in a ruling by Justice Greg to be a binding contract (Greg J CP 476/94).
(c) This matter requires the immediate attention of the House.
While the Government has taken action which prevents the harvest of beech they have failed to notify the contract holders that beechwood will not be supplied. This leaves firms unable to respond to urgent requests from export clients. The Ikamatua Mill dedicated to beech sawing is facing the dilemma of whether or not to lay off its full staff and close. Numerous investment proposals for the West Coast amounting to some $50 million are on hold. It is imperative that the Government notify the contract holders urgently.
Yours sincerely
Ken Shirley
Forestry Spokesman
Mr Speaker
Parliament Buildings
WELLINGTON
Dear Mr Speaker
Application for urgent debate under standing order 376
I seek an urgent debate on the government's stated intention to cancel bulk funding contracts government has with schools. The matter is: b) of recent occurrence.
The Speech from the Throne yesterday signalled government's intention to revert all schools to a centralised funding system. Since bulk funding is a matter of contract, this will entail breaking those contracts. This follows a statement by the Minister of Education on the second of December that Labour "hoped to change the Education Act to make bulk funding contracts void".
The matter involves Ministerial responsibility of the government
c) requires the immediate attention of the house.
The issue is urgent and important. Bulk funding arrangements are made by way of contract. Some were made for three years, others claim that their contract is indefinite.
The importance of the issue can be judged by the fact that such a move would mean that governments would have to break those contracts. One school has vowed to take government to court should government proceed as it has announced.
It is no small matter to break a contract freely entered into by all parties. The fact that the contract was made by a previous government doesn't in any way justify government's proposed actions.
This issue affects thirty per cent of those New Zealand schools which are now bulk funded.
The Ministry of Education's own research demonstrated that the benefits of bulk funding far outweighed any negatives. The research also demonstrated overwhelming support for bulk funding from kura kaupapa Maori schools and schools with high proportions of Maori children.
This government has given its word that it will do all it can to narrow the gap between Maori and non Maori achievement, yet begins in education policy with moves that will have the opposite effect.
These matters are urgent and are clearly of public importance.
It requires the immediate attention of the house and the government.
Yours sincerely
Donna Awatere Huata
SPOKESMAN,
EDUCATION,
ACT NEW ZEALAND
Dear Mr Speaker,
Application for urgent debate under standing order 376
I would like to request a debate on a matter of urgent public importance namely the new government's lack of confidence in the chief executive of New Zealand's largest government department.
a. This is a case of recent occurrence: the Minister of Social Services, Mr Maharey has been quoted this week as saying that he does not have confidence in Ms Rankin, chief executive of Work and Income NZ. The Prime Minister has also publicly expressed her concerns.
b. The matter involves Ministerial responsibility of the government.
c. It requires the immediate attention of the House: The fact that a Chief Executive of the country's largest government department administering over a third of all government expenditure, is being left in place while the Minister in charge does not have confidence in her ability, is a matter of grave public concern.
Directors of companies leaving power with executives whom they doubt would clearly be in breach of their duty. In the interests of maintaining the highest of standards, Parliament should debate this issue with urgency.
Yours sincerely,
Dr Muriel Newman MP

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