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The Herald Newspaper

Telecom Challenger - Kirsty Robinson - Chill Fills - Matrimonial Property Act - E-Dictionary - Car Stickers - Mmp Ruling - Radiotherapy Refused - Internet Security - Zimbabwe Observers - Petrol Prices - GE Commission - Editorial: Matrimonial Property Rights

TELECOM CHALLENGER: A High Court judge has blocked Telecom's attempt to cut off free Internet services offered by competitors. Justice Robertson ruled yesterday that Telecom must reconnect three Internet numbers it disconnected at the weekend until a hearing next week.

KIRSTY ROBINSON: Sixteen-year-old Kirsty Robinson, who survived almost 30 hours in the sea, begged her father to take her lifejacket as they clung to each other. Kirsty was the only one of four people to be found after a 6m aluminium craft capsized near Plate Island in the Bay of Plenty on Sunday morning.

CHILL FILLS: A chilly turn in the weather has filled Auckland hospitals, forcing them to divert patients across the city. By last night ambulance services and GPs had been instructed to send all seriously ill patients to Middlemore because Auckland and North Shore Hospitals could take no more. Middlemore also cancelled about 20 routine operations due today to free more beds for urgent admissions. The overcrowding crisis struck suddenly at the weekend.

MATRIMONIAL PROPERTY ACT: Judges settling disputes after failed relationships may soon be given discretion to take into account future income and whether one partner sacrificed a career. The current Matrimonial Property Act does not allow future earnings to be treated as matrimonial assets after a break-up.

E-DICTIONARY: An electronic dictionary capable of storing examination answers is the latest technique used for cheating in school exams. Altogether, 35 cases of suspected cheating in last year's School Certificate and Bursary examinations have been investigated by the Qualifications Authority.

CAR STICKERS: Police have held off plans to expand the under-25 car sticker scheme, as they await a legal opinion on whether it is discriminatory. A national legal service for people aged under 25 has added its condemnation to criticism of the scheme, which is being piloted in Christchurch and may go nationwide soon.

MMP RULING: The fate of MMP could be settled by a binding referendum as early as September next year, but the odds are still against New Zealanders getting a cut in the number of MPs in Parliament. It is likely that the outcome of any referendum will be implemented in time for the general election the following year.

RADIOTHERAPY REFUSED: A young boy from the Pacific Islands faces death in his homeland after his parents refused lifesaving radiotherapy treatment at the Starship hospital in Auckland. Starship surgeons removed a brain tumour from the 6-year-old on February 22, but his parents objected to the radiation treatment and took him home last week before Auckland Healthcare's legal bid for guardianship could be heard.

INTERNET SECURITY: A global attempt to stop shoppers being cheated when buying on the Internet has been launched in New Zealand. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs yesterday released a discussion paper on a proposed code of conduct for doing business on the Internet.

ZIMBABWE OBSERVERS: Prime Minister Helen Clark has suggested the Commonwealth supply observers for Zimbabwe's upcoming election as that country grapples with rising violence and a deteriorating economy. Zimbabwe is the first big issue former deputy prime minister Don McKinnon faces after taking office as Commonwealth Secretary-General, says Helen Clark.

PETROL PRICES: The yo-yoing price of petrol is on the descent again. Shell yesterday said the average price of unleaded 91-octane petrol in the main centres would now be 98.4c a litre. Diesel would fall to around 65c a litre and 96 octane to $1.03.

GE COMMISSION: Prime Minister Helen Clark is moving to have details of the royal commission of inquiry into genetic engineering tied up before Easter. She said yesterday that the Government had been expected to announce the make-up and terms of reference for the inquiry for weeks, but negotiations between Labour, the Alliance and Greens had delayed progress.

EDITORIAL: MATRIMONIAL PROPERTY RIGHTS: Property rights for de facto couples can only be a good thing, especially for their children. There is no quicker way to poverty than when the main income-earner - so often the male - leaves a household. Under the Government's plan to amend the Matrimonial Property Act to include de facto and same-sex relationships, all cohabiting couples will be obliged to split the assets of their relationship down the middle, so assuring some financial backing for each party and security for any children. Although relationships are about love and commitment, this amendment relates purely to property. It does not demean the special status of marriage and all that implies, nor does it try to add any element of moral direction. What it does do is provide some protection for the 236,397 people in de facto relationships, and their children.

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