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National Radio Midday Report

Mortgage Rates – NZ Dollar – Doctor’s Strike – Firefighters Negotiation – Russian Sub – Timor – Air Base To Close – Challenge Purchase – Asthma Research – Lobster Season

- MORTGAGE RATES: The National Bank has dropped its floating mortgage rate to 8.5 percent, down ¼ of a percent – while fixed rates will also drop depending on the term. The National Bank’s chief economist said The Reserve Bank’s decision to leave cash rate steady at 6.5 has helped bring stability to wholesale interest rates. The president of the Real Estate Institute said a drop in interest rates across the board will be a shot in arm for the property market. Other major banks have said they are reviewing their rates.

- NZ DOLLAR: The NZ dollar has sunk to a new low – buying less than US44c – nearly US10c cents less than June last year.

- DOCTORS’ STRIKE: Public Hospitals are trying to arrange a meeting in Wellington tomorrow on what kind of deal they can come to with Junior Doctors. The strikes Look likely to escalate nationwide. The Government has indicated it would support some kind of payments made to junior doctors to help ease their student loan debt, in spite of the precedents it could set.

The two hospitals where striking began today, Palmerston North and Wanganui today say the transition has been smooth as senior medical staff took over the duties of striking junior doctors. Services will be substantially reduced during the course of the strike – with about 200 operations cancelled. Most outpatient clinics are not receiving patients.

Northland Health says Whanageri hospital is coping well on the second day of their strike.

- FIREFIGHTERS’ NEGOTIATION: The Fire Service Commission says it’s prepared to have a mediator come in to speed up negotiation with firefighters on a long running dispute. The Minister responsible for the Fire Service, Mark Burton, is suggesting the use of a mediator to speed up negotiation on a new employment contract. The union representing firefighters is not keen on Mark Burton proposal.

- RUSSIAN SUB: Russian President Vladimir Putin has been meeting the wives and families of dead sailors from the Kursk submarine. He told the relatives “my heart hurts – but not as much as yours.” Mr Putin has become the focus of public anger over the handling of the Kursk disaster.

- TIMOR: Four UN workers have been attacked by suspected Pro Jakarta militia in a refugee camp inWest Timor. The Militia are trying to stop East Timorese from returning home.

- AIR BASE TO CLOSE: The Hobsonville air force base in Auckland is expected to close, in a reorganisation of defense property to be announced by the Government this afternoon.

- CHALLENGE PURCHASE: Independent service station owners are among those expressing interest in purchasing the oil company Challenge Petroleum. Shell has applied to the Commerce Commission for permission to buy Fletcher Energy, the parent company of challenge. Challenge has had a particular impact in rural New Zealand, where major companies have been pulling out.

- ASTHMA RESEARCH: Asthma specialist say an overseas study that has shown that a poor diet, high in processed food, contributes to child asthma, may be vital for research into the disease in New Zealand.

- LOBSTER SEASON: The rock lobster industry has welcomed a decision from the Minister of Fisheries to extend the fishing season in the Gisbourne area by a month. Bad weather forced many Gisbourne fishermen to stay at home for 21 days, cutting into their season.

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