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New Zealand Herald

Legal Aid – Stagecoach Strike – East Timor: Refugees, Army Pay – Family Budgets – Tomorrows Schools Editorial – Drugs – America’s Cup – Bail Bill – Births – SOE Payout – Split Enz Concert

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LEGAL AID: Lawyers believe battered women and others seeking family protection orders will be among victims of changes to the legal aid system announced yesterday. The head of the Law Society's family law section, Annis Somerville, of Dunedin, said the Government's 'slash-and-burn' cost-capping measures could be disastrous for victims of domestic violence and users of the Family Court.

STAGECOACH STRIKE: Thousands of Auckland commuters were left stranded last night during a wildcat strike by up to 300 bus drivers - and more disruption is likely this week.
The night-long walkout from 3 pm caused chaos for schoolchildren and commuters as the drivers rejected the latest contract offer from their employer, Stagecoach.

EAST TIMOR – REFUGEES: The 300 East Timorese refugees approved to take temporary sanctuary in New Zealand may not arrive because Indonesia wants them to renounce Indonesian citizenship, leaving them stateless.
The Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley, is spending this morning in Darwin, Australia.
She will visit New Zealand armed forces personnel using Darwin as a staging point, and expects to visit a refugee camp, where she will be briefed on negotiations between Indonesia and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on conditions for releasing the refugees.

EAST TIMOR – ARMY PAY: New Zealand troops, including those in East Timor, have had a cap imposed on life insurance, but the Defence Force insists that any bereaved families will be well provided for.
The force has decided to put a ceiling of $200,000 on an underwriting liability it accepts for private life policies that might fall foul of insurance company exclusion clauses for active military service.
Cables to troops and naval crews involved in the Timor force have also advised them that mortgage insurance repayments will be capped at a maximum of $150,000.

FAMILY BUDGETS: Mobile shops peddling goods into homes have been accused of pushing poor people into debt.
The Federation of Family Budgeting Services has attacked home shopping retailers for targeting low-income families - particularly beneficiaries - with the temptation of easy credit.

TOMORROWS SCHOOLS EDITORIAL: There is not much new that a nine-year-old Government can credibly suggest, but National's education minister has one or two ideas that sound like logical and timely next steps in the self-management of schools. As noted here on Monday, they maintain their primary focus on pupils, and with them in mind, improvements in school administration deserve closer attention.
Anybody who has served on a school board of trustees knows the limitations of the autonomy conferred by Tomorrow's Schools 10 years ago. That reform was a radical improvement on the previous system under which schools could barely buy a paper clip without approval in triplicate from a district education board. The new school boards had more freedom to spend their grants for equipment and when a principal retired they could choose the replacement. Beyond that, there was more rhetoric than substance to Tomorrow's Schools.

DRUGS: "Mary" has reservations about the methadone treatment programme but says it helped her off illegal drugs and it should get more money to help others like her.
The Auckland woman's comments follow a Government report saying state spending on drug and alcohol treatment needs to be increased by more than half.

AMERICAS CUP: Oscar is chief of security at the Hawaiian America's Cup compound on the Auckland waterfront. But he was once a mangy, starving mongrel rescued from a rubbish dump.
Today the dog from Oahu is a sailing star, helping out as 17th mammal on board the Abracadabra 2000 boat.

BAIL BILL: The Government has given up on its plans to tighten bail laws before the election.
Four months ago National introduced the Bail Bill, which would have denied bail to about 1500 hard-core offenders each year.

BIRTHS: Women giving birth for the first time need to be targeted if a rising tide of inductions and caesarean sections is to drop, says a specialist obstetrician.
The Ministry of Health released a report this week confirming a marked increase in the number of interventions during birth.

SOE PAYOUT: The head of the country's largest state-owned enterprise received a special payout of around $500,000 when he quit after it was broken up into three new companies.
Electricity Corporation chief executive Dave Frow received an amount estimated at $1.3 million for his last 11 months in the job, including the severance package he left with in May.

SPLIT ENZ CONCERT: Split Enz will play for 3000 people on New Year's Eve, but thousands of others seeing in the new millennium at pubs and restaurants around the Viaduct Basin are likely to hear it for free.
Security around the Waitemata Plaza will be tight and only those who pay the $69.50 ticket price will be able to see the reunited Kiwi band singing old hits such as Six Months in a Leaky Boat and I See Red.

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