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New Zealand Herald

Students and Minium Wage Changes – Murder Confession – Maori Affairs – Rankin – Cairns – Rioting Youths – Pledge Amendment – Ex Frigate – Minimum Wage – F16s – Timberlands – Editorial: Doone

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STUDENTS AND MINIMUM WAGE CHANGES: Students and low-paid workers received an early Christmas present from the Government yesterday with the scrapping of initial interest payments on student loans and the raising of the minimum wage. The changes mean that from New Year's Day more than 100,000 students will pay no interest on their loans while they are studying.

MURDER CONFESSION: A former merchant seaman has telephoned Auckland police to confess to a shipboard murder that has haunted him for 28 years. A transtasman homicide inquiry is now under way into the death of New Zealander Leslie Forrest on board a Union Steamship Company vessel at the Port of Newcastle, Australia, in 1971.

MAORI AFFAIRS: Prime Minister Helen Clark has vetoed the appointment of Shane Te Pou as an executive assistant to the Minister of Maori Affairs, Dover Samuels, because of Mr Te Pou's controversial past. Beehive sources say she does not want a repeat of the scandals which dogged the previous Government.

RANKIN: Christine Rankin's future under Labour continued to look shaky yesterday as the Prime Minister cracked jokes at her expense. Helen Clark took another dig at the heavily criticised Work and Income New Zealand chief executive - just as the Minister of Social Services, Steve Maharey, was apparently emphasising that he could work with her.

CAIRNS: We first noticed him about 20 years ago, in the days when people went to watch club cricket. A small crowd had gathered to watch the mighty Lance Cairns and his powerful bat, Excalibur, but were distracted by the sight of his son- this barefooted kid - practising his game on the boundary line.

RIOTING YOUTHS: Police are revising their New Year's Eve crowd control plans after clashes with rioting youths marred the Christmas in the Park concert at the Auckland Domain. But Auckland City police manager Howard Broad said yesterday that the trouble would not lead to an alcohol ban at the New Year's Eve event in the Domain.

PLEDGE AMENDMENT: Labour's Tariana Turia wants all MPs to pledge allegiance to the Treaty of Waitangi as well as the Queen when they are sworn in. And Green MP Keith Locke wants the option of an oath without any reference to the Queen so republicans such as himself do not have to pledge allegiances they do not really mean.

EX FRIGATE: Former Navy seaman and Pink Floyd "roadie" Allan Stephen wants to make a big splash as master of his own frigate - in the midst of the America's Cup action. Although the decommissioned warship Waikato will have to be towed from Auckland each morning, Mr Stephen is confident of securing a public anchorage in the middle of the three cup challenge courses.

MINIMUM WAGE: The Coalition Government has bettered Alliance campaign pledges on the minimum wage, raising it to $7.55 from $7 an hour, effective from March 6 next year. The rise will mean a $22 a week increase for 12,700 adults earning at or below the minimum wage. Labour had promised to review the wage, but had not set a target level.

F16S: The former Act MP Derek Quigley will be required to assess the diplomatic fall-out of cancelling the F-16 jet fighters as part of his independent review of the lease-to-buy deal with the United States. The cabinet yesterday determined the terms of reference for his inquiry and asked him to report back by the first week of March.

TIMBERLANDS: Conservationists are encouraging scientists critical of the Government's decision to can the West Coast beech scheme to work with it to save the forests. Some scientists said last week that the Timberlands scheme was a world leader and the alternative of preserving forests without sufficient funds would not save them and their ecosystems because predators were killing threatened wildlife.

EDITORIAL – DOONE: If all public services, the police are perhaps the most important. They give the public not only a sense of security but also the confidence that law and order will be upheld impartially. It goes without saying, therefore, that the country's most senior policeman must be above reproach. Such, unfortunately, is no longer the case with Police Commissioner Peter Doone. No matter what the finding of the Police Complaints Authority inquiry into an election-night incident in Wellington, Mr Doone cannot escape the fact that this is the latest of a series of debilitating episodes which have eroded public confidence in him, his position and, indeed, the standing of the police.

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