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Plain English 17th May 2002

PLAIN ENGLISH - A WEEKLY UPDATE FROM BILL ENGLISH, NATIONAL PARTY LEADER

A grieving community

On Thursday I attended a community gathering in the Mangere Bridge shopping centre. Hundreds of people gathered outside the bank where John Vaughan was shot. The shock and anger was palpable, and most people I spoke with mentioned the death penalty, a measure of the depth of feeling about these random killings. I was moved by the story about John Vaughan's nine year old son saying goodbye to him before the life support system was turned off. In that story, and in the Mangere Bridge gathering I saw the human side of the rising statistics for violent crime. We will make a considered response to widespread public concern.

New Bursary Policy

There are some real problems with the new NCEA, and we have decided to keep one of the tried and tested institutions in secondary schools, the bursary exams. It has the benefits of historical benchmark, and national consistency, both of which will take time to establish in the new system. We will increase the A bursary from $200 to $2000 and the B bursary from $100 to $1000. The money must be spent on study. This policy gives students the chance to succeed in a competitive national exam with significant rewards for success. We estimate around 12,000 students will benefit each year. You can read the whole policy at www.national.org.nz

Stability in education

We want to stabilise and refine the NCEA system. We propose more use of external exams, particularly to help moderation in internal assessment, use of percentage marks, and recording failure as well as success. Labour wants to avoid any record of failure.

Trevor trampled on

Trevor Mallard's Heineken diplomacy failed to win the Rugby World Cup and didn't win over the teachers. Helen Clark produced another $30 million while Mallard was overseas, to settle the dispute and make sure no-one picketed the Labour conference this weekend. Labour can't sustain good Government. Mallard held out for months then had the plug pulled on him for political reasons. We can now say goodbye to his credibility as a Minister. The core issues remain - deteriorated teaching time, with poor recruitment and most of the NCEA implementation still ahead of them - and people call this competent leadership?

History of citizenship

I have been heartened by the response to my speech on the history of the Treaty of Waitangi. Many people support one standard of citizenship. Some have thoughtfully disapproved with particular points, and some with the whole argument. A handful of the usual suspects have labelled the speech as reactionary and ignorant. Mana News have run a series of interviews, critical and supportive, in their 6:45 radio slot. Labour have been totally silent. I welcome the debate and hope to contribute further to it.

What MPs do all day

Lockwood Smith has worked for months on a bill for a new toll road on the Whangaparoa peninsula. Labour say they will vote against the bill, despite the full support of the Rodney District Council, and contracts ready to sign. If Labour can't support this there is no way they will be able to push through the much larger and more controversial roading projects they have promised to Aucklanders. They have always had ideological problems with private participation in public projects, and the leopard has not changed its spots.

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