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Right Talk: Fighting Back Against Dangerous Law

The Right Talk
From the Office of Bill English - 8th November

Fighting Back Against Dangerous Law

The Government is trying to pass legislation which could mean increased costs and massive legal liability problems for sports clubs, voluntary groups and schools. Even Peter Dunne says the new Health and Safety in Employment Amendment Bill is "on the lunatic fringe of law-making" (but he's still supporting Labour in Government).

Schools, sports clubs and local community groups could face fines of up to $250,000 for any accident that occurs to anyone doing work for them, including volunteers. Board members and trustees could become personally liable.

A good example would be a rugby league club that employs a coach for its premier grade team. If a volunteer helping fund raise by working on a hotdog stand got injured, the club could be fined up to $250,000 if they hadn't fully informed the volunteer of the nature of the work and any likely hazards. And if OSH doesn't prosecute, anyone else can. So an injured volunteer's family could well prosecute the club.

Volunteerism and helping out in the community is a fundamental part of the New Zealand way of life. The Government doesn't realise the damage it is doing, and it needs to be told.

National is contacting community groups all around the country to warn them about the changes and seek their submissions. If you have any stories or concerns about any aspect of the legislation, then we want to hear from you. Contact us at feedback@national.org.nz

The Week In Politics...

A busy week in Parliament - the Government thought the Armstrong and fisheries scandals would die away quickly, but National has lead both issues.

*The interesting feature of the Ross Armstrong saga this week in Parliament has been the smirks on the faces of Labour Ministers, who almost seemed to enjoy seeing Helen Clark on the mat over her close friend's troubles.

Helen's little helper has not been a popular figure with others in the Beehive, and many say that if Helen Clark wasn't overseas at the time he would still be getting away with things. It was only because Michael Cullen dealt to him that his actions have been exposed this week.

Sources around the Beehive also say that it was a clear sign of Michael Cullen marking his territory very clearly from that of Helen Clark's. Raising the issues of nuclear ships and a social compact with unions have also been examples of Cullen positioning himself.

*A Select Committee is about to begin an investigation into the serious allegations over Scampi fisheries. Chairman and National MP David Carter is waiting for the other parties to agree on terms of reference.

*More concerns over the OSH Bill - the Police Commissioner told a Select Committee this week that the new laws including stress as a workplace hazard will be a big challenge for police. Policing is a stressful job, and he warned that it's impossible to protect staff from some form of stress or trauma.

National's law and order spokesman Tony Ryall says the police budget should be spent on "securing criminals and preventing crime, not on defending law suits or making huge payouts."

*Bill English is leading a delegation of seven National MPs to Australia this weekend to work on rebuilding the relationship with our nearest neighbour. Bill will be meeting with PM John Howard, and there are also meetings with Treasurer Peter Costello and Defence Minister Senator Robert Hill, among others.

"Australia and New Zealand share a fairly similar outlook on the world and when we become the next Government it's crucial we have a good relationship," says Bill English.

*Unemployment went up to 5.4% this week, a rise of 6000, much to the embarrassment of Employment Minister Steve Maharey who thought it was going to drop. He put out a statement that morning claiming unemployment had fallen in every region, and even arranged for a patsy question in Parliament, before having to backtrack.

National's Finance spokesman Don Brash says the Government's plans to impose Kyoto ratification, new OSH and Local Government laws along with high tax rates onto businesses are all having a negative impact on employment.


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