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Beehive Bulletin - Friday 21 March 2003

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Warning to New Zealanders abroad

New Zealanders should avoid all travel to the Middle East now that conflict has broken out in Iraq, says Foreign Minister Phil Goff. Those living in countries bordering Iraq, or countries most likely to be affected if the crisis spreads, should depart immediately or move to a safer area. Phil Goff says New Zealanders travellers should also be aware of the heightened risk in some western cities of violent protests or acts of terrorism. New Zealanders are urged to heed this advice and to closely monitor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's travel information website (www.mfat.govt.nz), says Phil Goff.

New Zealand gives humanitarian aid

New Zealand is meanwhile committing $3.3 million in emergency humanitarian relief towards the human cost of war in Iraq. Foreign Minister Phil Goff and Aid Minister Marian Hobbs say the money will be distributed to United Nations agencies and relief organisations active in Iraq. The Ministers say the United Nations has warned that without immediate assistance from the international community thousands of lives could be lost, and New Zealand's initial commitment aims at addressing those concerns. In the aftermath of the conflict, New Zealand will assist in areas such as mine clearance and peacekeeping, and on reconstruction and development assistance. The government will also consider requests for assistance in areas such as medical personnel and air transport for delivering aid supplies, say the Ministers.

Record job numbers

An update of the government's employment strategy shows New Zealand is continuing to maximise job opportunities, says Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey. The report records solid job growth in the year to December 2002, with the number of people in employment rising by 44,400 to 1,886,000 workers ? more that at any time in New Zealand's history. Steve Maharey says the future focus is developing a highly-skilled and flexible workforce. The updated strategy reports that while New Zealanders' qualifications have improved, an estimated 10-17% of young people aged between 15 and 19 are still not taking part in formal education, work or training. Improving these results further is among the priorities for the government, says Steve Maharey.

Rise in benefits

People on benefits, students and superannuitants will be between $2 and $10 better off each week from 1 April. Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey and Health Minister Annette King, announced benefit payments, student allowances, New Zealand superannuation/veterans pension and community services card thresholds will all increase by 2.72 percent from 1 April under the annual cost of living adjustment. Annette King says the increase in the income thresholds for Community Services Card holders means no cardholders will lose their entitlement to the card and an additional 37,000 New Zealanders will now be eligible to use the card.

Smoke-free workplaces move closer

New laws strengthening the protection against smoke in the workplace are a step closer with the health select committee's report back to Parliament of the Smoke-free Environments Amendment Bill. Associate Health Minister Damien O'Connor says the bill would make smoke-free workplaces and schools the norm by building on earlier smoke-free legislation. Three out of four New Zealanders who don't smoke will soon be able to enjoy 100 percent smoke-free restaurants, bars, cafes and casinos without exposing themselves to unpleasant, harmful tobacco fumes, says Damien O'Connor. Rotorua MP Steve Chadwick, who is sponsoring the bill, says the proposed changes would play an important part in re-energising efforts to stop young people from starting smoking.

Government committed to deal with drug menace

The Government is committed to dealing with the problems created by the drug methamphetamine, says the chair of the Ministerial Committee on Drug Policy, Jim Anderton. Reclassification of methamphetamine to a Class A drug. is currently being considered by the Health Select Committee and needs the approval of Parliament before becoming law. Jim Anderton says the sooner the drug is reclassified the better. The Labour Progressive government is also committed to greater powers for the police when they suspect methamphetamine is being manufactured, sold or used, says Jim Anderton.


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