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Beehive Bulletin For Week Ending April 4

Beehive Bulletin For Week Ending Friday 04 April 2002

Also Available On-Line http://www.labour.org.nz

SARS made notifiable

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) has been added to New Zealand's schedule of notifiable diseases. Health Minister Annette King says while no cases of SARS have yet been reported in New Zealand, it is prudent to be as prepared as possible. The World Health Organisation has so far reported 1550 cases worldwide, with more than 54 deaths to March 29. Adding SARS to the schedule of notifiable diseases gives health authorities power to detain and isolate someone suspected of having the syndrome. Annette King urged New Zealanders planning to travel to affected countries to continue monitoring the Ministry of Health's 0800 0800 80 number; or to visit http://www.moh.govt.nz/sars

Gradual remove of asset testing

The government will progressively remove asset testing of older people in long-term residential care from 1 July 2005. Associate Health Minister Ruth Dyson says from 2005, single people and couples with both partners in care will be able to keep up to $150,000 in assets (including property and savings) before their assets are used to contribute to the cost of their care. That's up from $15,000 and $30,000 respectively. Couples where one partner is in care will retain their current exemptions of a house and car. Their cash asset exemption will rise from $45,000 to $55,000. The exemption thresholds for all groups will then increase by $10,000 a year, progressively removing asset testing.

Affordable healthcare for more Kiwis

One in four New Zealanders, about a million people, now receive their primary health care through Primary Health Organisations (PHOs). From April 1, 22 new PHOs began operating, bringing to 34 the number established since last July. Health Minister Annette King says most PHOs are funded to allow enrolled patients to pay $20 or less for a standard visit to see a doctor or other health care worker. A government injection of $400 million over three years is allowing PHOs to be introduced progressively throughout the country.

Tabling of initial trade in services offer

The government has made public its initial offer for the latest round of negotiations in the General Agreement on Trade in Services. Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton says this was a first step in a negotiations process that would open doors for New Zealanders selling skills around the world. Jim Sutton says New Zealand doesn't have to open up its own economy any more than it is already. Public health and education, and water distribution systems are not included in the GATS offer. Jim Sutton says the interests of Maori, as reflected in the Treaty of Waitangi, continue to be upheld and there will be no changes to the screening mechanisms for foreign investment or to government-held Kiwi shares.

Strengthened code for care of international students

The government is moving to strengthen the code of practice for pastoral care of international students and further protect the billion-dollar export education industry. Education Minister Trevor Mallard says growth in export education has been rapid over the last three years. The government had to ensure this was not at the expense of quality, did not jeopardise our international reputation and that international students continued to be well cared for. Trevor Mallard has launched a public discussion document looking at improvements to the code for pastoral care of international students, including those on courses of less than three months and those aged under 13 years. Copies of the discussion document at http://www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/international

Pilot project for youth in Porirua and Waitakere

Better employment prospects for 15-24 year olds is the focus of a regional scheme to be piloted in Porirua and Waitakere. The pilots have received a total of $400,000 from the Ministry of Economic Development as part of a whole-of-government drive to improve the transition of young people from school into quality employment. The pilots are designed to match training and skill development with employment opportunities for young job seekers. Economic Development Minister Jim Anderton and Social Services and Employment Minister, Steve Maharey say the Waitakere and Porirua projects will contribute to the government's goal of ensuring all 15-19 year olds are engaged in appropriate education, training or work by 2007.

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