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Beehive Bulletin - 10 October 2003

Beehive Bulletin - 10 October 2003
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Opponents of Supreme Court legislation being political

Opposition within Parliament to the Supreme Court Bill is political, not constitutional, says Attorney-General Margaret Wilson. United Future's decision not to support the bill during this week's second reading reflected a wish not to cross the business lobby's opposition to the bill. The government must represent broader interests, says Margaret Wilson and wide cross-party support was not realistic amid opposition for opposition's sake. United Future's stance was as tepid as that of National, which in government introduced its own bill to end appeals to the Privy Council. Margaret Wilson says New Zealand is a strong and confident nation and once the bill is passed, all New Zealanders will, for the first time, have comprehensive second appeal rights in all areas of law.

LIVE online Chat with Pete Hodgson, 7pm Wed 15 October

You are invited to join our live chat sessions on Wednesday and talk directly to government MPs. The next session, from 7-8pm on Wednesday, 15th October, is with Pete Hodgson, who will be taking questions about the expiry of the GM moratorium and any other science, energy or fisheries questions you wish to raise. GM technology will benefit health, science and technology. It will help our economy and create more jobs. The end of the moratorium on October 29 does not mean the flood-gates will open to the production of GM crops. Applications for GM will be considered by ERMA on a case by case basis and will have to meet stringent minimum standards designed to protect the environment. Our strict new food labelling laws also mean that all processed food containing GM material must be clearly labelled to ensure you can choose whether to buy those products or not. To chat on the web, register at www.headsup.co.nz.

Further measures against methamphetamine

The Cabinet has agreed to lower the presumption of supply measure for methamphetamine from the current 56 grams to 5 grams. Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton told Parliament this would allow police to prosecute more suppliers of the dangerous drug. The government has also accepted a recommendation that pseudoephedrine, an ingredient for the manufacture of methamphetamine, be classified as a Class C drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act. Jim Anderton says the pharmaceutical society and industry are keen to support measures to stop access by drug manufacturers while maintaining access for legitimate users. Similar classification of ephedreine, another ingredient in methamphetamine production, is expected to be recommended shortly. Classification to a C class drug for these ingredients would mean penalties against importers would significantly increase.

Debt drop shows reduction in tertiary education costs

A $2.6 billion fall in debt forecasts, largely as a result of government policies, is shown in the latest Student Loan Scheme Annual Report, tabled in Parliament. The Ministry of Education now estimates that the overall gross student loan debt by June 2020 will be $14.4 billion. This compares with an estimate of $17.0 billion last year. The reductions are credited to policy changes introduced in the 2002 and 2003 budgets, especially the new fee and course costs maxima. Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey says the latest figures show that fee maxima and other measures such as no-interest-while-studying and three years of fee freezes are delivering the government's commitment to make tertiary education more affordable for students.

New law protects people from 'buy back' housing schemes

Legislation was passed this week with a focus on stamping out 'buy back' schemes, which saw many innocent homeowners lose their homes through the actions of unscrupulous creditors. The Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Bill replaces outdated credit law with strong, innovative legislation to better protect New Zealand consumers involved in credit contracts, consumer leases and buy-back transactions. Consumer Affairs Minister Judith Tizard says tough penalties and new disclosure requirements will create a disincentive for operators to continue running buy-back schemes, protect consumers against further losses as well as providing remedies for those already involved in such schemes.

Ministers and Auckland mayors meet

The mayors and chair of all eight of Auckland's councils met with government ministers and the Prime Minister this week, discussing key issues affecting New Zealand's most populated region. Organised by Local Government Minister Chris Carter, it the first official forum of ministers and Auckland local authorities in Wellington. The forum explored Auckland's transport issues, the development of sustainable cities, crime, drugs, the Gambling Act, and the Local Government Act. Chris Carter says it was evidence of the Labour-Progressive Government's on-going effort to take a strategic approach to the economic and social development of Auckland.

Government buys Wellington Railway Station

The government will buy the Wellington Railway Station from Tranz Rail. Finance Minister Michael Cullen says the ground floor of the building will continue to provide the existing Tranz Rail services, while the upper floors will be leased to Tranz Rail and to Victoria University for its Faculty of Commerce and Administration. All tenants will pay market rentals. Michael Cullen says the deal will secure the future of the Category 1 listed building, assist the tertiary education sector and fit in with the government's plan to secure the assets required to manage and control rail track infrastructure. The Crown will pay Tranz Rail $8 million plus GST for the building. Victoria University will manage a significant upgrade - expected to cost around $12.5 million – for which the Crown will pay.

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