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Beehive Bulletin - 12 December 2003

Beehive Bulletin - 12 December 2003

Transport package to address under-funding across the nation

A $3 billion package of measures to address decades of under-funding of transport infrastructure and streamline decision-making has been announced. Transport Minister Paul Swain says it strikes a balance between the need for a "catch-up" for Auckland and for the rest of the country to further develop its own infrastructure. The proposed funding package increases fuel excise by 5 cents per litre (excl GST) from April 2005, with an equivalent increase in road user charges for light diesel vehicles. The estimated $207 million a year raised will be distributed proportionately, with 35 per cent to Auckland, and 65 per cent allocated regionally for the next 10 years. Auckland will also get a government contribution of $900 million over 10 years, on top of existing transport funding. The new funding amounts to approximately $1.62 billion extra over 10 years for Auckland, and approximately $1.35 billion over 10 years for the regions.

Zimbabwe's Commonwealth withdrawal an indictment

The Zimbabwe government's decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth shows it is determined to ignore international concern about its abuses of democratic and human rights, said Prime Minister Helen Clark. At the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Nigeria, Helen Clark said it was unfortunate that President Mugabe had decided to shut the door on those who could help him rehabilitate his nation in the eyes of the world. The Zimbabwe government's decision to withdraw was not a disaster for the Commonwealth but it was an indictment of Zimbabwe's government that it had chosen this path, said Helen Clark.

New agency for therapeutic products established

The Australian and New Zealand Governments have signed a treaty to establish a single agency to regulate therapeutic products. The agency will, from 2005, replace Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and New Zealand's Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority (Medsafe). It will be accountable to both the Australian and New Zealand Governments, says Health Minister, Annette King. The joint regulatory scheme and agency will effectively integrate the therapeutic products regulatory systems of both countries. The treaty is the result of years of collaboration between TGA and Medsafe and follows extensive consultation with stakeholders in both countries, says Annette King. For more information visit: www.jtaproject.com

Further Defence spending approved by Cabinet

Cabinet has approved several Army acquisitions including the purchase of 188 British-made four-wheel drive Pinzgauer light operational vehicles to replace the ageing Land Rover fleet. Defence Minister Mark Burton also announced approval to purchase 24 Javelin medium range anti-armour weapon systems and an identification, alerting, and cueing system to complete New Zealand's very low-level air defence capability. The Ministry of Defence is also now cleared to invite proposals to replace the Air Force's Iroquois and Sioux helicopters. Mark Burton says the latest approvals have effectively brought an end to the neglect and ad-hoc spending experienced by our Defence Forces throughout the 1990s.

New ACC levy rates stable or lower

Motorists, the self-employed, earners and businesses will welcome ACC levies for 2004/2005 that are lower or the same as the current levies. ACC Minister Ruth Dyson says the average total levy for motor vehicles will fall by 6.8 per cent from $211.95 to $197.50; the average total self-employed levy will drop by 2.2 per cent from $3.17 to $3.10 per $100 of liable earnings; the average total employers' levy will remain at $1.21; the total earners' levy will remain at $1.20. Ruth Dyson said the levy rates continue a trend of stable or reducing levies, providing ongoing stability for businesses and the self-employed so that they can plan ahead with certainty. The new levies by industry classification at ACC's website: www.acc.co.nz

Tougher penalties against P drug menace

Tougher penalties on importers of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine have been agreed by Cabinet this week along with a prohibition on the importation of "P" pipes. Associate Health Minister, Jim Anderton says ephedrine and pseudoephedrine are ingredients in the manufacture of the Class A drug methamphetamine. They are to be classified as controlled drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act, giving Customs wider powers to investigate importation syndicates and allowing penalties of up to 8 years imprisonment for those illegally importing the drugs. The prohibition on the import or supply of pipes used to smoke methamphetamine should be in force before February. Those caught importing and supplying these pipes will now face up to 3 months in prison or a $1000 fine, or both.

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