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Beehive Bulletin - 12 March 2004

Beehive Bulletin - 12 March 2004
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Paid parental leave to be extended

Prime Minister Helen Clark announced this week the extension to paid parental leave from 12 weeks to 14 weeks over the next 2 years. Parents will be able to take paid parental leave if they've been at the same job for at least 6 months, rather than after a year as at present. A Department of Labour evaluation shows both employees and employers have adjusted well to the entitlement. Eligible parents will get 13 weeks of paid parental leave from 1 December 2004 and 14 weeks from 1 December 2005. The combined cost of the new proposals for a full year is $17.3 million. This adds to the current annual expenditure for the scheme of $51 million.

Crime resolution up and crime rate falling

Official New Zealand crime statistics issued this week for the calendar year 2003 show a 1.2 per cent reduction in recorded offences per 10,000 people. This is accompanied by an increased crime resolution rate of 43.5%, the best result since 1987. Police Minister George Hawkins says for too long people have believed that crime is rising when it's not. The public should feel reassured that this government is tackling crime and recruiting more police. Staff levels are higher than ever. The police budget for 2003/04 was a record $1.1 billion. Police now have many upgraded stations, a $29 million vehicle replacement programme, new equipment and better legislation like the new sentences for methamphetamine use and distribution.

Action Plan for women launched

This week's launch of The Action Plan for New Zealand women is an integrated government approach to improving the circumstances of women. Minister for Women's Affairs Ruth Dyson says this is the first time any government has committed to an integrated plan to improve women's lives. She says women are still facing many barriers preventing full participation and equality in society. Women are concentrated in low-paid jobs, earn less than men even in the same professions and still occupy less than one-third of all senior management positions. The initiatives in the plan include promoting women's success in enterprise and involvement in modern apprenticeships, reducing impact of student loans on women, greater support for early childhood education and increasing women's access to financial planning advice.

Prime Minister says Treaty inquiry needs consideration

Calls for an inquiry into the place of the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand law need to be listened to very carefully, says Prime Minister Helen Clark. She says these issues go to the heart of our nationhood. Over many years, governments of all shades had concluded Treaty settlements and put references to the Treaty in legislation and public policy. These developments were off the general public's radar screen because they were seen as peripheral but the cumulative impact now brings the issues to the fore. Helen Clark says meantime the National Party's cynical politics stand fully exposed, with Don Brash rejecting the idea of an inquiry into the Treaty.

New Zealand to assist stability in Afghanistan

The government is deploying more personnel to Afghanistan and the Gulf region to support nation-building and reconstruction. Prime Minister Helen Clark says there is a clear need for assistance to improve stability particularly over the next few months when voter registration is taking place in Afghanistan. The deployment entails fifty New Zealand Special Air Service personnel, extensions to the commitment of two NZDF non- commissioned officers, the redeployment of one Navy frigate for four months and if required, one RNZAF P-3 Orion aircraft.

World-class contract for MetService

Minister for State Owned Enterprises Mark Burton says the new MetService BBC contract for their Weatherscape XT graphic package is proof that New Zealand is a world leader in innovation. MetService Weatherscape XT is already used internationally, including Nine Network Australia and CNBC stations in Europe, Dubai, Turkey and Asia. The BBC contract will add considerable value to this successful State Owned Enterprise and lead to greater dividends to its owners – the people of New Zealand.

No intervention at Ruapehu

The government has reviewed ways in which it might intervene to try to prevent a lahar or mudslide from the Crater Lake on Mount Ruapehu and decided against intervention. A lahar is expected to occur on Ruapehu early next year when an ash dam around the volcano's crater collapses releasing hundreds of millions of litres of water trapped inside it. Conservation Minister Chris Carter says the options for attempting to prevent the lahar are impractical, unsafe, or likely to make the problem of lahars on Ruapehu worse in the future. Instead the decision is to continue to bolster the extensive safety measures already in place around Ruapehu. These measures have already reduced risks from the lahar to minimal levels.


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