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Beehive Bulletin - 21 May 2004

Monday, 24 May 2004
Beehive Bulletin
21 May 2004

Exciting Budget looms for modest income families

The May 27 Budget will be one of the more significant and exciting of recent history, says Finance Minister Michael Cullen. He says five years of consistent fiscal prudence by the Labour-led government has created a platform upon which other goals can be achieved without unacceptable risks or tradeoffs. Budget 2004 will make serious progress on improving the living standards of ordinary low to middle-income working families, says Michael Cullen. It will also move further towards goals such as investing in economic development, strengthening public services, securing the incomes of the elderly and upgrading key infrastructure.

Further funding to fight methamphetamine, gangs

An additional $39 million is in this year's Budget to tackle the methamphetamine trade and organised crime over the next four years. Justice Minister Phil Goff says heading the initiatives are resources to ensure an effective crackdown on drug manufacturers. These include a third 12-person Police 'clan lab' team operation. Increased meth analysis work by Environmental Science and Research ESR will be matched by additional funding of $17 million. ESR is to hire a further six scientists and technicians by Christmas. The police's National Interception Centre (NIC), which undertakes electronic intelligence aimed at organised crime and gang involvement in the drug trade, will see staff increase from 13 to 31.

Counter-terrorism capacity boosted

New Zealand's counter-terrorism capacity will be boosted by the formation of dedicated national security teams. Police Minister George Hawkins says Budget 2004 provides $14.8 million over the next four years to allow 35 additional police to be deployed for specific national security duties during the current financial year. The majority will go to units that will conduct investigative and intelligence-related work. An identity fraud team will be established, along with a police liaison post in Suva to ensure contact with other law enforcement agencies in the South and West Pacific.

Budget boost for court system

Increased pressure on the court system will be eased by a $73 million injection from Budget 2004. Courts Minister Rick Barker says the government is putting $30 million over four years into running digital audio technology (DAT) to improve evidence recording and transcription in courts, which should result in a 12 per cent reduction in the hearing times. The budget also invests $1.56 million in a two-year pilot using mediators rather than judges in four Family Courts to work with families involved in custody proceedings. Rick Barker says courts are getting busier because tougher legislation, high crime resolution rates and more police, means more criminals are being caught and brought into the court system, despite the crime rate coming down 13.8 per cent since 1996.

Telecom's lines to open to broadband competition

Telecom New Zealand will be required to allow broadband (Internet-grade) competition on its wires but not telephone call competition (local loop unbundling) at this stage. Communications Minister Paul Swain says his decision to accept these recommendations by the Telecommunications Commissioner was a line call judgement, made in the best long-term interests of consumers. The government wants a greater broadband take-up by New Zealanders as rapidly as possible and in a more competitive environment. Paul Swain says his decision presents the best opportunities to achieve that but Telecom is on notice that failure to rapidly facilitate broadband competition at a higher speed may see him refer issues back to the Commissioner.

Package for forestry sector

The government has agreed to a package of new forestry sector initiatives that recognise forestry's value in addressing climate change. The 5-year package includes a $12 million regional and industry market development programme; a $2.8 million bio energy programme; a $5 million investment in industry labour and skills; $1.4 million to assist international market access and, in a related boost to the industry, regional development transport funding of $23 million per year. Convenor of the Ministerial Group on Climate Change, Pete Hodgson, says a strong and profitable forest industry plays a key role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The package also recognises that the forestry industry is a major regional employer and driver of future economic growth.

ENDS

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