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Beehive Bulletin - 25 June 2004

Friday, June 25, 2004

Beehive Bulletin - 25 June 2004

Civil Union Bill recognises reality

The Civil Union Bill is appropriate to the times, recognising the reality of relationships instead of attempting to deny their existence, says associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope. The bill he introduced in Parliament this week for civil union was supported on a conscience vote by 66-50. It provides for different sex couples who want formal recognition of their relationship but do not wish to marry and for same sex couples who cannot currently receive legal recognition of a loving and committed relationship. The Civil Union Bill will not amend the Marriage Act and the religious, social and traditional values associated with marriage will remain, says David Benson-Pope. The bill has been referred to the Justice and Electoral select committee.

Family Commission announced

The new Families Commission will be headed by former Race Relations Conciliator Dr Rajen Prasad. Prime Minister Helen Clark says the government, after consulting with United Future, appointed Dr Prasad and five other Commissioners: bioethics specialist Sharron Cole (Deputy Chief Commissioner); psychiatrist Prof Mason Durie; legal expert Sandra Alofivae; former Human Rights Commissioner Carolynn Bull; and long-time family advocate Lyn Campbell. Helen Clark says the Families Commission will be formally established on 1 July to act as an advocate for the interests of families and encourage informed debate on issues affecting families.

Criminal Procedures Bill introduced

The Criminal Procedures Bill has been introduced in Parliament. Justice Minister Phil Goff says under the bill, committal proceedings will involve the prosecution presenting evidence in written form only, unless the defence applies for an oral hearing and is supported by the court. Majority (11 to 1) verdicts will replace unanimous verdicts to reduce the prospect of hung juries. Changes to double jeopardy will allow the retrial of people convicted of perjury or intimidating a witness during an earlier trial, and for retrials where new and compelling evidence of guilt emerges after a person has been acquitted of a serious offence.

Public input sought on free trade agreement with China

The government is seeking submissions from the public on the negotiation of a free trade agreement with China. Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton says the consultation process is an opportunity for anyone with an interest in free trade with China to have their say. The information gathered will help shape New Zealand's position in negotiations with China and help maximise the benefits of an FTA for New Zealanders. Information gained will contribute to a New Zealand-China joint feasibility study into an FTA, to be carried out later this year. Both governments hope to begin work negotiating an FTA early in 2005. A public consultation document and an on-line submission form are available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website. Submissions are due in by 1 September.

Army gets approval for Land Rover replacements

Cabinet has approved the purchase of 133 Pinzgauer Light Operational Vehicles, 60 of which will be armoured. Defence Minister Mark Burton says the vehicles are the second tranche of a fleet to replace the Army's ageing Land Rovers, and will significantly upgrade and enhance Army's mobility and support capability. The announcement follows the government's purchase in March of 188 Pinzgauer vehicles, the first of which are due to arrive in August. Total cost of the 321 vehicles is $93 million. Mark Burton says along with new field communications systems, Light Armoured Vehicles, weaponry, and technology upgrades, the government has already invested close to $1 billion in the Army alone as part of its upgrade of Defence equipment.

National nukes its credibility

National's policy changes on nuclear ship visits will leave it without credibility both in the eyes of the New Zealand public and in its relations with Australia and the United States, says Foreign Minister Phil Goff. National this week stated it would not end the ban on nuclear powered ship unless tested by public referendum. Phil Goff says everyone knows National wants to have nuclear ships in New Zealand but lacks the courage of its convictions to say so, because overwhelmingly this is opposed by New Zealanders. National had once again also undermined the confidence of other countries in it, having indicated, privately, that it would change the nuclear ban, says Phil Goff.

Positive reaction to Maori marine farming proposals

There's been some positive feedback over a government proposal to settle Maori interests in marine farming, left out of the 1992 fisheries settlement. Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope and Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia, this week again met iwi representatives. They supported in principle, the proposal to give iwi 20 per cent of any new marine farming space and where possible, an area equivalent to 20 per cent of the total marine farming space allocated since 1992. The feedback from other sectors of the marine farming industry had also been positive, says David Benson-Pope, enabling further drafting of the Aquaculture Reform Bill to proceed.


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