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Beehive Bulletin: Fri, 20 Aug 2004

Fri, 20 Aug 2004

Beehive Bulletin

Cullen asks why Brash bags New Zealand

Finance Minister Michael Cullen has questioned what National Party leader Don Brash hoped to achieve with criticism of the New Zealand economy while in Australia. Dr Brash suggested in an Australian newspaper article that New Zealand risks becoming "just another Pacific island state...potentially suffering from the same kinds of problems." The comments are made as New Zealand's growth performance continues to grow, at more than twice the rate of the OECD average in the recent quarter. Michael Cullen says after Dr Brash's spectacular embarrassment over comments on the nuclear ship policy surely he had learnt to stay out of commenting internationally - and stick to learning the ropes at home.

New moves to fill Pacific Island quotas

New measures to enable Pacific Island quotas to be filled are underway. Immigration Minister Paul Swain says these are necessary because places being taken up under the Samoan and Pacific quotas have been falling well short of what is available. Each year there are 1100 places under the Samoan quota and 650 under the Pacific Access Category, which includes Tonga, Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati.

People applying under the quota need to have a job offer in New Zealand and meet minimum health, English language and character requirements. Among the changes are speeding up the verification of job offers and accepting applications from Pacific Islands citizens already lawfully in New Zealand. Paul Swain says these measures will benefit Pacific nations and help New Zealand at a time of low unemployment.

More assistance to rebuild Afghanistan

Foreign Minister Phil Goff has been in Afghanistan meeting government leaders and visiting New Zealand Defence Force personnel serving there. Phil Goff says President Karzai expressed profound gratitude for New Zealand's substantial contributions towards achieving improved security and economic conditions for the people of Afghanistan, through the combat operations of our Special Air Service, the work of the NZDF Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan, and development assistance.

A further allocation of up to NZ$5 million for on-going reconstruction assistance for 2004/05 was announced, with a focus on education, agriculture and governance, particularly in Bamiyan. New Zealanders can be proud of their contribution towards achieving a better life for Afghans, says Phil Goff.

Best youth Parliament yet

Youth Affairs Minister John Tamihere says he was very impressed with the high standard of Youth MPs at this week's Youth Parliament. The questions put to Government Ministers were as good as the official Opposition on a good day, says John Tamihere.

He also welcomed the lively and constructive debate held on the drinking age and says it is important for the government to note the strong views voiced by Youth MPs, most of who were opposed to returning the legal drinking age to 20. Speaker Jonathan Hunt declared this to be best youth parliament to date.

Drop in those leaving school with no qualifications

Ministry of Education statistics show the percentage of students leaving school with no qualifications has dropped. Education Minister Trevor Mallard says it's fallen from 18 per cent of all leavers in 2002 to 15 percent of 53,425 school leavers in 2003. ("No qualification" in this survey means a student has fewer than 14 credits at level 1 NCEA.)

Particularly encouraging is the fact that fewer Maori and Pasifika students are leaving without qualifications, with the numbers also at their lowest in ten years. The numbers of students across the board leaving with a qualification higher than NCEA level 1 is also on the increase, says Trevor Mallard.

Government confident new bill will be acceptable to charities

The government recognises the invaluable contribution the charities sector makes to society and is open to changes to new legislation, says Commerce Minister Margaret Wilson. She says she's aware of sector concerns about the Charities Bill and its potential compliance costs.

The bill is currently before the Social Services Select Committee, which is yet to deliberate on it. Margaret Wilson says she's asked officials to work with the select committee to ensure that the legislation is workable and does not impose unnecessary costs on charities. She's sure the committee can report back a bill that reflects and addresses the concerns of the sector while maintaining the public's faith in charities.


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