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Beehive Bulletin - Fri, 8 Oct 2004

Fri, 8 Oct 2004

Beehive Bulletin

Victims will benefit from prison compensation legislation

Initiatives have been agreed by the Cabinet that will lessen the likelihood of prison inmates being granted compensation while real victims miss out. Justice Minister Phil Goff says wrongs allegedly suffered by inmates while imprisoned are often minor when compared to the far greater wrongs that these offenders have committed against their victims. Phil Goff says his preferred option of simply denying compensation to inmates, would, however, be contrary to obligations New Zealand has accepted under international law.

The criteria agreed by Cabinet will limit payment of damages to inmates to exceptional cases. Changes will also be put in place to allow civil claims by victims against their offenders for damages and for when an offender receives state compensation or any other windfall gains. Phil Goff says he's asked for top priority to be given so legislation can be introduced as soon as possible.

Options for airing cadet concerns being considered

Defence Minister Mark Burton is considering options for an appropriate independent process to respond to issues raised by former cadets of the Army Cadet School at Waiouru. His office continues to liaise with former cadet Ian Fraser, who this week raised concerns about treatment of cadets dating back as far as 45 years ago. Mark Burton says the issues must be dealt with in a serious, professional, credible manner that ensures everyone who has concerns can be heard. He is seeking advice from agencies such as Crown Law and the State Services Commission and urges anyone with concerns to contact his office - jennie.darby@parliament.govt.nz or 04 471 9715

Committee's report on Agent Orange exposure welcomed

A Parliamentary committee's report into the exposure of New Zealand Defence personnel to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War has been welcomed by Veterans Affairs Minister George Hawkins. He says the government acknowledges these personnel served their country in an extremely difficult environment, and it had a responsibility to ensure their claims were heard. The government will examine the health committee's findings and report to Parliament on its recommendations, says George Hawkins.

Holidays legislation in place this month

Labour Minister Paul Swain says the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has done an excellent job in this week reporting back to Parliament on the Holidays Amendment Bill. The government introduced the Holidays Amendment Bill in September following difficulties with the interpretation of some provisions of the Holidays Act.

The committee's key recommendations clarify that: penal rates do not include overtime; employees can choose their doctor if a medical certificate is requested; employers are only required to pay an employee's reasonable expenses, when requesting a medical certificate; employees who are asked for a medical certificate and do not provide it without good reason, may not be paid sick leave. Paul Swain says the government intends to have the bill in force by Labour Day, 25 October 2004.

More Gateways schools providing school-to-work link

The government's Gateway programme to help students move into the workforce or further education is being extended to 55 more secondary schools next year. Gateway enables senior secondary school students to get involved in work-based learning as part of their school studies and gain credits on the National Qualifications Framework.

Associate Education Minister Steve Maharey says the expansion brings the total number of Gateway schools to 180 and around 6,000 students will benefit in 2005. Improving achievement in education and employment is vital to building New Zealand's productivity, addressing skill shortages and improving economic growth. Steve Maharey says Gateway is also important in achieving the government's 2007 target of having all 15-19 year olds engaged in education, training, or employment.

Funding for Wairarapa train services upgrade

A one-off government grant of $10.6 million will be added to $15.85 million to from Transfund New Zealand to upgrade rolling stock for Wairarapa train services. Finance Minister Michael Cullen says a tender process for the new trains is already underway and the date from which new trains can be expected on the line will be announced in coming weeks.

Michael Cullen says the government is working in partnership with Wellington regional and local authorities, local MPs and Toll Holdings Limited, to improve public transport in Wellington. The new money for the Wairarapa service comes hot on the heels of the announcement of the jointly funded $5.4 million upgrade of the Wellington region's 36 English Electric passenger rail units and further refurbishment of Wellington's main railway station.


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