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Beehive Bulletin - Fri, 29 Oct 2004

Fri, 29 Oct 2004

Beehive Bulletin

Enhancements to key immigration policy

Enhancements to the Skilled Migrant Category (SMC) were announced this week. Immigration Minister Paul Swain says the SMC shifts New Zealand's skilled immigration policy from passive acceptance of residence applications to actively recruiting the skilled migrants that New Zealand needs amid increasing labour and skills shortages. The enhancements, which take effect in December, increase the level of points allocated to skilled employment, qualifications and work experience in areas of absolute skill shortage and recognise a broader range of qualifications where they meet industry needs. There are points for having close family support in New Zealand. More information at www.immigration.govt.nz

Working for Families package gets OECD approval

A report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) gives a vote of confidence on the government's Working for Families package. Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says the report acknowledges that the package has 'the potential to transform the lives of many families'. Steve Maharey says some of the report's recommendations are already being carried out, such as better incentives to work, increased childcare assistance, and monitoring of domestic purposes benefit reform. Steve Maharey says the statistics speak for themselves. Since 1997 the proportion of sole parents leaving a benefit for work has almost doubled.

Sex offence loopholes will close under new bill

Women who commit sex offences against children will no longer be able to escape the law when a bill closing the current loophole is passed. The Law and Order Select Committee this week reported the Crimes Amendment Bill (No. 2) back to Parliament, clearing the way for it to be passed through its final stages early next year. Justice Minister Phil Goff says the bill significantly toughens the law against both males and females who commit predatory sex offences against children and young people under the age of 16. The maximum penalty for sexual connection with a young person aged between 12 and 16 will be increased by three years, from seven to 10 years' jail. The time limit for prosecuting such offences will also be removed.

New direction in providing housing

The launch of a new national organisation that aims to strengthen and expand community-based housing marks a new direction for the provision of housing in New Zealand. Housing Aotearoa aims to link, support and represent community-based groups throughout New Zealand that provide housing to people on low incomes or with special needs. Housing Minister Steve Maharey says we are no longer simply looking at the future of 'state' housing in New Zealand, but increasingly at the future of community-based housing in which the state plays a supportive and enabling role. To back this shift the government is making $64 million available through the Housing Innovation Fund. Over 70 applications for potential partnership arrangements have already been received.

International report on primary health care

An international report shows New Zealand scores highly on speedy access to primary health care and the quality of doctor-patient relationships. Health Minister Annette King says New Zealand scores best of all five countries in the Commonwealth Fund 2004 report on the ease of getting primary health care. Sixty per cent of 1400 New Zealanders surveyed say they can get same day appointments with their GP, around twice the rates of Canada and the US. New Zealand's doctor-patient relationships are also better than the other countries as is access to weekend and after hours care. Annette King says the survey shows we're doing well but need to keep doing better in areas such as reducing the cost of access to health care, particularly for people on low incomes. That's the government's priority in implementing the Primary Health Care Strategy. See the report at www.cmwf.org/

New school participation statistics

More students than ever before are attending early childhood education immediately prior to starting school. Education Minister Trevor Mallard says Ministry of Education statistics show the upward trend for early childhood education attendance continues. This year 94 per cent of Year 1 students regularly attended early childhood education before starting school. Retention in the senior secondary school appears to be increasing. In 2004 the retention for 17 year-olds has increased by 3 per cent from 2003 and 4 percent from 2002. The Ministry's statistics also show that the number of students participating in Maori medium education has increased. Trevor Mallard says despite many positive aspects in this year's school statistics, there was a 17 per cent decrease in the overall number of foreign fee paying students in New Zealand schools. See http://www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/julyschoolstatistics

Drug education resource goes to schools

All schools with Year Seven to Year Thirteen pupils have this week been posted a resource kit to strengthen drug education in schools. Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton says the kit aims to provide schools with the most up-to-date information. International evidence indicates that the most effective drug education is taught in schools as part of the curriculum and the materials are directed at principals and health education teachers. The handbook was produced after extensive consultation with schools, drug education providers and interested members of the public. The booklet endorses abstinence as a valid strategy, along with strategies to deal with drug use and how to help users back on to a drug-free track.


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