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Beehive Bulletin Fri, 3 Dec 2004

Beehive Bulletin Fri, 3 Dec 2004

Civil Union Bill passes second reading

The Civil Union Bill, which would enable couples, both opposite-sex and same-sex, to formalise their relationships, passed its second reading in conscience vote in Parliament this week, 65 votes to 55. Associate Justice Minister David Benson-Pope, who is leading the Bill through the House, says the Civil Union Bill will help foster a positive human rights culture in which people, regardless of their sexual orientation, are shown the dignity and respect, to which they are entitled. Although the bill deals equally with de facto heterosexual relationships, same-sex couples do not have the option of marriage, so David Benson-Pope says for them the availability of civil union takes on an even greater importance. A third and final reading of the bill is expected before Christmas.

Negotiations to start on free trade deal with ASEAN

New Zealand, Australia, and the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are to launch negotiations towards a Free Trade Agreement. Prime Minister Helen Clark, who returned this week from the historic ASEAN Summit in Laos, says the agreement is a significant trade breakthrough and an opportunity to build closer links with our ASEAN neighbours. Five ASEAN countries are among New Zealand's top twenty trading partners and the region accounts for more than eight per cent of New Zealand's exports. A free trade agreement would mean better access for New Zealand to a market of over half a billion people, says Helen Clark, and help strengthen New Zealand's strategic ties in the region.

Government, business and unions tackle productivity

Improving workplace productivity so profits and wages continue to grow is a major challenge facing New Zealand's economy, says Labour Minister Paul Swain. A Workplace Productivity Working Group Report, released this week, highlights that our performance is low relative to many other OECD countries. It identified seven key drivers for lifting workplace productivity: building leadership and management capability; creating productive workplaces; encouraging innovation and technology; investing in people and skills; organising work more effectively; sharing ideas. Paul Swain says the government, NZ Council of Trade Unions and Business New Zealand have agreed to take responsibility for advancing productivity and he'll report to publicly on progress every six months, starting next July.

Extensions to paid parental leave

New paid parental leave laws now apply under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Act 2004. The period of paid parental leave rises from 12 to 13 weeks for babies due, born or adopted on or after 1 December 2004. This will rise again to 14 weeks from 1 December 2005. Women who've worked for the same employer for the previous six months for at least 10 hours per are now able to access paid parental leave. Previously it was a minimum of 12 months. Eligible employees receive a maximum payment of $346.63 per week for 13 weeks. Associate Labour Minister Ruth Dyson says paid parental leave is an enormous success and work will continue on extending the scheme to the self-employed More info@ freephone 0800 800 863 or www.ers.dol.govt.nz

Extension of scheme assisting beneficiaries into work

A new approach to support people on Sickness and Invalid's Benefits back into work has been extended to Wellington after being piloted in Auckland. PATHS (Providing Access to Health Solutions) helps people on the benefits get back into work by providing access to a range of health interventions, including intensive physiotherapy, access to pain clinics and fitness programmes Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says the programme is part of the government's $20 million Sickness and Invalid's Benefits Strategy which will be implemented over three years.

National Centre for Tertiary Excellence announced

A major new initiative to support excellence in tertiary teaching was announced this week by Associate Education (Tertiary Education) Minister Steve Maharey. A National Centre for Tertiary Excellence will be established next year to build on the work already undertaken to acknowledge and reward excellence in tertiary teaching. The government has agreed to provide up to $4 million a year for the Centre's operating costs to support tertiary teachers in areas like curriculum development, methods of assessment and good teaching practices.


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