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Beehive Bulletin Fri, 17 Dec 2004

Beehive Bulletin Fri, 17 Dec 2004


Schools benefit in first phase of review of targeted programmes

New funding of $27 million is to go into schools as a result of the ethnicity weighting being removed from school decile formulas. Co-ordinating Minister, Race Relations, Trevor Mallard says the changes mean 98 per cent of schools will receive additional operational funding from 1 January 2005. The remainder won't lose any funding. Trevor Mallard announced the operational funding lift for most schools in releasing the first part of government's review of targeted policies and programmes.

This confirmed that for most of these programmes, targeting by ethnicity is appropriate, as there is good evidence that this was addressing need effectively. But in funding schools, evidence showed there were better ways to lift the educational achievement of Maori and Pasifika students than including ethnicity in decile formulas.

Aquaculture Reform Bill passed

The $1billion-a-year potential of New Zealand's aquaculture industry can now be realised with the passing this week of the Aquaculture Reform Bill, says Fisheries Minister David Benson-Pope. In November 2001 a moratorium was placed on new consents for marine farms in response to a "gold rush" for space. The Aquaculture Reform Bill has created a new regime that will enable councils to effectively manage aquaculture and encourage the industry to develop in a sustainable way. Maori interests in commercial marine farming space has also been addressed by providing iwi, where possible, with 20 percent of marine farming space allocated since 1992 and 20 percent of any future new space. David Benson-Pope says the aquaculture industry will provide new employment opportunities to many regions of New Zealand

No room for big spending increases or tax cuts

The Budget Policy Statement and December forecasts confirm the government's sound economic and fiscal management and show scope for some additional expenditure in the next few years. But Finance Minister Michael Cullen says these make clear that there is no room for large structural spending increases or tax cuts. The economy has significantly outperformed Treasury's expectations with its budget night growth forecast for the current year being revised from 2.8 per cent to 4.7 per cent and its surplus forecast from $5.7 billion to $6.5 billion. But growth is tipped to be back to around 2.5 per cent in the next two years. That and other factors such as tax to spending ratios reversing as baby boomers begin to enter old age, mean there are huge risks in embarking on large structural spending or tax changes which would have an ongoing cost, says Michael Cullen.

Government response to Agent Orange report

The government this week tabled in Parliament its response to the Report of the Health Select Committee Inquiry into the exposure of New Zealand defence personnel to Agent Orange. Veterans Affairs Minister George Hawkins says the government offers a formal apology to Vietnam veterans for the failure of governments in the past to recognise that veterans were exposed to a toxic environment during their service in Vietnam.

Changes are being planned to streamline the war pensions process including a review of the process of referral to medical specialists. Any veterans who consider that their claims were not fairly considered in the past are able to seek a review. Additionally, the government has reaffirmed its commitment to monitor international research and the programmes of entitlements made available by other governments to the children and grandchildren of Vietnam veterans.

Prisoners and Victims Claim Bill introduced

Legislation has been introduced to Parliament by Justice Minister Phil Goff to restrict monetary compensation to inmates, and to ensure victims are able to be compensated from any monies paid. The Prisoners and Victims Claims Bill will restrict compensation for inmates to exceptional cases, and assist victims to pursue compensation from offenders in those cases for the harm and loss they have suffered. Inmates will have to satisfy the court that no other form of remedy would be appropriate. In the exceptional situation where compensation is to be paid, the Bill gives the prisoner's victims the opportunity and assistance to claim redress from that sum. Phil Goff says the government will make this process as easy as possible for the victims, with eligibility for legal aid and normal court fees waived.

Margaret Wilson nominated for Speaker

The government's nomination for the position of Speaker following the retirement of the Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt next year will be the Hon Margaret Wilson. Prime Minister Helen Clark says Margaret Wilson is a senior politician who has held high office in the government for five years.

She has held the prestigious position of Attorney-General during that time and a range of other Cabinet responsibilities. Margaret Wilson's very considerable legal abilities will enable her to make a substantial contribution to the position of Speaker. It is expected that Mr Hunt's retirement will occur between late February and early March and the nomination will then be formally voted on, says Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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