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Beehive Bulletin - Fri, 11 Feb

Beehive Bulletin - Fri, 11 Feb

Working for Families ad campaign launched

An advertising campaign has been launched this week, urging New Zealand families to find out what they can gain from the Working for Families package. Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey says it is important that all New Zealand families have the chance to benefit from the additional support. From 1 April this year, 260,000 families - about 55% of all families - will be entitled to more money from Working for Families.

Key changes from 1 April are: Family support will increase by $25 a week for the first child and $15 a week for each additional child; maximum rates for the Accommodation Supplement will increase in a number of areas to reflect the growing cost of housing. Freephone for Family Assistance information is 0800 227 773 and for Accommodation and Childcare 0800 774 004

Goff makes further change to child porn penalties

A further increase to the jail penalty for possessing objectionable material such as child pornography is being proposed by Justice Minister Phil Goff. He intends to make the changes in a supplementary order paper (SOP) to the Films, Videos and Publication Classification Amendment Bill, during its committee stage, expected next week. Penalties for producing and trading in child pornography are already being increased 10 fold to a maximum of 10 years' imprisonment by the Bill.

It also, as introduced, created a new offence of knowingly possessing objectionable material, such as child pornography, that was to carry a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment. The existing provision for possession carries no prison sentence, only a fine up to $2000. Phil Goff says the harsher penalties in the Bill reflects the abhorrence of the government and society for the trade in child pornography and other objectionable material.

Poll finds foreshore and seabed policy fair

Polling data shows clear majority of all New Zealanders and many Maori believe the Foreshore and Seabed Act is fair. The Act removes the possibility of gaining customary title but provides that any group which would have been able to demonstrate such a claim is entitled to redress. Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen says a UMR Research result, based on a sample of 750 people, shows 56 per cent consider the legislation strikes a balance between the rights of Maori and those of the general population.

Among Maori this was also the most commonly held view with 45 percent support, although the Maori sub-sample was comprised only 65 people. Dr Cullen quoted the poll in a Waitangi Day speech, saying the grievance settlement process would take some years yet as settlements were complex and to rush them was to risk getting them wrong. It was, however, reasonable to put a time limit on the lodging of claims so people can see there is an end point.

Police handling of Hamilton incident not acceptable says Minister

Information received about allegations made in Parliament disclose a police response to a 111 call which is completely unacceptable, says Police Minister George Hawkins. He says there is no excuse for a Police staff member to suggest to a victim of an alleged sexual assault that they should make their own way to a police station. George Hawkins says he has conveyed this view to the Commissioner of Police and expects that he will take the appropriate action and report back to him.

Minister introduces new distinction awards

Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope has acted to ensure lower than expected pass rates in some scholarship subjects will not disadvantage students.

A Ministry of Education and NZQA report has identified subjects where the number of scholarship passes is less than what the government or the general public would consider acceptable. David Benson-Pope in those subjects under-represented at scholarship where students have done exceptionally well at NCEA level 3, a 'distinction certificate' will recognise their achievement.

A new 'distinction award', means students who have a combination of scholarship passes and distinction certificates in any three scholarship subjects, will be eligible for an award of $1500 per year for three years. Around 215 more students will be eligible for financial honours, largely mitigating the financial impact of the variance in the 2004 results. Scholarship students who feel they've been marked or graded incorrectly can resubmit exam papers for reconsideration in the norma

Bay of Plenty flood assistance package extended

Cabinet has approved the extension of assistance to farmers hit by floods in the Bay of Plenty in July last year. Agriculture Minister Jim Sutton says the Bay of Plenty had further flooding in December, and the government has agreed to enable farms affected by both July and December floods to claim assistance under the Agricultural Recovery Package for the extra damage caused in the December floods as well.

This means the deadlines for submissions is extended to 1 August this year. Farms can receive a grant of 75 per cent to restore uninsurable damaged property above a threshold of $5,000 or 10 per cent of restoration costs (which ever is greater). Enhanced Taskforce Green assistance will be available till the end of March, extended from the end of December last year.

Alternative to pseudoephedrine approved for sale

The Medicines Classification Committee has recommended that tablet forms of the decongestant phenylephrine should be available for sale over-the-counter. Phenylephrine has similar decongestant properties to pseudoephedrine, but it cannot be converted into the illegal and dangerous drug, methamphetamine or P. Associate Health Minister Jim Anderton says this is good news for people who have a legitimate use for these sorts of decongestants and good news for pharmacists who will be able to stock products that don't have any value to the illicit drug fraternity.


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