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Beehive Bulletin: Friday, 10 June 2005

Beehive Bulletin
Friday, 10 June 2005

Fewer New Zealanders live in poverty

Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey this week welcomed news showing fewer New Zealanders are living in poverty. The Ministry of Social Development's analysis of the three-yearly Household Economic Survey shows the proportion of dependent children below the poverty line has fallen from 27 per cent to 21 per cent. The proportion of children in sole parent families below the poverty line fell from 61 to 43 per cent. However, the gap between rich and poor continues to grow, with income inequality increasing slightly between 2001 and 2004, in line with a trend starting in the 1980s. Steve Maharey says that after tax and housing costs, low income families now have more money in their pockets each week than they did in 2001. This reflects the government's investment in families through policies like income-related rents, paid parental leave, low cost primary health care, and a focus on reducing unemployment.

PM returns from successful North Asia visit

Prime Minister Helen Clark has had a successful visit to China and Japan. The visit to Beijing included meetings with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, with the Chinese leaders expressing a desire to accelerate negotiations around a high quality and ambitious free trade agreement between New Zealand and China. The PM is reluctant to predict when talks will conclude, saying the key is to get a decent agreement. In Japan, Helen Clark met Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura, called on the Emporer at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, and attended the New Zealand's 'national day' at the Aichi World Expo on 3 June. The programme for Aichi also included a reception aboard HMNZS Te Mana.

Support for Maori sports and cultural events

Maori Affairs Minister Parekura Horomia this week outlined a $1.7 million Whanau Development Sport and Culture Fund, to be administered by Te Puni Kokiri, to encourage participation in sports and cultural activities. It will support projects showcasing Maori culture and sports, such as international events and the priorities of whanau in the community. Two events already supported were the National Secondary Schools Waka Ama competition (involving over 1,200 paddlers and over 600 coaches, managers and parents) and Matariki celebrations for Maori New Year, showcasing Maori artists, weavers and designers.

Nearly 8000 in modern apprenticeships

Education Minister Trevor Mallard said this week that nearly 8000 people are now enrolled in a modern apprenticeship and 1000 had already finished their training. Budget 2005 set aside almost $6 million for 500 more modern apprenticeships. Modern apprenticeships fill a vital role in addressing skill shortages in key industries, including well over a thousand in building and construction, over 900 in electrical apprenticeships, over 1200 engineers, over 900 in the motor industry and 1300 in agriculture-related industries. The government aims to have 15 to 19-year-olds in appropriate education, training, work or other options by 2007.

NZ assisting fight against AIDS in Pacific

Aid Minister Marian Hobbs has reaffirmed New Zealand's commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS in the Pacific with the help of our Pacific partners. The minister says: "As we have seen in Africa, inaction can have terrible consequences. In the Pacific, we see a 10-year window to halt and reverse the spread of the virus." Through NZAID, NZ's aid and development agency, about $26.2 million a year is being spent on fighting HIV/AIDS, and this is likely to increase over the coming years, following the significant increase in aid spending announced in the Budget. NZ also recently gave $2 million to United Nations Children's Fund to help stop HIV/AIDS affecting Pacific children, including preventing the transmission of the virus from mothers to children and teaching life skills to adolescents. NZ is also providing financial support to Pacific Islands AIDS Foundation projects, and a unique safe-sex programme in Fiji.

Govt receives report on land-to-mobile phone calls

The public pays too much for land-line to mobile phone calls, according to a Commerce Commission report welcomed this week by Communications Minister David Cunliffe. The commission is recommending regulation of these "termination rates," for so-called fixed line voice calls on a cellphone network, but not voice calls using 3G mobile technology. Mr Cunliffe expects announce the future process for making his decision shortly. Under the Telecommunications Act the minister may accept the commission's recommendation, reject it, or request the commission to reconsider its recommendation. Copies of the report can be downloaded from the Commerce Commission website at (www.comcom.govt.nz).


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