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Pansy Wong's newsletter from Parliament

A comprehensive approach to education

There is an old Chinese saying that you can tell from a three-year-old what they will be like at 80. It is important that all children are given the chance to succeed, and this week National committed to giving Kiwi kids a head-start from pre-school onwards.

Trevor Mallard’s recent ranting about National’s schools policy has shown that he doesn’t have any credible solutions for our nation’s schools.

National’s Education spokesman, Bill English, released our schools policy last Friday, and this week Don Brash showcased the childcare tax deductions that working parents will be able to access under the next National Government.

Currently, many parents aren’t eligible for a childcare subsidy because they earn too much. The next National Government will ease the burden on working parents, particularly second-income earners and employed sole parents, by giving them a tax deduction on childcare costs. This policy is focused on making pre-school childcare more affordable for those already in the workforce, and tackling one of the barriers to employment that parents face, especially sole parents.

All kinds of childcare, from nannies to registered childcare centres, will be eligible for the rebate of 33% of costs up to $5000 a year, which will mean a maximum tax refund of $1,650 per child. This tax deduction would take effect on April 1, 2006.

National is also supporting parents and their children with a strong schools policy that will give every child the chance to succeed.

We will:

- Introduce literacy and numeracy standards.

- Provide reading and maths vouchers for pupils who don’t meet national standards by the age of seven.

- Immediately overhaul the NCEA and reintroduce demanding scholarship exams.

- Make available information on the performance of pupils and schools.

- Slash education bureaucracy by decentralising school management and redirect funding to school budgets.

- Provide more choice for parents.

- Improve choice by relaxing rigid zoning restrictions.

- Allow more school independence.

- Make teaching a sought-after occupation that attracts and retains top people.

- Introduce a plain-language curriculum.

Since Labour took office in 1999, 1,200 new education bureaucrats have been hired and spending in the Education Ministry and other central services has increased at ten times the rate of funding for schools. Labour is content to waste taxpayer money on pen pushers, while parents are forced to fundraise to top up school budgets.

National believes that parents and schools know what’s best for their children, not faceless bureaucrats sitting behind a desk in Wellington. We are committed to giving every child the best chance to succeed and we will restore confidence in the education system.

Facing up to the public

The election battle is gearing up with politicians facing the ethnic communities that make up 10% of our population. Asian and Indian Kiwis are flexing their voting muscles!

A range of groups are hosting political forums to hear first-hand what the political parties are offering them. I am pleased to see that MPs from across the political spectrum are fronting up.

Auckland’s Taiwanese Hwa Hsia society began holding their forums in 1996 with an audience of 3,000. Since then, hundreds have attended these meetings every election year, and the community came out in force last weekend to hear what the eight main parties had to say.

Judging by the kinds of questions coming from the audience, the Taiwanese community has the same concerns as the rest of the country – particularly about high taxes, law and order and the 111 system, the future of the NCEA, and immigration.

Labour MP Chris Carter told the meeting that Labour welcomes migrants and promotes diversity. I pointed out that Asian migration has dropped by more than 60% in the last few years, and every time Labour makes changes to the immigration system, New Zealand First congratulates Labour for adopting its policies.

This was too much for NZ First’s Dail Jones to resist – he promptly got up and congratulated Labour once again.

It’s going to be a fiery campaign - roll on election day!

Pansy Wong


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