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Beehive Bulletin – 21 April 2006

Beehive Bulletin – 21 April 2006

NZ responds to Solomon Islands call

New Zealand this week sent 30 police officers and around 25 army personnel to the Solomon Islands to help restore law and order in Honiara, the scene of civil unrest following the election of Snyder Rini as Prime Minister. NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark said the decision to boost New Zealand's presence followed a request from the Solomon Islands government. Police were still trying to regain full control and the Solomon Islands government needed assistance from its neighbours to restore law and order, Helen Clark said.

The additional police officers will boost the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI) Participating Police Force, which already includes New Zealand police officers. The army personnel will reinforce the existing New Zealand Army platoon, whose primary role is to guard Rove Prison. The platoon is also currently providing security at Henderson airfield.

Debate over Sir Charles Upham's medals

Defence Minister Phil Goff this week expressed regret at the proposed sale of Sir Charles Upham's Victoria Cross and bar to a private buyer. Sir Charles' family is trying to sell the medals and had offered the government first option to buy medals. Mr Goff said while the sale decision was for his family to make, it would be disappointing for the medals to be lost from public access.

The government did not believe it was appropriate for the public to pay the $3.3 million asking price for the medals, as this would be unfair to the 19 other families who gifted or loaned VCs to New Zealand museums, seeking nothing in return. Mr Goff believed Sir Charles' himself would not have approved of the sale- a point disputed the family. Mr Goff said the war hero consistently stated that the credit for his VCs was shared with the men whom he led. The family has reportedly said the time was right for them to sell. Mr Goff regarded Sir Charles Upham's achievement as one of the finest and most important aspects of New Ze

New law on salary sacrifice

The government will introduce legislation to minimise the use of excessive 'salary sacrifice' as a means of paying less tax, the government announced this week. Finance Minister Michael Cullen and Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said that in many cases, high-income employees 'sacrifice' their salary merely to reduce their income tax.

This is done by arranging a dramatic reduction in their salary in return for a proportionate increase in employer superannuation contributions, which are taxed at a rate lower than their salary. The Ministers said this was a misuse of the tax rules on employer superannuation contributions resulting in great unfairness to others on similar incomes. In the extreme, those who take advantage of salary sacrifice may pay thousands of dollars less in tax. Unless stopped, the practice could create a revenue loss of between $90 million and $120 million a year. The changes will see most employees taxed at about the right marginal rate on their employer superannuation contributions. The

Talks with European Union, Russia

Foreign Minister Winston Peters this week held ministerial talks with the European Union Presidency in Vienna. Following talks with the EU Presidency in London last November, this week's talks with Austrian Foreign Minister Plassnik and EU External Relations Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner confirmed real momentum in New Zealand's relations with the EU. New Zealand is building on traditional trade and economic links, to encompass new areas such as education, science and technology and counter-terrorism, Mr Peters said. Development assistance is another important area of cooperation. New Zealand welcomed the EU's commitment to maintaining its engagement in the Pacific.

Mr Peters also met with Austrian President Heinz Fischer. Austria and New Zealand share similar outlooks on many international issues, including the United Nations, Mr Peters said. Austria's international role is evolving, with scope to expand bilateral links in foreign policy, trade and investment, tourism and people to people contacts. In Mosc

Engaging with Hawke's Bay business

Prime Minister Helen Clark and several Cabinet Ministers this week met with business leaders from the Hawke's Bay region as part of the government's on-going engagement with the regions. She told the forum that she hoped discussions between ministers and local stakeholders would offer some insight and practical feedback on how they could best work together to build on the region's dynamism.

Helen Clark said that under a Labour-ed government, the economy had moved up the value chain and was more resilient, but there was a need to move to the next level in the economic transformation agenda.

She pointed to the need for more globally competitive firms, higher productivity, business investment and skills levels, more innovation, and to address infrastructure constraints on New Zealand's performance. The government had a policy programme for this year to address those issues. They include reviews of business tax and regulatory frameworks, spending on transport infrastructure, plans for faster and cheaper intern


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