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Political Update Fri 9 Mar 2001

POLITICAL UPDATE Fri 9 Mar 2001 (No. 01/01)

Labour advice begun The three groups set up to provide advice to the Minister of Labour - on transfer of business and contracting out, holidays legislation and EEO - have held initial meetings and begun consultation with employers. There has been a particularly strong response to the survey on transfer of business and contracting out. Employers wishing to comment on any of the three issues should contact the Employers' Federation on phone 04 4994111, fax 04 499 4112 or nzef@nzef.org.nz

Aussie interest rate cut The Australian interest rate cut to 5.5% followed a joint survey by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Westpac bank showing business confidence was weak, unemployment was expected to rise and exports were falling. Economic growth fell 0.6% last quarter. There are no indications yet that our Reserve Bank might follow suit.

Employers should not have to foot the bill for territorials serving overseas A private members' bill that would force employers to keep jobs open for territorials on deployment is receiving multi-party support, but is not supported by the Employers' Federation for periods longer than the 3 months a year currently allowed for under legislation. The bill does not provide for compensation to be paid for employers to cover the cost of replacement staff. Having to allow leave for unspecified periods of time over and above the current 3 months' entitlement could impact adversely on Territorials by making them less attractive to prospective employers. Why should employers have to foot the bill for maintaining the strength of New Zealand's defence force?

NZ business environment less competitive NZ slipped from 11th to 16th in the world for its business environment in the latest 5-yearly World Investment Prospects Report by the international Economist Intelligence Unit. The report said New Zealand suffered the second biggest fall of countries in the world top 30, being overtaken by Germany, Denmark, Belgium, France and Australia (the biggest fall was recorded by Hong Kong, since the re-establishment of rule by China). Reasons given for NZ's decline in the rankings were the policies of the Labour-Alliance government and the "notoriously unclear" Treaty of Waitangi which discouraged investment, especially in land.

Have your say on compliance costs The Ministerial Panel on Business Compliance Costs has posted its questionnaire on www.businesscompliance.govt.nz

Employers are urged to respond to the survey (by 11 April) so the panel has the best information possible to help reduce the compliance burden on the productive sector. Details on regional meetings during March are also on the website.

Trading on holidays The Minister of Labour has written to the commerce select committee suggesting exemptions to the Shop Trading Hours Act to let garden centres open over Easter, because of consumer demand - the committee is currently considering a wider Bill that would allow all shops, not just garden centres, to trade on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Christmas Day. But if consumer demand justifies exemptions for garden centres, why shouldn't it justify all shops being able to trade on those days?

Venture capital scheme hatching The Government's paper on its Crown Seed Capital Fund proposal is now available on two websites: www.executive.govt.nz and www.morst.govt.nz . The plan is for the Government to invest 'tens of millions' into the venture capital scheme, draw in private sector investors, then withdraw from the scheme. It has hired the founder of Israel's successful venture capital fund, Yozma ( www.yozma.com ) as advisor to the project - Yozma established a network of business incubators alongside its venture capital initiative, as our Government is planning to do. Comments on the proposal are invited and should be sent to Research, Science & Technology Minister Pete Hodgson.

Cutting the ACC tail ACC's surplus may lead to a faster eradication of the 'tail' - its $6 billion liability for long-term claimants. ACC is considering asking Government to decide whether to speed up the reduction in the tail liability in the light of the $70 million surplus achieved in its first six months of operation since regaining its monopoly.

Tertiary education proposals The Tertiary Education Advisory Commission has released its report on the tertiary education sector Shaping the System. It recommends that a new body, a Tertiary Education Commission, be responsible for policy and funding for tertiary education, including industry training - this new body would aim to steer tertiary institutions towards different areas of specialisation so there would be less duplication of courses and more science and technology qualifications. While the aim of more market-related qualifications is generally supported, there may be less support for this proposed way of achieving it since it would remove a large amount of competition from the system. Employers wishing to comment on the proposal can gain further information from marilyn.davies@nzef.org.nz .

Ambassador back to the land Now that her stint as ambassador to New Zealand is ending, former Illinois senator Carol Moseley-Braun, is looking for a new career -- perhaps as a pecan farmer. Moseley-Braun says there's a pecan farm in Alabama that's been in her family for years, and she may just develop it. "I've been a senator. I've been an ambassador. So now let's see if I can be a farmer," said Moseley-Braun - but first she's planning to head for China for a visit.

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