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Maxim Institute - real issues - No 199

Maxim Institute - real issues - No 199

6 April 2006

http://www.maxim.org.nz/

GIVING EVERYONE VALUE FOR MONEY?

"BUSINESS-FRIENDLY TAX ACT PASSED

TAKING THE LAW INTO THEIR OWN HANDS

IN THE NEWS: NEW GOVERNOR-GENERAL IS APPOINTED

IN THE NEWS: DEMOCRACY TAKES TIME

GIVING EVERYONE VALUE FOR MONEY?

Tertiary students are people who want to be sure that when they are paying for something they are getting value for money. Likewise, the Tertiary Education Minister, Dr Michael Cullen, has been working on finding value for money for the tax payer. This week he announced new funding arrangements for tertiary institutes, requiring them to focus on offering quality courses that are relevant to New Zealand's "knowledge economy", in the hope that it will bring to an end the nightmare run of irrelevant tertiary courses.

The main change is that tertiary institutes will no longer be funded for the number of pupils they teach in various courses. Instead a new multi-year funding system will be introduced, making financial support conditional on the government agreeing that their courses are relevant in relation to charters and profiles which all tertiary education organisations have had to develop since 2000. Another element is a sharper distinction between each kind of tertiary institute, so that universities, polytechnics and Private Tertiary Enterprises do not unnecessarily duplicate courses.

In terms of accountability and using limited resources wisely, this move is good news. It will make it almost impossible for tertiary institutes to offer courses of dubious value. The days of 'singalongs', twilight golf or dog-grooming are now hopefully well in the past. The changes will also give institutes some certainty in forward planning. But when considering whether to offer courses against the criteria of quality, relevance and "seamless" learning, tertiary providers and the government should not lose sight of the value of courses that might attract small numbers, but which pass on culture and heritage, like literature, languages, history or the arts.

"BUSINESS-FRIENDLY TAX ACT PASSED

The importance of the economic environment we create for business has been highlighted this week with rumours that Fletchers might move overseas. Legislation that may go some way towards helping prevent this kind of thing is the Taxation (Depreciation, Payment Dates Alignment, FBT and Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which received the Royal Assent earlier this week.

The Bill has been hailed as "business-friendly" by most of the major political parties, and passed its third reading with support from
Labour, National, New Zealand First, United Future and the Progressives. According to the Minister of Revenue, Peter Dunne, the effect of the Act will be to produce tax cuts for businesses of $1.1 billion over the next four years.

The Minister told Parliament that the Act will give effect to a number of business-friendly tax measures that were introduced in last year's Budget.

A key change is the alterations to the rules for depreciation of assets, including increases to the rates at which certain types of assets can be written off.

Further changes made by the Act include alterations to the rules on
Fringe Benefit Tax, tax deductions for research and development expenditure and changes designed to make life easier for small businesses. The Act is also meant to make New Zealand a more attractive destination for highly skilled migrants and New Zealanders who have been living overseas, by providing a four-year tax exemption on their foreign income.

The support for business and economic growth which the Act will provide is to be welcomed. However, some of those who voted for it say that additional support for business is needed. The business tax regime will come under further scrutiny during the business tax review provided for in the confidence and supply agreements between Labour and United Future, and Labour and New Zealand First. All eyes will be on this review to see whether it provides the additional support for business that has been called for.

To read the Taxation (Depreciation, Payment Dates Alignment, FBT and
Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, please visit:

http://www.knowledge-basket.co.nz/gpprint/docs/bills/20062683.txt

TAKING THE LAW INTO THEIR OWN HANDS

A nation's response to crime shows a great deal about how people perceive the police. In recent months the papers have been filled with stories of how people have reacted to police failure; to what extent these stories are anecdotal or representative of a wider problem is difficult to say. What they do show is that confidence in the police is vital.

People expect the police to be adequately resourced and organised so they can deal effectively with crime, and rightly so, protecting its citizens is the first duty of any state. When people perceive, rightly or wrongly, that the police are not adequately investigating crime, they tend to take the law into their own hands.

This week's Herald on Sunday reporting on how a man living near a tinny house became so frustrated at its continued operation that he took a baseball bat to the problem, highlighted the lack of police resources for dealing with drug offences. Two days later The Dominion Post told of police delays leading a man to successfully investigate the theft of his car himself, and of victims hiring private investigators or simply not bothering to report a crime. Even if these incidents are the exception, rather than the rule, it's a problem.

Whilst the occasional act of a vigilante might seem to be a good short-term solution, in the long-term such acts will undermine the very foundations of justice. Impartiality is a critical element of justice. It ensures that both the victim and the accused get a fair hearing. The police play a vital role in this process, helping to enforce justice. If enforcement of justice is carried out by vigilantes instead of the police, the checks and balances that help to maintain this impartiality are lost. The police are accountable; they are part of a wider justice system and sit under the authority of that system.

Confidence in the police should be a high priority for any government. Because in a nation founded upon the rule of law, so called 'street justice' is really no justice at all.

IN THE NEWS: NEW GOVERNOR-GENERAL IS APPOINTED

Judge Anand Satyanand has been announced as Dame Silvia Cartwright's successor as Governor-General. With a background in law, Judge Satyanand's appointment seems to have been embraced by all sides (with the notable exception of sports radio audiences). The experience and ability which he is likely to bring to the post of Governor-General has made him a popular choice.

To read an article on the appointment of the Governor-General, please visit:

http://www.maxim.org.nz/main_pages/current_page/ri.php?issue=197#197.3

IN THE NEWS: DEMOCRACY TAKES TIME

This week the limited time allowed for submissions has once again been brought into the spotlight. A Manukau City councillor has complained that she's been allocated, in effect, only four minutes to address the Local Government and Environment Select Committee. The Bills the committee are considering cover the issues of graffiti and prostitution, and in both these issues the community is a key stakeholder.

TALKING POINT

"We sometimes undersell the importance of the family. It is where the young child gains their first learning experiences, where a sense of identity is developed, it is where long-term dreams and aspirations are formed and it is also where modelling of a work ethic first occurs for them."

Graham Young, president of the Secondary Principals Association, quoted in the New Zealand Herald, 3 April 2006

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