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Beehive Bulletin 19 September 2003

Beehive Bulletin 19 September 2003

Affordable health care for 65+ comes a year early

The Government is accelerating a $47 million nationwide initiative to make primary health care more affordable for older New Zealanders enrolled in Primary Health Organisations (PHOs). The Government originally intended to make low-cost primary health care more accessible for New Zealanders aged 65 years and over from 2005/06. It is now bringing the initiative forward a year. A reduction in the maximum prescription fee to $3 for people eligible for low-cost health care through PHOs will be delayed from 1 October until 1 April next year. Health Minister Annette King says this recognises the difficulties pharmacists would face with October 1 seeing the start of prescriptions being able to be issued for up to three months. From July 1 next year all New Zealanders aged 65 years and older who are enrolled in PHOs will be eligible for both low patient fees and $3 prescription charges.

Agriculture not the stumbling block at trade talks

The outcome of the Cancun World Trade Organisation meeting is not the end of the global trading system, nor of efforts to reform it. Trade Negotiations Minister Jim Sutton says the talks did not break down over agriculture but over issues around investment, competition, trade facilitation, and transparency in government procurement. Jim Sutton says he was disappointed for the New Zealand team at Cancun, as significant progress had been made which could still be really positive for New Zealand and developing nations dependent on agricultural exports. All WTO nations now need to reflect on how they can best take this process forward, to deliver the real benefits for developing and developed alike, says Jim Sutton.

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Electricity Commission members named

Member of the new Electricity Commission, which will supervise New Zealand's electricity industry, were announced by Energy Minister Pete Hodgson. The Electricity Commission's tasks will include overseeing the operation of the electricity market, ensuring efficient transmission investment and that New Zealand's electricity supply is secure, even in very dry years, through measures including contracting for reserve generation. American Roy Hemmingway, who has extensive experience in the regulatory management of electricity and other private utilities, will chair the Commission. Other members are David Close, Douglas Dell, Peter Harris, Graham Pinnell and Christine Southey.

Supreme Court Bill gets majority support

The Supreme Court Bill has gained majority support in Parliament after the hearing of submissions and deliberations by the Justice and Electoral select committee. Attorney-General Margaret Wilson says the select committee's report on the Supreme Court Bill marks the historic day when New Zealand has taken political responsibility for its final appellate court. The Green Party gave unqualified support to the establishment of the Supreme Court in New Zealand and ending appeals to the Privy Council in London. The Government is in discussions with United Future New Zealand to secure its support. Margaret Wilson says the Government hopes to pass the Bill by Christmas with 1 July next year a probable start date for the Supreme Court to sit.

Release of ideas to assist small business with tax

Proposals to make tax easier for small businesses are contained in a government discussion document released this week by Revenue Minister Michael Cullen and Associate Revenue Minister David Cunliffe. The main proposals are: Helping small businesses with PAYE through a subsidy towards paying the fees of payroll agents for firms with a certain number of employees – say, up to five; aligning provisional tax and GST payments. Basing provisional tax payments on GST turnover; a discount for self-employed people who pay provisional tax in their first year of business so they get a 6.7 per cent discount for each dollar of tax paid in the first year. David Cunliffe says it is vital for small businesses and their advisers let government know how the ideas would work for them. The discussion document "Making tax easier for small businesses" is available at www.taxpolicy.ird.govt and www.treasury.govt.nZ

New support for bio-technology

A new $12 million fund to support trans-Tasman joint ventures in biotechnology is part of the Government's response to the report of the Biotechnology Taskforce. The taskforce was set up last year under the Growth and Innovation Framework, which identified biotechnology as one of three key sectors with high growth potential and economy-wide benefits. The taskforce reported to the Government in May this year with 28 recommendations for action. Science Minister Pete Hodgson says another response to the taskforce is a $2.3 million programme to support best practice in commercialising biotechnology. A new organisation – New Zealand Bio – launched this week from the merger of the industry group BIOTENZ and the New Zealand Biotechnology Association will receive $1.3 million of support funding from the Government over three years.


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