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Key Notes No.59 - Lifting Education Standards

23 October 2009

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LIFTING EDUCATION STANDARDS

I had fun this morning meeting the children at Glen Taylor School in Auckland with Education Minister Anne Tolley. We were there to launch National Education Standards in reading, writing, and maths.

Introducing National Standards was one of our major election policies. They will lift achievement levels for children in primary and intermediate schools, and report children's progress on literacy and numeracy to parents in plain English twice a year.

As many as one-in-five children are not getting the reading, writing, and maths skills they need to succeed. National Standards will help identify those children early so they get more help. The Government is providing $36 million over four years to support schools to introduce the new standards.

PROMOTING SCIENCE

New Zealand's success rests on our ability to make the best use of our scientific expertise. Yet the achievements of our scientists often go unrecognised.

That's why, today, I was pleased to launch the Prime Minister's Prizes for Science. The prizes were another election promise. The Government will provide $1 million a year across five prizes to help lift the prestige of science and attract more young people into science careers.

DELIVERING ON OUR LAW & ORDER PROMISES

We've had a busy few weeks in Parliament passing some of the legislation we promised during the election campaign. Last week, in a speech to the Police Association Annual Conference, I explained how we are delivering on the 10 steps in our Action Plan for Violent Crime:

- Clamping down on gangs and P dealers by giving police and courts more powers to monitor gang communications, dismantle fortifications, and seize the proceeds of crime. Read my opinion piece on P here.

- Tackling violent youth crime by giving the Youth Court a new range of interventions and sentences.

- Strengthening bail laws to make it harder for violent criminals to get bail.

- Removing the right of the worst repeat violent offenders to be released on parole.

- Training an extra 600 frontline police officers.

- Giving police the power to take DNA from people arrested for imprisonable offences.

- Introducing on-the-spot protection orders to help protect victims of domestic violence.

- Establishing a Victims Compensation Scheme funded by a levy on criminals.

- Increasing sentences for crimes against children.

- Making our prisons smarter by increasing drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and work programmes for prisoners.

RESTORING ACC TO FINANCIAL HEALTH

I'd like to thank those of you who have commented about ACC levies.

National is determined to maintain a comprehensive, 24/7, no-fault accident insurance scheme. However, ACC is in serious financial difficulty. Its liabilities have ballooned to almost $24 billion. This is $13 billion more than its assets.

We now have the difficult task of rescuing it financially. The ACC Board has proposed a 64 per cent hike on worker levies and an average 44 per cent increase to employer levies. We don't think that's fair, so we're proposing several measures to reform ACC and reduce levy increases.

Law changes to support this reform will be examined by a select committee. We'll be listening to your views throughout this process.

SUPPORTING FREE-TO-AIR RUGBY WORLD CUP COVERAGE

On Monday, Cabinet agreed to support a joint bid from the Maori Television Service, TVNZ, and TV3 for free-to-air television broadcasting rights for the Rugby World Cup. I'm really pleased the broadcasters have worked together to finalise the bid. The outcome meets our objective - that all New Zealanders can see the main games on free-to-air television. Find out more here.

ON THE ROAD

I'm heading to Thailand this afternoon for the 4th East Asian Summit.

I'll be meeting leaders of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as well as China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, and Australia. One of the things we'll discuss is a proposed economic partnership in East Asia, which has the potential - in the long-term - to create the world's largest free trade area. The countries at the summit account for over half New Zealand's exports, so any move towards free trade will be great news.

After the summit, I'm heading to Malaysia for the signing of the New Zealand-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement. Then I'm off to Japan to promote trade and business links and publicise the 2011 Rugby World Cup. Find out more here.

Best wishes,

John Key

Prime Minister

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ENDS

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