Gun law reform under way
The process of reforming our gun laws is under way and is expected to be completed by the one-month anniversary of the Christchurch attacks.
The Arms (Prohibited Firearms, Magazines and Parts) Amendment Bill had its first reading in Parliament on Tuesday, will be reported back from select committee on April 8, pass into law on April 11, and come into force on April 12.
The legislation bans all military style semi-automatics and assault rifles. Related parts used to convert these guns into MSSAs are also being banned, along with all high-capacity magazines.
The swift action on gun control has been met with cross-party support at Parliament and from interest groups including Federated Farmers, Fish and Game, Trade Me, Hunting and Fishing.
Later in the year there will be a second stage of reforms which will consider wider issues including stronger and more effective licensing rules, storage requirements, and penalties for not complying with gun regulations.
The Government is moving quickly on the initial controls in order to keep our citizens safe. New Zealanders have made their expectations clear that they want guns out of their communities as soon as possible.
“Our thoughts remain with our Muslim communities and the people of Christchurch,” Police Minister Stuart Nash told Parliament during the introduction of the Bill. “We are doing this for them. We are doing this for our future generations. It is our responsibility.”
Kiwis better off with changes delivered this week
This week sees the Coalition Government deliver a raft of changes which will improve life for workers, businesses, and families. Key changes effective from April 1 include:
- Minimum adult wage increases by $1.20 to $17.70 an hour, the biggest increase in New Zealand and the second in our term in Government. The commitment to increase the minimum wage to $20 by 2021 is core New Zealand First policy and part of the Coalition Agreement
- $1 billion Research & Development tax incentive which provides a 15 percent tax credit to any business spending a minimum of $50,000 on R&D
- ACC levies drop by on average from 72 cents to 67 cents per $100 of liable earnings, saving businesses and customers $100 million over two years
- New KiwiSaver contribution rates of 6 percent and 10 percent introduced, and workers aged over 65 allowed to sign up
- New Zealand Superannuation and Veterans Pensions increase by 2.6 percent
- Greater support provided for domestic violence victims, with a new right to 10 days' domestic violence leave, and flexible working conditions.
The Government is committed to making New Zealand more sustainable, productive and inclusive.
“From tomorrow many New Zealanders and businesses will start to reap the benefits of that commitment,” said Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.
PM trip to China
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a brief but successful trip to China early in the week. While the trip was shortened to only one day in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks, she met with both Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.
During talks with Premier Li the leaders reiterated the shared commitment to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between our two countries and discussed ways the economic relationship could be strengthened, including upgrading the existing Free Trade Agreement.
They discussed China’s Belt and Road Initiative, and regional and global issues where New Zealand and China have common interests, including our support for the World Trade Organisation. They also released a joint statement that committed both countries to working together more to address the impacts of climate change.
In the meeting with President Xi, a range of topics were discussed, and both leaders welcomed the significant growth in recent years of trade, cultural and social ties, and other connections.
While in Beijing, Ms Ardern witnessed the signing of a new taxation treaty with China. It replaces the existing Double Tax Agreement with a more modern set of rules which ensures that the bilateral framework for taxing cross-border economic activity remains up to date and fit for purpose.
The Prime Minister also invited President Xi for a State visit to New Zealand as part of New Zealand’s hosting of APEC in 2021.
Member’s Bill seeks better protection for First Responders
The First Reading of Darroch Ball’s Protection for First Responders and Prison Officers Bill continued in the House this week, after being interrupted in October last year.
The Bill creates a new offence under the Crimes Act to protect first responders - defined as police, emergency health and fire service staff, and prison officers.
Injuring them with intent would see a mandatory prison term of at least six months, unless manifestly unjust. The maximum prison term would be 10 years. It also brings assaults on firefighters and paramedics into the Summary Offences Act. Currently, only those who attack police face an aggravated assault charge.
More than 2000 ambulance officers last year reported abusive altercations, including assault. Police officers reported being assaulted 346 times last year.
“We need to protect our emergency response workers, Mr Ball says. “No-one should go to work worrying about their safety and whether or not they might be assaulted while trying to carry out their job.”
“This Bill draws a line in the sand.”
PGF provides big boost to regional economic development agencies
Regional economic development agencies are to receive a substantial funding boost through the Provincial Growth Fund to bolster capacity and progress projects which meet key economic goals.
Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Regional Economic Development Fletcher Tabuteau announced a total of $5.6 million in funding this week - up to $200,000 a year of funding per region for up to two years for organisations in regions eligible for PGF funding.
“People living and working in our regions already know the opportunities in their patch and work hard every day to capitalise on those opportunities, but need capacity support to accelerate key projects through the PGF.
“This PGF investment is a great example of how our Coalition Government seeks to work, creating an environment which will bring communities on board in shaping the outcomes that affect their place,” Mr Tabuteau said.