NZ First proud of police graduation milestone
New Zealand First is proud that this week’s graduation at the Royal New Zealand Police College brings the number of police officers who have completed training during this term of Government to more than 1000.
Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters joined Police Minister Stuart Nash at the graduation of Wing 321 on Thursday.
“As Coalition partners, New Zealand First and Labour agreed to strive to achieve 1800 additional police officers over three years. Even allowing for workforce attrition, we have almost 500 more officers on the street than last year,” said Police Spokesperson Darroch Ball. “That is a great achievement in a short space of time.”
New Zealand First has a long history of working to increase police numbers. In the 1996 coalition with National we wanted to increase numbers by 500, and in the 2005 Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour we strived to achieve an extra 1000.
Latest Police figures show we are making inroads. In the year to October 2018, 9353 fewer people were victims of crime, a fall of 3.5 percent on the previous 12 months.
“This is great news for both the police and the communities they work tirelessly to protect.”
Half-Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update
The Government is committed to delivering a strong economy and the latest figures show this is just what we are doing.
The Half-Yearly Economic and Fiscal Update (HYEFU) released on Thursday showed that the economy is healthy and the Coalition Government is managing the books carefully in accordance with the Budget Responsibility Rules. Highlights include:
- Positive labour productivity growth after five years of negative growth
- Wages forecast to increase by over 3.3% per year across the forecast period
- Business and residential investment growth around 4% per year
- Export growth around 3% per year, and the terms-of-trade remaining strong
- Unemployment to stay low around 4% as businesses continue to hire
“We’re running surpluses, controlling expenses and keeping on top of debt,” said Finance Minister Grant Robertson.
He predicts that the economy will continue its momentum over the next few years, underpinned by investment, productivity and wage growth.
Medicinal Cannabis bill passes into law
Thousands of New Zealanders could benefit from the passing into law this week of the Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Bill.
The new law allows for the domestic manufacture of quality medicinal cannabis products, making a wider range of products available on prescription to those suffering chronic pain. It also includes an exception and statutory defence for those in palliation who possess and use illegal cannabis.
New Zealand First promoted the inclusion of anyone in palliation rather than those who are defined as terminally ill, as was originally drafted. The statutory defence will be available to approximately 25,000 New Zealanders who could benefit from palliative care.
“This Bill takes a compassionate approach to the use of medicinal cannabis, and to those dying in terrible pain it will make a real difference,” said Health spokesperson Jenny Marcroft.
Government announces action against synthetic drugs
New Zealand First welcomed this week’s announcement that synthetic drug strains linked to recent deaths will be classified as Class A under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1975, with additional funding support for community addiction services.
These changes provide Police with the right powers to combat dealers and manufacturers. This is targeted policing - giving greater search, surveillance and seizure powers, as well as harsher penalties for offenders.
Police will also be given discretion in law to not prosecute users for possession and use depending on the seriousness and wider implications of the offence, and where they believe a therapeutic approach would be more beneficial. This change supports the approach that we know that the Police are already taking.
New Zealand First has been supportive of harsher penalties for those manufacturing and supplying synthetics. We had been supporting the progression of the Simeon Brown’s Members’ bill to do so but felt that this Bill needed to go further and was not addressing the whole issue. New Zealand First had submitted a Supplementary Order Paper to increase the penalties in line with that of Class B drugs rather than Class C as proposed. Now that the Government has a more fit for purpose solution. Legislation focusing on only an aspect of the problem will no longer have New Zealand First support.
New Zealand businesses to save $100m in ACC levies
Many New Zealanders will benefit from changes announced this week to some key ACC levies. They include:
- The motor vehicle levy raised from annual car registration fees will be retained at $113 a year. ACC had proposed increasing the levy to $127.
- The Vehicle Risk Rating scheme will end. This indirectly added to the burden of lower-income New Zealanders who were less likely to be able to buy newer cars.
- The average work levies paid by employers and self-employed people will decrease from 72 cents to 67 cents per $100 of liable earnings
- The earner’s levies paid through PAYE (or invoiced directly through ACC for self-employed people) will remain at its current level of $1.21 per $100 of liable earnings
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Government was determined to ensure Kiwis were not being charged more without reasonable cause, while at the same time it was committed to lifting wages.
She said the changes would save New Zealand businesses and their customers around $100 million over the next two years compared to current rates.
The Government has chosen to make road safety a priority through the transport budget, investing $4.3 billion over three years in a range of programmes.
Sweeping changes to education now open for discussion
The Tomorrow’s Schools Independent Taskforce has released its report which proposes sweeping changes to the way schools are run, governed, and managed.
It is the first major review of the education system for 30 years, and will set the tone for the next 30. It shows that the existing model is outdated and that reform is badly needed.
The taskforce held more than 200 meetings around the country. It found that the current school system is failing some students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds; principals feel isolated; enrolment schemes can be unfair; and that Boards of Trustees shoulder too much responsibility and should be more focused on student well-being and achievement.
Recommendations from the report include key changes to the funding of schools, including limiting donations and replacing the decile funding system; introducing "education hubs" to manage the appointment of principals, school property, and provide an advocacy service for families with complaints; and to limit out-of-zone enrolments.
The deadline for public submissions on the report: Our Schooling Futures, Stronger Together l Whiria Ngā Kura Tūātinitini is April 7.
The Government hopes the report will prompt wide discussion and result in a schooling system which works for all children. The review fulfils the Coalition Agreement commitment to develop a 30-year strategic plan for education.
Child Poverty report highlights need for Poverty Reduction law
The latest Child Poverty Monitor, released on Monday, paints a bleak picture of life for many young New Zealanders.
The report found that children in low income families are more likely to get sick, to leave school without a qualification, and to sometimes struggle to get food.
The Government has set the goal of halving child poverty within 10 years and we have moved swiftly. The Families Package, and extending free GP visits to under-14s, the Kiwibuild homes scheme, and new minimum housing standards for tenants are all in place in our first year.
The passing of the Government’s flagship Child Poverty Reduction Bill next week with cross-party support will be the next key milestone.
It is unacceptable to New Zealand First that any child should live in poverty in this country and we are working as a constructive Coalition partner to make life better for all New Zealanders.