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    Letter No.150
    2 August, 2001

    28 June 2001

    Visiting American welfare analyst Charles Murray asks NZ to exclude solo parents from benefit entitlements. In this country as a guest of the Business Roundtable, Murray says that a single woman with children is "not an economically viable unit" and those babies should be adopted out. Murray: "I want a small state that has strong private institutions for dealing with human needs to try cutting off all assistance to some segment of the population — let's say girls under 21. If you don't see babies starving in the streets, then you have a basis for carrying it on."

    Student associations gear up for a public awareness campaign on student debt by publishing the Student Debt Casebook. It includes interviews of students on how their debt is affecting their lives. NZ University Student Association co-president Karen Skinner says that students see debt as a hindrance to obtaining mortgages, saving for their retirement, doing further study and even getting involved in relationships.

    29 June 2001

    Housing NZ agrees to look at all substandard housing in the Far North and bring them up to habitable standards. Ngapuhi Runanga chairperson Sonny Tau says his authority and Housing NZ will do a survey over the next fortnight and fix immediate problems like windows, doors and electrics. Tau says they will be working on both private houses and houses people are squatting in. He says emergency shelter will be found for people whose houses are found to be beyond repair.

    The NZ economy had 0% growth for the quarter to March this year.

    2 July 2001

    A European Union court determines that all workers, including short-term and contract workers, are entitled to paid holidays. The ruling will effect millions of British workers who, until now, were not entitled to paid holidays because they didn't work for the same employer for more than 13 weeks.

    3 July 2001

    The National Party is looking at restricting the amount of time young people can be on the dole. Deputy leader Bill English says the party is considering a policy change that would see young unemployed people's benefit either stop altogether or reduce after a set time.

    Unemployment in the US rises to 4.6%, the highest in two years. Japan now has an unemployment rate of 4.9%, the highest in 60 years.

    4 July 2001

    The NZ University Students Association tells government that until it meaningfully addresses student fees, student debt will continue to be a serious problem. NZUSA co-president Andrew Campbell says that students who borrow the maximum they are entitled to can take over 20 years to repay their loan. A Ministry of Tertiary Education spokesperson says their estimates, based on average cases, are that males take 9.6 years to pay off their student loan and females take 16.8 years.

    Minister of Social Service Steve Maharey defends the Domestic Purposes Benefit (DPB)saying that there is no evidence that it is being used by teenage women as a lifestyle choice. Maharey says that the typical solo parent beneficiary is a woman in her 30's with one or two children who goes on the benefit after a relationship breakdown. He says fewer than 3% of those on the DPB are teenagers.

    ACT Party's Muriel Newman says that NZ should take its lead from the US on how to bring down "welfare dependency". Newman says NZ should require all able-bodied people to undertake work or training in return for their benefit. She also says that no persons should be allowed to receive a benefit for more than two years at a time or for more than five years in their lifetime.

    5 July 2001

    The Napier City Council is planning an advertising and internet promotion campaign to help attract skilled workers to the district. The shortage of skilled workers in Hawke's Bay is a perennial problem and Claire Vogtherr of the Chamber of Commerce says this has a dampening effect on business in the region.

    In Britain, the government is attempting to bring in legislation that would require periodic medical means-testing for people on incapacity benefits. Government proponents of the measure estimate that if disabled people had to undergo medical checks every three years, 70% of them would be deemed fit to return to work. Presently, incapacity benefits in Britain are granted for life.

    6 July 2001

    As many as 75 staff will lose their jobs as City Super-Value supermarket in Blenheim announces it will close its doors.

    At the Student Loans Summit 2001, Alliance MP Laila Harre says that what is known about the effects of the student loan scheme is primarily anecdotal and that parliament needs more information about the intended and unintended consequences of the scheme. She also calls for careful thinking about the financial implications of changes to the student loan scheme. Harre: "If we truly want this, we have to decide how we will take the burden of debt off individual shoulders and deal with it as a whole society."

    8 July 2001

    Minister of Housing Mark Gosche says the government is looking at toughening-up the Residential Tenancies Act to include hefty penalties on landlords who fail to comply with work orders on residential properties they own.

    The Gisborne District Council condemns a Tolaga Bay house, privately administered by Minister of Maori Affairs Parekura Horomia, as unfit for human habitation. William Crawford, who has lived in the house with his family, says they had been paying $110 per week in rent until five months ago after having complained about the state of the house to Horomia for five years. Crawford says there has been no maintenance on the property for 12 years. Horomia says the house is part of an estate and that he is the executor of the will but not the owner of the house.

    9 July 2001

    A television programme partly aimed at raising community awareness about meningococcal disease and tuberculosis screens on TV1. The Defending Our Health documentary says these are diseases of poverty and overcrowding and blames government policies in the 1990's that withdrew subsidised housing for low-income earners as contributing to their resurgence in NZ.

    Job vacancy ads are up 4.2% on last month and the figures are well ahead of last year's in all regions, according the ANZ Bank job ad survey.

    parekuragaps.gif - 16783 Bytes
    Garrick Tremain — The Press

    A Gisborne District Council report on a Tolaga Bay house Parekura Horomia is responsible for, gives the estate 90 days to effect the necessary repairs. A report says the house has a porch roof in danger of collapsing, a leaking roof and sagging ceilings, rotten floor boards under the kitchen sink and bath, holes in walls, an unconnected waste pipe to the kitchen sink, an unsecured toilet, loose power fittings, exposed electrical wires, and a polluted water supply. The tenants blame the house for health problems they have suffered and are now living in a Housing NZ house.

    The student loan scheme is a disincentive for people becoming qualified early childhood education teachers, according to the Primary Teachers' Union. The union's Jenny Varney says that qualified people have a starting salary of $22,000 but typically come into the system with a $30,000 debt. Varney says the most recent figures available indicate that only 35% of early childhood teachers have a teaching diploma and 20% have no training at all. She blames the large proportion of unqualified staff on their unwillingness to become indebted.

    Increased farming incomes are resulting in buoyant retail sales figures. Even though retail sales have slumped in Auckland and Wellington, nationally they were up 0.4% in May driven by increased South Island and rural North Island spending.

    12 July 2001

    The Australian economy lost 3,000 jobs in June, following a 4,100 drop in job numbers in May. Even so, Australian unemployment remains the static, at 6.9% of the workforce.

    The Sealord Group joint venture fishing company announces plans to create 40 NZ jobs with a new product it is developing and an additional trawler coming to NZ waters.

    13 July 2001

    tremain rankin file.jpg - 31603 Bytes
    Garrick Tremain — The Press

    Christine Rankin was paid her normal rate of about $1,000 per day for the eight days she was employed as Winz CEO during her Employment Court hearing. Rankin says she did not take annual leave or time-off without pay because she went to work before the hearings started at 10 am each day, went to work after the hearings finished in the afternoon, and she worked weekends.

    14 July 2001

    The crown incurred direct costs of about $135,000 for defending the legal action by Christine Rankin. It estimates indirect costs at $310,000.

    New jobs will result from an expansion of timber processing company Juken Nissho at its Kaitaia mill in Northland, if its plans are approved. The firm has applied for resource consent to spend up to $50 million in the expansion and that, on completion, 70 new jobs would be created at the mill.

    15 July 2001

    Christine Rankin is criticised for being paid while she was taking her employer to court. Employment law expert Peter Cullen says that most people would take leave from work, if they haven't already quit, while suing their employer.

    The vice-chancellors who are representing NZ's eight universities in negotiations with government Ministers over university funding say that the Ministers say there is no hope of more money, at least in the first half of next year. Vice-chancellor James McWha says that the government's unwillingness to contemplate an arrangement with meets genuine inflation means that universities now "face stark choices".

    16 July 2001

    Massey University is considering raising fees by 27%, or an average of $1,089 per student, if it opts not accept the government's funding offer for next year. It says if it accepts the offer and does not increase fees, it will have to cut $11.5 million from its budget.

    Technology company Motorola Corporation cuts 4,000 jobs globally.

    17 July 2001

    The Green Party pulls out of the government's free-trade negotiations with Hong Kong saying that if the agreement goes ahead, the cost will be borne by NZ's 18,000 clothing workers. Green co-leader Rod Donald says the government is sacrificing thousands of our most vulnerable workers to Hong Kong traders who will not commit to meaningful Rules of Origin practices. He says that compelling evidence confirms that the only effective way to protect NZ jobs against unscrupulous traders is to keep the current tariff regime in place for textiles, clothing and footwear.

    Contrary to Australian public perception, there is no "brain drain" in Australia. A study by Bob Birrell and Virginia Rapson of Monash University says Australia has gained over 155,000 more skilled workers than it lost over the last five years. Like NZ'ers, Australians have been fretting under the impression that it is losing a disproportionate number of their talented people overseas.

    19 July 2001

    Tawa will lose 45 jobs as Deltec, an award-winning NZ company is sold and the new owners shift the production side of the business to China.

    19 July 2001

    Same sex couples will soon be treated the same as heterosexual couples in regards to benefit eligibility and entitlements. Until now, gay relationships have not been recognised by Winz and people in same sex relationships have been treated as two single people rather than as a couple. Single people are entitled to higher benefits and their eligibility does not have to consider a partner's earnings.

    21 July 2001

    Beneficiaries and solo parents are a focus of the inaugural speech at the National Party's conference. Social services spokesperson Bob Simcock promises to clean-up the job register saying that people who need an income will be required to work under a National government.

    Nearly 500 people have been on the domestic purposes benefit for 20 years according to Winz statistics.

    25 July 2001

    Nearly one-third of all Americans live in "critical hardship" according to Hardships in America, a report prepared by the Economic Policy Institute. It assesses critical hardship as the inability to afford low-cost housing, licensed childcare and health insurance. It also says that one-quarter of all working Americans can not afford more than their basic housing costs, leaving healthcare and childcare out of reach. EPI chairman Peter Edelman says there are too many jobs that don't pay enough to live on. Edelman says President George Bush's proposal to rely on religious organisations to provide social services is a "phoney magic wand".

    Between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs will be cut by Lucent Technologies, a manufacturer of telecommunications equipment in America. The company announced earlier in the month that 8,500 of its workers had accepted offers of voluntary retirement.

    27 July 2001

    National Party MP Marie Hassler supports paid parental leave, subsidised child-care and tax rebates in order to get the population increasing. These changes would encourage NZ'ers to have more children and, along with relaxing immigration rules, would result in an increasing population that she says is critical to increasing NZ's economic development.

    A Treasury policy paper suggests the government provides job-search and relocation-assistance for people to move way from regions that are struggling economically. Towards an Inclusive Economy acknowledges that the cities, and Auckland in particular, are the drivers of the NZ economy and looks at ways to bring the rural workforce to the urban centres where there are jobs. However, Treasury concedes that the result may leave the people who are left in regions like Northland and Gisborne even worse off than they are now. The paper is the first that Treasury has written for the current government, which has asked that it's policy advice encourages both economic growth and social integration.

    State Insurance announces it will close its 120-staff Hamilton call centre and its 55-staff Tauranga call centre by the end of the year. The company will also close half of its "sales centres" which currently employ about 70 people. State's David Smith says that all staff are being encouraged to apply for new jobs in the new national structure.

    On Energy's customer service staff are likely to lose their jobs as the company has sold its retail customer base and has no more customers to service. Some 200 staff in Christchurch, 60 in Hamilton, and 40 in Wellington are affected.

    Computer and printer manufacturer Hewlett-Packard is cutting 6,000 jobs from its worldwide workforce.

    29 July 2001

    US fibre-optic communications equipment maker JDS Uniphase has made 16,000 people redundant after posting a $US50.6 billion loss, thought to the largest annual loss ever recorded.

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