National’s bill to reduce the number of parole hearings so victims are spared needless stress and anxiety has passed its final reading in Parliament.
The bill reduces the number of parole hearings for offenders who still pose a threat to the community. It also includes measures to improve the efficiency of the parole system.
Each year, up to 800 parole hearings are held that don’t need to be. The bill increases the maximum interval between hearings from one year to two years. For serious offenders, it increases the maximum time between parole hearings from three to five years.
If offenders complete rehabilitation and relevant activities, hearings can be brought forward, giving incentives for prisoners to address their offending and reduce the likelihood of reoffending.
National is raising the adult minimum wage to $14.75 an hour on 1 April. Also on the up is the starting-out and training hourly minimum wage, set at 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage.
This increase takes the current conditions of the labour market into account, and balances the need to protect our lowest-paid workers, while ensuring jobs are not lost. The new minimum wage is a 2.7 per cent increase above the annual rate of inflation and will add around $60 million a year to the economy in wages.
National’s committed to building a more competitive and productive economy with more jobs and higher wages.
Superannuation payments and benefits are set to increase on April 1 this year as part of National’s commitment to help New Zealand’s most vulnerable people.
Superannuation payments for our elderly will increase by around $11.60 a week for married couples and $7.50 a week for those living alone. This little bit extra helps elderly people live a full live, receiving 66 per cent of the average wage.
Benefits will increase in line with inflation, as they have done each year since 2011 when National introduced legislation ensuring people relying on welfare are not worse off because of inflation.
These increases manage the balance between good fiscal responsibility and proving suitable support for those in need.
The latest health targets show frontline health services are continuing to improve under National’s commitment to deliver better public services.
District health boards (DHBs) across the country delivered 5,441 more elective surgeries than planned, and they are focused on reducing the amount of time people wait to see a specialist and for procedures such as hip replacements.
All our DHBs continue to make progress towards the new faster cancer treatment target. Two-thirds of patients with suspected cancer received treatment within 62 days of referral.
Across New Zealand, more children are being immunised, more people are getting checks for diabetes and heart disease, and more people are getting help to quit smoking, which is helping to improve their lifestyles.
The announcement of the members of the Flag Consideration Panel is the next step towards New Zealanders having the rare privilege of having a meaningful say on one of the most important symbols of our nation.
The 12-member panel will be chaired by Emeritus Professor John Burrows, ONZM, QC, who was co-chair of the Constitutional Advisory Panel. Writer and reviewer Kate de Goldi will be deputy chair.
The independent panel will be responsible for public consultation beginning in May. New Zealanders will be invited to send in designs or ideas for a possible alternative flag. The panel will then shortlist four designs for the first postal referendum. That will take place later this year and voters will be asked to rank the designs in order of preference.
The winning design will run off against the current flag in a second, binding referendum to be held in March next year.
This week the Government announced its decision to deploy a non-combat training mission to Iraq as part of New Zealand’s overall contribution to the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Up to 143 NZDF personnel will join the two year mission, providing behind the wire training to Iraqi Security Forces so they are better able to fight ISIL.
Along with this deployment we are stepping up our humanitarian and diplomatic efforts in the region.
Although this has not been an easy decision to make, New Zealand cannot stand by while this organisation commits atrocities and poses a significant threat to international security. New Zealand is a country that stands up for its values.
The Government has required assurances that our personnel will be as safe as they can practicably be and we are confident our defence force will carry out this mission effectively.
National has rolled out audio visual link (AVL) technology to 12 prisons which hold remand prisoners, along with Auckland Prison (at Paremoremo) – which holds the highest-risk prisoners.
AVL technology allows prisoners to appear before a judge without leaving the secure confines of prison grounds. Prisoners can spend more time at rehabilitation and reintegration activities if they do not have to leave prison to attend court.
It also reduces the risks associated with transporting prisoners to court, such as the safety of the public, and corrections and courts staff. And it eliminates the risk of contraband being smuggled into prison, and the risk of escape while out of prison.
Over the last year, court escorts have already reduced by nearly 5,000 due to AVL, and this number is increasing.
National is committed to delivering better public services and modernising our court system with the technology that will deliver faster, cheaper, and more convenient court services.