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ETS The Wrong Approach

Posted on 21 Jul 2009

ACT New Zealand Finance Spokesman Sir Roger Douglas today urged the Government and the Emissions Trading Scheme Select Committee to carefully scrutinise the report released last week by the Centre of Independent Studies.

"The report states, quite rightly, that an ETS is the wrong approach and advocates a carbon tax – not as the best option but, rather as the best option currently available," Sir Roger said.

"At least a carbon tax would result in revenue for the Government, which can be used to reduce company and personal income tax rates. Linking climate change policy to tax cuts will ensure that it does not significantly damage the economy.

"The report also outlines that agriculture should be excluded. Taxing agriculture does little to facilitate a sustainable low-emission economy. A carbon tax which excluded agriculture would still provide important incentives toward new technology without harming the economy.

"If the Government feels it must be seen to be addressing climate change, it must do so in a manner that causes the least possible harm to New Zealand’s economy and those who drive it – especially our farmers and other primary producers," Sir Roger said.

ENDS

Seeking The Best For Our Children

Posted on 19 Jul 2009

Hon Heather Roy speech to ACT Regional Conference; Bunnythorpe Methodist Church Hall, Bunnythorpe; Saturday, July 18 2009

The current economic climate has had a significant effect on our decision-making. Things that we, as a country and as individuals, had previously been able to afford are now thought about much more carefully before the cheque is written.

A recent article in the UK's 'Telegraph' newspaper told a story that we in New Zealand are already well familiar with. It's essentially about parents, unable to afford a private school education and wanting to send their children to particular State-run schools because they like the style of education offered, but then being unable to do so for a variety of reasons - most often because they live outside the enrolment zone. The article concluded that:

"To win an elusive place in the school of their choice, parents are using tactics that make Machiavelli look like Snow White."

It is always difficult to completely overlook one's own experiences as a parent when considering education. I have five children and we have had experience of just about every schooling option, including at two independent schools.

We had an interesting discussion around my family's dinner table recently: my 13-year-old, who started this year at a popular State secondary school, told us unprompted of all the tricks engaged in by 'out of zone families' in his class to get their children in to this particular school.

He told us of the different experiences of three of the students in his class of 32. One is living with grandparents during the week, so as to have an 'in zone' address; another's family has moved in to an 'in zone' apartment for a year.

This is nothing new - but the fact that the kids themselves obviously compare stories tells a story of its own. I know of some Boards of Trustees who dedicate a Boardmember to the role of private investigator - their job is solely to make sure students really do live where they purport to.

Why am I telling you about these difficulties with state school enrolments? Because at the core of the issue is choice. Who can blame parents for doing everything in their power to gain the best for their children? Why do we tolerate an education system that allows for this?

Many would love to send their children to an independent or integrated school, but just can't afford to. Parents will move house; hire a flat for a year; send children to live with family members who are 'in zone'. Parents want the best education for their children and will often go to extraordinary lengths to get it.

Choice is important to parents, to children, to society on just about every front - yet we limit the choices parents have when it comes to sending their children to the best school for them. There is something wrong with this picture - it's the way we think about access to education, availability of educational options and affordability of those options.

The annual per capita rates for independent schools have not changed since 2000 when the subsidy rate was capped. As a consequence, most private schools have had to increase tuition fees - which, in turn, means parents look more carefully at their budgets before choosing one.

This year's Budget announcement will help independent schools in a small way. Private schools currently receive $35.4 million annually in funding. Starting next year, an additional $10 million per annum will increase the overall funding to $45.2 million per annum. If calculated per head on enrolled student, this equates to a 28 percent increase per student.

This additional funding honours the National-ACT Government's commitment to increase families' education choices so they have more freedom to select schooling options that best meet their children's needs. A small start, but a good one.

There has been some comment in recent months regarding additional funding to private schools, with some commentary going so far as to label this as 'stealing' from State schools. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Parents who send their children to an independent school actually help to alleviate the burden on the State education system. These parents are actually paying for their children's education twice: once through their taxes, and again when they cover the cost of choosing a private school for their child.

Tough times call for innovative thinking - this applies to schools, business, and to the Government itself. While no one wants to see business closures in the short-to-medium-term, where firms would have survived had it not been for the credit-crunch, it is not the role of Government to intervene and keep businesses afloat when they are no longer viable.

Businesses are being encouraged to look at innovative ideas and solutions in order to get through these uncertain economic times.

National and ACT in Government want to provide parents with greater freedom to send their children to the school of their choice based on educational quality, school ethos, and the needs of their children - not based on central planning or a particular ideology. Education should be a network of provision that strives for excellence in all sectors - whether that is state-run or independent.

Under the Education ACT of 1877 education was to be free, secular and compulsory for children aged seven-13. Today the Government funds education for students aged five-19. But nowhere is it written that the Government must provide the education outcomes, own education property or even employ the teachers and staff.

Take roading, for example. While Governments are committed to building roads that are free to drive on, they often contract private companies to plan, build and maintain them. So why not in education?

I see no impediment to the Government contracting private organisations to provide education - so long as that provision is cost-effective, performs well and is of a high quality. Providing choice means providing options for parents and students - a 'one size fits all' State-run model provides only one option which, by its very nature, offers no choice at all.

As part of the National-ACT Confidence & Supply Agreement, it was agreed that an Inter-Party working group would be established to consider options for increasing parental and student choice in education. I am pleased to announce that this group has been formed and a robust work programme established. I am chairing this project along with members from the ACT, National and Maori Parties.

The group has begun work on this very complex area and plans to report back to the Minister of Education by the end of the year. Despite ACT being a small Party in Government, we have been able to deliver on one of the key initiatives from the Confidence & Supply Agreement with National.

This means we can finally enter into a proper discussion about education - an open and frank dialogue that focuses on the needs and aspirations of all, without the shackles of dogma and ideology. The ultimate outcome of this will be that parents and students have greater freedom when choosing an education path without interference from central Government.

Greater freedom from central Government is something that ACT campaigned on in 2008 - promising to reduce red tape and cut bureaucracy in order to free up business and grow the economy.

Independent schools already enjoy some freedom from Government regulation, and I'd like to see this extended. But businesses - and I place private schools in this category because, to survive, they have to provide a quality service people want to buy - risk become hamstrung by excessive regulation and compliance requirements.

This is why ACT drafted the Regulatory Responsibility Bill and commitment for ongoing work - so that businesses could operate more effectively without the yoke of needless compliance and red tape.

But accepting Government funding also means accepting that Government will want a say in how that money is utilised. In my experience, Government assistance nearly always comes with a catch - Government interference in daily operations.

It is very important that all schools are able to focus on the needs of students and parents, rather than on the demands of Government.

I want principals and teachers to lead learning; I want schools to get on with teaching and boards to provide proactive governance. Valuable time and energy shouldn't be wasted on satisfying an over-powering and needless bureaucracy. Our sole aim needs to be delivering the best education outcomes for all children and young people so they have all the tools and opportunities with which to reach their full potential.

We need to place high trust in leaders at the front-line, and encourage and promote self-managing schools. This means strong educational leadership in every school is critical to achieving education goals be that state, integrated, independent, Rudolph Steiner - whatever the philosophy.

I recently received a letter with this paragraph included in it. I couldn't have said it better myself:

"Blind ideologies and politically driven philosophies should not stand in the way of supporting an independent education sector that has a proven track record, that promotes choice, diversity and innovation, that gives parents the basic right to choose the education that best suits the needs of their children, that provides a net fiscal benefit to the State, that frees up valuable resources for the State school sector and that prevents New Zealand from taking a backward step towards a State-controlled monopoly education system, one that would serve only to produce mediocrity and strip this nation of its ability to education and produce exceptional young New Zealanders who will rightfully take their place on the world stage as outstanding leaders."

I wish to end by emphasising my belief that a strong and dynamic independent sector can improve the overall performance of the education sector as a whole.

I believe that parents have the right to choose what is best for their children's education and that - far from creating barriers - the role of Government should be to encourage choice, and nurture an environment where the best outcomes for students are paramount. An environment with a level playing field that encourages every student to reach their potential. A strong, vibrant and healthy school sector is critical to the success of this goal.

ENDS

So Others Might Live In Safety

Posted on 18 Jul 2009

Hon Heather Roy speech to Operation RATA II Departure; Ohakea Airmovements Terminal, Ohakea; Saturday, July 18 2009.

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand, Air Vice Marshall Peter Stockwell: it's a pleasure to be here this morning to farewell our soldiers and sailors, and to meet with the families and friends of those deploying today.

I can see and feel that you are all 'in the zone' - you have been well trained and prepared for your task and I have every confidence that you are ready, willing and able to do the job your country has asked of you.

My words this morning are, therefore, short and simple. It could be called a "soldier's five", but could equally be described as a "mother's five". You servicemen and women who are about to board an aircraft to the Solomons don't need me to tell you what to do.

Many of you already have operational service; for others, this is your first tour of duty. Either way, you are all part of a proud New Zealand history of doing our bit, sticking up for what we know is right and helping others to live in peace and safety.

Each and every one of you will be representatives of our country and her reputation. I know you will hold the flame of freedom high.

You are an impressive mix of regulars and reservists showing the strength of our Defence Force by working as one.
I enjoyed meeting with many of you at Linton during your pre-deployment training. I know that you are well prepared for the tasks that will be expected of you - from ROVE Prison external security and being part of the Quick Response Force, to patrolling in a number and variety of settings and deploying to outposts and providing protection and support to the Participating Police Force operations.

I'm looking forward to joining you for a few days in early September, by which time you will be well settled into your routines and able to expertly direct this 'rookie sapper' in your tasks.

To the partners, children, parents and whanau here - and the many who couldn't attend to farewell this contingent - I offer the heartfelt thanks of all New Zealanders for your contribution.

I know the separation of deployments is very demanding on you too, and understand the gap that waving goodbye to your loved ones today leaves in your lives. You too are serving your country with your sacrifice so that the mothers, children and extended families of the Solomon Islands - people that you will probably never meet - can live in safety.

The New Zealand Defence Force has a robust welfare system for families of deployed troops. Please use it. No system is perfect, but it gets better every day. I am committed to helping the NZDF make improvements so that your tour of duty on the home front runs as smoothly as it possibly can.

To those who are departing, and to those who are staying behind, our country thanks you. Be bold and decisive in all your roles and be there for each other.

I look forward, not only to visiting you in theatre but, to welcoming you all back here before long.
ONWARD!

ENDS

Minister Farewells Troops To Solomon Islands

Posted on 18 Jul 2009

Associate Minister of Defence Hon Heather Roy today bid farewell to the personnel of the New Zealand Defence Force’s Operation Rata II, deploying from Ohakea Air Force Base to the Solomon Islands.

"I have every confidence that these servicemen and women are ready, willing and able to do the job that this country has asked of them," Mrs Roy said.

"While many of these personnel have already participated in operational service, for others this will be their first tour of duty.

"Together, they form an impressive combination of regulars and reservists showing the strength of our Defence Force by working as one - undertaking such duties as ROVE Prison external security, participating in the Quick Response Force, patrolling in a number and variety of settings, deploying to outposts, and providing protection and support to the Participating Police Force operations.

"Heartfelt thanks must also be given to the families and whanau who, with this deployment, are left with a gap in their lives. Without the contributions of those who serve at home, many in the Solomons would not be able to live in safety.

"Each one of these servicemen and women is a representative of our country and reputation. I know they will hold the flame of freedom high, and look forward to visiting them in theatre at the beginning of September," Mrs Roy said.

ENDS

Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 17 Jul 2009

One Small Step For Man...
This Saturday television viewers will be treated to a re-run of what is, in my opinion, one of the best adventure movies ever - Tom Hanks' 'Apollo 13', which is being screened to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 on July 16 1969.

It took three days for Apollo and her crew to reach, and establish orbit around, the moon - with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin leaving the main part of the spacecraft on July 20 to pilot the lunar module to the moon's surface.

The mission's perilousness tends to be underestimated; there was no way that the lunar module could be tested using the conditions it would encounter on the moon and it is a little known fact that President Nixon had two speeches ready for the waiting world: one in the event of a successful mission, and another - never used - in case the astronauts were killed.

In any event, the lunar module 'Eagle' was piloted to the Sea of Tranquillity - named so by early astronomers who assumed the moon's large dark areas were seas, and which are now thought to be large areas of lava dating from an age when the moon had volcanic activity.

As it turned out, the Eagle's planned landing zone was covered in boulders and Neil Armstrong elected to fly on in search of a smoother site. Although he was successful in this, the module contained less than a minute's worth of fuel when it finally touched down.

In 1969 there was no satellite TV, and New Zealand was on the wrong side of the Earth to see the event live. This meant that those determined to hear of the landing had to listen by radio to Armstrong's famous words: "The Eagle has landed."

Surprisingly, the astronauts didn't leave the Eagle immediately. Film of the landings was flown to New Zealand and we watched the astronauts lope around on the moon's surface. Their movements were intriguing - heavy spacesuits protected them from cosmic rays and micro-asteroids and, with the moon's gravity around 80 percent weaker than Earth's, they took huge strides with modest effort. We watched avidly as they practised loping with two legs together and jumping, ending up with a sort of canter that would be impossible to emulate on Earth.

The moonscape proved a major disappointment. Despite many guesses about the terrain, it all looked the same - everything looked like sand dunes and it was impossible to judge distances. A number of space rocks were returned to Earth and geology benefited from the discoveries.

While it seemed then that a major scientific breakthrough had been achieved, in retrospect, the space race was mainly a manifestation of US and USSR rivalry.

Since that day, numerous other Apollo missions were scheduled but - as the programme was cancelled after Apollo 17 - only six more moon landings were to follow. In total, only 12 men belong to that elite group of individuals who have actually walked the surface of the moon.

Following that first moon landing, it seemed the sky was no longer the limit; many predicted that moon bases, galaxy travel - including voyages to Mars - and much more were to follow.

The technology developed was impressive, and most of the equipment that the huge Saturn rockets hoisted into space was designed to keep humans alive in a very hostile environment.

But little of what was thought to be the start of a new era in space travel, and of how humans could utilise space, has come to pass in any practical way - most of the day-to-day tasks can be completed more effectively and safely by robots.

Space has been best utilised as the home of satellites - now commonplace and taken for granted - giving us great advances in technology and an ability to access information that would have seemed impossible only a few decades ago.

Looking to the future, as we grow more dependent on communications, the battle will not be a race to reach the moon or Mars - it will be for control of the electromagnetic spectrum: cyberspace. This control, and the intelligence it provides, will become critical to national and international security; cyberspace is now a recognised battlespace for all major powers.

The main change brought about by the space programme was in our attitude to Earth and the vastness of the universe. Standing on its surface, the Earth seems enormous. Watching it rise above the horizon of the moon, however, it looks beautiful - but very, very small.

Lest We Forget - New Zealand Artillery Opens Fire In Vietnam
On July 16 1965, New Zealand Artillery opened fire for the first time in the Vietnam War when the 161 Battery - stationed at Bien Hoa air base near Saigon - opened fire on a Viet Cong position in support of the American 173rd Airborne Brigade.

From June 1964-December 1972, around 3,500 New Zealand military personnel served in South Vietnam - reaching its peak in 1968 when the New Zealand force numbered 543.

In total, 37 New Zealand personnel died on active service and 187 were wounded in Vietnam - the first war that New Zealand fought without our traditional ally Great Britain, reflecting our strengthening defence ties with the US and Australia.

Our involvement in Vietnam drew protest and condemnation here and abroad - and the then National Government was cautious in its approach. The first response was to send a New Zealand Civilian Surgical Team in 1963. Under continuing US pressure, this was followed in 1964 by 25 Army engineers to work on reconstruction projects like road and bridge building.

The decision to send combat forces was made in May 1965. The Royal New Zealand Artillery's 161 Battery was deployed to South Vietnam, replacing the Engineers in July, and initially placed under the command of the US 173rd Airborne Brigade at Bien Hoa. From June 1966 it served with Royal Australian Artillery field regiments at Nui Dat in Phuoc Tuy Province, east of Saigon, and remained in Vietnam until May 1971.

ENDS

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