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The Importance Of Communication

Posted on 05 Aug 2009

Hon Heather Roy speech to Victoria University Research Luncheon on Early Childhood Communication Issues; Wellesley Hotel, Wellington; Wednesday August 5 2009.

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen. My thanks to Vice Chancellor of Research Neil Quigley for the invitation. I am looking forward to your Research Luncheon on 'Early Childhood Communication Issues'.

A warm welcome to everyone, especially our speakers today: Professor Jeff Sigafoos, Professor Vanessa Green and Dr Karen Salmon.

Early childhood communication issues are close to the heart of all parents. Communicating with one's children can be a fraught business at the best of times - my husband recently showed me a book he was reading titled 'How to talk so that your children will listen and how to listen so that your children will talk'.

He found it very useful and we have five healthy children. I know from looking at the research interests of our speakers that they are dealing with problems much more serious than the difficulty of dealing with a taciturn teenager.

In my previous life I was a physiotherapist and my particular interest was in neurology. I had contact with many disabled children and, although my focus tended to be on motor problems, those of communication were always important.

These communication issues have assumed a new and significant importance to me in my position of Associate Minister of Education where they impact on the education and development of those children with special needs.

I don't need to emphasise to this audience how important speech, language and communication are in early childhood. I'm sure you, like me, are looking forward to hearing from the experts about the impact communication has on a wide range of areas in a child's life - including wellbeing, peer relationships, and living with a disability.

When I was doing my physio training, many conditions - with autism foremost amongst them - were regarded as having a poor prognosis. I am very encouraged to see now the optimistic way interventions are described for those who are struggling with language. I was pleased to hear there is now a great deal of evidence that targeted and evidence-based interventions can improve outcomes for children.

I was also pleased to learn that the university is looking at commercial collaboration with its research. The tertiary sector is outside my brief but I was aware that public/private partnerships were being encouraged.

I assumed that most partnerships would be in the technology fields but I appreciate that treatments for disease are a valuable commodity.

As parents, we know that support for communication can contribute to educational success, but it is equally important to our children being happy about themselves and their relationships - we don't want our children to be bullied and isolated.

As Associate Education Minister, I am also concerned with the long-range effects and what needs to be in place in the sector. We need competent and confident early childhood educators who can apply understandings of children's communication development in their interactions with children. We also need to listen to parents when they are concerned about their child's development. Parents know their children best and my experience with parents of children with special needs is they will always go the extra mile to support them.

There must surely be no greater compliment to a researcher than for their work to influence and be put into practise in such a way that it makes a real difference to the lives of those who struggle with situations most of us take for granted. I want to congratulate Victoria University for focussing on the important task of how to practically apply research to its full benefit.

I look forward to hearing from our speakers.


New Scholarships Increase Choice In Education

Posted on 05 Aug 2009

Associate Minister of Education Heather Roy today announced a new scholarship initiative that will enable students from low-income families to attend independent secondary schools that they and their families would previously not have been able to afford.

"ACT and National pledged to increase families' education choices, with scholarships for every child being a key part of ACT's manifesto. This announcement is an important step toward honouring that pledge,” Mrs Roy said.

"In Budget 2009, the Government increased private school funding by $10 million - the first increase since 2000 - to make independent schools more affordable to parents. Of this, $7.4 million will be allocated directly to independent schools and $2.6 million used to provide 250 scholarships to students from low socio-economic backgrounds from 2010.

"The additional funding and new scholarships will increase choice by making independent schools more affordable for New Zealand families.

"Next year 150 students from low-income families will be able to go to an independent secondary school, increasing to 200 students in 2011 and 250 in 2012. Students' fees will be covered, and they will receive an allowance for uniforms and other school-related costs, to ensure no student is disadvantaged.

"Over four percent of school-age students - 30,000 children - currently attend independent schools, saving the State around $200 million annually and relieving some of the pressure on State schools. I am delighted to announce the introduction of this scholarship initiative - which will provide more choice and opportunity for young people from low-income families.

"This Government knows it is parents who are best placed to make the decisions about the education that best suits their children's needs. This funding will support parents in their choices and improve access for many families to a greater range of educational opportunities for their children,” Mrs Roy said.


What Price Citizenship?

Posted on 03 Aug 2009

Hon Heather Roy Speech At Commemoration Service For 60 Years Since Referendum On Compulsory Military Training In New Zealand At The National War Memorial, Wellington

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

President of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association Air Vice Marshall Robin Klitscher; President of the Compulsory Military Training and National Service Association Mr Dennis Cassells-Minnoch, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen and, most importantly, fellow servicemen and women.

Good morning.

It’s a great privilege to be the Government’s representative at this commemoration of the passing, 60 years ago today, of the referendum on Compulsory Military Training.

To serve your country is an honourable and unique undertaking. It does not matter whether your entry into the profession of arms is by the passing of a law, a ballot or a personal career choice. Neither does it matter whether your service is full-time, part-time; of long or short duration nor which service or unit you are employed in. What matters is that you served.

In doing so, you became members of a relatively small and diminishing number of Kiwis who understand what it means to give up some of your own personal liberty, so that others can enjoy theirs. To serve others before self is an honourable undertaking.

Military service is unique in so many ways but its defining marks are personal risk and that you can’t just quit when you’ve had enough. I know, as I look around the audience now, that you are not quitters and New Zealand society is the better for your example over the years.

New Zealand salutes you and those who have passed before you for your honour and uniqueness as citizens. By your service, you have demonstrated your understanding of the relationship between freedom, choice and personal responsibility. You know the price of citizenship.

Since 1845, there have been many periods of imposed conscription into the military forces of New Zealand. Unlike today’s frequent calls to use military service as a means of sorting out social problems, these were political responses to national security threats.

The era of Compulsory Military Training from 1950 to 1959 began after a referendum, initiated by Prime Minister Peter Fraser 60 years ago, found 78 percent support following the perceived Soviet threat to the Suez Canal and a British request to supply a division for service in the Middle East. Notwithstanding electoral defeat, the people’s wishes, as indicated in the referendum, were continued by the incoming Government of Sidney Holland. Some 60,000 Kiwi men served under CMT through the 1950s.

Following a decision by the Holyoake Government, in 1961, to reorganise New Zealand’s Armed Forces, national military service was reintroduced. All young men were required to register on their 20th birthdays and those selected by birthday ballot were required to undertake three months’ full time training followed by three years of part-time service of at least 60 days. This was abolished by the incoming Kirk Government in 1972 after more than 20,000 men had entered the Forces through the scheme.

Regrettably, the period since 1972 has seen the capability of our Armed Forces steadily eroded. It is, therefore, timely that we are now undertaking a Defence Review. The White Paper that will flow from that work in early 2010 will be the first comprehensive assessment of New Zealand’s defence capability requirements since 1997. As former servicemen, you are a major stakeholder and I hope that you will make your thoughts known via the public consultation phase which is currently underway.

As part of Defence Review 09, I am leading three companion studies and one of these, regarding voluntary national service, is of direct relevance to today’s gathering. We know that we have grown and developed as citizens as a result of our time in uniform.

However, we also know that ‘compulsory’ is not a concept that sits well with the New Zealand psyche. I believe that there is a place, in this increasingly individualistic society within which we live, to establish a model of national service that represents a new joint venture between the State and the people. I am confident that this study will support my belief and hope that, before very long, we may see a new generation of young Kiwis offering to serve their country – not only in the Armed Forces but potentially across all aspects of society.

It is pleasing to note the current work underway to examine medallic recognition for your service. In my view, this is long overdue. As I mentioned earlier, it is not the nature of service but the fact that it occurred that is the defining aspect. The ability of this country to contribute to the general deterrent effect of western forces against external aggression by the establishment of large standing forces in the 1950s and 60s was as strategically important for the country then as is our ability to commit highly trained smaller elements to United Nations’ operations now. That is why I support the award of a National Service Medal that recognises all who entered military service and that does not differentiate on the basis of criteria which are, in many cases only relevant to a certain era. For New Zealand to enjoy one standard of citizenship, it is vital that we establish one price of citizenship. Giving up your personal freedom for the sake of others is that price and it is one that you have all paid. I believe it fair that a grateful nation should recognise this and equitable that it should be via one medal. In doing so, New Zealand would be striking not just a medal but, in fact, a very good deal in reconciling the nation’s use of your liberty and choice.

There is no greater melting pot for society than a barrack block and the common threat of the dormitory corporal. In my platoon on basic training we had a lawyer, a farmer, a policeman, a teacher, two hairdressers, a receptionist, government department employees, army employees, tradesmen, several unemployed people - and an MP. They included Koreans, Chinese, South Africans, British and Australians – but their commitment to New Zealand was no less than mine. That is a pretty good basis for citizenship. Many will, I'm sure, remain friends for life.

I have no doubt that you are standing there now, remembering with a grin, some of your mates from basic and subsequent training. One of the many human quirks that bind servicemen and women is that we tend to forget the hardship and, instead, remember the humour and the characters we met. I was amused to read an account by Ian McKie of the 5th Intake CMT that sums this up perfectly. Ian was a radiographer and was expecting to be assigned to an Army hospital unit. It was with some surprise that he found himself assigned to an Armoured Corps unit as a radio operator in a tank! But radio can be found in both words so it makes sense to us of course.

Margaret Thatcher noted that freedom is the most contagious of ideas and the one most destructive of tyranny. That is why tyrants of every kind have fought—still fight—so hard to destroy it. They will always fail because where freedom is the heritage of centuries, as in our country, it is tenaciously defended: and because where it is newly established, it inspires confidence and hope. Nowhere and never has it been consciously surrendered.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have done more than most to keep freedom’s flame burning. Like those who have sailed, marched and flown before you, you have paid the price of citizenship and for that, I offer the thanks of all New Zealanders. It is now the turn of others to continue your legacy.

Stand Easy – Rest.

Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 01 Aug 2009

Transparency, Accountability And Democracy
Transparency, accountability and democracy are the watchwords of the week with the three big items in the media in the past few days revolving around these areas.

The first relates to Social Development Minister Paula Bennett's decision to narrow the criteria for the Training Incentive Allowance (TIA) - leaving sole parents on a benefit, or those on the Invalids Benefit, no longer eligible for the allowance.

Labour MPs went on the attack in Parliament and held up two DPB recipients as examples of the people, they claimed, she was abandoning. Both these women were vocal in their criticism - one quoted in the media as saying the move made her feel as though the Government only aspired for single mothers to have supermarket jobs.

While public criticism in the media is nothing new, the Minister's next move was unexpected: stating that she felt the women were misleading the public by releasing "selective information", Ms Bennett revealed just how much each of these women was currently receiving in benefits from the Government.

This saw the Minister vilified in Parliament and in the media, and stirred up debate throughout the country - with one of the women stating: "I think it was a very rude thing for her to do."

By going public these women opened themselves up to scrutiny and criticism, and I suspect they have now learned a valuable lesson. By allowing Labour MPs to use them as examples, and by speaking to the media, they have effectively waived their right to privacy.

Both had in fact already released some of their financial details when they spoke to reporters, created a website and written blogs. In doing so they put themselves in this position and left themselves open to attack.

New Zealand is a democracy, and this means individuals have the right to criticise the Government. At the same time, though, it also means that others can comment about them and criticise their actions. These women chose to exercise their right and must now take responsibility for the situation they found themselves in.

The second issue of the week receiving considerable media interest was the release of MPs' expenses - a move wholeheartedly supported by ACT. We ACT MPs released our travel and accommodation expenses at the beginning of June unprompted. More recently, all MPs decided to release individual travel and accommodation expenses and those released this week cover the period from January 1-June 30 2009. Looking forward, they will be released to the public every three months.

The figures have generated questions from the media - especially around the cost of various MPs' travel - but that's to be expected with the release of such information. The fact is, when taxpayers' dollars are being spent - no matter in what area - the public has a right to know where the money is going. It is for them to decide the appropriateness of the spending.

The third issue of the week actually began yesterday (July 31): the controversial Anti-Smacking Referendum. The postal ballot papers will be delivered to registered voters over the next few days and people have until August 21 to vote and return them.

Postal ballots have historically generated a notoriously low turnout but, given public interest, the trend should be broken with this one. Over 300,000 people joined together to force this referendum and Kiwis should not miss the opportunity to have their say on the question:

"Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?"

ACT believes the answer is no. The intent of Anti-Smacking law was to stem New Zealand's rising tide of abhorrent child abuse. Instead we have Government intrusion into the lives of law-abiding parents, with those who beat and abuse their children ignoring the law change - 13 children have been killed as a result of abuse since the law was passed two years ago.

Laws must be clear, enforceable and regularly enforced to be effective - but this is not the case we have now. The Anti-Smacking law is flawed and confusing, with ambiguity around the police's enforcement of it - while it's an offence for parents to smack their children, police have discretion over whether to take action. This is an invidious position for police.

If parents are to have any certainty at all in the raising and correction of their children, they should fill out their voting papers and return them by August 21. No New Zealander should miss the chance to exercise their right to freedom and democracy.

Lest We Forget - The Nuclear Issue
On August 2 1983 Auckland was the scene of a number of anti-nuclear rallies on land and at sea as the warship USS Texas visited New Zealand. Visits from US warships had been controversial for a number of years - nuclear-powered cruisers USS Truxtun and USS Long Beach had attracted protest when they visited 1976.

The issue of nuclear ship visits became an election issue in 1984 and nuclear-propelled ships were banned from entering New Zealand waters in 1987 by the Lange Labour Government.

Less than a decade later - on July 31 1991 - the US and USSR signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), an agreement to reduce their nuclear warhead stockpiles by about a third. START was the culmination of over nine years' negotiation, with the stockpile reduction to be completed over seven years.

Here in New Zealand there is still confusion around the differences between nuclear power, nuclear propulsion, and nuclear weapons. While ACT is firmly opposed to any use of nuclear weapons, we see no issue with lifting the ban on nuclear-propelled ship visits.

The ban is counter-productive and impractical - especially given that the 1987 Act banned nuclear-powered vessels, but ignored the fact that our major hospitals release twice as much radioactivity per day as the entire US nuclear fleet releases into harbours annually. Also long forgotten is the fact that no nuclear propelled ships carry nuclear weapons.

There is little to no prospect of a nuclear-powered ship coming to New Zealand: the US has only nine nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, all of which are too big to enter our harbours, and any nuclear-powered submarines they have do not make port visits. Even if they could make visits, the 1992 Somers Commission found no valid safety concerns to them doing so.


Have Your Say In Anti-Smacking Referendum

Posted on 30 Jul 2009

ACT New Zealand Deputy Leader and Anti-Smacking Spokesman Hon Heather Roy today urged New Zealanders to exercise their right to democracy and take part in the Anti-Smacking Referendum - voting papers for which will begin arriving in letterboxes tomorrow.

"While postal ballots have historically generated a notoriously low turnout, more than 300,000 people joined together to force this referendum - New Zealanders must not miss this opportunity to have their say," Mrs Roy said.

"The intent of this law was to stem the country's rising tide of abhorrent child abuse. Instead, we have Government intrusion into the lives of law-abiding parents - and 13 children have been killed as a result of abuse since the law was passed.

"Laws must be clear, enforceable and regularly enforced to be effective - but this is not the case we have now. The anti-smacking law is flawed and confusing, with ambiguity around the police's enforcement of it - while it is an offence for parents to smack their children, police have discretion over whether or not to take action.

"If parents are to have any certainty at all in the raising and correction of their children, they should fill out their voting papers and return them by August 21. No New Zealander should miss their chance to exercise their right to freedom and democracy," Mrs Roy said.


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