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Andrew Little - Speech to Amnesty International event to mark the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on World Human Rights Day, Parliament, Wellington

ANDREW LITTLE - SPEECH TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL EVENT TO MARK THE 70TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS ON WORLD HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, PARLIAMENT, WELLINGTON

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Tax reforms focus on fairness

New tax legislation has been introduced to Parliament to ensure greater fairness in the way the tax system shapes commerce, investment decisions and social policies.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash has introduced the Taxation (Annual Rates for 2019-20, GST Offshore Supplier Registration, and Remedial Matters) Bill.

“The bill implements two major policies which went through public consultation earlier this year, as well as picking up on smaller issues which have been the source of some frustration and complaint for those who deal with the revenue system,” says Mr Nash.

“The legislation establishes a framework to collect GST on low-value imported goods. The changes put local retailers on a level playing field with foreign firms who have taken advantage of the tax break. There are 26,000 small businesses in the retail sector employing more than 62,000 people. They are required to collect GST on all sales, and now the same requirement will apply to offshore retail giants.

“The new GST collection system applies to imported goods valued under $1000 and will come into effect on 1 October 2019. GST on goods valued above $1000 will continue to be collected by Customs when the goods enter New Zealand. 

“The internet has opened up more markets for global companies but if they want to do business here they must follow the rules like everyone else. We’re not the first to introduce such a rule and eventually this will be the new reality of doing business. 

“The second major change will mean residential property investors no longer get a tax break by using losses on rental properties to offset the tax payable on other sources of income such as salary and wages.

“Currently investors with loss-making rental properties can subsidise part of the cost of their mortgages through reduced tax on other income, helping them to outbid owner-occupiers for properties.  Yet these investors often make tax-free capital gains when these properties are sold. 

  “In conjunction with the extension to the bright-line test, ring-fencing losses from rental properties would make property speculation less attractive and level the playing field between property investors and home buyers. The new rules will not apply to a person’s main home or a property that is rented out and used privately such as a bach.

“The legislation also recognises the growing use of te reo Māori as an everyday language, including by many businesses. Inland Revenue has allowed taxpayers to keep records in te reo Māori for more than 20 years but this has never been enshrined as standard practice through legislation.  The right to use te reo Māori should be officially recognised in the law, rather than at the discretion of a Government department. 

 “Another wrong that is righted by this bill is the situation where a person who is the victim of a sex offence becomes liable for child support payments for a baby born as a consequence of that offence.  

“Although an exemption is available to prevent this liability, it has only been granted twice in twelve years. In order for a victim to qualify for the exemption, the offender must have been prosecuted. Sadly, all too often sex offences are not reported and even once reported, few result in a conviction. The law change will mean the Commissioner of Inland Revenue can use her discretion in such cases when deciding whether an exemption should be granted. Not only do we want a fairer tax system, we also want a humane and effective justice system, and this change will help to achieve that. 

“The bill also tidies up a somewhat confusing situation where domestic student loan borrowers are eligible for interest-free loans, but find they are charged interest which is then written off at the end of each year. This has been required as a technical workaround because of the IRD’s aged technology platform. Now with the transition to a new platform, we can finally clear up that confusion and not charge interest for these borrowers in the first place.” 

“Our revenue system enables the funding of our vital public services but it also needs to operate fairly in the way tax is administered and collected. These changes achieve those objectives and create a fairer system,” Mr Nash says.

The bill is expected to have its first reading on 12 December 2018.

For more information see taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz.

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Preventing death and injury on our roads

Police Minister Stuart Nash and Associate Minister of Transport Julie Anne Genter are encouraging road users to be alert to a new safety campaign launched today by Police and the NZ Transport Agency in the lead up to the Christmas.

“Too many people are dying on our roads and we want to support our agencies in getting the message out to drivers and riders to be safe,” says Mr Nash.

“However, everyone using the road needs to take responsibility. It’s up to all of us drive to the conditions and to not treat the speed limit as a suggestion.

Everybody needs to pay attention to what they’re doing and when you’re socialising over summer, don’t drink and drive.”

Today Police and the NZTA kicked off the summer season with their annual impairment prevention operation, which will be followed by a Police social media campaign focusing on the four main contributors of trauma on our roads.

These are people not wearing seatbelts, driving too fast for the conditions, driving drunk, drugged, or tired, and being distracted by things like cell phones.

Ms Genter says reducing the number of deaths and serious accidents on our roads is her top priority as the Associate Minister of Transport.

“These crashes impact families and communities across New Zealand,’’ she says. “I don’t want to see more people facing the festive season without their loved ones.’’

“Police will be out on the roads working hard to keep everyone safe. But they can’t do it alone. We all need to be responsible every time we get behind the wheel.”

Mr Nash and Ms Genter say the summer campaign by Police and NZTA has a simple and clear message: drive safely.

 

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New comms centre improves public services

A new digital services and communications centre opened on the Kapiti Coast will help transform the way Police connect with the public and work to make communities safe.

Police Minister Stuart Nash has officially opened the Police Digital Services Centre, Te Whare Torotoro Waea Pirihama in Paraparaumu. It will eventually house over 200 staff.

“The new digital services and communications centre is much more than just a major new Police building,” said Mr Nash. “The specialist services made possible by this new facility signal a transformation in the way Police connect with the public.

“Along with the unprecedented investment in frontline Police numbers in this year’s Budget, we provided additional funding to modernise tools and resources. We are offering new channels through which the public can connect with Police.

“This week Police launched a trial where for the first time, people can go online to make a report via the Police website. Till now this was only possible through a phone call or visit to a local station, or a Police visit to their property. The online crime reports cover all the questions a Police officer would ask and will be managed by a dedicated digital team at the Kapiti centre. Police will monitor feedback on the online trial and make improvements if needed. 

“The trial will initially focus on lost property and property damage such as vandalism, which account for over 78,000 reports to Police each year. Online reporting will not only make it easier to report a crime or other issues, it could also reduce inappropriate use of channels such as the emergency 111 number.

“Police are working on a single non-emergency number to minimise inappropriate use of the 111 service. This is planned to go live in 2019. A virtual service point is being piloted where a digital portal connects the public to a Police staff member. Of 150 front counters that were closed due to health and safety or accessibility problems, 82 have been refurbished and reopened and upgrades are underway to the remaining 68 sites.

“The Coalition Agreement with New Zealand First commits the government to strive for 1800 extra Police over three years. Frontline Police numbers have grown by around 450 above our June 2017 baseline, through a combination of strong Police recruitment, deployment of 941 new constables, and low attrition. We have more work to do to lift Police numbers and improve public services, but we are making good progress as we build safer and more connected communities,” Mr Nash said.

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Chile and NZ arrangement to protect seabirds

New Zealand and Chile will help protect vulnerable seabirds, including the critically endangered Antipodean albatross.

A cooperative arrangement was signed today by Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters, on behalf of Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and Fisheries Minister Stuart Nash, and the Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Roberto Ampuero, who is visiting New Zealand alongside President Sebastián Piñera.

It establishes a cooperative partnership between the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for Primary Industries in New Zealand, and Chile’s Undersecretariat of Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Ministry of Environment.

“This arrangement marks a significant milestone in tackling the decline of our most vulnerable seabirds and formalises collaboration between New Zealand and Chile on this important issue,” Eugenie Sage said.

Stuart Nash said “this arrangement will enable better exchange of information between our two fishing nations and support greater innovation that will allow us to succeed in our shared goal of reducing albatross bycatch”.

“Central to the arrangement is establishing a Plan of Action for the conservation of Antipodean albatross, which like many other New Zealand endemic seabirds, breeds in New Zealand and forages in waters off Chile in the non-breeding season” said Eugenie Sage.

“These amazing birds roam vast distances across the ocean and their population will no longer be viable in the next 20 years unless we stop the devastating decline in their numbers.”

The biggest threat to these seabirds comes from fishing in the international waters between the two countries, particularly as bycatch in surface longline fisheries.

An important component of the arrangement will be increased cooperation through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, which govern fishing on the high seas.

“We will be engaging actively with these organisations to improve ways of preventing these precious birds being caught on fishing lines,” Eugenie Sage said. 

“We welcome a closer association with Chile and look forward to a closer association in and around the regional fisheries meetings,” Stuart Nash said.

The Antipodean albatross has undergone an alarming decline in recent years and the species is listed as Nationally Critical by the Department of Conservation, the highest threat classification ranking. They have also been identified as a population of global priority conservation concern by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP), an international body that seeks to conserve albatrosses and petrels.

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Trans-Tasman partnership behind cocaine bust

Police Minister Stuart Nash says the seizure of 190 kilograms of cocaine in Auckland demonstrates the strength of partnership between Australian and New Zealand law enforcement agencies in preventing the harm drugs cause in our communities.

“Targeting transnational organised crime is a priority for the Government,” Mr Nash says.

“The Government’s unprecedented investment in Police in Budget 2018 supports the deployment of 500 extra Police officers to disrupt, deter and dismantle organised criminal networks and reduce harm in our communities. The Budget also funded 127 extra Customs staff.

“Drugs like cocaine cause harm and fuel organised crime networks. I would like to congratulate Australian Federal Police, New Zealand Police and New Zealand Customs staff for their great work in preventing these drugs reaching their destination.

“This operation highlights the key role New Zealand plays internationally in disrupting transnational criminal networks.

“It also showcases the fantastic work Customs and Police staff are doing every day to protect and keep our communities safe.”

Minister of Customs Kris Faafoi said he was pleased to see the focus on consignments transhipping through New Zealand had been effective.

“Additional funding this Government provided in 2018 is aimed at disrupting drugs earlier in the supply chain to prevent harm to the community - this seizure has stopped what would have been a very significant amount of harm.

“This is a good example of what we can achieve when police, border and overseas agencies work together.”

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Extra Police constables deployed

Seventy-nine new Police constables will be deployed across New Zealand following the graduation of a new wing of recruits.

Police Minister Stuart Nash has congratulated the recruits of Wing 320 at the formal graduation parade at the Royal New Zealand Police College. He has also thanked the wing patron, Olympian Rob Waddell, for the support, mentoring and advice he offered during the 16-week training.

“This is the thirteenth recruit wing to graduate since the government took office. A new recruit wing graduates every month. We have deployed 941 new constables across the country. The extra Police in our neighbourhoods mean we can increase the focus on crime prevention and building safer communities.

“The Coalition Agreement with New Zealand First has a commitment to strive towards 1800 extra Police over three years. In addition there will be 485 extra support staff. We need to train an average of 1000 Police every year over this period to take account of attrition of current Police. The attrition rate is running at around five per cent and is one of the lowest in the wider state sector.

“Today’s new constables will be deployed across all Police districts, with the largest cohort of 27 recruits posted to the three Police districts in greater Auckland.

“Female constables make up 26 percent of the wing. More than 12 percent of recruits identify as Maori, more than seven percent as Pasifika, and six per cent as Asian. The youngest recruit is 18 and the oldest is 46. At least twelve new constables were born outside New Zealand and share seven foreign languages between them.

“Many of the new officers bring a strong tradition of volunteer service in their communities. It includes volunteer firefighters, search and rescue and civil defence experts, surf lifesavers, counsellors with Lifeline, the Salvation Army, Oranga Tamaraki and others who have worked to protect wildlife in conservation areas. 

“I am proud of the depth of diversity, talent, and commitment to community service which our new constables already demonstrate. These new officers will help us to meet our goals of reducing victimisation and bringing down offending and imprisonment rates.

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SPEECH - Andrew Little confirms Pike River Mine Drift re-entry plan to proceed

Next Monday is the 8th anniversary of the dreadful tragedy at Pike River Coal Mine. Two men escaped with their lives. 29 others never came home.

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Andrew Little confirms Pike River Mine Drift re-entry plan to proceed

The Pike River Mine Drift will be re-entered, Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little announced today.

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Significant step in Pike River drift re-entry

Minister Responsible for Pike River Re-entry Andrew Little has received the report on re-entering the Pike River drift following nine months of intensive work by Te Kāhui Whakamana Rua Tekau Mā Iwa Pike River Recovery Agency.

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