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March 26, 2018 | by  | in Politics | [ssba]

Political Round-Up

Defence Minister’s Transportation

Defence Minister Ron Mark has denied claims that he has used Defence Force Transport as his “personal taxi service”.

Mark recently came under fire from National Defence Spokesperson Mark Mitchell for his use of Air Force NH90 helicopters to get to work related events. Travel logs show that some aircraft were diverted to Masterton, 15 kilometres from his hometown Carterton.

Mark allegedly declined a trip recently where the Defence Force offered air transportation from Devonport to Whenuapai Air Base, and in that instance he utilised a Crown car.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also defended Mark’s use of the transport in a press conference on 16 March. She reiterated that these trips were for official business and said that the Government and Defence Force always had to be mindful of perception from New Zealanders about where their dollars are being spent.

In an email response to Salient, Mark said former Defence Ministers occasionally used NZDF transport for their own personal benefits, which was why the public had reason to be concerned.

“I’m happy to proactively release my flight information regularly if it’s of interest. However, in the past few months I’ve been open with my flights.”

$50.3 Million to Make Children Start School at Five

Nikki Kaye, former Associate Minister of Education under the Key Government, has criticised the current Government on their proposed policy of restoring the previous legislation which prohibits children from being able start school before age five.

Under current legislation, children can enrol in school before age five. Prior to 2017, children were still able to be enrolled in primary school in the term closest to their fifth birthday.

Drawing from a document obtained under the Official Information Act, Kaye said the amendment would cost the taxpayers $50.3 million a year, $42 million upward of the current policy in place. According to Kaye, Labour Education Minister Chris Hipkins made the announcement before being informed of the costs of extending early childhood education, and failed to consult Cabinet before he began to make changes to the act.

This change follows the fees-free tertiary education policy, which has been criticized by the National party for costing $58 million when taking university dropouts into account.

Hipkins said that allowing children to start school at the term closest to their fifth birthday was an attempt by previous the National government to cut costs in the Early Childhood Sector.

The public had until 19 March to have their say on these changes to primary school enrolment.

No Sign of Trade Deal between NZ and Russia

The New Zealand Government has not made any indication they will follow the UK in expelling Russian diplomats from their embassies.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May said that she would deport 23 foreign diplomats after a Russian-made nerve agent was used in the alleged assassination of a former Russian double agent in England. The Kremlin is still denying any involvement with the deaths.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Winston Peters were heavily criticised for their delayed condemnation of the attack. Trade talks between Russia and New Zealand were halted in 2014 after the Ukrainian Revolution broke out, and Adern has stated that there would be no resuming of trade talks with the Kremlin in the near future.

In a joint statement, they said that they fully supported the actions that the UK have taken so far.

“There is no plausible alternative explanation hitherto, that this came from anywhere other than Russia, and no doubt whatsoever that Russia has serious questions to answer.”


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