National News Brief, Friday December 19

68,000 to lose their jobs; Government advised to use embryos for research; judges get 4.8 percent pay increase; iwi to buy land at Miramar Peninsula; Fiji standoff unresolved; Labour Party staffers allegedly stole wine from press gallery party

Around 68,000 New Zealanders will lose their jobs in the next 15 months--rising to 87,000 if the international recession worsens, according to Treasury. An $11 billion deficit within five years is also forecast, reports the Herald. Finance Minister Bill English said the gloomy forecast could be avoided by managing Government spending, and if there were higher than expected growth rates.

Senior advisors have recommended the Government use the embryos left after fertility treatment for research. The Advisory Committee on Assisted Reproductive Technology made the controversial recommendation in June 2007 but the Labour Government "sat on" the information, reports the Herald. Committee chairwoman Professor Sylvia Rumball said IVF parents supported donating their unused embryos to research, rather than have them destroyed.

Judges will get a 4.8 percent pay increase, matching the increase received by MPs weeks ago, reports the Dominion Post. The Remuneration Authority confirmed the pay rise yesterday. Authority chairman David Oughton said there was still a big gap between what judges were paid and what they might get in the private sector.

Iwi will buy a former air force base on Wellington's Miramar Peninsula as part of a Waitangi Tribunal settlement, reports the Dominion Post. The Port Nicholson Block Settlement Trust will buy the prime 4.5-hectare block, eyed up by developers for years.

The diplomatic stand-off between the NZ Government and Fiji is unresolved, reports the Press. Self-appointed Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has not followed through on his threat to expel acting New Zealand High Commissioner Caroline McDonald. Foreign Minister Murray McCully sent a letter to Mr Bainimarama yesterday, responding to a "robust" letter he received earlier in the week.

Four Labour Party staffers are being investigated for trying to steal wine from the Parliamentary press gallery Christmas party, reports the Dominion Post. One man was arrested on Wednesday night when we was allegedly found with 36 bottles of wine and a chilly bin in his car. Labour leader Phil Goff said the behaviour was "totally unacceptable".