National News Brief, Thursday December 11

Alan Bollard calls for companies to share the pain; free Herceptin sets "dangerous precedent"; Maori Party opposes 90-day probation bill; Ernest Rutherford's centennial; and more

Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard has taken a swipe at banks, local bodies and oil, food and power companies, urging them to cut prices and their margins if they wanted interest rates to fall further. In what the DominionPost called "an unusual and pointed attack", Dr Bollard said banks had not passed through enough of the interest rates cuts he had delivered, petrol prices did not reflect falling world prices in recent weeks and "there is plenty of room for retail price cuts" at the supermarket. The New Zealand Herald quotes businesspeople rejecting the criticism.

Breast cancer sufferers have welcomed the government's deal with Roche allowing 300 women to receive free Herceptin, but Labour health spokeswoman Ruth Dyson says it sets a dangerous precedent by "politicising drug purchasing". The Otado Daily Times quotes two Dunedin doctors saying the government can now expect to come under more pressure to fund other high-cost drugs.

The DominionPost has a front page story saying a new "international study" shows New Zealand children doing worse in maths and science than in more than half of the 36 other countries surveyed. The story's angle is that "even their peers in Kazakhstan are doing better.

The Maori Party will vote against National's 90-day probationary bill today, in what the New Zealand Herald calls "the first hiccup" between the coalition partners. The law will still pass with support from National and ACT. The Maori Party however is forced by its coalition deal to support National's tax cuts. Labour has attacked the Maori Party for failing its supporters, saying workers earning under $44,000 would pay $730m more tax over the next five years than they would have under Labour.

In the Otago Daily Times, local District Health Board chair Richard Thomson says warnings about former manager Michael Swann were not ignored, but sparked investigations. Swann has been found guilty of fraud totalling $16.9m.

The Press celebrates the centennial of Ernest Rutherford's Nobel Prize for chemistry. Biographer John Campbell says the Nelson-born scientist, the fourth of 12 children, and discoverer of the proton, is "to the atom what Darwin is to evolution..."