National News Brief, Thursday September 11

Winston still says 'no'; Owen Glenn leaves insults in his wake; ETS passes; Nats to spend $100 million on health; phosphate source could save farmers billions; and more...

Winston Peters was consistent last night in denying that he sought a donation from billionaire Owen Glenn in 2005. Mr Peters told parliament's privileges committee that it was not the first time his memory had been challenged by a wealthy businessman. The Herald quoted Mr Peters as saying, "I have spent my whole political life to preserve New Zealand for New Zealanders. This is an attempt to undo the people's will, bring down a government, then govern alone. My enemies and an elite media have surely proven that." The paper reported that Prime Minister Helen Clark was prepared to fire Mr Peters today if Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen recommended it. The Dominion Post quoted Mr Peters' denial that there had been a donation to New Zealand First or to himself. "The answer then was no, and the answer is still no. At no time was I in any position to answer in any other way."

Among many colourful statements Owen Glenn made while in New Zealand to give evidence to the privileges committee, he had this to say about Helen Clark: "She's very self-serving. As I said, I wouldn't want them in the trenches next to me. It's not the money, it's the way you're treated and then you turn your dogs on me, toothless dogs." The Herald provides a selection of the billionaire's bon mots.

The historic Emissions Trading Scheme bill was passed last night, 63 votes to 57. According to Government estimates, drivers will pay 7 cents more a litre for petrol when the costs of the ETS are passed on to consumers. The Herald reports that domestic air fares are also expected to rise and truck drivers may have to swallow an extra $100 million in costs each year.

Leaked National Party documents reveal that the party intends to spend $100 million a year on new health projects if elected in November, according to the Herald. The money would go towards new operating theatres, a rating system for DHBs and more public use of private hospitals.

The Otago Daily Times reports that Ravensdown Fertiliser is looking into re-opening the country's only phosphate resource in south Otago. The company says it could save farmers nearly $1 billion a year. Imported phosphate costs $740 a tonne.

The Press reports that 125 Christchurch students were caught cutting school this week. Up to 10 were found shopping at malls with their parents, a group were caught trying to steal a car, and another group were sharing a beer.

Finally, Wairarapa Hospital's chief orthopaedic surgeon claims it was alcohol-based hand gel that pushed his breath-alcohol level beyond legal limits, not drink. The Dominion Post says Ian Denholm recorded a breath alcohol level of 593 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath--the legal limit is 400 micrograms. Mr Denholm said he conducted his own experiment in which he applied the gel, a disinfectant commonly used in hospitals, and took blood tests.