National News Brief, Tuesday December 16

Redundancy plan offers nothing to some workers; Fiji to expel another NZ diplomat; NZ journalist detained in Fiji; mortgages affordable again; Air New Zealand will defend price-fixing claims; Peter Ellis may get another Commission of Inquiry

The Government has announced a $52 million redundancy plan based on 70,000 people losing their jobs in the next two years, reports the Herald. The plan is intended to offer workers "breathing space" while they look for new jobs, but there is no support for those with savings, high-earning partners or large payouts. The scheme will be backdated to November 8--election day--but no payments will be made until January 1.

Fiji looks set to expel another New Zealand diplomat and says it will not issue diplomatic visas for the new defence and police attaches, reports the Dominion Post. Acting high commissioner Caroline McDonald could be expelled from Fiji today as the Fijian government reacts to New Zealand's refusal to allow the son of a Fijian official to return to New Zealand. New Zealand put travel sanctions on Fijians associated with the self-appointed government of Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama after a military coup two years ago. New Zealand's previous high commissioner, Michael Green was expelled from Fiji last year.

In related news, TV One's Pacific Correspondent Barbara Dreaver has been detained in Fiji. She was taken into custody when she landed in Nadi last night, detained overnight, and will likely be expelled from Fiji today. "She's been over there numerous times and obviously she's touched some nerves around the place," TVNZ head of news Anthony Flannery told the Herald.

Potential homeowners are seeking advice on mortgages, hoping to take advantage of the lowest house prices in three years. Mike Pero Mortgages chief executive Shaun Riley told the Herald someone with a new $200,000 mortgage would now pay about $100 a week less in interest than they would have at the height of the housing boom.

Air New Zealand says it will "vigorously defend" claims by the Commerce Commission that it was part of a price-fixing cartel of 12 airlines, reports the Press. The commission has filed proceedings in Auckland's High Court alleging the airlines colluded to fix the price of air freight by raising fuel surcharges between 2000 and 2006.

The new government has agreed to consider a request for a new Commission of Inquiry into the Peter Ellis case, reports the Press. Former National Party leader Don Brash, former MP Katherine Rich and Dunedin author Lynley Hood have written to Justice Minister Simon Power asking for a new inquiry. They said Ellis' conviction continued to impact the legal system.