National News Brief, Tuesday December 9

49th parliament sworn in and urgent programme announced; KiwiSaver backdown by National; rescued climber reveals how he survived; two-parent families no longer the norm; and more

  • MPs of the 49th parliament were sworn in yesterday, with Prime Minister John Key confirming it would sit under urgency in the two weeks before Christmas. According to the DominionPost, Key said Cabinet had signed off a programme including extending tax cuts, repealing the Bail Act 2007, new national education testing standards, and a 90-day probation period for new employees.
  • The government will also amend KiwiSaver, but not as radically as it had indicated during the election campaign, the ODT reports. National had said it would lower the minimum contribution to two percent and cap government top-ups at two percent, but that meant someone on $26,000 would get only $520 from government while someone on $52,000 would get $1040. That was unfair to low income earners and National would spend $700m – including all the money saved by its reduced tax cuts – to put it right.
  • Former TV quizmaster – and minister of education – Dr Lockwood Smith was elected Speaker of the House unopposed, saying he was keen to raise the standard of behaviour in the House. He hoped ministers would be "more forthcoming" with their answers. Meanwhile, in an unusual move Peter Dunne was named chair of the climate change review select committee.
  • The New Zealand Herald leads with a fire at an Onehunga Mitre 10 warehouse that temporarily closed the southwestern motorway, a major route to Auckland airport, and part of the western rail line. More than 80 firefighters and 20 appliances battled the blaze.
  • A former finance manager for the State Services Commission is taking the department to court claiming it repeatedly refused to investigate allegations he was seriously assaulted at work. David Eagles says a senior manager pushed his head into a glass wall, the DomPost says.
  • In the Press' lead, rescued Japanese climber Hideaki Nara says he dug an ice cave with a pen and small knife and that may have saved his life. Nara said his companion Kiyoshi Ikenouchi must have died only hours before the helicopter reached them as they had spoken during the night.
  • Couples without children have overtaken two-parent families to become the most common family type for the first time, says Statistics New Zealand. The DomPost reports that the surge in childless couples comes as baby boomers' children leave home.