National News Brief, Tuesday March 17

$1 billion boost for roads; TVNZ to cut 90 jobs; unions say fire foreign workers first; anti-terror squad recruitment begins; no more spying on MPs; 15-year-old secret revealed at Bain trial

The Government announced a $1 billion transport stimulus package yesterday, reports the Herald. A $320 million motorway tunnel under Victoria Park in Auckland, Waikato Expressway between Mercer and Cambridge, and a four-lane highway from Puhoi to Wellsford are among projects expected to get the green light. Transport Minister Steven Joyce said Auckland's proposed rail electrification would not be sacrificed to make way for the roading projects.

TVNZ is dropping 100 hours of local programming and cutting 90 jobs in an effort to slash $25 million from its budget as required by the Government, reports the Herald. The newsroom will lose 17 staff. Independent producers are worried about what the cuts will mean for their ability to get local programmes on air.

Unions are urging the Government to tighten the border and employers to fire migrant workers before Kiwis, reports the Press. Union bosses said they wanted it proven that the skills shortages that justified bringing in foreign workers still existed. The Australian government announced plans to reduce migrant numbers by 14 per cent and remove building and manufacturing trades from its skills-shortage list due to the economic climate.

Recruitment for an anti-terror squad has begun, reports the Herald. The squad will be responsible for domestic security and also for dealing with threats to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. The squad, to be made up of Army, Navy and Air Force personnel, will be known as the Counter Terrorist Tactical Assault Group.

Spying on MPs such as the Greens' Keith Locke is likely to stop now that Prime Minister John Key has asked SIS head Warren Tucker to deactivate files on sitting MPs. The PM has also suggested that the SIS consider a system in which surveillance is used only when deemed necessary and with the permission of the Speaker, reports the Dominion Post.

A police officer who worked the David Bain case back in 1994 has admitted to a mistake he kept secret for 15 years, reports the Press. Detective Terry van Turnhout told the High Court in Christchurch yesterday that he picked up a pair of eyeglasses in Bain's bedroom, immediately realised he should not be touching evidence and put them down. The glasses became important to the case when one of the lenses was discovered in Stephen Bain's room.