National News Brief, Wednesday October 29

AXA freezes funds; Peters lobbied for Glenn; study finds hospital costs up, productivity down; the campaign promises keep coming; OE scheme extended; and more

AXA New Zealand has frozen $1 billion in mortgage fund assets to prevent investors making a run on their funds. AXA said there was confusion over who would be covered by the Government's deposit guarantee scheme. Mortgage funds are not currently covered by the scheme, which aims to make bank deposits safe. A Treasury spokesperson told the Herald it was unlikely the scheme would be extended to cover mortgage funds.

Winston Peters urged Foreign Affairs Ministry staff to make expat billionaire Owen Glenn honorary consul to Monaco, according to papers made public under the Official Information Act. Peters maintains that Mr Glenn was never actively considered for the post because a consul to Monaco was deemed unnecessary, reports the Dominion Post. The Herald says Prime Minister Helen Clark was so concerned about Mr Peters' lobbying that she asked the Foreign Affairs Department to let her know if it happened again.

More on Winston: More than a quarter of National voters want party leader John Key to reconsider including Peters in a National-led government, according to a TV3 poll. But Key is sticking by his decision to exclude the NZ First leader from cabinet, saying he does not want to be distracted by the "walking soap opera".

A controversial study has found that while hospital costs are up, productivity is down. "Despite large additional expenditure on health in recent years, it appears that taxpayers have not received commensurate value for money," Roger Kerr, executive director of the Business Roundtable, which paid for the study, told the Herald. The senior doctors' union and Labour party reject the findings.

More campaign promises: John Key told Christchurch voters prison inmates would have to work longer hours and hand over some of their earnings to their victims under a National government, reports the Press. Meanwhile, Labour revealed yesterday that if re-elected they will lower car registration fees and ACC levies. Both parties plan to target teen-aged school dropouts, although neither have revealed how, according to the Herald.

Young New Zealanders can now work in the UK for two years rather than one under an expanded working holiday visa, reports the Herald. The new visa, which comes into effect next month, will also cost less—$270 rather than $554.