February already! With schools under way and everyone back at work, it's tough being indoors while this hot weather continues. (I've always thought it's crazy that we don't have our holidays this month when summer is more reliable.) Anne and I enjoyed a beach stroll and a swim at Raglan on Saturday afternoon, and judging by all the cars out there, half the Waikato had the same idea!
I hope everyone is well rested and reinvigorated after the break. I was delighted to be elected Junior Government Whip by my caucus colleagues last week and I'm looking forward to my new responsibilities.
MPs are debating the programme for 2013 outlined last month by the prime minister.
National was re-elected in 2011 with a clear plan to build a faster-growing economy supporting more jobs, higher incomes, and better public services. We have a very busy work programme ahead, building on the momentum of the past four years.
Our priorities: manage the Government's finances responsibly to return to surplus and reduce debt; create a more competitive and productive economy; drive better results and value for money from public services; and support the Christchurch rebuild - and we are delivering.
We want New Zealand to become a magnet for investment. The more investment we get, the more jobs will be created in our communities.
Our Business Growth Agenda will encourage investment by reducing costs and uncertainties for business; ensuring our people have the right skills to contribute to the workforce; building reliable infrastructure; unlocking the potential of our natural resources; delivering more and higher-quality trade agreements; boosting our capital markets; and investing in innovation.
We are boosting the number of people in apprenticeships and combining all apprentices into an expanded and improved scheme. Overall, subsidy payments will be increased by around $12 million in the first year, rising over time.
We're giving the first 10,000 new apprentices who enrol after April 1 up to $2000 towards tools and course-related costs. Their employers will receive the same amount. It's estimated that around 14,000 additional apprentices will start training over the next five years.
Congratulations to all our 2013 school leaders, and to all who were recognised at the Brian Perry Waikato Regional Sports Awards last week. What a fantastic year 2012 was for our top sportspeople! With all those Olympic medals, the Ranfurly Shield, and the triumphs of the Chiefs, Magic, Northern Knights and many others, the competition for the top awards can never have been tougher.
Can we do it again? You bet! All the best for a great year in our beautiful city.