More jails will be turned into working prisons where all
inmates will be placed in a 40-hour a week programme of work
and rehabilitation, Prime Minister John Key said in his
statement to Parliament today, the first sitting day of the
It is part of the Government's goal of reducing reoffending
by 25 per cent by 2017.
"The Government will increase employment opportunities for
prisoners by establishing more of our prisons as working
prisons, where all prisoners will be engaged in a structured
40-hour week of employment and rehabilitation activities," he
It is one of the few new announcements in Mr Key's speech
which set out the Government's policy programme for the year
which has already been well signalled.
The Government has already made it clear it wants more
prisoners in work but turning prisons into structured work
prisons is a step further in that direction.
Of the country's 19 prisons, only one - Rolleston - is deemed
a working prison.
Mr Key touched on some of the themes of his state of the
nation speech given at the North Shore last Friday, including
apprenticeships and the battleground of housing
affordability, where Labour and Greens have new "hands-on"
policy to help first-home buyers.
He said the Government was undertaking work with the aim of
increasing land supply; reducing delays and costs of the
consenting process; improving the provision of infrastructure
to support new housing and improving productivity in the
"Other proposals that don't do anything to fix the actual
cost of building will either fail miserably, deliver
dwellings that people don't want to live in, or require
massive taxpayer subsidies."
He said little about two big issues: state asset sales and
the goal of returning the Government's books to surplus in
the 2014-15 year.
The future of the first asset sale, Mighty River Power, is in
the hands of the Supreme Court which will hear a challenge by
the Maori Council later this week.
In terms of returning to an operating surplus, Mr Key today
avoided saying that the Government was still committed to the
2014 -15 timetable, instead pointing to the fact that the
December opening of the books showed the Government was on
track for a modest $66 million surplus in 2014 -15.
Last week he said the Government was "hopeful" - a step down
from a commitment.
Late last year Australia abandoned its target to get back
into surplus in the current financial year.
Mr Key also launched a strong defence of foreign investment
in New Zealand, an area that distinguishes National from most
"Overseas capital can make things happen here that wouldn't
otherwise happen, grow businesses that wouldn't otherwise
have the means to grow, create jobs that otherwise wouldn't
exist, and pay wages that are higher than they would
Mr Key's statement was given to other party leaders at 10am
this morning and he did not deliver it as a speech.
- Audrey Young, New Zealand Herald