8 June, 2012
Key Notes: Visiting Europe
Click here for photos from my Europe visit.
Visiting Europe for the Diamond Jubilee
This week I've been in the UK and Europe meeting world leaders, and representing New Zealand at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations. The atmosphere in Britain over the weekend was fantastic. Britons have been out in force in celebration of the Queen.
On Sunday I met the three Kiwi crews of New Zealand's entries into the River Thames Pageant before they set off. It was great New Zealand was so well-represented in the largest flotilla seen on the Thames in more than 300 years, with 1000 boats taking part from across the Commonwealth.
On Tuesday, Bronagh and I attended the Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen at St Paul's Cathedral in London. We watched the spectacular fireworks display at Buckingham Palace from New Zealand House. On Wednesday afternoon we were granted a private audience with Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace. I was able to personally thank her for her service to New Zealand and the Commonwealth, and we spent some time discussing the Christchurch rebuild.
Focusing on the global economy
On Tuesday evening, we were invited to Number 10 Downing Street to have dinner with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. This was a great opportunity for us to catch up with old friends, and to discuss some of the issues our countries are facing. We talked about the global economic situation, and I reiterated that New Zealand is in a relatively good position but we aren't immune to any future global shocks. That's why it's important we press on with our plan to responsibly manage the government's finances, and help our companies and businesses compete more efficiently on the world stage.
I'm now in Germany, and later tonight (New Zealand time) I will be meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel. I'll use this opportunity to get an update from her on developments in the Eurozone, which is important for New Zealand. Our plan to return to Budget surplus by 2014/15 is even more important in a globally uncertain environment. It will be critical if our economy is to withstand any future economic shocks.
Raising quality in education
The National-led Government is committed to raising student achievement. We want all our kids to have the skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century. But we don't want to create unnecessary angst for parents, which is why we've decided not to proceed with the changes to the teacher:student funding ratios announced as part of Budget 2012.
We have heard the concerns of parents and teachers and are reversing this part of our education plan. We remain firmly focused on raising student achievement and ensuring five out of five kids are succeeding. We continue to believe that investing in quality teaching and professional leadership is the best way to do this. We're still injecting an extra $512 million to help raise achievement in education over the next four years.
We had thought modest changes to teacher:student funding ratios would help us fund this investment but it has become apparent that these minor adjustments have caused a disproportionate amount of anxiety for parents. That was never our intention. Over the coming weeks our Education Minister will work with education sector organisations to discuss quality issues and how to raise student achievement.
From my diary
I'll spend this weekend returning home from Europe. Next week I'm going to the national Fieldays at Mystery Creek in Hamilton. It will be a great chance to catch up with the rural sector, and to talk some more about our plan for a brighter future.
We'll also be welcoming a contingent of United States Marines to New Zealand to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of US World War II forces to this country. We'll take time to remember and honour sacrifices made during that time.
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