Today in politics: Friday, February 14

Last updated 05:00 14/02/2014

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Politics

Government 'very keen' for stronger trade ties with Iran Peter Dunne's Ohariu seat could be crucial if the election is close Bill English says employers are regularly telling him that Kiwis can't pass drug tests Labour won't win a 'change' election by looking the same Labour's David Parker calls for 'swimmable' test to reflect when and where you take a dip KiwiRail says 'Kaikoura effect' cuts surplus Bill English downplays high demand for emergency housing grants Chris Trotter: Labour's future has a single name National MP Paul Foster-Bell to stand down at election Jacinda Ardern: ambitious simply to be 'good at her job'

Easy Vote loss hurts some voters, says Labour

Electoral law changes have passed another hurdle in Parliament and include allowing people to enrol and update their details online, tightening electoral donations law and allowing parties to lodge bulk candidate nomination and party list documents by email. But Labour is criticising the decision not to continue with the Easy Vote card, and instead require a verbal declaration , saying it would make voting harder for those with English as a second language.

MPs 'mullahs' over plain packets, says

ACT leader-elect Jamie Whyte has come out against cigarette plain-packaging – not surprising, given John Banks was the lone MP to vote against the bill. But in a comment on ACT's website he called MPs supporting the law "mullahs" for banning words and images they think are harmful. He said no-one can know smoking is bad for you. "If people value the pleasure they receive from smoking more than the health they lose, smoking is a net gain to them."

Whyte Kiwibank to focus more on 'farming' existing clients

State-owned Kiwibank is shifting focus to extracting more value from existing clients. Chairman Sir Michael Cullen said a smaller proportion of its 850,000 customers used it as their main bank than customers of the "big four" banks. That left scope to sell credit cards, insurance and other financial products to those who were "not being fully farmed". He said its retail approach focused on service, but people were increasingly handling most services online.

Further step for student loan defaulter bill

A bill that clamps down on overseas-based student loan defaulters has passed its second reading. The Student Loan Scheme Amendment Bill extends the Government's powers including allowing for arrest warrants to be issued for borrowers who have persistently refused to make repayments. Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce said the bill would tighten lending criteria and increase the speed of repayments.

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- The Dominion Post

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