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The Week in Politics - According to Labour

Frontlines

From Labour Leader Helen Clark's Desk

In the past eight days I have given keynote addresses at three major
industry conferences. There is considerable interest in how a Labour
government will inject a new sense of purpose and direction into the
economy.
At both the tourism and aviation industry conferences I announced Labour's
commitment not to proceed with National's policy of pushing the costs of
border control on to ports and airports, and airlines and their passengers.
The reasoning for their policy is bizarre. They say that inbound travellers
are a risk to New Zealand and that therefore there should be user-pays
governing the costs. But let's get that risk in perspective.
The $30 million-odd of border control costs are vastly outweighed by the $4
billion-plus foreign exchange earnings from international visitors. The
"risks" reason is of course a poor excuse for the government's user-pays
proposal, dreamed up to obscure the fact that National wants to shed
responsibility for yet another core state function. In time, no doubt, a
National-Act duo would see the Customs service go the way of prisons - into
private control. It's no wonder that voters have turned their back on this
bizarre combination, whose combined support now hovers around forty per cent
or below. It's time for a change.
At the New Zealand Contractors' Federation conference I outlined Labour's
plans for industry development and training, our commitment to roading, and
Labour's determination to tackle compliance costs on business, wherever
possible, while acknowledging that some costs on business are inevitable if
New Zealand is to retain the semblance of a decent society.
The President of the federation reminded delegates that contractors had done
well under Labour governments in the past.



Competition policy launch

Labour will release its competition policy on Tuesday. It will fall to
Labour to strengthen competition rules. National, after ignoring the
problems for years, has continued to buckle to pressure from powerful
monopoly interests and has deferred legislation it was contemplating -
perhaps indefinitely. But Labour believes stronger competition policy will
give both domestic and commercial consumers a better deal and is an
important plank in our knowledge economy project.

Education policy hailed
Following the release of Labour's education policy covering the schools
sector 11 days ago, education spokesperson Trevor Mallard has been on the
road, visiting schools and addressing meetings from Auckland to
Invercargill. In Southland yesterday, the rural aspects of it found favour
with principals of small schools - in particular the plans to attract
teachers to hard-to-staff schools through a range of measures including
secondment schemes for qualified and experienced teachers. Popular in
Invercargill and Dunedin was Labour's plan to abolish bulk funding and
redistribute the money to all schools on a fair basis. Mallard's itinerary
today includes meetings in Oamaru, Timaru and Ashburton.

NZ-SA Parliamentary friendship
Auckland Central MP Judith Tizard is Labour's representative on the New
Zealand-South Africa Parliamentary Friendship Group - formed to commemorate
the second free and democratic election in South Africa. Tizard said the
group would encourage exchange visits and promote understanding and
friendship.

Quota need highlighted
The need for Labour's plans for local content quotas on television and radio
was highlighted this week by news from New Zealand on Air that it may be
forced to drop the number of hours of funded local programmes. Labour plans
a 10 per cent quota which will be raised to 20 per cent in consultation with
the broadcasting and creative industries. These quotas would be developed
in consultation with broadcasters and artists and there would be different
quotas for different genres.

Winz the loser
Labour's challenge to the culture of extravagance at WINZ was borne out by
State Services Commissioner Michael Wintringham's inquiry into the
department's use of chartered planes. The Commissioner found a lack of
understanding in WINZ of acceptable levels of spending - a polite way of
saying chief executive Christine Rankin has gone way over the top. But the
story's not over yet. The Controller and Auditor-General is still to report
and Rankin faces a personal grievance suit from the manager she suspended.
Watch this space, says Labour employment spokesman Steve Maharey.

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