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Why This Government Won’t Serve A Second Term




7.45PM, THURSDAY, 29 JUNE 2000


Thank you for the invitation.

Your arranger of speakers put to me a topic so attractive I could not turn it down – “Why the coalition won’t serve a second term”.

Sir Robert Muldoon used to say that every generation the country elects a Labour government to learn why their parents no longer vote Labour.

I have developed a reputation for the accuracy of my forecasts and I am absolutely positive that this coalition will not only not win a second term, I would not be surprised if the coalition does not last the three years.

For Labour/Alliance to be re-elected, they need a miracle.

The coalition has promised that it will close the gaps, but is passing policies that have opened them!

The economy has to be producing jobs and growth.

The coalition has to persuade us that it has positive, practical policies to make New Zealand a fairer country.

The coalition is failing on all three tests.

But more on this later.

The size of the challenge can be seen from the fact that this is a minority government. No new government has ever had such a shaky mandate.

Labour received just 38% of the vote.

That is just 3% more than the vote Labour received in 1990 when the Palmer government was swept from office.

After a decade in opposition, Labour’s core vote is just 3% higher.

Governments always lose ground. In no election in 100 years has a government increased its vote.

To win with a swing against the government of just 2% with say 35% of the vote, Labour’s ally, the Alliance, would have to do spectacularly.

The Alliance, as a party, is in terminal decline.

The Alliance lost the last election.

The Alliance vote dropped 2.5%, the party lost three MPs.

The Alliance has polled below the margin of error and the party’s future depends on Jim Anderton, who, next election is 65, and gives every impression that this is his last term.

It is very hard to see how the Alliance can correct its position.

A people’s bank is not going to change any votes, it’s clearly going to be a minor savings institution.

Labour Party polling shows that when the Alliance is seen to be taking an initiative, it’s damaging to Labour – so there is no way that Clark and Cullen will give the Alliance enough policy victories to enable that party to recover.

Some Labour strategists hope the Greens can replace the Alliance.

The Greens have proved more red than the Alliance.

The Party has no structure and few members. Its support of unpopular policies, such as the re-nationalisation of ACC and the ER Bill, also mean the Green Party seems unlikely to survive the inevitable anti-government swing.

The coalition enjoyed a long honeymoon as it blamed everything on the previous government and promised great things in its first budget.

Michael Cullen's budget committed $4.6 billion dollars of a total increase in spending over the next three years of $5.9 billion dollars.

So we have now seen the coalition programme. We did not like it.

The budget saw Labour’s support fall another per cent and ACT and National both increase. So why did the budget fail with the public?

The budget was a vision-less document.

Michael Cullen does not believe in the vision thing. But nations need goals.

The budget could have easily painted a vision of a more united country, one where we are all going forward together. Instead, closing the gaps was put forward as special programmes on the basis of race.

Non Maori smoke too.

Non Maori have literacy problems.

There are poor whites.

There is nothing in this budget for the ill, uneducated, out of work, working class skinhead.

The unfairness of the budget will cause resentment.

The coalition took no steps in the budget to reverse the impression that this government is either indifferent or hostile to business.

The news that tomorrow’s National Bank survey will reveal the lowest level of business confidence ever is bad news for the country. Business confidence surveys have traditionally been accurate forecasts of economic events.

No government has taken over with the books in better shape, or the economy growing stronger, and single handed they have turned it sour.

The Employment Relations Bill will reinstate union power and industrial strife.

And those strikes will be the nails in this government’s coffin.

What will bury the coalition is the failure of their own policies.

If only throwing money at problems resolved them! In the last 30 years some $183 billion dollars has been transferred by payment by social welfare. That’s enough to buy the whole South Island three times over. The gaps have widened.

This year to close the gaps (for the Pacific Island community) the government is going to spend $500,000 on more contract community workers and another $630,000 to monitor the effectiveness of government policies and $100,000 for capital.

That’s five social workers, plus cars, and six policy analysts.

Civil servants watching civil servants.

A total waste of money that won’t help anyone. No one believes that five social workers and six civil servants will close the gaps for the Pacific Island community.

What would help would be a policy to ensure every pupil, by the time they leave primary school, can read. That's a policy that would help every child, but as Maori and Pacific Island children are trailing in reading they will benefit the most.

The government is cancelling tests and exams so we won’t know how our education system is being dumbed down.

I have not included in this analysis the lack of credibility of the Labour leadership.

Michael Cullen, last election, described Labour’s employment policy as “tinkering at the margin” - and he wonders why he has a credibility problem!

You will forgive me for pointing out that Helen Clark was less than truthful when she claimed that it was a letter from me that caused this trial by media of Dover Samuels. It now turns out she knew of the whole issue in January – six months ago. It also turns out the Prime Minister's office had referred the issue to the Police and Dover Samuels had given an interview to the Holmes show. My letter appears to have had little effect. ACT has no sought to make politics out of the issue.

The Prime Minister’s credibility has taken a fatal hit.

So they are gone.

The challenge for ACT is now winning the next election, but to do so positively.

I have told the ACT Board and Caucus that I want the party to put forward a practical, positive programme about how we can create in this country one of the world’s highest standards of living.

New Zealand should be one of the countries that can exploit the new knowledge economy, but not by government controls, regulations and legislation.

The new technologies – the internet, computers, email, e-commerce, e-government empower the individual.

ACT’s core message of freedom, choice and personal responsibility are the three pillars of a knowledge economy.

Depressing as things are, to go back to the sort of drift we had last year would be an opportunity missed.

So it’s over to ACT to provide the vision, policies and people – a challenge I welcome.


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