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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington

Letter from Wellington
Monday, 24 July 2000

Liberty and property are again at risk when Parliament resumes tomorrow for an epic five week session. The Employment Relations Bill will be reported back, which, with the Greens’ support, will be rammed through under urgency. The new ACC Bill will be introduced, while an Income Related Rents Bill and a new Health and Disability Bill are also expected. There are no proposals to restore business confidence, reduce red tape or to cut compliance costs.

ACT Caucus Planning Strategy

The Review
The ACT parliamentary team has just completed a three day strategy session. When ACT met in Alexandra six months ago, the Labour/Alliance coalition was enjoying the strongest honeymoon ever, commentators claimed it would be a three term government, while National were reluctant to oppose before the Budget.

Caucus believed ACT’s increased vote in the last election gave us a mandate to oppose the tax increase, ACC nationalisation and the pro-union ERB. So ACT determined to be an effective opposition. As the coali-tion now blames ACT for everything, from Labour in-feuding to the col-lapse in business confidence, ACT has succeeded. The honeymoon is over and the coalition looks increas-ingly like a one term government.

What Next?
National has started to oppose the Government, but they don’t believe alternative policy should be public until election year. ACT believes voters do want to hear fresh new ideas, to avoid re-living the aimless drift of the late 1990s. The ACT Board and Caucus have agreed to a programme of releasing new policy proposals to cater for voters’ needs. Visit ACT’s website for policy details: www.act.org.nz

ACC has been a mess for years. National didn’t introduced competition until 1999, and only after ACT had vigorously campaigned for change. Regrettably, competition was introduced to only one of five ac-counts - the employers account. ACT is developing a new ACC policy which, unlike National’s limited re-form, will introduce the advantage of choice across the field, including the motor vehicle account.

Employment Law
There were significant problems with the Employment Contracts Act, that’s why Labour could campaign against it. Bogus personal grievance claims, a chaotic Holidays Act, bizarre Employment Court decisions and unacceptable delays at the Tribunal are all symptomatic. ACT does not believe restoring the Employment Contracts Act is enough. ACT will soon be releasing proposals for a new employment framework that will encourage investment and jobs, provide more flexible employment law and will curtail abuses.

ACC premium rises
Michael Cullen’s claims that premiums will fall under a nationalised ACC are proving false. The premium for pastoral e.g. sheep, beef and dairy farmers, has risen 21 per cent since ACC’s reversal. Insurance costs have risen from $1.88 to $2.28 per $100 of wages. It seems his pre-election ACC claims are as factual as his claim that the ERB would be a ‘few technical amendments’.

Employment Relations Bill
As predicted by the Letter, Gov-ernment Ministers are out spinning a pro-business message. Faced with civil unrest from the country’s 100,000+ independent contractors, they have backed off making con-tractors employees. But the core of the Bill, to promote trade unionism, will remain unchanged. The ERB will require a great deal of study as the devil is in the detail. The Bill is itself a compliance cost, as every employer will have to attend seminars to un-derstand the new law. The reported Bill will be available next Monday, and ACT MPs will be holding semi-nars around New Zealand explaining the changes.

The Greens hold the balance
Further changes to the ERB are still possible. Some Green MPs believe their party should distance itself from the Bill. In response to business con-cerns in Coromandel, ACT is urging businesses to lobby Green MPs, and will be holding public meetings in Jeanette Fitzsimons’ Coromandel electorate this Friday. Our message to Jeanette is simple “Put your elector-ate first, vote No to the ERB Bill”.

The Democrat Party Convention
The Democrats are holding a con-vention in Wellington during August – not Al Gore’s Democrats but John Wright’s. Remember them? They are the only remaining party in the Alliance. The Greens have gone, New Labour has dissolved and Mana Motuhake is just a list of names. The Letter has been told there will be a call for the Democrats to ‘do a Greens’ and break away. John Wright and Grant Gillon are likely to vote in favour of their current pay-packets , but with the Alliance averaging 3.5% in the polls and with interest rates high – the old social cred’s might ‘do a Greens’ and break the threshold.

More Waipareira woes
During the recess the Department of the Prime Minster and Cabinet’s report into the Waipareira Trust was released. As could be expected of a PM’s office report, it had received a major ‘spin job’. Despite this, it is a damning document that confirms all of ACT’s concerns. The document tells of ‘mismanagement’, ‘non-accountability’, ‘lack of performance’ and problems with the ‘leadership style’. Officials believe other volun-tary agencies delivering Government programmes are also – but not to the same extent – not accountable.
The Letter predicts that ACT’s pro-posals to the Finance and Expendi-ture Committee will be adopted;
- That the Auditor-General have powers to monitor taxpayer funded programmes and;
- That community organisa-tions receiving public money be re-quired to be transparent and ac-countable to their beneficiaries.

Dr Ngatata Love, CEO of Te Puni Kokiri, stated last week that he sup-ports ACT’s proposals.

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