Richard Prebble’s Letter from Wellington #30
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 18 September 2000
The coalition has greeted the Olympic 'truce' on the media's coverage of politics with huge relief. In Wellington the political news is just grim for the Government.
The Olympic diversion may just serve to remind voters of how fast Australia is leaving us behind.
The latest public opinion poll showing National and Labour neck and neck is a watershed. What is most significant is that National have captured the women's vote, Labour's strength under Clark. It is the women's vote that will elect Al Gore.
The women's vote and superannuation have made National the most successful party in New Zealand. In the 1990s National lost both. Jenny's speech on super and producing shopping baskets in Parliament show she is determined to win back both. Jenny argues any voter losses the compromises cause will be picked up by ACT. Polling shows that two thirds of Labour's vote are vulnerable to Jenny's strategy. It seems to be working.
Will The Nats Roll Jenny?
The Letter receives constant (and bizarre) leaks that National MPs are actively plotting to replace Shipley. Murray McCully is the alleged numbers man and Auckland is pushing for the change. The plotters say Jenny can't rattle Helen, does not relate to Auckland and that losers can't be winners. The plotters claim the debacle over the Singapore Free Trade Agreement have given them the numbers.
The Letter says get real, back her or sack her, but stop plotting.
Waitangi - The Issue
National's for and against on the Singapore deal reflects a real policy dilemma. Opposing a free trade agreement they negotiated, which contains a Waitangi clause allowing the Government to "favour Maori" - wording they drafted for the GATT agreement - was always going to be difficult for National.
Singapore Free Trade Agreement
The hype over the agreement is hard to explain. Most trade with Singapore is already tariff free, which makes the PM's claim of hundreds of millions a little hollow. Professional services, where because of the low dollar we have an advantage, have been excluded by Singapore.
The failure of the WTO to get a new trade round started prompted National to try for a free trade agreement. National hoped for an agreement with the US but Bill Clinton did not respond. Next was Chile, but Clark returned empty handed, so that left Singapore. Officials say other Asian countries might join but none have been named.
The Agreement's only significance is the freeing up of foreign investment, but until Labour vetoed the Sealords deal, no foreign investment had been stopped for over 15 years!
The Agreement's importance is to allow Labour to say they're not the Green's prisoner and the Waitangi clause.
The Waitangi Clause
Waitangi clauses were invented by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, who upon inserting it into the SOE legislation, assured the cabinet it was legally meaningless window dressing. The Court of Appeal used the clause to invent the concept of a partnership between Crown and Maori: two races, two laws. National's Sir Douglas Graham continued the concept.
Now under Attorney-General Margaret Wilson the Waitangi clause is being inserted into everything from free trade, to the Archives Bill to health legislation.
No country has survived laws giving racial preference. ACT's core policy is one law for all, and as Helen Clark conceded, only ACT has been consistent in its views. When the New Zealand courts are asked to interpret the meaning of the clause in health legislation, they can, and will, take note of the clause in the free trade agreement. Unlike a clause in legislation that Parliament can repeal - future Governments can not remove the clause from international agreements.
ACT believes that the majority of New Zealanders, both Maori and non-Maori favour one law for all, and view the coalition and National's actions as undemocratic and potentially disastrous. ACT will not support racist legislation.
ACT's small business networks have reported that inflation is underway. One small business writes that five suppliers notified price increases of up to 10 per cent last week. By Christmas the Letter predicts inflation will be over three per cent. It's just a question of time before the Reserve Bank has to increase interest rates. Dr Michael Cullen seems to have created stagflation.
The Letter understands that last week only eight properties were sold by multi-list agencies on the whole of Auckland's North Shore. A significant price drop seems certain.
The value of most people's second largest asset, the car, has also fallen. As the dollar has depreciated seven per cent against the Yen, you would expect cars to increase in price, but the price of second hand cars has fallen. The average Labour supporter's wealth has dropped over 10 per cent since the election.
The Hidden Issue
It's estimated over 25,000 overstayers, most from Nth America & Europe, are currently in New Zealand. After 1 October this year overstayers will be subject to a removal order with no appeal. The Government has allowed a year to let people regularise their status but Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel will not divulge the criteria. So overstayers have not come forward.
The Letter believes cabinet is today considering criteria that would allow some 9,000 overstayers to regularise their status.
Labour's failure to tackle this issue has caused real problems with their Pacific Island support and created divisions inside both the Alliance and Labour caucuses. Immigration is a potential landmine for Labour. Lianne Dalziel is meeting an all party delegation of MPs on Tuesday indicating that she expects a decision today.
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