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Richard Prebble's Letter From Wellington #39

RICHARD PREBBLE'S
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 20 November 2000

Helen Clark's visionless speech and the choice of a professional election campaigner as party president is a clear indication that Labour's sole objective is to be re-elected. Neither Mike Williams or Clark have stated any vision of how New Zealand can a prosperous nation. ACT is consistently launching policy to show New Zealanders there is an alternative. ACT's fresh ideas and superior policy will allow New Zealand to be 10th by 2010.

Where Are The Gaps?

Helen Clark's glaring omission of 'closing the gaps' in her speech to Labour's annual conference is poll driven. Labour's polling shows the policy is very unpopular. Simon Chapple's research that showed competitive labour markets had closed the gaps in the 1990s rocked Labour. However, Michael Cullen did address the 'gaps', "We have fallen behind in terms of our relative standard of living and therefore also in terms of many key social indicators, such as quality of housing and life expectancy. We are towards the bottom end of the first world when we should be at the top. That is the real gap we have to close." Dr Cullen is correct to say it is the most important gap to close. What he didn't say is that his government has spectacularly increased this gap.

How To Be A Treaty Champion

While Labour watered down the health legislation Treaty clause, officials are still advancing the policy. Health Waikato is typical. All staff, from surgeons to cleaners, are being put through a Treaty programme. Staff are graded from level one to six. At level one staff must show an appreciation of the effects of colonisation on Maori i.e. the holocaust. A level six grade is a staff member who is "consistently proactive in supporting Treaty-based service and being an advocate for Maori initiatives". Level five is considered a "Treaty champion". It is unclear if pay rises will be given to those who 'pass'. Chief executive Jan White has called it the "most significant change ever faced by the organisation". When one thinks of the restructuring the Health sector has endured over the last decade it shows how comprehensive the Treaty health programme is. Health administrators who have spoken to the Letter say all of the extra $27 million health allocation will be devoured by administration. Health will be Labour's Waterloo.

A 'Favourable' Economic Review.

The only extraordinary feature of the leaked National Party economic document was that National, Labour and media commentators all thought it was favourable. The document predicts 4 per cent inflation, that the Reserve Bank will increase interest rates, growth this year of 1.8 per cent rising to just 3 per cent in 2002. Anarchy would produce a similar situation in the current booming world economy. When the growth forecasts are compared with Tajikistan (5 per cent), Bangladesh (5.5 per cent) and the Maldives (7 per cent), one would hate to think what Bill and National regard as unfavourable economic data. ACT is the only party putting the case for accelerated economic growth.

What's The Big Secret?

The Letter has received an extraordinary complaint from a regular Letter reader. It appears Minister of Agriculture, Jim Sutton, is making businessmen sign confidentiality agreements after meetings with him. ACT is so incredulous that Owen Jennings has written to the Minister asking if it is true and if so why? It is the Letter's belief that a Minister's use of confidentiality agreements in these circumstances is not legally enforceable and is in fact contrary to the Official Information Act. What's the big secret?

The ENZA Monopoly

In opposition Jim Sutton opposed attempts by ACT and National to introduce competition into the market. ENZA granted a token number of export licences last year. Those lucky enough to get a licence claim they only get licences if ENZA believes there is no profit to be made. ENZA is currently suing one of the licensees for selling fruit contrary to the conditions of the licence - a point that is hotly contested. The private licensees claim to have delivered a better price to their growers. Rumour has it that Mr Sutton now wants to give orchardists a chance to vote for deregulation but is scared of court action. Companies who bought into the statutory monopoly may seek compensation for the premium price they paid for state protection.

Rodney Hide Won It

Jan and Murray Willis, the Auckland couple who won a 14 year tax dispute with the IRD are lucky ACT MP Rodney Hide went into bat for them. The dispute cost them their business, home and hundreds of thousands of dollars, before they finally received an apology and acknowledgement from the IRD that they never had owed them any money. National and Labour MPs in the past consistently refused to take on the IRD. Rodney backed the Willis', took on their case and achieved justice.

ACT Wins Again

ACT MP Stephen Franks has had another private members bill drawn for the members ballot - the second in as many ballots. The Bill will remove secrecy from the Family Court. In West Australia they found (as is the case here) that during custody battles couples use the secrecy of the Family Court to make wild accusations of child abuse etc. Reporting and open Court access results in dramatically fewer spurious allegations as family and friends will know they are false. The Bill was a Muriel Newman idea, unearthed during research on the Shared Parenting Bill. Muriel will take responsibility for the Bill's progression through the House. This Wednesday ACT will have four Members Bills in a row on the order paper. This has never happened before and accurately reflects the hard work of ACT's parliamentary team.

Stop Press

Serbia has offered the United Nations 30,000 troops to help restore democracy to the United States.

Letter from Wellington is faxed and emailed weekly. To subscribe, or contribute, call 04 470 6624, Fax 04 473 3532, e-mail act@parliament.govt.nz Post to: ACT Parliamentary Office, Parliament Buildings, Wellington.


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