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Richard Prebble's Letter From Wellington #42

RICHARD PREBBLE'S Letter from Wellington Monday, 11 December 2000

ACT has received tremendous feedback from New Zealanders wanting their say on accident compensation. ACC spokesman Ken Shirley has been overwhelmed with responses. If you would like to view the discussion document, or enrol in an ACC discussion e-group visit http://www.act.org.nz/action/acc.html

Foreign Policy Defeat

A week ago a New Zealand Minister went to Australia for talks about Kiwi welfare costs, by the end of the week the talks were about restricting Kiwi residency rights in Australia. The turnaround is the biggest foreign policy set back since the United Kingdom entered the EC. The ramifications will be significant. The Australian government put a proposition to the New Zealand government: If you want free access let's both agree to meet each others welfare costs of all new nationals in each country. A Finance Minister with a well performing economy could have met the Australians halfway. There was no way Dr Cullen could agree. Skilled young New Zealanders will still be able to migrate. It is the unskilled and the old who are affected. The Australians believe New Zealand has welshed on a defence understanding and is unreliable. Clark's well reported attacks on Australian Ministers are also greatly resented. Canberra has decided New Zealand is a liability not an asset. The Howard government is seeking a free trade agreement with the United States without New Zealand. The Australians have determined a partner that can't pay their way could jeopardise their chance of success. Helen Clark and Jim Anderton have for over 30 years called for an isolationist, go-it-alone policy. Now they now have it.

Two Defeats Unheard Of

Last week in parliament the coalition lost two votes on the Health and Disability bill The government was forced to introduce almost identical amendments to save face. The National minority government never lost votes on its own legislation. Sir Robert Muldoon called a snap election when his government lost a vote on a private members bill. For a government to lose a vote on its own legislation is very significant. Unfortunately the Fourth Estate decided that constitutionally important defeats are not worth reporting.

What Happened?

The Greens switched and voted with the opposition. Why? The vote was over Wellington's town belt land that is owned by the hospital and is now surplus to requirements. As Wellington Central MP, Richard Prebble campaigned for statutory protection of the town belt. Marian Hobbs also promised to promote such protection. Last week Ms Hobbs voted against statutory protection. Health Minister Annette King's inept handling of the Bill not only caused the government to lose the vote but will probably cause Marian Hobbs to lose her seat.

Closing the Gaps

The coalition's attempts to re-spin closing the gaps is tangling them up. Ministers like Steve Maharey have publicly denied closing the gaps is for Maori and Pacific Island people, "...the Closing the Gaps strategy was aimed at improving the lot of all disadvantaged New Zealanders." This has caused great distress amongst the Labour Maori Caucus as they were not included in any cabinet discussions on a policy change. The Maori Affairs Select Committee, in a very unusual move, summonsed the Prime Minister's officials by name to appear at a select Committee hearing. The Head of the Prime Minister's Department confirmed no Cabinet directive or budget initiative has been changed, and promised to detail exactly what gaps the government intends closing. To be continued.

Lowered Expectations

The Reserve Bank Governor gave a report last week predicting New Zealand would have increased mortgage interest rates, 4 per cent inflation and the worst growth rate in the OECD yet every paper in New Zealand greeted this as good news! But it is the volatility of the New Zealand dollar that will be the next big economic issue. The sheer size of the dollar's swings are creating huge problems. If the dollar appreciates as fast as some economists claim, it will bring as much pain as the rapid drop. Whether New Zealand should continue with the OECD's smallest currency unit will again be a hot topic of debate.

It's No Sin To Be Rich

How many times have you heard the expression 'Money is the root of all evil'? Dr Samuel Gregg, whom ACT hosted as part of his nationwide tour, points out this is actually a misquote. The actual text reads: 'The love of money is the root of all evils' (1 Timothy 6:10). Dr Gregg, is an Australian catholic philosopher, who believes attitudes toward wealth in New Zealand and Australia are 'ridiculed with contradictions.' Dr Gregg argues that while 'no doubt, some rich people have acquired wealth via morally dubious routes... there are also academics, union officials, lawyers, and politicians who attain power through suspect means.' Dr Gregg tried to dispel common myths about wealth. 'Perhaps the greatest is that if one person makes money, then it must be at someone else's expense... Secondly, we should recognise that there is no necessary connection between acquiring wealth and morally dubious acts. It is entirely possible to do well and do good... poverty is also morally hazardous. It can create an environment that encourages people to choose to steal-or worse.' To view an essay by Dr Gregg go to: http://www.act.org.nz/action/archive/nosin.html

ACT Wednesday

The coalition ignored 92 per cent of New Zealanders when it voted down Stephen Franks' Parole Bill. Labour's Jill Pettis said the Bill was racist - "we all know who are in prison," she told Parliament. Muriel Newman's Bill to open the Family Court to public scrutiny is receiving a huge response. Incredible stories have surfaced, like the character who is using Family Court secrecy to suppress a book, so the media is unable to report it. If Muriel's Bill gets to a Select Committee the evidence will shock you. The Family Court has lost touch with the community.


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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