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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington - 12 Nov

Richard Prebble's
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 12 November 2001


Auntie Tariana

Helen Clark's first action to protect her Associate Corrections Minister was to tell staff in the Police and Corrections departments that if they spoke to the media, it would not be a career-enhancing move. So they are talking to the Letter.

* Whenever Wanganui police arrest 'one of her people' - a regular event - they await the arrival of a ministerial car, flag flying, bringing the Associate Minister.

* The same flag-flying car has taken the Associate Minister on five visits this year to Paremoremo Prison.

* The Minister is greeted by a full powhiri.

* Wardens say they can't enforce prison discipline on 'her people' because prisoners taunt them that they'll ring Auntie Tariana - and they do - and she rings back.

* If you're not from Wanganui, the Minister's not interested in your case.

The Disaffected Maori Caucus

The Labour caucus were stunned when Maori MPs walked out over the GM issue. Such a walkout is unprecedented in Labour's history. The leadership didn't know if the Maori MPs' had gone for good. They all knew that if the Maori members didn't return, the Labour government was finished.

No Maori MP could explain the spiritual objection to GM - genes were only discovered 50 years ago, so Maori's traditional opposition is mystifying. Tariana Turia is a leading opponent of GM, so Clark saw a soft stance on Tariana's latest problems as a way to heal the caucus split. As National has never followed through on any issue, she calculated the Turia affair would blow over - but this time National will follow through.

Does the Alliance Exist?

If the war in Afghanistan is lengthy, as the US is warning, the Alliance Party won't survive. The Alliance leadership complains that Labour won't give them any victories. If the Alliance polled, they'd know why. Whenever tracking polls show the electorate thinks Labour is listening to the Alliance, Labour's support falls. When the electorate thinks Jim Anderton, Laila Harre and co have no influence, Labour's support rises.

Senior Labour Ministers tell their Alliance colleagues that forming a government with the Greens would be a nightmare - but that's exactly what the plan is.

Delegates at the Alliance national conference voted 85-61 to support their MPs' position on the war. The 146 delegates included 10 MPs, more than 40 staffers and hangers-on from Wellington, leaving about 90 real delegates. (At ACT's Auckland regional conference - not including the Nth Shore - there were 120 delegates, and no staffers from Wellington.)

Lessons from Australia

No one in NZ is more relieved at John Howard's win than Helen Clark. Kim Beazley has no time for Helen, whom he regards as a dangerous ideologue and he sees NZ as a free-loader in defence. Howard, who has to deal with Labour premiers in every state, has no expectations from NZ Labour. He's grateful that Clark has kept a large NZ defence presence in East Timor and hasn't asked about the exit plan.

The Greens in Australia, who alone opposed a tough line on the boat people, saw their vote double. The message to NZ Greens is clear - there are no votes in being cooperative.

More Gems from McLeod

The $1m Tax Review 2001 is providing plenty of ammunition for ACT in the party's campaign to cut tax. The report reveals direct overseas investment in NZ has collapsed, so reducing tax on new foreign investment to 18pc would cost just $50m - if no extra investment results.

The authors reveal that NZ's international tax regime, which attempts to tax NZers' worldwide income, is unique and punitive. It discourages successful people - both Kiwis and foreign - from coming here.

Progressive Tax Regime Unfair

The McLeod report calculates government spending on health and education per household. It debunks the myth of 'middle-class capture' - ie the notion that high taxpayers receive the most benefits. Households in the three lowest deciles pay less than $10,000 a year in tax and all receive more than $20,000 a year in government spending. Those in the lowest decile get most.

The three highest deciles - over $30,000, $40,000 and $70,000 - receive less than $10,000 from the government and the highest decile gets least.

Benefits received would not change with a flat tax rate.

Tax Cuts for Everyone

Michael Cullen claims low-income families would pay more tax under the proposed 18 and 33 percent rates. But that's not so. * Households earning less than $9500 are all beneficiaries - so the government could adjust the benefit. * Low-income working families are entitled to Family Tax Credit assistance - so would not be adversely affected. * Some households earning between $32,500 and $72,500 could lose marginally - but the answer is to reduce the top tax rate. By cutting spending by $1b a year, the top rate could be cut to 31 percent and with a $2b cut, to 28 percent. (See www.act.org.nz/taxrates)

From Air Force to Gyppo Air

The army recently chartered a Cambodian airline to bring our troops home from East Timor. Fortunately, someone did a few checks and found the airline didn't meet the army's safety standards. No worries. They've now chartered Egypt Air to bring the troops home - Helen Clark's idea of an airforce.

The Liberal Vision

The ACT Party at its regional conferences is continuing to advance its 'liberal vision'. At the Auckland conference, Dr Michael Bassett, historian, author and Lange Labour minister spoke on 'The Conflict of Visions about New Zealand'. You can read his excellent speech at www.act.org.nz/bassett.

This Thursday at Auckland's Crown Plaza Hotel from 5.30 to 7pm, Australian author James Cox will speak on 'The Future of the Welfare State'.

At the northern regional conference next Saturday in Takapuna, Roger Kerr of the Business Roundtable will speak on 'Freedom and Prosperity' and North and South writer Deborah Coddington on 'Liberal Feminism'.

Send the Letter to a Friend

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