Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington – 19/11
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 19 November 2001
Dithering, Divided Coalition
The PM and her deputy have become experts at claiming all is well with the coalition, but an objective way of measuring the cost of internal tensions is to look at the parliamentary order paper - the government's legislation and its progress through the House. Labour and the Alliance have an ambitious programme of social and economic reform but, thank goodness, they've been able to achieve little.
The main reason for the delay is the time taken up by the coalition in internal negotiations between parties and within parties.
The government has passed just 88 bills this year and 99 last year. (The last National government, despite having run out of steam, managed to pass 140 bills in 1999 and 121 in 1998. The Lange government in 1988, during the Roger Douglas revolution, passed 250 bills!)
There are now 91 bills on the order paper - 56 government, 29 members' four local and two private. Thankfully, when the government is defeated next year, there won't be much socialist legislation to repeal.
Reading Report Rejected
Trevor Mallard has dismissed a devastating select committee report on the failure of schools to teach children to read. The committee was unanimous in its findings. But education bureaucrats won't budge from their ideological commitment to the 'whole word' reading method, which is clearly failing many pupils.
Mr Mallard claims schools can teach the phonetic method if they choose. How, Minister? There's no teaching material, and training colleges don't teach phonetics to new teachers. Another generation of children will be left behind.
The Economy - Which Way?
The Reserve Bank Governor has cut interest rates, citing the rapidly deteriorating global economy, falling wool prices and a slump in business confidence. The pessimistic view is that the US economy was already in recession before September 11, Japan and SE Asia are in recession and NZ won't escape. The tourism industry faces disaster.
But there's a credible alternative view. The US is winning the war on terrorism, energy prices are low, interest rate cuts will stimulate the economy and we could see a post-war boom. NZ could be seen as a safe place to holiday.
The increase in the immigration quota and the return of many Kiwis from overseas, could see a boom in the Auckland property market. Houses in the $1 million bracket are already selling well.
While business is pessimistic, retailers report good pre-Christmas trade. There's an opportunity to persuade many of our talented Kiwis to come home. A tax cut could tip the balance to the optimistic scenario.
More on Tariana
Labour's medal-deserving Associate Minister has accomplished more heroic endeavours on behalf of her people. The Letter has been told that as well as seeking favours for prisoners and asking judges to give special consideration to cases, Tariana has been ringing Social Welfare's enforcement section on behalf of 'her people'. Turia: "Why are you harassing my people?" Department: "But Minister, they've been claiming benefits and working." Turia: "They need the money." The Letter predicts a string of parliamentary questions to verify whether this is another medal-winning performance.
It's Who You Know
Under Labour, it's definitely a case of who you know. Take the recent example of trade union officials involved in a violent picket at Carter Holt Harvey, who smashed truck headlights, punctured tyres, threatened and intimidated, and were arrested for criminal trespass. No problem. Write to Police Minister George Hawkins and George will fix it.
A copy of the union's letter to the Minister and his reply are on ACT's website (www.act.org.nz/hawkins).
Kiwi Bank - the Directors' Cut
The Letter has obtained full minutes of an NZ Post board meeting which reveal the directors' true views about the bank, Jim Anderton's political interference and the folly of taking Richard Prebble to court. It's sobering reading. (See www.act.org.nz/kiwi.) It seems no one but Jim and Jim thinks the bank is a good way to spend $83m of taxpayers' money.
The Letter's policy is to publicly admit when we get it wrong. The Letter was first to reveal that Attorney-General Margaret Wilson's close friend Susan Bathgate was a triple-dipper. The Auditor-General says we were wrong - Ms Bathgate is a quintuple-dipper. Sorry we missed those extra two jobs.
And we also apologise for suggesting Margaret and Susan are friends. Susan has gone from being a close friend, whom Margaret telephoned and dined with, to just "an acquaintance". Soon the Attorney-General will be saying she picked Ms Bathgate's name at random from the telephone book!
A Psychological Examination
Labour MPs have revealed far more than they intended in a new calendar which has them acting out their fantasies - Marian Hobbs as a nun on a Harley-Davidson, Judith Tizard as a bunny girl etc. The Letter commissioned a psychiatrist to analyse the MPs. Here are some of his findings: Judith Tizard - repressed; Helen Clark - narcissistic; Marian Hobbs - a psycho-neurotic of exceptional complexity; Steve Maharey and Trevor Mallard - small-time hoodlums who are acting out anti-social fantasies.
The MPs are seriously disturbed and need immediate stress leave - a minimum of three years. For the full analysis, see www.act.org.nz/nuts.
Liberal Project Update
The ACT Party's Northern Regional Conference at the weekend heard outstanding speeches from the Roundtable's Roger Kerr and journalist Deborah Coddington. Deborah commented on women who spend their lives hunting for bargains and then claim to be opposed to the free market, and who condemn the 'dog-eat-dog' society while supporting a welfare system that sees 27 percent of children raised in solo parent households. See both speeches at www.act.org.nz/liberal.
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