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Plain English 24 Jan 2001

Plain English 24 Jan 2001

ELECTION YEAR

Over Christmas I turned 40 - that means I have the option of settling down to life as it is, middle-age spread, and being happy about it, or, like everyone else who has turned 40, I can evaluate the future and look forward to another 20 or 25 years of a vigorous contribution to this country. And that is going to be the choice for New Zealand this year.

The worse thing the Clark regime has done is to lower expectations whether it be in education, the economy or health. I am ambitious for New Zealand and this election is going to be about New Zealand making the choice to be ambitious for itself or settle down to a long, slow, decline. We'll be laying out the programme that will make that difference from February onwards.

KEY ISSUES

Voters will face the same big issues as usual this election year like education, health and the economy. Dr Cullen's Superfund will become a bigger issue than many in the media are picking at the moment. It matters a lot when $2 billion a year is taken from the pockets of families and small businesses to go into foreign economies. If we are to get this country up and running we have to invest in ourselves and back ourselves. Last year, we did 40 public meetings around the country with attendances of up to 150 and found people were quite surprised that the Government had not told them the money would be invested outside the country. I think there will be a backlash when they realise this fact has been hidden from them

SAVINGS

Dr Cullen has abandoned promises he made for large-scale changes to taxes on savings. Much of his first Budget was about how increasing savings would be a pillar of his economic policy. It is unlikely that media will go back to see how important this Government said it was. The reason Dr Cullen has abandoned his plans is because they are too complicated and grand, and more importantly, he has simply run out of money to do it.

The Government is getting worried about its spending and the high cost of the Superfund which are pushing up public debt. He is leading the Labour Party into an election year financial squeeze.

RATANA

I attended Ratana's annual celebrations, one of the big events on the Maori calendar, this week to lay out National's principles. This was not a vote gathering exercise, but more and more Maori are attracted to a party that advocates making one's own decisions, enterprise and self-reliance, rather than government grants, as the path ahead. It is really important for National to defend its history in dealing with Treaty issues. And it is important for New Zealand's future that National was there. We need open and honest discussion and that's why I am talking with Maori groups. I am getting the impression that more Maori want to deal with the grievances, so we can all move on.

GAPS

The Government is worried about where the hundreds of millions it spent on Closing the Gaps programmes has gone. National has pursued this issue doggedly for the last two years and will continue to do so. Clark has realised she is vulnerable on this issue and called an emergency meeting with Te Puni Kokiri this week to ask what had been achieved for the $200 million it has spent. Not surprisingly the bureaucrats were short of answers. As pressure mounts on Clark, she will move to blame the bureaucrats. In discussions I have with Maori it is clear that they too are concerned at the way Labour uses the gravy train to maintain the Maori vote. More and more agree that the cheque book will not solve any problems.

DEFENCE MESS

Recent events in the long-running saga at Defence Headquarters show the essence of Labour's style of government. The army man who revealed the truth about what was going on in the defence forces has been punished and suspended. General Dodson who ordered the shredding of documents to hide the truth keeps his job.

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