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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington - 11/2

Richard Prebble's
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 11 February 2002

No Fresh New Ideas

It's Carr's Law of politics - accuse your opponent of your own worst fault. Helen Clark has been accusing the Opposition of having no fresh ideas when she doesn't have any herself. There's been no response to a request from the ninth floor for some new policy ideas that the Prime Minister can put in her "vision" speech tomorrow to open Parliament and, in effect, the election campaign.

Labour got elected in 1999 by copying Tony Blair's first campaign and his credit card promises. But Clark will be in trouble with the Left if she tries to copy Blair's re-election campaign. Blair outflanked the Tories with ACT-like policies - for example, putting out failure schools to the private sector and having the private sector build and run hospitals for the NHS.

Labour in this country is reduced to campaigning on "Growing an Innovative New Zealand" - social welfare for industry. It's nonsense - all rhetoric and no substance. But it may have legs with voters because it implies transferring wealth from rural NZ to Labour voters in the cities.

While two-thirds of voters think New Zealand is heading in the right direction, most know the Labour/Alliance government can take little credit. The current economic success is due mainly to the Kiwi dollar's fall in value and a booming rural sector that Labour said was a "sunset industry". It seems it will be left for ACT to point out that for New Zealand to succeed in a global economy, we must have a competitive advantage such as lower taxes.


Health and education issues will dominate this year's election. The two old parties' only idea is to throw more money at the problems. Clark's challenge is to find a way to give the impression that Labour has a health policy. The health sector is now in disarray. The Auckland District Health Board now has 600 managers. What do they do? Negotiate with other managers in the Ministry, Pharmac, other boards and now regional area managers.


Tertiary education is a mess because interest-free loans have created a huge student debt. The re-introduction of school zoning is causing real anger throughout the country. And parents don't have confidence in the replacement of School Certificate with subjective internal assessment.

The government's promise to "transform the economy" has no credibility without education standards.

"What About the Workers?"

One group missing from the PM's speech will be the workers. Labour's election strategy is to build on its traditional working vote by appealing to superannuitants, beneficiaries and Maori/Pacific Islanders. They have showered money on every group except those in work.

Workers miss out on the community card and most working people earn too much to qualify for a state house. The Westpac household survey says working New Zealanders are at least $30 a week worse off since Labour came to power. ACT has noticed a significant rise in its support from ordinary working people. If the working class fail to vote, Labour's re-election strategy will fall apart.

Here to Help

The Letter has been asked to explain how an ACT MP came to escort the Prime Minister from the upper marae at Waitangi while Labour's ally, the Greens, organised a protest. Sue Bradford and Jeanette Fitzsimons organised a rent-a-mob - and it was ugly. Titewhai Harawira asked Donna Awatere Huata to take the PM's hand, to protect her from her coalition allies. Donna reports that Helen was shaking and she doesn't blame her.

Can we explain it? The Greens don't know whether they want to be MPs or protesters. And ACT? We are here to help wherever we can.

Pakehas for Maori Sovereignty

The Green protesters at Waitangi were holding up plastic signs calling for the restoration of Maori sovereignty. The slogans were on the back of real estate signs so, from behind, it looked like a group of agitated, hairy Europeans advertising a land sale! The Greens seem willing to do anything for Maori except elect a Maori MP. The Greens' list in 1999 was the most mono-cultural of any party.

NZ Post

NZ Post has just bought 30 percent of the postal service on the island of Malta. Rodney Hide has been receiving emails from the opposition Labour Party in Malta, offering their cooperation in an international investigation into this extraordinary use of NZ taxpayers' assets.

Rodney is being well reported in the Maltese media. He has also received a leaked copy of the Kroll report from South Africa, which shows how NZ Post botched its contract in that country. NZ Post got into trouble in South Africa because its only solution to chronic over-staffing in post offices was redundancy. But in a country with high unemployment and "a difficult history", local management said redundancy was not an option.

NZ Post then offered the services of Ken Douglas to show the South Africans how to make workers redundant. The Letter wonders whether Comrade Ken knows he is being touted internationally as a "restructuring expert". Ken, an NZ Post director, claims not to have read the Kroll report. It's on our website, Ken, at .

New York Crime Rate

The Letter has received several emails in response to our story last week that New Zealand's crime rates are higher than New York's - except for murder. All killings, including manslaughter, are reported as murder in America, so you can't compare the figures. We were also wrong to suggest New York's higher murder rate might be due to its gun laws - New York has had the toughest gun laws in America since 1908.

The Polls

Polls this far out from an election are suspect. But we can confidently predict that the gap between the two old parties will close - it always does. The third parties' share is rising and will again be the deciding factor at the election. The Greens' bubble may have burst. It's too early to write off the Alliance, and ACT is heading for its best-ever election.


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