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Plain English - Friday 15 March 2002

Plain English - Friday 15 March 2002

plain English

A weekly update from Bill English, National Party Leader

Friday 15 March 2002


Thank you for your responses to Plain English. It's welcome and I see all of it. Some readers don't like the negative comment on the Government. I am working to more positive material, particularly as our policy making hits high gear. However no-one else is holding Labour to account. It's an opposition's job and it is part of ensuring better government so we will continue to voice criticisms. The current atmosphere in public debate is unhealthily acquiescent. Readers have challenged us to offer positive alternative as well and I accept that challenge.

Trip to the USA

Today I head to the USA to look at investment attraction and the government-business relationship in Colarado (population 4.2 million). They have similarities to New Zealand, and a very sucessful recipe based on joint decision-making with business. I will also visit the North American Defence Command Operations Centre and talk defence doctrine with senior military personnel. American defence policy is changing, and we need to understand it, as we shape our defence policy for the next 10 years. Then I will visit the Hudson Institute which has done extensive studies on the impact of Clinton's welfare reforms.

Making sure every child gets a good start

I am passionate about the welfare of New Zealand children. I know how hard it is to raise a family and I know I am luckier than most. I have nothing but admiration for the many families who are doing a first-class job of raising their children.

But, many children are not getting the start in life they need. Yesterday National released a discussion document about child welfare, and we are seeking feedback from interested parties on how we can meet this challenge.

You can find the paper at It includes ideas such as simplifying family assistance, extending home visitation programmes, and cracking down on violence towards children.

NZ Post in trouble again

NZ Post has become the first State Owned Enterprise ever to be summoned to appear in front of the Privileges Committee. Chairman Dr Ross Armstrong and Chief Executive Elmar Toime have been accused of misleading a Parliamentary select committee over damaging reports of their business operations in South Africa.

In Parliament Helen Clark revealed that Ross Armstrong is collecting over $200,000 in directors' fees for Government jobs. Toime and Armstrong are the pair who made the creative decision to sue Opposition MP Richard Prebble with Government backing for doing his public duty. I'm not sure they'll try it again.

Treaty of Waitangi

I have met with a number of Maori opinion leaders in the last five months, and I am greatly heartened by the growing desire to look ahead, and to get history behind us so the nation can go ahead together. National intends to take a leadership role, where Labour has stagnated. Maori are becoming frustrated with Labour's "cash for votes" attitude because it's patronising and encourages dependency on the government. I am getting a receptive hearing for the idea that self-reliance and enterprise fit well with Maori desire to control their own destiny. I sense a real opportunity to find a way ahead, and our policy on Treaty claims will outline a path most New Zealanders will follow.

Tax incentives for saving

National has announced it will introduce tax rebates to encourage saving. A recent ASB survey shows 86% of the public agree it's a good idea.

Environmental policy

You can find a recent speech I gave on principles for environmental policy at

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