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Prebble's Letter From Wellington: Re-regulation NZ

Richard Prebble's Letter From Wellington

Tuesday, 02 April 2002

Re-regulation NZ

Yesterday, new frontal impact regulations for imported cars came into effect. Officials told Transport Minister Mark Gosche the regulations will push up the cost of imported Japanese cars by $4000 and won't save lives. Owners of Japanese imports, being unable to afford to upgrade, will drive their old cars for longer.

This information is in papers released under the Official Information Act. (see It's interesting, when reading the papers, that the Minister never explains why he wants the new regulations. His son was involved in a car crash and it's widely believed Gosche blames the vehicles for the injuries.

Officials have also told Cabinet that rules against parallel importing of products such as CDs will increase costs to consumers. And a move to apply tough Australian food regulations to some vitamin products will mean people will need a doctor's prescription to buy vitamins.

All these regulations have three things in common. They assist multi-national companies, which manufacture cars, CDs and health products. They will put small NZ companies out of business - some car importers, music distributors and small health companies. Low-income consumers - people who vote Labour - will be most affected.

Jim's Poll

Less than half the Alliance membership have voted for Jim Anderton in his recent poll. This low return was predicted by the Letter. ACT has polled Alliance activists in some electorates and they are disillusioned.

It appears that most members of Jim's own party, New Labour, don't support him. He also has little support among Alliance activists, who've made the party effective at grass roots level. Anderton has not held a public meeting all year.

Under the Privacy Act, it is illegal for him to use the Alliance mailing list to recruit for a new party. Constitutionally, the easiest action is for the Democrats to break away from the Alliance, as the Green Party did. But Anderton has never been a Social Crediter. Hence the spin to try to re-position the Democrats as a party of small business.

Could Anderton, as a Social Credit candidate, win Wigram? Is he really as safe as commentators believe?

Where Are the Volunteers?

At the Auckland Easter Show, it's traditional for political parties to have exhibitions. This year, the Alliance, Greens and NZ First were absent.

It was interesting to note the lack of volunteers at both old parties' stalls. Labour's stand - with a banner saying Labour 2000 - was unmanned for much of the time. No Labour Minister visited and few Labour MPs. Few of National's Auckland MPs visited either - Pansy Wong from Christ-church was their stall's strongest supporter and Bill English called in.

ACT's stall was manned every day and all nine ACT MPs attended.

It seems that active membership of political parties in NZ has collapsed. No one could run a party campaign with the few elderly supporters at National's stand. The Labour Party organisation last election was built around school teachers. But the government's increasingly bitter dispute with the PPTA has gutted Labour of its cadre of teachers.

While there was a well-manned stall from the Electoral Office enrolling voters - funded by taxpayers - there is no substitute for volunteers.

Sentencing and Parole Bill

The days to watch a government are the "no media" days. The Thursday before Easter is such a day. There are no newspapers on Good Friday, so governments tend to release unpopular measures on the Thursday.

It was Thursday that the second reading of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill occurred. This Bill allows violent offenders to be released after just one third of their sentence - compared with the current two-thirds - unless the court orders a longer period (very rare) or the offender is a danger to the community (how can you tell?). ACT favours Truth in Sentencing - where offenders serve their full court- imposed sentence. ACT is leading opposition to the Bill. Stephen Franks' speech to Parliament last Thursday is at

Old Values - New Ideas

ACT leader Richard Prebble has launched the party's latest book, Old Values - New Ideas, a collection of articles by each of ACT's nine MPs. Topics range from Ken Shirley on the Kyoto Protocol and Stephen Franks on the real meaning of the Treaty of Waitangi, to Muriel Newman on the family and Penny Webster's solution to Auckland traffic. The MPs had to pick their topics last year. Donna Awatere Huata, in her article on school choice, anticipated the problem of school zoning, and Rodney Hide's paper on free trade should be required reading for the Greens.

Owen Jennings sets out a blueprint for agriculture while Gerry Eckhoff puts the case for private property as the best means of conservation.

Richard Prebble explains why lower taxes and less compliance costs are necessary to achieve 4% growth, and how the McLeod tax report shows we could have just two rates of income tax - 18 and 28c - at a cost of just $2b.

You can order the book at The book will be launched in Auckland at Dymocks bookshop on Elliott Street at noon on Thursday.

Income Tax Poll

What do you think of the idea of just two rates of income tax (18 and 28c)? You can enter you views in ACT's poll at

Rothcoe the Cat

Rothcoe the cat used to live in a $525-a-week ministerial house in Austin Street with Margaret Wilson, the Minister of Labour. The landlord decided to sell. Ms Wilson was horrified at the thought of prospective buyers looking around the house. She instructed Ministerial Services to buy out the lease which had two years to run. It cost taxpayers $31,500.

Ms Wilson has since moved, taking with her everything except Rothcoe, whom she abandoned. Neighbours are now feeding the stray cat.

The landlord says there's not a word of truth in the story but Rothcoe the cat says he and the taxpayer have been done. Should we call in the Auditor-General and the SPCA?


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