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Plain English 19/4/2002

Plain English: A Weekly Update From Bill English, National Party Leader

Rugby World Cup Today is a sad day for rugby fans like myself. I am hugely disappointed at New Zealand missing out on co-hosting the World Cup, and I know others feel the same. It is not just a game - it is a huge part of our national culture and identity, quite apart from the large economic benefits it would have brought. Trevor Mallard's behaviour as Sports Minister has been completely inappropriate. His bully-boy attitude has been part of the problem, not the solution. New Zealand-Australian relations have never been lower and with Mallard's abuse of international sporting administrators it will make it even harder to attract major sporting events here.

Clearing a path to growth I am pleased with a strong positive reaction to our economic policy announced on Monday. The policy is serious and substantial and it takes the initiative on economic debate from the Government. We will follow up with more detailed policy on schools, workplace law and tertiary education, all mentioned in the package. At the heart of our thinking is the demographic change we face, particularly the diminishing number of younger people, and the fact that a significant proportion of them will come from backgrounds of social and educational disadvantage. Media interest in tax reductions overshadowed this.

Lower taxes Out tax policy has sparked debate. Did you know that from 1996 to 1998 National cut the tax rate for a middle-income earner on $35,000 from 33c to 21c? We will stand by our record on lower taxes for middle-income households. In the late 1980s Labour set the top rate at 33c and it was regarded as fair for 15 years. Our plan puts that top rate back in place. Labour have attacked the idea that lower taxes are good for the economy. Dr Cullen has gone further, pointing to higher economic growth after his tax increase. He will lose that argument and fall back on a hardy annual - National will cut Super. We won't. We can afford it.

Paintgate Helen Clark could have dealt with this issue by taking responsibility for her actions. Instead she widened the credibility gap by making excuses - that she was too busy, the charity made her do it, and everyone else does it too. The last statement could find her in front of a privileges hearing in Parliament. It turns out she made statements smearing every politician and celebrity, knowing they were wrong. It might look smart, but it's wrong. Prime Ministers should not lie to the public or to Parliament. The dishonesty is so brazen as to be unbelievable. Clark finished the week blaming her staff for the lies, so it won't be a happy office come Monday.

Privy Council Margaret Wilson's new court starts with the handicap that it's seen to be her idea. My concern is less with the quality of individuals and more with the lack of quality of public debate around the issues they will deal with. Our public debate on business issues has been reduced to abuse of the rich and deep suspicion of anyone other than the small shareholder. On Treaty and constitutional issues there has been no open and honest debate for some years. The Judges on this Court will be swimming in shallow intellectual tides, and Labour's political correctness and politics of envy only make it worse. We will need to deepen public discussions for this court to be plausible.

Politics with a difference For politics with a difference listen to the Edge 97.5FM at 7:05am on Wednesdays. I do a weekly session, including a new joke every week. They sound better on radio, so have a listen.

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