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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington 29/4/2002

Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington 29 April 2002

Letter from Wellington
Monday, 29 April 2002

Labour Promoting Early Election

The media have failed to report that stories of an early election are Labour-inspired. While Helen Clark maintains she wants to govern full term, Ministers' press secretaries are telling journalists "off the record" that an early election is inevitable.

They are running a consistent line - differences within the Alliance are more bitter than they realised; the Alliance is so unpopular that Labour needs to go early before it is affected.

Labour is so disciplined that those spinning would not do so without Clark's approval.

Why Labour Wants to Go Early

Labour is enjoying mile-high polling. This is as good as it gets. By November, lower export prices, higher inflation and rising interest rates will reduce Labour's popularity.

Labour strategists don't believe either Alliance faction will get 5 percent. Anderton may become a Peter Dunne - an MP without a party - of no use to Labour. Having finalised its list, Labour is ready for an election. National certainly is not.

A List of Hacks

Labour has only 12 list MPs because it dominates the constituencies - and favourable boundaries will give it two more constituency seats in the next Parliament.

Labour's first six list places will go to sitting MPs - Cullen, Hunt, Wilson, Graham Kelly (a has-been), Dianne Yates and Helen Duncan (never-will-bes). Of the next six (the only ones with any real chance) four are trade union officials, two are teachers (one has been both a union official and a teacher) and the sixth has been selected on nepotism.

These six - Dave Hereora, Lynne Pillay, Ashraf Choudhary, Moana Mackey, Lesley Soper and Carol Beaumont - are the ones the media should be scrutinising. Union officials make up 0.002% of the population. These candidates will make Labour's team the most unrepresentative ever, with over 50% of MPs having union backgrounds. Labour is using MMP as an Upper House for the trade union movement.

None of the candidates with wider backgrounds, such as Brendan Burns, have a show of being elected. In Burns' case, he's really applying for a job to join Labour's PR spin team.

National's List Exciting

Michelle Boag promises National will use its list to promote talent into Parliament - unlike 1996 and '99 when the list was a safety net for constituency MPs, to protect National's paper-thin majority.

Now National has attracted Don Brash, where will David Carter be on the list? Will he get a guaranteed list place or will National tell him to win Banks Peninsula? The same applies to MPs like Simcock and Young.

Ms Boag has offered safe list places to more candidates than there are places available. At least five prominent Maori believe they have been promised a high list place.

Thoughts on Brash

Dr Brash has joined the wrong party. His speech to the Knowledge Wave conference reads like the ACT manifesto - and nothing like any speech Bill English has given. National wants to run a two-message campaign - English appealing to the Centre while Brash talks to business. Ironically, Brash's influence will depend on how well ACT does.

ACT's List

ACT conducts a primary ballot of members before selecting the party list - putting ACT at a time disadvantage. It takes two months to give proper notification and hold a ballot. There's a fast-track process for a snap election. The Greens, who are also a democratic party, are in a similar position.

With respect to constituency candidates, ACT has either selected or has nominations open for every seat, and expects to have all candidates selected in about a month.

ACT is always looking for able men and women. If Dr Brash's example has inspired you, contact ACT's headquarters - ph. 09 523 0470; email

Compliance Cost Madness

The OSH Amendment Bill - that makes employers liable for $500,000 fines for causing stress - is now causing stress to voluntary organisations. The Bill has been extended to cover volunteers who, by law, will have to be treated as employees, and the organisation as an employer.

Church members who "do the flowers" are employees, as are Poppy Day sellers, rugby coaches and people on school working bees. It raises some interesting questions. Will church members have to train as health and safety representatives?

Money donated to charities will have to be spent on OSH Act compliance costs. Elderly home-care organisations are threatened, as under the Bill they become liable for the safety of homes where their volunteers provide care. Can unions issue a "hazard" notice for a private home?

The Bill is so wide-ranging, it appears that where home-care volunteers use their own cars, the car could be a "place of work".

The Bill also prevents organisations from insuring against the risk of OSH Act prosecutions. Under the Bill, the Salvation Army will be at risk of prosecution, because pubs are not safe places to go looking for sinners.

Sentencing and Parole Bill

Clause 240 of the Sentencing and Parole Reform Bill, which says violent offenders must be released from jail unless the Parole Board finds they are a safety risk to society, passed last week without amendment. The clause means the vast majority of prisoners will now serve only one-third of their court-imposed sentence.

In the referendum, 92 percent voted for longer sentences. The government has not just ignored them, it has done the opposite.

Le Pen in NZ?

The three issues that caused Le Pen to score well in France - crime, immigration and ignoring ordinary working people - are also issues in NZ. Average-income working people don't qualify for a community card, a state house rent reduction or Closing the Gaps programmes.

Violent crime has increased 14.9 percent since the last election. Immigration has risen by 1000 a week and is the reason 6000 pupils arrived at school this year to find no classroom or teacher.

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