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Plain English - 3rd May 2002

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

Treaty policy - the challenge

There is a real sense of frustration that Labour is moving too slowly to resolve Treaty claims. For all its goodwill and support among Maori, Labour have so far only completed claims where the work was largely done before they came to office. During the last three years they have spent $75 million running the claims process. It is expensive and bureaucratic, and Margaret Wilson is widely seen by Maori as having neither the time nor the grasp of the issues to move it forward. Officials estimate it will take 25 years to complete current claims.

Treaty policy - the plan

National's policy will aim to get all historic claims to be on the table by December 2003. The claims book has been open for 18 years. National wants to move quickly to resolve grievances, so we will need to know what the grievances are.
Once these claims have been lodged, we've set the ambitious goal of settling outstanding historic claims by December 2008. This will be demanding both for claimants and the government. But this shows a strong will from National to resolve legitimate grievances. The claimants have shown they are keen to discuss with us just where the bottlenecks are because they also have an interest in settling grievances and moving on.
I'm determined that we don't hand onto the next generation the grievance, guilt and mistrust that many people feel today. We need to develop a shared sense of history, and a focus on the future, rather than the past.

Labour losing it

Labour is showing a surprising lack of political management in the House and of the media as the pressure grows around Helen Clark's personal integrity. The political news is littered with people who have become victims of the Government's sloppiness and management. These range from the Race Relations Conciliator Gregory Fortuin to the latest problems with Maori Television. It is hard for them to be credible on these issues when Helen Clark's own integrity has been questioned not just by Paintergate, but also by the Securities Commission about her comments on Air New Zealand and her revelations about the ransom payment for baby Kahu.
Their problems are compounded every day they show up to the House with Jim Anderton pretending to be Leader of the Alliance who recently expelled him.
What has surprised the media, who till recently called Helen Clark the best Prime Minister in a generation, is Labour's inability to bounce back from a series of problems of their own making. All this is distracting the focus from those issues that are of real interest to the public like law and order, getting teachers in front of classrooms, achieving a workable health system and sustaining economic growth. Labour has failed to mount any attack on National's Economic, Treaty and Workplace policies (see national.org.nz).

Alliance: Jim's New Party

This week Jim Anderton launched a website for his new party, the "Progressive Coalition". The website asks for donations, and has a feature entitled "Jim Anderton's announcement on leaving the Alliance". Yet despite all this, we are expected to believe that he is still the Alliance leader in Parliament.
This farce, encouraged and condoned by Helen Clark, is making a mockery of the House of Representatives. Large amounts of time are now being wasted trying to clarify this bizarre situation. It is evident in the House that Labour's middle-ranked MPs and backbenchers are demoralised by Jim Anderton's obvious duplicity and Helen Clark's inability to defend her Coalition arrangements. Clark and Labour are consistently on the defensive in Parliament and things are likely to stay that way through to the election.

No need for an early election

Talk about an early election confirms Labour have become much more defensive about their prospects as interests rates rise, commodity prices fall and their own internal problems get worse. There is no need for an early election. Helen Clark is right when she says they have the numbers in the House. No matter what happens, all 10 Alliance and Progressive Coalition Party members will support her Government. The public do not support an early election simply for the convenience of Helen Clark and the Labour Party. That means they must see out their term with the consequences of campaigning on integrity and governing with hypocrisy. However smart their arrangements in Parliament, they are simply wrong.

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