Perplexing Snap Election Chance to Have Your Say
Weekly Column by Dr Muriel Newman
With Parliament now having closed and the country gearing up for a snap election, most people remain totally confused as to why the election has been forced on us. It is especially perplexing given that both of the Alliance Party leaders as well as the Greens had categorically promised to support Labour right through until November.
Unlike the snap elections in 1951 when waterfront strikes had crippled the country or 1984 when there was a financial emergency, there is no crisis. Labour has called a snap election for the simple reason that when a party is at 50 per cent in the polls there is only one place to go and that is down. With the surging dollar, the economic outlook for the rest of the year is looking increasingly gloomy. Labour wants to get re-elected before voters realise that they are being governed by a party that would have trouble running a booze-up in a brewery.
The reality is the government has almost halved our growth rate in the 32 months they have been in power. That is in spite of having the best commodity prices in over two decades. Instead of keeping up our relativity with other developed nations, we are now sliding down the economic ladder. Labour is responsible for exacerbating the financial stress on low wage workers who already have the highest tax rates in the OECD.
ACT will be fighting the election campaign on the issue of economic security as a priority. Reducing the top personal tax rates to 28 per cent and the next one to18 per cent will give all New Zealand workers a pay rise equivalent, for example, to $670 a year to a teacher on $40,000, more than the government is offering in the pay round. Such pay rises will put the money where it belongs - in the hands of those who earned it so that they can spend it in the best interests of their family rather than giving it to politicians and bureaucrats to spend on buying votes.
Reducing company tax to 28 per cent - lower than Australia - will give New Zealand businesses an exciting competitive advantage. Such a move will help to put New Zealand back on the path to prosperity.
Snap elections are very untidy. More than ninety bills in various stages of the legislative process are being passed over to the new parliament. That means that much of the work that has already been carried out will need to be re-done by the new select committees in the new parliament. It is an enormous waste of taxpayers' money.
One of those bills being carried over is the Victims' Rights Bill aimed at improving the treatment and rights of the victims of crime. The fact that it has been languishing on the order paper for almost a year is indicative of a government that appears more concerned about the rights of criminals than victims.
That view is widely held by a majority of the 92 per cent of New Zealanders who voted for a tougher approach to violent offenders in the referendum at the last election. It has been fuelled by the government's passing of laws that remove a minimum sentence for murder, that cuts all short term sentences in half and longer sentences by two-thirds. These changes have all been made in spite of clear evidence that rehabilitation by early release is a failure since 30 per cent of prisoners on parole re-offend within six months and 73 per cent within 2 years.
The up-side of the snap election is that Labour has created a window of opportunity to prevent the passing of draconian legislation. If the government changes, most of the bills in progress would never get passed.
The OSH bill that fines small business up to $100,000 if an employee suffers from stress, would be one of the first to go. The Responsible Gambling Bill that hits RSAs, pubs, clubs, and other organisations with gaming machines, with electronic surveillance, high compliance costs and levies, as well as denying funding to local community projects, would go as well.
The Residential Tenancies Amendment Bill which punitively punishes landlords would get the chop as would the Tertiary Education Reform Bill, which introduces central planning into the tertiary education sector, by penalising private training providers and denying students the freedom of choice.
The bill to set up Maori TV, to give the power of general competence to local authorities, and to introduce a 19.5 per cent tax rates for Maori-only trusts would fail to see the light of day. And the bill that scraps work-testing of the Domestic Purposes Benefit enabling a mother to stay on that benefit until her youngest child is 18 years old without being required to take a job, would be axed as well.
The snap election has left voters who seriously oppose parts of the government's planned unfinished agenda (including their irresponsible desire to sign New Zealand up to the Kyoto Protocol and to regulate vitamins and minerals so that their purchase will need a doctor's prescription) to join a vigorous campaign to remove Labour from office. In spite of their claims that they can win a majority, there is no chance that Labour can govern on their own. History shows that our last government with over 50 per cent of the vote was over 50 years ago; under MMP, with a wider choice for voters, and a winter election which will probably see a record low turnout of Labour voters, Labour will need the Greens. A vote for Labour will be a vote for the Greens and that could spell disaster for the country.
To change the government a clear message needs to be sent urgently to voters - both in New Zealand as well as overseas to actively campaign over the next six weeks against Labour being re-elected. You can use the new initiative in electronic voting on the ACT website www.act.org.nz which makes it really easy for all Kiwi's abroad to vote. If enough hard work is done, on election day, by giving your party vote to ACT, a centre-right government could begin the job of re-building, taking New Zealand on a path to prosperity.
- Dr Muriel Newman, MP for ACT New Zealand, writes a weekly opinion piece on topical issues for a number of community newspapers. You are welcome to forward this column to anyone you think may be interested.