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The Real Battle Isn't Being Televised

Election 2002: The Real Battle Isn't Being Televised
Weekly Column by Dr Muriel Newman

Dominating the election debate to date has been the fallacy that Labour can govern on their own. All of the historical evidence shows that is a lie. There has been no majority government since 1951 snap election caused by crippling waterfront strikes.

The Labour party spin machine is in overdrive. Their pre-campaign rhetoric reeks of collusion. Labour knows it can't maintain over 50 percent in the polls and has orchestrated a mock battle with the Greens in order to grab the headlines and keep the focus on the left. Labour knows that if they can prevent the centre-right from appearing in the media they will have them effectively knee-capped.

I had personal experience of that this week when my parliamentary questions regarding secret settlements in the public service were published. I revealed that there have been over 300 settlements worth more than $4 million since Labour has been in government. Despite of their election pledge to end such settlements, and their promises of open, transparent and accountable government, and despite rejecting their opportunity to vote for my Private Members Bill in Parliament to end such secrecy, the prime Minister responded with bitter personal attacks. We have seen it before - it is her usual tactic of trying to bully and intimidate the opposition, as well as trivialise the issue.

In this case, she also claimed that $4 million was "petty cash". I'd like her to say that in person to the hundreds of New Zealanders who run small business who have to cope with the demands of ACC, PAYE, FBT, GST, OSH, and tax audits where even $20 is not regarded as "petty". The indications are that this is going to be a dirty campaign driven by misinformation and half-truths. Because it is a snap election, voters have been denied their right to quietly tune into politics, as they do in election year, so that by the time the campaign starts they are well-informed and able to see through the propaganda that bombards them.

The recent poll asking whether you would vote for Labour if it took out the Greens is just one such dirty tactic. In view of the fact that Labour's chances of winning alone are virtually zilch, a vote for Labour would effectively bring the Greens into government. In a Labour-Green Party coalition - a vote for Labour will be a vote for the Greens.

What is very worrying in light of the snap election is that Labour has not spelt out its agenda. As the year progresses, rising interest rates and the rising dollar are driving down export prices. This means that the Government's tax take will be lower this year. If Labour gets back into power with a big-spending programme there is a real concern that they will introduce capital gains tax and re-introduce death duties as a way to make up the shortfall.

As we look forward to the election the honest battle will be the traditional battle between the left and the centre-right. It is a battle of ideology and vision between parties on the left that subscribe to strong and powerful governments with weak and dependent people and parties on the centre-right that believe in effective but limited government and empowered people. Translated into economic terms it is essentially a battle between a decline of living standards versus prosperity, since the higher the proportion of the national wealth that governments take, the poorer the country and the people become.

With MMP's two-vote system, those people who want a more powerful government and a poorer country should give their electorate vote to Labour and their party vote to the Greens. Those who want an empowered people and a prosperous country should support National with their electorate vote and give their party vote to ACT.

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