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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington

RICHARD PREBBLE'S
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 02 September 2002

The Maidens

Parliamentary interest is on MPs' maiden speeches. There are 30 new MPs - six Labour, five National, seven United Future, eight NZ First, two Greens and two ACT. The new MPs get 15 minutes and are free to speak on any topic.

Maiden speeches tell a lot about an MP. There are famous exceptions, such as Disraeli, who was jeered by the British House of Commons. And some, like Labour's Georgina Beyer, give a good maiden speech and never contribute again. But generally, it's a good indication of form.

The Form

This year's intake appears to be better and more mature than usual.

Lynne Pillay (Labour) - another of Clark's handbag carriers.

Ashraf Choudhary (Labour) - memorable, may be the best Labour MP for some time.

Russell Fairbrother (Labour) - believes it's all society's fault; a pretentious light-weight.

Paul Adams (United Future) - an in-your-face Christian conservative. He was then forced him to vote for Georgina Beyer to chair the social welfare select committee!

Gordon Copeland (United Future) - a not-in-your-face Christian conservative.

Mike Ward (Greens) - told Parliament where he'd been running.

Bill Gudgeon (NZ First) - gave an excellent ACT speech, quoted extensively from Frederic Bastiat, a 19th-century French MP who wrote the Libertarian text, The Law, a strong defence of freedom from bad law. Why he's in NZ First is a mystery.

Brent Catchpole (NZ First) - got stage fright, so not sure if we missed anything.

John Key (National) - supports a "positive entrepreneurial attitude".

Judith Collins (National) - also supports free enterprise. So Michelle Boag got something right.

ACT's website will post all new MPs' speeches as they become available ( www.act.org.nz/maidenspeeches.)

ACT's New MPs

Deborah Coddington, one of ACT's two new MPs, gave her maiden speech last Thursday, and Heather Roy will speak tomorrow at 4.15pm.

Deborah Coddington outlined her liberal vision: "We honour the concept of an equitable society, but this should mean a society where individuals have the same rights to pursue their own personal interests, provided they tread softly, not on the dreams of others.

"A free and fair society helps the poor by promoting jobs and growth, providing opportunities for all, and a social safety net. A free and fair society does this without penalising success with envy-driven taxation schemes.

"A fair society does not turn those who work hard and accumulate wealth into pariahs, driving them offshore. We should reward effort, not take someone else's riches simply because we don't have them.

"I believe New Zealand can and should be a more prosperous and fairer country, with greater personal freedoms, a more limited government and open competitive markets."

The full speech is at www.act.org.nz/coddingtonspeech.

Not Fit to Speak

Parliament's business committee was staggered when Mr Peters advised that only three of his eight new MPs would give a maiden speech. The others, according to their leader, are not up to it.

MPs have searched the Hansard record. While in the British House of Commons, with more than 600 MPs, it's not unusual for new members not to speak, in NZ it's unprecedented.

If Winston says they are not up to speaking, he's probably right.

Independent Minded

New NZ First MP Dail Jones, a former National MP from the Muldoon days, is not a Peters loyalist - ie those who stuck with the party when its membership fell to only a few hundred. Jones, who after his defeat in 1984 founded his own successful law firm, which he sold last year, shows signs of being independent.

Green Party Blues

Apart from the Greens' two new MPs, who have dazed grins on their faces, the rest of the party is unhappy. The Greens believed they would hold the balance of power and saw themselves in the Beehive. Instead, they find themselves marginalised and sitting between ACT and NZ First! Jeanette Fitzsimons was humiliated by the size of her defeat in Coromandel.

The Green MPs know that not only are they irrelevant but also the swings of politics mean it's unlikely they will ever be Ministers - and they could be wiped out at the next election.

The Greens' disarray can be judged by the fact that they have already:

- reneged on their policy of distributing select committee chairmanships, and other Parliamentary offices, to all parties proportionally;

- moved a "no confidence" motion in Labour. (The Greens think their motion is so environmentally extreme that no other party will support it - they could be in for a shock.)

The Green caucus has always been split four ways - the extreme environmentalists (Jeanette Fitzsimons), the extreme left (ex-Communists like Keith Locke and Sue Bradford), the opportunists (Rod Donald), and the single-issue campaigners (Nandor Tanczos).

Ms Fitzsimons blames the marijuana issue for her loss in Coromandel. Rod Donald blames Keith Locke for his pro al Qaeda comments, the old Left blame the extreme environmentalists for the lack of party organisation - and they all realise that their stand on GE and Corngate lost them what was supposed to be their election.

National

National MPs say now Michelle Boag has gone, the party can rebuild. Maurice Williamson will be quietly rehabilitated. Boag's resignation exposes rather than heals the problems in the National Party. National's caucus is split between the drys and wets.

Housing - a Case Study

National's caucus, just before the election, decided to abandon its income-related rent policy and adopt Labour's policy. Murray McCully, the housing spokesman, so strongly disagreed with the policy, he decided not to release it. The result was that National had no housing policy.

You can't blame Michelle Boag for this kind of problem.


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