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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington

RICHARD PREBBLE'S Letter from Wellington

War with Iraq

US military action against Iraq will have worldwide ramifications. So our Parliament has ignored it. It seems for the first time our traditional allies - the US, UK and Australia - will be involved in a war without the support of NZ. This is a huge shift in our foreign policy, with no debate. It's a change as significant as our suspension from ANZUS.

In Australia, Foreign Minister Downer has stated: "the dangerous thing for the world will be to take a position of appeasement towards Iraq", and PM Howard has said Australia will send an armoured brigade to Iraq. British PM Tony Blair has said: "America shouldn't have to face this issue alone".

It seems likely that on September 12 President Bush will issue an ultimatum to Iraq - admit weapon inspectors or face a military strike.

In the NZ Parliament, so far only ACT supports the view that September 11 shows international terrorism is a threat to the whole free world, Saddam is in breach of UN resolutions, the US, UK and Australia should not be left to stand alone.

More Maidens

With 30 new MPs, maiden speeches have dominated Parliament. The impression is that this is an older Parliament. Here is an assessment of some of last week's maiden speeches:

* Don Brash (N) - sound ACT speech. In the wrong party. * Craig McNair (NZF) - academy award acceptance speech.
* Murray Smith (U) - evangelical conservative.
* Darren Hughes (L) - managed to thank everyone. Future leader?
* David Parker (L) - marginal MP's speech with Social Credit economics.
* Sandra Goudie (N) - good local body politician.
* Metiria Turei (G) - out to lunch, anarchist/Maori sovereignty.
* Judy Turner (U) - forgettable.
* Marc Alexander (U) - interesting, speech was pure ACT justice policy.
* Brian Connell (N) - lower taxes, less red tape. (Jenny Shipley should be pleased with her successor.)

ACT is posting all maiden speeches at http://www.act.org.nz/maidenspeeches.

Heather Roy

ACT's Heather Roy, gave an outstanding maiden speech last week. She spoke on the need for more rational health policies.

"Our health system needs a serious injection of intellectual honesty.

"Hospitals and other parts of the health system provide a free service and therefore face a demand they cannot satisfy. This is not an impossible situation but it does require rationing. So the honest debate on health requires a debate on rationing. This is where the problem begins because it is not permissible to mention rationing in the Ministry of Health."(The full speech is at http://www.act.org.nz/roy.)

NZ First's Stranded Maidens

After the Letter last week revealed that Winston was not letting four of his new MPs speak in the address-and-reply debate, a row erupted. Peters thought by not putting up his new MPs in the address-and-reply debate, they could each have right to make a maiden statement later. He was wrong. Two of the four MPs gave their maiden speeches but two more - Jim Peters and Barbara Stewart - have been left stranded.

It's now over to the Speaker whether to grant them a maiden speech. Labour says they are Opposition MPs and won't grant government time. National says they had their chance - what about 9.45pm?

The Speaker has suggested seeking leave to extend Parliament to 6.15pm, ie let them speak in the dinner time. The Letter says why not include the maiden speeches when Parliament is in urgency - and they can speak at 2am on a Friday morning.


The media missed the axing of NZ First whip Ron Mark, who has been replaced by deputy-leader Peter Brown, and Green whip Ian Ewen-Street, replaced by co-leader Rod Donald. These changes are extraordinary. The whip's job has been likened to a sheep dog trying to muster cats. So why the sudden interest by Donald and Brown? Were Mark and Ewen-Street doing a bad job? No. Did they resign? No. Both are angry at being dumped. So why were they sacked?

The answer is money. The deputy-leader of a minor party gets no extra pay. (Parliament does not recognise Donald as co-leader and Fitzsimons declined to share her pay with him.)

But the whip gets an extra $8200, plus a $1000 tax-free accommodation allowance, plus an extra $525 for every MP over six, ie co-leader (whip) Rod Donald gets an extra $10,775, and co-leader (whip) Peter Brown gets an extra $12,875.

Brown and Donald, who both claim not to believe in the free market, have just demonstrated that market forces are alive and well in Parliament.

The Nats' Woes

Of course they are plotting. But the National caucus are so demoralised, they haven't got the spirit for a coup. National's election review criticises Bill English for his management skills, ie no strategy. Brownlee is testing the water. The drys are telling Brash to have a go. The party funders are saying, "what about Simon Power?" Everyone agrees they don't like Sowry - so the first challenge might be for the deputy leadership. Problem is, no one thinks Sowry is responsible for losing the election. But then who believes Boag was responsible for the lack of policy?

Racial Harmony?

Labour has appointed Joris de Bres, the assistant general secretary of the PSA, as the new Race Relations Conciliator. Race relations could become interesting. In a paper in 1998, Reflections on Trade Unionism, de Bres wrote about himself: "I went to the Free University of Berlin in 1969 (ie East Berlin). I studied Marx, Engels and Lenin … and the modern German writers of the revolutionary Left … I took that vision with me to England in 1970... Back in New Zealand, I … became full-time secretary for the Citizens' Association for Racial Equality. I worked with unions on Maori and anti-apartheid issues… Then I worked for CORSO. I was sacked twice (for being too political)… I applied for a job with the PSA … I saw my job as nurturing militancy."

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