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RICHARD PREBBLE’S Letter from Wellington

RICHARD PREBBLE’S Letter from Wellington

Why did the dog not bark?

The decision of the Primary Production select committee to set up an inquiry into the allocation of scampi could be very interesting. The scampi allocation is worth multimillions. Allegations are that fisheries’ officials knowingly allowed fishing records to be falsified.

A select committee has great power. It can call for the production of documents, subpoena witnesses and cross examine. There is no right of silence. In NZ’s tight two party system, the select committee was rarely used as a committee of inquiry. But the select committee unanimously voted to set up this inquiry because there is an issue that has got all of parliament curious. Winston Peters on 24 April, 2002 launched a “wine box”. He used parliament to say there was corruption in the Ministry of Fisheries:

“The Ministry of Fisheries is guilty of condoning corruption aiding and abetting corruption and involving itself in corruption. Over the next few weeks I will produce documentary evidence that the Ministry of Fisheries knew full well about and condoned in the misreporting of, for example, species catch history, and that it knowingly condoned the evading of catch history records, whilst advising others in the industry that catch history would be irrelevant.” Then he suddenly went silent. In his $300,000 election campaign, Mr Peters never said a word.

‘“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?" "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time." "The dog did nothing in the night-time." "That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.’

Nothing but the best for our boys

The letter has received the following correspondence from a Kiwi soldier:

“In 10 days time the first elements from the NZ battalion in Timor are due to fly home. There will be three flights, with a number of NZ service personnel on each. The UN chartered flight to take us home is Egypt Air. This was accepted by the UN after the first 4 tenders were felt to be too expensive. This is also the Airline that had a recent fatal crash where the pilot crashed the airliner into the sea as an act of faith killing all on board. Most of the soldiers - and all of their families - are deeply concerned by this. It is not as though we are cowards, but most feel that it is a real kick in the teeth that Defence say "what a great job " you have done on one hand, but allow us to fly home in an airline that has not got the greatest record for safety, and has a habit of having pilots crash their airplane into oceans.

There is a large number of VIP's visiting Timor when the NZ Battalion pull out, yet they will be on military aircraft. The Australians, for example, top up the UN tender and pay for a more reliable airline. After all the existing Government bailed out Air New Zealand, and spent $4.5 million on North Korea and yet will compromise the safety and well being of our soldiers. In addition, within a matter of weeks of the worst terrorist outrage in South East Asia ever, the Government is allowing us to fly home on an Airline from a country that does have supporters of that ideology, after peacekeeping operations that have offended the Muslim world.”

RMA politics

Parliament is due to debate the committee stage of the Resource Management Amendment Bill The bill has an extraordinary history. It was proposed by Simon Upton (at ACT’s prompting) to reduce compliance costs. Then Jeanette Fitzsimons chaired the select committee, turned the bill on its head, threw out the Upton amendments and added new clauses which would greatly increase compliance costs. Business has pointed out to Labour that Peter Dunne voted for the original bill. A clause ACT has proposed that objectors to minor planning applications must have ‘standing’, looks like being adopted. In future an objector to a road in Northland will not be able to come from Coromandel (a real case). The Greens are putting in a furious behind-the-scenes bid to save the Fitzsimons amendments. They realise if they lose – and a change to RMA first promoted by ACT is adopted – they will have suffered a significant defeat.

Beehive spin

Beehive spin doctors have been in overdrive since The Letter revealed that it was Cullen’s office that leaked the Armstrong letter. Denials that Cullen leaked and claims of loyalty have been made. Well of course Cullen did not personally leak the letter but his staffer did, twice, plus backgrounders saying how ‘angry’ Cullen was (“I am as angry as I have ever been in politics in terms of the position I have been placed in.”) Now if the spin doctors claimed Clark suggested Cullen leaked the letter we would believe this is a loyal team, but Cullen rang Clark in Egypt after the letter appeared in the media…

How not to campaign

Readers will recall National’s television election advert where Bill English droned his way through an old fashioned hall meeting - only we never saw the audience? The Letter can reveal there was an audience. Some 200 National supporters were invited and about 100 showed up in the morning. Filming took all day, lighting in the hall was a nightmare, and Bill who has never tub-thumped through a speech kept fluffing his lines. The producers forgot about the poor audience. At 5 p.m. they decided to film some audience reaction but half of them had left. The 50 who staunchly remained were so glazed, tired and elderly, that despite all the tricks available to television, there was no shot that survived the editing room. The cost - over $200,000.

Liberal project II

Every weekend in November the ACT party is holding regional conferences throughout NZ. The conferences have the theme of what it means to be a liberal party in 21st century NZ. What is the liberal approach to education, welfare, the economy, law and justice? Speakers include ACT’s new MPs Deborah Coddington and Heather Roy, ACT founder Sir Roger Douglas, business journalist, Neill Birss and former Treasury director, Phil Barry. For details and registrations see ACT’s website


In the October issue of ‘Ad Augusta’ – the Auckland Grammar Magazine, headmaster John Morris reports:

“For the first time a significant number of boys will sit international exams (IGCSE) at year 11 (form 5 and results received in these exams will give us a good benchmark figure as to where we stand internationally.

Our CIE initiative has grown more rapidly than we ever imagined and we have had to set up an Association of Cambridge schools in NZ (ACSNZ) to keep member schools informed of developments. At the present time over 30 schools are involved to some degree in CIE qualifications. In addition, Cambridge University has set up its own local office in Auckland to help member schools.”

ACT has been the lone voice in parliament opposing the dumbing down of standards that the NCEA internal assessment represents. Support for ACT’s stand is growing. You can sign a petition on

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