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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington

Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington

Innovative policies

The Prime Minister undersold the government programme as boring. It is actually dangerous "snake oil". Successive governments have avoided real structural reform by claiming as Clark did on Tuesday to be moving the economy "up the value chain" by "innovation". The government's top legislative priorities are (and we quote): The Television New Zealand Bill (how is Marian Hobbs' charter going to add value?); The Responsible Gambling Bill (an oxymoron says Rodney Hide); The Racing Bill (more gambling); The Resource Management Bill (as amended by Jeanette Fitzsimons); new holiday legislation (double time payment); The War Pensions Amendment Bill (the last WW1 veteran has died so it's a bit late); The Supreme Court Bill (political judges); The Land Transport Management Bill (that gives priority to walking). None of these policies are "innovative" or will assist in achieving 4% sustainable

Clouds the size of a man's hand

- The latest Household Survey shows unemployment below 5% including just 5,400 two-year unemployed. It was left to ACT's Muriel Newman to ask if this is so, why is the government paying out benefits to 42,400 who claim to have been jobless for more than two years? The answer is that 37,000 on the benefit are no longer looking for work. - NZ has become two societies: the productive sector that is excessively taxed and is working harder than ever, and a non-productive sector of 350,000 adults on state assistance increasing by an average of 10,000 a year regardless of lowering unemployment. - Exports fell in December by 5% - the ninth month in a row. There was a $309 million deficit for the month. - Economy slowing: lower milk prices have seen a slowing in the regional economy and the changed English language immigration test saw Auckland house prices fall in December.

Labour's priorities

The PM's statement identified four policy priorities: - The Employment Relations Act – requiring the winning tenderer to hire the loser's staff; - Increasing paid parental leave; - More support for low income families (state beneficiaries rather than productive working low income families); and something she called a better balance between work and life outside work. Is this extending government regulation of us at work (OSH, etc) to our homes?

ACT's alternative

Only ACT set out a positive alternative programme to reach 4% growth. - Cut company and personal top tax rates to 28% immediately i.e. below Australia's rate. - Cut the bottom rate to 18% (McLeod Tax Review) giving tax cuts to every worker; - Cut red tape, especially Resource Management Act (RMA), ACC and OSH. - Abandon NCEA and bring back exams. - Use private sector to lower hospital waiting lists; - Zero tolerance policing of crime.

NCEA results

The NCEA exam results show (as ACT predicted) that schools have been inflating internal assessment grades. In maths there were twice as many excellences for internal assessment compared with external exams. Results also highlight an inconsistency between subjects: only 0.3% of students who sat biology achieved excellence compared with 35% who sat information management (or "filing" as Deborah Coddington put it – apologies to the IT industry).


qThe Prime Minister used her statement to further align New Zealand with France and opposed a second UN Security Council resolution: "we do not believe that such authorisation is justified while weapons inspectors are still engaged...". The original UN resolution requires Iraq to account for thousands of tonnes of chemicals and gases and not for the inspectors to play hide and seek. By supporting France's threatened veto Clark is herself supporting "unilateralism". A world where the USA won't act against rogue states will be much more dangerous for NZ. The US will long remember if we refuse assis-tance. Phillip Wall (of US Embassy) said last week NZ is not even on the list for a US free trade deal.

Media bias

No MP who supports the US/UK/Aust coalition has been interviewed by State TV or radio. State TV is showing anti-US propaganda documentaries without setting out the case for supporting President Bush. For the other side you have to watch CNN or read an overseas paper, or visit ACT's website

Who are you?

On Thursday morning the Speaker, Jonathan Hunt, approached ACT's reception and demanded to see Deborah Coddington. "Who should I say is calling?" asked ACT's receptionist. "I am Jonathan Hunt" was the reply. "I am sorry Sir, but I do not know who you are". The Speaker puffed himself up - a shocking sight – and produced his card. "I am the Speaker of the House!" Jonathan Hunt has been consistently confusing ACT MPs Heather Roy and Deborah Coddington. He did again on Wednesday when he called on Deborah to take Heather's supplementary question. Hunt produced a bottle of red wine to Deborah (and not Heather) as an apology. The Letter would like to apologise in turn to Mr Hunt, but if 6 months as an MP qualifies you for one bottle of red wine we think we might be damaging his health if we were to give him the 75 bottles we owe him.

Coalition trouble

Jeanette Fitzsimons has moved "that this House has no confidence in the Labour-led government because of its determination to allow the release of genetically engineered organisms...its economic system...treaty grievances...US led operations in the Gulf...secret GATT negotiations...and for supporting corporate globalisation." Labour is dependent on the Greens for some policies. With United's support dropping to below the margin of error, United will be reconsidering its rubber stamp support. This government is not as stable as commentators say.

Donna's troubles

Ms Huata, who has decided to stay on in parliament, claims that all the allegations against her are from one individual. Oh, if that were so. Mrs Huata admitted to the ACT caucus that she had seriously misled her Party regarding her personal finances and conflicts of interest.


Minister Steve Maharey said two weeks ago on radio that Donna Awatere Huata should resign. Betweenwhiles, Helen Clark last week said ACT had no right asking Donna to resign before official investigations were concluded.

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