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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington Feb. 24


Letter from Wellington

Monday, 24 February 2003

Wipe out

Helen Clark fell off the knowledge wave when she attacked the attendees saying, "We do not accept the unspoken agenda behind so much of the rhetoric about the need for vision, leadership and change. "Decoding that rhetoric generally reveals discredited and discarded agendas of the 1980s and 1990s which produced growing inequality, social fragmentation and despair in many quarters."

What Clark really rejected was the goals of the first conference to "establish the world's most business friendly regulatory regime" and to return NZ to the top half of the OECD. Clark has never accepted either goal. Her academic background makes her instinctively unsympathetic to business and the PM has never in any speech endorsed the goal of returning to the top half of the OECD.

Politically correct

The Conference was hardly a tough audience. Obscure Labour list MP Ashraf Choudhary, was chosen by the politically correct organisers as an "emerging leader". The MP opined that his careful study of the Maori version of the Treaty has led him to conclude that Article II requires the Governor-General to be Maori!

Maui Gas

New Zealand seems headed for a major electricity shortage as Maui gas fields appear to be exhausted much sooner than expected and the Pohokura field appears to be much smaller than predicted.

The government's reaction to this prospect is to declare it a failure of the market and to say that what is needed is more planning. There is no shortage of new alternative sources of electricity. Meridian Energy has spent millions already on a new hydro scheme for the Waitaki, capable of creating significant electricity, and importantly without violating our Kyoto commitments. But the scheme can never get resource consents under the RMA. Under the Act only if Meridian Energy owns all the land can it apply for a consent. No one can afford to buy all the land for a hydro scheme prior to getting approval! The Labour government has known of this Catch 22 problem for over three years but fear of the Greens has caused government to take no action. It is not a market failure but a regulatory failure that is preventing new power generation being developed.

Not serious SFO

The Dominion Post has collected boxes of files on the Pipi Foundation but not been interviewed by the SFO or the police. Neither office wants to prosecute an MP. Pipi Foundation – apart from doing most of its transactions in cash – also appears to have saved money by not paying PAYE or GST.

Two standards

In leafy Wadestown a pre-school filed its monthly PAYE on time and paid the correct amount. Not good enough says the IRD. A $250 penalty is now due for failing to supply a breakdown by individual employee. It isn't clear who lost the schedule. The volunteer mums are now trying to get the penalty rescinded but the IRD won't deal with any of them without first receiving a letter authorising them to deal with a particular person. In that case, why was it ok to bank the cheque (presumably unauthorised!)?

How did Pipi avoid these hassles?

Parole a failure

The Bell murder case – 33 years works out at 9 years a murder so there is a discount for bulk crime – illustrates ACT's campaign against parole. Parole is a failure. Bell, who threw away his parole conditions in front of his parole officer, failed to report or follow his terms of parole – but this is not an isolated example. Parliamentary questions by Stephen Franks reveal that most parolees are unsupervised. Parole is an excuse to let criminals out early - most reoffend while on parole. US Truth-in-Sentencing laws that abolish parole and require criminals to serve their full sentences, have seen levels of serious crime fall.

Expensive refits

The Labour government cancelled an Orion upgrade despite defence advice that the equipment was essential for operational reasons. The decision to assign an Orion to the Gulf (to look for Osama Bin Laden and in no way to assist the US against Saddam Hussein – yeah right!) has meant an emergency upgrade of one plane. The cost – the same as the cost of the planned upgrade of all three planes.

No navy

Do not tell any foreign fishing company when Te Kaha returns from its unexpected duty in the Gulf the frigate will be overdue for its regular maintenance. As high performance ships, frigates require lengthy maintenance spells. The rule of thumb with three frigates is one is in port being overhauled all the time. As Te Kaha's maintenance has been delayed – New Zealand's two frigates will be out of service at the same time. It is going to be a good time to go poaching.

A mood change

At 3 - 0 down there is a realisation that the Cup could be going to Europe. Already the government via Chen & Palmer is saying, "The political implications are nil. The theory that sporting success favours incumbent governments has little evidence to back it".

Oh yeah? No politician believes that. The dates of the special election were picked not to coincide with an All Black match. It is not just the loss of around $1 billion to the Auckland economy. Holding the cup has done great things for our self-belief. But let's not despair too quickly. The skipper on our boat on Sunday says the goss on the waterfront is that the black boat suffered damage on day one that could not be repaired before the next two races. With lay days the boat has been able to be "tuned". The Letter predicts that if Team NZ can come back - there will be few more relieved than the government.

ACT conference

ACT at its conferences likes to introduce new ideas to the political debate. Dr Kuhnhardt, director of the European Comission's leading think tank, has agreed to speak about the US/EC split, EC expansion and what it means for NZ. Kuhnhardt has been a speechwriter to the German president and is a powerful speaker. Details: 14 – 16 March, Wellington Conference Center. You can register online at

Note: non-members are welcome to attend.


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