Prebble's Letter From Wellington
Parliament is in a two-week recess. Labour is relieved. Helen Clark was failing to perform under pressure. Clark is not good in parliament.
This year she has joined parliamentary debates just three times. She delivered the Prime Ministerial Statement (she bemoaned having to give one) and two speeches in the debate on Iraq. Since the elec-tion, she has never spoken in the evening.
Fastest Lawmakers in the West
Labour does have one reason to be very pleased with the 47th parliament. Legislation is being passed as fast as Ministers can introduce it.
Last term the minority government had difficulty passing its anti-business programme. Welfare, OSH and RMA changes, and Green transport laws were log jammed. United’s willingness to support urgency without question time has created a Soviet-style Parliament: new laws without questions. So far this year 17 new laws have been passed. At this time in 2002: just nine new laws.
Helen Clark’s Travel Diary
Clark has visited Europe at someone else’s expense nearly every year for over 20 years. As a teenager, she was Labour’s delegate to a meeting of Europe’s Social Democratic parties. This group is remarkably smug, inwardly focussed and eco-nomically illiterate. They support 1% of GDP for aid while creating barriers to Third World agricultural exports. Anti-Americanism is a ‘principle’. Clark loves it and they love her.
This year her excuse is chairing the OECD Ministerial meeting in Paris (once every 20 years it is our turn). This is a meeting of finance ministers. Clark will be the only PM there. She says she will bring Europe and the US together. Complete nonsense. Finance ministers do not waste time on UN politics. They are interested in how to keep the world economy from slipping into recession, about which our PM knows nothing. Michael Cullen should have gone.
The Ninth Floor claims Clark’s trip is a crusade to “fight plans to severely restrict New Zealanders' travel in Europe”. Why would Spain and the UK believe they owe NZ any favours?
The admission of ten new countries to the EC, mainly from the old Soviet bloc, is far more significant long term than the war in Iraq. The larger EC will have more than 400 million residents. The NZ Government has belatedly realised it has no diplomatic post in the ‘new’ Europe.
Clark is not visiting the ex-Soviet bloc nations, but then those countries have experienced tyranny and have no time for her anti-Americanism. She is visiting the Belgian PM - the most anti-American in the EC.
Our PM is wasting her time – and that of Foreign Affairs officials – trying to build a coalition of ‘like-minded nations’: Chile, Mexico, Canada, Norway and New Zealand. We do almost no trade with these nations. We do not have shared interests and only agree on opposition to the war in Iraq.
qDuring the looting of Baghdad, the French and German embassies were specifically targeted for damage. Iraqis were aware these countries led international efforts against the removal of their dictator.
It seems only a matter of time before our first SARS case. The Government should be telling the public to keep the panic in perspective. Compared with malaria, HIV/AIDS and even ordinary pneumonia, SARS is not particularly infectious, nor fatal.
Instead of joining the beat-up, the Government should tell the public what precautions they can take to reduce risk.
As well as being the most honest approach, this would have a positive effect on our relationship with China and Singapore.
Within 20 years the Chinese economy will be the same size as the US’.
Thanks to Labour, a free trade deal with the US is off the table. The Doha Round is going nowhere. China is where NZ must look for new trading opportunities. Now is a good time.
National and Winston
The media ran a non-story that National had approached Winston Peters to rejoin the party. No National MP or senior office holder made any approach. The story came from Mr Peters. When it broke, the media was told he had been recovering from the flu and would not comment. But he was well enough that day to attend a select committee and issue two press statements. The real significance of the story is that Winston is keen to be again identified on the centre right.
Mallard Interferes with Preschool
The cost of preschool is rising rapidly: Mallard has started an ideological attack on the preschool sector.
This sector is everything the school sector is not. It is voluntary, independent, user-pays, non-union, and it has a large level of parental choice.
Labour is requiring all teachers to obtain a three-year qualification. There is no grand parenting. A real example: an Auckland deputy head teacher aged 47 must complete a three-year course to carry on teaching. Some 3,500 teachers are affected and more than 2,000 are expected to leave. At the present rate of graduate entry, it would take 70 years to replace the lost teachers.
The immediate effect of the teacher shortage is to drive up salaries. So preschool fees are rising rapidly.
Low-income families are being priced out. The children who benefit most from preschool can no longer attend.
Billion Dollar Cost
Labour’s proposed dog laws include the bizarre requirement that every dog owner fence off a pathway that allows burglars free access to their front door.
There are 478,915 New Zealand households with dogs. The cost of fencing will range from $400 for a small gate to $5,000 for a large property. Using an average cost of $2,500, the total cost to the country will be $1.2 billion.
Time for a Tax Cut
ACT MPs are continuing with the campaign for a Tax Cut in the Budget. Richard Prebble has written to Dr Cullen offering ACT’s parliamentary support for a tax cut (Labour and ACT have a majority). A copy of the letter and economic case for a tax cut are at http://www.act.org.nz/taxsurvey
ACT Electorate offices in Auckland and Wellington have vacancies for temporary electorate agents: computer literate people with a good phone manner and data entry skills.