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Richard Prebble's Letter From Wellington

The Letter
5 MAY 2003


Labour’s solution is to bring huge pressure to get those who hold Maui Gas contracts to sell. Maui Gas “take or pay” contracts supply gas at a price that’s about half the world price. Pressure is going on to the owners of the methanex plant that converts gas into methanol. The plant provides 3% of the world’s supply of methanol, enough to affect world prices. The company has already cut production so driving up methanol prices, and is very reluctant to close the plant. The Todd companies that have gas will not sell at less than proper market prices. It adds up to an increase in your electricity bill.


Bogus environment and Waitangi claims have made the energy crisis worse. The Tongariro Hydro scheme that takes water from the Whanganui Headwaters through to Waikato stations is idle. Why? Labour put pressure on Genesis (state owned) to increase Wanganui river flows to settle a Maori Treaty claim. The river, for environmental reasons, needs regular flushes of water, but there are no environmental reasons for this year’s continuous flush level water flows.


KPMG’s tax survey shows that NZ ‘s corporate tax rate is now out of line with the OECD. Dr Cullen’s response – no tax cut. ACT’s tax questions and Dr Cullen’s responses are at and KPMG’s survey at


Deputy Speaker, Ann Hartley, causes Parliamentary chaos by jumping to her tiny feet and making absurd rulings. Two weeks ago she ruled that the government could pass legislation in Maori, without it being translated! Last Thursday she ruled that she could terminate a debate without giving the opposition a chance to speak and then, that Parliament could meet past the official sitting time. Parliament continued sitting until 6:15 pm – most MPs would have gone home. She ruled that this illegal sitting could suspend Richard Prebble who was vainly trying to explain that she must follow the rules. As MPs cannot speak while the Speaker is standing, and Ms Hartley never sits down, she ends up throwing MPs out who are just trying to object to her bizarre rulings. On Tuesday, Parliament must decide what to do about Thursday’s illegal sitting. If Parliament can pass measures when no MPs know the House is sitting – it’s a frightening constitutional precedent.


The mayor of Waitakere City and former President of the Labour Party, Bob Harvey, sent us an email saying, “I am now asking the Chief Executive to take legal action against the ACT Party.” He also said our story about a Chinese woman and her two children being thrown out of the Henderson pool was “bulls..t”. We emailed back and said we had a written statement, we had contacted the management before publication, and which of our facts are wrong? Bob’s next email reveals he threatened legal action before he had “a chance to talk to pool staff” – then says, “you say the individual felt genuinely (and understandably) that the result was because of a SARS scare. My god…they must feel this in the street, in restaurant (sic), and on buses…what you claim in your newsletter. It is simply an emotive and untrue statement.” The Letter stands by its story. We think the family is owed an apology. Read the emails at


MPs on the Primary Production Select Committee have readily accepted Mr Ewen-Street’s assurance that he has not been influenced by his new housemate, Barine Development’s lawyer, Ms Grey. The Letter is not so sure. This is an inquiry into the allocation of Scampi quota worth over $100 million. The rules of natural justice apply and parties must be given an opportunity to respond. MPs who have shown bias must not serve. Mr Ewen-Street has defended himself by saying (NZ Herald, 2 May 2003), “My understanding is that Sue (Ms Grey) offered to brief everybody and she spent time with me, Phil Heatley, David Carter (National MPs), Damian O’Connor (Labour MP,) the majority of people (the committee), just in a lobbying sense. If she supplied everybody in the committee with information to use, that’s our choice”. Not so. It’s like the judge meeting in secret with one of the lawyers. Ewen-Street has been using the committee to make allegations of criminal wrongdoing without revealing who his source is. Judge for yourself.


Helen Clark’s European trip was a failure. Clark’s claim that she managed to rewrite the communiqué is nonsense. NZ’s request for specific references to agriculture were rejected and replaced with the meaningless phrase “balanced outcome”. More humiliating - Clark was ignored. The real talks were informal between the US and the EC and Clark was excluded except for the formal sessions as chair. In fact, the closest Clark got to speaking to US Trade Official Zoellick was when she announced, “The chair now recognises the distinguished trade representative from the United States…”. To top it all off, Clark’s press conference had been scheduled by OECD officials for the graveyard shift, 6pm on Thursday. After some coercion, Clark’s press talk was rescheduled to take place at the close of the OECD meeting the next day. The OECD officials’ estimates of foreign press interest were accurate. If NZ television crews and media had not been present, it would have been a complete debacle. In a major setback Bob Zoellick refused to meet Helen Clark and in his press conference, which was well attended, he made it clear that a NZ/US Free Trade Agreement was not on the agenda. A transcript of his press conference is at


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