The Right Talk, The Leader's View - 10 June 2003
10 June 2003
And now, the backward flip
Prime Minister Helen Clark's backward flip on troops for Iraq was inevitable, to make up for her unwise foray into foreign affairs commentary during the Iraq War, when she managed to insult both the Americans and the Australians. National supports the contribution, but believes this offer should have been made upfront, earlier, and without the conditions of United Nations control. Labour acted only because Helen Clark's apology had failed to make up for the ground lost in Washington. Initially she declared she would never commit New Zealand personnel until the United Nations had taken over. Now she has committed 60-odd to the American-British Authority running Iraq and another 100-odd to Afghanistan - the most remarkable turnaround even by her own standards. Helen Clark continues to deceive by maintaining that the strain in our relationships with Washington came about because "we did not agree with the basis on which people went to war." Participation in the war was not the issue. Rather, it was Helen Clark's sniping at the progress during the war, her claim that the war would not have happened under a Democrat president, and her suggestion that the Australians, by taking part, were trading troops' lives for trade. We have yet to see whether this attempt to curry favour in Washington will revive our free trade hopes. While Helen Clark doesn't believe in weapons, National will be pushing to see that our "reconstruction" workers are accompanied by forces to protect them while they go about their duties. These can be either New Zealand, American, or British forces. The commitment will be unacceptable otherwise.
Labour subsidises big business
Labour cannot keep its sticky fingers out of business. The Tranz Rail bailout is yet another example and follows the Air New Zealand bailout, made necessary because Helen Clark dithered for so long over the alternative, an ideal arrangement with the highly successful Singapore Airlines. This time another alternative, Australia's Toll Holdings, was in with a bid, but Labour's instinctive desire to control - and to keep the Greens happy - was the price New Zealand taxpayers have to bear. The irony of this deal is that we have a Labour Government using the bailout as a means to subsidise big rail users. If they had proposed a direct subsidy to big business, Labour would be scolded from all sides. By tangling it up in "Save Rail" slogans and nationalistic fervour about buying back the rail tracks, Labour hope to get away with it. All those small businesses and motorists who have to rely on road transport - and who pay through the nose in petrol tax - should make their displeasure known.
Our Welfare Reforms Strike A Cord
National's pledge to carry out extensive welfare reform, which Labour refuses to address for ideological reasons, is striking a huge cord in the community. Unpublished poll data has found its way into our hands. Asked if people on an unemployment benefit should be available to do community work, 91 per cent of respondents said YES! That is an astounding and emphatic result and not surprising when it is considered that in many areas employers cannot get workers for seasonal jobs while many remain on the dole. Only seven per cent polled No to the above question and two per cent Don't Know. When asked if the unemployment benefit should be made available only for a set period, while the unemployed person finds a job, there was another emphatic response: 75 per cent said Yes and 22 per cent No. National Welfare spokesperson Katherine Rich will soon be undertaking speaking assignments around the country to explain how we propose to break this poverty trap of welfare dependence. This will be a major plank for National at the next election.