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ACT's ''The Letter'' - Monday, 21 July

The Letter Monday, 21 July


The Letter believes Bill English has the votes to suspend Maurice Williamson on Tuesday. There is no support for the Pakuranga MP who has been badmouthing not just Bill English, but also the caucus, all year. Few National MPs think the suspension is good politics. National MPs can suspend Williamson from the caucus, and the Board, under National’s new post-Peters constitution, can under rule 12(a), ”cancel or suspend the membership of the party if any person whose actions, in their opinion prejudice the interests of the party.” Under rule 83 adopted this year, “Should at any time a member of the Parliamentary Section cease to be a member of the party he or she shall cease to be a member of the Parliamentary Section.” It’s a hard sell – sacking an MP for saying what National’s supporters believe – the party should be doing better. While Williamson has been very provocative, why not do what everyone else was doing and just ignore him?


The government’s new initiative on red tape is a website for business setting out all compliance regulations. The response? ‘Useful, but lower taxes would be better’. The cost? $300,000 to set up and an estimated $250,000 a year to run. http://www.biz.org.nz.


The Americans on the diplomatic circuit have been quietly raising the nuke ship issue. The US Navy is increasingly powered by nuclear energy and Americans hope that this country will reconsider the issue. ACT’s Ken Shirley in his contribution to Liberal Thinking quotes the Somers Committee investigation that found, as a side effect of routine hospital care, Auckland hospitals “release everyday more than twice as much radioactivity into local waters as does the extensive US nuclear fleet and its support facilities annually into all harbours and coastal waters worldwide.” You can get a copy of Liberal Thinking at http://www.act.org.nz/liberalthinking.


Since 2000 the Russian tax burden has fallen from 34% of GDP to a projected 28% in 2004 and economic growth is clipping along at 7.2%. Labour’s Michael Cullen has progressively ratcheted our tax burden up to over 40% of GDP and our projected growth over the next five years is around 2% per annum see http://www.act.org.nz/russia.


ACT’s Dr Muriel Newman has revealed that under-staffed, under-resourced police can take more than 19 hours to respond to a burglary callout. In a recent United Nations (OECD) survey on crime, NZ was ranked 27th out of 28 countries for police numbers per capita. With 35 officers heading to the Solomon Islands, the delays will increase.


Helen Clark has returned home from her European jaunt praising Tony Blair and his Government. If Helen decides to adopt some of Blair’s policies the trip will be worth the cost. To reform health and education Blair advocates: “Opportunity for all, not the privileged few” and "This means opening up the monolithic, ‘one size fits all’ service. It means a diversity of supply - different types of schools, different types of health providers. It means flexibility of working. It means choice is in the hands of the parent or patient. It means, in other words, taking that search for quality and for a consumer oriented service and putting it in the hands of the many not the few.”


The failure of the ‘one size fits all’ service in health, education and policing in the UK is leading to active debate over alternative solutions. At the forefront is a Commission on the Reform of Public Services “to assess, with authority and non-party political objectivity, the best way to provide and find high quality public services in a modern, prosperous society.” The Commission members are ACT’s Sir Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson. (We have always said we are above politics.) The report advocates health insurance, vouchers for education and the New York approach to policing. It’s a well-researched paper - http://www.rogerdouglas.org.nz/finalrep.htm


Clive Nelson, editor of the brash tabloid Sunday News, is rumoured to be heading for the editorship of the upmarket Sunday Star Times. Former British tabloid man, Nelson, looks ready to take the slot left by controversial Suzanne Chetwin. It’s taken a while but Nelson, a great networker, has turned the struggling Sunday News around. At the Herald, Auckland news people are saying senior journalist Ewan MacDonald is beavering away on a top-secret project on a free evening daily newspaper similar to the popular metro editions published overseas. Seems The NZ Herald sees gridlock-stressed Auckland drivers abandoning their cars to become public transport users – the people who read commuter-style free metro papers.


There is a real revolt by farmers against the flatulence tax. Farmers see the tax as part of a long line of government imposed costs: ACC increases, fuel taxes, increased Animal Health Board levies, etc. It’s inequable in that other methane sources such as landfills are exempt. The tax has high admin costs. ACT’s voice of the land, Gerry Eckhoff, is leading the fight and has launched a petition. To download see http://www.act.org.nz/flatulence.


ACT’s annual regional conferences begin in Wellington on 2 August at the Museum Hotel, and Ruth Richardson is speaking on the UK Public Service Reform project. Details and registration for the regional conferences can be found at http://www.act.org.nz/regional.


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