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The Letter: Heave Ho Duynhoven

The Letter
28 July 2003


Harry Duynhoven has broken the electoral law and should be expelled from parliament this week. MPs are expelled if they act to become a “citizen of any foreign state”. Duynhoven has admitted that this year he “filled in forms” to get Dutch citizenship. (This lets him travel passport free in the EC and gives him a possible financial benefit, as Dutch pensions are very generous.) Geoffrey Palmer’s argument is that Dutch law is retrospective so Harry always had dual citizenship. But it is the act of applying that triggers expulsion. The government spin that this is an anachronistic 1852 law is also wrong. Parliament reviewed and reaffirmed the law, with Duynhoven voting for it, in 1993. Without the provision an MP could legally be a foreign agent. While Harry is a popular MP, partly because Helen does not like him and MPs are sympathetic, he has been incredibly foolish. Officials are advising government not to pass a retrospective law.


Duynhoven has the biggest majority in parliament – a 14,930 majority. The list vote is a better guide - Labour 41.5%, National 21.8%, NZF 11.9%, United 7.8%, Greens 6.7% and ACT 4.9% New Plymouth illustrates National’s challenge. It once was a National seat and now is Labour’s safest. National must win provincial NZ to govern. A by-election over the seabed issue would be a good start. A copy of ACT’s legal opinion is on www.act.org.nz/goingdutch.


The government continues with its strategy of saying one thing to the public and a separate message to Maori. To the public, that full, unimpeded access to the country’s beaches will be upheld and to Maori, that Maori customary rights will be preserved and claiming the distinction is “rights, not title”. Legally this is nonsense. The Court of Appeal used the words “customary property”, “customary land, and “customary interest” interchangeably. The position of government Ministers, such as Tariana Turia, that Tangata Whenua are in an equal partnership with the Crown under the Treaty, is incompatible with the sovereignty of parliament. Labour’s engaged in a high wire balancing act and at some point they must fall.


Labour has continued the policy of successive governments in believing that there is little to be done about rising crime, that prisons don’t work, and crime is society’s responsibility. ACT strongly disputes all these assumptions. Rising crime is not inevitable. While the causes of crime are complex, active policing and deterrent sentencing can and will reduce crime. Zero tolerance policing, or the broken window approach, does work, not just in New York but also in Britain. In Hartlepool and Middlesbrough active policing saw immediate dramatic falls in crime. In Hartlepool between 1994 and 1996 theft of vehicles fell 56% and burglaries 31% and in Middlesbrough all crime fell by 20% in six months. Prisons work for the simple reason it is hard to do crime when in jail and most crime is committed by a small percentage of the population. Today ACT launches a campaign on zero tolerance for crime. See www.act.org.nz/crimecampaign.


Constitutionally the PM is the MP enjoying the confidence of the House. Helen Clark has lost her self-confidence in parliament. Having humiliatingly failed to answer questions on whether she did apologise to President Bush, what she did say in Europe or whether it was her as Minister of Culture who requested the loopy changes to the RMA, Clark has decided to avoid question time. The Standing Orders allow for any question to be transferred to another minister. The opposition has been reduced to asking: “Does she have confidence in X as a minister?” to ensure Clark has to answer. No one can remember a PM who was scared in parliament! Most have commanded the House and relished the opportunity. MPs noticed the difference on Thursday when Cullen instead of Clark answered questions – he had transferred none and made clear his willingness to answer. In parliament Dr Cullen is the de facto PM and as Clark spends time overseas visiting war memorials.


On Wednesday, 24 hours before the committee stage of the State Sector Amendment Bill (to reorganise Social Welfare), the government introduced a Supplementary Order Paper to abolish the Department of Courts, with no consultation or select committee hearing. No Minister participated in the debate to explain the measure. The courts are a vital part of our constitution. Under the Bill the Ministry of Justice resumes administrative responsibility. The Department of Courts was set up because it was felt it was wrong for a policy department to administer the courts. What’s changed? Did it fail? Perhaps the fourth estate would like to ask.


Figures from DTZ Darroch show that government departments now dominate the Wellington CBD as they use to prior to the Douglas/Richardson slimming down. Government departments now account for 45% of all Wellington inner city office space, up 18% since Labour took office. DTZ also report departments are not stinting themselves and are demanding “better quality buildings”.


Rick Neville, former INL number two, temporarily out of work, is said to be interested in the top job at Radio NZ.


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