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ACT's The Letter - Monday, 11 August

The Letter
Monday, 11 August


The Issue

Any government that interferes with New Zealanders' right to walk along the beach faces certain electoral defeat.

Labour's strategy Labour's 9th floor spin-doctors believe they can turn the issue into an electoral winner. Labour wants to turn the issue from "ownership" into one of "public access". Labour intends to release Sir John Acland's report into public access to private property, at the same time as its response to the foreshore issue. Labour Ministers are claiming one third of all beaches are closed to the public, and that the Queen's Chain has been eroded. They believe they will soon have National saying "No deals. The beaches belong to everyone" (except those owned by Europeans). National is fighting back - less than 1% of all beaches are in private property.


Uniting against a minority is a favourite popularist tactic. In Britain the Blair government, with the ban against fox hunting, reform of the House of Lords and "right to roam" legislation, has campaigned against rural landowners. While rural NZ now has little political influence - just two working farmer MPs - intelligent New Zealanders realise farming is still economically vital. Labour has failed to win urban support for the "fart tax" and a right to roam law that damages working farms may not gain popular support.


For Labour to convert the issue to one of "access" not "ownership" it must persuade Maori to drop its claim. John Tamihere, who identifies with tribeless, landless urban Maori, is pointing out that customary title needs to have been exercised continuously. Most of Labour's Maori MPs identify with iwi who (thanks to multi-million dollar Treaty settlements) have the money to fund a legal and political campaign.


With half his caucus Maori and having run second to Labour in the Maori vote, Winston Peters believes (and so does the Labour Maori caucus) he can again win the Maori seats on the foreshore issue.


Even Helen Clark has conceded that ACT's defence of private property rights has been consistent. ACT believes that far from closing the courts to Maori, Maori claimants should have to go to court to prove their case. No one should lose property rights without full compensation.


The Letter says the foreshore issue is one that the centre-right should seek a grand coalition common strategy. Rather than billboards - what about organising centre-right hui and winning the intellectual case against the government's land grasp?


Labour's credibility was damaged over the retrospective law change to, in effect, re-elect Minister Duynhoven. Even Labour's allies, United and the Greens, agree with the Solicitor-General that Duynhoven's act in taking out Dutch citizenship caused the New Plymouth seat to be vacant on 11 June. It damaged the integrity of the Attorney-General, Margaret Wilson, the leader of the House, Dr Cullen, and the Minister of Immigration, for those Ministers to claim the law is not clear. The reputation of every Labour MP was besmirched by the law being written so wide as to retrospectively clear any other MP who has pledged allegiance to a foreign state (which is why United and NZ First would not support the bill). The Speaker was most damaged. The Electoral Act says the Speaker must act "without delay". Helen Clark took 12 hours to remove Duynhoven's Ministerial warrant on 23 July. On 8 August, Jonathan Hunt told parliament he was still waiting for advice on what to do.


Labour MPs are angry that they were prohibited by the whip from answering questions over whether they had ever taken out foreign passports, but the PM Helen Clark put out a press statement clearing herself. Clark didn't once come into parliament to defend Duynhoven or the bill and left it to Cullen (who made the only reasonable defence of Duynhoven) and Wilson and Dalziel (who were hopeless). Clark is now avoiding parliament to such a degree that in the House it's now the Cullen government.


The leaders of the Pacific gather at Auckland this week. The Pacific is in crisis - failing states, failing economies, exploding birth rates. NZ aid in the Pacific has not worked and nor has the forum. Helen Clark has no intention of supporting John Howard's call for a reality check. Instead Clark will seek personal popularity by espousing "the Pacific way", an excuse not to confront issues.

The 15 nations of the Pacific may be small but in most international organisations bankrupt Nauru has the same vote as the USA. Support from Pacific nations has seen ex-NZ MPs elected to a wide range of jobs - Secretary to the Commonwealth, the WTO, etc. Clark's not going to endanger her plans for a UN job by giving real leadership at the forum.


Any 55 year old worried about Labour's 'Job Jolt' requiring them to work can relax. The rules are those that apply today to those aged under-55. Questions by ACT MP, Dr Muriel Newman, have yet to reveal anyone who has been stripped of their unemployment benefit for refusing to work. Some individuals, who, the sight of work makes them feel ill, have been transferred to the sickness benefit, and for those where it's a chronic complaint are now resting comfortably on the invalids' benefit. There is also no possibility of being asked to move - you just claim you're Maori and that you need to be with your whakapapa.

This message has been brought to you from the ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office


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