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Muriel Newman MP Column - The Harsh Reality

Muriel Newman MP Column - The Harsh Reality

In the mid 1800s, Henry David Thoreau said, “Men are born to succeed, not fail”. That is as true today as it was back them. In almost any area of enterprise, success is the name of the game.

Before being involved in politics, I used to think that this applied to governments as well. I believed that the major scorecard of success should be the OECD living standards benchmark since, when I was young, New Zealand ranked number three, behind the US and Canada.

I believed that a government had a responsibility to run a country in such a way as to improve the lives of its citizens, enabling them to achieve their potential by maximising their opportunities.

To achieve that purpose, I thought a government should prioritise strategies to improve national productivity and prosperity. By doing that I felt that, not only would families do better but, it would help a country afford world-class health and education systems, effective police and defence forces, properly resourced infrastructure, and a social security system that ensured support for those who genuinely needed it.

How wrong I was. If we look objectively at New Zealand’s position – now number 21 out of the 30 OECD countries – it is clear that all is not well. Productivity is declining – not only due to a growing debilitating compliance cost burden on small businesses, but also to a union-controlled education system which does not always focus on success.

Further, the excessive tax burden on working families – including $9 billion dollars of stealth taxes introduced by a Labour Government that promised no tax increases – is holding us back, as is the welfare system that has enticed almost one working age adult in four to be reliant on benefits for their income.

Having now had the privilege of being elected to Parliament and being able to participate in the legislative process, I am horrified to find that the ‘good of the country’ is rarely considered in the development of this Government’s law-making agenda. The reality is that the parties holding the reins of power either seek to maximise political support by providing benefits to interest groups in exchange for votes, or they use their power to protect themselves from harm.

Take the recent debacle over the save Harry Duynhoven bill – the Electoral (Vacancies) Amendment Bill – passed under urgency last week. Labour changed a law that had been freshly scrutinised and amended in the last Parliament, in order to prevent potential embarrassment in a by-election.

Governments know that voters use by-elections to send ruling parties a message – without the danger of causing a change in government. National lost both Rangitikei and East Coast Bays to Social Credit in by-elections in 1978 and 1980. In 1985 Labour lost its safe Timaru seat to National, and in the 1998 Taranaki-King Country by-election, National almost lost Jim Bolger’s blue chip seat to ACT, it’s 10,223 majority being cut to 988.

In this case, facing an electorate worried about Maori foreshore and seabed ownership, escalating rates and stupid farting taxes, even Harry had to admit that Labour would have “taken a hammering”. As a result, they decided to use their Parliamentary majority to manipulate the law to save them from widespread humiliation and falling poll ratings once their political agenda came under close public scrutiny.

New Zealanders all around the country will now be starting to feel the fallout from Labour’s agenda in a variety of different ways. I recently received a letter from my local council outlining their draft urban growth strategy: “To be an accessible green city, where people can live, work and shop in safe and clean surrounds, where art and culture are celebrated, and leisure opportunities abound”. If this is not a pure payback to the Green Party for its support of the Government in the last Parliament, I don’t know what is.

The Kyoto Protocol, which Labour and the Greens have imposed on us, has been described as a global socialist scheme to redistribute wealth from more prosperous nations to those less prosperous. Our Prime Minister – who people are saying aspires to be the next head of the UN – is a driving force. Another Green Party payback, Kyoto will cost the country dearly – through loss of property rights, increased compliance costs and taxes, and the inevitable rise in consumer prices as those caught by this madness attempt to pass the costs on.

Labour’s blatant vote catching agenda, does not come cheap. Its “closing the gaps” strategy – designed to secure the Maori vote – has been estimated to cost taxpayers around $7 billion a year. That money is being spent on ill-defined Maori initiatives – such as ‘capacity building in the community’ – that are difficult to measure, and lack robust accountability standards.

At the present time, Parliament is dealing with a dreadful bill, which the government – seeing an opportunity to gain political credit for responding to a dreadfully vicious dog attack on a child – introduced in an effort to gain popular support. The Bill essentially classifies all dogs as dangerous and all owners as irresponsible. Under the proposed law, dogs will need micro-chip implants, owners will need to build expensive fences to create a secure pathway to their house for meter-readers, visitors and burglars – defeating the real reason why many people own a dog – and ratepayers will have to foot the bill for the hundreds of millions of dollars local authorities have estimated it will cost to enforce the new law.

The problem for New Zealand is that, rather than putting it’s effort into coming up with some solutions to lift our standard of living back up the OECD table, the Government is firmly focussed on holding power at the next election. Changing that focus to what is in the best interest of the country would be a welcome, if unlikely, development.


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