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ACT's The Letter 25 August 2003


25 August 2003


Labour does not have a parliamentary majority for its proposal to declare the foreshore and seabed “public domain”. The Greens have said they will not support legislation reducing Maori customary title and United, that they will not support preserving Maori customary rights. The press gallery view is that United will again fold and provide the votes. But, will they? United has been worried about its sub-2% polling. Dunne’s speech in Nelson saw his party’s vote double to 4%. To vote for the legislation United has to show the bill does extinguish Maori customary rights. But if the legislation does, not only will the Greens not support it, but the Labour Maori caucus will also revolt. NZ First’s support in the Maori seats is rising rapidly. Peters’ winning all the Maori seats in 1996 shows he can do it again.


ACT’s lawyers Stephen Franks and Richard Prebble believe the Crown’s surrendering of ownership of the foreshore creates a legal vacuum. It’s an invitation to the Maori Land Court to create customary rights that grant Maori de facto ownership. Richard Prebble has written to Dr Cullen seeking clarification - so far no reply or denial of ACT’s interpretation (see http://www.act.org.nz/foreshore). The level of debate on the issue has been appalling and ACT is considering organising high quality speakers for a conference on foreshore and property rights.


The Greens are pledged to oppose Labour when the GE moratorium is lifted in October. Despite the bizarre decision by the NZ Herald to campaign for the GE moratorium (it makes the case against having a foreign owned media) Labour is committed to lifting it. The Greens voting against supply recently has been ignored as their amendment was framed so that no other party would support it. But as October gets closer the Greens will need to review their support for Labour or abandon their GE stand.


This government has never been as secure as the media presents it. Labour is a minority government. Neither the Greens nor United are in formal coalition. The support from United on procedural issues has let Labour clear the legislative log jam, re-elect Harry Duynhoven in urgency, etc. But the cost has been a collapse in United’s support. United cannot afford to be a lion on the beach and a lamb in parliament. Labour ministers are already spinning that if they have not got the vote for the foreshore legislation then the government will seek to join the Privy Council appeal. But what does this do to the credibility of Labour’s proposal to abolish the Privy Council?


No MMP government has gone thre years. It is unlikely the Clark/Cullen government will. Labour does not want an election on the foreshore but ministers also know that the authority of government will be weakened if it cannot solve the issue.


The government has concluded that a free trade agreement with the USA is impossible. The visit of China’s new president Hu Jintao is causing officials to promote a NZ/China FTA. Clark has been caught by surprise by the President’s visit. NZ extended an invitation but never expected Hu, who rarely makes overseas visits, to accept. President Hu accepted because he is also going to Australia and NZ is seen as a safe place to visit. Chinese leaders visiting the USA or Europe face huge demonstrations. Clark is downplaying any FTA saying the “work has not been done”. Nonsense! The benefits of free trade are one of economics most studied issues. China is already NZ’s 4th largest trading partner. Over the next 20 years the Chinese economy will grow to be larger than the US. There are significant Chinese tariffs on agricultural and forestry products. ACT is pushing for the government to initiate a free trade agreement with President Hu.


Latest statistics show violent crime keeps rising. Labour says society is to blame so the criminal is also a victim, hence laws to let offenders out of jail early. ACT believes individuals make their own choices and should be responsible for those choices, hence the tough stance on crime. ACT as a party of influence is campaigning for a fundamental change in policy. ACT’s message is optimistic; good policy can reduce crime substantially. In August ACT is delivering 300,000 direct mail and email messages. ACT’s 5-point plan: zero tolerance policing, abolish parole, close supervision of releasees, DNA profiling and a sex offender register. Readers are invited to complete a crime survey at http://www.act.org.nz/crimesurvey. ACT will use the results to support Deborah Coddington’s Sex Offenders Register Bill and to promote a truth-in-sentencing bill.


Deborah Coddington, who still has her journalist sources, has been told cabinet has approved legislation to amend the Employment Relations Act - that employers can agree to deduct union fees from non-union members who receive the same benefits as members (trade union paradise, fees and no members), extending unjustified dismissal to “unfair” dismissals, introducing multi-employee contracts, provision to force a company taking over a contract to take on the unsuccessful company’s employees, their terms and conditions, compulsory arbitration (but not binding), and allowing unions to name classes of workers to be covered in collective contracts. Margaret Wilson has issued a statement accusing Deborah of fear mongering but not denying cabinet did agree to a new package. For details of the proposal see http://www.act.org.nz/unionism.

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

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