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ACT's The Letter - Monday 16 February 2004

The Letter
Monday 16 February 2004


Don Brash’s Orewa speech was an earthquake that split the political landscape. Now it is producing an electoral landslide. On one side is middle NZ that has firmly returned to National and on the other is the Wellington elite and most media commentators. This is an issue that will not go away. Richard Prebble, in a speech to the Auckland Harbour City Rotary last Tuesday, said: “For those who say ‘ACT has been saying this for years’, this is true. So has Winston Peters. Until National changed its policy, it was not realistic to expect real change. Now voters know that if the Centre-Right wins the next election, there will be a new direction. The policy change is so fundamental, so important, that the way we vote at the next election will determine our nation’s future”. The full speech is on: http://www.act.org.nz/treaty


These polls are great news for ACT and the Centre-Right. The poll shows the Centre-Right can win the next election. ACT voters are practical people and will use their vote to maximum advantage. Electoral maths still indicates splitting the vote with a list vote for ACT results in the best return. ACT is the insurance that National will be kept honest. The party will get a boost from the annual conference in Christchurch, with speakers like Simon Walker coming from the UK. Many years ago Simon sparred with Muldoon on TV but since then has been in charge of PR for British Airways, the Palace and now Reuters. To register for the conference: http://www.act.org.nz/conference2004


NZ First’s reaction to the Orewa speech has been hostile. Peters said Brash was “a stuffy sort of colonial tea planter trying to put the natives in their place.” Peters’ balancing act of keeping both the blue rinse brigade and Maori support seems to be failing.


The media have panned Dr Don Brash’s low-key speaking style, concentrating on Winston’s theatrics. Once again the Wellington media has got it wrong, missing a sea change. To the electorate Peters sounds old-fashioned and Brash sounds sincere - not like a politician but like a PM. Brash won the first debate simply because he addressed the issue of the day, the country’s deteriorating race relations. Clark ignored the issue and so lost.


Bernard Goldberg, a former reporter for CBS, wrote a book called Media Bias about how the mainstream media in America has a left-wing bias. To read The New York Times you could not understand how George W Bush won the last election. The editors, reporters and commentators are so convinced their view of the world is correct they cannot even report accurately those with whom they disagree. Brash has been helped by the outrageous bias of our media. The interviews of Kim Hill on TV and Linda Clark on radio were so biased that Brash won. The absurd Sunday Star-Times front-page story comparing Brash to Pauline Hanson just strengthened his support. (Pauline Hanson said Aborigines should not have the vote, Brash has said that programmes to preserve Maori culture should continue). Paul Holmes has demonstrated why he has been number one for so long, he can read the nation’s mood.


Labour’s own tracking polls show the electorate agrees with Brash. Clark’s attacks are only strengthening Brash. Clark first said Brash was playing the “race card”, then he was being “divisive” and now the government is saying if we do not give racial privileges their will be blood in the streets. Totally irresponsible.


The intervention of unelected judges has played an important part in the public backlash. In Britain the judges would have said that Crown ownership of the foreshore was such long established law that it was for parliament, not the courts, to change it.

Cullen and Clark boasted last week that fear of a damaging response "both in NZ and in the international courts" will hold Brash back from removing race-based law.


The challenge to democracy by the courts is comprehensive. Last week the High Court in Auckland said that resource consent granted to build a shopping centre in Northcote by the Council did not have enough detail on the economic impact. The RMA says this is for the elected council to determine. Banks, investors, and in this case, tenants, have been prepared to lend on a resource consent. Now an Aussie rival mall owner can have a judge decide that the courts are to determine social and economic costs of development, not the elected Council. This decision will create huge uncertainty.


Donna Awatere Huata’s lawyers are asking a judge - and not elected MPs to decide (as the law says they should) – whether she should be expelled. With no right to appeal to the Privy Council there is no one to guard the guardians.


The government has been panning Australia’s Free Trade Agreement. Today’s Main Report says, “Don’t believe the knockers calling it an empty shell. As Macquarie Bank economists say, ‘despite the lack of progress on agricultural barriers, nearly 70% of the Australian economy is in the service sector and the deal will boost US investment already running at $90 million last year in Australia.’” New Zealand would love to have a similar deal.


Last week’s poll on Brash’s speech predicted the TV One poll result. Some are saying that as National takes ACT policy the parties should merge while others point out the need to have a party to keep National honest. National has not adopted ACT’s low tax, less government policies. What do you think? Have your vote on http://www.act.org.nz/vote


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