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ACT's The Letter - Monday 23 February 2004

The Letter
Monday 23 February 2004


Lianne complains she is not the first minister to leak a paper and then deny knowledge. The ninth floor has made it an art form. Like Nixon in the Watergate scandal, Clark has fired her minister to hide her own role. The PM’s electorate office leaked the letter to Minister Dalziel. When she did not get the message to leak it, the office sent it again (that is how Clark works). The PR plot to claim an international agency was going to guarantee the Sri Lankan girl’s safety was invented in the PM’s electorate office. The “independent” agency was working from the electorate office. According to the MPs’ handbook, electorate offices “are rented using public funds so members can provide a service to the public.” Staff are on the parliamentary payroll and forbidden to engage in party politics. Clark’s office has some notoriety; they purchased the PM’s forged artwork and burnt it to defeat a police inquiry. Clark will do anything to avoid exposing the office’s operations to the light of day. The Auditor-General should take an interest.


The Brash hurricane has the government so flustered that no one reacted to the storms that hit the lower North Island. The first media to reach the stricken areas realised that local Labour MPs and ministers were conspicuous by their absence. Federated Farmers believe even now that government is underestimating the economic damage. The Feds have an economic model to judge the multiplier effect of climatic events and say the storm will reduce GDP by 4%! The immediate effect will increase economic activity, as roads, bridges etc, are rebuilt – the real effect will be felt next year. Today’s Herald DigiPoll shows that the Brash hurricane is blowing Labour away.


ACT’s court victory against Donna Awatere Huata was a victory for the integrity of parliament. Senior MPs like Dr Cullen said that ACT couldn’t use the Electoral Integrity Act as long as she claimed to be an ACT MP. Richard Prebble told his caucus that provided they were disciplined and did not expel Ms Huata, the MP would hang herself by taking actions that would amount to party hopping – leaving the party, speaking and now voting against ACT. Justice Gendall’s ruling is a very strong one. “The ACT caucus, through its leader, appeared to be particularly careful”. There has been “no error on the procedure adopted...”. And, “It is not for this Court to say whether the leader was right...But it is impossible to say that the belief was not reasonable”. The Court of Appeal rarely overturns findings of fact so any appeal has little chance of success. Ms Huata may not appeal. To bring her injunction she gave an undertaking to compensate ACT for any damages. Now she is an independent MP, ACT’s funding has been reduced by $9500 a month. If parliament also asked to be compensated for the salary and expenses she has received since her injunction, the bill plus her legal costs will be over $100,000 - with no Pipi Trust to pay it. Oh dear.


Former Treasury secretary Graham Scott is at the Commerce Select Committee this week giving a very powerful submission against the new Electricity and Gas Bill. The proposed new Electricity Commission has police state powers – to propose the rules and regulations, to organise and play the market, to be able to fix Transpower prices, to be adjudicator and able to fine, and to be the Commerce Act regulator. Scott points out the Commission’s ability to levy the industry to pay for a government activity is a tax and violates the principle that only parliament can raise tax. Scott says there is no similar commission in the western world. NZ has joined countries like Mongolia, Macedonia and Armenia which have trading enterprises with police state powers. The electricity industry predicts less investment and increased prices – the new Commission will soon become a monster. Scott’s paper is on http://www.act.org.nz/scott.


The new Holidays Act comes into force on 1 April. The old Holidays Act was responsible for more calls to the Labour department than any other issue. The new law is even more complex. Employers are required to calculate holiday payments on a 12-month daily moving average. Most do not have record keeping to do this. Firms like Air New Zealand (whose wage bill is going to rise significantly) must now give public holidays – when Christmas falls on a weekend – to those who work the following Monday and Tuesday. The law is unfair and outdated. 30% of us are now self-employed. Many of us are paid not for the hours we work but for what we produce. For those in the seven-day-a-week business, especially tourism, the bill brings crippling costs and is another reason not to employ. The Northern Employers and Manufacturers’ Association says, the requirement for employers to consider “cultural responsibilities” when giving bereavement leave means tangi leave is technically unlimited. It also means there are now two laws.


It is still possible to register to attend ACT’s conference (ChCh 5,6,7 March) to hear Steve Forbes http://www.act.org.nz/conference.


Last week’s poll on whether ACT and National should merge caused some media interest and a decisive answer – readers want an independent ACT party to keep National honest. We considered teasing the media with a poll on ACT’s leadership but http://www.stuff.co.nz has already done one. Modesty prevents us from mentioning the result (Prebble 75% Hide 24%). So this week’s question is “Should there be a judicial inquiry into how a confidential lawyer’s letter was leaked via the PM’s electorate Office?” – http://www.act.org.nz/poll - We will send the results to the Auditor-General.


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