Liberty Belle: The Leaving Of New Zealand
I was asked to write this for the Christchurch Press, published today, so for those of you not privileged enough to receive this paper, here it is as "Liberty Belle". - DC
Deborah Coddington's Liberty
The Leaving Of New Zealand
It's not the lump in the throat when returning to this country that defines us as a New Zealander, but the lump in the throat when leaving.
New Zealand is much more than the "rugged individual" Tim Finn sang about in 'Six Months in a Leaky Boat'. As a country, New Zealand has grace, courage, ingenuity and passion.
She is heart-stoppingly beautiful. Drive anywhere (except perhaps the Auckland motorway) and at every turn there is something charming to see. Every New Zealander has their own 'place in the heart'. Indeed most of us have more than one special place. We all, increasingly as we grow older, find our heartstrings tugged by the landscapes of home, etched forever into our memories.
So whether it was the fighting men pulling away from the wharves to fight in the two world wars, waving to their wives, sweethearts and mothers, perhaps for the very last time; or the excited newly liberated teacher trainee graduates flirting with the Italian crews on the passenger ships taking them on their "OE"; or the corporate boys in their designer suits seeking out new overseas markets in the wake of the deregulation of the eighties; all these New Zealanders sailed over the horizon, or jetted into the skies with lumps in their throats and a backward glance tinged with regret as New Zealand was left behind.
Those of us lucky enough to travel overseas today (and competitive air travel extends that pleasure to more and more New Zealanders) return with a sense of anticipation. Revitalised and refreshed from stimulating conversation, intelligent media commentary, exciting new public policy, and informed public debate, we look forward to being back in a country that's better, in every way, than any other country we've visited.
A New Zealand that we hope has grown more prosperous, more self-confident and happier in our absence.
And is it?
Well first, what do we want from life in the Land of the Long White Cloud?
To be safe in our homes. To feel secure when our children are walking home from school that they will arrive at the back door on time, flinging down their bags and demanding food in large quantities. To be able to supply that food, and if we can't because of dire circumstances, that the state will give us a hand up until we are financially independent again.
To be equal before the law. Knowing if someone breaches the law and damages someone else's property rights, they will be prosecuted regardless of their ethnic background. That Christian spiritual values will be accorded the same respect as the spiritual values of Maori, whether that be when roads are constructed or jewellery is worn with school uniforms.
It's not too much to ask. I doubt one politician would, in principle, disagree with this. So why is the situation so different?
Why does a mother driving her children to school get slapped with a speeding ticket for marginally breaking the 50 kph barrier, then get home to find her house burgled and the police can't investigate for three days?
Why do we pay for a security guard to sit outside the bedroom of a dangerous, recidivist sex offender, paroled on home detention, while he indecently assaults a young intellectually handicapped girl he picked up off the street?
Why do we have beneficiaries being paid more in money and allowances, over long periods of time, than hard-working mortgage belt Dads and Mums?
Why are Maori activists allowed to invade and occupy private land with impunity? Open an 'aqua culture centre" without resource consent on the foreshore, actiion which has earned non-Maori fines of up to $20,000?
It is these little things - and it's always the little things that nark any relationship - that give us the lump in the throat when we come home and find New Zealanders being held back from their potential by excessive regulation, petty bureacracy and political correctness gone mad.
People don't need the government - any government - telling them what to think. New Zealanders are not racist, they're just sick of being preached at by the bien pensant elites in academia and the media about the virtues of tolerance, bi-culturalism and equity.
New Zealand the rugged individual would rather buzz off to the pub for a beer with Hone and discuss the rugby. New Zealand the Playcentre mum is too busy organising a fund-raising pot-luck dinner with Mata.
They don't need to be told by politicians which school to send their children to. They don't have to die on hospital waiting lists because the government dictates that a hospital not owned by the state can't save the lives of patients whose surgery is funded by the state.
But times are a'changing. New Zealand has just passed 'The Tipping Point'. Cyclone Brash has swept through the country, and suddenly people feel free to speak their minds, without being labelled a racist, or beneficiary basher, or a right wing nutter.
So does ACT have a future or will the world's only Liberal party with representation in Parliament be blown away by the extraordinary success of a new National Party leader articulating ACT's policies?
To lay one ghost to rest, ACT does not have a leadership crisis. ACT doesn't have the problem many other small parties have, in that if Richard Prebble goes under a bus there are at least four other MPs quite capable of leading a united caucus.
There's no denying this is a challenging time for ACT, polling at 2.5 per cent, but we love competition. That's what we promote. It's our lifeblood.
New Zealand's future does depend on ACT's future. The Labour Government has screeched to a halt. The Prime Minister has announced a review of all policies to ensure they're based on need not race. In 1996 when the first ACT MPs stood up in the House and said this, they were howled down as racist by all other parties, including National.
The Minister of Education has announced a moratorium on all future school reviews. ACT set up a website, saveourschools, and campaigned against this last year, long before National's new Education spokesman, Bill English, joined the debate.
If ever there was a perfect coalition government, it's between National and ACT. Our fresh ideas, liberal policies and smart, gritty MPs are the perfect spouse for National's temperance and conservatism. National MPs and ACT MPs already socialise together, strategise together and roll with each other's punches.
Together in the Treasury benches, with Don Brash as Prime Minister, we could indeed make New Zealand a country whose physical beauty is matched by her international reputation for savvy, commonsense and pride. A country that our nearest neighbour and rival, Australia, would look up to and envy.
A Pacific Ireland.
- Liberty Belle is a column from Deborah Coddington, Member of Parliament for ACT New Zealand. If you would like to be removed from this list, please advise by return email. If you would like to subscribe to other ACT New Zealand publications, please visit our web site at http://www.act.org.nz.