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robson-on-politics 30 April

robson-on-politics, a weekly newsletter from Matt Robson MP Deputy Leader of the Progressive Party

Progressive: positive about people and jobs

Being in Parliament to get good things done

I think it is good for politicians to regularly remind themselves of the things they got elected to Parliament to actually do. My political whakapapa has seen me in a big party and in small parties.

When I returned to New Zealand in 1980 after a number of years overseas, I became active in the Labour Party and was secretary of the Otara Branch for eight years. That was, and still is, a big party. But when Labour became a one-party government in 1984, it lost its way and instituted programmes that were not its own. So much so that in 1989 Jim Anderton and I left the Labour Party and founded NewLabour, a small party. We did well in 1990 election and Jim retained his Sydenham seat, a big ask under First Past the Post.

It became obvious that small parties would have to think smarter to do well under First Past the Post. I was one of the people who negotiated a grouping called the Alliance.

And so to the Progressives. We are a smaller party (much smaller) but beautiful. Despite not having any broadcast time in the 2002 election, both Jim Anderton and I were returned to Parliament, and we are continuing to get good things done for people.

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Small parties are beautiful, they mean coalition

We will have the advantage of broadcast time in the 2005 election. Now we are in coalition with Labour, but we are not part of the Labour Party. Our coalition is a minority one, which means when it comes to passing laws we need to get the votes of one or more opposition parties. And that has been a good thing, not having a one-party majority government.

Many New Zealanders have discovered that having one big party holding all the power means communities get shafted. The Labour Cabinet of the 1980s included Douglas Lange Prebble and my friends Michael Cullen, Helen Clark and Phil Goff. That Cabinet in the 80s gave us the sale of state assets and market madness. Only Jim Anderton provided a sane voice in Parliament - but you wouldn't know that from the VUW seminar held today.

By 1999, the voters made sure of a change after a 1996 mixup. We went into the 46th Parliament as a small party and then allied with the bigger Labour party to form the Helen Clark-Jim Anderton coalition government.

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I'm your host on Radio 531PI on Sundays 4-6pm. Tune in to 531 on the AM band.

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We got a bigger partner to say 'Yes.'

When we have put up our policies, our bigger partner often said "No" at first. It happened with Kiwibank, with regional and economic development, with paid parental leave and most recently with four weeks leave. But "No" turned to "Yes" when community support became evident and it was obvious we'd done our preparation.

This year, schools found that closure could be prevented because the Minister, with a plan of reviews that had not been taken to Cabinet, found that communities had other parties to turn to and yes, that was right, there wasn't a majority in Parliament to support closures. So small in government can mean very beautiful when the bigger party finds they have to do some negotiating.

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What next for the Progressives as a small party?

Our goals on our www.progressive.org.nz website include a full employment economy; programmes to make education and health services more and more accessible; support for families and those in need, so that we leave no one behind; strong, safe communities and finally facilitating investment in New Zealand. To me, the enormous social and economic benefits of full employment are obvious. While many may say it can't be done, the Progressives say why not?

The Progressive Executive is meeting today to discuss our approach to the fourth MMP election and how we best work towards our goals. I'll be pointing out that both Helen Clark and Don Brash have to look to who will govern with them. And voters will think about choices.

A Labour-Progressive coalition is the best option. But with Labour wooing NZ First, remember it's not only dining out on scampi that you have to pay for when with Winston Peters. Division is the name of his game. If voters want the partnership and development direction the Progressives advocate then give the party vote to the small and beautiful party - Progressive.

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Thank goodness Progressive has two MPs, not one

Tariana Turia's resignation does not affect the stability of the minority Labour Progressive government because the Progressives have two seats and ahead of the by-election, Labour has 51. The 53-seat coalition continues to have the magical 61 votes needed on confidence with the ongoing cooperation of United's eight seats. www.progressive.org.nz has more on this week's news.

robson-on-politics is available by email and fax. If someone you know would like to subscribe, email matt.robson@parliament.govt.nz


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