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The Letter

The Letter

Winter Recess Parliament is in its long winter recess, three weeks as opposed to the usual ‘three weeks on one week off’. A large proportion of the cabinet are travelling so politics is also in recess.

Brash triumphs The National Party conference is a triumph for Don Brash. Last year the National party was demoralised and confused as to why it was so unpopular. This year the party mood is sky high. Now confusion reigns as to why the party’s policy is so good. Don Brash’s law and order speech has succeeded beyond his expectations. Labour mythology is that Clark’s ‘Red Neck’ attack on Brash gave the Orewa Speech legs.

So this time the line was to be more reasonable. So Clark was primed to say “crime is a problem and Labour is tough on crime. The government will look at Dr Brash’s ideas.”

So we have the bizarre sight of the PM saying that Labour will look at ‘hard labour’ in prison. (Brash’s most way out idea) The proposal would mean that NZ would have to withdraw from a UN convention against hard labour.

Brash does not know a lot about crime.

Setting the agenda Labour’s new tactics are not working. By agreeing to look at Brash’s ideas, the government is letting the opposition set the agenda. In politics whoever sets the agenda wins.

They do not get it. What Labour does not get is that Don Brash is not a politician. Labour’s king hit was supposed to be the cost of Brash’s proposals. By agreeing that his law and order package would in fact be expensive Dr Brash gave his policy credibility. It is not an issue. What cost do you put on personal security?

Labour cannot beat Brash on the economics of law and order. He is the man whose signature is on our bank notes. Crime is an important issue in every election. Brash by agreeing with Labour’s contention that fixing it will cost big money, has ‘won’ it.

The Maori challenge Tariana’s by-election win is another sign that Labour is bogged down in Maori politics. Clark’s answer – give out the trappings of office and spend.

Biggest Ever Having six ministers of Maori Affairs is not enough. Helen Clark made Mahara Okeroa a parliamentary Undersecretary. Mita Rurinui has had Health added to his gamut of treaty responsibilities. Dover Samuels becomes Associate Housing.

Of course none of them is actually responsible for anything. Associate Ministers can do only what the principle Minister allows. When Eddy Isbey was Stan Roger’s Associate Minister of Labour he famously observed that if he did not read the Dominion newspaper he would never have known what was going on. Even John Tamihere’s new position of Minister for Building and Housing must wait for the formation of a new Department. All the MPs get is an office, an LTD, extra pay, but no real influence.

Having been told by the 9th floor that Tariana Turia was behind the scenes an effective Minister, now Labour’s spin is that they are shocked to find how little she accomplished.

Our media commentators are too politically correct to point out what we all know - that Tariana has always been second rate. So it follows that Okeroa and Ririnui must be third rate.

Rearranging the Deck Chairs Cabinet reshuffles, much favoured by frustrated back benchers, are “never do’s” in election year. The independence of the Speakership has been weakened by the fact that Jonathan Hunt has been kept dangling by the prospect of London. Now the ninth floor has announced that our vegetarian Defence Minister, Mark Burton, is to be the next speaker. This reflects Clark’s total contempt for parliament and her view that the Speakership is a party not a parliamentary office.

The best of the assistant speakers is Ross Robertson – who does know parliamentary procedures and is one of parliament’s most popular Acting Speakers. The third parties believe that in an MMP parliament the speaker should not come from the government. Two third parties have approached Richard Prebble to stay in parliament and run as independent speaker. Clark may find that her shuffle does not go to plan.

Money goes through the gaps. The moral bankruptcy of the Labour Party’s race policies were exposed last week by the revelation by the Labour Department that much of the money spent on “Closing the Gaps” capacity building has been misspent.

It was a condition of the grants that they not be used to pay salaries but the review shows that the majority of the money went in labour costs i.e the applicants took the money for themselves.

Although the name “Closing the Gaps:” was changed to “Reducing Inequalities” the spending just continued. Labour has now spent $209 million on the programme. Te Puni Kokiri has not yet done its evaluation of its programmes.

The failure of this programme and its corrupt use of the taxpayers money was predicted.

The Minister responsible? Helen Clark. The “Closing the Gaps” capacity building programme was set up by a special cabinet committee chaired by the Prime Minister. This programme is her responsibility.

Recipe for Corruption Helen Clark’s Maori MPs advised her that empowering junior level civil servants to issue ‘capacity’ building grants was a recipe for corruption. The Maori MPs on the Maori Affairs select committee, under the chairmanship of John Tamihere, went through the first year’s grants and identified that over a third were suspect. Many were double-dipping, same people, different name. The committee identified what the Labour Department now concedes that the guidelines were ”descriptive rather than restrictive” i.e. there were no rules.

It was wrong to go to a community and say, “think of an idea and we will fund it”. No one ever said that Maori were not inventive.

Last week’s poll Last week we asked you what you thought of Parole and the answer is not much. 93% believe it should be abolished.

This week’s question “Is the two hundred million spent on ‘Closing The Gaps’ money well spent?” We will send the answer to the Auditor General.

Perhaps our readers can prod him into action.

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