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The Letter Monday 2 August 2004

The Letter Monday 2 August 2004

DONNA APPEAL ACT must decide by Friday whether to appeal the Court of Appeal decision that Donna Awatere Huata is still (for electoral purposes) an ACT MP despite being declared an independent MP.

"Donna was elected as a list MP by 160,000 ACT voters and she has no right to serve in Parliament voting against ACT on issues like Maori TV," says Richard Prebble. “The Electoral Integrity Act was designed to enable the proportionality of parliament to be quickly reinstated to what it was on election day. On election day ACT received nine MPs and now it has just eight".

The lawyers have confirmed the case is still in Prebble and Shirley’s names and only they can appeal. The original injunction was against the ACT party but this has been dropped. The ACT Board is still keen to fight the injunction. An appeal will be expensive; the filing fee alone is $6,000.

Rodney Hide raised the Court of Appeal’s decision on a point of order. If the court has ruled that Donna’s defection has not altered parliament’s proportionality then the Speaker’s decision to cut ACT’s speaking time, representation on committees and funding, should be reviewed.

The Letter does not expect the Speaker to restore ACT’s proportionality. We expect the Speaker to say that for parliamentary purposes ACT has eight MPs but under the Electoral Integrity Act, as defined by the judges, ACT’s proportionality has not changed! (It doesn’t make sense to us either.) Still of concern to the caucus, apart from the cost, is the growing feeling that ACT is caught up in the fight between the government and the courts over who is supreme. What better way to show who is boss than by reinstating Donna? See

THE SLIPPERY POLLS The Sunday Star Times and TV3 polls put Labour in the lead and the third-party support on the TV 3 poll is below the 5% threshold for all but NZ First, which is just above. So is it Winston as kingmaker? Not so. In MMP, voters know they have two votes. TV3 has started to ask, “Who would you like to see in coalition?” First, what the voters do not want: The Maori party, Progressives, Greens or United. Labour's allies are being hammered. Only two of the third parties appeal as coalition partners, NZ First, the first choice of a majority of Labour voters, and ACT the first choice of National voters (interestingly 18% of Labour voters make ACT their first choice coalition partner).

IMPLICATIONS This poll is bad news for Labour’s allies, as it shows when the voters start thinking strategically, usually about three weeks before the election, there is no lift likely for them. It is great news for ACT, as the party seems to be positioned ideally for the final sprint to the line. Thought: What do ACT and NZ First have in common? Both are "keep the bastards honest" parties. NZ First appears to be just where Winston wants, claiming he could support either Labour or National and is indispensable.

THE BRASH FACTOR Few MPs, including Peters, believe Don and Winston could work together. Peters is bound to have another anti-Asian election campaign and that’s a direct attack on Brash’s own family. Peters is the opposite of Brash. He sees Brash as another Ruth Richardson. Brash in turn sees Peters as Muldoon's successor who he believes almost wrecked the country. NZ First’s claim that they could support a Brash government is no more credible than the Maori party’s claim that they may support Brash.

CLARK/PETERS? Labour strategists believe they can work with Peters. Problem: In the suburbs of Auckland where Labour is already in trouble, a Labour/NZ First government has no attraction. When one in five Labour voters already prefer ACT, in Auckland National/ACT is already the preferred coalition. There is a saying in politics that parties start in Auckland and go to the South Island to die. All year National has been leading in Auckland.

ALL INDIGENOUS NOW MPs seem to be falling over themselves to give ACT speeches. The last to do so was John Tamihere who repeated Muriel Newman's criticisms of the Family Court and her claim that families need fathers. A better ACT speech is Trevor Mallard’s. It's worth a read.

2004 WELFARE SYMPOSIUM Dr Muriel Newman, ACT’s deputy leader, is organising an international conference on welfare on Saturday 14 August, Beehive Theatre, Parliament. A very impressive list of speakers include Frank Field MP an ex-Minister in the Blair government, Professor Lawrence Mead from New York University, Professor Peter Saunders, director of social policy research, Centre for Independent studies, Australia, Alan Duff, and Sir Roger Douglas. For information see

CRUMBLING CERTAINTIES What has happened to the pinko Listener whose new columnist is one David W Young. We don't want to be accused of outing him by revealing that he used to be Head of the ACT parliamentary party's Press Unit, but then we're certain that no self-respecting pinko would read The Letter, so we're confident we haven't put his job prospects in peril.

ANTI-SEMITISM Have readers noticed the number of opinion pieces since Clark declared open season on Israel that say, "I'm not anti-Semitic but ...”and then make the most outrageous anti-Semitic statements?

THIS WEEK’S POLL The Letter readers overwhelmingly (91%) supported appealing against the Court of Appeal decision last week. This week’s question – Do civil servants have the right to make submissions to parliament opposing the government? If no, should Maori Language Commission Chief Executive, Haami Piripi, be sacked? - we’ll send your views to the State Services Commission.

This message has been brought to you from the ACT New Zealand Parliamentary Office


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