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ACT's The Letter - Monday 23 August 2004

The Letter
Monday 23 August 2004


As parliament is in recess and the nation is watching the Olympics, it has been a quiet week. What has happened to the Kiwi male? It is the women who are winning gold and the All Blacks are the wooden spoon holders of the tri-nations. Men’s sport seems to be following boys’ education downwards. Thought: Does Helen care? Hell no! Only that Labour is back in front in the polls.


Helen's press secretary Mike Monro, has written, "I have been thinking – is the 12 July hypothesis still current, or has it gone the way of most other ACT assertions? He quotes The Letter -

“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."


It is nice to know the ninth floor reads the letter. We note Monro appears to accept The Letter's assertion that Labour’s tactic is now to claim to be looking at issues raised by Don Brash. It would appear to be working. Massive taxpayer funded advertising also assists Labour, e.g. the TV ads for the new medical services that recent surveys show have actually resulted in an increase in GP fees for average families. The government intends spending an unprecedented $20 million on advertising the budget welfare giveaways. Labour's popularity is also assisted by 4% plus growth.

Don Brash has been sidetracked into the Wellington game of cabinet reshuffles. The Letter maintains that he who sets the agenda does win in politics but in the last month it has been Labour setting the agenda.


Labour still has serious electoral problems. On current polling Labour will lose all seven Maori seats. Even if all commentators cannot do maths or understand MMP we are sure that Mike Monro does know that Labour's Maori MPs look doomed to defeat. The Maori party's 3% support translates into around 60,000 votes. In the last election in all the Maori seats put together there were only 65,000 Labour votes. As constituency races are first past the post and as most of the Maori party support must have come from Labour, it looks like a clean sweep for the Maori party. Labour thinks that if the foreshore legislation is rushed through this year the issue will go away. Perhaps in the general seats, but a law that prevents Maori from having access to the courts is not going to be forgotten. The Letter does not know one Maori speaking NZer who does not think the law is a betrayal. (Yes we know the Labour Maori members say they support it). Every important Maori organisation has made a submission opposing the bill and the travesty that passes for a hearing has increased Maori anger. Helen Clark has lost all the Maori seats before and the long-term damage the bill is doing to Labour is hard to exaggerate. Thought: The Letter would not be surprised if the ever-flexible Clark dropped the bill. It will be years before any of the foreshore court cases will be finally decided.


Labour's spin is that losing the Maori seats may be a blessing; Labour won't have to make compromises to the Maori caucus, and the Maori party will still have to vote with Labour, so it's three more years with Helen. Wrong. There is no way middle NZ will vote for Labour once voters realise that Labour can only govern in coalition with a party advocating separate Maori sovereignty.


Getting the initiative back is not hard; just take some more of ACT’s policy. National is beating Labour in Auckland, Brash is drawing big crowds in the provinces, but National is doing badly in Wellington. The party holds no seat in the greater Wellington area. Dunne, who is in coalition with Labour, holds Sir John Marshal’s old seat. Answer: Take the initiative and stand Don Brash in Ohariu/ Belmont. Now that’s a race we would love to watch.


As soon as we had predicted an easy win for John Banks, Dick Hubbard announced his nomination. We are not sure how seriously we should take him. The Letter has never met any one from his Business with Social Responsibility organisation and we have assumed that his anti-Round Table statements are designed to give publicity to his cereals. Auckland’s transport woes, where we need more roads, have been bedevilled by claims that rail is the answer. Trains are very expensive and travel the wrong routes. Hubbard has promised both heavy and light rail and to put it underground. But he is also promising the Eastern Highway and sustainability. There was nothing in his ad about the rates or how to pay for it all. We think it’s a campaign to sell more cereals.


We are expecting another slamming report about conflict of interest regarding overseas students at Cambridge High School. So before she is dammed a few thoughts. Judged by external exams, scholarships, Cambridge High is the most successful school in its decile in the country. It is drug free. Is not the point of NCEA that no child fails? Why was it OK last year? Is the real crime to show what nonsense NCEA is?


Last week Donna Awatere Huata’s lawyers tried to have Richard Prebble and Ken Shirley struck out and replaced with Rodney Hide and Muriel Newman. The Supreme Court declined but has added, with their consent, Rodney and Muriel as parties. We are expecting the Court to grant leave and an early hearing this week.


Last week 96% thought there should be no benefit if the father isn't named. This week, the Auckland mayoralty. Who would you vote for?


PS - Maybe the real men are living in the Bay of Plenty.

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