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Trust The People

Trust The People

Monday 22 Nov 2004

Dr Muriel Newman - Speeches - Other

Speech to Wellington ACT Regional Conference; Hotel Intercontinental; Wellington; Sunday November 21, 2004.

The "Trust the People" theme of this conference couldn't be more appropriate. In the areas in which I work, Government involvement is often a disaster.

Take the case of social welfare. Why is it that at a time when the country is crying out for workers, Labour is allowing 80,000 people to stay on the dole? It's because the Government is so incompetent that it will not require beneficiaries who are able-bodied to get a job.

New Zealand is being held back by a labour shortage crisis, while the Government makes hard-working taxpayers foot the bill for beneficiaries who could and should be working.

I haven't even mentioned the 50,000 sole parents with school aged children who should be contributing, nor the escalating number of beneficiaries who claim they are too sick to work.

But the Labour Government's actions in many other areas exudes an arrogant "we know best" attitude, and all too often it appears that ACT is not only the most effective watchdog, but the only watchdog.

Two Bills that are presently before our Social Services Select Committee display this approach: a Bill to regulate charities and one to close down sheltered workshops.

The Government's proposed Charities Bill was so draconian and punitive that it was totally rejected by the 30,000 strong sector.

Now in a move that would have found more favour in a communist state rather than a Westminster-style democracy, the Government has handpicked 20 organisations of the 750 who put in submissions to consult with over the re-write of the Bill. Its intention is to send the re-written Charities Bill back to the Select Committee to be immediately deliberated on and passed - under urgency - before Christmas.

This undue haste over a Bill, which hasn't even been written yet, totally undermines the safeguards of the Parliamentary Select Committee process, leaving more than 700 charities with a keen interest in this legislation out in the cold.

I have launched an on-line petition at www.charitiesbill.co.nz to open the Bill up for a proper submission process. In my view, all charities should be invited to make a submission on the new Bill. If you have a concern about this issue, I would urge you to support the petition.

The second Bill that I have taken an active interest in is the Disabled Persons Employment Promotion (Repeal and Related Matters) Bill. Driven by union demands, it will have the effect of closing down sheltered workshops. Again, the Government's intention was to rush this Bill through before Christmas, but thankfully last week - as a result of a great deal of behind-the-scenes efforts - the brakes were put on and the Bill delayed until March.

The fact that this Bill will significantly affect thousands of families, yet the committee received only 16 submissions, indicates that the families themselves are not aware of what the Government is proposing. My on-line petition at www.disabledpersons.co.nz is calling for the Government to undertake a comprehensive consultation process so that these families who will be dramatically affected - especially if their workshop is closed down - are properly consulted.

ACT will oppose both of these Bills but, given that we are in the minority, at least we can try to ensure that a robust consultation process is undertaken and that such controversial legislation is not rushed through.

Another area for on-going vigilance is property investment. With my ACT Housing Spokesman's hat on, I have taken a real interest in the Government's agenda regarding private property investors with rental housing who are presently being targeted by Labour.

The Government's plan is to increase their taxes through changes to depreciation rates, to introduce rent controls, to register landlords, introduce warrant of fitness checks for rental housing, to have Government advocates for tenants, and to remove rental agreement flexibility. Again, if you have an interest in this area I urge you to support my third on-line petition at www.depreciation.co.nz to oppose the proposed depreciation changes, and to send in a submission on the proposed Residential Tenancies Act changes, which closes on February 17th 2005.

As we look forward to election year, it's imperative that voters are aware of Labour's obsession with regulating seemingly every aspect of our lives. This ideologically-driven "Government knows best" administration must be stopped. It's long past time that this country was run by an ACT-style Government that trusts the people to strive to build a better future for themselves and their families.



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