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ACT's The Letter - 31 January 2005

The Letter
Monday 31 JANUARY 2005

On Tuesday Parliament resumes with all parties, mindful of an election later this year, determined to make their mark early.


The Letter understands National was not amused that Parliament's best known social welfare reformist, Dr Muriel Newman, released her five-step plan to overhaul the welfare system the week before Don Brash got to his feet in Orewa. Knowing that some National minders were having kittens over ACT's well-reported jump, it was obvious early on that National's 'new' ideas would resemble Dr Newman's work of the past eight years. It’s great that National has adopted some of Dr Muriel’s ideas – but they will need all of them if they are to drop the number of beneficiaries by a third.


Letter readers noted plenty of cops patrolling the roads over summer but not many patrolling the streets.

We have 7,500 sworn police officers. One-fifth of them are dedicated to the “Safety Administration Programme”, i.e. they are traffic cops. Police Minister George Hawkins says “don’t worry criminals are often bad drivers who get caught speeding on the way to committing a burglary”. Police issued 1.6 million tickets last year, up from a million just five years ago. Hawkins conveniently doesn’t know how much the Government raked in, saying, “The money gathered from traffic infringements is difficult to estimate.”


ACT Leader Rodney Hide’s Workers' Party state-of-the-nation speech seems to have gone down well with both the membership and wider public. Boosting all working NZ’ers pay packets contrasted well with National's welfare reform positioning. Some commentators didn't quite get ACT's workers message, presuming we were focusing on blue-collar workers. Yes, the focus was on blue collar but it was also on white collar, in fact all collars are well overdue a tax cut. One Herald commentator described ACT's $35.86 weekly tax cut for a person earning $40,000 as a "piddling amount". ACT's 25-cent tax rate for business and workers earning more than $38,000 along with our 15 cent rate for those earning less will have a significant impact on working NZ’ers weekly budgets. One way to show the significance of an increase of $35.86 in take home pay is to consider what it would take under the present tax regime to achieve this. Currently, a person earning $40,000 would need their boss to reward them with a 7% gross pay increase - hardly piddling stuff! The Letter says our tax system should be lower, flatter and simpler and should be changed sooner rather than later.


Last year the Auditor-General found that Jim Anderton’s ‘job machine’ which was handing out millions of dollars was missing paperwork, breaching Cabinet guidelines, and had controls on spending so loose that it was not always possible to tell who had received the money or how much had been paid out. In response this year, Anderton acknowledged that the administration of the grants “has not been ideal.”


Jim Sutton is just like the emperor with no clothes when it comes to public opinion regarding Labour’s theft of farmers’ property rights. When asked by the Rural News for his response to a Herald Digipoll showing 9 out of 10 Kiwis opposed the Government’s land access strategy, he replied, “I don’t accept that figure at all”. That’s strange because Labour is only too happy to accept polls when they’re ahead!


In the week that we heard much about reforming welfare, the nastiest welfare of all - Corporate Welfare - raised its head again. Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard's cereal company came out patting itself on the back for receiving $183,600 from NZ Trade and Enterprise. This latest government cheque follows two previous grants from Anderton's ‘jobs machine’. In October 2002 Hubbard Foods received $75,000 and a further $22,921 was granted in June last year. What made it worse was that the Executive Director of Hubbard Foods later admitted the successful company could have got by without it. The Letter has no issue with Hubbard taking the handout; we blame Anderton's dopey policy of corporate welfare that says government grants will help make companies more competitive.


There have been howls of outrage over Don Brash’s stated aim to drop the number of beneficiaries from over 300,000 (actually adding in partners and spouses it’s 356,000) to 200,000 in 10 years. Just how tough is the Brash programme? Is it tough enough to achieve the goal?

Here’s the programme:

· Those on sickness and invalids are to undergo a more thorough medical evaluation processes;

· Work for the dole;

· Reduced benefits for DPB mothers who don’t name the father (it’s currently reduced $27 a week);

· DPB recipients to undertake part-time work, community service or retraining when the youngest child at the time of going on the DPB reaches five and full-time when that child reaches 14

· No automatic entitlement to additional state assistance for mothers who have further children while on the DPB;

· Increased government spending on community work, training and budgetary advice.


The Letter wondered about a government paying $5,000 for every six at the charity cricket match - even though it was all for a good cause. Then we learnt that the money paid out was just deducted from what the Government had already promised.


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