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Don Brash Writes No. 58, 11 May 2005

Don Brash Writes No. 58, 11 May 2005

--------------------- Helen Clark's credibility severely dented ----------

When Helen Clark became Prime Minister in late 1999, she made lots of bold claims about how her Labour Government was going to be honest and transparent. And despite Paintergate and Corngate, many New Zealanders still feel Helen Clark is a person of integrity.

Well, we now know that just weeks after she came to office, she was leaking information to the Sunday Star-Times with the clear intention of under-mining public confidence in her Police Commissioner. Worse, the information she leaked was not even borne out by the information she had on her desk. And still worse, in the last 10 days she has been saying things in Parliament which are totally inconsistent with what she said in a sworn statement about this case dated only last month. This is grossly inappropriate behaviour and completely inconsistent with the image of honesty and integrity to which she likes to pretend.

Lianne Dalziel, then Minister of Immigration, was relieved of her ministerial warrant for telling the media something which turned out to be false. Surely Helen Clark should demand of herself the same standard she demanded of Lianne Dalziel?

--------------------------- Roading ---------------------------

At the beginning of last month, I gave a major speech about the need for more investment in New Zealand's road network, partly because the economic cost of our sub-standard road network is very substantial but also because there are far too many people killed and injured on our roads because of the inadequacies of the network.

In that speech, I made a commitment that the next National Government will remove the obstacles to upgrading our road network as a matter of the utmost urgency. That means substantially amending the Resource Management Act and the Land Transport Management Act so that, once a decision to build a major road is built, it doesn't take three or four, or even more, years to get approval to start the road.

I also made it clear that we would commit to spending all the money raised through the petrol excise tax on improving the road network, with an additional $100 million spent on roads in the first year of the National Government and a further $100 million of additional investment each year until the whole $600 million of money from the petrol excise tax which now goes into the Consolidated Fund is spent on the road network. Over 10 years, this would result in an extra $4.5 billion being spent on roads, over and above that now planned.

Just consider what that would mean for the Waikato. At present, Transit estimates that it will cost about $750 million to complete the Waikato Expressway, making State Highway 1 a four-lane highway from Auckland to Cambridge. Less than one-third of that cost is currently budgeted for the next 10 years. With the additional funds provided by our pledge to have "all the money off the roads on the roads", the Waikato Expressway should be able to be completed within the next 10 years.

Over the next few weeks, I will be spelling out what our commitment means for the roads between Katikati and Te Puke, for SH20 and SH18 in Auckland, for SH2 through Maramarua, for Centennial Highway north of Wellington, and for other important roads throughout the country.

Improving our road network is an urgent need in Auckland - as everybody who lives in Auckland knows only too well - but the need to improve the road network is by no means only an Auckland problem. Of the four major roading "projects" studied by the Allen Consulting Group on behalf of the Automobile Association last year, the most urgent was an improvement to the roads around Tauranga and the second most urgent was the construction of passing lanes every 5 kilometres on well-travelled rural roads. Improving our roads is a national priority - and National intends to fix the problem.

--------------------------- Labour's carbon tax ---------------------------

Last week, the Labour Government announced another new tax, this time a tax on carbon emissions. It is, they argued, a tax required by the fact that they chose to ratify the Kyoto Protocol late in 2002.

The National Party believes that New Zealand should not have ratified the Kyoto Protocol while the science is so uncertain and in advance of our major trading partners. New Zealand contributes only about half of one per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and we could see no logic in ratifying in a situation where the relationship between long-term trends in global climate and human activity remains a matter of intense international debate and where many of our major trading partners - countries such as Australia, the United States, and China - have decided not to ratify.

The carbon tax will add significantly to the cost of electricity and both petrol and diesel - and will thereby damage the international competitiveness of our businesses and encourage the export of New Zealand coal to countries which have not ratified the Protocol, such as China. So we'll be running out of electricity while our coal is exported to countries which will use it to generate electricity there!

This has to be daft. National is committed to scrapping Labour's carbon tax, and to withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol from the so-called "second commitment period" starting in 2013 unless the climate science becomes more convincing and all significant countries are committed to its implementation.

--------------------------- Education footnote ---------------------------

In my last newsletter, I summarised the main features of the speech I gave on education policy in the middle of April. One of the steps we will take to give parents more choice about the school they send their children to is allowing the best state schools a considerable measure of freedom to expand and grow, including allowing them to take over the management of less successful schools.

On the day before the British General Election last week, The Daily Telegraph reported that the Labour Government in the UK planned, if re-elected, to introduce an Education and Skills Bill which "would enable successful schools to expand by taking over less successful ones". Helen Clark's Labour Government ridiculed the idea. Tony Blair's thinks it is a great idea. On this, I agree with Tony Blair.


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