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What's Going Wong: Cullen's Tax Crumbs A Joke

What's Going Wong - A Column by Pansy Wong

Cullen's tax crumbs a joke

Labour and its master illusionist, Finance Minister Michael Cullen, raised expectations so high in the lead-up to the Budget that they crashed faster than you could say 'what tax cuts'? Obviously it has become too difficult for Labour to take their greedy hands out of the coffers and return some of that money to taxpayers.

During the fall-out from the Budget, Labour blamed the rumours about a 'deep dark secret' regarding tax on the media. As we all know, someone had to take the blame, and Clark and Cullen couldn't. When was the last time they made themselves accountable?

Under Cullen's Budget, hard-working Kiwis have to wait until 2008 to get a tax cut of between 67 cents and, if you're really lucky, $10 a week. Of course, these miserly cuts went down like a lead balloon - more than 53% of people surveyed in the NZ Herald this week said they were unhappy with the tax crumbs. And more than 65% said they didn't want to wait three years to get as little as an extra 67 cents a week - which will buy a fifth of a coffee or half a litre of petrol - and which you'll probably use up while you're stuck in traffic because roads aren't being built.

This week, I have been part of National's post-Budget team, along with Leader Don Brash and Finance spokesman John Key. We have been touring the country where hundreds of people came to hear National's response to the Budget and to condemn Labour's arrogant attitude towards hard working Kiwis.

It is obvious that the Budget has shown Labour's true colours and the arrogance of a government that has been in power for too long. Helen Clark seems to believe that all Kiwis should be happy with an extra 67 cents a week, and Cullen, though forecasting a slowdown in the economy, seems perfectly happy to let us all tighten our belts while their Wellington bureaucracy grows.

Since Labour first came into office in 1999, they have introduced 31 different taxes and levies and taken an extra $50 billion in tax. Under Budget 2005, where will this hard earned money go?

* The Ministry of Education and its bureaucrats get an increase of $24.3 million a year, while schools get only an extra $19.5 million a year for operating budgets.

* Labour told us the Police will get an extra 245 staff members, but neglected say that only 120 of those will be frontline staff.

* Hospital waiting lists are continuing to grow despite an extra $3.3 billion being put into the health sector since 1999.

National believes that all Kiwis who work hard should be rewarded, and we believe that tax cuts are the best way to do this. When National becomes the next government, a new Budget will be presented before Christmas. We can't wait until 2006 to mop up Labour's mess.

Is the Asian community getting a fair deal?

Predictably, the latest extortion and kidnapping attempt, made by four Chinese men in Auckland, hit the headlines throughout the country. I would like to congratulate the bank staff and the Police for apprehending these offenders quickly.

The kind of pressure that crimes and events like this place on our Asian communities, due to the intense media scrutiny, is immense. I am sure that if the case involved four European men, most of us would not be happy to be branded as one group.

Generally, many Asians believe the mainstream media is interested only in stories that involve scandal or crime. One recent example involved the allegations surrounding Steven Ching, the Labour candidate who was told to stand down pending a Police investigation into his activities.

Asian newspapers have been very interested in and have written about Chinese candidates in the run up to the General Election, including Ching. Yet it was only last week that most mainstream media became interested in the story for different reasons.

Many groups within the Asian community can struggle with problems for years before the mainstream media will even look at their story. And even then there's no guarantee it will be published.

To illustrate this, two groups of largely Chinese acupuncturists - the New Zealand Chinese Acupuncture Association and Register, and New Zealand Traditional Chinese Medical Practitioners Inc - have tried for the past 15 years to be recognised by ACC as treatment providers. Their applications haven't even made it through the front door because of perceived institutional racism.

ACC first recognised another group, the New Zealand Register of Acupuncturists, in 1990 as a treatment provider, which means people can be treated by members of that group and claim ACC.

The two Chinese acupuncture groups complained to the Regulations Review Select Committee in 1992 about ACC's process. The Select Committee upheld their complaint and asked ACC to adopt a transparent process for applicants wishing to become treatment providers.

The two groups lodged another complaint with the Select Committee in 1998 because, in the six years since the ruling, ACC had failed to make their process more transparent. I was a member of the committee that upheld the second complaint. ACC then told the Chinese acupuncturists that the way forward was for the sector to form their own council so they could regulate their own membership.

During this time, another group, the New Zealand Acupuncture Standards Authority Inc, lodged an application to become a recognised treatment provider, and, surprisingly, ACC accepted it. Parliament approved the second group just weeks ago, while the two largely Chinese acupuncturist associations were once again left out in the cold.

One of the Chinese groups has been recognised by Southern Cross Insurance as treatment providers for their clients, so why can't ACC accept their application?

Interestingly, people ask me all the time for referrals to acupuncturists, because it's a traditional treatment that originated in China, and therefore they perceive that Chinese practitioners should be better than others.

Despite the facts of this story, the mainstream media still hasn't shown much interest. Meanwhile, these two Chinese acupuncture groups continue to fight on their own to be recognised.

Pansy Wong

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