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Plain English: Column By Bill English

Plain English: Column By Bill English

The Maori Factor

It’s likely that the 2005 election will produce a Parliament where Maori politicians have a central role in determining the next government. About half of NZ First MP’s are Maori and NZ First retains significant support from Maori voters. The Maori Party looks likely to pick up at least 4 seats in addition to their current 1 seat held by Tariana Turia. Labour and the Greens combined have dropped in the last 12 months and now poll well under 50%. With National polling in the mid to high thirties, it’s unlikely any combination can be found to form a government that does not include significant Maori representation.

There is no doubt more Maori vote is detaching from Labour because of their increasing irritation with Labour's big government cash for votes answer to every problem. So Peters retains significant Maori support and Tariana Turia has succeeded in creating a viable party in a short time. It will take time to find out if the Maori Party is genuinely and worryingly radical or whether time in Parliament and the chance to be in government will quieten them down. Either way National needs to understand what drives Maori voters who support NZ First and the Maori Party because they will have a big influence in how government is formed and who is in it.

National On The Mood

A New Zealand Herald poll showed tax jumped from a non issue to the biggest political issue in a week. The public have never been more interested in National’s tax policy than they are now. The same poll showed only a small proportion of voters believe health and education are much better for the huge amount more spent on them. The Herald poll found 73% think schools are worse or no better and about the same for health. Mainstream voters want more value for the huge amount more money they have put into public services and they want excessive government surpluses returned to taxpayers. The budget included further huge expenditure increases so an incoming National government has plenty of room to move.

National’s tax package should in my view be just a first step to fixing a 30-year trend towards larger tax liabilities in families compared to other taxpayers. In the 1950’s families on average incomes paid virtually no income tax. The tax credit system is creating complex problems for middle income households who do not want to be regarded as recipients of welfare. The ideal is to simplify the system so families keep their own income rather than watching it recycled by governments using their own money to buy their support.

Labour off the Mood

Governments usually fail because they find out too late that their strategy no longer works with mainstream voters. Labour’s mix of decisive political management and big spending worked for 5 years. But no strategy works forever. Continual big spending is now seen as wasteful by middle income taxpayers impatient now with Labour’s view that Labour can use the taxpayers' money better. Clark’s political dominance now looks overbearing and arrogant. And bad judgements have accumulated into messes so big that only a new government can sort them out. Helen Clark used to famously say “Its time to move on”. But voters don’t just “move on” from problems with the police, school qualifications and wasteful government spending. Labour’s MP’s from Helen Clark down are distraught that the public give them no credit for what Labour thought was an election-winning budget. Cullen and Clark simply misjudged the mood of the nation.

Bill English

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