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Don Brash Writes No. 60, 8 June 2005

Don Brash Writes No. 60, 8 June 2005

Growing disillusionment with Labour

Over the last few months, New Zealanders have finally begun to recognise that this Labour-led Government is doing a huge amount of damage to the country we all love. There is a recognition that they have:

* totally failed to deal with the divisiveness spawned by one particular interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi;

* perpetuated a culture of welfare dependency, with over 300,000 working age adults dependent on a benefit despite some of the best international conditions in a generation;

* created an absolute debacle in the way they have implemented the NCEA system;

* squandered hundreds of millions of dollars on sub-degree tertiary courses, with most of those who enrol in them failing to complete them;

* presided over a shambles in the 111 emergency call system; * allowed some of the worst criminals in the prison system to get cash compensation for alleged mistreatment and "hurt feelings";

* allowed the Immigration Service to become totally dysfunctional, at considerable cost to both New Zealand society and to our international reputation;

* spent a vast amount of money on the bureaucracy, but starved front-line teachers, doctors and nurses of resources;

* multiplied compliance costs facing the business sector with changes to employment law, Holidays Act, RMA, HSNO, and OSH; and

* failed to make any meaningful impact on the congestion on our roads.

Just a couple of weeks ago, we had the Budget - and what a profound disappointment that was, as I discussed in my last newsletter. The Budget so completely misjudged the mood of the country that you can expect yet another bout of shameless political repositioning by Helen Clark and Michael Cullen to try to repair the damage.

And at the same time as people have become more disillusioned with Labour, the National Party has been unveiling its own policies for New Zealand's future - policies which see us all going forward as one people, with shared values if different cultures and races; policies to deal with entrenched welfare dependency and inadequate education; policies to make our communities safe from enemies from within and without; policies to fix the roading and electricity infrastructure; policies to lift our incomes to at least the Australian level, so that Kiwis will no longer see the need to leave in droves for a better life abroad; policies which reflect the values and aspirations of mainstream New Zealanders.

In addition, we have begun a billboard campaign to highlight the fact that there are huge differences between National and Labour on crucial aspects of policy. If you haven't seen all of the billboard designs, you can find them all at www.national.org.nz. We are finding that many people are saving a copy of these billboards and sending them on to friends - a great way to get the message out.

The crucial importance of the Party Vote

Little wonder that recent polls have shown a gradual closing of the gap between National and Labour. Increasingly, this year's election looks like being a two-horse race between National and Labour.

My advice to voters is this: if you want a change of government, it is imperative that you give your Party Vote to National.

And I want to emphasise this, because there are still many people who think that they have done their duty by the National Party by using their Electorate Vote to vote for the National candidate, and are then free to use their Party Vote for some other party, possibly one which could be a supportive coalition partner for National. They actually believe they are helping National in this way.

Unfortunately, they are not. While we are always pleased to get Electorate Votes, those votes have almost NO effect on which party gets to form a government. It is ONLY the Party Vote which determines which party gets to form a government. Yes, voting for another centre-right party is better than voting for one of the centre-left parties, but by voting for any other party than National with your Party Vote, you make it less likely that National will be in a position to form a government.

Keep in mind that both United Future and New Zealand First have made it clear that they will not indicate prior to the election which party they will form a coalition with. United Future has said they would almost certainly talk first with whichever of the two major parties gets the larger Party Vote. So using your Party Vote to support United Future or New Zealand First could very well result in a continuation of a Labour-led Government.

On the basis of their public comments, ACT would support a National-led Government, but of course if they don't get above the 5% threshold, or win a constituency seat - both of which look unlikely at this stage - voting for ACT is wasting a vote.

So if you want a change of government, it is imperative that you exercise your Party Vote in favour of the National Party. No other party will be in a position to form an alternative government.

And if you are not convinced of the need to throw out a Labour-United Future Government, how would you feel about a Labour-Green-Maori Party Government, because that is the most likely alternative to a National-led Government?

Student debt

In recent weeks, we have heard a great deal about the "national crisis" of student debt. Spokespeople for students talk in dire terms about the serious problems caused by this debt, now approaching $7 billion, and suggest that student debt is a major reason for students leaving New Zealand.

The National Party will make its own policy on student debt clear well ahead of the election. We recognise the huge importance of a well-educated people, and of doing all that we can to encourage educated people to live in New Zealand. But let's get a few facts on the table to counter some of the hysteria about student debt:

* The latest figures, to March 2005, show total student debt outstanding at just over $6.9 billion. This is equal to less than 6% of all household sector debt outstanding.

* This debt is owed by some 462,000 individuals, some still studying and some no longer studying.

* Of the total, just 24,999, or 5.4%, live overseas. In other words, the overwhelming majority of all those who owe student debt live in New Zealand. It is likely that many of the people who have gone overseas would have done so whether or not they had a student loan to repay - to further their studies, do their "OE", or simply earn more income than they can in New Zealand. It is therefore nonsense to suggest that we need to make a radical change in the student loan scheme to prevent vast numbers of students leaving the country.

* The median loan balance is just $10,206 - in other words, half of all those with student loans outstanding owe less than $10,206. 81% owe less than $25,000, and fewer than 4% owe more than $50,000.

* On average, taxpayers fund 75% of students' tuition costs.

It is worth remembering that students take on a debt in order to acquire what they think will be a useful asset, namely a qualification that will enable them to earn more income in the future. When somebody sets up business to generate income as a plumber, he (or perhaps she) too will take on debt to acquire a van, welding gear, and other tools.

The debt will be substantial, will require security, will not be at a subsidised interest rate, and will be repayable whatever income the plumber earns in future. By contrast, most student debts are modest in amount, all are at a rate of interest well below market rates for unsecured loans, and all are only repayable if the former student earns income.

Private investigators and personal attacks

The front page of last Sunday's Herald on Sunday carried an article suggesting that this year's election campaign could be one of the dirtiest in years, and quoted Michael Cullen speculating that National and ACT could have private investigators out hunting for dirt.

I can't speak for ACT of course, but to the best of my knowledge - and I would expect to know - there are absolutely no private investigators working for the National Party, or National Party supporters, "hunting for dirt" on Labour politicians. This is not the way the National Party operates. We don't need private investigators to uncover Labour's mismanagement and incompetence.

I came into Parliament three years ago because I was deeply concerned about the direction this Labour Government was taking the country. I am still deeply concerned. I will fight this election on the real issues that affect mainstream New Zealanders, like tax relief, quality education, and getting better results from our greatly increased health spend, not on what Labour MPs do or do not do in their private lives. And I challnege Michael Cullen to drop his diversionary tactics and do the same.


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