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ACT’s The Letter - Monday, 11 July 2005

ACT’s The Letter
Monday, 11 July 2005


Parliament is in recess. Labour’s come back campaign fails. National releases policy to give tax rebates.


All polls show National ahead of Labour with National and NZ First appearing to have a majority of seats. So it’s PM Brash? Not likely. It depends on the number of seats the Maori party wins. If they win all seven Maori seats, parliament is in overhang and there will be as many as seven extra MPs. A majority is 64 MPs. National and NZ First are short of that total.


Peters, like his supporters, thinks everyone is conspiring against him. He has spent years thinking about the failure of his coalition, which he partly puts down to independently minded, Dirty Dog-wearing, Maori constituency MPs. He has vowed to never have them again. Hence his decision not to contest the Maori seats even though the success of the Maori party shows NZ First would have done well. Peters also blames National who he believes broke its word and are untrustworthy.


Peters has been a minister twice. Both times it has almost destroyed him. As Minister of Maori Affairs his personal popularity went into free fall. He blamed the “dry” policies of Finance Minister Ruth Richardson. He determined next time to be Finance Minister. He was and his popularity fell again. He survived by just 34 votes in 1999. (We are still looking for them). Commentators have speculated Peters will do a United Party and refuse to join the government. Being outside government has not saved United and Dunne has now said he wants to be in the cabinet. Peters himself is all about power, perks and prestige; he hates the backbenches and longs for ministerial power and prestige.


It is not just the public but also the commentators’ memories that are short. On election night in 1996 everyone including Clark thought it was going to be a Labour/NZ First government. Peters said it was because the Alliance would not give an assurance of support, (Alliance’s vote was needed for a majority) - he went with National.


Peters believes in big government, big spending and big taxes. His first action after becoming Treasurer was to cancel the “Birch tax cuts”. He opposed Ruth Richardson not just ideologically but pragmatically. Peters believes, (and there is evidence to support him), that NZ’ers like government doing things for them. As Treasurer Peters began a massive $5 billion spend up. He still believes but for the Asian crisis and Shipley firing him, he would have spent his way to victory. His first preference is a coalition with Labour, on his terms. Clark and Cullen were willing in 1996, what’s changed? Whenever Peters wants to silence Cullen he threatens to publish the coalition agreement Labour signed with him.


Averaging out all the polls National is at just under 40%. The Nats have taken ACT’s and United’s votes. If you believe NZ First is a left wing party, and on economic issues it is, then the centre right vote has not grown and is still only 43%. So far there is no evidence of Labour’s voters crossing to National.


We could be looking at the worst election result for free enterprise for 25 years - a Labour/NZ First big taxing/ big spending government, Brash, (who should be in ACT), replaced by Brownlee who should be school teaching, the destruction of both the ACT and United parties leaving just the (red) Greens and the (red) Maori party. No voice for economic sanity.


This is why centre right voters split their vote. When they realise voting National will give them a Labour/NZ First government they will split their votes again.


The media has speculated that the Labour government withdrew its public access over farmland policy because of the rural revolt. Not so. Labour knows the policy is popular in the cities. There are so few farmers their vote is not electorally significant. National with Nick Smith’s private bill was going to confiscate land without compensation! It was the campaign in rural seats by ACT’s Gerry Eckhoff that forced National to support property rights. But it was not Gerry who got the policy changed. Labour intended to exempt Maori land but that is now politically impossible. Maori MPs vetoed the bill telling caucus that they would not vote for yet another bill taking Maori land. Jim Sutton is furious, as is Clark who had seen the issue winning city votes.


The Letter was the first to predict the Maori Party’s success. Pita Sharples’ recent disastrous performances in the media made us wonder. They were doing well before they got national coverage. It is clear their candidates have had no media training. It was a good point that Kiwi sportsmen go to many countries no better than Zimbabwe, e.g. the soccer team to Iran, but when questioned by the media Sharples ranged far and wide, sounding immature and ill informed. The party needs professional help to win over middle of the road Maori.


Both old parties argued their pre- school package was best. They both believe governments can make better spending decisions than you can. Rodney Hide gave an excellent speech on how to assess tax policies last week. It is cutting the top rate of tax that promotes investment and prosperity. It’s worth reading. Go to www.act.org.nz/memo.


Fortunately Graham Henry did not take Letter readers advice to bring back Merhts. Letter readers may be the best-informed readership in the country but we think we called that one wrong.


“Would Clark go into coalition with Peters if that was the only way to stay PM?” vote at www.act.org.nz/poll. We will send the result to Brash.


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