Gerry in the House - 1 August 2005
1 August 2005
Finally we know
Last week, at last, Helen Clark let the worst-kept secret out of the bag and told the country the date for the election - 17 September.
In her press conference announcing the election date she said this would be an election about trust, integrity and experience. So let's look at a few things.
Voters trusted Labour with Treaty issues, and they were divided. Voters trusted Labour with education, and they botched the system. Voters trusted Labour with health, and they got longer waiting lists. Voters trusted Labour with welfare, and they got a bigger bill. It's no surprise, that voters are scratching their heads and asking why they should trust Labour for another term.
You only need to look as far as Helen Clark's record to wonder if voters will ever trust her in government again. She continues to believe she is above the rest of society. She is a great believer in "I do not recall" and "not to my recollection". It is this pattern of behaviour that has lead to issues such as Corngate, Paintergate, the Yelash allegations, the allegations against the Auckland surgeon, Doonegate, and the speeding incident in Canterbury.
I would like to say two words about Labour's experience - George Hawkins. That is what experience can do for us. I have another two words - Trevor Mallard. The messed-up education system would be a lot better off if it hadn't been for 'The Trevor Mallard Experience'. Another two words - Pete Hodgson. Taxpayers now have a $1 billion bill through his sheer incompetence and his misleading of the public over the Kyoto Protocol.
If Labour wants to make this an election about trust, integrity and experience, I say bring it on!
The Student loan debate
National's tertiary package will make all net interest payments on student loans tax deductible against earned income. This policy will take effect on 1 April next year and will have an initial annual cost of around $70 million raising to $100 million over the next three to five years.
Labour's policy to abolish interest on student debt would be too much for most students to resist and would see New Zealand's debt skyrocket.
When Labour first tinkered with the student loan scheme by scrapping interest for borrowers while studying, students immediately took advantage of it and borrowing increased markedly.
Students can borrow up to about $10,000 a year. On average they currently borrow about $6,300 of that. This scheme has no incentives to keep debt down, so who could blame someone who had the money in the bank for taking out the full entitlement on their student loan and keeping their hard-earned money in an interest-earning bank account.
At the moment just 55% of students eligible for a loan take one out. But now the more than 100,000 students who haven't taken one out have a strong incentive to do so. Labour's arguments about tougher rules for borrowers don't wash. The cost estimate for Labour's policy ranges from $300 million $1.5 billion per year depending on who you believe. The question is if the students aren't paying who is?
National wants to see students get ahead, but this should not happen at the expense of others. Why should a taxi driver or a plumber pay all the interest on a loan taken out by someone who will have a potentially greater earning power them? National favours tax relief for all hard-working New Zealanders and will provide the right incentives to work hard and get ahead.
Maori Language Week
As many of you were aware, last week was Maori Language Week. The National Party has made it very clear that it supports te reo Maori and the promotion of tikanga. The Maori culture is an important part of New Zealand's heritage.
But we will not tolerate some of the patronising programmes put in place by Labour. Last week, Inland Revenue Department (IRD) offices throughout the country set up a special programme for Maori Language Week.
On Monday all staff were given name badges with their names in Maori. All the Johns became Hone, and all the Stevens became Tipene - the list goes on. On Wednesday the IRD stopped work for two hours so staff could participate in and observe an acting-out of Maori myths and legends. I wonder if this is Labour's version of a tax break.
And finally on Friday, just to cap the week off and put a lid on the patronising way in which they have dealt with this subject, the IRD had a hangi. The only problem with this is that most IRD offices are in the concrete jungles in this country, and there was no way of putting the hangi in the ground. The IRD got around this by bringing in the big boilers and having a European-style hangi.
This is the sort of thing Labour engages in all the time.
The past five days has seen five polls released. Two indicate that Labour's irresponsible interest-free student loan has attracted a bit of support. But on the other hand, despite Labour blowing the big guns with the policy, things are still neck and neck.
National plans to fight hard until the end to bring about a change of direction for the better of all New Zealanders.
One thing that did come out of the polls was the interesting sideshow that is developing of NZ First and ACT fighting for votes to keep their heads above the 5% threshold.
Policy releases last week...
National was hard at work last week and released policies in Tertiary Education, Local Government, Justice, Resource Management, Tourism, Disability Issues, Civil Defence and Emergency Services.