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Liberty Belle

Liberty Belle
Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle


The final debate of the 47th Parliament occurred on the night of Wednesday 3 August. We were in urgency and the House progressed business quickly. As I was the only ACT MP without leave, I was suddenly required to do the 10-minute Adjournment Debate (a prerogative of the leader or deputy). I'd actually delivered my valedictory the day before, and Richard Prebble tells me I've now made history by speaking after my valedictory. The Adjournment Debate is like a campaign speech so today's Liberty Belle - a little longer than usual but edited for length - is the Hansard of my Adjournment speech. I began by telling Madam Speaker that though it was highly unusual for me to be debating again on behalf of ACT, in my valedictory speech I did say that I would not rule out a comeback. Someone quipped that this must have been the record for the fastest comeback:

"I just listened to Michael Cullen give his speech. He was boasting about the economy. Is this as good as it is ever going to get for New Zealanders, if Labour can boast about it? If that is so, it is absolutely nothing to be proud of.

"Labour boasts about employment figures. Well, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of able-bodied, fit young men and women are wasting away on unemployment and sickness benefits. There is no excuse. If the economy is so good, why are those people wasting away on benefits? All that people need to do these days is to go to their general practitioner and get a letter. This Government has encouraged a policy of people going to their general practitioner and getting a letter, and then, as long as they are willing to drink two bottles of whisky a day, they can sit on a sickness benefit for the rest of their lives. Welfare fraud costs us $2 billion a year in this country. We could use that money. If we attacked welfare fraud, we could use the savings for tax cuts. That is without even touching the $7 billion surplus, and without touching all the horror scenes that the left always puts up, because as soon as we mention tax cuts they ask which hospitals and schools we will close.

"The Inland Revenue Department constantly reports that the black economy costs us $10 billion a year. It is the same morality. It is not the corporates that are ripping off the tax department; it is the same people as those who are ripping off the welfare department. If they are morally immune to ripping off the welfare system, they will feel the same towards ripping off the Inland Revenue Department. Even if we only halved that black economy, there would be another $5 billion. In Wisconsin, when the 40-hour week was brought in, the black economy disappeared overnight, because people on welfare chose a job rather than a cash job.

"Under this Government, crime has just rocketed. We have seen one of the worst police Ministers that anyone - even people older than me - can remember. He has just sat there doing nothing, while people who dialled 111 have died because a cab was sent instead of a police car. The Minister of Police was given a list of suspected paedophiles on a disk by Interpol. He did nothing for 4 months. He just sat there. In the meantime public faith in the police has dropped to an all-time low…the police are giving mothers who run their children to school in their dressing gowns tickets for speeding or for wrongly parking, yet when those same mothers get home and find that their houses have been broken into, it takes them 3 days to get a policeman to come. Anyone going to a police station to report a crime these days will find that the police are so under-resourced that they actually admit that people are better to go to their insurance companies and get paid out, because they cannot do anything for people.

"Education has become another way to hide unemployment. What used to be called night classes is now called community education or tertiary education. If people want to learn basket weaving or macrame', or if they want to go to a class that teaches them how to make a fire screen and a poker to match, they just have to roll up to one of those tertiary institutes and the Government will subsidise it and shovel money into it. It is called adult education - "catch-up education", "second-time round education", or "second-go education" - and it takes more money. Then it is let fall over - especially if it is a wānanga and it is privately owned. More money is shovelled in, a blind eye is turned to all the waste and all the warning signs that are coming through, and it is allowed to fall over.

"Pre-school education is in an absolutely shambolic state. This Government would wipe out the private providers if it could, but it knows that if it did, the not-for-profit providers would never be able to cope. The Minister of Education actually went out there and called private early childhood centres "Kentucky Fried Childcare". He is so out of touch as Minister of Education that he thinks early childhood education is still about changing nappies and warming bottles. He will allow free hours of early childhood education only for those who take their kids to a not-for-profit, community-owned centre. It does not matter if the poor mum has to drive halfway across town to get there, and has to spend all her money on petrol getting there and back, as long as her kids are at a not-for-profit provider. This Government hates private enterprise. It hates profit, and it hates competition.

"It has demoralised families and schools with its massive school closures up and down the country. The network reviews, for no good reason, closed schools that had got glowing Education Review Office reports. The United Future party, which calls itself a family party, sat there and did nothing while families were going through hell with their schools being closed. United Future, which calls itself the Christian, caring party, quickly took down its website, which had some very unchristian things on it, such as a statement that the Prime Minister should not be the Prime Minister, because she does not have children and she does not watch the rugby.

"The first piece of legislation that this Parliament passed after I came in was a social welfare amendment bill, which provided that people could go on the domestic purposes benefit at the age of 18, that they would never have to seek work until their youngest child was 18, and that they could go overseas for 3 weeks and still get the benefit. The "Family Party", the United Future party, voted for it. It voted for that legislation.

"The Minister of Education calls the National Certificate of Educational Achievement a triumph. It is a total disaster.

"Before I go I would like to remind the National Party that we do have MMP. I remind the National Party that when it and the New Zealand First Party fell apart in 1998, ACT supported the National Party. It was ACT that kept the National Party in Government, and it was ACT that stopped the country from going back to the polls. Without the ACT support then, National would have been back on the Opposition benches. National is campaigning in this election to get rid of MMP. The people of New Zealand own their votes - not the two old parties. It is not a two-party race. I give a warning to the National Party, more in sorrow than in anger: if the National Party continues trying to kill off its future coalition partners, it will ensure that Dr Brash will not be the Prime Minister, and the National Party will be in Opposition. Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.

"The New Zealand public likes ACT's policies of targeting welfare abuse, of one law for all, of zero tolerance of crime, of a tax cut for every worker, of world-class education standards; those have been accepted, because the National Party and the Labour Party are promoting some of them, too. The country wants a change - that is well known. But if it wants a stable, centre-right Government, it needs ACT there, too."

Yours in Liberty,

Deborah Coddington

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