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Heather Roy's Diary

Heather Roy's Diary

Parliament resumed this week after the summer recess. There were several themes in the House but biggest amongst them was Labour trying to defend its election overspending by $440,000. An unrepentant Helen Clark seems to think she gets to make the rules but doesn't have to abide by them. Michael Cullen has had a change of heart about his generous chewing gum tax relief and Winston Peters, deprived of his circus ring for the last two months and with no foreign country to visit this week was cracking the whip at ACT and National. His patsy questions to Labour Ministers and new role of Labour enforcer show New Zealand First have firmly nailed their colours to the Labour mast.

Oliver Twist

In Dickens' famous novel Oliver Twist asks "for more" after dinner in the workhouse, throwing the authorities into consternation. Some thought he should be hanged for his presumption.

Michael Cullen's response to a question on taxes recently was strongly reminiscent of the workhouse response. You will recall that last year Michael Cullen became the butt of a number of jokes when he announced that he was giving tax cuts that would leave the average worker 67 cents a week better off. Despite a large budget surplus it hurt the Finance Minister dreadfully to part with anything at all. As 67 cents is about what it costs to buy a packet of chewing gum the budget was often derided as the chewing gum budget - a term that leaves the Minister in a rage.

Despite this parsimony Labour returned to power and Michael Cullen remains Minister of Finance. He is not amused by requests that tax relief should be "more". He wonders now if the 67 cents may have been too generous and reminds me of 'Oliver Twist' in his thoughts as to the punishment of those who are presumptuous enough to question his wisdom. Here is one of Cullen's quotes from earlier in the week:

"anybody who thinks there are large fiscal surpluses to be spent now by means of large tax reductions should be taken out and quietly drowned."

The only drowning likely to take place is in ten-dollar notes generated by the government surplus.

The Prime Minister who last Tuesday said that the opposition "wanted a big spend up on tax cuts" also illustrated the confused thinking that lies behind these statements. It is impossible to spend money that hasn't been collected

But that rather obvious fact is ignored. The current government is certain that it can spend money on our behalf better than we can spend it ourselves.

Economic Direction

With the beginning of the New Year there has been a lot of talk about New Zealand's economic future. The Labour Party see things getting better whilst National sees a recession ahead. I tend to take an intermediate position, as do most independent commentators.

The people entrusted with guiding our economy seem to have lost the plot entirely. At the end of last year, Government officials were sent to Japan to try and persuade Japanese investors not to buy New Zealand dollar bonds.

Japanese retail investors were told that New Zealand has a massive current account deficit, which is true but not helpful.

I feel very sorry for our officials who must have felt less than patriotic. I suspect that when the Japanese thought our officials were bowing they were actually hanging their heads in shame.

I am mystified by attempts to badmouth the New Zealand economy in Japan. Surely this risks tarnishing the country as an investment destination for all investors.

I can only guess that the Reserve Bank is trying to talk down the New Zealand dollar. But I ask why we don't simply offer a lower interest rate and let New Zealanders save on their interest repayments.

The Blokie Award

I would not normally describe myself as a feminist but the latest copy of the New Zealand Fire Service Magazine 'fire rescue' struck a nerve in my usually un-PC bones. The glossy magazine gives awards for "achievements" in 2005 including 'The Blokie award' which "recognises gender purity within a fire station. It's about stations that aren't afraid to eschew modern ideas of equality and keep women out of their station."

These are "the stations where women dare not tread, except when carrying scones" Four finalists were named and the winner the magazine stated, "would take some topping. Miles out in front are the boys (and no girls) from Auckland City! Fifty-one chaps, no ladies. Take a bow!"

There has been no comment from Rick Barker, Minister responsible for the Fire Service or surprisingly from the Ministry of Women's Affairs - another good reason to abolish them.


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