Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search - 02 May 2008 - 02 May 2008

A Weekly Report from the Keyboard of Murray McCully
MP for East Coast Bays

Key Move on Broadband

Over many months, National Party Leader John Key has asserted a determination to reverse the slide in New Zealand’s economic fortunes, and to slow the growing exodus of our brightest and best. For any who had their doubts the release of the National Broadband strategy should have been deeply reassuring. The plan provides one of the critical initiatives that lie behind the Key approach to driving improved economic performance.

The contrast between the Key strategy and that of the Clark Government could not be more stark. Having initially paraded a goal of returning New Zealand to the ranks of the top half of the OECD, Clark, Cullen and co. quickly consigned such ambitions to the “too hard” basket and banned further references to our OECD status from Ministers’ speeches. But the growing gap in after-tax incomes between New Zealand and Australia, and the growing flow of migrants across the Tasman, have been impossible to hide.

To excuse their failure Clark, Cullen & co. point to the fact that Australia is lucky enough to have a strong mineral base, eagerly sought by purchasers in China and other rapidly developing economies, while New Zealand is not. The Key response has been that in that case we had better make some luck for ourselves, because the alternatives are not that attractive. The broadband strategy is aimed precisely at New Zealanders making some luck for ourselves.

The Clark Government’s response to the Key broadband initiative has been to label it a subsidy for Telecom. One or two commentators have been misled into the same space, but nothing could be further from the truth.

The assembled technophobes at the worldwide headquarters of have the advantage of knowing absolutely nothing about bits or bytes or any of the other jargon of telecommunications technology. Which fortunately makes it possible to understand, in simple layman’s terms, what Key is proposing here. The most important phrase in his package is “open access”. It works like this:
The approach being followed by the Clark Government, and specifically Communications Minister David Cunliffe, involves persuading Telecom to increase the scale of the their investment to shorten the delivery time of faster broadband, especially to larger population centres. He/they then intend to crack the regulatory whip as hard as they can to require Telecom to do the necessary deals for other players to have access to the system, and especially to resolve the traditional arguments about price.

The essence of the Key package is that access to super-fast broadband is one of the critical tools to a better performing economy. There is, if you like, a public good component to its delivery, and that is why spending taxpayers’ capital managing the delivery process is fully justified. Indeed, any other solution will inevitably deliver too little and too late, to materially change our economic prospects.

The key to this is the open access nature of the network being proposed. In other words, the broadband network will not be owned by any individual player, able to delay or squeeze the access of competitors. Through a rigorous commercial process the major players will be able to negotiate their participation in the network ownership, alongside the Crown, against the background of a clear set of rules, the most important of which is open access.

This approach gives a future government the ability to negotiate terms with Telecom that avoid gratuitous damage to the largest company on the NZ sharemarket, but do not advantage them over other players.
For those who have been complaining about a lack of big policy initiatives, this clearly is one. And one that goes right to the heart of the change in economic performance that this country needs.

The New Zealand Music Commission Branch of the Labour Party

New Zealanders are now familiar with the sense of entitlement that has become the hallmark of the Clark Labour Government. Another little reminder of this most unlovely characteristic came this week with the launch of New Zealand Music Month. Most would consider such an event an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the New Zealand music industry. But for Judith Tizard and her colleagues it was merely another opportunity to utilise taxpayers’ funds to undertake a bit of gentle marketing for the Labour Party.

The New Zealand Music Commission receives over $1million a year from the taxpayers of New Zealand. Some of these funds, no doubt, were used to host this week’s Music Month launch event in Wellington. And a small clue as to the political character of the event may lie in the fact that the National Party spokesman on Arts and Culture, Christopher Finlayson, was not invited to an event hosted by a taxpayer-owned body - the NZ Music Commission. Never mind. We are sure that Mr Finlayson as a scholarly and courtly individual will most certainly not harbour a grudge if he finds himself as Minister for this body in six months time.

Stung by her shameful exclusion from the group of prime female vocalists who entertained the Labour Party Conference (the various nicknames for which do not bear repeating in a newsletter with such a cultured readership) Ms Tizard was apparently determined to make amends. She climbed onto the stage to accompany musician Chris Knox (yes, the same one you would have seen performing at Labour Party conferences). And witnesses report that she would indeed have made a valuable addition to the Labour Conference quartet.

Towards the end of the Knox/Tizard number, she was apparently joined by completely non-political and dispassionate media commentator Russell Brown (yes, the same one used by state television on channel 7), at the same time as Knox could be heard by the video microphones making a disparaging remark about National MP Katherine Rich. All in all, another day in the life of the New Zealand Music Commission branch of the Labour Party.

Go Figure

There are one or two things about the returns of donations by political parties this week that have mystified the substantial intellects accumulated at the worldwide headquarters of

The Labour Party has spent the last two years literally shrieking about the evils of anonymous political donations. Such donations are utterly wrong and unprincipled, they argued, and a new era of full disclosure and transparency was required. Hence, in part, the need for the Electoral Finance Act rammed through Parliament last year.

How very very unusual it was this week, in light of the above, to see listed in the Labour return, three anonymous donations, totaling $230,000 (donations for $30,000, $50,000 and $150,000). What a very strange thing for the party of transparency and disclosure to be doing.
Equally strange is the position of the NZ First Party who supported the EFA through all stages, including the tightening of the disclosure rules. This week they failed to file a return of donations at all and face prosecution by the Electoral Commission. A case of do as we say, not as we do, perhaps?

The Party of Unionists

The selection of CTU secretary Carol Beaumont as Labour candidate for the Mangakiekie electorate, where fellow trade unionist Mark Gosche is moving to the list, serves to highlight yet again the depth of union influence within the Labour Party.

At last count, 28 of Labour’s 49 current MPs were trade unionists in their former lives,(excluding that is former unionist Taito Philip Field who started this Parliamentary term as a Labour MP, but has since resigned from the Labour Party). And now, at the very time Labour should be looking to reinvigorate itself, it shows signs of falling even more firmly under union control.

In addition to the Beaumont selection this week, it is now clear that EPMU Secretary Andrew Little will, having turned down a safe seat, become the new Labour Party president after the election – earlier if current President Mike Williams does another ”Mike Williams” in the meantime.

Not to mention of course Labour candidates with strong union backgrounds such as Grant Robertson, Claire Curran and Iain Lees-Galloway – all being touted by the Labour hierarchy as prospects for the next Parliament. Just what are they trying to tell us here?


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