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National in turmoil over botched ACC announcement

Hon Maryan Street
Minister for ACC

23 July 2008 Media Statement
National in turmoil over botched ACC announcement

Internal National Party friction over John Key’s handling of the party’s ACC policy announcement is becoming increasingly evident, says ACC Minister Maryan Street.

“Questions about ACC policy have been asked in the House for two days now, presenting National with several opportunities to outline the plans Mr Key announced last week. This has been his first chance to enlighten Parliament, yet Mr Key didn’t have a word to say.

“Most political parties take every chance they get to explain their policies, but National is clearly aware the public is appalled by the prospect of privatising ACC and that Mr Key’s announcement went down terribly,” said Maryan Street.

“National always knew it would be tough to sell, which is why it slipped the policy out late afternoon during a parliamentary recess and why deputy leader Bill English told the National Business Review beforehand that the party was fiddling with the “language” it used in regard to ACC.

“This meant Mr English and other seasoned National strategists wanted to pull the wool over people’s eyes when it came to National’s real agenda and for Mr Key to downplay the privatisation plan by saying it would take a “careful” approach, would “investigate” first, and was only looking at the Work Account.

This approach was in line with emails by Don Brash strategist Peter Keenan to the then National leader in The Hollow Men, warning it would be “painstaking” to warm the public to privatisation and to “sort out privatisation in the second term.”

“Alas, Mr Key was unable to dance on the head of a pin as planned and made it clear privatisation was inevitable and said the Earners and Motor Vehicle Accounts could also be privatised. He also made numerous factual errors,” said Maryan Street.

“His senior colleagues’ horror was evidenced when National’s former ACC Minister Murray McCully, who drove the temporary privatisation of ACC in 1998, was wheeled out on Friday to calm things down and correct his leader, via his weekly report.

“Contradicting Mr Key, Mr McCully said National would not privatise the Earners and Motor Vehicle Account, he spoke of room for the introduction of “elements of competition” and reiterated how cautious National would be in such a changed environment to 1999,” Maryan Street said.

Mr McCully also sought to counter Mr Key’s assertions employers’ levies would go down under privatisation, stating the ability of private insurers to do so was now “severely constrained”.

“That’s extremely embarassing for John Key. No wonder he and his colleagues look so uncomfortable during the ACC debates in the House.

“It also shows what mixed messages National is putting out. Why doesn’t the party just accept what everyone else knows, including the practitioners involved in accident care and compensation who have spoken out against National’s plans – that privatisation of this social insurance scheme will be bad for New Zealanders?

“The physiotherapists, the doctors and the lawyers are all opposed. So it seems as if it’s just the insurance companies who are in favour,” said Maryan Street.


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