Heather Roy's Diary: Trust Us We're The Government
Trust Us - We're The Government
It all started last Friday when Prime Minister Helen Clark called a press conference, delivered what can only be described as a lacklustre and dreary speech lambasting the National Party, and then told the nation what it had tuned in for - the election date.
While the election date of November 8 hardly came as a surprise, Miss Clark's oration resembled a valedictory speech - and one could have been forgiven for thinking she wasn't exactly feeling confident.
In the presence of a falling economy, and having completely run out of ideas, Labour has decided to fight this election on the issue of 'trust'. As such, Miss Clark and her Deputy have been doing their best in the past week to allege that the Opposition can't be trusted - meaning that by default, I suppose, that Labour CAN.
In truth, Labour is going to have to do better than use implication to turn the rising tide against it.
The first attack came with the announcement of a global economic downturn, after Merrill Lynch ran into trouble on such a scale that it threatened the financial integrity of the US banking system. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen moved quickly, blaming National Leader John Key for the downfall because he worked for Merrill Lynch a decade ago. The message from Dr Cullen was: 'you can only trust us'.
Then came the Prime Minister's comments to Grey Power on what would have happened over Iraq had National been in government. According to Miss Clark, 60 Kiwi troops would have come home in body bags had she not been at the helm.
Her comparison of hypothetical body counts between a Labour and National Government's decision to deploy troops to Iraq represents an all-time low in politics, and in the personal standards of a Party once proud to stand for ordinary decent Kiwis.
This is a woman who jeered our soldiers leaving for Vietnam, and then offered them an apology in Parliament this year without ever once saying 'sorry'. At that time, she claimed to have grown wiser since her student days; this week she proved otherwise and revealed her real view of the many brave past and present New Zealanders who serve their country: that, to her, they are mere pawns to be used for political gain.
Miss Clark is guilty of a reprehensible and immoral political comparison; one that will echo worldwide and shock good leaders everywhere. Her 'back of an envelope' calculations - which were badly wrong - are an insult to the US, to whom we owe a debt from WWII that we can never repay. A nation's sacrifice is nothing to her but an election gimmick complete with photo opportunities.
What Miss Clark conveniently forgets is the two deployments of Engineers that were sent to Iraq. She describes them as non-combat troops, sent to assist the rebuilding programme. But engineers ARE combat troops - and the fact that they were in Basra at a particularly dangerous time, frequently consigned to their compound, has never been acknowledged by this Government.
Meanwhile the thousands of Army, Navy, Air Force, Police, Customs, Fisheries and Emergency Service personnel who risk their lives must suffer this insult in silence alongside hundreds of thousands of RSA members and their families. Miss Clark should apologise unreservedly for this thoughtless statement.
Given that the Prime Minister's 'trust us' message appears to have back-fired, perhaps it would be worthwhile to consider just what this 'trust' is that she is talking about. Does she mean the noun:
"reliance on and confidence in the truth, worth, reliability of a person or thing ..." (Collins Concise Dictionary).
Or perhaps she means the verb form:
rely or depend upon ..."
(The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary).
The reality is that the only one you can ever really trust is, of course, yourself. ACT's belief is that we should trust the people, and there are very few Kiwis who cannot and would not make the best decisions for themselves or their families.
That's why we want to give people back more of what they earn. We want to give people choice in Education - a scholarship for every child, so that funding follows the child to the school of THEIR choice. We want to give them choice in Health: giving every man, woman and child an insurance policy so THEY can choose public or private, or which surgeon or hospital they go to for healthcare.
Trusting the people means empowering the people. Conservatives believe that only some people can be trusted - which is where ACT liberals like Rodney and I part company with them. The default position should be to let ALL people make the choices that affect their lives directly, with the government only stepping in to provide the things people can't provide for themselves - like police and a defence force.
You'll hear all of Labour - and a few National people - squealing at this point: "what if people make the wrong decision and fail?" "They might choose the wrong school; they might use their tax cut to buy a new TV instead of paying off the mortgage."
I say to them the same thing I say to my children: it's not the mistakes we make in life that are important, it's the lessons we learn from those mistakes that are.