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Heather Roy's Diary: A Marathon - Not A Sprint

A Marathon - Not A Sprint

Parliament dissolves today, marking the end of the 48th Parliamentary term - and, in the minds of some, the start of the election campaign.

One journalist recently said to me that the 'phoney war' was over, and 'let the games begin'. Sadly, that's how modern election campaigns are viewed - as games - but the reality is that there is much at stake.

Our elections have progressively become more presidential in nature, and the 2008 campaign will be no exception. The focus will fall predominantly on Party Leaders, and the fight between Prime Minister Helen Clark and National Leader John Key will be especially bitter.

We've already had a taste of this with Labour blaming John Key for Merrill Lynch's downfall because he once worked for the firm. Then, on the day the Privileges Committee released its report on Winston Peters, Labour releases its 'How many NZ Rail shares John Key really owned' story. Things will only get worse, and real issues and policy discussions will be lost in the mix.

The election campaign shouldn't be thought of as a sprint to the finish line. It's really the beginning of a marathon; setting the pace for the long endurance event that is making our country a safe and prosperous place for all. A vision is needed, goals established and a plan put in place.

Most political Parties are too scared to announce these, citing fear that their best ideas will be stolen and used by the other side. I've lost count of the number of election meetings I've spoken at now where candidate after candidate has stood up and said "I can't tell you our policy on this yet." At worst, that means they don't have any; at best, they're not certain it's consistent with any sound philosophy they say they have.

On the flipside I've been able to stand up for months and say that ACT has plenty of policy, based on a vision of a country that can again foot it with the rest of the world - especially Australia - by 2020. ACT doesn't believe anyone has a monopoly on good ideas, which should be shared around for the benefit of all. You can view our 20-Point Plan by clicking the 'Policy' tab at

So, here are the big issues as I see them.

Economy: in the face of a global financial meltdown, we will experience flow-on effects here in New Zealand. But, given our large degree of self-determination, we shouldn't use the global situation as an excuse not to make the tough decisions that will lay the groundwork for strong economic growth.

We should have a goal of five percent on top of current growth. Lifting our performance and growing the economic cake means everyone will be better off - especially those struggling at the moment. What's needed is an urgent focus on improving productivity, shrinking the size of government and letting people keep more of what they earn.

Climate Change: the world's core temperature has always fluctuated, and scientists can't agree on the impact that mankind is having. While there is no doubt that we should all treat the planet with respect - it is our home, after all - we need to be realistic about the influence that New Zealand can have when we contribute 0.02 percent of total worldwide carbon emissions.

ACT is the only Party opposing an Emissions Trading Scheme - which is costly, open to fraud and abuse, and will increase electricity and fuel costs for those least able to afford it. If action is required, a carbon tax would be a much fairer model as it provides the right incentives - polluters pay for the amount of pollution they produce. What we have now is a certain cost based on uncertain science.

Security & Justice: the first role of government is to provide for the safety and security of its people. Safe homes, safe streets and safe communities are the goal - but too many are not safe. Labour's new Sentencing and Parole laws have seen more criminals released early and an increase in violent crime. ACT's 'Zero Tolerance', 'Truth in Sentencing' and 'Three Strikes and the Max' policies are more relevant than ever in a society that seems to place greater importance on the rights of criminals than those of victims.

Today the starting gun sounds for the marathon that will establish New Zealand's place in the world in the 21st Century. At a time when the world's financial markets are being buffeted by a gale, one is reminded of the circumstances that led to the Great Depression. There is much at stake. In this election, policy DOES matter, and it is time to play the ball - not the man.

Lest We Forget - Brian Donnelly QSO (1949-2008)
This week saw the passing of former New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and former NZ First MP Brian Donnelly QSO.

A school teacher before he entered politics, Mr Donnelly was a NZ First MP for nine years and a Minister in the 1996-98 coalition with National. He was appointed High Commissioner to the Cook Islands in February, and resigned in August due to ill health.

Mr Donnelly was a man well-liked and respected across the political spectrum. Known for his integrity, genuine warmth and tolerance, he made an invaluable contribution to New Zealand during his time in Parliament and was an excellent High Commissioner to the Cook Islands.

ACT mourns the loss of Mr Donnelly, and our thoughts are with his friends and family.


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