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Upton On Line - Blowing His Own Picollo

upton-on-line hesitates to blow his own piccolo, let alone a trumpet, but he can't help the fact (to his complete surprise) that the Geneva based World Economic Forum, in its latest edition of World Link magazine, has selected him for its "dream cabinet" for 1999 as Environment Minister. (The incredulous among you can visit www.worldlink.co.uk for verification, although the latest edition of Worldlink is yet to be posted there).

The ‘dream cabinet’ is an annual announcement. This year they gave the top job to Dutch Prime Minister, Wim Kok. Top Foreign Minister was Germany’s Joschka Fischer, with Mexico’s Finance Minister Gurria, holding the purse strings.

Flattered as upton-on-line is by the promotion, he envisages it would be a little difficult to get to Cabinet meetings.

As this edition goes on line, upton-on-the-bus has just deputised for Jenny Shipley at the Mainland Cheese factory where disconcertingly large globs of colby cheese were being cut and packed for the Australian market. Upton-on-line inspected the plant in white gear, looking like a cross between Ena Sharples and a polar bear.

Riding high on international acclaim though he was, upton-at-Dunedin was brought swiftly down to earth by the assembled crowd’s evident disappointment that he wasn’t Mrs Shipley (and hasn’t a hope of matching the hunky good looks of Burton Shipley).

The cutters and packers wanted to know about health care, the Employment Contracts Act, a lower drinking age and the demise of life-time licenses as well as genetically modified food. Good solid mainland issues at Mainland.

Previously, upton-on-line had braved a hideous cross-wind landing at Dunedin airport to rendezvous with "Lipstick 1" on the campaign trail.

Shattered nerves were soothed early this morning by the Prime Minister's velvet smooth breakfast address to the Dunedin faithful.

The Prime Minister spied a clear choice emerging this election in the disputed field of education. Broadly speaking, to paraphrase Mrs Shipley, it lies between the National party which values parent, pupil and community control and the left which has an undying attachment to the Wellington bureaucracy aided (or hindered) by deeply entrenched teacher unions.

She drew attention to the little appreciated Labour commitment to abolish the Education Review Office (ERO). As a first time parent, upton-on-line's household has found ERO reports an invaluable antidote to the self-serving spiel that would otherwise be the only means of assessing prospective schools.

He has been amazed by the tenacity with which fellow parents seek out this material. How on earth does Labour think it will win hearts and minds by putting anxious parents back in the dark? Perhaps the number of teacher unionists standing on Labour's list has something to do with it.

Student loans:

Mrs Shipley noted that it would not have been possible to come to Dunedin without wading into student loans. Indeed, she informed the breakfast audience, she had waded into a pod of students (upton-on-line is unsure of the collective noun here) the previous evening and met one agitator who has been studying for eleven years. Upton-on-line understands this does not embrace a double doctorate. Mrs Shipley offered to debate student loans if he was prepared to say who'd been supporting him all these years. Apparently, the pod evaporated at this point.

The PM pointed out that the average level of student indebtedness is just $11,600 at the conclusion of study. As she said, "if young New Zealanders aren't prepared to back themselves to this extent, there's not much hope for our future".


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