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The world according to Helen Clark

18 November 1999

The world according to Helen Clark

upton-on-line's plans to visit Queenstown on 'Lipstick 1' were thwarted by the terrible floods. The change of plans did, however, leave him time to read through a transcript of Helen Clark's extended interview with Kim Hill on Tuesday.

It was revealing.

The economy:

Helen Clark tells us that Labour's is "a much more active-in-the-economy approach". She said, "government has to get off the fence on the economy and get active. "Under Labour we'll have "smart, intelligent government interventions".

Well, everybody thinks their interventions are smart and intelligent – Muldoon surely did. Bob Tizard did. History told us otherwise.

How short memories must be. She waxes lyrical about the Kirk years. Yes, they were warm and fuzzy, but that government was probably the worst economically in the last half century. It was boom and bust on a grand scale. (Am I the only person who can remember Warren Freer’s ill-fated “Maximum Retail Price” scheme?)

Do Ms Clark and her front bench of teachers and unionists really know more about business success than the people actually involved?

It's a chilling thought.

National is not entirely "hands free" as Clark alleges, but we have a more modest view of government's ability to intervene successfully in the economy.

If we needed any proof of the perils of state control, Helen Clark says she is eagerly looking forward to re-restructuring the Health system to bring back elected health boards (which, apparently, were "wonderful"). (At least she's consistent with her double standards, because here she's "absolutely confident that the way to go is not for central government sitting in Wellington to try and second-guess what the best strategies are for the region").

So, after another top-driven shake up, hospitals will be run by local busy-bodies who, generally, have no idea how to run vast and complex enterprises.

Helen Clark rattles off European examples of how governments should act and what they should provide ("good universal healthcare, education, superannuation"). It's almost as simple for her as saying, we just have to do what European social democracies do and we'll be as rich as the Europeans.

Upton-on-line quietly reminds Ms Clark that New Zealand is not in Europe. We are not in a market of 300 million of the richest people on earth. Europe can afford costly and inefficient governments. They pay for it with high unemployment. New Zealand is not living in the same world. Our margin for error is much smaller.

Student loans:

When asked whether Labour's plans for the student loans scheme wouldn't just lead to students taking interest free loans and investing them for profit, her answer was less than convincing.

Blindly she stated, "It is taken for educational purposes. It is not designed to be put into the stock market and we shall consider whether there are ways in which we can address that."
Kim Hill: "You haven't found ways yet?
Helen Clark: "Well, not yet we haven't".

Is upton-on-line reading too much into this to say, these people fundamentally misunderstand human nature. He is reminded powerfully of her blind faith in "good faith bargaining".


Ms Clark "hates" bulk funding. She puts "enormous emphasis on a nation-wide system of education." Her answer to Kim Hill's suggestion that "uniformity is often synonymous with mediocrity" was hardly persuasive (in fact it offered no argument at all):

"I don't agree at all. I think a nation-wide education system is just a very, very compelling thing for me and I will not subscribe to any policy that breaks it up".

Kim Hill brought up the example of a Steiner school, a special character school, which relies on bulk funding to maintain its special character (leaving it free to allocate the money as it wishes). Ms Clark's only response was that there must be “some problems with the economics of it”.

Kim Hill got it right: "well, that seems to indicate that your desire for uniformity from Cape Reinga to the Bluff, means that a whole lot of schools such as this one, are going to have to toe the line or disappear. It's a Steiner school, it's got 300 kids".

Other delicious quotes:
"The worst thing you can accuse the Alliance of, is wanting free health and education". [Does this mean land taxes, wealth taxes and so on are lesser evils?]
"The Labour party has a history of fiscal orthodoxy. Our first finance Minister was Walter Nash. We moved on to Arnold Nordmeyer, we've moved on through Bill Rowling… orthodox people".

Helen Clark lives in "a pretty miserable society', one where the "cry of the Hikoi" resonates. "I am absolutely confident", she says, "that New Zealanders want an end to the nightmare we've been living through". [Yet Upton-on-line understands that 70% of the children in Helen Clark’s electorate attend bulk-funded schools that have voluntarily made the switch]

Perhaps we're being cruel, but upton-on-line suggests that she starts getting some more up-beat friends. Not everybody he meets is depressed and miserable. Sure, it's not the 1950s when Europe was in rubble and everything was handed to us on a plate. We have to work harder, but this is a great country. Inspired Opposition leaders can make people feel good about themselves and their country. Helen seems determined to depress everyone. And it is a stunning country after all.


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