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Future Lefts - `Waitangi and Dentists'

Future Lefts
Monday 7 February, 2000
`Waitangi and Dentists'



- Editorial: Waitangi today and in the future.
- Dentistry fees cut in half
- Some thoughts on the Labour-Green relationship
- The News - the good weeks keep on rolling
- Web site of the week


Editorial: Waitangi today and in the future.

Saturday saw the Prime Minister welcoming in the Chinese New Year at a large gathering in Auckland. It also saw a Vice-Regal party kept waiting in the `hot hot sun' for four hours, while Nga Puhi's internal problems were again displayed on the national stage. It also saw the leader of the opposition implying that the Prime Minister was `running away' from Waitangi. So I thought I'd have a wee think about the facts.

It's inevitable that as we develop as an ever more cosmopolitan nation, the concerns of Pakeha and Maori New Zealanders will have to share the stage more and more with those of other groups in our society. It was once the case that we were a bicultural nation - but we are no longer that. The two Treaty partners now live in a land that has people from all over the globe residing together in reasonable peace and harmony, in relatively prosperous and free conditions, in a fairly clean environment with an ever-deepening cultural milieu. This process of change is continuing, and it is irreversible.

Helen Clark's recognition of that dawning reality drove her decision not to be at Waitangi this weekend. And I support her in that decision 100%. The true difficulties Maori face cannot be addressed on a marae. They are not about whether Maori women can or cannot speak before the tapu is lifted. The problems faced by Maoridom are economic, and they are devastating in their severity and in the neglect that previous (especially National) governments have shown them.

Clark's decision to set up a Cabinet committee to deal at the highest level with Maori development issues shows she is not afraid of putting her career on the line over this issue. The risks are real, but in the Prime Minister's judgement the importance of dealing with those fundamental problems Maori face is worth the risk. And she's right, of course. Division will continue while the enormous gaps between Maori and Pakeha economic development remain. Dealing with those gaps is the most powerful tool the new Government has to work towards resolving the underlying racial tension which too often makes New Zealand a very ugly place.

Pakeha New Zealand - and the Government - can't change the way Maori think. Nor should they want to. But what Government and all of us can address are the economic challenges one of the Treaty partners faces. And doing that requires more courage, more skill, more vision and more humility than facing down any number of Titewhais :)



Dentistry fees cut in half!

The release below went out on Monday last. While it's a nice start for the Government to cut the fees of dentistry students, I am sure I speak for all Young Labour members when I say that everyone else's fees need to come down as soon as possible, too. The Government will be heading in the right direction (unlike the last one); the challenge is to make sure it happens as fast as possible.

31 January 2000

Govt cuts cost of dental study

The Government today announced that there would be major increases in subsidies for fees for dental education at Otago University this year.

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Associate Minister of Education Steve Maharey said that the high fees paid by dentistry students under the previous National Government had been a disgrace.

"Many potential students were deterred from studying dentistry because of the exorbitant costs.

"Tuition fees this year under the previous government were to be $20,264 for a Year Two dental student and $21,590 for Year Three to Five students.

"The Cabinet decided today to increase very significantly the subsidy paid to Otago University for the education of dental students.

"The subsidy will increase to a level which enables Otago University to offer dental students fees which are broadly in line with those paid by medical students. The fees are expected to be less than $10,000.

"The government has taken this decision on dental fees because of the injustice to dentistry students of the previous government's decision to increase their fees in 1994 radically.

"The decision today is in line with the determination of Labour and the Alliance to reduce the cost of study to tertiary students. It was a priority of both Labour's commitment card and of the Alliance's education policy.

"The Tertiary Education Commission, soon to be established, will begin the process of reviewing fee levels overall. We believe it is important, however, to address this particular gross injustice in order that students enrolling in dental school this year could do so on a much more reasonable fee level," Helen Clark said.



Some thoughts on the Labour-Green relationship Craig Young

At present, there's an undeniable rosy glow around the coalition, which has handled its key issue of public sector accountability well. Meanwhile, the Greens seem to be finding their feet. I suspect most members of Young Labour support the proposed Royal Commission into Genetic Engineering, native forest logging bans, a more accountable intelligence service that does not harass people who hold dissident views about trade and foreign policy, curtailment of whaling, and other issues of environmental concern.

Unfortunately, there seems to be one issue that does cause some friction- the anti-defection bill. Labour and the Alliance believe that this legislation is needed to insure greater democratic accountability and representative government than existed within the last parliament, where a government was maintained through opportunists who defected from the parties that they were elected to serve. In the case of Frank Grover and Alamein Kopu, political prehensility occurred, and they did not even maintain their alleged original centre-left allegiances.

It is uncertain whether National and ACT have any basis for constructive opposition to this legislation. Do they really want to be in a situation where National is reliant on opportunist elements that may be erratic and unpredictable, given the damage that occurred to its credibility last time? Unfortunately, ACT's populism will lead it to oppose this legislation without any forethought. Why? It may end up giving the Nats an excuse not to deal with ACT if we succeed in the consolidation of the "new centre" over the next three years.

The Greens are another story. Their political culture tends to vacillate between anarchic idealism and formal political structures- in their own discourse, "realos" and "fundies." Fundies prefer direct action to formal political debate, while realos adopt more formalised party structures. At present, the realos are in the ascendancy.

Unfortunately, the Greens regard the anti-defection bill as an attack on their own legitimacy. Why? Unlike Grover and Kopu, at least Jeanette Fitzsimons and Rod Donald had the personal integrity to stay with the centre-left, and vote as part of that bloc. Moreover, they did good strategic planning and captured issues like genetic engineering and native forest logging for their own. They deserved to win Coromandel, which had been neglected by National's fundamentalist MP Graeme Lee for years, until he left to form the Christian Democrats/Future New Zealand. They also deserved to pass the five per cent threshold. No-one sees them as interlopers or party-hoppers for that reason.

How have centre-left/green coalitions worked out overseas? Of course, Germany has an SDP/Green governing coalition at the moment. Tasmania had an ALP/Green coalition during the eighties, but the Tasmanian Greens tended to be fundie rather than realo. In the Australian Capital Territory, Green Member of the Legislative Assembly Kerrie Tucker does have a good working relationship with the A.C.T. ALP.

We need to adopt a conciliatory stance over the next three years. The Greens may have realised that they might have to take responsibility as part of a three-way coalition in 2002. In the early nineties, Labour had "Green Labour" branches. If they don't still exist, we should reinvent them as forums for dialogue and cooperation between Labour environmentalists and those within our coalition partner and third party ally.



The News - the good weeks keep on rolling.

Monday started off with the halving of dentistry fees by the Government (and repetition of the message that further, wider cuts are coming), bringing the typical fee for a student doing dentistry at Otago down more than $10,000 a year. This together with the institution of interest free student loans marks the beginning of the Government's commitment to reducing the barriers to tertiary education participation - one of the seven pledge card promises.

Also this week was movement on another key plank of Labour's policy - the reform of the health system to cut waiting times and reduce bureaucracy in the system. It brought laughable squeals from Creech, National's health spokesperson, who claimed that the sector was sick of reform and should be left in the state of perfection he'd achieved before being turfed out at the election. While it's true that the health system is in better shape in some ways than in 1990, it went through a significantly worse patch in the early 90's under rabid ideological restructuring. Labour's assertion that community values are important in health will be realised by the restoration of some elected representation on health boards, and the decommercialisation of the system as a whole. The changes aren't major, and will be implemented quickly to minimise disruption to the system as a whole.

National's leader Jenny Shipley admitted her party had come completely adrift from middle New Zealand, with a massive slump in support from younger New Zealanders [wonder if the Young Nats caused that with nocrap?] and an ideological inflexibility the people simply didn't want. She is instituting a policy review which presumably will see National taking on as many of the Government's policies as it can stomach. Why they think people would vote for a `copy everyone else' party instead of the real thing, ie. Labour, I don't know.

And on a darker note, the neo-fascist `Freedom Party' entered Government in Austria. The outraged international reaction to the fecund stupidity of the Austrian people in voting for Nazi idiots is heartening. It is to be hoped that the world never forgets the evils Hitler and others like him (Stalin, Mao Zedong, Napoleon etc.) have committed, and continues to condemn nations who start to lurch down that slippery slope.


Web site of the week - Republican Movement

The issue of a New Zealand republic is still dormant for most people, but there are dedicated activists out there raising the issue. http://www.republic.org.nz is a site that's a positive contribution to the movement. Have a look at the detailed information backgrounding why they support a change to our Constitution, and have a think at the same time. It's an issue that's coming, and it might just spring up into debate without much warning at some point. This site will make sure you know the republican arguments.

Till next week,



All submissions should be to the Editor at carters@ihug.co.nz.

While this newsletter is published in the name of Young Labour, the contents is entirely the responsibility of the Editor and the views expressed herein do not necessarily constitute the official position of Young Labour, the NZ Labour Party or any other person/organisation. All contents copyright (c) 2000. Subscribe at younglabour-subscribe@listbot.com

The Future Is With Labour - http://www.labour.org.nz

Te Wairua Hou - The New Spirit - http://www.younglabour.org.nz

Rainbow Labour - http://www.rainbowlabour.org.nz (updated site)

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