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Marc My Words: Do you take milk with your Koha?

Marc My Words… 8 September 2006
Political comment
Marc Alexander

Do you take milk with your Koha?

What the government has been up to lately is no less than a full frontal assault on the nut-sack of the public they are meant to serve. It seems that nothing brings out the true character of a government than when it's under fire. All the more so when it gives the impression of being guilty of those things it stands accused of. There has been enough mudslinging to construct a parliamentary extension entirely out of adobe. Calling Don Brash corrupt and a liar, as Labour's Pete Hodgson did without a shred of evidence, sounds more like the protestations of a wayward husband trying to contend it was his wife's fault for making him screw around. Frankly I'm surprised the Labour caucus hasn't adopted the full length burqa to hide their collective shame.

The arguments can be summarised pretty succinctly: the Labour government stands accused of having wilfully swiped taxpayer's money to advertise itself to get elected. It was illegal. Other political parties (notably the National and Maori party), paid back their arrears as soon as they could. Labour, it appears, just doesn't want to pay it back. When faced with an estimated $800,000 overspend, they instead decided to (a) justify the illegality on the grounds they thought everybody else was doing it; (b) had their apologists, such as Chris Trotter, argue that breaking the law was okay if it meant their team gets to stay in power (and damn the democratic process); (c) obfuscate the issue with a series of unsubstantiated accusations against National; and (d) suggest a remedy that undermines the rule of law by 'doing a Mugabe' and retrospectively making its own illegal activities legal. Sounds Pythonesque does it not?

Helen Clark and her swift 'cabinet motorcade' seem to be adopting the principle that if you find yourself in hell, the best thing to do is keep running. Trouble is…she's on the wrong road. Listening to her in parliament these days is a bit like eavesdropping on a hyena devouring its after-birth. While undoubtedly frazzled, she shows no signs of giving up and seems instead to turn feral, having more in common with an injured Meercat on a double espresso with an ephedrine twist than a leader in control. No doubt she will be tempted to daydream and muse about her next ambition - to walk yoda-like through the corridors of her perceived sanctuary at the U.N. If that becomes reality, New Zealand's gain will be that institutions loss.

Whatever happens, the real loser will be the NZ public. If Helen Clark has her way, kiwis will have no choice but to pay taxes and fund her propaganda. Personally I'd rather it went on things that mattered: an energy supply that we can rely on; a justice system that for once defends the law-abiding; an education system that turns out people who can think for themselves (what a radical idea!); a health system that doesn't play favourites depending on ethnicity or geographical location; and a tax system that doesn't stomp all over individual initiative and creativity. And while we're at it, how about a government that desists in interfering with our daily lives? You can't pass wind these days without some government bureaucracy wanting to make you fill out forms in triplicate, fulfil OSH regulations, and prove that it's sustainable and unlikely to be in breach of the Kyoto protocol.

Asked about MP's accepting payments for services rendered, Helen Clark, with barely a hint of irony volunteered this little gem: "…there can be no money sought, offered, for giving a service to a member of the public." Excuse me for being cynical, but isn't the illegal spending of taxpayers money for electioneering a similar breach of ethics? Whether a back-hander was asked for or simply extorted makes little difference. Enforcing a koha on constituents of all political persuasions to defray an illegal cost to win an election doesn't sound like a strategy with integrity stamped all over it. It gets worse because now Labour is advocating that electioneering should be fully tax funded! But Clark and co also want National to play by different and disadvantageous rules as well: hence the red herring of the Brethrens.

Let's be clear: what the Exclusive, inclusive or just plain 'picky' Brethrens choose to do with their own money is their business. It isn't for the Labour government to tell anybody what to do with their own money. If I want to go out, spend my money campaigning for socialists to receive electro-shock therapy (much as I'd like to), help fund a shovel museum in Westport, or advocate on behalf of the under-whelmed and bewildered, it's my choice.

What I do not want is to have an apportionment of my tax go towards publicizing an ideology I neither believe in, nor have any choice of. Helen Clark should push her own barrow with funds from those few remaining who still agree with her. If she wants to muddy the waters and talk about accountability (something she seems incapable of ever actually accepting - think paintergate, speed-gate etc etc), the best way forward is to give people the choice to support whatever cause - be it political or otherwise - themselves. It's called putting your money where your mouth is.

State (read taxpayer) funded electioneering, is forcibly replacing voluntary contributions in a cause you believe, with coercion to use your income for one you don't. It is an assault on our freedoms; to think, choose, and support whatever causes inspire us. Our liberty is at stake here and we need to fight this. Labour knows full well that with an increasing number of welfare dependents - which it helped create (and who mostly vote Labour), there are greater resources to be had by going after the wallets of the diminishing number of self-reliant individuals who tend to be National supporters; the rest have fled to other countries as economic refugees. The socialists should at the very least be expected to pay the price of their beliefs and stop pick pocketing the rest of us who don't.

Our country is heading for another depression. This time it's not economic but rather our collective disbelief at the disposition of our government. I predict a huge surge in prescriptions for aspirin; Jack Daniels, and Prozac (or a cocktail of all three). The sun looks to be setting on Labour and the ninth floor knows it. Their flabby attacks on National look cheap, desperate, and cynical. They are feeble attempts at self justification but the public are becoming increasingly aware and won't wear it any more. How else are we to interpret the puerile threats of heir apparent, Trevor Mallard, when he hinted at revealing secrets about the private lives of National MPs? That’s so pathetic it's pitiable.

I have no doubt that history will rate the Helen Clark government poorly. Its legacy on the issues will be a shameful roll call of failures. It inherited the most prolonged period of economic growth, yet squandered it by disempowering the public - relegating whole new populations onto welfare dependency. Its voracious financial appetite and onslaught on individual freedoms has been unprecedented. I'm surprised we haven't all been micro chipped along with our dogs and sent off to be 're-educated' in the gulags. Clearly, it is the taint of dishonesty and impropriety which will be its enduring characteristic. I suppose one positive consequence is that these years have steeled the resolve of an increasing public opposition; those who crave to send them packing at the next electoral opportunity. The polls are finally reflecting public concern and it can't come soon enough. Seven years of Labour mis-management, screw-ups, and arrogance are now overwhelmingly obvious and the public are now seeing through the empty rhetoric.

For Labour It isn't the chickens that have come home to roost but the plucked and angry vultures.


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