Richard Prebbles Letter From Wellington #37
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 06 November 2000
The market reports to the Letter that sentiment has changed regarding the Kiwi dollar. We may have seen the bottom. Latest figures show Europe growing faster than the US. It will be interesting how far and fast the Kiwi climbs. The Kiwi fell faster and further than any other OECD currency. If it was all driven by "German business confidence" as the Finance Minster once claimed, then the Kiwi should rise faster and further. If the Kiwi's rise is slower, then it is a vote on this coalition. If the Kiwi does not move - an awful prospect - then we really are poor. The real magnitude of the effect of the 48 per cent devaluation has not hit. Most New Zealanders buy expensive, imported products at Christmas. If 'all politics is pocket book' then the government will take a huge polls hit in when its own supporters realise they are significantly poorer under the coalition.
Resignation A Seven Day Wonder
The Letter does not believe that Ruth Dyson's drink driving will hurt the coalition. Indeed her rapid and honourable resignation has possibly helped. Media claims of her being a key minister are nonsense. Ministers outside of Cabinet have little influence and little to do. The late Eddie Isbey who was a Minister and outside Cabinet claimed he had less influence than a select committee chair and if he did not read The Dominion would have no idea what the government was doing. The real mystery is what Ms Dyson was doing in her office at 10pm.
What Was She Doing?
Earlier that day Ms Dyson' office received the following e-mail "Ruth, we need your opinion on an ACC matter. The guy that sits next to me injured his ankle playing touch rugby at the weekend for his professional team. He took Tuesday off work (Monday being a public holiday). However he continued back at work on Wednesday through to now. His ankle is starting to swell badly as he has not had treatment...I feel he is pushing his body to the limits and very soon his toes will swell and go a real dark blue. Please email me back with your advice as to whether he should be at work. I figure the only way he will go home is if a Minister of the Crown tells him to. He is stubborn like that." The writer, who sent it as an office prank, was surprised to receive the following message, "guess it all depends on whether he uses his feet to write or he can use his hands. With his background, hope that he can cope with the pressure! Thanks for the pictures - really pretty. Am sure that he'll survive or use his brain and get some treatment!" Even more surprising the e-mail was from Ruth Dyson personally and was sent at 10.20pm. Possibly her last action as a Minister.
Private Members day on Wednesday will be ACT Wednesday. ACT MPs have had three bills in a row drawn, a prospect the coalition is not looking forward to.
Foreign Doctors' Registration
The first bill is Ken Shirley's to cut through the red tape surrounding foreign doctor registration. It is a scandal. Hundreds of foreign doctors are on the dole because they can't register. One doctor refereed New Zealand doctors' exams, yet was refused registration. In opposition, Health Minister Annette King promised to tackle the problem, as did the Alliance.
Resource Management Act
Delays and costs caused by the RMA are getting worse. Claims by the two main parties that they are just teething problems are being disproved. Owen Jennings' bill will ensure landowner notification prior to a council designation, thus giving the owners a chance to negotiate rather than litigate. It is a very moderate proposal. RMA reform is an issue ACT owns.
The bill that really worries other parties is Stephen Franks' parole reform bill. Parole is a failure. Hundreds of parolee offences are committed each year, including murder and rape. Last year just six parolees were returned to jail. Under Stephen's bill a parolee who reoffends will be returned to prison to complete their original sentence. Truth-in-Sentencing is an issue ACT owns.
Beads and Blankets.
Under Labour, the Waitangi settlement process has ground to a halt. Margaret Wilson has been too busy promoting union legislation. The only Waitangi settlement - the Pouakani Claims Settlement Bill, returns to parliament this session. It was negotiated by Doug Graham. It seems last century the Pouakani people near Taupo were nobbled by the land court after survey pegs were moved. The government, in compensation, is offering money - $2.6 million, a farm and the chance to buy part of the Pureora forest - the bit the government can't sell. In the 1970s, the Forest Service was clear felling Totara in Pureora to plant pine. Protestors, led by Stephen King, climbed the trees, stopped the chainsaws and saved the trees. Successive governments have been unable to sell or harvest the pine because environmentalists have threatened tree top protests unless there is a commitment to replant with natives and put the land in national park. So Labour and National came up with the idea of selling the land to Maori. It makes beads and blankets look ethical. It was bad luck that Richard Prebble, the former SOE minister who originally put the land aside, has blown the whistle on this 21st century blankets for land deal.
ACT's Briar Patch
ACT feels like Brer rabbit who was thrown into the briar patch - "the place where I was born." Campaigning to resolve the super crisis was one of the reasons ACT was founded. ACT is delighted that Helen Clark promised to make super an election issue. While Michael Cullen's plan is flawed it has the merit of actually doing something. It is wrong to suggest that putting aside surpluses is a free lunch. Any option involves choices. The ACT caucus and board have carefully examined the issues. ACT's proposal will be announced later this week. Super is a chance for us to decide what sort of country we want to create. It is a decision that will impact the next 10, 20 or 40 years. Superannuation is an issue ACT can own.
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