Richard Prebble's Letter From Wellington 12/8/2002
Richard Prebble's Letter From Wellington
Monday August 12, 2002
Where's The Programme?
Both Labour and United are committed to lifting NZ's economic performance but not one initiative has emerged post-election to suggest the new Government views the economy with any priority or will have a programme to boost growth. Future United promised lower taxes before the election, but appears to have traded lower taxes for another bureaucrat to mouth pious statements about the family. The economic tailwind that Labour enjoyed in its last term has run out of puff. Labour's preference of coasting on economic policy will not be an option. Helen Clark is unlikely to come to Don Brash or the ACT party for advice. Her own Cabinet is not noted for its economic intelligence. It will fall to ACT to push in Parliament for the Government to develop a clear and coherent economic plan.
Which Party Won?
Labour didn't win the real election prize. Helen Clark wanted to be able to govern alone. The Greens didn't make their ten percent target and have been relegated to the sidelines. Winston didn't get to play kingmaker. Peter Dunne won his seat and 8 MPs. No-one is more surprised than Peter. He has had to read up on his party's policy - most of which has now been declared under review - and introduce himself to his caucus.
Matt Robson Wins
United's loss of one seat on specials has propelled Matt Robson back into the box seat. On the election night count, Helen Clark didn't need Jim Anderton or Matt Robson. She had 52 and Future United had nine. Now she does. The failure of overseas voters to be impressed by TVNZ's worm should see Matt Robson elevated at least to a Minister outside Cabinet. Apart from Matt, the only people who are happy with this prospect are violent offenders.
Suited For Cabinet
Speculation abounds as Labour MPs lobby hard for the spare slots in Cabinet. There are going to be some disappointed backbenchers, but nobody will be as disappointed as Rod Donald, Labour MPs say. These Labour sources allege Red Rod had already bought his new suit for the Cabinet photo. Pack it in mothballs Rod, or better still, take it down to the nearest op shop, you won't be needing it.
Young Nick's Head
Young Nick's Head wasn't the first bit of New Zealand that Young Nick saw. The part of our country that young Nick spied first was the peak Te Rimuomara. That didn't worry last week's hïkoi. Facts and reason have no part to play in the Treaty grievance industry. Mount a protest, march to Parliament, camp on the lawn - and this Government will cave in so long as you are Maori. We reward those who occupy and protest - and penalise those who work and produce. The effort in New Zealand is increasingly being directed at carving up the pie rather than making a bigger one.
Shearer Shorn by Clark
All-round good guy Dave Shearer was touted as a strong ministerial prospect by Labour, yet was sacrificed by Helen Clark because she didn't want another Phil Goff supporter at the cabinet table. Shearer was Phil Goff's adviser until January. Originally Labour's backroom boys promised Shearer the Waitakere nomination. They backtracked on that decision under pressure from the Ninth Floor, but still promised Shearer a high position on the list. Helen Clark's mob got their way. Imagine Shearer's dismay when he discovered Labour ranked him at 45 - below Janet Mackey's daughter and dairy farmer Max Purnell.
Problems Out West
At induction day for new MPs, one Labour politician was lamenting her lack of real skills. As the brand new politicians were educated on budgets, funding and electorate offices, a well-known unionist lamented her lack of small business experience (ie. none) and whined to others about how difficult this would make the setting up of her Waitakere office.
The Election's Over, Jim
Somebody forgot to tell the former Deputy Prime Minister that the election is over. Jim Anderton appeared asleep during the campaign. Imagine the surprise from Rotorua locals last Tuesday when their local newspaper contained a prominent advertisement for Jim's newest political party: "Jim Anderton has been keeping his head while all about him have been losing theirs". Does he mean Laila? Has nobody told him the election is over? Or, does he seriously expect the hard left to join the very party that he ripped to bits?
The Securities Commission's attempt to incite litigation against directors of Wakefield Hospital shows a government watch-poodle in a frenzy against the postman while the "security guards" are looting the house. In essence the Commission says the directors should have pointed out to investors that the government might stop using Wakefield Hospital to cut heart operation waiting lists. This was despite Wakefield's high quality record, and even though the waiting lists are made up of Wellington people who desperately need help and Labour has promised to cut those waiting lists. The Securities Commission is saying in effect that the Wakefield directors should have known that Health Minister Annette King would rather see people die than allow operations to continue in a private hospital. Should the directors really have to warn investors that the government would be so callous and dogma-driven as to triple waiting lists for crucial operations? A copy of the Securities Commission's report is available at http://www.act.org.nz/wakefield
Spare a thought for the eight fresh NZ First MPs. Winston has placed a strict ban on any of them speaking to the media. He has the new kids firmly under his thumb. Initially, he even refused to allow them to get their own offices - he only agreed to shift after getting an assurance he would get to keep his en-suite.