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Richard Prebble's Letter From Wellington

RICHARD PREBBLE’S - Letter from Wellington


Helen Clark is now among the world’s leading critics of President Bush’s call for action against Iraq. She even questions the legality of UN resolutions on Iraq, saying Saddam has been in defiance so long, the resolutions have lapsed. NZ is one of the few countries that claims there’s no evidence Saddam is seeking weapons of mass destruction.

What possible foreign policy objective does Clark have in defending Saddam? The cost to NZ will be high. America’s doctrine is clear – “those who are not for us, are against us”.

NZ can forget about not only a free trade agreement with the US but also the traditional support we’ve had from America on a range of issues. We are now aligning ourselves with the foreign policy of France and Germany. When has Germany ever defended NZ, or France our right to trade?

So what is Clark trying to achieve? Leadership of the European Social Democrat Forum. The European Social Democrat (ie Labour) parties have an international organisation and Clark has attended annually for most of the last 20 years. Last year she was so keen to go, expecting to be feted as a socialist woman PM, that she flew to Europe even after the planes had hit the twin towers. (While she was in the air, the conference was cancelled.)

Clark wants to go again this year, for her triumphant cocktail party. What better way to be praised by Lefties than publicly leading the opposition to Bush’s proposed action in Iraq?

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So why did NZ send SAS troops to Afghanistan? Labour polled public opinion, and had an election to win. A re-elected Helen Clark now feels able to display her true anti-American views.


National Radio’s ratings are in free-fall and the RNZ network faces a serious financial crunch. There is a non-replacement of staff policy and general retrenchment to save money.

Although the government has released financial briefing documents of SOEs that are in competitive environments, it has withheld RNZ’s briefing report, claiming “commercial sensitivity”.

What has gone wrong? RNZ has blown its taxpayer funding on “Marian Hobbs radio”. New programmes – all politically-correct, such as documentaries on the environment and science - have proved unpopular. It is alleged (we can’t find anyone who heard it) that RNZ even did an hour-long pro-gramme on what it’s like to be gay in Nigeria.
RNZ has neglected its flagship programmes – Morning Report, Nine to Noon, Checkpoint, Saturday Morning and news reporting. The result - plunging listener numbers.

When RNZ used to participate in public rating surveys, it was among the most popular stations. Now, it does its own surveys, which it keeps secret - despite being publicly-owned. But it’s no secret in the industry that National Radio’s ratings have collapsed.

Labour has appointed its favourite hatchet person, Alison Timms, to the RNZ board. Heads will roll, but if CEO Sharon Crosbie has to go, it won’t be cheap. It’s alleged Ms Crosbie, the longest-serving CEO in the public ser-vice (14 years), is the only government CEO not on a fixed-term contract.

-------- DIVIDED UNITED --------

Peter Dunne’s U-turn in supporting the Social Security Amendment Bill, which allows solo mothers not to be worked-tested, has split the United Future Party. In the United States, a policy requiring domestic purpose beneficiaries to return to work has been a huge success. It has greatly reduced the attraction of the benefit as a lifestyle option.

The Christian Democrats (who became part of United Future) campaigned against the growth in the number of families headed by solo parents. But United Future, in its first bill, has voted for a measure that greatly increases the attractiveness of the benefit.

The reality in NZ is that for a reasonable standard of living, in most cases both parents must work. The only mothers at home are the wealthy, those making a financial sacrifice, and (thanks to United) solo mothers on the DPB.

-------- MAIDENS CONTINUED --------

Here is the Letter’s analysis of more maiden speeches:

*Bernie Ogilvy (UF) – gave us his family tree, back to his great-great-grandfather (another conservative Christian);
*Larry Baldock (UF) – told us he was head prefect of his primary school (another conservative);
*Dave Hereora (L) – yet another former organiser for the service workers union (there are now six in Parliament), raved against contracting out;

*Barbara Stewart (NZ First) – thoughtful speech about the growing problem of fatherlessness. Didn’t gush about Winston. Worth watching.

*Pita Paraone (NZ First) – emotional speech of his journey from barefoot childhood to Parliament. Began singing and his 85-year-old father in the gallery joined in. Very moving but pops wouldn’t stop singing.

*Edwin Perry (NZF) – a Maori rights activist speech. (He is reported in the Wairarapa Times-Age of 13 June 1998 as saying the American owners of Glenburn Station could expect a “battle” with his hapu.)

Only the hapless Jim Peters has yet to make a maiden speech.

-------- HOLIDAY MADNESS --------

The Letter has learned that Margaret Wilson’s proposed new holiday legislation is extreme. The legislation will over-ride all existing employment agreements and require that everyone working on a statutory holiday be paid time-and-a-half for the first eight hours and double time thereafter.

The proposed law requires that everyone (even managers) be paid overtime. To calculate overtime for salary earners, their pay must be divided by a notional 40-hour week.

The proposed law ignores the fact that salary-earners required to work on statutory holidays, already have in their salary packages an acknowledgement of the 365-day nature of their occupation.
Will MPs now get overtime when they attend ANZAC Day commemorations?

-------- INFLATION --------

The government is negotiating a new contract with the new Governor of the Reserve Bank, to allow more inflation. Getting inflation down was a huge battle and the move to loosen the reigns on inflation is proceeding without debate.

It’s worth recalling that inflation ravaged the New Zealand economy, redistributed wealth and destroyed our export competitiveness.

Inflation produces winners and losers:
*The losers – those on wages (no one ever gets a wage rise before a price increase), people on fixed incomes, savers, exporters, manufacturers and producers.

*The winners – property speculators, the government (higher wages mean more tax), and social welfare beneficiaries (benefits are inflation-adjusted).

*The real loser - the country.

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