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Richard Prebble’s Letter from Wellington

Richard Prebble’s Letter from Wellington

Goodwill hunting?

Helen Clark is flying off this week to New York to promote the Discovery Channel documentary on NZ! Miss Clark has managed to get an interview with Kofi Annan. While the PM’s office has hinted that this trip will also assist in promoting NZ’s case for a free trade agreement, the only real promotion will be of Helen Clark’s own ambition to have a future international job.

Increasingly irrelevant

Foreign Affairs officials complain that it’s getting harder for NZ Ministers and diplomats to meet those who matter. No longer members of ANZUS, NZ is just one of the over 180 nations who have diplomatic representation in the USA.

In Europe, diplomats complain that Brussels is the European preoccupation. The admission of ten new countries has turned attention eastwards. German politicians worry more about the problems of Polish agriculture than NZ dairy production.

Some of NZ’s isolation would happen regardless of government. When Peter Fraser helped write the UN Charter there were only 80 nations and NZ was one of the countries that won WWII and per capita was very wealthy.

Today there are about 200 nations, over 30 with greater per capita wealth. NZ’s offer of “peace keepers” to over 30 different countries, including assistance to the weapons inspection in Iraq, is the only way successive governments have found to avoid this country being totally ignored.

Good time to be away

The next two weeks are a good time for the PM to be away. Parliament is about to pass the government’s most anti-business legislation; this week the Local Government Bill that empowers local government to enter into any business in competition with the private sector, then Labour will pass the OSH Amendment with its $500,000 fines.

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Another U-turn by United

Peter Dunne has been assuring small business that United was opposed to the Local Government Bill (tabled today). In the select committee deliberation (closed to the media) last week United voted for all sections of the bill except the Electoral Amendments that create Maori seats (they abstained).

Another day deeper in debt

The latest financial update from Statistics NZ reveals in the year to March, households spent $2.5 billion more than they earned leading to a household savings deficit of 3.7%. Central government spending rose 7%, local government spending by 5%. The economy under Labour is experiencing record transfers of money away from working households to government and the ‘non-productive’ sector. Living standards and consumer spending are being sustained by record credit card and household mortgage debt. The banks are financing this by overseas borrowing. It is not sustainable.

Stealth taxes

Government record revenues are financed by stealth taxes. NZ Post increased its lowest rate for ‘bulk’ postage on 1 September from 28c to 34c – a 21.5% rise.

Squeezing independent schools

Labour is ideologically opposed to parents exercising choice in education even though every independent school parent saves the state $6000 a year.

Since 2000 government has capped the funding to independent schools. The numbers of pupils seeking independent education are rising, so lowering the per-pupil subsidy. In addition, independent school costs are rising rapidly – OSH, new building costs, the latest teacher salary increase, etc. Independent school fees are predicted to rise on average 10% next year but even with the increase, 65% of independent schools are believed to be living off their reserves. The outlook for these schools is very grim.

‘On your bike!’

On Sunday the Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, met with over 500 members of the Chinese community in Auckland to try to reassure them that the recent changes to the immigration English tests are not aimed at the Chinese. With her was hubby who behaved like an ex-bikie who got his law degree while a guest of Her Majesty.

Pansy Wong MP, in a passionate speech, said if these rules had been in existence when her parents migrated, she would never have been able to come to this country. “Good” called out Dalziel’s hubby, “we don’t want your sort!” This caused some of the audience to ask for him to be quiet, whereupon hubby gave them the ‘fingers’. Hubby continued to interject loudly on speakers and when he left he deliberately stomped on the foot of a member of the audience he had taken a dislike to. It somewhat detracted from the Minister’s claim to be listening to the community and wanting a more inclusive, caring society.

The Speaker is concerned

The Speaker, the Hon Jonathan Hunt has written to ACT leader Richard Prebble expressing concern about ACT’s opposition select committee hearings into the NCEA replacing School Cert. The Speaker is concerned that the public might think this is an ‘official’ select committee. The Letter thinks the public is more concerned that the Education Select Committee has refused to hear this evidence. The Speaker’s letter can be read at http:// http://www.act.org.nz/speaker.

NCEA opposition select committee

The ACT MPs heard evidence today from a wide range of submissions – schools, teachers, academics, parents and pupils. The evidence ranged from a teacher in favour of NCEA saying that at her low decile school most pupils who would have given up are motivated because they know they can pass.

Pupils complained that NCEA is unfair. Pupils who fail (not achieve) can resit – getting a higher rate that those who passed the first time. Pupils who fail and fail again do not have this recorded on their academic record. What the pupils really objected to is that in the recent external exams, pupils who were sitting the maximum number of possible credits – 5, received the same 3 hours to sit the exams as those who had elected to sit fewer credits – minimum 1. As one parent said, “my daughter doing 4 maths credits ran out of time to complete one of the ‘excellent grade’ questions. Another girl from the school doing just 1 maths credit did the question and said it was easy. That pupil will get excellence, my daughter will get just merit.”

ACT MPs will be hearing evidence 9am – 1pm at Westlake Girls HS on 11 Dec, and on Thursday 12 Dec, 9am – 1pm in at the Heritage Christchurch. The committee will write up its report and post it on ACT’s website. Some of the evidence is already posted at http://www.act.org.nz/NCEAevidence.

Highest paid?

The Letter’s Green informer revealed that Nandor Tanczos, who is nearing 40, plays “hacky sac” with staff for 30 minutes each day in the office after question time. The source says that Nandor is finding students are regarding him as “old”. Turning up on campus with his skate board no longer does it, so he wants to impress the new generation of students with his hacky sac skills which being nearly forty he needs to practice every day.

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