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Richard Prebble’s Letter From Wellington

Richard Prebble’s Letter From Wellington

Over taxed

Dr Cullen is boasting that the December fiscal update indicates the surplus will be a massive $3.5 billion. Labour taking, over the last three years, an additional $14 billion in increased taxes and government charges, has brought about the surplus. NZ now has the highest company taxes in the Asia/Pacific, and low paid workers face the highest income tax rates of any of our trading partners. Richard Prebble has pointed out that for $3.5 billion using the McLeod Tax Report calculation it would be possible to lower the top rate of tax, and the company rate, to 26 cents and the bottom rate to 18 cents, giving very worker a tax cut.

Curiouser and curiouser

Labour is totally opposed to private sector involvement in water so a clause was added to the Local Government Bill prohibiting any council from privatising or using the private sector to supply it. The Bill had the unintentional consequence of including Watercare which is owned by the Auckland metropolitan cities. So the Bill was amended to allow Watercare to retail water. In Auckland, that panicked two groups. First Waitakere City. Watercare supplies water to the city at 45 cents a cubic metre and Waitakere onsells it to its residents at $1.47c cu/m – outrageous profiteering.

The Council fears that if Watercare starts supplying water directly, as Manukau wants, the ratepayers may start to question their water bills. The second group are those nutters who have up billboards on their properties complaining about Watercare - the people who believe that Waikato water is “spiritually wrong”. Well that group turns out to be Green supporters. And who did the government need to pass the Local Government Bill’s creation of Maori seats?

So on Wednesday night the Minister of Local Government, Chris Carter, rang the Mayor of Manukau City and said he was bringing in an SOP to amend the Bill to make it illegal for Watercare to supply retail water. Next morning when parliament resumed ACT MP Ken Shirley raised a point of order and informed the House of this conversation asking where the SOP was. 20 minutes later an SOP was produced. Parliament debated the Bill all day and suddenly the new SOP was withdrawn.

It appears Chris Carter who is a Waitakere City MP did not consult Helen Clark who is Auckland City and did not support the SOP. Michael Cullen insisted it be withdrawn. Now there is some hope – the people of “wet West” Auckland will stop paying the highest water rates in NZ.

A retrospective

The House has risen with 59 bills still on the Order Paper, yet Helen Clark said that the reason for an early election was (in case you’ve forgotten) that the legislative programme was log-jammed and an election was needed to clear it. 2002 has seen a “do-nothing” parliament. In election year 1999 the Shipley government passed 142 bills. The average number of bills passed under National in the 1990s was 138 a year.

In 2002 parliament has passed just 86 bills, in 2001, 106 bills and 2000, 96 bills. NZ passes too many bills but our parliament sits for fewer hours than Westminster, Canada or the US Congress. It’s an issue that parliament has to face. If it wants to scrutinise legislation properly and give 120 MPs an opportunity to participate, then it must meet more often and longer.

Brickbats and bouquets
Bouquets: ACT’s new MPs, Deborah Coddington and Heather Roy - ACT’s done it again – outstanding new talent.
Ross Robertson “Spot” – best chairman of Committees – a revelation to the House.
Brickbats: Maurice Williamson – has not attended a single meeting of the Commerce Select Committee – now NZ’s highest paid social welfare beneficiary.

Finger pointing
After reading the extraordinary allegations against the Pipi Trust in the Dominion Post claiming misuse of taxpayers money by Donna Awatere Huata, ACT Leader Richard Prebble put the allegations to the MP, which she strongly denied, referred the matter to the Auditor-General, and stated publicly that if there is any impropriety Donna will resign. It now turns out that the Minister of Education, Trevor Mallard, has been funding the Trust for three years and has known of the allegations since September. Mr Mallard only referred the matter to the Auditor-General after Richard Prebble took action and he claimed that somehow it was the fault of Nick Smith, who apparently approved the first grant. Thought: If there is anything in what the Dominion Post says then the supervision of a lot of money has been very lax. If ACT wasn’t in parliament would anyone have investigated?

The Holmes Labour Christmas show
The Letter received the following email from Mr Heaton Dyer, Head of News and Current Affairs, TVNZ: “Today in your weekly letter you made a serious but totally incorrect allegation against the Holmes programme... “the Holmes show agreed that only Labour politicians be invited” to last week’s Split Enz 30 Year Special. This is utterly incorrect and TVNZ invite the publishers of the letter to retract this immediately.”

Stunned by this suggestion we replied: “We pride ourselves on the accuracy of our publication and are keen to correct any error. Unfortunately your letter does not outline the ‘serious but totally incorrect allegation against the Holmes programme’. To assist you, allow us to set out what The Letter said – and you can say what was wrong.

Instead of having the Holmes Christmas show this year, it was decided to have a Split Enz reunion (True/False);

2. The Holmes show allowed its guests to decide who were invited. (T/F);

3. Only Labour politicians were invited. (T/F)

4. If politicians were to instruct the Holmes show on who can be in the audience – you would be outraged. (T/F)

5. It was the Holmes Labour Christmas show. (T/F).

Mr Heaton declined our request and instead said: “The serious and false allegation was the letter’s statement ‘the Holmes show agreed that only Labour Politicians be invited’. This is incorrect. We did not invite the Labour MPs… the Split Enz people were keen for the audience to be their audience …so we said, invite 60 people. And so they did. And four of those Split Enz invitees happened to be Labour politicians.” So we can confirm our story is - as always - correct.

NZ’s biggest
Last month the publication of The Letter caused NZ Internet services to crash. We were amazed! Our service provider informed us that The Letter is now so large it caused computers to automatically shut down believing they were under a spam attack. To overcome this difficulty we have agreed to put The Letter out in three tranches. Our 32,000 subscribers, which include most of the county’s opinion leaders, make us larger than any weekly newspaper. The Letter just keeps growing. We welcome 655 new subscribers this week.

If you have someone you have not yet bought a Christmas present for why not give a subscription to The Letter? Go to

We wish our readers and Heaton Dyer a happy holiday season - we will also take a holiday and return.

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