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Liberty Belle: After Cancun - Where's Plan B?

After Cancun - Where's Plan B?


Deborah Coddington's Liberty Belle

I've been in Parliament 14 months now, but last Tuesday was the first time I've ever heard the Prime Minister give a speech in the House. She's answered questions, or more accurately, "addressed the question", but she's very coy about coming down to the House and defending her policies.

But on Tuesday Richard Prebble wrote to the Speaker seeking urgent debate on the collapse of world trade talks. The Standing Orders governing the granting of urgent debate are strict. The topic has to be a recent event. It must involve the administrative and ministerial responsibility of the Government, and require immediate attention of the house. As a trading nation, issues of trade access have a profound effect on this country.

The Labour Government can hardly be held responsible for the collapse of World Trade talks, but after the PM's derogatory remarks, both here and in Europe, about our traditional allies, and the subsequent deeper freeze of New Zealand's relationship with the US, the government declared its strategy for trade was to support the Doha Round.

So what now? Until New Zealand repairs its relationship with the United States and rejoins ANZUS, what is our future as a trading nation? Where will our isolation end?

ACT is the only party, which has consistently called for an end to this 'nuclear free ships' nonsense. The US has dropped its 'neither confirm nor deny' policy. We should give up on the stance we took 19 years ago which arguably was justified then, but clinging to it now makes us look like the irrelevant, petulant bit-part character in a grand opera who thinks she's the prima donna, but in fact is totally ignored by the rest of the cast on the stage enjoying the fact that they indeed are movers and shakers.

So where's this government's plan B? Not elucidated in the PM's speech, which wasn't worth waiting 14 months to hear.

On reflection, Clark was probably forced into delivering this speech. Labour had two ten-minute speaking slots. Dr Cullen is making his weary way around the hui; Sutton's not back yet, and no one else on the government benches would be capable of "addressing" the issue. Pete Hodgson took the second slot and used it to praise Sutton's work in Mexico.

The only good bit in Clark's speech was the brickbat she threw at Dr Jane Kelsey. A professor at Auckland University's Law School, Kelsey was in Mexico, according to the PM, as a protestor. Just what the good city of Cancun has done to deserve the ignorant rantings of this elitist academic I do not know; but I do know Ms Kelsey was not one of those burnished G-stringed bodies we saw in the endless shots TV news played when informing us that Jim Sutton was in this resort city representing New Zealand.

Not bleeding likely. Peter Dunne, who was also in Cancun, told the House that Kelsey was there as a reporter for Mana News. Rod Donald sprang quickly to Kelsey's defence, and called out "good!" when someone likened his speech to one delivered from the representatives from Cuba.

Kelsey has lobbied MPs, including myself, on GATTS in education. She'd hate international tertiary institutions to set up here and provide choice for school leavers. My answer to her has always been if Columbia or Harvard Law Schools, or Cambridge and Oxford Universities want to set up campuses here, let them come!

But even though the PM positions herself to the right of Kelsey and the Greens, Labour's still not within cooee of where it was when New Zealand was soaring in terms of trade and prosperity.

Recently released in a book on the history of The Treasury are some little-quoted figures of what Labour voters in this country thought of Rogernomics. In 1987 a poll of Labour voters was taken which showed 65 per cent of them thought the government was going in the right direction. Only 21 per cent of those thought it was going too fast with its deregulation, corporatisation and privatisation policies.

David Lange was unequivocably for privatisation, saying he had "no problem with the programme of privatisation...I believe we should be honest and ruthless about it."

So much for Helen Clark and her oft-repeated mantra about the "failed" policies of the eighties. If that's failure, let's have more of it.

Yours in liberty,
Deborah Coddington


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