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ACT's The Letter - Monday 3 November 2003

The Letter

Monday 3 November 2003


Politics has suddenly got exciting. While Labour claims to be pleased with Don Brash’s election, in fact Labour hoped that Bill English would remain leader. In retrospect, what is hard to understand is how 12 National MPs thought Bill could carry on.


National’s crisis is comprehensive. In both genders, all age groups and all races, National is behind Labour. On every issue – economy, education, health, welfare and foreign policy – National trails Labour. In Auckland, National failed to get one in five to support the party. National holds only two provincial seats and last election even lost Otago. If National falls below 20% it loses any credibility. The party’s membership is disastrous - almost no young people. The party’s funds are also low. Don Brash has taken over the Titanic of NZ politics after it has hit two icebergs and replaced two captains.


The question is whether National MPs realise how close the ship is to floundering. Stories abound of MPs switching their votes because Bill English offered them finance or deputy. For that party to make a comeback the MPs and party need to unite behind Brash.


National has had no strategy. Nor has the party set out what it stands for. Brash has done more to stake out a position, albeit using ACT’s language “a classic liberal”, than any previous leader since Muldoon.

Both Don Brash and Nick Smith have a very strong work ethic so we can expect an activist approach. Neither will be very tolerant of any MP who expects to sleepwalk to victory.


Labour will try to portray Dr Brash as a Barry Goldwater – too extreme to be elected. Don Brash is a gift in that he has made many speeches over the last decade. Labour will claim that Don Brash stands for: cuts in social spending; asset tests for super; increase in GST; a capital gains tax; privatisation; the end to NZ’s nuclear-free status. If the reasonable Don is drawn into defending capital gains taxes, etc, he will lose votes by the bucketful. He needs to remember the example of Hewson in Australia, who lost the unloseable election to Keating. Hewson advocated GST. Keating (who believed in GST) stole the election with a scare campaign that the Liberals were taxing food. Clark and Cullen are just as unprincipled.


The party that sets the agenda wins the election. Brash is doing well. The centre-right must win the economic argument and Brash’s line is a sound one - if this is as good as it gets, NZ will never catch Australia and we are doomed to be a second class nation with second class health, welfare and education. The centre-right must make it a values issue. Helen Clark and the rest of the childless cabinet have no sympathy or understanding of the issues facing families. This is a red button issue. Don Brash needs to revive the line his party was founded on. Governments should govern for the good of the whole nation hence National is called National. Labour governs for the benefit of a select interest group, that’s why it is called Labour. The economy, values and the national good! Fight the election on those three issues and Brash can be PM in 18 months.


ACT is pleased with Brash’s election. A leader is not the party as the election of left-leaning Nick Smith as Deputy shows. Brash may favour ACT’s ‘low tax, less government’ message, but as PM he has no chance of implementing any of these policies unless ACT does well. We do not have a presidential system. Every PM, even Clark, must get a parliamentary majority on every measure. ACT’s role is now more important than ever.


ACT’s strategists expect ACT’s polling to take a big hit as many ACT voters tell pollsters they are voting National to indicate personal support for Brash. The strategists are not concerned. ACT’s focus group polling shows that voters across the spectrum see ACT playing a vital role in parliament. The question, “Is parliament better or worse because ACT is in the house?”, is answered “Better!” by 80% of National voters, and 50% of centre-left voters. The same question regarding United Future, results in a “Who?” response. So while ACT believes there will be a short-term polling slump, the next election is expected to be the best yet.


Billboard seen in Ohariu-Belmont recently, “Brash for PM – Dunne for community board”.


United’s unconditional support for urgency has made Labour the fastest lawmakers in the world. In Labour’s first three years, 243 acts of parliament were passed – 221 government, eight members’, eight local and six private bills. Since the last election to 21 October, 124 bills have been passed. 115 government, two members’, four local and three private. At this rate Labour will pass a third more new laws. New regulations are just pouring out. So far this year 286 new regulations, so last year’s 423 looks like being exceeded. While Labour talks of lowering compliance costs, the reality is more and more laws. Over 4000 pages of new laws and regulations every year.


Republican leaders say the roaring 7.2 percent growth in the US economy is proof that tax cut policies work. The third quarter growth rate was the strongest showing since 1984 and way ahead of analysts’ expectations. House Speaker Dennis Hastert: “We said all along that if we passed a tax cut that would put more money in consumers’ pockets, that if we put more confidence back in markets and gave investors more incentives to invest, we would have stronger economic growth. We were right. These growth numbers show that people have more confidence in the economy, and the President’s tax cut helped inspire that confidence.” Cullen will remain in denial.


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