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ACT's The Letter – 28 November 2005

ACT's The Letter – 28 November 2005

The Haps

The Labour minority government lost three votes at the powerful Finance and Expenditure committee. This week the government will suffer its first legislative defeat. Benson-Pope ran away. But we won the rugby and the league!

Can it last?

The first defeat by any government at the Finance and Expenditure Committee for 20 years occurred last Wednesday as the committee voted for Rodney Hide's motions to overturn Chairman Shane Jones ruling not to call Paul Holmes and board member Ann Hercus for the TVNZ inquiry. There is panic inside the civil service who realise that government committee chairs can no longer block the toughest enquiry.

Brownlee to the rescue

Select committees could begin investigating everything from NCEA to Labour's illegal use of taxpayers' money to campaign because Labour alone has not got a majority on any committee. Gerry Brownlee, National's strategic genius, has decided now is a good time to declare war on all the third parties. At the business committee he has opposed third parties being able to speak on all bills. As the smaller parties cannot be on all select committees, a MMP convention has arisen where the business committee adds third party MPs as a non voting member.

Gerry Brownlee has been vetoing all third party applications. In one move he has united the Greens, ACT, United, NZ First and the Maori party against National. Labour, who understand MMP, support third party rights. National has yet to work out why they have not yet win a single vote in this parliament.

End of Social Engineering?

Gordon Copeland has the votes to pass his private member's Marriage Bill first reading on Wednesday. The bill merely declares that a marriage is between a man and a woman, the present law. The bill passing is seen by MPs as a signal that there will be no more social engineering in this parliament. All Labour MPs are voting no, except Phillip Field who believes he was striped of his Ministerial position because of his religious views. (He has a point, unlike Benson-Pope no one has yet to find anything against him). In National only Katherine Rich, (still angry with Brash sacking her), may vote yes to more social engineering. Paragraph text goes in here...

Parties that sit together, get along together

Sitting positions in parliament have profound psychological effects. NZ First MPs, who in week one, were claiming to be more opposition than National, are already more pro government, partly because they are sitting next to Labour. ACT and Maori party MPs are seated together and are getting on well. When Rodney Hide was thrown out of the House leaving no MP to cast ACT's votes, the Maori party exercised ACT's proxy.

Perhaps it is not so surprising. As Tariana Turia has said the strongest non-Maori opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed bill came from ACT and the Business Roundtable because it removed property rights. ACT has always supported the right of citizens to organize non government health, education and welfare, core Maori party policies. Both parties do not trust either of the two old parties. Apart from agreeing to disagree about racial seats, the two parties are discovering they have much in common.

Very tired

As Clark travels around the world the workload on Deputy Prime Minister Michael Cullen is enormous. In question time, in addition to his own portfolios, he has been answering for the absent PM, for the absent Winston Peters and on Thursday with the absence of Benson-Pope, as acting Minister of Police. While he is Labour's best performer he looks exhausted and is making mistakes. It was a mistake to have Benson-Pope taking a British comedian on a tour of parliament to avoid answering questions.

It was a bigger mistake to make a personal attack on the victims of child abuse. (The boy who Cullen claimed once held another pupil out a window was not one of the complainants). Benson-Pope calling the Police enquiry "bozo", falsely claiming that a "prima facie" case just means there was a complaint and having told parliament that he "refutes" the allegations, has created a real problem. It appears that under Labour Ministers can now lie to parliament.

More Maiden speeches out of (10)

*Hone Harawira, Maori Party, Te Tai Tokerau (6) Better content than Pita Sharples. Gave an ACT speech calling for more Maori self help.

*Alan Peachy, National, Tamaki (4) Called for leadership without demonstrating it. (In our experience those who become MPs late in life rarely make the transition to parliamentary life).

*Chris Auchinvole , National list (5) A good constituency speech but he is not the MP for the West Coast. We are impressed that he has drafted a private members bill to allow the Minister of Conservation to take into account social and economic factors.

*Maryan Street Labour list (5) Best new Labour MP. An MP who wrote her doctorate thesis on work place democracy and does not realise she failed to finish because its nonsense, is a bit of a worry.

*Bob Clarkson, National, Tauranga (5) Genuine original one liners. "The Rt Hon Helen Clark will affirm that speed does not kill." In defeating Peters he has already changed the country's political landscape and he has some ideas.

*Dr Jonathan Coleman, National, Northcote (6) Good constituency speech. Showed why he won Northcote, though we suspect Ann Hartley contributed. More next week.

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