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Don Brash Writes: 7 December

Don Brash Writes
No. 70, 7 December 2005

Winston Pooh-Bah

In my last newsletter I suggested that Winston Peters reminded me of Koko in "The Mikado". A reader has suggested that I had the wrong character from that great Gilbert and Sullivan opera, and that I should have pointed out the close similarity between Mr Peters and Pooh-Bah. Pooh-Bah was Lord High Everything Else. When discussing how Koko's wedding expenses might be surreptitiously met from the public purse, he debated with himself:

"… as First Lord of the Treasury, I could propose a special vote that could cover all expenses, if it were not that, as Leader of the Opposition, it would be my duty to resist it, tooth and nail. Or, as Paymaster General, I could so cook the accounts that, as Lord High Auditor, I should never discover the fraud. But then, as Archbishop of Titipu, it would be my duty to denounce my dishonesty and give myself into my own custody as first Commissioner of Police."

Yes, Pooh-Bah would certainly have been a better analogy for Mr Peters, the man whom even the secretary of the Executive Council acknowledges wears three separate hats.

No wonder political leaders in other parts of the world are puzzled and openly mock a situation where one of the most senior portfolios in any government is held by a man with no previous experience in Foreign Affairs, by a man who insists on remaining outside Cabinet, by a man who refuses to chair the relevant Cabinet Committee, by a man who claims not to be part of the Government and who wants to sit with the Opposition.

And who is to blame for this situation? Helen Clark and Winston Peters. Helen Clark probably bears the greater share of the blame: she was so desperate to hang on to power, to get her precedent-setting (for a Labour Prime Minister) third term in office, that she was willing to ignore all the conventions of Westminster democracy to give Mr Peters a position that would bring New Zealand only international ridicule. It is clear from media reports that even Mr Peters' own party is now disgusted by the situation.

Axe the Carbon Tax

One of the good things about having a Parliament so evenly divided between the parties that support the Labour/NZ First Government and those that oppose it is that it seems very likely there will be scope for the National Party to promote its own policies with some realistic prospect of getting them implemented.

Last week, I launched a campaign to axe the carbon tax. This tax, proposed by Labour to come into force on 1 April 2007, will have no discernible benefit for the environment (and Treasury has admitted that quite frankly in their briefing to the incoming government, released a few weeks back), but will push up the price of petrol, diesel, gas, electricity, groceries - indeed, almost everything.

The Government has itself admitted that the carbon tax will push up the costs of the average household by about $4 per week, while other estimates suggest it could be more than double that.

The tax would have a particularly damaging effect on export industries that use a lot of diesel and fuel oil, such as farming and fishing - they have no ability to pass the costs on in higher prices.

NZ First and United Future both expressed their opposition to the carbon tax during the election campaign, and ACT is also understood to oppose the tax. If the Maori Party were to oppose it also, the tax would be dead. Hopefully, the Government will back off before it comes to a showdown in the House, as they did with the flatulence tax when farmers made it very clear how strongly they opposed that tax.

Please sign the petition against the tax - we hope it will be available at most petrol stations within a few weeks. If it is not available at your petrol station, register your opposition to the tax at our website

Interest rates

Do you remember how, during the election campaign, Michael Cullen tried to frighten voters with the prospect that if National won the election mortgage rates would go up? Well, of course National did not quite win the election, but already interest rates have gone up once since the election, with the overwhelming majority of economists expecting them to go up further tomorrow - and some expecting them to continue going for some little time.

Michael Cullen would have you believe that interest rates are going up because consumers are borrowing to spend, and there is an element of truth in that. But it is also clear that one of the main reasons interest rates have gone up so much in the past 18 months, and are continuing to go up now, is that the Government's own spending is increasing rapidly. And that is not just the opinion of an Opposition politician: it is also the assessment of the Treasury, the Reserve Bank, and now the OECD in Paris. Come on, Dr Cullen, accept your share of the blame for the fact that interest rates are still rising, and the exchange rate is, partly as a consequence, crucifying many exporters.

Don Brash


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