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Don Brash Writes - No. 72, 21 December 2005

Don Brash Writes
No. 72, 21 December 2005

Well, 2005 is almost over and, despite not quite winning the election, it has been a great year for National.

Early in the year, most pundits believed that National had no chance at all of winning the election and, given strong international prices for meat and dairy exports and continuing increases in house prices, perhaps that belief was not surprising. Very few incumbent governments anywhere in the world lose elections in the kind of economic circumstances which New Zealand has enjoyed in recent years.

But in the event, and thanks to the hard work of Members of Parliament, candidates, Party volunteers and paid professionals, we came within a hair's breadth of winning. National got the highest share of the Party Vote for any election since 1990, and we saw the number of our Caucus rise from 27 to 48.

As the year ends, things look good for National and bad for Labour:

- National's 23 new MPs have settled in well, while older hands in the Caucus are actively holding the Labour/New Zealand First Government to account.

- Bob Clarkson's defeat of Winston Peters in the Tauranga electorate has been confirmed by the unanimous decision of three judges of the High Court, which means not only that Bob is confirmed as the MP for Tauranga but also that New Zealand First's continuation in Parliament beyond the next election is at serious risk. On present polling, a Party Vote for New Zealand First would be a wasted vote.

- I have appointed Wayne Eagleson as my new Chief of Staff, and we are actively recruiting the additional staff which our enlarged Caucus entitles us to.

- Things are looking very untidy for the Government in a host of areas - there are clearly problems with NCEA marking again; the Government's failure to ensure taxpayers' money is well-spent by the Wananga o Aotearoa has been highlighted by the Auditor-General; the Auditor-General has also highlighted serious management issues at the Ministry of Health; the cost of the interest-free student loan policy, described by many as the most irresponsible election bribe in recent memory, continues to escalate; the police found a prima facie case that David Benson-Pope abused a student when he was a teacher, despite the Minister initially denying in Parliament any such action; in their post-election briefing papers to the Minister of Finance, the professionals in the Treasury urged the Government to reduce tax rates to encourage economic growth, with their advice being contemptuously dismissed by historian Michael Cullen as an "ideological burp"; the same Treasury professionals are now forecasting very slow economic growth over the next two years; the arrangement whereby the Minister of Foreign Affairs is outside Cabinet and regards himself as part of the Opposition has caused New Zealand to be regarded with ridicule and contempt in foreign capitals; and so it goes on. Things are falling down on all sides.

- No doubt as a consequence, there is no evidence of the normal post-election honeymoon for the Government: most polls show the margin between National and Labour continuing to hover around 2% (in Labour's favour, as at the election), while the latest TV1 poll gave National a 9% lead, with National on 46% and Labour on 37%.

So National ends the year in a strong position.

I hope you all have a safe, restful and happy Christmas with those whom you love, and a rewarding New Year. I am planning two or three weeks with my family - reading some books, pruning some kiwifruit vines, and generally catching up on some rest and rec, before preparing for my annual speech to the Orewa Rotary Club at the end of January and the start of the new political year.

Don Brash


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