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On The Right: Confessions Of A Misspent Youth

Mike Heine is a member of Prebble's Rebels

Okay, a confession: I was once Nelson’s representative at a nationwide Labour Youth conference.

This I was reminded of as I drove through Wellington en route to Auckland, where I am now writing this. I spent over thirty hours last week travelling by bus, ferry and train (glowing examples of deregulation too, I might add) from Dunedin to Auckland, stopping briefly in Nelson and Wellington.

There is a point to this tale. While travelling through Cannons Creek in Porirua, I started wondering whatever possessed me to work for the Labour Party in the first place. Here was a poor area with a huge number of state houses. Same went for South Auckland, an area I already knew about but became more real when seeing it in person. Put frankly, there were more government-owned properties in these places than in the Havana CBD.

What did Labour want to do about this? Well there was the idea to increase benefits and to make it possible for tenants to buy their state house. The latter is a fine scheme if people actually want to buy their house, but it doesn’t help the people who want to own a better place. Of course, neither does the former. Giving people another $20 a week does not do anything to get them off the benefit, out of their dungy homes and into a meaningful way of life.

I used to think it would. I honestly thought increasing the amount of disposable income by a few dollars would truly help people. Oh yes, it may help them week to week, but it doesn’t break the cycle of welfare dependency. And that is the most important thing.

Other things drove me away from Labour also. When Labour Youth – now Young Labour – looked at joining an international socialist youth organisation, I wrote to the group and suggested that it wasn’t a good idea to align ourselves with some potentially dubious people, not to mention the label we would have with this shift to the left. I got no feedback, just a one-line acknowledgement in the following meeting’s minutes.

Then, some months later, a petition appeared in the local paper opposing the tariff cuts and was signed by both Labour and Green Party members. This was too much. I promptly disassociated myself from the party.

So why did I then join ACT? I was reminded of the answer last week when I saw these state houses. The solution to our problems is not to increase the welfare budget. It is to increase the opportunities for everyone to better themselves. Employment opportunities must be available. People must be given the chance to actually keep what they earn. It is all about incentives.

Jim Anderton wants overseas New Zealanders to come home. Why should they? My local barber told me about his sister who came back from England for a visit, and was amazed at the low standard of living here compared to London. Another relative came home from Hong Kong to live and has regretted it ever since. Labour and the Alliance try to appeal to these people by increasing the top tax rate to 39 percent. How is that going to keep people here? Even the dollar’s low value overseas has not been enough to stop people from leaving.

This is why I joined ACT. I had always supported the reform process of the 1980s, but more needed to be done. The tax rate, both corporate and personal, must be reduced. This will help business to expand, increasing employment opportunities and giving poorer people not only the chance to earn good money, but the chance to keep more of it. ACT wants people off welfare, and the only way to achieve that is to make the economy competitive.

Of course, the Left argues that this idea would also make the rich richer, and to them that is a tragic outcome. The fact that this makes the poor richer too is not a good enough reason to adopt these policies. This is absurd. Alas, ideology has played a large role in politics since the beginning of time. To the Left, giving the rich more money is as immoral as giving Hitler Czechoslovakia.

It is that way of thinking that made me realise just how much of a mess Labour and the Alliance could, and now have, put us in. From a personal point of view, I’m glad it only took me until I was 18 to change my way of thinking. In that vein, spare a thought for Jonathon Hunt – he’s still in Labour and he’s 100.

- Feedback to Mike Heine


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