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Dr Muriel Newman

Looking ahead

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13 January 2007

Looking ahead

This first newsletter of election year is an opportune time to reflect on the sort of government we would like to see elected in 2008.

According to Abraham Lincoln, “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”. This concept successfully built the greatest and most prosperous society of modern times.

In comparison the form of democracy Helen Clark and her cronies espouse is government of the people by the few, for the benefit of a few – because the elites in the Clark Government believe that that they know best.

The passing of Sue Bradford’s anti-smacking bill is a case in point. Had the issue had been put to a referendum, the public would have overwhelmingly voted to leave section 59 as it was.

The smacking ban is one of a raft of Labour laws that appear designed to turn us into a nation of compliant and obedient servants of the state. Criminals will be made of those who discipline the mischievous pre-schooler with a slap on the bottom, those who fail to microchip their miniature poodle, or heaven forbid, those who dare criticise Helen Clark’s regime during election year.

In passing the Electoral Finance Bill, Labour and her companions have misjudged and underestimated New Zealanders. They not only ignored the view of the public and the media, but that of the Human Rights Commission, the Electoral Commission, the Law Society and a host of other influential bodies. It marks an historic low point in New Zealand politics when the government of the day blatantly put self interest and the pursuit of power ahead of governing for the good of the people.

There has never been any justification to suppress free speech in a democracy and nor is there now. The censorship regime imposed as from 1 January this year is harsher and more sinister than any in the democratic world.

A number of people have publicly stated that they intend to thumb their nose at this vengeful law. Leading that charge is this week’s NZCPR Guest Commentator, Tim Shadbolt, the Mayor of Invercargill. He has warned the government that he would campaign against them if they carried out their plan to cut the funding to the Southern Institute of Technology. He says,

“In my view one of the most offensive aspects of the Electoral Finance Act is that it includes the entire year of an election starting on 1 January. It prevents us from stating quite simply that ‘this government has really hurt Invercargill, so let’s change the government’. My next move, in late January, is to publish the full story on SIT and tertiary funding and then add a ‘Vote National’ recommendation at the end. I intend deliberately breaking the Electoral Finance Act and will fight it out in court” To read Tim’s Guest Commentary click here .

While the anti-smacking law and the election year gagging law generated a great deal of high profile debate, a large number of the damaging changes imposed by Labour and its support parties have gone under the radar of public scrutiny.

Labour’s so-called health reforms have led to systemic failure across the health sector with sick patients unable to gain access to hospital waiting lists, maternity services in chaos, a dangerous shortage of doctors, and the effective nationalisation of GP’s practices.

Changes in the early childhood sector have resulted in a critical shortage of childcare places in many areas.

Problems within the education sector continue unabated and the new school curriculum will only make things worse.

In spite of having every opportunity to tackle the critical problem of entrenched welfare dependency, Labour has failed to do so, even though the experience of other countries shows that given good policy options such underclass families are quite capable of completely turning around their lives in order to give their children the chance of a decent future. Meanwhile, another welfare policy failure is resulting in an escalation in the number of people claiming the non-work tested Sickness and Invalid Benefits from 90,000 in 2001 to almost 130,000 today.

Protecting the public from crime has always been regarded as a core role of government, yet during the three terms that Labour has been in office, violent crime has continued to rise unabated. The public’s call for tougher sentences remains largely ignored.

With their “we know best” driving mentality, Labour has dramatically expanded the size and scope of the public service going from 29,000 employees when they first came to office to 44,500 today. That explains the outpouring of new regulations – over two thousand affecting the business sector alone – and their ad hoc meddling in many areas that should be left to the public, business and the market.

Labour’s three-term track record is one of over-taxing, over-spending and over-regulating. In spite of imposing massive inflationary cost increases on the economy as a result, the government has steadfastly refused to either reduce income tax rates to compensate or to adjust tax thresholds.

This is a defining issue. When Labour increased the top tax rate to 39 percent they promised that it would only affect the top 5 percent of taxpayers. But they did not index the thresholds. That means that due to “bracket creep”, some 14 percent of income earners now pay the top rate of tax instead of the promised 5 percent. The fact that Labour has steadfastly refused to rectify this shows they cannot be trusted.

New Zealand is now the highest-taxed non-European nation in the OECD. We pay 38 percent of our Gross Domestic Product in taxation, compared with 31 percent in Australia. This helps to explain why 700 people a week are leaving New Zealand to seek a better opportunity across the Tasman.

It was President Ronald Reagan who said: “We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefitting from their success – only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development”.

Contrast those words with what we have in New Zealand today and one appreciates how far we as a country have strayed.

2008 is of course an election year and with that a return of voter sovereignty (albeit it for only one day in three years). This is a chance for our society to reflect on what democracy means to us, and decide whether we want a society built on freedom of the individual or servility to the state.

The poll this week asks: Will the protection of individual freedom influence the way you vote in this year’s general election? Go to Poll

Reader’s comments will be posted on the NZCPR Forum page click to view .