Conference reflections part 1

Too little sleep and lots of excitement is not  conducive to insightful or incisive posts so I’ll stick to reflections on the weekend’s highlights of  the National Party’s Mainland conference which was held in Oamaru’s beautiful Opera House.

Delegates were welcomed by Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean who was too modest to point out that she had led the project to restore and refurbish the building when she was on the District Council.

Waitaki mayor Alec Familton opened the conference with a lesson in history and politics in which he linked Liberal MP and Minister of Land, Sir John McKenzie, former National Prime Minister Sir John Marshall and our current PM John Key.

He applauded the government for policies which leave more of our money in our own pockets, a sentiment which I, as a ratepayer, heartily approve of in a mayor.

Environment Minister Nick Smith had been going to speak about water but in response to requests from delegates he tackled the more complex and controversial issue of the ETS  (a post on that will follow).

Invercargill MP Eric Roy spoke with knowledge and passion about the goal of a pest-free Stewart Island. It’s a challenge but the environmental and economic rewards would be huge.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s speech included an outline on strategies to help people become independent.

She told of a man who had been unemployed for many years. He had poor literacy one of the consequences of which included lots of fines for driving without a licence because he couldn’t read and write well enough to get one. He was taught to read and write, got his drivers licence and a jog operating a forklift.

When his case manager went to check on him after the first week he liked his boos, was enjoying his work, and delighted to be earning $600 a week. When the case manager went back the following week he wasn’t so happy. He still enjoyed the work but thought the boss had lied to him because he hadn’t got the $600 he’d been promised. The case manager checked his pay slip and pointed out the difference between the $600 he’d been promised and what he got in his hand was tax.

The man mentioned his 19 year old son was looking for work too. When the case manager went back a couple of weeks later she asked if the son, who hadn’t got the job, was on a benefit.

The father said of course not, he wasn’t working to pay taxes to have his son sitting round on the dole.

MPs Katrina Shanks, Michael Woodhouse and Jo Goodhew spoke on leaky homes, ACC and reforms to Aged Care policy respectively then joined Paula for a social policy forum.

The remit requiring freedom campers to have self-contained loos passed unanimously. Matthew Littlewood of the Timaru Herald reports on that here).

Finance Minister Bill English, fresh from the Budget which has gained unprecedented levels of approval, including not only economic and political analysts but fashionistas too, shared some reactions.

Among these were: It’s not great but it’s not Greece and it’s okay not UK.

He also said it was better to tax less the things you want and tax more the things you don’t. that’s why the budget increased tax on consumption and lowered it on income.

Bill said New Zealanders seemed to be more resilient and independent in this recession than in the 1990s. Most people are handling the tough times and we are a more resilient country because we’re standing on our own feet.

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