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The National Party’s annual conference at the weekend will not go down in political history, being a fairly dull affair.
So while there was yesterday plenty of commentary and analysis about it, and the party itself, the focus will quickly move on and the weekend’s various pronouncements will soon be forgotten.
It's reflective of this that one of the most interesting things to come out of the conference is an amusing set of images up on the Herald website – see: The new faces of the National Government – especially this unfortunate image of John Key.
Jane Clifton also manages to capture the mood of the conference in her analysis, National Party conference a shot of anti-depressant. She says the party has plenty to be angry, anxious or depressed about, but instead it’s in a state of "genial serenity".
Newstalk ZB’s Felix Marwick also summed it up nicely, saying the "weekend effort was safe, steady, but not exactly inspiring" (National Party's weekend conference).
- On the issue of water rights and asset sales, John Armstrong has put forward an insightful commentary – see: For dignity's sake Key won't budge on sales. Armstrong emphasises that in finding a solution to the dispute, "Negotiation, not legislation, will be National Party's preference". He also raises doubts about the likelihood of a High Court injunction to the asset sales on the back of the Waitangi Tribunal’s decision. The whole dispute now raises important issues, Armstrong says, about the ability of the Maori Council and Waitangi Tribunal denying "the government's right to exercise power". In the end, Armstrong says it’s Maoridom that is potentially being damaged by the tactics of the Maori Council.
- Matthew Hooton sees the National Government as benefiting from the water rights stoush, because it has "reframed the issue so that opposition to the MOM is confused with support for the Waitangi Tribunal claim for ownership of water" – see: Maori Council and Labour make Key ‘Lucky John’. Arguably, this is the reason why street protests against partial privatisation have diminished. Hooton also points out that "that Mr Key and Mr Shearer now have identical positions on every aspect of the water rights issue".
- Mick Strack, a lecturer in land tenure at the University of Otago, says that "the fact Maori are putting their oar in the water here and saying taihoa is essentially protecting that common interest in the water for us all" – see: History repeating itself in water debate. Commentator Dion Tuuta says the debate should really be about whether Maori have decision-making powers over water resources rather than "ownership". And he laments that the "Maori Council has turned a serious issue regarding the control of decision-making over water into a tactic to halt the sale of a few old under-performing state-owned assets" – see: Water focus should be on who makes decisions. And Tariana Turia explains that although there are tensions in the government coalition around water rights and ownership ("You say water, we say wai") she believes that its more important to stay in partnership with National – see: Relationship with water pivotal.
- Labour’s new constitutional changes have received a very strong endorsement from Matt McCarten, who says they will make the party "a formidable machine" – see: Fine plan emerges amid aura of poised confidence. Similarly, Chris Trotter thinks the ‘new rules have the potential to revolutionise left-wing politics in New Zealand’ but he argues strongly against the new leadership selection rule in which "the deposition of a clearly unpopular and/or ineffective leader may be vetoed by just 34% of the membership of the Labour caucus" – see: New Rules - Old Transgressions: Some Thoughts On Labour's Proposed Constitutional Changes. Today’s ODT editorial also approves of the proposed changes – see: 'Relaunching' the Labour Party.
- But according to Paul Little, the Labour Party’s Long, slow death is inevitable. He puts this down to the fact that although there might still be a need for a workers party, Labour policies still amount to a "watered-down free-market philosophy that is no different from the guiding principles" of National. He reckons Labour has rested on its laurels while the "Green Party has emerged as a credible alternative, with credible leadership, competent MPs and policies worth considering".
- The Herald on Sunday’s editorial is scathing about the alcohol and tobacco industries’ attempts to defend their interests – see: Liquor and tobacco fight back. But in the same publication, Paul Thomas worries about the disproportionate cost forced on the poor – see: Peters gets it right on tobacco price hike. Thomas also highlights the ‘crassness’ of Maori Party vice-president Ken Mair’s statement that "from our point of view the real terrorists in this country are the tobacco companies". Meanwhile, Danya Levy reports, Total smoking ban too difficult – Key.
- "Money for mates" is the label being given to the latest minor scandal about alleged cronyism in the National Government, involving Environment Ministry funding going to National Party allies – see Andrea Vance’s 'Money for mates' claim. Vance follows up today with news that 'Money for mates' claims to be probed, says PM. In addition, see Matthew Littlewood's 'Silly' Mackenzie work sets policy.
- There’s a focus at the moment on laws and rules that help impede or allow corruption in New Zealand, see: Matt Nippert’s Bill will make scams harder, Tony Wall’s 'Corrupt office' in on scam, and Michael Field’s South Pacific a money laundering paradise.
- The political debate about secularism and religion in state schools is getting some traction at the moment. Dave Armstrong weighs in today, arguing in favour of "religious studies" but not Christian education – see: Should we teach religion in schools?. He also asks, provocatively, "Do Anglicans still actually believe in God?"
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