So Richard Prebble is back, as campaign manager for ACT at this year’s election. For a political organisation that prides itself on being a fount of fresh thinking for the centre right, the Act Party seems to have a stronger commitment to recycling than anything the Greens could imagine in their wildest dreams. Political has-beens like Roger Douglas, Donna Awatere-Huata, Don Brash, John Banks…and now Richard Prebble have all found a happy rest home fort themselves at ACT where they can swap stories about the good old days, and continue to prescribe the same failed nostrums that ignited the income inequality that is now at the heart of so many of New Zealand’s social problems. On that score, maybe it is apt that the same old neo-liberal zombie economics should be the province of the political walking dead. As in:
Mr Prebble said the campaign would likely revive the party’s flat-tax policy as well as coming up with fresh policies. “I expect to see Act talking more about the policies it first talked about.”
Dr Whyte had said he wanted to take the party back to its principles when it was the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers. “The best known of those policies is Act’s belief that the fairest sort of tax system is a flat tax where everyone pays the same rate.”
What does it say about new ACT leader Jamie Whyte that he would turn to Richard Prebble for day to day guidance on the campaign trail? Prebble first entered Parliament in 1975, when Whyte was nine, David Cunliffe was 12, and John Key was 14 years old. True, there are societies where Prebble would qualify as a hallowed elder. Yet that’s the situation here. He’s being brought back to be campaign manager of what is supposed to be a ginger group of fresh thinkers under new management. Rather than assist Whyte in the job of transforming the party, resorting to Prebble only underlines that the ACT party hasn’t had a fresh idea since the mid 1980s, and remains in the sclerotic grip of its founding elders. When even the people who welcome Prebble’s return describe him as being a ‘blast from the past’ the alarm bells should be ringing. Less a ginger group perhaps, than something turned prematurely orange.
Good grief. The RNZ item this morning about the ill Tongan woman being sent home to a cyclone devastated area of her country, that – to boot – has inadequate health care for a heart condition that means she shouldn’t even be allowed to fly. What can one say? It is a true horror story. Yes, she has been an overstayer. Yet it seems she and her (now deported) husband came here and raised their children and were productive members of the community. Sure, the hardline attitudes of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) are meant to deter others – but the heartless application of the policy in this instance is only serving to damage this country’s image and reputation in the Pacific, and around the world. Do we really want to try and rival Australia as the country with the most heartless, wilfully cruel immigration policy in the region?
True to form, neither the government Ministers involved nor the INZ bureaucrats were willing to be interviewed by RNZ about this case, even after the state broadcaster obtained the personal waiver that INZ said it would need before it could discuss the case openly. Ultimately, it may be the case that ministerial clemency is extended to this Tongan woman. The government should go further. The calls by Labour MP Sua William Sio and by immigration lawyer Richard Small for a blanket ban on deportations back to this cyclone-devastated region seem like simple common sense. Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and/or his associate minister Nikki Kaye need to emerge into daylight on this subject.