A determined PM’s massive challenge

If it has escaped your notice so far, this Prime Minister is determined to get what she wants.

That includes the Minister of Maori Affairs she has set her mind on. Labour would be looking for a new leader if it bucked her choice, she said on Monday.

She made it sound matter-of-fact, so much so that I almost had to pinch myself to register she had issued an ultimatum – normally a sign of crisis politics.

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The local option for long-life government

Jim Soorley is a Marist priest turned businessman turned Labor Lord Mayor of Brisbane. He says in a globalised world nations are the past and cities are the future.

Mr Soorley was a star turn at the local government conference in Christchurch on Monday.

Now in his fourth term, Mr Soorley insists that it is the clean-green and socially cohesive cities (or localities) that will attract business in future. His administration has invested heavily in making Brisbane such a place.

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A new paradigm for local government?

Local Government Conference; Christchurch, 10 July 2000

Let’s start with subsidiarity. Only the French could have concocted such a barbaric word; only Anglo-Saxons could have adopted it with enthusiasm.

Subsidiarity means taking decisions and carrying out actions at the lowest practicable level of government. This concept is a reaction against the twentieth century centralisation of power and activity in the hands of sprawling central governments. New Zealand did not escape that centralising tendency: indeed, we made centralisation an art form. And now we are not escaping the decentralising reaction.

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The greater ‘gap’ facing Maori

Just which “gaps” is Helen Clark closing and why were they so important she had to dump Dover Samuels quickly?

The “gaps” she sealed with last week’s sacking were threatened breaches in the political dyke: she secured her authority, got herself off the moral skewer of supporting a minister with an inconvenient past and for good measure divided the opposition in Parliament.

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How to talk to the media

Successful governments use the megaphone, not the piccolo, to talk to the public. Put another way, it is the headlines, not the fine print, that count with voters.

Of course, the fine print is what the voters get. But they think they are or should be getting the headlines. In 1996 Winston Peters’ pre-election fine print was not to rule out coalition with Jim Bolger. But the headlines were all anti-National and that was the message most supporters took into the polling booth and the basis on which they punished him later.

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A test for the PM’s management mettle

What is it about a government that really affects the lives and livelihoods of ordinary folk? Its policy.

Will the Dover Samuels affair change government policy? No. Will it change the government’s ability to carry out its policy? No.

So what’s the fuss?

Superficially, it’s entertainment. The drama of charge and defence of a public figure puts politics up with sport and disaster.

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Why on earth not sell the Skyhawks?

Why is the government keeping the Skyhawks? That is the puzzle in Monday’s skeletal defence “framework”.

Any reading of ministers’ comments since the election requires aerobatics of logic to concoct a case for air strike capability. Moreover, the framework’s list of priorities has no place for it.

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The Budget to win last year’s election

This is the Budget to win last year’s election. Last year’s undertakings overhang the next two years’ ambitions. In 2002, as the next election looms, Michael Cullen will be offering voters less than did Mr Micawber himself, Sir William Birch, last year.

Dr Cullen has turned on its head the age-old electoral Budget wisdom that a government takes the tough decisions in the first year, steadies in the second and dishes out lollies in the third, just in time to seduce voters.

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Betting the bank on slow-return projects

The government says it wants and needs three terms, that is, nine years. Heavy evidence of its need will be supplied in tomorrow’s Budget.

The two themes ministers have been billing are “closing the gaps” and “kick-starting the knowledge economy”. Both are slow-return, long-range projects, with spare prospect of much to show by the 2002 election.

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From bubble to bust in ninety days

Six months into the government’s term and things could hardly be more different from the rosy glow of the three-month mark. What has changed?

In March as the 100 days peg was passed the country was in a bubble. The summer had been kind, with jobs from Y2K and money in farmers’ pockets, and “we” held the America’s Cup. A new, confident, vigorous cabinet promised a fresh face after 15 years of economic reformation.

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