By Rt Hon Winston Peters
The Parliamentary political circus is in full swing with National and John Key performing twists and somersaults worthy of an Olympic gymnast.
National’s contortions are all about keeping New Zealanders in the dark over significant issues being thrashed out in secret. For that they deserve severe criticism rather than a medal.
Examples from the past few weeks of the Government being deceitful and slippery as a sack full of eels are easy to find. Let’s start with the issue of Māori water rights and the Waitangi Tribunal.
New Zealand First last year repeatedly warned that the sale of power generating state owned enterprises would create a nightmare scenario over water rights. That is because no New Zealand government has any right to pass control of our streams, rivers, lakes and waterways to private or foreign interests.
Our concerns were foolishly brushed aside by the Prime Minister who has embarked along a series of twisted dealings.
He started off by backing New Zealand First’s position that nobody owns the water. Then the Key-backflips started.
He said if Māori went to the Waitangi Tribunal, the Government could ignore its recommendations and there was no chance of the sale of shares in the first SOE being delayed.
Then in a private meeting he gave the Māori Party an assurance over water rights for Māori.
He followed this by saying he would take Waitangi Tribunal’s recommendation into consideration. But he also said the asset sales programme would go ahead this year as planned.
All of this murky posturing is being decided behind closed doors. It contributes to make the issue about as clear as the mud on the floor of the mighty Waikato River. But one thing is clear: This is the start of National’s secret water privatisation programme.
Then there is KiwiRail. We explained at some length to RadioLIVE website readers last week the woes inflicted on our railways by National-led Governments. But a quick recap is in order.
National sold our railways system in 1993 to private investors. It was asset stripped and run down to an appalling state. It was saved from oblivion when it was bought back by a Labour-led Government.
Now, less than four years after being back in power, National are again “restructuring” the rail system. This includes the possible sale of its scenic routes to overseas investors. This is exactly what happened 20 years ago under National’s first railways ‘’restructuring” plan.
Already hundreds of KiwiRail staff are losing their jobs, track maintenance is being contracted out, locomotive and wagon manufacturing is being handed to China, and about 7000 imported South American wooden sleepers are rotting under the tracks.
The facts are there for all to see: KiwiRail is again being gutted and destroyed by National.
Then there is the scandal over the way the National Party mishandled the overseas student visa system which started under previous minister Jonathan Coleman in August 2010.
It saw a special section of the Immigration Service in Palmerston North become a visa stamping factory for overseas students scrambling for a New Zealand education. The staff in Minister Coleman’s office started hassling immigration officials to bully them into submission and tens of thousands of student visas were rubber-stamped. An audit of just 1,800 applications was randomly reviewed and 250, or 15 per cent, were found to be fraudulent. The Government should be called to account over this scandalous behaviour.
Finally we come to the Māori Party and its pet $174 million slush fund known as Whānau Ora. The fund was handed to the Māori Party by National to shore up its support and keep Key and co. in power.
The money has been siphoned off by groups with very dubious causes such as family reunions, and a family violence prevention scheme involving the Dunedin chapter of the Mongrel Mob which used Whānau Ora money to finance drug dealing. The blame for this can be laid with National and its shabby deal with the Māori Party.
National’s incompetence is a political picture in progress but one thing is certain: New Zealanders must be prepared to stand together to oppose being treated with such contempt by John Key and his rag-tag bunch of coalition partners.
Winston Peters is the Leader of New Zealand First