The re-entry of Dr Don Brash to national politics as the new Leader of the poorly performing ACT Party would have a series of interesting twists and turns but the question being asked is, “Can Prime Minister John Key work with his former Leader as a Coalition Partner and possibly even as a Minister?”
Dr Brash played all his cards with deftness over a week of hectic political activity, although insiders say that the game was played out for several months. ACT has been a Party of simmering discontent over its now ousted Leader Rodney Hide. Apart from his differences of opinion over his Parliamentary colleagues, notably Heather Roy (who called him a ‘bully’) who was effectively edged out last year, Mr Hide was seen as a politician of double standards when he allegedly misused ministerial perks, having campaigned against such practices earlier. His handling of “the David Garrett affair” (a Member of Parliament who quit politics after confessing to obtaining a New Zealand passport using a dead person’s identity) was also questioned.
Dr Brash made his well-plotted moves that led to the hostile takeover of the Leadership of ACT, without even being a member of the Party. As we went to press, he was formally elected to the top job.
A number of issues were however unclear. Will Mr Hide continue as a Member of Parliament or force a by-election in Epsom with the General Election just six months away? Will he retain his ministerial portfolios? How does the ‘Confidence and Supply Agreement’ between National and ACT work?
Dr Brash has already pitched for the post of Finance Minister (currently held by Bill English, who is also the Deputy Prime Minister), which would clearly create tension within the National Party echelons.
Mr Key was in London last week to attend the Royal Wedding of Prince Williams with Kate Middleton but told reporters that he was not ruling out the possibility of Dr Brash becoming a minister in a National-led government after the general election on November 26, 2011.
Some observers said that clash of political ideologies would make it difficult for Mr Key to work with Dr Brash, who subscribes to extreme right view- a philosophy that National abandoned years ago to become a ‘Centre Right’ Party.
Dr Brash wants to remove the Minimum Wage Act, remove or reduce benefits, cut corporate tax, reduce the size of the Government machinery, sell off state-owned assets and promote a stronger and ‘more involved private sector.’
“My objective is to achieve something in the economic policy areas, whether that is from a finance portfolio or from somewhere else. If it seems appropriate, it may not be desirable for ACT to be within the Government itself – it may be better to sit on the cross benches and influence policy from there,” he said.
Don Braid, Managing Director of Mainfreight, one of the largest logistics companies in New Zealand, told TVNZ that change of leadership in ACT would be good for the country.
But he said New Zealand should not compete with Australia since it did not have the ability to do so.
“New Zealand’s lower wages compared with Australia are not an advantage and hence the minimum wage should be increased, not reduced. We are a unique country of four million people. Our advantage is food, tourism and education. We should be embracing Australia rather than trying to compare ourselves,” he said.
Mr Braid said the Government should consider lowering taxes, slash its own costs and reduce the numbers in Ministries and Departments.
“I also believe that the Government should consider making superannuation compulsory and introduce Capital Gains Tax,” he said.