Archive for March, 2004

My final day!

March 31st, 2004 at 5:21 am by David Farrar

Wow, after eight years working at Parliament, today is my final day. I made the decision a few months ago to set up my own company and go self employed from 1 April, and that’s tomorrow!

The farewell drinks are tonight, and lots of friends and colleagues, past and present, heading along on the basis of any excuse for a drink. With the House in urgency, the bar remains open until 1.00 am which is a happy coincidence (thanks to Dr Cullen!).

Yesterday had the slighly more formal Afternoon Tea. A couple of embarrassing stories as are usual for the occassions, including one I really had forgotten about, and really would have rather not emerged. Alcohol has a lot to answer for.

By coincidence Jenny Shipley, Bill English and Don Brash all there for parts of it. Just needed Mr Bolger for the full set, but he was no doubt busy banking somewhere. In my eight years I’ve managed to survive working for four Leaders, six Deputy Leaders and seven Chiefs of Staff.

Winston Peters once commented to me that he didn’t know how I managed to always stay on with all four Leaders and that it wouldn’t have happened if he had become Leader. I’m not sure whether he was implying that if he had become Leader, there wouldn’t have been four Leaders in total, or that he would not have kept me on. I suspect a bit of both 🙂

No-one should expect any updates to my blog on Thursday morning, and even Thursday afternoon will be pretty unlikely I suspect, assuming tonight goes to plan which I think may finish up at the Green Parrot sometime early Thursday morning.

But in theory I will have more time for blogging from tomorrow onwards, plus I will be slightly less constrained in what I can say so onwards and outwards!

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I don’t like it

March 29th, 2004 at 6:47 am by David Farrar

The more I think about the proposal to allow the Government to confiscate passports from NZ citizens, the more I don’t like it.

I regard a passport as a fundamental right of any citizen, because it allows people to leave a country – also a fundamental right (if not charged with a crime).

If there are genuine security fears about a NZ citizen, then the SIS can share its concerns with overseas agencies, and individual countries can decide whether or not to allow that person to visit. But the notion of NZ citizens who have not been convicted of any crime losing their passports at the discretion of a Minister is dangerous. I would need a huge amount of convincing on why this should be supported, or is needed.

On the citizenship issues, I am somewhat favourable. I think there is some merit in not having NZ citizenship automatically given to children born here, if *neither* parent is a NZer. The status quo provides a huge incentive to people to become illegal overstayers and have kids in NZ, and this is being abused a lot. Also if two German tourists (for example) happen to have a baby while holidaying here, it is hard to see why their child is a NZer.

It is essential though that no child ever be born stateless, so NZ citizenship should only be with-held if one is 100% sure that the child will have citizenship in another country.

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Maori Television

March 28th, 2004 at 12:41 pm by David Farrar

Been watching the new Maori Television channel on Sky 33 most of the day. Congratulations are due to those who have worked so hard to make it a reality. It was quite moving to see the passion of many of the staff, and the importance this can have to a lot of people.

So far it looks to be pretty well done. I am glad that it make use of English sub-titles and have some programmes in English, as it used to annoy me a lot that I could not understand Te Karere despite wanting to view it.

MTV has had a nightmare establishment phase with two years of delays, fraud, sexual harrassment, cost over-runs etc. Whether or not they survive will depend I suspect on whether they continue to produce a quality product, and avoid the extravagence of Aotearoa TV.

On a related note I am surprised that a TV channel whose purpose is promoting local culture would use as its domain name instead of say or Incidentially the website isn’t responding at the moment, but that may be a problem at my end.

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OSH Madness

March 28th, 2004 at 12:22 pm by David Farrar

Now this is just barking mad. The SST reports that they are banning couches from the Basin Reserve due to OSH requirements.

Couches at the basin have been a great tradition, and to claim that suddenly they might hinder egress from the ground, or create a fire risk is politically correct madness. How the hell does a small couch on a very big bank block things anymore than all the chairs, and people there. And if couches are likely to self-combust let’s ban them form homes also.

Incidentially I’m pretty sure the Tui couch pictured is one I know well and have spent many a Friday night drinking on, in Molesworth Street.

In more OSH madness a kayak race has been hit with the ever growing OSH bureaucracy, as have school camps.

Not long ago I saw a family faced prosecution for not getting a building permit for a tree fort!! What is this country that spawned Edmund Hillary coming to.

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Russell Brown on Nick and Katherine

March 27th, 2004 at 5:44 pm by David Farrar

Russell Brown has pointed out that in the family court case which sparked the Nick Smith contempt charge, one has not heard the cousin’s side of the story, and that family court has to often decide very hard cases.

I think Russell has missed a hugely significant point though, which makes this different to normal family court cases. Most cases are between the two parents of a child, and yes they are often very difficult and messy.

But this was between both parents on one side, and a cousin who was a temporary care-giver. Unless there is concern for the safety of the child (and there has never been any suggestion of this), then this should not even be a debatable issue. Surely, surely, the starting point for any decision is that a child should be with their parents, unless this would place them at risk. This is hardly controversial. If one takes the decision in this case to an extreme you could have nannies claim custody of kids they look after because they spend more time with the kids.

Russell also blogs later in the week that MP Katherine Rich should “get a life” for demanding that Ruth Dyson resign as a Minister over calling her an “irresponsible tart”.

The only problem is she did no such thing. She has only asked for a proper apology, which even Russell admits should have been given. The headline of the Press article linked to by Russell states “Katherine Rich has called on the Christchurch MP to relinquish her portfolio” but you will note there is no quote from Katherine stating this.

It should be noted that resigning from one portfolio is not at all the same as resigning as a Minister. But in this case even that wasn’t called for. A journalist asked Katherine if Dyson should resign as Women’s Affairs Minister and the response I understand was along the lines of how she would have to decide if her comments were compatible with keeping the portfolio.

So I’m still somewhat perplexed at how Russell criticises Katherine more than Dyson, despite Dyson being the one who called her an “irresponsible tart”. I can only imagine the fury and condemnation that would have happened if the situation was reversed. I mean for example Gerry Brownless responding to a taunt from John Tamihere was so bad it was making the country being “flushed down the toilet?

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Race based funding

March 27th, 2004 at 5:14 pm by David Farrar

NZ Pols is supportive of the Government review of race based funding, and says it “shoudl be easy:


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A bad hair week for Dyson

March 27th, 2004 at 4:43 pm by David Farrar

Ruth Dyson is definitely having a bad week. She started it by having a privilege complaint laid against her for lying in the House.

Then she called MP Katherine Rich a “tart”. Then she lied about whether she had said it. Then she made a half baked apology which mainly consisted of attacking Katherine some more.

Today we learn from NZPA that despite thinking it is okay to refer to political opponents as tarts, she expressed outrage in 2002 that Judith Collins had allegedly called DPBers “scrubbers”. Only problem is Judith had done no such thing so Dyson had to apologise and withdraw her allegation in the face of a defamation suit.

We also learn from the Dominion Post that Dyson has been ordered by Helen Clark to do a proper apology, and in writing for her “tart” comment.

It is really hard not to associate the terms “liar” and “hypocrite” with Minister Dyson on the basis of the last week.

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About as impartial as a South African referee

March 26th, 2004 at 2:28 pm by David Farrar

Final proof that Jonathan Hunt is the most partial and biased Speaker in living memory was delivered yesterday.

Readers will recall that when Harry Duynhoven triggered the Electoral Act by applying for Dutch citizenship, the Speaker refused for several weeks to give any opinion at all on whether Harry’s seat was vacant. He had been formally advised of Harry’s actions, yet said he could give no opinion at all, and that he would also ask the Privileges Committee for their opinion. This of course just by coincidence allowed the Government to avoid a by-election by changing the law in the interim.

Then you contrast that with yesterday in the House, where to my amazement the Speaker, despite no request to do so from a single MP, and despite not having even read the judgement or having received a notice from the Court, got up and declared that in his opinion Nick Smith’s contempt conviction does not create a vacancy. And this comes just hours after Helen Clark declared that she does not want a by-election and thinks one is not necessary.

So in the former situation, where an MP’s membership of the House was in question, the Speaker refused to give any opinion despite numerous requests to do so, yet in this case (which is far far more complex than the Harry case, with law professors quite divided on the correct interpretation) the Speaker rushes to give an opinion before he has even been asked.

One has to ask if there is any possible rational explanation for the inconsistency, except pre-planned and deliberate collaboration with the Government.

It is a tragedy that someone who has been an MP for so long, and started off as one of the best Speakers in a generation, has descended to a level where he has abandoned any pretence at independence and actively colludes with the Government to help them out.

Harsh words, but nothing else can explain this behaviour.

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Women’s Affairs Minister calls MP an “irresponsible tart”

March 25th, 2004 at 11:59 pm by David Farrar

This is just simply unbelievable hypocrisy of the highest order. As TVNZ reported, as they caught it on tape, the Minister of Women’s Affairs of all people called National MP Katherine Rich an “irresponsible tart” simply because Katherine was asking her questions at a select committee hearing.

NZPA reports that dictionaries define “tart” as a prostitute or promiscuous woman. My thesaurus lists synonyms as floozy, slut, strumpet, tootsie, trollop, and whore. A lovely thing to call the young highly respected mother of two (and one of the nicest people I know).

First of all I love a Minister convicted of drink driving, labelling someone else as irresponsible. Then we get to see her natural ability to lie by denying that she said, what she was recorded as saying. She claimed she could not recall saying it. I’m sorry but what a lying so and so she is.

Then after TVNZ has played the tape to the nation, does she finally concede she did say it, but tries to justify it by saying it “was not intended to be on the record” as if that matters, and makes her apology totally hollow by saying it was due to her “frustration at her [Rich’s] attempt to make political advantage out of notifications”. And even her apology is a Helen Clark type one where she does not apologise for what she did, just for if it caused offence. Hello, how could it not?

Dyson should have simply said that her comments were totally inappropriate, apologised for them, and pledged not to lower her standards again.

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Humour from Holmes

March 25th, 2004 at 11:15 pm by David Farrar

Paul Holmes on Newstalk ZB was discussing the recent killing of the leader of the terrorist group Hamas by Israel. Commenting about how Israel authorised the killing despite knowing the inevitable response, he said “Well those Israelis have balls. They may not have foreskins but they definitely have balls”.

Unlike the cheeky darky comment, this was genuinely funny. And I can say that as someone with Jewish ancestry. But no I am not religious, so don’t even ask!

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Reaction to Nick Smith case

March 25th, 2004 at 8:41 am by David Farrar

There appears to be a lot of sympathy for Nick Smith going by media reaction to date. I’d actually forgotten he had actually personally paid thousands of dollars of legal fees for the family to convince them to not act outside the law. That is on top of the cost of defending the contempt case which he had to mortgage his house to help cover.

Most MPs have been very supportive (partly knowing it could have been them). The Greens and United Future especially as well as his traditional colleagues.

The real creep has been Winston Peters who has been showing his nasty side a lot lately. He had the temerity to chastise Dr Smith saying his behaviour was unacceptable and you can’t act this way. The hypocrisy being that Winston Peters has defamed more New Zealanders than any other MP with wild reckless attacks, often without a shred of proof. But he has cowered behind parliamentary privilege (except one time when he got done for defamation) to protect himself.

The issue being debated by lawyers is whether contempt of court is a crime with maximum penalty over two years, or to quote exactly Parargraph (d) of Section 55(1) of the Electoral Act 1993:

“If he or she is convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term of 2 years or upwards”

The lawyers seem to be split quite evenly on the issue. I am not a lawyer but for my 2 cents worth I agree with Richard Prebble and think that it is not covered.

Nick was charged with the common law offence of contempt of court. What is interesting is that the Crimes Act 1956 does also have a specific statute offence of contempt in Section 401. It deals with abusing in court the Judge or other official, obstructing the Court, intimidating witnesses etc. The maximum penalty is $1,000 fine or three months jail is the fine is not paid.

Section 401(3) notes “Nothing in this section shall limit or affect any power or authority of the Court to punish any person for contempt of Court in any case to which this section does not apply”

I would have thought the worse contempt was one where you jump up in Court and yell the Judge shags sheep (as an example), compared to allegedly pressuring a Judge through the media, but the former has a very small maximum fine and the letter no maximum penalty.

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Nick Smith found in contempt of court

March 24th, 2004 at 1:46 pm by David Farrar

Just in that Nick Smith, MP for Nelson, has been found by the High Court to be in contempt of court, as have Radio NZ and TV3.

The High Court has said they consider that Dr Smith’s interfered with the administration of justice, in order to assist his constituents.

IMO this is a really sad decision. This family had lost custody of their child to a relative, despite there being no abuse or bad parenting from the parents. They transferred custody as a temporary measure to give them some time out and the relative refused to transfer custody back and as it took the Court three years to deal with the case, they ruled the child should stay with the relative instead of the parents as they were now more used to the relative.

The poor parents had lost their child despite doing nothing wrong and in fact had approached their local Maori MP (as they are Maori) and it was only after he or she didn’t help them that they went to Nick who took up their case that parents should not lose their children when there are no issues such as abuse or neglect.

The only good thing that may come from this decision is a determination to lift much of the secrecy around the often criticsed Family Court.

UPDATE: Nick Smith just spoke in the general debate and you could have heard a pin drop. I’ll see if I can post up tomorrow a transcript because to summarise it would not do it justice.

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Setting the agenda

March 24th, 2004 at 9:25 am by David Farrar

I’m amazed by how utterly lacking in strategy the Government appears to be at the moment. I really shouldn’t give them free advice but I feel sorry for them. You are doomed if you fight all the battles on the terms set by the Opposition, but that is what has been happening.

Example No 1 is the Helen no show on media debates with Don. Rather than try to lay the issue to rest and get their own messages out, they make the issue even more high profile by lamely suggesting that Don Brash in fact is refusing debates because he wasn’t in Parliament for some boring debate in the late afternoon. The fact that most of NZ knew that was because he was in Auckland for the Holmes debate the PM welched on, plus the fact that 1% of NZers watch Parliament and around 30% watch Holmes made it an incredibly stupid thing to do, because it means people will just keep talking about Don Brash.

Another sign is the $1.3 million costs of Iwi consultation for a new prison. After having ignored near identical stories for years, suddenly the Government is giving life to the issue by saying oh yes, that is too much money and we will hold an inquiry into it, guaranteeing it stays in the headlines for many more weeks. And of course most NZers know that if Don Brash had not made his Orewa speech the Government’s interest is the issue would be, to be frank, fuck all.

So you have a Government fighting with no strategy, and on issues all defined by the Opposition. They think fear mongering over what Brash may do in future (and hence keeping Don Brash as the topic everyone is talking about) is going to work, rather than actually produce anything resembling a sense of direction and vision for New Zealand.

Will they wise up in time? I am starting to doubt it.

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Anti-spam legislation

March 23rd, 2004 at 3:40 pm by David Farrar

The Government has announced that it will introduce, this year, anti-spam legislation.

In my opinion this is a good thing. Legislation will not solve the problem by itself, but it is part of the overall solution. David Cunliffe deserves praise for taking this issue on and getting a commitment out of Government. Previously the policy was not to support legislation.

In my role as Vice-President of InternetNZ I’ve just been interviewed on this by TV3 so if anyone is interested the item is likely to be end of 1st segment or beginning of second segment tonight. Don’t expect more than a few seconds.

InternetNZ has also done a press release which I’ve included below, again for those interested.

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Maori Government of Aotearoa

March 23rd, 2004 at 6:32 am by David Farrar

I see from the Dominion Post that a Ms Sue Nikora is the presumably self appointed prime minister of the Maori government of Aotearoa.

I presume that being the Prime Minister of her own Government, she does not receive any welfare payments from the NZ Government, use NZ hospitals or schools etc.

You can’t have it both ways.

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National at 49%

March 21st, 2004 at 6:13 pm by David Farrar

The Goverment will be in despair. Despite all its best attempts to distract NZers by blowing up the atheist/marriage comments and the red herring of a Treaty Inquiry, the public are showing they can see through the smokescreen.

Tonight’s One Network News/Colmar Brunton poll results are (change from Feb 2004 poll in brackets):

National 49% (+4)
Labour 39% (+1)
ACT 2% (+1)
NZ First 4% (-2)
United Future 2% (+0)
Greens (2% (-3)

In terms of seats in Parliament, this would produce (change from election in brackets):

National 62 (+35)
Labour 50 (-2)
ACT 0 (-9)
NZ First 5 (-8)
United Future 3 (-5)
Greens 0 (-9)
Progressives 1 (-1)

This is assuming Peters, Dunne and Anderton retain their seats.

So on this poll National would have 62 seats out of 121 and be able to form a majority Government.

The poll also had Brash up 5% as preferred PM to 29%.

There was 69% support for an inquiry into the Treaty but that is an apple pie and motherhood question where people will say yes, even if sceptical of any good that may come from it.

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Maxim and hate crimes

March 21st, 2004 at 12:53 pm by David Farrar

Personally I disagree with many of the policy stances on morality taken by the Maxim Institute.

But I find it disturbing the PM infers that Maxim is guilty of hate crimes. That is very strong emotive language against a group which has every right to lobby for its views, as every other lobby group does.

Maxim’s PR person, Scott McMurray, used to work for National in the mid 90s. One of the nicest guys you could ever meet, superb sense of humour and not at all judgemental. Linking people such as Scott, and Maxim pushing family values, as being akin to hate crimes actually just backfires on the PM in my opinion. And ironically on social issues such as civil unions, prostitution law reform, euthanasia, republicanism, secular state I am probably much closer to the PM’s views than Maxim’s.

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Dodging accountability

March 21st, 2004 at 12:43 pm by David Farrar

There is an excellent article in the NZ Herald about the recent appalling performances by Ministers in the House.

No Minister will go out of their way to be fully informative with their replies, if the questions have been asked badly, but for some time it has been obvious the Government has been taking this to new extremes. It is usually a sign of extreme arrogance when they think they don’t need to be accountable to Parliament.

As the Herald reports, Horomia stuffed up on a patsy from his own party due to his inability to do much beyond read prepared answers. Dyson is accused of lying in her answer, and Maharey had to be pulled up by the Speaker for his usual evasions.

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Go Winston!

March 21st, 2004 at 12:24 pm by David Farrar

It is very rare for me to cheer Winston on, but his reported plans to do a private prosecution against Ross Armstrong have my full support.

I am amazed the Audit Office did not refer Armstrong to the Police or SFO. Regardless of the individual policies of each crown entity, the fundamental rationale behind expense claims are they they are to reimburse actual costs incurred, not a mechanism to make money out of.

Somewhat surprised that Rodney Hide didn’t think of doing a private prosecution himself first! Will be very popular with the public I suspect.

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A few spoil it for the rest

March 21st, 2004 at 11:52 am by David Farrar

The idea of allowing licences for customary fishing rights so that a Marae can catch enough seafood locally for occassional functions seemed to me to be a good one. It does directly relate to a specific Treaty article (rather than more vague notions we see every day).

But as has been apparent for some time, and reported in the Dominion Post, a small minorityare abusing those rights and using them to fish on a commercial scale which causes huge tensions with those who have paid for commercial quota. It also threatens long term viability in some areas, as they are catching many under sized crayfish etc.

The regulations around this area really need to be massively tightened up.

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Bring it on!

March 21st, 2004 at 11:34 am by David Farrar

For around the 10th time since Helen Clark declared “bring it on”in relation to a debate about the Treaty of Waitangi, she has declined to appear on the Holmes Show with Don Brash to debate the issue.

The Herald reports how the latest negotiations have fallen down, with Clark accusing TVNZ of conniving with National – a patently silly accusation (especially if one ever watches TVNZ News).

What was amusing was the five different excuses Labour came up with to explain why they could not make the debate. They ranged from they only found out about it on Friday (in fact were asked according to Bill Ralston 10 days earlier), to had a funeral that day, to they never debate except in election year.

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Bolger on polls and media

March 19th, 2004 at 2:24 pm by David Farrar

There is a long but interesting interview with former PM Jim Bolger and Nigel Roberts on Mediawatch regarding polls and the media.

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Even the Judges say it is a crap law

March 19th, 2004 at 2:21 pm by David Farrar

It isn’t often Judges will make a submission to a Select Committee. You tend to listen when they do.

Now the Employment Court Judges are not generally known as being pro-employer. in fact many employers will pay out money, even if in the right, to avoid having to risk the Employment Court/

So when said Judges appear before Parliament to state that Labour’s proposed payoff to the Unions, sorry employment law changes make little sense and are unclear, one should take notice.

They comment “It is, to a legal mind, an enormous leap from the pursuit of self-interest to the commission or display of an attitude of bad faith.” This means if passed, employers could get fined just for doing what is in the best interests of the employer, even if not acting in bad faith.

The other nightmare section is where the bill would require Judges to substitute their opinion of what is fair and reasonable for an employer’s. There will be no certainity – just second guessing.

The clause says an employer “must have considered and balanced the legitimate interests of the employee and employer”, and as the Judges point out there is no objective definition of “legitimate interests”.

This bill will be a nightmare. Not only does it include all the provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000 which Labour withdrew because of opposition, but several daft new provisions also.

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No Right Taxes

March 18th, 2004 at 5:10 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn has not surprisingly attacked National’s announcement on taxes.

But he has a few things wrong.

1) “as companies pay most of the tax”

The latest budget documents show clearly that corporate tax is only 14% of core crown revenue compared to 46% for personal income tax and 20% for GST (paid by consumers).

2) “will result in cuts to public services”

The January 2004 Crown Accounts show the Government is forecasting a $6 billion surplus this year. Yep that’s right around a $4,000 per family surplus. Now a reduction in company tax rate will cost $510 million according to Treasury so that is less than 15% of the surplus.

Bottom line – it is total crap to scaremonger about cuts to public services. it just means a slightly smaller surplus.

3) The assumption it will mean less tax revenue

It is quite possible that reducing the company tax rate will produce more revenue as it may attract foreign investment into NZ, creating jobs.

So NRT is clearly wrong on (1) and scare mongering on (2). I would welcome a debate on (3).

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Blog Roundup

March 18th, 2004 at 4:42 pm by David Farrar

In the absence of having had much to say myself the last couple of days (been very busy), here’s a summary of the best reading from other blogs.

Damian Christire on Public Address has a very funny parody on recent current events.

No Right Turn is agreeing with the Business Roundtable on the foreshore.

My Right does a nice analysis of Michael Cullen’s speech where he makes things up.

Kiwi Pundit links to a good story on how the UK Government charges you for free food and shelter if it wrongly imprisoned you!

PNN has the good news with a useful summary of the poll in Iraq.

Running Blog Capitalist is happy with National’s proposed tax cuts.

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