Brash speech in Orewa dismissed as old news

By Claire Trevett

Don Brash. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Don Brash. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Prime Minister John Key has brushed off Don Brash's criticism of his Government in a speech to the Orewa National Party branch, saying Dr Brash's views were old news.

The former National Party leader, whom Mr Key replaced in 2006, spoke to the National Party audience in its Rodney electorate heartland on Saturday.

In his "Return to Orewa" address, Dr Brash criticised the Government for timidity on economic reform and said it was driven by the polls more than by what was needed to ensure a strong economy.

Yesterday, Mr Key said through a spokeswoman that Dr Brash had not said anything he had not already said before.

Although it was viewed by some as an attack on Mr Key and his government, Dr Brash was entitled to his view.

"The role of Prime Ministers is critiqued all the time by a wide variety of people."

Dr Brash also challenged the Government to be true to the National Party constitution when formulating policy for 2011, specifically mentioning buy-ins to Labour policies such as Working for Families and interest free student loans.

Dr Brash is also the head of the 2025 Taskforce, charged with monitoring progress in closing the income gap with Australia and recommending ways to achieve it. The Government has rejected most of the taskforce's harder line suggestions, such as privatisation.

Dr Brash also revisited the topic of his initial Orewa speech in 2004, questioning the need for race-based funding, Maori seats and the Maori Party.

He also sounded a caution about the replacement to the Foreshore and Seabed Act - the Marine and Coastal Area Bill - saying media commentators had described it as "dangerous" and leading to civil unrest.

Dr Brash said it was clear the bill would affect every New Zealander and questioned why the Maori Affairs Select Committee was considering it, rather than a special committee made up of all races.

Mr Key said Dr Brash had not detailed his criticisms of the Marine and Coastal Area Bill. "But he's entitled to his view."

Attorney General Chris Finlayson was also dismissive of Dr Brash's views on the foreshore and seabed.

"Dr Brash's speech seemed to be mainly an opportunity to advertise the same economic policies he promoted in his 2025 Task Force report last year and earlier this year."

Mr Finlayson said he did not consider restoring access to the courts and property rights for iwi as special treatment.

Labour leader Phil Goff said Dr Brash should put a party forward and test whether the public supports his views.

- NZ Herald

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