Editorial: Alliance won't be missed

The parting shot of Alliance MP Laila Harre is a reminder of why the country will be well rid of the Alliance after the election. If her remnant of the party returns to Parliament (an unlikely event), it will oppose, she says, "the direct and indirect privatisation of key infrastructure". She, Matt McCarten and company want to stiffen a prohibition already in a local government bill against private investment in water reticulation.

No doubt they take the same view of private investment in roads. Many months ago the Government announced it was open to private-sector partnerships in roading, permitting the necessary tolls where free alternative routes were available. Legislation was promised by the end of this month but there has been no sign of it. All the signs instead have been that Labour could not find the numbers in the Parliament that was dissolved on Tuesday.

Oddly enough the Alliance pins its hopes of survival on winning an Auckland seat. For that reason, perhaps, it prefers to point its ideological blinkers at water supplies rather than roads. Auckland voters become rather impatient when the subject of roading is raised. If they knew what Ms Harre, Mr McCarten and other Auckland politicians know, the voters would run the ideologues out of town.

Transit New Zealand has a number of Auckland motorway improvements well advanced in the design and consents procedure.

It could start building many of them next summer if the money was available. But it will not be. Public funds available for roading nationwide could be exhausted on Auckland's needs alone.

Unless finance can be found from other sources, Auckland's congestion will only get worse. It was a decisive concern in the city's local body election last year and it ought to be a consideration in this election, too. Labour needs to reaffirm its commitment to private-sector partnerships as far as that goes. National could go further and invite private-sector initiatives rather than mere finance for public-sector plans.

Let the Alliance vie with the Greens for the votes of those who would sooner see little or no development than surrender a public monopoly of any infrastructure. They are politicians who would never have privatised Telecom, for example. They probably would have protected the state monopoly rather than allow competing telephone companies into the country. And what a backwater we would be today.

Jim Anderton is well rid of the party he founded, and will be relieved that the rising of Parliament lets him cease the pretence he has maintained latterly to be its leader. But he, and indeed the Labour Party, should not be allowed to put that embarrassment behind them in the election campaign. It was to comply with legislation of their joint making that Mr Anderton pretended to be the Alliance leader long after he had split the party and its council had replaced him.

If the public does not like "party-hopping" it must be even less impressed with the charade Mr Anderton has performed. Party-hopping is not a problem Parliament needs to fix. Voters are quite capable of punishing those who have not keep faith with them.

The Labour-led coalition's solution was to let party leaders move the automatic dismissal from Parliament of any of their members who break ranks. It served the convenience of party leaders rather than the integrity of representation, as the conduct of Mr Anderton has just confirmed. The repercussions are the reason the Prime Minister gives for seeking an early election. Let Helen Clark now promise to repeal the ironically named Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act in confidence that Mr Anderton's disaffected comrades have gone for good.

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