Editorial: Taking the high road

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 06:46 17/04/2014

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Buying votes is a long-standing political tactic. Usually it's achieved by promising tax breaks, interest free student loans, incentives for first home buyers - that sort of thing.

Rarely is it achieved by a promise to do away with $35 trailer or caravan registrations. And by rarely, read never.

But ...

The Labour Party will grasp at any popular policy at the moment, and this one will be popular.

Registering your trailer, caravan or motorhome that has been parked up for the winter is just a nuisance. And there's no safety issue as you'll still have to get a warrant.

If there's any argument it's that motorhomes aren't paying their share of road maintenance, but we're not talking big money here. About $5 million for motorhomes, and another $17m for trailers and caravans.

You'd wonder how much it costs to collect each $35 anyway.

National's Gerry Brownlee makes the point that if you cut a levy from somewhere you have to pay for it from somewhere else, as if his party has never done such a thing.

So, some brownie points for Labour.

Linked with this policy announcement was another populist one, that large trucks travelling on three and four lane motorways must keep to the left lane. Presumably this law will apply throughout the country, and by country read "the North Island".

Wherever it applies, it sounds great in practice, but will it make a difference in reality? Do professional truck drivers really travel in the fast lane? And if some do, it would be a nightmare to police.

"I was overtaking officer" or "I was about to turn right" would be reasonable excuses.

But voters often don't think about the detail, and overall the policy will go down well in the electorate. Gerry Brownlee must think so too, because he described it as a "joke".

Another thing: The cynic could think the Associate Minister of Transport, Michael Woodhouse, is paying lip service to Geraldine youngster Sean Roberts in saying he'll look into the possibility of a practical driving tests for foreign tourists.

But if Sean had taken that view and not done anything in the wake of the death of his father who was killed by a Chinese driver, you can be sure nothing would have happened. By making the effort with his petition he at least now has a chance to make a difference.

The ball is firmly in the minister's court.

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- The Timaru Herald

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