Poor Maurice Williamson. He’s getting attacked because of his idea announced on Agenda about charging tolls for roads that will be part-funded by private enterprise. There’s a furore in the media, nudged along by the government’s spin-doctors, about Williamson’s claim that users could fork out $50 a week for use of these roads.
Unlike the secret recording of National’s deputy leader Bill English, saying that the party would sell Kiwibank if elected—which I say goes to show the Opposition’s true intent—Williamson was far clearer about how the $50 was worked out on the programme. But we are talking politics here, so let’s not have facts get in the way of a good story.
I certainly don’t make a habit of defending National and its top men, Squeaky and Head Prefect, but Williamson isn’t as daft as one thinks when his full interview is considered.
Williamson believes that if there were a road on which one could take 20 minutes versus one where one is stuck on for an hour, then there will be some who would be willing to pay a premium to save time.
Having watched the interview, I don’t recall Williamson setting a ﬁgure, but he did say that if a $5 toll per trip were reasonable given the time saving, then it could be the amount charged. He also mentioned $2 per trip.
The ﬁgures were totally conditional and Williamson certainly was enthusiastic, but to see the Opposition spin it by saying a member of the Shadow Cabinet had just got carried away just shows how ill-prepared National is in standing behind its own.
In fact, National has had a record in failing to stand behind Maurice Williamson MP, beard or no beard, but then the last bust-up was targeted at the leader and party president in 2003.
Sadly, Williamson has in part agreed with this “over-reacting” explanation—though I will issue a caveat here myself by saying I only know that through a sound-bite on National Radio.
I have driven a lot on the toll roads in Europe, especially in France, and the difference in time between the old routes nationales and the autoroutes with péages is often worth the euro or two in terms of overall fuel and time savings. However, I doubt that many people will believe that they would save $20–$50 in petrol per week.
On the ﬂip side I can understand the cynicism. We’ve heard promises before from politicians. Few people my age won’t have forgotten Roger Douglas telling us that GST meant that we would have more money in our pockets. Maybe the political journalists and Labour have their decoders on and I didn’t on Sunday morning when Agenda was on, but right now it looks like a tidbit taken out of context. Posted by Jack Yan, 06:23
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