Inevitable change of ACT leader

Jamie Whyte quietly resigned as leader of the ACT Party on Friday afternoon. This was not a surprise, it was inevitable. As widely expected MP David Seymour has been appointed as the new leader.

There was quite a bit of criticism of ACT for appointing Whyte as leader and separately appointing Seymour as Epsom candidate. It’s impossible to know whether any other arrangement would have helped ACT’s election chances but I doubt it would have made much difference.

Seymour performed very well campaigning for Epsom and comfortably won the seat. He did this with help from National but also through hard work and ability. It’s hard to see how being leader would have made any difference in Epsom.

Whyte’s performance was much more mixed. He made some early mistakes in media interviews – that was part of a sharp learning curve. His (and ACT’s) problem was that he failed to connect enough with potential voters.

He came across too much as an academic/intellectual, too theoretical. He didn’t impress journalists who usually don’t do ACT any favours anyway. And there was little sign of any favourable impression in social media.

It was a tall order trying to build ACT Party vote up after a series of disasters, especially the Don Brash takeover followed by the installation of John Banks and his subsequent legal problems, plus a sustained targeting of him by political opponents.

Whyte did not step up enough so ACT failed to come close to get enough party support to get Whyte into Parliament alongside Seymour.

If Whyte had got in the arrangement could have made sense, with him concentrating on party organisation and leadership while Seymour has electorate as was as parliamentary duties.

But Seymour is in sole charge with a massive workload – he has to set up electorate staff and employees as well as set up a parliamentary office for ACT with staff virtually from scratch after Banks’ early exit. On top of this Seymour has to learn the parliamentary ropes and National have also given him under-secretary and committee duties.

And Whyte will probably quickly fade into failed political history.

ACT media releases:

Jamie Whyte Resignation Statement

“Today I announce that I have tendered, and the Board has accepted, my resignation as Leader of ACT New Zealand.

“Clearly I make this announcement with regret, however the election result is clear, and I must now turn to my career and my family.

“I stood to lead ACT because I believe in the party’s ideas.  I will continue to advance these ideas both inside and outside the Party.  I do not rule out returning to a substantial role with ACT in the future.”

President Release re Jamie Whyte Resignation

“Today the ACT Party Board announces with regret that it has accepted Jamie Whyte’s resignation as Leader,” said ACT President John Thompson.

“Jamie has proven himself a principled and clear-headed advocate of ACT’s values of smaller government and greater personal responsibility.  Under his leadership, the Party has been rejuvenated and membership has swelled.

“We are proud to have had Jamie serve as Leader, and hope the New Zealand public has not seen or heard the last of him.

“The ACT Party Board has appointed David Seymour, the ACT MP for Epsom, to succeed Jamie Whyte as the Leader of ACT.”

Leadership Acceptance

“I am honoured to lead the ACT Party, I look forward to the challenge and relish the opportunity.

It has been a privilege to work with Jamie Whyte. I want to acknowledge his tireless efforts through the past nine months and during the campaign.  Through his efforts the Party was rejuvenated and our membership increased.  It is a substantial achievement and on behalf of all the members and supporters of the ACT Party, we thank you Jamie.

Once again the ACT Party, with the support of Epsom voters, is contributing the vital extra seat that will assist a National-led government to implement the policy changes which will boost growth and prosperity in New Zealand.

The principles that drive ACT are timeless – freedom, opportunity, choice, competition, personal responsibility and compassion.  ACT believes in small but efficient government, and a low tax burden to encourage and reward hard work and creativity. Only with low taxes will individuals and families be able to get ahead from their own efforts.

The successful New Zealand we know today is significantly due to the policy reforms of the founders of the ACT Party. Those reforms are why we are consistently rated as amongst the freest economies in global surveys. It is this environment that has freed the energy we now see in New Zealand innovation and entrepreneurship. We see it in business, in sport, in the arts, and in science and technology. Cutting red tape and reducing the tax burden further will unleash that energy.

The celebration of entrepreneurship is core to ACT values – it is what drives our economy and incomes forward, creating new industries, new jobs, and higher incomes.

I am excited by the opportunity I have as Leader of the ACT Party, as the MP for Epsom, as well as my Parliamentary Under-Secretary roles in Education and Regulatory Reform.

I look forward to ACT contributing to a stable and successful National-led government, and to expanding our presence in Parliament in 2017.

David Seymour

Small party priorities post election

Small party (and Green) leaders were asked in a The Nation debate what their priority policy would be in post election negotiations.

Summary:

  • United Future: Flexi-Super
  • Maori Party: Whanau Ora
  • Mana Party: the elimination of child poverty within the first five years
  • Act Party: economic growth
  • Conservative Party: binding referenda
  • NZ First: non-committal
  • Green Party: expect to have a very comprehensive coalition agreement that meets a whole range of objectives

    Details:

United Future

Right, I wanna talk about relationships in MMP, and I’m coming to Mr Dunne. I want to know that if you get into a confidence-in-supply agreement with the next government, what would be the one thing you would be pushing for in return?

Dunne: I think probably top of our list would be to make progress on our flexi-super proposal, which would see people being able to take a reduced rate of super from the earlier age of 60 or an enhanced rate if they deferred to 70, and with the standard age remaining 65. I think that would be the one thing we’d wanna push most strongly.

That’s a repeat of last election.Dunne negotiated a discussion paper on Flexi-Super with National after the 2011 election and that which was released last year but National are luke-warm on doing anything on it

UnitedFuture’s plan which would allow people to take a reduced rate of New Zealand superannuation from the age of 60, or an enhanced rate if they deferred uptake until 70. The rationale was to give people more choice over retirement income and to recognise that for some people 60 was the age to leave the paid workforce, but that they were currently unable to do so for financial reasons.

Māori Party

Te Ururoa, you say that you could go with either Labour or National, so what would be your top priority as a policy to get?

Flavell: …the major platform that the Maori party has always been on about is final order. We say that if we’re able to consolidate, not only just social—the MSD-

So you would be pushing that if you were with the next government, you’d be pushing to keep–?

Flavell: It’s an absolute must from our perspective that final order will be at the centre of our platform, our policy. It is right now, and it will be.

‘Final order’ is a mistake in the transcript, it should read ‘Whānau Ora’ which is the Māori Party’s flagship policy.

Whānau-ora: restoring the essence of who we are; putting the vibrant traditions from our people at the heart of our whānau

Whānau Ora begins with you. Whānau is the heart of our people, it is the foundation on which our country thrives. It is about reaffirming a sense of self-belief.

Mana Party

All right. Mr Harawira, Mr Cunliffe says that you’re not gonna be part of his government. But you say he’ll pick up the phone if he needs you. So if he rings and says, ‘Hone, I’m offering you confidence in supply, that’s it, no ministers’, what do you want from him?

Do you think he has the vision to lead this country?

Harawira: What I know is this – if the polls keep trending the way that John Armstrong of the NZ Herald says and hit 5% even before the campaign starts for Internet Mana, I’m guaranteed to get a call on the night of September the 20th. And if he asks us, is there one policy, if there’s one thing that we would want to see changed, it would be this – the elimination of child poverty within the first five years.

The ‘elimination of child poverty’ seems idealistic, especially when it is usually a statistical figure based on families below the median income and on that basis there will always be some ‘in poverty’ – below the arbitrary line.

I can’t find a reference to the five year target on the Mana website but they have a range of policy points addressing “economic justice’, for example:

Work towards implementing a Universal Basic Income where everyone in Aotearoa aged 18 and over would receive a minimum, liveable, tax free income after which progressive tax would kick in. This would eliminate the huge costs involved in administering the current shame and blame WINZ system, and do much to end poverty and address growing inequality.

Act Party

Jamie Whyte, if you had a confidence and supply agreement, what would you be after as your top priority policy?

Whyte: Well, almost all problems, practical problems, are remedied by becoming wealthier. And so economic growth is by far our priority. And so the policies that we’ve been promoting on – cutting taxes and reducing the regulatory burden, which would promote economic growth, those would be our priorities in a negotiation with the National party.

That’s straightforward.

Short to medium term goals should include reducing the level of government expenditure below 28 per cent of GDP and lowering the top tax rate to 24 cents.  ACT’s Regulatory Responsibility Bill should be passed.

Conservative Party

Mr Craig, your policies are almost the same as NZ First. You’re the doppelganger in this room, so why would people vote for you when we’ve got the real thing right here.

What would be your top policy that you’d be after?

Craig: We’ve said publicly that we think governments should not be able to ignore overwhelming vote in referenda. The anti-smacking law, tough on law and order, reducing the MPs, all right quite rightly should have been implemented by government, because there is a point at which people need to know they control this nation. It’s their country.

Craig has already stated a bottom line on binding referenda.

ON OUR WATCH REFERENDUMS WILL BE BINDING

At the heart of the democratic system is the principle of the citizens initiated referendum. It’s when a single issue is thought to be so important, all voters are asked to make their opinion heard.

No specifics are given on exactly what this would entail, Conservative ‘Issues’ or policies are brief and vague.

New Zealand First

Mr Peters, your bottom lines or things that you really don’t wanna budge on are no foreign land sales, no race-based parties, buy-back assets and keep the super age at 65. You’re gonna be on the cross-benches, aren’t you, with that list?

Peters talked about a range of policies but was typically evasive and vague.

Peters: Your assumption is that at six weeks out from the election, we’re gonna make decisions now and tell the public, ‘Forget about you, doesn’t matter what happens in six weeks’. Behind close room deals. Now, I’m gonna leave it to the public to decide who’s gonna be standing there at the election, and it won’t include some parties standing here right now.

Many alluded to but no bottom lines revealed before the election.

Green Party

All right, let’s go to Metiria Turei there. (asked about working with NZ First)

Turei: The Green party in government will be a very large part of that government, and we will have significant influence. We will expect to have a very comprehensive coalition agreement that meets a whole range of objectives – a cleaner environment, a fairer society and a smarter economy. And we will have—we won’t settle like other parties might for a single achievement. We want to see our whole plan, our whole agenda being rolled out.

Turei wasn’t asked specifically about a priority but her answer was more befitting of a medium sized party with potentially a significant influence in a coalition.

Greens are excluded from major party debates despite the chances of them getting half the votes of Labour, and they could be a quarter to a third of a left wing coalition so could reasonably expect to include a number of their key policies in negotiations.

Source: TV3 The Nation – Debate: Multi-party election campaign debate

Guy McCallum explains his resignation

After resigning as an Act candidate – Act candidate resigns over race relations policy – Guy McCallum has explained why he did this on Facebook:

So on Thursday I made a decision to leave ACT because of differences in approach to Race Relations policy. This news has inevitably made it (big deep breath) into the world of public opinion.

This is where I’m coming from.

According to Radio Live, Jamie still likes me. However, that doesn’t change the fact that if Maori had their so-called ‘privilege’ taken away, I would still have mine as a Pakeha male. This is why I believe that indigenous rights are important; in Canada, indigenous rights are enshrined. Indigenous First Nation and Inuit people no longer have to tolerate neglect nor prejudice from governments and from other people. Their individual rights are protected from ethnic discrimination.

In NZ, all of our rights can be changed by law with astonishing speed and arrogance. Despite Maori legal rights being subject to that danger too, they are there to prevent discrimination based on someone’s identification as Maori. It is fair, still, that these rights imply obligations on the authority which violated those rights for so, so long.

Opposition to Maori legal rights cannot be excused by having Maori friends. I have taken this stand to show that one must defend their friends’ rights to be counted the same as I.

Neither can we appeal to voters, reporters and commentators for a civil debate, when we intend to shoot down those who disagree. That is no way to conduct a civil debate about a long and undignified chapter of NZ history.

When this is understood, and the lessons of this moment (and history) are learned, we could right a lot of wrongs and confidently open our worlds to one another. I patiently await the day.

And a big shout out to Dr Janine Hayward. She singled me out in an Indigenous Politics class and said that Don Brash had a lot of explaining to do. Instead, I took that moment to do a lot of thinking. I also want to thank those who have supported me as I enter this vulnerable chapter.

This links to 3 News coverage of his resignation – ACT member quitting over Whyte’s race speech.

There is some criticism in the Facebook comments but a lot of ‘likes’ and support as well

Act candidate resigns over race relations policy

Otago University’s student news Critic has announced ACT candidate for Dunedin North resigns.

ACT Party Board member and Dunedin North candidate Guy McCallum has officially resigned and withdrawn his candidacy as the result of “the development of a race relations policy” that “blindsided” him.

This resignation comes in the wake of ACT leader Jamie Whyte’s shock speech at the ACT Waikato Conference, which called for the elimination of race-based legal provisions. “Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France,” Whyte claimed.

When asked what the aforementioned race relations policy entailed, McCallum noted, “quota systems at universities would be abolished, co management arrangements would be repealed, Maori Television would be scrapped, as well as ending the Race Relations Commissioner role.”

“In fact, I didn’t know the Hamilton speech was coming,” claims McCallum. “Jamie was in Dunedin for a small gathering of ACT supporters on the morning of 20 July, and he mentioned to me that he was in search of a ‘stunt … because you know, the polls.’ A week later ACT rolled out a controversial and obviously unprepared race relations policy.”

McCallum claimed Whyte’s call for Dame Susan Devoy’s resignation was “the final straw … People criticising Jamie for One Country, One Law have only been met with derision; either they haven’t read his speeches, have ulterior political motives, or are, by him, wrong.”

“ACT’s policies are about reminding you of scary burglars, zealous bureaucrats with a hidden green agenda, and resentful Maori of taking an equal placing. This is the imagery the vague words are designed to create. Liberals and libertarians are getting a rough deal from ACT. The positive ideals they represent are used as currency to hedge conservative influence, like the Tea Party. A lot of libertarians have avoided ACT for these reasons. For wanting to change that, I find myself in present circumstances.”

“I have spoken to other members of the Party who are becoming concerned that ACT is focusing more on fear and prejudice to gain votes.”

McCallum has been active in ACT on Campus since 2010. He stood the Dunedin North candidate in the 2011 election (I got to know him then as I was also a candidate).

He became the ACT on Campus Vice President in 2012, and for the past two years has served on the ACT Party Board as a regional member.

McCallum organised the southern regional meeting referred to as “a small gathering of ACT supporters” – I was invited to that and attended as an interested observer (I have no connecting with the Act Party). I talked to him about the upcoming election and  McCallum appeared to be looking forward to standing in it.

This may harm Act – internal divisions are not a good look for a party.

On the other hand it could help Act. The race/Maori gambit played by Whyte was presumably deliberately designed to provoke race debate and attract attention to a party struggling for political oxygen.

This has resulted in a surge of Maori bashing amongst a minority which Act see as potential votes.

A down side is already obvious, media response to Whyte’s attack on Maori ‘privilege’ shows that political journalists are not exactly looking favoiurably on the tactics of the Act leader.

It’s another make or break election for Act. Stirring up racial prejudice is very risky campaign strategy which could get a few votes but time will tell whether it’s enough.

This may also not be helpful for National.

What would “one law for all” be?

If we had one law for all what would that law be?  Thou shall not hurt anyone else? Thou shall not tell fibs (especially in politics)?

ACT Party

Act Party leader Jamie Whyte has stirred up a race debate by promoting one law for all.

He means that one race (Maori) shouldn’t have separate laws or privileges or Parliamentary seats to anyone else. That’s fine in theory, but very contentious and controversial in practice, as Whyte is finding out.

But it’s having the desired effect, raising Whyte’s and Act’s profile on the potential constituency that matters for them to start to make an impression in the polls. See comments at Kiwiblog in Jamie Whyte on race based law.

Conservative Party

This is also one of the Conservative Party’s key policies (from very sparse offerings).

OneLawForAll

One Law For All is one of four very brief policy statements on their Issues page.

Another is the Conservative’s ‘bottom line’ policy “On Our Watch Referendums Will Be Binding’. In the unlikely event that they have a watch in Parliament they won’t get support for this, an issue that seems inspired by Craig’s obsession with getting the ‘smacking’ law repealed.

Craig wants one law for all if it involves Maori ‘privilege’, but he wants parents to have a different law than children when it comes to being hit. One could agree with Craig that there’s some crazy thinking here.

Another of their policies is YOUR FIRST $20,000 TAX FREE THEN A FLAT TAX. Act at least have some consistency, wanting one tax rate for all instead of no tax for those earning under $20,000 and then tax whack the rest of us.

NZ First

NZ First seem to stake a claim to the ‘One Law For All’ slogan but it doesn’t stand out in their policies. Their website doesn’t have a page for ‘Winston Peters Rhetoric’ but their is plenty of that elsewhere, for example in Budget in Reply Speech – Winston Peters.

We believe in one law for all – irrespective of ethnic background.

Not the crumbs of tokenism from the Cronies Club Tables!

New Zealand First believes that we must train, skill, educate and employ our own people first.

There’s no excuse for the hiring of cheap labour from overseas when so many are on the unemployment scrap heap back here.

On the issue of foreigners speculating on housing in New Zealand – we’ve had the courage to say it for years but successive governments have refused to act.

Ok, one law for all as long as you’re one of “our own people” and not “from overseas” or a “foreigner”.

NZ First and one law for all seems to be contradictory.

One Law 4 All Party

There is also a party set up and now registered to address this issue – One Law 4 All.

To keep faith with 1Law4All supporters from across the political spectrum, we have the one bottom line – that of legal equality of all citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, culture or religion.

Should we win a position in government, 1Law4All will take a middle-of-the road position on all other issues or proposals by other parties. Should this be difficult to define or involve highly controversial legislation, we will seek a majority public consensus and vote accordingly. We will not have personal conscience votes.

Legal equality is a bottom line but on anything else majority public consensus will enable the overruling of minority rights and needs.

Several Questions For All

‘One law for all” and legal equality sound fine in theory, but life and legislation can be more complicated than that. How would the above parties answer the following questions?

  • One assault law for all or separate law for parents?
  • One tax for all or different tax rates?
  • One property law for all or ‘one of us’ versus ‘foreigners’?
  • One immigration law for all regardless of race, religion, age, skills?
  • Can anyone put flashing lights on their car and run red lights and speed?
  • No age limit for marriage, sex, voting, firearms, driving, alcohol?
  • Superannuation for all?
  • Early childhood education for all?
  • Domestic Purposes Benefit for all?

And what seems to be at the centre of all the ‘one law for all’ posturing is the Treaty of Waitangi. Should New Zealand declare all treaties invalid – one treaty for all or no treaties for anyone? There’s quite a few, for example see Treaties and International Law.

Or just selected ones?

Back to Act

While Act want no legal or other privileges for Maori…

Treaty of Waitangi and Race Relations

ACT supports the vision of a free society and would seek to remove all race-based appointments in parliament or any other branch of government.

…they sound more reasonable regarding the Waitangi Tribunal:

We would work towards ensuring the Waitangi Tribunal process ends on the basis of full, fair, and final settlements.

But a quick scan through their other policies suggests they support some targeting and don’t propose universal rules for everyone.

ACC: “The one-size-fits-all compulsory, government-owned monopoly insurance provider is failing New Zealanders.” So they don’t support one insurance provider for all.

Crime and Justice: “ACT supports tough, appropriate sentencing for all offences including burglary (three strikes you’re out), livestock theft (weapon and vehicle confiscation) and murder (sentenced by degree).” Selective application of three strikes, which is targeting some offences and offenders differently to others.

One law for all, unless getting tough on (some) crime will get more votes.

‘One law for all’ is a simple political slogan in a very complex real world.

Act Policy – Honesty for Taxpayers (yeah, right)

ACT Party leader Jamie Whyte announced a new policy yesterday that would require the Government to clearly state what policies would cost relative to potentially reductions in tax.

They want the public to be able to judge the value of proposed bills by ensuring they know the tax repercussions of new policy costs – ACT proposes an Honesty for Taxpayers policy.

For example, the government should be keen to alert taxpayers that, without Working for Families:

  • the 17.5% income tax rate would be 12.5% OR
  • the 10.5% income tax rate would be 3.5%.

The Minister for Tertiary Education should be keen to remind everyone that, if not for interest-free student loans

  • the 17.5% income tax rate be would 16% OR
  • the 28% company tax would be 25% OR
  • the 33% top income tax rate would be 30%.

I doubt that the Ministers would be keen to do that. Hence the necessity to require it.

On this policy, regulatory impact statements, cabinet submissions and ministers’ introductory speeches for Bills in parliament will need to state clearly that “but for this proposal, your income tax rate would be X percentage points lower”.

When taxpayers visit the website of any government agency or local council and any programme of that agency, they should have a clear idea of the price of that agency in their taxes or rates.

Government departments and agencies should be required to declare on their home webpage “but for this agency, your income tax rate would be X% lower”.

Similar rules should apply to local governments. They should be required to reveal how much lower rates would be if not for a particular new policy proposal or existing service of the Council.

If a minister, department, agency or local council believes that the programmes it administers do indeed offer value for money to taxpayers, they should be proud to say how they are putting taxes to work in the clearest way taxpayers can understand.

If you do not know what something costs, you cannot know if it is worth the price. Good decision-making depends on good information. In a democracy, this means that voters must be reminded of how much they are paying for government activities.

Politicians from the big spending parties will oppose this policy. That shows what a good idea it is. The bureaucracy will also resist it, because voters will be surprised to realise that much new spending is generated by bureaucrats. MPs and councillors will be more reluctant to just wave through spending when the information is publicly available.

By using the tools of the information age ACT seeks to make our elected representatives more accountable and allow citizens to participate in a more meaningful way.

Act would need to ensure that one of the favourite political cost covering lies is not able to be used, as done by Winston Peters in the weekend.

Tax dodgers, GST on food top NZ First hit list

New Zealand First would take GST off basic food items and rates bills and would target tax dodgers to fund the expensive policies, leader Winston Peters said yesterday.

Mr Peters said his policy would save New Zealanders but cost the Crown a whopping $3 billion a year or thereabouts.

Labour recently said to fund policies they would “clamp down on tax avoidance by multi-national corporations because we believe that everyone should pay their fair share.” From their Fiscal Plan:

Labour will close off tax advantages that promote speculation and clampdown on tax avoidance, particularly by multi-nationals.

Labour will set a target of reducing tax avoidance by $20 million a year in 2015/16, rising to $200 million a year in 2018/19.

Governments have been trying to “clamp down on” and minimise tax avoidance for yonks. The current government has been continually trying to reduce avoidance and evasion.

At least Labour has a relatively modest target of $200 million. NZ First look to be blatantly dishonest claiming they can cover $3 billion by targeting ‘tax dodgers’.

Act may find it difficult imposing honesty on government, but they think their small idea could end up being highly influential.

ACT has a new proposal to make our democracy more accountable. The proposal may seem small but it could be the most significant idea in this election.

Policies such as the one I am announcing today, which change the behaviour of politicians, have greater long term effects than any particular proposals for this or that government activity, such as giving school children laptops, subsidising solar panels and the rest of the little tax-funded bribes the other parties trade in.

A proposal to reform New Zealand’s government accounts was hardly noticed in the 1993 election campaign. Yet the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1994 has had a profound effect on how New Zealand is governed. Government accounts are now transparent and neither Labour nor National wants to be responsible for a deficit. The Fiscal Responsibility Act is probably the real reason why the government books will be back in the black by next year.

ACT’s fresh idea could be as influential as the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

It could be influential – but it’s not easy making politicians and governments more accountable, especially when it comes to honestly justifying increased spending.

Different impressions of Jamie Whyte

Contrasting impressions of ACT leader Jamie Whyte in recent interviews.

Brian Edwards said on on Firstline this morning he thought Whyte was “particularly unimpressive as a leader”.

‘Wyndham, George’ commented at The Standard:

Jamie Whyte is shyte. He was interviewed by Michael Wilson on TV3 and was a blithering stuttering mess!

A comment closer to home (from someone who has never backed ACT and is never likely to):

He sounds very thoughtful.

After pointing out some hesitancy in Whyte’s responses:

It looked like he was having to think through questions he wasn’t prepared for, but spoke honestly about what he thought. Not political, no bland bull.

Wyndham, George is a political opponent of Whyte. Edwards trains politicians to speak to the media.

The other opinion was an ordinary person outside of the political arena.

On ACT’s 3 strikes for burglars policy

ACT leader Jamie Whyte has announced more detail on his party’s three strikes for burglars policy. NZ Herald reports Jail burglars after third offence, says Act.

More than 2000 families will have returned home from the Easter break to find they had been burgled, and Act says it is the only New Zealand political party offering a serious solution.

Party leader Jamie Whyte yesterday outlined a three-strikes policy, under which burglars will spend at least three years in prison if convicted of the crime a third time.

Fewer than 2 per cent of burglaries resulted in a term of imprisonment last year, Dr Whyte said, and the Act policy would change this.

“Burglary is a problem that requires strong political leadership. Act is the only party with a policy that can significantly reduce this blight on our society.”

There’s been a wide range of opinions expressed at Kiwiblog in ACT proposes three strikes for burglaries including ‘FE Smith’ with a warning for ACT.

It is sad that a right wing libertarian party has to adopt the policies of the most authoritarian UK government in 100 years, and a Labour one at that, in order to be relevant.

I seem to remember that ACT was doing its best in the polls when it concentrated on economic issues, which is why I have generally supported it.

The Herald summarises ACT’s three strikes:

• Offenders will be sentenced to three years in prison without parole if convicted of a third burglary offence.

• Juvenile offenders will not have their convictions treated as strikes unless they are convicted of a further offence in adulthood.

• The third-strike penalty may be overruled by a judge who believed there to be extreme hardship in sentencing the offender to three years in prison.

PaulL covers the main policy points at Kiwiblog and makes some comments:

Gee, there’s a lot of people talking crap on here today. Luckily some nuggets in there, which include:

  1. The policy only applies to those over 18 on getting their third strike
  2. The policy as proposed is retrospective. That’s a bad idea, and needs to be changed, we don’t want some political parties getting the idea that we agree with retrospective law changes
  3. The policy as proposed can catch someone for three offences all in one go, rather than needing a warning, then a repeat, then a warning, then a repeat. That’s probably also a bad idea and needs changing.
  4. A policy like this is no use without also increasing the clearance rates for burglary investigations. Is it a case of increasing police resourcing, or do they actually know who did most of the crimes and don’t have time/inclination/laws to deal with it? I seem to recall some suggestion that 80% of property crimes are committed by a very small group of people (the ones this law would hopefully lock up)
  5. We also need some attempt to address some of the prompters of crime. That is to say, many people commit crimes to feed their (illegal) drug habit or due to mental health issues. – so both decriminalise drugs, and provide better treatment options for drug and mental health issues.

That would be a reasonable and comprehensive policy. Where’s Jamie Whyte on that?

One comment was that “Three years in jail equals about $270,000″ – would that sort of money be best to go towards more and longer sentences, or towards prevention, apprehension and conviction under the current laws?

ACT links:

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler has added:

I don’t agree that the policy is retrospective.

The law change being proposed is that those with the prior convictions for burglary must receive a sentence with a non-parole period of at least 3 years. The burglary for which this is imposed must be a burglary committed after the law enters into force.

There is no retrospectivity in this proposal.

Not saying I support it, and you could argue everyone should get at a formal warning, like the three strikes for violent offending regime, but it’s not retrospective.

State of the parties

The election campaign has effectively kicked off in earnest. The next six months will be a long time in politics. It’s difficult to predict many things. Everything remains up for grabs.

Two polls yesterday had similar results for the three main parties, and the recent Roy Morgan is also included.
RM=Roy Morgan, CB=One News/Colmar, RR=3 News/Reid Research

National
RM 45.5, CB 47, RR 45.9

Polls have ranged in the low forties to low fifties, averaging around the current levels which are similar to National’s last election 47%. They seem to have survived recent Labour attacks on Judith Collins and Hekia Parata reasonably unscathed.

It’s very unlikely National will get a majority of seats alone so is as much reliant on small party results as it is on keeping it’s own support up in the high forties. The Maori Party, ACT and UnitedFuture are all in doubt but stand a reasonable chance of getting several seats between them. It’s doubtful if the Conservatives will get into the mix.

An improving economy is in National’s favour which will be balanced against second term attrition.

John Key remains reasonably popular although down from the last term. He usually does well in one on one debates but has to be careful to not appear arrogant or dismissive.

If they avoid major scandals (especially involving Key) National should hold up but will be hoping for weak partners to step up.

Labour
RM 31.5, CB 31, RR 31.2

Polls have settled down in the low thirties after a brief surge after David Cunliffe took over the leadership. Recent attacks on National have failed to lift Labour, negative politics may knock the opposing party a little but it’s usually not good for gaining support, which Labour desperately needs to do.

Labour are totally reliant on a partnership with the Greens. A plus is that Greens look solid. A minus is that Labour remains unconvincing. Labour may also need NZ First and possible Mana and/or the Internet Party. A party that still looks in disarray with a difficult to manage combination of parties makes Labour’s job of convincing voters they are ready to govern again challenging.

After an initial surge of support Cunliffe keeps slipping, getting 8-9% in the latest Preferred Prime Minister polls. He struggles to look authentic and is often missing in action. Labour have not yet succeeding in recovering from the departure of the Helen Clark and Michael Cullen partnership  both a party and with leadership.

It’s possible Labour could end up cobbling together a coalition but the election and the post election negotiations will both be difficult for them. A chance of a collapse in support hovers should the voters give up on Labour’s various vulnerabilities.

Green Party
RM 14, CB 11, RR 11.3

Greens had a recent poll of 8% but that looks to be an outlier, they have otherwise ranged between 10 and 14 averaging 11-12 which means they are holding their last election support (but they often poll higher than they get in elections).

The Greens are looking very well organised and are into campaign mode. They are the one solid party of this term and if they avoid campaign disasters should come to close to maintaining their current MP numbers, and could increase them.

Their main problem is not their own, it’s their essential coalition partner, Labour. If Labour fail then so do the Greens no matter what they achieve.  NZ First are also a threat because if Winston Peters returns he will hold stronger cards then the Greens, being able to play off National against Labour. The Internet Party may take some Green vote.

Russel Norman has often looked like the Leader of the Opposition this term. He is experienced, focussed and ambitious. He is a consistent strength for Greens but his ambitions on economic matters worry some and may end up playing against him. He is being promoted as possible Deputy Prime Minister.

Metiria Turei is co-leader and is currently ranked number one in Green ranking. She tends to work with the Green base more than the wider public. The traditional media seem to dismiss her chances as Deputy Prime Minister but the Greens will decide who they want to put forward. Their official stance is co-leadership but two deputies will be out of balance in a coalition. Turei would provide an interesting dynamic in an old school Labour dominated cabinet.

Greens should do well but their fate is out of their hands, they are reliant on Labour looking like a credible Government and they would prefer NZ First and the Internet Party drop out of the picture.

NZ First
RM 3.5, CB 7, RR 4.9

NZ First is fluctuating in the polls but maintains a healthy average and looks a reasonable chance of beating the 5% threshold again. They are benefiting from National slips and Labour’s lack of traction.

The NZ First MPs are very low profile and as usual look like relying on Winston Peters. The old campaigner pops up occasionally but is mostly out of the news – but he knows how to campaign and will time his run.

Peters is a master of manipulating media and will be looking for any opportunity to jump on a defining issue in the last few weeks of the campaign. National will be doing their best to avoid another cup of tea disaster but the media seem addicted to boosting their ratings with Peters and therefore boosting his chances.

At this stage NZ First looks a good bet to succeed this election. The big question mark is what that means for any coalition possibilities and there will be fears of Winston induced instabilities. This is more likely to limit their numbers rather than drop them below 5%.

Maori Party
RM 2.0, CB 0.9, RR 1,5

Party support in polls and elections hasn’t been a significant factor for the Maori Party in the past because their strength has been in electorate seats, but this may change this year.

The Maori Party has a battle on it’s hands to retain any of it’s three electorate seats this time but the odds are good to keep at least one of it’s current three. If it only keeps one or two then their party vote may become a factor in their final count.

New leader Te Ururoa Flavell is out there trying to build a profile but is an unknown at this level. He needs to step up and find a way of getting some media attention, which could be difficult because he is (so far) uncontroversial.

The Maori Party should return but will have to battle hard to keep their numbers up. Labour’s struggles may help them

ACT Party
RM 0,5, CB 0.3, RR 1.1

ACT have recovered from poll zeroes but it’s early in their attempted recovery. All will depend on Epsom. If they succeed there they could help National retain power.

The ACT party vote could lift from their 2011 debacle when Don Brash ousted Rodney Hide and took over, and installed an unlikely John Banks in Epsom.

New leader Jamie Whyte is intelligent but intellectual. He will struggle to interest the media unless he stuffs up. He will also struggle to appeal to voters. As he builds experience and if he can appear confident he may lift things a bit.

ACT’s best chances may come from National spin-off. If enough voters want National returned but don’t want to reward National too much or don’t want a single party majority  then ACT may benefit.

Mana Party
RM 0, CB 0, RR 1.1

You can’t take much from the polls for Mana, their supporters may be the hardest to find for pollsters.

On their own Mana are unlikely to lift much in party support. This is probably why they are considering a deal with Kim Dotcom, realising lifting their own party vote will be difficult. This may help them, but it could just as easily damage their brand.

Hone Harawira is the obvious essential for Mana and should retain his Te Tai Tokerau electorate – unless there’s a backlash against the Dotcom dalliance. This is a real risk for Mana. Labour have got the respected Kelvin Davis as candidate again, he has been closing the gap on Harawira in previous elections.

Mana are a good bet to retain an electorate but the Internet Party is a risky punt.

UnitedFuture
RM 0.5, CB 0.1, RR 0.1

United Future have really struggled to impress in polls for two terms. To the voting public the party is non existent, although a surge of membership last year when UnitedFuture was de-registered shows there is still some interest out there.

Peter Dunne’s chances in Ohariu look reasonable. Labour and Greens no longer have candidates with public profiles. National are likely to assist with a low profile candidate. Dunne knows how to work his electorate.

Otherwise the prospects for UnitedFuture simply aren’t there. They don’t have a very active party and they have no people other than Dunne with any profile.

Dunne is a good bet to retain Ohariu and may help National stay in power but that is the best that can be expected.

Conservative Party
RM 1.5, CB 2.3, RR 1,9

The Conservative Party has maintained an average of around 2% with a range of 1-3. They should be able to maintain this – but doubling support to make the 5% threshold will be very difficult, despite being one of the best financed parties.

Colin Craig is determined and rich, and he has some appeal but he is also seen as wacky and is sometimes unfairly called Crazy Colin.

An easy electorate ride has been talked about but it remains elusive for Craig. National would be taking a big risk gifting him a seat and look lukewarm on it at the moment.

The jury is out on Craig’s chances. The Conservatives may pick up some ‘alternative to National’ votes but 5% looks a high hurdle. The media probably won’t do them any favours like the do for Peters.

Internet Party
RM 0, CB 0, RR 0.4

The polls were too soon for the Internet Party launch this week so don’t mean much. Roy Morgan had them on 0.5% for two polls when the first launch attempt was aborted but they got publicity. They are likely to feature in polls from now because the media will give them coverage.

It’s far too soon to tell how the Internet Party will go. Kim Dotcom will attract some support from his substantial existing following but he will put others off – and he can’t stand so either has to fade into the background or he will be seen to be interfering.

The Internet Party needs some credible candidates. They’ve said they won’t be announcing them until June but have claimed to have an existing electorate MP ready to join. There’s a lot of doubt about this, and even if they did it would be extremely difficult for such a candidate to hold their seat, they would be competing with their ex party and risk splitting the vote.

If they secure a high profile candidate I would expect the Internet party to announce it as soon as possible. Otherwise a leaderless candidate-less party will struggle to impress.

The Dotcom financed party could play a significant part in the election. It’s possible (but unlikely) they boost Mana’s seats to two or three. They may take some National vote and are likely to pick up some protest vote.

But as Russel Norman openly fears they could take votes from the left and waste them by failing to reach 5%. The Internet Party make their primary goal of defeating John Key harder for the left.

Other Parties

There are no other parties with profiles.

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party keeps getting some support but is generally looked on as a protest or wacky baccy party. They have competed with Greens on cannabis law reform and could get some traction on this – Russel Norman said on The Nation in the weekend that cannabis law remained a Green policy but it would not be one they would be promoting.

The Alliance and Democrats for Social Credit keep chugging away but will continue to be ignored by the media so have no show. Losers are already picked regardless of their merit.

Focus New Zealand registered in January and are targeting the rural vote but will struggle with that.

Brendan Horan has been trying to get an Independent Candidates party off the ground but his own chances of retaining a seat and any party chances have been written off already. The media doesn’t do different approaches to democracy. And Horan doesn’t seem to have a significant following.

This simple fact is that it’s a near impossible for new parties without rich founders able to buy attention.

After the MMP review the threshold has stayed at an insurmountable 5%. The review recommend a drop to 4% which would have made no difference for small parties wanting to add themselves to the mix.

The large parties seem to actively avoid allowing nuisance parties to interfere with their ambitions and shut down their chances. Ironically more small parties would give the large parties more options and more bargaining power.

Summary

National may slip in support a bit but are still looking reasonably in charge. Greens are looking strong. But the rest is up for grabs, which means this year’s election is still very open – with more complicating factors than usual.

The Colmar Brunton poll showed a large wild card (or cards): Don’t know 13%, Refused 5%

The media play a major role and can make major stories out of the trivial. It’s a major concern that the balance of our democracy could swing on the whim of journalists. They have become very powerful, and they know it. And they are accountable to no one but their ratings and egos.

Our elections risk being more superficial lottery than a contest of policies and parties.

Unfortunately this year’s election may be decided on the least worst option as the positives in our politics are paltry. The parties, press and people are all culpable.

Jamie Whyte an interesting ACT to follow

New ACT leader Jamie Whyte discovered how shallow, petty and brutal social media and main-stream media can be following his philosophical musings on the Government role in incest.

Hamish Rutherford at Stuff gives Whyte an opportunity to explain himself on that and a range of issues in  ACT leader Whyte can’t be grey.

It’s very refreshing to hear a political leader who is prepared to think things through and explain his way of thinking. Most politicians present as carefully packaged PR puppets.

This doesn’t mean I support or back the ACT party – but I do support openness and honesty from politicians. This leaves them vulnerable to media misrepresentation and opponent attacks but if Whyte sticks to his principles I think he’s worth watching.

“The problem is being a philosopher, I have some bad habits. I kind of felt obliged to answer.”

To the contrary, politicians should be obliged to give open and honest answers.

“I’m not apologising for what I think.”

But apologising for talking about it? That seems odd.

In reality, he claims, acts of corporate charity were really just a marketing tactic. “In a way, if it’s fake, it’s okay. If it’s genuine, it’s robbery.”

In a way he’s quite right.

He had described Christianity as a “mixture of wilful ignorance mixed with an air of assumed moral superiority”.

There’s some of that but most Christians in New Zealand are just ordinary people mingling amongst the rest of us.

Despite believing his clearly thought out views would be a virtue, he admits it may count against him that everything is written down. “That may be the sort of thing that people like in a politician, but it seems it isn’t. I get trashed for this, and everyone else gets away with being vague and woolly. Why don’t you go out and trash them for that?”

Good point – but it may be a forlorn hope. The media tend to pick up on trivial things and blow them up, especially when misled and pushed by political opponents. And they often ignore detail and subtleties.

But if Whyte sticks to his principles and his openness it could define him as a refreshing addition to our political mix. It may take time to get through to the media (maybe not, Rutherford seems to get it already) and won’t be without risks but I hope Whyte stays true to his words.

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