ACT preview annual conference

ACT Party’s ‘Free Press’ previews their annual conference – but there is no mention of when it is or where it is. You have to follow a link to a registration page and then search down the page to find out.

Saturday 27 February 2016 from 9.00 am till 5.00 pm at Orakei Bay, wherever that is.

Strong Communities and Free People
All of the speakers have one thing in common.  They don’t just talk about making New Zealand a better place, they’ve all been active and successful at doing it.  We’re proud to host them because they show it’s not always politicians and their grand government schemes that make New Zealand a better place, but that true compassion means directly helping.

Ruth Money
The country’s leading victims’ advocate.  As a volunteer she has assisted victims of some of the highest profile cases in recent times with navigating the justice system.  ACT has always advocated putting victims’ rights first and Ruth is at the forefront of not only talking about how victims can be better supported (which she’ll do at the conference) but actively supporting them on her own time.

Dame Lesley Max
Co-founder and CEO of the Great Potentials Foundation and creator of the HIPPY and MATES programs.  Since its foundation, ACT has advocated strong community organisations solving social problems where the Government doesn’t always get it right.  We are honoured to host one of New Zealand’s leading social entrepreneurs at our conference.

Lindsay Mitchell
Lindsay’s blog is a recognised authority on welfare reform.  As an assiduous researcher she is the best person in the country recount what National’s reforms have and haven’t achieved over the past eight years, and what the nest steps for reducing child poverty should be.

Michael Littlewood
Recently retired from the University of Auckland’s Retirement Policy and Research Centre, Michael Littlewood has been at the forefront of the superannuation debate in New Zealand since the early 1990s.  ACT believes that John Key and all other leaders have been too eager to kick the retirement can down the road, and we’re proud to host a definitive expert on the subject at our conference.

Matthew Hooton
New Zealand’s best free market commentator, Matthew’s weekly National Business Review column is compulsory reading for many on the right.  Matthew reminds us that New Zealand once led the world at free market reform, and that National have done little to roll back Helen Clark’s legacy of government expansionism.

David Seymour
Our leader’s keynote address will focus on the four P’s of free market environmentalism, Pricing, Property Rights, Prosperity, and Private Initiative.  For too long environmentalism has been confused with government intervention when all the evidence worldwide shows it is free societies that make the best environmental custodians.

Sonare on the Orakei Basin (and a Tesla Roadster)
If all of that is too much, you will be entertained by Auckland jazz band Sonare on the edge of the beautiful Orakei Basin.  Free Press also understands that, on the Smart Green theme, Tesla will be offering rides in their electric super car, the Tesla Roadster.

Davis Seymour’s success since being elected in 2014 should encourage a good and enthusiastic turnout. ACT need some good candidates to back Seymour up and try and rebuild their party vote.

Recent election results:

  • 2014: 0.69% (16,689 votes)
  • 2011: 1.07% (23,889 votes)
  • 2008: 3.65% (85.496 votes)

In 2008 National defeated Labour with 44.93 % and have increased their vote since then, probably partly at ACT’s expense.

If National support starts to slip, Seymour continues his impressive performance and ACT get some good candidates they could reverse their sliding trend and get one or two more MPs in 2017.

Party prospects

What are party prospects leading up to next year’s election? It’s a long time in politics until we vote again so there’s many things that could affect the overall outcome and the outcome for individual parties.

Has Been and Never Been

The 5% threshold is making it pretty much impossible for a small or new party to get into Parliament on party vote. This is by design by the large parties, successfully keeping small parties shut out.

Mana Party

Mana took a punt on Kim Dotcom’s big money last election and crashed badly, losing their only electorate and failing to attract combined party vote. Hone Harawira seems to have disappeared from public view, and the Mana Party website seems to have also disappeared. Their chances of revival look unlikely, and their chances of success again are also unlikely.

Internet Party

The Internet Party had large funds and little credibility last election. Dotcom acknowledged afterwards that he was politically toxic. Without his money and presence and media pulling power the party continues – their website remains – but is ignored and will find it difficult to get anywhere, which is a shame because they had some interesting ideas on inclusive democracy.

Conservative Party

With heaps of money and media attention last election Colin Craig and his Conservatives could only manage about 4%. After last year’s major upheaval it’s unlikely they will get half that next time. Craig is severely damaged politically and socially and would struggle to lead the Conservatives to 2% next time. There is no obvious alternative leader.

The Strugglers


As a party UnitedFuture has faded just about completely. It is still operating but without a major input of money and new personal I don’t see any change. The only option for UF is for outsiders to see an opportunity to use an existing party to get a foothold in Parliament rather than start from scratch, but even then success would be dependent on Peter Dunne  retaining his Ohariu electorate. I think Dunne must be close to considering retiring, and if he does UF will retire or expire.

ACT Party

ACT have defied critics and survived the Don Brash and John Banks disasters due to the success of one person, David Seymour. I think Seymour is odds on to retain Epsom next year (deservedly) so ACT is likely to survive. National and possibly Conservative vote must be up for grabs, but it will depend on ACT coming up with additional electable candidates to make an increased party vote attractive. Jamie Whyte didn’t work out, but with Seymour anchoring the party they may attract strong candidates who would then stand a good chance of success through an improved party vote.

Maori Party

The Maori Party continue to be quiet achievers. They should be able to retain at Te Ururoa Flavell’s electorate seats and their first list MP Marama Fox has made a quick impact. They stand a chance of picking up ex Mana Maori votes so have some chance of getting more seats via their list. Further electorate prospects will depend on candidate quality. The Maori Party could also be impacted negatively by a Labour resurgence if that ever happens.

The Over Threshold Parties

New Zealand First

It’s difficult to predict NZ First’s future. It is very dependant on Winston Peters. He had a major success early last year by winning the Northland buy election but hasn’t dome much since then. He could just be pacing himself, rebuilding energy and drive for next year’s election campaign. Or he could be running out of puff – that’s been predicted before but so far he has managed to keep coming back.

Installing Ron Mark as deputy could be a problem for NZ First. The rest of the party has been generally out if sight, but Mark is an ambitious attention seeker, and the attention he gets is often uncomplimentary. He could deter voters.

But if Winston remains NZ First should remain after next year’s election. Peters may or may not retain Northland, but the party should be good for 5-10% party vote if he is still in the race.

Green Party

The Green Party have successfully weathered another leadership change. They had built their vote and presence but were disappointed to not gain ground last election despite Labour’s vote shrinking. Greens are assured of retaining a place in Parliament but may find it challenging to increase or even retain their current numbers if Labour recovers and increases their vote. And Greens need Labour to improve substantially to give them a chance of having their first stint in Government.

Greens should be able to stay above 10% but may be cemented as a good sized small party rather than becoming the growing force they have ambitions of being.

Labour Party

Labour have to improve their support significantly or it will either be difficult for them to get back into Government or it will be difficult for them to govern with Greens and NZ First pulling them in different directions, possible apart.

It would be unlikely for Labour to switch leaders yet again, that would be damaging, so they need Andrew Little to step up. That hasn’t happened yet. They are playing a risky strategy of keeping a low profile while they consult constituencies and rebuild policies. They really have to be looking like a possible alternate Government by the middle of this year. They need to somehow get back 5-10% support.

They are banking on Little growing into his leadership role. He can only be a contrast to John Key, but so far he looks more out of his depth rather than swimming competitively on the surface.

Labour are also banking on their ‘Future of Work’ policy development. It’s a good focus for a labour allied party, but a lot will depend on whether it results in something seen to be visionary or if it is perceived as a Union policy disguised by Grant Robertson.

Labour could get anywhere between 25% and 40% next election. It’s hard to tell what direction they will go at this stage.

National Party

National have been very successful since they won in 2008. They have increased their support since then, most parties in power bleed support. This partly to do with John Key’s continued popularity, and increasingly by Bill English’s capable management of finances in sometimes very difficult circumstances (GFC and Christchurch earthquake).

National’s support must fall at some stage but it’s difficult to judge when that might start happening. Left wing activists have been predicting it in vain for seven years. Much will  depend on whether Labour can step up as a viable alternative alongside Greens and probably NZ First.

Next election could see them get anywhere between 40% and 50%. Their political fate is in their own hands to an extent but also reliant on possible alternatives.

Why Seymour turned down a ministerial position

Duncan Garner asked David Seymour yesterday why he turned down a ministerial position offered by John Key.

Garner: When offered a promotion today the Prime Minister offered him a Cabinet role if you like, a Ministerial role anyway, Minister of regulatory Reform and Associate Minister of Education that was probably outside Cabinet. He declined the offer. Why was that? He joins me now.

There’s not many MPs in life that turn down Ministerial roles. Why have you done it?

Seymour: A couple of reasons. One is that if I was to become a minister I could not have a Private Member’s bill in the ballot, and I ‘ve got a Private Member’s Bill in there to legalise euthanasia.

Now amazingly enough nobody else in Parliament is either prepared to put a bill in, or their leaders won’t let them put a bill in, and I think it’s a critical issue for New Zealand, that we shouldn’t leave people, it’s a very small minority of people to be sure, who have basically reached the end of their life and their only choice is a violent amateur suicide, or to suffer on intolerably. And I think we’ve got to move on that.

Garner: So you to me look quite principled on this.

Very principled, especially considering the chances of having his bill drawn from the ballot are low.

Garner: It’s something you believe in, it’s something you believe should be pushed through Parliament, and you’ve put that ahead of some sort of personal privilege, which was being a minister.

Seymour: Well look I just say who knows how political careers end, most of them peoeple say end in failure. If I can get this bill through and convince my Parliamentary colleagues to support it then i will have done something that I think makes New Zealand a better place, and that two thirds of New Zealanders in the most sceptical polls say Parliament should be doing something about it. T

Which should be the aim of all MPs, which I’m sure just about always is but others are more likely to put personal ambitions ahead of a commitment to try and make a difference on something like euthanasia.

The alternative is if I became a Minister then yep, get a limo, yep, get a bit more cash, ah yep everybody calls you Honourable apparently, but I wouldn’t be able to do that.

Now staying as an under-secretary I’ve still got my hands on the tools for regulatory reform and partnership or charter schools. In a more limited way sure, ah but look I gotta rebuild the ACT Party and be a good MP in Epsom, it’s my first year, ah, can’t do everything.

Seymour has done an extraordinary amount for a rookie in his first year in Parliament establishing himself in an electorate plus resurrecting a severely ailing ACT Party in Parliament.

Not only does he seem to have managed that adeptly, he has also made some notable gains albeit in minor ways as prepared and able to negotiate legislative changes like the World Cup bar opening.

Some have already named seymour as MP of the year. This principled stand, putting his commitment to an issue that’s important to him and others first, and putting the good of his electorate and party first, before short term personal ambition (how many MPs have been appointed Minister 14 months into their first term?)  – he must surely rate at the top of the Parliamentary pile this year.

Transcribed from RadioLive audio: The real reason David Seymour declined a ministerial position from Key


Garrett, intolerance and ACT

One of the things David Garrett is best known for is his successful championing of the Three Strikes legislation as an ACT MP.

I don’t know if he is still associated with the ACT Party but I presume his anti-Muslim (immigration and population proportion) views – see Garrett on 2% Muslims and immigration – have nothing to do with ACT.

Garrett’s wish to halt all immigration of Muslims and limit them to less than 2% of the New Zealand population appear to contrast significantly with ACT principles that include:

Our vision

  • A free society: free trade, free speech, and personal and religious freedom
  • A nation that values personal responsibility, tolerance, civility and compassion

ACT is committed to:

  • Unleash the creativity, energy and enthusiasm of New Zealanders by removing petty regulation…
  • Safe communities through effective policing, with rehabilitation for young offenders but uncompromising sentencing for repeat and violent offenders

Credit to Garrett for “uncompromising sentencing for repeat and violent offenders” .

Our History and Values

The ACT Party was founded upon those traditional classical liberal principles which are the basis of a free and prosperous community: the suite of fundamental freedoms which include free trade and free speech, limited government, the rule of law and secure property rights.

But that is not enough. We also need a strong engagement with the values of civic society, which include honesty, compassion, enterprise, community service, personal responsibility, tolerance and civility.

Many of the ACT principles seem to be absent from Garrett’s proposal to restict immigration and population numbers based on religious beliefs.

I personally don’t have religious beliefs but I oppose discrimination based on anyone’s religious beliefs. Much like ACT by the look of their principles.

Repeating thje first of ACT’s principles:

  • A free society: free trade, free speech, and personal and religious freedom


Trans-Tasman: top MP David Seymour

In their annual assessment of MP performance Trans Tasman has named rookie ACT MP for Epsom David Seymour as their top MP for 2015.

David Seymour, Epsom – 8.5

Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister of Education and Minister of Regulatory Reform.

What a performance from Seymour. Given a free ride into the House, made leader of a rump party, no one expected much of him. He has proved them all wrong, and become a strong positive MP. He’s been everywhere and is a hard worker – a real surprise. If anyone can make ACT relevant again, it’s Seymour – he’s the man.

This doesn’t surprise me.

Seymour showed potential when I heard him speak at the Act Southern Conference in the middle of last year. I also spoke to him in person and initial impressions were positive.

He then did the hard yards and won Epsom to get a seat back for ACT in Parliament.

He then had to deal with establishing his electorate presence in Epsom, re-establish an ACT Party presence in Parliament, work with the Government and make a mark for himself.

He seems to have managed all of this admirably.

And he is young and hard working enough to do more, possibly far more.

ACT’s big challenge is to find some candidates to build on Seymour’s success.

More from Trans-Tasman:

2015 Politician Of The Year – David Seymour While not exactly a political novice – he has form in student politics, and stood unsuccessfully twice in Auckland seats before getting elected, as well as being an adviser to then ACT leader John Banks, 32 year old David Seymour is in his first term in Parliament, he is a novice as a party leader, and coalition member. The surprise is how well he has performed, and the degree to which he seems to have made ACT a potential vote winner again. Sure he made the odd “coq” up, but no more than many of his colleagues.

He has handled his work with dedication, he is “everywhere” and he is a genuine talent. ACT’s charter school policies could turn out to be one of the successes of the coalition in policy terms and his move to ensure bars could open during the Rugby World Cup showed how in touch he is with public thinking.

He gets the nod as politician of the year because he is at the vanguard of a new wave of politicians – starting with a back to basics approach both in electorate and Parliamentary work.

He’s doing what a minor party should do under MMP – giving support, but making the Govt’s life difficult as well, and he is also doing it tactically. He has proven he can master the Parliamentary bun fight, now he needs to show he can make his party relevant.


Assisted Dying Bill added to Members’ ballot

David Seymour has added his Assisted Dying Bill to the Members’ lottery. It will only go to Parliament if it gets drawn. There are usually three Bills drawn from 60-70 every month or few.

A poll run for this shows 66% somewhat or strongly support euthanasia and 20% somewhat or strongly oppose.

This is a difficult issue to deal with. Political parties and MPs have tried to avoid issues like this. Labour’s Maryanne Street had a similar Members’ Bill in the pool last term but Andrew Little chose to avoid it when he became leader so it wasn’t taken up this term. That’s why Seymour stepped in.

Today’s announcement:

Seymour lodges assisted dying Bill

David Seymour, MP for Epsom, has lodged a Bill on assisted dying in Parliament’s Members’ ballot today.

“The End of Life Choice Bill is a response to the anguish faced by a small but significant minority of people with terminal illness or who are grievously and irremediably ill, as they anticipate the prospect of intolerable suffering and the indignity of the final few days and weeks of their lives,” said Mr Seymour.

“The motivation for this Bill is compassion. It allows people who so choose and are eligible under this Bill to end their life in peace and dignity, surrounded by loved ones.

“The Bill carefully defines those eligible for assisted dying. It details a comprehensive set of provisions to ensure this is a free choice made without coercion, and outlines a stringent series of steps to ensure the person is mentally capable of understanding the nature and consequences of assisted dying.

“It is evident from polls that a substantial majority of the public want Parliamentarians to consider assisted dying legislation.

“In fact, an independent poll of 2,800 people which I have commissioned on this issue shows 66% of the public favour allowing assisted dying – 38% strongly in favour – and 20% oppose. Support is remarkably steady across age groups, rural and urban areas, and genders.

“This should give a clear message to Parliamentarians that the public wants this issue addressed. If this Bill is drawn, I hope MPs will support it through its First Reading, so the many complex issues can be considered through the select committee process.”

David Seymour has also launched a website which will act as an information source and campaign hub: End of Life Choice

The Bill can be viewed here.

ACT have prepared well for this, including having a larger than normal poll done on it.

Some people believe that the law should be changed to allow doctors to assist in ending the life of a person with an incurable illness, if the patient requests it. What is your view on whether voluntary euthanasia should be legal
– strongly oppose, somewhat oppose, somewhat favour, strongly favour?

  • Strongly oppose 13%
  • Somewhat oppose 7%
  • Neutral 11%
  • Somewhat support 28%
  • Strongly support 38%
  • Unsure 2%
  • Refuse 3%


Conducted 14 to 30 June and 7 September to 6 October 2015

A question was asked in our regular weekly poll of at least 333 adult New Zealanders.

There were 2,800 responses. This gives a 1.9% maximum margin of error at the 95% confidence level.

All the polling data from Curia can be read here.

The Nation – David Seymour interview

ACT MP David Seymour was interviewed on The Nation yesterday.

While he has more freedom and time to rebuikld ACT at the moment as Under-Secretary he said it would be difficult to turn down a Ministry if offered one by John Key.

Edited interview:

What does David Seymour see as National’s weakness?

ACT’s David Seymour says his party can push National to drop company taxes, build more infrastructure and reform RMA.

Full interview:  ACT Party leader David Seymour


David Seymour, you know, you’re here as a wild card, but it has been a hell of a year for you, I will admit that. But let’s face it — ACT’s been a cop case; Epsom’s been a joke. How did you fix it all up?

Well, look, let’s just say we started with a defensive five metre scrum, and now we’re probably up to having a 22 drop out. We’ve got a lot of work to do from where we’ve come from, but I just try to show up every day and show that I can actually be a useful politician that represents voters’ views, and hopefully over the next couple of years, that will actually grow ACT’s support while I’m a good MP in Epsom and they will re-elect me too.

Now, rather populous views, really, because the Red Peak, pubs opening for the footy, these aren’t core ACT policies. I mean, it’s populist headline hunting, isn’t it? It’s getting yourself on the news.

Well, that’s what your channel chooses to cover. However, the most important thing in my daily work is actually Partnership Schools Kura Hourua. We’re going to open more of those. I visit those schools, and I see them innovating and actually allowing kids to feel good about themselves to get skills, qualifications, jobs, careers and so-on. That’s the most important thing. And we’re achieving more of Roger Douglas’ original ACT vision with Partnership Schools than ACT ever achieved, and I’m very proud of that.

Sure, and so will Sir Roger. Now, here is a hypothetical scenario for you about these pubs. Someone wants the pubs to sell them extra booze. There’s some big problem, something bad happens — will you take responsibility for that?

No, I won’t, because your question assumes that the state is responsible for everybody, and that if somebody does something stupid, it’s because the government didn’t make a rule to stop them. My view is that New Zealanders are free and responsible people on the whole, and we shouldn’t constantly be punished for the misdemeanours of the minority. Having said that, I hope that it’s going to be a joyous festival and that New Zealanders will show that the nanny staters and the naysayers were wrong. We can enjoy ourselves responsibly. I saw the Edinburgh pub just up the road opening earlier. It’s been fantastic.

Sure. You’re Under Secretary now. Do you want to be a minister this term? Because John Key’s kind of offered that. Would you take that up? Do you want to be a minister this term?

In a sense, it’s something, if you get offered, you can’t really refuse.

You can.

But I— Well, I’m not sure what the convention is. I enjoy being an under-secretary, because it allows me to get my hands on the tools of Partnership Schools and regular—

So if he offers you being a minister, you won’t refuse it?

It’d be difficult to refuse it. I understand that’s the convention.

All right. Now, where in your mind — and coming back to that drop-goal, that 22 metre drop-goal you’re talking about — where is National weak? Where can ACT take votes off National?

You saw Steven Joyce this morning ducking and diving around the economic figures, and I think that this Government actually needs to be more robust on the economy. I think that it can help National. So why can’t we drop company taxes when we have the highest taxes and capital in the OECD almost? Where has RMA reform gone? It’s missing in action. What about infrastructure, particularly around the top half of the North Island? What about indexing tax rates to inflation for families who are paying more and more every year as they stealthily creep into higher tax brackets? But also for younger generations. John Key said he’s not going to move on Super. Well, I’m sorry, but for our generation, you’re looking at five workers per retiree now; two workers per retiree by the time current university students retire.

You think there’s a genuine weakness around superannuation?

I believe that for our generation, there certainly is.

Question for David Seymour and ACT

ACT MP David Seymour has successfully negotiated a few policy compromises, like the World Cup bar opening, and:

Successful talks bring fairer PPL to pre-term babies

Successful talks between ACT Leader David Seymour and Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse have yielded extended paid parental leave for parents of pre-term babies.

In another initiative Seymour is trying to get John Key to replace one of the final four flags with Red Peak. From ACT’s latest Free Press:

The Red Peak Flag
Even people who really want a flag change are underwhelmed by the final four choices.  The Red Peak Flag, however, has generated more positive enthusiasm over one weekend than the whole flag change process to date. The Flag Referendums Act says the people can only vote on four flag designs. But there’s nothing to stop John Key and the Cabinet from making Red Peak one of the four. They needn’t change the law.  Section 13 of the Flag Referendums Act says they could do it any time before September 21 with the stroke of a pen. Free Press suggests that putting Red Flag into the mix at the expense of one of the two nearly identical fern-and-Southern Cross designs might mean we get a bit more value out of the referendum’s $26 million cost.

A question for Seymour and ACT – which of the two “nearly identical fern-and-Southern Cross designs” does he suggest should be replaced with the Red Peak flag?

The two designs he refers to were by far the most popular of the long list forty (UMR poll). He wants to remove one of those and replace it with one of the least popular of the forty.

Adding Red Peak to the four because some people on Twitter and Facebook and Seymour would be questionable enough, there are thirty five other designs that get ignored if that is done. That’s hardly a sound democratic process.

But having one MP decide to pull one of the most popular designs so it can be replaced with one of thirty five others woukld be worse.

Giving him the benefit of doubt I just don’t think Seymour has thought this through very well.

Bottom of which cycle?

The ACT Party has called on Landcorp to sell down farm land.

Greens come good with Seymour

After refusing en masse yesterday to agree to David Seymour’s World Cup bar opening bill the Greens have turned things around today and have reached an agreement to allow the re-introduced Bill to progress. Kevin Hague and James Shaw were prominent in changing the Green position.

It doesn’t matter what the initial Green plan was. It could have been to stand firm, or it could have been to hold out for compromises. My impression it was more of the former.

But whether to plan or a pragmatic change of position after listening to the outcry the important thing is that the Greens have successfully negotiated a way for for Seymour’s bill.

Good on them for that.

How the journey starts is not as important as managing to arrive at the same destination.

This is an example of effective politics – involving the most right party with the most left party, but no partisanship in sight today.

It could be a bit of a win within Greens for Hague and Shaw.

And it is a big win for ACT’s David Seymour.


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