The Opportunities Party is still alive, Geoff Simmons answers questions

Gareth Morgan made it clear he wasn’t keen on becoming an MP, and he stepped down from leadership of The Opportunities Party after getting a creditable but unsuccessful 2.4% of the vote (beaten by the large party imposed threshold).

The party is trying to continue on, and are currently running a party ballot to elect a Member Representative and a Parliamentary Leader. The results will be announced on 8th December – see https://www.top.org.nz/

Morgan’s deputy Geoff Simmons is putting himself forward there. He has just held a Q&A at Reddit:

As Me Anything with Geoff Simmons from The Opportunities Party

I’m happy to answer questions about policy or the future direction of The Opportunities Party.

The Opportunities Party is under a process of renewal following the 2017 election. Gareth Morgan has stepped down as leader, and the party is giving members a greater say in how it operates. As part of this, members are currently voting on a new leader. I am standing as a candidate in that election.

Learn more about the election here: https://www.top.org.nz/

Find out more about me here: http://top-candidates.webflow.io/leader/geoff-simmons

Some of the questions and responses:

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about New Zealand, what would it be?

Simmons: The tax system. Income tax payers pay way too much tax. Asset owners, especially housing and land owners, too little. Polluters should pay more too.

Do you agree with my premise attacking NZFirst was largely ineffective last election and how would TOP hold other parties to account under your leadership?

(Morgan presented very well in public meetings but got quite tetchy and adversarial on social media, probably damaging TOP’s chances).

Simmons: Our membership have given us the message loud and clear: we play the ball, not the person.

On the TOP website it says this: To this end TOP proposes to ban junk food advertising to kids and place a 20% tax on all junk food, based on an improved front of pack labeling system.

My question is how do you plan on defining junk food and would it be a flat 20% tax or higher for worse foods lower for mediocre, etc?

Simmons: The original proposal was a corrective tax based on the healthy star rating system, which would have meant higher taxes for worse foods.

My understanding is that the science around that star system has shifted since it was created. The consensus seems to be moving towards an excise tax purely on added sugar now (not just sugary drinks). This would also be easier to implement since most of our sugar is imported.

What’s your stance on a capital gains tax?

Capital Gains tax – especially with the owner occupied exemption – is a stupid move: https://www.top.org.nz/goodbye_capital_gains_tax

Our big problem is the favouring of housing investment over business investment. A CGT will not change that because it will hit business AND housing. In fact by exempting owner occupied housing it will make the favouring of housing worse. Plus CGT is complex and inefficient as all hell.

Our tax policy is that we pay too much income tax. If we tax housing the same as other investments (as per the risk free return method) then we could all take a 30% income tax cut.

How do we mitigate the impact on high wealth low income people?

– firstly, why do you think we have so many high wealth low income people? It is tax favoured.

– secondly, phase it in so people have time to change their portfolio, or farm in a different way (ie not for capital gain).

– thirdly, elderly can defer payment – effectively it becomes a death duty.

How does TOP plan to show that they are more than Gareth Morgan, that they can have a multifaceted identity in a time where possible MMP changes could allow the party to be a viable partner?

The Opportunities Party is becoming a movement. In line with that we currently operating on crowd funding.

Longer term we will need to raise more funding than this to be viable, but even if Gareth Morgan is one of those funders, he would be one amongst many.

A lot of money (Craig, Dotcom, Morgan) has not on it’s own been successful in getting a new party into Parliament. It goes help, but not when dominated by one personality/donor.

Being a ‘movement’ is a great term, but what does that translate to? To what degree will those that align with the ideas of TOP have their views reflected in policy planning?

We are already democratising the party – members are electing a Board rep and the Leader. We have also done a Listening Tour which will help the new Leader and Board develop some values for the Party:

https://www.top.org.nz/the_listening_tour_workshop_results

Longer term our position is that members should have input on questions of values and the experts should decide on matters of evidence. We are also planning to trial some deliberative democracy (e.g. citizen’s juries).

TOP has spoken about sitting on the cross benches if they were elected to parliament, and vote on each bill on its merits. This sounds great in theory but the reality is private member bills rarely make it past their first reading. TOP could further their agenda so much more if they were in government. If the opportunity (lol) arose to enter a confidence and supply agreement, would TOP take it seriously? What would be mandatory policy agreements in exchange for TOPs support? And what would be a deal breaker?

That was the previous leader’s position. My opinion is that some issues are better dealt with as part of a portfolio (e.g. Health), others not. So it would depend on the policies that we got across the line.

We don’t have mandatory policy agreements or deal breakers at this stage. Our top four priorities are:

1/ tax reform

2/ unconditional basic income

3/ polluter pays (environment)

4/ cannabis law reform

If TOP gets into parliament, are you going to go into coalition with Labour/Greens or sit on the sidelines? Also would you consider a coalition with National if it meant compromises on key policies?

If we get into Parliament the plan is to negotiate to get the most of our policies across the line as possible. Serious tax reform has to be top of the list however.

What’s your plan for DoC and conservation as a whole?

DOC is one area that this Government is doing pretty well with three exceptions:

1/ Marine. The lack of ocean management policy is a joke – it is bad for business and bad for the environment.

2/ Revenue gathering. The Maaori concept of kaitiakitanga is not about locking places up, it is about sustainable use. The tourist levy is a good start but there is much more room for this sort of approach. DOC’s culture needs to change, and I think working with iwi can help.

3/ Balance between conservation/ recreation/ hunting. We are long overdue a conversation on this issue – it is one policy area we are looking at.

What kinds of things should you think about when considering negotiations with other parties when trying to get policy over the line?

Obviously some of our policies are going to be a better fit with some parties than others.

But the main thing is to get that King/Queen maker role. That is the way to have real leverage over policy. Just look at what Winston got from the deal compared to the Greens.

In fact it is hard to see what the Greens got that wasn’t already in the Labour Party manifesto!

What kinds of things would you refuse to do, even if it were the difference between getting into parliament or not?

That’s an incredibly broad question: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9X_ViIPA-Gc

Like I said we recently did a Listening Tour to help us determine our values: https://www.top.org.nz/the_listening_tour_workshop_results

These will be ironed out post the leadership election. I won’t compromise on the party values.


I like some of the concepts of what they are doing, and as with all parties i agree with some of their policies and am not so keen on others.

I would like to see a party like this that isn’t dominated by a single personality and financier do well. I think it would add something worthwhile to Parliament if they find a way of overcoming the prohibitive 5% threshold – that is being talked about looks unlikely to change for the 2020 election.

And another major hurdle is the media, who favour the large parties and personalities. Colin Craig got close because of his headline/clickbait whackiness more than his policies. Same for Morgan to a lesser extent. Dotcom got a disproportionate amount of media coverage but he and Mana’s manic marriage still failed badly.

The media also seems to favour traditional politics and parties.

TOP need to somehow find a way to make their democratic processes and their research backed policies attractive. Simmons talked about being ‘a movement’, but that may take a lot of work and luck to get traction in social media.

Whatever they do, it will be a hard job for whoever takes over the leadership of TOP, and for the party.

 

Leave a comment

12 Comments

  1. Gerrit

     /  November 30, 2018

    The granny tax is the killer for TOP.

    As is their tax on commercial and personal assets that don’t have an arbitrary derived ROI.

    Taxation is their number one priority, these two taxation policies will ensure they never get either elected or be in government.

    How about TOP have a policy that reduces the need for increased taxation through efficiencies in state spending.

    Never hear from a political party that will make the state spend, 100% efficient with the best bang for buck bottom line.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  November 30, 2018

      Never hear from a political party that will make the state spend, 100% efficient with the best bang for buck bottom line.

      Well, really, the problem is that they all more or less do that. The difficulty is that their previous drives to try and make the public service more professional has filled it up with wallys at the top and the middle who haven’t a clue how to keep get value for money because they often don’t have any working knowledge of the services they are responsible for.

      And if you bring in experts they cost a fortune and don’t have any working knowledge of the public service.

      It’s a conundrum. Slashing departmental budgets leads to disasters and more of the above.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  November 30, 2018

        And always stuck in the middle of this is the poor public servant erk, struggling to keep their jobs in a never-ending succession of reviews and restructurings and lurching through ever-changing CEO’s Managers, priorities, visions, outcomes, visions, required departmental “cultures” (these can swing violently from expecting brilliant customer service & helpfulness and full information to almost the exact opposite) and workloads – which never get smaller, no matter what efficiencies are attempted. I wonder how the public service rates for % of staff on stress leave at any given time compared to other enterprises because the office politics and number of apparent psychopaths operating in their workplaces are killers to cope with.

        Reply
        • PartisanZ

           /  November 30, 2018

          So maybe ‘corporatization’ with its private enterprise concepts of ‘productivity & efficiency’ didn’t accurately match the concepts inherent in public service … like Public rather than Private … Service rather than Sales and The Common Good?

          We tried to squeeze the orange with an apple peeler?

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 30, 2018

            It did, in my last Department, for 3 years. Remarkably so. It was winning private sector awards for it. Changing the culture was tough but it worked after 18 months. In came a new CEO, new management, a new culture (because they all seem to feel obliged to make changes just to stamp their mark on the organsiation,) faces he didn’t like or who argued against whatever changes he was making that would disrupt a model working really well were restructured out of jobs that no longer existed in a form they would fit, and it all fell to bits. Jaw-dropping stuff. New governments and Ministers can cause this. Other times, just rotating old Senior Excecs near retirement through a place can do it.

            Reply
      • Gerrit

         /  November 30, 2018

        Actually wasn’t looking at a budget slashing exercise but more an accountability one.

        Slashing budgets does not do anything, making sure every buck is spent wisely is the key to reducing the tax take.

        Tighter financial controls on set goals with measurable and reported KPI’s is a starter.

        Not sure if the public service, as we know it today, is able to deliver the best bang for buck.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  November 30, 2018

          KPI’s constantly change. So, often, do CFO’s. Disconnected management who don’t understand what value is delivered already can’t figure out how to do VFM. So they tend to bring in outside experts. Quick tour. All expenses paid. Maybe a business re-engineering project. I worked on one. It was great. Efficiencies were possible everywhere. Restructuring followed. Confusion city. Back to just paying whatever bills came in with no idea how often they were being ripped off by, say, IT contractors, and trying to deliver fewer and different services with fewer staff, and more contract agents/private service providers – eventually with problems with detecting and eliminating shonky providers. Hopeless. Made you weep to work in it & watch it when you’d seen it operating really well under a customer service model for 3 years.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  November 30, 2018

            I guess, I would say, after 34 years of working in more than one department, I that attempting to bring private sector management concepts – or the private sector itself – into the business of providing public services, as a means of making it more effective and efficient – always ultimately fail. I don’t think there will have ever been a case where sustained efficiencies and real cost reductions were ever sustainably achieved for very long, Gerrit. Private service providers either cut or restrict services and/or eventually end up costing more, imo, because they need to extract a profit and they too lose sight of their purpose beyond that. The same disease eventually affects councils, from what I can see. Contracting out is probably always ultimately less efficient than better management of services provided by properly trained departmental staff in many cases. You actually have less control over the private providers and changing them if they stuff up or provide inadequate services is even more expense and more disruptive.

            Reply
          • Gerrit

             /  November 30, 2018

            IT is the biggest waste of public funds. All new state or council IT projects should be open source and turn key operations. INCIS police computer program should have been turn key and any changes required after the key turned it on, should go back out to public tender.

            No changing or additions to the original program. Downside off that is we don’t have good enough public servants to accurately specify what they actually want their IT system to do.

            Hence an open cheque for any IT provider as changes are sought. Changes paid for at the full rate.

            In times gone by worked construction. There the money is made by variations to specifications. Unless you are stupid like Fletchers and bid too low hoping the variations will bring home the bacon.

            Reply
  2. Zedd

     /  November 30, 2018

    Its always good to see other serious contenders in MMP. The biggest issue is the 5% threshold (too high !) 🙂

    We definitely need to get past the old Left V Right factions & get greater representation, from across the whole society; Left/Right & centre.. & others (on fringe ?). In Germany (MMP) they have about 10 parties in the Bundestag.
    This is what MMP should look like.. else its still FPP, by another name :/

    Reply
  3. David in aus

     /  November 30, 2018

    ZOMBIE party: it doesn’t know it is dead already.

    Reply
  4. Kitty Catkin

     /  November 30, 2018

    How will they stop children seeing ads for ‘junk food’ ?

    Reply

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