Poll good for ACT in Epsom

David Seymour has a comfortable lead in an ACT poll on the Epsom electorate:

  • David Seymour (ACT) 46%
  • Paul Goldsmith (National) 30%
  • David Parker (Labour) 11%
  • Julie Anne Genter (Greens) 11%

These are all close to within margin of error range of the 2014 election result.

From ACT:  David Seymour comfortably ahead in Epsom poll

A recent Curia poll conducted of 750 voters (+/- 3.5% margin of error), in the Epsom electorate from 21-28 May shows incumbent Epsom MP and ACT Party Leader, David Seymour, ahead with a strong 16-point lead.

When asked “With your electorate vote, which of these candidates would you vote to be the electorate MP for Epsom”, David Seymour led on 46 per cent of decided voters, with National’s Paul Goldsmith on 30 per cent, and both Labour’s David Parker and Green’s Julie-Anne Genter* following on 11 per cent.

*Since the poll was conducted, the Green Party have nominated Barry Coates as the Epsom candidate.

That’s a handy lead for Seymour at this stage. I think he’s done well this term to come from nowhere to establish a profile in Wellington and presumably in Epsom, and to at least stop the rot in the ACT Party.

He wasn’t well known in 2014 but won Epsom, with some help from National.

  • David Seymour (ACT) 43.08%
  • Paul Goldsmith (National) 31.61%
  • Michael Wood (Labour) 9.36%
  • Julie Anne Genter (Greens) 8.15%

Michael Wood has since won the Mt Roskill by-election. Interesting to see David Parker standing for Labour again, he stood there in 2011 and got 10.45% of the vote.

Julie Anne Genter stood in the Mt Albert by-election earlier this year and that is listed as her electorate on the Green website so I presume she is staying there.

There’s a bit of musical chairs going on. Barry Coates stood in Mt Roskill last election against Phil Goff, getting 5.04% of the electorate vote.

With Epsom looking likely for Seymour he is looking at trying to lift the ACT party vote.

“This poll result is important, as it shows that every party vote for ACT will count. Only a Party vote for ACT will keep Winston Peters out of power and ensure a stable centre–right government for the next three years.”

Another ACT MP or two could make a difference.

ACT push this in their latest Free Press – 19/06/2017:

EVERY PARTY VOTE FOR ACT WILL COUNT
Germany has had MMP for 70 years, but it is reported to be even less well understood there than here. The lesson is that ACT must constantly remind supporters how our convoluted voting system works. If ACT wins Epsom then the party does not need to meet the five per cent threshold. 1.3 per cent of the party vote will elect a second MP.

ACT AS CRITICAL TO THE OUTCOME AS EVER
The latest public poll, from Newshub, has ACT at 0.9 per cent of the vote, and the current governing parties of ACT, National, United Future, and the Māori Party with a majority of one. ACT picking up an extra seat could be definitive to the election outcome. There are many reasons the socialists hate ACT and chief among them is that we keep on keeping them out of Government. 1998 (when the Bolger coalition imploded), 2008, 2011, 2014, and 2017 to come.

AIMING HIGHER
1.3 per cent would get ACT another MP, but 2.1 would get us three. 2.8 per cent would get us four, and 3.5 would get us five. ACT’s current polling is comparable to the same point in the cycle during 2008, when five MPs were elected. Electing five MPs would give the kind of leverage ACT enjoyed in that parliamentary term.

In August 2008 ACT was polling 0.6-2.3%. They got 3.65% in the election (Rodney Hide was their successful Epsom candidate).

In August 2011 ACT was polling 1.1-2.2%. They got 1.07% in the election (John Banks was their successful Epsom candidate)

In June 2014 ACT was polling 0.7-1.0%. They got 0.69% in the election.

Seymour was able to concentrate on campaigning in Epsom while party leader Jamie Whyte campaigned for the party nationally, but had trouble connecting.

This year Seymour will have to split his time and efforts between Epsom and national campaigning. Success with ACT’s party vote will also depend on which other candidates ACT can come up with.

‘Whale Oil for Winston’ versus Seymour and ACT

David Seymour has been targeted by Whale Oil over his criticism of Winston Peters.

Last week:  Winston Peters criticised for telling Islamic communities to ‘clean house’

Winston Peters has told Parliament New Zealand’s Islamic communities “must clean house” and it “should start with their own families”.

Mr Peters was criticised by the next speaker, ACT leader David Seymour.

“There will have to be a more serious and wider debate about when and whether such an event can happen here,” he said.

“And it will have to be a debate without naked political opportunism, as we have heard from New Zealand First.”

Whale Oil has picked up on this. They have been campaigning against every party except NZ First, and frequently have anti-Muslim posts, some of them tending towards the extreme.

Cameron Slater has griped about National since he was cold shouldered after Dirty Politics, and he seems to have held a grudge Bill English for a long time.  Yesterday in  This election the choices are stark:

I can’t and won’t support a party led by Bill English. Not after the UNSC 2334 debacle, not after intransigence on immigration, and not for personal reasons.

One of Slater’s biggest difficulties as a political activist is he gets too personal, with long standing grudges and many burnt bridges resulting in ongoing flaming. He frequently attacks all parties – except NZ First.

For some reason Whale Oil has become very pro-Winston Peters – quite a turnaround from the past. And Peters’ anti-Muslim stance fits with the Whale Oil campaign – they often have several anti-Muslim posts a day, under the names of ‘Cameron Slater’ and ‘SB’ (Slater’s wife).

After Seymour’s criticism of Peters  Slater has switched his  attacks to Seymour and ACT.

On Saturday:  According to David Seymour it is Winston Peters who causes radicalisation and terrorism

Another email to David Seymour from a reader:

To: David Seymour
From: [Redacted]

An anonymous email which just happens to sound as contrived as many Whale Oil posts.

Dear Mr Seymour,

My party vote for 2017 was up for grabs after being a National voter since 1975. However, you blew it by castigating Winston Peters over his speech warning us that radical Islam is on our doorstep.

When you are a bit older, you might gain some sense about what the world is all about. Sadly, it appears that you are merely a product of mushy university-think and your actions re Winston Peters reveal that you are completely out of touch with the real problems of the real world.

You came tantalizingly close to getting a new voter but you have now revealed that your right-centre stance is fake.

That’s funny. Whale Oil has previously ran a number of posts purportedly from voters deserting National because of a handful of issues that happen to coincide with the Whale Oil campaign focus that is largely pro-Israel and anti-Muslim.

Dirty Politics alleged that Whale Oil was paid to promote certain lines. And there is some evidence of this in the past.

Stuff in 2014:  Blogging, money and blurred lines

The man at the centre of the Dirty Politics firestorm sits on a leafy street in Tel Aviv, Israel, just a block from the shores of the Mediterranean, sipping a blended mint lemonade.

Cameron “Whale Oil” Slater is bleary-eyed, having spent 24 hours on a plane, and now finds himself in a war zone during a ceasefire. It’s Friday in Israel; Saturday back home.

He’s one of a group of international journalists invited to visit by the Israeli government, which has been earning bruising international condemnation over the civilian death toll in the Gaza conflict.

The Israeli embassy approached him about the trip, he says, and covered some costs, but he is paying for a significant portion of his travels. He has posted anti-Hamas and pro-Israel stories on his blog in the past.

The arrangement may sound vaguely familiar to anyone who has read certain chapters of Nicky Hager’s controversial new book Dirty Politics, which is based on thousands of emails stolen from Slater’s computer.

Besides his central claims that National used Slater’s Whale Oil blog as an conduit for “dirty” attacks on its political enemies, Hager also says Slater took cash in exchange for running stories for a range of commercial clients.

That trip, paid at least in part for by the Israeli government, awkwardly coincided with the Dirty Politics implicating Slater as a mercenary blogger.

Seymour responded to the anonymous Whale Oil ‘reader’:

To: [REDACTED]
From: David Seymour

Date: 7 June 2017

There are 46,000 Muslims in NZ, 1 per cent of the population. The best way to make sure the few radicals amongst them do some thing stupid is to have an idiot like Winston persecuting the whole community for political gain.

Your vote, however, is your own,

David

‘Cameron Slater’ reacted to this:

A few?

David Seymour needs to understand some basic math. If just 1% of Muslims are radicalised then there are around 500 of them running around NZ spreading hate and plotting. That is a low percentage, a more realistic number would be 10%, that means there are 5000 of them…and it is thought that the actual percentage is much higher if you believe Pew Research…and I do.

It’s not so much basic maths that are absent, it is basic facts. There are none.

Slater needs to understand what Seymour actually said.

Seymour:  “There are 46,000 Muslims in NZ, 1 per cent of the population”.

Slater: “If just 1% of Muslims are radicalised then there are around 500 of them running around NZ spreading hate and plotting.”

That’s an assertion unrelated to what Seymour said, and not backed by any facts.

Slater continued:

That is a low percentage, a more realistic number would be 10%, that means there are 5000 of them…and it is thought that the actual percentage is much higher if you believe Pew Research…and I do.

A more realistic thing for a journalist to do would be to base their assertions on facts, but Slater is obviously not wearing is journalist hat here.

He mentions ‘Pew Research’ as some authority for his escalating 1%, 10%, “much higher” assertions but lacks basic facts.

A Pew Research from last month:  Muslims and Islam: Key findings in the U.S. and around the world

There is no reference to ‘radical’ or radicalized’ anywhere in the report (there are some in comments).

There is no mention of New Zealand (nor Australia except a couple of times in comments).

Slater also showed an appalling grasp of maths and facts in this post:  Muslims will outnumber Christians in New Zealand in 60 years – Pew Research that quotes RNZ:

There will be more Muslims than Christians in the world in fewer than 60 years, new research shows – and New Zealand is one of eight countries that will lose their Christian majority in that time.

The number of countries with a Christian majority is expected to decline from 159 to 151 by 2050, with the proportion of Christians in New Zealand slumping from 57 percent of the population at present to 44.7 percent.

At that point, according to the study’s projections, the largest religious category in New Zealand will be “unaffiliated” at 45.1 percent.

He takes two projections…

  1. There will be more Muslims than Christians in the world in 60 years
  2. The proportion of Christians in New Zealand slumping from 57% of the population at present to 44.7% by 2050

…and claims from that that there will be more Muslims than Christians here.

But he ignores or fails to notice “the largest religious category in New Zealand will be ‘unaffiliated’ at 45.1”.

So Pew estimates there will be about 90% Christians plus ‘unaffiliated’. Muslims and all other religious affiliations are estimated be only 10%, so Muslims alone will be nowhere near a majority.

Currently there are more Hindus (2.11%) and Buddhists (1.5%) in New Zealand than Muslims (1.18%), with ‘other religions’ and ‘Spiritualism and New Age religions also totalling 1.35%.

The Slater and Whale Oil attacks on Muslims, and on Seymour and Act, are based on bull – whether it is deliberately wrong or based on ignorance doesn’t matter.

I think it is fair to be very sceptical of the comments on the all the activist campaign posts at Whale Oil too. I think it’s well known that Whale Oil ‘moderates’ out comments and commenters that don’t fit with their messages.

And I think there’s a good reason to be very suspicious of who some of the commenters actually are. I know that some of those associated with Whale Oil have a habit of using multiple IDs.

It’s easy to guess why Whale Oil is campaigning against ACT/Seymour and it is obvious why they are campaigning against National and Bill English.

Why they have become a NZ First promotion blog is less obvious, but the open support for them and their strong bias against other parties and MPs is farcical for a site sometimes claiming to be ‘media’ and ‘journalism’.

And hugely hypocritical yet again given their attacks on other media as being ‘the media party’.

I’m not sure that al this will help NZ First. ‘Whale Oil for Winston’ is more likely to be a toxic association than a vote winner.

ACT response to Labour’s housing policy

David Seymour has responded to Labour’s housing policy.

Labour puts Envy Politics over Economics

“The Labour Party’s policy of ring fencing and negative gearing will only pass costs onto renters in a tight market,” says ACT leader David Seymour.

“As renters well know, the rental market is a tight one, it is a landlord’s market.  Renters have few options, so landlords can pass costs on to tenants easily.

“Labour’s policy is unbelieveably stupid, because it pushes up costs without generating more homes. It is a recipe for rent hikes, putting the most vulnerable out on the streets.

“Unfortunately the Labour Party is still driven by envy first and economics second, it is highly disappointing.

“The only way to improve conditions for renters to increase the overall supply of housing, creating a renter’s market where it is the renters who have the options.

“ACT advocates serious policy reform that would do just that. Replace the RMA in cities, and fund infrastructure by giving councils half the GST on construction that they consent. This policy would get homes built and improve tenant’s options, whereas Labour’s policy will only price more people out of the market as landlords pass costs on to them.

Bradbury does dirty

This morning Martyn Bradbury posted

BREAKING EXCLUSIVE: Massive online ACT Party data breach

The Daily Blog has been contacted with information that the ACT Party database has been left open online…

…we’ve had a look, and they are right. There is a huge data base of members and donors on the list, alongside a fascinating document from Franks/Ogilvie to the hard right NZ Initiative outlining their hatred of Maori gaining any power under the new RMA.

As far as I can see the entire database of donors and members are just open on this and I estimate there maybe about a 1000 names there.

To protect their privacy we won’t publish any of their details, but ACT might want to hire someone to make their database secure.

If ACT did have insecure date publicly accessible on a website that’s embarrassing for them and fair enough to point it out and to score a political hit.

But beyond that Bradbury has acted in an inexcusable, despicable way, as did the person he claims alerted him to it. This looks to be as dirty as when Cameron Slater went far to far when someone found insecure data on a Labour Party website.

This is as bad as finding an unlocked building and entering and rummaging through cupboards and drawers, and taking copies of information and publishing it.

Bradbury published information that could reasonably expected to be not intended for the public to see.

The person who enabled Bradbury to breach privacy like this is more culpable.

If the data was still insecure when Bradbury publicised it that put it at great risk of other people finding and copying data and information.

Again, going online publicising an unlocked door is highly unethical.

As per the Slater-Labour breach, fine to publicise lax security, but accessing and searching and publishing information is inexcusable and possibly illegal.

The proper thing to do would be to advise the owner of the data that it was insecure, and after it was secured then fair enough to go public.

What Bradbury has done here is admit himself to the dirty politics hall of infamy occupied by Slater.

Bradbury promotes The Daily Blog as a shiny new alternative to mainstream media (similar to Slater and Whale Oil). Very sadly both operate in the social media gutter.

This makes him more like a sensation and attention seeking scummy dirty blogger. D

It’s hard to believe how irresponsible Bradbury has been here – more so than whoever was responsible for insecure data.

Other contributors to The Daily Blog should be concerned and embarrassed by this.

Literacy leap for prisoners – non-partisan leap for MPs

Mike Williams is Labour ex-president and a staunch party supporter. He is now CEO of the Howard League and is a staunch promoter of penal reform.

In an unlikely alliance he has joined with ACT MP David Seymour in suggesting a policy that should improve dire prisoner literacy rates and potentially improve the prospects of ex prisoners and reduce recidivism.

And Seymour’s suggestions have also got some support from Prime Minister Bill English and from Labour’s Justice spokesperson Kelvin Davis. Whether Seymour retains his Epsom electorate or not this year, and whoever forms the next government, it would be good to see his policy make some progress.

Williams writes: Literacy leap for prisoners. Some background:

 Howard League president Tony Gibbs and I have been running a long-term programme of raising awareness about the inability of a majority of prisoners to read and write sufficiently well enough to function as a normal human in modern society.

To this end we have been inviting politicians and other influential public figures to attend our Howard League prisoner literacy graduation ceremonies.

Many of our political leaders have never visited a jail or talked to a prisoner and most have no concept of the malign results of illiteracy.

Last year we had a graduation at Rimutaka jail and were very fortunate to attract Bill English, then deputy prime minister, as guest speaker.

Tony Gibbs has known former Act party president John Thompson for many years and through this connection, we also invited David Seymour, the sole Act party MP.

The Seymour experience:

At the Rimutaka graduation he chatted with a number of prisoner graduates and talked to the tutors who were there to see their students get their certificates.

Rimutaka jail is one of New Zealand’s largest prisons and can accommodate more that 1000 inmates, and David Seymour asked me why, if two-thirds of the men there were statistically likely to be illiterate, were we graduating only eight prisoners.

One answer to this question is that many prisoners have such negative self-images that they do not seek to improve themselves when there appears to be no reward for doing so.

The Seymour response:

David Seymour suggested that if prisoners were offered a discount on their sentences this might be the circuit breaker that not only inspired prisoners to get the basic skills needed to get work and “go straight” on release, it might eventually reduce prisoner numbers and start addressing the serious overcrowding problem that bedevils our jails.

These thoughts plus a lot of research turned into a new Act party policy which Seymour announced at the conference I attended.

He said: “It’s called Rewarding Self-Improvement in Prisons. This proposal would provide incentives, in the form of reduced sentences, for prisoners to complete basic programmes in literacy, numeracy, and driver licensing.

“Those prisoners who are already functionally literate, numerate, and licensed to drive, can still benefit from Act’s policy. They would earn credits for training as a mentor, and then teaching other prisoners.”

Seymour didn’t just learn from his prison visit, he researched solutions and looked for success with similar approaches overseas:

In the US, states that have Earned Credit Programs in prisons report a lower recidivism rate than states that do not have one. New York saw a 20 per cent lower recidivism rate among prisoners who earned early-release.”

Such a strategy is also likely to be financially attractive as David Seymour went on to point out.

“They save money. A model student serving a two-year sentence could, under Act’s proposal, shave 12 weeks off their sentence and save the taxpayer $14,000. And if their learning prevents future imprisonment, the saving could enter the $100,000s, which could be reinvested in educational programmes.

“And that’s just for one prisoner.

“The New York Corrections Department saved $369 million in a decade thanks to their earned credit policy. A proportionate saving for New Zealand’s population would be $113m for Corrections.

“The savings would be far higher if you include individuals, families, and businesses that would no longer have to face the costs of crime.”

Non-partisan support:

The Prime Minister said that it was worth considering and Kelvin Davis MP endorsed the idea on behalf of the Labour Party. Even the “tough on crime” Sensible Sentencing Trust supported the policy.

This amounts to a great leap ahead and a triumph for common sense.

It’s also a good example of how politics can work positively in a non-partisan way.

But why has it taken so long? Peter Dunne issued this media statement in 2006: Literacy another failure for Corrections

United Future leader Peter Dunne has called on the Government to address the issue of illiteracy amongst New Zealand’s prison population.

“One of the most effective ways of preventing inmates from re-offending is to teach them the necessary skills to get a job and make a contribution to society when they get out. That is a hard thing to do if they lack the most basic literacy requirements.”

Literacy education is provided within prisons; however only if a prisoner is motivated enough to address their own illiteracy issue can that prisoner be referred for literacy tuition.

The larger parties are unlikely to make addressing prisoner illiteracy a priority, so it may take an election win for Seymour and some vigorous lobbying to get some progress on his proposal.

ACT could make it a bottom line for supporting a National led government again – and National should be receptive to accommodating the policy.

If Labour lead the next Government it may take some pushing from Seymour and some help from Davis.

What to do about obesity?

The obvious answer to what to do about obesity is to eat less and to eat better foods. But many people obviously have difficulty with this, to the extent that obesity is being called an epidemic. There have been claims that due to obesity the trend of increasing life expectancy will reverse.

Stuff: For our Food for Thought series, we asked each party currently represented in Parliament how to improve Kiwis’ diets.

David Seymour: Obesity ‘an epidemic of choice’ but we must help poor

One in three Kiwis are obese.

New Zealand’s biggest problem is our ease of access to cheap, delicious, high-calorie food. We’re a victim of our own success.

The strange reality of obesity is that it’s an epidemic of choice.

The problems start when kids are affected, when the poorest communities suffer disproportionately, and when healthy taxpayers have to fork out for other people’s heart surgeries.

Some suggest removing GST from fruit and veges.

Another popular idea is advertising restrictions.

And that brings us to the real issue: shielding people from real-world decisions sends them the message that they are dumb, and government is smart. “Don’t take responsibility for yourself, or your kids. Nanny state will handle that.”

So what can politicians do?

ACT’s solution is the same as our solution to other social problems: empowering people with greater opportunity. That includes, but is not limited to, a useful education, an engaging job in a growing economy, and a realistic shot at a place of your own for every single New Zealander.

There is no “solution”. There could and should be more done to reduce the problems of poor health due to overeating. But it is a very very difficult thing to deal with in practice. Going cold turkey isn’t an option.

Peter Dunne: Education the key to improving Kiwis’ food habits

The answer to attaining healthier eating habits is not to have the Government become the parent of our nation’s parents. Rather, UnitedFuture endorses education as the pathway to empowering New Zealand consumers to make choices that are the best for their and their family’s circumstances.

UnitedFuture has three key policy areas we want to see changes to ensure that information is both freely available and publicised:

* We would develop a national fund to sponsor programmes to promote better nutrition, particularly for children and youth;

* We would use the tools of Government to facilitate public education campaigns that emphasise the importance of nutrition and exercise and the consequences of poor nutrition, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, cancer, and premature aging;

* We would support stronger consumer information rules by encouraging more information about food products to be published that are easily accessible by consumers (such as calorie count);

UnitedFuture has confidence in New Zealanders that they can make decisions that are right for them and their families when they are equipped with full information.

I see two major problems.

How do you educate the many people who are beyond school age? Compulsory night classes? Teaching kids at school is one possibility but for many school age is already too late, eating habits have already been established.

And education and knowledge doesn’t stop people from eating too much and it doesn’t stop people from making poor choices about what food they eat.

Many people know full well that scoffing junk food and gutsing too much is not good for their physical or mental health – depression and lack of self worth is a major factor in overeating, and it has a snowball effect as people approach the shape of a snowball.

Can growing obesity be stemmed? I really don’t know what would be effective.

It is very difficult to have any success telling someone not to eat as much.


After writing this I found more:

Jonathan Coleman, National: Tackling obesity is a priority for the Government
David Clark, Labour: Food labelling flaws make healthy eating hard for Kiwis
Julie Anne Genter, Green Party: Government must help kids, not food corporations to tackle obesity
Barbara Stewart, NZ First: Healthy eating a struggle for Kiwis
David Seymour, ACT: Obesity ‘an epidemic of choice’ but we must help poor
* The Maori Party did not take up our invitation to participate

Criticism of ACT prison policy

ACT has succeeded in attracting attention to the prison policy they announced at their conference in the weekend – see ACT: reduced prison sentence for education – with critics claiming flaws.

RNZ: Flaws seen in ACT’s new prison literacy policy

The ACT Party’s new policy aimed at reducing prisoners’ sentences does not match up with its previous hard-line policies, the Labour Party says.

Labour’s corrections spokesperson Kelvin Davis said the policy had merit on the surface because too many people were being imprisoned.

But he said the ACT Party also introduced the three-strikes policy, which was about locking people up.

“It’s sort of counter-intuitive for them to be saying ‘well let’s reduce prison sentences’ but again without any real detail around the policy it’s really hard to measure whether this policy is actually going to make a difference or not.”

It’s not counter-intuitive. Davis should read David Seymour’s speech and read the policy explanation before criticising it.

It’s not difficult to understand that it’s possible to be tough on the worst recidivist criminals while also trying to improve the non-criminal prospects of first time and petty criminals.

Author and researcher Jarrod Gilbert said the idea of cutting prison sentences should be applauded, but the hard-line three-strikes policy fuelled high incarceration rates.

“We’ve got to balance prison policy between a punitive approach which punishes people for what they do wrong but also assists those that require help to change their lives and obviously that’s not just in the individual’s benefit to change but in wider society’s benefit, not only through cost but through reducing victims of crime.”

Gilbert understands that it’s possible to be both punitive and rehabilitate.

Kim Workman, a former head of Corrections who is a research associate at Victoria University’s Institute of Criminology, said any effort to teach literacy and numeracy to prisoners should be supported.

But he said the policy would be unfair on prisoners who can’t join in lessons.

An odd comment. You shouldn’t try and help some prisoners learn to read and write because some can already read and write and some others are too sick to learn?

“Twenty percent of the prisoners for a start, have brain and head injuries and are incapable of taking part in those programmes, 40 percent have mental health issues. So you’re really only looking at a small proportion of the prison community who are able to leave the prison early.”

I don’t believe that all 20% of prisoners with head injuries can’t be helped by education.

Nor all of the 40% with mental health problems. In fact self esteem is a factor in some mental health problems, so better education could help them overcome mental health problems.

But even if only the remaining 40% can be taught to read and write, or even just a half or a quarter of them, that must surely be a very good achievement.

Kelvin Davis said the programmes already running in prisons needed more funding.

Jarrod Gilbert said support for those coming out of prison was urgently needed to help reduce recidivism.

Funding and resources are crucial if ACT’s policy is to succeed.

Mr Seymour said the rehabilitation of prisoners was crucial and the policy would be part of any coalition arrangement, if ACT were in a position to be part of the government after September’s general election.

He said he had spoken with the Prime Minister about the policy and Bill English was open to the idea.

This policy is a good candidate for consideration as a social investment. Putting more money and resources into rehabilitation and education should fairly quickly save costs through reducing the number of people in prison.

ACT: reduced prison sentence for education

Policy announcement: Rewarding self improvement in prisons

“Prisoners should be able to earn a reduction in their overall sentence by successfully completing literacy, numeracy, and driver licensing courses. This would provide an incentive for prisoners to upskill and ready themselves for a normal, non-criminal life outside of prison.”

Stuff: ACT to reward prisoners with reduced sentences for learning to read in prison

Offenders who study basic numeracy and literacy courses in prison should be rewarded with time shaved off their sentences, ACT leader David Seymour says.

Prisoners who entered prison with a higher level of education should also be eligible for incentives if they act as mentors to other prisoners and help them learn.

Seymour announced the policy at the party’s annual conference at Auckland’s Orakei Bay on Saturday, where he told a packed room of about 120 of the party’s rank and file, prisoners needed “positive incentives” to better themselves.

The ACT policy would see prisoners rewarded with a sentence-reduction of up to six weeks per year, for attaining literacy and numeracy skills in line with National standards, as well as driver licensing courses.

So a prisoner on a three-year sentence could earn up to a capped rate of 18 weeks off their time in prison, if they completed courses of sufficient value.

The policy would not apply to the worst violent or sexual offenders, and it would not help white-collar criminals to study diplomas or degrees. ACT was also proposing to cut red tape to make it easier for some volunteers to gain approval to carry out work in prisons.

According to Seymour, 48 per cent of prisoners had been returned to prison in the past four years. Of all prisoners, about 70 per cent had low levels of literacy and numeracy, and of the more-than 10,000 people in prison, 3240 participated in a programme in 2016.

There was no incentive for prisoners to take responsibility for their own success, said Seymour.

And guest speaker at the conference, Mike Williams supports it.

The Howard League for Penal Reform chief executive Mike Williams said it was a welcome policy, that would make a difference.

The league is an organisation that works for a more “humane” prison system, and already runs literacy courses in prisons.

Williams – a former Labour Party president – spoke to the conference about the work of the league and the cases it deals with.

“Our course is 12 weeks [to teach someone to read]. In 90 per cent of cases that works – we have had occasions where it’s taken a lot longer, and once we’ve had to teach the alphabet.”

The league carries out its work with the help of volunteers, and Williams said it could be done relatively cheaply. The chance of a reduced sentence, combined with force of their peers learning to read and work with numbers would “inspire” many prisoners.

“Illiteracy is particularly important to them, but what we know is that every one of them wants to get out of jail. It’s not a motel, they don’t want to be there.

“So the possibility of a shorter sentence is a very strong incentive to improve yourself, and I understand that it’s been tried and proven in California.”

Positive incentives make sense. More education = shorter sentences seems a good idea.

See in brief: ACT will reward self-improvement in prisons

ACT Party conference

The ACT Party will have their annual conference tomorrow in Auckland.

Bumper Conference
ACT is on the march and looking forward to our election year conference this Saturday at Orakei Bay. If you have been putting it off, it is not too late to register here. Not only will you be showing your support for ACT’s revival, but the program is filled with excellent speakers, entertainment, and don’t forget food.

ACT need a revival to get their party vote up to get more MPs to join a lobe David Seymour if he wins the Epsom electorate again.

Past results since MMP:

  • 1996 – 10.10% (13 seats)
  • 1999 – 7.04% (9 seats)
  • 2002 – 7.14% (9 seats)
  • 2005 – 1.51% (2 seats)
  • 2008 – 3.65% (5 seats)
  • 2011 – 1.07% (1 seat)
  • 2014 – 0.69% (1 seat)

Jamie Whyte didn’t appeal as leader in 2014, and 2011 was when Don Brash hijacked the party and ousted Rodney Hide, leaving only the odd choice of John Banks to win Epsom.

The Program
See full details here, but speakers include Leonie Freeman of Goodman Properties on the housing market, Former Labour Party President Mike Williams speaking for the Howard League on how to get smart on crime, and the New Zealand Initiative’s Eric Crampton on the truth about inequality. We expect David Seymour’s keynote speech to be his best yet.

The conference is likely to get some but not much media coverage. It is more to rally and encourage the troops.

I think Seymour has a good chance of retaining Epsom, but how the party vote goes will depend on whether ACT can come up with some more appealing candidates.

NZ Herald: David Seymour’s quest to rebuild Act

“We have to get some momentum behind Act and resurrect it as a party vote party, and that means getting to, at minimum, 1.3, 1.4 per cent to get a second MP,” Seymour said.

“I gave a speech a few weeks ago where I said the reason there has been no action on the housing crisis is because the average National MP owns 2.2 houses and doesn’t care. I don’t know if that’s enough, but it’s reasonably bold stuff I would have thought,” he said.

Polling indicates New Zealand First leader Winston Peters could be king-maker later this year. On the prospect of being in Government with Peters, Seymour said he would be prepared to “take one for the team”.

“If you have to choose between having him in Government with us, or him going with Labour and the Greens, then I guess I’d probably take one for the team. But I don’t think that’s a desirable outcome. The best you can say for the guy he is a charismatic crook.”

He spoke to the Herald from Dunedin, before heading to the Captain Cook pub for an O Week meet and greet with students.

“A lot of it is not what most people would regard as work – you spend a lot of time in transit, meeting people or going to functions … but it is still stuff you have to do, and it ends up being easily 80 hours a week. It is certainly pretty full on.

“We are lucky we have a pretty friendly, cooperative democracy. You look at all these people that are rude on Twitter, you wonder where they are in real life. They don’t seem to exist.”

Last year’s conference used precious exposure on an environmental policy to sell Landcorp to fund native wildlife sanctuaries. Has Act gone soft?

“I think it is something old, something new,” Seymour said of recent policies. “Act has always been a liberal party and a party of new ideas. That goes back the founding of the party. It was founded on a manifesto that had been audited by five different accounting firms. It has always been a policy-heavy party.”

I think Seymour has a good chance of retaining Epsom, but how the party vote goes will depend on whether ACT can come up with some additional appealing candidates.

New ACT on crime and punishment

One of the best known ACT Party policies is the three strikes law which aims to lock up the worst offenders for longer. There is some merit to this, and there are risks of unintended consequences. It’s too soon to tell whether it is an overall success or not.

What three strikes doesn’t seem to be reducing is reoffending rates. Our prisons are full and there are plans to expand them.

ACT MP David Seymour has had a look at this and is proposing a different approach to dealing with increasing incarceration (while retaining three strikes).

NZ Herald: Act’s new approach to crime and punishment

The Act Party will “turn over a new leaf” and launch policy to support prisoners after leader David Seymour witnessed work being done by the Howard League for Penal Reform.

Seymour told the Herald a new policy would be revealed at the party’s annual conference on Saturday.

“We have done tough on crime and continue to promote those policies – extending three-strikes to burglary … but we are also going to turn over a new leaf and start talking about being smart on crime.”

This sounds similar to Bill English’s data based smart targeting approach to a range of issues.

A keynote speaker at the Act conference in Auckland’s Orakei is former Labour Party president Mike Williams.

Interesting to see Williams speaking at an ACT conference.

Williams is now the chief executive of the New Zealand Howard League for Penal Reform, which runs literacy programmes that aim to get prisoners to a competent reading level, enabling them to read books to their children, take driver tests and have a better chance of finding work when they are released.

Almost 65 per cent of the men and women in prison fall below NCEA level one literacy and numeracy.

That’s an awful statistic. Poor education is closely linked to crime.

Corrections formalised a partnership with the Howard League in June 2014, signing a three-way agreement with the Ministry of Education, and has allocated about $100,000 to expand the driver licence and literacy programme.

A very good idea with a bugger all budget.

Last year Seymour joined Williams and Bill English at a prizegiving ceremony at Rimutaka Prison, where inmates who had completed the league’s literacy programme and learnt to read spoke about what it meant to them. Tutors who volunteered in the programme also spoke.

“What they [the league] are doing is very Act,” Seymour said. “They have got a private initiative with volunteers … they have had an extraordinary impact on people who have never had a piece of paper with their name and face on it before, have never been able to open a bank account.

“I went there because I was already thinking about the issue … I still think that people that commit three violent crimes should get the maximum sentence. But I think we can do a bit better on the first two strikes.”

Three strikes on it’s own was populist but inadequate.

Williams – praised as “legendary” in an Act press release promoting his conference speech – told the Herald that he felt very positively about Seymour’s interest in reoffending programmes.

“I am on a completely different side of the fence to David Seymour. However, I am impressed with the guy. He is open-minded about the problem of incarceration in New Zealand, and I have found him intelligent and forward-looking.”

Perhaps Williams could talk to some in Labour too then, if they are prepared to listen. It’s good to see him prepared to promote his cause with any party willing to learn and act.

In October, the Government announced plans to cope with a booming prisoner population including a 1500-bed prison on the current Waikeria Prison site in Waikato.

Those changes will hit the Government’s books by an extra $2.5 billion over about five years.

That’s nuts. A decent dollop of that budget should be diverted to rehabilitation and prevention, that would make a much more beneficial difference to the lives and families of individuals and to the country as a whole.

Williams has previously said that although successive Corrections ministers have supported measures to reduce reoffending, the prison population was growing because of harder bail and parole rules, an influx of deportees from Australia and the three-strikes legislation.

So it makes sense that much more effort and money should go towards reducing  reoffending – and addressing the factors that lead to offending in the first place.

ACT will be announcing policy on crime this weekend.

I expect (or at least hope) the Government will act on this soon, like in May’s budget.