Seymour versus PPTA president

David Seymour has criticised comments made by PPTA president Angela Roberts regarding serious offending against children. Roberts has attacked back, accusing Seymour of misconstruing her comments, “probably done so deliberately”.

This started with a Newshub report: 54 teachers in 3 years struck off for violations

Official figures obtained by Newshub reveal 75 teachers have been censured and 54 have lost their registration in the past three years for violations including sexual misconduct, assault and sex abuse.

It comes as 10 teachers in September went before the Education Disciplinary Tribunal for violations ranging from inappropriate relationships with students to fraud.

PPTA president Angela Roberts says it’s important for the Education Council to monitor the statistics to pick up any trends.

“They may find that there is an increased trend of teachers who are suffering from significant stress, and some really poor decisions get made,” she told Newshub, “and if that’s something they see a trend is coming through on, then actually how do they respond to that?”

She says it’s important the Education Council has good processes in place to protect teachers and students, as issues can rapidly get thorny.

“It can get really complicated very quickly – do the police need to be involved, is it just an employment issue or is it a registration issue? So there are three bits to it.”

Seymour responded: PPTA president’s comments disgrace her profession

ACT Leader David Seymour says teachers should call for Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) President Angela Roberts’ resignation after her casual dismissal of inappropriate conduct towards students being due to ‘stress.’

“When it suits them, the PPTA claim to be the altruistic guardians of children’s education,“ says Mr Seymour.  “When it is revealed that 10 teachers are being investigated, six for inappropriate conduct, in the past month, the PPTA President had the following to say: ‘They may find that there is an increased trend of teachers who are suffering from significant stress, and some really poor decisions get made.’

“Inappropriate conduct can severely damage a child for life. Over the past three years 75 teachers have been investigated and 54 struck off, but the PPTA show no remorse, simply citing ’stress’ and ’bad decisions.’  It’s a joke.  The thousands of good teachers up and down New Zealand should be outraged and making it clear that these comments are not in their name.

“What she could have said is that the PPTA strongly opposes child abuse by teachers, there is no excuse, and the PPTA will be taking steps to protect children.  Instead, she explains it away as being someone else’s fault, someone else’s responsibility.

“The PPTA frequently claim that lobbying and strikes are not out of self-interest but concern for children’s education.  These comments, unintentionally perhaps but true all the same, show a union out of control and living in a parallel universe.  The comments are a disgrace for the whole profession and Roberts should either apologise or resign.”

Calling for a resignation seems an extreme response and is usually something that opposition MPs resort to far too often.

However Roberts does sound like she was downplaying abuse by teachers as being mitigated “due to suffering from significant stress, and that “some really poor decisions get made”.

And far more important than monitoring trends is the detection of abuse and appropriate action against teachers found to be abusing children. And even more important that measures are taken to try and prevent abuse happening in the first place.

Many people suffer from stress in workplaces and in homes. Actually we all do to varying degrees. That is no excuse for abusing children.

Fair enough to question Roberts on what she said, but it seems somewhat provocative to call for her resignation.

At NZ Herald in Act leader David Seymour slams comments by PPTA president  Roberts responded:

Roberts told the Herald that Seymour had misconstrued those comments, perhaps deliberately.

They were made as part of a longer interview, and were about the wider issue of dealing with both disciplinary and competency matters, Roberts said.

“If what I had said was, teachers are under stress and they make poor decisions – if I had been referring to cases of serious misconduct, then, yes, that would be dismissive and inappropriate.

“But that wasn’t what I was referring to. I was talking about all cases of deregistration – there is a huge range. There is conduct, but there’s also competence. And I was talking about all cases referred to the council.

“We do need to look at trends…the ones that are about bad people, absolutely those should be dealt with.”

Fair enough to clarify what she meant and the context the comments were made in.

But accusing Seymour of deliberately misconstruing her comments doesn’t help her argument.

And while Roberts has defended her comments she doesn’t appear to have done anything to address her or PPTA views on teacher abuse of children.

A professor wrote this?

Peter O’Connor is professor of education in the faculty of education and social work at the University of Auckland. This is under his name at the Herald.

Government hell-bent on dismantling public education, says Auckland professor

Make no mistake, Minister of Education Hekia Parata is on a mission to systematically dismantle public education. Changes already in place and those planned will radically alter the education landscape in New Zealand.

The current government wants to make changes, but nowhere near ‘dismantle public education’.

After World War II the consensus was that schooling served wider social purposes than individual achievement. The war had sprung from extremist views caused by social and economic uncertainty and inequality. Public education was seen as vital to protecting democracy from these twin threats. It became part of a highly successful global agenda to reduce inequality so the poor could make enough money to own their homes and have a stake in their world.

A rich and broad curriculum designed to ensure functional literacy was supplemented by critical literacy so the population had the tools to challenge what they were told by their governments and by those with racist or extremist views.

That sounds nothing like the narrow curriculum that I was schooled under. I wonder how old O’Connor is. here’s his current profile pic.

Profile Image

Neoliberal policies that have dominated Western democracies for a generation have brought a reversal of this agenda with a growth of inequality that has been breathtaking in scale and speed.

The scale of exaggeration there is breathtaking. As is the inaccuracy.


Since ‘neo-liberalism’ the percentage of New Zealand adults with tertiary level qualifications has risen from 35.7% in 1991 (the Ruth Richardson era) to 54.6% in 2014.

Alongside is the growth internationally of extremist and dehumanising ideologies which threaten the fabric of Western democracies.

That’s both highly debatable and has nothing to do with past or present education policies in New Zealand.

The end game of a callous undermining of the public education system is the collapse of an informed participatory citizenship.

He actually seems to be suggesting that there is a deliberate ‘endgame’ to precipitate a ‘collapse of an informed participatory citizenship’. He provides no evidence of this.

I’d expect to see this sort of nonsense in the depths of The Standard, but not in an opinion article by a university professor.

The Government’s attack on education is still driven by the “step change” policy Hekia Parata worked on with Roger Douglas and Heather Roy before she became minister. In other words, the reforms are driven by the fringe right wing of New Zealand politics.

That might be true if Douglas and Roy were the only two people Parata consulted with and listened to. Otherwise it looks like the ranting of a fringe loony.

The Act party has never particularly valued democracy, having gamed the system with their representation in Parliament….

Why pick on Act? All parties ‘game the system’ to achieve as much representation in Parliament as they can. That’s what happens in any functional democracy.

This sounds like petulant pissiness.

…and still believes, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary at home and internationally, that private companies can provide better, more efficient core services than Government.

The reform agenda is most visible in the nonsense of charter schools. Despite poor achievement, chilling mediocrity and lack of innovation, their disproportionately high level of funding and less stringent oversight make them grow like a cancer on the wider system.

That just about totally misrepresents what is currently being promoted by Act in education – partnership schools are a very small alternative to public education, and mostly involve trusts trying to educate kids who fail under the current public system, not for-profit companies.

David Seymour has made a point of promoting Maori involvement in partnership schools – one of the demographics failing the most under the public school system.

And is O’Connor really claiming that partnership schools are less innovative than traditional schools, the sort of schools that resist innovations via teacher unions who oppose change?

While public league tables shame schools for failing to lift educational achievement, the Government refuses to admit the impact of poverty on children’s learning.

I call crap on that, I think it is blatantly false.

There is no genuine desire to uplift the lives of the poor. It is easier to deny they exist by phoning a few favoured principals to ask if they’ve seen anyone hungry.

That’s also crap, but typical rhetoric you might see from fringe lefties and the Green and Labour parties who make ridiculous accusations about anyone who they decide doesn’t fit within their narrow views.

As national standards restrict and diminish a broad and rich curriculum, critical education is replaced by a focus on low level skills for a low level wage economy.

What is ‘critical education’ and have we ever had anything like it in public schools?

I see claims like the Government deliberately keeps wages low and deliberately dumbs down education so the rich can get richer (they never explain how that might work) at The Standard or The Daily Blog, not from a university professor.

Meanwhile, private schools continue to offer a wealth of learning opportunities to children of our neoliberal leaders and a middle class prepared to stomach the debt. The alternative “choice” for the excluded majority is cheap online charter schools, siphoning off yet more public wealth.

This sort of political rant doesn’t look like it has benefited from a broad and rich curriculum and a critical education.

All current funding proposals are about shifting around existing funds. There is no further investment and no recognition that quality public education is vital and deserves real and sustained financial support.

More vague claptrap, and  claims that can easily be shown to be false. From this year’s budget:

Vote Tertiary Education 

The Government’s total direct spend on tertiary education is forecast to be approximately $4.3 billion in 2016/17. The Government is investing $256.5 million over four years in tertiary education through the Tertiary Education package for Budget 2016. 

The Tertiary Education initiatives are a part of the ‘Innovative New Zealand’ package. 

Innovative New Zealand is a series of 25 initiatives that will see $761.4 million invested over the next four years in science, skills, tertiary education and regional development initiatives. These will help diversify the economy, and support more jobs and higher wages for New Zealanders in the decade ahead.

O’Connor goes on, and on:

It would be easy to say the education reforms lack imagination and are simply a lazy reiteration of failed policies of the 1990s. However, that would be to ignore the clear vision that drives them. It’s a vision that privileges the private sector, which creates schools as competing business units and pretends poverty and unfairness don’t matter.

When public education becomes yet another thing we may lose, along with the dream that hard work meant you could leave poverty behind, own your own home and balance a 40-hour working week with leisure time, we will wonder why we let it go so easily and ask what we gained instead.

The right wing will then tell us joylessly that we got choice. And when that happens we will know we got conned. Again.

I think that O’Connor has tried to con us into believing he was educated under a rich and broad curriculum to be able to think critically.

What are his areas of expertise, apart from fringe politics? From his University of Auckland biography:

Professor O’Connor is an internationally recognised expert in applied theatre and drama education. His research focuses on applied theatre in marginalised and vulnerable communities. It has led to developing cutting-edge models of interdisciplinary praxis that explore the nexus of critical and creative pedagogies, aesthetics and social justice.

There appears to have been no research or critical thinking involved in his Herald rant.

I wonder what he teaches his students.

Peter supervises Doctoral and Masters students using arts based methodologies with a social justice focus.  He is an experienced suprervisor of the PhD with creative component.

He teaches people to be social justice warriors?

He might be experienced in theatre and drama, but whoever wrote his biography must have skipped Spelling 101.

Like anyone professors can have political opinions and leanings, but when they publish political claptrap while citing their academic credentials (and no facts to back their arguments) it doesn’t do them or their university any credit.

Cross party support for family violence proposals

The Press editorial: Government’s $130 million family violence package is a solid start

A $130 million plan announced by the Government this week to crack down on violence in Kiwi homes has been welcomed by most victims, support and advocacy groups, and politicians on both sides of the House.

While there are some concerns and reservations, it is good to see cross party support for this.

Greens: Family violence law reforms will help

It is heartening that the Government is finally starting to address the failure of our justice system to provide protection for victims of family violence or support abusers to change,  the Green Party said today.

“Family violence is currently embedded in New Zealand culture and we all need to be brave to face the level of changes needed to address it,” Green Party women’s spokesperson Jan Logie said.

“Too many families have been further traumatised and indebted trying to get legal protection through our courts. Changes to legal aid and the Family Court last term prioritised cost-saving over protecting victims. These reforms will hopefully go some way to addressing that harm caused.

“All New Zealanders need to hear loud and clear the message that family violence, intimate partner violence, and violence against children is unacceptable.     


UnitedFuture leader, Peter Dunne has welcomed the changes proposed today to strengthen New Zealand’s Family Violence laws.

“Our families are the bedrock of our communities and the rates of family violence we have in this country are appalling.

“These changes signal a much-needed shift in the way we respond to family violence,” said Mr Dunne.

“The key issue that needs to be focused on in New Zealand is the alarming fact that it is estimated nearly 80% of family violence incidents go unreported.

“If these reforms make any difference towards providing help to those people who currently do not feel safe or are not comfortable coming forward with their plight, then these policy initiatives will result in positive and meaningful reform.

“UnitedFuture congratulates the government for constructively responding to this unacceptable behaviour that is a blight to our families and communities”, said Mr Dunne.

ACT Party: ACT welcomes beefed up family violence laws, but…

ACT has welcomed the boost to family violence laws announced today, but questions why non-fatal strangulation isn’t a strike offence.

“ACT believes the justice system should always put the victim first. In that spirit, we’re relieved to see new protections for victims of family violence,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Reducing the cost and complexity of obtaining restraining orders is a no-brainer, and legislating against coercive marriage is an overdue protection of basic personal freedom.

“We also support the introduction of an offence for non-fatal strangulation. However, it’s perplexing to discover that non-fatal strangulation will not be included as a strike offence under the Three Strikes for Violent Crime legislation.

“The Three Strikes law, an ACT initiative, has been working well to keep repeat violent offenders behind bars and away from potential victims, so it’s disheartening to see it undermined by the current legislation. Strangulation, like all violent crime, is a serious offence and should be treated as such.”

NZ First via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

New Zealand First MP Denis O’Rourke said the measures were a step in the right direction.

“Fundamentally, what they’re saying is there needs to be more guidance, information and education on the one hand but also harsher penalties. I would have thought that that two-pronged approach is the right way to go,” Mr O’Rourke said.

Labour via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

Labour’s associate justice spokesperson Poto Williams said tighter bail conditions would increase safety for women and their children.

But she said the government should have made it easier for offenders to access services to help them stop violent behaviour.

Maori party via RNZ ‘I’ve seen the black eyes, no-one talks about it’

Māori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said having witnessed domestic violence as a child, he hoped the changes would help reduce the appalling statistics.

Mr Flavell said family violence was prevalent in almost every neighbourhood and changes were certainly needed.

He said it was all too often swept under the rug.

“I’ve sat on a bunk next to my cousins and I’ve heard the smashing of the walls. I’ve heard the throwing of pots around the place. I’ve seen the black eyes – and no-one talks about it.”

Cabinet documents showed police attended an average of 280 family violence incidents each day.

Mr Flavell, who is Māori Development Minister, said everyone had a part to play in bringing down those rates.

“That’s the key – you’ve got to start bringing it out of the cupboard. We’ve got to put it out on the table.”

“There’s a part to play by the actual government, by changing laws but actually families have got to talk about it and do something about it.”

Flavell is right, it is not just up to Parliament and the Government to make improvements.

Families and communities “have got to talk about it and do something about it“.

While there are details to be worked out it is promising to see all parties supporting this attempt to reduce our insidious levels of family violence.

ACT versus National on tax

This week’s ACT Free Press is highly critical of National “boasting that they’ve increased wealth redistribution”.

From a press release from Steven Joyce – Significant income redistribution after tax reforms:

New data from the Treasury shows that income redistribution across New Zealand’s income tax and support system continues to increase, with the top 10 per cent of households forecast to pay 37.2 per cent of income tax in 2016/17, compared with 35.5 per cent in 2007/08.

“This latest data confirms that New Zealand’s income tax and support system significantly redistribute incomes to households in need,” Acting Finance Minister Steven Joyce says.

The rich are paying a bigger proportion of the income tax:

“Higher income households are paying a larger share of income tax than they were in 2008, and lower income households are paying less – the 30 per cent of households with the lowest incomes are forecast to pay just 5.4 per cent of income tax, compared with 6.3 per cent in 2007/08.

“This is before the effect of redistribution from Working For Families and benefits. The Government has increased support for low income families to help New Zealanders through times of need. So at any particular time, a large number of households effectively don’t pay income tax,” Mr Joyce says.

“It’s appropriate to maintain a tax and income support system that helps low and middle income households when they most need it.”

And 42% of households will pay less income tax than they receive from than they receive from welfare benefits, Working for Families, New Zealand Superannuation and accommodation subsidies. This is up from 39% in 2007/2008.

This won’t include what GST they pay though, which can be where about half of the income of the poor people now goes.

ACT Free Press:

Housing is the Underlying Driver
Also last week the Ministry of Social Development released its update of household income inequality from 1982-2015.  It measures income inequality before housing costs and after housing costs. 

Dr Bryce Wilkinson of the New Zealand Initiative says there has been no significant change in income inequality over the last 10, 15, 20 or even 25 years depending on the measure used, before housing costs.  However the bottom 20 per cent of households (by income) spent 29 per cent of their income on housing in the 1980s compared with 54 per cent now.

Free Press concludes:

The National Party is taxing top earners hard, then shovelling the money at low income earners who pay more for housing.  Free Press suspects that it is mostly top earners who benefit from rising house prices, so completing the money-go-round.  This is nuts.

When the money-go-round is spinning fast it can be hard to slow down and difficult to hop off.

What would ACT do?

It is time to give taxpayers relief.  As ACT has said before, the best way to do this is to index tax brackets to inflation (this would have saved the average household $2,500 in tax since 2010 by ending bracket creep).  Ideally we should cut the top rates, clearly the ‘rich’ (read hard working PAYE earners) are paying their share. 

I agree that tax increases by stealth – allowing bracket creep without adjustment – should be dealt with differently.

At the same time, there needs to be serious land use and infrastructure funding reform to get the housing market functioning again.

There’s been a lot of talk but little tangible change on housing, apart from prices continuing to escalate.

However if National reduced income tax for higher earners and if they reduced tax redistribution to poorer people there would be political hell to pay.



New Partnership Schools

ACT MP David Seymour has announced plans for more partnership schools (often referred to as charter schools). Via Twitter:

Proud to announce two new Partnership Schools to open in 2017, Te Aratika Academy in Napier and Kopuku High in Hamilton. These schools are generating new options for Kids and are a great ACT success story.

This links to Seymour: Two new charter schools approved for 2017 (NZ Herald):

Two new charter schools, one in Hamilton and one in Napier, have been approved to open in 2017, adding to the eight already operating.

Education Under-Secretary and Act leader David Seymour said only two were chosen from 26 applicants, both of which would have a special Maori character.

But he knew of several that would be applying again in 2017 for 2018 openings.

Quality was more important that quantity, he said.

The two new schools:

  • Hamilton – Te Kōpuku High: a co-educational composite secondary school for years 7 to 13. It will have a late immersion kaupapa Māori special character, and will target Māori students. Sponsored by Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust. Opening roll of 90 with a maximum of 300 by 2021.

Cath Rau for Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust said Te Kopuku High would be the first partnership school in Hamilton.

The trust was both the sponsor and deliverer of the curriculum. The trust had for the past 20 years supported kohanga reo and kura wharekura.

“We saw an opportunity through the partnership school initiative to use the cumulative knowledge and experience that we have gained in the Maori medium pipeline and provide an educational opportunity for Maori students in Hamilton who have not yet had the opportunity to learn te reo Maori or to learn in a kaupapa Maori context.”

She said the Partnership school would give the trust a lot more control than it had before.

  • Napier – Te Aratika Academy: a single sex (male) senior secondary school for years 11 to 13. It will have a vocationally-focused kaupapa Māori special character, and will target male Māori students. Sponsored by Te Aratika Charitable Trust. An opening roll of 67, with a maximum of 200 by 2019.

…a new charitable trust formed by Te Aratika Drilling, a civil construction firm across the North Island.

Ronnie Rochel, the director of the company, said that since 1998 she had been working and mentoring young men.

“I am passionate about providing a platform for change,” she said.

She saw many young boys come in to apply for jobs and although they had been through the school system, they were were not employment-ready.

Seymour told reporters…

…that sponsors of Partnership Schools, the official name for charter schools, were “some of the most heroic people” he had ever known.

They had set up schools in some of the shortest time frames and aimed to raise achievement for students who were not engaged in the state system.

“Vanguard Military School has taken on 60 kids who previously were not attending any school whatsoever when they came to Vanguard.”

Most schools had had positive results, some within their first year.

One of the aims of partnership schools is to provide education for children who currently fail in the current state education system.

Sign up to ‘our values’

ACT MP David Seymour says that refuges should sign up to ‘our values’. This sounds like a populist poke.

NZH: Refugees should sign-up to our values, says Act’s David Seymour

Act Party leader David Seymour welcomed the quota’s increase to 1000 from 2018 – but said new arrivals should sign a “statement of commitment to New Zealand values”, including freedom of speech, and respect for women and those of different sexualities.

“Countries like Australia and Belgium require immigrants to sign a statement of commitment to national values. A New Zealand Values Statement could include a commitment to respect the basic freedoms that make this country a wonderful place to live.”

Seymour doesn’t seem to have explained how a set of ‘our values’ might be defined, how a pledge to uphold the standards would work in practice.

There is no way a values pledge could be enforced, it would be futile with changes of attitudes and could not do anything about children of refugees.

Who would define what values should be pledged to? The commenters at Kiwiblog?  Authors at Whale Oil? Commenters at The Daily Blog? Authors at Boots Theory?

As a country we couldn’t have a civil discussion and decision on what our flag should look like. I don’t see much chance of defining values that new citizens must pledge to.

And what about existing citizens and the values they live by?

Shouldn’t New Zealand citizens all endeavour to set an example by which refugees and immigrants could follow by examplke?


Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill

Act MP David Seymour unsuccessfully tried to introduce his End of Life Choice Bill “to be debated as members’ order of the day No. 1 on the first members’ day after the Health Committee reports back to the House on its inquiry into the petition of Maryan Street and 8,974 others”.

An objection denied leave for this to proceed.

Draft transcript:

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): Martin Hames was sick and knew he would get sicker. He took his own life alone not wanting to implicate anybody else in his death. He did it much earlier than he would have liked because he knew that the advancing condition of Huntington’s disease would prevent him from later taking such action.

People like Martin Hames find themselves ill and beyond the help of palliative care, and the Supreme Court of Canada describes them as having two options: they can take their own life prematurely, as he did, often by violent or dangerous means or they can suffer until they die from natural causes.

As the Supreme Court said, that choice is cruel. This cruel choice is not just a legal construct from a foreign court; it is all too real for New Zealanders.

Palliative care has advanced well in the past 20 years but, as the High Court admitted just last year, unfortunately it does not work for everybody, and, sadly, 10 percent of suicides by older New Zealanders are by those with terminal illnesses.

There needs to be a more compassionate option in New Zealand, and it is time for Parliament to debate and vote on assisted dying legislation. The democratic mandate for Parliament to do this is very, very large.

In a Colmar Brunton poll last year, 75 percent supported assisted dying legislation. There are few issues in any political time that three-quarters of New Zealanders support, yet that is the case with assisted dying legislation.

Last year close to 9,000 people signed a petition leading to a parliamentary inquiry on this issue. I hope that inquiry, currently before the Health Committee, will produce a high-quality report clarifying many facets of the issue for New Zealanders, but it cannot produce a bill that Parliament must debate and vote on.

There is, however, currently a member’s bill in the ballot. My End of Life Choice Bill is targeted towards cases of highest need and includes strong safeguards. It gives people with terminal illnesses a compassionate option.

To be clear, a law change will not result in more people dying but in fewer people suffering. Evidence from Europe finds that, on average, assisted deaths shorten a person’s life by only 10 days.

Crucially, this practice is already happening in New Zealand but in a far less safeguarded way. Auckland medical school research has found 4.5 percent of GPs surveyed on their most recent dying patient found that it was from a drug administered explicitly to hasten death.

The End of Life Choice Bill would, instead, put the patient in charge, allowing them to make a safer choice under the protection of the law.

For many, the strength of potential safeguards will be the deciding factor in supporting change, and although the issues are complex, I refuse to believe that it is impossible for a Parliament as mature and functional as ours to agree on a set of safeguards for this legislation.

I understand there are parliamentarians who oppose assisted dying no matter what, and I do not demand their support for the End of Life Choice Bill.

All I ask is for the rest of Parliament to have the chance to debate and vote upon the issue. In the Lecretia Seales case, the High Court said that leaving the choice to the courts would be “trespassing on the role of Parliament and departing on the constitutional role of judges in New Zealand.”

It is not that the judge said that he disagreed with Ms Seales’ application to die on her terms and at her timing; he simply said it was up to us to make that decision about what the law should be.

The time has come for us colleagues to do our job. To continue avoiding this debate would be a disservice to the people we purport to represent. New Zealanders deserve a Parliament unafraid to confront an issue that is on legal, moral, and democratic grounds critically important to them.

I seek leave to introduce my End of Life Choice Bill to be debated as members’ order of the day No. 1 on the first members’ day after the Health Committee reports back to the House on its inquiry into the petition of Maryan Street and 8,974 others.

Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought for that course of action. Is there any objection? There is objection.

While there were not many MPs in the House when leave was sought to introduce the Bill there only seemed to be one who object.

ACT shift on climate change

The ACT Party appears to be shifting it’s stance on climate change, with reports that the ACT Climate Change Policy is no longer available on their website.

At the same time leader David Seymour launched an attack on the Green Party, saying the Greens had done “bugger all for the environment”.

Stuff reports: ACT deletes climate change policy from their website

ACT has removed their climate change policy from their website…

The 2008 policy, which claimed New Zealand was not warming and pledged to withdraw the country from the Kyoto Protocol, was unavailable on the ACT Party’s website as of Friday evening.

From the first page of the policy:


“New Zealand is not warming” will be harder to argue in 2016.

Seymour describes himself as a climate lukewarmer.

“I believe it is real, and a portion of it is manmade, but I question the extent to which it is dangerous.”

“Since the industrial revolution we’ve increased the concentration of C02 by about 100 part per million. No question about that.”

“I think it is time for a slightly more intelligent debate. Otherwise its a bit like being back in the playground – ‘Are you are a denier or are you a good person?’ It’s all a bit puerile.”

“It’s actually a scientific debate – and quite a complex one.”

Warmer versus denier is a puerile way to debate climate change but good versus bad is common in politics.

With climate change the arguments seem to be more bad versus don’t care, bad versus good, bad versus good and bad, bad versus no point in trying.

Most people will agree that the science of climate change is very complex, and most probably agree that potential mitigation or solutions are difficult and complex.

Seymour has called for “a more scientific and mature discussion of the issue”. Once the ACT Party have done that they may come up with a more scientific and mature climate change policy.

Hooton: on ACT’s strategies

Matthew Hooton, a committed supporter of and voter for the ACT Party, gave a speech at  their annual conference.

He closed his speech by outlining how he saw their prospects, and implored them to put his political dream into practice.

John Key has no choice but the reindorse David Seymour in Epsom in 2017 – pretty much no matter what David and Act do between now and then. That is true if Act is around zero in the party vote, in which case Epsom creates an overhang. More optimistically, it is even more true if you get yourselves up to 2%, 3% or – most powerfully in terms of a Key endorsement – the magic 4.9%. If you get above 5%, of course, then maybe my poor old friend Paul Goldsmith should get a chance.

Key has choices about ACT and Epsom, but it is very likely he will make it easy for Seymour to retain Epsom.

Your best strategy over the next 17 months before the election is to more clearly distinguish yourself from National. David Seymour, at great personal cost, made that strategy possible when he turned down a higher-paying minister’s job to avoid being more tightly bound to National under cabinet collective responsibility. I’ve never heard of a politician making that decision before. It speaks to David’s integrity.

That done, what would happen, for example, if you declared you would not vote for a Budget that expanded Steven Joyce’s corrupt corporate welfare machine, or that included more money for Murray McCully’s corrupt Saudi sheep bribe? I’ll tell you what would happen in terms of policy: Any plans to expand corporate welfare or fly more sheep over to the Saudi desert would be dropped from the Budget.

Except that ACT have a Confidence and Supply agreement with National – “ACT New Zealand agrees to provide confidence and supply for the term of this Parliament to a National-led Government in return for National’s agreement to the policy programme and other matters set out in this document. ”

2014 ACT Party Confidence and Supply Agreement [PDF 68k] (PDF)

ACT have an agreement that guarantees they will vote for budgets. It would be drastic and potentially damaging for them politically if they broke that agreement. Seymour won’t do that.

And I’ll tell you what would happen in terms of the Epsom guarantee: Absolutely nothing, except the people of Epsom would be more likely to vote for David Seymour even without a National endorsement. John Key is not going to say “that David Seymour stopped me flying more sheep to Saudi Arabia so I’m going to chuck him under the bus and jeopardise my fourth term” anymore than he might say “that damn Maori Party won’t back me on the TPP so that’s the end of my relationship with them and we’ll just have to have a Labour government”.

Moreover, around the country, Act would gain respect from genuinely small government people who don’t like the big government corruption we are seeing from the elements in the current government. And that means John Key’s need to endorse David Seymour again would only grow.

ACT would lose respect from those who see Confidence and Supply agreements as very important for stable government and for reliable small party support.

Look to one of the parties you are effectively in coalition with, the Maori Party. Depending on the poll, it’s doing about six times better than you with the voters. As I understand it, it votes against the National Party in parliament more than Labour. And, when it makes a fuss about that, it goes up in the polls because that is what its constituency wants.

But the Maori Party has never broken a confidence and supply agreement as far as I am aware.

Yet the Maori Party has a perfectly good relationship with John Key because the one thing he understands is realpolitik. He understands that the Maori Party may well be essential to his fourth term, and he understands the Maori Party has to do what the Maori Party has to do to be there after September next year

Now, you’ve got at least one of my votes tied up – usually including the party vote – so you shouldn’t really take advice from me, because I’m a dead cert.

But here’s what I think anyway. The people who don’t vote for you now, but may vote for you in 2017, don’t want you to do anything to jeopardise John Key’s fourth term.

Like threaten a confidence and supply agreement?

They want you to support him. But they also want to see you fight him. They want to see you fight Steven Joyce’s corrupt corporate welfare machine. They want to see you fight Murray McCully’s corrupt Saudi sheep deal. They want to see you fight Bill English’s plans to knock down houses and rebuild Auckland in the form Wellington planners say is best for us.

They want to see you fight a government that has raised benefits but has no concrete plans for tax cuts; a government which has borrowed more money than the net total of all previous New Zealand governments combined; a government which may deliver one surplus and then send us back into deficit again; a government which is proud to have no interest in addressing issues of an ageing population.

They want to see you fight a government which has failed to reform the Resource Management Act, and one which remains far too beholden to indulgence seekers, whether Sky City Casino or powerful iwi bosses.

They will want to see you fight a government that almost certainly plans to corruptly allocate water to existing users rather than more fairly to people with new ideas, because it is a government beholden to the lobbyists from Fonterra and Federated Farmers.

These are the sorts of thing that will drive your party vote up. It is what will make Epsom a genuinely Act seat rather than something of a gift. And those things together mean John Key will have no choice but to ensure you win Epsom again.


If a single MP ACT tail tries to wag a 59 MP National dog to much there will be political risks. If National are not reliant on whatever numbers ACT can offer after the next election to make up numbers then National may not risk a disloyal coalition partner very much, if anything.

If National have to reach a coalition agreement with a 10-15 strong NZ First party in order to retain power and don’t need ACT’s numbers then the importance of ACT, and probably the necessity of ACT, will be significantly diminished.

ACT have to differentiate themselves from National without over reaching and without putting confidence and supply loyalty in doubt.

That’s a challenge for a tiny party on the fringe that has no option but to partner up with National if they want to be a part of the Government.

Like I said at the outset, it’s a complex relationship you have with John Key. But you have absolutely nothing to lose, and nothing to fear, from building on the successes of the last year to more strongly advocate for the things you believe, which just happen to be the things New Zealand continues to so desperately need.

Seymour and ACT should certainly “more strongly advocate for the things you believe”, that’s advice that could be given to any party.

But it’s imperative they increase their party vote substantially.

If voters think that ACT may be unreliable, may try to wield power disproportionate to their vote, then they may just choose National as a safer option. Or NZ First.

Source at Voxy: Matthew Hooton speech to ACT Conference

Hooton: ACT and the median voter model

Matthew Hooton, a committed supporter of and voter for the ACT Party, gave a speech at  their annual conference.

He explained the ‘median voter model’, how John Key uses it, and how ACT should act against the drift left.

Well, we have a prime minister who is applying the median voter model more rigorously than any other I can think of anywhere in the world. And, as Labour heads ever more to the extreme left, John Key will follow them, because that’s what the median voter says to do. It’s not his fault that Labour’s not playing the same game.

The median voter model says Labour should head to the centre but they’re not. But, given that, the median voter model says John Key should allow them all the way to the extreme left and that is what he will do left unchecked, because that’s what the model says he should do.

So Act’s role is to have enough gravitational pull on the right to try to at least slow John Key’s inevitable and logical drift to the left, eventually maybe even stop it and keep him in a steady state or – here’s hoping – one day even pull him slightly back towards sound policy.

ACT can only have a significant impact on this if they have the numbers, and 1 isn’t anywhere near enough to do anything other than dabble on the fringe.

ACT’s numbers history:

  • 1996: 6.10%, 8 MPs – 1 electorate (Richard Prebble) and 7 list
  • 1999: 7.04%, 7 list MPs
  • 2002: 7.14%, 9 list MPs
  • 2005: 1.51%, 2 MPs – 1 electorate (Rodney Hide) and 1 list
  • 2008: 3.65%, 5 MPs – 1 electorate (Rodney Hide) and 4 list
  • 2011: 1.07%, 1 electorate MP (John Banks)
  • 2014: 0.69%, 1 electorate MP (David Seymour)

So ACT took a dive in 2005, recovered partly in 2008 but plummeted when Don Brash took over the leadership and waned some more during John Banks’ eventful term that ended with no ACT MP in Parliament.

Seymour has impressed many so looks likely to hold onto his electorate seat, but rebuilding party vote will be a challenge.

Possibly in their favour will be a decline in National’s vote (if it happens this term) that will give them more seats and power (providing National can form a government again after the 2017 election) and National proportionally less power.

But it will also depend on other numbers. If either or both Peter Dunne and the Maori Party make up critical coalition numbers that weakens ACT’s position.

If NZ First also join a National led coalition, which would presumably be with substantially more MPs than ACT (they currently have 12 and going by current polls look likely to maintain that sort of number).

So ACT’s future power is reliant on their own recovery of party support, plus how the numbers fall for all other parties.

Source at Voxy: Matthew Hooton speech to ACT Conference