Covid excuse used to raise benefits but ACT reduction policy is nuts

Newshub: ACT’s Brooke van Velden calls for beneficiaries, public service workers to take pay cut

The ACT Party’s deputy leader is calling for public sector workers and beneficiaries to take a pay cut in order to help lower debt levels.

Brooke van Velden was laying out the party’s ‘Alternative Budget’ in an appearance on Newshub Nation on Saturday, and says ACT’s approach will help New Zealand recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19.

The party’s policy includes abolishing the winter energy payment, scrapping KiwiSaver subsidies and putting interest back on all student loans.

Van Velden says lowering New Zealand’s debt post-COVID-19 is important because it’s unknown when another event will happen that requires a large sum of money.

“There are two ways we can go about this recovery: we can have a debt recovery or we can have a growth recovery.”

ACT proposes public service employees should have their “over-inflated wages” cut by 20 percent, and benefits would be lowered back to pre-COVID levels.

Van Velden and Seymour may well be right. The Government has implemented a number of policies by stealth under cover of $50 billion Covid financial package.

The Government has previously defended it’s COVID-19 spending, with Finance Minister Grant Robertson saying it’s “fiscally and socially responsible” to have money set aside in the event of a second wave.

“We are sticking to our word on this. We are investing money where it is needed to respond to COVID-19, and we are setting aside a significant sum of money to be used as needed in the future,” he said in July.

There is no doubt majoe financial support was needed to try to minimise the adverse financial effects of Covid, but I think there are valid questions about a lot of the spending. Some of the spending announcements seem to have been opportunist policy financing of things that weren’t being addressed by the Government before the pandemic.

But Bagrie is probably also correct. Many beneficiaries have struggled for a long time on subsistence incomes. This has had significant adverse effects on the welbeing of families and children, and also on health, crime and education.

And substantially reducing benefits and wages now would be a huge risk given our precarious economic situation. I think that would be nuts.

It’s going to be a huge challenge for the next term Government to deal with the big increase in spending and debt, but slashing benefits and wages would be nuts in my opinion.

ACT Party – organised and more than one MP

David Seymour has been the sole representative in Parliament for the ACT Party for six years, but polls suggest he will be joined by several colleagues after this election. They look like fresh and young team, and they look organised, having already announced a number of policies.

Their biggest problem this election is not themselves but their only possible coalition partner, National, who look like a dated party and are very disorganised.

Seymour has been successful on his own but the party leadership will have wider appeal than a sole MP, with ex adviser Brooke van Veldon now deputy leader.

Brooke van Velden is ACT’s candidate for Wellington Central.

Brooke left the private sector to work behind the scenes in Parliament to pass the End of Life Choice Act. She is a highly effective operator who knows how to deliver real positive change in the corridors of power.

Brooke is qualified in international trade and economics and has been a factory worker and corporate affairs consultant. Her practical and political experience has given her a deep understanding of the economy and the effect big government policies and rushed laws have on businesses and individuals.

She switched from being a Green voter to an Act supporter while studying economics at university. The ability for free markets to lift countries from hardship was a revelation for her. She is also a committed social liberal, championing the right to autonomy over our own bodies.

They also have the ‘gun lobby’ on side with Council of Licenced Firearms Owners spokesperson Nicole McKee at number 3 on their list.

Nicole is ACT’s candidate for Rongotai

Nicole is a small business owner, who delivered firearms safety education in rural and isolated communities for the New Zealand Police. She also has a background in law, firearms component imports, and was the coordinator of the nation’s volunteer firearms safety instructors for the Mountain Safety Council and the spokesperson for the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners and its Fair and Reasonable Campaign.

ACT have already launched their anti-gang policy- see ACT policy targeting gangs and their proceeds.

In the weekend they announced two more policies:

Mental health and addiction services to empower New Zealanders

“A new approach to mental health and addiction will reduce bureaucracy, improve patient choice, and empower New Zealanders,” says ACT’s Deputy Leader and Health Spokesperson Brooke van Velden.

“We need an approach that will solve the big problems identified in the Government’s Mental Health Inquiry:

• Inequity of access and lack of choice
• Too much confusion and bureaucracy
• People having to navigate a web of agencies
• No whole-of-government approach
• Too much burden placed on primary healthcare providers who are not always well-equipped.

“The Government has established a Mental Health and Wellbeing Commission, but it does not have real power to improve choice or establish a clear, nationwide approach to tackling mental health and addiction.

“ACT would give the Commission the power to transform mental health and addiction services by taking the $2 billion per annum currently spent through the Ministry of Health and DHBs, and channelling it to providers and patients through an upgraded Commission.

“The Commission would be renamed Mental Health and Addiction New Zealand (MHANZ).

“MHANZ would not be a provider of services, but a world-class commissioning agency that assesses individual needs and contracts the best providers for a person’s therapy and care. It would put people at the heart of the system.

Fair, modern employment insurance for a post-Covid-19 world

ACT is proposing a fair, modern employment insurance scheme:

• Income tax rates remain unchanged but 0.55 percent of the tax paid would be allocated to a ring-fenced employment insurance fund.

• On the loss of employment, a taxpayer can claim 55 percent of their average weekly earnings over the previous 52 (or fewer) weeks. The maximum yearly payable amount is $60,000.

• Insurance can only be claimed for one week for each five weeks the person has worked, up to a maximum of 26 weeks per claim. Someone who has worked continuously for only one year could claim up to ten weeks’ employment insurance.

• Once a recipient has used up their employment insurance entitlement, they can move to Jobseeker Support and Electronic Income Management would apply. (Under Electronic Income Management, a benefit is issued on an electronic card and restrictions on alcohol, gambling, and tobacco expenditure apply.)

• Over time, the government would adjust the 0.55 percent levy so that the fund balances out over a four-year cycle. In a high unemployment year, the levy would increase. In a low unemployment year, taxpayers would benefit from a levy reduction.

• Those receiving employment insurance would be expected to look for work and report fortnightly on their preparedness to work and job application activity. In practice, recipients would want to get back to work instead of remaining on 55 per cent of their previous income.

“ACT’s employment insurance scheme would be fairer than the current system because people get paid out in proportion to what they pay in, rather than a flat benefit rate regardless of their outgoings or previous tax contributions.

RNZ: ACT leader uses campaign launch to slate government’s Covid-19 response

At the party’s campaign launch in Auckland, ACT president Tim Jago said membership had more than doubled in the last year.

“You’ve seen the polls, certainly 3 percent, nudging 4 percent and we’re hearing stories that the other parties have us at 5 percent,” Jago said.

“We were being written off little more than a year ago as a one-MP party unable to climb above 1 percent.

“We are the only parliamentary party that’s consistently over the past 12 months trended upwards.”

Jago told the crowd of 600 party faithful that they were aiming to get as high as 6 or 7 percent of the party vote, which would give ACT eight MPs.

ACT are targeting small demographics, obviously hoping to grow their vote. In recent polls they got 3.5% and 3.1%, which would be good for 3-4 MPs. ACT could benefit from National being in disarray and pick up support from, so they may get more MPs but fail to get into Government.

 

ACT Party list

The ACT Party have announced their list for this year’s election. The top twenty:

  1. David Seymour
  2. Brooke Van Velden
  3. Nicole McKee
  4. Chris Baillie
  5. Simon Court
  6. James McDowall
  7. Karen Chhour
  8. Mark Cameron
  9. Stephen Berry
  10.  Toni Severin
  11. Damien Smith
  12. Miles McConway
  13. Beth Houlbrooke
  14. Carmel Claridge
  15. Bruce Carley
  16. Cameron Luxton
  17. Grae O’Sullivan
  18. Myah Deedman
  19. David Seymour
  20. David King

Odd to see two David Seymours but #19 is a candidate from Whangarei.

Brooke Van Velden (who has been an adviser to Seymour before running for Parliament) is a good and obvious choice for #2. It looks like five of the top ten are male and female, which looks different for an ACT list.

Nicole McKee is the spokesperson for the Council of Licensed Firearms Owners and has been vocal in opposition to firearms law changes since the Christchurch mosque murders.

Beth Houlbrooke (“an award-winning businesswoman, former farmer, and Chair of the Rodney Local Board”) has been an ACT candidate before and is the only candidate currently featuring on the ACT website.

Going by recent polls there is a reasonable chance of the top few on that list to get into Parliament as long as the Epsom Seymour wins his electorate again, which seems very likely.

 

The Nation – candidates on ‘the big issues’

On The Nation this morning Lisa Owens “talks to more would-be MPs about the big issues”.

The candidates:

Priyanca Radhakrishnan –  union member and a member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network and the National Council of Women (Auckland). Labour candidate for Maungakiekie, 12 on the Labour list so has a good chance of becoming an MP.

Brooke van Velden a public relations consultant and ACT candidate for Auckland Central. The ACT list will be announced this weekend. Interview on RNZ.

Jack McDonald – Ko Taranaki te Iwi. Green candidate for Te Tai Hauāuru and Māori Communications Advisor. at 13 on gthe party list he has a good chance of becoming an MP.

Erica Stanfordstaffer for Murray McCully, has has worked overseas in export sales roles. National candidate for East Coast Bays, should win a safe electorate.

To much to cover on the fly here, but Lisa is putting all four on the spot over personal views and positions versus their party policies and positions. A lot of avoiding of addressing these questions.

They all struggled a bit, it’s the deep end of politics so quite a challenge.

Stanford got feisty at times once she warmed up but tried to disguise what seemed like a lack of general political issues knowledge by focussing on electorate representation, which where she is likely to start her political career.

McDonald was well versed in Green policy and diverted to party speak, avoiding direct answers to most questions. When challenged on Greens lack of focus on environmental issues he quoted the party’s four foundation aims but later comments were on social rather than environmental issues.

When it was suggested that the Greens could and should work with any party on environmental issues he said it was “unfathomable” for the Green Party to work with National in Government.

Priyanca was asked if her being a student immigrant clashed with Labour’s clampdown on immigration which had her scrambling a bit. She mostly recited party mantra.

van Velden looked the most in the deep end, struggling quite a lot. She sometimes switched to ACT policy but had difficulty answering general questions that put her on the spot.

Phil O’Reilly on the panel discussion: “In the Green Room you could cut the ambition with a knife’.

Video: The would-be MPs

Transcript: Lisa Owen interviews new candidates