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.

ACT on housing, housing and housing

David Seymour gave his first ‘state of the nation’ speech yesterday. It doesn’t seem to have attracted a lot of media attention, with most political focus on the annual party pilgrimage to Ratana.

It is all about housing and associated issues like the Resource Management Act.

Video:

Stuff: ACT leader David Seymour calls for action on housing affordability

ACT Party leader David Seymour has told the Government to “get some guts” and stop tinkering with housing policy.

Giving his “State of the Nation” speech in Auckland on Monday, Seymour said everyone knew housing had become a problem but nothing had been done.

In the past 30 years the number of homes built per capita had halved and created an asset bubble that was a risk to New Zealand’s economy, he said.

NZ Herald: David Seymour: Kiwi politicians need to have ‘guts’ to address housing affordability

New Zealand’s politicians need to get the “guts” to introduce major reform aimed at tackling housing affordability, ACT Party leader David Seymour says.

…he said ACT would boost housing supply by making it easier to build new homes and shortening approval times.

“We can’t just tinker … we need to act,” he said.

“If ACT holds the balance of power after this year’s election, we’ll be ensuring that the government accepts the housing market is dysfunctional and reforms the fundamentals.”

Speech notes: David Seymour: State of the Nation Speech

ACT’s policy summary:


The House Price Problem

ACT believes that the cost of housing is unacceptably high. Auckland has a significant housing shortage. The price of an average house in Auckland is nearly ten times the income of an average household. Internationally, three times the median income is considered ‘affordable’. The high price of houses means mortgage payments and rents are higher. Household budgets feel the pressure.

The high cost of housing is widening the gap between people who own houses, and who don’t. People who own houses have increasing wealth as house and land values increase. People who don’t are paying more in rent and their income is not keeping pace. It is getting harder for renters to save for a deposit on their house. High rents are a cause of deprivation for low-income families.

The housing shortage is placing costs on taxpayers as well. The high cost of private housing means the Government spends more on social housing through the Income Related Rent subsidy, and funds more support in Accommodation Supplements.

The Resource Management Act:

ACT believes that the major cause of the housing shortage in our cities is the RMA. Council plans and policies under the RMA determine whether enough houses will be built.

The Act gives too much power to councils to restrict development. It requires councils to provide for environmental protection and conduct consultations, but doesn’t require them to consider property rights of owners, economic growth or provide for an adequate supply of housing.

The number of new dwellings consented nationwide each year is still well below its peak of 39,000 in 1974. The Government’s Housing Accords and Special Housing areas have been a band-aid on a broken planning system but they do not address the fact that the RMA in its current form is not fit for purpose to deal with a major housing shortage in our main urban centres.

ACT’s Housing Affordability Policy

ACT believes that the shortage of housing can be filled by private developers, when local and central government get out of the way. We would change the planning law that controls development of cities, and we would give councils the funding incentives to approve more consents. We care about the social impacts of high house prices, and believe the shortage of housing is a problem that can be solved by making our planning and building laws fit for purpose.

Take Cities Out of the Resource Management Act.

ACT would rewrite the Resource Management Act, and introduce new supply-focused urban planning legislation for cities of 100,000 people or more. Urban environments, and areas at the edges of our cities should not be regulated and protected in the same ways as undeveloped natural environments.

ACT’s urban development legislation would prioritise supplying land and infrastructure, in response to demand. We would set price thresholds above which land would be automatically released for development. It would include obligations to set out future infrastructure corridors.

We would make zoning less restrictive, with fewer levels and types of zoning. We would strengthen property rights for existing owners by limiting objection rights to people who are directly affected, rather than allowing third parties to have a say.

Share GST Revenue to Build Infrastructure.

ACT would share a portion of GST revenue collected from the construction of new housing with the local council to incentivise them to approve planning of new homes.

The shared revenue would help cover the cost of infrastructure like roads, water and sewerage which councils must build to support new development. The cost of this infrastructure currently disincentivises approval of new houses and subdivisions.

We also allow councils to use more flexible funding mechanisms for infrastructure. This could include permitting special targeted rates on new developments, to pay for the new infrastructure. Councils need both more flexibility and stronger incentives to plan for more housing.

Compulsory Insurance for New Buildings.

ACT would reduce the cost of compliance for builders, and reduce the financial risk on councils, by removing council building certification, in favour of a compulsory bond or insurance over new buildings. Requiring insurance for the replacement of the building would ensure standards are upheld while reducing the time spent on council inspections and red tape.

Replacing council building certification with compulsory insurance would incentivise insurers to find the most reliable builders and best building supplies to insure. The builders’ incentive would be to get the best premiums and service, by proving they are building high-quality homes. Insurers could sign-off on building materials that are certified overseas, where councils are reluctant to today.

This is an agenda to fundamentally reform the housing market. Our great country deserves nothing less from its politicians.

David Seymour – ACT Leader

Take Waitangi Day on tour?

While many people attending Waitangi Day celebrations think it is a great occasion much of the country sees it as a media circus giving a few Ngāpuhi activists some attention at the cost of political and national inclusiveness.

David Seymour has suggested a solution to the ongoing antics at Waitangi Day – move the celebrations around the country.

PM should take Waitangi Day ceremonies on tour

Te Tii Marae’s continued failure to respectfully host the Government on Waitangi Day should prompt the Prime Minister to visit a different marae each year, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The behaviour of a small group of perpetually-grumpy activists has turned Waitangi Day into an annual political circus, denying Kiwis a national day we can all enjoy,” says Mr Seymour.

“It’s never been clear why one iwi gets to monopolise the celebrations. The Treaty wasn’t just signed at Waitangi, it went on tour and was signed by chiefs all over the country.

“If an iwi is going to host representatives of the Crown to symbolise this 177-year-old relationship, why not rotate the host iwi and location? It could be in a different place each year, perhaps following the path that the Treaty took during 1840.

“Ngāpuhi activists have denied the whole country a proud national day a few times too many. Let’s take this show on the road. There were 20-odd signing locations so it’ll return to Te Tii Marae in around 2037.

“A bit of competition among locations might help to lift standards of behaviour, bringing some dignity and joy back to this special day.”

Today’s ODT editorial thinks that this has merit – from The importance of Waitangi Day:

Act New Zealand leader David Seymour suggested the continued failure by Ti Tii to respectfully host the Government on Waitangi Day should prompt the prime minister of the day to visit a different marae each year.

It has never been clear why one iwi – Ngapuhi – gets to monopolise the celebrations.

And that hasn’t been working out very well – it seems to have become more about them and less about the country.

The Treaty was not signed just at Waitangi; it went on tour and was signed by chiefs throughout the country. He suggests the celebration of the Treaty signing could follow the path the Treaty took in 1840.

Waitangi Day is quickly slipping from relevancy for many New Zealanders who are just looking forward to a day of holiday when, in fact, the Treaty is considered New Zealand’s founding document.

Those who attend the Waitangi Day events often say it is overall a very good occasion, if you ignore a few attention seekers and media obsessions and distractions.

But currently for me and I think for many others Waitangi Day is a contentious circus hijacked by a few activists.

If it was celebrated in different places more it may become a country focussed occasion rather than a local leer up.

Little v PM English on child poverty

Yesterday Bill English faced his first Question Time in Parliament as Prime Minister, facing Andrew Little first up on questions on child poverty, with housing added to the mix – possibly the defining issues of next year’s election campaign.

David Seymour, Winston Peters and Metiria Turei joined in.

Prime Minister—Child Poverty

1. ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition) to the Prime Minister: Does he agree with Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft that the level of child poverty means “this is not the New Zealand I grew up in nor is it the New Zealand most of us want”; if so, what responsibility does he take as Prime Minister for his Government’s record?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH (Prime Minister): We do not want children growing up in persistent deprivation. I am proud of the steps the Government has already taken, including raising benefits by $25 per week for the first time in 40 years—something not done by the previous Labour Government. Alongside raising incomes, we are focusing on dealing with the complex dysfunction that traps families in long-term low incomes.

Andrew Little: Why are there more children living in poverty today than 8 years ago, when National took office?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I do not agree with the member’s assertion.

Hon Members: Oh!

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, the New Zealand Government publishes the most comprehensive measures of income of all developed countries in the world. The most recent information is up to 2014, which is prior to changes in free doctors visits for under-13s, the hardship package that was introduced under this Government, and other measures that we are taking for smarter support for vulnerable families.

Andrew Little: Why, after 8 years, has his Government not set targets to reduce income poverty and material deprivation amongst New Zealand children?

Hon Paula Bennett: Well, we have.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: We have. We have set quite specific targets in respect of all those factors that create the circumstances of persistent deprivation—that is, reduction in recidivism rates, reduction in long-term welfare dependency, and reductions in rheumatic fever. We have insulated 300,000 homes to improve the standard of housing and reduce poor housing, and, as I have said, we have increased incomes for families on benefits for the first time in 40 years.

Andrew Little: Is it acceptable to him that, according to the Child Poverty Monitor report, 110,000 Kiwi kids live in houses with severe damp or mould problems?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Of course that is not acceptable; the question is what steps should be taken to deal with it. This Government has insulated 300,000 such houses, and now runs much more focused systems for dealing with those children who show signs of ill health because of the quality their housing.

Andrew Little: How much money over the last 8 years has his Government taken out of Housing New Zealand in dividends, while Emma-Lita Bourne got sick and died in a cold, mouldy State house?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member misunderstands exactly how Housing New Zealand’s finances work, but when tenants are experiencing ill health because of the standard of those State houses, money is not a barrier to fixing them. All such incidents are meant to be dealt with by Housing New Zealand within a short amount of time precisely because of the ill effects on the tenants.

David Seymour: Is not the real problem with housing and poverty the fact that New Zealanders produce half as many homes per capita as we did in the 1970s?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: The member puts his finger on the nub of the issue. Misguided planning laws over the last 10 or 20 years have meant that our cities have not been allowed to grow, and that has helped to push up the price of housing and has made it less likely that good-quality, lower-cost housing is built in our cities.

Andrew Little: Will he back my bill to make it illegal to rent out damp, mouldy, unhealthy homes, or does he think it is OK for slum landlords to exploit poor families and make kids sick?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: It is already the law, in fact, that you cannot rent out a home that is going to be bad for someone’s health.

Rt Hon Winston Peters: To the Minister, is it not a fact that our parliamentary colleague from Epsom has stumbled on it—that we are not building nearly enough houses as we were in the 1970s and that we got mass immigration, which he has allowed in, in the 1990s and the 2000s?

Hon Members: Who’s the question to?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Who was the question to?

Mr SPEAKER: Did the Prime Minister not hear the question? I can have it repeated.

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: No, I think I did. It is the case that there have been fewer houses built per 100,000 people in New Zealand in the last 10 or 15 years, because the planning laws have been designed to stop that happening. As for immigration, the National-led Government stands proudly open to trade, investment, and migration.

Andrew Little: After 8 years of rising child poverty on his watch, will he sign up to Andrew Becroft’s target of reducing child poverty by 10 percent in the next year and take immediate steps to get there, or are we going to continue to hear empty words, just like we did from his predecessor?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Since 2012 we have published a set of quite focused targets aimed at dealing with the social dysfunction that traps families in the combination of welfare dependency, criminal recidivism, low education levels, and child abuse. The data about that is more detailed and more transparent than in pretty much any other developed country, and the Government is acting on that information—in many cases, family by family, because that is the only way to change their lives. Signing up to a target does not change their lives.

Metiria Turei: Does he accept the finding of the Children’s Commissioner’s report that on average 28 New Zealand children die each year of a poverty-related condition—each of those years being when National has been in Government?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, I have not seen the detail of that. The Child Poverty Monitor takes information from the Government’s annual report on the state of incomes and households across New Zealand. But I think both the Labour and Green parties grossly oversimplify this issue. If it was just a matter of income, there would be no child poverty, because incomes are higher than they were. The hard bit we are dealing with in child poverty is the social dysfunction that has been there for 20 or 30 years, and this Government is addressing that in a more focused, thorough, and transparent way than any previous Government.

David Seymour: Is it not also related that one in five of the 60,000 children born in New Zealand every year are born into a family dependent on benefits?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think that is roughly the case. Of more concern is that about one in 100 of these children are born into households where there is criminal offending, child abuse, violence, and long-term welfare dependency. We are closely focused on working with those families to break what are long-term cycles of deprivation.

Metiria Turei: What is the point of his Government’s interventions if not one of them has saved a single one of those children’s lives?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I just do not agree with the member. I mean, there have been quite sophisticated advances in, for instance, interventions around rheumatic fever, where the rate of diagnosis of rheumatic fever has halved in the last 3 years, precisely because of excellent work done by the Minister of Health and the Minister for Social Development. The rate of substantiated child abuse, which was rising, has flattened out. Those measures, among many others, may well have saved lives.

Metiria Turei: So how many families in 2017 does he expect will have to bury their children who have died because of poverty-related illness?

Rt Hon BILL ENGLISH: I would hope none. I would hope none because it would be a tragedy for any family to bury their child. But what I do know is that billions of dollars have been spent ineffectively in the last 20 to 30 years because of following the recipe that that member would advocate, which is to throw money at the problem. This Government is doing a much smarter job of supporting our vulnerable families, and, of course, we have a long way to go.

3 strikes ‘an ugly piece of law’

Jacinda Ardern, in her weekly co-column with David Seymour, desrobes 3 strikesd as “an ugly piece of law”.

Stuff: Jacinda v David: Three-strikes law is no home run

You may remember this law. It was fairly controversial at the time, and was one of the ACT Party’s babies. David Garrett was the champion of the bill, and having now exited Parliament it was David Seymour who has been left to defend what I can only describe as an ugly piece of law.

I don’t use those words lightly, but when you have a combination of bad law, coupled with populism, I just don’t know what else you can call it. And that’s exactly what three strikes is.

It did seem to pander to a populist demographic – the ‘throw  away the key’ mob. But this didn’t translate into voter support for Act, who dropped from 5 MPs to 1 after the law was passed.

Let’s be absolutely clear though. No one is for a moment implying that if you commit multiple offences that it shouldn’t be taken into account. But judges already have to consider previous convictions as an aggravating factor when they hand down a sentence. All that the three strikes legislation did was remove the discretion they had over how they factored that in. And examples like this recent case highlight how clumsy the law now is as a result.

The ugly part, of course, is that a law like ‘three strikes’ sounds good – like we’re sending a hard message and that we will all be safer as a result. But what do you do when the evidence shows that that’s not what this law does? Do you fly in the face of facts and evidence just because of the perception? I’d like to believe Parliament is better than that, perhaps it’s time to show it.

Seymour responds:

Three strikes for violent crime is a good law. It doesn’t just deter recidivism – it removes the worst criminals from our streets, ensuring they can’t terrorise peaceful New Zealanders.

But 3 strikes offences are not just for violence – the infamous first 3rd strike sentence was for grabbing a female prison officer’s bum.

Parliament passed this law to reflect the public’s view that the judiciary has been lax on reoffending. The legal profession may have their nose out of joint over it but in a democracy the public has the ultimate say.

‘The public’s view’ is a bit of a stretch. The way democracy worked here is a party with 5 MPs did a coalition deal with National that allowed the 3 strikes legislation to be passed through Parliament. ‘The public’ didn’t have their views measured democratically.

As for the ‘bottom pinching’ case – Jacinda ignores how the judge invoked three strikes’ in-built safety valve (the ‘manifestly unjust’ clause), meaning the offender will likely be released on parole after a third of his seven-year sentence.

The ‘manifestly unjust’ clause has been used three times under this law – that could suggest the law is inherently unjust.

It’s true that early evidence is limited, but the figures point in the right direction – compared to before the law was passed, new violent offenders are reoffending significantly less often.

But the connection there is debatable.

Last year lawyer Graeme Edgeler posted on this –The Greg King Memorial Blogpost: Three Strikes, Five Years On (now retracted) – in which he said:

So strike crime is down around 20% since three strikes came into effect.

Claiming cause and effect over something like that is the type of intractable debate that you get into over the effect of longer prison sentences. But what we are looking at is not the general deterrent effect of three strikes (fear of punishment in the public at large), but specific deterrence: fear of punishment by those who have a conviction for strike offending who have been personally warned by a judge that further strike offending is treated very seriously.

Had the three strikes law been in place on 1 June 2005, the following five years would have seen 256 offenders receive second strikes.

Now, strike crime is down in general, but the ~20% fall in strike offending is dwarfed by the ~62% fall in strike recidivism.

But Edgeler has just retracted this Retraction: Three Strikes Five Years On.

On September 30 2015, I published a post: The Greg King Memorial Blogpost: Three Strikes Five Years On.

I retract that post. I am grateful to Dominion Post journalist Nikki Macdonald for her story published today looking at three strikes that determined that my piece was unsupportable.

The principal comparison I made in that post, between the number of second-strikes there had been during the first five years after three strikes, and the number there would have been in the five years before three strikes, had three strikes been in place five years earlier, is invalid. The pre-three-strikes data and the post-three-strikes data on which the post was based are not comparable.

The conclusions I reached in my post, as tentative as they were, are not supported by the evidence. I do not know what the correct figures are, but I have substantially overstated the number of second strikes there would have been.

The data he had used to base his original post on was inadequate.

So debate will continue on how ugly the law is that attempts to address an ugly part of our society, violence.

As for the ‘bottom pinching’ case – Jacinda ignores how the judge invoked three strikes’ in-built safety valve (the ‘manifestly unjust’ clause), meaning the offender will likely be released on parole after a third of his seven-year sentence.

So the law works, even in difficult scenarios.

It’s too soon to tell, except that ‘difficult scenarios’ have been the rule rather than exceptions so far.

But Seymour wants to expand 3 strikes to also cover burglaries.

In fact, ACT would introduce a three-strikes law for burglary, meaning third-strike burglars would be jailed for three years. Burglary mightn’t be violent, but it can be extremely traumatising for its victims.

Does it make sense to load our prisons up even more?

And burglaries will be harder to deal with. I don’t know how a prescribed law can take into account likely anomalies.

It’s common for burglary prosecutions to involve multiple offences. How would a straightjacket law deal with one prosecution and conviction for say ten burglaries once a recidivist was caught, and three separate prosecutions for three burglaries.

3 strikes was in part sold on the basis of protecting society from the ‘worst of the worst’ but is already much wider than that, and Act want to widen it even further.

What’s next – 3 strikes for speeding?

It’s odd that 3 strikes has become the one issue that Act have become identified with.  From their website:

Our vision

  • A free society: free trade, free speech, and personal and religious freedom
  • A nation that values personal responsibility, tolerance, civility and compassion
  • Small government, low taxes, secure property rights, and the law applied equally to all citizens

While 3 strikes laws try to enforce personal responsibility they don’t seem to be compatible with tolerance, civility and compassion.

Applying the law equally to all citizens is a difficult ideal to achieve, but 3 strikes laws  is hardly going to help.

Seymour slams Super policies

Act MP David Seymour has slammed ‘baby boomers’ (I’m one of those) that he says will “turn our country into a debt-ridden basket case”.

The Spinoff: NZ baby boomers are building a banana republic, and no one gives a shit

The Treasury has made it clear that current superannuation policies will turn our country into a debt-ridden basket case, and yet media remain largely silent and politicians in denial. Young people need to get voting in a hurry, writes David Seymour.

You could be forgiven for missing that the Treasury published its four-yearly Long-term Fiscal Outlook this week (please, please stay with me, I promise this is worth it). The gist of the report is the same as the previous two editions:

If no policy changes are made, by 2060, when current students reach retirement age, government debt will be 206 per cent of GDP.

No matter how well you prepare for retirement, you’ll be living in a banana republic.

No, it’s unlikely to be a republic, New Zealand politicians are as reluctant to deal with ditch the monarchy as they are dealing with escalating superannuation costs.

The reason? Ageing baby boomers who will be more numerous and longer-lived in retirement than any generation before them. Right now there are four working-aged taxpayers supporting every retiree, but by the time current university students retire there will be only two.

Probably – unless eating ourselves to earlier deaths reverses the improving life expectancy trends of recent decades.

The cost of pensions and healthcare as a share of the economy will double, the government will run large deficits, and the international financial community will demand higher interest rates on New Zealand government debt, leading to larger deficits.

John Key and Bill English claim the country can afford the huge increases in costs, or they don’t care about leaving the problem for future governments.

The first way of absorbing the change is to raise taxes by about a quarter, so GST becomes nearly 20 per cent and the top tax rate goes over 40 per cent, along with every other rate being increased by the same proportion. People embarking on their careers now would pay a 25 per cent extra “boomer tax” for being born at the wrong time.

There tends to be a bit of resistance to increasing tax rates, especially by this sort of amount.

Another alternative is extreme productivity growth, the private economy grows faster than ever for longer than ever, and public services become more efficient than ever. We basically trade our way out of this situation and become so rich we can afford all-you-can-eat pensions and healthcare for retiring boomers.

This is the Key/English gamble.

The problem is that pensions are tied to income so getting wealthier just increases the amount paid out.

The final option is to adjust pension entitlements. Follow Australia, the US, UK, Germany, Canada, to name a few, who have increased the retirement age so there are more workers and fewer pension recipients.

Seymour laments the lack of media coverage of the report and the predicted problems – but people have been shouting  about Super unaffordability for a long time, but politician’s ears are deaf to it.

John Key has torpedoed the debate by saying he’d rather resign than raise the pension age, effectively saying to his supporters: choose fiscal sustainability, or me. Labour and the Greens have followed suit, abandoning the policy after the last election. New Zealand First would rather serve yum cha at their party conference than debate the issue.

Almost every political leader is holding their hands up to their ears and chanting, “la la la la la.”

Peter Dunne tried to force a re-evaluation of Super in the last term of the current Government, proposing ‘flexi-super’, but English and Key looked like having no intention of  acting on the ‘discussion document’ that was done as part of their confidence and supply agreement with United Future.

If NZ First holds the balance of power after next year’s election there is now way Winston will allow any cutting back of Super payments for his primary constituency.

National under Key’s leadership is committed to kicking the Super can down the road.

Unless ACT gets a few more seats and is in a balance of power situation and forces National to do something?

That may be what Seymour is angling at.

To have any hope of success I think that Act and Seymour will have to promote Super change (not ‘discussion’) as a core election policy, and they will have to win enough seats to be able to force Key’s hand.

If Act succeeds in the election then the choice may be National+Act with Super reform, or National+NZ First with a booming Super budget with a risk of our economy blowing up (after Winston has retired or died so he won’t care).

I think Seymour has the gumption to have a go at this. Would he get enough support? Will younger people start to vote for Act to try to sort out their not so Super prospects?

Greens versus Donald Trump

In Parliament today on behalf of the Prime Minister Steven Joyce moved a motion in support of the election of the President of the United States.

Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I move, That the House convey its congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump on his election as the next President of the United States, and to Vice-President-elect Mike Pence on his election, and in doing so express our desire to work with the incoming Trump Administration to continue building on New Zealand’s already strong relationship with the United States.

New Zealand will seek to build on this already-strong relationship with the incoming Trump Administration in order to advance our shared interests. In closing, I would also like to pay tribute to the outgoing administration led by President Barack Obama. President Obama has been a good friend to New Zealand, and we wish him all the best in the future.

Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour): The Labour Party congratulates Donald Trump on becoming the 45th President of the United States. I also want to congratulate Hillary Clinton, who achieved much in her public life, and who has been a good friend to New Zealand. There is no doubt, over the year-long divisive presidential campaign, that many Americans have been left fearful and concerned as to where they fit in their county. I call on Mr Trump to follow through on his words and pledge last night that it is now time for America to bind the wounds of division, and that he will be the President for all Americans.

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First): A week ago today I was honoured to speak in winegrowing territory in Marlborough, to its chamber of commerce. In a speech entitled “The grapes of wrath”, I predicted what so many experts did not…[lengthy speech along the lines of how what Trump has done should be called ‘doing a Winston’]

MARAMA FOX (Co-Leader—Māori Party): I had three words in mind and they were not those ones. I think they were pot, kettle, and black. Ha! We are here today to offer congratulations to the President-Elect, Donald Trump. Although I find it a little bit difficult, there was a collective sigh this morning and a girding of the loins for the next 4 years across the world. I am a pragmatist at heart. I like to see the silver lining around the clouds.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): On behalf of the ACT Party, I would like to join with other leaders who have supported the motion congratulating the 45th President-Elect of the United States, Donald Trump. That happens in the context of a long friendship between our two countries and our two peoples. I think it is important that we respect the will of the American people.

In contrast Metiria Turei took a different approach:

METIRIA TUREI (Co-Leader—Green): “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These are the words of one of the truly great Americans, Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday’s result in the US elections has left me and the Green Party even more determined than ever to fight for the values that we believe in. We have generations of families living in poverty; people who face uncertain futures, without proper housing or healthcare or education; and people who do not believe that being involved can make a difference. That is something that we can—that we must—change.

We must use the Trump election as a powerful motivator, a motivator to stay involved in the governance of our country, and to include others in that process; to organise; to be strong; to listen to each other; to speak truth to power; to find hope; and to be kind to each other—to be kind.

So, no, I will not support this motion to congratulate Trump, and neither will the Green Party. We vow to fight the climate change denial, the misogyny, and the racism represented by Trump. We will not let hate triumph. Thank you.


Full transcript: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20161110_20161110_08

The motion congratulating Donald Trump passed by 106 votes to 14 (the Green MPs).

The Greens are in to making stands based on their principles, and they can say what they like about the incoming president, and snub him if they choose.

But there is a well established democratic principle that even when you disagree with or don’t like political candidates if they are elected by their people then others need to accept this process and attempt at least to engage with and work with whoever leads other countries.

Perhaps this reflects the Greens’ lack of experience in that practicalities of governing situations.

You could shun half the country and half the world on principles, but to successfully govern the reality is you have to be prepared to accept whoever represents other countries and work with them.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama accepted that Trump had won the right to govern and Obama pledged to work with Trump to make his transition to power as seamless as possible, as he should.

If Greens became part of a government I wonder who it would work. They seem to not want to associate with many leaders and countries, including some of our biggest trading partners.

Key refuses to act on euthanasia inquiry

John Key is refusing to do anything about euthanasia legislation, regardless of the outcome of the current select committee inquiry.

Newstalk ZB: John Key: ‘No chance’ of Govt legalising euthanasia

There is zero chance of Government introducing legislation to legalise euthanasia even if an inquiry strongly recommends it, Prime Minister John Key says.

A select committee is part-way through a major inquiry on public attitudes to euthanasia in New Zealand, which is considering more than 20,000 public submissions and holding hearings around the country.

Key said today that regardless of the committee’s conclusions and the level of public support, the Government would not propose a change.

“There is no chance of it being a Government bill,” Key told reporters at Parliament this morning.

Key said he personally supported euthanasia. He would not take the step himself, but he believed others should be able to.

However, there was strong opposition to it within the National caucus, he said.

Senior members of the Cabinet such as Bill English and Gerry Brownlee have previously voted against bills which would have made euthanasia legal.

“Ultimately you’re dealing with a really sensitive issue and I think the process is best handled through a member’s bill, as I’ve said so often before,” Key said.

Saying it is “best handled through a member’s bill”, which is a long shot lottery, is gutless bollocks.

It may be Key-speak for ‘I am outnumbered in the National caucus on this’.

The Prime Minister said the select committee’s work was still useful because it would inform any debate if a private member’s bill on the issue was drawn.

That’s pathetic, effectively not allowing Parliament to do what it should, debate issues of public importance.

Andrew is little better.

Andrew Little said the Government should “at least” allow a euthanasia bill to come before the House so that a debate could take place.

However, he said a law change would not be a priority for a Labour-led Government.

He would personally support the legalisation of euthanasia if it had the same safeguards as former MP Maryan Street’s proposed bill.

Street’s bill was withdrawn from the member’s ballot ahead of the 2014 election at the request of former Labour leader David Shearer, who was concerned it could become a distraction in election year.

It was taken over by another Labour MP, Iain Lees-Galloway, but Little asked him not to return it to the ballot.

The Labour Party passed a remit at its annual conference on the weekend which said MPs would have a conscience vote on any euthanasia legislation.

Little said he was unsure about the level of support for a law change within his party.

So Little is ‘unsure about the level of support within his party’ but nevertheless had a Labour member’s bill withdrawn from the ballot and consigned it to ‘not a priority’, which is much the same as Key’s refusal to address it.

Euthanasia is a difficult and sensitive issue, but making it as hard as possible for parliament to debate it is gutless politics.

Act’s David Seymour is the only Member of Parliament willing to push for debate on this. He has effectively taken over the bill from Lees-Galloway. The rest of them are ducking for cover when they should be representing the interests of us the people.

The outcome of a euthanasia bill is obviously unknown, but debate on it should be allowed.

I’m especially disappointed with Key’s refusal to do anything, very poor leadership.

Seymour v Collins on euthanasia checkpoints

David Seymour kicked off Question Time in parliament yesterday by quizzing Minister of Police Judith Collins on whether she believed “the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety.”

Collins avoided answering this and follow up questions by claiming she couldn’t respond even in general due to a specific incident being referred to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.


QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS

PoliceRoadside Testing and Collection of Personal Information

1. DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT) to the Minister of Police: Does she believe the public has a right to be concerned about Police conducting roadside breath-screening tests with the intention of collecting personal information for investigations unrelated to road safety; if not, why not?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Police): Although there is no ministerial responsibility for the genuinely held views of members of the New Zealand public, and both section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 and the Cabinet Manual preclude my intervention—in particular, with policing operations—I can confirm that the Commissioner of Police has referred this incident to the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) for investigation.

David Seymour: Does the Minister believe it is a good use of Police resources to interrogate law-abiding people attending a peaceful meeting of an advocacy group, given an 18 percent spike in burglary reported by Statistics New Zealand just this week?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think I have answered that question very clearly. This is not a matter that I can comment on. It is currently with the Independent Police Conduct Authority, and for me to make a statement about it or have any sort of view would, in fact, actually try to influence the IPCA—and this is not a Labour Government; this is a National Government.

David Seymour: Can the Minister comment on whether she is completely satisfied with how Police currently allocates its resources, given increases in assault, sexual assault, abduction, kidnapping, robbery, and extortion, but no reported increases in rogue advocacy groups in Maungaraki?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Clearly, the member is not aware that road policing is actually funded out of the Ministry of Transport, not out of Police. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister agree with the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, when he said “there would be pretty troubling aspects” to an operation that used the statutory power and, indeed, funding provided under the Land Transport Act to gather personal information for a different purpose?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I am not sure how many times I need to tell that member that I have no intention of wading into an investigation that the Independent Police Conduct Authority is undertaking. I take my responsibilities very seriously, and I would refer the member to not only section 16 of the Policing Act 2008 but also the Cabinet Manual on this issue. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order!

David Seymour: Does the Minister have any views about how a police force should operate and how it should allocate its resources?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I do. One of the ways I believe that police should operate is to not have politicians telling them how to do their job. [Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! [Interruption] Order!

David Seymour: Will she guarantee that someone will eventually be held accountable for this gross breach of civil liberties?

Hon JUDITH COLLINS: I think the member is jumping to conclusions. I suggest he leave it to the Independent Police Conduct Authority, which is the right and proper place and people to look into this issue.


Seymour followed up with a press release:

Minister ducks for cover on inappropriate use of police resources

The Minister of Police has failed to reassure New Zealanders that someone will take responsibility for any misuse of police resources to target euthanasia groups. She hides behind due process today while she is happy to crow about police operations when it suits, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“When New Zealanders see a blatant abuse of civil liberties, they expect someone to be held accountable. At the very least they expect the appropriate Minister to have a view on the principles of good policy. New Zealanders should be disappointed on both counts today.

“Astoundingly, Judith Collins refused to acknowledge what anyone can see: that surveillance of assisted dying advocates is ethically wrong and legally dodgy, not to mention a complete waste of police resources when burglary is spiking 18% in the last year.

“The Minister refused to share any view on this behaviour, saying it would be inappropriate given an inquiry is under way by the Independent Police Conduct Authority. ACT respects this due process, but it needn’t prevent the Minister from expressing a general view, particularly one who is not usually reluctant in sharing her opinions.

“She hasn’t shied away from crowing about other initiatives such as recent anti-burglary measures. Core police operations suffer when resources are thrown at harassing advocacy groups, but the Minister offers no comment. Apparently she only likes to comment on good news.”

It would be good if the Minister of Police could at least assure the public that breath testing checkpoints won’t be used illegally to detain members of the public travelling legally.