Small party leaders’ debate

Five smaller party leaders had a debate on TV1 last night. It was for just an hour (the multiple Ardern v Collins debates are for one and a half hours) and with numerous advertising breaks there was probably just forty minutes for the five to try to swing some votes their way.

David Seymour – ACT Party (2017 election 0.5%, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 7, 6.3, 8, 8)

Seymour is now a practiced campaigner and usually spoke well. A funny moment was when he exclaimed that Peters )”said I am out of date”. While some of his policies probably be widely supported they will resonate with enough to have get votes. He has done well to lift ACT to current levels.

James Shaw – Green Party (2017 6.3%, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 6, 6.5, 7, 6)

This debate was Shaw’s turn (Marama Davidson did the Nation debate) and he should have pleased Green supporters. He spoke clearly and sensibly to more than the Green constituency), and even pulled the debate back on topic. A good performance that should help Green chances.

Winston Peters – NZ First (2017 7.2%, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 2.4, 1.9, 1.4, 2)

Peters looked out of sorts and out of place – not so much fish out of water but more like a crocodile in a pond of the past. He mentioned last century much more than what he do if re-elected. He tried to play as an underdog, perhaps hoping people will forget his top dog performance in installing the Labour-led government along with pork barrel policy funds that seem to have fizzled. He again claimed nonsensically that everyone in the party had been completely exonerated by the SFO prosecution of NZ First Foundation.

Peters has swung back to campaigning as ‘we the government have done well” rather than attacking Labour and saying he would restrict them (again), but didn’t look really that energised or optimistic, more aged, jaded and fading.

John Tamihere – Maori Party (2017 1.2%, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 0.9, 1.5, 0.8, <1)

Made some good points about education for Maori but waffled fairly aimlessly too much, or maybe i am just not his target market. Seems resigned to not getting into Parliament via the list, with all his party hopes on winning one or two electorates (reports are they are close in polls in at least one).

Jamie-Lee Ross – Advance NZ (2017 didn’t stand, Sep-Oct 2020 polls 0.8 NR, 0.6, 1)

Interesting that he fronted up, presumably due to his political experience, but he is tainted goods and is absence the charisma of Billy Te Kahika. Tried when he was given the opportunity to speak but won’t have impressed many, probably not even supporters of his composite party. Claimed that Covid was similar to the flu, that line has been discredited many times. Looks like a futile exercise with Advance NZ not rising above one in polls despite significant social media support.

So with just Shaw and Seymour looking good this fits with the likely outcome of a Labour, Green, Act and National parliament, with the Maori Party a long shot for an electorate seat or two.

Up until the debate last night over half a million people will have already voted. It’s hard to understand why this debate was held so late in the campaign. It looks like most people who might vote are already decided.

A web of connections between the ACT Party, Taxpayers’ Union and National Party

Ex ACT party researcher Grant McLachlan has posted what he knows about the ACT Party and it’s many political connections with people with National Party and also with the Taxpayers Union and other activist groups.

Astroturfs: Act Three of ‘Dirty Politics’

Artificial grassroots organisations – nicknamed ‘astroturfs’ – are designed to mask the sponsors of a message or organization so to give the impression that there is support from grassroots participants. Often, they help politicians to find and mobilize a sympathetic public and create the image of public consensus where there is none.

The story of astroturfs is a hot mess of money, cliques of right-wing schemers, and dog whistle politics.

Astroturf origins

The history of astroturfs in New Zealand is closely associated to the history of the Act Party.

The Association of Consumers and Taxpayers was formed in 1993 by former Labour minister Roger Douglas and former National minister Derek Quigley. It started as an astroturf but, in the new MMP environment, decided to form a political party called Act.

McLachlan then goes through history of the Act Party.

Fast forward to 2011 when ACT had five MPs, Rodney Hide resigned and Don Brash took over.

Despite many in Act knowing about David Garrett’s convictions for assault and using the identity of a dead child to obtain a false passport, when it surfaced in the media David Garrett resigned. Don Brash then challenged for the leadership and Garrett’s replacement, Hillary Calvert, gave Brash a narrow victory.

Brash claimed his motivation for the coup was Act and National’s lack of fiscal prudence. Soon after becoming leader, however, Brash and Ansell ran an advert criticising the ‘Maorification of Everything.’

Assisting Brash was former Act MP Stephen Franks and a junior solicitor in his firm, Jordan Williams. It was during the 2011 election that Jordan Williams fronted the ‘Vote For Change’ campaign to get rid of MMP. Jordan’s strategy revolved around uniting supporters of the main parties by stigmatising Winston Peters as the bogeyman of MMP.

The 2011 election was a disaster for Act. Don Brash was a list-only candidate, their support dropped to 1 percent, and John Banks won Epsom to become Act’s only MP. The party touting itself as ‘The Liberal Party’ was now led by one of National’s most conservative former ministers.

It was during this period that Nicky Hager received material which would become the basis for Dirty Politics. Practitioners included Jordan Williams and National Party pollster, David Farrar. In February 2013, they incorporated the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

Farrar has well known connections to the National Party – see disclosure statement.

The Taxpayers’ Union promotes itself as a spending watchdog – WE CAMPAIGN FOR BETTER VALUE FOR MONEY FROM GOVERNMENT SPENDING – but they have always looked like a political activist group to me.

They have just had a lame complaint to Broadcasting Standards Authority ‘not upheld’ which targeted Labour Party advertising – NEW ZEALAND TAXPAYERS’ UNION INC AND MEDIAWORKS TV LTD – 2020-116 (22 SEPTEMBER 2020).

Jordan Williams was involved in a political hit job on Colin Craig and the Conservative party, along with Cameron Slater, that has resulted inn expensive defamation proceedings.

The idea of a taxpayer union wasn’t original. Canada had a Canadian Taxpayers Federation since 1990. Act politicos Peter McCaffrey and David Seymour spent years in Canada at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy analysing local and central government accountability.

Dirty Politics was published in August 2014. In September 2014, the founding chairman of the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union, John Bishop, posted an article titled ‘Taxpayers’ Union has attacked National more often than any other party.’ Since then, the organisation has attacked politicians from every political party except one: Act.

Bishop, a former TVNZ political editor, was the Act Party ‘Constituency Services Manager’, working in Parliament during Richard Prebble’s leadership. His job was to co-ordinate campaigns and tours from within Parliament. At the time, I was a researcher and ‘electorate agent.’

Bishop’s son, Chris Bishop, is currently National MP for Hutt South.

During Bishop’s tenure at Act, Prebble used Parliamentary Service funding to employ a disproportionate number of staff in its leader’s office, using the ‘out of Parliament’ budget meant for electorate agents to instead work in Parliament. A bogus electorate office was set up at Prebble’s private residence on Little Pipitea Street. Despite none of the staff ever working there, we were instructed to say that we did.

I was employed as a researcher in Parliament for 8 hours a week and 32 hours as an ‘out-of-Parliament’ electorate agent.

During the almost three years I worked for Act, I only worked three weeks out of Parliament, which was spent in Newmarket at the party’s head office shortly after that meeting at the bogus office. Following my return from Auckland, I resigned.

Other staff embroiled in this scam included Peter McCardle (who was also juggling elected roles on the District Health Board and Upper Hutt City Council) and Roger Styles (who was also elected to the Hutt City Council and became deputy mayor). Press secretaries included journalists David Young, David Hargreaves, and public relations commentator Trish Sherson.

Trish Sherson is sometimes used as aa political commentator by media – she was a Newshub post-debate panelist on Tuesday night.

Styles and McCardle used Parliamentary resources to research demographic trends of their constituencies. Discovering the ‘gentrification’ of the Hutt South electorate, Styles had ambitions of winning the electorate for National off Trevor Mallard.

John Bishop’s son, Chris, would eventually gain the candidacy in 2014 and win the seat in 2017. Chris’ work colleague at Phillip Morris Tobacco, Todd Barclay, entered Parliament at the same time.

So the claim here is that Act Party research led to National winning Hutt South.

Despite John Bishop’s track record with Act, Bishop went on to campaign for the Taxpayers’ Union, ridiculing politicians for double-dipping and misusing taxpayer and ratepayer money.

John Banks became swamped by scandal as Kim Dotcom testified that Banks didn’t declare a donation to his 2010 mayoralty campaign. When convicted, Banks resigned and Act found a new leader, Jamie Whyte. David Seymour ran for Epsom. Whyte argued that incest between consenting adults shouldn’t be illegal and later back-tracked. While Seymour won Epsom, Act support dropped to 0.69 percent.

Seymour initially failed to gain traction and Act floundered around 1 percent in support. National introduced young liberal candidates, including Rodney Hide’s former staffer, Andrew Falloon, and Hamish Walker replaced Todd Barclay.

After being disgraced in 2017 Barclay didn’t stand for re-election. Walker and Falloon were both exposed for poor behaviour this year and neither will stand again in their electorates.

Houlbrooke. You might remember that surname when a Louis Houlbrooke fronted a ‘lobby group’ called ‘Take Back the Clocks’ in 2019 to abolish daylight savings. Or during the 2017 election campaign when Act’s Deputy Leader Beth Houlbrooke said, “The fact is, parents who cannot afford to have children should not be having them.”

Beth is Louis’ mother. She rose from Act candidate in 2014, to vice president and party manager in the same year, to deputy leader for the 2017 election.

Louis got his start as Act’s social media co-ordinator and media liaison for the 2014 election, whilst president of Act’s youth wing. Following the election, he was David Seymour’s press secretary for the term.

Following the 2017 election, Beth remained Deputy Leader while Louis transferred to the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union and rose quickly to become their campaign manager.

Louis Holbrooke is still TU Campaign Mananger.

The Taxpayers’ Union strategy changed overnight. Their coffers swelled to an annual budget of $831,848.22 by the end of 2019 and nine paid staff.

Their ‘Our Team’ includes 15 people with various roles.

The Union was on a roll. They renamed their annual awards for the biggest wasters of public money after Shane Jones.

That looks clearly like political activist targeting.

The more that the Taxpayers’ Union attacked New Zealand First, the better David Seymour looked.

Targeting NZ First’s core voters, Act then surprised many members by giving gun lobbyists high list rankings.

Louis helped Beth and Phelan set up Facebook ‘community pages.’ While Act ran a ‘Freedom to Speak’ campaign against Jacinda Ardern’s proposals to censor hate speech, Beth and Phelan censored and blocked criticism and debate. When brought to the attention of Act, Seymour claimed the community pages were ‘private property.’

As president of Act’s youth wing, Louis campaigned against compulsory membership of student unions. Beth and Phelan, however, have both pushed for ‘Business Improvement Districts’ throughout Rodney…

…But none of these examples got a mention at the annual ‘Jonesie Awards’, held in Parliament’s Legislative Chamber. Instead, awards were given to Wellington Mayor Andy Foster for wasting $30,000 on a leadership course, Racing Minister Winston Peters for providing funding for two upgraded training facilities, and a lifetime achievement award to Transport and former Housing Minister Phil Twyford.

(For an event to be held in Parliament, it has to be sponsored by a Parliamentarian. Every ‘Jonesie Awards’ event has been sponsored by National MP Chris Penk, whose electorate includes the Rodney Ward.)

It looks like a web of interconnections between ACT, National and the Taxpayers Union.

With Act, nothing is as it seems. The protests by gun owners in the South Island were ‘attended’ by ‘Firearms Safety Specialist’ and third-ranked Act list candidate, Nicole McKee. The ‘grassroots’ protest, organized by local pistol and deerstalking clubs, was repeated elsewhere.

What is certain is that Act is about money. Several of Act’s major donors live in the Rodney Ward near the controversial Auckland Shooting Club at Makarau. There are strong Act links to that club. Maybe the media should be asking one member why Beth Houlbrooke was demoted? What was Beth’s position on the controversial club?

Act’s backers have mutated Astroturfs from a pressure group, to an attack weapon, to directly protecting the politicians they were indirectly meant to support, to having an unhealthy influence over a minor party. While they evolve, they still operate as dirty politics in plain sight.

This may be a distinction between ‘dirty politics’ and ‘Dirty Politics’, but there are a number of connections between ACT’s operations, the Taxpayers’ Union operations and National party interests.

McLachlan has followed up with another post.

Why we should have zero tolerance for Act

Sex, drugs, fraud and bullying. What the Act Party doesn’t want you to know this election.

He goes over a number of claims related to sexual harassment and drug abuse associated with the Act Party. Then:

Act now wants David Seymour to be perceived as a ‘fresh face’ and a clean slate. No he isn’t. He’s been around Act since I can remember.

I remember him as being good mates with disgraced former National MP Andrew Falloon when Falloon was Rodney Hide’s creepy staffer.

Seymour was then John Banks’ Ministerial Advisor while John Banks was being prosecuted.

Many who condoned the serious misconduct I’ve described are still active in the organisation. Seymour’s distancing from sexual harassment problems within Act’s youth wing is symptomatic of a party which places more importance on public perception rather than addressing the reality of its toxic culture.

But Act expects voters to have short memories. Seymour talks tough on ‘gangs’ when he and his party acted like one throughout its history. There are no signs that he will be any different as he tries to lure a new generation of voters.

Quite successfully it seems. Act are currently polling at 6-8%. National are still polling poorly so are unlikely to get to form a Government with Act, but if a sizeable ACT caucus gets established and doesn’t fly to bits they may be in a strong position to pull National and the country rightwards from 2023.

Labour’s underwhelming tax policy

Grant Robertson announced Labour’s tax policy yesterday, not Jacinda Ardern. There’s not much to it, and it was criticised from the left and the right.

So what are the changes? Is Labour putting up taxes?

Our balanced plan protects vital services like education and health and keeps a lid on debt. 

Our three tax policies are:

– A new top income tax rate of 39% – only affecting income over $180,000 

– A freeze on fuel tax increases and no new taxes for the entire term

 – Closing tax loopholes to make multinational corporations pay their fair share 

Just the 2% highest earners will pay more tax – this means MPs (excluding party leaders and ministers) will avoid the higher tax.

The pledge not to increase any other tax in their next term actually means that with bracket creep middle income earners will continue to be taxed at a slightly higher overall tax rate with every increase in their income. This has been happening since the last lower bracket adjustment about ten years ago.

Governments have been promising to ‘close loopholes’ used by multinational corporations for many years, with little changing.

The projected increase in tax take will be only about half a billion dollars a year, which won’t come close to paying back the many billions of dollars borrowed to address the Covid Pandemic.

There appears to be nothing new to try to address property assets – Labour’s announcement mentioned only what they have already done, which seems to have done nothing to reduce property inflation.

They continue to promote ‘fairness’ – “We’re improving the fairness of our tax system to make sure everyone is paying their fair share”. Fairness is in the eye of the payer – most people think it’s fair for others to pay more tax, not them.

National and ACT and others tending right criticised the higher tax bracket.

Goldsmith, Seymour slam higher tax rates

Labour’s opponents say more tax is not the answer to the economic challenges facing New Zealand.

“No country’s ever taxed its way out of recession,” National’s Paul Goldsmith says.

“And this is classic Labour Party policy, spend more, tax more.”

“And there’s a very big question as to how much actual revenue will be gained because this will be great for tax planners and accountants to work their way around.”

Goldsmith also warned this is “just the beginning”.

ACT leader David Seymour said the new rate announced by Labour would raise little revenue and describes it as “divisive populism”.

“Jacinda Ardern likes to say we’re all in this together, but Labour is picking on a small group of New Zealanders to fund the Covid-19 recovery.

“Labour is telling young New Zealanders ‘if you study hard, get good grades, get a good job, save money, and invest wisely, we’ll tax you harder’ – that’s the wrong message,” Seymour says.

One valid criticism was that the Trust tax rate was not being increased so would be 11% lower than the highest bracket. This is likely to increase the use of trusts to try to avoid tax.

The top bracket will also increase to significantly more than the business tax rate, which will also encourage ‘management’ of income and assets to try to reduce tax.

Greens were amongst the strongest critics – see Green reaction to Labour’s tax policy.

But on current polling Greens and NZ First look like struggling to make the threshold and may not be in the next Government.

The latest UMR poll (25 Aug – 2 Sep 2020):

  • Labour 53%
  • National 29%
  • ACT 6.2%
  • NZ First 3.9%
  • Greens 3.2%

It’s looking like Labour may be able to govern alone, or at least with a majority. And they are acting like they believe that will happen.

Robertson is promising no other increases or new taxes, but was asked whether that would stand if Labour needed to negotiate post election for support, with a party like the Greens, that has a more aggressive tax policy.

“This is the policy that Labour is campaigning on and we will only implement the changes that are in this policy,” he said.

That could be seen as confidence or arrogance.

Should the election be delayed?

Judith Collins and David Seymour are asking if the election needs to be delayed due to the new Covid cases.

RNZ: ‘Straight answers’ needed from government on Covid-19 restrictions – Collins

National was delaying its campaign launch, Collins said, and if the situation in Auckland didn’t improve the election might need to be postponed.

“I think it’s inevitable that people will be asking these questions and I actually can’t see how we can have the Government saying well it’s all just fine and we’ll get the Electoral Commission to do some postal ballots or something, that’s not going to be acceptable, this is a liberal democracy and people do need to be able to have a fair go.

“I think it’s going to have to be [delayed] unless it’s sorted out by Friday, so let’s see how Friday goes and I’m ever hopeful that we’ll have a decision straight away, we’ll have something that can tell us we can get back to where we have been.

ACT leader David Seymour wrote to the Speaker last night asking him to postpone the dissolution of Parliament.

“Terrible news tonight. It occurs to me that Parliament does not need to dissolve before the election.

“I strongly urge you to postpone the dissolution of Parliament tomorrow until at least this time next week when a clearer picture of the Public Health situation can be had.

“It is possible that the election will now need to be delayed. If that is the case, I believe the people would want to have Parliament available for an epidemic response committee or perhaps sittings,” Seymour said in the letter.

I don’t know why the election should be delayed at this staged at least.

This is more of a hiccup than a crisis. We have been told to expect more community cases ‘not if but when’. And now we have a few.

If the country rushes into lockdowns every time there’s a new community case we will have a very disrupted few months.

If the election has to be delayed because of these cases, for how long should it be delayed? Until there are no new cases for a month? Then it will take two or three months at least to get the election going – and what if there’s moire cases, as we have been told is likely? Keep kicking the election can down the road?

I think that we should be trying to keep things as normal as possible while dealing with a few Covid hiccups.

There may be something on this from Jacinda Ardern soon, she is having media conferences with Ashley Bloomfield at 10:30 am and 4.o0 pm.


Ardern says they are considering the timing of the election but it’s in the early stages of discussion and no decision has been made or looks likely in the next day or two.

Judith Collins rules out NZ First, rules in ACT

National leader Judith Collins has already confirmed that National will not consider doing a governing deal with NZ First after the election, but has now strongly endorsed the ACT party and specifically David Seymour in the Epsom electorate.

ODT (NZH): Collins rules out working with NZ First

National leader Judith Collins appears to have ruled out working with NZ First after the election – and says Winston Peters and his party are probably on the way out anyway.

…Collins has slammed the door shut on the chances of reversing the decision not to work with NZ First.

“We have made that very plain as a caucus and as a party, and I know a lot of our party supporters and voters certainly wanted us to do that,” she said today.

“I’m pretty clear – the caucus has decided it. That’s the caucus view.”

“It’s really important to understand the caucus has said that they don’t want to do a deal with Winston Peters. There is no reason that I know that we are going to change that.”

Yesterday from Stuff: Judith Collins calls for Epsom voters to back ACT’s David Seymour

Judith Collins has explicitly asked voters in Epsom to back the ACT party’s David Seymour, sidelining her own finance spokesperson as part of a longstanding arrangement with the libertarian party.

Collins, the National leader, on Monday said she was asking voters in the Auckland electorate should to vote for Seymour for their electorate MP, saying she would “welcome him being part of a National-ACT Government”.

“I don’t need to have little cups of tea or anything, because everybody knows that David Seymour and I work very well together”

“I’m asking the people of Epsom”.

“I think it’s always important to be respectful of people and their votes, and I’m very, explicitly saying that I believe that a National-led Government is going to be best served with ACT as our partner.”

“I’m very happy to say that we want the party vote, please, in Epsom, please, and in this particular electorate you can give the first tick, for the electorate, to David Seymour.”

This was fairly obvious but at least this is explicit and open National support for Seymour in Epsom and for the ACT Party as a governing partner, far better than the charades and signalling of past elections.

National’s passive Epsom candidate since 2011 Paul Goldsmith said:

“It’s the party vote that counts. That’s my focus”.

He has always had to avoid campaigning for the electorate vote while seeking the party vote.

There has been reports that electorate polls show Seymour looks comfortable and should retain the seat.

Seymour, leader of the ACT party, said the media could focus on such endorsements, but he was “listening to the voters”.

“What they’re telling me is that the world has changed and we need a plan for a faster recovery with lower taxes and less debt,” he said in a statement provided by a spokesman.

Asked if Collins’ endorsement guaranteed ACT would work with National, Seymour said: “National is the only party ACT could work with right now.”

That’s stating the obvious. None of Labour, Greens or NZ First would consider doing a governing deal with ACT.

“We can’t work with a Labour Party that has the most disastrous public policy record in living memory.”

Seymour has feuded with Winston Peters through the term, who a couple of weeks ago challenged him to a fist fight – it was lame and never going to happen but Seymour has kept getting under Winston’s skin. It won’t help that ACT is getting double the support of NZ First in polls.

So as expected one option for the next Government is a two party National + ACT coalition. ACT are currently doing well in polls and should get several MPs in Parliament this time, but National are struggling, polling 20-30% behind Labour.

I think that is likely to close up a bit but the gap looks far to big to close for National unless there is some significant development, like Ardern resigning and Phil Twyford taking over the Labour leadership.

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.

Adjournment speech – David Seymour

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): Thank you, Mr Speaker. Not in living memory has our country entered an election against such a backdrop of global uncertainty. The medical, economic, and geopolitical impacts of COVID-19 remain unpredictable, but we know that these impacts are on New Zealanders’ businesses, on their household finances, on their jobs, and on their mental health.

We politicians enter this election campaign with a job to do. The world is changing all around us, and our small island nation must find its place anew in that ever changing world.

At the same time, people’s faith in our politics in this Parliament is at an all-time low ebb, and it’s not just the most recent, highly publicised ructions that have led to that low ebb; it is a long period over the past three years of poor quality delivery and poor quality lawmaking. We all know the examples: KiwiBuild, light rail, child poverty, the gun buyback, the oil and gas exploration ban, the Provincial Growth Fund. It’s been one disaster after another.

I think it’s fair to say that we have a disaster Government led by a disaster Prime Minister, because, if it wasn’t for the disasters, what we would have is a long series of let downs, where everything the parties over there promised in 2017 has been a failure.

Let me say that that’s not a personal critique; I happen to like our Prime Minister as a person, and I admire what she’s done holding people together at critical times of disaster. That’s not the problem. The problem is that the world is changing, and a different style of leadership is required. We require problem solving.

We require an open debate about what exactly New Zealand’s public health strategy is, because, at the moment, the Government would have it that we can either remain physically isolated from the world and borrow to paper over the cracks or we can open it up and people will die. In other words, they want us to be either dead broke or dead. I believe that this country deserves an open debate, not a state of fear; asking what we can do, not what we can’t; going country by country when it comes to the border; working together with, not against, the private sector; and embracing technology to augment our public health response.

Those are the principles of a smart public health response, and when we’ve done that, we can start being honest about the debt, because my army of 14-year-old Instagram followers have been sending me messages saying, “David, who is the Government borrowing all this money off and who has to pay it back?” You know, if 14-year-olds can figure out that the Government borrowing $140 billion is a problem, and it is for them, maybe we in this Parliament need to start being honest about this country’s fiscal track.

If we can do those things, we can seize the opportunity of a lifetime: an island nation on a pandemic planet that actually, for once, is the place that skills and capital want to go to—if only we’re prepared to seize the opportunity and stop being so hostile to foreign investment and wealth-creating activity in this country.

That is what New Zealanders need out of this election debate, and that is what the ACT Party brings: a consistent, constructive critique and contribution to the challenges that our country faces at this time, about the challenge of a country finding its place in a world that is changing around it. That’s what New Zealanders need out of this election debate. That’s what the ACT Party will be bringing, and I look forward to a group of independent-minded, thoughtful ACT MPs sitting across here, on the cross-benches, supporting a Government far more competent than the one that we have now.

That is why you give your party vote to ACT. That is a positive future for New Zealand. Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Peters versus everyone he hasn’t already lost in court against

Winston Peters already seemed tetchier than usual over the weekend and since. Perhaps it was his recent operation that unsettled him, or the smaller than usual attendance at his campaign launch speech on Sunday, or the awarding of $320K costs against him on Friday, or the exposure of him employing the services of misinformation hit men from the UK after first denying it, or the poor poll results for NZ First, or staring down the barrel of being dumped from Parliament again.

Maybe all of that.

And it’s likely the constant digging at him by David Seymour has worn thin, because that’s who he launched an attack on under the protection of Parliamentary privilege yesterday.

Here is the court case he lost: PETERS v BENNETT & ORS [2020] NZHC 761 [20 April 2020]

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler thinks that Peters had a legitimate grievance about his overpayment of his super (despite the obvious question about how Peters failed to fill in a form properly and failed to notice an overpayment for years), but he points out that if Peters was really concerned about fixing the ‘no surprises’ procedure rather than political utu there was a far cheaper and more effective way of dealing with it:

There is another option, of course: the no surprises principle isn’t “law” – it’s simply stated in the Cabinet Manual, which Cabinet could change. Peters is the deputy prime minister, and a member of Cabinet: and as he didn’t have success in the Courts in vindicating his rights, he could push for it to be changed for the rest of us. That wouldn’t fix the breach of privacy that occurred in his case, but it would hopefully make similar breaches less likely in the future.

But Peters is a very political animal and having already launched attacks on partner parties Greens and Labour already this week, decided to attack ACT and National by making serious accusations – but he was only prepared to do this under parliamentary privilege, not in public without legal protection.

In General Debate yesterday:

Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Deputy Prime Minister): Today, I am going to outline the truth about the leak of my superannuation. There have been news reports about the case. The matter is not sub judice. But a source totally connected to both the ACT Party and the National Party has revealed that the leak was one Rachel Morton.

Morton heard about the case because she was present when former Minister Anne Tolley told her ministerial colleague Paula Bennett about it—not outside by the lifts, but in a ministerial office. Ms Morton then, thinking it would be kept in confidence, told ACT Party leader, David Seymour, but, desperate for any sort of attention, Mr Seymour contacted Jordan Williams of the wage subsidy – receiving taxpayer union fame. Williams—no stranger to dirty politics—told John Bishop, father of National MP Chris Bishop, and the details were then leaked to Newsroom’s Tim Murphy.

Williams also told another dirty politics practitioner, National Party pollster David Farrar. Farrar tried to shut it down, seeing the risk it exposed to the National Party, but then went along anyway, although he later tried to steer the story away from National’s guilt, which is its usual modus operandi.

But Newshub wanted to control the story. Barry Soper and Newshub knew more about the story than Tim Murphy, who nevertheless tweeted about—and I quote him—”the mother of all scandals” about to break a day before the story leaked publicly. Ms Morton used to work for Newshub and Newstalk ZB. Newshub was trying its best to protect her after David Seymour tried to get the story leaked through channels not connected with Morton. Three Newshub journalists—Jenna Lynch, Lloyd Burr, and Patrick Gower—looked collectively stunned when they were told that they had burnt Ms Morton as a source. They knew they’d been tumbled.

When this was put to the Newshub reporters that it would also expose National and Jordan Williams’ dealings with Tim Murphy, one of the Newshub journalists paused and said that National were “distancing themselves” from the story, but it was an ACT-inspired hit job to damage me politically, in collaboration with a senior National Party staffer, Rachel Morton, who was the source of the leak and the source that led to Jordan Williams weaponising the information during the election campaign. Every last one of them—Morton, Seymour, Williams, Bishop, Murphy, Farrar—played dirty politics to breach my inalienable right and the inalienable right of every New Zealander to privacy.

My source also revealed that National Party members joked amongst themselves about the leak, but realised they couldn’t do anything with the “no-surprises disclosure”—their risk was too high. That, of course, didn’t prevent Ms Tolley from telling her sister, nor did it prevent 42 people being made aware of my super case. All it took was for that private information to fall into the hands of David Seymour, who craved media attention but couldn’t claim the limelight, because that would have placed a spotlight on Rachel Morton, his source.

This is what dirty politics looks like.

That’s why I have brought this case on principle, at a huge cost—the principle of privacy.

The collusion between the National Party, ACT, and these grubby figures in and around politics is what turns people off politics. The characters in the story of my super leak viewed dirty politics as their religion, but it’s the worship of jackals by jackasses.

What I now know, and I didn’t know it as I went to court, is that during my court case, there were witnesses who gave evidence who knew the truth, even as they were not speaking it, and journalists—but not Barry Soper—who sat in the court who knew the truth, but printed a tissue of lies. That I now know. Shame on them, but now they’ve been exposed for what they truly are.

Maybe Mr Seymour could tell the precise circumstances in which he was told this information. Will he tell them, or will I have to? This has been a disgrace, and Mr Seymour is now outed.

I have got the witness. I never had it until the court. The judge said to me, “But you must tell me who did it.”, as though—with all their resources—one man against them, paying for his own costs, could be expected to do that.

Mr Seymour, I am resolved that this is day one of the truth fightback, and he is going to be in my line.

DAVID SEYMOUR (Leader—ACT): I seek leave to make a personal explanation.SPEAKER: The member has sought leave to make a personal explanation. Is there any objection? Yes, there is.

So Seymour was blocked from responding directly to the allegations.

“This is what dirty politics looks like” is somewhat ironic from Peters.

Seymour has since strongly denied doing what has been accused. Morton has strongly denied, Farrar has strongly denied.

Peters says this won’t go to court until after the election. So he is putting all this out there, under protection, obviously aimed at doing as much political damage as he can as we approach the election.

He filed his original court action a day before the last election, just before going into negotiations with National ‘in good faith’.

Faith in a miracle may be all Peters has to go on this campaign. He seems to have jumped the shark. Unless he fronts up with evidence soon his claims can be dismissed as dirty campaigning.

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 policy targeting gangs and their proceeds

David Seymour has announced ACT Party policy that targets the criminal proceeds of gangs.

Newshub: Gangs targeted in ACT Party proposal, pledges to ‘hit them where it hurts’

Party leader David Seymour told Newshub Nation the policy was simple.

“If the police find illegal firearms and illegal activity by a gang, then they can take their assets because, at the moment, gangs are getting around the Criminal Proceeds Recovery Act by having a large number of small operations,” Seymour told host Simon Shepherd. “We’re saying that if you have a firearm and you are dealing drugs and you are a gang, then the Crown can take your assets because, ultimately, these guys don’t care about going to jail.”

Gangs were using money and assets to recruit people and keep “feeding the disease”, he said.

Seymour said under the current Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act, police had to prove at least $30,000 worth of assets were involved before a seizure.

“What we’re saying is that if you’re a gang that’s breaking the law and you’ve got an illegal firearm onsite – we’re going for your assets straight away.

“This is a practical policy – it’s achievable and it would make a difference. Will it solve the whole problem? No. Will it get us going in the right direction with practical steps? Yes.”

ACT will hit the gangs where it hurts

“ACT will target the gangs by hitting them where it hurts – their pockets,” according to ACT Leader David Seymour and Firearms Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“New Zealanders deserve to be safe and secure, but violent gangs are a scourge on our communities.

“Over the past two and a half years, the number of gang members has increased by a third.

“There’s been a 54 percent increase in the number of gang members being charged with firearms offences. That’s at least one gang member a day being charged with firearms offences.

“We’ve seen a clear escalation in behaviour from the gangs, with regular shootings using illegal firearms.

“The current approach to dealing with gangs and illegal firearms hasn’t worked.

“Neither the Government’s new gun legislation, nor the buyback, has made a difference to the number of illegal firearms in circulation.

“Locking people up gets them off the street, but the gangs don’t care if young prospects are sent to jail and just carry on operating in our communities.

“We need to get smarter. That means hitting the gangs where it hurts.

“If Police find illegal firearms at an unlawful, gang-run operation, we’ll seize their assets.

ACT will amend the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (the Act) so that if a Police search finds:

  • an illegal operation (e.g. drug manufacturing for supply or money laundering), and
  • the unlawful possession of a firearm, and
  • a person who is either a gang member or is closely affiliated,

it can apply to the courts for an order to seize the operation’s assets.

Currently, Police must meet a number of tests before it can apply to the courts to seize assets under the Act.

That includes proving a link between illicit money and the purchasing of assets, and proof of drug manufacturing or money laundering at a value of more than $30,000.

Police often wait until the suspected value is much higher as an offence is then easier to prove.

“Under our proposal, if an illegal firearm is found in the possession of a known gang member at a property where an illegal operation is taking place, authorities will not be required to meet the current tests. The discovery of an illegal firearm can be used to fast-track the seizure of assets,” says Firearms Spokesperson Nicole McKee.

“ACT is going to go after the gangs and their guns by hitting them where it hurts.

“In the wake of our nation’s tragedy in Christchurch, the Government targeted the wrong group of New Zealanders by scapegoating law-abiding firearms owners. It should be going after the gangs.

“One illegal firearm in the hands of a gang is one too many. If Police find illegal firearms at an unlawful operation run by a gang, we’ll seize their assets.

“Under our proposal, gangs will either need to shut up shop, disarm, or have their assets seized.

“New Zealanders deserve to be safe and secure, but violent gangs are a scourge on our communities. ACT’s plan to get smarter in dealing with the gangs is a step towards safer communities.”

ACT have been improving in polls, getting between 1.8% and 3.5% with the last from Colmar Brunton at 3.1%, and if the get this sort of result in the election Seymour will have several MPs in with him. If National keep bungling then ACT may pick up even more support.

Seymour will also be on Q+A this morning and plans to announce more policy.