McCaffrey on ACT

September 19th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Peter McCaffrey writes:

Tomorrow I will cast an absentee vote for ACT from Canada because I thinkJamie Whyte would contribute significantly to New Zealand’s Parliament, and of all the various party’s list candidates who are on the margin of getting elected, he is by far the best.

Having said that, ACT’s campaign has been woeful.

David Seymour and Jamie Whyte were the fresh faces the party needed, and have done well in their various media appearances, but for some unknown (and ultimately devastating) reason they decided to leave the campaign strategy and organisation to the same people who have failed the party miserably since about 2009. 

As most will know, I served on the ACT board for several years.

ACT never has been able to decide whether it is a libertarian or conservative party because despite almost all of the membership being libertarian (or at least liberal), for several elections ACT relied on many conservative voters come election time.

However, since Colin Craig set up the Conservatives, ACT has lost its few remaining conservative members, and almost all of its conservative voters.

This reality presented the party with a fantastic opportunity to finally become properly liberal, to campaign on some new policies (drug reform, civil liberties, etc) and look to slowly and steadily grow the party.

In short, the party was too risk averse, too worried about the few votes they might lose, and never considering the votes they might win – a disappointing ignorance of Bastiat’s principles of the seen and the unseen, for a supposedly economically literate party.

Rather, the senior party strategists believed they could win back conservative voters from Colin Craig, which was clearly never going to happen. …

David Seymour will win Epsom, and will be fantastic in Parliament.

If he is ACT’s sole MP, he will have some hard decisions to make about the future of the party. …

In short, you still probably should give your party vote to ACT, in hopes of getting Jamie elected.

Once the election is over, the caucus run the party again, not the campaign strategists.

But I don’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to do it.

I would like to see Jamie Whyte in Parliament, and see ACT operating as a clearly classical liberal party.

 

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Armed dairy owners – no thanks

September 13th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

ACT says shopkeepers should be free to keep guns under their counter, but National leader John Key has dismissed the policy as “dangerous.”

Leader Jamie Whyte said today his party would strengthen the law for self-defence and ensure it is not illegal for a dairy owner to keep a weapon on the premises.

However, Key immediately ruled out implementing the policy, should both parties get back into government.
“If ACT thinks the solution is to give a shopkeeper a shot gun, that could end very very badly,” Key told reporters in Whangarei.

When I go into a dairy, I feel safer if there isn’t an unsecured loaded firearm sitting below the counter, thank you..

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ACT vs Conservatives

September 10th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

ACT have set up a page dedicated to fact checking the Conservatives. They highlight that the tax cuts proposed by the Conservatives would leave a $6.4 billion revenue shortfall – and that the Conservatives are promising even more spending.

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Jamie Whyte’s hard hitting speech

September 7th, 2014 at 12:03 pm by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte’s campaign launch speech is here. It is simply superb. Some extracts:

National is well ahead of any other party in the polls. But the parties of the left, including New Zealand First, could still get enough votes to form a government.

A Frankenstein Labour-Green-Internet-Mana-New Zealand First government may be unthinkable, but it is not impossible.  

It is over to us again.

The people of Epsom are doing their bit.  David Seymour is door-knocking his way to victory.

Now we need get a number of ACT Party list MPs elected.  We need just 1.3% of the party vote – 28,000 votes – for me to join David in parliament. Another 16,000 votes will add Kenneth Wang. 

If ACT succeeds, New Zealand will have three more years of stable center-right government. If we fail, New Zealand faces the prospect of a chaotic left-wing Frankenstein government.

ACT is my preferred choice of coalition partner. I hope they get at least two MPs.

Jamie looks at the alternative:

It’s not pretty, but we should look at that monster.

Part of the monster – the crazy tangled mess of hair stitched onto the scalp – is the Internet-Mana party.

This is a party of hard-left socialists – Hone Harawera, Laila Harre, Annette Sykes and John Minto – funded by a convicted fraudster wanted for copyright violation in America.

Their lunatic policies include shutting down all the prisons (perhaps on the suggestion of their fugitive sponsor).

In a televised debate, Hone explained that prisons are unnecessary because if boys are sent on Kapa Haka courses, they commit no crimes.

If only they had Kapa Haka in Germany, Kim Dotcom would not be a wanted man!

As I said to Hone at the time, it’s a very nice idea. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Why don’t you send all the boys for Haka training and then, after the crime rate falls to zero, we will close the prisons. In the meantime, let’s keep them open – just in case you are wrong about the transformative power of Kapa Haka.

What a great expose of the lunacy on the left.

The Greens are the monster’s face, grinning inanely below its swivel-eyes.

In the nicest possible way, they intend to force everyone to live as the Greens prefer. They will tax the things they don’t like, such dairy farming, and subsidize the things they do like, such as solar panel manufacturers.

The Greens are not so much a political party as a religious movement, worshipping snails and ferns and all that makes up Gaia, except us humans of course.

For the Greens, humans fall into two categories: the helpless, who smart green politicians must save, and the wicked, who smart green politicians must stop.

In virtue, and intellect, Russel Norman and Meteria Turei are so vastly superior to everyone else that it is their moral duty to subjugate us.

I agree with the Greens in a few areas, but Jamie Whyte nails it again. Fundamentally the Greens think us human beings make very bad choices. They think they are the enlightened ones who must pass laws to stop us making such bad choices.

The big flabby torso of the monster is the Labour Party.

It was briefly a thing of beauty and strength. We have the Labour government of Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble to thank for the fact that New Zealand is not now a basket-case like Argentina.

But the Labour Party has gone horribly to seed.

Nothing reveals this more clearly than its finance spokesman, David Parker – the man who now occupies the position once held by the great Roger Douglas.

Mr Parker fancies himself the smartest boy in the fourth-form. But he has not even the weakest grip on basic economics.

At the recent Queenstown Chamber of Commerce political debate Mr Parker explained his party’s desire to reduce immigration to New Zealand. He claimed that economic output requires increasingly little labour to produce. So immigrants cause unemployment.

This nonsense has been peddled by economic fools since the invention of the weaving loom. In fact, I imagine it got started when someone first thought of killing animals with a sharp stick instead of bare hands.

Ouch.

For the sake of Mr Parker’s education, here is what really happens when workers become more productive. People produce and consume more.

And not just more of the same, but entirely new things. Even Mr Parker has surely noticed that, over the past 30 years, as worker productivity and the population have both risen, unemployment has not increased.

Labour once used to be a pro-immigration party before they got desperate.

Finally, we come to Winton Peters and his New Zealand First, the stumpy little legs of the monster. Little legs that remain idle for 2 years and 10 months out of every three years and then spend two months running around furiously kicking everyone in sight – foreigners, journalists, bankers, you name it: everyone except pensioners.

Best line of the whole speech.

Winston’s big economic policy for this election is removing GST from food. That would reduce government revenue by 3 billion dollars.

But Winston has no plan to cut government spending by 3 billion dollars. On the contrary, he plans to increase government spending massively.

Where will he get all the money?

Winston’s answer: by cracking down on tax evasion.

Honestly. He claims that he can raise 7 billion by cracking down on tax evasion.

That’s not sense, common or otherwise. That’s bollocks.

When a politician tells you that he is going to fund his spending promises by cracking down on tax evasion, you know he is either a fool or a charlatan. And Winston ain’t no fool.

Bang.

Jamie also has swipes at National and the Conservatives.

I wish I had been there to hear the speech. People have been saying that Dr Whyte is too much a philosopher, and not enough a politician. Well I think he has caught on well. And I mean that in a good way – politicians need to be able to not only make the case for their own parties, but also forcefully point out why the other parties are wrong. His critique of the left is devastating.

I encourage people to share his speech far and wide.

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Stephen Berry on discrimination

September 1st, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

ACT candidate Stephen Berry blogs:

I was an audience member at Auckland’s LGBTI meeting last night. …

Unfortunately it was a poorly attended and largely dreary affair. In 21st century New Zealand politics, homosexuality is so acceptable as to hardly be an issue at all. We watched politicians from across the political spectrum largely agree with each other and Jamie set a new record for being in full agreement with Kevin Hague.

I’m not surprised.

Jamie’s message was spot on when he said that there should be no discrimination whatsoever by the state for any reason. I was glad when he bravely pointed out that this shouldn’t be applied to the sphere of individual’s private lives. Everyone, every day, discriminates against others for a host of minor reasons. If you’re approached by a man in a bar who you find physically unattractive you’d be likely to reject their advances based on that. I would hope nobody would suggest that you’re obligated to accept someone’s physical advances. The Human Rights Act could not possibly list all the different reasons private discrimination should be banned and it shouldn’t even begin to start. Freedom of association is far more important than hurt feelings at your company being rejected.

The difference between state discrimination and private discrimination is crucial.

I’m a proudly gay man at number 6 on the ACT Party list. I don’t know if being gay in itself is anything to be proud of, but I’m very good at it.

Heh.

Assessing some of the answers that were given at the LGBTI forum, I think the biggest danger to the “Rainbow Community” in terms of future discrimination is from itself.

Labour’s Kelly Ellis not only wants discrimination against transgender people banned under the Human Rights Act but the impression I got from her address is that she considers jokes about transgender people to be a form of discrimination in itself. I have to ask, how much freedom of speech does she want to eliminate in order to spare her feelings?

Beware candidates that think removing rights is how you protect rights.

Internet Mana’s Miriam Pierard suggested Parliament have a special representative from the “Rainbow Community” in Parliament (like a Gay Statutory Board?) and said she wanted feedback from others about the idea. I retorted it was a terrible idea and she said, “Well you don’t want a Ministry of Women’s Affairs either.” Exactly Miriam! 

ACT are consistent!

What the aforementioned politicians fail to grasp is the total invalidity of collectivism. I encountered it myself when I took part in a debate at AUT earlier in the day. The pro-compulsory student group politicians were complaining that students have lost their voice under voluntary student membership. I pointed at individual students watching in the quad and said that there is no way that student, and this student, and this other student all have one voice. They are individuals with their own hopes, dreams and visions for their own lives. They are not a blind block of drones standing in formation waiting for their leader to tell them what to say and think.

“We’ve all individuals.” … “I’m not!”

On a private social level, Government can never and should never try to eliminate discrimination. The only moral way to tackle discrimination at a private level is through social pressure and sanction. It is an approach I take myself. It will never be one hundred percent successful, but no measure ever taken by the state ever will be either. It is the moral way to deal with discrimination and leaves our right to decide who we choose to interact with intact.

Discrimination in employment and business services I view differently to discrimination by individuals.

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ACT wants family and youth courts opened up

August 25th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Act Party leader Dr Jamie Whyte said the party wants to see Youth Court and Family Court open to public scrutiny.

Dr Whyte said in a policy announcement today that there should be a right to access Youth Court and Family Court records.

Media should be able to report on cases through the Youth Court and Family Court in a similar way they can report on District Court proceedings, he said.

“The Act Party is campaigning to end secret courts” Dr Whyte said.

“There is no way of analysing and understanding what is going on in the family court.

“There are disturbing stories that evidence in Family Court cases is unreliable.”

Dr Whyte said the “secrecy” of the Youth Court was the biggest problem in the youth justice system.

“It is a wholly unjustified violation of the principle of open justice.”

The party supported names and identifying details of parties remaining suppressed, Dr Whyte said.

As I understand it the default mode for these courts is not to be public, but media can apply for access. ACT seem to be saying they would reverse the default setting so that access is the norm.

So long as names are suppressed, I favour all courts having a default setting of being open to the media.

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A cheaper way to increase cycling

August 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte announced:

“The National party yesterday announced a $100 million cycle-way that just happens to go through the marginal seat of Hutt South,” said ACT Leader Dr Jamie Whyte.

“The Greens want to spend many hundreds of millions on cycle-ways. ACT’s contribution to this bidding war for the cyclist vote would double cycle use and cost nothing,” said Dr Whyte.

“We need only abolish the law that makes wearing a cycle helmet compulsory. Since 1994, when Parliament established an instant fine of $150 for failing to wear a helmet, cycling has declined by over 50%. Overseas experience also indicates that laws making it compulsory to wear a helmet dramatically reduce cycling.

In fact a study from The Netherlands found that not having a compulsory helmet law has led to much higher levels of bike use.

“This nanny state law does not even save lives,” said Dr Whyte.

“On the contrary, it costs lives. Before the legislation, few people died from cycling accidents and, of those who did, only 20% died from head injuries alone.”

“Research reported in the New Zealand Medical Journal (see http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2012/vol-125-no-1349/article-clarke) shows that, over a 10 year period, only 20 Aucklanders were killed in cycle accidents and only 4 might have been saved by wearing cycle helmets. This same New Zealand Medical Journal article concluded that life years gained from the health benefits of cycling outweighed life years lost in accidents by 20 times” said Dr Whyte.

This is what The Netherlands study found also.

“The diminished health resulting from the reduced cycling caused by compulsory helmet-wearing costs 53 premature deaths a year. ACT would simply abolish the $150 fine for not wearing a helmet. That would save $100 million on cycle-ways in marginal seats, double cycle use and save 53 lives a year,”  said Dr Whyte.

I’d do both.

Note there is a huge difference between saying helmets should not be compulsory, and saying that people should not wear them.

One day I suspect someone will try and mae helmets compulsory for skiing!

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Rankin for Epsom

August 4th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Conservative’s chief executive Christine Rankin has confirmed she will stand as the party’s candidate in Epsom. 

The party published the move today on its Facebook page, saying “Let’s support her and see her as the next MP for Epsom.” It was also announced at a public meeting in Auckland.

This is a reasonably cunning move.

At a minimum it gets publicity for the Conservatives as there will be considerable focus on Epsom.

It also means that it could throw the outcome of the seat in doubt. By this I don’t mean Labour or National winning the seat, but is it possible the Conservatives could win it?

Think about this scenario. It is two weeks to go and ACT is polling 1.1% and Conservatives 2.8%. National looks like it will be say three or four seats short of a majority.

Conservatives point out a vote for Rankin gets 4 of their MPs into Parliament while a vote for ACT gets just one MP. Regardless of what National has said, Epsom voters could decide to vote for the smartest tactical option.

So it will be a very interesting seat to watch.

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ACT’s tax cuts

August 4th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

ACT says it can boost economic growth by a third with a policy to cut the company tax rate to 12.5 per cent.

Leader Jamie Whyte says this will increase investment, and job and GDP by one third, leading to higher wages.

He would fund the tax cut by slashing “corporate welfare,” worth about $1.5bn a year, and carbon trading, worth $164m.

Excellent. That would attract investment.

European and American studies suggest cutting the rate by 10 percentage points will make economies grow by between 1 and 2 per cent extra a year. Each 1 per cent reduction in the rate boosts wages by between 0.3 and 0.5 per cent, he said.

“No single policy proposal from any party in this election can do more to increase economic growth, create jobs and lift wages,” he added,

Company tax is a “terrible drag” on growth and wages while raising “relatively little” revenue, he argued.

Treasury estimates that every 1% reduction in the company tax rate has a fiscal loss to the Government of $220 million which is relatively modest.

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Jamie Whyte on race based law

July 30th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte has done a speech on the place of race in the law. Some people will react kneejerk against it and say it is Maori bashing, but I actually think he makes his points by avoiding inflammatory rhetoric, and focusing on principles and outcomes.  Some extracts:

David Cunliffe recently apologised to a Women’s Refuge symposium:

“I don’t often say it – I’m sorry for being a man … because family and sexual violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men.”

The Prime Minister accused Cunliffe of being insincere. Maybe he was.

Or maybe not. The apology conforms to Labour party thinking. Whereas we in ACT believe in personal responsibility, the Labour party believes in collective responsibility.

Those who believe in collective responsibility see people not so much as individuals but as members of groups: men and women, gays and heterosexuals, the rich and the poor, Maori and Pakeha.

For example, the Labour Party has a rule that half the people on their list must be women. This is intended to ensure equal parliamentary representation for women.

Labour believes that a man cannot represent a woman in parliament, even if she votes for him. And that a woman automatically represents other women, even if they did not vote for her or disagree with her. All that matters is group membership.

Similarly, Cunliffe believes he is responsible for sexual violence, even though has never perpetrated any, simply because he is a man.

This “identity politics” comes easily to many people. It is a way of thinking with ancient roots in mankind’s tribal history.

Nevertheless, it is ugly. It is the mindset that lies behind such obscenities as collective punishment and clan feuding.

Identity politics is one reason I could never vote left. I am socially liberal on a fair few issues, but I firmly believe in treating people as individuals, not just as members of a gender, race or other identity.

Alas, the principle that the law should be impartial has never been fully embraced in New Zealand. Even today, after any number of equal rights movements, New Zealand law makes a citizen’s rights depend on her race.

The reparations made to iwi by the Waitangi Tribunal are NOT an example of this. The Treaty of Waitangi gave Maori property rights over the land they occupied. Many violations of these rights followed. The remedies provided by the Waitangi Tribunal are not a case of race-based favouritism. They are recognition of property rights and, therefore, something that we in ACT wholeheartedly support.

Good to have that stated. I strongly support them also.

Many people have opinions about what other people should do with their property. Under the Resource Management Act, how much weight your opinion carries depends on your race. If you are Maori, you have a say on these matters that others lack.

Some state run or state directed organisations openly practice race-based favouritism. I know a woman who has raised children by two fathers, one Pakeha and the other Maori. If her Pakeha son wants to attend law school at Auckland University, he will have to get much higher grades than her Maori son.

That’s a good example. They are raised by the same mother in the same household, with the same access to opportunities. But the blood line of their fathers gives one of them a privilege the other does not have.

The question is why race-based laws are tolerated, not just by the Maori and Internet-Mana Parties, but by National, Labour and the Greens.

I suspect the reason is confusion about privilege.

Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France.

But, of course, in our ordinary use of the word, it is absurd to say that Maori are privileged. The average life expectancy of Maori is significantly lower than Pakeha and Asian. Average incomes are lower. Average educational achievement is lower.

Again it is good he stated this. Overall Maori are not privileged. They do worse in most areas we deem important. But just because they are under-privileged in many areas, does not mean it is incorrect to say they have some special legal privileges.

Legal privilege offends people less when the beneficiaries are not materially privileged, when they are generally poorer than those at a legal disadvantage.

Absolutely. The argument is you use legal privilege to try and compensate for the lack of privilege in other areas. But is that a good idea?

Apparently, many people do need to be reminded why the principle of legal equality is important.

It is important because, without it, society becomes a racket.

When people are equal before the law, they can get ahead only by offering other people goods or services that they value. We are all playing to the same rules, and we do well only if we “deliver the goods”. This promotes not only economic growth and prosperity but civility. It forces people to attend to the preferences of others.

Where people enjoy legal privilege, by contrast, they can get ahead without doing anything of value for other people. Because the system is rigged in their favour, they don’t need to “deliver the goods”.

Suppose, for example, that the government decided that Japanese women deserved a legal privilege. They should be allowed to erect barriers across the roads they live on. Anyone wanting to proceed down the road must negotiate with these women to get the barriers lifted.

This would provide Japanese women with an opportunity to make easy money by charging people a fee to lift their barriers. It would thereby divert them from productive occupations. It would drive up the cost of travelling around the city, as people either took longer routes or paid the fees. And it would create feelings of resentment towards Japanese women.

This may sound fanciful. But it is precisely the situation that the Resource Management Act (RMA) has created with regard to resource consents and iwi. If you want to proceed with developing land near iwi, you may well have to pay iwi for permission to proceed. That easy money diverts Maori from more productive activity, drives up the cost of developing land and creates resentment towards Maori.

This is sadly true. It incentivises some Iwi to make money from opposing developments, rather than encouraging them to be involved in their own. Of course not true in all cases, such as Ngai Tahu.

Nor does legal privilege do Maori any good over the long-run.

Allow me another analogy. Imagine that SANZAR, the body that administers the Super 15, decided that the Blues deserved a legal privilege. Whereas all the other teams will continue to earn 5 points for a try, the Blues will earn 10.

This would benefit Blues players over the short-term. They would win many more games than they now do. But giving the Blues this advantage in the rules would reduce their incentive to work hard on their skills and fitness. After a while, standards of play at the Blues would decline. Fewer Blues players would be selected for the All Blacks.

Return to those half-brothers I mentioned earlier: one Pakeha who will need an “A” to get into law school, one Maori who will need only a “C”. Which one is more likely to work hard at school? Which one is more likely to make the most of his potential?

Such scheme are very well intended, but I share the concern that they do more harm than good in the long run.

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ACT on Honesty for Taxpayers

July 21st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte has proposed:

On this policy, regulatory impact statements, cabinet submissions and ministers’ introductory speeches for Bills in parliament will need to state clearly that “but for this proposal, your income tax rate would be X percentage points lower”.

When taxpayers visit the website of any government agency or local council and any programme of that agency, they should have a clear idea of the price of that agency in their taxes or rates.

Government departments and agencies should be required to declare on their home webpage “but for this agency, your income tax rate would be X% lower”.

Similar rules should apply to local governments. They should be required to reveal how much lower rates would be if not for a particular new policy proposal or existing service of the Council.

If a minister, department, agency or local council believes that the programmes it administers do indeed offer value for money to taxpayers, they should be proud to say how they are putting taxes to work in the clearest way taxpayers can understand.

For example, the government should be keen to alert taxpayers that, without Working for Families:

·      the 17.5% income tax rate would be 12.5% OR

·      the 10.5% income tax rate would be 3.5%.

The Minister for Tertiary Education should be keen to remind everyone that, if not for interest-free student loans

·      the 17.5% income tax rate be would 16% OR

·      the 28% company tax would be 25% OR

·      the 33% top income tax rate would be 30%.

That’s a great idea. The public will be able to judge the worth of spending programmes more effectively, if they know the opportunity cost of the spending – the reduced taxes they won’t be getting.

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The ACT Party List

July 13th, 2014 at 2:32 pm by David Farrar

ACT have released their list. The top six are:

  1. Dr Jamie Whyte
  2. Kenneth Wang
  3. Robin Grieve
  4. Beth Houlbrooke
  5. Don Nicolson
  6. Stephen Berry
  7. Dasha Kovalenko

If they get 1.2% of the vote (they got 1.1% last time) and retain Epsom, then Jamie Whyte comes in. At 2.0% they also get Kenneth Wang. They would need 6.0% to get Dasha Kovalenko in, which sadly will not happen.

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ACT advocates vouchers for education

June 30th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte said:

If a supermarket fails to provide its customers with the food they want, it will go broke. Other supermarkets that offer these dissatisfied customers a better deal will win their business. 

The same goes for the farms that produce the food. Fail to provide what your customers want as efficiently as your competitors do and you will eventually go bust.

This ongoing competitive market process explains why the quality of food has improved so much over the last 100 years while the cost has declined.

By contrast, if a state school fails to provide educations that satisfy the parents of their pupils, it will not shut down. Its income does not come from the parents it is failing to satisfy. It comes from taxpayers with no choice in the matter.

Indeed, if a school performs poorly, it is likely to attract extra government funding. In the private sector, resources flow into success; in the public sector they flow into failure.

There is a large degree of truth to this.

We do not get a variety of educational offerings tailored to the different needs and preferences of children and their parents. We get a standardized, one-size-fits-all educational model.

And, as always with one-size-fits all models, state education in New Zealand now fits only a few children.

Who are those children?

They are children with well-off, well-educated parents.

Parents who can afford to buy a house near to a school that will do a good job for their child.

Yep our current system gives wealthy families a choice, but not poor families.

ACT thinks education should be provided in a market of competing suppliers. That has always been our position.

It does not mean that we are opposed to the state funding of education. Not at all. We share the almost universally accepted idea that all children should get a decent chance in life, whatever the circumstances of their birth.

But that doesn’t mean that the state must provide educations, that it must run schools.

This is key. There is a different between the state funding something, and providing it.

Government should make sure that every child gets an education by providing all parents with a voucher, redeemable at any school of their choosing. 

Vouchers would be a radical reform of the education system. And to a degree the results are unknown. In theory the choice should end up with much better outcomes for poorer students. But are all our schools set up to be self-managing and competing? What if half of them collapsed?

That is not a reason to reject vouchers. It is a reason to trial them. Then make decisions based on the evidence of whether or not they improved educational outcomes.

How about we pick three cites and towns. Turn those cities and towns into fully competitive voucher funded educational centres. And after five years assess the performance of students in those three cities and towns compared to the rest of NZ (in terms of relative change). If they have not improved, then scrap the trial. If they have shown significant improvement, then extend it to some further cities and towns. Make the decision based of actual evidence, not ideology.

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National’s potential electoral deals

June 12th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Vernon Small writes:

 In the very strange case of Colin Craig and the Conservative Party, there is little doubt that John Key and his campaign maestro Steven Joyce are reluctant suitors.

Deal or no deal?

Welcome to John Key’s nightmare – or the closest you get to a nightmare when your party’s on 50 per cent and your opposition is fractured into five parts.

The prime minister has said he will announce a job-lot of deals with potential support parties in coming weeks.

On the face of it “arrangements” with all three make sense. In a tight race why throw away a chunk of Centre-Right support on your side of the fence, especially if Internet-Mana is going to vacuum up two or three seats on the other side?

Indeed.

Tactical voting is nothing new. In 1999 Helen Clark told Labour voters to vote for the Jeanette Fitzsimons in Coromandel. And last election the Greens told their supporters to vote for the Labour candidates in Auckland Central and Ohariu.

In the case of UnitedFuture, it is an easy equation.

Peter Dunne is a dream ally. He won’t go with the other side, causes only the occasional headache on principle each term, and has ministerial experience.

Even if you dump him he doesn’t go feral. And the chances are his party will poll so low that he will create an overhang seat – a net gain for the Right.

If a party gets below 0.4% then it is an overhang seat.

ACT and David Seymour in Epsom are slightly more problematic.

Seymour is earnest lobby fodder for National, his party is on the spectrum – as in the Right-wing one – and if he gets over the line there is a serious chance he will bring in another MP. However, the whiff of John Banks’ exit lingers in the air and there is an outside chance that Epsom voters will return the reluctant candidate Paul Goldsmith anyway.

And they have every right to do so.

I think Epsom voters will vote tactically, as they did previously. But the choice is up to them. National may say we are only seeking the party vote in an electorate – but they still stand a candidate, giving voters the choice. Epsom voters are not controlled by National. If they don’t want to tactically vote, then they won’t. All National will be doing is saying we’re happy for people to vote for the ACT candidate, as having ACT in Parliament means you get a National-led Government.

Which brings us to the third option, and the very strange case of Colin Craig and the Conservative Party.

There is little doubt that Key and his campaign maestro Steven Joyce are reluctant suitors.

But on the experience of 2011, Craig is likely to attract more votes than the other two combined.

So will National hold its nose and cut him a deal?

Well, the Conservatives have said they don’t want a deal.

Back in the here and now, Key is playing a much more equivocal game with the Conservatives than the other two parties.

Maybe there was an element of game-playing on Key’s part, but on Tuesday he noted Craig’s enthusiasm for a deal with surprise as he harked back to earlier comments from Craig that he was not seeking an accommodation and was confident of clearing the 5 per cent hurdle.

Another Stuff story reports:

National backbencher Mark Mitchell says Conservative Party leader Colin Craig is “dreaming” if he thinks he will be gifted his seat.

Craig, who was defeated by Mitchell in Rodney by 12,222 votes in 2011, said this week he expected to be offered a deal handing him one of the Rodney, Upper Harbour or East Coast Bays seats in the September election.

Based on current polls, if Craig wins an electorate seat, he would take one or two MPs with him into Parliament, helping National gain a majority.

They could get 4 MPs. They got 2.7% last time and 2.8% gets you four MPs.

I’d be amazed if there was any deal in Rodney or North Shore. It simply would never happen.

Ultimately I imagine the decision will come down to necessity. If the polls show National, ACT and United Future likely to be able to form a Government, then why deal with the Conservatives and risk electoral damage from a deal.

But if it looks like NZ First would hold the balance of power, then I’d say Colin Craig is a far more attractive option than Winston. You can trust Craig, but not Peters.

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ACT’s alternative budget

May 12th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

ACT have done an alternative budget, which is here.

The Herald reports:

Act Party leader Jamie Whyte has produced an alternative budget that would slash Government spending on what he calls “middle-class welfare” and “corporate welfare”.

He said cuts of $4 billion would allow the top personal rate of 33 per cent and corporate tax rate of 28 per cent to be cut to 24 per cent with a view to cutting them to 17.5 per cent by 2020.

Treasury estimates (roughly) that the cutting the 33% rate to 24% would cost $1.8 billion. Cutting the 30% rate to 24% would cost $0.8 billion. Cutting the company tax rate to 24% would cost $1.5 billion.  That’s a total cost of $3.9 billion.

Matt Nolan at TVHE is unimpressed with the alternative budget. Not so much with some of the specifics, but with the claim that this would increase economic growth from 3% to 5%. I agree with him that this is an unjustified assumption.

There is certainly a lot of evidence that over time, developed economies with a smaller proportion of economic activity taxed by the Government, will have a higher long-term growth rate. But it isn’t a magic wand that overnight lifts economic growth by a massive 2%.

The Herald continues:

Act would phase out Working For Families by 2020, lift the age of eligibility for superannuation to 67, cut Kiwsaver kickstart and the tax credit, scrap paid parental leave and parental tax credits, end climate change obligations and reintroduce interest on student loans.

“This spending confers private benefits on politically favoured groups.”

It took money off people in tax then gave it back to them if they fell into one of the Government’s favoured categories.

Dr Whyte said corporate welfare was “a kind of system corruption which compromises a nation’s commercial culture”.

Under capitalism, entrepreneurs were supported to solve their problems by themselves or go out of business if they don’t.

“Labour want them to jump on a plane to Wellington with their hand outstretched to pick the pocket of the ordinary taxpayer.”

Those agencies that would be spared cuts under Act include ACC, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery, the GCSB and SIS, Corrections, Courts, Defence Force, Education Review Office, the Office of the Ombudsmen, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Police, Serious Fraud Office and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations.

Three Government agencies would be abolished: Women’s Affairs, Pacific Island Affairs and Tourism New Zealand.

Most government agencies would be required to spend less.

Education, for example, would have to function on 1 per cent less, saving about $24 million. Customs would have to save 2 per cent or $3.17 million.

Treasury would have $7 million cut from its policy advice budget.

The biggest savings would come from cutting funding programmes within the Science and Innovation portfolio, $659 million, and Economic Development, $281 million.

It has also budged for $291 million less for the Ministry of Primary Industries, $196 million less for the Ministry for the Environment, and $111 million less for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Interesting that ACT is saying money set aside for Treaty settlements should not be reduced.

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ACT proposes three strikes for burglaries

April 21st, 2014 at 7:50 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

More than 2000 families will return home this Easter weekend to find they have been burgled, and Act says it is the only NZ political party to offer a serious solution.

Party leader Jamie Whyte outlined its policy on the crime today, confirming that burglars will spend three years in prison if convicted of the crime for a third time under its policy.

Three years for a third strike sounds about right.

The maximum sentence for burglary is ten years imprisonment. The three strikes for burglary policy would send all burglars to prison for at least three years without parole if convicted of the offence three times, whether it be in one burglary spree or over many years.

The idea is that burglars stop burgling. With only 2% of burglaries resulting in imprisonment, then the risk of getting caught and convicted doesn’t outweigh the benefits of being a burglar.

Mr Whyte said burglars convicted of one or two charges of burglary will not see any change to their sentence, except that a judge would warn the offender of the serious penalty of another offence.

That’s a key thing. After the second strike they need to be aware that a third strike will result in a significant jail term.

Mr Whyte said currently about 4000 New Zealanders are sitting on a first strike, 32 on a second strike and no one has been convicted of a third strike offence under the three strikes for violent crimes policy.

That’s a great success. We don’t want people getting a third strike.

The policy is modelled on a three strikes for burglary law introduced in England and Wales in 1999. Burglary in England has since dropped by 35 per cent since the introduction of the three strikes. After a third conviction for burglary offenders in England are imprisoned for three years with parole.

So this is a policy introduced by the UK Labour Party. If National wins re-election I am optimistic they would agree to support this policy, if ACT make it a key policy for their support. NZ Labour will oppose it I suspect – as they also opposed the three strikes law for serious violent and sexual offending.

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Not quite right

March 27th, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Richard Prebble writes in The Letter:

Maybe the Fairfax media is right that ACT will do exceptionally well. In the Herald poll ACT has gone from zero to .8%. As a percentage increase that is an infinite increase. Projected forward at that rate of increase ACT could govern alone. That statement is no sillier than the commentary the Herald has run on its poll. We are not trumpeting ACT’s spectacular rise because the margin for error in the poll is 3.5%. so ACT might already be on 3%.

That isn’t right. It is a common mistake.

The margin of error normally quoted in a poll is the maximum margin for a result of 50%. It is far less for smaller results such as 0.8%. In fact a 0.8% result for a poll of 1,000 has a margin of error of 0.6% so the 95% confidence range is 0.2% to 1.4%.

Evan at a 99.999999% confidence interval the margin of error for 0.8% is only 1.7%. There is no way at all ACT can be at 3%, just on sampling variation.

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Three strikes for burglaries

March 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Burglars will be sent to prison for a minimum of three years without parole on the third burglary conviction under new policy announced today by Act leader Jamie Whyte.

A lot of people may be surprised to know that a very similar policy is the law of the land in the United Kingdom, and was passed by a Labour Government.

Under the UK law an adult burglar convicted of their third burglary must be given a sentence of at least three years in prison unless the court considered there to be “exceptional circumstances”. I’m unsure if the UK law is also without parole, but that appears to be the only possible difference.

So this proposal isn’t some far right extremist policy. It is a law put in place by a left-wing Government in the UK – just one that was hard line on law and order.

It is unclear how many people would be affected in New Zealand by such a law, and what the cost would be. ACT deserve some criticism for not having any estimates at all about impact and cost, but the UK experience suggests it may not be that great.

In 2012 there were 2,693 convictions for burglary (as the primary offence). Around 40% of them or 1,055 received a custodial sentence. That suggests repeat burglars are already mainly getting prison sentences.

How long is the average sentence for burglary, if custodial? A report to 2006 found an average sentence of around 15 months. This is for all custodial sentences for burglary. I imagine it is longer for those on their third conviction.

So there would be some costs associated with this policy, with more burglars in prison and for longer. The potential benefits though are that while in prison, recidivist burglars are not robing people’s homes, and also that the law may discourage recidivist burglars from carrying on.

A report in the Daily Telegraph found that from 2000 to 2008, only 3,018 people had been convicted of a third burglary. The burglary rate halved in the decade to 2010.

So what would be the expected number of third strike burglars in NZ, based on respective populations. They have around 15 times our population so one might expect over an eight year period 200 recidivist burglars to get a third strike. That suggests the costs of such a policy could be relatively modest.

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Whyte and incest

February 27th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Act Leader Jamie Whyte is standing by his comments that incestuous relationships between consenting adults should not be illegal and says it would be “intellectually corrupt” of him not to be honest when asked such questions.

In an article published on The Ruminatorwebsite, former philosophy lecturer Dr Whyte was asked whether the state should intervene if adult siblings wanted to marry each other.

“Well personally, I don’t think they [the State] should”, he replied, adding it was “a matter of almost no significance because it just doesn’t happen”.

Dr Whyte told the Herald his response was based on his belief that: “I don’t think the state should intervene in consensual adult sex or marriage, but there are two very important elements here – consensual and adult”.

“I wonder who does believe the state should intervene in consensual adult acts?”

He said he was “very opposed” to incest.

“I find it very distasteful I don’t know why anybody would do it but it’s a question of principle about whether or not people ought to interfere with actions that do no harm to third parties just because they personally wouldn’t do it.” …

His view was not Act policy and “nobody who votes for Act has anything to fear”.

I find it refreshing that a political leader will stand by his personal views, while making it clear they are not party policy. Whyte is a classical liberal. There are many areas of society where he thinks the Government should not play a role. He should not back away from his views. The media will go for the sensationalist headline, but he should maintain a position of saying “Yes this is my personal belief, but ACT is focusing on a b and c”.

Some ACT supporters will be uncomfortable with his views, but the public like someone who is genuine and doesn’t hide behind weasel words.

I can be persuaded either way on whether there is a need for incest between consenting adults to be a criminal offence.  There are good arguments for and against. But the reality is, as Dr Whyte said, that it is an almost non-existent issue in NZ and not an issue anyone will be casting their vote on.

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Prebble returns

February 23rd, 2014 at 1:31 pm by David Farrar

ACT have announced:

Former ACT leader Richard Prebble is returning to politics as the party’s Campaign Director for the 2014 election.

Acting party president Barbara Astill announced Richard Prebble’s appointment as Campaign Director after a board meeting yesterday.

“The appointment of Richard Prebble as Campaign Director means ACT goes into the election with the country’s best election strategist,” said Mrs Astill.

“Richard Prebble is a campaigning legend. He was the architect of ACT’s greatest campaigning victories, including taking ACT from a virtual zero in the polls in 1996 to winning Wellington Central and taking seven MPs into parliament. Under Richard ACT increased its vote in every election. As a Labour MP Richard won the biggest general seat majority in parliament not once but twice.

“Richard Prebble has presented the ACT Board with a campaign strategy to win not only the Epsom electorate but also nine MPs. The ACT Board has endorsed the Prebble campaign plan, which will be presented to the ACT Party Conference at the Villa Maria Estate, Mangere, this Saturday,” said Mrs Astill.

“I have come out of political retirement because Parliament needs at least one party willing to ask the question, where is the money coming from for all these political promises?” said Richard Prebble.

“ACT needed fresh leadership and new ideas. I urged Dr. Jamie Whyte to stand for the leadership. Jamie will take ACT back to the original principles of the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers which made ACT the effective third force in politics.

“I have been reading Jamie Whyte’s articles in the Wall Street Journal for years. He has an extraordinary knowledge of the world economy that will make him a very valuable member of parliament that any party would love to have.

“I have known David Seymour since he was a top engineering student at Auckland University. As someone educated in Epsom, David will be a very good MP for the electorate.

“ACT now has both the policies and the people. It is my job as director to ensure the voters learn about Dr. Jamie Whyte and ACT’s positive, practical solutions. The support will follow.

“A vote for ACT ensures not only that John Key remains Prime Minister, but that a future National-ACT government remains on the course of good financial sense.”

This is a very good move for ACT. Prebble is a very good campaigner, and will run a good campaign. But it also means signifies that some of the original founding fathers of ACT are solidly back on board. Having Prebble as Campaign Manager will give donors confidence that donations will be out to good use.

ACT are not going to get nine MPs. But if they can get at least two MPs (needs 1.2% just 0.1% more than last time) then that will give them an ongoing presence in Parliament and an ability to keep growing without the distractions of the past.

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A rebrand for ACT

February 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Andrea Vance at Stuff reports:

ACT is to shrug off Rodney Hide’s canary yellow jacket with a bold new look to be unveiled at next weekend’s party conference.

New leader Jamie Whyte has opted to tone down the party’s signature colour to a more “muted” shade of yellow.

As in previous years, law and order lobby Sensible Sentencing Trust will be represented, with spokeswoman Ruth Money delivering a speech on “policies that work”. Whyte said that he backs tough deterrents but law and order is now not one of the party’s policy priorities.

Looks like they are rebranding both in terms of colour, but also in terms of policy focus.

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The new ACT Leader

February 3rd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Audrey Young reports:

Dr Whyte, 48, has lived for about six of the past 20 years in New Zealand and Mr Seymour, 30, has lived for two of the past seven years in New Zealand.

Both have philosophy degrees and Dr Whyte has been a noted writer and columnist in Britain.

Dr Whyte lives in Herne Bay with his wife, Zainab, originally from west Africa and raised in Belgium, and their two daughters, Rachel, 10, and Khadija, 6.

(The girls attend the same school as the children of Labour Party leader David Cunliffe.)

Dr Whyte’s first few hours as new leader were marred by Mr Boscawen’s decision to withdraw not only his fundraising services to the party but by his threat to withdraw his own substantial donations, which have been at least $250,000.

Mr Boscawen said he accepted the result, and would remain a member of the party, and sincerely wished Dr Whyte and Mr Seymour every success.

Dr Whyte said he would spend the next month gearing up for his first party conference as leader, policy work, fundraising “and revving up the members”.

He said his previous writing promoting the legalisation of drugs, for example, had been of greater concern to Mr Boscawen than to the board.

Such a policy would be attractive to many voters, but not I suspect in Epsom!

Mr Cunliffe said it was ironic that a party that had been “dismissive of academics in Parliament had chosen two academics as their leader and candidate”. Referring to Dr Whyte’s advocacy of legalisation of drugs and getting rid of all labour laws, Mr Cunliffe said “that would put him in the realm of Colin Craig and show that Mr Key really is desperate for coalition partners”.

I’m pretty sure that Colin Craig is not an advocate for legalisation of drugs!

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Whyte and Seymour elected

February 2nd, 2014 at 4:23 pm by David Farrar

ACT have announced:

This morning the ACT Board met to choose the new leader and a candidate for Epsom.

The Board’s decision was made by a secret ballot, which was conducted by an independent auditor.

The Board is confident that its decision will give ACT its best chance of successfully contesting this year’s general election with a Leader and Epsom Candidate who can powerfully and positively share the Party’s vision with voters.

The new leader will assume the role at the Party’s AGM on the 28th of February, and until that time, will serve as the leader-elect.

It is my privilege to announce that the person who will stand as the ACT candidate for Epsom is David Seymour and the new leader of the ACT Party will be Dr. Jamie Whyte

The Board acknowledges that it had three outstanding candidates seeking selection and thanks all of them for their commitment, energy, and passion.

In particular, the Board wants to acknowledge Party President, Hon John Boscawen, who’s record of service to the Party in a variety of roles throughout ACT’s history is recognised and valued.

This is a brave, yet risky, decision.

On a personal level I’m pleased to see two strong classical liberals take up the two key roles, and this should mean that ACT is clearly positioned in the future as a classical liberal party, not a conservative party or some hybrid.

One has to pay tribute to John Boscawen who has stood with ACT through thick and thin. It was noble of him to offer himself for the leadership and Epsom, and it is understandable that he is stepping aside:

John Boscawen said he had resigned as Act President and would be reconsidering his financial support of the party.

He would no longer be fundraising for the party which he had done for four elections, but he would remain a member.

So ACT has a numbers of risks, as well as opportunities ahead. The risks are:

  • Difficult to attract funding
  • Not winning Epsom
  • Struggling for media attention as both Whyte and Seymour not particularly public figures

The opportunities are:

  • Can draw a line with the past, as leadership clearly passes to a new generation
  • A clearer identity as a classical liberal party
  • The potential to attract votes from younger urban liberals

With the funding issue, it is to early too know. I gather than quite a few of the traditional supporters wwere supporting Whyte so they may continue to get some money from them. But they will miss having Boscawen as their fundraiser, and may struggle to connect with some in the business community as Whyte and Seymour are both more from the academic side.

Winning Epsom is the big thing. Seymour is very capable and competent and I can’t imagine a scenario where he stuffs up. However Epsom is not a classical liberal electorate. It is fairly conservative in some ways. Epsom won’t vote for Seymour because he is very smart on policy issues. They will vote for him if they think doing so will help John Key remain Prime Minister, and they think he would be a good local MP. David should (and probably has) talk to Rodney about keeping Epsom onside.

Whyte will I believe be very good with the media, and in the minor party leadership debates. However until the campaign itself starts he may find it very difficult to gain media attention unless he says something very controversial (which may not be helpful). He needs to find around three key issues on which to brand ACT.

For Whyte to become an MP, he needs to lift ACT’s vote from 1.1% to 1.2%. Not impossible, but considering the brand damage over the last two years, a significant challenge. If both Whyte and Seymour can make it to Parliament, then ACT’s will have a future.

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ACT decisions

January 31st, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

David Seymour, 30, who is running only for the Epsom candidacy, has campaigned for ACT, headed its student body and spent years working for conservative think tanks in Canada. 

He was also the most popular with the crowd. 

“If that was a hair growing contest I would be home and hosed,” said Seymour, a tribute to his competitors’ shiny bald heads, to laughter from the crowd. 

And his youth does not mean he is not inexperienced, said Seymour, who spoke of his work with John Banks in formulating the partnership school policy. 

“I am closer to the median age of Epsom, which is 35, than both of these guys, and I am moving closer to it as I speak,” he said, again bringing laughter from the crowd. 

Seymour emphasised ACT’s role in lowering taxes and creating a safer New Zealand. 

I probably should have mentioned Seymour in my post earlier this week. Seymour is one of the brighter people in politics, is an excellent debater and like Whyte has excellent classical liberal credentials. If he does become an MP, he would be an excellent one.

But despite his clever trick with the median age (the relevant stat is the median age of the voting population, not the entire population), my concern is that the relatively conservative Epsom electorate might not be willing to vote for someone just out of his 20s, especially with 25% of the electorate Asian. That is why I said Boscawen was the obvious choice for Epsom.

However I understand that Jamie Whyte may also now stand for both the Epsom candidacy and for the leadership. That complicates things, and simplifies things.

A few in ACT have liked the idea of Boscawen for Epsom and Whyte for Leader. However they have said that the problem is it leaves the Leader reliant on another MP. Hence a lot of pressure has gone on for Whyte to stand for both.

But one woman, who would not be named, believed Seymour, whose forefather was one of the signatories to the Treaty of Waitangi, filled a demographic ACT lacks.

“I think the young chap would be ideal because he is part Maori. ACT is very short on Maori and women,” she said.   

I didn’t know that about Seymour.

Seymour is a popular figure in the party, and as the story states had the most support at the meeting. He has quite a few backers on the ACT Board.

So it seems there are six possible decision for the Board on Sunday. They are:

  1. Whyte for Leader and Epsom
  2. Boscawen for Leader and Epsom
  3. Whyte for Leader and Boscawen for Epsom
  4. Whyte for Leader and Seymour for Epsom
  5. Boscawen for Leader Seymour for Epsom
  6. Boscawen for Leader and Whyte for Epsom

I regard 5 and 6 as unlikely. Is Boscawen is Leader, I expect he will be the Epsom candidate also.

No 4 is what was being pushed by the Whyte/Seymour fan club. However concern over a split role may lead to No 1 happening if their supporters have the majority on the board.

No 3 I did regard as a credible outcome, but there seems to be concern over splitting the role.

No 2 is the outcome sought by Boscawen and his supporters.

I welcome comments from readers as to which combination they would prefer, and would the decision be enough to make you vote ACT?

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Epsom and the ACT Leadership

January 27th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

It’s pleasing to see three contenders going for either the ACT Leadership or the Epsom nominations. Both these decisions will be made by the ACT Board, and they are important decisions.

The first decisions is the easier one – the candidate for Epsom. I think the obvious and safe choice is John Boscawen.

Retaining Epsom is critical to ACT’s survival. No one thinks they can get 5% in 2014, so they must retain Epsom to stay in Parliament.

ACT did win Epsom in 2011, but a lot of feedback I got from National voters is they voted very reluctantly for the ACT candidate. One of them joked that it didn’t hurt as much as the thought it would.

I think centre-right voters in Epsom will have little reluctance to vote for John Boscawen. He is basically one of them. As Andrea Vance details, his story is from riches to rags to riches, and everyone who deals with him says he is an incredibly decent well motivated man who has managed to never burn any bridges with colleagues – which in the ACT Party is an extraordinary feat.

Epsom voters would be very comfortable with having John as their local MP. They know what they’ll be getting, and even if ACT’s brand today is somewhat bruised and battered, I think Boscawen can retain the seat for ACT. Any other candidate would be running a bigger risk of not winning.

So the Epsom decision is, I think, an easy one. The decision on the leadership is a harder one.

Again Boscawen would be a safe pair of hands for the leadership. He has been an MP, he would have a fairly united party, and you would not risk the problems of 2011 when the ACT Leader is pushing one policy (cannabis decriminalisation) and the Epsom candidate is fighting against it (knowing it would go down badly in Epsom).

However Jamie Whyte is a very attractive candidate. He is basically a pure classical liberal. In the televised minor party leader’s debates, he could well shine and attract back to ACT those who are both economically and socially liberal. Around 10% to 15% of the population or more find such a message appealing – the challenge is whether ACT as a party and brand can be credible to them. Whyte is free from the baggage of the past, so could be seen as the start of a new generation.

Of course the danger for Whyte is that if he is leader, he would only become an MP if ACT get at least 1.2% of the vote (they got 1.1% in 2011). So his job would be to make sure ACT get at least 1.2%. Boscawen’s would be to win Epsom.

But there are risks to splitting the jobs, as I detailed above. The safer route is Boscawen for both, and he is saying Kenneth Wang will be his Deputy Leader which could help attract Asian votes. They would need 2.0% to get a third MP, and that looks very challenging.

However the downside of Boscawen for both is that a generational change may not occur for some time, and may not be possible in the future. Whyte I think does have a greater ability to appeal to young urban professionals.

One other advantage of a split is if Whyte is Leader and Boscawen MP for Epsom, then my strong recommendation would be Whyte does not become a Minister. For a small party, best to keep the leader outside the Government focused on selling the party message. Boscawen hence could become a Minister if National is re-elected, helping implement ACT policies, while Whyte sells the party’s message.

So there are pros and cons for both Whyte and Boscawen for Leader. In the end it will come down to what appetite for risk the ACT Board is willing to consider, and if they think the potential benefits are realistic and outweigh the risks.

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