We need a civilised discussion about racial law

Public Meeting at De Canta Tapas Bar, Devon St, New Plymouth


Yesterday I published the speech that I gave to the ACT Party Waikato Conference on Saturday. It concerned a fundamental principle of Western civilisation.

I said that all citizens should be equal before the law.

I realise that in some countries, such as Afghanistan, that might be a controversial idea. Many people in Afghanistan reject the idea that women should have equal rights.

And at earlier times in history the idea was rejected across the Western world. Up to the mid-20th century, laws that privileged men, whites and gentiles were common.

But in New Zealand today, you might expect the principle of equality before the law to be uncontroversial. You might expect that a declaration of commitment to it would be greeted with quiet equanimity, perhaps even a yawn.

Not so. My declaration has triggered vitriolic hostility.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has accused me of "harking back to the same old racism that people before him thought would win them votes".

She says my comments are "straight racism".

"He thinks it's attractive to New Zealanders, but New Zealanders actually know we have to work together,"

"It's old politics, it has no place in New Zealand."

Here is a woman who leads a party with an explicitly race-based agenda, who represents an electorate in which only people of one race are permitted to vote, and she accuses me of being racist. And what racist thing did I do? I suggested that the law should pay no heed to race!

But it is not just political beneficiaries of New Zealand’s race-based laws who display contempt for the principle of equality.

Since publishing my speech I have been exposed to hitherto unimagined absurdity from journalists – unimagined by me, at least. A reporter from Radio NZ asked me if I realised how “offensive” my commitment to equality before the law is.


Equality before the law is a fundamental principle of liberal democracy. Since when is it offensive to defend such principles?

Other journalists have accused me of “playing the race card”.

Suppose you meet two politicians. One says the law should not differentiate between people on the basis of race. The other one says it should. Which politician is playing the race card?

This issue has been turned on its head in New Zealand. Those who want the state to be racially impartial are accused of racism by politicians who openly promote race-based favouritism. And journalists endorse this intellectual perversion.

The most notable thing about the reactions to my speech is that no one has even tried to explain where my argument goes wrong. They ignore the content altogether – except when they are misrepresenting it – and instead bandy about accusations of racism, “dog whistling”, old-fashioned politics and all the rest.

It is pathetic.

By tackling the man rather than the ball, they reveal their inability to show where my argument goes wrong. If they could identify my error they would readily reveal it. But, because they cannot, they instead try to shut me up with accusations of wickedness.

This is a predictable response from people such as Tariana Turia who have built their political careers on playing the race card. But it is dispiriting, indeed alarming, to see journalists playing the same game.

Journalists have an important role to play in a democracy. They are supposed to provide the public with facts and informed analysis that help them to hold politicians to account. They are not supposed to shut down debate with accusations of racism and offensiveness. They are not supposed to be thought police.  


*  *  *  *  *


I am a new boy in politics.  I was warned that it is impossible to have an intelligent discussion about New Zealand’s race-based laws. You are just shouted down or personally attacked.

Maybe that is true. But, perhaps because I am new, I refuse to accept this. I refuse to accept that we cannot discuss certain topics. Democracy cannot work unless we debate the issues. 

Equality before the law is too important for its violations to be ignored.

Equality before the law is a fundamental constitutional principle. As I explained in my speech in Hamilton – which I hope you will read in the original rather than its media-mutilated versions – it is the foundation of a just and flourishing society.

Set aside all the fear and loathing. Set aside the accusations of racism, and of being out of tune with modern New Zealand. Ask yourself a simple question: Are you in favour of legal equality or not?

You cannot be in favour of it for just some people. That doesn’t make sense. If that is your answer, then you are not in favour of equality before the law.

If you believe in equality before the law, then you need to make a stand.

What we have in New Zealand today is not equality before the law.

For some obvious examples, we have a Maori roll and Maori electorates. Iwi have special rights in the resource consenting process. State funded and directed universities guarantee admission to certain courses on the basis of race. We have such things as Maori wardens, with powers over Maori that they lack over Pakeha.

The political left grew out of a struggle against the legal privileges of the landed aristocracy in Europe. ACT is a descendent of that tradition, especially of the English Liberal Party of the 19th century. That is one of the reasons I often baulk at the party being labelled as right-wing. At the heart of ACT is a rejection of legal privilege.

Alas, the parties that continue to wear the left wing label have now rejected legal equality. Some of them have made this transition within their own life-times.

John Minto famously fought for legal equality in South Africa. Now he stands for a party that is promotes legal inequality in New Zealand.

One of the journalists who called me since my Hamilton speech to abuse me – or interview me, as he preferred to call it – told me that legal privilege for Maori is justified by material inequality: by the fact that Maori on average earn less and die younger than Pakeha and Asians.

I addressed this issue directly in my Hamilton speech.

Most Western countries have developed social “safety nets”: state housing, unemployment benefits, public hospitals, state schools and the rest. If one racial group is disproportionately in need of such help, they will disproportionately receive it without any explicit racial provisions in the law.

Add racial provisions and you get a quite different result. The well-educated child of a high-earning Maori will gain admission to law school with a C, possibly pushing out the disadvantaged child of a poor Indian family who got a B.

Truly disadvantaged Maori do not even get a sniff at law school or at a seat on the Auckland City Council Maori Advisory Board. These “compensations” go to those Maori in no need of compensation. It is no wonder that the most vitriolic opposition to ACT’s policy of legal equality comes from those in the Maori elite who get access to these privileges.


*  *  *  *  *


I came back to New Zealand because my wife and I think this is the best country in the world to raise a family.

I am white but my daughters are not. I want them to live in a country where that is legally irrelevant. I do not want the law or the government to treat my daughters differently from any other citizens. And, although she is only 11, I think my elder daughter would be bewildered and appalled by the idea that the law would treat her differently on account of her skin colour.

That is not to say that her skin is unimportant. My wife hopes our daughters will come to understand their African heritage, and that it will enrich their lives. But that is a matter for our family, not for the state.

Similarly, I know Maori who have learned to speak Maori in their adulthood. It has meant a lot to them. They already felt an attachment to their ancestry and to places in New Zealand that I envy. I welcome the resurgence of interest and pride in Maoritanga. But, again, that should be a matter of no significance to the law or the government.

Nor are the settlements made by the Waitangi Tribunal relevant to my point about legal equality. 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 a recognition of property rights and, therefore, something that we in ACT wholeheartedly support.

In short, the importance of Maori culture and the legitimacy of Treaty claims are red-herrings. They cannot justify abandoning the principle of equality before the law.


*  *  *  *  *


I know enough about New Zealand politics to be unsurprised by the difficulty of defending the principle of legal equality. But I am still disappointed by it.

It is shocking that so many people are willing to abandon a foundational principle of our liberal democracy.

And it is yet more shocking that instead of arguing about the issues, defenders of legal privilege attempt to shout down those who disagree with them with accusations of racism.

I invite voters to ask every candidate where they stand on this issue.

If those who seek office say they are not in favour of legal equality, then how can we expect them to respect the rule of law? How can we expect them to defend our liberal democracy?

In the end, if you believe in democracy, you must vote for it to support it.  If you will not vote for it, then you will not get it. 

On 20 September it is over to you, the voters, to decide if democracy is important to you.

A story about a burglary in Maraenui

The NZ Herald today has a story about a burglary in Maraenui. It should remind voters that burglary is a serious crime, and not merely a crime against property. Amongst the $6,000 worth of possessions stolen from a household headed by a solo mum were the electronic gear and birthday presents of her autistic son.

When the police arrived and the boy discovered what had happened he had a meltdown. According to his mother, “the last meltdown like that was a long time ago”. Amongst the possessions he lost was a laptop he needs for his school work because his handwriting is so poor. His mother has been unable to sleep and feels close to throwing up with anxiety.

These burglars are heartless thugs. They have done a dreadful thing.

Yet even if they are caught, they face a small chance of going to prison. Less than 5% of burglaries result in a conviction. Only 40% of convictions result in a prison sentence. And the average sentence is 15 months, of which burglars typically serve only half in prison before being released on parole. There’s a very good chance the Maraenui burglars are recidivists.

ACT’s Three Strikes policy will put an end to the outrage of career burglary. A burglar’s third conviction will earn him three years in prison without parole. It’s time to stop sympathising with the criminals and start showing some concern for their victims. 

Spat between Minister Smith and Fish and Game overdue - ACT

With the latest spat between Minister Nick Smith and Fish and Games Bryce Johnston hitting fever pitch, ACT Primary Industry Spokesman Don Nicolson says a review of the Fish and Game legislation will be an ACT ambition in the next parliament.

“If Dr Smith is sincere about his recollection of a discussion with Mr Johnston recently, then it is clear he needs the legislative privilege of Fish and Game reviewed,” says Mr Nicolson.

“ACT’s view is that all creatures of statute can become overbearing, and even arrogant, and we will support any government who clips the wings of privilege.

"As part of our mission to cut the green tape that is holding the economy back, ACT will push the next government to rein in bodies like Fish and Game by altering - or even repealing - their mandate.

"That’s vital if New Zealand is to have strong economic development, and fewer busy body government-funded lobby groups. Rural and urban voters alike, who want to help make this happen, should give their party vote to ACT," Don Nicolson concludes.


Media Contact:  Don Nicolson   PH 0272266331

ACT Candidate for Epsom delighted by second endorsement

ACT Candidate for Epsom delighted by second endorsement
David Seymour, ACT Candidate for Epsom

ACT Candidate for Epsom delighted by second endorsement

“I’ve had my second endorsement in only 24 hours. I didn’t think there could be a clearer indication to centre-right voters of how to vote than that given by the Prime Minster yesterday. 

“However, Internet Mana Leader Laila Harre, who turns out to be an Epsom Voter, has clearly signalled the importance of voting for me by putting her support behind the National Party Candidate in order to change the government.

“Harre’s announcement should make it crystal clear that electing me in Epsom is critical to continuing stable centre-right government.


The Letter - 28 July 2014

STOP PRESS: Key Gives Nod for Seymour in Epsom

This afternoon the PM acknowledged the importance of Epsom to National’s re-election prospects when he said he wanted National’s supporters in Epsom to vote for ACT’S David Seymour.  We always thought David could win Epsom, for which he has been campaigning door to door (9,000 doors so far) since February, but with this support from the PM he is certain to be Epsom’s next MP.




Panic in Labour List

Because of the way MMP works, Labour is facing losing all of its list MPs, while still winning back some constituency seats.  


MMP rules of thumb

As much of the electorate does not understand MMP, the Labour and National poll vote is overstated by about 5%.  But in the marginal seats, where the electorate realises there is a real contest, the Labour and National votes increase.    

Labour could win 3 to 4 extra constituency seats.

Labour should win: Christchurch Central - the seat was Labour’s safest; Waimakariri - Kate Wilkinson is retiring and Clayton Cosgrove is contesting; Napier - where popular Chris Tremain is retiring and Stuart Nash is Labour’s candidate. We would add Mangakiekie, where boundary changes now favour Labour, except the Labour candidate Carol Beaumont is a proven vote loser.  So as not to help Labour, ACT will not stand candidates in these marginal seats.  


No Labour list MPs

On present polling, number seven on the Labour list, Kelvin Davies, misses out.  For every constituency Labour wins, a list member is ejected. If Labour wins 3 seats, out goes Moana Mackey, Maryan Street and Andrew Little.  If Beaumont wins, Sue Moroney is out. (Spot the difference). If Labour’s vote falls just another 2% during the campaign, it’ll be highly likely that Jacinda Adern and David Parker are out too. A very real conundrum is facing Labour’s planners.


Policy Wonks

There has been a bit of a reaction to our statement that we think it was a mistake for ACT to have gone into government in the past.  Whale Oil points out that, by being in government, ACT has achieved Partnership Schools, which have been a brilliant success.  But Partnership Schools came from the Confidence and Supply Agreement between ACT and National – not by not by taking ministerial offices.  ACT will again enter into a Confidence Agreement to deliver stable centre/right government.  National does not lack MPs who will make competent Ministers.  What National lacks is fresh, new ideas.  That is what ACT will deliver.


Best new idea

What if there is a policy that will increase New Zealand’s GDP growth sustainably by a third, significantly reduce unemployment and lift real wages?  What if we can pay for it by getting rid of the useless greenhouse emissions trading scheme and corporate welfare?  This policy is backed by many of the world’s leading economists; Larry Summers, former US Secretary of the Treasury and Vernon Smith, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics and even President Obama.  Jamie Whyte will be announcing the new policy this week – keep an eye out for it.


Green Labour

Buried in Labour’s “pro wood” policies is a proposal that companies needing to buy offsetting carbon credits must purchase 50% of their carbon credits from New Zealand forestry owners.  It is called global warming for a reason.  A New Zealand carbon credit is no better for the environment.  Labour admits New Zealand forestry owners will increase the price of ETAs but then says “COST: This measure will be revenue-creating rather than a net expenditure”.  That is like saying a tax increase has no cost because it raises government money!


Some Goss

Where does this nonsense come from?  The transfer of the Central North Island forests to iwi has made Maori the nation’s biggest forest owners.  A new generation of Maori leaders’ whole work experience has been that wealth comes from the government.  How to increase the value of their forests?  Get the government to change the rules to force the country to use wood.  Iwi have lobbied Shane Jones who has been the driver of this potentially multi-million dollar gravy train.


Forced Consumption

Jamie Whyte put the issue rather well in his daily blog.

“Yesterday my 10-year-old told me she had a brilliant idea to boost economic growth. She had learnt at school that much of the money earned in New Zealand comes from the food industry. So, she figured, if the government just forced people to buy more food, then even more money would be made from food and we would all be richer. Only joking; my daughter isn’t that stupid. But apparently David Cunliffe is.”

In a recent speech to ForestWood 2014, a gathering of the forestry industry, David Cunliffe began by observing that forestry is a big part of the New Zealand economy. He then claimed that he could make it an even greater source of wealth to New Zealanders by forcing us to buy more wood. He would do this by using taxpayers’ money to build government offices and 100,000 “affordable homes” out of wood.

Many of the assembled wood growers must have been thrilled. How delightful to hear a politician’s plan to force people to buy their products! But I hope that at least a few of them were disgusted. Mr Cunliffe’s policies are not merely a path to national economic decline. They appeal to immoral and anti-social urges: vote for me and I will prey on others for your benefit.

Benjamin Franklin said that democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Mr Cunliffe should be ashamed of confirming this cynical view of his job.”


Fairfax media thinks ACT will do well

The Dominion last week ran a beat up that John Thompson, the president of ACT, has a conflict of interest because he is a Kiwi fruit exporter who supports the opening of the export market.  The story only makes sense if you believe ACT will hold the balance of power.  Actually, it still does not make sense. The President of the Labour Party is often a trade unionist.  Labour was founded by trade unions to promote their interests.  The Fairfax papers have never claimed Labour having a trade unionist as their president is a conflict of interest.  Someone needs to tell the Dominion that ACT is a free market party.


Govern Alone?

Maybe the Fairfax media is right that ACT will do exceptionally well.  In the NZ Herald poll, ACT has gone from zero to 0.8%.  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%.


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Speech: Race has no place in the law

Speech to the Waikato Conference: 26 July 2014
Race has no place in the law
Jamie Whyte, ACT Party Leader


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.  

Overcoming this way of thinking has been one of the great achievements of modern civilisation. The most important part of this achievement is the principle that everyone is equal before the law.


*  *  *  *  *

Everybody knows the image of Lady Justice in her Grecian robes holding the scales of justice while blindfolded. But many do not know what the blindfold is supposed to stop her seeing.

The answer is the identity of the person being judged. Justice requires that she pay no heed to who it is she is judging – she will make the same decision whether you are a man or a woman, a lord or a peasant, black or white.

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.

Nevertheless, there are many areas where New Zealand law fails to be properly blind to race.   

The most obvious example is the persistence of the Maori electoral roll and Maori Seats, which guarantee parliamentary representation on the basis of race. This mistake is now being repeated in the Auckland Super City, where council decisions must be run past a Maori advisory board.

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.

I will not go on. There is no question that the law in New Zealand is not racially impartial. 

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.

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

Of course, many Maori are better off, better educated and in better health than many Pakeha. And these are often the Maori who take most advantage of their legal privileges, especially those offered by universities and by political bodies.

Alas, people are inclined to think in generalities, and they fail to notice that it is the materially privileged individuals in the legally privileged group who capture the benefits. They think of Maori as generally materially disadvantaged; and they see their legal privileges as a form of compensation. 

But the principle of legal equality is far more important than any redistributive or compensatory impulses that people may have.  It is not some philosophical nicety to be discarded because you feel guilty about what people with the same skin pigment as you did 150 or 200 years ago.


*  *  *  *  *


Why is the principle of legal equality so important?

Many people will feel no need to have it explained. To many of us, it seems no more than obvious that the law should not privilege people from one race over people from other races.

Indeed, many on the left of New Zealand politics once held this position. John Minto once led a movement devoted to fighting the legal privileges of whites in South Africa. He is now a candidate for the Internet-Mana Party, an organisation dedicated to extending racial privilege in New Zealand. If he ever believed in the principle of legal equality, he has abandoned it now.

And not just John Minto and the Internet-Mana Party. As I have said, National, Labour and the Greens – the biggest three parties in New Zealand – all support explicitly race-based laws.

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.


*  *  *  *  *


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?

Many Maori identify strongly with their culture. I have Maori friends who have learnt to speak Maori as adults, and they have been enriched by the experience. I see in them, and in other Maori I meet, a connection with their ancestry and with places in New Zealand lacked by many of us whose ancestors came here more recently – a connection that I envy.

But this should be a matter of complete indifference to the law. There are many cultures in New Zealand. People identify with all sorts of things. Some New Zealanders identify with their sexuality, some with their profession, some with their religion, some with their political beliefs and some – perhaps most – with nothing in particular.

The government should not select some of these “identities” as special and confer legal advantages on them. Culture should not be nationalised.

It is not only those in the non-favoured cultures who have reason to resist. Those in the nationalised culture have the most to lose.

Healthy cultures are dynamic. They evolve and adapt to the changing world. Becoming an “official”, government-sponsored culture is stultifying. What counts as Maori culture and worthy of state protection or promotion must be decided by politicians and bureaucrats under the influence of those who lobby them.

Just as Maori students do not benefit from being given an easy ride, Maori culture risks being crippled by its entanglement with the state. It risks becoming a quaint relic of the 19th century, good for tourists and “Maori leaders” on the take but of no relevance to young Maori of the 21st century.    


*  *  *  *  *


Race-based favouritism is doing Maori no real good.

But even if it were, ACT would still oppose it. Because society should not be a racket, no matter who the beneficiaries are – be they men (who continue to enjoy legal privilege in many countries), the landed nobility or people of indigenous descent. Law-makers must be impervious to the special pleading of those who wish to set aside the principle of legal equality.

Alas, politicians from the other parties have not merely listened but acquiesced. New Zealand is awash with race-based law.

After the coming election, ACT’s MPs will work to have all race-based laws repealed. The precise mechanism or process must be decided once a government is formed. But the particular process followed is not as important as the goal.

There is no place for race in the law.

And there is no place for race-based laws in New Zealand.     

David Seymour: "We are going to campaign harder"

Press Release: We are going to campaign harder
David Seymour, ACT Epsom Candidate
ACT Epsom – 29/07/2014

We are going to campaign harder

“It was great news to learn that John Key says I am his recommendation for Epsom. While the Prime Minister is an important person and he is my pick to remain Prime Minister, John Key is just one voter. I am not going to stop my old fashioned door-knocking campaign until I have put my case to every voter.

“I have been pleased to learn that the Prime Minister is impressed with my campaign and that is one of the reasons he is endorsing my candidacy.

“I intend to demonstrate to all Epsom voters that I will be a hard-working representative of Epsom by continuing to raise local issues that most candidates ignore but are important to voters such as school zoning changes without proper consultation.”


The Sunday Series with Jamie Whyte - 27 July 2014

Jamie Whyte talks green tape, why it's bad for the economy (and the environment) and how ACT plans to untangle us from it.

Three Strikes: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Three Strikes:  Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Speech to ACT Members and Supporters
Dockside Restaurant, Queens Wharf, Wellington


Crime is on the decline, not just in New Zealand but across the Western World. 

One simple reason is that crime is mainly committed by young people. And Western populations are getting older. A population with a smaller share of 16 to 30-year-olds is likely to have a lower crime rate.

On top of this, those few young people we still have are becoming more civilized. Contrary to media stories of binge-drinking and drug-taking, today’s youth are drinking less, smoking less, taking fewer drugs and staying at school longer. Nor do teenagers get pregnant as often as they used to.

Even if governments had done nothing about crime directly, we should be unsurprised by its decline. Yet governments have also contributed to falling crime rates.

In the UK, for example, crime rates had been climbing steadily since WWII. They peaked in the mid-1990s when John Major’s Conservative government began requiring judges to impose longer prison sentences. Tony Blair’s Labour government continued the “tough on crime” policy. Since the mid-1990s, the British prison population has doubled to 85,000 and the crime rate has more than halved. A similar story could be told for the United States.

National seeks credit for declining crime rate here in New Zealand. But they are not responsible for it. Declining crime here is caused in part by the aging and civilizing of the population, which isn’t National’s doing. And it is caused in part by a tougher sentencing. That isn’t National’s doing either.

The Three Strikes for violent crime policy is an ACT policy.

We looked at the successful three strike laws overseas and made modifications to ensure that no one convicted of stealing a pencil or smoking a joint would be sent to jail for life.

ACT’s Three Strikes policy was carefully designed to catch only repeat offenders who committed crimes of serious violence, including sexual violation.

When ACT campaigned on the policy in 2008 we met widespread hostility, not just from the political left but from a justice establishment that has swallowed the idea that the “criminals are victims too”.

The National Party now enthusiastically trumpet as their own what has become a highly successful policy. Yet in 2008 they were opposed to it. The then Justice Minister told his aides that New Zealand would have a Three Strikes law “over his dead body”. Well, we got the policy and, although Simon Power’s  body did not expire, it did retire unexpectedly from politics.

At the time, Labour politicians quoted Kim Workman’s prediction that Three Strikes would fail to reduce crime and would result in our prisons over-flowing with new inmates.

Where are we today, four years after Three Strikes became law? 

There are now over 4,000 first-strikers – aggravated robbers and rapists, very violent offenders whose crime carries a maximum sentence of at least 7 years. 4,000 is about what you would expect projecting the forward the 2010 number of violent crimes.

In accordance with the law, upon conviction, all of these first-strikers received a solemn warning from the Judge which goes something like this: You have been convicted of a “strike” offence. If you offend again you will receive a sentence to be served without parole. If you offend a third time, you will go to jail for the maximum time prescribed for the offence you are convicted of.

Here is a startling fact. Only 37 first-strikers have been convicted of a second such offence. This is a level of success that even ACT did not predict. 

Why is it working?  It is impossible to prove why offenders stop offending but the certain prospect of spending a long time in prison must be a major factor. Three Strikes for violent offending is working. The popular leftwing idea that criminals do not respond to incentives is absurd. It has been refuted so often that those persist in peddling it should be laughed out of court.

We know who the 37 second-strikers are. 46% of them have convictions for “strike” offences that were committed before the legislation came into effect, and therefore don’t count as “strikes”. 38% committed their first “strike” offence while on bail or parole. Of the first ten of the second-strikers, three committed their second “strike” offence while on bail awaiting sentence for the first. And their second strike offence was the same as their first.

These are very dangerous men. With the judge’s warning ringing in their ears, and before even being sentenced, they went out and committed exactly the same offence again. In two of the three cases the offence was indecent assault. Society is safer when such men are in jail.

Of those 37 second-strikers, nine are “on the street”.  In most cases it is because of judicial leniency for strikes one and two. 

Three Strikes was necessary because although Parliament has passed laws saying violent offenders should receive long prison sentences, the judiciary was taking no notice. Everyone deserves a second chance – even aggravated robbers. But they do not deserve five or ten chances.

Prior to Three Strikes the average offender had appeared in court eleven times before they were sent to prison. The average person never appears in court for a felony offence. These offenders had been to court eleven times and each appearance could have been for multiple offences.

Before Three Strikes dramatically changed the rules, an offender may have been convicted of 20 or 30 charges – many of them violent – before a judge finally decided to send him to jail. Violent offenders now get two chances and, if they show they cannot learn and offend similarly again, they go to jail for at least seven years.

If their third offence is an aggravated robbery or a rape, they go to jail for 14 or 20 years respectively, with no parole. This will be 14 or 20 years when law abiding members of the public can go about their business without being in danger from that particular thug.

What is the lesson?  While National now happily takes credit for a measure that they only reluctantly agreed to, the government has not asked: “Is there another area where Three Strikes could also reduce crime?”

ACT says there is. Burglary is a crime where Three Strikes would be appropriate and successful.

Appropriate because burglary is out of control. It is an under-reported crime because the public knows there is a poor detection rate. Treasury estimates there are at least 115,000 burglaries a year, although only 55,000 are reported to the police – assuming police figures are honest, about which there is now some doubt. 

Over four years, that is the equivalent of every household in Auckland being burgled. Over a lifetime in New Zealand, you will be lucky to go without being burgled at some point.

Burglary is a crime that disproportionately harms the poor in our society. Those of us who are well-off usually have insurance. If we are burgled it is extremely unpleasant – our refuge from the world has been violated and items of great sentimental value are often stolen along with the TV and the iPad.

But for less well-off people burglary is a disaster. Often the poor cannot afford insurance. If someone is on a benefit, the priority is feeding and clothing their children. Imagine the impact of a burglary on a solo mum who has scrimped and saved and bought her child an iPad so she can keep up with her peers. For that household, the burglary is a disaster.

Imagine the frustration that solo mum must feel when she goes to the police to report the burglary, only to be told that they do not have the resources to  investigate the crime. The best they can offer is a claim number for her insurance – for insurance she has been unable to afford.

Burglars are a blight on our society but particularly for the poor.

Three strikes for burglary is also appropriate because a disproportionate number of burglaries are committed by professional burglars – criminals who have decided that burglary is a crime that pays. 

One burglar appeared before the court earlier this year for sentence on his 389th and 390th burglary convictions. The sentences he received for his 388 previous convictions had obviously failed to either deter or prevent him from continuing to pursue his chosen career.

Here is how Three Strikes for burglary will work. On his first conviction for burglary the offender will receive a first warning from the judge. The sentence may or may not be custodial. If he goes to jail, he will be entitled to parole.

If the burglar is convicted a second time, the Judge will give him a final warning: do this again and you go to jail for at least three years. If there is a next time, the burglar will not be eligible for parole. He will serve the full three years. 

Looking at the effects of our Three Strikes for violent crime policy and at the effects of similar policies overseas, we expect that this policy would reduce burglary by about a third: that is, by about 40,000 a year.

Perhaps you are not concerned about your own personal security. Then think of the elderly who feel unsafe in their own homes. Or the poor who cannot afford security systems or insurance and for whom burglary is devastating. They deserve your sympathy and your vote for this policy.

Those who go soft on penalties for crime because they reckon the criminals cannot help themselves show heartless insensitivity to the victims of crime. The poor woman whose home is invaded and her possessions stolen certainly can’t help it. Why should she be sacrificed to the half-baked and morally corrupt theorizing of affluent politicians?  

National and Labour are not going to tackle burglary. Only a vote for ACT can reduce this scourge on our society. 

We proved our critics wrong with Three Strikes for serious violent offences. The prison population didn’t explode. And try as they might, the journalists cannot find some poor urchin who has been locked up for seven or 10 years for stealing a chocolate bar. There never will be such a story.

Burglary has become a blight on our society because the risk for burglar is too low. Less than 3% of burglaries result in a conviction. Less than 1% result in a prison sentence. And the average prison sentence is only 15 months, half of which is served. A 1% chance of spending eight months in prison is insufficient deterrent.

Tougher sentencing would have stopped Mr. 390 before he caused so much misery, either by deterring him or by keeping him out of circulation for a greater portion of his criminal career.

We believe he should have been stopped years ago.

You can stop him and other professional burglars by voting ACT on 20 September.

Don Nicolson – Speech to ACT Southern Forum

Don Nicolson – ACT Candidate  for Clutha Southland

Speech to ACT Southern Forum

July 20, 2014

Mr Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to address the ACT southern area conference today with this day being 63 days-yes 9 weeks out from the general election.

An election that will obviously not only define who is the government for the next 3 years and who will be the opposition but also define the future of the very party I am proud to represent ACT.

I want to acknowledge the presence of our party president John Thompson, our party leader Jamie Whyte and our Epsom candidate David Seymour who will win Epsom and the members and supporters here today. I note ACTs CE Lindsay Fergusson is also in attendance. But if you want a strong ACT representation in parliament you need more than David Seymour. You need him, plus at least 5 others. Then you might just get me as well!

How many party votes will that take? About 100000 is my guess; about 4 times more than last election.

Is it do-able? Well yes it is. In 1996 ACT was a new party polling less than 1% and with a hostile media. We ended up with over 6 % and 8 MP’s.

We gained about 145000 party votes that year. In fact ACT has achieved over 6% in 3 of the 6 MMP elections so far. If we could achieve 12500 party votes in the 5 electorates in this region then ACT is seriously on the road again. But we need many foot soldiers to get us there. In this region I need your help. I need you to unashamedly lobby your connections, help with localised billboard placement and oversight, and generally become much more mobilised.

ACT cannot be lackadaisical.  While money really helps, it’s those small influences you can all exert that will, collectively make a huge difference. I have been asked to talk about why ACT principles are good for regional New Zealand and also link those principles to the primary industry that I have worked within all my life.

At the outset, I need to say that ACT is unique in our political landscape. We are absolutely different from the rest.

How is that so? Well, we are the only party promoting a better future with less government weighing us down. That is, ACT promotes a better, a heathier nation through less tax or regulatory burden. No other party has the courage and fortitude ACT has. Other parties might occasionally sound similar but drill deeper and they all have command and control tendencies, with those on the eco socialist left extremely dangerous.

We want the monopolistic influences in our country diminished. They are a handbrake on success and achievement. If the current regime of tax and spend works so well, then why is it that society seems so unhappy and desire more?

I say too much money filtered through the hands of monopolists is the root cause. They cannot deliver value no matter how they sell themselves. Their dead weight cost means a significant portion of each tax dollar is wasted. By deadweight, I mean the unearned costs imposed on the production of goods and services, including the loss of opportunity or growth of businesses throughout NZ.

So let’s go to the core specifics ACT has defined the voters are concerned about most in 2014.

Our surveillance has discovered that voters are concerned about their personal and their property security, their earning, saving and spending power and they know that we are seriously over burdened with regulations that impede enterprise.

Add to that voters have a valid concern about race based laws and the division they create.

So ACT will run a campaign about being tough on crime, about the benefit of low flat taxes,  about why we need a One Country, One law ethic and how we will take the secateurs, no a machete to green tape.

How will these policies help regional New Zealand and the primary sector? It is clear that without secure property rights being upheld, criminals can run riot over the property of others and they are. It is thought about 120,000 burglaries happen each year with only about 55,000 of these reported and less than 30% have offenders apprehended. It is thought these invasions of property cost individuals over $1billion a year. ACT says it’s a core government role to have citizens feel secure and so ACT says stronger deterrents to criminals are vital.

ACT’s 3 strikes for burglary and you are ‘in’ strikes at the heart of those who wish to disrespect the property of others. For those in the pastoral heartland it has been assessed that on top of burglary stock theft costs their industry over $120 million per year. ACT wants far tougher penalties for these rural invasions too with additional powers to confiscate weapons and vehicles from offenders caught. ACT policy is a circuit breaker to crime.

And what of low flat taxes and the benefits that will bring the regions or the primary sector?

ACT says it’s too easy for the executive powers of the state to co-erce revenue from citizens under the guise of protecting those same citizens, when in fact much of the revenue desire is to mask the expansion of the Crown, the ultimate monopolist. That’s why from the day of formation ACT has promoted a low flat tax regime. We know that the dead weight cost of a government collected and spent dollar compares poorly with a dollar spent privately. ACT’s research has shown that the much desired economic growth expectation by government can be achieved much quicker with our lower and flat tax regime.

It’s not hard, and in fact won’t create hardship for anyone in mainstream, but it might affect a few surplus government servants; as it should.

In 1999 when Helen Clark came to office, total Crown revenue was $39 billion, when she was deposed in 2008 that total was $81billion, last year $86 billion. During the same periods total Crown spending went from $39 billion to $83 billion in 2008 and was $91 billion last year. Distilling these figures to each citizen is eye watering with a gross debt per head now at almost $18000. Four times greater than Turkey and six times greater than war torn Egypt!

With this level of Crown expansion you would think society would be happy, but it’s not. It seems there is never enough in the kitty for health, education or security. And worse the Crown is getting into the middle classes and business with additional welfare.

The drug of Crown welfare has them hooked, but ACT knows going  cold turkey doesn’t have to be destructive or painful as it was for the primary sector 1984/5.  Individuals in that sector, if they are true to themselves know that any privilege gained unfairly can be easily taken away. So with a low flat tax regime in place enterprise in regions and primary industry would advance on merit once again. ACT knows that; most citizens think that too, but governments of the recent past just don’t trust citizens to make smart choices.

Much is made of regional development with government financial inducements to regions or industry seen as  a saviour rather than for what they are; a bribe for the overtaxing and over regulatory effect of policy.

ACT says leave more money in the pockets of those who earn it and our regions’, towns and cities will be much better off. An example: I pay about $800 per year to Southland economic development agency. I don’t like that because I can’t refuse to pay it; I don’t get to choose how it is spent; I don’t get any dividend or even a share certificate, but the next year that same agency can come back for another $800 or more. It’s never less!

As for Green tape mixed up with red,    well,    where do I start?

I daresay first principles for regional or primary industry sustainability would be to suggest that limiting the state would actually help. Stating the bleeding obvious I expect. But there are people who think that there is protein, in fact sustenance in a silicon chip. They don’t want to understand that everything we enjoy today has its genesis from revenues generated by harvest of the environment. That’s right; it doesn’t matter whether you are Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, the All Blacks or Barrack Obama, nothing occurs without resources  harvested to develop trade and currency. Everything else occurs because of, not in spite of the harvest of the land, the sea and the scenery.

The Greens would have us believe that resource rentals are required but that’s because they don’t understand rent is already paid by trade in open markets.

Those in IT might say ‘oh we don’t use resources’. Well by proxy they do because in general terms their fantastic outputs are generally used to make resource use more efficient. 

No bureaucrat can say they don’t use resources; they do and worse, those same bureaucrats never replace anything that they consume. Think about that? They do not replace anything they consume. Which means ladies and gentlemen that what the bureaucrat consumes, must be replaced by the private sector? Can anybody come up with a better reason for voting for a light handed Government delivering only what is required.

So why do we let them regulate and add cost to individuals and enterprise the way they do?

I could talk at length about regulations and rules and the effect on local communities or primary industry.

Immediately I think of the Resource Management Act and how it damages communities by impeding aspiration or why it doesn’t have a full compensation for takings clause, or how I think the Local Government Act is applied and more especially why the funding of local government is crooked. I think of road funding on a less than fair entire network basis and I think of the explosion of health and safety compliance police numbers. I think of the very politicised water quality discussion and how one sided and destructive those with agendas have become and I think of how ACC should be opened to competition and so much more.

But I want to talk about the biggest nonsense of all; climate change or, as I like to call it, climate variation and the wasteful New Zealand response. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) or a Carbon Tax, neither can achieve anything useful. That is unless one makes their livelihood out of promulgating the lie.

My first brush with a prospect of carbon dioxide trading prospect goes back to about 1990 when a farm forestry magazine mentioned the concept and that was about the time of the first Rio Conference. It might pay to remember that in early 1980’s global cooling was the issue as was the ozone hole over Antarctica. Fast forward to about 2002 and my role in Federated Farmers, we learn that Helen Clark was serious about signing up to the Kyoto Protocol.

That led to me leading the largest farmer rally in 2003 where we fought and won against the Clark governments intention to enact an animal burp, belch and pee tax emission tax humorously called FART ( fight against ridiculous taxes). The Labour party did not desist and pushed for a carbon tax. They failed again but by 2008 they were able to enact an ETS. The National Party was in huge opposition, or that’s what it seemed.

But while the nats have modified the impact on all citizens the cost of the current ETS is still with us. For all the rhetoric about being fast followers we are still ahead of every other nation and so we find ourselves today in a very lonely international club of one with our, all sectors all gases, ETS.

While our neighbours Australia have just killed off their Carbon Tax we still have our ETS. I find it abhorrent that the promoters of such schemes have played with citizens minds by promoting a fear of the future, any future. Dictators would be proud. The merchants of fear said that increasing carbon dioxide would become catastrophic and that any international inaction would result in irreversible climate change.

Well in spite of their assertions and with atmospheric CO2 rising well past the magical 350ppm mark evidence shows that the world has not warmed for the last 17 years. Evidence enough to say man made emissions of CO2 is not a dangerous causal factor to global temperatures.

Further climate models never predicted this ‘stop’ in temperature rise. The models are worthless, only good for the doomsayers. Sea level rise is small and not in acceleration mode.

I could go on but ACT says that until all the unanswered questions are answered without political bias or scientific corruption then any money spent attempting to alter climate is wasteful and doing nothing is more appropriate. 

Leave citizens to make their own choice about where they live and work and further, leave them the resources to adapt and build their own resilience to whatever is ahead. 

ACT would want the ETS ‘gone by lunchtime’ and any idea of a carbon tax dismissed for the nonsense it would be.

But I will leave the last word to a political columnist from Australia, Dan Aitken who last week wrote as that country repealed its carbon tax: 
First, no country can have a sensible policy on climate by itself, because climate is not governed by national boundaries. Second, not even the UN can have a sensible policy, because climate is not governed by laws and regulations. Third, we can do something about the effects of weather, which is much more concern to everyone because weather is local, and affects our daily life. Fourth, but we can’t stop weather, or even predict it with any great success, because we lack deep knowledge about the basic components of weather (and climate). Fifth, it may be that we will never possess such knowledge. Sixth, the evidence continues to mount that carbon dioxide is not, after all, the control knob of the planet’s temperature, and if it is not, then the preceding reasons become overwhelming.

Fantastic lines that help me rest my case.

So back to the question the chairman asked me to talk about. Is regional New Zealand different than metropolitan NZ? Is Primary industry sector different? Should ACT have policy for each?

Absolutely not!

ACT principles, if widely adopted would not discriminate against any sector, any region, any city, any colour, any religion or any creed. ACT is sector neutral economically and colour blind socially. ACT vision is about giving individuals equal opportunity through less government. Opportunity where an individual can make their own choice about how they can control their destiny; not have it controlled for them by the executive.  

As a farmer I controlled stock by using dogs, quad bikes and fences. So I used overt coercion over a weaker species to gain control and then income.

That’s what our current governance model is too; putting individuals into herds or flocks, weakening their resolve or enterprise and then managing their daily requirements by offering welfare inducements to maintain power.

It’s shameful, it’s unacceptable but it is happening in front of our eyes.

Why do voters like the herd mentality? Why do they like the coercive power of the executive over their own liberty and freedom?

One wonders why our forebears fought so hard for liberty, freedom and the property right when their children haven’t appreciated their quest.

How have the socialistic tendencies of the herd become so oppressive, so stifling to those of us who know there is a better way, those of us who value freedom?

Well I know; it’s about the constant diminution of the common law property right. But that’s for discussion another day.

But why are policies that almost had Dr Brash as Prime Minister in 2005 for the National party now not talked about by that same party?

It’s clear to me they have allowed themselves to be so corrupted, so scared of the eco socialistic and extreme left they cannot stay true to themselves. They have been pulled so left only ACT can save them, save us all.

Predominantly it is any two tick Nat whose heart and mind ACT has to influence and wrest back our lost support. There’s little chance of winning over any voters of the more predatory left.

We need to get them ( National voters that is ) to understand their smarter and more powerful voting strategy would be to split their vote because it would allow the National Party to be held closer to its core values rather than be pulled further into socialistic mire. 

ACT wants a better way and so do the Nats.

ACT knows the better way.

ACT can be a powerful influence for making this fine country better

A Party vote for ACT is the influential choice- the right choice.

I implore you to help make it happen. Be proud to tell your mates to Party Vote ACT September 20th and make New Zealand a better place.

Thank you.