Free Press - Free speech and Green tweets

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill
David Seymour fears this will be another case study in bad law-making and outlines why he opposes this Bill here. You have some dramatic event, to which people rightfully feel something should be done. Politicians feel compelled to do something. Creating a new law is doing something. It’s easy to assume it’s the right thing to do.

Revenge Porn
This is a serious issue which should be dealt with by extending the intimate covert filming provisions in the Crimes Act, and not relying on the “general causing harm” offence in a new Bill.

Asymmetries
The Bill creates a strange asymmetry between the ‘online world’ and the ‘non-digital world’. The ten communications principles would be a good guide to desirable behaviour on a school camp, but are problematic as written in this Bill. The Harmful Digital Communications Bill could itself be used to bully people or the media into taking down legitimate material.

Free Speech
This Bill will be ineffective in protecting vulnerable kids and will very likely be used as a weapon to curtail free speech. As stated famously by Voltaire, free speech involves adopting the view that while “I may disapprove of what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

More Fatuous Stunts
The Green activists were at it again last week, climbing onto Parliament House with eight solar panels. Why not do something useful for a change? How about dropping them off to some schools in a poor but sunny part of the country?

We all Love Solar
Anybody familiar with the relentless decline in solar module prices can see an energy transition is ahead. The dumb thing is to think we should all rush out and buy solar modules now. The rational thing, the Smart-Green thing, is to wait until they are genuinely cost competitive in your little patch of the world. Or to wait even longer, because they will keep getting cheaper.

Investors are on to This
Financial markets have been buzzing over this for years now. For example, just last week Bloomberg had a story titled, The Way Humans Get Electricity is About to Change Forever. So quit the stupid stunts, just let the entrepreneurs and scientists sort this out. Let’s avoid the shambles that has resulted in Germany and elsewhere. 

Germany
Last week a Green MP tweeted: If you follow 'extreme' Green policies...Actually, you get an enormously successful exporting economy like Germany.  Germany a green success? Really? That country best known as an export success in heavy industrial machinery, fossil fuel using vehicles, pharmaceuticals etc?

Germany and Renewables
If you have been following the energy news from Germany you will have read things like this, regarding Germany’s Green energy experiment:  The cost of government subsidies for green energy is passed directly through to consumers. As a result, German households pay twice as much for electricity as their US counterparts. Prices for industrial customers have risen more than 30 per cent over the past four years (Financial Times).

And Bad for the Environment
Then you see articles in the Economist magazine titled: What has gone wrong with Germany’s energy policy?  An unintended side-effect of the policy has been that renewables have undercut relatively climate-friendly natural gas on price. To make up for the loss of generation as nuclear was taken offline, traditional utilities have turned instead to much more climate-damaging coal. CO2 emissions have increased. Talk about unintended consequences!

The Result
German consumers are facing steeply rising power prices. German newspapers feature stories of people stealing wood for fuel from lumber yards and forests.

The Point
It’s not that solar is a bad idea, it’s just that for most places it’s not yet cost competitive without subsidy. But it won’t be long before it is. Timing is everything. Start in places where it is very sunny. As costs keep falling, and if and as battery storage improves, it will become a no-brainer to install. Let the market drive it. Keep government out of it. And especially keep Green politicians away:  they don’t understand markets, and they don’t understand the network supply and demand complexities of electricity generation and distribution. Inner-city, green leftie types have a knack for creating policy shambles that make ordinary people poorer. Beware.

The TPPA
The TPPA roadshow has stuttered back into life. The economist Tyler Cohen, co-author of the Marginal Revolution blog, wonders what it would take for him to change his mind, and oppose the TPPA. Given all the studies showing the huge welfare gains to come from expanded free trade, he concludes he would need to see a study which used a better trade model, used better data, and/or added in the neglected costs of TPPA (which are real), and that overall showed the welfare gains going away and becoming negative. But there aren’t any.

Opponents of the TPPA
Instead of Cohen’s test, all we get from opponents of the TPPA are various assertions about possible negative consequences of the TPPA. As Cohen says, “the more desultory lists I see of possible negative consequences of TPPA, the more likely I am to think it is a good idea after all.”

Oh not Again!
An enthusiast tweets: Moana Jackson and other Maori leaders have filed an urgent claim in the Waitangi Tribunal alleging the TPPA negotiations breach the Treaty. Will this nonsense ever stop?

Speaking of Nonsense
The PPTA seems to be channeling the old-style militant unionism of the 1950s, as their blog writers utterly lose the plot. At least it’s clear whose interests they represent – it sure isn’t children or student teachers. Read it here for yourself: http://www.ppta.org.nz/resources/ppta-blog/big-shout-out-to-ppta-members-in-northland

Labour Milking It
Labour are outraged about milk costing more than coke. But of course. Milk is the product of a wondrously complex biological, economic, and logistical process, limited in its production by environmental and regulatory constraints, and constrained in its provision by its perishability. Whereas coke is essentially sugarwater. Why is milk more expensive in New Zealand than in London? Simple. British supermarkets use milk as a loss leader to signal low prices.

Auckland Council
Well, they did it, they voted for the big spending plan. We wonder how many of the ten councillors who voted for this 9.9% rate increase will still be councillors after the next election?

Schadenfreude
Apparently “The Conservatives are not dead”. It’s a reworking of the parrot sketch. 

Free Thoughts - Harmful Digital Legislation

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill looks set to pass into law next week. I have voted against it, and have moved amendments in an attempt to improve the Bill. I want to explain why I oppose this Bill.

The legislation has good intentions – to protect people, especially young people, from online bullying.

But we can’t judge policies and programs by their intentions. It is results that matters. Bad legislation with good intentions is still bad legislation.

The Government faced a difficult task. Any law in this area must balance the need to protect its citizens from harm and the need to protect free speech, including freedom of the press. As stated famously by Voltaire, free speech involves adopting the view that while “I may disapprove of what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

What does the Bill do?

The Harmful Digital Communications Bill applies to digital communications. The Bill creates an Approved Agency that will receive, investigate and assess complaints against ten communication principles set out as a guide for the Agency and the Court. The approved agency can negotiate between parties to resolve complaints. They do not have the power to issue a takedown order.

More significantly, complaints can be brought to the District Court if they breach one or more of the communication principles and harm is caused. The District Court can order a take-down, correction, right of reply and/or an apology.

A criminal offence is also available to the District Court if a person fails to comply with a District court order or if the person intended to cause harm, caused harm, and it would have caused harm to a reasonable person.

One of the classic ways bad law is made is when you have some dramatic event, to which people rightfully feel something should be done. Politicians feel compelled to do something. Creating a new law is doing something. It’s easy to assume it is the right thing to do.

The RoastBusters case, where the police decided not to charge, was the catalyst for this Bill, and triggered all those steps I have just described.

But later the Independent Police Conduct Authority examined the Roastbusters case and found that police did not “consider all available offences in reaching their decision not to charge.” In short, the case could have, and should have, been dealt with under current law. For that case, we did not need a new law.

But Parliament is nevertheless creating new laws and a new agency.

How then should we deal with serious online problems, especially when criminalisation is on the table? We should start by updating existing laws.

The second part of my proposed amendment attempted to do just that. The particular issue here is ‘Revenge Porn’ - where an intimate recording is taken with consent but shared online without consent. This is a serious issue and the current loophole in the Crimes Act needed to be closed. There is no doubt that this behaviour should be criminal. But the right way to do this is by extending the intimate covert filming provisions in the Crimes Act, and not relying on the “general causing harm” offence in a new Bill.

Only Labour supported my amendment, which was voted down by all other parties.

I also attempted to move an amendment which would have removed the introduction of a new criminal offence for posting a harmful digital communication. These criminal provisions are worrisome for several reasons.

Firstly, the Bill creates a strange asymmetry between the ‘online world’ and the ‘non-digital world’. Conduct that is legal offline would be criminal online. The criminal aspect of the Bill also lacks specific reference to the public interest, and other important defences that are available under existing laws.

There is also a strangely surreal aspect to the law. It is written as though it came before digital communications. The period of time required for a take-down is 48 hours. A counter appeal could leave a total of 96 hours. And this is after a potentially very slow District Court process. The reality is that most internet phenomena, be they Twitter wars, viral videos, or popular memes, go from nowhere to ubiquity and all the way back well within that period.

Then there is anonymity. It's not difficult to hide one's identity online. Often that's the point. Ask.fm, for instance, long allowed anonymous people to ask (often cruel and vexatious) questions of each other anonymously.

Then it stopped and required registration. Presumably this was because people want a good experience online – it makes business sense. And this is how the market is quickly responding. The remedies for bullying are more sophisticated than they have ever been before, and we see those remedies coming from those very hosts of online material—the Facebooks, the Twitters, or whatever they may be—just as quickly as the problems emerge. The technological change has provided not only the problem but also the remedy for many.

Finally, criminalisation will likely affect the very people the Bill is trying to protect – young people. Potentially we could see a 14 year old criminalised for something they foolishly posted online.

I also have wider concerns about the Harmful Digital Communications Bill. In particular the effect the ten communications principles, the Approved Agency, and District Court takedown orders will have on Free Speech – a cornerstone of any free society. Our rights are being traded away in this Bill.

Yet, few have even seen the ten vague ‘be nice’ communications principles – principles which might be appropriate if we were about to embark on a school camp, but not written into law. They are listed at the end of this paper.

These principles tell us it is wrong to disclose sensitive personal facts about another individual, to be indecent or obscene, or that you should not harass another individual. It requires only one principle to be breached for you to be reported to the Approved Agency. The next stop could be the District Court, facing a take-down order. Add the intention to cause harm, and actual harm, and you are approaching criminal territory – with the threat of up to 2 years in prison.

Imagine how easily these principles could be inadvertently broken by tweets, online newspaper articles, blogs, emails, posts on Facebook, or comments on websites.

It is also easy to see how the Harmful Digital Communications Bill could itself be used to bully people or the media into taking down legitimate material, especially when they are threatened with the time and process of the district court process.

We note that similar legislation overseas has encountered serious problems. For example, last year New York's top court struck down a law that made cyberbullying a crime, because it violated free speech.

This Bill will be ineffective in protecting vulnerable kids and will very likely be used as a weapon to curtail free speech.

David Seymour
ACT Leader

The Bill's 10 communication principles:

  1. A digital communication should not disclose sensitive personal facts about an individual.
  2. A digital communication should not be threatening, intimidating, or menacing.
  3. A digital communication should not be grossly offensive to a reasonable person in the position of the affected individual.
  4. A digital communication should not be indecent or obscene.
  5. A digital communication should not be used to harass an individual.
  6. A digital communication should not make a false allegation.
  7. A digital communication should not contain a matter that is published in breach of confidence.
  8. A digital communication should not incite or encourage anyone to send a message to an individual for the purpose of causing harm to the individual.
  9. A digital communication should not incite or encourage an individual to commit suicide.
  10. A digital communication should not denigrate an individual by reason of his or her colour, race, ethnic or national origins, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.

Free Thoughts - End of life choice

The contentious issue of voluntary euthanasia is one I have been considering for some time, and I want to explain here why I am preparing a private member’s (End of Life Choice) Bill to lodge for ballot in Parliament.

The primary motivation for this Bill is compassion.

Many of my constituents have urged me to proceed with a Bill, particularly in light of the withdrawal last year of a similar Bill sponsored by Iain Lees-Galloway, originally introduced by former MP Maryan Street. Two previous Bills on this issue have in the past failed to gain Parliamentary support, but the clear international trend since the 1990s is towards the legalisation of medically assisted end of life choice.

The motivation for this Bill is the very real anguish faced by people with terminal illness, as they anticipate the prospect of intolerable suffering, and the indignity of the final few days and weeks of their lives. While pain can be ameliorated somewhat, the suffering and indignity of that final period of life remains a profound concern to many people.

The intention of the Bill is to allow people with a “grievous and irremediable medical condition” to obtain medical aid to die if they should so choose.

I appreciate that within our community there is a wide range of religious and philosophical views which influence attitudes to this issue. What is unthinkable for some, is considered by others the most compassionate way to address the inevitability of end of life, and the realities of terminal illness.

The Bill I intend to lodge will offer choice that is currently prohibited, for those in our community who are grievously and irremediably ill and who wish to have the option, as they near life’s end, to choose the manner and timing of their final days.

The protections designed to avoid potential abuse are crucial, and would need to be fully examined before any final Bill was to return to the House. A Select Committee process considering specific proposals will enable all these matters to be considered in detail and in public, will provide an opportunity for the full range of views in our community to be heard, and will allow us to examine the international experience.

There are several key considerations behind my intention to lodge a private members Bill.

In my view it is politically, morally, legally and, in terms of public policy, the right thing to do.

I will consider each of these in turn.

Legally this is the right thing to do.

As noted in the recent judgement on the Lecretia Seales case, the issue of end of life choice is a matter for Parliament to determine.

Likewise, earlier this year the Canadian Supreme Court determined unanimously that "The prohibition on physician-assisted dying infringes on the right to life, liberty and security of the person in a manner that is not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice."

But the Court suspended its judgement for 12 months, giving the Canadian Parliament a year to draft new legislation to reflect that judgement.

This reflected a view that it is a matter for Parliament to decide, not the Courts. Legislation to give effect to assisted dying will involve very many detailed ethical, legal and practical considerations.

The scrutiny of a select committee process, examining a concrete proposal, is the best and most thorough way of considering this issue.

In terms of appropriate legal process, introducing a Bill to Parliament is the right thing to do.

Morally this is the right thing to do.

The difficulty with assisted dying is that we are attempting to balance competing values, each of great importance.

The first is the sanctity of life and the need to protect the vulnerable. The second is the autonomy and dignity of a competent adult who seeks to end their life as a response to a grievous and irremediable medical condition.

The difficulty is that an absolute prohibition on assistance in dying effectively creates a “duty to live” rather than a “right to life”.

An absolute prohibition on assisted dying also calls into question the existing legality of any consent to the withdrawal or refusal of lifesaving or life-sustaining treatment. Yet already there is a degree of societal consensus that the administration of palliative sedation and the withholding or withdrawal of lifesaving or life-sustaining medical treatment, which can have the effect of hastening death, are ethically acceptable.

Protracted dying was once rare; death typically came swiftly. But medicine has advanced, and now a protracted death is common.

By acknowledging this reality, the argument can be advanced that it is also ethical for voluntary adults who are competent, informed, grievously and irremediably ill, and where the assistance is clearly consistent with the patient’s wishes and best interests, and in order to relieve suffering, for them to have the option of physician assisted end of life.

In short, an absolute ban on assisting another person to end their own life can amount to condemning a person to a life of severe and intolerable suffering.

It was for that reason the Canadian Courts concluded that the ban on assisted dying was too broad – by justifiably attempting to protect the vulnerable, it denied the rights of some individuals in a way that bore no relation to the object of the law.

As the Court said, “A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”

That is why the international trend since the 1990s has been for Parliaments to recognise that, in certain well defined circumstances, an individual’s choice about the end of their life is entitled to respect.

The international evidence was closely examined in the Canadian courts. There it was stated that an absolute prohibition on assisted dying would have been necessary if:

  • The evidence showed that physicians were unable to reliably assess competence, voluntariness, and non-ambivalence in patients;
  • That physicians fail to understand or apply the informed consent requirement for medical treatment;
  • Or if the evidence from permissive jurisdictions showed abuse of patients, carelessness, callousness, or a slippery slope leading to the casual termination of life.

But after an exhaustive examination of the evidence these possibilities were rejected. The judgement found that properly designed and administered safeguards were capable of protecting vulnerable people from abuse and error, that the elderly or people with disabilities are not at a heightened risk, and that there was no evidence of a slippery slope.

Before any changes to New Zealand law are contemplated, these issues should be considered afresh by our Parliament.

Morally, reconsidering the law on end of life choice is the right thing to do.

Politically this is the right thing to do.

My job as a Parliamentarian is to represent the voters, and that involves reflecting the will of the public, insofar as that “will” makes sense and is not inconsistent with my fundamental beliefs.

On this issue, for some MPs, there will inevitably be a clash with some profoundly important religious or philosophical beliefs.

That said, the public clearly wish this issue to be debated, so that regardless of one’s personal view on the matter, this is an issue which deserves to be placed before the House – as I will seek to do with my Bill – and which deserves also to be taken at least to select committee for the sort of thorough review that the Canadian case examined.

Advancing the consideration of End of Life Choice through a Bill to be thoroughly examined via select committee, is the best way to respond to the wishes of the NZ electorate.

I concluded therefore that, politically, introducing my Bill is the right thing to do.

In terms of public policy this is the right thing to do.

The law against assisting somebody to end their life, is of course a ‘generally sound law’. But it is also one which has an extraordinarily harmful effect on a small number of individuals.

As the Canadian judgement determined, that law is overly broad.

As a matter of public policy, we need to reconsider the situation of that small number of persons who:

  • clearly consent to the termination of their life, and
  • have a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual.

The eventual scope of any Bill which might be returned to the House from a select committee review is not to be determined here.

My case is that New Zealand needs and - as is evident from recent opinion polls - wants this debate.

Our Parliament should facilitate this discussion by considering this issue afresh through the mechanism of a Bill passing its first reading in the House and proceeding to select committee review.

All New Zealanders should have the opportunity to be heard on this matter. The discussion and review should not be rushed.

My End of Life Choice Bill, when lodged and if drawn from the private members’ bill ballot, will allow this much needed review to occur.

It is the right thing to do.

David Seymour
ACT Party Leader

Free Press - A new low for the PPTA

A New Low for PPTA
Up and coming reporter Jessica Roden of the Northern Advocate has revealed PPTA members black-balling a Whangarei Partnership School teacher from completing his placements at nearby schools.  He has been teaching on the proviso that these placements will complete his qualification.

Disingenuous
All teachers must complete a spell at a several schools before acquiring provisional registration.  The PPTA say the teacher in question can complete his sections at independent or Partnership Schools, knowing full-well this is impossible in the North.

Desperate for Survival
Why does the PPTA behave so disgracefully?  Why so much effort attacking nine small schools? Free Press refuses to believe they represent the sentiments of the average teacher, who is fair minded and fundamentally committed to kids’ welfare.  The PPTA is fundamentally about negotiating collective agreements for teachers.  Partnership Schools do not require collective agreements. QED.

A Forgotten ACT Success
The Productivity Commission, which was originally an ACT initiative, has almost single-handedly introduced economic rationalism to the housing debate.  Whereas such debates can go all over the place, most major players now agree that it’s the land, stupid.

Hammering the Message Home
The latest PC report: on Using Land for Housing, was chock full of great ideas over its 374 pages, and at least one idea that looks dubious. Naturally that’s the one Labour like.

Amidst all the Good Ideas
One notable item was that the exemption on Crown land from rates is unjustifiable. Quite so. Central government dumps regulatory burdens on local government, but is tight fisted in paying for them itself. Allowing local authorities to charge rates on Crown land would encourage agencies to use land more efficiently and would be fairer to ratepayers.

The Rating Base
Councils can charge targeted rates for water, sewage and refuse collection, but cannot levy other rates, including uniform annual charges or general rates on Crown land. One option might be to allow councils to apply uniform annual charges to Crown land. That might encourage them to not push the uniform charge down to the minimum, as has happened in Auckland.

But Which Land?
As a first cut at what might be included, and what not, conservation and recreational land could be excluded. Because schools and hospitals all compete with private organisations, they should pay rates. Road and rail network infrastructure should probably be excluded, but ports and airports are private businesses, albeit often partially owned by councils, so would be included.

And Some Controversial Areas
Land used for religious worship or education, and Maori land of various types is exempt from rates. It’s hard to see how that could be justified.

The Net Effect
Slightly lower rates burden, slightly higher central government tax burden – but better price signals and incentives all round. And fairer.

Means Not Ends
Labour can’t get past its enthusiasm for government-led building projects.  They are more focussed on the builder than what is built.  They seized on the one dubious part of the report: “create an urban development authority to drive large-scale renewal projects in our biggest cities”. Given their penchant for building houses themselves, Free Press wonders why Labour don’t try getting a job in a development company, raising voluntary private capital, and taking the risk themselves.

Good Idea, Inept and Patronising Implementation
That leaked police document last week revealed that unlicensed Maori drivers caught behind the wheel in South Auckland are being referred for training instead of getting a $400 ticket on their first breach.

The Good Idea
People do stupid things, makes mistakes, that’s a fact of life. Policy should give people second chances, giving assistance and direction to do things right, at least where they are not obviously endangering others. But if they persist in breaking the law, then no more second chances. In that sense, the idea seems worthy of at least a trial. Experiments are good.

But the Policy Should be Colour Blind
Focusing only on Maori is simply wrong. What were the police thinking? It’s unfair to all other ethnic groups in our community and is extraordinarily patronising to Maori.

The People’s Republic of Auckland
Yes Auckland, your council rulers have utterly lost the plot. Trade missions overseas, and now ambassadors. Junkets galore.

Lost Tribe of Labour
Not content to just debate the (very welcome) reintroduction of 10 year passports, David Seymour gave Labour a good kicking. Note their reaction to being accused of abandoning the working class.  Truth hurts.

Celebrating Volunteers
Volunteers are vital to the health of a free society. So it’s good to see the government celebrating National Volunteer Week. But perhaps while doing so, it could clarify how its proposed health and safety reforms could affect voluntary organisations by increasing regulatory burdens and liabilities for casual volunteers.

Free Press - How much school choice do we have?

Inequality
The OECD report on New Zealand last week noted inequality concerns – particularly equality of opportunity. The report said our education system is struggling to improve outcomes in poorer communities. True. ACT is working on this via Partnership Schools, but there is a long way to go. When you look around the world of education innovation, you see just how timid we are in NZ. Still, the opposition parties are apoplectic about our timid progress – they prefer stasis. But peek over the fence at Nevada!

School Choice
Education researcher Matthew Ladner describes school voucher programmes as the rotary telephones of the school choice movement — “an awesome technology that did one amazing thing.” But States such as Nevada (and Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, and Tennessee) are implementing what he calls the iPhone of school choice programs.

The iPhone of School Choice?
Nevada governor Brian Sandoval has signed into law the nation’s first universal school-choice program. This opens up options for every single public-school student, going much further than the traditional voucher model, as it comes in the form of an education savings account. Parents control and can use this to fully customize their children’s education.

It Works Like This
Parents in Nevada can have 90 percent (100 percent for children with special needs and children from low-income families) of the funds that would have been spent on their child in their public school deposited into a restricted-use spending account.

Algebra, with a Side-Serving of Music Tuition
Parents can use those funds to pay for a variety of education-related services and products — such as private-school tuition, online learning, special-education services and therapies, books, tutors, and dual-enrollment college courses. It’s an à la carte education.

Could it Work Here?
Might parents in NZ be interested in an education savings account for their children? We reckon yes. After all, it’s their money. So, which political parties will tell Kiwi parents there is no way they can be trusted with this degree of choice? All of them, except ACT.

Experiments
It’s great to see increasing numbers of countries and states encouraging innovation and experimentation (or as Labour would say, experimentation on vulnerable children). We have had some experimentation in NZ: there was that numeracy project mentioned last week (oops) and NCEA (hmmm).

OECD on Transport
According to the OECD Auckland and Wellington are the 2nd and 3rd most congested cities in Australasia, behind Sydney. The solution is blindingly obvious. We need to build the necessary roading networks and finance them on a user pays basis.

Time to Upgrade the Operating System
We need to update our transport funding mechanisms and shift to widespread tolling on our roads – electric cars won’t be paying fuel tax. With modern technology we can know when and where cars move, and bill them accordingly on a user pays basis. As the OECD report suggests, this should also involve greater use of congestion charging in our cities – the cost to the network goes up at peak times, so price accordingly.

OCR Cut by 25bp
Down a quarter percent, that is. The Bank is just doing its job, which is controlling inflation, not asset prices (like housing or share prices). But it would help if Auckland Council would also do its job, facilitating people building new houses instead of blocking them.

Keep Politicians away from Monetary Policy
Like the rugby boor who wants to endlessly debate past refereeing decisions, we have Russell Norman, with time on his hands now, tweeting about the OCR decision: Would Reserve Bank have made (mistaken) decision to start tightening last year if Board (w broad economy reps) were deciders not just Gov? One thing Russell obviously is not, is an expert on monetary policy.

Adventures in Labour
News broke last week that some Labour Party activists representing Labour’s right and centre leaning thinkers were about to launch an organisation along the lines of the Progress think-tank in Britain. So what, so normal, you might think. Of course they would be debating ideas. But not so fast, this is the Labour Party of which we speak.

Because there are Matters of Scripture
It’s a bit like Galileo suggesting that perhaps, on the balance of evidence and theory, we might just need to consider that the earth moves around the sun, rather than the other way. Pandemonium ensues inside the Labour caucus, hilarity outside. The Labour Inquisition is under way.

A Question
Why is it that the more "liberal" and "tolerant" the person, the angrier they get when alternative views are offered?

Let’s be Helpful
ACT believes NZ needs a strong opposition. So here are some tips for them. Labour used to stand for opportunity – that means you need to give people choices and options, not just the opportunity to be on welfare. Labour used to believe in self-reliance, helping people get back on their feet when they fell – that means you need to be more aware of the poor incentives, the poverty traps, that you invariably create with that help. And you don’t need to oppose everything – that is just transparent partisanship. (That’s enough help - Ed).

Trivialising Global Warming Issues
It reeks of desperation when the Greens claim that every bit of bad weather is a consequence of global warming, and that we are to blame. Recently it was the floods in Dunedin.  If you monitor the weather for 50 years, you will encounter a 50 year flood. Monitor it for 100 years and you will encounter an even bigger 100 year flood. And so on. The science around climate change issues, and the degree to which human activities contribute is complex, suggestive but uncertain, and way more sophisticated than this – the Greens can surely do better, or at least pretend to try.

Still Glum?
We were wondering last week why Labour and the Greens always seem so glum, why they just moan all the time. Take themselves too seriously perhaps? That thought reminded us of an excellent P. J. O’Rourke line, mocking the fun police, who want us “to grow all our own food, use only fair-traded Internet services with open code programming, heat the house by means of clean energy renewable resources such as wind power from drafts under the door, and knit our children’s clothing with organic wool from sheep raised under humane farming conditions in our yard.”

One Last Thing
Radio NZ recently aired a half-hour documentary on the future of NZ Super, giving the issue the weight and depth it deserves. Multiple perspectives are included but one point is clear: if we are to be fair to future generations, inaction is not an option. David Seymour is the only politician in the piece with a constructive solution: ending the political impasse through a referendum on the structure of superannuation. You can listen to the piece here.

Free Press - Rent controls and verbal tics

Back Benchers
A fun time was had by all last week, as Parmjeet Parmar, Jacinda Ardern, James Shaw and David Seymour sparred over a few issues. Consistency was gleefully tossed out the window as Jacinda segued from complaining that the sort of high calorie food you can buy at supermarkets is too cheap, to a moment later complaining about a supermarket duopoly making food too expensive. We think her point was that that cheap food should be taxed so that low income people are….er….healthier but poorer?

How to Destroy a City
No, we are not talking about council planning in Auckland. One of the questions put to the political panel on Backbenchers was whether rent controls would be a good thing. David Seymour quoted Swedish economist Assar Lindbeck, who observed that rent controls are the best way to destroy a city, second only to bombing it. Numerous economists have made similar observations. That is, it’s a great way to create a ghetto etc.  We are fearful that Jacinda and James still don’t really get this basic economics thing. Their central planning, command-and-control instincts run deep.

The Best or the Worst of Times
Opposition politicians tend to preach doom and gloom. How else to motivate voters?  But as tech commentator Brian Hall notes:  Never have so many benefitted from so much technology that is so cheap and so accessible. A free global thinking machine — Google. A free global online community — Facebook. Free phone calls — Skype. A supercomputer in your pocket — iPhone. Agribusiness that feeds billions. Pharmaceuticals and vaccines that radically extend the life of nearly everyone on the planet.

OMG, is Capitalism Dead?
James Shaw claims that “free market capitalism is dead”. That seems an odd claim in light of the previous paragraph and, well, the state of the world around us, or as we sometimes say, reality. To us, capitalism looks more vigorous than it has ever been, lifting millions out of poverty, delivering mind-blowing innovations, connecting billions of people to a world of knowledge through a tiny smartphone.

The Political Left
Haven’t they noticed any of this? Is this why they seem so glum all the time?

Profits
The political left still don’t understand profit.  They keep moaning about the possibility that somebody might make a profit from engaging in a social service, or building a house on some land sold off by the government. Profits are a return on investment, just like the interest income you get on a term deposit. Except most investments are riskier, so nobody will make them unless the expected return is a bit higher, to compensate for the risk. Some investments go well.  Some don’t.

Annette King Writes
She claims that “National are using vulnerable mental health patients as guinea pigs”. Social bonds, she says, are “an untried and unproven experiment that have failed overseas”. Huh? How can they be untried if you claim they have failed?  Let’s skip the tedious rhetoric. This is the Orwellian “profits bad” fallacy again.

Experiments
Speaking of experiments (or as Labour would say, experiments on vulnerable children), how did that Numeracy Development Project turn out? The one rolled out to New Zealand primary schools in 2001. It seems to have triggered a decline in NZ maths performance – see the NZ Initiative report released last week; Un(ac)countable, Why Millions on Maths Returned Little.

Profits Too High?
If you think businesses profits are too high, just try running one. Building and running a business is hard – it is risky and demanding. If you are not prepared to do it yourself, then quit moaning about those that do. Entrepreneurship is great, can be rewarding, often involves failure, and is anything but easy. ACT celebrates entrepreneurship. It’s the driving force behind rising incomes.

Three Strikes
R
ecall that the Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010 was an ACT initiative, a three strikes law which was narrowly focused on violent, recidivist offending. It gave a clear message to violent offenders - repeat offending would be met with tougher sentencing. Our expectation, based on overseas evidence and on the sort of commonsense that seems to be utterly lacking on the political left, is that it would reduce the number of victims of violent crime. What has happened since? Nationally, 5378 first strikes and 76 second strikes have been given, but no third strikes.

Evidence of Success?
Labour Party justice spokesperson Jacinda Ardern said she did not accept figures showed the bill worked, and that more specific research should be done. Ha! Well, she is right that simple data like this does not demonstrate the success of the Three Strikes Law – there may be other confounding factors and trends.  But what you cannot deny is that it is highly suggestive. Nobody yet has battered or murdered their way into a third strike sentence. The burden of proof has shifted to opponents of the bill.

Dreaming
Labour should be saying they will now support this law, at least until they see some better analysis demonstrating little, or a negative, impact from the new law. But of course they would never say that.

Bowally Road
We noticed a recent item on Chris Trotter’s Bowally Road blog, where he tried to figure out what Mathew Hooton might have been up to in suggesting that National have abandoned neoliberal policies and hurtled to the left, and had suggested that Labour should try and outflank National on the right. As usual Chris overcomplicates things. There is an old saying in politics that runs along the lines, “there is no greater pleasure in politics than giving potentially fatal advice to your political opponents”. We think that’s all there was to it.

Neoliberal?
The word “neoliberal” is no more than a term of abuse beloved of the left, just a verbal tic. Try and describe what it means and it deflates like a burst balloon. Chris describes
he so-called neoliberal consensus as having these elements: price stability; labour market flexibility; an open competitive economy; broad-based, low-tax structure; government surpluses and debt repayment. That list is better described as a middle-of-the-road OECD consensus. It’s Policy 101.

From Labour’s Leaked Campaign Review
“Labour has still to define positively and confidently convincing, alternative macro-economic policies, which also respond to wider social and environmental issues, despite emerging international challenges to neo-liberal orthodoxy.”  Good grief, who writes like that? And there’s that word again. Told you it was a verbal tic.

Crocodile Dundee and ACT Policy
You call that neoliberal? This is neoliberal!

Free Press 2/06/2015

Prime Minister on NZ Superannuation
In the House last week the PM suggested we didn’t need to worry about NZ Super because it is only costing us less than 5% of GDP, compared with over 9% for the OECD average now.  He added that on current trends in NZ it would only rise to 8% of GDP by 2060.

Sound Reasonable?
Well, that depends on whether all is well in the OECD countries that are at or above these levels. France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, for example, are all well above the OECD average already. In a word association game, the words “fiscal and debt crisis” would fit pretty well with this list of countries.  And also “grinding recession”. The PM is setting the bar way too low.

From Where do Pensions get Paid?
Not from GDP. For largely pay-as-you-go systems, pension costs are a large component of government spending. For that list of countries, pension payments range from 23-32% of government spending (OECD data from 2011). That sort of spending on pensions contributes to the surge in debt levels, squeezes out a lot of other worthy spending, and kills any chance of lower taxes. Do we really want to go there?

How are those Countries Responding?
It’s been a mad scramble of panic and desperation, in the context of grinding recession and, in some cases, depression level collapses in output. The ages of eligibility are going up; where there are pension contributions those are being increased; and indexation is shifting from a wage to inflation basis. It’s not wise to kick the can down the road.

The Outlook in NZ
In 2012 NZ Super was about 10.3% of government spending, and this year 12%. Treasury’s long term fiscal projections referred to by the PM show that increasing to 15% by 2030. And this is assuming the economy can deliver 1.6%pa real wage growth. As discovered in Europe, if something goes wrong debt levels will spiral out of control.

Or in Dollar Terms
NZ Super costs in 2014 were $11 billion. How much extra would that have been if not for earlier far-sighted political decisions to lift the age of eligibility from 60 to 65?  The answer is another $4 billion a year. So what programmes would we have had to cut to fund that, or what taxes increased? Would those who opposed the last increase in the age of eligibility, from 60 to 65, now argue the case for putting it back to 60? 

Well?
We didn’t think so.

Extra Costs Coming Down the Line
NZ Super costs will be increasing by about $700 million every year through the rest of this decade, and by about $1.5 billion by the second half of the 2020s.  By 2030 we will be spending around $30 billion a year on NZ Super. So which bunch of taxpayers are going to be funding this extra spending every year, or which spending programmes will be cut, or which taxes increased? No wonder it is hard to balance the budget – that’s quite a headwind.

NZ Super Sustainability can Easily be Achieved
It’s true that NZ is in a far better position than many OECD countries. But many of them are a mess. If we make gradual changes now we can keep what is a simple and effective pension scheme, while making it fairer across generations. Time to get started.

Intergenerational Warfare
This resistance to making continual incremental changes to NZ Super is setting up an intergenerational battle. Younger generations, with student debt, unaffordable housing, and the threat of rising taxes to pay for all this, have every reason to feel aggrieved.

And We Live Longer
Life expectancy is rising by a year every decade. It should be a no brainer – we all know intuitively that it makes sense to align the age of eligibility with life expectancy.

But That’s not All
The demographic shock is not just due to rising life expectancy, it is also due to reduced fertility. There are fewer younger people. We are moving from a period in the 1970s where there were seven working age people for every one superannuant, to a situation in 2060 with only two working age people for every one superannuant.

Behavioural Changes Matter Too
Some interesting US data shows behavioural changes adding half a year to life expectancy since 1960: +1.3 years due to less smoking, +0.4 years due to lower vehicle accidents because of better cars and roads, partly offset by rising obesity (minus one year) and drug overdoses (-0.3 years).

Winston on the Budget
He writes: “There is a proverb that the wise man saves for the future but the foolish man spends whatever he gets. This has happened with the foolish Budget that has cut the KiwiSaver kick-start grant of $1000 and failed to resume payments to the Cullen superannuation fund.” A++ for rhetoric, but one problem...

Borrowing isn’t Saving
The KiwiSaver kick start wasn’t saving, it was borrowing by government to give to those who registered for Kiwisaver. And 38% of them just took the $1,000, without any follow-up saving. The other 62 per cent who did save were mostly those who would have saved anyway. That’s right, KiwiSaver kick starts were probably adding more to government debt than to citizens’ saving.

And the Cullen Fund
That’s not saving either, unless the government has a surplus to use. Otherwise it is borrowing to invest in debt and equity markets. Given that the opposition parties have opposed every savings measure since 2009, and dreamed up numerous spending measures, they can’t really be taken seriously on savings issues.

Norman Caught Picking Cherries
Last week Russell Norman tweeted a chart of the NZ trade-weighted index measure of the NZ currency, suggesting it was “an ongoing problem for NZ”. The chart was from 2009 to date, showing a general upward trend for the NZ dollar. He cherry picked the year after the GFC, when dollar dropped 25 per cent (it didn’t recover its pre GFC level until 2013).  This from the guy who imperiously lectures us all about the global temperature record. Just as well the Greens have changed their co-Leader.

And Another Thing
A stronger currency represents an increase in household incomes, a boost to kiwi spending power, an increase in real wages. Successful countries with solid growth and low inflation tend to have currencies that drift higher over time.

A Free Press Reader Writes
Why can’t people renewing their passports in the next year benefit from 10 year passports now?  How hard is it to change the expiry date line of a passport, make the associated changes in the computer system and set a new pricelist?
You expect small businesses around NZ to do this all the time whenever you fiddle with taxes, charges and levies.

Free Press 25/05/2015

We Rate the Budget Speeches
Free Press observed the Budget Speeches live.  The media underreported the Government’s momentum and the opposition’s flat-footedness.  It was one-way traffic as the opposition sat dumbfounded at National stealing their policies. 

Death by Assimilation
National have returned to their traditional governing style, managing other parties’ ideas.  Labour promised to introduce a capital gains tax and build houses, the Greens promised to deal with child poverty, New Zealand First promises to do nothing on Superannuation, and Peter Dunne promises to do nothing on the RMA.  National are now, to an extent, doing all of that.

Bill English (7/10)
Bill is the policy architect of this government.  He provides his colleagues with the alternative to government by pork barrel, and often succeeds.  He has managed to refocus the civil service on achieving outcomes instead of consuming inputs.  The biggest disappointment was that his courage cutting the $1000 Kiwisaver kickstart wasn’t matched on fixing Superannuation.  As a result, a generation is paying twice.

Andrew Little (1/10)
Free Press feels sorry for Little.  His speech has been panned as the worst ever.  Some would have sat down upon running out of material, so we are giving him one point for speaking right through his time allotment. He talked about a ‘rooster on heat’ and then about ‘fiscal gender reassignment.’ Clearly Little needs biology lessons. But he’s got bigger problems too.

What he Needed to Do
Little theoretically wants to be the Prime Minister.  His 20 minutes of rage showed he is out of touch with the country – New Zealand in 2015 is not exactly at a low point in history.  Unless he’s proposing a total revolution, he could have spent five minutes talking positives.  That would have given him fifteen minutes to lay out Labour’s alternatives.

There is No Alternative
The problem is Labour doesn’t have any.  They have abandoned most of the policies they stood for last election.  Changing the electricity market, reforming Superannuation, capital gains taxes, changing the Reserve Bank Act, all gone. What do they stand for?

John Key (8/10)
John Key delivered a tub thumping speech crowing about Little’s failure.  We give him an eight because he mentioned David Seymour and ACT twice and endorsed Partnership Schools.

Meteria Turei (4/10)
Turei mentioned sustainability once, 15 minutes into her speech.  RIP the Greens as an environmental party.  The grandstanding on child poverty was cringe worthy.  A person who got free university, lives in a remote castle and complains about urban sprawl tried to appeal to younger generations on housing and finance - priceless.  A four is generous.

Winston Peters (5/10)
You have to hand it to him.  We have no idea what he was on about (did he?) but it sounded great.  His main refrain was “I See Red” a la Split Enz, complete with his caucus holding up fire hazard signs.  Free Press understands “That was my Mistake” and “I Hope I Never (Have to See You Again)” have become more popular among Northland voters recently.

Te Ururoa Flavell (6/10)
Flavell gave a solid defence of the Maori Party’s wins for Maori in government.

Peter Dunne (6/10)
Dunne is an exceptional parliamentary speaker.  Without any notes at all he gives perfectly structured essay-like addresses.  Nonetheless we don’t know what Dunne’s end game is.

David Seymour (7/10)
Along with Little, David gave his first budget speech, certainly the best of the rookie speeches but he has room to grow.  He gave a spirited defence of Partnership Schools and the people who step up to run them and change young people’s lives.  He also pointed out that the budget lacks the kind of long-term view that younger New Zealanders need.  Where is the Superannuation reform, where is the housing market reform?  Where, in all this focus on child poverty, is the recognition of those who save, sacrifice, and delay having children to bring them up without poverty?  Where are the company tax reductions aimed at bringing capital and more interesting jobs to New Zealand in years to come? You can watch David’s speech here.

Bonus Speech
Parliament sat late to pass Budget legislation, which makes for some noisy night-time debate when MPs think no-one’s watching. But Free Press sees all. If David’s Budget speech was too proper for your tastes you might prefer this onslaught, congratulating National on their Kiwisaver action, but challenging them to show the same courage when it comes to the increasing cost of Superannuation.

Greens don’t get Dependency
Catherine Delahunty tweets: Rise in benefits welcome but extra work expectations and pressure on sole parents is punitive. No, that balance is essential if you want to reduce welfare dependence. The government’s approach is informed by the Nordic model. Nordic states expect mothers to return to work when their child is 1 to 3 years old. Employment is front and centre in the Nordic welfare strategy. It works.

Responsible Parenting
Moves to tackle child support debt and encourage parents to pay what they owe in child support are also a welcome move.

Government as Land Speculator and Land-Banker
After all the months of commentary about speculators, land bankers and foreign buyers in the Auckland property market, it now turns out that the biggest land-banker of them all was the government! The move to free up Crown land for housing development is sensible and long-overdue. But again, this is only a short term fix – we will soon use up the available 430 hectares. We still need fundamental reforms to allow the market to respond to rising demand for housing.

Where’s Maurice Williamson Going?
Betting site iPredict has opened up stocks for a by-election in Pakuranga, and for incumbent Williamson to be the candidate by 2017.  The interesting thing is the opening odds, respectively 30 and 25 percent likely.  iPredict’s operators, who have deep political connections, set these odds.  Something’s up.

Seriously!?
ACT’s Board has unanimously rejected an approach by the hapless Don Brash (no joking, this is too good for us to have made up) for Williamson to join ACT’s caucus.  “My own party don’t want me no more” is not an attractive pitch. For similar reasons, what poor country would accept him as ambassador?

Free Press - 18/05/2015

Capital Gains in Housing
After years of pointing out the problems with unaffordable housing, the government is finally moving - by tinkering round the edges. Opposition parties are exasperated as they had wanted to do the same tinkering themselves. We used to say that only the Labour party would propose a tax to encourage supply, we are revising our lines.

If They Were Serious
There would be measures on land use planning, infrastructure funding, and the proper role of local government (hint, it is to provide essential infrastructure, not build wee empires).  We are not holding our breath.

We are Not Revolutionaries
You won’t find any Che Guevara T-shirts at the ACT office.  The problem is that National seems to have abandoned even incremental change toward freer markets.  David Seymour’s alternative budget proposals can be read here:  http://www.act.org.nz/posts/free-thoughts-act%E2%80%99s-budget-priorities

What are the Proposals?
ACT’s incremental changes include; indexing tax brackets to inflation, reducing company tax one point per year at the expense of corporate welfare, allowing state schools to convert to Partnership School status, having a referendum on Super, and reforming the principles of the RMA.  All of these would make the boat go faster. They are also all moderate, but apparently not moderate enough for the Nats.

Freedom Ain’t Free
This week the Government will announce it’s going to confiscate and spend around $80 billion in just one year.  If you do not give it to them, they may imprison you.  ACT’s budget is 20,000 times smaller, and we’re asking nicely here: www.act.org.nz/donate

Foreigners Buying NZ Housing
Non-residents will have to open a New Zealand bank account and provide an IRD number, with a view to paying a withholding tax on trading income from mid-2016. Sometimes we have to admire John Key’s ability to compromise.  He has pricked the wind out of the xenophobes’ sails, while marginally improving tax transparency.

Diversification is Good
Foreigners are buying a tiny bit of our land and housing. But remember, the entire global stockmarket is wide open to kiwi investors/savers, who can invest via just the one share, via one of the World Sharemarket exchange traded funds. Everybody with a Kiwisaver account (balanced or growth) will be invested in small slices of all the major companies in the world.  We are all capitalists now.

Environmental Entrepreneurship
David Seymour was a judge at the Environmental Entrepreneurship Competition.  The competition was started by students and is entered by high school students.  They come up with business ideas that do some environmental good, and are profitable.  The winner was a home gardening kit somewhat akin to My Foodbag.  The runner-up was recycled paper with seeds, so you can plant and grow your business card/invitation when finished.  Remember when environmentalism was just more rules and regulations?

An Inspiration
Another judge was Sam Judd of the charity Sustainable Coastlines (and a former young New Zealander of the year).  He is starting nurseries in prisons to produce trees to plant near waterways.  They suck up run off nutrients countering one of the major objections to farming.  The prisoners get qualifications in horticulture and the waterways get cleaned.  Two problems that the state failed to solve are being solved by an extraordinary private organisation.

From the Mouths of Babes
Whale Oil has run an investigative series wherein a correspondent visits Partnership Schools and interviews people about their experiences at the schools.  In the latest edition, the correspondent takes her daughter to interview the students.  In our experience, the best cure for Partnership School scepticism is a visit to the schools, read about these visits here: http://www.whaleoil.co.nz/2015/05/charter-schools-perception-series-the-students/

Housing Mightn’t be so Hot After All
We had some data to hand for the five year period to June 2014. Considering annualised returns we get:  Inflation 2.0% per year, NZ house prices 4.7%, Auckland house prices 6.6%.  Other investments?  NZ shares 13.9%, listed property companies 13.4%, NZ Government bonds 3.8% (higher if you bought corporate bonds), simple term deposits 4.2%.  Housing wasn’t that flash.

Leverage
Most people borrow a large part of their housing investment. That leverage increases their returns when the asset price increases (and destroys them when prices fall).  But the same applies to all other assets. The world is awash in cheap funds, so asset global prices have generally moved up strongly since 2008. Perhaps the bigger mystery is why the rest of the NZ property market has been so sluggish.

What Goes Up Can Also Go Down
Global bond yields (interest rates) have been falling for the past three decades, as inflation was conquered. If you fancy speculating on housing, dairy farms, or anything else, don’t forget that these trends can’t continue forever. And do note that global bond yields have lifted sharply in just the past few weeks.

Is Auckland Special?
No. Like many other cities around the world where councils restrict the availability of land, housing gets expensive and low income households get hammered. Auckland is up near the top of the league tables, amongst some of the largest cities in the world for lack of affordability. Top rankings, but not in a good way. The curse of good intentions.

Taxing Charities
The New Zealand Initiative's latest report, titled Giving Charities a Helping Hand, observes that commercial firms owned by charities (think Sanitarium, Mission Estate’s wines, and Ngai Tahu’s various enterprises) are allowed to retain profits without paying tax on these funds. There is little oversight over how these funds are used, and the current regulations create the potential for unfair competition in the market. This is an important document. We agree that government needs to review the centuries-old definition of charitable purpose, restore fairness to the regulations and tax all for-profit firms equally, while making all donations to charity tax-deductible.

ACT’s budget priorities

Next week's Budget will show continued steady progress away from the massive deficits associated with the aftermath of the global financial crisis and Christchurch earthquakes. The National government will continue to make incremental gains, albeit from a firmly centrist political position.

For every halting step forward, there will continue to be the occasional step backwards.

New Zealand doesn’t need a policy revolution, but we need much more than this tentative incremental change.

Here’s what ACT would like to see in the Budget.

A clear message to investors, entrepreneurs, and the business sector that New Zealand is on the path to a much more favourable business environment.

A willingness to confront big fiscal issues like the structure of NZ Superannuation.

A promise to households that their tax rate won’t be sneakily lifted each year.

A pledge to provide education opportunity to all children; the current monopolistic state education system, while serving most children quite well, fails all too many children.

Recognition that, with 20% of children born in 2014 being dependent on a benefit by the end of the year, more must be done to reform welfare, thereby reducing child poverty.

A commitment to wind back corporate welfare, using the funds to cut the tax rate on all businesses, not just subsidise a few.

The guts to tackle the housing market malfunction at root through substantive reform of the RMA. That means removing the anti-development bias and, with it, excuses for councils to restrict the supply of land for building.

Our specific proposals for Budget 2015 focus on the following priority areas.

The fiscal elephant in the room is NZ Superannuation. Life expectancy continues to rise. In 2006 we had five working people for every one person over 65 years of age. By 2050 we will have just two people for every one person over 65. In just 15 years’ time NZ Super costs, as a percentage of GDP, will rise by 50%. We are just fiddling with the fiscal levers if this is not addressed.

Most people understand that we need to make some changes. NZ Superannuation is one of the simplest retirement income systems in the developed world. So long as we make the necessary changes to keep it affordable and fair across the generations, it is an effective pension system. But it is also a political football, and politicians have proven incapable of making these vital adjustments.

An ACT budget would signal that the future structure of NZ Superannuation would be decided by referendum. An expert committee would be formed to consult with the public and come up with reform options which, together with a no-change option, would be decided by the voters. I am confident that common sense and a sense of fairness would see the public support changes allowing NZ Superannuation to remain a sustainable pension system for all New Zealanders through this century. Oddly enough we have a process for this, but we are only using it to decide on a flag design.

Next, we need to signal the future environment for investors and the business sector. We would foreshadow an eight year programme for reducing the company tax rate by one percentage point each year, until we reached a 20% tax rate. That would signal New Zealand as open for business, stimulating investment and allowing companies small and large to create new jobs and boost wages.

To fund much of this we wouldn’t have to cut core services. Instead we would allow the lapse of programmes that are simply targeted corporate welfare – bureaucrats picking winners and distorting competition through unjustifiable business subsidies.

For households, we would index tax thresholds to inflation, putting an end to the ongoing stealth increase in tax rates. If government wants to increase your tax rates, they should do it openly.

We would make genuine reform of the RMA a priority. Substantive changes here could hugely boost investment, jobs, incomes and the welfare of all New Zealanders. Ensuring that councils focus on allowing development of land would return affordable housing to our major cities, making a huge dent in inequality and poverty.

And for a genuinely brighter future for our children, we would expand the Partnership Schools policy by allowing state school conversion to a Partnership School funding model, whenever school boards choose to do so. This would be a visible manifestation of a core empowering principle for ACT - choice. 

These advances would create jobs and reduce poverty by fostering a thriving, innovative economy.

David Seymour
ACT Party Leader

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