"Saturday's conference was a real success, with a turnout of over 260 at the day's peak. A beautiful venue and speakers of great quality contributed to a sense of invigoration for the party," said ACT Leader Jamie Whyte.
"In my first official speech as leader, I indicated some of ACT's major policy priorities, including lower tax, welfare reform, and starting from a clean slate with the RMA - which currently sees pensioners being threatened with prison for chopping down dangerous trees on their property.
"I also announced that we will be releasing a 'three strikes' policy for burglary - a crime which has caused stress and fear for countless New Zealanders.
"ACT's existing 'three strikes and you're out' rule is working as a strong deterrent to violent crime. Had such a law been introduced earlier, many lives could have been saved.
"ACT always does careful research and costings of all our policies, which is why we did not finalise details of these policies this early in the year. Our policies on tax, superannuation, welfare reform, the RMA, crime, and more will all be thoroughly researched and released in comprehensive policy papers well before the election.
"New Zealand will be hearing a lot more from ACT over the coming months."
“The National Government’s decision to end the privatisation of government trading enterprises is pure politics and makes no economic sense,” said ACT leader Jamie Whyte.
“The reason to sell government assets is simply that government is not good at business. Owning businesses is risky, as the collapse of Solid Energy shows. Such risks should be taken by voluntary investors, not by politicians using the money of taxpayers with no choice in the matter.
“If Labour had sold Solid Energy the taxpayer would have been a billion dollars better off today.
“National is now saying that the taxpayer has to keep Solid Energy and its other loser businesses. Yet it is irrelevant that some of these businesses are making no money - private companies often sell their loss making divisions. Let someone who can do a better job of running it have it.
“Of course, the government has other assets, such the remaining half of the energy companies. Is National really saying that there is no better use for $4 billion of taxpayers’ money than owning half of some energy generators? The only reason not to sell is the political promise not to sell. Ownership by the taxpayer makes no economic sense.
“New Zealand Post has made no money from Kiwi Bank. The bank is draining resources from the postal business. The rise of internet business delivery has seen a recovery of postal businesses around the world but New Zealand Post has put all its investment into a bank that is yet to pay a dividend and the postal service is getting worse.
“A logical move would be to let the public invest in Kiwi Bank.
“The PM’s refusal to sell more state-owned businesses is pure politics. It is another reason why politicians should keep out of business and concentrate on what the government should be doing, such as improving our education, health and welfare systems.”
Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey’s statement to the G20 that he is prepared to lead a discussion about raising the retirement age to 70 as part of a structural reform package highlights the lack of courage of the National Party on the retirement age issue, said ACT Leader Dr Jamie Whyte.
“Bill English has said its matter of trust and he is right. We need honesty on the looming superannuation and healthcare affordability crisis” said Dr Whyte.
“It’s a fundamental breach of trust not being upfront. Pretending it’s not a problem is not the answer. It is time for a discussion about this.
“New Zealanders should be able to count on National to do the right thing and give them plenty of time to adjust to the eventual increase in age of eligibility for super.
“New Zealanders should be able to count on National to lead the discussion about how we are going to be able to afford healthcare in our old age.
“Being honest with Kiwis about these issues is more important that sticking to a rash promise made in Opposition.
“ACT will be addressing these issues even if National doesn’t want to,” said Dr Jamie Whyte.
Former ACT leader Richard Prebble is returning to politics as the party’s Campaign Director for the 2014 election.
Acting party president Barbara Astill announced Richard Prebble’s appointment as Campaign Director after a board meeting yesterday.
“The appointment of Richard Prebble as Campaign Director means ACT goes into the election with the country’s best election strategist,” said Mrs Astill.
“Richard Prebble is a campaigning legend. He was the architect of ACT’s greatest campaigning victories, including taking ACT from a virtual zero in the polls in 1996 to winning Wellington Central and taking seven MPs into parliament. Under Richard ACT increased its vote in every election. As a Labour MP Richard won the biggest general seat majority in parliament not once but twice.
“Richard Prebble has presented the ACT Board with a campaign strategy to win not only the Epsom electorate but also nine MPs. The ACT Board has endorsed the Prebble campaign plan, which will be presented to the ACT Party Conference at the Villa Maria Estate, Mangere, this Saturday,” said Mrs Astill.
“I have come out of political retirement because Parliament needs at least one party willing to ask the question, where is the money coming from for all these political promises?” said Richard Prebble.
“ACT needed fresh leadership and new ideas. I urged Dr. Jamie Whyte to stand for the leadership. Jamie will take ACT back to the original principles of the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers which made ACT the effective third force in politics.
“I have been reading Jamie Whyte’s articles in the Wall Street Journal for years. He has an extraordinary knowledge of the world economy that will make him a very valuable member of parliament that any party would love to have.
“I have known David Seymour since he was a top engineering student at Auckland University. As someone educated in Epsom, David will be a very good MP for the electorate.
“ACT now has both the policies and the people. It is my job as director to ensure the voters learn about Dr. Jamie Whyte and ACT’s positive, practical solutions. The support will follow.
"A vote for ACT ensures not only that John Key remains Prime Minister, but that a future National-ACT government remains on the course of good financial sense.”
“The Labour Party must stand up to its teachers' union members and back down on its promise to scrap the partnership schools programme,” Jamie Whyte, ACT Leader-Elect said today.
The PPTA, which funds Labour, has led a determined campaign to close the new schools with recent reports of the possibility of industrial action by its Whangarei members.
“Labour’s policy to close the five partnership schools, which was announced before they even opened and have had a chance to prove themselves, has nothing to do with education and everything to do with a political party being a hostage to its union funders," said Dr Whyte.
“Having attended the opening of Whangarei’s partnership school Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa, I can say that I was impressed. The school has great ethic and is ambitious, not only for their own students, but for all students in mainstream education who, over time, will benefit from the innovation possible in partnership schools.
Dr Whyte urged the teachers' union representatives and the teachers who were being called upon to boycott any involvement with partnership school students to visit the school and see for themselves what it is about.
“I can understand the insecurity expressed by the PPTA, who fear they would lose members when teachers switch from state schools to partnership schools, but this is only a problem for them if they believed that a significant number of parents would choose partnership schools over state schools . They obviously can see merit in partnership schools and that is why they are afraid.
“But the PPTA is a teachers' union and so serves teachers' interests. Teachers should be motivated by what is best for the country’s children, not their own coffers. The union, aided by its mouthpieces Chris Hipkins and David Cunliffe, would cut short the bright opportunity being offered to kiwi kids. It would send these kids trudging back to the very same schools which have failed them for years.
“I have a lot of respect for the skill, dedication, and patience of teachers. Teaching is an honourable profession, which the union should not demean by threatening the education of students with industrial action.
“At the opening of Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa on Saturday morning, one speaker used the analogy of the school being a new baby that needed protection because, as with births in the wild, the wolves were gathering. I urge the teachers of Whangarei not to play the role of rules.
“Partnership schools are a reality, with five now open and making history. They are one of the most exciting innovations in our education system ever.
“Let's give partnership schools and the kids enrolled in them the opportunity to prove themselves.”
TV3’s revelation that Shane Taurima, TVNZ’s former manager of the Maori and Pacific Programmes unit, hosted a Labour Party meeting last year on the broadcaster’s property and involving other TVNZ staff, shows another good reason why TVNZ should be sold, said ACT MP John Banks.
“This issue is not Mr Taurima’s politics. It is the fact that he and some of his staff wrongly used taxpayer’s property to further his political objectives” said Mr Banks.
“The easiest fix is for the taxpayer to get out of the television business. TVNZ should be sold.
“There is no reason for the State to be in the risky television business. We should sell now because TVNZ will soon be worthless as a result of technology changes.
“In private media if a journalist pursues a political agenda using company resources that is solely a matter for the management, shareholders and advertisers.
“If TVNZ were in private ownership no one would care about Mr Taurima’s Labour Party activities on the premises” said Mr Banks.
The recent Bay Of Plenty Times report, 'New Fraud Crisis for Zespri' shows why ACT has remained so staunch about the need to have a Ministerial inquiry launched into the behaviour of the state-sanctioned kiwifruit marketing monopoly Zespri, says ACT Primary Industries Spokesman Don Nicolson.
The article, which explores invoicing irregularities in Zespri’s Taiwan market, highlights serious problems within Zespri - problems which were initially brought to the Government's attention by ACT some 18 months ago.
"To date our concerns have fallen on deaf ears and ACT wonders why, when there has been such a consistent barrage of bad news regarding Zespri's activities," said Mr Nicolson.
"The Serious Fraud Office is looking into something they will not divulge at Zespri. This inquiry, along with attempts by other kiwifruit industry bodies to launch inquiries into their own activities, is no excuse for the Crown to abdicate its responsibility to fully audit Zespri's activities.
"Government-mandated bodies are audited by the Crown annually, so ACT wonders why Zespri, as a state-blessed monopoly, hasn't had any Crown scrutiny since it was given its special status 14 years ago.
"Safeguarding and protecting New Zealand’s reputation is of high priority to this government and is vital if primary industries are to double their export value by 2025 - supposedly an ambition of the current government.
"By not holding a state-endorsed export monopoly to account, we seem to have fallen at the first hurdle."
The ACT Party is delighted with Saturday's opening of the partnership school Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa.
Whangarei-based ACT Board member Robin Grieve, and Jamie Whyte, ACT Party leader-elect, were pleased to attend the dawn ceremony and opening of Whangarei’s first partnership school, Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa. They were very impressed with what they saw and excited for the future of the school, and for the students who will benefit from this new dawn in State funded New Zealand education.
Partnership schools, an ACT Party initiative, were introduced as a result of the party's coalition agreement with National.
“This is an historic day, students in Whangarei now have another choice when it comes to choosing the best educational option for them,” said Grieve.
“The feedback we have received from people involved in the school is that they love the flexibility of the partnership school model."
Jamie Whyte was thrilled to see first hand the result of the ACT Party’s policy.
“ACT's education policy is focused on lifting life outcomes for all by liberalising the supply of education - allowing for more innovation and variation of what is offered to parents and students, and making it easier for new schools to open and good schools to expand,” said Dr Whyte.
There are two partnership schools operating in Northland and Mr Grieve hopes that with the expansion of the scheme recently announced by the Government, we will receive many more.
“The ACT Party supports the empowerment of the individual through education and believes offering students alternative educational sources is the best way to provide this for more students," said Mr Grieve.
"A good education is the key to better life outcomes and is the answer to addressing issues of poverty, inequality, welfare dependency and crime. ACT wants all children to benefit from an education that provides them the opportunity to live out their aspirations.
"Te Kura Hourua o Whangarei Terenga Paraoa is now open and is doing just that.”