Nothing to fear from competition

The Government Working Group reviewing the effects of offshore online racing and sports betting should be investigating how to open the market up to more competition.

“We should not be restricting NZ gamblers’ options by further strengthening the TAB’s monopoly” said ACT Leader David Seymour.

“We should open the market up to more competition so NZ punters can access domestic odds that match the ones they can achieve via overseas betting agencies. Only an open market can achieve this.

“It’s hard to see how a working group so heavily weighted with racing interests will come up with any other conclusion but to ask Minister Guy to limit New Zealand punters’ options.

“Strengthening the power of the monopoly provider is not in the best interests of the Kiwis who gamble on the races and sports. New Zealand punters deserve the same competition and choice as their Australian counterparts, where bookmakers compete/co-exist with the Australian TAB.

“Minister Guy needs to ensure his Working Group acts in the interests of all Kiwis who enjoy a flutter, not the vested interests of existing monopoly providers."


Auckland Council fails to consult - Again

ACT Leader and Epsom MP David Seymour has criticised the process by which cars are set to be banned from Mt Eden/Maungawhau

“It is appalling that the Maunga Authority has refused to front media on this issue before the decision is made, but has a communications plan for after they’ve made it.

“Mt Eden is special to many people, its governance should be inclusive, but instead we will see electric gates and exclusion resulting from a secretive process.

“The Maunga Authority, which governs 14 cones across Auckland, consists of six elected representatives from the Auckland Council and its local boards, six appointees of local Iwi, and one non-voting representative of the Crown.  (The Maunga Authority’s agenda is online here, see pp9-12)

“Such a public place should be subject to full public accountability, but the public cannot vote for half of the voting members of the authority.

“Aside from the process, the new regime neglects the elderly, busy, young families and the disabled.

“The provisions for the disabled appear to be an afterthought and are premature to say the least.  Supposedly you drive up to a gate, call a number, tell them you’re disabled and get given a pin number. The agenda item says “consideration needs to be given to how the call centre screens visitors seeking access.” That’s bureaucrat speak for, “it’s going to be awkward asking people to prove they are disabled over the phone.”

“No doubt this enforcement approach would ultimately be more complicated and expensive than is being revealed, but that seems to be the way with Auckland Council.

“The change will disadvantage people, who will see the Mountain as less attractive. “Whenever a foreigner comes to town we whip up Mt Eden for an orientation, for busy people the Mt Eden experience is being taken away.

“The contemplative quality that the ban seeks to achieve is already available on eight of the 14 cones managed by the Authority, which are already vehicle free.

“Like the proposed and now revoked fireplace ban, this is an example of Auckland Council pursuing multiple and undemocratic objectives while rates are through the roof and poor housing supply is creating a national economic crisis.


Let's introduce a Railtax

The Government’s largesse into rail is so big it deserves its own tax, the Railtax, according to ACT Leader David Seymour.

In response to Bill English’s admission Kiwirail may sink another billion dollars [1], Mr Seymour has called for a very simple transparency measure: a separate tax to pay for it.

“One billion is equivalent to the cost of knocking a percent off the company tax rate for the next four years, so let’s make the government’s choices transparent,” said Mr Seymour.

“Of the 28 per cent company tax rate, New Zealand’s businesses will pay 27 cents on the dollar for company taxes, and one cent for bailing out Kiwirail. We should separate out that one percent and call it the Railtax.

“Who knows, the business community may decide that’s a good deal.

“On the other hand, the Railtax would make it clear as day that if we stopped ploughing money into the nostalgia industry rail has become, we could cut the company tax rate by a whole percentage point.

Mr Seymour says the approach could work for many other large expenditures.

“There are a range of government expenses that just seem to hide in the shadows of the tax system. 

“We could have a couple of percent of income tax going towards Superannuation and another percent going towards student loans.

“Any expenditure over a billion should be fair game.”



Online harassment requires more law enforcement, not more laws

The case of an Indian student being defamed and threatened online is an indictment of flawed police practice, not existing legislation, says ACT Leader David Seymour.

The harassment and subsequent police inaction was reported on One News on Tuesday. [1]

“Mr Singh has been let down by police inaction, not by a lack of legislation,” says Mr Seymour.

“The Crimes Act section 311(2) is clearly meant to cover the types of violent threats [2] made toward Mr Singh, and the Telecommunications Act and Harassment Act can also be used to address this type of cyber-bullying, said Mr Seymour.

“Police inaction in such a serious case is not justifiable when there are clear avenues for prosecution. I am forced to agree with the New Zealand Police Conduct Association – this is a case of selective law enforcement. [3]

“ACT stands for a tough stance on crime via thorough enforcement of existing laws – not via adding more cumbersome and complex legislation which may come with unintended consequences.

“I will be meeting with Minister Adams to discuss the proposed Harmful Digital Communications law. We must ensure that existing legislation is truly inadequate before passing any new restrictions on online communication.

“ACT opposes any law which restricts speech under the pretence of preventing offence.”





Judges get it right on third strike

“Victims of sexual and violent crime have won a victory following the 12 year sentence handed to a repeat sex offender under ACT’s three strikes law,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“After two other second-strike cases were exempted from the legislation under the ‘manifestly unjust’ provision, it’s pleasing to see a judge make full use of the law, targeting one of the most heinous crimes possible.”

The offender was convicted for two indecent assaults on elderly women, which both took place during parole for an earlier ‘first strike’ offence.

“This exemplifies the importance of the no-parole condition for second and third strikes. If he ever commits the crime again, he will be guaranteed a 20-year sentence without parole.

“Three strikes removes serial offenders from society and firm penalties discourage potential offenders. This sends a message.”


National looks after everyone but taxpayers

“National is parading its indexation of welfare payments while refusing to do the same with tax brackets,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Benefits were adjusted for inflation today. What about the workers? Tax brackets should be adjusted too.

“This fiscal year, a person on the average income will pay another $378 in tax as inflation pushes them into higher brackets, even if they have no increase in real spending power. They have already paid an extra $649 since 2010.

“The average household has already paid an extra $1036 since 2010, and will pay $431 more this year.

Taxpayers are today being asked to fund:

· Government grants for first home buyers of up to $20,000;
· A two-week extension to paid parental leave;
· NZ Superannuation increases, heralded as growing at twice the rate of inflation since 2008.

“If the government wants to fund this by increasing taxes, it should do so openly and honestly, not through stealth taxation."

Another burden off students’ backs

Four years after ACT’s private members bill to free students from compulsory unionism became law, students may be relieved of another burden, according to David Cunliffe.

In a statement today, Mr Cunliffe speculated that NZUSA may collapse, a possibility welcomed by ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The decline of student unionism proves what we’ve always suspected: students never wanted to join unions and now it seems the unions themselves don’t want to join NZUSA,” said Mr Seymour.

“Thanks to ACT’s Voluntary Student Membership (VSM) bill, tertiary students are no longer forced to fund breeding grounds for aspiring socialist politicians.

“Even students think university politics is tedious. Most want to get on with gaining their qualifications.

“The union has typically lobbied as though students never graduate. They consistently argue for subsidies and price controls that will lower the quality of education while whacking taxpaying graduates. This is likely because many student politicians themselves never graduate.

“If Labour really wants support on campus, they could campaign on making unions repay the countless millions of dollars in union fees compulsorily taken from students before ACT passed VSM.”


Mr Seymour's position was also reported in the National Business Review:

Both Mr Cunliffe and [NZUSA President] Mr McCourt agree the Voluntary Student Membership Bill passed in 2011 (put forward by ACT), has had a major negative impact on student unions across the country.

Mr Cunliffe says the act left student organisations with no minimum funding and although many are well set up, they are underfunded by their universities.

Mr McCourt says the act's aim was always to destroy the national student voice and shows that ACT doesn’t like the fact NZUSA speaks up for student issues.But ACT leader David Seymour says Mr McCourt is incredibly arrogant to assume the only people speaking for students were NZUSA, which made it compulsory for people to join.

“The fact that people were forced to join the student unions undermines their credibility.”

Mr Seymour even went as far as describing the collapse of NZUSA as “the impending liberation of another layer of burden off the backs of New Zealand’s hardworking and oppressed students by tedious and tiresome student politicians.”

Mr Seymour says the fact that student unions are struggling so much answers the question about their effectiveness.

“As it turns out, students do not regard student unions as good value and very few voluntarily choose to join if they have a choice about the cost.”

Time to end stealth tax increases

ACT Leader David Seymour has today called for an end to the stealth increase of tax rates through bracket creep.

“Each year, inflation pushes a larger proportion of New Zealanders’ incomes into higher tax brackets, regardless of whether they’ve had an increase in real earnings,” said Mr Seymour.

“Tax brackets should be adjusted for inflation.

“Even with low inflation this stealth tax of ‘bracket creep’ means that the average household is $1036 worse off since the tax changes of October 2010. An individual taxpayer on the average income is $648 worse off.

Mr Seymour’s focus on bracket creep comes after the Minister of Finance stated low inflation ‘makes it more challenging for the Government because higher inflation pushes up the tax base and enables us to collect more tax in a growing economy’.

“If the government wants to increase taxes, it should do so openly. This is a basic principle of transparency, and honesty in taxation.

“I propose tying tax brackets to the Consumer Price Index, meaning tax brackets would rise with inflation, stopping stealth tax increases and ensuring government revenue collection is open and transparent.

“The best time to act is now – current low inflation means a switch to inflation adjusted tax brackets would have relatively little effect on government forecasts.”

Time to cap rate rises in Northland and beyond

Massive rate increases will not happen anywhere under ACT, said Northland candidate Robin Grieve today.

Grieve was responding to the announcement by the Whangarei District Council that ratepayers could face increases of over 9% for one year and further ongoing increases of 2% above inflation, as reported in the Northern Advocate

"These increases are outrageous. The power to levy rates is an extraordinary power we give to councils and it must not be abused," said Mr Grieve.

"The best way to protect ratepayers from rate abuse by councils is to fetter council powers. ACT campaigned at the last election on limiting the ability of councils to increase rates by more than the rate of inflation. As an MP, I would will introduce a private members bill to do that.

"This will place the same expansionary limits on council that all individuals and businesses live with.

"The Whangarei District Council has suggested the rate increase as one option, with reduced services another. The best option, which is to improve efficiency, was not considered by the Council.

"Efficient local governance will only be achieved by limiting the powers of councils to continually levy us with higher and higher rates."

Peters' promise to upgrade rail everywhere except Northland

An upgrade of the Northern rail link was conspiciously missing from Winston Peters' 2014 election promises, ACT Northland candidate Robin Grieve has revealed today. 

"In a speech last year announcing New Zealand First's transport policy, Mr Peters promised rail upgrades to regions and cities all over the country, but nothing for Northland," said Mr Grieve.

"He totally forgot us. The Napier to Gisborne line was to be reopened, the Auckland suburban rail line to be electrified, Wellington to be extended to Levin and Wairarapa, and Canterbury upgraded. 

"Northland was truly forgotten by him and New Zealand First. Now he wants our vote, we in Northland are suddenly important to him. Presumably the people of Napier to Gisborne are not important anymore. 

"The rail link will come at the expense of the Puhoi to Wellsford motorway. It would be a poor substitute to a modern motorway which will cut travel time to Auckland, reduce the cost of goods transported in to our region and increase the value of goods we sell. 

"It is vital that the motorway go ahead and that the MP that represents our region has a genuine interest in us, instead of being someone who has forgotten us for thirty years and then makes promises he can't meet."

Winston Peters' original speech can be read here: