Leader's Speech to ACT New Zealand Conference - Saturday 1st March 2014

Party members, journalists, friends and family,

28 days ago I was elected leader of ACT.  I told the press conference that I was delighted and honoured.

After four roller coaster weeks, I am more honoured and even more delighted.

I am also learning fast.

You will remember your first day at new job.  I can remember when I went from Cambridge and started working as a management consultant for a firm specialising in banking.

Our fees were in the millions, the clients demanded a lot for their money and I didn’t know much about banking. I was in at the deep end. We worked 14 hour days, under immense pressure and, of course, I learnt fast.

People sometimes say the transition from philosophy to consulting must have been hard. And it was. But after 4 weeks of being a politician, I can tell you, consulting is easy.

I have never worked so hard.

I am in awe of John Key.  He does all the things I am doing and in his spare time he is Prime Minister.

I have learnt some other lessons.  

I suspect I had a good run from the journalists when you first elected me because they thought they were covering a funeral. 

How can you put the boot into someone who has become leader of a party on zero?  The media was just curious why someone with a paying job should swap it for being the unpaid leader of a party they had written off.

I was lulled into a false sense of security.  This is easy I thought.  You just speak openly and honestly to reporters and you get good press.

Well, I have some good and bad news to report.

This week I was done over by the media.

I was given a gotcha question and, as most of you probably know, I walked straight into it.

When asked a question about political philosophy, I answered as a Cambridge philosopher.  Of course, the journalist wanted to see how far he could take me.  I said “This is irrelevant.  This is not ACT policy.  No voter has ever asked me this.”  But I followed my lifetime habit of answering difficult questions. That is what we philosophers do.

Wow … have I learnt a lesson.

The media would rather talk about anything other than ACT’s policies of lower taxes and less red tape.

But here is the good news.

The media, Labour and the Greens, and the public have realised this week that ACT is not dead.  We are back and we may well decide the election.

And here is another piece of news that I hope you think is good.  On Thursday morning I gave I don’t know how many media interviews explaining that when I had answered that irrelevant question I was speaking as a philosopher but, actually, I am Leader of the ACT Party. And as Leader of ACT, I am not interested in irrelevant hypotheticals. 

We are interested in what matters to New Zealanders: how can we lower the tax burden, get real welfare reform, have a better health system and give our young people a world class education.

Over the course of that morning I moved from being a philosopher and columnist to being the ACT Party Leader.

I am not going to tell you there will not be more gotcha questions.

When David Cunliffe and Russell Norman get hold of my old publications I am sure I am going to be described as a threat to Western Civilisation.

What I actually am is a threat to their lazy thinking. 

As ACT Leader it is my job to talk straight about the issues that are important to New Zealanders.

ACT was founded by Roger Douglas, a politician who did not hesitate to tell it as it is.  Roger Douglas is one of the most important reformers of modern political history. 

He was repeatedly told “you cannot say that Roger”.  Well, he went on saying it and New Zealand is permanently better for it.

ACT is not the only party in New Zealand that has MPs that believe in property rights, freedom of contract, low taxes and the rule of law.

There are MPs in National who believe what we believe. 

There may still be some MPs in Labour who do – though I think Mr McCarten has been appointed to head an Inquisition to weed them out.

What makes ACT unique is that we are politically incorrect.  We actually say what we believe.  We openly say we believe in property rights, freedom of contract, low taxes and the rule of law.

As your leader I am going to go on saying what we stand for and what we stand against.

*  *  *  *  *

 

I have learnt a lot in the last four weeks.

I have learnt that we don’t only have the best policies.

We have a diverse, harmonious and skilful board.

In Richard Prebble we have the best political campaigner in New Zealand.

And we have some amazingly dedicated supporters – great people who work incredible hours for the party for no personal gain beyond helping a cause they believe in.

That’s why being the leader of ACT is such an honour.

And that’s why we will again become a major force in New Zealand politics.

I think Richard Prebble is right. ACT can replace the Greens as the third party. If not at this election, at the next.

 

*  *  *  *  *

 

Some people have asked me if I returned to New Zealand from England with the goal of one day “running the country”.

The answer is NO, for two reasons.

The first is that I did not come back to enter politics.

In 2011 my mother became ill. I made three visits from London.

Though the occasion of the visits was unhappy, I was reminded of what a wonderful place New Zealand is to live and, especially, to raise children.

And, for the most part, it has been getting better. Auckland has become a wonderfully vibrant international city.

When my wife Zainab joined me on the final visit to my mother, we agreed that we would move back soon as possible.

The second, and more important reason the answer is NO, is that I do not think any politician should seek to “run the country”.

This is a good country. In fact, it is the best country in the world. Our difficult job is to make the best better.

New Zealand would be better if two things changed.

First, we should stop saying every time there is a problem: “the government should do something about it”.

And, second, politicians should stop pretending that they CAN run the country.

They can’t.  Governments do not create jobs or prosperity.  They never have, anywhere.  Look at North Korea.  When politicians try to run everything, nothing runs at all.

*  *  *  *  *

A country is simply the people in it.

Those politicians who seek to “run the country” actually seek to run the lives of New Zealanders. What conceit!

No one else should run your life for you – not David Cunliffe, not Winston Peters, not Russell Norman, not even John Key.

How can they possibly do a better job of running your life than you can?

No politician or bureaucrat, no matter how well trained, can know more about you and your situation than you do.

 

Of course, some people respond that all though they can make decisions for themselves, those people from Otara can’t. 

As an aside, I am not sure why the politicians pick on South Auckland.  I was listening to Labour’s Matt McCarten talking about South Auckland this week and you would think everyone in South Auckland was uneducated, unemployed and exploited.

Actually, most South Aucklanders have a job.  And most own their own homes.  Last election, Matt McCarten was the Mana Party’s campaign director and the party lost its deposit in South Auckland because most voters do not identify with his politics of envy. 

We in ACT reject the McCarten view that the people of South Auckland need bureaucrats to make their decisions for them.  They don’t. Treating adults as if they are helpless children is arrogant and contemptuous.

The recent international education comparison shows how unsuccessful the state has been in providing an education for a significant minority of our fellow citizens.

When ACT offers a few hundred students, mostly Maori, the chance to have a partnership school, a chance to have an education that they and their parents want, the reaction from the teachers unions and the Labour party is hysterical.

“Parents cannot possibly be allowed to make their own choices.  It will be the end of the world if these children are allowed to succeed.  Social cohesion demands that all children in a neighbourhood should fail together.” 

They may not use these words but when Labour says all children should be legally forced to attend a local school where every student fails, that is what they are saying. 

The reason I am in ACT is that we are the only party that believes in those all parents and all students.

Even if partnerships schools were no better than the state monopoly, one-size-fits-all education, I would still favour partnership schools. What makes us human is the ability to make choices. And no one has the right to take that away from you. 

But we also know that, on average, students in partnership schools not only achieve more at school but they do better when they go on to tertiary education.

We are fighting for those young people. 

 

* * * * *

 

Alas, few politician from other parties agree that people should solve their own problems and run their own lives.

Generations of politicians have taken the view that the government can help us by pushing us around.

They take your money from you and then use it to provide you with the kind of education THEY think your children should get.

They take your money from you and then use it to pay for the kind of healthcare THEY think you should get – once you get to the front of the queue, of course, which can sometimes take months or even years.

They pass laws that prevent you from entering into arrangements that suit you. Instead, you must enter into contracts that THEY deem suitable. Employment law is a conspiracy against freedom of contract.

And politicians tell you how you can use your own property, even when your actions harm no one.

Bureaucrats can decide that your land possesses a Significant Natural Area, or that some objects found on it are sacred, and then ban you from using the land for anything but the preservation of these official glories.

Yet these bureaucrats have no obligation to compensate you for having destroyed the value of your land, nor even to reduce your rates. They can shaft you with impunity.

A retired couple in Kapiti face 2 years in prison or a $300,000 fine.

Why? Because they chopped down seven dead trees in the dense native bush at the bottom of their section.

They wanted to protect the children who play there. But they forgot to get permission from the petty bureaucrats of their local government.

I suspect they thought that because it was their property and their dead tree they were entitled to cut them down.  If a tree had fallen and a child had been injured, another agency of government would have prosecuted the Kapiti couple for having a known hazard on their land.

Imagine you were in their situation. Imagine how threatened and powerless you would feel. This is more than government running your life. This is government RUINING your life.

Such dreadful laws are the direct result of politicians believing they should run our country.

 

* * * * *

 

Some will say I have just picked a few difficult examples.  Overall, politicians really do help us by orchestrating our lives and saving us from the horrors of the free market.

As proof that we need him to run the country, David Cunliffe is fond of saying that the recent Global Financial Crisis was the result of unfettered capitalism.

The crisis has cost European and American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars and sunk their economies into the deepest recession since WWII.  It has cost the New Zealand taxpayer billions of dollars too.  Our economy is only just recovering.

I actually know a lot about the global financial crisis. For most the last 15 years, I worked for a consulting firm that specialises in advising the world’s largest banks and insurers, especially on matters of risk.

The financial crisis was not a failure of a deregulated banking system. It was a failure of regulation.

Let me describe the role of government agencies and regulation in the banking system in the decades leading up to the crisis, and now.

To operate a bank, you must obtain a licence from the government. In the 50 years preceding the crisis, no new bank in the UK had been granted a license.

The products offered for sale by banks and the processes for selling them require approval from supervisory agencies.

Anyone taking on a senior position at a bank must be approved as a fit and proper person by bureaucrats at a supervisory agency. And these bureaucrats also specify qualifications that bank employees must possess.

The main price in the financial market – the rate of interest – is set not by supply and demand but by central banks with monopoly powers to issue national currency.

Banks are required by regulators to hold capital as a buffer against losses so that they will remain solvent even in unusually adverse circumstances.

The precise amount of capital they must hold is a matter of regulation so complex that banks find it almost impossible to understand what the capital rules mean. My firm charged many banks millions of dollars to help them develop risk measurement methods that complied with these regulations.

And, most importantly, anyone who lends to a bank gets a government guarantee. 

Normal depositors enjoy deposit insurance, whereby the government promises to repay your money if the bank can’t. 

And larger “wholesale lenders” to banks have for many decades been so reliably bailed out at tax payers’ expense that they have what amounts to an implicit government guarantee. 

These guarantees mean that no matter how badly banks perform, governments save them from going out of business.

If David Cunliffe thinks that’s an unfettered free market, I dread to think what his idea of a fettered market is.   

It is these government interventions in the banking market that caused the crisis. Let me explain how.

Normally, firms are constrained in their risk taking by the fact that people become reluctant to lend to them. As they take more risk, they have to pay higher rates of interest. At some point the cost is too great and the firm is forced to limit its risks.

But in banking, governments have eliminated this market discipline by guaranteeing banks’ creditors.

If you lend to a bank, which all of you do, you needn’t worry about how risky it is, because you won’t lose anything if it goes broke. The government will see you right, at taxpayers’ expense. 

So banks pay no price for taking more and more and more risk. That is why, before the crisis, banks became so incredibly indebted and risky.    

The capital regulations – which my firm made so much money from, and which were supposed to limit bank risk-taking – proved utterly useless.

Every US and European bank that failed complied with the regulations. In fact, they all had at least 50% more capital than the regulations said they needed.

 

*   *   *   *   *

 

The financial system is incredibly important. Screw it up, as politicians have, and you create a serious threat to economic stability.

New Zealand has not made some of the mistakes they are making in Europe and America but we are sending out a message to the banks that they cannot fail.  That can only lead to trouble. 

As a trading nation in a global economy we will not escape from some big global shocks that are coming.

As it is election year, all the political parties are saying the crisis is over.  The government is saying this to take credit for having successfully steered us through.  “We are the rock star economy”, we are told. 

The Opposition also wants to say the crisis is over because then they can justify making extravagant promises.  Even the finance minister is saying he has $1.5 billion of new revenue to spend.

One of the reasons parliament needs the ACT Party is we are the party of economic competence.  People may not want to hear this but, as someone who has worked in risk assessment, the country faces significant economic risks. And the policies of the other parties are not prudent.

A lesson politicians should have learnt from the global financial crisis is how rapidly an economy can turn sour.  At the time, people thought the Great Depression happened quickly. But compared to the recent Financial Crisis the Great depression was a slow motion disaster.  It took over a year before New Zealand felt anything from the Wall Street crash.

The last Labour government published treasury predictions of billions of dollars of future surpluses. Within months of publication, those predicted surpluses had turned into billions of dollars of deficits.  Labour never saw it coming.

Even if our critics do not accept our philosophy, I urge them to take our advice on risk.

This is not a time for new government spending.

The best way to insure us against the shocks that are coming is to give the 1.5 billion surplus back to taxpayers.  They will use that money to retire debt, invest and create new jobs. 

Instead the left wants to use the money for a baby bonus or for subsidizing solar panels when the country has a surplus of electrical generation. I am not sure which policy is more ridiculous.

Our message is that you cannot eliminate risk.  You can only manage risk.

Just as you cannot eliminate risk in banking by transferring it to the government. Nor can eliminate risk in society by transferring it to government.

Government in New Zealand has tried, for laudable reasons, to transfer the costs of parenting to the government.

One of the most serious decisions any adult makes is whether to bring a child into the world.

In 1973 the government decided to remove the economic risk by introducing the Domestic Purposes Benefit.

The DPB shifts the cost of having a child from the parents to taxpayers.

It means that having children with a feckless man is no longer a big financial problem for a young woman and her family.

Nor is it a problem for the feckless man: he can abandon his children without losing sleep, confident in the knowledge that taxpayers will take up what would otherwise have been his responsibility.

For the whole history of New Zealand up until 1973, with a little hiccup during WWII, the percentage of children brought up by a single parent, almost always the mother, was steady at about 5%.

Since the DPB was introduced, the percentage has risen steadily. It now stands at 30%.  It was just 5 percent for Maori too. Now a majority of Maori children are raised by a single parent.

I do not want to bash solo parents.  Many do a great job and no one wants to see children in poverty.  Redesigning our welfare system will be an incredibly difficult task to get right.

But we must be honest.  Benefits designed to reduce poverty have created poverty.  The answer cannot be more benefit spending.

We cannot transfer parenting to government.  Government cannot even run the rail ferries, let alone be the absentee father to thousands of children.

That’s just one example of how things go wrong when politicians decide to take over our lives.

I could give countlessly many more. But, I won’t, because you all could too.

This endless interference explains why we have high residential land prices despite low population density.

Why 20% of boys end 12 years of state education unable to read properly.

Why few people save enough for their retirement, and instead rely on a government run Ponzi scheme that is not far from its inevitable failure.

 

 

*  *  *   *  *

 

The proper job of politicians is not to run the country, but to create a legal and institutional environment that allows people to run their own lives.

What does that mean?

First, it means that people live in peace and security.

That is why ACT has always been tough on crime. We want to extend our successful “3 strikes” policy to burglary, a traumatising crime that our penal code takes too lightly.

And we want the victims of crime to receive the compensation they are due. The risk of non-payment by criminals should be borne by the state, not by the victims who the state has failed to protect.

Running your own life also requires secure property rights.

So we want to repeal the RMA and replace it with a law that addresses only real market failures, not fantastical injuries to Gaia or the sensitivities of people with no real interest in your land. It will be a very small law.

Running your own life means spending your own money, not having it spent for you. That is why ACT still advocates low and flat taxes. And why government spending must be reduced to less than 30% of GDP in the short term and ultimately to less than 25%.

And running your own life means having a secure income in retirement. That is why we want to shift New Zealand’s superannuation system from one based on transfers from the young to the old to one based on private long-term savings.

 

*  *  *  *  *

 

ACT has always had the best policies. But it is not a technocratic party. It is a party of values.

What are New Zealand values? We are hard working.  We are ingenious.  We are good neighbours.  And while we are not a nation of flag wavers – some of us don’t even like our flag – we are patriotic. 

When politicians claim that they can fix things that are best fixed by people taking responsibility for their own lives, they are attacking the values that make New Zealand. I don’t think the Left understand this.

When my wife and I decided to come home, when we decided we want to bring our girls up here in New Zealand, we did not do so because we thought Mr Cunliffe would offer us a $60 a week baby bonus.

We did not think, this will be great because the Greens will subsidize us to have a solar panel.

No, the values we treasure are actually under attack from Labour and the Greens.  We do not want our daughters to believe that going on a benefit is a life-style choice.  We do not want our daughters to believe they are owed a living wage from the government.

We want our daughters to have what everyone who came to New Zealand was looking for – be it from the Islands of Polynesia, from Europe or more recently from Asia: a country where we can all have opportunity to succeed by our own efforts.

We will not all do equally well.  Some will take their chances and others will not.  But with measures like charter schools everyone will have a chance.

We will have a tax system that is not designed to transfer wealth but is designed to ensure everyone pays their fair share.

And a welfare system that is a help to those in strife, not a way of life.

*  *  *  *  *

There is not a huge amount wrong with this country.  Its problems are solvable.

I know that at every election, we are supposed to say that this one is historic, a turning point, the end of the world as we know it unless you vote for me. It isn’t true.

Even if Mr Cunliffe and Mr Norman win, they will have only three years in power before being out of office for a generation.  They would do a lot of damage in three years, but we will survive. 

Nevertheless, people should not take the risk, and waste the opportunity, when they can vote ACT at this election.

In parliament ACT will work to make New Zealand a place where my daughters and your children will be able look back on their lives and sum it up in the words of the Sinatra song: “I did it my way”.  

Epsom Candidate's Speech to ACT New Zealand Conference - Saturday 1st March 2014

 

Friends,

Thank you everybody who’s here to support Jamie, myself, and a new third force in New Zealand politics.

Every other party promises that just one more public policy band-aid will make the difference.  $60 here, a solar panel there, a few more regulations for this, a subsidy for that…

ACT is the only party saying it is individual New Zealanders who make the difference in their own lives, and in the lives of others.  If only they’re allowed to get on with it.

Epsom Strategy

I was explaining to some Canadian friends why I am doing this: 

There’s this one electorate in New Zealand called Epsom.  If I win it we keep stable centre right government.  If I lose we’ll end up with the most radical and unstable left wing coalition in a generation.

New Zealand is too beautiful to leave to the economic vandals.

I am not sure if they got it but they agree New Zealand is beautiful.

Thankfully the people of Epsom do get both points.

In fact, it shouldn’t be surprising that Epsom is a fulcrum of MMP.

At the last election the voters of New Zealand made two points crystal clear.

The first is that MMP is here for a generation.  The referendum that asked if we should even have another referendum on our electoral system was rejected 58-42.

The second is that the centre right gained a majority of the vote but only one long term viable centre right party emerged. 

MMP is a team sport. 

No party can govern alone.

Without another stable centre-right party, Labour/Green will be the natural governing coalition for our country for my generation.

How to break the deadlock?

Epsom is the key, and if you understand the history of MMP it is clear why.

By voting for me in Epsom, Epsom voters can enable ACT to break the deadlock.

That’s what happened in 2008 and 2011.  The people of Epsom voted for the ACT candidate and kept the centre right in power.

The rule that winning a seat absolves the five per cent threshold was designed in Germany.  It was originally contemplated as a way of giving ethnically Danish Germans a voice.

 It was contemplated by New Zealand’s 1986 electoral commission as a way that Maori and Pasifika parties might one day emerge.

It is about giving minorities a voice in national affairs.

The people of Epsom need a voice in New Zealand’s affairs.

H.L. Mencken called elections advanced auctions in stolen goods.  That’s what the left are conducting this election.

The ancient Greek Heraclitus could have been describing it when he said: The Mob fill their bellies like the beasts.

MMP protects Epsom people from election bribe spending at their expense.

The people of Epsom do not want a capital gains tax.

As one voter said to me, you get taxed on your income, then you invest and get taxed on your interest and dividends, and now they want to tax you a third time on your capital gain.  How many times can one dollar be taxed?

The people of Epsom do not want higher tax rates.

The census results will likely confirm that Epsom taxpayers already pay more income tax than those in any other electorate.  We know that nearly half of all households already receive more in cash transfers than they pay in taxes.

Yet the left’s answer is always to tax Epsom people just a little bit more, then a little bit more.

The people of Epsom do not want political instability that threatens the economic recovery.

I know that not everybody in Epsom is rich.  Many have done well and we should celebrate success, but what binds the electorate together is aspiration.  Like my parents did, many are working hard to give their kids opportunity in Epsom.  The last thing they want is the current economic recovery to be sabotaged by the Marxist Russel Norman and the shifty David Cunliffe.

The people of Epsom do not want more traffic jams and a city closing in on them under Len Brown’s intensification plan.

The funny thing about Epsom is that it was built well before modern urban planning.  Nobody planned the organic mix of streets between Mt Eden and Dominion roads.  The character villas were not part of a grand plan.  Ditto the crescents backing onto Cornwall Park, the historic Parnell Village, or roads that wind over the slopes of Remuera.

Len Brown and the central planners can’t stand the thought of a spontaneous urban form.  They must make their mark with apartment towers all over the electorate. 

The people of Epsom say no.

Then there are city finances.  One Epsom resident after another has told me they do not want to be seen as a Len Brown’s cash cow.  They are rated on their property values instead of the services they receive. They are threatened with a taller building next door for their troubles.

The people of Epsom do not want the double Grammar Zone cut in half by the Ministry of Education implanting a new school.   New Zealand needs education innovation, not education division.

It may all sound a bit negative, but don’t blame us, blame the idiocratic proposals of the political left.

The people of Epsom want positive things.

We want to get on with making a difference in our own lives.  We don’t care much for politicians and their grand government schemes. 

We want to build great families, great businesses, and great communities.

We also want to see a New Zealand where everybody gets a fair go.

I spoke to a women who would safely be in the 1 per cent, probably just by selling her marble doorstep.  Her greatest concern was that people who work hard, from any walk of life, should get a fair go.

She was worried about education.  She was intrigued to hear that ACT is the only party with an education innovation policy that puts the power back in the hands of educators. 

I told her what I’ll be telling all people who care about a fair go for all New Zealanders: The world has changed. 

Communism collapsed and 2.5 billion low skilled workers entered the global workforce.  It is not a good world for low skilled workers even in New Zealand. 

Ironically, as the workers of the world have been released from the yolk of central planning, the children of New Zealand remain saddled with a centrally planned education system.

New Zealand’s future depends on having highly skilled workers and only ACT is talking about true education innovation.

You’ve heard from Alwyn Poole.  What a great New Zealander he is.  He is a hero of mine.   Under ACT’s Partnership School policy, he is taking his unique educational style developed in Remuera’s Mt Hobson Middle School to the South Auckland Middle School in Manurewa.

Epsom is an education hub, and Epsom people get it intuitively.

New Zealand is too beautiful to leave to public policy vandals, and the Epsom electorate, people from Epsom, Mt Eden, Parnell, and Remuera can make sure it doesn’t happen.

It’s that simple.

I have started reaching out to my fellow Epsom voters early.  I am likely to be the first ever candidate to be sunburned from door knocking in February. 

I have many, many more people to talk to, and I will talk to them before election day. 

Epsom Values are Under Threat.

This election is different from every other for one simple reason.  It is the first post Rogernomics election.  At every other election in my lifetime, Labour have been led by a past, present, or future member of the Roger Douglas cabinet.

When I ran against Helen Clark in 2005 in Mt Albert, we thought she was destroying our country.  The truth is that she had Michael Cullen watching the books.  The greens were only the fifth largest party behind ACT, and they were led by nice Jeanette Fitzsimmons.

Today I see Russel Norman and David Cunliffe and I wonder, what could we do to get Helen back?  She would have laughed at having Matt McCarten as the Labour party chief of Staff. 

Labour have lost the plot and their legless economic prescriptions threaten to vandalise our society.

My Values.

As an electrical engineer I know how hard it is to create wealth.  One of my old classmates and best friends is here today.  He’s spent the past eight years developing a world leading medical device. 

It’s exactly the kind of high-tech innovation that New Zealand needs.

It also shows how hard it is to create the things that we take for granted. Electrical engineering involves directing invisible particles that travel at the speed of light to very precise locations.

They can’t be touched or seen so they have to be mathematically modelled in highly abstract ways.

You can’t see them but they’re there.  I often wondered if the whole discipline might be a practical joke, except it works.

It works because you deal in physical reality, which is more than I can say for my time in Wellington.

I spent a year there helping put together out Partnership School policy.  The only thing that kept me sane was regular trips out of Wellington to a place called New Zealand.

From talking to charter school experts overseas, I can tell you that New Zealand has the best charter school policy in the world. 

That was hard work.

It is only in Wellington that the kinds of policies that the left propose could possibly make sense. 

Some of them specifically arise from misunderstanding the electrical industry.

Take the Labour/Green proposal, NZ Power.  The proposal, in a nutshell, is to abandon a competitive market and set up a new government entity that will guesstimate generators’ costs to drive them down.

It is already risky to invest in electricity generation.  You don’t know how nature, the economy, or Acts of God will affect your investment. 

What you do know is that adding political risk to natural risk won’t help.

What you do know is that increased risks require increased returns.  The great irony is that the Labour-Green Policy would, over time, increase the profits that investors require for electricity investment.

That’s right, the policy intended to bring down power prices would push them up in the long term and create larger profits for investors who succeed (and ensure more failures).

But that’s the world of Wellington.

Even worse is the Green proposal to subsidise solar panels for householders. 

I believe that we will shift to greener energy through smarter technology.  It is a powerful trend.  Once upon a time it took six hours to earn enough money to buy a candle that burns for one hour.  Now it takes the average person half a second to earn enough money to power a light bulb for one hour.

In 200 years lighting has gotten 43,000 times more efficient.  The rate of progress is extraordinary.  Timing is everything and that is the reason that government investment will get it wrong.

I did my engineering hours at the Marsden Point oil refinery, up North.  Right beside it is the Marsden B power station.  It was a think big project designed to run on waste oil from the refinery.

It was mothballed in 1978 before it was ever used, because global oil prices changed.  It sat there for 24 years as an eyesore on the Northland coast before being shipped off to India.

That’s the problem with government investment.  The investments are not made to be efficient, they’re made to be politically popular.

And so it is with the Greens’ electricity policy.  So far as we can predict it, the price of solar capacity moves with the level of global cumulative investment.  Like the price of oil, we cannot control the price of solar capacity from New Zealand.

If the policy goes ahead, the timing will almost certainly be wrong. 

What if the Greens were to get into power and we pay double price for something that’s getting cheaper?

When individuals invest their own money, they get it right more often than not.  We know this because society is getting wealthier by investing one generation after another.

When government invests, they tend to do it wrong.  The Greens’ policy will most probably lead to an army of white elephants on roofs all over our country.

I can tell you that every electricity policy that Labour and the Greens promise would be a disaster if implemented.

Unfortunately it doesn’t stop there.

New Zealand has world leading monetary policy.  Labour and the Greens would happily mess with it.

Bear with me while I explain the insanity.  The believe the dollar is too high.

I sympathise with this because I myself sell consulting services overseas.  My family’s business sells electrical engineering services to offshore clients.

Labour and the Greens believe that printing more dollars will make the dollar cheaper to foreign importers of New Zealand Exports.

They hadn’t considered that printing New Zealand dollars would increase the New Zealand Dollar price of all New Zealand dollar denominated good including exports.

The result?

Our offshore clients pay fewer of their dollars for more of ours and the real exchange rate remains the same.

People trading in the New Zealand economy get the uncertainty of inflation.

Some people might say that messing with the monetary supply is tantamount to treason, but the economic illiteracy of the left is only just getting started.

In my lifetime the average house price has more than doubled from three years’ income to seven.

Unless your parents happened to catch the property wave, and hopefully didn’t give you too many siblings, the Kiwi dream of home ownership really is a dream.

The dream is strong.  A UN survey of young people worldwide revealed that young New Zealanders’ greatest fear is being trapped into apartment living.

It’s instructive to see how different parties respond to the housing affordability crisis.

The Greens believe that battery hens should have more space, but humans should live in tiny homes over train stations. 

The conservatives don’t have a housing policy that I’m aware of.  From recent news reports I’d guess they don’t mind so long as there are fewer than two men in any home.

Labour have really got it wrong.  The fundamental constraint on housing is the constraint on land.  We need to reform the RMA.  The RMA has allowed councils to draw lines on maps saying ‘thou shalt not build there, or there, or there, or there.’ 

In Auckland the cost of land is now sixty per cent of the cost of a new home.  I’ve driven all over this great country of ours and one thing I didn’t notice was a shortage of land.

The shortage is artificial.  It’s created by the same draconian land use rules that intend to force apartment blocks into suburban Mt Eden while banning development on Auckland’s periphery.

The problem is nowhere to build new homes. Only Labour would propose that the government building 100,000 homes can magically solve the problem.  That would get you a zero at the School of Engineering.

National are heading in the right direction by reforming the RMA but they need to go further.

Their approach is to make more rules.  They want central government to tell local government where houses can be built.

Only ACT is saying that we need fundamental Resource Management Act reform.  Only ACT is saying: This land is your land, let’s build homes where a new generation can have a family of their own.

I could add to the plethora of bad policy proposed by the left that they want to set up a government insurance company, they believe the solution to a shortage of quality housing is more regulation in the form of sending inspectors to give warrants of fitness to a the existing housing stock.  They want to further erode the culture of personal responsibility by making it the state’s responsibility to feed your children, but I have a time limit here.

Government interventions are like cigarettes or chocolate biscuits.  Every single one is compelling on its own, but the overall habit is damaging to our national health.

The policies of the left are proposed by an idocracy.  If anyone hasn’t heard that term I have good news for you. 

I am a part time Greek scholar.

Idocracy comes from kratos, meaning power, and idiot, meaning silly.

On the left, it seems, you must propose silly policy to get power. 

How else can you explain well-meaning people like Jacinda Ardern and Gareth Hughes proposing policies that will make us all worse off?

A Positive Vision.

I have a different vision for a New Zealand and its philosophy is very simple.  It’s a New Zealand where your efforts make a difference.

New Zealand has turned the corner in the last thirty years, to become a place where creativity and achievement are celebrated.

Last week I was in Canada to tidy up some business.  Lorde’s third single, Team, was everywhere on the radio.  Elanor Catton’s Luminaries was on every airport book stand.

They’re both New Zealanders who’ve grown up in the shadow of the great reforms of the 1980s.

I might add that nobody there has heard of the summer sport of America’s sup sailing and I still get asked if I have hairy hobbit toes.

Nonetheless we have turned a corner in this country, and it is because the country practices ACT values.

Three decades after Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble’s economic reforms , we are being called a rock star economy.

At the same time we are rated the third most free market economy on the planet.

It’s not a coincidence.

Our two big Islands are the best piece of real estate on the planet. 

Incidentally, I have to tell you something about Australia.  More people need to know this so whenever I get a large audience I have to let you know.

You know how Australia is called “the lucky country?”  Let me tell you where that came from.

It’s from a book of the same name by Donald Horne.  The title chapter began “Australia is a lucky country run by second rate people who share in its luck.”

I nearly split the Calgary Downunder Club in two by sharing that gem.

The point is that we don’t only have the best real estate on the planet, but we are the most diverse, tolerant, and thoughtful people, too.

What we need is a stable policy environment where government taxes little and spends the money well. The rest is up to us.

I’m standing for Epsom to represent a set of values.  They are my values, they are Epsom values, and they are the values that make our country great.

I’m in for one hell of a fight.  It is extra-ordinary to think that whether or not I win Epsom will decide the direction of our great country. 

What makes it more ordinary is that I cannot do it without you.

I signed up for the ACT Party in 2001. 

Friends, I’ve stuck with you through thick and thin.

Now I need you to stick with me.

A Labour party friend of mine, and don’t worry, I don’t have too many, once told me that Epsom 2005 was the greatest grass roots campaign in New Zealand History.

Sincerity is a rare commodity in the Labour party but I think he meant it. 

If he hears this, he’ll know who he is.

The 2014 Epsom campaign will be even bigger.  If I lose David Cunliffe could be Prime Minster.

I expect they’ll throw at me the best they’ve got, and with all of you behind me it won’t be nearly enough.

My team are here and if you haven’t already you can sign up to help my campaign.  We need volunteers for this special mission.

I need people to help me to meet every Epsom voter.

I need people to knock on doors, to man the phones, to host house meetings with their friends, to wave signs, to deliver direct mail, to talk to everyone they know. 

And to open their wallets.

I’m giving the next eight months of my life free of charge.  I’m in with every moment, every kilojoule, and every thought that I’ve got.

What I need is your help to secure a free market Jerusalem in our green and pleasant land.

Thank you.

 

ENDS 

ACT President's Speech to ACT New Zealand Conference - Saturday 1st March 2014

Speech to ACT New Zealand Conference Saturday 1st March

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming today to the rebirth, relaunch of ACT New Zealand in election year 2014. This is certainly the Thriller at the Villa.

I am very pleased to be able to take over as President of ACT New Zealand at this time. I need to advise you all at this time that I will not be seeking any List Spot for this Election, my sole task will be to ensure that the Backroom is in order to allow the Candidates to go out and shine, sell our Vision for New Zealand and to get as many votes as possible to ensure we have as many Members of Parliament as possible for the next three years.

Could I ask that the new Board meet here at the front for a brief meeting at the conclusion of this conference.

The Board made an ambitious decision for New Zealand when it chose Dr Jamie White as Leader and David Seymour as the ACT New Zealand Candidate for Epsom. You have heard from them both today and it has reinforced in my mind that we did not only make an Ambitious decision but we also made the correct decision. I am sure that this election year will be a thriller like the Thriller in Manila was in 1975 when Mohammed Ali took on Joe Frazier, but I am sure Jamie and David and the rest of the ACT team will land more hits during this Epic Election battle than both Frazier and Ali landed during their Epic Battle.

To back Jamie and David and all the other Candidates that we will be putting forward to the New Zealand voters having someone of the calibre of Richard Prebble directing the Campaign is something of a coup. As Richard has said it did not take much arm twisting to coax him out of retirement and I know Richard is buzzing at the opportunity this project presents. Richard, thank you for coming out of retirement and I look forward to months ahead.

But before I do anything else I have some people to acknowledge and thank and an Award to present.

First the Thanks, and first up I must acknowledge and thank John Boscawen, John stepped down as President after the Leadership contest and is here today. I have the utmost respect for John and ever there was an ACT Trooper it is John Boscawen. John, thank you for your years of tireless service to ACT New Zealand, you deserve a break and a rest. I look forward to your presence around the Party for a long time into the future but heartfelt thanks for the efforts to date. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all Members

Secondly I must acknowledge and thank John Banks for his work for the Party leading up to the 2011 Election and since as the Member for Epsom. The Party has been enriched by your presence but I know to you personally it has come at a tremendous Financial Cost and Good luck with Case, I am sure you will be vindicated and the case will be thrown out. The fact that a BlacKmailing Fraudster by the name of McCreedy of no creditable repute can cause so much damage to a Fine New Zealanders reputation requires questions to be asked but they are for another day. I know you like to use the word Patriot; well it is now my turn to use the word to describe you. Thank you Banksie for all your efforts on behalf of all ACT New Zealand Members.

I would also like to acknowledge the work of Barbara Astill on the Board and most recently as Acting President. I don’t know how many times Barbara has stepped into the breach at a moment’s notice or less and has taken it upon herself to sort things out. The Party owes you a great deal Barbara and again I know I speak on behalf of all members when I say thank you.

Now before I talk about the future I have an award to present. The Robin Clulee Memorial Award for outstanding voluntary service to the Party. Robin Clulee was a good bloke and the winner this year is a good bloke. He is someone that I have the utmost respect for and someone that oozes wisdom. I will cut this short other than to say that I do not mind admitting that I nominated the winner and it is my pleasure to announce Lindsay Fergusson as the 2014 Robin Clulee Memorial Award winner.

Now to the future, we have an exciting time ahead this year, one that will bring challenges but eventually one that will brings rewards.

We have an outstanding Leader, we have an outstanding  candidate in Epsom, we have other outstanding people putting their hand up to become ACT New Zealand Members of Parliament but we cannot do it all on our own,  as Campaign Director, as Board Members, as Candidates. This is going to require a total team effort, a total team commitment from all of us to ensure that ACT New Zealand is represented by as many Members of Parliament as possible for the future good of New Zealand. We are rebuilding and I am not looking at only 2014, whatever we get in 2014 we need to double for 2017. This is an ambitious target but we are ambitious for New Zealand. We need to be disciplined and on our game from today, then we need to be disciplined and on our game between 2014 and 2017 in the house if we are to build on what we are going to start now. So it is time to roll out the clichés and put our shoulders to the wheel, our bellies to the bar and front up to our task if we are indeed “Ambitious for New Zealand”.

So I ask you to help in many ways, if you are not a member, sign up and become a member, volunteer to help in the campaign, donate money, we need plenty of money, we are about 1.75 million short of our Campaign Directors real target and he wants to spend more. I fear I will have to put Richard on a short leash which is not something I want to do, I want him to put his talent and skills to guiding us through what is shaping up as a Great Campaign but we need your support and your money to realise all of our dreams for New Zealand.

I am ambitious for New Zealand, I don’t want a country that is permanently looking in the rear view mirror, wishing for the past (that is for the Left including Winston First), you know the six o’clock swill, filling up the Humber 80 at a Europa service station, rushing home to Roast Mutton and Spuds before watching Pukemanu on the crackly Black and White Television. I want to live in a Country that respects the past but embraces the future, one where the possibilities are endless and one that is aspirational and ambitious. A country that embraces the free world and does not put up artificial barriers to success.

I want to wish you all happy campaigning, never lose focus of what we want which is a more prosperous New Zealand, A country where the Government does not overly interfere in our own quiet enjoyment of our own lives, a Country where we are free to do as we please as long as it does not interfere in the quiet enjoyment of others, a country where we feel safe and secure, a country that is colour blind and where indeed “one law for all” is not a slogan but a reality.

We have a great Country here in New Zealand and it frustrates me that we could have an even better Country, so I ask you all to join me in ensuring that we do our very best to make this Great Country New Zealand even Greater. We can all play our part by making sure that a strong ACT New Zealand is represented in Parliament after this next Election. Let us all be able to celebrate our Successes as we are a Team and we are going forth and we are going to multiply our numbers.

Thank you

 

ACT’s Campaign Plan

Hon Richard Prebble

Campaign Director

ACT New Zealand Conference, Villa Maria, 1 March 2014

 

Delegates, I am back as your Campaign Director.

Why?  Because I believe in the principles and policies of the ACT Party. 

Around 150,000 voters believe in the policies and principles of the ACT Party.  They have voted for ACT not once or twice but three time.

Those voters have not lost their belief in ACT’s principles and policies.

They want ACT back too.

When you have a great product and a terrible image you need to rebrand, refresh and start again.

It is a credit to everyone and I want to pay credit to John Banks that this leadership change is the best handled of any I can ever remember by any party.  It was about time we got something right.

I am amazed we have got Jamie Whyte.  If we were drawing up a description of our dream candidate they would have a CV like Jamie Whyte’s.

Jamie Whyte will be parliament’s best qualified MP ever.  I think I am right in saying there has never been an MP with a first class doctorate from one of the world’s top universities Cambridge.  I know I am right there has never been an MP who was a lecturer at Cambridge.  It is true that one other party has an MP who has worked at that most demanding of jobs foreign currency trading.  That other MP John Key is the most popular PM in the history of polling.  I do not know what it is about foreign currency trading – I have difficulty in just converting Kiwi but I suspect the quality you need to be a currency trader is the ability to make good decisions under pressure.  Very useful in politics.

Jamie Whyte will is not be the first MP to have worked for an international consultancy but he is the first expert on managing risk. At Oliver Wyman, one of the world’s top consultancy firms, Dr Whyte gave some of the world’s biggest banks advice as to how to survive the Global Financial crisis. 

  New Zealand is a trading nation.  It is risky out there.  You would not know it from the way all the political parties are making election promises but the Global Economic Crisis is not over. 

ACT, parliament and the country needs Jamie Whyte’s expertise.

Delegates the ACT Party made the correct decision in picking Jamie Whyte.

ACT is now the new party of the 2014 election. 

I will be frank.  ACT’s position when Jamie took over was dire.

Three polls in a row said ACT is on zero. 

Our membership was down to just over 600.  Lose another hundred members and ACT would be struck off as a party.

Our fighting fund was down to $80 thousand, not enough to send a direct mail letter to our potential supporters.

What a difference a new leader and three weeks makes.

The job of opening the mail at ACT headquarters in the last four years has been pretty disheartening, opening one letter of resignation after another.

Well the mood in head office now is positively Christmas like.  They cannot wait to open the mail. New memberships are pouring in.

When Jamie was elected only 60 members had registered for conference.  I admit I had not registered.   Well we have over 200 registrations and if it was not for the fact that attendees for a pop concert in the city have taken all the airline seats to Auckland we would have another hundred delegates.

Elections cost money.

In three weeks we have in cash and pledges over $240,000 in the campaign fund.

Not enough but it’s a good start.

Jamie has done very well in the media.

You may not have noticed but we are off zero.  ACT’s rise to point 4 is an infinite percentage rise.  Possibly the largest percentage rise ever recorded by a party.  I could not resist saying that because futue percentage rises will be much lower. .

In tracking polls conducted privately have put ACT at two percent.

In  I Predict – which last election predicted the election result correctly has ACT already on 3.5 percent which would translate into 3 MPs.  I Predict says there is a 75% chance ACT will hold Epsom.  

We would all like to ACT at over the 5 percent threshold.  Well let me say I do not expect to see such polls until days from the election.

When I became Leader of ACT in May of election year ACT was polling at .8 percent, technically zero.

We did not reach 5 percent until after the election was called.  2014 will be no different.

But we have had the best indication yet that we are back.  I warned Jamie Whyte.  “You are all that stands between David Cunnliffe and Russell Norman being in government.  The media will be kind to you as long as they do not think you can win.  You will know when you are starting to win when a shower is poured right over you”.

So I was pleased he was suckered by a gotcha question and got a shower.  We all get suckered at some point and rather now than election week. 

All in all it has been an impressive start.

The poll that matters is Election Day.

David Seymour is door knocking already.  As campaign director on Wednesday night I rang David and said “how was the door knocking today”.  David told me he had knocked every door of Arney Street in Remuera.  Not everyone was home.

At every house but one that I called on the occupant said ‘I know who you are and we are voting for you’ said David. “ At the one house where the householder did not say he was voting for me he said ‘We are National’.

David told me he started to explain how under MMP a vote for David Seymour in Epsom is a vote to keep John Key PM when the householder cut in.

We know that” he said.  “That is why we are voting for you.  I just want you to know we are National”

A vote is a vote” I said.  “If Arney Road is voting for you in February by  Election Day you will get a landslide”.

In 8 months time ACT will win Epsom and eight list MPs.

Last weekend TV One published a poll showing National on 51 percent,  Labour on 34 percent, and the Greens on 8 percent.

Three years ago in February 2011 TV One published a poll with National on 51 percent, Labour on 33 and the Greens on 8 percent.  Labour is actually doing better this year.  In 2011 National ended up on 45 percent.  The reason John Key is PM and not Phil Goff is because John Banks won Epsom.

The center right’s position is more difficult than 2011.  In 2011 the Maori Party won three seats but now seems unlikely to win more than one.  Mr Peter’s attacks on John Key show how unreliable a coalition ally he would be.

The election result will be decided by how ACT polls.

You are going to read a lot of rubbish from left wing commentators and their friends that the people of Epsom do not like their role.

ACT has done a lot of polling in Epsom and the people of Epsom are quite happy to take the burden of deciding the government.

They want John Key re-elected and they want to give him a stable coalition.

Epsom voters understand the difference between a constituency MP and a list MP and even their enemies agree that both Rodney Hide and John Banks have been very good constituency MPs.  It is easier for an MP from a third party to speak out for his electorate than it is for an MP in a big caucus. 

Now here is the third factor that commentators do not get.  Wellington Central and Epsom have voted ACT.   

What have Epsom and Wellington Central got in common?  Census data shows they are the two highest taxed electorates in the country.

Bill English is boasting that the rich and by that he means Epsom is paying proportionally more tax than ever.

I predict when the census data is available it will show that the Epsom electorate pays more tax than 50 other electorates put together.

The Epsom electorate realizes they are the people who Labour expects to pay the $60 a week baby bonus bribe to households earning up to $150,000 a week.

Epsom is the electorate that would be hit hardest by a capital gains tax.

The Royal Commission recognized that if a party won a constituency that electorate must consist of an important minority that should be represented in  parliament.  This is why the threshold for list MPs is an electorate or 5 percent.  The left is now saying “In what way is Epsom a minority?” Epsom represents the minority who pay tax that pays for the politicians’ election bribes.  A revolution was fought to establish the principle “No taxation without representation”.

The people of Epsom got to live in the highly desirable electorate because they work hard, save, and take responsibility.   The rest of New Zealand would be better off if they took Epsom’s values rather than trying to take their hard earned money.

My first priority as ACT’scampaign Director is to hold Epsom.

You have done the first step and selected an outstanding candidate in David Seymour.  We have a candidate who knows the electorate.  David went to my old school in the electorate Auckland Grammar.  I have known David since he was a top engineering student at Auckland University. When David is a MP he will be one of only two professional engineers in the house.  When you realize the government spends billions of dollars on infrastructure like the national fibre roll out having an MP who knows about engineering seems to me to be a good idea.

David Seymour is campaigning full time the old fashion way door step to door step.  He has an enthusiastic team. 

We are door knocking in February.  We are going to win Epsom the old fashion way, door step by door step.

Now let me tell you some campaign secrets.

ACT has huge electoral assets.

The party owns an 18 seat call center capable of making 300,000 calls. 

In six elections ACT has learnt a great deal about our supporters.  We know who to call and now they have put the phone back on the hook we can begin a conversation with our support base. 

Our call center gives us the ability to do our own polls to learn more about the issues that concern our voters.

But we have another polling advantage.  We have always had the best polling.  It was an accident.  When ACT was formed and we wanted some professional polling.  Every pollster in the country was contracted attached to a media outlet or political party.  We were forced to go to Gene Ulm, the Republican Party pollster.  He brought new techniques unknown in this country.  He told me I could win Wellington Central.  Gene told us we were going to win Epsom.

He likes us and has polled for ACT in every election.  Gene now knows a lot about the New Zealand electorate and maybe because he has real distance he often makes very profound observations that everyone else had missed.

Next week he is going to do a poll for ACT that has never been done in New Zealand.  Here is something every polling firm will deny.  As more and more people give up land lines polls have been getting less accurate.  ACT is going to poll using the internet.  He calls it a qual board.  It enables us to have a much more meaningful dialogue with our base and find out not only what New Zealand is thinking but why.

Thanks to the contributions that have come in in the last two weeks we can pay for it.

Within three weeks we are going to have the best polling data of any political party in the country.  I am sure if Labour had this polling they would not have made their disastrous baby bonus promise.

ACT also has, in house, its own ability to produce a hundred and fifty thousand personalised letters to our supporters.

The first direct mail letter is into Epsom and is going out this week.

We are busy re-establishing our distribution system.  ACT has the ability using volunteers to deliver personalized mail directly.  We have enough volunteers to do most of the Epsom electorate and will quickly be able to cover the key ACT voting areas.

The way MMP works, and I did not vote for it, National needs over a million list votes for just 17 list MPs.  ACT is going to get 8 list MPs from around 150,000 list votes.  We know who our likely voters are and where they live.  Campaigning for ACT is very cost effective.

But now let me tell you some more campaign secrets.

Elections are not won by TV advertising, or newspaper ads, or pamphlets. (90 percent of campaigning is a waste of money).

Elections are not won by being the lead story on the TV news or even being on the front page of the paper.

Very few news stories change any votes.

So let me tell you what does change a voter.  And you are no different.  When someone you know and respects says to you “I think Jamie Whyte would make a good MP” then you decide to have a good look at this Jamie Whyte.

When someone in Epsom says to their neighbor ‘I am thinking of voting for David Seymour” that is when the voter decides to check out David Seymour.

We politicians have always suspected that “opinion leaders” lead opinion and have had our doubts about the value of political advertising.

An American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done some ingenuous experiments to prove how we change our mind on politics.  His research shows  that the only time we change our political views is when someone from our social group challenges our opinion.

Here we have a huge advantage.  ACT people know people.  We are a party of networkers.

My strategy is to do New Zealand’s first network marketing election campaign.

We have always done some network marketing.  It is how Roger started the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.  This election we are going to take networking to a new level.

We have already started.  We are introducing Jamie to as many people as possible.

I did a small experiment and introduced Jamie to a group who I know have never voted ACT. I asked them after they had met Jamie “what did they think of Jamie”.

If Jamie Whyte becomes leader we are voting ACT” was the reply.

I asked them again last week.  “What do you think of Jamie?”

We told you” they said “if Jamie is leader we are voting ACT”.

I was amazed.  I do not think they will vote ACT especially if they go to our website and read our policy.

But it shows but it shows the power of networking.

Jamie is the best campaigner in small groups that I have ever seen. He likes people and they like him.

It shows the power of introducing a candidate.

If networking works with lefties it is going to work with people who already should be ACT voters.

I tried another experiment.

Last Sunday I sent 200 individual emails.  I rang about 20 people.  It took me most of the day.

I have a remarkable range of responses ranging from “I had never heard of Jamie before I got your email and I am going to check him out” to some of you who are here today at the conference because I personally contacted you.

There are 200 people at this conference this weekend.  If we just contact 20 people each that’s 4000.  If we ask each one of them to contact their friends and they contact just 10 that is 40,000.  If they just tell 5 people that they should consider voting for Jamie Whyte and ACT we have reached 200,000 voters.

It is easily achievable.  I have already reached out personally to 200.  I have hundreds of people on my contact lists.  I am going to work my way through my address book.

I want you when you get home tomorrow to take an hour and send a personal message to twenty people.  Tell them you came to the ACT Conference.  I have seen Jamie’s speech so I know you will be impressed.  Tell then that to and then invite them to meet Jamie.  He will come to your place for breakfast, morning tea, or lunch or afternoon tea, or diner or a cottage meeting.  How hard can that be?

I am going to invite a few friends around to diner and invite Jamie.

I know he is he has been seen by hundreds of thousands on TV in the last three weeks and I am talking about introducing him to 10 people.    

We need to win 710 votes a day every day until Election Day which we are planning for at the last weekend in September.

You say that we cannot possibly get there by networking.

Well we do by replicating Jamie Whytes.

In Epsom we have David Seymour.

We all know people who live in Epsom.

After you have listened to David Seymour I want you to do something tomorrow.   Email, text or facebook but better still ring people you know in Epsom.  Tell them you went to the conference.  I have read David’s speech.  I think you are going to agree with me it is an outstanding speech.  He will be good in parliament.  Tell your Epsom fiends you have just seen David Seymour and he is outstanding. Ask them to meet David.  Suggest they organize a breakfast, morning tea etc.  Let’s have David meeting people all day seven days a week. 

I have recommended to the Board we immediately open candidate selection for all electorates.  There are key ACT seats like Tamaki where we need a candidate to start networking. 

I have already met over a dozen potential ACT candidates and they would all make credible MPs. 

I have suggested to the Board because this is their decision that they select the list on the efforts of the electorate candidates. I have found good campaigners make good MPs.

Let me be blunt.

ACT needs to improve its vote from women.  We cannot be a party of angry old white men.  (A class I have a lot of sympathy for).

We need good women candidates.  I have interviewed some potential women candidates any party would be delighted to have.

As we can see at this conference New Zealand’s Chinese community have been some of ACT’s strongest supporters.  ACT’s values are values the Chinese support.  We have had an outstanding MP Kenneth Wang who has significant support in his community.

We are a New Zealand Party so we need candidates from rural New Zealand where ACT has always done well.  I am delighted that Don Nicholson, former Fed Farmer President is here today.  We need candidates in Wellington where we are strong.

So getting high quality candidates into place in electorates is a high priority.

Those candidates need support.

I have a rule that everything ACT does must be best in class.  That is our brand.

We used to have a website that the internet societies voted the best political site.

Our present website is poor.  We have already received a significant donation to make ACT’s website the best party website. We know that half of those who vote ACT say that before they voted they visited our website at least once.  So work is underway to upgrade our website.

Social media is also going to be important.

I thank those who have kept us alive on the web but we need to do better.

Jamie is Face-booking. 

We are going to do better.  My goal is to win in the blogosphere.

All campaigns are policy, people and money.

Policy.  Our policies are credible and costed.  We have workable practical solutions for many of the issues facing the country.  I see the Herald editorial complains that flat tax is an old idea.  Maybe it is but is a new policy in the sense we have never tried it in New Zealand.  It works overseas and it can and will work here.

We are a party of ideas.  Jamie Whyte is a Wall Street Journal columnist.  He is writing a book called “Good thoughts; How New Zealand can be even better”.  I think that should make the Herald editorial writer happy.

None of the other leaders has ever written a book.

We are the party of new fresh ideas.

People.

We have the best leader the party has ever had.  Yes I know that means me too.

We have members re enrolling.  We have excellent candidates including David Seymour.  So the caliber of our ACT candidates is another electoral advantage.

Money.  There is never enough money or time.

I want $1.5 million.

But let me say something I do not want the donors to hear.  Money does not win campaigns.  When I won the biggest general seat majority in New Zealand I spent less than $4 thousand on my campaign.  I had to buy new shoes because I did so much door knocking but that is not an electoral expense.

Our networking strategy is very cost effective.  Internet campaigning is also very cost effective.  We could run a campaign and win Epsom and three MPs with what we have in the war chest and what is promised.  But we want 9 MPs.

So I want you to do what I am going to do.  I am pre ordering 20 copies of Jamie’s new book.   I am going to send the books to friends of mine who should be ACT voters.    

Pre orders will help us keep the price down to $29-95.

Being the party of fiscal prudence in ACT we do not spend money unless we have it.

If the 200 people registered for this conference all do as I have done and set up a monthly AP of just $25 a week that gives us a revenue of $5 grand a week enough to give our candidates head office support.

Unlike all the other parties we have to pay to send our leader around the country and pay for all our phones and postage.  But we in this room can fund that.

If you all decide to do your networking, set up an AP and pre order a copy (or more if you can) of Jamie Whyte’s new book “Good thoughts” then I say we will elect David Seymour and Jamie Whyte, another seven ACT MPs and put John Key back as Prime Minister.

We in this room are going to decide the 2014 election.

 

ACT’s Campaign Plan

Hon Richard Prebble

Campaign Director

ACT New Zealand Conference, Villa Maria, 1 March 2014

 

Delegates, I am back as your Campaign Director.

Why?  Because I believe in the principles and policies of the ACT Party. 

Around 150,000 voters believe in the policies and principles of the ACT Party.  They have voted for ACT not once or twice but three time.

Those voters have not lost their belief in ACT’s principles and policies.

They want ACT back too.

When you have a great product and a terrible image you need to rebrand, refresh and start again.

It is a credit to everyone and I want to pay credit to John Banks that this leadership change is the best handled of any I can ever remember by any party.  It was about time we got something right.

I am amazed we have got Jamie Whyte.  If we were drawing up a description of our dream candidate they would have a CV like Jamie Whyte’s.

Jamie Whyte will be parliament’s best qualified MP ever.  I think I am right in saying there has never been an MP with a first class doctorate from one of the world’s top universities Cambridge.  I know I am right there has never been an MP who was a lecturer at Cambridge.  It is true that one other party has an MP who has worked at that most demanding of jobs foreign currency trading.  That other MP John Key is the most popular PM in the history of polling.  I do not know what it is about foreign currency trading – I have difficulty in just converting Kiwi but I suspect the quality you need to be a currency trader is the ability to make good decisions under pressure.  Very useful in politics.

Jamie Whyte will is not be the first MP to have worked for an international consultancy but he is the first expert on managing risk. At Oliver Wyman, one of the world’s top consultancy firms, Dr Whyte gave some of the world’s biggest banks advice as to how to survive the Global Financial crisis. 

  New Zealand is a trading nation.  It is risky out there.  You would not know it from the way all the political parties are making election promises but the Global Economic Crisis is not over. 

ACT, parliament and the country needs Jamie Whyte’s expertise.

Delegates the ACT Party made the correct decision in picking Jamie Whyte.

ACT is now the new party of the 2014 election. 

I will be frank.  ACT’s position when Jamie took over was dire.

Three polls in a row said ACT is on zero. 

Our membership was down to just over 600.  Lose another hundred members and ACT would be struck off as a party.

Our fighting fund was down to $80 thousand, not enough to send a direct mail letter to our potential supporters.

What a difference a new leader and three weeks makes.

The job of opening the mail at ACT headquarters in the last four years has been pretty disheartening, opening one letter of resignation after another.

Well the mood in head office now is positively Christmas like.  They cannot wait to open the mail. New memberships are pouring in.

When Jamie was elected only 60 members had registered for conference.  I admit I had not registered.   Well we have over 200 registrations and if it was not for the fact that attendees for a pop concert in the city have taken all the airline seats to Auckland we would have another hundred delegates.

Elections cost money.

In three weeks we have in cash and pledges over $240,000 in the campaign fund.

Not enough but it’s a good start.

Jamie has done very well in the media.

You may not have noticed but we are off zero.  ACT’s rise to point 4 is an infinite percentage rise.  Possibly the largest percentage rise ever recorded by a party.  I could not resist saying that because futue percentage rises will be much lower. .

In tracking polls conducted privately have put ACT at two percent.

In  I Predict – which last election predicted the election result correctly has ACT already on 3.5 percent which would translate into 3 MPs.  I Predict says there is a 75% chance ACT will hold Epsom.  

We would all like to ACT at over the 5 percent threshold.  Well let me say I do not expect to see such polls until days from the election.

When I became Leader of ACT in May of election year ACT was polling at .8 percent, technically zero.

We did not reach 5 percent until after the election was called.  2014 will be no different.

But we have had the best indication yet that we are back.  I warned Jamie Whyte.  “You are all that stands between David Cunnliffe and Russell Norman being in government.  The media will be kind to you as long as they do not think you can win.  You will know when you are starting to win when a shower is poured right over you”.

So I was pleased he was suckered by a gotcha question and got a shower.  We all get suckered at some point and rather now than election week. 

All in all it has been an impressive start.

The poll that matters is Election Day.

David Seymour is door knocking already.  As campaign director on Wednesday night I rang David and said “how was the door knocking today”.  David told me he had knocked every door of Arney Street in Remuera.  Not everyone was home.

At every house but one that I called on the occupant said ‘I know who you are and we are voting for you’ said David. “ At the one house where the householder did not say he was voting for me he said ‘We are National’.

David told me he started to explain how under MMP a vote for David Seymour in Epsom is a vote to keep John Key PM when the householder cut in.

We know that” he said.  “That is why we are voting for you.  I just want you to know we are National”

A vote is a vote” I said.  “If Arney Road is voting for you in February by  Election Day you will get a landslide”.

In 8 months time ACT will win Epsom and eight list MPs.

Last weekend TV One published a poll showing National on 51 percent,  Labour on 34 percent, and the Greens on 8 percent.

Three years ago in February 2011 TV One published a poll with National on 51 percent, Labour on 33 and the Greens on 8 percent.  Labour is actually doing better this year.  In 2011 National ended up on 45 percent.  The reason John Key is PM and not Phil Goff is because John Banks won Epsom.

The center right’s position is more difficult than 2011.  In 2011 the Maori Party won three seats but now seems unlikely to win more than one.  Mr Peter’s attacks on John Key show how unreliable a coalition ally he would be.

The election result will be decided by how ACT polls.

You are going to read a lot of rubbish from left wing commentators and their friends that the people of Epsom do not like their role.

ACT has done a lot of polling in Epsom and the people of Epsom are quite happy to take the burden of deciding the government.

They want John Key re-elected and they want to give him a stable coalition.

Epsom voters understand the difference between a constituency MP and a list MP and even their enemies agree that both Rodney Hide and John Banks have been very good constituency MPs.  It is easier for an MP from a third party to speak out for his electorate than it is for an MP in a big caucus. 

Now here is the third factor that commentators do not get.  Wellington Central and Epsom have voted ACT.   

What have Epsom and Wellington Central got in common?  Census data shows they are the two highest taxed electorates in the country.

Bill English is boasting that the rich and by that he means Epsom is paying proportionally more tax than ever.

I predict when the census data is available it will show that the Epsom electorate pays more tax than 50 other electorates put together.

The Epsom electorate realizes they are the people who Labour expects to pay the $60 a week baby bonus bribe to households earning up to $150,000 a week.

Epsom is the electorate that would be hit hardest by a capital gains tax.

The Royal Commission recognized that if a party won a constituency that electorate must consist of an important minority that should be represented in  parliament.  This is why the threshold for list MPs is an electorate or 5 percent.  The left is now saying “In what way is Epsom a minority?” Epsom represents the minority who pay tax that pays for the politicians’ election bribes.  A revolution was fought to establish the principle “No taxation without representation”.

The people of Epsom got to live in the highly desirable electorate because they work hard, save, and take responsibility.   The rest of New Zealand would be better off if they took Epsom’s values rather than trying to take their hard earned money.

My first priority as ACT’scampaign Director is to hold Epsom.

You have done the first step and selected an outstanding candidate in David Seymour.  We have a candidate who knows the electorate.  David went to my old school in the electorate Auckland Grammar.  I have known David since he was a top engineering student at Auckland University. When David is a MP he will be one of only two professional engineers in the house.  When you realize the government spends billions of dollars on infrastructure like the national fibre roll out having an MP who knows about engineering seems to me to be a good idea.

David Seymour is campaigning full time the old fashion way door step to door step.  He has an enthusiastic team. 

We are door knocking in February.  We are going to win Epsom the old fashion way, door step by door step.

Now let me tell you some campaign secrets.

ACT has huge electoral assets.

The party owns an 18 seat call center capable of making 300,000 calls. 

In six elections ACT has learnt a great deal about our supporters.  We know who to call and now they have put the phone back on the hook we can begin a conversation with our support base. 

Our call center gives us the ability to do our own polls to learn more about the issues that concern our voters.

But we have another polling advantage.  We have always had the best polling.  It was an accident.  When ACT was formed and we wanted some professional polling.  Every pollster in the country was contracted attached to a media outlet or political party.  We were forced to go to Gene Ulm, the Republican Party pollster.  He brought new techniques unknown in this country.  He told me I could win Wellington Central.  Gene told us we were going to win Epsom.

He likes us and has polled for ACT in every election.  Gene now knows a lot about the New Zealand electorate and maybe because he has real distance he often makes very profound observations that everyone else had missed.

Next week he is going to do a poll for ACT that has never been done in New Zealand.  Here is something every polling firm will deny.  As more and more people give up land lines polls have been getting less accurate.  ACT is going to poll using the internet.  He calls it a qual board.  It enables us to have a much more meaningful dialogue with our base and find out not only what New Zealand is thinking but why.

Thanks to the contributions that have come in in the last two weeks we can pay for it.

Within three weeks we are going to have the best polling data of any political party in the country.  I am sure if Labour had this polling they would not have made their disastrous baby bonus promise.

ACT also has, in house, its own ability to produce a hundred and fifty thousand personalised letters to our supporters.

The first direct mail letter is into Epsom and is going out this week.

We are busy re-establishing our distribution system.  ACT has the ability using volunteers to deliver personalized mail directly.  We have enough volunteers to do most of the Epsom electorate and will quickly be able to cover the key ACT voting areas.

The way MMP works, and I did not vote for it, National needs over a million list votes for just 17 list MPs.  ACT is going to get 8 list MPs from around 150,000 list votes.  We know who our likely voters are and where they live.  Campaigning for ACT is very cost effective.

But now let me tell you some more campaign secrets.

Elections are not won by TV advertising, or newspaper ads, or pamphlets. (90 percent of campaigning is a waste of money).

Elections are not won by being the lead story on the TV news or even being on the front page of the paper.

Very few news stories change any votes.

So let me tell you what does change a voter.  And you are no different.  When someone you know and respects says to you “I think Jamie Whyte would make a good MP” then you decide to have a good look at this Jamie Whyte.

When someone in Epsom says to their neighbor ‘I am thinking of voting for David Seymour” that is when the voter decides to check out David Seymour.

We politicians have always suspected that “opinion leaders” lead opinion and have had our doubts about the value of political advertising.

An American social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done some ingenuous experiments to prove how we change our mind on politics.  His research shows  that the only time we change our political views is when someone from our social group challenges our opinion.

Here we have a huge advantage.  ACT people know people.  We are a party of networkers.

My strategy is to do New Zealand’s first network marketing election campaign.

We have always done some network marketing.  It is how Roger started the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.  This election we are going to take networking to a new level.

We have already started.  We are introducing Jamie to as many people as possible.

I did a small experiment and introduced Jamie to a group who I know have never voted ACT. I asked them after they had met Jamie “what did they think of Jamie”.

If Jamie Whyte becomes leader we are voting ACT” was the reply.

I asked them again last week.  “What do you think of Jamie?”

We told you” they said “if Jamie is leader we are voting ACT”.

I was amazed.  I do not think they will vote ACT especially if they go to our website and read our policy.

But it shows but it shows the power of networking.

Jamie is the best campaigner in small groups that I have ever seen. He likes people and they like him.

It shows the power of introducing a candidate.

If networking works with lefties it is going to work with people who already should be ACT voters.

I tried another experiment.

Last Sunday I sent 200 individual emails.  I rang about 20 people.  It took me most of the day.

I have a remarkable range of responses ranging from “I had never heard of Jamie before I got your email and I am going to check him out” to some of you who are here today at the conference because I personally contacted you.

There are 200 people at this conference this weekend.  If we just contact 20 people each that’s 4000.  If we ask each one of them to contact their friends and they contact just 10 that is 40,000.  If they just tell 5 people that they should consider voting for Jamie Whyte and ACT we have reached 200,000 voters.

It is easily achievable.  I have already reached out personally to 200.  I have hundreds of people on my contact lists.  I am going to work my way through my address book.

I want you when you get home tomorrow to take an hour and send a personal message to twenty people.  Tell them you came to the ACT Conference.  I have seen Jamie’s speech so I know you will be impressed.  Tell then that to and then invite them to meet Jamie.  He will come to your place for breakfast, morning tea, or lunch or afternoon tea, or diner or a cottage meeting.  How hard can that be?

I am going to invite a few friends around to diner and invite Jamie.

I know he is he has been seen by hundreds of thousands on TV in the last three weeks and I am talking about introducing him to 10 people.    

We need to win 710 votes a day every day until Election Day which we are planning for at the last weekend in September.

You say that we cannot possibly get there by networking.

Well we do by replicating Jamie Whytes.

In Epsom we have David Seymour.

We all know people who live in Epsom.

After you have listened to David Seymour I want you to do something tomorrow.   Email, text or facebook but better still ring people you know in Epsom.  Tell them you went to the conference.  I have read David’s speech.  I think you are going to agree with me it is an outstanding speech.  He will be good in parliament.  Tell your Epsom fiends you have just seen David Seymour and he is outstanding. Ask them to meet David.  Suggest they organize a breakfast, morning tea etc.  Let’s have David meeting people all day seven days a week. 

I have recommended to the Board we immediately open candidate selection for all electorates.  There are key ACT seats like Tamaki where we need a candidate to start networking. 

I have already met over a dozen potential ACT candidates and they would all make credible MPs. 

I have suggested to the Board because this is their decision that they select the list on the efforts of the electorate candidates. I have found good campaigners make good MPs.

Let me be blunt.

ACT needs to improve its vote from women.  We cannot be a party of angry old white men.  (A class I have a lot of sympathy for).

We need good women candidates.  I have interviewed some potential women candidates any party would be delighted to have.

As we can see at this conference New Zealand’s Chinese community have been some of ACT’s strongest supporters.  ACT’s values are values the Chinese support.  We have had an outstanding MP Kenneth Wang who has significant support in his community.

We are a New Zealand Party so we need candidates from rural New Zealand where ACT has always done well.  I am delighted that Don Nicholson, former Fed Farmer President is here today.  We need candidates in Wellington where we are strong.

So getting high quality candidates into place in electorates is a high priority.

Those candidates need support.

I have a rule that everything ACT does must be best in class.  That is our brand.

We used to have a website that the internet societies voted the best political site.

Our present website is poor.  We have already received a significant donation to make ACT’s website the best party website. We know that half of those who vote ACT say that before they voted they visited our website at least once.  So work is underway to upgrade our website.

Social media is also going to be important.

I thank those who have kept us alive on the web but we need to do better.

Jamie is Face-booking. 

We are going to do better.  My goal is to win in the blogosphere.

All campaigns are policy, people and money.

Policy.  Our policies are credible and costed.  We have workable practical solutions for many of the issues facing the country.  I see the Herald editorial complains that flat tax is an old idea.  Maybe it is but is a new policy in the sense we have never tried it in New Zealand.  It works overseas and it can and will work here.

We are a party of ideas.  Jamie Whyte is a Wall Street Journal columnist.  He is writing a book called “Good thoughts; How New Zealand can be even better”.  I think that should make the Herald editorial writer happy.

None of the other leaders has ever written a book.

We are the party of new fresh ideas.

People.

We have the best leader the party has ever had.  Yes I know that means me too.

We have members re enrolling.  We have excellent candidates including David Seymour.  So the caliber of our ACT candidates is another electoral advantage.

Money.  There is never enough money or time.

I want $1.5 million.

But let me say something I do not want the donors to hear.  Money does not win campaigns.  When I won the biggest general seat majority in New Zealand I spent less than $4 thousand on my campaign.  I had to buy new shoes because I did so much door knocking but that is not an electoral expense.

Our networking strategy is very cost effective.  Internet campaigning is also very cost effective.  We could run a campaign and win Epsom and three MPs with what we have in the war chest and what is promised.  But we want 9 MPs.

So I want you to do what I am going to do.  I am pre ordering 20 copies of Jamie’s new book.   I am going to send the books to friends of mine who should be ACT voters.    

Pre orders will help us keep the price down to $29-95.

Being the party of fiscal prudence in ACT we do not spend money unless we have it.

If the 200 people registered for this conference all do as I have done and set up a monthly AP of just $25 a week that gives us a revenue of $5 grand a week enough to give our candidates head office support.

Unlike all the other parties we have to pay to send our leader around the country and pay for all our phones and postage.  But we in this room can fund that.

If you all decide to do your networking, set up an AP and pre order a copy (or more if you can) of Jamie Whyte’s new book “Good thoughts” then I say we will elect David Seymour and Jamie Whyte, another seven ACT MPs and put John Key back as Prime Minister.

We in this room are going to decide the 2014 election.

 

Speech notes for Media Conference

The High Court Decision

As I have said, anybody who knows me would not believe that I would knowingly file a false electoral return.

My focus and energy must be on serving the people of the Epsom electorate and working through the legal process to clear my name.

I will not be saying anything more about the case as the matter is before the Court.

 

The ACT Party

As leader of the ACT Party it is my duty to consider the best interests of my Party as we move into election year.

I am simply not able to dedicate all my energy and ability on returning ACT to Parliament in bigger numbers next year while fighting to clear my name.

I have therefore concluded that the interests of the ACT Party are best served by indicating today that I will not be seeking my Party’s nomination as the candidate for Epsom in 2014.

This allows ACT to select a new candidate to put before the people of Epsom for the next election.   That candidate will have the maximum opportunity to apply their energy and ability on earning the confidence of the people of Epsom.

I will continue to serve as ACT Party Leader until our Annual Conference in early March where I will stand down.

This allows the ACT Party to look to a new Leader to take it into the election campaign next year.  That Leader can focus on building a great team to put in front of New Zealanders and earn Party votes for ACT.

As I have said, until the election, I will continue to serve the Epsom electorate as the local MP to the best of my ability.

This announcement today does not affect the commitments made between National and ACT in our confidence and supply agreement.

 

Concluding remarks

The next election will be close. 

Like last time, ACT and Epsom can make the difference.

I believe in a country where everybody has the freedom to achieve.

Whether New Zealand can be a more open, prosperous, and enterprising nation, with our focus firmly on the future, will depend in part on ACT succeeding.

I believe the decisions announced today help move us towards that success.

 

ENDS

Announcement of first Partnership Schools

Today’s announcement of the first Partnership Schools is a result of ACT’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with National. 

Underpinning our agreement is the mutual goal of ensuring every New Zealander receives a high quality education.

It is a great achievement for ACT, with support from our colleagues in National and the Maori Party, to be standing here today. 

The successful schools are located in Auckland and Northland and will open in time for day one, Term One of the 2014 school year.

The five schools are:

  • The Rise UP Academy in Mangere East, South Auckland; a co-educational primary school for years 1- 6
     
  • South Auckland Middle School in South Auckland; a co-educational middle school for years 7 - 10
     
  • Te Kura Hourua ki Whangaruru in Whangaruru, Northland; a co-educational secondary school for years 9 – 13
     
  • Vanguard Military School in Albany, Auckland; a co-educational senior secondary school for years 11 - 13
     
  • Te Kura Hourua or Whangarei Terenga Paraoa,Whangarei, Northland; a co-educational secondary school for years 7 - 13. 

Congratulations to the school sponsors.  Today is a celebration of their achievement.

They successfully navigated the high hurdles and tight hoops of the application process and I am confident that they will make a difference to our priority learners.

Educational success is the ladder for social mobility. 

That’s why ACT believes parents should be able to choose the education option best suited to their child’s needs.  

Partnership Schools will provide more choice in New Zealand’s education system, and more importantly, more choice for priority students.  

Partnership Schools have greater freedom and flexibility to innovate and engage with their students in return for stronger accountability for improving educational outcomes. 

In exchange for this flexibility, they will be expected to produce specified results. 

They will report quarterly to the Ministry of Education, be monitored by the Partnership Schools Advisory Board and will be subject to Education Review Office (ERO) reviews.

I would like to thank all the people who have helped us reach this milestone today.  

I acknowledge the work of the Partnership School Working Group who designed the policy framework, and the Authorisation Board who provided advice on the applications.  

Special thanks to Catherine Isaac for her leadership of both. 

I would also like to thank all the applicants who put forward Partnership School proposals. 

The level of interest from those keen to make a difference for our priority students was high, and I thank them for the time and effort they put into their applications.

Finally, thank you to Minister Parata for giving this policy priority in what is a very busy portfolio. 

You have been a passionate advocate for New Zealand’s priority students. 

I look forward to seeing the first Partnership Schools open at the start of day one, Term One 2014.

ENDS

 

 

 

 

Second Reading Speech on GCSB Bill

The ACT Party and the people of Epsom back those who work to defend our Country - the men and women of the NZ Defence forces and our small but vital intelligence and security community.   

The ACT Party and the people of Epsom back the men and women of the NZ Police who keep us safe in our homes and protect our property.

ACT believes it is the primary duty of government to keep New Zealanders safe from both foreign and domestic threats to our lives and property.  Inherent in the concept of protecting our lives is the notion that government upholds and protects the fundamental rights of New Zealanders.

That is why any abridgement of our fundamental rights must be expressly authorised by clear law and only to the extent necessary to achieve the first duty of government.

All regimes that authorise the government to engage in covert activity have three features:

First, they must have clear legal authority.  That means that primary legislation must be properly drafted.  And any use of the powers must be authorised.

Second, there must be strong executive branch oversight.  That means from the Minister and a specialist office like the Inspector-General.

Third there must be Parliamentary oversight - like the Intelligence and Security Committee on which I serve.

This Bill is before the House because the Labour Party failed to provide clear law in 2003 for the men and women of our intelligence agencies and those who rely on their expertise.

We are here today because Labour failed to get the law right in the first place. 

The Kitteridge Report found that the 2003 legislation was probably never fit-for–purpose.

The bottom line is this:  when the GCSB was intercepting foreign signals these communications could involve New Zealanders.

Further the GCSB could intercept the communications of New Zealanders on behalf of public entities so long as those entities had legal authority to do this.

Yet Labour’s legislation says - in contradiction to these express provisions - that the GCSB cannot intercept the communications of New Zealanders.

What a total mess.  

And what’s more many of the 88 occasions when the GCSB intercepted communications of New Zealanders - primarily for the NZ Police - occurred under the watch of Labour Ministers.

Labour cannot tell the country that it did not know the GCSB was doing this work on behalf of other public entities.

While is it fair for Labour to ask for an inquiry into the adequacy of our security agencies, Labour should have recognised the immediate need to fix up their legislation that was probably never fit-for-purpose in the first place.

What is more, Labour should have participated in the process of improving the Bill.

Mr Shearer failed to suggest even one concrete proposal to improve the Bill. 

But why should we be surprised? 

Mr Shearer failed in his leadership role regarding this Bill, which is par for the course.

ACT agrees with Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Kitteridge - who is a fine public servant - that the 2003 Act needs an immediate fix to clarify the GCSB’s role when doing work for the Police, Defence Forces or the SIS.

ACT supports the leadership of the Prime Minister and his openness to constructive ideas about improving the Bill. 

I want to thank him and his Officials for their thoughtful engagement.

The ACT Party was pleased that the Prime Minister listed to ACT’s suggestion to insert the principles from the current Security Intelligence Service Act into the GCSB legislation.

While New Zealand’s human rights law always applies to public entities like the GCSB, it is good to have a concise restatement of the law in the principal Act.

ACT wants those who work in the GCSB to know that their primary duty is to protect a free and sovereign New Zealand.

By inserting these principles, the Inspector-General of Security and Intelligence run an audit and compliance exercise to ensure the GCSB is applying them.

The ACT Party is pleased to support the beefing up of the Office of the Inspector General of Security and Intelligence. 

We suggested an expanded Office of the Inspector General.  The Prime Minister has worked up a happy compromise by adapting an idea floated by Mr Peters, Mr Dunne and Dr Jim Veitch with a panel to assist the Inspector-General and his or her Deputy.

The Inspector-General plays the role of guarding the guardians. 

They are a backstop to the democratic oversight of Ministers. 

The ACT Party suggested there be a better link between the Inspector-General and the Intelligence and Security Committee. 

The Bill does this by ensuring that the Inspector General’s report to Parliament is a formal matter of business at the Intelligence and Security Committee.  The Inspector-General can directly report to a Committee of this House if he or she has concerns.

There are some matters not fixed by the Bill that require more work.  One such issue is the definition of ‘private communications’.

ACT is persuaded that the private communications issue be left for a more comprehensive law reform effort because it effects not just the GCSB. 

This Bill is better because of a limited range of helpful submissions to the Intelligence and Security Committee that focussed on actual proposals to fix the Bill. 

The Bill is better because of the openness of the Prime Minister and his Offices to considering sensible suggestions by other Parties represented in this Parliament.   It is a pity that Mr Shearer did not take a leadership role and suggest one not even one technical improvement.

The Bill is clearer and more restrictive than the faulty one Labour passed in 2003.

The Bill is crystal clear on what the GCSB can and cannot do and for whom they can do it. 

Their functions of cyber security and information assurance, gathering foreign intelligence and co-operating and assisting a limited range of other government agencies are essential. 

They are the best placed organisation to perform these roles.

Final point: of course there is a risk to freedom from the covert capabilities of government.   This is stating the obvious. 

But it does not follow that we do not need the capability, or that the risk cannot be managed.  This Bill seeks to manage the risk by improving oversight.

That said, ACT believes our freedom is more at risk from a government that spends too much, taxes too much and borrows too much. 

We are at risk from politicians who want to attack foreigners, tell us what we can and cannot eat, introduce new taxes, stop economic development, stop mining and petroleum exploration, and interfere with property rights in the RMA.  

Most of these things are advocated by the parties of the left who see no hypocrisy in ramping up the lazy rhetoric about the surveillance state while simultaneously advocating the all-embracing state.   

So let’s keep things in perspective.

 

  

 

 

 

 

  

Education Amendment Bill - Third Reading

Almost 25 years ago, Parliament passed the Education Act 1989 which put the Picot report into effect giving us Tomorrow’s Schools. 

Parliament wanted to empower educators and school communities.  It wanted to de-centralise and liberate the compulsory education sector. 

The then Labour Government said the reforms would address the inequality of achievement.

But the unions cried foul.

The unions said that only education experts, not parents, would be able to govern schools – sound familiar? 

In fact, the unions said Tomorrow’s Schools was the first step towards privatisation.

That Tomorrow’s Schools was right-wing ideology.

The same arguments that are ringing in our ears today.

The truth is the union opposition to Partnership Schools has been straight out of their old playbook.  The same lines they trot out on any attempted reform of the education sector.  

It’s tired.  It’s cynical. It’s unconvincing.  Educators deserve better. 

The unions now say our education system is world class and ‘how dare anyone change it’.

Yes it is world class for most learners - but not all.

We have a long tail of underachievement in New Zealand. 

And that failure is institutionalised and inter-generational.

It compounds the deep trauma in these families.

It is shocking that any system could take a child though their formative years and, after 13 years in the system, turn out a student who is functionally illiterate - in no way prepared for the modern world.

Partnership Schools can make a real difference to New Zealand’s most disadvantaged students. 

We want to give five out of five students the opportunity to get a world class education.

This policy is not an attack on our teachers who by and large do a fantastic job.  I acknowledge their contribution.

I also acknowledge the contribution of the 35,000 support staff in our schools, who are so frequently belittled by the Opposition.

No one is saying there is a quick fix.  Nor is anyone saying there are not a number of ways to address this institutionalised failure.  

Partnership Schools are but one option.

They are a natural progression of the philosophy of Tomorrow’s Schools in that they empower educators and school communities, and up the level of accountability.

Partnership Schools will engage with parents and provide them with meaningful input into their child’s education.

It is one of the most important things that will be measured under the contract.

Educators in Partnership Schools will have the freedom to engage teachers who don’t hold registration with the Teachers Council. 

The decision will be based on the needs of the students, as it should be -  not a one rule for every school approach.

Partnership Schools will have better Alternative Dispute Resolution systems available to them than in most schools. 

Both the Ombudsmen and the Human Rights Commission have been invited to work with the Ministry of Education on this.

Thankfully Parliament was not swayed by the Opposition’s attempts to limit the type of organisation that can be a Partnership School.

Achieving educational improvements and being accountable always mattered more than whether a Partnership School is a run by a trust, charity, business or iwi organisation.

I have good news for the House.

The 35 quality applications received demonstrate that there is significant interest from numerous diverse communities and organisations in establishing Partnership Schools.

Successful applicants will be invited to an interview so the Authorisation Board can explore their vision for the new school in more detail.

Following the conclusion of the interviews, the Board will provide advice to the Minister of Education about which applications to approve.

Partnership Schools will be established in areas that experience significant underachievement, where students are underserved by the current system. 

The first school will be opened day one, term one, 2014. 

ACT is proud to be associated with Partnership Schools.   These schools will stand or fall on their results – as it should be.

I want to thank everyone who has helped support the passage of this bill, and who believe, like ACT, that every child deserves a world class education.

Partnership Schools will help make the promise of a world class education a reality for more of our children, so they can take their place as productive citizens.

Budget 2013: Good - But Not Great

I rise on behalf of the ACT Party and the people of Epsom to support the Appropriation (2013/2014 Estimates) Bill.  ACT will support this Budget and associated legislation.

The Budget is a good budget in difficult circumstances.

But it’s not a great budget.

On the OECD’s measure, the government sector is spending about 43 per cent of everything that New Zealanders produce.

That’s 43 per cent.  In Australia it is 34 per cent.

Government is taking too much.  And it’s making us poorer.

We have lost many of our productive young people to Australia because their economy offers a better future.

The 2025 Taskforce found the income gap with Australia was 35 per cent in 2008.  Stats for 2011 indicate that it has risen to 41 per cent.

This gap is unprecedented.

Unless we close it we can expect more and more New Zealand grandparents crossing the Tasman to visit their grandchildren.

There is no mystery.  They are richer in part because more of the wealth of Australia is left in the hands of its people.

Yet the Labour Party wants even more spending.  You would have to go back to the 1970s to find a Labour Party less ready for Government.  They are not serious about addressing the challenges faced by New Zealand.

The future isn’t about outbidding the old dudes and young fogies of the Green Party.

When I first came to Parliament the Government was trying a command and control approach to the economy.  It didn’t work then and it won’t work today.

How does this Budget measure up in terms of getting government off-the-backs and out-of-the pockets of hard pressed taxpayers?

Well first the good news.

The size of government is set to decline under this Minister of Finance providing we continue to restrain expenditure.

Spending growth has been reined in, despite the Christchurch earthquake.   This Budget continues that trend.

The Government has not blown out the fiscal deficit like so many other countries and the last Labour Government.

The Government has stayed the course on partial privatisation, despite Court action and the dodgy referendum by Labour and the Greens.

There have been significant welfare reforms.  We are starting to tackle the culture of dependency and hopelessness.

There is no tampering with the Reserve Bank Act.

There is a willingness to improve the quality of regulation. 

We will have a regulatory standards proposal for the House to consider. 

There will be meaningful change to the RMA.

The Government recognised that house prices are too high because land values are too high.  The Government is moving to free up the supply of land which ACT has long called for.

In education, Partnership Schools are on the way.  The Budget provides just under $19 million over the next four years.  I want to thank Cabinet and the Minister of Education for making Partnership Schools happen.

The Government will spend $9.7 billion on education in this Budget.  The annual funding for Partnership Schools makes up less than half a per cent. 

From 1999 to 2008, Labour increased spending on education by 47%.  They spent billions and had no significant impact on the tail of underachievement in our schools.  

Partnership Schools are a new and innovative option specifically focused on raising achievement for our most disadvantaged students.  

Anyone who claims that spending less than half a per cent of the total education budget on a new initiative to raise achievement for our most disadvantaged students is playing petty politics.

Now for the not so good news.

The macro outlook - growth and unemployment - is still mediocre.  We look good because most member countries of the OECD look bad.   We will not close the gap with Australia without lifting growth and productivity.

The balance of payments outlook points to an international competitiveness problem.

Taxes are too high because of wasteful and unnecessary government spending.

The more expensive the government, the poorer the citizen. 

The Government needs to roll back Labour’s poor quality programmes - interest free student loans and Working For Families. 

Here is what ACT will be urging National to do in a great Budget.

We regard $78 billion dollars of gross public debt to be too high.  So we need to reduce debt through less spending.

We need to put the avgas into the assets sales programme.

I welcome the announcement that Meridian is up next.

Air New Zealand is performing well.  Running an airline is a risky and tough business.  We don’t need to issue a prospectus.   Why not sell all the Government’s shares?

National should dump the Cullen Fund.  Let’s use it to pay off our debt.  Progressively raising the age of eligibility would help make superannuation more affordable.

We have stopped the growth in Government spending.  It is time to start tackling the size of Government. 

We have to aim for around 30 per cent of GDP on the OECD measure.  That means confronting middle class and corporate welfare.

The 2025 Taskforce found that given the surpluses at that time, reducing core Crown operating expenses to 29 per cent of GDP would allow a top personal, company and trust tax rate of 20 per cent. 

The Budget projections through to 2017 start to make this lost opportunity available again.   That’s a long haul but it’s a goal worth pursuing.

Spending reductions and partial use of surpluses could fund tax cuts.

Tax cuts would improve economic growth and international competitiveness.   The risk with future surpluses is that they are simply used to expand the size of Government. 

Finally, this House needs to be braver on regulatory reform. 

Further regulatory reform would help New Zealanders to understand how dopey policies like the nationalisation of electricity would be. 

Regulatory reform would highlight how poor policies lead to poor laws and that results in poorer citizens.  We have a Regulatory Standards Bill on the Order Paper that would help.

The ACT Party and the people of Epsom back this Budget. 

We say it’s a good Budget in difficult times. 

But in order to tackle the challenges New Zealand faces we need a great Budget.

Unfortunately the most significant risk we face is from bad policy and bad politics generated from the Opposition benches.  Labour has debased itself by entering into a bidding war with Russel Norman and the Greens.

My job, indeed my duty, is to ensure they don’t get their hands on the levers of power.

ENDS

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