Speech to the Waikato Conference: 26 July 2014
Race has no place in the law
Jamie Whyte, ACT Party Leader
David Cunliffe recently apologised to a Women’s Refuge symposium:
“I don't often say it – I'm sorry for being a man … because family and sexual violence is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men.”
The Prime Minister accused Cunliffe of being insincere. Maybe he was.
Or maybe not. The apology conforms to Labour party thinking. Whereas we in ACT believe in personal responsibility, the Labour party believes in collective responsibility.
Those who believe in collective responsibility see people not so much as individuals but as members of groups: men and women, gays and heterosexuals, the rich and the poor, Maori and Pakeha.
For example, the Labour Party has a rule that half the people on their list must be women. This is intended to ensure equal parliamentary representation for women.
Labour believes that a man cannot represent a woman in parliament, even if she votes for him. And that a woman automatically represents other women, even if they did not vote for her or disagree with her. All that matters is group membership.
Similarly, Cunliffe believes he is responsible for sexual violence, even though has never perpetrated any, simply because he is a man.
This “identity politics” comes easily to many people. It is a way of thinking with ancient roots in mankind’s tribal history.
Nevertheless, it is ugly. It is the mindset that lies behind such obscenities as collective punishment and clan feuding.
Overcoming this way of thinking has been one of the great achievements of modern civilisation. The most important part of this achievement is the principle that everyone is equal before the law.
* * * * *
Everybody knows the image of Lady Justice in her Grecian robes holding the scales of justice while blindfolded. But many do not know what the blindfold is supposed to stop her seeing.
The answer is the identity of the person being judged. Justice requires that she pay no heed to who it is she is judging – she will make the same decision whether you are a man or a woman, a lord or a peasant, black or white.
Alas, the principle that the law should be impartial has never been fully embraced in New Zealand. Even today, after any number of equal rights movements, New Zealand law makes a citizen’s rights depend on her race.
The reparations made to iwi by the Waitangi Tribunal are NOT an example of this. The Treaty of Waitangi gave Maori property rights over the land they occupied. Many violations of these rights followed. The remedies provided by the Waitangi Tribunal are not a case of race-based favouritism. They are recognition of property rights and, therefore, something that we in ACT wholeheartedly support.
Nevertheless, there are many areas where New Zealand law fails to be properly blind to race.
The most obvious example is the persistence of the Maori electoral roll and Maori Seats, which guarantee parliamentary representation on the basis of race. This mistake is now being repeated in the Auckland Super City, where council decisions must be run past a Maori advisory board.
Many people have opinions about what other people should do with their property. Under the Resource Management Act, how much weight your opinion carries depends on your race. If you are Maori, you have a say on these matters that others lack.
Some state run or state directed organisations openly practice race-based favouritism. I know a woman who has raised children by two fathers, one Pakeha and the other Maori. If her Pakeha son wants to attend law school at Auckland University, he will have to get much higher grades than her Maori son.
I will not go on. There is no question that the law in New Zealand is not racially impartial.
The question is why race-based laws are tolerated, not just by the Maori and Internet-Mana Parties, but by National, Labour and the Greens.
I suspect the reason is confusion about privilege.
Maori are legally privileged in New Zealand today, just as the Aristocracy were legally privileged in pre-revolutionary France.
But, of course, in our ordinary use of the word, it is absurd to say that Maori are privileged. The average life expectancy of Maori is significantly lower than Pakeha and Asian. Average incomes are lower. Average educational achievement is lower.
Legal privilege offends people less when the beneficiaries are not materially privileged, when they are generally poorer than those at a legal disadvantage.
Of course, many Maori are better off, better educated and in better health than many Pakeha. And these are often the Maori who take most advantage of their legal privileges, especially those offered by universities and by political bodies.
Alas, people are inclined to think in generalities, and they fail to notice that it is the materially privileged individuals in the legally privileged group who capture the benefits. They think of Maori as generally materially disadvantaged; and they see their legal privileges as a form of compensation.
But the principle of legal equality is far more important than any redistributive or compensatory impulses that people may have. It is not some philosophical nicety to be discarded because you feel guilty about what people with the same skin pigment as you did 150 or 200 years ago.
* * * * *
Why is the principle of legal equality so important?
Many people will feel no need to have it explained. To many of us, it seems no more than obvious that the law should not privilege people from one race over people from other races.
Indeed, many on the left of New Zealand politics once held this position. John Minto once led a movement devoted to fighting the legal privileges of whites in South Africa. He is now a candidate for the Internet-Mana Party, an organisation dedicated to extending racial privilege in New Zealand. If he ever believed in the principle of legal equality, he has abandoned it now.
And not just John Minto and the Internet-Mana Party. As I have said, National, Labour and the Greens – the biggest three parties in New Zealand – all support explicitly race-based laws.
Apparently, many people do need to be reminded why the principle of legal equality is important.
It is important because, without it, society becomes a racket.
When people are equal before the law, they can get ahead only by offering other people goods or services that they value. We are all playing to the same rules, and we do well only if we “deliver the goods”. This promotes not only economic growth and prosperity but civility. It forces people to attend to the preferences of others.
Where people enjoy legal privilege, by contrast, they can get ahead without doing anything of value for other people. Because the system is rigged in their favour, they don’t need to “deliver the goods”.
Suppose, for example, that the government decided that Japanese women deserved a legal privilege. They should be allowed to erect barriers across the roads they live on. Anyone wanting to proceed down the road must negotiate with these women to get the barriers lifted.
This would provide Japanese women with an opportunity to make easy money by charging people a fee to lift their barriers. It would thereby divert them from productive occupations. It would drive up the cost of travelling around the city, as people either took longer routes or paid the fees. And it would create feelings of resentment towards Japanese women.
This may sound fanciful. But it is precisely the situation that the Resource Management Act (RMA) has created with regard to resource consents and iwi. If you want to proceed with developing land near iwi, you may well have to pay iwi for permission to proceed. That easy money diverts Maori from more productive activity, drives up the cost of developing land and creates resentment towards Maori.
* * * * *
Nor does legal privilege do Maori any good over the long-run.
Allow me another analogy. Imagine that SANZAR, the body that administers the Super 15, decided that the Blues deserved a legal privilege. Whereas all the other teams will continue to earn 5 points for a try, the Blues will earn 10.
This would benefit Blues players over the short-term. They would win many more games than they now do. But giving the Blues this advantage in the rules would reduce their incentive to work hard on their skills and fitness. After a while, standards of play at the Blues would decline. Fewer Blues players would be selected for the All Blacks.
Return to those half-brothers I mentioned earlier: one Pakeha who will need an “A” to get into law school, one Maori who will need only a “C”. Which one is more likely to work hard at school? Which one is more likely to make the most of his potential?
Many Maori identify strongly with their culture. I have Maori friends who have learnt to speak Maori as adults, and they have been enriched by the experience. I see in them, and in other Maori I meet, a connection with their ancestry and with places in New Zealand lacked by many of us whose ancestors came here more recently – a connection that I envy.
But this should be a matter of complete indifference to the law. There are many cultures in New Zealand. People identify with all sorts of things. Some New Zealanders identify with their sexuality, some with their profession, some with their religion, some with their political beliefs and some – perhaps most – with nothing in particular.
The government should not select some of these “identities” as special and confer legal advantages on them. Culture should not be nationalised.
It is not only those in the non-favoured cultures who have reason to resist. Those in the nationalised culture have the most to lose.
Healthy cultures are dynamic. They evolve and adapt to the changing world. Becoming an “official”, government-sponsored culture is stultifying. What counts as Maori culture and worthy of state protection or promotion must be decided by politicians and bureaucrats under the influence of those who lobby them.
Just as Maori students do not benefit from being given an easy ride, Maori culture risks being crippled by its entanglement with the state. It risks becoming a quaint relic of the 19th century, good for tourists and “Maori leaders” on the take but of no relevance to young Maori of the 21st century.
* * * * *
Race-based favouritism is doing Maori no real good.
But even if it were, ACT would still oppose it. Because society should not be a racket, no matter who the beneficiaries are – be they men (who continue to enjoy legal privilege in many countries), the landed nobility or people of indigenous descent. Law-makers must be impervious to the special pleading of those who wish to set aside the principle of legal equality.
Alas, politicians from the other parties have not merely listened but acquiesced. New Zealand is awash with race-based law.
After the coming election, ACT’s MPs will work to have all race-based laws repealed. The precise mechanism or process must be decided once a government is formed. But the particular process followed is not as important as the goal.
There is no place for race in the law.
And there is no place for race-based laws in New Zealand.
Three Strikes: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Speech to ACT Members and Supporters
Dockside Restaurant, Queens Wharf, Wellington
Crime is on the decline, not just in New Zealand but across the Western World.
One simple reason is that crime is mainly committed by young people. And Western populations are getting older. A population with a smaller share of 16 to 30-year-olds is likely to have a lower crime rate.
On top of this, those few young people we still have are becoming more civilized. Contrary to media stories of binge-drinking and drug-taking, today’s youth are drinking less, smoking less, taking fewer drugs and staying at school longer. Nor do teenagers get pregnant as often as they used to.
Even if governments had done nothing about crime directly, we should be unsurprised by its decline. Yet governments have also contributed to falling crime rates.
In the UK, for example, crime rates had been climbing steadily since WWII. They peaked in the mid-1990s when John Major’s Conservative government began requiring judges to impose longer prison sentences. Tony Blair’s Labour government continued the “tough on crime” policy. Since the mid-1990s, the British prison population has doubled to 85,000 and the crime rate has more than halved. A similar story could be told for the United States.
National seeks credit for declining crime rate here in New Zealand. But they are not responsible for it. Declining crime here is caused in part by the aging and civilizing of the population, which isn’t National’s doing. And it is caused in part by a tougher sentencing. That isn’t National’s doing either.
The Three Strikes for violent crime policy is an ACT policy.
We looked at the successful three strike laws overseas and made modifications to ensure that no one convicted of stealing a pencil or smoking a joint would be sent to jail for life.
ACT’s Three Strikes policy was carefully designed to catch only repeat offenders who committed crimes of serious violence, including sexual violation.
When ACT campaigned on the policy in 2008 we met widespread hostility, not just from the political left but from a justice establishment that has swallowed the idea that the “criminals are victims too”.
The National Party now enthusiastically trumpet as their own what has become a highly successful policy. Yet in 2008 they were opposed to it. The then Justice Minister told his aides that New Zealand would have a Three Strikes law “over his dead body”. Well, we got the policy and, although Simon Power’s body did not expire, it did retire unexpectedly from politics.
At the time, Labour politicians quoted Kim Workman’s prediction that Three Strikes would fail to reduce crime and would result in our prisons over-flowing with new inmates.
Where are we today, four years after Three Strikes became law?
There are now over 4,000 first-strikers – aggravated robbers and rapists, very violent offenders whose crime carries a maximum sentence of at least 7 years. 4,000 is about what you would expect projecting the forward the 2010 number of violent crimes.
In accordance with the law, upon conviction, all of these first-strikers received a solemn warning from the Judge which goes something like this: You have been convicted of a “strike” offence. If you offend again you will receive a sentence to be served without parole. If you offend a third time, you will go to jail for the maximum time prescribed for the offence you are convicted of.
Here is a startling fact. Only 37 first-strikers have been convicted of a second such offence. This is a level of success that even ACT did not predict.
Why is it working? It is impossible to prove why offenders stop offending but the certain prospect of spending a long time in prison must be a major factor. Three Strikes for violent offending is working. The popular leftwing idea that criminals do not respond to incentives is absurd. It has been refuted so often that those persist in peddling it should be laughed out of court.
We know who the 37 second-strikers are. 46% of them have convictions for “strike” offences that were committed before the legislation came into effect, and therefore don’t count as “strikes”. 38% committed their first “strike” offence while on bail or parole. Of the first ten of the second-strikers, three committed their second “strike” offence while on bail awaiting sentence for the first. And their second strike offence was the same as their first.
These are very dangerous men. With the judge’s warning ringing in their ears, and before even being sentenced, they went out and committed exactly the same offence again. In two of the three cases the offence was indecent assault. Society is safer when such men are in jail.
Of those 37 second-strikers, nine are “on the street”. In most cases it is because of judicial leniency for strikes one and two.
Three Strikes was necessary because although Parliament has passed laws saying violent offenders should receive long prison sentences, the judiciary was taking no notice. Everyone deserves a second chance – even aggravated robbers. But they do not deserve five or ten chances.
Prior to Three Strikes the average offender had appeared in court eleven times before they were sent to prison. The average person never appears in court for a felony offence. These offenders had been to court eleven times and each appearance could have been for multiple offences.
Before Three Strikes dramatically changed the rules, an offender may have been convicted of 20 or 30 charges – many of them violent – before a judge finally decided to send him to jail. Violent offenders now get two chances and, if they show they cannot learn and offend similarly again, they go to jail for at least seven years.
If their third offence is an aggravated robbery or a rape, they go to jail for 14 or 20 years respectively, with no parole. This will be 14 or 20 years when law abiding members of the public can go about their business without being in danger from that particular thug.
What is the lesson? While National now happily takes credit for a measure that they only reluctantly agreed to, the government has not asked: “Is there another area where Three Strikes could also reduce crime?”
ACT says there is. Burglary is a crime where Three Strikes would be appropriate and successful.
Appropriate because burglary is out of control. It is an under-reported crime because the public knows there is a poor detection rate. Treasury estimates there are at least 115,000 burglaries a year, although only 55,000 are reported to the police – assuming police figures are honest, about which there is now some doubt.
Over four years, that is the equivalent of every household in Auckland being burgled. Over a lifetime in New Zealand, you will be lucky to go without being burgled at some point.
Burglary is a crime that disproportionately harms the poor in our society. Those of us who are well-off usually have insurance. If we are burgled it is extremely unpleasant – our refuge from the world has been violated and items of great sentimental value are often stolen along with the TV and the iPad.
But for less well-off people burglary is a disaster. Often the poor cannot afford insurance. If someone is on a benefit, the priority is feeding and clothing their children. Imagine the impact of a burglary on a solo mum who has scrimped and saved and bought her child an iPad so she can keep up with her peers. For that household, the burglary is a disaster.
Imagine the frustration that solo mum must feel when she goes to the police to report the burglary, only to be told that they do not have the resources to investigate the crime. The best they can offer is a claim number for her insurance – for insurance she has been unable to afford.
Burglars are a blight on our society but particularly for the poor.
Three strikes for burglary is also appropriate because a disproportionate number of burglaries are committed by professional burglars – criminals who have decided that burglary is a crime that pays.
One burglar appeared before the court earlier this year for sentence on his 389th and 390th burglary convictions. The sentences he received for his 388 previous convictions had obviously failed to either deter or prevent him from continuing to pursue his chosen career.
Here is how Three Strikes for burglary will work. On his first conviction for burglary the offender will receive a first warning from the judge. The sentence may or may not be custodial. If he goes to jail, he will be entitled to parole.
If the burglar is convicted a second time, the Judge will give him a final warning: do this again and you go to jail for at least three years. If there is a next time, the burglar will not be eligible for parole. He will serve the full three years.
Looking at the effects of our Three Strikes for violent crime policy and at the effects of similar policies overseas, we expect that this policy would reduce burglary by about a third: that is, by about 40,000 a year.
Perhaps you are not concerned about your own personal security. Then think of the elderly who feel unsafe in their own homes. Or the poor who cannot afford security systems or insurance and for whom burglary is devastating. They deserve your sympathy and your vote for this policy.
Those who go soft on penalties for crime because they reckon the criminals cannot help themselves show heartless insensitivity to the victims of crime. The poor woman whose home is invaded and her possessions stolen certainly can’t help it. Why should she be sacrificed to the half-baked and morally corrupt theorizing of affluent politicians?
National and Labour are not going to tackle burglary. Only a vote for ACT can reduce this scourge on our society.
We proved our critics wrong with Three Strikes for serious violent offences. The prison population didn’t explode. And try as they might, the journalists cannot find some poor urchin who has been locked up for seven or 10 years for stealing a chocolate bar. There never will be such a story.
Burglary has become a blight on our society because the risk for burglar is too low. Less than 3% of burglaries result in a conviction. Less than 1% result in a prison sentence. And the average prison sentence is only 15 months, half of which is served. A 1% chance of spending eight months in prison is insufficient deterrent.
Tougher sentencing would have stopped Mr. 390 before he caused so much misery, either by deterring him or by keeping him out of circulation for a greater portion of his criminal career.
We believe he should have been stopped years ago.
You can stop him and other professional burglars by voting ACT on 20 September.
Don Nicolson – ACT Candidate for Clutha Southland
Speech to ACT Southern Forum
July 20, 2014
Mr Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to address the ACT southern area conference today with this day being 63 days-yes 9 weeks out from the general election.
An election that will obviously not only define who is the government for the next 3 years and who will be the opposition but also define the future of the very party I am proud to represent ACT.
I want to acknowledge the presence of our party president John Thompson, our party leader Jamie Whyte and our Epsom candidate David Seymour who will win Epsom and the members and supporters here today. I note ACTs CE Lindsay Fergusson is also in attendance. But if you want a strong ACT representation in parliament you need more than David Seymour. You need him, plus at least 5 others. Then you might just get me as well!
How many party votes will that take? About 100000 is my guess; about 4 times more than last election.
Is it do-able? Well yes it is. In 1996 ACT was a new party polling less than 1% and with a hostile media. We ended up with over 6 % and 8 MP’s.
We gained about 145000 party votes that year. In fact ACT has achieved over 6% in 3 of the 6 MMP elections so far. If we could achieve 12500 party votes in the 5 electorates in this region then ACT is seriously on the road again. But we need many foot soldiers to get us there. In this region I need your help. I need you to unashamedly lobby your connections, help with localised billboard placement and oversight, and generally become much more mobilised.
ACT cannot be lackadaisical. While money really helps, it’s those small influences you can all exert that will, collectively make a huge difference. I have been asked to talk about why ACT principles are good for regional New Zealand and also link those principles to the primary industry that I have worked within all my life.
At the outset, I need to say that ACT is unique in our political landscape. We are absolutely different from the rest.
How is that so? Well, we are the only party promoting a better future with less government weighing us down. That is, ACT promotes a better, a heathier nation through less tax or regulatory burden. No other party has the courage and fortitude ACT has. Other parties might occasionally sound similar but drill deeper and they all have command and control tendencies, with those on the eco socialist left extremely dangerous.
We want the monopolistic influences in our country diminished. They are a handbrake on success and achievement. If the current regime of tax and spend works so well, then why is it that society seems so unhappy and desire more?
I say too much money filtered through the hands of monopolists is the root cause. They cannot deliver value no matter how they sell themselves. Their dead weight cost means a significant portion of each tax dollar is wasted. By deadweight, I mean the unearned costs imposed on the production of goods and services, including the loss of opportunity or growth of businesses throughout NZ.
So let’s go to the core specifics ACT has defined the voters are concerned about most in 2014.
Our surveillance has discovered that voters are concerned about their personal and their property security, their earning, saving and spending power and they know that we are seriously over burdened with regulations that impede enterprise.
Add to that voters have a valid concern about race based laws and the division they create.
So ACT will run a campaign about being tough on crime, about the benefit of low flat taxes, about why we need a One Country, One law ethic and how we will take the secateurs, no a machete to green tape.
How will these policies help regional New Zealand and the primary sector? It is clear that without secure property rights being upheld, criminals can run riot over the property of others and they are. It is thought about 120,000 burglaries happen each year with only about 55,000 of these reported and less than 30% have offenders apprehended. It is thought these invasions of property cost individuals over $1billion a year. ACT says it’s a core government role to have citizens feel secure and so ACT says stronger deterrents to criminals are vital.
ACT’s 3 strikes for burglary and you are ‘in’ strikes at the heart of those who wish to disrespect the property of others. For those in the pastoral heartland it has been assessed that on top of burglary stock theft costs their industry over $120 million per year. ACT wants far tougher penalties for these rural invasions too with additional powers to confiscate weapons and vehicles from offenders caught. ACT policy is a circuit breaker to crime.
And what of low flat taxes and the benefits that will bring the regions or the primary sector?
ACT says it’s too easy for the executive powers of the state to co-erce revenue from citizens under the guise of protecting those same citizens, when in fact much of the revenue desire is to mask the expansion of the Crown, the ultimate monopolist. That’s why from the day of formation ACT has promoted a low flat tax regime. We know that the dead weight cost of a government collected and spent dollar compares poorly with a dollar spent privately. ACT’s research has shown that the much desired economic growth expectation by government can be achieved much quicker with our lower and flat tax regime.
It’s not hard, and in fact won’t create hardship for anyone in mainstream, but it might affect a few surplus government servants; as it should.
In 1999 when Helen Clark came to office, total Crown revenue was $39 billion, when she was deposed in 2008 that total was $81billion, last year $86 billion. During the same periods total Crown spending went from $39 billion to $83 billion in 2008 and was $91 billion last year. Distilling these figures to each citizen is eye watering with a gross debt per head now at almost $18000. Four times greater than Turkey and six times greater than war torn Egypt!
With this level of Crown expansion you would think society would be happy, but it’s not. It seems there is never enough in the kitty for health, education or security. And worse the Crown is getting into the middle classes and business with additional welfare.
The drug of Crown welfare has them hooked, but ACT knows going cold turkey doesn’t have to be destructive or painful as it was for the primary sector 1984/5. Individuals in that sector, if they are true to themselves know that any privilege gained unfairly can be easily taken away. So with a low flat tax regime in place enterprise in regions and primary industry would advance on merit once again. ACT knows that; most citizens think that too, but governments of the recent past just don’t trust citizens to make smart choices.
Much is made of regional development with government financial inducements to regions or industry seen as a saviour rather than for what they are; a bribe for the overtaxing and over regulatory effect of policy.
ACT says leave more money in the pockets of those who earn it and our regions’, towns and cities will be much better off. An example: I pay about $800 per year to Southland economic development agency. I don’t like that because I can’t refuse to pay it; I don’t get to choose how it is spent; I don’t get any dividend or even a share certificate, but the next year that same agency can come back for another $800 or more. It’s never less!
As for Green tape mixed up with red, well, where do I start?
I daresay first principles for regional or primary industry sustainability would be to suggest that limiting the state would actually help. Stating the bleeding obvious I expect. But there are people who think that there is protein, in fact sustenance in a silicon chip. They don’t want to understand that everything we enjoy today has its genesis from revenues generated by harvest of the environment. That’s right; it doesn’t matter whether you are Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer, the All Blacks or Barrack Obama, nothing occurs without resources harvested to develop trade and currency. Everything else occurs because of, not in spite of the harvest of the land, the sea and the scenery.
The Greens would have us believe that resource rentals are required but that’s because they don’t understand rent is already paid by trade in open markets.
Those in IT might say ‘oh we don’t use resources’. Well by proxy they do because in general terms their fantastic outputs are generally used to make resource use more efficient.
No bureaucrat can say they don’t use resources; they do and worse, those same bureaucrats never replace anything that they consume. Think about that? They do not replace anything they consume. Which means ladies and gentlemen that what the bureaucrat consumes, must be replaced by the private sector? Can anybody come up with a better reason for voting for a light handed Government delivering only what is required.
So why do we let them regulate and add cost to individuals and enterprise the way they do?
I could talk at length about regulations and rules and the effect on local communities or primary industry.
Immediately I think of the Resource Management Act and how it damages communities by impeding aspiration or why it doesn’t have a full compensation for takings clause, or how I think the Local Government Act is applied and more especially why the funding of local government is crooked. I think of road funding on a less than fair entire network basis and I think of the explosion of health and safety compliance police numbers. I think of the very politicised water quality discussion and how one sided and destructive those with agendas have become and I think of how ACC should be opened to competition and so much more.
But I want to talk about the biggest nonsense of all; climate change or, as I like to call it, climate variation and the wasteful New Zealand response. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) or a Carbon Tax, neither can achieve anything useful. That is unless one makes their livelihood out of promulgating the lie.
My first brush with a prospect of carbon dioxide trading prospect goes back to about 1990 when a farm forestry magazine mentioned the concept and that was about the time of the first Rio Conference. It might pay to remember that in early 1980’s global cooling was the issue as was the ozone hole over Antarctica. Fast forward to about 2002 and my role in Federated Farmers, we learn that Helen Clark was serious about signing up to the Kyoto Protocol.
That led to me leading the largest farmer rally in 2003 where we fought and won against the Clark governments intention to enact an animal burp, belch and pee tax emission tax humorously called FART ( fight against ridiculous taxes). The Labour party did not desist and pushed for a carbon tax. They failed again but by 2008 they were able to enact an ETS. The National Party was in huge opposition, or that’s what it seemed.
But while the nats have modified the impact on all citizens the cost of the current ETS is still with us. For all the rhetoric about being fast followers we are still ahead of every other nation and so we find ourselves today in a very lonely international club of one with our, all sectors all gases, ETS.
While our neighbours Australia have just killed off their Carbon Tax we still have our ETS. I find it abhorrent that the promoters of such schemes have played with citizens minds by promoting a fear of the future, any future. Dictators would be proud. The merchants of fear said that increasing carbon dioxide would become catastrophic and that any international inaction would result in irreversible climate change.
Well in spite of their assertions and with atmospheric CO2 rising well past the magical 350ppm mark evidence shows that the world has not warmed for the last 17 years. Evidence enough to say man made emissions of CO2 is not a dangerous causal factor to global temperatures.
Further climate models never predicted this ‘stop’ in temperature rise. The models are worthless, only good for the doomsayers. Sea level rise is small and not in acceleration mode.
I could go on but ACT says that until all the unanswered questions are answered without political bias or scientific corruption then any money spent attempting to alter climate is wasteful and doing nothing is more appropriate.
Leave citizens to make their own choice about where they live and work and further, leave them the resources to adapt and build their own resilience to whatever is ahead.
ACT would want the ETS ‘gone by lunchtime’ and any idea of a carbon tax dismissed for the nonsense it would be.
But I will leave the last word to a political columnist from Australia, Dan Aitken who last week wrote as that country repealed its carbon tax:
First, no country can have a sensible policy on climate by itself, because climate is not governed by national boundaries. Second, not even the UN can have a sensible policy, because climate is not governed by laws and regulations. Third, we can do something about the effects of weather, which is much more concern to everyone because weather is local, and affects our daily life. Fourth, but we can’t stop weather, or even predict it with any great success, because we lack deep knowledge about the basic components of weather (and climate). Fifth, it may be that we will never possess such knowledge. Sixth, the evidence continues to mount that carbon dioxide is not, after all, the control knob of the planet’s temperature, and if it is not, then the preceding reasons become overwhelming.
Fantastic lines that help me rest my case.
So back to the question the chairman asked me to talk about. Is regional New Zealand different than metropolitan NZ? Is Primary industry sector different? Should ACT have policy for each?
ACT principles, if widely adopted would not discriminate against any sector, any region, any city, any colour, any religion or any creed. ACT is sector neutral economically and colour blind socially. ACT vision is about giving individuals equal opportunity through less government. Opportunity where an individual can make their own choice about how they can control their destiny; not have it controlled for them by the executive.
As a farmer I controlled stock by using dogs, quad bikes and fences. So I used overt coercion over a weaker species to gain control and then income.
That’s what our current governance model is too; putting individuals into herds or flocks, weakening their resolve or enterprise and then managing their daily requirements by offering welfare inducements to maintain power.
It’s shameful, it’s unacceptable but it is happening in front of our eyes.
Why do voters like the herd mentality? Why do they like the coercive power of the executive over their own liberty and freedom?
One wonders why our forebears fought so hard for liberty, freedom and the property right when their children haven’t appreciated their quest.
How have the socialistic tendencies of the herd become so oppressive, so stifling to those of us who know there is a better way, those of us who value freedom?
Well I know; it’s about the constant diminution of the common law property right. But that’s for discussion another day.
But why are policies that almost had Dr Brash as Prime Minister in 2005 for the National party now not talked about by that same party?
It’s clear to me they have allowed themselves to be so corrupted, so scared of the eco socialistic and extreme left they cannot stay true to themselves. They have been pulled so left only ACT can save them, save us all.
Predominantly it is any two tick Nat whose heart and mind ACT has to influence and wrest back our lost support. There’s little chance of winning over any voters of the more predatory left.
We need to get them ( National voters that is ) to understand their smarter and more powerful voting strategy would be to split their vote because it would allow the National Party to be held closer to its core values rather than be pulled further into socialistic mire.
ACT wants a better way and so do the Nats.
ACT knows the better way.
ACT can be a powerful influence for making this fine country better
A Party vote for ACT is the influential choice- the right choice.
I implore you to help make it happen. Be proud to tell your mates to Party Vote ACT September 20th and make New Zealand a better place.
Speech to the Scenic South Conference
Dr Jamie Whyte
20 July 2014
Click here for a downloadable version of this policy.
ACT has a new proposal to make our democracy more accountable. The proposal may seem small but it could be the most significant idea in this election.
Policies such as the one I am announcing today, which change the behaviour of politicians, have greater long term effects than any particular proposals for this or that government activity, such as giving school children laptops, subsidising solar panels and the rest of the little tax-funded bribes the other parties trade in.
A proposal to reform New Zealand’s government accounts was hardly noticed in the 1993 election campaign. Yet the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1994 has had a profound effect on how New Zealand is governed. Government accounts are now transparent and neither Labour nor National wants to be responsible for a deficit. The Fiscal Responsibility Act is probably the real reason why the government books will be back in the black by next year.
ACT’s fresh idea could be as influential as the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
* * * * *
Sir Geoffrey Palmer famously opined that the New Zealand parliament is the fastest lawmaker in the West. He was referring to the absence of checks and balances: the lack of a written constitution or second chamber of review. Laws can be introduced and passed in minutes. And they have been. An unsurprising example was a 1987 law to increase MPs’ superannuation. It passed through all stages of the legislative process, from introduction to becoming law, in seven minutes flat.
Had Sir Geoffrey not been of a socialist bent he might have pointed out that this legislative ease also made New Zealand lawmakers the fastest spenders in the West. In no other Western democracy is it so easy to spend taxpayers’ money. New spending proposals go through with minimal scrutiny or public debate.
Helen Clark’s Labour government increased government spending by 35%. In 1999 government spending was $15,500 per person. By 2008 Clark’s labour government had increased this to $21,000. (Both figures expressed in 2014 dollars.)
Do you remember any great obstacles being put in their way? Did Clark and her cabinet struggle to get their spending proposals past constitutional barriers or a sceptical parliament, media and public?
When government spending is being increased by 35% over a 9 year period, you might hope that political alarm bells would be ringing, lights flashing and barriers coming down. But nothing of the sort happened.
Increasing government spending by 35% was politically easy.
It shouldn’t be. Because, beyond a certain low level, government spending is a bad thing.
The most obvious reason is that government spending must be funded from taxation. Taxation transfers money from private individuals to the government. That transfer in itself costs society nothing. The taxpayer loses a dollar; the government gains a dollar. Nevertheless, taxation imposes a massive costs on society because it makes many productive activities unprofitable (by adding costs to them) and makes many unproductive activities profitable, such as employing a tax lawyer to rearrange you company’s affairs to reduce your tax bill.
This deadweight cost of tax is difficult to estimate but, for a country with a tax code like New Zealand’s, it is probably in the range of 25% to 50%. For every dollar transferred from taxpayers to the government, economic output is reduced by 25 to 50 cents. A less taxed population would be a richer population, before tax as well as after tax.
The second problem with government spending is that it usually replaces private spending. When you spend your own money on yourself you are likely to buy only what you value and only when you think it worth the price. When a government buys goods and services for you, these outcomes are unlikely.
Indeed, taken to extremes, profligate government spending can wreck an economy. Greece is the most obvious recent example. But several other European countries are struggling to get out of the holes dug for them by over-spending governments. After decades of governmental largesse, the French and Italian economies have near-zero growth and high unemployment rates, especially among the young. Youth unemployment in France is 24%. In Italy it is 35%. In their low-tax, low-spending, light-regulation neighbour, Switzerland, youth unemployment is 3%.
Nor is the problem restricted to national governments. After decades of over-spending administrations, California is almost bust. The excessive taxes it must now charge are driving businesses to other states – often to low-spending, low-taxing Texas. Here in New Zealand, Len Brown is spending Auckland City into a fiscal crisis.
* * * * *
Why then is there so little public resistance to increased government spending?
One reason is misrepresentation of the costs.
Whether from duplicity or economic ignorance, politicians never discuss the deadweight cost of the taxes entailed by government spending. They never make the point I have just made – that, beyond a very low level, taxes do not merely shift money around but reduce total output.
Nor are the costs of government spending described in a way that most people can understand. The policy of not charging interest on student loans costs about $670 million a year.
In the grand scheme of things, is that a lot? Most people wouldn’t have a clue, even if they knew the $670 million figure.
The problem with such numbers is not only that they are incomprehensibly large but they seem distant, almost unreal. They are merely book-keeping entries in the accounts of the government.
But they are not really distant issues. Such spending is the cause of our taxes, which is real money that we no longer have to spend as we choose. For example, if not for interest-free student loans, the top rate of income tax could be reduced from 33% to 30%. Or the 17.5% rate could be 16%. Or the corporate tax rate could be reduced from 28% to 25%. That is a remarkably big difference made by just one apparently trivial spending policy.
Such revelations will mean something to people. If you know that interest-free student loans are adding 3 percentage points to the tax rate you pay, you get a sense of what it costs – a much better sense than telling you that it costs $670 million, if you ever get told even this.
ACT believes that taxpayers should know the price of any spending policy of the national government or a local council in a metric that is relevant to them.
* * * * *
To this end, ACT proposes an Honesty for Taxpayers policy.
On this policy, regulatory impact statements, cabinet submissions and ministers’ introductory speeches for Bills in parliament will need to state clearly that “but for this proposal, your income tax rate would be X percentage points lower”.
When taxpayers visit the website of any government agency or local council and any programme of that agency, they should have a clear idea of the price of that agency in their taxes or rates.
Government departments and agencies should be required to declare on their home webpage “but for this agency, your income tax rate would be X% lower”.
Similar rules should apply to local governments. They should be required to reveal how much lower rates would be if not for a particular new policy proposal or existing service of the Council.
If a minister, department, agency or local council believes that the programmes it administers do indeed offer value for money to taxpayers, they should be proud to say how they are putting taxes to work in the clearest way taxpayers can understand.
For example, the government should be keen to alert taxpayers that, without Working for Families:
· the 17.5% income tax rate would be 12.5% OR
· the 10.5% income tax rate would be 3.5%.
The Minister for Tertiary Education should be keen to remind everyone that, if not for interest-free student loans
· the 17.5% income tax rate be would 16% OR
· the 28% company tax would be 25% OR
· the 33% top income tax rate would be 30%.
The Minister for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) should be keen to announce that, if not for its policy of dispensing corporate welfare
· the 28% company tax rate would be 21% OR
· the 33% top income tax rate would be 27% OR
· the 17.5% tax rate would be 14.5%.
If you do not know what something costs, you cannot know if it is worth the price. Good decision-making depends on good information. In a democracy, this means that voters must be reminded of how much they are paying for government activities.
Politicians from the big spending parties will oppose this policy. That shows what a good idea it is. The bureaucracy will also resist it, because voters will be surprised to realise that much new spending is generated by bureaucrats. MPs and councillors will be more reluctant to just wave through spending when the information is publicly available.
By using the tools of the information age ACT seeks to make our elected representatives more accountable and allow citizens to participate in a more meaningful way.
I am pleased to lead a party with fresh ideas and practical solutions to the real issues.
Speech to ACT Northern Regional Conference
28 June 2014
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for coming today.
Some of you are probably here because we picked this lovely spot to hold the meeting.
It’s a good thing for us and for the members of the Takapuna Boating Club that it was built before 1991, when the Resource Management ACT was passed. Today it might not get planning consent.
Who knows if it would count as respecting the “intrinsic value of the environment”? It might not even be sustainable.
Some people I talk to are surprised to learn that the RMA was passed by a National government. They shouldn’t be.
For although the National Party in opposition claims to believe in personal responsibility, individual choice and fiscal discipline, in government they turn into the Labour Party.
If you did not know the election results, but could see only the policies pursued over the last 15 years, you would think that Helen Clark’s Labour Party was still in power.
Labour increased government spending dramatically. This National government has sustained it, increasing government debt to 35% of GDP in the process.
Labour employed tens of thousands of new bureaucrats. National has kept them in their jobs, beavering away, paid from our taxes to impose even more burdens on us.
Labour made tens of thousands of middle-class families welfare beneficiaries with their Working for Families money-go-round. These families are still being taxed to fund their conversion into state supplicants.
Labour bribed university students with interest free loans. National has kept slipping the envelopes under the table, despite the cost of the programme exploding to more than $500 million a year.
Bill English has actually boasted that under National high-earners pay a greater share of total taxation than they did under Labour.
Only two policies would surprise someone who didn’t know Labour had been kicked out: three strikes for violent crime and partnership schools. And they are both ACT policies.
Voters now face a choice between a Clinton-Blair-Clark-style “Third Way” Centre Left party. That’s National.
An old-fashioned, trades union-dominated, central-planning Labour Party.
A Watermelon Party – Green on the outside and red on the inside.
The Internet-Mana Party, which combines the racial politics of Hone Harawera with the socialism of Laila Harre.
A Muldoonist, anti-trade, anti-foreigner New Zealand First.
A Muldoonist, anti-trade, anti-foreigner Conservative Party.
ACT is the only party in New Zealand that truly believes in free markets. The only party that believes in property rights. The only party that believes in individual liberty and personal responsibility. The only party that believes in a small state and a big individual.
Nowhere is this more evident than in education policy, which is what I want to discuss today.
- The importance of Education
Education has become more important than ever. All around the world, the incomes of the well-educated are rising rapidly while the incomes of uneducated people are stagnating.
This is a predictable result of technological progress. Physical labour and physical strength have become relatively unimportant.
What matters now are your intellectual and social abilities, both of which can be greatly improved by a good education.
Many New Zealand children are well educated. We have some excellent schools here. But we also have a large rump of failure.
The OECD’s 2013 international rankings placed New Zealand 15 year olds at 18th in Science, down from 7th in 2009. It placed us 23rd in Maths, down from 13th. 13th in reading, down from 7th.
It’s disappointing that the ranking of our average student is declining. But our mediocre averages disguise an even more unpleasant fact.
The difference between our best students and our worst is the biggest in the OECD. Our average is average only because our best are very good. Our underperforming students are doing really badly. About 15% leave school almost illiterate.
If we cannot improve the educations supplied to those now being failed, they will fall farther and farther behind well-educated New Zealanders. They won’t have a real chance to get ahead in life. And New Zealand’s overall economic growth will be slowed.
This economic view of education will be familiar. But it doesn’t go far enough.
Education is not important merely for your standard of living. It runs deeper than that. Education forms you. It is part of what makes you the person you are.
I’ll name some of the teachers who have contributed not only to my progress in life but to who I am.
There was Mr Heath, my Standard 2 teacher at Melon’s Bay Primary. He was a long haired sax-playing jazz musician who inspired an enduring love of music in me.
Mr Taimana at Buckland’s Beach Intermediate taught a few of us University Entrance maths even though we were only 12, and made me realize that we are often capable of more than we realize.
Miss Stevens, my history teacher at Pakuranga College, made me understand that the way we live today is not just a natural fact but the result of big ideas that have been battled over for centuries.
Then my philosophy lecturers at Auckland and Cambridge taught me how to be truly boring at parties.
Most of you here could probably name teachers who have been similarly important influences. But many New Zealanders couldn’t. And their baron educational experiences have impoverished them, not just materially but spiritually.
Once people are fed, clothed, housed and loved, nothing is more important to them than their educations.
- What’s wrong with our education system
Food, clothing and housing are provided by competing private suppliers, and sometimes even love. But, for the most part, education is not. 85% of children attend a state school.
State schools face no serious competition.
If a supermarket fails to provide its customers with the food they want, it will go broke. Other supermarkets that offer these dissatisfied customers a better deal will win their business.
The same goes for the farms that produce the food. Fail to provide what your customers want as efficiently as your competitors do and you will eventually go bust.
This ongoing competitive market process explains why the quality of food has improved so much over the last 100 years while the cost has declined.
By contrast, if a state school fails to provide educations that satisfy the parents of their pupils, it will not shut down. Its income does not come from the parents it is failing to satisfy. It comes from taxpayers with no choice in the matter.
Indeed, if a school performs poorly, it is likely to attract extra government funding. In the private sector, resources flow into success; in the public sector they flow into failure.
In a free market, what counts as a good product or service is decided by consumers. It’s up to them what they spend their money on.
Because consumers have different needs and preferences, free markets tend to result in a great variety of products being offered. Think of the extraordinary range of tastes that are catered to by restaurants and food retailers in New Zealand.
When market competition is replaced with state supplied goods and services, consumers’ preferences do not determine what gets offered. The preferences of government ministers and bureaucrats do.
We do not get a variety of educational offerings tailored to the different needs and preferences of children and their parents. We get a standardized, one-size-fits-all educational model.
And, as always with one-size-fits all models, state education in New Zealand now fits only a few children.
Who are those children?
They are children with well-off, well-educated parents.
Parents who can afford to buy a house near to a school that will do a good job for their child.
Parents who have the confidence to lobby for changes to curriculums and teaching methods that would suit their children better.
Parents who can afford to pay the fees of private schools, which do face competitive pressure to supply educations which suit their customers.
The children of poor parents have none of these advantages. That’s why their children get educations that don’t suit them. That’s why there is a strong correlation between educational performance and the “income decile” of the neighbourhood around a school.
Many people blame this correlation on the poor families themselves. Their children just cannot be taught.
That is offensive bullshit. Poor children can be taught. Talented teachers, free to adapt their methods to the needs of their students have shown this time and time again.
My PhD supervisor at Cambridge was the son of a British Rail steward and a mother who didn’t work outside the home. His family would now be described as living in poverty. Yet his education at Manchester Grammar School was so successful that he went on to obtain first class honours degrees in chemistry and engineering at Cambridge University before becoming a philosophy lecturer there only three years after taking up the subject.
The grammar schools of pre-politically correct England are not the only examples of educational excellence for the poor. As a recent Economist Magazine survey showed, charter schools in America clearly outperform state schools.
In New Zealand, the Nick Hyde’s Vanguard Academy and Alwyn Poole’s South Auckland Middle School, for examples, are showing what committed and creative principals can do to lift standards.
Imagine the progress we might see if educators were set fee. If the likes of Nick Hyde and Alwyn Poole were not the exception but the norm.
Imagine how much better education could be if it were provided in the way food is provided in New Zealand rather than the way it was provided in the Soviet Union.
- ACT’s long term education policy
ACT thinks education should be provided in a market of competing suppliers. That has always been our position.
It does not mean that we are opposed to the state funding of education. Not at all. We share the almost universally accepted idea that all children should get a decent chance in life, whatever the circumstances of their birth.
But that doesn’t mean that the state must provide educations, that it must run schools.
The unemployed are now guaranteed food by the state.
This is not done by way of state farms and state supermarkets. It is done by way of cash payments which the unemployed can use to buy food from privately owned and commercially run supermarkets which get their produce from privately owned and commercially run farms.
No sane and informed person believes that the unemployed or the working poor would be better off if the food industry were nationalized. Pre-communist Russia was known as the bread basket of Europe. The Soviet Union relied on food-aid from its arch-rival, the capitalist United States of America.
The same goes for clothes, housing, computers, shoes and just about everything else. No one would expect quality or value-for-money to be improved if these industries were nationalized and we all got what government bureaucrats believed we deserved. And no one would think that nationalizing them was a way to help the poor.
ACT believes the same is true of education. The state should make sure that every child gets an education. But that education should be supplied by educators competing for parents’ voluntarily patronage. Educators should have to win the business of willing customers, just as supermarkets do, just as clothes stores do and just as builders do.
Government should make sure that every child gets an education by providing all parents with a voucher, redeemable at any school of their choosing. Otherwise the government should have no more involvement in the education business than it has in the food business.
ACT’s Policy for 2014
That’s what we want. But what can we now do about it?
What can we seriously hope to get past the National Party in a confidence and supply deal?
With Partnership Schools, we have already made a step in the right direction.
Partnership schools are largely free from Ministry of Education direction. They are free to adopt educational models that suit their pupils. They can employ who they want and pay them what they want.
Most importantly, their funding depends on how many students they attract. Their fortunes depend on the decisions of their pupils’ parents.
Unfortunately, we have taken only a small step in the right direction. Five partnership schools were opened this year. And another five are expected to open next year. And these few schools come under constant attack for being additional to the current stock of state schools and therefore reducing the funds available to them.
The answer is to give all state schools the option of become partnership schools. School boards should be allowed to opt out of control by the Ministry of Education, and be bulk-funded according to the number of students they can attract.
This policy entails no additional government spending.
Just more freedom for teachers to adapt their methods to their students.
More freedom for schools to innovate.
More choice for parents and students.
And no school board that doesn’t want these freedoms would be forced to have them. School Boards that wish to stay under Ministry of Education direction could choose to do so.
However, I expect that a large portion would choose to be free. And that we would see dramatic improvements in the performance of schools, especially those teaching children from poor families.
ACT has other education policies. For example, we want to slash the number of bureaucrats working in the Ministry of Education – which has swollen to 2,700 – and give the money saved to schools. And we want to increase the subsidy for independent schools. That won’t cost taxpayers anything extra because it will draw pupils out of the state sector.
These and other proposals will be explained in our Education Policy Document which will published on Friday. They are all good moves. But they are small beer compared to giving all schools the choice to become partnership schools.
* * * * *
When I took over the leadership of ACT, some commentators portrayed me as a new captain on the Titanic after it had been holed by an iceberg. If they were referring to Banksy’s troubles with Kim Dotcom, they got their nautical metaphor wrong. Though Dotcom resembles something from the sea, it isn’t an iceberg.
More importantly, ACT is not a ship. It is a torch for an idea. I am proud to have picked up that torch. For the idea is the most powerful idea, the most beautiful idea in the history of human affairs. It is the idea of freedom.
Speech delivered to ACT members
10.30am, Sunday 18 May
Andiamo Café, Herne Bay
ACT will be voting to pass the budget as part of our supply agreement with National. Having seen the alternative proposals of Labour and the Greens this week, we are certain we made the right choice to provide the National government with a supply agreement that has given the country stable government.
However, this is not the budget ACT would have produced.
Last weekend, I published ACT’s alternative budget. By eliminating $4 billion of corporate and middleclass welfare, we could reduce the top rate of personal income tax from 33% to 24% and the company tax rate from 28% to 24%.
These calculations were based on Treasury figures then available. Following Thursday’s budget and the announcement of $1 billion more government spending, I can today announce that we have redone the numbers and ACT’s alternative budget would now reduce company tax rate from 28% to 20%.
Cutting the corporate tax rate is not a vote winner. Focus groups do not identify it as the issue that most concerns them. It doesn’t even get into the top 10. But nothing would do more to boost economic growth and prosperity in New Zealand. With a top personal income tax rate of 24% and company tax rate of 20%, New Zealand’s long-run growth rate would rise from 2.5% to 5%. In 15 years, our incomes would double.
Yet National has decided instead to content itself with half the economic growth and spray $1 billion around in election bribes:
· Extended paid parental leave
· Free GP visits for children under 13
· An interest-free loan of $375 million for New Zealand Transport Agency for Auckland transport projects
· A further $198 million injection into Kiwirail to make its freight operations commercially viable, taking the cost of bailing out the state company to more than $1 billion.
None of this spending will accelerate economic growth. On the contrary, it will slow growth.
Taxes reduce the rewards of being productive, and tax-funded consumption reduces the cost of being unproductive. The more the government takes and gives, the less incentive we have to invest, innovate and work.
There is nothing is this budget to encourage people to work more, invest more, save more, study more and train more. Has the National Party quietly given up on closing the income gap with Australia?
Tax-and-spend is also morally corrosive. I attended the Canterbury University Societies Open Day in March. A student approached me and asked what ACT was going to do for students. I told him that we were going to reduce the top rate of tax. If he did well at university, got a good job and earned a high salary, he would keep more of the money he earned.
This wasn’t the answer he was looking for. He wanted his fees reduced. In fact, he had been impressed by Winston Peters tertiary education policy on which fees would be zero, with the cost of providing a university education borne entirely by taxpayers.
Even without knowing these taxpayers, their situations, personal ambitions and so on, he believed that any who refused to pay for his degree ought to be imprisoned (that being what eventually happens to someone who refuses to pay her taxes). He wanted me to take money from people by force and give it to him. He seemed to believe that living in a democracy was something akin to being born into a mafia family. You get a say in who is going to be extorted and you can get your hands on a share of the proceeds.
He should have been ashamed of himself. But, of course, he wasn’t. Far from it. He believed himself to be the virtuous one, and me to be some kind of dark and heartless worshipper of mammon.
Last week someone from Young Labour responded to our proposal to reintroduce interest on student loans by pointing out in a blog post that I am Jewish, and that Jews care about nothing but money. When someone suggested that he should not display such anti-Semitism, he replied that normally he would not express racism but that my wickedness really did require him to call a spade a spade – or a Jew a Jew, in this case.
Alas, this entitlement mentality and the twisted morality that attends it is now so entrenched and widespread that it is taken as nothing more than plain common sense.
Last Saturday, I appeared on TV3’s The Nation to debate the other minor party leaders prior to the budget. Linda Clark was on the panel that discussed our performance afterwards. Without any argument or evidence, she dismissed my detailed plans for cutting corporate and middle-class welfare and reducing tax rates as “mad”. It was just obvious to her that low government spending and low taxes is a mad idea.
Guyon Espiner interviewed me on Radio New Zealand a few days later. He claimed that by cutting the top rate of tax from 33% to 24% I was making a gift to people who earn over $70,000. This language is used all the time but it is bizarre. Of course, the government could tax all the money you earn. But it does not follow that your post-tax income is a gift from the government. You might as well argue that your TV is a gift from your local burglar because he has chosen not to steal it.
These journalists are not biased. They have simply internalized the prevailing economic ideas in New Zealand. During that debate on The Nation it became clear that all my opponents, with the possible exception of Peter Dunne, did not believe in private property.
On the topic of Auckland house prices, Winston Peters claimed that “we are selling our houses to foreigners”. When I pointed out that houses are not collectively owned and that individual New Zealanders were selling their houses to whomever they chose, he insisted that I was wrong about this. And, as you can imagine, Russel Norman and John Minto agreed that the government should decide who you may sell your house to – or, in other words, they agreed that it is not really your house.
Russel Norman’s enthusiasm for the State is so great that he believes not only that all property is the creature of the state but that all children are too. When I suggested that paid parental leave should be abolished, he claimed that this would mean no more children being born in New Zealand.
These are reasons to be very happy we have a National led government. But they are also reasons to be disappointed by National and this budget. National is all too willing to buy votes by giving taxpayers’ money to groups they think will respond favourably. National does not share ACT’s principled objection to this corruption of democracy.
National reveals it confusion about the proper role of government not only in this budget’s spending hikes but in one of its cuts. While blowing an extra billion on middle class and corporate welfare they plan to cut spending on courts by $31 million, and on corrections by $100 million.
The police budget has been frozen for the fifth consecutive year, and Government has no plan to increase it before 2018. Accounting for inflation, that’s a cut.
ACT believes that fighting crime is the first duty of the State. That’s why we have already announced our policy of three-strikes and you’re in for burglary. There are 115,000 burglaries a year in New Zealand.
The government could reduce that dramatically by putting career burglars in prison. Alas, like Labour, National prefers to use taxpayers’ money to dress up like Santa Claus. Keeping people safe in their homes does not look like a gift from the Government. Paying for you to have time off work does.
National is a party of “buts". Yes, we believe in low taxes, but … Yes, we believe in personal responsibility, but … Yes, we are tough on crime, but …
Well, National should get off their “buts". When ACT returns to parliament with nine MPs in September, we’ll be able to make them.
Last year there were more than 52,000 reported burglaries. According to the Treasury, for every 10 reported burglaries, there are another 12 that go unreported. This means there were more than 120,000 burglaries last year – or over 2000 a week.
The public suspect the police give burglary a low priority. That is why so many uninsured victims do not report the crime. With less than15 percent of reported burglaries are “cleared up”, they know they have little prospect of getting their possessions back.
The courts also give burglary low priority.
The maximum sentence for burglary is ten years. But even professional burglars who head professional gangs never get anything like this maximum sentence. In 2012 a man with 388 prior convictions for burglary got a mere 2 years and 9 month sentence when convicted for burglaries number 389 and 390.
With a 15% apprehension rate and such absurdly soft sentencing, burglary is a low risk, high reward enterprise. It is no wonder that many find it an attractive career.
Both major parties also give burglary low priority.
National is claiming credit for falling crime rates, saying it is because they are “tackling the causes of crime”. Yet they cannot name a single “cause of crime” they have tackled.
Violent crime is falling because ACT’s “three strikes and the maximum prison sentence” is working.
Labour and The Greens’ prediction that three strikes would result in our prisons being filled with innocent people who had merely touched someone have proven false.
Instead, we have 4,000 people on one strike, 32 on two strikes and not a single person convicted of a third strike offence since the ACT policy was made law in 2010. That looks like pretty effective deterrence.
The Greens and Labour support the system of infringement points leading to lost licenses because it deters bad driving. But, for no apparent reason, they believe that a system of strikes leading to years of imprisonment doesn’t work. Well, there is plenty of evidence from New Zealand and abroad that it does.
Yet burglary is the most serious crime that people are likely to experience and public concern about the crime is widespread.
Over two thousand families will come home after this Easter Weekend to discover that burglars have robbed their homes.
If they are lucky they will just have lost their TVs, computers, cell phones, jewelry and cash. If they are unlucky the burglars will have trashed the home.
If they have insurance then the victims can claim. But they will discover the insurance company requires new locks, security screens, burglar alarms and, for commercial clients, possibly even the hiring of security guards.
Because successive governments have failed to do their primary job of providing for the secure use of our property, we must pay private firms to protect us against thieves. First we pay with our taxes and then we pay again because our taxes have been poorly spent.
Half of those who are robbed this Easter Weekend have no insurance. There will be students, beneficiaries, pensioners and other families who will lose everything they own. It happens every day.
Many will be traumatized. I know of people who, having been burgled, never feel safe again. No dead locks, sensor lights or alarms let them sleep well. The emotional cost of burglary is incalculable, but it is real.
When I was elected Leader of the ACT Party I said at our conference that we were considering a three-strikes policy for burglary, similar to our three-strikes policy for violent crime. I was attacked by commentators who said the idea was half-baked.
ACT has carefully researched the policy.
Three strikes for burglary was introduced to England and Wales in 1999. As in New Zealand, burglary was out of control and given a low priority by the police and the courts. A Labour government passed a three strikes law whereby a third conviction for burglaries earned a mandatory three years in prison.
Burglary in England has fallen by 35 percent.
There are reasons to believe the law will work even better here. In England there are professional criminals who come across from Europe to conduct crimes and their previous convictions are often unknown to authorities. And the English law allows parole for third strike offences.
ACT has consulted with experts on the likely cost to the taxpayer. Our view is that any increase in prison population will be moderate. Indeed, if it has the deterrent effect we expect, it may ultimately decrease the prison population. Four years after becoming law, that seems to be the effect of our policy of three strikes for violent crime.
Unlike violent crimes, which are sometimes spontaneous, burglary is a calculated crime.
Burglaries happen when burglars figure the rewards outweigh the risk of detection or likely punishment. Three strikes for burglary will change the calculation.
In a 2006 report, the Treasury estimated the average cost of a burglary to be $9,000, making the total cost to New Zealanders more than
$1 billion a year. If our policy reduces burglary by 30%, it will save New Zealanders over $300 million a year.
As a party that believes in the rule of law and the importance of property rights, it is wholly appropriate that this is my first major policy release as ACT’s new leader.
But this three strikes policy is also a matter of compassion. Burglary is a serious crime that causes misery to tens of thousands of New Zealanders every year. Those who want to treat burglars with leniency display a callous disregard for the victims of burglary, whose number is vastly increased by this supposed kind-heartedness.
Burglary is a problem that requires strong leadership. ACT is the only party with a policy that can significantly reduce this blight on our society.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Hon Richard Prebble
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.
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.