Change Makers is ACT’s annual rally for 2024. It’s on Sunday 9 June, and will bring together people from all walks of life with one thing in common. We believe we have the right and responsibility to make a difference in our own lives, no matter what our background. We put ACT into Government to make change for us, and policy by policy, day after day, change is happening. Please get your tickets here to show your support for the Party and celebrate the work it is doing for our shared values.


A recent survey by international polling company Ipsos has found about three in five, or 60 per cent, of New Zealanders agree the country is ‘broken,’ and ‘in decline.’ So what?

A couple of things. One, it’s part of a trend. These figures are the same or slightly worse than the world average. Public opinion in nearly every country has been getting worse on these questions for years. New Zealand wasn’t included in past surveys, but it’s a reasonable bet that we’re following the trend. Worse than average when the average is getting worse.

Two, these results shock too many New Zealanders. We’re special, right? Kind, tolerant and more understanding than the others. Despite our tiny size, the rest of the world really does pay attention to us because we’re an exceptional country, right?

These figures show we’re not exceptional, in fact we’re in a worse state than that. Across the ditch only 48% believe Australia is in decline, compared with 60% here. There is no law that says New Zealand must remain a cohesive first-world country in an island paradise. Our future is very much in our hands.

The questions go on to show New Zealanders are ready for a populist leader. Sixty-six per cent say the country ‘needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful’. Fifty-four per cent agree we need a ‘strong leader willing to break the rules’. In each case only 20 per cent disagree.

Altogether people overwhelmingly believe the country is broken, in decline and needs a strongman (or woman) to sock it to the rich, the powerful, and the politicians. Who could capitalize on such a big gap in the political market?

Certainly not Chris Hipkins, a career bureaucrat and former student politician whose word cloud prominently features the word ‘weak.’ The other Chris, Luxon, has styled himself as an elite, advertising his credentials as a former corporate CEO. Winston Peters might have fit the bill as an outside maverick once, but he’s had more time in at the centre of Government than any other current politician and he becomes much more erudite once elected.

That leaves the hard Left. Te Pāti Māori openly say they are in Parliament to upend it, calling it a colonial institution. Their constituency is the young and disenfranchised who like to see someone stand up and break the rules. They are New Zealand’s leading populist party. A close second is the latest version of the Greens.

For a long time even people very worried about the Greens’ policies could look to James Shaw as the calm and rational Yin to Metiria Turei and then Marama Davidson’s Yang. Now he’s been replaced by Chloe Swarbrick who is open about wanting to change the rules of democracy, saying it’s not what we would have designed.

Like Te Pāti Māori, they want to sock it to the rich and change the political system, although they never quite say how. Like Trump, both these parties are speakers of emotional truths, even though their facts are often alternative.

In the current climate it seems like these characters will gain more power. The problem is populists are not good problem solvers. Taxing existing houses won’t solve the problem that there aren’t enough of them.

At Free Press we still like to believe New Zealand is exceptional. It needs to avoid a bout of destructive Big Government populism of the kind that has ruined South America. It needs political leadership to show that the political system can be responsive, and it can solve problems, like making it easier for the next generation to build a house.

The Government must make markets work for people, and it’s more likely to achieve that by removing regulations and taxes on production than introducing even more. Only when there are enough houses, enough interesting jobs, and a pathway to living comfortably by your own efforts can people build self-esteem.

The same goes for identity. People are tired of being told they’re the wrong type of person. New Zealand’s would-be populists want to put identity politics on steroids. The real answer is to find tolerance in each other based on universal respect for each individual.

That is problem solving as an antidote to populism. Free Press may have its biases but we believe David Seymour and ACT are best placed to present a constructive alternative. Their focus is quality policy, based on making markets work and treating everyone with the same rights and dignity. If that sounds like you, we hope to see you at Change Makers.

That's it for this week, be sure to stay tuned next Monday

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