Rear View Mirror
It’s been quite a year, but next year will be bigger. Free Press predicts that the Government is not as listless and incompetent as we hoped. The various working groups will come back and trigger ideological battles over everything from mining to education to tax to welfare. At the same time, ACT will relaunch itself. We are looking forward 2019.
January – German Lessons
Free Press learned from Germany’s FDP. The party went out of the Bundestag completely in 2013, only to return in an election held the same day as New Zealand’s 2017 election with 10 per cent of the vote. They showed what’s possible, and they did with the very ACT philosophy of ‘more opportunity through more freedom.’
February – Protests
ACT organised a protest against the closure of charter schools, leading hundreds up Queen Street in the rain. Almost a million New Zealanders saw children protesting the ‘kind’ Jacinda Ardern’s policy of closing their schools on TV that night. We believe that this day more than any other kept ACT’s charter schools open, albeit critically neutered as state schools with union contracts.
Another Kind of March
Public submissions closed for the End of Life Choice Bill. The bill set an all-time record of 35,000 submissions. The Justice Select Committee eventually heard from 2,000 of those submitters in person, another record. At the same time, Seymour travelled the country, speaking at 27 public meetings and an estimated 5,000 people from Kerikeri to Gore on the topic.
April – Oil and Gas Knee Capped
The Government’s most damaging act so far has been its erratic and unorthodox announcement that banned oil and gas exploration. It is difficult to list everything wrong with this, but we will try: It was done without even proper Cabinet process. There was no consultation. It may well lead to higher emissions, the opposite of its intent. It will cost hundreds of jobs. It will make energy more expensive. It has hammered New Zealand’s reputation as an investment destination. ACT has made all of these arguments repetitively this year.
May – In the House
Killer questions. Most leaders get dozens of questions to the Government each week and tediously squander them. ACT gets only two per week, but the strike rate is phenomenal. This one-two punch on Jacinda Ardern. This question to Transport Minister Phil Twyford about a simple speed, time, and distance equation for trams to the airport was played out on 1News. This question to Shane Jones brought out his true colours.
June – Against All Expectations
ACT Leader David Seymour is eliminated after nine weeks of Dancing with the Stars. At the start of the show he was voted most likely to go out in week one because he *really* cannot dance. It was the public vote which kept him there, people texting in meant a total of $70,000 went to charity Kidsline on Seymour’s behalf. The most important political take out was this: when people see David Seymour, they like him.
July – A Policy Arrives
ACT invested what political capital it had for six years in educational freedom. Rodney Hide called charter schools a ‘crack in the Berlin Wall.’ Thousands of children had their lives changed for the better. It was also a lesson in tall poppy syndrome. Nobody would stand with the policy. Think tanks, most business leaders, other educational initiatives, other political parties except the Maori Party and (reluctant) National Party were missing in action. July was the month that the policy arrived. National decided it was the best idea they’d ever had and promised to reinstate it. Labour promised that all existing schools would stay open. A very prominent ACT member told us ‘charter schools alone justifies me being a member of and voting for ACT.’
August – Time for Smaller Government
ACT launched its Smaller Government Bill, a bill that would reduce the size of Parliament to 100 MPs and the Executive to only 20. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern responded by promptly sacking two Ministers, reducing the Executive to only 29. Keep going Jacinda! Inevitably the bill will be drawn, and it looks likely National will support it. This is New Zealand First policy too, but Winston loves the baubles, what will he do? Drop another ‘bottom line’ or vote for ACT’s bill on principle?
September – Adding Lib
ACT’s Deputy Leader launched Beth Ad Lib. Beth’s pithy weekly update is a popular hit. It’s also a good reminder that about 15,000 more votes last year would have made Beth an ACT MP. Instead we have the last National MP, who is Maureen Pugh. If you think Beth would have been more useful, we are sure that signing up to Beth Ad Lib will confirm it for you.
October – The Power of One in Red October
ACT voted against every other party in Parliament, 119-1 (118 after the leave of Jami-Lee Ross). Even National supported the disingenuous Child Poverty Reduction Bill that frames child poverty as not enough income redistribution. They also supported the Commerce Amendment Bill that allows the Commerce Commission to self-generate ‘market studies’ with the right to harass whole industries at a whim. Then there was the Pay Equity Bill, the culmination of the Terrranova pay case that said the courts can choose what whole industries are paid. If you believe in free markets, personal responsibility, and limited government, Parliament was a lonely place this Red October.
November – Off to the Rugby
ACT has led the charge against Government waste all year, with coverage out of all proportion to its 1/56th of the opposition. There is Shane Jones reelection machine (which he prefers to call the Provincial Growth Fund), the Fees Free tertiary education policy, and the ridiculous subsidies-that-aren’t called Kiwibuild. However, sometimes it’s the relatable examples that count. ACT’s prosecution of Gerry Brownlee and Trevor Mallard for taking a $24,000, 24-hour trip to Tokyo for an All Blacks game was on point.
December – No Peace in Our Time
Government declares war. As Free Press detailed last week, the Government’s Tomorrow’s Schools review, authored by former teacher union executive Bali Haque, assumes that a model of cooperation (read central control) will outperform the Tomorrow’s Schools model of competition (read choice). Old communists from cutting-edge institutions such as the Massey Education faculty are rejoicing that the ‘neo-liberal experiment’ of Tomorrow’s Schools is over. Meanwhile, in suburban New Zealand, people rather like having one of the most successful education systems in the world that they, not Wellington, control.