Free Press, 6 May 2019 - A Party Conference Like No Other

Mon, 06 May, 2019

Reserve Your Place

Sunday, 16 June will witness a political party conference like no other. 18 months consulting party members and redesigning the party machinery for next year’s election will culminate in ACT’s relaunch. What will be presented, and how it will be presented, will reflect a new standard for New Zealand politics. Reservations are now open on the party website here.

Without Giving Away Too Much…

Attendees will see answers to four challenges faced by the party. You’ll see a party with a clearly stated identity and purpose, three new policies, more faces, and new channels for campaigning. Members who joined the party in 1996 will get a sense of ACT’s original energy. People who joined in 2019 will get the same sense of a party that is here to provide ideas for a better tomorrow.

The Details

The party’s Annual General Meeting for members only will take place at 9:30am. The conference, that all are welcome to attend, begins at 11am. The day is Sunday, 16 June, and the venue is The Common. We hope to see you there. The conference will be short and sharp, modelled on the approach of Germany’s Free Democrats, concluding with a lunch (included in the ticket price) at about 2pm.

Today’s Labour Law Changes

Labour’s new pro-union law comes into effect today, in a last-ditch effort to rescue unions from their own unpopularity. Among other things, the law will make union membership an opt-out rather than opt-in, allow union members to enter workforces without consent, and force employers to give employees union information. ACT’s 90-day trials are also being watered down.

Very Unpopular

Today only 17 per cent of workers join unions, and their net favourability amongst the general public is negative. You don’t have to look far to see why. Teachers are among the most unionised workforces in the country. Over the past forty years their pay has slipped 40 per cent relative to the average wage. They are demoralised and leaving in droves. It’s so bad the Government just announced $95 million of bribes to entice students into the profession, presumably so that these unsuspecting kids can get burned out and quit in a few years too.

Public Sector Holdouts

Unions are a parasite on employers and employees alike. Instead of working together to produce a product the customer wants at a price they can afford, they end up in endless zero-sum wrangles. In the private sector, this wrangling means the business goes bust as customers find better products at lower prices elsewhere.

What a Goal

Without competition customers can be forced to accept higher prices (taxes) or worse service. This is why Partnership Schools were a mortal threat to the teacher unions. The Government’s objective is to tilt the playing field away from employers and employees towards union representatives. If they succeed, the whole workforce could have morale and conditions like teaching does.

A Better Goal

This excellent column about the Government’s Wellbeing Budget makes a useful point: New Zealand has incredible living standards compared with other countries of similar GDP per capita. If we want greater wellbeing, then, our best strategy is not to spend money better but increase our GDP per capita.

Productivity Please

Unfortunately, productivity growth is in the tank, and has been for a decade. To some extent this is a global problem but in New Zealand is among the worst. What’s more, countries that are behind normally have more scope to grow faster. Not us. One option would be for Government to improve the quality of regulation, the competitiveness of the tax system, and the skills of the workforce.

Alas

Sadly, the current Government is either ignoring or actively damaging our policy settings in all those areas, and National are promising the same. That’s why this country needs a party like ACT, and we hope to see you on 16 June.