Monday, 24 June 2019

Politics in Full Sentences – 24 June 2019


Politics in Full Sentences is ACT’s new weekly essay. It is also a weekly podcast. You can listen to the first two episodes here. This week, we look at freedom and the media.

What we stand for

ACT believes prosperity flows not from politicians or their grand government schemes, but from free minds and free people. We want to build an aspirational society that offers opportunities through freedom for all New Zealanders. How do we get there?

Freedom to Learn

In 2014, 40 per cent of Year 12 students failed to meet international literacy and numeracy standards even though they held NCEA Level 2. Our problem is a suffocating education bureaucracy and a one-size-fits-all education system. ACT’s solution is simple: Put parents in charge of the education budget and let the private sector compete for it.

Despite having $15 billion at its disposal, the monolithic Ministry of Education has failed, over and over again. Too many children are leaving school without basic literacy and numeracy skills. We need to put control of our education system in the hands of educators and parents.

ACT’s education policy – Freedom to Learn – will give parents choice by dividing the $15 billion education budget by the 60,000 children born every year and providing every child with a Student Education Account with $250,000 over their life. Parents who want to remain at their state school can, but those who want to go private can do that, too. But this isn’t enough. We also need to allow educators the freedom to respond to the diverse needs of students. So, ACT will give state schools the ability to apply to become Partnership Schools.

Freedom to Earn

Goods and services, company taxes, alcohol, tobacco and fuel taxes are all levied at one rate. Nobody seriously suggests progressive tax on these. Even Michael Cullen’s tax working group dismissed progressive company taxes.

Why doesn’t it apply to income? Electoral mathematics. Successive governments have found it expedient to take more and more money from a minority of taxpayers in order to buy votes. This has taken us to the point where 5 per cent of taxpayers pay a third of all income tax.

ACT believes your money is primarily your own, not the government’s. We shouldn’t punish people for their success by taking more and more of the next dollar they earn. ACT will push any future government to implement a flat income tax rate, and a company tax rate, of 17.5 per cent. Freedom to Earn will promote a culture of aspiration and provide a massive boost to the economy.

Freedom to Speak

New Zealanders get it. If there are people with objectionable views, we’re much better off letting them say what they believe. If we don’t, we don’t know who they are, and we can’t object to their views. If the state punishes them, we make them a martyr and give them a bigger platform than they would otherwise have. Better to challenge their views publicly. All our progress as a nation has come from open discussion and our worst failures have come from suppression.

Aside from the practical value, there’s something fundamentally human about open and honest discussion. Members of no other species sort out their differences with words. No other species can express the range of emotions and experiences that we can. Freedom of expression is central to our common humanity.

People rightly fear the hate speech censor. An office that can punish you with the power of the state for being ‘offensive’ or ‘insulting’ to a ‘reasonable person’ is scary enough. Now imagine what sort of person will apply for a job with such power.

The Freedom to Speak Bill will roll back restrictions on expression and reaffirm our commitment to our most basic freedom. While it should be a crime to incite or threaten violence, nobody should ever be punished for insulting or offensive speech.

The intolerant Left are growing in strength and confidence and they want to control what you can say. We must push back against them.

Freedom to Do

Good regulation doesn’t grab the headlines, but the rules government makes for how you can use your property are as important, if not more important, than how it taxes and spends your money. The Government’s ban on oil and gas exploration, for example, will do tremendous damage to our economy but it is highly unlikely to make any meaningful difference to the environment. It is a good example of a law that would never pass muster under our Regulatory Constitution.

Freedom to Do will get red tape under control by requiring politicians to explicitly respect basic liberties and property rights when they make law. It will also empower people to challenge damaging red tape in court.

New Zealand is a small, isolated country. We need a first-class regulatory environment if we are to attract ideas, people and investment. We cannot afford badly-made laws.

The media can’t ignore us

ACT’s relaunch has sent the media apoplectic. Commentators spent a week writing articles about why ACT doesn’t deserve so much attention. Every nationwide media outlet attended our conference and every outlet has run multiple commentaries on it over the past week.

We have had wall-to-wall coverage of our policies on a flat tax and free speech. In some of the more enlightened quarters of the media there’s even been articles weighing up the pros and cons of… policies. Phenomenal.

If there was an award for the political party punching above its weight, ACT would win every year. Donors are recognising that ACT provides more bang for buck than any other party. Donations over the past ten days have been at election year levels. If you’d like to join in, please consider donating to our 2020 election fund here.

Politics in Full Sentences

The state of the media is part of the reason why ACT will be talking more directly to you, our supporters. If you would like to provide feedback, please get in touch at [email protected].