Friday, 6 December 2019

Politics in Full Sentences, 6 December 2019

The Podcast

This week on the podcast, we spoke to new Young ACT President, Felix Poole, about his plans for connecting with younger voters in the lead up to the election and about free speech on campus. You can watch here and listen here.

ACT Continues to Grow

Yet another poll this week showed that, if an election was held today, ACT would pick up a second MP. In Monday’s 1 News-Colmar Brunton poll, ACT held the balance of power and could govern with National. Other internal polls have ACT with three or four MPs. You can help ACT get several more MPs into Parliament by pitching in here.


Late last year, Jacinda Ardern said petrol companies were fleecing motorists and all of Parliament, except ACT, voted for a law allowing the Commerce Commission to demand any commercial information from any industry anytime. Now that the CommComm has investigated the petrol companies, it says (surprise!) motorists are being fleeced. Ignoring the fact that 50 percent of the price of petrol is tax, we’re told the “importer margin” (which covers domestic transport, distribution and retailing costs, and profit margins) is too big. Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi says he will bring petrol prices down by up to 32 cents. But, hold on. The average importer margin is only 25 cents. Does the Government want the petrol companies to work for free? When it comes to economics, Labour lives on another planet.

A Handbrake on the Economy

The Reserve Bank’s move to require banks to hold significantly more capital will increase borrowing costs, reduce lending, and pull the handbrake on the economy. A cost-benefit analysis done by former Treasury Secretary Dr Graham Scott argues the proposals will impose significantly higher costs on the economy than it will deliver in benefits. According to Dr Scott, it will reduce economic output by $2.7 billion a year – through higher interest rates and lower firm investment – for a hypothetical benefit of $900 million. ASB also expects the costs to outweigh the benefits.

Unintended Consequences

The costs of the policy will be imposed unequally. Farmers and small businesses will face a disproportionate increase in interest rates and a reduction in lending. The irony is that, by putting pressure on sectors such as farming, the Reserve Bank risks putting people out of business and contributing to the instability it is supposed to be fixing. Another unintended consequence is that it may force borrowers to rely on non-bank lenders. This risks creating a larger unregulated shadow banking industry, setting up a collapse reminiscent of the finance company collapses a decade ago. Our banks are already well-capitalised by international standards. These proposals are a solution looking for a problem.

A Damaging Privacy Breach

This week, the personal details of 37,000 law-abiding firearms owners were made available on the Police website, potentially putting them in danger. This is yet more evidence of the Government’s rushed gun reforms and ‘buy-back’ unravelling. Even worse, neither the Prime Minister nor the Police Minister were willing to take any responsibility for the error.

ACT Predicted It

Of course, the privacy breach itself couldn’t have been predicted. But the point about unintended consequences is you can’t predict exactly when they’ll appear or what form they’ll take. ACT has said all along that rushed legislation is bad legislation because it has unintended consequences. The Deputy Police Commissioner and a Police spokesperson essentially admitted that the agency was under time pressure to get the gun ‘buy-back’ done and had little time to set up the database. The contract to build the 'buy-back' database was only offered to one organisation, SAP. We wonder what other shortcuts were taken with firearm owners’ personal information.

The Government Doesn’t Learn

Just a day after news of the privacy breach, the Government decided to rush yet more legislation through Parliament, this time to ban overseas donations of more than $50. This was a completely political move designed to draw attention towards the SFO investigation into National’s donations issue and away from the NZ First Foundation’s donations scandal, the privacy breach, and a bad poll.

Bad Law-Making

ACT found out about the law a couple of hours before it was to be debated. The legislation will make little difference. Large foreign donations are already banned, with a limit of $1500. Aside from National, no political party has received any overseas donations of more than $1,500. In 2017, National received $53,975 in overseas donations. It was allowed to keep $3,000 and the rest was refunded. The Government should also have been required to explain how the law will be enforced. If a political party receives hundreds of small donations, is it then required to verify that none of these came from an overseas person? The Government is concerned that interference campaigns in foreign elections are increasingly sophisticated, which is all the more reason for it to have taken its time to get the law right.

An Opposition of One

ACT was again the only party opposed. Electoral law should be decided carefully and with broad consensus, otherwise it risks becoming a political football with the party in power using the law to favour its side. Ironically, the Government’s use of urgency in the name of protecting democracy for New Zealanders means that New Zealanders did not get a say in the development of this law. Important matters like this must be given proper consideration through a proper parliamentary process.

Proving the Doubters Wrong

Heather du Plessis-Allan has been a critic of ACT. But this week on Newstalk ZB she told her listeners that the polls had proved her and others wrong. She said that on free speech, rushed firearms legislation and the flawed Zero Carbon Bill, ACT has been the lone voice of opposition. Have a listen here.

A Truly Bizarre Cartoon

Sharon Murdoch’s cartoon in Stuff this week was bizarre beyond words. Comparisons to Hitler are the last refuge of a feeble intellect, but Murdoch plumbed new depths. She seemed to be saying that ACT’s defence of free speech amounts to naivety about despots. The irony that the first act of dictators is to censor free speech eluded her. Even more ironic is that one of the last people to be taken to court under the laws ACT proposed to repeal was a cartoonist (Al Nisbet in 2013). Perhaps Murdoch believes he deserved to be censored, but the censors will never come for her. Perhaps she wasn’t aware of the case at all.

The Real Reason

It’s difficult not to wonder if Murdoch wasn’t jolted into action by more recent news, such as ACT’s rise in the polls. The more ACT is attacked by the intolerant left, the more thoughtful New Zealanders, who care about issues like free speech, move closer to ACT. People like Jon Wakefield are contacting ACT to say that, after many years supporting other parties, in 2020 they’ll be voting ACT.

Support Our Movement

ACT is growing by the day, but we need your help if we are to grow our presence in Parliament. Can we count on your support?