The First 100 Days

Five times National has followed Labour into government and five times Labour’s policies have survived the change. It’s the corrosive slump of easy options that’s given us New Zealand today. For all that is good, we still have one of the largest diasporas of any developed country, and poor productivity makes it harder to claim first world status each year.

Odds on, next year will be the sixth cycle. The question people often ask us is, can you actually reverse these laws? Can we break the cycle? The simple answer is, you can do anything if you have 61 votes in Parliament, but that will require two parties with political courage.

ACT often talks about the kind of ideas we need to make New Zealand hum. We can choose to be a low-tax, high-growth liberal democracy, but the default is what we have already: A high-tax, low-growth ethno-state. That won’t help productivity or the diaspora.

Our Real Change Budget is the latest example of policy we need, but what about reversing bad ideas? Let’s imagine the first 100 days of a new government that believes Labour, the Greens, and New Zealand First’s policies are wrong, and wants to reverse them. This week, we’ve started to assemble a laundry list of reversals ACT would fight for in the first 100 days of the next government.

We’ve left off areas that are more complicated than simply reversing what Labour/the Greens/New Zealand First have done. For example, in firearms regulation, ACT has never supported going back to the laws we had on the morning of March 15 2019. We need a whole new arms Act.

We don’t claim this list is complete. What have we missed?

Three Waters. Putting council assets into new entities doesn’t solve any problem. You still have the same pipes, the same ratepayers, and the same problems (likely more). It should simply be repealed, returning ownership to councils.

The Māori Health Authority. We need more effective and efficient services, but creating two parallel healthcare systems isn’t it. The Māori Health Authority should simply be removed.

Reserve Bank Act changes. Giving the Reserve Bank two targets (price stability and employment) with one tool (the Official Cash Rate), was illogical madness. This change has let inflation back, and should be reversed.

The top tax rate of 39c is tall poppy syndrome. Like last time it was introduced, by Michael Cullen in 2000, it has led to a spate of new trusts and avoidance vehicles. Tit-for-tat, Labour now want more invasive measures to stop avoidance (recently abandoned, for now). The rate should go, but we should simplify to a two-rate tax system as in ACT’s Real Change Budget.

The Public Interest Journalism Fund, at $55 million over two years, is not large enough to help or hinder the media as much as many suspect. However, it is pernicious enough to destroy faith and trust in our institutions. No wonder the Government now has a ‘misinformation project,’ which should also go.

The Zero Carbon Act, legislated insanity. It bureaucratises the economy and raises costs without reducing emissions by one gram. ACT alone has opposed it consistently. It should go. Along with it goes the associated lunacy of the ute tax and the Tesla subsidies.

Mortgage interest deductibility, the bright-line test, and Residential Tenancies Act changes. These need to go, it is time to end the war on landlords. Who knows, if we stop punishing landlords we might even get a more competitive market for tenants to rent off?

In some cases we need to reverse the reversals. 90-day trials, three strikes, and charter schools were all ACT policies that Labour, New Zealand First, and the Greens reversed. They should all be reinstated.

The ban on oil and gas exploration may be the silliest policy we have. By banning people from looking for the cleanest ‘transition fuel,’ Jacinda Ardern ensured that her generations ‘nuclear free moment’ was powered by Indonesian coal. The challenge will be getting the international business community to trust New Zealand again.

Fair Pay Agreements and hate speech laws (if introduced before the election). Enough said. If introduced, they’ll be gone before the feet touch the ground.

In the rural space, besides the Zero Carbon Act, there are the freshwater laws, live animal export bans, and the anti-property right Crown Pastoral Lease reforms. All need nullifying.

Oranga Tamariki is one of the worst performing agencies. That’s a shame because it’s one of the most vital. For example, Police say there is nowhere to take ram raiders. Section 7AA, which says it’s more important a child is placed with its iwi than anything else, should go.

That is a start. We assume the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act will lapse before the election. Small business cannot take an additional holiday on its cost structure. Not everything that must go is on this list, but everything on this list must go.

Any of this is possible with enough political will, but history tells us none of it will unless ACT is a large and essential part of the next government.

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David Seymour