Credit where it is due: ACT has had a stellar year

A Good Year

Many pundits have praised ACT’s 2015 year.  The Wellington insiders’ newssheet transTasman named David Seymour MP of the year.  A wide range of journalists have echoed the praise, however Free Press remains grounded.  The only number that matters is the result at the next election. We are off to a great start in rebuilding ACT, there’s lots to do yet, but this year is worth celebrating.

Partnership Schools

This year four new Partnership Schools opened and 26 parties applied to open more in Round Three.  David has reformed the funding formula for the schools and is tweaking the assessment regime.  We are determined to have the best charter school model in the world.  The Iwi Chairs’ Forum has publicly declared its support and the teacher unions have run out of arguments opposing the schools.  ACT is achieving more of Sir Roger Douglas’ original vision through this policy than any other ACT initiative.

Regulatory Reform

David Seymour has been assigned to improve the quality of Regulatory Impact Statements.  While it is a far cry short of ACT’s preferred approach (passing the Regulatory Responsibility Bill) we are addressing the number one concern of the business and farming communities: bad regulation with low quality oversight.

Assisted Dying

Giving people at the end of their life a choice about how they go is what a civilised society should do.  In specific circumstances such as terminal illnesses, with proper safeguards such as two independent doctors signing a professional opinion, David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill gives people a choice.  The overwhelming majority of the public want Parliament to act.  The courts have said only Parliament should act.  It is uncivilised to leave those few people in particular situations with a choice between violent, amateur, lonely suicide and continued suffering.

Paid Parental Leave

National and Labour are both committed to endlessly increasing Paid Parental Leave, just at different speeds.  ACT opposed Labour’s Private Members’ bill to extend it from 14 weeks to 26 (National supports going to 18) in return for parents of pre-term babies getting extra weeks leave.  The principle is that the welfare state should support people with unforeseeable needs rather than help politicians buy off groups of voters.

Rugby World Cup Opening Hours

ACT’s bill to let pubs open during the Rugby World Cup was a major success.  Free Pressunderstands it created a mood that helped the AB’s bring it home.  It also achieved a more important lesson.  Opponents started from the position that freedom should be constrained unless those freedoms can be justified.  ACT started from the position that people should be free unless the government can justify constraining them.  End result: freedom 1, nanny state 0.

Collaborative Business
Everyday businesses were set to face the threat of criminal sanctions for activity interpreted as “cartel behaviour”. In practice, many businesses would avoid legitimate collaboration altogether for fear of imprisonment. We lobbied the Minister of Commerce to remove the criminal sanctions from his bill, and instead use the existing fine-based civil regime. Today, the Minister has confirmed he is taking our advice.

Civil Liberties

ACT has always supported Civil Liberties.  This year we’ve tweaked several bills in public and behind the scenes to improve civil liberties: by making the proposed use of warrantless search and surveillance reportable and reviewable under the Countering Foreign Terrorist Fighters and Immigration Amendment Acts, by persuading the government to back down on mandatory handover of phone, laptop, and tablet passwords when passing through customs checks, by persuading the government to back down on the criminalisation of cartel behaviour.

Changing Perceptions

David Seymour has been named MP of the year by transTasman and rated first or highly by a host of other media.  ACT is focused on rebuilding for the next election, which is the only poll number that counts. We know we have to work hard and consistently through this three year term to earn a much improved result.  Free Press believes ACT has had the best possible year for making that possible.

Balls not Baubles

John Key asked David Seymour to be a Minister in his Government. Three out of four who make it to Parliament never become a Minister.  Back bench MPs cut each other’s throats for the title and the tidy $75,000 salary increase. Opposition MPs dream of the limousine. Free Press believes that David Seymour is the first to refuse such an offer since Richard Prebble in 1997.  The crucial element in his decision was to ensure the End of Life Choice bill can remain in the ballot (a Minister cannot be the sponsor of a member’s bill).  As no other MP is willing and able to put such a bill in the ballot, David must stay out of the Ministry to keep assisted dying/voluntary euthanasia on the agenda.  David will continue to run Partnership Schools and some Regulatory Reform, and it frees him up to serve Epsom and ACT.

The opposition could take a leaf out of ACT’s book by introducing sensible and solid policy and pushing for the positive instead of the negative.

Seymour made a few errors along the way, one of them was being used by National to perform a hit-job that backfired, but instead of that defining the start of his backward slide, he’s all but erased it from our memories with a series of solid and practical ideas.

Not listed is one of the more recent ones:  to turn the power structure of Auckland Council upside down.  How?  By making the local boards run their areas, and the central council basically performs the function of providing services to the boards.  Sort of like breaking the Super City up back into the old individual councils, but keeping the theoretical efficiencies of central system, admin and buying power.

Not saying I like it, but it is at least yet another ACT idea that is fresh and possible.

For ACT to succeed in 2017 they need to do two things:

  1. Ensure Seymour keeps up this level of performance during 2016
  2. Ensure they have top talent standing as candidates for the first ten list positions

It’s the latter that I fear might be ACT’s biggest challenge in transforming themselves from a party that was only there at the whim of a cup-a-tea deal in Epsom to one that is both ready and capable to stand on its own feet.  Without it, Seymour will be yet another parliamentary anomaly, albeit a little more sensible than Dunne.


– Free Press

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.