The rise of A.C.T.


For the last nine year since A.C.T. was thrashed in the Election of 2011, it has been a one man band. It has undergone several leadership changes in that time, before David Blair Seymour became leader in 2014.

This is not the first time A.C.T. has been looking this strong in the polls. A.C.T. formed in 1994 and first contested the elections in 1996, gaining 8 M.P.’s. From 1999 to 2005 it had 9 Members of Parliament. That slumped to two M.P.’s in that year, but surged on the election of National to office in 2008 to five M.P.s. The following Parliamentary term however was rocked by scandals including the admission that former M.P. David Garrett used the details of a dead baby to get a passport, which revolted the voting public. The previous nine years until 2020 have seen A.C.T. very much as a one man band in Epsom.

Whilst the other parties in Parliament have fallen, or are steady, A.C.T. have been climbing, to what would be – if an election were held today – its best ever result. On current polling A.C.T. would have Mr Seymour plus 9 more Members of Parliament. The other nine would be (in listing order):

  • Brooke van Velden (Wellington Central)
  • Nicole McKee (Rongotai)
  • Chris Baillie (Nelson)
  • Simon Court (Te Atatu)
  • James Dowall (Waikato)
  • Karen Chhour (Upper Harbour)
  • Mark Cameron (Northland)
  • Toni Severin (Christchurch East)
  • Damien Smith (Botany)

So who are these people and what would they bring to Parliament in terms of knowledge, skills and backgrounds?

Brooke van Velden is the Deputy Leader of A.C.T. She comes from a mixed background of working in factory environments and as a corporate consultant. She worked in Parliament behind the scenes to enable the passage of the End of Life Choices Bill.

Nicole McKee is a national shooting champion who believes that the Government response to the Christchurch mosque attack was a knee jerk reaction. She runs a business providing firearms safety training. is qualified in law and has experience handling firearms component imports.

Chris Baillie is a full time secondary school teacher. He is a former police officer with 14 years patrol experience. Mr Baillie also owns a hospitality business that employs 14 people.

Simon Court is a civil and environmental engineer with 23 years experience, including managing planning and tendering projects as well as staff teams in Auckland, Wellington and Fiji. Mr Court believes that the R.M.A. needs to be replaced.

James McDowall is the owner of several businesses that include an immigration law firm. He also works for a mental health non-governmental organization. Mr McDowall has also led the development of A.C.T.’s firearms legislative response in the wake of the Government amending firearms laws.

Karen Chhour is a self employed mother of four who lives in Auckland. She believes that “anyone with the right tools can make something of themselves”.

Mark Cameron is a farmer in Northland who has farmed the region for 30 years. He will be driving A.C.T. rural policies.

Toni Severin is a business owner that she runs along with her husband. Prior to that she has 14 years experience as a lab technician working for the Canterbury District Health Board. Mrs Severin is also a licenced gun owner.

Damien Smith has extensive experience in business, banking, and company directorship. Damien has a Masters in Business Administration and is a qualified educationalist.

What do you think of the above candidates?

 

Government changes election date


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has changed the date of the 2020 General Election to 17 October 2020

The change in the election date follows pressure from National, A.C.T. and New Zealand First to move the election to November so that the political parties would have more campaign time in the current COVID19 environment.

There are numerous good reasons why the change happened in the manner it did:

  • Auckland cannot participate whilst in a LEVEL 3 lock down as no facilities would be open to enable voting and candidates and parties would not be able to campaign effectively
  • Pushing back four weeks will give candidates time to get around their electorates and “Meet-the-Candidate” sessions to be held in each electorate, where the public can ask questions of them
  • The Government would want to be sure that the current COVID19 outbreak has been resolved and New Zealand is once again operating relatively normally
  • In terms of timing, the Government could afford to allow some leeway – the latest Parliament could have continued prior to yesterday’s announcement was 12 October at which point it would dissolve automatically.

And yet, the conspiracy theorists are out. To them this is another indicator of some sort of conspiracy to deprive New Zealanders of their freedoms. Despite the numerous articles written by Stuff journalists such as Henry Cooke and Luke Malpass among others, New Zealand Public Party seem convinced that something improper is afoot.

But despite the conspiracy theorists being at work, the parties in Parliament all welcomed the move and generally believe that the Prime Minister got the timing about right. I believe it is a fair call to have made. It would not have been proper for 2/3 of New Zealand to plunge ahead with election campaigning and leave Auckland behind, especially when its electorates are some of the key ones to watch in 2020.

 

Parliament enters its final week with chaos on both sides of the House


Perhaps never in recent times has the New Zealand Parliament arrived in the final week of a term with so much party chaos. A Opposition wracked by internal strife and unable to follow its own rules; a coalition barely hanging together by the thinnest of threads and an election 6 weeks away. But here we are in August 2020 with just such a scene.

Just when one thought National’s disastrous 2020 could not get worse, the Party has admitted breaking its own rules. In the mad scramble to find a replacement for outgoing Auckland Central M.P. Nikki Kaye, the party misused a clause in its candidate selection process. With ten candidates wanting to line up as the replacement, with a minimum of five being allowed to ensure a decent selection, only two candidates were originally permitted. Perhaps more embarrassing for National was the burst of misogyny from its own members that accompanied this latest revelation. Apparently unable or unwilling to get their heads around Nuwanthie Samarakone’s prior history as a ballet dancer an image of her in a leotard has been circulated among party members with derogatory commentary.

Without doubt there must be many in the party who cannot wait for the election to be over and done with. Some might even be wanting the party they love to take a bit of a pasting as a measure of tough love, whilst still more might be uneasily eyeing A.C.T. as the potential beneficiary of their party vote. A.C.T., a one man band in Epsom is looking at its best performance since 2008 when it brought five M.P.’s to Parliament.

Regarding the coalition, Henry Cooke probably could not have put it better: a car near the end of a journey falling to bits with the driver concentrating on the road ahead, whilst the passengers have a noisy fist fight.

New Zealand First need to grow up and focus on the fact that their house is not in apple pie order. As Tracey Martin put it in a recent interview with Andrea Vance the party had clay feet in 2008 when it was turfed from Parliament and the Party had three weeks to clear out of the Parliamentary precinct. Unfortunately she did not note based on the continuing emission of smoke, regarding allegations of improper donations and other financial improprieties which have been burning all year, that the party has equally clay feet in dealing with them.

But there is a bigger problem. Is it just possible that after 36 years, and 11 terms in Parliament, New Zealand has finally had enough of Winston Peters? Is it just possible that the swing towards Labour is in part a nod to the fact that for real social progress to happen, New Zealand needs to overhaul its taxes in ways New ZealandĀ  First is steadfastly opposed to? It is not impossible.

But of the Green Party? Oh fricking dearie me. What have we here? A party that through a dose of ineptitude and a completely disinterested media has completely

And through all this, perhaps because she can see the finish line, or perhaps because Labour are on a nearly unprecedented roll at the moment, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is somehow managing to ignore the disintegrating state of the car and the back seat fist fight. One more week of Parliament, if she can just get the coalition to stay together for one more week….

 

Report card for 52nd Parliament


The 52nd Parliament of New Zealand will be dissolved in a few days time to clear the deck for the 19 September 2020 General Election. It has 3 more sitting days, during which time there will be valedictory speeches by outgoing Members of Parliament. The Government will attempt to tidy up what it can of the remaining legislative agenda. The dissolution is a public event that, weather permitting, happens in front of the Parliament steps.

But whilst we wait for Parliament to wind up, it is time for the triennial Parliamentary Report Card, where I examine the performance of the individual parties in the three years since the 23 September 2017 General election.

A.C.T.

In a turbulent term where there was a mosque attack, a volcanic eruption and which currently has an out of control global pandemic, A.C.T. have been the surprise performer of the Parliamentary parties. This is not to say I want to see A.C.T.’s caucus grow at all since the party is almost completely contrary to everything I stand for, but credit where it is due. Mr Seymour has done good work on bringing legislation before Parliament on euthanasia. His support for decriminalizing abortion would have won him plaudits with female voters, and his libertarian approach to cannabis will give the base members something to cheer about. Mr Seymour cut a lonely figure when Parliament voted 119-1 to pass legislation restricting certain automatic firearms and has been the one Party to consistently resist work on climate change. For that his party looks like being reward in the polls with up to four more members joining him. GRADE: B+

GREENS

The Greens however are polling poorly at this time. Their support has not been the same since Metiria Turei was ousted over her admission of lying to Work and Income about her finances. With current polling of only 5%, the Greens look set to lose a couple of Members of Parliament. Despite being in their first coalition Government and having seats around the Cabinet table a combination of poor tactical decisions, not being able to achieve all that they wanted to (which no party in a coalition government ever can!)and some unfortunate negativity in the media has seen them lacking some of the flair that has been in past versions of the Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand. Releasing their manifesto at a time when minimal media attention was being paid, has not helped either. GRADE: B-

LABOUR

Labour took office in 2017 having pulled off one of the most stunning turn arounds in New Zealand political history. From the pre-election doldrums of 2017, staring down the barrel of one of the biggest election thrashings in recent times, and having had four leaders in nine year prior Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, it needed a miracle. Since Labour took office it has been a wild roller coaster ride largely driven by events out of Ms Ardern’s control – a terrorist attack killing 51 innocent beings; a volcanic eruption causing New Zealand’s first direct volcanic fatalities since the 1914 lahar on Whakaari and – as of March 2020 a global pandemic. With each even Ms Ardern has not only risen to the challenge but owned it, employing a now respected cocktail of empathy and kindness for the victims, coupled with guidance by the experts and a no-nonsense tack. Both the terrorist attack and the pandemic have generated widespread approving media coverage of the Government. Even the misdemeanours of Clare Curran, David Clark and Meka Whaitiri seem to pale somewhat when considering the magnitude of what the Government has been grappling with. With public support for Labour at an historic M.M.P. era high it is their election to lose. GRADE A

NATIONAL

The largest party at the end of the 2017 election entered Parliament determined to make inroads on a Labour-led Government that among the usual hiccups that happen when a party is still trying to find its feet, many thought had tried to bite off too much. One thought that National might have quickly found its feet following the start of the new Parliament, but attacks were largely uncoordinated and the public were happy to give Labour a bit of time to find its feet. The 15 March 2019 terrorist attack was handled as graciously as National could, including the support offered to the Government. Leader Simon Bridges hadĀ  realized it was not his moment, but he had to front with the Prime Minister to show empathy. An eruption followed as did the onset of the pandemic. But frustrations about National’s inability to contain an increasingly popular Prime Minister were growing. In May 2020 they boiled over, with the rolling of Mr Bridges. His successor lasted 53 days during which time National had a dizzying plunge in the polls. Worsening the crisis was the outing of M.P.’s Hamish Walker, Michael Woodhouse and an admission that former Party President Michelle Boag. Another coup followed with Judith Crusher Collins finally getting to lead the party whose Papakura electorate she has been in since 2005. But a lack of definitive policy other than roads and woefully out of touch Ms Collins mean a third coup is probable before the end of the year. Maybe before the election. GRADE: D

NEW ZEALAND FIRST

It is not that New Zealand First have been useless in this Government. When you look at the work that Mr Peters has done on foreign affairs, including suspending our extradition treaty with Hong Kong; the work of Minister of Defence Ron Mark which has seen two critical equipment purchases that National had delayed, get made; and the work of Tracey Martin on children’s affairs, the party has actually made a substantial contribution. However its conservative side has shown in several instances that may serve to harm the Government further down the road – Shane Jones’ unwillingness to control his mouth is a liability. The retirement of Clayton Mitchell removes an M.P. tarnished by out of Parliament goings on. But how much longer can the aura Winston Peters last? Can the Brexit boys really revive the party, or will they kill it? And there is also the lingering plume of smoky donations from an unannounced fire somewhere in the party. GRADE: C+

Big changes looming for Resource Management Act


Yesterday the biggest amendment to the Resource Management Act – its possible complete overhaul, or replacement – was announced by the Minister for the Environment, David Parker. The announcement was of the release of a report by Tony Randerson, recommending the replacement of the Act.

Since it was formed, A.C.T. has been a proponent of scrapping the R.M.A. altogether. However when I have asked them what they would replace it with, usually the answer has been a stony silence or the subject has been changed.

Most National Party members I have talked to seem to be in a similar boat. They say that it would be replaced with sensible legislation, but no one has elaborated on what “sensible legislation” might look like.

New Zealand First and the Greens have not announced an R.M.A. related policy at the time of writing this. Labour has said that it will campaign on the recommendation of the report released yesterday.

But is it entirely the R.M.A.’s fault that it got to the state that we find it in today? Not necessarily. New Zealand was very slow to realize that the statutory plans each council is required to prepare varied wildly in terms of content, presentation and usability. It was not until 2017 that National Planning Standards were introduced.

The R.M.A., like any other Act of Parliament is only as good as its implementation. As the implementation of the Act falls to the various local councils, ministries and governments, it is they who must bear responsibility for this. As councils budgets are restricted by the size of their rate payer base, sometimes they have not got sufficient staff to adequately cover their statutory responsibilities. This can lead to half baked planning outcomes that were not properly thought through.

When the R.M.A. was first introduced it was about 400 pages long. Today it is about 800 pages long.

It will be interesting to read the Randerson report into one of New Zealand’s most controversial pieces of legislation, and see what the justifications are given.