by Geoffrey Churchman
Yesterday I went to the ACT event in Marsden School’s auditorium in Karori, a Wellington suburb I know well, having spent my first 23 years there. In those days it was safe National Party territory, but with the substantial relocation of the private sector to Auckland in the last 30 years and the growth in the Public Service under this government, it’s likely that Karori’s more affluent dwellers today are those in the public sector’s upper ranks, as well as naturally, lawyers and consultants to them.
Leader David Seymour acknowledged that some members of the audience could be worried about their jobs under their policies. But it seemed to me that most of the approximately 250 attendees were ACT supporters and policy stances got good applause. In fact there only was one contrarian, an older (I assume) Greenie who gave a little rant about Climate Change. Audience members clearly started losing patience with her bleating, but David Seymour was aimable and answered her ideology with a sensible statement of what ACT will do, which basically is scrap the Zero Carbon Act and any moves that NZ makes must be matched by other members of the G7, which is unlikely. He pointed out that none of the billions of dollars collected under the Emissions Trading Scheme have been used to protect people against severe weather events like those experienced in Auckland and Hawke’s Bay/Gisborne earlier this year.
ACT’s particular platform concern is with the enormous unproductive expansion of bureaucracy and red tape as well as this government’s obsession with centralising everything in order that the country conforms to Labour Party ideology, which means in practice exerting as much control over people as possible so they do what central planners want them to. The Ministry of Education for example has increased from 2,500 staff to 4,000 since 2017 and many of these additional people are seen by school principals as a hindrance rather than a help.
Despite a massive real (net of population growth and inflation) increase in spending of about 29%, many other government services have actually got worse. Under Labour, taxpayer money has been wasted by bungling bureaucrats, including half a billion dollars’ worth of wasted rapid antigen tests, $50 million investigating a bike bridge to nowhere, more than twice that investigating light rail in Auckland, over $380 million per year on first year fees free and $1.5 billion per year on ‘corporate welfare’.
He repeated the example he gave on a TV program of the Ministry of Pacific Peoples which has a staff of 151, a budget of $30 million and whose only proclaimed achievement has been Comrade Jacinda’s theatrical apology for the 1976 dawn raids on overstayers. He said that despite that, overstayer raids continue to the present.
Overall ACT wants the size of the Public Service reduced to what it was in 2017 when the Jacinda Government took power. “Drain the swamp” as a reference to the unwanted big government in Washington DC was Donald Trump’s catchphrase in 2016 and this is kind of the NZ equivalent.
There are, however, a few areas where more needs to be spent: on law enforcement and corrections. Comrade Jacinda’s “we’ll be kind to criminals and they’ll be kind back” just hasn’t worked as everyone knows. Many crims are young, illiterate and don’t have drivers licenses. Rehabilitation and motivation for self-improvement is needed, but punishment for evil deeds can’t be omitted as Labour thinks. The justice system also ignores victims which is wrong.
The address lasted an hour, followed by about 15 minutes of questions and answers from a dozen or so people. Wellington area candidates were introduced and then he was headed for the airport and another campaign stop.
Although I don’t agree with him on everything (he said he doesn’t expect that, giving the example of Keith Holyoake who said he agreed with 80% of what his government from 1960-1972 did), David Seymour comes across as perceptive, realistic, insightful and good humoured. “Maybe if you agree with 60% of what we say, that’s good enough for your party vote.”