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"The Role Of Third Parties" - Richard Prebble

Thursday 16th Nov 2000 Richard Prebble Speech -- Other

"The Role Of Third Parties"

Richard Prebble Speech to Te Awamutu Chamber of Commerce 1 Gorst Ave Te Awamutu 16 November 2000

What is the role of third parties in an MMP Parliament? Speaking at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast yesterday, I was asked – “What are the three issues that as an opposition party you are concentrating on in Parliament?”

That is a good question. Some say that we should just concentrate on core ACT issues of freedom, choice and personal responsibility, so I could just concentrate on getting the tax rate down, less red tape and more free enterprise.

The difficulty with generalisation is that National claims to be in favour of freedom, choice and personal responsibility.

So the reality is that ACT tends to concentrate on those issues that reflect our core brand, where ACT holds a position that the two main parties either won’t or can’t take a stand. Let me state three of them.

The first is Treaty issues. Labour and National policies on how to confront Maori issues are basically the same.

I am a member of the Maori Affairs Select Committee. The Treaty negotiations unit appeared in front of the Committee to explain the Minister of Treaty Negotiations, Margaret Wilson’s, new approach.

There were six principles – as bland as “good faith”. Why? Was the Crown negotiating under National in “bad faith?” – "No no", said the officials. “So it’s the same?" – "Well, yes.” The officials admitted that all six principles were followed by Sir Douglas Graham.

The Singapore Free Trade Agreement illustrates the point. National was about to vote against this agreement because of the inclusion of a Waitangi Treaty clause, until Labour pointed out that National introduced it.

Introducing Waitangi Treaty clauses into international trade is potentially very risky. The adverse legal and economic effects of such clauses could be devastating. It has fallen to ACT to point out the dangers.

Labour has pointed out in the controversy over Waitangi clauses in the health legislation that National started this approach in health. Again, it's ACT that raises the objection.

Labour and National’s policies are failing Maori. It has been left to ACT to point out that the Pouakani settlement going through Parliament today with Labour and National’s support makes land for 'beads and blankets' look ethical.

The environmentally sensitive Pureora Forests are being offered to Maori because the Crown cannot harvest them.

In the 1970s, the Forest Service was clear felling Totara in Pureora to plant pine. Protestors, led by Stephen King, climbed the trees, stopped the chainsaws and saved the trees.

Successive governments have been unable to sell or harvest the pine because environmentalists have threatened tree top protests unless there is a commitment to replant the land with natives and put the land in national park

It is left to ACT to put the case for full, fair and final settlements.

ACT also owns the Truth-in-Sentencing issue. National and Labour are both competing to give judges the ability to sentence murderers to longer prison sentences. Some murders are so shocking, we should lock up the offenders and throw away the key.

MPs know that the fault is not with judges' sentencing. The fault is with laws passed by Labour and National that let dangerous offenders out automatically, some having done only a third of their sentence.

The parole system is failing. It is ACT that has, from the day we arrived in Parliament, pointed out that it is MPs who are to blame for this rise in crime. ACT has a bill to tighten up on parole. It will be voted on before Christmas.

In August, my Truth in Sentencing bill, which aimed to make criminals serve 80 per cent of their sentences, was voted down by this soft-on-crime government

ACT’s parole Bill will determine the Government’s real commitment to tackling crime.

ACT MPs have also identified the Resource Management Act. It’s a law passed by Labour and National for the best of reasons that has become a bureaucratic nightmare. The costs on landowners are enormous and are getting worse.

Labour is proposing further amendments, that will do nothing but add to the costs. Only ACT can point out that the law is flawed. It is not working. ACT MP Owen Jennings has a Private Member’s Bill to give landowners a few more rights.

It's a very moderate bill. It will require local councils to advise landowners before designating part of their land to be of 'significant interest'. Such a description can be financially crippling. In the worst case you can find your farm has in effect become a national park only you own it, must pay rates and you can't farm it - socialism by regulation. Owen's bill would enable landowners and councils to discuss the issue rather than litigate.

It will be interesting to see how Labour votes on ACT’s RMA Bill.

The two main parties, on all three issues, have a tweedledum – tweedledee stance. If it wasn't for ACT there would be no debate, no new ideas and no change.

On all three issues ACT represents the views of a majority of New Zealanders.

Our challenge as a party is to turn that support for issues into a vote for ACT and to show that it’s ACT support of the rule of law, of the sanctity of contract, and of property rights that underlies our stance.

Or to put it another way, the failure of the two major parties to follow these principles have caused them to get into a mess.

We can further simplify it by using the analogy so successfully used by the George W Bush campaign. The two main parties trust government – the ACT Party trusts people.

And that’s the choice you have. If you believe that you can be trusted to make your own choices, then you must support the Party that trusts you – ACT New Zealand.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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