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Richard Prebble's Letter from Wellington

Richard Prebble's
Letter from Wellington
Monday, 11 March 2002

ACT Sets Agenda

ACT will take centre stage this weekend with the party's annual conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the Centra) in Auckland. Being the first party to hold its annual conference gives ACT an advantage - that's why we do it.

There will be some outstanding speakers including Rob McLeod, author of the McLeod tax report; Theodore Dalrymple from the Spectator newspaper; recently-retired Australian deputy Prime Minister Peter Reith; and Roger Moses, principal of Wellington College. ACT's co-founder Derek Quigley will give the key opening address on Friday night and Sir Roger Douglas will join him for a "founders' night".

Auckland Mayor John Banks will officially open the conference on Saturday morning.

ACT's Agenda

The conference is a platform for ACT to set out its practical solutions to the key issues facing New Zealand in health, education, law and order and the economy/tax. The theme of the conference is freedom, choice and personal responsibility.

ACT says that in health we need to introduce the private sector and choice. In education, people must have a real choice to take their child - and the funding - to the school that best meets their needs, whether it be state or independent.

To grow the economy New Zealand, as a trading nation, must have lower tax rates than Australia.

Zero Tolerance for Crime

ACT's zero tolerance approach to crime is widely supported. ACT has made its position clear, with policies such as Truth in Sentencing. While MPs argue over whether violent criminals should serve two-thirds of their sentence (National) or one-third (Labour), ACT says they should serve 100 percent of their court-imposed sentence. ACT's focus group polling has shown that voters like our views on law and order.

ACT believes people must be held personally responsible. Voters, especially women, feel there is no personal responsibility in the justice system. The only rationale for letting prisoners out early is that criminals are seen as victims.

The Polls

The Letter gets many emails asking why opinion polls vary so much. In ACT's case they range from the latest NBR poll, which says ACT is the most popular third party, to TV3 which says ACT is history.

Fortunately, the NBR is the most accurate. Professional pollsters agree TV3's poll is a joke. It damages the reputation of TV3's news team when they report figures that vary wildly from those obtained by parties' private polling. The Labour Party doesn't believe it's on 54 percent.

A random telephone poll, because of refusals, usually ends up with too many older women who are in love with Helen. To ensure a poll is accurate, it must reflect the age and gender of the electorate, and how people voted at the last election.

ACT voters are particularly hard to telephone poll. The typical ACT voter works long hours. Conversely, Alliance voters on a benefit have all the time in the world.

Fortunately for ACT on election day the situation reverses. ACT voters are most likely to vote, while Alliance and Green supporters are the most unlikely. So 5% for ACT in a poll means at least 7% at the election. For Greens, 5% means they are out the door.

Silent Winnie a Winner

The Letter predicted last year that Winston Peters would be the winner from the break-up of the Alliance. Jim Anderton's supporters are older and disillusioned. The Greens don't appeal to them. They feel Labour betrayed them. They won't vote National. So the winner is Winston, who has done nothing for the past year.

Campus Warfare

ACT MPs have been touring university campuses. ACT's message of freedom appeals to students. At Victoria University, most parties had a stall on club day. The Democrats had a table. Remember them? The former Social Credit Party. "Aren't you part of the Alliance?" we asked. "We're a sovereign party in our own right," was the reply.

At the Alliance stall there was a single supporter - from Matt McCarten's faction. "Aren't the Democrats part of the Alliance?" we asked. "Yes." "Then why have they got their own stall?" Silence.

Sporting Woes

Part of Labour's vote-winning strategy has been strategic largesse with taxpayers' money - $100 million for the arts, $15 million for the America's Cup. Now rugby is losing the World Cup but no one from government is anywhere to be seen.

The real issue in the World Cup debacle is money. The Letter has been told that to break even from the tournament, the New Zealand Rugby Union needs to sell 250,000 tickets at an average cost of $84, and they also need $10 million from the Aussies.

The Letter has also been told that the Swiss America's Cup syndicate is in the process of moving to Australia. They will be back in November but all their boat building will be done in Australia. Why? Hassles with the IRD. No Swiss would swap their tax regime for New Zealand's.

The government that re-wrote the tax code for Lord of the Rings, has again been strangely silent. That's the problem with picking winners.

Rich Beneficiaries

A Parliamentary question by Rodney Hide has revealed that 810 people on benefits (not superannuitants) had incomes of more than $60,000 last year and paid the top 39 cents tax rate. How can this be? We need welfare reforms. The Letter can see a new Guinness Book of Records entry - world's richest beneficiaries - New Zealand. (The Parliamentary answer is at ).

A Choice of Emails

The ACT parliamentary team sends out more than 30,000 email newsletters a week. In addition to the Letter from Wellington, there are specialist emails on topics. The latest is Ken Shirley's newsletter on health. To sign up for Ken's letter, or the other specialist reports, click on

You can also register for the ACT conference on the website ( You don't need to be a party member.

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