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Book Launch Liberal Thinking -- Richard Prebble


Book Launch Liberal Thinking -- Richard Prebble

Book Launch, New Zealand Portrait Gallery

Thank you for coming to the launch of ACT's latest book, "Liberal Thinking".

This new book covers new ground for ACT.

We are responding to a challenge put down by our President, Catherine Judd, to set out what it means to be a classic liberal in 2003.

This is the most philosophical of any book that ACT has produced.

In our anti-intellectual Parliament there is very little debate over what parties actually believe.

I think Rodney Hide sets out well what ACT believes:

"The ACT party is a true Classic Liberal Party. That means that we have fundamentally different views from our political opponents.

We support the free market, limited government, low taxes, the rule of the law, private property, choice, competition and entrepreneurship.

That is our philosophy. Those are our policies. It would be helpful indeed if our political opponents would be so bold as to state theirs."

I put it somewhat more bluntly:

"A free society is one where citizens have free speech, the right to vote, are equal before the law, have the right to own property and to enter contracts freely, the right to life, and as the US Constitution, that great liberal charter, put it - the right to the pursuit of happiness.

"ACT alone in parliament stands four square for these freedoms."

I am forced to observe that our Prime Minister, who claims to be an academic, has never put her vision statement into writing.

Neither has the Leader of the Opposition.

To be fair, apart from the autobiographical books of Sir Robert Muldoon, nor has any leader of the two old parties.

The Leader of New Zealand First could not produce a book of his philosophy because it would be blank.

The ever-flexible Mr Peter Dunne could not write a book unless it was in a loose-leaf folder - so as he roams across the political spectrum he could easily replace his principles with new ones.

We write these books to raise the level of political debate.

We do so also because when you analyse any great political reform, one finds that it started with a book.

In its books, ACT has planted out enough political acorns for a new forest of ideas.

As good liberals ACT MPs have fearlessly tackled subjects in this book that other parties try to ignore.

The Hon Ken Shirley, one of parliament's few scientifically trained MPs, asks the question, where is the rational basis for the ban on nuclear powered ships? He records:

"Iodine-131 is regularly administered to patients in many New Zealand hospitals as a treatment for hyper-thyroidism (goitre). This is a simple outpatient process used in preference to surgery. The patient drinks a lightly radioactive liquid. The activity administered to each patient is typically 5 mCi (millicuries). Most of this is excreted the next day. Patients in Auckland release every day more than twice as much radioactivity into local waters as does the extensive US nuclear fleet and its support facilities annually into all harbours and coastal waters worldwide."

Stephen Franks says "Liberals defend liberty", but then asks the hard questions. He looks at the Prostitution Bill and cannabis and produces the best case I have seen for the retention of appeals to the Privy Council.

Muriel Newman who is the originator of the current debate on welfare, raises the premise "No one dependent on the state is free."

ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff's article on property and the environment shows why he is known as the sage of Coal Creek.

Gerry quotes John Stuart Mill, John Locke, Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, Bjorn Lomberg and Aldo Leopold.

Aldo Leopold, we all know, said:

"A land ethic then reflects the existence of an ecological conscience and this in return reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land."

In a chapter credited to Deborah Coddington and myself - but the work was done by David Young - is a powerful case for school choice.

Deborah's chapter on crime and punishment shows why she was the Qantas Journalist of the Year. She says, "recently I was asked what I hoped to achieve as a member of parliament I answered that as well as never again having to publish a book listing sex offenders, I hope that when I leave parliament no journalists are winning awards for writing stories trying to get politicians to do something about children being beaten to death by their dysfunctional families".

Heather Roy fearlessly tackles one of the hardest issues: "A liberal vision for health - a vision that gives people freedom, choice and responsibility for their own well being.

Let me complete my remarks in the Biblical fashion, by putting what is first, last. This book is only possible because of the work of our editor, Bernard Robertson. I had not read the contributions of any of my colleagues before I had seen them in print. Bernard is the model editor - he has now edited four of our books. We have such confidence in him that most of us give Bernard our manuscript and leave it entirely to him. The result is a literary work that is well worth reading. I recommend Liberal Thinking to you.

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