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ACT's The Letter

The Letter


A significant political realignment has occurred during the parliamentary recess. The NBR poll has National with a significant lead at 40.3%. Labour has fallen to 37%. The Maori party's support is 2.7%.

National: Polling as the country’s biggest party means that Orewa was not a flash in the pan. Brash's law and order speech has been effective. Labour is in real trouble.

Labour: In NZ, governments never increase support during an election campaign. Last election Labour lost 10% from 51% to 41% in just four weeks’ campaigning.

Maori party: 2% plus for a Maori party is an extraordinary performance. The Maori party’s present polling equals 55,000 votes. Last election Labour won all seven Maori seats combined with just 66,726 votes. As electorates are FPP and Labour has lost votes to the Maori party, Tariana has more than enough votes already to win all seven Maori seats. Possibly making her parliament’s Kingmaker, or should we say Queen.

The Greens: 6% is a good poll result and the Greens look likely to do well.

NZ First: Peters has lost his Maori vote.

United: Despite campaigning against gay marriage, the party has not won the Christian vote. Next election United faces challenges from the Christian right, the Christian Heritage party and the Destiny church.

ACT: Rodney is running a strategy that National cannot form a government to carry out any of Don Brash's promises unless ACT is there.


Helen Clark's strategy was to win the Maori vote by funding Maori programmes while publicly not being seen to do so. All the high profile apologies and marae visits had been delegated to Michael Cullen and Margaret Wilson. The challenge from the Maori party has forced Helen Clark to appear on Sunday night TV news apologising to Maori. Her claim that she had been visiting that particular marae regularly for 10 years comes as a surprise to the electorate, the reporters, and to the marae itself. The new strategy is a losing one. It reminds the electorate that there are two laws in NZ and, with the success of the Maori party, gives no one a reason to vote Labour.


Labour's spin is that it can still govern even if the Maori party wins all Maori seats. The government argues (convincingly) that it is hard to see Tariana supporting a Brash-lead government. The problem with this argument is the dilemma Helen Clark faced last election – voters have two votes and look to see likely coalitions when voting. Helen Clark used voters’ nervousness about the Greens to win middle NZ voters over to Labour. Next election all Don Brash has to do is mention the possibility of a Labour /Green / Maori government to see a stampede to the centre-right.


The Letter has had time to study the Court of Appeal judgement. While all the judges were careful to say the court respected parliament’s right to organise its own affairs, in effect the judgement criticises the actions of MPs and imposes on parliament the political views of non-elected judges. Article 9 of the Bill of Rights 1688 is one of NZ's oldest laws and states, "The freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament." The judges have done just that. The court adopted Donna Awatere Huata’s lawyers' claim that it wasn't she who altered the proportionality of parliament by voting against her party, but the ACT party and the Speaker by reacting to her conduct. As the dissenting judge put it, "So the rugby player sent off for foul play can be said to have 'acted in a way' that reduced his team to 14 players even though it is equally true to say that it was the referee who sent him off".

Parliament’s Standing Orders are binding. Party leaders are required to advise any changes in party numbers. The Speaker is required to declare an MP who has left their party to be an independent. Implicit in the court’s finding is a claim that the Standing Orders are a voluntary code and the Speaker did not have to declare Donna an independent. The judges also decided that voting against your party doesn’t alter proportionality in parliament! Indeed the court went so far as to decide that Maori broadcasting was not an important issue to the ACT party. This is despite ACT voting against taxpayer provided Maori broadcasting at every single stage. Last election, one law for all was a key policy. The court, in order to reach its ruling, had to rely on a number of statements by Labour MPs in parliament. The court acknowledged there were opposing views but these were dismissed on the grounds they were not the "majority". It's hard to see how the judges could have interfered or questioned the proceedings of parliament to a greater extent. It is now one all between the High Court and the Appeal Court.

It looks like a decider is needed.


Media commentators have wrongly concluded an appeal is now a matter for ACT’s new leadership. The case is still in the name of Richard Prebble and Ken Shirley. Donna originally sought the injunction primarily against the ACT party so the ACT party’s lawyers argued the case. The case against the ACT party has been dropped. Richard Prebble is considering bringing an appeal to the new Supreme Court and conducting the case himself. He regards the case as quite simple – ACT party voters voted for nine MPs and now have only eight.


Last week we asked your views about the PM's choice of allies. 6% of respondents thought Helen was right to align us with Hamas. Most of you do not like it. This week's question, "Should Richard Prebble appeal to the new Supreme Court to have Donna Awatere Huata removed from Parliament?" - We'll pass on your views to Richard Prebble and Ken Shirley.

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