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Newman Online Weekly commentary by Muriel Newman

Newman Online Weekly commentary by Dr Muriel Newman MP

ACT’s once radical policies are now determining the future of New Zealand

This week Newman Online looks at how ACT proposed the policies which are now shaping the future of New Zealand

Two polls out this morning show that Labour could win the election. That is even before their astonishing $300 million student loan bribe is factored in. According to the budget, there was $1.9 billion in surplus tax that remained unallocated and available for new spending, so in terms of future election bribes to use the famous words of Ronald Reagan, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”!

But while politics under Labour is centred on bribery – bribing people with their own, or other people’s hard-earned money – in a broader sense, politics still is the contest of ideas.

When ACT challenged the first MMP election in 1996, we did so as a party of fresh, new ideas. We proposed solutions to many of the difficult problems that New Zealand faced. While in the beginning we were labeled as radicals and extremists, today, many of those ideas have become mainstream and have been adopted by other political parties. ACT’s agenda is shaping the future direction of New Zealand.

We were a voice in the wilderness when we first called for lower taxes. Now tax cuts are a major election issue with even Labour promising tax cuts: their tax cuts, which amount to a packet of chewing gum a week in three years time, have been viewed by many working families as insulting, but at least it is an acknowledgement that taxes in New Zealand are now too high.

When we first called for an end to the Treaty of Waitangi grievance industry, we were labeled as racists and radicals. Now almost every party acknowledges that time limits on the Treaty settlement process are necessary.

Similarly, our concern that separatism was alive and well in New Zealand as a result of laws passed by the National and Labour governments that gave privilege to one racial group over everyone else, struck a chord with the public. In fact, it was that deep-seated well of concern that Don Brash tapped into with his infamous Orewa 1 speech. And while Labour moved quickly to allay public fears about their racist agenda, it has not gone away. Separatism is still alive and well, not only within the Labour Party, but also in the Green Party and the Maori Party.

When I first called for the comprehensive reform of the welfare system, my ideas were labeled as harsh and radical. Now these ideas – which were always based on the common sense objective of requiring able- bodied beneficiaries to get jobs – have become mainstream. Even Labour talks the talk of welfare reform in order to appease the public’s anxiety about the widespread abuse of welfare, even though they refuse to properly tackle the problem. As a result, welfare fraud and abuse continues unabated.

When ACT first claimed that New Zealand’s crime rate was too high and that we needed to adopt not only a zero tolerance approach to crime, but also tougher prison sentences, we were called rednecks. Now almost every party wants to get tough on crime.

When I first stood up for the rights of dads in New Zealand, speaking out against a family law system that is totally biased against fathers, I was viciously attacked by feminists. But now almost everyone acknowledges that the law is unfair, and that it harms children to miss out on having regular contact with their fathers and grandparents. Again, in terms of public perception, the problem is that while Labour has picked up on the talk and made changes to family law, these changes will not turn around the bias against fathers. As a result, the social problems associated with fatherlessness- educational failure, teenage pregnancy, youth crime, substance abuse, unemployment, youth suicide - will continue to trouble us in the years ahead.

ACT has always believed in the fundamental importance of protecting private property rights and would like to see them enshrined in the New Zealand Bill of Rights. We were the first party to call for the scrapping of the Resource Management Act, which allows private property to be confiscated without compensation. ACT also took the lead in opposing the Labour Party's plan to allow legal trespass on private property through their proposed ‘right to roam’ legislation. While they have presently backed down and shelved the legislation, it has not gone away, and will be back on the agenda if they win the election.

ACT has always stood up for the rights of private property investors – who own most of the houses that Kiwi families rent - against the attack of the Labour Government. Labour sees private sector landlords as the enemy and seems to be hell bent on punishing them with punitive laws, instead of treating them with the respect that they deserve as partners in housing the nation.

However, if Labour wins the election, investors in rental property will need all the help they can get. Labour has signaled their intent in introducing such measures as rent controls, a landlord registration process, a warrant of fitness check for all tenancies, a tenants union, and possibly a capital gains tax, all of which will seriously erode rental property as a great retirement investment.

ACT came into Parliament promoting freedom, choice, and personal responsibility. We have continued to fight for these against the avalanche of politically correct social engineering initiatives being promoted by a government, which appears intent on controlling anything and everything within their reach.

The problem for New Zealand is that Labour and its left wing mates do not trust people to be able to run their lives without the overbearing control of the state. ACT, however, believes that individuals can be trusted to run their lives well - especially if they are given the financial means to do so - and that the State should spend its time helping those people who need additional support and carrying out its core functions well.

If New Zealanders believe that ACT has played an important role in shaping New Zealand, that our ideas have merit, and that Parliament needs an experienced team with the courage to speak the truth no matter how unpalatable that might be, then we are asking them to support us with their party vote on September 17th.

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