Why National needs ACT
Weekly commentary by Dr Muriel Newman MP
Why National needs ACT
This week Newman Online looks at why National needs ACT to help it deliver its promised tax cuts and other much needed reforms.
The headline of the editorial in today's National Business Review, "Why National needs ACT", is a pertinent reminder to National that under our MMP voting system, a single party cannot govern alone. Hopefully it may jolt them into realising that by saying they can govern alone, they are in danger of destroying their credibility sounding not only arrogant but greedy as well.
The stance of National towards ACT is in stark contrast to the commonsense approach the Prime Minister is taking to her potential coalition partners. She not only acknowledges their contribution by campaigning with them, but she has clearly signaled to the country that she has already put together a government-in-waiting.
Why National hasn't adopted that same approach with ACT is a bit of a puzzle. If National is determined to win the election, the reality is - as they know only too well - that they need ACT if they are to have any hope of delivering on their promise of proper tax cuts, effective welfare reform and the repeal of excessive government regulation and wasteful spending.
The problem for National is that its other potential coalition partner - the unstable and big-spending New Zealand First - has refused to support National's tax-cut plan. They say that it lacks credibility. That means that if National is honest about wanting to lower taxes, rather than using it as a political stunt to win office, they will need to ensure that ACT is back in Parliament after the election.
From National's perspective, the best way to help ACT is for Rodney Hide to win Epsom. Richard Worth, the sitting National Party MP, is so high on National's list that he will be returned to Parliament anyway - whereas if Rodney wins Epsom, National not only get Rodney, but the rest of ACT's hard working and experienced team of MPs as well.
ACT is campaigning hard in Epsom and already the polls are starting to lift. Support for Rodney is growing. Epsom voters know that Rodney would make a great local MP. His track record of going the extra mile for his constituents is legendary. His love of people and getting things done are qualities that would deliver real benefits to the electorate.
In New Zealand's first MMP election in 1996, Prime Minister Jim Bolger was pragmatic enough to realise that National needed ACT. In the week before the election, he endorsed Richard Prebble as the Wellington Central candidate.
Richard, who was already ahead, won the seat. ACT was able to play a key role in that difficult period, supporting National on confidence and supply and good legislation, as well as doing our best to keep them on track!
Many ACT voters are so opposed to Helen Clark and her band of socialists that they are now supporting Don Brash as the next Prime Minister. It is therefore fitting that Don now shows the country that National needs ACT by supporting Rodney.
Along with many other ACT supporters, I have been campaigning in Epsom with Rodney and the feedback we are getting is exceptional. Voters are beginning to realise that the only way New Zealand can have a government that is committed to a free and prosperous New Zealand is if ACT is there. They are realising that it is their duty to deliver to National a stable coalition party, by voting for Rodney.
While ACT supports many of National's ideas, in some cases we don't think their proposals go far enough. That means that in government we would not only pressure them to do what they had promised, but we would be push them to go further.
In areas like welfare, for example, it is vitally important that a comprehensive reform programme is undertaken. Tinkering will not rid New Zealand of the endemic welfare abuse, nor require the able-bodied to get jobs.
In particular, it is vital that National and ACT together, prioritise a commitment to eliminating the sort of long term benefit dependency that has crippled families for generations and destroyed opportunities for their children. It is a disgrace that Labour and before them National, have turned a blind eye to the plight of children living in those transient and dysfunctional families.
ACT's solutions to many of the difficult problems that New Zealand faces will be of use to a National-ACT government.
There is another important reason why Don needs Rodney: While ACT is in Parliament, Labour's claims that Don Brash is right wing and radical don't wash. ACT has unfairly, always been the target of such allegations. If we were not there, those allegations would be very damaging to the National Party as it tries to capture the hearts and minds of voters.
What ACT supporters now need is a signal that National needs ACT, and that they will provide a lifeline of support so that every ACT vote counts.
When that happens, subscribers to this column will know that their vote for ACT will count and that Newman Online will continue to issue a weekly challenge of ideas in the next three years!
Finally, in the unfortunate event that Labour's reckless bribery works and Helen Clark ends up being back in power supported by a rag-tag bunch of the Greens, United, New Zealand First, and the Maori Party, then National and New Zealand will definitely need ACT as a strong partner in opposition to help hold them all to account!
PS I now realise that I have underestimated the power of this column - as I attend election meetings from one end of the country to the other, many candidates from a wide variety of political parties, eagerly tell me that not only do they read my weekly column, but that their parties have integrated many of the ideas into their manifestos - it's no wonder that in this campaign I find myself nodding in agreement at many of the policies on welfare that are being presented!