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Whyte: In 12 months’ time, here is what will matter

In 12 months’ time, here is what will matter

Dr Jamie Whyte, ACT Party Leader
Press Conference, 17 September 2014

In three days’ time I will be elected along with a number of ACT MPs. I think the media will be surprised and ask how it happened?

Let me tell you.

First, ACT has been rising in all the polls. On the latest Colmar Brunton poll, David Seymour wins Epsom and I am elected.

Second, once a party wins an electorate, the number of votes needed to win a Party seat is very low. Each National list MP will take about 60,000 votes, more than the total votes of any one electorate. By contrast, just 28,000 votes will add me to David Seymour. And 44,000 Party votes will give ACT three MPs.

The electorates won by a party are deducted from its list MPs. That is why Labour may get no list MPs.

The ideal way to game MMP is to have a party that wins only electorates and a partner that wins only list seats. Labour and the Greens are now in that situation and may as a result steal the election from National, who would be recording the biggest win in our history if this were a first-past-the-post election.

I predict that ACT will win a number of seats and that ACT will hold the balance of power on Sunday.

ACT’s Deputy Kenneth Wang is the most popular Chinese politician in New Zealand and on some Chinese website polls ACT is in second place ahead of Labour.

We have used the internet to poll and so we know that the land line polls are wrong. As all the land line polls are different, and the differences are greater than the margins of error, even the journalists who report as news what their pollster predicts must know that the land line polls are not credible.

ACT’s polling shows that 11% of New Zealanders support ACT’s message of low tax, less regulation and more personal responsibility.

We have been told by usually reliable sources that TVNZ’s Vote Compass survey also reveals significant support for ACT’s policies. In a campaign that has been dominated by side issues rather than genuine policy debate, this is a more interesting poll finding than the supposed voting intentions conjured up by landline phone polls.

I have today delivered a request under the Official Information ACT to TVNZ to reveal the Compass Vote survey results that will show that many New Zealanders agree with ACT’s ideas.

We have written to TVNZ demanding that they publish the Vote Compass results before the election. As the survey was paid for in part by the Electoral Commission using Taxpayers money I have also forwarded this demand to the Electoral Commission. Voters need to know this information now before the election.

At the last election up to 100,000 right wing voters stayed at home. They were voters who thought John Key was going to win easily and think National is too much like Labour.

To be frank, they are the voters who under MMP had previously elected an average of seven ACT MPs, and they thought ACT had lost its way.

I think I have shown this election that ACT has a fresh team, that we have gone back to our core policies of lower tax and less regulation and that we are worthy of our supporters’ vote.

The numbers coming to our website show there is interest in our alternative to the tax-and-spend approach of all the other parties.

We believe we will do well because we have addressed the issues that matter.

We see commentators express surprise that John Key and National’s popularity have been unaffected by a determined effort to destroy our Prime Minister.

This just shows that voters are smarter than the media gives them credit for.

Voters know that in 12 months’ time the issues that matter will be jobs, the economy, the cost of a house and whether we feel safe.

Mr Dotcom will have left our shores for America and nobody will even remember what “Dirty Politics” was all about. As Helen Clark might put it, we will have moved on.

What the voters will remember is that the election campaign didn’t quite happen. The serious disagreements between the rival parties went unexamined.

What will improve education: more parental choice or more bureaucratic control?

Who is better at making investment decisions: private investors risking their own money or politicians risking taxpayers’ money?

How will we reduce the number of children born into disadvantage – by transferring parental responsibility to bureaucrats and taxpayers or by increasing incentives to work and opportunities to work?

What will do more to reduce the cost of housing: imposing a capital gains tax on those who build and then sell houses or freeing up the supply of land for residential development?

These and many other important matters have gone unexamined because, with some honorable exceptions, the media seem to believe that politics should be reported as if it were a game of snakes and ladders.

The parties’ policies, what they will do if elected, have been squeezed out by the kind of thing Winston Peters specialises in: feigned outrage at the wickedness of politicians and speculations about who will form coalitions with whom.

Yesterday Radio New Zealand hosted the final debate between the leaders of the minor parties. We discussed only two topics. Kim Dotcom’s “Moment of Truth” event and post-election coalition deals. And Radio New Zealand is supposed to be the most serious and thoughtful broadcaster in the country!

* * * * *

Some parties have not announced policies that are sufficiently well worked out to warrant serious discussion – most notably, New Zealand First, the Conservatives and Internet-Mana. They merely wave their hands in the general direction of a vague idea, and call it a policy.

By contrast, ACT has announced a number of serious policies, fully costed and backed up by academic research.

We started our campaign three months ago by publishing a fully-costed budget.

No commentator or rival party has disputed ACT’s figures.

In that budget, we showed how by cutting corporate welfare – the corrupt practice of giving taxpayers’ money to companies that can win favour with politicians and bureaucrats – we could cut the company tax rate from 28% to 20 percent next year. In a subsequent policy document, we showed how we could cut the company tax rate to 12.5% by 2020.

New Zealand now has one of the highest company rates in the world. Most New Zealanders do not realise how far New Zealand’s company tax rates are out of line because of two factors. Australia’s company tax rates are also high and the USA’s tax rates are the highest in the OECD.

Americans know their tax regime is dysfunctional. Even President Obama wants to cut their company tax rate and get rid of all the loopholes (which, by the way, mean that American companies end up paying a lower rate of tax than New Zealand companies pay).

The Australians also knows their company tax rate is too high. The new Liberal government has announced that it is reviewing the Australian company tax rate company.

If Australia reduces its company tax rate New Zealand will find itself at a serious disadvantage.

In parliament, ACT MPs will be pointing out our company tax rates are unsustainable.

People will ask, “Why was this not an issue in the election?” Well, it was, but the media thought other things were more important. We have explained why cutting the company tax rate from 28% to 12.5% will increase investment, economic growth and wages.

Other parties also seek to increase economic growth and wages. But they are all convinced that the answer is more of them and less of you.

They all say that they can pull off some form of Muldoonism. They can pick winners and replace private investment with politically directed investment. They all claim that investment decisions are made better by politicians risking taxpayers’ money than by private investors risking their own money.

This absurd idea has attracted a fraction of the analysis given to the private emails of a blogger who is not a candidate for any party.

Other parties’ solution to low real wages is to have the government make low wages illegal. But wages do not depend on the will of legislators. They depend on the productivity of workers – which depend on their education, the amount of capital they work with and their degree to which they can specialise.

Legislating higher wages in the absence of improvements in these factors will simply cause unemployment. In the presence of such improvements, on the other hand, wages will increase without any need for legislation.

You cannot make people rich by decree. If you could, we would all be billionaires. The only route to wealth is productivity.

Legislate any minimum wage you like. It won’t increase productivity. And it won’t, therefore, help us close the wage gap with Australia.

ACT predicts that in 12 months’ time, when the Australian economy has recovered, the gap between New Zealand and Australia will be an issue again and the planes will again be carrying our best and brightest across the Tasman, and to the US and the United Kingdom too (if the United Kingdom still exists).

ACT MPs in parliament will be asking the government: “What is the plan to close the gap with Australia?” and the public will be asking why was that not an issue at this election?

Well, if you examine ACT’s press statements, it is an issue.

We have put forward a five point plan to catch Australia.

ACT has identified a major reason for housing unaffordability, which is also a significant reason for the country’s slow growth – red tape and, in particular, the Resource Management Act.

The RMA has proved to be a license for local government planners to undermine private property rights in favour of kind of soft socialism. The costs in administration, compliance, delays and uncertainty are huge.

In 1990 the average New Zealand family could afford a house.

ACT predicts in 12 months’ time housing will still be unaffordable because the RMA is fundamentally flawed. ACT’s policy is to admit the RMA experiment has failed, repeal the law and start again.

In parliament we will be telling National that their RMA amendments do not go far enough.

One issue that has had a little air time during the campaign has been poverty and, especially, child poverty.

Claims for increase in child poverty have been uncritically reported. Claims that 20% of New Zealand children live in poverty are derived from a perverse definition of poverty. A child is said to live in poverty if she lives in a household with an income less than 60% of the national median household income.

On this definition, no increase of income would suffice to lift children from poverty if all other households’ incomes increases by more. It is a ridiculous measure of poverty which grossly exaggerates the amount of poverty in New Zealand.

Nevertheless, ACT believes that many children are indeed born into serious disadvantage. We believe kids at the economic bottom of New Zealand need a better deal. And we have a plan to help them. It is based on job creation and wage increases caused by lower taxes and lighter regulation, on welfare reform, and on parental choice in education.

We also acknowledge that many of those households in poverty are there because the adults in the house put their addictions ahead of feeding their children. A fact the Greens and Labour deny. ACT MPs will be supporting moves by Paula Bennett to require drug testing and to provide assistance to addicts to come of drugs.

In 12 months’ time, when Mr Dotcom is just a sour memory, our state schools will still be failing to provide 20% of their pupils with an education sufficient to find work in a globalised economy of growing automation.

ACT has a solution: Partnership Schools (or charter schools, as they are known overseas). The media print the Education Union’s attacks. But they put no effort into discovering and reporting the great progress being made by Partnership School pupils who were failing in state schools.

That is why ACT MPs will be pressing to allow every school to have the advantages of being a Partnership School.

The 20th century American journalist, H L Mencken, said that all elections “soon become and advance auction sale of stolen goods”. This election is a vivid illustration of the fact.

All the other parties simply compete to offer people goodies paid for from money confiscated from other people and, often, from themselves. The racket has become so absurd that the Greens have now announced a plan to give everyone who has a child a flax basket full of goodies. Even the Greens are willing to destroy plants if they believe it will buy them some votes.

The Taxpayers Union has their bribe-o-meter, which reveals the gruesome facts about how much extra tax all parties except ACT will be imposing on us after the election. But the media is generally uninterested in the issue.

Would New Zealand First have its support if the media reported that Mr Peters has promised more spending than the Greens, Labour and the Conservatives combined? His claim that he can fund it all by cracking down on tax evasion is laughable. New Zealand has one of the toughest tax regimes and lowest rates of tax evasion in the world.

ACT produced a plan to fully fund all our proposals. It has been galling to go to the trouble to use Treasury figures, to have our policies professionally costed and then see commenters just make up figures with regard to ACT. The same commentators then print no commentary on the absurd promises of the Greens, New Zealand First and the Conservatives.

In 12 months’ time, when the taxpayer has to pay, people will ask why this was not an issue in the election. Well, it was, but it was not covered.

Let me make another prediction.

Next year there will be over 100,000 burglaries. Those burglaries will affect around 250,000 people who will ask, “why was this not an issue in the election”?

That is why in parliament, ACT will be presenting legislation to send professional burglars to jail.

I am confident ACT will get its 3 strikes for burglary through and the law will dramatically reduce the number of burglaries in New Zealand, just as our 3 strikes policy has reduced violent crime.

* * * * *

When voters go to the polling booth on Saturday, many will ask: “Who will always vote for less tax, less nanny state and more personal responsibility?”

There is only one answer.

That is why I predict many will Party Vote ACT.

It will be ACT, not New Zealand First, holding the balance of power for the next three years.

We will support John Key and a stable centre-right government. And we will make it a more principled and reforming government.


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