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Lisa Owen interviews ACT leader David Seymour

Lisa Owen interviews ACT leader David Seymour


David Seymour says ACT got about 50% of its wish-list in its deal with National this week

“I think that probably we got about half of the things that are really important to us.”

He says ACT’s policies of cracking down on burglary and corporate welfare are non-starters for now under National

Says Peter Dunne isn’t being honest when he says National’s proposed RMA reforms would undermine its environmental principles

Lisa Owen: The third part of National’s support trio is ACT. Yesterday its leader, Jamie Whyte, resigned, saying that the election result was clear and he had to go. New leader and Epsom MP David Seymour is here in the studio. Good morning, Mr Seymour.

David Seymour: Good morning.


Well, thank you.

How will ACT be different with you in charge?

What we’re going to do is take the opportunity we’ve got in the next three years. We’re going to be disciplined. We’re going to be collegial. We’re going to stay on message. We’re going to reach out to New Zealanders who want a bigger role for free enterprise and for community, as opposed to big government, and give them a party that they can confidently vote for in 2017.

Did Jamie just do that and get 0.7%?

I think that we can review the last result. I think what’s actually happened is that we’ve begun a revival of the party. At the beginning of the year, we were on 0.0%. Polling companies were literally calling a thousand people and not finding a single person who wanted to vote ACT. We’ve actually had quite a lot of rejuvenation this year. Not enough in time to get Jamie into Parliament, nonetheless we actually have had positive momentum from a very, very low base, remember, and I intend to continue that momentum.

Jamie Whyte came on this programme the day after the election and said he wanted to stay on. Did you give him a bit of a nudge?

Not at all. I think one thing you have to realise is that politicians are people. Jamie Whyte has given eight months full-time for free to contribute to the election and New Zealand’s political debate and to the ACT Party, but can he sustain that for a further three years out of Parliament? He decided he couldn’t and, really, on very good terms.

He actually said in his resignation that the election result was clear. Clearly saying what?

Well, in the sense that he could not be in Parliament, and that’s what gave rise to the considerations that I just mentioned.

Okay, well, in terms of your confidence and supply agreement, you went into negotiations with a document, didn’t you, or with a wish list?

That’s right.

So what percentage of that do you reckon you got in the end?

Oh, I wouldn’t put it in quantitative terms, but here’s what we did get.

Why not?

Because the things that we got are important. First of all, partnership schools – kura hourua—

So are the things you missed out on. So as a rough guide, how much did you get of what you wanted?

I think that probably we got about half of the things that are really important to us.

So 50%?

Yeah, look, burglary is something that I’ve heard about repeatedly on the doorsteps of Epsom. We had a policy to crack down on that. That’s a non-starter for now, but we’ll keep advocating it. We campaigned on reducing corporate welfare, reducing middle-class welfare in return for considerable tax cuts. We’re not in a position to negotiate that. Nonetheless, I think that they’re things that would be very good for New Zealand and which we’ll keep advocating.

What you did get agreement to work on was charter schools, so, specifically; do you have in your mind a target for what you want, how many more schools you want?

No, I don’t have a target for the number of schools we should have, because this policy is ground up. It’s not driven from Wellington. It will depend on the quality of people who apply and the number of people who wish to go to them. But certainly we’d like to keep the process open so that we can take applications. And depending on the quality of the applicants, you know, we may have more schools established in the next few years, but it has to be driven by people and their communities, rather than by Wellington.

But ultimately your desire is, isn’t it, to have the option for schools to opt in to being a charter school? That’s what you want.

That’s our policy.

So does National—? Has National given you any indication of whether it supports a move in that direction?

I think I’m going to have to work very hard to get that over the line and demonstrate to them how it can work, but what I say to people like, for example, Pat Newman from Hora Hora Primary in Whangarei, who says that he’d like to have the resources of a partnership school, well, I’d like to be able to give him that option – have a process where his school community, where his board of trustees can come to a consensus that they would like to convert to partnership school status. What he would discover is that he’d get no more and no less funding than he gets right now and that he’d have a lot more accountability in terms of the results that they’re required to get.

All right, and—

And nonetheless, the flexibility that would give him I think would be a real boon for his school and his community.

Another piece of legislation that’s going to be significant is the Resource Management Act, in terms of changes to that. National couldn’t get that through in the last term . We heard then from United— Peter Dunne saying that he really wants the principles of protection of the environment to be retained in the Act. Environment first, not business, if he’s going to support it. Well, National doesn’t need his support, but they want to broaden their mandate. Could you work with what Peter Dunne’s talking about there?

No, I actually don’t think that he’s being honest about what the section 6 and 7 changes are. Overwhelmingly, they’re about removing the anti-subdivision bias. But it’s all there – protection for the natural features of the environment and having a balance with being able to actually use the environment for people. And here’s the reality – we are a country that is 0.8% built up and yet we are creating a tenant generation of people that cannot afford homes.

Do you want National to move more in the opposite direction, then? You say that Peter Dunne’s got it wrong. If you’re going to put your vote to this legislation, would you want a move further financially?

No, I think what they got to with section 6 and 7 as originally proposed, late 2011, early 2012 was very good. Would we go further? We’d like to, but one thing I would say about the Resource Management Act is that it’s a 900-page document. It is a very complex piece of legislation, and our goal, of course, would actually be to start again completely. But based on where we are in our current negotiating positions, supporting where the technical advisory group got to a couple of years ago is a very good start.

Okay, in terms of your job, National created a new job for you, Mr Undersecretary.

No, if the Constitution Act 1986—

Well, they handed it to you. Yes, they did. Even though ACT hates work schemes. ACT hates government work schemes, and you’re a single-MP party and you’re getting about half a million dollars of taxpayer money. Is that how you cut government spending? Because that’s a big thing for you, cutting government spending.

Well, first of all, the size of the executive has not changed. There’s the same amount of resource going into the executive. What has happened is that some of it has been allocated, and a very small portion overall, I might add, to me as the undersecretary for education and regulatory reform. The question—

Yeah, but the question— No, the question is, Mr Seymour, is that are you the best use of that money, that government money?

Well, I certainly intend to prove so. This partnership school policy is something that I’ve been heavily involved with before. It’s something I’m very passionate about. It’s ultimately about allowing kids who are not succeeding in the current education system to learn skills, get qualifications, eventually have a job and a career and feel good about themselves. And if we can pull this off by improving the partnership school policy over the next three years, yes, I do think that’s a good investment.

You’re value for money, you say? Okay, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

Transcript provided by Able. www.able.co.nz


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