Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Free Press ACT’s regular bulletin

Free Press

ACT’s regular bulletin

Real Labour MPs Break Ranks over Partnership Schools

As reported last week, Maori electorate Labour MPs Kelvin Davis and Peeni Henare broke ranks to attend a Partnership School fundraiser. We call them real Labour MPs because they side with former Education Minister and Prime Minister Peter Fraser’s dictum over the clamouring of middle class teacher union reps who oppose Partnership Schools and almost anything sensible.

Fraser’s Dictum

“The government's objective, broadly expressed, is that all persons, whatever their level of ability, whether they live in town or country, have a right as citizens to a free education of the kind for which they are best fitted and to the fullest extent of their powers.” That’s the Labour Party of Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble that fed into ACT. As Free Pressreaders will know, ACT is behind Partnership Schools to support that vision.

Kelvin Davis will be the next Labour Leader

Normally it is treasonous to help enemies in times of war, even if the war involves only politics. But one should break a rule from time to time, and Davis’ defiance of Andrew Little got us thinking. New Zealand cannot afford to have Winston Peters polling as the second most preferred Prime Minister ahead of Andrew Little. James Shaw has enjoyed moderate success after ACT luminaries endorsed him for the Green Party leadership. Today Free Press commences its campaign to help Kelvin Davis become Labour leader.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

Counting the Ways

The case for Davis to lead is compelling because he is a leader. In June he organised MPs from every party to march across West Auckland at 7am despite the temperature being four degrees. Good leadership is ultimately about noble plans, plainly expressed. He respectfully approached each party leader and said “I am organising a hikoi to protest sexual violence. It is a big problem in my electorate. I’d like your help.” Nobody believes Andrew Little could have done this.

He has the Mana to beat John Key

Key walks all over Little every week that parliament sits. As a respected school principal, Davis is unfazed by such behaviour. If he could stand up to Andrew Little, he might be what Labour sorely needs, somebody who can stand up to John Key. That’s probably enough helping the enemy, but we admire Davis’ ability to look past sheer ideology and sectional interests.

The Refugee Crisis

With the Government’s announcement that New Zealand will take 600 additional refugees over three years strikes a good balance between New Zealand’s compassion and our capacity. David Seymour has argued that the intake should be pegged to our population, meaning that it would have increased from 750 to about 1040 per year. The key issue will be insuring that those who come want to escape the intolerance of the Middle East rather than bring it with them.

The Red Peak Flag

Even people who really want a flag change are underwhelmed by the final four choices. Red Peak, however, has generated more positive enthusiasm over one weekend than the whole flag change process to date. The Flag Referendums Act says the people can only vote on four flag designs. But there's nothing to stop John Key and the Cabinet from making Red Peak one of the four. They needn't change the law. Section 13 of the Flag Referendums Act says they could do it any time before September 21 with the stroke of a pen. Free Press suggests that putting Red Flag into the mix at the expense of one of the two nearly identical fern-and-Southern Cross designs might mean we get a bit more value out of the referendum’s $26 million cost.

The Healthcare Affordability Bill

Emails have trickled in to support New Zealand First’s Healthcare Affordability Bill. The Bill is appealingly named, who could be against affordable healthcare? As usual with NZ First it is the details that are the problem. The Bill promises to block new immigrants from getting state healthcare, allow employers to give health insurance as a non-taxable fringe benefit, and give up to $500 to over-65s with private health insurance.


The first provision is classic NZ First immigrant-bashing. The point of allowing immigrants to come to New Zealand is that they’re a net benefit to New Zealand in the long term. If they (and any skilled workers they come with) are not in that category then they shouldn’t come in the first place, but it wouldn’t be a NZ First bill if it didn’t take a swipe at newcomers.

Fringe Benefits

The second part is more interesting. Hard to be against at first blush, but fundamentally bad policy. The Americans have the most costly healthcare system in the world with average results, in part because of the tax treatment for healthcare. When wages were frozen in WWII, health benefits were a way for employers to attract workers leading to a tradition of employer funded insurance. The policy also adds to their impossibly complex tax system with high tax rates and lots of carve outs. It also puts distance between the consumer of healthcare and the payer (it’s tax free, right?) leading to lots of waste in the US Healthcare system. Free Press predicts that this part of the Bill would be a step backwards from having one of the world’s simplest tax systems and most efficient healthcare systems.

The $500 Rebate

Nothing is more popular than the government giving out free money. Of course, if the rebate was going to lead to more people taking up private health insurance and relieving pressure on the state system we’d be all for it. The reality is that most over-65s with health insurance pay almost $500 in one month, the policy would effectively be a transfer from all tax payers to wealthier over-65s. A difficult policy to support for a party that believes in low taxes across the board.

The Superannuation Pro-Rata Bill

NZ First have been lucky getting bills drawn from the ballot. The Superannuation Pro-Rata bill would mean people get Superannuation in proportion to the time they’ve spent living in New Zealand. It’s completely unworkable as it would require people to prove they were in New Zealand in, say, 1978. The second part is more interesting as it opens up a debate (perhaps unintentionally) about the byzantine way that people whose partners receive overseas pensions are treated by NZ Super. Many people get a raw deal under section 70 of the Social Security Act and it might be worth sending the bill to Select Committee for a look at that.

A Better Plan

All year ACT has been advocating a referendum on making Superannuation Sustainable. If we can do it for the flag, why not for a much more material challenge the country faces? Superannuation issues such as flexi-super, the age and level of entitlement, and treatment of Kiwisaver and perhaps even pro-rata entitlement and foreign pensions could be presented in their various combinations by an expert panel and voted on by the public.

Ultimately an Issue for the Young

Those who have already retired would not be affected by, say, a pension age increase. It’s the young who will be affected by any changes to Super. If there are no changes, there will be only two workers for every retiree by the time current university students retire (currently there are five). It will be the young who will pay extortionate taxes as we move towards that ratio. A new consensus is needed.

Watch This Space

ACT, and perhaps other parties will float the Super Referendum proposal by the end of this year.


© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.