Speech - Jamie Whyte ACT Campaign Opening
Jamie Whyte ACT Campaign Opening Speech
It is nearly 20 years since the ACT party was
Many people no longer remember why it was named ACT.
They may imagine that it was on account of our determination to actually do things in parliament rather than simply occupy the seats and collect the salaries.
That’s true but it isn’t the right answer.
I don’t need to tell you here that ACT was an acronym, short for the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.
ACT was created because its founders, Roger Douglas of the Labour Party and Derek Quigley of the National Party, objected to what their parties had in common.
In 1996, both the National and Labour parties believed in taxing people heavily to fund government services that people had no choice but to consume.
Douglas and Quigley wanted New Zealand to be a society in which taxes were light and people had a say in what they consumed – even when that consumption was funded by taxpayers.
School vouchers are the perfect example of this goal. They allow all parents, no matter what their incomes, to exercise a choice that only the wealthy now enjoy – a choice between schools competing to provide their kids with an education that suits them.
In the 18 years since its beginning, ACT has had many successes. For example, John Banks got our Partnership Schools policy passed into law, with the help of his upcoming replacement in Epsom, David Seymour.
Partnership schools are state-funded but they only get that money if they can convince parents with a choice in the matter to enroll their children.
Despite such policy successes, ACT’s original raison d’etre remains. 18 years on, New Zealanders are still over-taxed and they are still over-regulated. National and Labour are no less disappointing today than they were 20 years ago.
Anyone who really believes in personal responsibility and individual liberty, anyone who believes that the answer to every problem is not “the government should do something”, still has only one party to vote for. ACT is still the only party that wants big individuals and small government.
* * * * *
ACT’s significance changed over the short term.
Three years ago, the people in this hall and the voters of Epsom, decided who would be Prime Minister. Because the ACT candidate for Epsom won a majority of 2,300, John Key became Prime Minister. And we were spared a Labour-led government.
History is repeating itself.
National is well ahead of any other party in the polls. But the parties of the left, including New Zealand First, could still get enough votes to form a government.
A Frankenstein Labour-Green-Internet-Mana-New Zealand First government may be unthinkable, but it is not impossible.
It is over to us again.
The people of Epsom are doing their bit. David Seymour is door-knocking his way to victory.
Now we need get a number of ACT Party list MPs elected. We need just 1.3% of the party vote – 28,000 votes – for me to join David in parliament. Another 16,000 votes will add Kenneth Wong.
If ACT succeeds, New Zealand will have three more years of stable center-right government. If we fail, New Zealand faces the prospect of a chaotic left-wing Frankenstein government.
* * * * *
It’s not pretty, but we should look at that monster.
Part of the monster – the crazy tangled mess of hair stitched onto the scalp – is the Internet-Mana party.
This is a party of hard-left socialists – Hone Harawera, Laila Harre, Annette Sykes and John Minto – funded by a convicted fraudster wanted for copyright violation in America.
Their lunatic policies include shutting down all the prisons (perhaps on the suggestion of their fugitive sponsor).
In a televised debate, Hone explained that prisons are unnecessary because if boys are sent on Kapa Haka courses, they commit no crimes.
If only they had Kapa Haka in Germany, Kim Dotcom would not be a wanted man!
As I said to Hone at the time, it’s a very nice idea. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Why don’t you send all the boys for Haka training and then, after the crime rate falls to zero, we will close the prisons. In the meantime, let’s keep them open – just in case you are wrong about the transformative power of Kapa Haka.
* * * * *
The Greens are
the monster’s face, grinning inanely below its
In the nicest possible way, they intend to force everyone to live as the Greens prefer. They will tax the things they don’t like, such dairy farming, and subsidize the things they do like, such as solar panel manufacturers.
The Greens are not so much a political party as a religious movement, worshipping snails and ferns and all that makes up Gaia, except us humans of course.
For the Greens, humans fall into two categories: the helpless, who smart green politicians must save, and the wicked, who smart green politicians must stop.
In virtue and intellect Russel Norman and Meteria Turei are so vastly superior to everyone else that it is their moral duty to subjugate us.
* * * * *
The big flabby torso of the monster is the Labour Party.
It was briefly a thing of beauty and strength. We have the Labour government of Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble to thank for the fact that New Zealand is not now a basket-case like Argentina.
But the Labour Party has gone horribly to seed.
Nothing reveals this more clearly than its finance spokesman, David Parker – the man who now occupies the position once held by the great Roger Douglas.
Mr Parker fancies himself the smartest boy in the fourth-form. But he has not even the weakest grip on basic economics.
At the recent Queenstown Chamber of Commerce political debate Mr Parker explained his party’s desire to reduce immigration to New Zealand. He claimed that economic output requires increasingly little labour to produce. So immigrants cause unemployment.
This nonsense has been peddled by economic fools since the invention of the weaving loom. In fact, I imagine it got started when someone first thought of killing animals with a sharp stick instead of bare hands.
For the sake of Mr Parker’s education, here is what really happens when workers become more productive. People produce and consume more.
And not just more of the same, but entirely new things. Even Mr Parker has surely noticed that, over the past 30 years, as worker productivity and the population have both risen, unemployment has not increased.
Instead, we are consuming more than we ever have. And we are consuming better goods and services than ever before.
Everyone, please, get your cell phones out and wave them in the air so that Mr Parker might understand.
* * * * *
Finally, we come to
Winton Peters and his New Zealand First, the stumpy little
legs of the monster. Little legs that remain idle for 2
years and 10 months out of every three years and then spend
two months running around furiously kicking everyone in
sight – foreigners, journalists, bankers, you name it:
everyone except pensioners.
After all, it’s common sense.
That’s Winston’s slogan: it’s common sense.
I am not sure what “it” refers to but that doesn’t really matter. Because, as my old PhD supervisor used to say, “sense isn’t common”.
And there is no better example of this fact than Winston himself.
Winston’s big economic policy for this election is removing GST from food. That would reduce government revenue by 3 billion dollars.
But Winston has no plan to cut government spending by 3 billion dollars. On the contrary, he plans to increase government spending massively.
Where will he get all the money?
Winston’s answer: by cracking down on tax evasion.
Honestly. He claims that he can raise 7 billion by cracking down on tax evasion.
That’s not sense, common or otherwise. That’s bollocks.
When a politician tells you that he is going to fund his spending promises by cracking down on tax evasion, you know he is either a fool or a charlatan. And Winston ain’t no fool.
* * * * *
I am not so sure about Winston’s main rival,
Colin Craig has a tax policy that no self-respecting charlatan could propose.
He says that the first $20,000 of income will be tax free. Above that, he will apply some unspecified flat rate.
Imagine you wanted a $500,000 mortgage and you went to your bank. The lending officer says: “you’re in luck, we have a special deal on mortgages this week. You can get the first $250,000 at a zero rate of interest. On the second $250,000, we will charge you some other rate of interest.”
“What rate is that?” you ask.
“Oh never mind that, for now”, the lending officer replies. “Just sign the contract and you will find out when the first payment comes due”.
Only a complete idiot would sign the contract. And even the greedy and devious bankers of Winston Peters’ fevered imagination would not dream of making such an offer.
Yet this is the tax policy that Colin Craig is offering the people of New Zealand.
It is all too easy to think that other people are just like you. I fear Colin Craig is putting too much faith in the gullibility of voters.
* * * * *
So much for the monstrous
alternative to a National-ACT, centre-right government. I
don’t want to spoil your lunch.
What about our friend the National Party?
Without doubt, they are far better than the alternative. John Key beats David Cunliffe, hands down.
And yet … and yet, National disappoints.
When in opposition to Helen Clark’s government, National said Working for Families was a terrible policy that made ordinary middle-income kiwis welfare beneficiaries.
They said interest free student loans were a crass election bribe. They lamented the massive expansion of the Wellington bureaucracy.
ACT cheered them on.
Now, after 6 years of a National government, we still have Working for Families. We still have interest free student loans. The number of bureaucrats is unchanged.
National is a party of competent managers. They don’t make a terrible mess of things – except for Muldoon.
But they show too little commitment to the principles they espouse. They show too little commitment to what has made New Zealand the great country it is.
Like all successful countries, New Zealand was built on the rule of law, private property rights and trade. And our continued success also depends on them.
Chip away at these institutions and we will lose the prosperity and freedom that we now enjoy.
Labour, New Zealand First, the Greens, Mana-Internet and the Conservatives are all openly hostile to the institution of private property.
All want to ban the sale of land to foreigners. I have heard the leaders of all these parties justify this policy by claiming that “we should not be selling our land to foreigners”.
When Lochinvar station was sold to Chinese buyers, we were not selling our land. The Stevenson family was selling their land.
Land in New Zealand is not collectively owned; it is privately owned. New Zealand is not yet a communist country.
Winston Peters lives in a street near mine. He cannot come knocking at my door demanding entry to “our house”. Nor should he presume to tell me who I can sell my house to. I own my house and Winston owns his.
That’s what John Key should have told David Cunliffe when the topic came up during their televised debate. Instead, Key quibbled that the National government already applies Labour’s proposed test for an acceptable land sale.
In other words, Key accepted Cunliffe’s assumption that the government should decide who a private property owner may sell to.
There is no virtue in meeting your opponents halfway when they have strayed miles off course.
The Overseas Investment Office should be abolished. It has no proper job to do. When foreigners invest in New Zealand, we benefit. There is no injury for the OIO to protect us from.
ACT would also abolish the Resource Management Act rather than streamlining its consenting processes, as National plans to do.
The problem is not with the administration of the RMA. The problem is with the very conception of it. The RMA is an assault on property rights that stifles investment and economic growth. The restrictions it puts on using land for residential development are the reason housing is so expensive.
We did not have an environmental crisis in 1990 when the RMA was made law. But we did have affordable housing. ACT would return to sensible pl
anning laws based on private property rights.
* * * * *
Nor is National fighting hard enough to defend the rule of law. It is a fundamental democratic principle that everyone should be equal before the law.
To know someone’s legal rights, you should not need to know their race.
Under National’s watch, this principle is systematically violated in New Zealand.
We have race-based electorates. Race-based representation on city councils. Race-based rights to influence resource-consent decisions. And race-based admissions to university courses.
A student from a South Auckland state school can fail to get into law school or medical school because her place has been taken by a private school student with lower grades – simply because she is the wrong race.
How can anyone think that’s fair?
National is apparently unconcerned by such injustices.
ACT is not. We will work to eliminate all race-based law from New Zealand.
* * * * *
Nor has National faced up to the cost of providing state
superannuation for everyone over 65. As the portion of the
population over 65 continues to grow, this will place an
unsustainable tax burden on those of working age.
Other countries are facing up to the challenge. Australia is lifting the age of entitlement to 70. New Zealand should face up to it too. ACT would push a National-led government to lift the age of eligibility to 67.
Sometimes it is better to admit you were wrong and break a silly promise.
* * * * *
H. L. Mencken, the
mid-20th century American journalist, said that all
elections soon become an “advance auction sale of stolen
This election is a shining confirmation of Mencken’s assessment.
The Taxpayers’ Union has employed a reputable economist to calculate the spending promises of each party. Their “bribe-o-meter” shows that every party but one will increase tax-funded spending massively over the next 3 years.
Winston’s promises are so wild that they are beyond the economist’s ability to calculate them.
Next are the Green’s, with a promise to increase spending – and therefore taxes – by $5 billion.
Then Labour at $4.7 billion.
Then the National Party, with $600 million of extra promises spending and taxes.
Even Colin Craig, who claims to favour smaller government, plans to increase government spending $400 million, on top of confiscating privately owned land and preventing you from selling to the highest bidder if they are foreign.
* * * * *
Only ACT resists the
temptation to buy votes with taxpayers’ money.
In our Alternative Budget, published in May, we announced a plan to reduce “middle-class welfare” – tax-funded goodies for people who are not hard up. Things like Working for Families payments to people on middle incomes and interest free student loans.
The people who receive these benefits are the very people who pay for them. By cutting middle-class welfare we can reduce the personal taxes paid by the middle class from 33% and 30% to 24%.
We can eliminate an absurd “money-go-round” that creates perverse incentives and slows economic growth.
By contrast, the other parties want to tax the middle-class harder. The Greens and Labour state this clearly. But the Conservatives would also whack the middle class.
Colin Craig plans to apply no tax to the first $20,000 of income while slightly increasing government spending. That will require his unannounced flat rate of tax to be 34% -- slightly higher than the current top rate of tax. Someone earning $40,000 now faces a marginal tax rate of 17.5%. Colin Craig plans to double it.
Under Colin Craig’s tax plan everyone earning over $36,000 would be worse off and households earning between $50,000 and $80,000 would be especially hard hit.
* * * * *
ACT is also the only party promising to
eliminate corporate welfare, the corrupt practice of handing
over taxpayers’ money to firms who can make friends with
politicians and bureaucrats.
By eliminating this crony-capitalism, we could use the $1.4 billion saved to reduce the company tax rate from 28% to 20% next year.
And by rejecting National’s proposed $1.5 billion of election bribes announced in the last budget, we could reduce the company tax rate to 12.5% by 2020.
No other policy being proposed by any party in this election would do more to increase economic growth. Significantly cutting the company tax rate will increase investment and lift wages. Economists estimate that a company tax reduction of this size would increase our long-run economic growth by at least 1 percentage point: that is, by a third.
* * * * *
The parties of the left claim to seek an end to poverty.
But the only way out of poverty is gainful employment. To get the unemployed into work we need a vibrant economy: one that is growing fast and creating jobs.
ACT’s policies of low taxes and light regulation will create such an economy.
The Left’s policies of high taxes, crony capitalism and ever-expanding welfare are economically stultifying. They will only expand the number of people with no serious prospect of getting ahead.
They will only increase the number of children living on welfare.
* * * * *
People also need skills to take advantage of job opportunities.
Our schooling system serves most children well. But it is failing around 20 percent of our children.
Only ACT has an answer.
Thanks to ACT, New Zealand now has five charter of Partnership schools. The pupils at these charter schools, who were failing at state schools, are now excelling. The improvement in grades is astonishing. Our charter schools are doing even better than ACT had hoped.
We want many more charter schools in New Zealand. On our education policy for this election, the board of any state school could choose to opt out of ministry of education control and become a charter school.
When you vote ACT on 20 September you will be voting to extend charter schools to every community. You will be voting for the only practical, positive solution to poverty: education.
Labour and the Greens plan to close our charter schools and condemn pupils to failure. Those children are relying on you.
* * * * *
So there it is – ACT’s case for your vote.
ACT is the only party that does not buy votes with money taxed from the middle class.
We are the only party truly committed to what made New Zealand the great country it is – to the rule of law, property rights, trade and personal responsibility.
Only ACT MPs will push National to stick to these principles, to live up to these values.
If these are your principles, your values, you have no one else to vote for.
Vote your values.
Party vote ACT.