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The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews David Seymour

On The Nation: Lisa Owen interviews David Seymour

Lisa Owen: Last night’s election result left National without their coalition partners United Future and the Maori Party, but they still have one buddy left in Parliament — David Seymour’s ACT Party. He joins me now.
David Seymour: How are you going, Lisa?
I’m good, but after that result last night, doesn’t that just prove how relevant you and your party is?
Oh, it’s bittersweet, Lisa. I mean, for a first term MP to be re-elected by their neighbours and sent to Wellington to represent them — that’s a great honour, and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Epsom. Obviously, very disappointed for all of my friends, all of my fellow ACT Party members who campaigned like hell, and the party vote didn’t step up for us. But if you want to talk about—
Didn’t step up? Hang on—
If you want to talk about relevance, we’re one of five parties in Parliament.
Okay, but you are man alone, and you said that you would get five MPs.
What was I thinking?
What were you thinking?
What was I thinking? Well, I was thinking, actually, that we ran a very strong campaign. We thought on the basis of that, we would increase our party vote. I think what happened on the night is the tide went out on smaller parties, and it didn’t matter how strong a swimmer you were. You look at The Opportunities Party — not there; Maori Party — out of Parliament; United Future — out of Parliament. We’re still there. We maintained our position, and it turned out, on the night, that was actually a win.
But if you want to stick around as a party rather than an independent, because that’s kind of what you are at the moment, what are you going to do to pass yourself off as a real party? How are you going to make that happen?
Well, if I knew that, Lisa, I would have done it two weeks ago, and we would be in a different position. But look, we’ve got three years now. I’m going to work hard in Epsom, and we’re going to figure out how we can put a valuable proposition to New Zealanders in 2020. In the meantime, we’ve still got a big job to do. We’ve still got End of Life Choice, my euthanasia bill will come up towards the end of this year. Woe betide any incoming government that decides they want to force that off the order paper.
You’re celebrating the fact that you’re back, but it’s worse than that for you, isn’t it? Because National doesn’t need you.
Well, the fact of the matter is it’s actually worse for New Zealand, because you’ve now got a guy who’s been voted out of three electorates, who’s been sacked from three different Cabinets, hasn’t taken the hint and now holds the balance of power, and having parties—
But he’s going to be in government, isn’t he? Do you think?
Well, I mean, it’s pretty hard to see mathematically how he wouldn’t be, but having a party like ACT in Opposition may turn out to be a very valuable option.
Okay, so if he’s in, are you positive that you’ll be out?
Oh, look, ACT has kept New Zealand First out of government by forming a coalition with National for the last three elections. I expect they’ll try and do the same to us. If I was New Zealand First, they’d probably actually want us to be in government because then it’s one fewer people attacking them. But nevertheless, I expect that they’ll exclude us and we’ll carry on as a parliamentary party, holding the government to account. Because if you look at the last two times New Zealand First have held the balance of power, it’s been an absolute disaster, and having another party in Opposition’s going to be valuable.
In saying all of that, I think you’ve been a bit wishy-washy on it in the last few weeks of the campaign. You came on here once before and said no way no how would you work with Winston Peters. Then you kind of softened that up over the course of the campaign when the numbers weren’t looking good for you guys. So if they did say, for some reason, that they were going to extend an olive branch, bring you on as an insurance policy or whatever, would you be in a government with Winston?
No, because it’s just not going to happen, Lisa. That’s the reality.
That’s because he doesn’t want you.
Yeah. And we don’t particularly want them, either. I think the role of ACT is going to be to hold government to account, whichever side it’s on. I think that’s something that people from Epsom want, it’s something that ACT supporters want, and we’re going to grow that brand over the next three years.
Can Winston Peters be trusted?
No. I mean, look at history. This is a guy who’s held the balance of power twice. Last time, he stepped down as a minister while being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office. So that’s what we’re faced with as a country now.
But Bill English doesn’t really have any options, does he? Rock and a hard place.
That’s what we’re faced with as a country now. I wish ACT had done a little bit better and we might not be in this position. But that’s the way that the voters wanted it to be, and now we’re going to end up making the best government we can as a country.
As a small party who’s propped up, or been part of, a government, you’re sitting here watching James Shaw, who’s only going to go with one side. What would you say to him today, with the numbers as they are?
I think James Shaw is nuts. I mean, the hard left part of the Green Party have absolutely made his life hell. He’s survived it I don’t know how. He’s now got a golden opportunity to make the Greens the party of sensible economics and environmentalism. But instead, you give it a week, Marama Davidson from the hard left will be the co-leader and it will be the same old Green Party, marginalised by the hard left.
Do you think he should pick up the phone, despite what his core constituency thinks? He says they don’t want a bar of it. Do you still think he should pick up the phone and call Bill English?
That’s what I’d do if I was him. But here’s another proposition. If you’re somebody who cares about the environment and you want a party of sensible economics that can work with the right, 20/20, give your party vote to ACT.

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

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