ACT leader David Seymour (Photo: Jessie Chiang/RNZ)
ACT leader David Seymour (Photo: Jessie Chiang/RNZ)

The BulletinJune 17, 2019

The Bulletin: ACT to the future for rebranded party

ACT leader David Seymour (Photo: Jessie Chiang/RNZ)
ACT leader David Seymour (Photo: Jessie Chiang/RNZ)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: ACT looks to the past with new policies, unions recommend new pay offer to teachers, and spies keeping oversight watchdog out in the cold.

It was probably fitting Richard Prebble was there for the relaunch of the ACT Party over the weekend. After all, much of what was presented borrowed heavily from previous iterations of ACT.

The main one that highlights this is the return of the flat tax as party policy. After all, a flat tax was one of the policies pushed so hard by former finance minister Roger Douglas, who later went on to found the ACT party. Former leader Don Brash also took a similar proposal into the 2011 election, and in 2005 Rodney Hide pushed what was effectively a two-tier flat tax. As Newshub reports, the current version proposes a company and personal tax rate of 17.5%. That would be paid for by capping Working for Families and the Fees-Free programme, along with raising the age of Super entitlement and cutting government Kiwisaver contributions. Many on low incomes would be left worse off as a result of such a policy – ACT’s view is that it would encourage everyone to try and earn more.

The education policy also looked similar to previous versions. There’s heavy support for state schools becoming charter schools, which David Seymour, as a former under-secretary to the minister of education, used to have responsibility for. The new policy also proposes creating individual education funds for each child, that can be spent over their whole schooling career, as a mechanism to increase parental choice. As an idea, it’s not a long way away from school voucher systems, which have previously been ACT party policy.

And then there was the free-speech policy, which some observers have equated to pandering to white supremacists. It’s a little easy to forget that last year’s big ACT policy announcement was calling for the abolition of Māori seats. This time around, David Seymour has put in a private members bill that would remove aspects of the Human Rights Act – specifically those that relate to hate speech and abuse on the grounds of race and ethnicity, reports Stuff. Mr Seymour says he is not courting the racist vote. But Māori Council head Matthew Tukaki has a different view, reports Newshub – he says such a bill would embolden white supremacists, and described in stark terms as a “protection racket for those who think it’s their right to call me a n****r”.

The final new policy launched by ACT over the weekend is the development of a ‘Regulatory Constitution.’ That’s a somewhat curious policy that would require governments to “to publicly state that the regulation they are making complies with the principles of good lawmaking.” It’s certainly a new idea, but borrows heavily from old ideas – for example, the press release sent out to accompany it includes no fewer than six references to ‘red tape’ – a favourite phrase in the ACT lexicon for decades.

The new branding colours feature a lot of pink, and there’s a new slogan. But the underlying philosophy is pretty much identical to the ACT of the past. What also hasn’t changed is the electoral strategy – win Epsom and try to bring more MPs in off the list. Radio NZ reports Mr Seymour is confident he can retain his seat with or without the backing of National. He’ll need to if current polling is anything to go by – according to Colmar Brunton the party’s highest score since the start of last year is 1.1%.

Teacher unions have recommended that their members accept a new offer put forward by the government. The offer is broken down here by One News, with most teachers getting a salary rise of around $12,000 a year, and a new top salary band of $90,000. The offer also includes a lump sum payment for union members. Interestingly, some non-unionised teachers aren’t happy that their pay-rises will be delayed if the offer is approved, reports the NZ Herald, which seems a little bit like a case of getting out what you put in.

It appears spy agencies have been thwarting the official responsible for keeping an eye on them, reports David Fisher in today’s NZ Herald (paywalled.) Inspector-General Cheryl Gwyn is now assessing her legal options, after around 115,000 emails relating to the NZSAS raid Operation Burnham were delayed in getting to her by eight months, apparently the result of an ‘oversight’ from the spy agencies. Cheryl Gwyn is has the highest possible security clearance, and is supposed to be able to assess whether or not the spy agencies are following the law – to date though, David Fisher reports her term has been marked by clashes with them instead. It raises the question – if spy agencies are preventing the official entrusted with holding them accountable from doing her job, then who exactly are our spies accountable to?

An independent inquiry into Oranga Tamariki practices around taking children into care has been announced, reports Radio NZ. It follows reporting from Newsroom on a case that has created shockwaves. The inquiry will be led by iwi Ngāti Kahungunu, who want to see an end to Māori children being taken, and instead want to design new intervention methods to prevent it continuing to happen.

Stuff’s Matt Shand has gone Kiwifruit picking, and returned with a brilliant piece about his day in the orchard. You probably remember stories from earlier in the year about the huge worker shortages facing the industries – the piece does a really good job of explaining why they’re there. The work is exhausting, and even though the pay rates have improved slightly, the cut of the profits of each kiwifruit a picker gets is absolutely miniscule.

New protections for Māui and Hector’s dolphins will be announced today, reports Newshub. Set nets and trawl nets will be banned across new areas of the West Coast of the North Island, and around Banks Peninsula. There could also be restrictions on tourism around Māui Dolphins, as the boats disturb the tiny remnants of the population. The release around all this was uploaded early to the Beehive website, which could make it a leak, or it could just be a comms strategy for getting the information out.

Big decisions are coming for the future of Pukekohe, reports Interest. The unusually good soil makes it one of the horticultural breadbaskets of not just Auckland, but the country as a whole. However, it is also seen as being part of the solution to groaning population concerns in Auckland, as a site for future housing growth. The problem is, they realistically can’t both happen.

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Jeram and Ganga Ravji (Bapa and Mai). Photo supplied

Right now on The Spinoff: Anna Connell rips into MSD for clapping back at a critic on social media. Alice Neville has the inside story of an Auckland urban farm that intended to kill a cow, then faced an immense backlash. Sam Brooks comes to the end of his epic Dancing with the Stars odyssey. I loved this piece of writing about age, wisdom and what can be learned from 103 year old grandparents by Arun Jeram.

Also, I went to Taumarunui and Waimiha to write this feature on the complex tensions playing out at the moment around the billion trees programme, climate change and the farming way of life. It’s very difficult to see how these tensions can be resolved without some groups getting very angry indeed. I’d encourage those living in cities to read it for a better understanding of how many farming people feel about it all.

Today’s feature is a wild journey through a conference for property investors, from the NZ Herald’s Kirsty Johnston (paywalled.) Reading it, the worldview that was presented was one I can’t fathom, but it was laid out clearly and without bias. To put it bluntly though, property investors haven’t gone away, and they still feel there’s every chance to cash in on the housing market. Here’s an excerpt:

Amid this age of prosperity, property advice services like those offered by Gilligan Rowe and Associates have become a mainstay of the New Zealand investment scene. Each markets a slightly different product. Auckland Property Mentors has a “school” – 10 weekly night classes about tax and portfolios and interest – plus the opportunity for “students” to meet other potential investors to collaborate on joint ventures. Other firms also offer renovation advice, or online seminars. They speak of “trading” and “holding” and “wealth creation”.

The goal is always a “passive income”; the dream, an early retirement. A dream, which – according to the speakers at the conference – should not be forsaken even as the market flattens.

“Property haters like the Government like to stress you. Shamubeel [Eaquab, an economist] loves to beat up on property investors and get inside your head,” Gilligan says.

The Football Ferns are on the verge of crashing out of the World Cup, after a disappointing display against Canada. The NZ Herald reports they weren’t really ever in the contest, with even a 2-0 scoreline suggesting more parity than was actually evident. It leaves the Ferns with a huge job to do against Cameroon – basically they have to absolutely thrash them, and hope other results fall helpfully, to have a chance of sneaking through one of the four 3rd place bonus slots. That game will be early morning this Friday.

Meanwhile in Super Rugby, somehow four NZ sides have managed to qualify for the playoffs. At the start of the weekend, it looked like it was going to be two. Radio NZ’s Jamie Wall has cast his eye over how it all went down, and declares that in the end, this year’s edition of Super Rugby has basically come up with the goods when it mattered.

From our partners: A two-tier system of energy use is developing, with those on high incomes much more able to reduce their bills than households on lower incomes. Vector’s Chief Risk and Sustainability Officer Kate Beddoe outlines what the company plans to do about that.

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