ACT leader David Seymour believes Jacinda Ardern is unlikely to implement a wealth tax.
In saying that he directly challenges the current election campaign of his potential coalition partner, National.
National’s leader, Judith Collins, was once again repeatedly claiming that Ardern could not be believed when she said she would not introduce a wealth tax.
Ardern has persistently rubbished the idea.
Seymour introduced some reality into the debate last night speaking to POLITIK after a meeting in Hamilton.
The irony is that Seymour believes Labour themselves would like to introduce a wealth tax.
“It’s something that Labour would not be wholly opposed to doing themselves,” he said.
“I think it’s a very, very convenient way for Jacinda Ardern to back down on her promise not to implement a Capital Gains Tax.”
But Seymour believes practical politics would not allow her to do it.
“You need 61 votes to pass a budget and Labour will need revenue, and they’ll need 61 votes,” he said.
“So the question is, are the Greens prepared to press the button and have an election over it?
“I would suspect not.
“So that will probably stop it.”
And in another irony, Seymour understands why people are calling for a wealth tax.
Talking to about 30 supporters in Hamilton, he asked why there was such a big perception that there had been an increase in poverty.
But he said it was not because incomes at the top had moved that much further apart from incomes at the bottom; it was because of the cost of housing.
“And so more than anything, we’ve got to make it possible for people who might not have great means; maybe someone that works at the Warehouse, maybe someone who is a taxi driver or whatever, to buy a house,” he said.
“Can you imagine that in today’s world?
“That’s the problem.”
ACT (like National)sees Resource Management Act reform as a key to this.
But it also wants to make it easier for the private sector and foreign investors to invest in housing infrastructure.
More controversially, Seymour argues that the current welfare system is a “disaster.”
“There’s two New Zealand we can’t go on like that,” he said.
“ACT’s policy is to say, look, if you keep having kids on a benefit; and that’s how one in ten Kiwi kids are born, then we’re going to wrap around you.
“We’re going to give you an electronic card and monitor and control your spending and counsel you to ensure you buy nappies and not booze.
“So we’ve got to do a lot better in welfare and use technology to do it.”
ACT is a policy party, and much of that policy derives from its fundamental libertarian philosophy.
Seymour believes that its enthusiasm to talk ideas makes the party stand out among the current parties in Parliament.
And he fears for the next Parliament.
“It will be just like the campaign,” he told POLITIK.
“There’s just no ideas.
“So, we’ll be holding them all accountable, raising the standard of debate.
“And I think if we’re not in government, it as much about electing a parliament as a government.”
Leaked polling from Labour’s pollster, UMR, yesterday suggested that Labour was on 50%; enough to form a government on its own; National on 29% and ACT on 7%.
That would give ACT nine MPs; as many as it had at its peak under Richard Prebble in 1999 and 2002.
Seymour has been touring the country in his bus taking the top candidates on the party list with him to the meetings he holds.
In Hamilton yesterday he introduced Karen Chhour who owns a clothing business and James McDowall who told the meeting he had joined ACT as an 18-year-old University student but who Seymour described as having a Ph D and has previously talked about as the party’s foreign affairs expert.
Chhour was more forthcoming and said she was concerned that we were doing a huge disservice to our next generation.
“All I’ve been hearing over the last few years is what we can’t do instead of what we can do,” she said.
“And our children have lost hope for their future.
“They’re constantly being told them never afford a house. “
“They’re constantly being told they’ll never get those jobs where they’ll be paid.
“Well, then they’re constantly being told that they’re not good enough. And we have to stop that cycle.”
Chhour grew up in foster care. [00:00:59][10.2]
“We also have to look into our children that aren’t being protected as well as they should be,” she said.
“I grew up through that system, and yes, there was a little bit of help, but most of it was pulling myself up rather than the system helping me.”
Seymour believes that having a higher number of MPs will make a huge difference in the way the party operates in Parliament.
He thinks ACT may get 10 MPs.
“So now Parliament will have about one and 12 members who are ACT MPs,” he said.
“So that means there are going to be more ACT MPs on Select Committees asking questions about laws being made.
“They will be making suggestions too.
“It also means we will get a lot more questions in the House.”
It will also mean ACT’s funding from the Parliamentary Services Commission for staff and research in Parliament will increase by a factor of nine or ten. That will be several million dollars.
But the funding is a zero-sum game, and it will come from National’s allocation which is likely to reduce by a factor of around a third.
Seymour might even believe that he is becoming a well known public figure.
He visited the same Hamilton mall where Jacinda Ardern had been mobbed on Monday, and though that didn’t happen, he was recognised by some of the shoppers including several who told him they had already voted and had voted for ACT.
(Though one group said they did so because they heard he was into classic cars like them.)
But ACT look set to return with more MPs And ready to take on not just Labour and the Greens, but also National.