NZ POLITICS DAILY: Can ACT rebuild?

Much ink is being spilt and airtime apparently wasted on the annual conference of a political party that is currently polling at 0.1%.

But that’s always been the way of the ACT Party – political journalists and commentators love to cover Act because it’s such an interesting party, even during its apparent dying days. To get a sense of this, it’s well worth watching the 3 News coverage of the party’s conference – watch the 2.5 minute clip: Act Party struggles to avoid political oblivion. As well as shouting ‘bastards!’ at TV3 journalists, the colourful Rodney Hide is also shown speaking of ACT’s alleged hatred of the poor, Maori and unions – and ambiguously confirming that at least some of that hate is real. On Twitter, the ACT Party (@actparty) later tweets to say ‘Those are not ACT’s views’.

When a party is close to death, the only theme to push can be one of turning things around – hence, Audrey Young reports that the Act Party meeting this weekend aimed at 'rejuvenation', and she quotes John Banks as saying the party is re-emerging as ‘reinvigorated, re-tooled and refocused’. Elsewhere, party backer Alan Gibbs says the party’s former supporters need ‘re-awakening’. Perhaps we can look forward to a new branding as the ‘Re-Act’ party. 
 
There’s some internal disagreement about how ACT should go about finding ‘salvation’, especially whether the party should emphasise its ‘flagship charter schools policy’ – see Andrea Vance’s ACTion man 'not a saviour' but still committed. Apparently leader John Banks thinks the policy is a winner for Act, Hide says it’s the party’s ‘greatest achievement, but Gibbs says ‘Charter schools are important but they are not the central issue for ACT’. The party also made it obvious in the weekend that the current big issue of housing unaffordability was going to be a target too – with plans announced to give ‘property owners back the freedom to develop their own land’ – see Andrea Vance’s ACT backs development as housing solution
 
At the conference John Banks confirmed he plans to stand again for Epsom. And his party emphasised its intention to get National to once again support Banks as part of an Act party lifeline to save National from being utterly dependent on New Zealand First and the Maori Party – see Newswire’s ACT unveils desperate push for Epsom. However, such a strategy, according to John Armstrong, is part of Act’s problem: ‘Scaring National voters does not seem to be much of an election strategy’ – see: Down – but not out
 
The problem for ACT is that its reputation is just too tarnished to allow any sort of re-build. What’s more the party’s leader, John Banks, is particularly damaged. And the Herald has reported this weekend that his reputation might suffer further due to a re-emerging controversy about his role in finance company Huljich Wealth Management – see: Banks faces legal threat.
 
A bigger problem for ACT, however, is its apparent ideological emptiness. Act's crisis is really a reflection or symptom of a situation where politicians no longer feel they have a clearly defined purpose. Although ACT is ostensibly a libertarian and radical movement, its various leaders have turned it into a highly pragmatic vote chasing and boring mainstream party. This problem is best conveyed in John Armstrong’s very good conference report, Act conference more hibernation than rejuvenation. Armstrong says that ‘What was really missing from the conference, however, was a big bang-like statement which would resonate with the wider public and announce "Act's back" in no uncertain terms.  Rather than rejuvenation, there has been hibernation’. He points out that Act’s ‘strategists seem at a loss’ to find a way forward.
 
The party has a seemingly hopeless struggle on its hands.
 
As TV3’s Brook Sabin reports, the latest opinion polls put the party on only 0.1% yet it’s aiming to increase that to 5% - ‘That's a 4900 percent increase in support’, tending to suggest the party current inhabits a fantasyland. Surely even Act's most ardent supporters realise by now that the game is all but up? Ironically, the most useful role that Act is now playing is in blocking any other right-wing party from being established and flourishing. As long as Act continues to just survive, it sucks away resources, activists and potential – not just from nascent parties like John Ansell's proposed new party, or the Conservatives – but also from the establishment of a truly radically economic and socially-liberal party of the right. 
 
For all that, with a minister in the Government, Act still has influence, and with the Maori Party possibly on its way out, the Banks vote becomes proportionately more valuable. By holding on to Banks during the Dotcom scandal last year, Key showed that he was willing to keep Act alive. This could mean Banks will be given some sort of free run in Epsom in 2014. So the party might be shadow of what it once was, but it continues to demand serious attention. 
 
Other recent important or interesting items include the following:
 
Commentators are refusing to let the SkyCity scandal lie, with economist Rod Oram now labelling the Auditor-General’s report a ‘whitewash’ – see: No way to run a country. John Armstrong is also harshly critical of the Government’s response to the Auditor-General’s report – see: Nats battle hard to tame report. And Tim Watkin says that it all reflects a modern modus operandi in which only results matter, not process – see: Pokies & smokies: When the means and ends don't meet
 
How do visiting political journalists view New Zealand? The Guardian’s Michael White has been on holiday here and reports back home: Paradise of New Zealand has problems too, many much like ours
 
Bill English and Tony Ryall are looking decidedly sombre due to the ills of Solid Energy says Tracy Watkins in Miners' woes make asset sales harder. She argues that the SOE’s problems could have a ‘calamitous’ political cost for National.
 
National’s latest poll rating is 51% – See Patrick Gower’s National bounces back in poll. Labour will take some solace in the detail that ‘only 20 per cent believed Mr Shearer was out of touch with "ordinary people" compared to 52 per cent who believed Mr Key was’ – see: National's 51pc leaves the rest far behind
 
Q: When do (some) leftists say they welcome job losses? A: When those jobs are in the environmentally unfashionable mining industry. Blogger, No Right Turn says, Let Solid Energy fail
 
The Christchurch rebuild and its future are ‘in the hands of Christchurch's rigid Old Guard’ according to blogger and Labour activist James Dann writing on the Herald website: Two years, little progress in Christchurch. For another in-depth look at rebuild issues – especially the question of ‘who will pay?’, see John McCrone’s Christchurch rebuild: How much will we pay?
 
What is 218 plus 191? Almost half of 9-year-olds could not answer this in a test, which shows why New Zealand is languishing behind other countries in maths. Hekia Parata is looking to do something about it – see Andrew Laxon’s Govt eyes back to basics in maths
 
It seemed like an idea that voters might dislike – reducing their say over politicians. But TVNZ reports, Kiwis in favour of four year Government term
 
Do the Police spy on unions? According to ex-Police spy, Rob Gilchrist, they do – see: Spy's claim: A decade of deception. Do the Police spy on social media? David Fisher reports on the Police’s ‘specialist software tool which mines social media for information’ – see: Police software mines social media. Do the Police pay witnesses to testify? Again, yes, according to Phil Taylor’s Police paid witnesses in murder case shock. And, do the Police have authorisation to operate their recently acquired aerial drone? No, according to David Beatson, writing on Pundit: No rules for NZ Police surveillance drones
 
Labour announces its reshuffle today, and Claire Trevett has some tips for who is about to be demoted and promoted – see: King, Jones tipped for return to front bench
 
Whanau Ora is seen variously as about the ‘empowerment of families’ or ‘a magnet for corruption’. Anthony Hubbard has an in-depth evaluation of the scheme in Whanau Ora helps families recover
 
Not exactly a new blog-war, but entertaining nonetheless – see Scott Yorke’s Blogger issues "fatwa" against law professor and Andrew Geddes’ response: Wilbur Cussler: A memoir
 
Finally, it might be frivolous analysis, but it’s still interesting for MP-watchers – see Kate Chapman’s Power dressing - our best and worst-dressed MPs

 

This article is tagged with the following keywords. Find out more about My Tags

Post Comment

9 Comments & Questions

Commenter icon key: Subscriber Verified

We effectively have two Labour parties in government. Their policies are of stagnation and mediocrity. Sideways governance.

NZ desperately needs the ACT party influence if NZ is going to go anywhere.

Reply
Share

Do folks reallybelieve that the ACT Party will put up tired, tarnished dodgy John Banks as their Epsom candidate? You have got to be joking!

With Banks facing a further legal threat - why is he not being stood down as a minister? Both Richard Worth and Pansy Wong left parliament (not just their former ministerial portfolios) - and neither of them were facing charges in court.

Oh, that's right. This minority National government - with only 59 out of 121 MPs - is absolutely dependent on the vote of 'dodgy John'.

Penny Bright

Reply
Share

Paid your rates yet Penny, or are you still bludging off the rest of us?

Reply
Share

If we are to lift the economy off it's flat line it is essential for Act to be part of any government as a partial counter to the forces of the left which are strongly represented in Labour and National.
liberte

Reply
Share

Don Brash had a recipe of changes necessary for progress in NZ. John Key dismissed them as radical.
Any changes are radical for John Key who has become a complete non event.
The ACT logic and responsible influence must be retained.

Reply
Share

Whatever people's views are of John Banks, I think they'll prefer him & ACT in coalition with National rather than Labour with a major Greens influence.

ACT will rebuild with Boscowen back in the fold.

Reply
Share

Like the USA looney Teaparty, ACT fulfills some deep therapuetic need of wannables or wealthy misfits, that only a good psychologist would be able to make sense of.

Several responses to this column suggest that this quasi religious cult syndrome is a alive and well. But for the overwwhelming number of New Zealanders, ACT's annual conference's manifestations of such delusions, is probably safer then having such lunatics running the asylum.

If Key and National want out of desperation to tea party with this ACT cult ,good. It will hasten his departure too.

Reply
Share

The overwhelming number of New Zealanders. Perhaps you mean the overwhelming number who are addicted to living off transfer payments.

The 600,000 on super, the 400,000 on working for families, the 200,000 with interest free loans, the 350,000 on welfare, the 1.7 million who have a suck at the ACC trough each year, and not to mention the Maori gravy train.

So much for so long we have lost the shame factor as each election is bought with more bribes.

You mean this group that now exceeds well over half the adult population.

Reply
Share

Guess which group Charles M belongs to.

Reply
Share

Post New comment or question

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

NZ Market Snapshot

Forex

Sym Price Change
USD 0.8012 0.0052 0.65%
AUD 0.9077 0.0006 0.07%
EUR 0.6252 0.0028 0.45%
GBP 0.4952 0.0024 0.49%
HKD 6.2173 0.0415 0.67%
JPY 85.2240 0.1390 0.16%

Commods

Commodity Price Change Time
Gold Index 1244.2 5.700 2014-10-20T00:
Oil Brent 85.4 -0.760 2014-10-20T00:
Oil Nymex 82.8 -0.040 2014-10-20T00:
Silver Index 17.3 0.020 2014-10-20T00:

Indices

Symbol Open High Last %
NZX 50 5197.9 5238.9 5197.9 0.68%
NASDAQ 4254.2 4316.9 4258.4 1.35%
DAX 8819.3 8834.7 8850.3 -1.50%
DJI 16373.1 16401.6 16380.4 0.12%
FTSE 6310.3 6320.3 6310.3 -0.68%
HKSE 23073.4 23231.5 23070.3 -0.25%
NI225 15115.3 15115.3 15111.2 -1.66%