ACT New Zealand


ACT New Zealand

Infobox New Zealand Political Party
name_english = ACT New Zealand
name_maori =
party_
party_wikicolourid = ACTNZ
leader = Rodney Hide
president = Garry Mallett
deputy = Heather Roy
mps = 2
foundation = 1994
ideology = Classical Liberalism
international = Not Affiliated
colours = Yellow and blue
headquarters = Newmarket, Auckland
website = [http://www.act.org.nz/ www.act.org.nz]

The New Zealand political party ACT New Zealand (commonly known as "Act" and pronounced to rhyme with "fact"; though internal image-makers push the phrase "the ACT Party") espouses free market liberal points of view in the New Zealand Parliament. According to current party leader Rodney Hide the party stands for "individual freedom, personal responsibility (trusting people), doing the best for our natural environment and for smaller, smarter government in its goals of a prosperous economy, a strong society, and a quality of life that is the envy of the world". [http://www.act.org.nz/news-article.aspx?id=27624 Rodney Hide] , "Speech to ACT Auckland Regional Conference, 30 July 2006"] The name comes from the initials of the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers, the organization out of which the party grew in 1993.

Philosophy

ACT bases its philosophy on individual freedom and on personal responsibility. [ [http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PA0805/S00321.htm] ACT's Pledge To New Zealand, reported on 19 May 2008] PerhapsOr|date=July 2008 properly described as "classical liberal", ACT states its principles and policy objectivesCitequote as:

:Principles

:* That individuals are the rightful owners of their own lives and therefore have inherent freedoms and responsibilities:* That the proper purpose of government is to protect such freedoms and not to assume such responsibilities.

Policy objectives

:* A prosperous, well-educated, healthy, and open society in which individuals are free to achieve their full potential:* A growing, dynamic, and open economy, in which individual choice is paramount:* Social policy that promotes and rewards hard work, enterprise, thrift, and personal responsibility:* A standard of living, and quality of life, that is the envy of the world.

Current issues

ACT New Zealand currently focuses on two main policy areas - taxation and crime. ACT advocates lowering tax-rates and also supports something approaching a flat tax, in which tax rates would not be graduated based on wealth or income, so every taxpayer would pay the same proportion of their income in tax. The flat tax rate that ACT wants to target would be approximately 15%.Fact|date=February 2007 Aligned to the lower tax proposal, ACT also wants to reduce or remove some Government programmes which they see as unnecessary and wasteful and increase self-reliance by encouraging individuals to take responsibility to pay for services traditionally paid for by Government.

Other policies ACT advocates include:

* welfare reforms similar to those instituted by the United States in the mid 1990s, based primarily on the reforms first undertaken in Wisconsin
* a greater spend on defence with closer strategic alliances with the United States of America, Australia and Great Britain.

Members of ACT's caucus in parliament voted 5 to 4 in favour of the 2004 Civil Unions legislation which gave the option of legal recognition to (among others) same-sex couples. A majority also supported [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=3509424] , New Zealand Herald article from 2003 showing voting results of MPs on third reading of Prostitution Reform Bill.] the legalisation of brothels by the Prostitution Reform Act 2003.

History

Origins

ACT grew out of the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers, although the organizations remain legally separate. Sir Roger Douglas and Derek Quigley, both former cabinet ministers, founded the association in 1993. The organization was intended to be a lobby group, promoting the economic policies that Douglas and Quigley stood for (sometimes known as "Rogernomics").

The following year, with the newly-introduced MMP electoral system making it easier for smaller parties to gain seats, ACT New Zealand emerged as a separate political party based on the association's views. Douglas selected longtime Labour Party activist Brian Nicolle to help him establish the party.

The Association of Consumers and Taxpayers still exists on paper, although it has little substance.Fact|date=April 2008 The Association technically operates as a lobby-group promoting free market economics. It holds its annual general meetings during the annual general meetings of ACT New Zealand and the members of the Board of Trustees also serve as board members of the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.

Douglas led the party initially, but in March of 1996 he stepped down, and Richard Prebble became the party leader.

1996-1999

In the 1996 election, ACT gained eight seats in Parliament — one electorate seat and seven list seats. Prebble won election in Wellington Central; someWho|date=March 2008 believe that he won after Prime Minister Jim Bolger appeared to endorse Prebble over his own National Party's candidate. ACT had by this time adopted the role of a natural coalition partner with National (a significant departure from Douglas and Prebble's origins in Labour), and would have been assured representation in Parliament if Prebble won. Under New Zealand's MMP system, any party that wins an electorate seat qualifies for list seats, even if it does not get 5% of the vote. However, some observers pointed out that Prebble had a substantial lead well before the election and would have won even without Bolger's endorsement. It ended up being a moot point, as ACT won 6.1% of the vote, just over the MMP threshold. It remained outside the National-New Zealand First coalition government, although sometimes gave it support.

1999-2002

In the election of 1999, ACT increased its numbers in parliament by one seat, giving it a total of nine, although Prebble lost his Wellington Central electorate seat.

2002-2005

In the 2002 election, ACT's strength in parliament remained unchanged, prompting some peopleWho|date=March 2008 to speculate about Prebble's leadership. However, no obvious challenges emerged, and Prebble remained in control until he decided to resign in 2004.

In 2003, allegations against Donna Awatere Huata, one of its MPs, came to embarrass the Party. Claims emerged that Awatere Huata had diverted funds from a children's educational program for her own personal use, and an official investigation was launched. This investigation eventually led to Awatere Huata's arrest for fraud. As ACT had a reputation for vociferously attacking any perceived dishonesty by members of other parties, the charges against Awatere Huata were quite embarrassing. Awatere Huata refused to resign from Parliament, but was expelled from the ACT caucus. That November, she was removed from the party itself, becoming an independent. ACT tried to remove her from Parliament by invoking the Electoral Integrity Act, as her departure from the party left ACT with fewer seats than the public had chosen to give it at the last election. In November 2004, Awatere Huata was finally removed from Parliament after her last court challenge failed, and the next person on the ACT list, Kenneth Wang, was appointed in her place.

Towards the end of 2003, some peopleWho|date=March 2008 started discussion about a possible pact between ACT and the (larger) National Party. Although ACT had long portrayed itself as a natural coalition partner for National, the two have never had a formal agreement. Some right-wing politicians believe that an agreement is essential to the establishment of a new right-wing government, and point to the pre-election agreement between Labour and the Alliance in 1999. As yet, however, there has been no deal.

On 27 April 2004, Richard Prebble announced his retirement from politics. An "indicative" ballot of the party's members selected Rodney Hide as Prebble's successor, in preference to the other candidates: Ken Shirley (the party's deputy leader), Stephen Franks, and Muriel Newman. The leadership race saw considerable tension between two factions of the party - Rodney Hide, one of the two main contenders, was regarded as representing a "populist", high-profile approach, while his main rival, Stephen Franks, was seen as more ideologically grounded. ACT's founder, Roger Douglas, saw Hide's alleged "grandstanding" as detracting from the group's core message, and had spoken out in favour of Franks and Shirley. In the end, however, Hide was successful, and was announced as the party's new leader on 13 June 2004.

2005 election

In the lead-up to the election in 2005, opinion-polls showed ACT support well below the 5% threshold.Fact|date=March 2008 ACT's bestFact|date=March 2008 prospect of winning an electorate appeared the relatively wealthy National-held Epsom seat in Auckland, contested by Rodney Hide. Most of the media ruled the party out as "dead", possibly assisting the downward spiral (see: Wasted vote), especially as polls conducted in the Epsom seat had incorrectly shown Hide's support being far below National's candidate. It was repeatedly put to the National Party that they could ensure the survival of ACT in Parliament as a potential coalition partner by supporting Hide in Epsom. While not emphatically ruling out the possibility, then National leader Don Brash stuck to the line that National "had no plans to do a deal". The Labour Party, however, saw the possibility of National supporters voting for Hide and encouraged their own supporters to vote for the National candidate in order to shut ACT out of parliament.

Hide won the seat by a moderate margin — only the second time that ACT had won an electorate seat. Nationwide, ACT's vote fell by a greater extent than that of any of the other small parties. It won only 1.5% of vote, winning only one additional list seat, that of Heather Roy. Roy has since become the party's new deputy leader, as the party's support had dropped enough to keep former deputy Muriel Newman from returning to Parliament.

2005-2007

Since the 2005 election ACT has set about the task of restoring the party, in terms of membership and finances. This has had limited successFact|date=March 2008 and the party remains a long way off the levels of support it enjoyed in the mid-1990s. The 2006 ACT Annual Conference took place in Wellington over the weekend of March 24 to 26. An almost entirely new Board was elected, reflecting the need for a change of direction within the party, and the emergence of a strong youth presence. Hamilton business-owner Garry Mallett was elected President, defeating Hawkes Bay farmer and former ACT Vice-President John Ormond. Christchurch's Trevor Loudon replaced Ormond as Vice-President, defeating Auckland's Barry Parkin. The Conference was most notable for the attendance of Māori Party Co-leader Tariana Turia. While the Māori Party and ACT do oppose each other in several areas, policies on welfare, tax and education are very similar. On completion of her speech, Turia received a standing ovation from the predominantly Pākehā and Asian crowd. Her presence is seen by many as a move by the ACT Party's Rodney Hide to broker a coalition of opposition parties to contest the 2008 election against the Labour minority Government.

Hide has also sought to "rebrand" the party. While not moving away from ACT's key tenets of freedom, choice, and personal responsibility, Hide has said that provided the governing Labour Party promise (amongst other things) significant tax-cuts, ACT could provide the centre-left party with support. Manywho?] see this as a departure from ACT's position as a staunch National Party ally. OthersWho|date=July 2008 point out that ACT is a centre-right liberal party (as opposed to National, a conservative party) and as such have many areas of agreement with Labour (seen as more liberal than National).

This new approach by the ACT Party has prevailed (at least publicly) since Rodney Hide and deputy-leader (and fellow-MP) Heather Roy returned from a privately funded tour of Europe. During this trip, Hide and Roy met with a number of political parties, including the Irish Progressive Democrats and the German Free Democrats, both parties with similar ideologies to ACT, but with substantially better electoral records.

Electoral results (1996-2005)

Office-holders

Organisational President

* Rodney Hide (1994-1996)
* Roger Douglas (1996-2001)
* Catherine Judd (2001-2006)
* Garry Mallett (2006-present)

Vice-President

* David Schnauer (1999-2000)
* Rodney Hide (2000-2001)
* Vince Ashworth (2001-2004)
* John Ormond (2004-2006)
* Trevor Loudon (2006-2008)
* Michael Crozier (2008-present) [cite web|url=http://www.act.org.nz/contact/act_board|title=The ACT Board of Trustees|accessdate=2008-04-01]

Parliamentary Party Leader

* Roger Douglas [Interim Leader] (1994-1996) (outside Parliament)
* Richard Prebble (1996-2004)
* Rodney Hide (2004-present)

Deputy Parliamentary Party Leader

* Ken Shirley (1996-2004)
* Muriel Newman (2004-2006)
* Heather Roy (2006-)

Members of Parliament

* Deborah Coddington (2002-2005)
* Derek Quigley (1996-1999)
* Donna Awatere-Huata (1996-2003)
* Gerry Eckhoff (1999-2005)
* Heather Roy (2002-present)
* Ken Shirley (1996-2005)
* Kenneth Wang (2004-2005)
* Muriel Newman (1996-2005)
* Owen Jennings (1996-2002)
* Patricia Schnauer (1996-1999)
* Penny Webster (1999-2002)
* Richard Prebble (1996-2005)
* Rodney Hide (1996-present)
* Stephen Franks (1999-2005)

See also

* ACT on Campus
* Liberalism
* Contributions to liberal theory
* Liberalism worldwide
* List of liberal parties
* Liberal democracy
* Liberalism in New Zealand
* Act Party's Caucus and Acts MPs' responsibilities

Notes

External links

* [http://www.act.org.nz/ ACT New Zealand] official site
* [http://www.actoncampus.org.nz/ ACT on Campus] ACT's Youth Wing
* [http://www.rodneyhide.com/ Rodney Hide's personal website]
* [http://www.libertysoft.com/liberty/features/58bradford2.html "New Zealand's New Zealots" by R.W. Bradford] — 1997 Article for "Liberty" magazine, about ACT and the Libertarianz
* [http://www.nzherald.co.nz/index.cfm?c_id=1500891&ObjectID=10336210 Is this the end of the road for Act? - NZ Herald Article]
* [http://dmoz.org/Regional/Oceania/New_Zealand/Society_and_Culture/Politics/Parties/ACT_-_The_Liberal_Party/ "Open Directory Project" ACT - The Liberal Party]


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