7 Feb 2023

ACT's Seymour targets National, co-governance in speech

3:37 pm on 7 February 2023
Leader of ACT party David Seymour

ACT leader David Seymour. (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

ACT leader David Seymour has delivered a speech painting National and Labour as two sides of the same coin, and calling co-governance a "culture war".

In his "Road to Real Change" speech, Seymour criticised Labour's values and policies as a list of failures that were incoherent, incompetent lunacy and "insincere peddling".

The state-of-the-nation style address in Auckland announced no new policy, instead re-litigating ACT's approach.

His criticism of the government ran the gamut from immigration to Kāinga Ora, Oranga Tamariki, freshwater, firearms, and the public interest journalism fund.

"You only have to look at the government - they just don't get it and it's not just that they're screwing up one or two bad policies. It is the values that run through everything they do which have caused us to veer so badly off track," he said.

Climate change also received significant focus.

"They tax tradies' utes to help wealthy people buy Teslas. Here's the thing with that: New Zealand's emissions are already capped by the Emissions Trading Scheme, so this policy makes no net difference to the climate.

"For the avoidance of doubt, no, taxing Kiwi cows for their farts and burps will not make an iota of difference to flooding in Auckland/ Clearing drains regularly would help more. And it is insulting and infantile to pretend otherwise."

His call to undo the changes made by the Labour government went on to explain how its new leader Chris Hipkins' plan to cut back on policy would not amount to the real change he was promising.

"Let's say Hipkins winds back Three Waters, dumps the media merger, cancels so-called Fair Pay Agreements, ends the co-governance culture war and puts the skids under the jobs tax Labour call income insurance," he said.

"Will the union and Māori factions in his caucus let him dump their prized projects? Does he really want to dump them? Or does he think we're all just a bit slow and we'll all understand them better if he just explains them?"

"Next they'd have to end their war on immigration ... let's say he dumps all that, and it's not a complete list, What happens next?"

He was quick also to turn the firehose on potential coalition partner National - and its leader Christopher Luxon.

"I will do my best throughout this speech to differentiate the Chris's but it won't be easy," he said.

"It simply isn't good enough to paint a red government blue, and then pretend it's all fixed by endlessly promising to just 'get things done' ... every time I hear Chris Luxon say that the Labour 'doesn't get things done', it makes me a little nervous. Could he seriously want them to do more?"

"Five times National has vigorously opposed Labour's policy from opposition and five times they've followed Labour into government and bedded in all the policies they've said they'll remove."

The focus, however, returned repeatedly to co-governance.

He talked about ACT's values, quoting Descartes and hailing the thinking of Galileo, Einstein, and Martin Luther King before emphasising the need for free speech.

The Treaty of Waitangi, he said "was written in the shadow of the enlightenment" but "we hear the exact opposite from the government: 'what matters is not the content of your character ... what matters most is your skin colour or background'."

"In health, education, and resource management, we are told that what Māori thought during the 400 years that Māori spent in isolation from the world is more important than our bonds of common humanity and if you question this doctrine then you're racist, obviously."

After highlighting the party's already announced policies, Seymour closed with a plea to his followers to influence others, saying word of mouth was the "most powerful tool of political persuasion".

"I"m asking you not to just agree, but to act," he said. "We can do more than just stop the damage, we can deliver the real change that will make this country - again - the best on Earth. I'm up for it. ACT's team is up for it. If you're up for it then join us."

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