31 May 2023

Former National MP Parmjeet Parmar switches to ACT for 2023 election

3:09 pm on 31 May 2023
National MP Parmjeet Parmar chairing a Committee

Parmjeet Parmar chairing a select committee. She represented the National Party as a list MP for six years before being swept out in the 2020 "red wave". Photo: VNP / Phil Smith

Former National Party MP Parmjeet Parmar will stand for the ACT Party in this year's election.

Parmar made New Zealand history in the 2014 general election as the first Indian-born woman elected to Parliament.

She was a National list MP who held science and economic spokesperson roles until she was voted out in the 2020 election.

Parmar, a scientist and businesswoman, joined the ACT Party after resigning from National at the start of May.

"I'm grateful for the opportunity and honour to be a National member of Parliament for two terms," she told RNZ. "They are my friends, but this time - because I'm not a National member of parliament at the moment - while I have been out I have considered and now it's time that I go with ACT.

"Because I believe that ACT is the party that provides that platform to make the contribution that I would like to make."

Since leaving Parliament she had been running her business and being a board member for a hospice.

"Being back in the real world I actually realised even more the impact of government policies on businesses and communities alike and that's where I totally agree with ACT: that need to make a change in the direction of our country.

"While it's a small party at the moment, ACT is the one that often asks the hard questions."

She would not say if she had approached ACT or the other way around, saying only she had "always admired ACT and it's a great opportunity ... it's been mutual".

She will stand as its candidate in the Pakuranga electorate, currently held by National's Simeon Brown who won it by large margins in the past two elections.

She said she would be focusing on the party vote, rather than the electorate.

"It's all about party vote, so my goal is, I'm really grateful for the opportunity that ACT has given me to be part of their team, and my goal is to work with the team to achieve a great result at the election."

She had previously run in the Mt Roskill electorate for National, but lost against Labour's Phil Goff in 2014, and Michael Wood in 2017.

John Key and Parmjeet Parmar on the campaign trail ahead of the Mt Roskill by-election.

Parmar with then-National leader John Key in 2016. Photo: RNZ / Sarah Robson

In 2020 she won less than a quarter of the vote to Wood's 61 percent, and was too far down the list to make it back into Parliament. Wood, questioned about her chances, said "well, good luck to ACT".

ACT's leader David Seymour welcomed her move to the party, saying she would be able to lead the conversation on biotechnology and genetics.

"Parmjeet's standing for ACT because she wants to promote science and business. ACT thinks it's long overdue that we have a discussion particularly on genetics and biotech in New Zealand," he said.

"New Zealand firms, New Zealand universities, Dairy NZ are having to do experimentation in genetics in other countries such as Australia and the United States because of the superstitious, backward, and frankly medieval laws that New Zealand has."

"I expect ACT's Board to give her a high list placing and select her to stand in the Pakuranga electorate. Parmjeet will take on the Science and Innovation portfolio."

He said that from his conversations with board members, he expected she would be guaranteed a seat, but was confident it would not come at the expense of current MPs.

"We've announced two new people and we're polling to get another five in, so it looks like we've still got quite a few slots."

He said she would not be campaigning for the electorate vote, but laughed off the suggestion it was an electorate deal with National.

"I sometimes feel sorry for the people of Pakuranga, and maybe they should have a better choice, a better option, but hey - Simeon's the one they've got and I'm sure giving the party vote to ACT will be decent absolution for having to put up with Simeon for another three years."

Their election strategy was to win in two electorates - Epsom, where he would be standing, and Tāmaki where deputy Brooke van Velden was running - and campaign for the party vote elsewhere, he said.

ACT is holding its annual conference in central Auckland this weekend, featuring speeches from MPs and candidates like Parmar.

RNZ understands Seymour will make a policy announcement at the conference related to cutting regulations and red tape.

As a candidate, Parmar joins former Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard, who quit his role to announce this month he would stand for ACT in the traditionally blue Rangitīkei seat this year.

ACT is National's natural coalition partner, with the latest 1News-Kantar political poll suggesting they would have enough support to form the next government.

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