26 Sep 2011

ACT Party appears in disarray

10:58 pm on 26 September 2011

The ACT Party appears in disarray, with its leader being contradicted by the party's Epsom candidate and its deputy leader set to retire from politics.

Just nine weeks before the general election, ACT leader Don Brash's suggestion that marijuana be decriminalised has been quickly rejected by his party and other politicians.

In a speech at the weekend, Dr Brash said it was his personal view that cannabis should be legalised, while at the same time signalling that ACT wants to strengthen people's right to use force to defend themselves.

ACT's Epsom candidate John Banks immediately rejected Dr Brash's view on cannabis reform, saying it was not party policy. Mr Banks, a former police minister, says he has always opposed drugs and would not support any moves to decriminalise marijuana.

Prime Minister John Key also denounced Dr Brash's suggestion that the drug should be made legal, saying that would be step in the wrong direction.

Mr Key says Parliament has to send the community a strong message about drug use.

"The message that I want to send to New Zealanders is we want to see less drug-taking in this country. We don't want a drug culture for our young people."

Labour Party leader Phil Goff also opposes Dr Brash's view and says the disagreement over cannabis reform is another sign all is not well within the ACT Party.

United Future leader Peter Dunne questioned Dr Brash's motives in announcing support for decriminalising cannabis and for changes to self-defence laws.

Dr Brash wants several sections of the Crimes Act changed to include a right to self-defence for people and their properties.

Mr Dunne says the comments appear at odds with ACT's core principles and questions whether the party is falling apart or just trying to grab a headline.

ACT now heads into the campaign with none of its sitting MPs seeking re-election after deputy leader John Boscawen made the surprise announcement on Saturday that he will retire from Parliament after the election on 26 November.

Mr Boscawen's departure marks a full changing of the guard since Dr Brash became leader earlier this year. Former leader Rodney Hide, Sir Roger Douglas, Heather Roy and Hilary Calvert are also giving up politics.