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Act Goes For Business As Usual

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Peter Wilson of NZPA

Wellington, Oct 10 NZPA - The ACT Party today held its first regional conference since the traumas of the leadership debacle and David Garrett's resignation from Parliament, but there was no mention of either of those events when about 50 members gathered in Wellington.

The only reference to Mr Garrett's sudden departure after the passport fraud scandal was when party leader Rodney Hide welcomed new MP Hilary Calvert and said her arrival in Parliament was the result of "unfortunate circumstances".

His former deputy Heather Roy, deposed by John Boscawen, made a speech about her bill to make student union membership voluntary and Mr Boscawen talked about the foreshore and seabed replacement legislation and the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Both received polite applause and questions from members were confined to those issues.

Following the business-as-usual agenda, Mr Hide told the conference National wouldn't be in power unless ACT had delivered five MPs, giving the Government a majority through a support agreement, and if that hadn't happened Helen Clark would still be prime minister.

He did, however, make a strong speech about why ACT opposed the Marine and Coastal Areas Bill which is going to replace the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

ACT voted against the bill when it was given its first reading in Parliament, and Mr Hide said he wanted members to know why he was opposing the Government he served in as a minister.

He said the test for iwi gaining customary title had been weakened and, worst of all, they could choose to negotiate title with the Government instead of going to court.

This was going to lead to "closed-door, secret deals" and it would be politicians who decided which beaches would be controlled by iwi.

"It will lead to a proliferation of iwi-owned beaches, that is its intent, that is its purpose, and I don't believe the National Party has a mandate to deliver it," he said.

Politics and expediency had "ruled supreme" and the Government was replacing the legislation because of a deal it made with the Maori Party, he said.

"It is simply a deal hacked out by the Maori Party and National," he told the conference.

Mr Hide also cast some doubt over whether there was full support within government for one of his most cherished aims -- getting rid of red tape.

"It isn't clear whether National is serious about cutting red tape," he said, which was the first time he had indicated it was anything other than fully supportive of his policy.

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