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Free Press, 27 November 2023

THE HAPS

After a post-election break, we are back. A Coalition Government is formed and for the first time in 27 years, ACT has Ministers in Cabinet. More importantly, it will be a Government of real change with a comprehensive commitment. As Heather du Plessis-Allan wrote on the weekend, “it’s clear the hard yakka was put in by the policy nerds at ACT.”

The Real Change

Free Press readers are core ACT supporters. If you’ve helped ACT get in to Government, thank you. ACT’s record election result, including Brooke van Velden’s stunning Tamaki victory, only happened because of you.

So many people put up signs, went to meetings, argued with their friends, family, and colleagues, and gave their own money to the campaign amidst a cost-of-living crisis. We are forever grateful to you for making democracy possible.

As Government starts, campaigning does not end. ACT has always been a campaigning party. ACT MPs will continue doing town hall meetings, street corner meetings, and connecting with you online. Elections are a big part of democracy, but democracy is more than elections. It’s about a continued connection between people and Government.

ACT and the new Government are responding to the connection we’ve already had. We’ve heard people say they want the economy fixed with less waste and red tape, more consequences for criminals, a society united by common humanity instead of divided by race, and health and education systems that work.

The coalition agreement between ACT and National, supported by New Zealand First, delivers commitments on all these five issues. Full details were laid out in a release on Friday, but if you haven’t seen it, or the agreement itself, what follows is a summary special to Free Press readers.

The Government is committed to reducing public servant numbers with 2017 numbers as a baseline. It will ‘stop work’ on a raft of Labour boondoggles immediately. A new Minister of Regulation in charge of a new Ministry of Regulation means this is the first Government to take the scourge of red tape and regulation seriously. The Government wasting less of people’s money and time is the fastest way to a more prosperous future.

Being kind to criminals, even gang members, was the dangerous side of Jacinda’s self-appointed messianic kindness. The new Government will increase prison capacity for adults and provide more beds for youth offenders. The Sentencing Act will be amended to prioritise victims, cultural reports will be defunded.

A bill to define the Principles of the Treaty will be introduced. It will be debated in Parliament and the public will get their say at select committee. The Government, at this stage, is not committed to taking it further, where it would be passed into law and confirmed by referendum. ACT bears the responsibility of persuading the other parties and New Zealand that it should continue.

Besides the Treaty Principles Bill, the Government is committed to reviewing preferential access to medical school, ending new Māori Wards on councils without a referendum and subjecting those introduced without a referendum under Labour’s law to have one. Preferential contracting based on race will be ended and Cabinet will issue an edict that public services are to be delivered on need not race.

Charter schools are back, and existing state schools will be able to convert to charter school status. Charter schools have a contract that basically says ‘make sure the kids show up and learn at an agreed rate, here’s your money.’ That’s the opposite of how the education system has been working. There’s been little accountability for results but much micromanagement of everything from curriculum to teaching style to the shape of classrooms.

David Seymour is the Associate Minister of Health, responsible for Pharmac. It is 27 years old and overdue for an overhaul, there will also be a raft of tweaks to who can do what, for instance pharmacists prescribing some medicines, to make healthcare work faster.

These are select highlights from the full agreement. There is good news for landlords and farmers under Andrew Hoggard, for kids subject to Oranga Tamariki with new Children’s Minister Karen Chhour, and Nicole McKee will be comprehensively rewriting the Arms Act to treat licensed firearm owners with some dignity, making everyone safer along the way.

It’s a mammoth agenda, and we hope to stay close to you as a campaigning party while we make Real Change real. Thank you for all your support getting ACT this far.

 

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