Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
ACT New Zealand
ACT New Zealand is a free market liberal party in the New Zealand Parliament. It is located on the political right, and claims to support individual freedom, personal responsibility, low taxation, and smaller government. The party describes itself as classical liberal (referring to the European, rather than American, usage of the word). Some members have described the party as "libertarian", although this is disputed by the smaller Libertarianz party.
Supporters claim that ACT is one of the more noticeable opposition parties, known for its frequent and vociferous criticism of the government. Critics of the party sometimes claim that ACT is more interested in scoring political points and gaining media exposure than in participating in constructive dialogue. Supporters, however, say that ACT "keeps the government honest", and ensures accountability.
ACT's philosophy is based on individual freedom and personal responsibility. Perhaps properly described as "classical liberal", ACT's philosophy has also been described as "laissez faire", "neo-liberal", "libertarian", or "conservative". ACT states its principles and policy objectives as:
- Our Principles
- That individuals are the rightful owners of their own lives and therefore have inherent freedoms and responsibilities
- That the proper purpose of government is to protect such freedoms and not to assume such responsibilities.
- Our Policy Objectives
- A prosperous, well-educated, healthy, and open society in which individuals are free to achieve their full potential
- A growing, dynamic, and open economy, in which individual choice is paramount
- Social policy that promotes and rewards hard work, enterprise, thrift, and personal responsibility
- A standard of living, and quality of life, that is the envy of the world.
ACT New Zealand currently focuses on two main policy areas - taxation and crime. On the subject of taxes, ACT says that tax rates should be lower, and also supports a flat tax, in which tax rates would not be graduated based on wealth or income. On the subject of crime, ACT advocates harsher penalties. ACT is also known for its criticism of alleged government waste and inefficiency.
ACT grew out of the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers, although the two are separate organizations. The association was founded in 1993 by Roger Douglas and Derek Quigley, both former cabinet ministers. The organization was intended to be a lobby group, promoting the economic policies that Douglas and Quigley stood for (sometimes known as "Rogernomics").
The following year, with the new MMP electoral system making it easier for smaller parties to gain seats, ACT New Zealand was established as a separate political party based on the association's views. Initially, the party was led by Douglas, but in March of 1996, he stepped down and was replaced by Richard Prebble.
In the 1996 elections, ACT gained eight seats in Parliament: 7 list seats and the electorate seat of Wellington Central (won by Prebble). It remained outside the National-New Zealand First coalition government, although sometimes gave it support.
In the elections of 1999, ACT increased its strength in parliament by one seat, giving it a total of nine, although Prebble lost his Wellington Central electorate seat.
In the 2002 elections, ACT's strength in parliament remained unchanged, prompting speculation about Prebble's leadership. However there were no obvious challenges, and Prebble remained in control until he decided to resign in 2004.
In 2003, the party was embarrassed by allegations against Donna Awatere Huata, one of its MPs. It was claimed that Awatere Huata had diverted funds from a children's educational program for her own personal use, and an official investigation was launched. This investigation eventually led Awatere Huata's arrest for fraud. As ACT had a reputation for vociferously attacking any perceived dishonesty by members of other parties, the charges against Awatere-Huata were damaging to it. Awatere Huata refused to resign from her parliamentary seat, but was expelled from the ACT caucus. That November, she was removed from the party itself, becoming an independent. ACT argued that she should be forced to resign from parliament, as her departure from the party left ACT with fewer seats than the public had chosen to give it at the last election. In November 2004, Awatere Huata was finally removed from Parliament after her last court challenge failed.
Towards the end of 2003, there was discussion about a possible pact between ACT and the larger National Party. National, as the largest party on the political right, seems a natural coalition partner for ACT, but there has never been a formal agreement between the two. Some right-wing politicians believe that an agreement is essential to the establishment of a new right-wing government, and point to the pre-election agreement between Labour and the Alliance in 1999. As yet, however, there has been no deal.
On 27 April 2004, Richard Prebble announced his retirement from ACT's leadership. After an "indicative" ballot of the party's members, Rodney Hide was chosen as Prebble's successor. The other candidates were Ken Shirley (the party's deputy leader), Stephen Franks, and Muriel Newman. The leadership race saw considerable tension between two factions of the party - Rodney Hide, one of the two main contenders, was regarded as representing a "populist", high-profile approach, while his main rival, Stephen Franks, was seen as more ideologically grounded. ACT's founder, Roger Douglas, saw Hide's alleged "grandstanding" as detracting from the group's core message, and had spoken out in favour of Franks and Shirley. In the end, however, Hide was successful, and was announced as the party's new leader on 13 June 2004.
Members of Parliament
- Deborah Coddington (2002-present)
- Derek Quigley (1996-1999)
- Donna Awatere-Huata (1996-2003)
- Gerry Eckhoff (1999-present)
- Heather Roy (2002-present)
- Ken Shirley (1996-present)
- Kenneth Wang (2004-present)
- Muriel Newman (1996-present)
- Owen Jennings (1996-2002)
- Patricia Schnauer (1996-1999)
- Penny Webster (1999-2002)
- Richard Prebble (1996-present)
- Rodney Hide (1996-present)
- Stephen Franks (1999-present)
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