Sunday, March 23, 2008

Eternal Sunshine of the Ideologically Freehold

Well bugger me, I've gone and joined the Act party again. Ever since my membership with the Labour Party lapsed over a year ago, I was quite enjoying the self-sanctimonious everyman's land of no party affiliation. But there's a very interesting election on its way, and it's time to choose sides. Here's how it went:
Gudday Roger,

It is with great interest that I read of your return to the Act party, on both personal and national interest levels.

On a personal level, I voted Act in 2005, but I cannot honestly say that Act is going to get it this year, way things are going. Key is gonna hoover up that vote. I don't want to vote Nat, as there are too many philosophical differences between me and their leader. That is, I haven't been able to spot a philosophical bone in that man's body. Everyone believes in something, for Dagg's sake.

I have issues with both the current president and vice-president of Act. Mallett's a wingnut and Loudon is somewhere to the right of Hitler. Rodney is the right man for the leadership, and a salesman. I re-joined Act when the leadership vote to replace Richard Prebble began. I voted for Rodney then, and I voted for the right man. He just needs someone to slap him back into the concise anger of the status quo. If it is necessary to re-join Act to make you president again and, say, Priscilla Tate for vice-president, so be it.

In the public interest, Act has provided an invaluable brains trust and policy-setter for parliament. e.g. Treaty Settlements Deadline. It's a shame Act got culled last election, losing much of its research and policy analysis funding as a result. Heather has been giving it a good belt with what she has. But without the backup, there's only enough power being generated to light a dim bulb in the whole of Parliament.

Here's hoping your return to the fold returns Act to the vigorous potential it had back in the 90's. Here's hoping Act is known once more as the party party, the party of new ideas, the party of freedom. Here's hoping it's not just the 80's policies in new togs.


Will de Cleene
Roger sez,"Thanks for your email. I'll look forward to seeing you at an Act event soon." That's it, I'm off to the Act conference in Panmure. Once again, I end up crashing at RRB's house on the North Shore. His missus says gudday and calls me a political whore. "Not true", I reply. "Whores get paid."

Next day, I'm giving Auckland's bus service a blat. Take a 757 from Britomart to Panmure Basin. Takes the good part of an hour, even with the few stops it made to let passengers on and off. Pity the poor buggers doing the rush hour trip. My Wellington tan still made me the whitest person on the bus for the whole ride.

It was fun watching the suburbs change along the bus route. Wow, those Scene apartments are new. Vector Arena advertising Duran Duran. All along the waterfront to Mission Bay and beyond, not a single passenger on or off. Travelling along the black road between sand and glass. Heat haze on the harbour, glad I brought my water bottle.

Through Grey Lynn Glen Innes and the clapped-out clapboard working class housing estates. Beauty passes eyes lowered, a tidy section the best one can hope for. Through the industrial warehouse and manufacturing plants decorated with dull concrete lawns and wire hedges. Naked tit of Mt Wellington the lone landmark. Everyone off at Panmure. My own public private touring bus! The excellent chauffeur drops me at the right spot, a cigarette's length from the conference venue.

Straight to the bar, order a pint. "Nice weather we're having," I say to the barman as he pours, just as it starts raining on the balcony. The Black Caps are not doing well, and the beer goes quickly.

Go to the registration desk and Act president Gary Mallett introduces himself. Yeah, gudday. Gary Mallett used to be a Hamilton city councillor. Turns out he worked with my brother back in the 90's on a marketing scheme to move Hamilton away from its moo-cow image to a research and technology brand. The idea was dumped on by the then-mayor, a loon who wanted the main street lined with cow mannequins.

Maybe this Mallett guy is not so much of a wingnut after all. My opinion was largely based on the one time time I had heard Mallett speak in public at the Political Funding symposium last year. He gave a one-dimensional "freedom, freedom, freedom" argument which did not go down well. Time for a re-appraisal.

Have a word to an Act member, who spins the yarn about the Act on Campus stunt, where membership came with a packet of party pills. Well done, I say. Anything that makes Jim Anderton grumpy can't be wrong. I missed a scoop, but discretion comes at a high price, eh.

Shake hands with vice-president Trevor Loudon. While his dedicated hatred of socialists has its uses, it is a distraction that does not need to hang around the Act leadership. Rodney has done well at purging the spirit of Donna. Last thing Act needs is to be portrayed as a far-right gestapo party. In a closed session of Act's AGM, Trevor Loudon was replaced and Gary Mallett was re-selected as president. Good.

My brother, Randy Gonzales, turns up. Haven't seen him in, what, four years. Traditional greeting; firm handshake and bland pleasantries. Time for a screening of We're Here to Help. Not a bad little movie, although I reckon Michael Hurst is miscast as Rodney Hide.

Adjourn to the bar with Fairfacts Media from No Minister, Priscilla and Randy. We are off the record, Fairfacts! Priscilla Tate, like Brian Nicolle and many others in Act, comes from the activist branch of the Labour party. It's a fact easily forgotten by the MSM, although Roger Douglas was a Labour Minister under the Kirk and Rowling governments, as well as the Lange one.

The former Labour party supporters are there the following day. The hippy from Huntly, the artist from Eastbourne, the woman who helps disabled people become self-employed. We stand in stark contrast to Muriel Newman, who gets up on stage and declares that climate change is a fraud. When will we be rid of this turbulent prig? I thought that the last election had made it crystal clear that the people didn't want Muriel near the levers of power ever again. Sure, attack the carbon emissions trading scheme, but don't pretend to be a climate change denier. That's just flaky.

If the government can miscalculate our carbon bill by a billion dollars, and screw up the provisional tax calculation by $600 million, there's a fairly good chance we'll be pwned by prime minister Putin in no time by the proposed carbon credit scheme. Likewise, I have a nagging feeling that a new government is going to find a nasty surprise hidden in the numbers when they open the books post-election. Roger Douglas may be the right man at the right time once more.

John Key's dissing of Douglas makes the last taxi on the rank comment by Clark look lame in comparison. Which, coming from a man who had no comment on the Auckland Airport sale until he had consulted his minders, seems vastly out of character. As Chris Trotter observes, Key is That Girl.

What "right wing agenda" is John Key referring to? Ditching Working For Families and swapping with the first $30,000 income tax-free? Maybe John Key prefers people to be addicted to the public tit. De-institutionalised education? I'm sure such a thing could be sold to Russell Brown, given the right pitch. Decriminalise cannabis? Hell, I'm sure DPF would go along with that, as opposed to the Nat ban on BZP.

Y'see, I see Act as a bridge between party political differences, not the far-right tag that the MSM are keen on reinforcing. As long as Act can provide a path to economic prosperity while assuring the rights of people to have different goals, ensuring that no-one is worse off than before, then I'm in.

If Roger Douglas, Richard Prebble and Rodney Hide can put aside their differnces for the public good, then there is a chance that some good can come out of this MMP environment. Otherwise, we might as well be damned and go back to FPP and the two-horse race.

UPDATE: Roger Douglas also has a go at the "hard right" label in today's Herald.