Act players have key role

Act New Zealand leader Jamie Whyte (left) and Epsom candidate David Seymour in Dunedin yesterday....
Act New Zealand leader Jamie Whyte (left) and Epsom candidate David Seymour in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Two electorates - Epsom and Te Tai Tokerau - have the ability to decide the election result.

Political editor Dene Mackenzie talks to Act New Zealand Epsom candidate David Seymour about the weight of expectation.

David Seymour is under no illusions how pivotal his role is in the September 20 election.

As Act New Zealand's Epsom candidate, if he wins, he can possibly take another two MPs into Parliament with him - on current polling - and provide either coalition support of cross-bench support for National.

If he fails to retain the seat Act has held since 2005, Mr Seymour will not get into Parliament, as he is not on the Act list, and Prime Minister John Key might struggle to find a suitable coalition partner he can rely upon for voting support in the House.

In Te Tai Tokerau, Mana Party MP Hone Harawira needs to retain his seat from what is expected to be a strong challenge by Labour candidate Kelvin Davis. If Mr Harawira does not win his seat, all the money Internet Party backer Kim Dotcom has poured into the party will be for nothing.

Mr Seymour and Act president Jamie Whyte were in Dunedin yesterday attending the Scenic South branch annual conference.

In an interview, Mr Seymour said he did feel the weight of responsibility but needed to focus on what he could control.

''I hope the prime minister endorses me and says he will vote for me. Epsom voters have voted for Act under three different scenarios but it is impossible to enforce any sort of deal. Ballots in New Zealand are secret and sacrosanct.''

In 2008 and 2001, Mr Key had very public ''cups of tea'' with former Epsom MPs Rodney Hide and John Banks.

Mr Seymour said it was unlikely there would be any beverage-based gestures at this election.

So far, he has knocked on 8500 homes in Epsom and was still finding people who had not had a politician visit for 21 years.

National Party MP Paul Goldsmith had sent a letter to Epsom voters telling them he was concentrating on securing National's list vote in the electorate, opening up the chance for Mr Seymour to retain the seat for Act.

Of those Mr Seymour had talked to in Epsom, about 5% were Act supporters but between 30% to 35% of them were National voters who understood MMP. They realised it was in National's interest to return Act to Parliament through Epsom while ticking National's party vote, he said.

So far, Don Nicolson has been selected as Act's Clutha-Southland candidate. Act would also have candidates in Dunedin South and Dunedin North.

The three main policies Act would campaign on were law and order, lower tax rates and stopping people having to spend an absurd amount of money on housing, Mr Seymour said.

Following on from its success of ''three strikes'' for criminals, Act was proposing three years in prison for three burglaries. Burglaries were rife in parts of New Zealand, he said.

''The issue is: what's the point of catching someone if they get let out to keep on doing it?''Mr Seymour also took issue with the policy announcements which indicated politicians could pick winners in business.

Act would change KiwiSaver and Working for Families contributions and review paying pensions at 65. The Government spending money on business was even worse than subsidising the reasonably well-off.

''Businesses are there to make a profit. All companies have to pay higher taxes when they succeed so the minister comes along and gives money to those which are not successful.

''If you knew what the next big thing was going to be, would you be doing it or would you be in Parliament?''

Asked about the worst-case scenario if he did not win Epsom, Mr Seymour said there had always been a party in New Zealand with Act's socially liberal policies and those policies would remain intact no matter what the result.

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