Act again seizes the moment

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern no doubt spoke for many when she called Act New Zealand leader David Seymour an "arrogant prick" the other week.

Ms Ardern’s remark was directed to Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson but inadvertently broadcast to the nation because her microphone was yet to be switched off.

Mr Seymour, however, was immediately switched on and made the canny suggestion that a framed copy of the Hansard transcript be auctioned off and the proceeds donated to prostate cancer charities.

This was clever politics on many levels: it turned a potential negative into a positive, it was a good news story at a quiet time of the year and it served to elevate Mr Seymour — the leader of a minor party — albeit briefly, up to the same level as the Prime Minister.

Ms Ardern was sporting to go along with Mr Seymour’s suggestion although, in all honesty, she had little choice.

Saying no would have looked humourless and lacking in her trademark compassion; saying yes meant that at least she could claim a little reflected glory from Mr Seymour’s moment in the sun.

As a small party Act New Zealand needs all the publicity it can get, and this was pure gold.

It was also a reflection of the excellent performance by its caucus this year, and not just Mr Seymour alone.

Act leader David Seymour and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with the framed copy of the Hansard...
Act leader David Seymour and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with the framed copy of the Hansard transcript that raised $110,000 for prostate cancer charities. Photo: Supplied
One person’s arrogance is another’s rigorous questioning, but Ms Ardern’s unguarded reaction was symbolic of the impact Act has had this year.

Mr Seymour is no one-man band. His highly capable deputy Brooke van Velden in particular, with able support from Nicole McKee, Simon Court and Karen Chhour, have continued to ask hard questions and hold the Government to account, often more effectively than their more vaunted National counterparts.

Act has been active on many fronts, but its work on Three Waters, Oranga Tamariki, firearms reforms, housing and the cost-of-living crisis in particular has been effective in raising issues and making the Government justify or alter its policies.

But for many, its biggest win this year might just be that $100,100 Mr Seymour and Ms Ardern raised for prostate cancer charities.

As with almost all cancers, early detection is key to successfully treating prostate cancer, a disease which one in eight men will develop in their lifetime.

In New Zealand that equates to about 4000 men being diagnosed every year: of those, about 700 will die.

Many imagine that early detection in this instance involves an uncomfortable physical examination, but a simple blood test can be highly effective ... and you can buy a lot of them for $110,000.

The Prostate Cancer Foundation estimates that its widespread use could reduce prostate cancer rates by as much as 40%.

That would equate to 280 men whose lives would be extended, whose families would not be deprived of them prematurely and who would all be able to hear Ms Ardern’s next hot mic gaffe.