Key Points:

Act leader Rodney Hide sits down with the Herald for a Q&A session:

What is your vision for New Zealand?

We've set a big goal, which is to beat Australia by 2020, economically and politically and socially. So that sets the country a goal and also outlines the policies you need to beat Australia.

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Why should anyone wanting a change of Government vote for Act rather than National?

You have two choices: you can give your party vote to National or to Act. They are of equal value. But with Act you also change the direction of the country with some serious policy which National doesn't have.

You have a pledge card of 20 key policies. What are the most important three?

There's no doubt the economy, no doubt the crime policy - three strikes and you're out - and no doubt dumping the emissions trading scheme, all of which we differ from National on.

What are the most important economic policies?

The first is certainty. We have had a huge amount of policy uncertainty economically with the Labour-led Government so people don't know what the rules are. We need to provide that certainty so the people who invest can make decisions.

The second thing we need to do is get Government spending under control and lower and flatten taxes and you do that through our Taxpayer Rights Bill. We need not to cut spending but to hold spending to the rate of inflation and population growth.

Act says its policies would put another $500 in the pockets of New Zealanders. How did you calculate that so precisely?

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It's not precise. What we do know is the Government has increased spending over the rate of inflation $13,000 a year per household and the point we are making is that if we matched Australia we would be $500 a week better off. It's the difference between baking a bigger economic cake and just carving up what we have.

You want to close Government departments you don't need. Which ones?

It's not a goal to close Government departments but it is making the point that there has been a proliferation of Government waste in spending and I just look at silly little departments and wonder just why do we have them?

Families Commission, Youth Affairs, every type of affair imaginable. I think we should concentrate Government spending on the basics and get spending under control. That's what Act's Taxpayer Rights Bill does.

Do you believe in the public health system?

I believe that the state health system has been a failure and that what it does is take our money and then ration health care by queuing us up in pain and agony.

I much prefer that we use the private system and focus the Government's attention on ensuring that everyone has access.

I believe the Government's job should be to ensure access, not to be running the hospitals.

Why has it been necessary to get [Act founder] Sir Roger Douglas back?

There's a personal reason and a public one, I guess.

It has been fabulous for me to have Roger back because he is a person who knows politics backwards but always has an ability to lift his head above politics to see where we need to be.

He has lifted my sights. Publicly it is important to have him back because I think we are going to head through rough economic times and I think his experience as Finance Minister and in the Cabinet and as a politician, and his understanding of economic issues, will be needed right now.

National leader John Key has said he would not have Sir Roger Douglas in a Cabinet of his. Do you believe him?

I would have thought a Prime Minister would be open to people with experience and ideas and I am hoping to persuade him.

Has your weight loss changed your approach to politics?

Yes it has. I think it has given me a lot more confidence and made me more focused and determined. I always felt that was one aspect of my life that I couldn't control. I could never understand it because I've always had such good discipline and I feel this was an area I lacked discipline in. And what I've discovered with good help and advice is that I've been able to get that discipline that I needed. It hasn't been hard. It has been more knowledge.

And therefore I feel better about myself and better able to promote Act policy and be a better parliamentarian. Not cosmetically but just in my own mind. When you are heavily overweight, certainly I felt something of a personal failure. I don't think you need to be but that's what I did.