It's worth reading what Act says it's planning to do after the next election. Because if things stay the way they are, Act will be doing a lot of it. And Act's ideas might impact you more than National's.
Yet another poll this week predicts National and Act will win 2023. It's the 20th poll saying that this year.
1 News-Kantar's poll has National on 37 per cent and Act on 9 per cent.
That's on the low side of what the polls have been giving Act. On this year's polling, Act could be bringing 20-25 per cent of the votes to that government.
That gives Act a lot of bargaining power in coalition negotiations.
If the party is smart, it'll expect a quarter of the vote to translate to a quarter of the Cabinet positions.
But more importantly, it'll expect a number of big policy wins. And Act has a very clear idea of what it wants to do. It's been prepping for the last two years.
The party reckons it's already released eight policy documents, four Covid policy papers and two fully costed alternative budgets. Act's leader consistently has a clear position on everything from crime to co-governance to the cost of living.
If Act implements even one policy fully, it'll be the closest thing to a proper shake-up within that sector since Rogernomics.
Act wants to cut the numbers of public servants back to 2017 numbers, from 62,000 to 48,000. That's a huge cut. The money we'd save on endlessly increasing and unproductive bureaucrats would be enormous.
Party leader David Seymour is obsessed with education. He blames our increasingly poor school system for us constantly falling further behind Australia and further away from pretending we're still a first-world country.
Seymour's charter schools are small beer compared to what he'd like to do. If he has his way with education it'd mean a complete overhaul of the mediocrity we're now accepting. He plans to cut Education Ministry staff by half, reward our exceptional teachers and — here's the bold idea — give each child an account of $12,000 a year to spend on their education.
Parents will decide how to spend that money on educating their children: early childhood education, private school, public school, university, tech training. If the parents aren't happy with the school, they can decide to move their child, using this fund.
Act also wants to tackle our simmering national identity debate head-on. The party wants a referendum on co-governance. They also want the country to decide (rather than have it quietly imposed on us) whether we want to be two distinct camps of tangata whenua and tangata tiriti, or all just Kiwis. Either by design or by accident, the party has protected itself against being labelled racists. Thirty per cent of their caucus is Māori. Seymour whakapapas to Ngāpuhi.
Act obviously won't get to call the shots post 2023. Traditionally, minor parties get a few wins here and there and it's the major party running the show. But there's a good chance Act will hold the cards this time.
The size of Act's possible vote counts in its favour.
So does the fact that Seymour apparently isn't hung up on ministerial posts. If he doesn't get what he wants, he's reportedly happy to walk away, sit on the cross benches and force National to negotiate every piece of legislation.
But most importantly, it's clear Act's a lot more prepared for government than National. While Act's been pumping out fully thought-through policy documents, National's been selecting leaders. National's still trying to explain whether it'll cut taxes or not. It is several years behind Act in prep.
Even when it does eventually release policy, National probably won't have big ideas. It's a party of managing the status quo with small changes. There's every chance Act will bring many of the policy changes.
It doesn't look like National's expecting an assertive Act.
Chris Luxon's already ruled out giving Seymour the Finance Minister's job. It's a bold call before even knowing how the chips will fall. He's also ruled out a co-governance referendum. Awkwardly, the referendum is a bottom line for Act.
National's behaving like it expects a compliant minor party partner. It might need to rethink that. Unless the polls change, Act might have significant power in post-election negotiations.
So, it'd pay for all of us to read up on what they're planning. Including National.
Heather du Plessis-Allan Drive, Newstalk ZB, 4pm-7pm, weekdays.