The "intolerant new left" is working in the background of the Government to censor New Zealanders' thoughts and speech, Act Party leader David Seymour says.
Act unveiled a new logo with the tagline "for freedom" at its annual conference in Auckland's Parnell today, with speakers highlighting free speech policy and opposition to gun laws passed after the Christchurch shootings.
"None of us, nor our ancestors, came here to have our thoughts and speech censored by a state apparatus," Seymour said in his keynote speech.
"In fact, many New Zealanders have come here to get away from exactly that. But make no mistake that is exactly what the intolerant new left wants, and they are working in the background of the current Government.
"For a long time, we could rely on the liberal left to uphold freedom of expression. They may have wanted to take your property, but at least they'd let you have your thoughts and opinions."
Seymour has faced accusations he is seeking the "racist vote" after announcing a member's bill that would repeal parts of the law that makes some speech unlawful if it is threatening, abusive or insulting and likely to "excite hostility" against a group of people or bring them into contempt on the ground of their colour, race or ethnicity.
Today, Seymour said the bill would remove from the Human Rights Act the words "abusive" and "insulting" and leave only "threatening" as a crime.
"It should never be a crime to insult or abuse someone with language because nobody should ever be punished on the basis of subjective opinion."
Normandy landings invoked
Former leader Richard Prebble opened the conference and invoked the Normandy landings when criticising the Government's response to the Christchurch mosque shootings.
"We recently had our Prime Minister travel to France to have a meeting to agree on how to limit free speech," Prebble told over 100 attendees, in a video address.
The "Christchurch call" in Paris came close to the anniversary of the Normandy landings in World War II, Prebble said.
"When my father and others waded ashore at Normandy ... he waded ashore for freedom. Not for the right for our Prime Minister to go off and perform on CNN."
Prebble told the conference that Seymour also stood for freedom as the sole MP to vote against gun control laws passed under urgency and soon after the March 15 shootings.
"In the hysteria in Parliament following the events in Christchurch this Parliament stampeded through some legislation ... who had the courage to get up and say that? David Seymour.
"David Seymour has voted alone against this coalition - and I call it a coalition from the Greens right through to National ... he is the conscience of Parliament."
Prebble told attendees today's event was one of the most important in the history of the party, and marked the start of the 2020 election campaign.
New policies include 'student accounts'
Today's relaunch has been more than a year in the planning, with the party looking to boost the paltry 0.5 per cent of the vote it got at the last election.
A range of policies were revealed, including:
• Setting-up a "student education account" for each child from the age of 2, with the Government paying in $12,000 every year until the age of 18, and then another $30,000 for tertiary education. Parents would choose what school to pay to attend, with zones abolished.
"If parents and children are satisfied with the education they are receiving, they can stay at their current school," Seymour said. "If not, they can use the funding in their Student Education Account to receive a better education."
• A flat income and business tax rate of 17.5 per cent, which Seymour said would stop the Government taking progressively more money "as a punishment for success".
• Establishing a "regulatory constitution" that would require governments to publicly state how new regulation "complies with the principles of good lawmaking".
"For example, a government must properly define the problem it is seeking to solve. It must show that, were it not to act, harm would be done," Seymour said.
"It then must show that the benefits of a proposed law would outweigh the costs, and identify who the winners and losers would be."
Formed in 1994, in its heyday Act had nine MPs - after the 1999 and 2002 elections. For the past three elections, it has had only one MP, courtesy of winning the Epsom seat in an electoral accommodation with National.
Act Party: A Brief History
• 1996 Election - 6.1 per cent: Act elected to Parliament in first MMP election with eight MPs; leader Richard Prebble wins Wellington Central after a tacit endorsement from National PM Jim Bolger.
• 1999 Election - 7.04 per cent: Act wins nine seats, although leader Richard Prebble loses Wellington Central.
• 2002 Election - 7.14 per cent: Act wins nine seats again, no electorate seats.
• 2005 Election - 1.51 per cent: Against predictions, new leader Rodney Hide wins the seat of Epsom and brings Heather Roy into Parliament.
• 2008 Election - 3.65 per cent: Rodney Hide retains Epsom and brings in four other MPs, including John Boscawen. Act signs a confidence and supply agreement with National.
• 2011 Election - 1.07 per cent. Ex-National leader Don Brash leads the party to its worst result after ousting Rodney Hide as leader in coup and replacing Hide with ex-National MP John Banks as Act candidate in Epsom. Brash resigns. Banks becomes leader.
• 2014 Election: 0.69 per cent: David Seymour wins Epsom but no more MPs. Seymour made leader and appointed parliamentary under-secretary for education and regulatory reform.
• 2017 Election: 0.5 per cent: Seymour wins Epsom but is again his party's only MP after Act gets just 13,075 votes.