Act Party leader David Seymour confounded the critics and won the crowd in Dancing With The Stars. He hopes to have flown the flag for anyone who is a bit different.
1. When were you last in a serious relationship?
Earlier this year, but I try to keep the women in my life private. Everybody hopes that they'll find a soulmate they'll settle down with. I've been on that track and then moved to Canada and back twice for my career, losing a relationship each time. The last four years in Parliament have been madness. It's just one of those things. What motivates me ultimately is better public policy. Guys like Richard Prebble and Roger Douglas really did change New Zealand for the better.
2. If you're so serious about politics, why do Dancing with the Stars?
I've written two books on public policy and no one gave a s*** about them. Then I watched Jacinda Ardern become leader and get a 20 point bump in the polls on exactly the same policies, and I thought 'Jesus Christ, obviously all my effort is not paying off'.
I've been able to connect with more people in three months of DWTS than in four years of banging away about regulatory reform. If you look at the show's format, I get to spend at least twice as much time talking as I do dancing.
3. Do you worry that it undermined your credibility?
Most people see it for what it is - an entertainment show - and frankly I played the game pretty well.
If people are so snooty that they think me twerking in a Lycra outfit takes away the fact that I'm one of Parliament's most serious politicians, then I probably wasn't getting their vote anyway.
4. Do you think DWTS changed people's minds about you?
I know it did, from the torrents of correspondence I received. People said things like, 'I used to think you were a complete dick but now I think you're ok'. I think what people liked was that everybody's got their shortcomings; mine were pretty obvious in terms of dancing. Hopefully I'm a bit like my mum; she couldn't walk very well as a result of getting polio as a baby. She was told she'd never drive, work or have children but she overcame all that and did it anyway. I hope that if we achieved anything, we raised a flag for people just being themselves and being accepted for who they are.
5 .Have you always been different?
Yes, but we all are. I don't think people have a right to make others conform. Anyone that's ever been bullied or put down or marginalised would have seen that was what was happening to me with the comments in social media. I feel sorry for the people doing it because if that's the best use of their time they must have some pretty bleak options. I have quite a thick skin. I don't really care what people say. I'd only be upset if they said I don't work hard. I actually thought it would be a lot worse. What surprised me was how strongly New Zealand rallied around us.
6. Growing up in Whangarei, what kind of child were you?
I wanted to be an electrical engineer. I liked making boats; I was quite a nerdy child in that sense. I went to Raumanga Middle School which was a failed Ministry of Education experiment in Form 1 to 4 schools. They ended up having to close it because no-one wanted to go. I loved rugby. I played for five years at Auckland Grammar and coached for seven years.
7. Was it your own choice to board at Auckland Grammar?
Yes. I don't think Grammar's the best school for everybody but it was absolutely the right school for me because it's meritocratic. Grammar celebrates success. You don't get dragged down for doing too well. At school in Whangarei the view was, 'You're a smart ass' whereas at Grammar it was, 'We'll put you in a higher class'.
8. At 16 you volunteered as a counsellor for Kidsline; did you have any relevant experience?
No, but I was brought up to pitch in and help where you can. A friend of mine gave a seminar on Kidsline at school. He said they provide training in communication skills. It helped that the majority of volunteers were girls, who were in short supply at Grammar. I couldn't have got elected if I hadn't done Kidsline because they teach you to listen effectively, use words that connect, show empathy and reflection. Listening is crucial in a democracy because it's your job to represent people's views.
9. When did you develop your libertarian philosophy?
In my final year at Grammar; the headmaster John Morris got into a public fight over the introduction of the NCEA. I couldn't understand why the state, which I'd hitherto considered a benign actor, was trying to undermine one of the most important choices I'd ever made. Grammar has a proud history of standing up to the orthodoxy.
10. As a libertarian, are you anti-vaccination?
No, I'm not. Mum contracted polio from a vaccination when she was 6-months old; that was possible in the 50s when they used live vaccines but Mum was strongly pro-vax her whole life. She was able to rationalise that what happened to her was enormously unfortunate but it wasn't reason to be a kook. Should vaccination should be compulsory? The difficulty with compulsion in medical matters is you make doctors the policeman.
11. It says on Wikipedia that you have Maori ancestry. Do you know much about it?
My great uncles did some research and found that our family goes back to Tauwhara marae, part of the Ngati Rehia hapu on the Waitangi River. We hope to visit one day but you don't just show up and say 'sorry about the last 150 years - here we are'. ACT supports the Treaty settlement process but we do have a problem with the Court of Appeal interpretation of government being a 'partnership' between two groups. I went to a ceremony the other day where we ran out of time to talk about the actual topic because of the endless speeches in the powhiri.
12. Was your mum's death of cancer in 2007 a motivation for your End of Life Choice Bill?
No, she died in a hospice comfortably and relatively rapidly. The majority of people will have a good death; our palliative care profession look after us pretty well. This bill is for the small number of people who are going to be very ill at the end of their life and unable to be helped in a way they find acceptable. End of life choice is the last great human rights issue. People are now equal regardless of race, religion, gender and sexuality. All these previously public matters have become private, but how you die is still a public matter. You have a duty to spend another couple of weeks writhing in agony in order to fulfil the collective view of what a death should be.