Act Party co-founder Sir Roger Douglas says his former party has “lost the plot” and he will not be voting for it in the coming election because he believes Act only represents the wealthy.
Douglas, a former Labour Finance Minister who founded Act with Derek Quigley in 1993, used a 22-page open letter to hit out at those currently leading the party and state that he will be a “swing voter” for the first time after voting for Act since 2002.
That’s despite his nephew Rob standing for Act in the Tukituki electorate.
Douglas’ letter, first reported by BusinessDesk, discussed New Zealand welfare provision and included his take on the welfare policies of Labour, National, Act and the Green Party.
He claimed Labour and the Greens promoted policies that made people dependent on the government in order to get their vote, while National “stand for very little” and didn’t introduce “new and exciting policy”, Douglas believed.
But he reserved a stinging criticism for his former party, claiming recent Act articles and policies reinforced a view among New Zealanders that it “represents only the wealthy”, citing his displeasure with Act’s opposition to ending “bracket creep”, which increases tax paid by average wage and salary earners because doing so would require higher taxes on wealthier people.
“This was never the intention of those who founded Act. I know that with absolute certainty because I was one of those people,” he said.
“Act in my opinion lost the plot circa 2001, when they dropped their savings-based approach to welfare and joined the other parties in a pay-as-you-go approach to welfare.
“While I have voted Act, in the last nine elections, since 2002 I have not done so with much enthusiasm. As a result, 2023 finds me as a swing voter for the first time.
“Some people will be surprised [to] see me criticise Act and their approach to welfare as much as I do. It needs to be remembered I have always said what I believe to be the truth not what others would have me say.”
Current Act leader David Seymour suspected Douglas considered the party “not as radical as he would like”.
“[Douglas] is criticising our tax policy, which is actually much less radical than the 23 per cent flat tax that he proposed himself in 1988, fell out with [former Prime Minister David] Lange and lost his job over, so in some ways, I sympathise with them, I wish we were more radical too some days, but that’s Roger,” Seymour said.
“Roger is 85 years old, I want him to enjoy his retirement, I admire what he has done for New Zealand in the past, I’m not going to get into any sort of public argument.”
National leader Christopher Luxon said he would be happy to welcome Douglas as a National Party supporter.
“Look, we take all people who want to vote National, we want as big a party vote as we possibly can get, so we’ll take Roger Douglas.”
Current Finance Minister Grant Robertson was surprised to hear Douglas’ support had shifted and asked: “Who does he support? Please tell me it’s not me”.