Opinion

Rachel Smalley: Delving into ACT's cost-of-living plan

Opinion: ACT has rolled out a bit of a bullet point plan to address the cost-of-living situation.

And David Seymour, the ACT party leader, makes some good suggestions. Irrespective of your politics, Seymour spends a good deal of time thinking, strategising, engaging with some pretty learned folk, and always taking a drone view on some of practical ways we could address some of the systemic issues we face. 

He doesn’t really do spin, but he does deliver ideas – and if you’re interviewing a politician, that’s all that you want. You don’t want fluff and bluster. You want to know a politician’s plan. How are they going to fix this? What would they do better than the current Government? That’s what you want to know.

And so Seymour has articulated a nine-point plan. Some of it is straightforward. Other aspects would be a little trickier to introduce, I imagine. But here are a few of his suggestions.

ACT says we should abolish tariffs so the food, clothes and equipment we import are cheaper. That’s pretty clear. It would cost the Government about NZ$200m in lost revenue, but that's small change when you consider the sort of money the Government has thrown around over the last couple of years. 

Seymour also says he would get rid of The Labour Market Test, this is where an employer has to prove that there isn’t a Kiwi in the country that can fill the specific job you’re advertising. The Labour Market Test is token tinkering, and it puts a brick wall on the pathway to productivity. Get rid of it. It’s bonkers.

Another of ACT’s ideas….let overseas OECD supermarket chains bypass the Overseas Investment Act so they can set up here. Seems like a good idea. Competition would make food cheaper, for sure.

Next, create a list of substitute GIB materials and get councils on board with it. Council is approving some substitutes, but some of those approvals are on-site at the moment, and that’s time-consuming. You’ve got to wait for Bob and his clipboard to arrive, so Seymour’s right. Make a list. One list. And let’s not hold up construction because of a lack of GIB.

Still, with property development, Seymour wants to modify the RMA so that only those whose property is directly physically affected can object to a development. Good move. It means Meredith from the Coromandel can’t object to me building a home in Eketahuna where she understands a rare snail may have once lived. That may or may not be a slight exaggeration, but you get my drift. The RMA brings everything to a halt and worse, doesn’t deliver the outcomes it was supposed to. Yes, it’s being reformed, but for the time being, it’s still a dog. What Seymour's suggesting makes sense 100 percent.

ACT also wants to simplify the tax system too. Nothing says ‘ACT’ like a simplified tax system. You’ll pay 17.5 percent up to NZ$70k, and then 28 percent after that. And there’s a tax offset for low and middle-income earners too. And he includes a carbon tax refund as well.

And here is another change ACT would like to see, bring back 90-day trials. In a tight labour market, I absolutely agree with this. If you want kiwi businesses to employ people who may not fully fit the job description, but you're happy to take a chance because you don't have any other option because of our border calamity, you have to give employers an out clause. The 90-day trial is a great option. Three months, and if it ain’t working, everybody can part ways without getting employment lawyers involved. Smart move. 

So….there you go, this isn't the full list of what ACT’s recommending, but it's what caught my eye. And why I like it is that it’s a bit of a plan on a page. And for me, practical ideas beat ideology every time. 

And right now, in an environment where it seems inevitable that we are sliding towards a hard recession, we need all the proactive ideas we can get.