Based on its previous track record, ACT’s David Seymour doesn’t think National has any hope of implementing significant policy change on its own if elected to power at next year’s election.

Seymour says New Zealand is at a point where the country is looking for a change of direction and a shift in policy settings, something he says happens about every 50 years.

“It’s happened before in the 1890s, the 1930s and then again in the 1980s. We have a tension where we just relax a little too much and people start leaving,’’ Seymour told Newsroom.

From productivity to access to medicines to educational attainment, Seymour says the statistics just start to slip.

“Not to mention the fact we’re a country that’s practically uninhabited with a shortage of places for humans to live.’’

These are big challenges and Seymour says National isn’t up to fixing it alone.

“National, as it has done five times in our history, is in favour of consolidating Labour’s policies, so long as it is them who is doing it.

“And if we don’t change course then our status as a first-world country is in danger,’’ he says.

“If you look at the last five times National has followed Labour into government, Labour’s policies have survived the transition unscathed.’’

New Zealand First was famous for referring to itself as a handbrake to so-called extreme left ideas put up by Labour and the Greens during its coalition arrangement.

Asked if Seymour saw ACT as more of an accelerator to National’s tepid right-leaning ideas, he said that was a “really good metaphor’’ to describe the kind of change ACT wants to help make happen in New Zealand.

“I suspect that sadly we’re going to spend more time talking about things, like identity, that have become fashionable under this government.’’ – David Seymour

Since entering Parliament in 2014 Seymour has worked with six different National Party leaders and says his relationship with all of them has been good, including currently with Luxon.

And just because they’re in politics for different reasons, Seymour says that doesn’t mean they can’t work well together in any future government.

Seymour expands on that saying Luxon is “driven by wanting to be the prime minister’’ – a contrast to him and his MPs who he says are “driven by wanting to leave different policies for New Zealand’’.

As the 2023 election looms, political parties are turning their attentions to where voters want to see change.

While Seymour says there’s several “fundamental problems the country faces’’, like how New Zealanders “make a buck’’ in the current climate – that’s not what the focus is.

“Stuff around the quality of government services and the quality of regulation, are the kinds of things the engineer in me wants to solve.

“I suspect that sadly we’re going to spend more time talking about things, like identity, that have become fashionable under this Government.

“Something as mundane as water pipes has become permeated by the co-governance agenda,’’ Seymour told Newsroom.

If ACT had its way it wouldn’t do anything about the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has sparked the co-governance debate in recent years.

“It can absolutely be ignored, it’s a declaration, it’s not any kind of obligation … it has very little standing in terms of international law,’’ Seymour says.

Policy-wise Seymour still has more he wants to do before he contemplates a life outside of Parliament, providing voters are kind to him at the next election.

“I want to achieve a few more things, I’m not interested in jobs or particular positions.

“I’d much rather vote for a flat tax on the backbench than introduce what we’ve got now as finance minister.’’

Seymour says not wanting any of the baubles of government is a powerful and underestimated position.

If ACT is at the negotiating table with National next year, Seymour says only being prepared to go with one party doesn’t put it at a disadvantage.

If National isn’t prepared to budge on policy positions, then it would potentially be left a minority government having to “negotiate votes every Monday’’ to get anything done, Seymour says.

“I think people probably underestimate the ability of a party determined to win on policy that is not fixated on baubles.’’

There is of course the potential for another party, Te Pāti Māori, to be in a kingmaker position, which unlike ACT hasn’t completely ruled out working with other parties.

Some recent polls have already predicted that result, shaping next year’s election up to be anything but a done deal.

Jo Moir is Newsroom's political editor.

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