Na­tional’s in­vest­ment for the fu­ture

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

The ini­ti­a­tion rites at Par­lia­ment can be rough, but novice MP and ACT Party leader David Seymour has been sur­prised by the qual­ity of the heck­ling.

‘‘I’ve been called David See-less, which is some­thing I haven’t been called for 20 years, and cer­tainly by no-one over 11 years old,’’ he says.

In his own case, he be­lieves the rag­ging has had a spe­cial edge.

‘‘ I think some peo­ple in the Op­po­si­tion prob­a­bly re­sent me more than oth­ers on our side of the House.’’

Maybe that’s be­cause, I sug­gest, he is a novice MP, party leader, and min­is­te­rial un­der­study straight out of the box – or be­cause the Act Party is widely seen as be­ing a wholly owned Na­tional Party fran­chise.

What com­pelling ev­i­dence can he of­fer to the con­trary?

Seymour agrees that he is Na­tional’s ‘‘most likely’’ sup­porter, and more con­sis­tently de­pend­able than ei­ther the Maori Party or Peter Dunne. Even so, Seymour points to the valid man­date he has re­ceived via the tac­ti­cal vot­ing by the peo­ple of Ep­som.

More­over, given the un­re­li­able al­ter­na­tives – ‘‘ and look­ing for­ward to 2017’’ – the Act/Na­tional re­la­tion­ship strikes him as be­ing one of mu­tual ben­e­fit.

So keep­ing the Act Party alive is Na­tional’s in­vest­ment for the fu­ture? ‘‘ We need each other,’’ Seymour says.

Raised in Whangarei in what he de­scribed in his maiden speech as a fam­ily of en­gi­neers, Seymour, 31, has univer­sity de­grees in en­gi­neer­ing and phi­los­o­phy.

The term ‘‘young fo­gey’’ could almost have been coined to de­scribe his earnestly an­a­lyt­i­cal ap­proach to pol­i­tics.

In his maiden speech, Seymour not only re­ferred to Fred­eric Bas­tiat’s 1850 es­say about the para­ble of the bro­ken win­dows – which deals with the op­por­tu­nity cost of pur­su­ing short-term gains – but almost en­dear­ingly, Seymour did so in French.

Was there any one ex­pe­ri­ence that steered him to­wards a ca­reer in pol­i­tics?

Well, at age 12, he’d gone to Auck­land Gram­mar as a boarder.

As he was leav­ing school, Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Trevor Mal­lard was seek­ing to in­tro­duce the NCEA ex­am­i­na­tion model – and this marked the mo­ment for Seymour when pol­i­tics be­came per­sonal.

‘‘The state, which I’d hith­erto re­garded as very be­nign ...I couldn’t un­der­stand why it was at­tempt­ing to un­der­mine the cul­ture of my school. That was a for­ma­tive mo­ment, for sure.’’

Like other new MPs in this in­take, Seymour would like to work co-op­er­a­tively across party lines – with the likes, he sug­gests, of Na­tional’s Chris Bishop or the Greens’ James Shaw.

Su­per­an­nu­a­tion pol­icy strikes him as one area where common ground might ex­ist.

In his maiden speech, Seymour made an in­ter­est­ing ob­ser­va­tion about what his gen­er­a­tion has in­her­ited from the boomer gener- ation: ‘‘ For the first time in our equal­i­tar­ian so­ci­ety, parental as­sis­tance has be­come a prom­i­nent fac­tor in home­own­er­ship, and there is a hered­i­tary el­e­ment to prop­erty.’’

So, what should a good gov­ern­ment do when wealth gets con­cen­trated in this way?

‘‘It should look at its own ac­tiv­i­ties first.’’

No, he hasn’t read this year’s big best-sell­ing book about wealth con­cen­tra­tion, writ­ten by the French economist Thomas Piketty.

Yet he has read ‘‘some reviews’’, enough to know that he dis­agrees with Piketty’s premises and con­clu­sions.

As with any­one, the hard­est thing is to ap­ply your an­a­lyt­i­cal skills to your own be­liefs.

In the years ahead, it will be in­ter­est­ing to see if David Seymour makes the at­tempt.

GOR­DON CAMP­BELL

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