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ACT promises three-strikes policy for burglars

Burglars would be sent to prison for a minimum of three years without parole on the third burglary conviction, says new ACT leader Jamie Whyte.

Dr Whyte announced the new crime policy the party's conference, being held this weekend in Auckland.

"If you can repeatedly commit a crime and get relatively small imprisonment sentences afterward, that's not a sufficient deterrent," he says. "We need a much more serious deterrent, and the three-strikes policy is a good way of achieving that."

Dr Whyte said burglary is a serious violation of personal property and has major emotional effects.

On TV3' The Nation, host Simon Shepherd challenged Mr Whyte, saying buglary is one of our most common crimes. The three strikes policy "is not one of the original core beliefs of ACT, that is a popular crime policy of the sort introduced under the regime of Rodney Hide."

Mr Whyte replied, “Being tough on crime is completely consistent with the free market, liberal kind of ideas of the ACT Party.”

The ACT leader suggested a third strike could mean life imprisonment, but was vague on how the policy would work.

“We haven’t yet worked out the tariffs we would be in favour of for the crime but there will be a three strike policy." He was happy with increased government spending to pay for it.

Political commentator David Farrar said ACT deserved criticism for failing to detail the cost of its policy but "the UK experience suggests it may not be that great."

In 2012 there were 2,693 convictions for burglary (as the primary offence). Around 40% of them or 1,055 received a custodial sentence. That suggests repeat burglars are already mainly getting prison sentences, Farrar says.

Banks wrong to vote for GCSB BIll
The new ACT leader was also asked if he would have voted for the GSCB Bill, which made it legal for the agency to spy on NZ residents and citizen.

Here, Dr Whyte took a libertarian bent.

National squeaked the controversial legislation through with the support of ACT's sole MP (and then leader) John Banks, plus UnitedFuture's Peter Dunne.

Mr Whyte said he would not have supported the legislation.

Asked if he would have buckled under intense political pressure of the sort applied by the goverment over the GCSB Bill, the ACT leader went on one of his philosophical tangents, telling Mr Shepherd, "I hope I wouldn't. How could I possibility know?"

The TV3 interviewer attempted to bait Dr White over polygamy, but the new ACT leader dodged the attack.

Mr Shepherd said that given the ACT leader had no issue with incest between two consenting adults, from a classical liberal point of view did it also follow that he supported polygamy. 

"There is no demand for this. It' not ACT policy. It's just not something I want to even talk about and I was foolish to let myself get sidetracked," Dr White said

On Colin Craig
When Mr Shepherd said, "Let's talk about being flexible - coalition partners. Let's say I say Colin Craig to you. What do you say?

"I laugh a little," replied Dr Whyte before recovering to add, "You know, I wouldn't rule out working in a coalition with Colin Craig. I've been catching up with him and he's a decent guy. I disagree with him on several things, but I think there are far wore politicians in New Zealand."

Asked about working with the Maori Party, Dr Whyte said, "The Maori Party has worked well with us on Partnership Schools, so that's worked well."

RAW DATA: Transcript of Jamie Whyte's interview on The Nation (PDF)

Comments and questions

After so much promise this is a clanger of a policy launch.

First, it is a step backwards towards the populist policies that have distracted ACT for so long. ACT is a liberal party about economic and social freedom, looking to recapture its dynamic early days and attract younger voters. While protecting property rights is important, this type of conservative law and order policy aimed at insecure older voters should be left to National, NZ First and the Conservatives.

Second, he undermined his credibility as a politician launching half baked policy without any real idea about the subject matter or how the policy would work. A third strike results in the maximum penalty - 10 years for burglary - so god knows where life imprisonment comes from. If he can't be trusted on a policy as simple as this, how could he hope to get something more sophisticated through?

So, you've clearly never been burgled then.

Actually, I have and it was bloody awful, left me feeling very insecure. I have better locks now (personal responsibility and all that).

But that is not the point. ACT should be focusing on lowering barriers to new investment and firm growth (in particular the RMA and the Overseas Investment Act) and the tax/benefit system. Law and Order is a conservative platform, not a liberal one.

ACT aren't liberal they're libertarian, and part of being at liberty to enjoy life without interference is law & order - sounds contradictory but have a think about it. ACT's 3 strikes policy has been a winner, and it's extension to those who consider burglary as a professional career choice is spot on.

The alternative is the status quo where people have 30 convictions for burglary with multiple jail terms when it's far too late to change their behaviour.

Law and Order is a matter of governance. If Act wants to be elected to Parliament or in Government as a fully fledged political movement then it must have a law and order policy, because those issues are going to come its way whether it likes it or not. Similarly it must also have policies on health, education, foreign affairs, war and on many other issues for the same reason.

Suggesting that 'liberal' politics (whatever that actually means, it means the Left in the US) has no business in law and order and should only concentrate on economic policy is, with respect, bizarre. It just doesn't work like that. A single issue focus does not rise to the level of a sustainable political party, that's just a ginger group, and frankly, it would not be taken seriously at the polls.

The protection of property rights is pretty much the sole responsibility of government as far as most of us libertarians believe (some add in defence but I see that as an extension as it protects property rights from outside invaders).

That protection will, necessarily, come at a cost to freedoms of people who breach the law. The thing that surprises me the most about this is that it isn't currently automatic. Burglary should be automatically imprisonable at the first offence for a good period of time; it is quite shocking that it isn't.

What a lightweight Jamie Whyte is

If this is a flavor of what he has to offer, he has no show - even in Epsom. Traditional National voters are that stupid they will vote for this clown.

Incest - now this tripe

National needs better partners than this clown - he is the equivalent of Hone on the left

The whole incest thing was the most media-manufactured tripe I've seen in a while, absolutely showing our media's lack of integrity for what it is.

From a man saying "government shouldn't legislate consenting adults' sex lives" (which I'm sure Helen Clark would be the first to support) the smarmy media manufacture an "Ohhh, Act supports incest!" non-story.

Disgusting media behaviour.

Time to get down on your knees Act, and drag Boscawen back into the fold. It's your only hope, otherwise it's Labour's election

What's ACT doing about white collar crime?

Committing it.

Good work ACT, keep it up. Stick to the policies and the relevant issues though, talk of incest is not only stupid but unproductive and, most importantly, irrelevant.

This man hasn't a clue about the rorts now being practised on NZers via historically unsupported iwi cliams.

His degree of sheer ignorance and insouciance does not serve us well. He doesn't even know that there was not, and is, not such a thing as a partnership " between Maori and the Crown.

Who needs even more under-educated MPs?

Some harsh critique levelled at Dr Whyte, my view is that he is relatively new and naive, that in itself is not a major if he surrounds himself with trusted advisors, Brash and Douglas do not fall into this category

How about 3 failures to deliver on a promise (manifesto) & an MP is barred from re election for life?