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Seymour supports SkyCity convention centre, takes whack at Winston

ACT leader more enthusiastic about sledging NZ First than supporting Nats' SkyCity deal.

Nick Grant
Fri, 20 Mar 2015

Although he says Steven Joyce jumped the gun in saying ACT would support the government in heading off efforts to derail its SkyCity convention centre deal, the ACT party’s leader and sole MP, David Seymour, has confirmed he will reluctantly do just that.

Yesterday a New Zealand First MP's bill to repeal the controversial legislation that enabled the deal was drawn from the ballot.

In the event Winston Peters wins the Northland by-election, National would have to rely on Mr Seymour’s vote to prevent the bill from passing.

Mr Seymour notes that anything outside ACT’s confidence and supply agreement – particularly private members' bills – is considered on a case-by-case basis, although “overwhelmingly whatever the Nats are putting up is closer to my, ACT’s and Epsom’s preferences than anything the opposition is putting up,” he says.

However, “in this particular case there’s a bit of a dilemma from ACT’s point of view,” Mr Seymour concedes – after all, he’s previously tartly noted that “it is difficult to see how funding convention centres fits within a principled role of government. If we're told that funding convention centres does fall within the role of government, then what doesn't?” 

In the end, Mr Seymour says, his decision-making process over the past 24 hours consisted of choosing between propping up a deal he’s against on principle and creating uncertainty and instability by helping reverse a deal that’s been in play for two years.

“In the end I go back to [20th century economist Friedrich] Hayek and his definition of liberty: ‘the ability to plan one’s affairs without concern for the arbitrary coercion by another or others’,” he says.

“So they’ve had this piece of legislation for two years and now, because of a random event – the drawing of a ballot – we’re going to just basically pull the carpet out from under them? I wouldn’t do that.”

Asked whether supporting the government in defeating this bill will give him more leverage on other issues, Mr Seymour is coy.

“Well, we don’t keep score in any formalised kind of way,” he says, “but I would hope they appreciate they’ve got a coalition partner who actually weighs things up carefully, makes a principled decision – which is what I’ve done here – and more often than not comes out on their side because our principles are largely aligned.

“I just think they’re a bit overly pragmatic in the way they apply them.”

Perhaps optimistically, Mr Seymour expresses a hope that its experience with the SkyCity convention centre deal will teach the government why it “should never have gone down this path – because once the government steps outside its proper role, things get very messy.”

In any case, he says, smoothly segueing into some sledging of National’s Northland nemesis, “if NZ First were in charge, they would be doing economic development projects and cutting deals, and the SkyCity deal would seem like a minor transgression.”

Nick Grant
Fri, 20 Mar 2015
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Seymour supports SkyCity convention centre, takes whack at Winston