Goodbye Act, hello Libertarians

We already know there are 100,000 New Zealand voters willing to put a party into Parliament which upholds the principles of small government, choice, individual freedom and responsibility. Now that 'Brand Act' is well and truly stuffed, there's talk the Libertarianz Party might fill the vacuum.

Last week a journalist phoned and told me the Libertarianz Party conference this coming weekend is called Towards a True Liberal Bloc in Government and I collapsed with mirth. Then made a cryptic remark about their being lucky to find a cupboard in which to hold their conference. Very rude of me, but for a party which at the last election only got around 1400 votes, winning five percent and filling the hole left by Act does seem mighty ambitious.

But then again, maybe not, if what they say is true, and the Libz are determined to soften their stance.

Leader Richard McGrath, a Masterton general practitioner, is not unpopular in the Wairarapa electorate. He attracts only a handful of electorate votes, sure, (he was only campaigning for the party vote), but most of those are protest votes from National supporters fed up with 'big government' which has done little to cut red tape, vis a vis the Resource Management Act, for instance.

Still, 100,000 ticks is a big ask. And then there's the funding. In the past the Libz narrow dogma -- total free market, wholesale selling of state assets including having all schools and hospitals run by private enterprise, the right to carry guns, and complete freedom to take whatever drugs you like so long as you accept the consequences -- have scared the bejesus out of people.

Back in 1996, the first MMP election, I stood for Parliament for the Libz as (I think) number two on the list. I agreed, only so long as I didn't get in. A pretty safe condition.

Then the Libz and I parted company under unpleasant terms in 1999 on the issue of smacking children. I'd written a feature for North & South on the death of James Whakaruru, and argued Section 59 of the Crimes Act should be repealed, but that New Zealanders clung to the perceived right to whack their children.

Libertarians don't believe in the initiation of force, but nonetheless they saw my argument as Nanny State interfering in parents' right to discipline their children as they saw fit. I argued 'reasonable force' (as allowed in S59) was not available as a defence for an adult if charged with assault against another adult, but it was when charged with assault against a child. A child is not 'almost human', therefore the same non-initiation of force principle should apply, and an adult charged with assault against a child should not be entitled to the defence of 'reasonable force', or, for that matter, of 'self-defence' either.

It was one against the party, and I departed. And that was the problem with the Libz -- they were so rigid over issues. To disagree or question was tantamount to treason.

So if they are serious about softening, then good on them, because that's the only way they'll make it into Parliament to kick National's butt. Act hasn't got a hope in Hades of getting back in, so there's no better opportunity for the Libz. Carpe diem.

And though I'm probably the last person they want advice from, sometimes Agony Aunts don't wait to be asked -- so here's something for nothing.

As a party opposed to compulsion, they can't ban anyone from joining, but if the fundamentalists want to join up (assuming they haven't already latched on to Colin Craig's Conservative Party), make it clear they'll never make headway with their anti-same sex marriage, or same sex adoption lobbying. These people are a nightmare at conferences or dinners. Even if they've donated squillions -- you owe them nothing. They chose to pay -- it doesn't buy policy.

If Sensible Sentencing come calling with a line-up of glittering candidates they want to put high up the list, or promising votes for tough conservative policies, remember two words: David Garrett.

Cliches are usually true, as in there's only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. So when you say you want freedom, you can only achieve it one step at a time. Don't terrify people who've been enchained for 30 years. It's like stripping them naked, when you should be persuading them they can just remove their overcoat. It will take time for some to be convinced they don't need to hold Nanny's hand.

That said, if Christchurch can be fast-tracked through the RMA, why not the rest of the country? Instead, we've all been forced to earthquake strengthen everything from our apartments (or alternately, pay-pay-pay the insurance companies) to the hutch for the guinea pigs.

Property rights are colour blind, and extend to Maori as well as Pakeha, and historically as well. Read your history, and then imagine how you Aucklanders would feel if squatters just came and set up house on your front lawns because demand for land and housing is so high? Then, because they kept petitioning the government and eventually won, you were forced to give over that piece of property to them for paltry compensation?

'One law for all' and other slogans are a nonsense. Why should people like me, who live in Wairarapa, obey laws for Bay of Plenty residents? Do you think there should be no legal age of consent? Don't chant silly slogans if they can't withstand drilling.

And finally, tell us what you're for, as well as what you're against. When campaigning for Act, this was a common criticism, and today when I switch on the news or pick up a newspaper, all I see are killings, crashes, our youth are all drunk, the country's broke, we're going to hell in a handcart.

How refreshing it would be for a change, to be asked to give my vote to a party with a sense of life.