Kakapo Chat 007: David Seymour - Leader of the ACT Party

David Seymour and ACT are well known for flying the flag of SME business owners across NZ, interestingly 7 small business owners feature in ACTs top 10 of list candidates. James Ashwin checks in with David where they discuss everything from Covid-19 SME response plans through to capital gains tax on business sales, how we rebound the hospitality sector and his take on 0% beers.

I admire anyone who steps outside their comfort zone and gives something a crack, how was Dancing With The Stars and what did you take away from the experience?

I’m proud of what we achieved and that we were able to raise money for Kidsline. The straw polls said we’d be voted out in week one, but we lasted until week nine. The way that people got in behind us showed that, in New Zealand, if you have a go people will give you a go.

You recently mentioned that landlords had been used as a 'punching bag' under Labour, yet there has been no mention of the large group of SME business owners who have been treated very poorly by landlords with little or no assistance offered in rent relief (despite revenue decreasing to zero in some cases). Have you got a framework in place to protect SME business owners moving forward?

SMEs are the job creation engine of our country. Whether it's a higher minimum wage or the threat of a capital gains tax, this Government has made the lives of productive small business owners more difficult. It doesn’t seem to get how difficult running a business is.
ACT, on the other hand, has seven small business owners in our top 10. Our economic plan would reinstate 90-day trials for all firms, place a three-year moratorium on minimum wage increases, and cut GST to 10% for 12 months.
We’ll be releasing our SME policy very shortly.

Gaze into your crystal ball, how many percent will ACT achieve at this year's election?

I wouldn’t like to predict the outcome - ultimately the result will be up to the voters. ACT is sitting at 5-6% and we’re going to be campaigning as hard as we can for the next five weeks to ensure we keep up the momentum.

What are your views on the introduction of a capital gains tax to the sale of businesses?

It’s anti-aspiration and anti-success. If we tell our kids “if you study hard, have a great idea, build a business, work hard, you’ll get taxed even harder”, what kind of message are we sending? Those aren’t the kind of values we want for our country.

If David Seymour had a super power, what would it be and why?

Destroying debt… Labour has borrowed $140 billion. That’s $28,000 for each and every New Zealander. It’s the average credit card debt five times over. It’s the kids currently at intermediate who’ll lose. They’ll pay higher taxes for fewer services tomorrow because of politicians’ irresponsibility today.
Only ACT has a plan to get back to surplus by reducing wasteful spending, while cutting taxes to stimulate the economy.
You can check out our Debt Destroyer here: ACT Debt Destroyer
And our Alternative Budget is here: ACT Budget 2020

With unemployment increasing we're seeing more and more people turn to business ownership as a way of owning their future, however banks at present have all but closed the doors on lending to these people. All the major banks seem to be sitting on piles of cash but no appetite to lend it, what would you like to see happen here?

You can lead a horse to water, but banks are only going to lend if the conditions are right. We need more certainty in our public health response. ACT’s approach is modelled on Taiwan and aims to achieve lockdown without the uncertainty of an expensive lockdown at any time. We also need to stop the constant regulatory assaults on business that destroy confidence.

Like most honest, hard working Kiwi lads you're well known for enjoying a beer or two, what are your top 3 brews?

Campaigns are not a good time to drink, but the innovation in zero alcohol beer is staggering. These days for me it’s Moretti Zero, Peroni Libra, and Heineken 0.0. I hope to see the Kiwi craft breweries getting into this market but right now they tell me the capital costs for the equipment are too high.

I understand all business owners have been impacted in some capacity through COVID but I feel like the hospitality sector has received a particularly raw deal with respect to how they're allowed to function in different levels of lockdown. What would you say to NZ's hospitality sector?

Hospitality has had it particularly tough with restrictions and yo-yoing in and out of alert levels.
The best thing government can do for hospitality is to get much smarter about Covid-19. ACT would create a multi-disciplinary Epidemic Response Unit, ensure government is a referee and not a player, treat countries and travellers according to risk, use technology much more extensively, compare ourselves with the best, and commit to continuous improvement.

We also need to weigh up all of the costs, health and economic, of our response. Covid-19 is a threat, but it’s not the only one. We also need to factor in unemployment, the mental health of small business owners, the debt we’re putting on future generations and a range of other considerations.
Our Covid-19 response plan is here: ACT Covid-19 Response Plan

You're marooned on an island with a kiwi celebrity, politician and sports person (dead or alive), who are they and why?

The celebrity would have to be Dai Henwood, he’s the cleverest comedian in New Zealand for my money. The politician would have to be Kate Shephard, she was a formidable orator and it would be fascinating to understand politics in her time. The sports person was Sir Edmund Hillary. I was lucky to have a conversation with him as a 13 year old and along with Shephard I believe he is one of the two greatest New Zealanders.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today David, any famous last words?

ACT believes in the fundamental dignity of every individual. We should all try to see the best in everyone.

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