Leader of the Opportunities Party (TOP) says, while tough to enter Parliament as a minor party, smaller parties are the key to give voters a “real contest of ideas” in September’s election.
TOP Leader Geoff Simmons told TVNZ1’s Q+A this morning his party offered voters alternative ideas to big parties’ ones, which was important given the investments the next Government has to make in the recovery from the pandemic.
One of its flagship policies, which was first announced in the 2017 general election, is a $250 per week universal basic income. As the economy continues to take a hit as a result of Covid-19, the idea of a UBI is gaining traction both here and overseas.
“That gets rid of the welfare trap. It honours unpaid work and makes sure work pays for people.”
He said the party didn’t agree with the Green Party’s tax policy which would see increased taxes for the top six per cent of the wealthiest New Zealanders.
“Housing should pay the same amount of tax as other forms of investment,” Mr Simmons said of TOP’s policy.
He said the Greens’ tax plan would reduce incentives to invest in New Zealand, which would negatively impact the country given it needed to invest in its post-Covid-19 recovery and invest in a transition to a zero-carbon economy.
The party received 2.44 per cent of the overall party vote in 2017. But, because it didn’t win any electorate seats or reach the five per cent party vote threshold, the party didn’t end up in Parliament.
Mr Simmons said the Ōhāriu seat in Wellington, currently held by Labour’s Greg O’Connor, may be key for TOP to make it to Parliament. Jessica Hammond, a former public servant who stood in the electorate in 2017, is returning as a candidate for the seat.
TOP would be willing to work with both Labour and National in Government if it were elected to Parliament, he said.
He said parties needed to be willing to work with both to get "decent bargaining power".
He said the job to get to Parliament was made harder without former leader Gareth Morgan’s funding.
“We don’t have a sugar daddy anymore,” he said.
“With National in freefall and Labour really coasting to this election, if Kiwis want a real contest of ideas … they’re going to have to look to the minor parties and that’s a big opportunity for TOP.”
The economist and philanthropist stopped supporting the party financially last year, and wasn’t involved at all in the party today, Mr Simmons said.
“He’s [Gareth Morgan] certainly got us air time, whether that was positive for TOP is another story.
“This time around, we are focused on talking about the issues rather than playing personality politics. Kiwis see enough personality politics.”
He also promised there would be no cat-related policies after Mr Morgan called for domestic cats to be wiped out to save native wildlife in 2013.
“I love cats. I also love birds,” Mr Simmons said.
“We’re focused on the big issues like housing, the UBI and this massive investment that we’ve got coming out of Covid.
“It’s got to be good for business and it’s got to be good for the environment, particularly reducing our emissions.”
On the future of TOP post-2020, Mr Simmons said the party had lots of young talent coming through and would continue to target millennial voters.
“Frankly, I think my job is going to be at risk,” he said, speaking about the younger talent in the party.