NZ Election 2020: ACT's new MPs in their own words

ACT has been a one-man-band in Parliament for so long, voters could perhaps be forgiven for forgetting they're an actual political party. 

The party has fielded dozens of candidates in every election, and this year finally broke through - leader David Seymour bringing in an additional nine MPs, most of whom are relative unknowns on the national political scene.

Three of them popped into the Newshub Nation studios on Saturday for a chat about their backgrounds and what they believe in. 

Nicole McKee

The highest-ranked of the trio is Nicole McKee, best known previously as head of the Council of Licenced Firearms Owners and a sports shooting champion.

Nicole McKee. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

"I'm passionate about firearms safety," she said, explaining she decided to enter politics to stick up for the gun community, who felt victimised by new gun laws introduced after more than 50 people were shot dead at two mosques in Christchurch in 2019. 

"After March 15 while that was such a horrific event, to see a large portion of New Zealand's community demonised for the attack, when it wasn't us, that made me want to stand up and actually be a voice. We're not bad people."

She wants the latest amendments and proposals scrapped, and gun laws rewritten largely from scratch, using the original 1983 Arms Act as a template. 

Welfare is also one of McKee's portfolios. She believes some people go on benefits as a "lifestyle choice" - and though she was once a recipient of a benefit, says she "used it the way it should be used, which is in that emergency situation to get myself back on my feet".

"When we start seeing intergenerational use - three generations in a row doing nothing but being on a benefit - we need to give them opportunities and options to get them children off it."

The Ministry of Social Development last year said while its "staff are aware of examples where multiple generations of families have been supported by the welfare system", there is no evidence yet that it's widespread because the data only started being collected in the 1990s.

She said bringing back charter schools would help people get off benefits, and defended her party's policy of restricting some beneficiaries' spending to approved services, like rent power and groceries. Those forced onto 'cashless welfare' would include people who spend longer than three years on Jobseeker Support or five years on Sole Parent Support in their entire lifetimes, or have children whilst receiving Sole Parent Support.

"We need to make sure that you're using your money, that the taxpayer is giving you, in the correct format. We can help people achieve and have those opportunities if we teach them to spend their money in the right way." 

Asked if this would be sexist, particularly in a time when most job losses are being suffered by women, McKee said they would also be covered by the party's employment insurance policy, meaning they might not have to draw on welfare.

Asked if she had any skeletons in her closet, McKee said she doesn't think so.

"If I do then no doubt they'll come out and we'll have a lot of fun with it."

Her most-admired politician from another party is National's Shane Reti.

Chris Baillie

Chris Baillie is a former police officer and secondary school teacher, and was ranked fourth on ACT's list.

Chris Baillie. Photo credit: Newshub Nation


He made headlines earlier this year after it emerged he'd been running meetings for students under the banner 'Climate Hysteria Skeptics'.

"It was a climate discussion group," he told Newshub Nation, with an "emphasis on the hysteria". 

Despite reporting from The Spinoff and Stuff which portrayed him as a skeptic, he told Newshub Nation he was "following the science - absolutely, always have".

"Students should look critically at all issues, and the hysteria surrounding climate change has been quite detrimental to students' health."

He decided to get into politics because he thinks the previous Labour-led Government was making life hard for small business owners. 

"I'm a small business owner. Over the last couple of years I've found running a small business to be very difficult - new compliance costs and lots of other issues. I thought if I had a voice in there, I'd welcome it."

In August, a poll by online business platform MYOB actually found most were planning to vote Labour - 38 percent - ahead of National's 35 percent. 

He's also ACT's education spokesperson, pushing the party's policy of letting parents choose where to spend $250,000 in taxpayer money on their children, rather than the Government. 

Asked if this system would favour wealthy people, who would be able to buy their way into whatever school they wanted, rather than keep them for locals, Baillie said it wouldn't.

"I don't think so. I think people will use it as it's intended." 

He admitted being a National Party member until 18 months, citing that as the biggest skeleton in his closet.

Simon Court

Ranked fifth on ACT's list, Simon Court is a civil engineer with two decades' experience in the private sector and a few in local government. 

Simon Court. Photo credit: Newshub Nation

"I've got three teenage boys, including one with Down's syndrome, and I'm really keen that they have the same opportunities around employment and to be able to buy a reasonably priced home, when they're ready to," he said, asked why he stood for the ACT Party. 

The biggest skeleton in his closet is that he used to vote for the Green Party, "but David Seymour says the ACT Party believes in redemption".

Among his beliefs is that many infrastructure projects being backed by the Government are "political vanity", such as light rail.

"No one's ever actually defined what the problem is with light rail and why we need it. I can tell you the people of west Auckland would... rather have an express busway." 

He's also concerned about how climate change is being taught in schools.

"I think it's really important that young people are challenged to draw their own conclusions based on the evidence. What we've seen over the past few years is activists take control of the narrative.

"I'll give you an example. When I worked in local government, 10,000 students marched to Aotea Square chanting about a climate emergency, while at that same time the people in my department had put up a business case to fund a repair of closed landfills in the coastal area, and we couldn't get the budget to do the vital work we needed to. I think it's important that we look at the evidence, but we don't let activists set the narrative."

He said while children are right to be concerned, the conversation about what to do should be "led by people with real-world experience". 

His most admired politician from another party is Judith Collins "for having stood up and taken her party through a very difficult time, and maintained her composure and dignity while she did it".