National-ACT rift? Judith Collins shoots down David Seymour's Opposition-led select committee proposal

National leader Judith Collins has shot down David Seymour's Opposition-led select committee proposal, and described ACT's alternative Budget two years from an election as "silly". 

It comes after a weekend filled with big speeches from both Opposition party leaders. Collins didn't mention ACT in her speech to National Party-faithful, but Seymour pitched ACT as the "sensible" party, and implied that Collins copies him. 

Speaking at the ASB waterfront theatre, Seymour pointed out that the theme of his speech was "honest conversations" - a "popular phrase" he had heard a lot since he had first used it in his State of the Nation speech in February.

"I heard Mike Hosking interview a woman from Papakura and she kept saying it too. She copies me a lot. Thanks goodness we have the ACT Party."

Collins is the MP for Papakura.

Seymour talked up ACT's alternative Budget, and pitched his proposal to extend parliamentary terms to four years but with Opposition MPs leading select committees giving them more power over legislation. 

Collins says she is not a fan of the idea.  

"I think it showed actually, how David Seymour's never actually been a minister and he's got no one in his team who has ever actually tried to get legislation through other than his euthanasia Bill, for which was a conscience vote, anyway," she told Magic Talk on Monday. 

"As a minister, the last thing you want is a select committee where the Opposition holds all the cards because you end up, then, with a select committee that comes back with legislation that is actually not what you're trying to get through. 

"We do want select committees to improve Bills and to listen to the public and submitters and then make suggestions and also make changes. But what you don't want is an Opposition holding up any Government business, which is exactly what a select committee would do if they were all controlled by Oppositions."

National leader Judith Collins.
National leader Judith Collins. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Paradoxically, National has been calling for the return of the Opposition-led Epidemic Response Committee, which was set up during the first lockdown last year while Parliament wasn't able to meet in person. 

"The COVID thing was different," Collins says, "because it didn't actually have any power other than to call witnesses." 

Collins also took a jab at ACT over its alternative Budget. 

"I understand the ACT Party are very excited that they took their election policies from the last election and put it into a 10-page document, or something," she said. 

"Well, we could do that too, but actually, I think we're much better two-and-a-half years out from an election to just start putting out some of the things that we'd be doing, and what we'd be doing is investing heavily in capital items for businesses so they can improve their productivity.

"I just think it's a bit silly to be putting out an alternative Budget two-and-a-half years before an election."

ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Newshub / Zane Small

Seymour says voters deserve a contest of ideas. 

"Judith should see ACT's growth as more of an opportunity than a threat," he told Newshub. 

"I'd hoped all parties would be open-minded about the four-year term and independent select committees. She should welcome strengthening the voice of New Zealanders in our democracy rather than siding with the right of ministers to make laws with as little consultation as possible. 

"People I'm listening to want fewer personal attacks amongst politicians, more democracy and better results."

Seymour has never been a minister but he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister of Education and Minister of Regulatory Reform by then-Prime Minister John Key in 2014, as a result of National's confidence and supply agreement with ACT. 

In the lead-up to last year's election, Collins didn't rule out Seymour becoming her Deputy Prime Minister if the two parties got enough votes to form a Government. 

In the end, National and ACT's combined 43 seats weren't enough. National lost 23 MPs while ACT gained nine. Newshub-Reid Research analysis before the election showed 37 percent of National voters in 2017 switched to ACT in 2020.

This month's Newshub-Reid Research poll showed National on 27 percent, up 1.4 points, and ACT on 6.9 percent, down 0.7 points. Labour is still soaring on 52.7 percent.