ACT leader David Seymour says Labour is 'saying something true' about National's new gang policy

David Seymour has joked if Kiwis want a change in Government they should vote ACT so they can "weed out" any bad policies National has. 

It comes after National leader Christopher Luxon announced on Sunday gangs would "face tougher consequences" under his party's Government, with membership to a gang to be an aggravating factor when it comes to sentencing.

He said gangs have become an "unwelcome" part of New Zealand's criminal landscape, with numbers sharply rising in recent years.

But Police Minister Ginny Andersen said National's policy is just a "reheat" of what it took to the 2020 election, making it a "pretty lazy" move.

"National has got the policy microwave set on reheat," Andersen said on Sunday.

"The law as it stands says sentencing must take into account being in a gang or organised crime group as an aggravated factor in sentencing. National is simply proposing a technical tweak."

As an example, Andersen said a Mongrel Mob president was sentenced earlier this year to at least 10-and-a-half years in prison with his connection to organised crime being an aggravating factor.

When ACT Leader David Seymour was pressed about this on AM on Monday, he admitted the law was already there in black in white. 

"I have to speak to the facts, it's there in black and white. I think it's section nine of the Sentencing Act, that one of the aggravating factors is that you are a member of a criminal organisation," he told AM co-host Ryan Bridge.

"So while I'm no lawyer, from a plain reading of it, and I hate to admit it, but Labour is saying something true." 

National Party Leader Christopher Luxon, ACT Party Leader David Seymour and Police Minister Ginny Andersen.
National Party Leader Christopher Luxon, ACT Party Leader David Seymour and Police Minister Ginny Andersen. Photo credit: Newshub

But Seymour said he understood why National is bringing attention to gangs as they've been "spoon-fed" under Labour.

"What I would say is I can understand why National is saying this because the way that gangs have been basically spoon-fed under Labour, literally given money, treated as though they are somehow pillars of the community when Labour ministers speak, has led to gang membership growing faster than the police," Seymour said. 

It comes after gang members travelled to Ōpōtiki, Bay of Plenty, in large numbers last week following the death of Mongrel Mob Barbarians president Steven Rota Taiatini. Schools shut out of caution and bus services were cancelled.

Both Luxon and Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it was "unacceptable" the town was "shut down" by the gang members. 

Seymour has previously signalled ACT would enter a Coalition with National should both parties be in a position to do so come October's election.

When pressed by Bridge about it not being a good look for National to be releasing a policy that already exists, Seymour joked, "This is why you need ACT". 

"If you want a change of Government and you want some intelligence and some thought into it, then you give your party vote to ACT and we can weed out any bad policies and make sure we get all the good ones," Seymour joked. 

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick, who was appearing alongside Seymour in their weekly political panel, said National was trying to capitalise on the recent gang tension that has been in the news over the last week. 

"[They're] just kind of saying to people, 'Hey, look, we'll deal with the stuff that's been in the news' without all too much real thought through the processes or how the law is actually already working in practice," Swarbrick said. 

She said there is evidence out there, which shows why there has been a build-up in gangs. 

"You'll see very clearly why it's that we have had a build-up of gangs in this country over the past several decades and it's because we have seen time and again that people, particularly young Māori men, are not finding a home in their regular communities," she said. 

When pressed by Bridge about how the current coalition of Greens and Labour hasn't been able to tackle gangs in New Zealand, Swarbrick pointed to a similar argument that Seymour did. 

"The same argument I would say that David just put about that kind of relationship between National and the ACT Party is the same relationship with regard to the Green Party and the Labour Party," she said.

"We've not been able to meaningfully implement the evidence-based policies which even the Labour Government commissioned advice on back in the last term in Parliament and have not had the wherewithal, the courage and the political willpower to follow through with," she told AM.  

Watch the full interview with David Seymour and Chlöe Swarbrick in the video above.