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March 19, 2012 | by  | in Opinion |
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Political Porn with Hamish – Banks Has A Chance To Atone For His Past Sins

The first week of university is a chance to make a first impression. A chance to meet new peers, a chance to reconnect with those acquaintances you only chat to outside lectures, a chance to try and reinvent yourself as a “cool kid”.

For a small group of students, the first week of uni was their moment to wave goodbye to any chance of being a “cool kid” when they choose to don canary yellow t-shirts, ACT on Campus’ infamous calling card. ACT on Campus is surely the most unpopular of all youth wings; if you want proof, look up Rick Giles’ “my argument is so powerful” appearance on TV3’s Sunrise.

Two or three students stood together behind the ACT banner during VUWSA’s Clubs Week, attracting, from what I saw, a dozen or so signatures. National, the Greens and Labour all had stands for their respective youth wings, with MPs attending to encourage students to sign up.

I asked ACT on Campus where their sole MP, the Member (or as some are now saying, the Minister) for Epsom, John Banks was. On the Monday, they said he was “too conservative” and, as such, would not be attending. This view was backed up by an ACT on Campus member who told me he sees “Banksie” as being “more National” and “not that consistent with some of ACT’s core principles”. This member added that this view is widely held in ACT on Campus.

It’s not just ACT on Campus members who aren’t fans of Banks. Stephen Whittington, ACT’s candidate for Wellington Central, held an election night party, which was attended by Whitireia

journalism student Robbie Parkes. At the party, ACT’s Hutt South candidate Alex Speirs told Parkes that “A John Banks-led ACT is not ACT”. Whittington later told the Herald’s Derek Cheng that Banks is “economically ignorant and interventionist”.

There is such a dislike of Banks that some libertarians have formed a “secret” or hidden Facebook group. The group’s members have discussed what strategy is necessary to minimise Banks’ impact and have discussed breaking away to form a new party. Salient has acquired screenshots of the group’s page. See the online edition of this article to view the images.

Banks himself claims that the party has always had socially conservative and liberal fractions, with members joined by supporting free-market reforms. There is evidence to suggest that Banks is ACT in the economic sense.

In 1981, Banks won National’s nomination for Whangarei, beating sitting MP John Elliott at the ballot. The day after the ballot, the Auckland Star ran an article describing Banks as “a right- winger” and “an avid private enterpriser”. Banks told the Star that he believe “[t]he country had to give people incentives to create and work”, suggesting a 20 per cent flat tax. The reporter asked Banks if the tax would apply to personal and company, Banks responded “[p]ersonal, I don’t believe in company tax.” Later in the article, Banks advocated the abolition of the dole.

During his early terms in Parliament, Banks was part of an “alternative caucus”which believed in free market ideals, in contrast to Muldoon’s more interventionist approach. Ruth Richardson, who delivered National’s “mother of all budgets” in the 1990s, was a member of this alternative caucus.

Banks’ liberal views shifted to conservatism and in 1985 and 1986, Banks was one of the most vocal opponents to the Homosexual Law Reform Bill; in his biography he states that the bill was “morally rephrensible” whilst at the same time “never believ[ing] that homosexuality should be illegal”. Most infamously, Banks once said that “six inches of barbed wire shoved up gay mens’ arses” was “a waste of barbed wire”. Richard Prebble and Roger Douglas, both pivotal in the formation of the ACT Party, voted for the Homosexual Law Reform Bill.

Banks politics have changed overtime to see him become, as Cathy Odgers told NBR, “conservative” and “a pragmatist”. Paul Goldsmith, Banks’ biographer, refers to Banks as using “normal political pragmatism”, noting his stance on abortion as a departure from his usual stance.

It will be interesting to see if Banks will revert back to the 1981 version of himself, as by 1996 he was touted on the cover of the Sunday Star Times as a potential leader of a Christian coalition party. He has the perfect chance to advocate the economic reforms he initially campaigned on, and the chance to prove ACT’s supporters that their first impressions of him were wrong.

The inside opinion on Banks is revealed in the below conversations form the NZ Liberals private Facebook page.

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  1. Hamish McConnochie says:

    To anyone who has come here to point of these sentences;

    – “The group’s members have discussed what strategy is necessary to minimise Banks’ impact and have discussed breaking away to form a new party.” and
    – “noting his stance on abortion as a departure from his usual stance”.

    Yes, I’m aware. I will make sure this doesn’t occur again.

  2. Elle Hunt says:

    It better not, Hamish.

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