Just who is the new ACT leader?

HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 05:00 04/02/2014

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Just minutes after being publicly named as ACT leader, Jamie Whyte was distancing himself from his own views.

Despite writing of his support for the decriminalisation of drugs, he said he would not be pushing this as ACT policy. 

The 48-year-old former management consultant and philosophy lecturer was chosen as party leader in a secret ballot on Sunday. He has been published widely as a columnist, meaning his neo-liberal views are extensively known.

‘‘If you want to know what I think about something you can look it up, so there is no point bullshitting,’’ Whyte said during the leadership campaign.

So what do we know about Whyte? 

Here are just a few of his more interesting comments.

Back in 2006, asked what would happen if he entered politics and discussed his principles: ‘‘I would be slaughtered. If I told them that drugs ought to be legalised journalists would report that there was some crazy politician who says that cocaine ought to be sold in shops.’’ 

Asked about Christianity, he said he found it ‘‘a mixture of wilful ignorance mixed with an air of assumed moral superiority’’. 

On why it was wrong for the Australian advertising watchdog to ban an advertisement because it might encourage a toddler to drive: ‘‘Anyone who thinks that no amount of entertainment is worth the life of a child either overvalues children or undervalues entertainment.’’ 

More generally on Australians he said: ‘‘[T]he stupidest Australian is surely stupider than the stupidest New Zealander, if only because there are five times as many Australians to choose from.’’ Mr Whyte is not one to agree to disagree. ‘‘[I]f you believe someone’s opinion is wrong, you ought to try and change it. It would be condescending and uncaring not to.’’ 

National is committed to improving public services rather than ‘‘throwing money at the problem’’, according to Finance Minister Bill English, but Whyte appears to believe the opposite, judging by what he has written in the past. ‘‘I am not against the redistribution of wealth, but I do dislike public services. I think all redistribution of wealth should be done in cash transfers.’’ 

How will he cope with the possible compromise necessary under MMP? ‘‘I have great contempt for pragmatism. It is just a nice word. It is basically about doing what gets me elected rather than doing what is right. Doing what keeps me in power.’’

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On criticism of tax cuts proposals on the grounds they would benefit National MPs: ‘‘You cannot refute an idea by exposing the motives of those who hold it. Political journalists like to promote this fallacy because it is easier to speculate on a politician’s motives…than to engage in serious policy analysis.’’ 

Finally, on politicians’ insisting on describing all families as ‘‘hard working’’, Mr Whyte said from personal experience that this was not the case.

‘‘I am quite lazy. Only when a Cabinet minister says something utterly stupid can I be bothered to get in front of the computer and do some writing. My wife is worse. She does nothing but lunch with friends and tend to our 2-year-old daughter when the latter is not asleep or at pre-school. And the child herself is indolence on little legs; she has made not the least contribution to the gross domestic product. The Whytes are, at best, a soft-working family.’’

- Fairfax Media

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