Libertarianz ready to embrace new image

SIMON DAY
Last updated 05:00 30/09/2012

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The Libertarianz party is ready to tone down its image in order to take advantage of the political hole left by Act, which has been crushed under the weight of Kim Dotcom.

The Libertarianz believe Act is in “collapse mode” and its time has come to be the advocate for cutting spending and downsizing government.

“There is going to be a bit of a gaping hole, especially for voters wanting someone to represent those ideas,” said Libertarianz leader Richard McGrath.

However, a number of commentators write off Libertarianz as too devoted to an unpalatable mainstream ideology.

“Part of the problem is that the Libertarianz are just too damn principled, and all about promoting their core ideology," said political commentator and lecturer Bryce Edwards. "The party is essentially an absolutist one that believes in a totally unfettered free market, which will have only limited appeal to those on the right.”

McGrath said the Libertarianz were ready to tone down the image in an attempt to appeal to more voters. He admits mistakes were made with the party image and a new marketing approach is needed."

“I think we would have the same underlying principles but in terms of policy you have to make them a little more palatable to voters,” he said. “We are kind of scary to a lot of people.”

A strong belief in the right to own firearms and the complete legalisation of all drugs are policies he thinks should not have been emphasised in the past. “We need to make them sound more realistic and work in smaller steps,” he said.

Commentators also argue the Libertarianz are without a political figurehead but Peter Cresswell, Auckland architect and political blogger, is willing to be that person. He too believes the party is in need of a facelift, which could be revealed as soon as Saturday at their party conference in Auckland.

“Project Act and Libertarian have been failures," McGrath said. "The upcoming conference is a call for everyone involved to look at a new vehicle.”

The party must join the middle ground while pointing to their goals if they hope to achieve any success, he said.

Apart from the demise of Act - a party that has gradually lost all credibility, culminating in John Banks' loss of face over the Kim Dotcom donation scandal - the other factor helping the rise of the Libertarianz, said right-wing blogger David Farrar, is the global financial crisis. Issues like health, education and the Treaty of Waitangi have formerly been policy priorities. But for the past five years the economy has been the most important issue, Farrar said.

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“Historically, spending cuts have been really unpopular. At most, centre right parties can reduce rates of spending. But since the crisis there has been vast support for spending cuts to get out of debt.”

McGrath and Cresswell admit there is a long way to go. With just 1600 votes at the last election, the Beehive is a distant goal but Edwards believes New Zealand needs a Libertarian presence.

- Sunday Star Times

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