Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This blog will remain a repository of information about the ACT New Zealand political party from 2007-9. Future guest posts at liberation.typepad.com. My contact details are below.

Dear all,

This blog on the ACT New Zealand political party operated from 2007-9, a period in which I wrote some 170 posts on many different topics relating to the party. The inspiration behind the blogs was to showcase some of the research I had conducted for my 2007 dissertation on ACT, while also providing in-depth commentary on ACT, which at that time seemed to be very limited.

The name Douglas to Dancing combined references to Roger Douglas, the co-founder of the party who came back for the 2008 election, and Rodney Hide, ACT leader from 2004-2011. Hide featured on the 2006 edition of television talent show Dancing with the Stars.

Due to other commitments, but also because of the much greater interest in ACT by others following its entry to government after the 2008 election, I decided to discontinue regular posts in mid 2009. But  Douglas to Dancing will remain online as a repository of information on ACT from the period 2007-2009. Today I've tidied up the information side panels at left and deleted dead links.

Since 2010, I have written occasional guest posts on Liberation, the blog of Dr. Bryce Edwards - mostly, but not only on the subject of ACT. The links to these are below. My thanks to Bryce for extending me the invitation to publish posts on his site. I hope to write future occasional posts there when I have something to say on New Zealand politics.

I have remained a very big reader of New Zealand political blogs and do not rule out starting another blog of my own one day! For now, I welcome e-mails to geoffreymiller AT g(DELETE)mail DOT com. I also have a Twitter account at @GeoffMillerNZ.

Liberation guest posts (in reverse chronological order):

24 May 2012: Is taking gifts from lobbyists ever a good idea? (On David Shearer/Labour Party)
3 May 2012: Has John Banks breached the Act Party constitution and rules?
30 April 2012: The consequences of the John Banks donation scandal

28 April 2011: National, Act, Brash and Orewa
Best wishes,

Geoffrey Miller
23 October 2012

Monday, May 11, 2009

The guts to do what's right?

ACT party stalwart Trevor Loudon, who runs the New Zeal blog, reports on the fate of the "anti-gang patches" bill. Amidst a busy news week I had initially overlooked the Herald's coverage of the fate of the bill, which saw it passed 62-59. For ACT, Rodney Hide, John Boscawen and David Garrett both voted in favour of the bill, while Heather Roy and Roger Douglas voted against it. In March, Hide had made the bill a conscience vote after divisions amongst the caucus had become apparent.

On hearing that Rodney Hide had reversed his original opposition to the bill, Loudon wrote: "I was shocked. Why would Rodney do it? Rodney's a libertarian who cares about individual liberty more than anything else. I'm still stunned."

And yes, it is a little surprising. Gang patches, Hide had argued in the past, were a question of freedom of speech. But if you read Hide's speech for the third reading of the bill, which Loudon helpfully reproduces at his post, his argument is that gang patches represent intimidation:
Interestingly, the arrival of a gang member without the patch will not cause that intimidation. It is not the look that is causing the intimidation; it is the patch. I say that it is a tough line to draw, but clearly, in this example, the wearing of a patch on a jacket is intimidation of law-abiding citizens, and I am prepared to give the good people of Wanganui the opportunity to make a law so that they can choose how they want to live, and so that the police can enforce that, for people to live free of the intimidation and fear they have been suffering.
Initially my response to this was to suspect that Hide had found a convenient get-out clause to support the bill. Was this really part of the "guts to do what's right" - the 2008 campaign slogan? Loudon's surprise is justified: most supporters would align Hide with the libertarian, rather than the conservative wing of the party. Nobody would be surprised about Garrett's support for the bill. Even John Boscawen's vote in favour is somewhat understandable. But Rodney Hide? Surely he can't really mean what he said in his speech?

Or perhaps he can. There are two possible motives which have led Hide to his decision. The first is that having studied the potential consequences, he now truly believes in the bill. I'm fairly sure Hide wouldn't agree with his economics, but he probably would agree with the famous quotation by John Maynard Keynes: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" And indeed, Hide and ACT have been researching the effects of the bill. According to Hide, he "despatched Mr David Garrett to Wanganui to talk to people, and in particular to ask some very basic questions". Perhaps after some long chats with Garrett, Hide has been convinced that the good of the bill outweighs the bad.

The second option is that Hide's support is pure Realpolitik. ACT is supporting National in government. National supports the bill. The bill does not need Hide's support - it would have passed even without John Boscawen - but as party leader, his vote is a powerful symbol. Small parties in government need to win friends and influence people. Sure, Hide could have voted against the bill. But why should National feel dispositioned to supporting ACT's own tough-on-crime bill - Garrett's "three strikes" legislation? There is nothing wrong with compromise in a unofficial coalition government - in fact it is a requirement. Hide may have realised that the point of difference was so small enough that it was not worth worrying about. It is a local law which affects Wanganui only. Surely, three-strikes is worth a lot more to the party as a whole?

If the former option is what happened, fine. Some supporters such as Trevor Loudon will of course be disappointed at first, this time. But having a party leader who's prepared to change his mind where necessary is probably a good thing to have.

If the latter is what happened, then I'm not so sure. If it really was Realpolitik at work, why not try and explain this compromise to members? "Look, we're in government now, sometimes we're not always going to get our own way. For a majority of members, three-strikes is important and we really need to do everything to get that passed". Wouldn't this be the more honest course of action to take, rather than looking for a detail which would let you off the hook? Is this really "the guts to do what's right"?

Trevor Loudon asked his readers for what they thought of Hide's decision. So will I. What do ACT supporters think?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Update: ACT and the Dunedin stadium

An update on opposition to the proposed new waterfront stadium in Dunedin, focusing on the connections with ACT.

The prospects for action by Local Government Minister and ACT leader Rodney Hide seem to be diminishing. Earlier this week, Hide said he would be pleased to come to Dunedin at the invitation of Stop the Stadium, but also warned that it would take gross recklessness by local councils, which have thus far approved the proposal, for the project to be reviewed, according to the Otago Daily Times. On Saturday, the ODT reported a Hide spokesman as saying that a visit would not be "quick", given that the minister has a busy schedule.

To me, this sounds as if Hide is keen to stay out of Dunedin's deliberations - some would say washing his hands of it. All government ministers have full diaries. That is a given. But if something high-priority comes up, they can alter, postpone or cancel less-pressing appointments. By signalling his unwillingness to do so, Hide may be vetoing any prospect of a review for the stadium project.

The deadline in this case is April 20, when DCC councillors meet to consider a building contract from Hawkins Construction. Of course, Hide could delay or halt the stadium even after this, but this would require the contract to be broken, with associated penalties. If Hide's decision whether to review the project or not does not come speedily, it will soon be too late.

On the ground, local ACT-linked people have been busy. Last week I wrote about former ACT MP and now Otago Regional Councillor Gerry Eckhoff's fury at the proposal and decision-making processes. Following the public meeting, enduring local ACT organiser and lawyer Hilary Calvert told the Fairfax-owned Dunedin community paper D-Scene (1 April 2009, p. 5, not online) that she believed legal advice to the Dunedin City Council from the Anderson Lloyd law firm was suspect.

According to the DCC, no further consultation in the form of submissions to the 2009 Annual Plan is required, because no material change has taken place to the project since last year. (Since 2008, the stadium project has failed to gain the required private-sector funding by a long way and the costs have ballooned by $10m to $198m. An opinion poll run by stadium opponents in the spring found almost 80% were against the project).

Calvert believes this advice was given only on the basis of an opinion from DCC chief executive Jim Harland that the project had not changed, rather than on an actual scrutiny by Anderson Lloyd. "No one has yet seen the construction contract to know what significant changes may or may not have been made. I want councillors to know they're likely to be sued. They're responsible for getting proper legal advice", Calvert told the paper.

The opinions of local ACT supporters - or anyone else for that matter - will be unlikely to stop the signing of the building contract for the stadium, which is likely to happen on or shortly after April 20, the date of a DCC council meeting. The local authorities propelling the stadium project, including the DCC and ORC, have shown little regard for public sentiment and indeed outrage against the proposal. Only intervention by Hide before or on that date would be able to delay the project.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

ACT and the Dunedin stadium

Former ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff delivers a speech at the Dunedin Town Hall, 29 March 2009. (Photo by the author).

Local body politics constitutes something of a paradox. In election years, interest is low and apathy high, with voting turnout under 50% (compared with still a 70%+ rate in national elections). Coverage of councils' activities in the national media is accordingly minimal, unless there is some particular interest point such as an entertaining mayor along the lines of Tim Shadbolt or Michael Laws. Even in most local newspapers (with some exceptions), coverage of local body politics takes a decided back-seat to the minutiae of central government's activities. To the best of my knowledge, there is not yet a New Zealand blog dedicated to local body politics, despite the dozens created in recent years (including this one) which are devoted to national politics. This is perfectly understandable: for the most part, local councils perform a function akin to wallpaper. As long as the rubbish is being collected and everything is working as it should do, voters can afford to let their eyes glaze over at the mention of local body issues.

But when a big local issue comes along, interest can arise in a town or region to an extent unthinkable for anything but the most divisive of national issues. On Sunday evening, the Dunedin Town Hall was filled with over 1800 people, including myself, who came to hear six speakers explain why they opposed the building of a new sports stadium beside Otago Harbour, at a meeting sponsored by the Stop the Stadium Trust. The last time I recall the Town Hall being filled for any sort of political event was for the visit to Dunedin by the Dalai Lama in 1995. It certainly outshone the "meet the candidates" forums held in local body election year, which on a good day attract a couple of hundred at the very most.

What is at stake is $155m of money which is set to be collected from Otago ratepayers for the building of the new stadium. But the word "Otago" could just as well be "Auckland" (which saw off the construction of a waterfront stadium in 2006) as it could be the name of any other province in the country. $155m is perhaps not a lot of money spent nationally, but with a population base of only around 200,000 people, this is a project similar in scale to one costing a couple of billion dollars if implemented on a nationwide basis. It is a tremendous sum.

Reasons to oppose "the stadium" are numerous and too many in number to explain in detail here. Speakers at the meeting raised issues on everything from the stadium design (the planned roof would prevent grass growth) and the site (which sits on reclaimed, marsh-like land difficult to build a large structure on) to the fact that the economic benefits of the stadium have been oversold (planned "international concerts" would never eventuate and the building would sit idle for most of the year). Then there is the fact that private investors have hardly been forthcoming with capital for the project, which will leave the local authorities shouldering all the risk and facing a mountain of debt to pay off over the next 20 years (or longer).

As the meeting heard, Dunedin is not a rich city and thanks in large part to the closure of Fisher and Paykel's Mosgiel factory and the downsizing of Cadbury Confectionery, it has lost a staggering 1,000+ jobs in the last 12 months. Added to the large number of people not "working" in Dunedin (the many elderly, children and students take up a sizeable chunk of the 120,000 population), this gives some idea why the project looks unaffordable.

The ACT connection lies with two of the six speakers at Sunday's meeting: Alistair Broad and Gerry Eckhoff. Broad is a local real estate agent and is the partner of Hilary Calvert, ACT's long-time party organiser and stalwart in Dunedin. Eckhoff was an ACT MP from 1999-2005 and in 2007 was elected to the Otago Regional Council. (He also likes to be known simply as a "Roxburgh farmer"). Of the remaining speakers, marketing lecturer Dr. Robert Hamlin, Natural History New Zealand CEO Michael Stedman, former Dunedin mayor Sukhi Turner and DCC councillor Dave Cull, I am only aware of the political leanings of Mrs. Turner, who is left-leaning and as I recall a Green supporter. For the others, I have no idea. But to have at least one-third of the speakers being ACT supporters is a sterling effort in a city like Dunedin, which holds two of Labour's safest seats.

What was in keeping with ACT in the approach of Broad and Eckhoff was their attention to the decision-making processes behind the building of the stadium. For the past three years, ratepayers who read the Otago Daily Times have become accustomed to reading major decisions only after they were made and without consultation, under the guise of "commercial sensitivity". (This is despite the small fact that the ratepayers' money is what is being used). To give but one example, earlier this year ODT readers discovered that they were buying Carisbrook for some $10m and were paying off the Otago Rugby Football Union's debt (both to the city and other investors) of over half that amount again.

Alistair Broad told attendees at Sunday's meeting that he had applied under the Local Government Official Information Act to see a copy of the building contract about to be signed with a building firm, which has supposedly a "Guaranteed Maximum Price". Expecting to be thrown the commercial sensitivity line, Broad had said in his request that he would be happy for the exact figures to be blacked out; it was the wording of the maximum price clauses in which he was interested. His request was denied. Given that the contract to build the stadium is essentially one between the ratepayers of Otago (and especially Dunedin, from where the bulk of the funding is being sourced) and the builders, it seems outrageous that one party to the contract has been blindfolded from seeing the very contract it will be responsible for fulfilling (and paying).

Gerry Eckhoff was clearly very annoyed over the fact that so many of the hearings on the stadium had been held in closed committee. He told the audience that he knew the terms of reference for central government's $15m underwriting guarantee, but was unable to reveal this because he learnt it in a closed meeting of the Otago Regional Council (ORC). Eckhoff also read portions of the Local Government Act 2002, for which he sat on a select committee as an ACT MP. In his speech, Eckhoff also enumerated the major projects that the ORC was now funding - a $28m new headquarters, its contribution to the stadium and the Leith-Lindsay river flood protection scheme - and concluded that only the latter amounted to anything like core business of the council (regional councils are chief lyresponsible for environmental issues). Ironically, the ORC's new headquarters are also planned for the Dunedin waterfront and in any other year would be a very controversial issue in itself (as it stands, it is being quietly pushed through while the stadium occupies the ODT headlines).

The meeting concluded with the reading of a letter from ACT leader Rodney Hide, in his capacity as Minister for Local Government. Hide was mostly sympathetic to the meeting's agenda. It was not up to him as Minister to micro-manage every last decision made by councils, but he was in favour of councils focusing on core business. Big projects were usually bad, but not if there was an exceptional reason. But if there was such a reason, ratepayers should be asked and listened to. If this was not happening, Hide asked to be informed.

Responding to this, the meeting then passed a resolution to invite Hide to Dunedin to scrutinise the decision-making process. I see three possible outcomes of this:
  1. Hide comes and listens but takes no further action. He does not want to undermine the decision of a National minister who granted $15m for the stadium.

  2. Hide orders the suspension of the project, by putting it under central government control (as he is entitled to do under the Local Government Act 2002).

  3. Hide orders a review of some kind of the project, focusing on the decision-making processes and whether ratepayers have been properly consulted.
The third option seems the most likely to me. In 2006, Hide led opposition - along with Keith Locke - to the proposed waterfront stadium which was to be built in Auckland, a project which would have brought a similar financial burden to northern ratepayers. To do nothing in Dunedin's situation would seem at best inconsistent; at worst, hypocritical. Yet to order the cancellation the project outright would be a bridge too far - Hide supports the autonomy of councils and will not want to become or be seen as an autocrat, especially as his knowledge of the specific situation in Dunedin will be understandably limited.

A suspension of the project pending a review would be the most logical and painless way to deal with a situation which cannot be ignored. Luckily for the stadium opponents, the fact that Hide, an ACT MP who has long campaigned against rates increases, is Local Government Minister means that the prospect of action is infinitely higher than it would be under a National MP who would be content to rubber-stamp the approval for the stadium made by a colleague.

Dunedin's exact future hangs on whether the stadium proceeds or is halted. A minister from ACT now has the power to decide that future.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Conference 2009: the broad church?

If you work in a large organisation, I'm sure you'll be familiar with the "general reminder" e-mail or memo sent out to all staff. "Could all staff please remember that in future....?" or "Just a friendly note that...." and so on. In my experience, these messages are usually directed at just one or two colleagues, but are sent out in a cloaked fashion to all employees in order to avoid broaching the specific issue with the person in question.

Like the not-so-subtle reminders to employees, ACT's decision to adopt a conscience-vote model for all bills is a general one, but is squarely directed at the party's division over the three-strikes and gang patches bills. As Rodney Hide announced in his speech to the conference, caucus members will have a genuinely "free vote" on all bills not part of the confidence and supply agreement with National. Essentially, this makes most bills into a conscience vote for ACT MPs. It differs from the traditional whip approach used by most parties in Westminster democracies, which in case of disagreement requires a party's caucus to go away and reach a unified compromise between themselves.

Because confidence and supply bills are financial and taxation ones, the free vote provision will have its greatest impact on bills of a non-economic nature. Indeed, it is clear that the new system is directed at the current circumstances in which the party finds itself, namely that two socially conservative bills (the "three strikes" and the anti-gang insignia legislation) have clearly led to differing opinions from the five MPs.

This is perhaps unsurprising, given the socially conservative/socially liberal "fault line" in ACT. But Hide's decision to allow his caucus members to vote according to their own views does provide some evidence that the liberal/conservative divide exists within the caucus as well as within the party as a whole. Evidently, the differences must have been so great that the caucus has been unable to come to a compromise behind closed doors.

In his speech and media coverage of the decision, Hide has pointed out the disastrous fate of other small parties which have whipped their caucuses into shape against their MPs' wills. Foremost of these examples is the Alliance, which crumbled over a failure to compromise over the party's support for the involvement of New Zealand troops in the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001/2. Hide stated: "we have seen what happens to third parties with leaders who just dictate their party's vote. Those leaders end up thinking they are the party, and those parties don't last".

With history in mind, the free vote decision could be seen as an adept solution to a unpalatable problem. Perhaps the traditional whipping system is unrealistic for a party with strong personalities and even stronger opinions. Why risk possible division over relatively small issues? Why not let MPs decide for themselves? Indeed, is ACT not a party based upon freedom of the individual?

Yes, it is a possible solution and at least in the short-term could work well. On some pieces of legislation, socially conservative MPs will line up behind the likes of David Garrett; the socially liberal MPs will vote in another block, perhaps led by Sir Roger Douglas. Douglas was very non-committal in Friday's "Focus on Politics" programme to the three strikes bill, saying that while he accepted ACT was a broad church, he would not himself becoming involved in advocating for the bill. Yet even so, it is difficult to tell with Douglas: traditional disinterest in ACT's crime policies does not necessarily mean he does not support them.

I'm undecided as to which "group' the remaining three MPs - Rodney Hide, Heather Roy and John Boscawen - belong. Hide seems supportive of Garrett, has been well aware of his hardline stance on criminals and would have had a good deal of influence over his high list-ranking. So he could well be voting with Garrett. On the other hand, Hide described himself to me in 2007 as belonging to the "liberal end of the caucus", suggesting that he might be uncomfortable with such an authoritarian stance. But it would be tough for a leader to not support a first-term MP and indeed one of ACT's chief campaign policies. I therefore expect Hide to vote for the three strikes bill and for the anti gang-insignia bill. I have no firm evidence for Roy and Boscawen but suspect they could well fall into the socially liberal camp. (EDIT: it has been suggested to me that Hide, Douglas and Roy form the liberal wing, with Boscawen and Garrett heading the more socially conservative grouping. This gives a 3-2 ratio and seems quite plausible to me. For reasons of leadership, however, Hide may well side with the conservative grouping on issues such as three-strikes, as noted above.)

But whether the ratio is 4-1, 3-2 or some other proportion is really immaterial. ACT would not have decided to follow a conscience model for all bills had there been no schism, however mild. Whether the decision is effective or not depends on whether it will help the party to avoid the very division it fears. In this, I think ACT is misguided: in seeking to avoid replicating the fate of the Alliance, it may be creating just a different style of division, whether real or imagined (i.e. media-driven). If ACT MPs end up voting against each other on a regular basis, voters may well and truly lose any concept of what ACT stands for, a situation which is as it stands hardly crystal clear. If certain MPs become nerve centres for different factions of the caucus, will this not set the party up for an easy division later on?

This is clearly, for ACT, the worst-case scenario and reality is probably not nearly as dark. The conscience-style model has the best chance of success if incoherence is employed only when absolutely necessary. If ACT MPs vote together 90% of the time, the party is probably still ACT. If that became 50%, perhaps this assumption becomes questionable. I suspect the former outcome is more likely, taking the heat out of only the most firey of debates between socially liberal and socially conservative ACT supporters as to the party's final position. A split vote in these 10% of cases will be better for ACT than a split party.

But the move is still a risky one. It is all very well to call ACT a "broad church", but actually, why should it be? The very point of small political parties is that they can fill certain niches; members are frequently attracted to join because they disagree with the one-size-fits-all approach of the mass parties. Never was this truer than in the case of ACT, a party jointly established by the disaffected supporters of the broad churches of Labour and National, symbolised by co-founders Sir Roger Douglas, a former Labour minister, and Derek Quigley, once a National cabinet minister. Admitting that ACT is a broad church is one thing; embracing it is quite another. Accordingly, ACT will need to be wary of following in the footsteps of its political parents - undergoing permanent division, which unlike the structurally much stronger Labour and National, could ultimately prove to be fatal.

Conference 2009: Deborah Coddington

It's safe to say that Deborah Coddington hasn't been ACT's greatest cheerleader in recent years. Even when she was an MP, she wasn't one to mince words, calling Richard Prebble's stunt-like suggestion in 2004 that ACT merge with National in the wake of Don Brash's Orewa speech “disastrous”. In 2007, Coddington criticised Hide for being “rapt in his own dancing, flash suits, swimming and catwalk modelling”, instead of promoting policies such as “radical personal tax cuts”.

If the criticism from Coddington has in the past been blunt, it is now razor-sharp. In her Sunday newspaper column published during ACT's conference this week, she gave ACT a pen-lashing that even her fellow Herald on Sunday columnist, unionist Matt McCarten, might be proud of:
I received many emails and calls this week, in the lead-up to Act's annual conference, from past and present Act supporters dismayed at their party's increasing tendency to jettison principles, not only over the so-called "iwi tax" but also the U-turn to support the ban on wearing gang patches.

But why are they surprised? Gradually, Act has morphed from a political party which stood for issues - small government, property rights, choice in education - to a negative and angry party, opposing anything to get a headline. Oh, and posing on the D-list celebrity pages.

There are many good people in Act with enough clout to halt the party's slide into a replacement for NZ First.
Coddington's complaint is that ACT's criticism of a Maori tribe's ability to charge for the use of its land goes against the party's supposed defence of private property rights. This is actually a good point and I'm sure a majority of ACT members would actually agree with Coddington's argument. But you can see why ACT has gone for the opposition of a so-called "iwi tax" - it's much easier to explain this stance to conservative voters than to explain what property rights are, why they matter and why they apply to Lake Ellesmere. Yet the simple and more populist path contradicts ACT's ideology. This gets to the heart of ACT's age-old dilemma: ideology attracts members, but repels voters.
Coddington is of course from the disenchanted libetarian end of ACT; her fit with the party was never a tight one and her shift from Libertarianz to ACT never really worked out. Her comments may be cutting, but they are not surprising.

But Coddington's comments give another illustration of the depth of feeling felt by supporters of the party's socially liberal wing - activists who do not hold a lot of formal power but who can certainly make a lot of noise.

Conference 2009: coverage guide

Not attending ACT's conference myself, I've spent the last couple of days digesting the reportage on it, which has actually been very good. For an excellent background to the conference, I suggest listening to last Friday's Focus on Politics programme from Radio New Zealand, which examined the state of ACT. ACT MPs Rodney Hide, Roger Douglas and David Garrett were interviewed for the programme, along with University of Otago Politics lecturer Dr. Bryce Edwards.

All of the participants on the programme shared some interesting insights. Hide explained that his low profile since the election was driven by a desire to become involved with the "doing", rather than the talking. Garrett gave a surprisingly frank admission that he had learned not to "joke" with journalists, lest these comments be published (although he gave no indication that his most controversial comment to date - that we've become too hung-up on people's rights - was made in jest). Douglas made some guarded comments over Garrett's anti-crime agenda (see one of my later posts).

Edwards gave some excellent analysis on ACT's first 100 days, particularly with regard to the party's apparent de-emphasis of its traditional economic issues, despite the country being in the midst of a recession. If you prefer a written version of Dr. Edwards's insights, you can also read a detailed post he has placed on his personal blog.

For raw material on the conference itself, ACT's website has transcripts of several of the speeches given to the conference, although unfortunately not Dr. Lees-Marshment's presentation. Nevertheless, the speeches by Hide and Garrett in particular are worth reading. As might be expected, Garrett seemed somewhat defensive of his hardline crime stance: "Although some people – even within the Party and, perhaps, this audience – have accused me of being indifferent to human rights, it is a given that prisoners should be entitled to decent and humane treatment while in prison. I firmly believe that that is right". For John Key's speech, go to the National leader's own site . NZPA has a report on Key's speech to the conference and an in-depth report on the event as a whole.

In the remainder of the print media, John Armstrong appears to have attended the conference and produced two good write-ups both previewing and reviewing events, while Colin James has written two excellent pieces which perceptively examine ACT's present situation, one in Management magazine, the other in his column in the Otago Daily Times (not yet online, but probably on James's website in the coming days).

In the blogosphere, there is coverage from the usual sites: David Farrar considers John Armstrong's analysis, while The Standard has the usual counterpoint based on Colin Espiner's summation of events.