Mr Ryght: An interview with ACT leader: Jamie Whyte

by Tim Batt
Jamie Whyte is so raw, there's no CC images of him on the net. So here's a picture of a happy little Rodney.

Jamie Whyte is so raw, there’s no CC images of him on the net. So here’s a picture of a happy little Rodney.

Jamie Whyte is the new leader of ACT, a party currently polling at 0.4%, this is promising compared to the 0.00% it polled quite recently. Its most recent leader is currently facing court charges. It’s also a party which in the last election, received just 1% of the vote nationally.

Jamie holds a PhD in Philosophy from Cambridge and his résumé includes Management Consulting and writing for The Times and Wall Street Journal. I’ve seen Jamie on TV. His bald head suggests tones of a South London brawler. His British rounded vowels and academic background allude to an old-fashioned, professorial type of gent. However, none of those impressions come close to truth.

At the outset of our call, Jamie let’s me know that he’s lunching on Auckland’s Ponsonby Road, and writing – something he does “most days”. I ask what his honest predictions are for this election year, he tells me they’ll hold Epsom and believes ACT can capture 3 – 4% of the vote in the short term and above 5% in 2017. This seems incredibly ambitious to me, all things considered. But Jamie is convinced 10% of New Zealanders are sympathetic to ACT’s viewpoint, what’s been missing is leadership that people can rally behind. Even if his numbers are off, it’s hard to argue with his explanation of what’s been lacking.

He believes the future of the party depends on two things – First, “Us” the members of ACT, which I took to mean, how he performs as leader and perhaps extending how David Seymour the ACT non-leader running for Epsom goes. The second thing is how his ‘political competitors’ perform. It was a choice of wording I had to giggle at, hammering home Jamie’s belief in the free market and borrowing language from his business consultation career. The way Jamie sees it, National has drifted too far to the centre over the years, with John Key playing the role of populist leader and as a result, ACT can swoop in and pick up those feeling forgotten on the right.

I quiz Jamie on where his belief in free market ideology does NOT extend to in society. “I’m not too keen on private armies” he replies. “Well, actually public armies are a threat too…” as Jamie drifts into a discussion on coups and overthrows. What about private prisons? “I’m not sure I’m personally in favour of private prisons.” His trepidation stems from prison systems not having a ‘consumer’ who can choose the best supplier and the industry’s ability to lobby Government. And education? Jamie begins unwinding a lengthy explanation of why the current state system is just bloody awful.

In the ACT leader’s future NZ, parents would be given a voucher by the Government worth $X,000 and the marketplace of schools competes to provide the best and varying options for parents – “liberalising the supply side [of education]” as Jamie put it.

“Think of it like this” Jamie, in his stern but ever-so-slightly posh British-tinged voice begins, “when you are poor or unemployed, the Government gives you money, not food… That’s because of the observation that private suppliers do a better job of catering to the needs of consumers than the state.” This doesn’t quite stack up for me, surely food being distributed by the Government would be a bad idea logistically, you have issues of food perishing, for example. Education administration is quite different. And besides, food suppliers have one driving force – the profit motive, whereas education is handled by the state because it’s the only party that has an agenda that isn’t the profit motive. “That’s exactly the problem!” Jamie stops me dead. “Once you remove the profit motive the system becomes captured by the suppliers, they don’t care any longer about what people really want and they are motivated by their own ideas about what people should have. That’s a terrible situation… They’re under no competitive pressure to produce a good product.”

Much has been said of Jamie’s prior personal writings about drugs, from what I can tell, he has advocated for decriminalisation across the board. I don’t bother asking about this. But what about incest – should the state intervene if adult siblings want to marry each other?

“Well personally, I don’t think they [the State] should. However, it’s a matter of almost no significance because it just doesn’t happen.” If nothing else, I’m impressed by the consistency in his belief in Classical Liberalism. I can’t think of any other NZ politicians I could get that answer from. Jamie quickly reminds me that these are his views, not ACT views and not policies he’ll be representing in his job as leader. And this is, what I see as the problem with Jamie Whyte.

I believe this is a man who will bore of the realities and confines of political life. It is easier to speak your mind freely and shirk the political doubletalk (essential language in Wellington) at the start of a political career. But eventually the weight of constant polls, the banality of Parliamentary protocol and established tradition takes a toll. This is a man used to thinking, discussing and writing about big ideas, hell – he wrote a thesis for his PhD about the nature of truth. He lunches on Ponsonby Road and writes “most days”. He has split his life across both hemispheres, been a hired writing gun by illustrious organisations, run an international business consultancy and been engaged four times. He doesn’t have any friends who are politicians and it’s no wonder.

Despite his occasional brashness on the phone, I had so much to like about Jamie. I think his political term will be littered with battles and bark. I think he will articulate a portion of New Zealand and the right-wing ideologies they believe in better than his recent predecessors. However, I don’t see the love of being a politician that, in my view, is essential for party leadership. And because of that, I don’t expect to see him remaining in that chair come 2017. Considering this is ACT’s fourth leader in as many years, that can’t be good for the party.

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Cover photo credit: NZHerald


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Rich February 26, 2014 - 11:44 am

Inbreeding never did anyone any harm. Look at the British Royal Family. Or the West Coast.

David Peterson February 26, 2014 - 5:52 pm

I don’t feel it is helpful for a small party to have one leader for a very long time, such as a decade or more.

So if you feel Whyte is likely to only come in to make a big impact then after leading ACT for a few years or so to move onto other private business, this is only a very good strong point in his favour!

Angry Tory February 26, 2014 - 10:15 pm

Well done Jamie indeed. I think even Cunliffe didn’t wipe out his party’s chance of winning the election so quickly.

On a day when Labour just tied up with MANA, with terrorists McCarten, Harawira and Iti now basically in cabinet should Labour win – all NZ is talking about whether Jamie wants to marry is sister.

I can’t put into words how completely Jamie has fucked himself and his party

I just hope Prebs in on the phone to Whyte – reciting Tuckers Law!

Debbie February 27, 2014 - 1:04 pm Reply
Craig Young February 27, 2014 - 3:32 pm

Respectfully, I must disagree with Jamie on the issue of consensual adult incest (CAI). This is why…

Er, I happen to disagree with Jamie on this one. This is why…

Under New Zealand law, incest is punishable by a ten year prison sentence under Section 130 of the Crimes Act 1961.

CAI is based on the proposition that there is a significant difference between the act of child sexual abuse and allegedly consensual activities between adult siblings. According to research from psychological sources, CAI is usually the result of ‘genetic sexual attraction,’ an unintended byproduct of open adoption information procedures. In the United States, Psychotherapist Barbara Gonyo developed theories about GSA in the early nineties.

Whereas within families, childrearing and sibling relationships are sufficient to dispense with residual sexual attraction between parents and children, or siblings and siblings due to the Westermarck Effect of family socialisation and reverse sexual imprinting, the estrangement effects of adoption or fostering prevents this socialisation barrier from occurring, leaving some siblings, and formerly estranged parents and children susceptible to GSA. Fortunately, prior psychotherapeutic intervention precludes the possible development of GSA, although such support organisations are more common overseas.

Based on the above, I do not believe that CAI should be decriminalised, as has already regrettably occurred in the Peoples Republic of China, Japan, Israel, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, France , Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, Ukraine and Argentina.

Notably, however, there is a contrasting German case invoving the Stubings, a sibling couple who approached the Federal Constitutional Court to rule on the issue. Patrick Stuebing and Susan Karolewski have been living together for the last decade or so. Karolewski is intellectually disabled and Stuebing has served a prison sentence of two years duration for committing incest with his adult sister, an offence under Paragraphs 153 and 173 0f the German Criminal Code. Only Sofia, their youngest child, is still living with the couple, and healthy- Eric and Sarah, the older siblings have intellectual and physical disabilities, while Nancy, their younger sister, had a heart condition which has similarly been remedied. Eric, Sarah and Nancy are all in foster care.

The Court upheld Sections 153 and 173 of the German Criminal Code, and regardless of consent or adult status, incest still remains comprehensively prohibited within that jurisdiction. The Stubings then appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that Paragraphs 153 and 173 violated the Article 8 of European Charter of Human Rights, which upholds individual rights to privacy and family life. Fortunately, on 12 April 2012, the European Court of Human Rights found against the couple. It noted that the fact that Susan Karolewski was herself learning-disabled and had a dependent personality disorder fell within the purpose of Sections 153 and 173, which were the protection of weaker parties in this context. Moreover, Eric and Sarah have severe intellectual and physical disabilities, which point to the legitimacy of the genetic case against sibling sex and parenting.

Based on the German experience cited above, I think that there is no case for decriminalisation of adult incest. I believe the Ministries of Health and Justice should convene a joint working party and hold public meetings, as well as fund GSA prevention, intervention and recovery groups. This should serve as a prelude to the establishment of an amendment to the Crimes Act 1961 which either creates a seperate offence or amends Section 130 of the Crimes Act to create a different regime for adult GSA sufferers, and mandates psychotherapeutic treatment of those who experience GSA and who have engaged in CAI as a result. And a note on terminology here- incest is not a ‘sexual practise’ or ‘orientation,’ unlike lesbianism or male homosexuality. Whereas neither are regarded as psychopathologies any longer, GSA is. Therefore, it is a medicolegal problem, albeit a newly discovered one, and may be amenable to remedies from that quarter.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with same-sex marriage equality and its use suggests that those who posit still believe in the discredited archaic prescientific and premodern premise that all lesbians and gay men are chaotic akolastos or “sodomites.” Fortunately, mainstream science and medicine has moved substantially onward since then.


Barbara Gonyo: The Forbidden Love: Genetic Sexual Attraction: Mount Prospect: B.Gonyo: 1991.

Michael Bohlander: Principles of German Criminal Law: Oxford: Hart: 2009.

Stuebing versus Germany (European Court of Human Rights, 2012):

Richard McGrath February 28, 2014 - 11:19 pm

AngryTory, don’t get your knickers in a twist. To me, at least, Jamie Whyte makes a refreshing change from the typical mealy mouthed vomit that usually emanates from our politicians, and his comments on incest indicate that he is not afraid to address any subject honesty and directly. If you actually read the article you will note that Mr Whyte did not bring up the subject of incest. The interviewer did. Any attempt to give anything but a frank answer would have resulted in accusations of evasion. It was almost a “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” sort of question. Can you imagine John Banks ever giving a discourse on the same or any other subject based on the principle that the state should leave peaceful adults alone and people should take responsibility for their actions? No, didn’t think so.

Draco T Bastard March 4, 2014 - 12:45 pm

This doesn’t quite stack up for me, surely food being distributed by the Government would be a bad idea logistically, you have issues of food perishing, for example.

Actually, that’s a load of bollocks. The only reason why we don’t have a monopoly supermarket chain is because regulations prevent it. A monopoly food distributor would be far more efficient than any amount of competition.

The only reason for competition is to lower the dead-weight loss of profit but that competition comes at a cost. With today’s technology a government monopoly, with full transparency, from farm to household would be far cheaper than the duopoly that we have now.

Danyl Strype March 5, 2014 - 11:27 pm

Draco makes an interesting claim, but I challenge the logic. The supermarket duopoly we have in this country has only made food more expensive *and* sqeezed the growers and farmers, as we see with the Countdown scandal. True there is very little transparency in the duopoly (they’ve fought both country of origin and GMO labelling for years), but this can be provided without creating a state-regulated monopoly. For example, farmers markets, co-ops, and Community-Supported Agriculture schemes, which connects growers and customers more directly, tend towards better returns for the grower, cheaper prices for the customer, and better quality of produce (we naturally want to do a better job for people we know).

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