Thursday, April 18, 2024

First-term MP relishing the role

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Damien Smith was elected to Parliament with the ACT Party in 2020. Times file photo

On the day of the 2020 general election Damien Smith went from being a business banker and consultant to a newly elected Member of Parliament for the ACT Party.

Smith stood for the party in the Botany electorate as its 10th-ranked candidate.

When ACT received 7.6 per cent of the party vote nationwide it went from having a sole MP, its leader David Seymour, to 10 representatives.

“David rang me on the Saturday afternoon of election day,” Smith says.

“He said, ‘Damien, the polls are holding and if that’s the case you could be in’.”

Smith attended the party’s election night function in Auckland’s CBD unsure what to expect.

“They started the count that evening,” he remembers.

“I was watching the TV and then all of a sudden I was getting all these slaps on the back saying, ‘you’re in!’.

“We started work the next morning as a team.”

Smith is his party’s spokesperson for arts, culture and heritage; commerce and consumer affairs; land information; racing; revenue; sport and recreation; and state-owned enterprises.

He’s also associate spokesperson for finance and serves on Parliament’s finance and expenditure committee.

Prior to entering politics he had a successful career in banking and worked as a consultant and independent company director.

The Times recently asked him how he’s finding life as a first-term MP and about his hopes and expectations as the 2023 general election draws closer.

Smith says ACT opposes the Labour Government’s Three Waters reforms, its recently announced proposal to tax farmers’ greenhouse gas emissions, and its policy to reduce New Zealand’s prison population, which he says “is not putting the victim at the centre of things”.

“Our Three Strikes law put away the baddest of the bad.

“If those people are walking the streets again, or living next door to you, or they committed a rape and they’re living down the street now, that’s not how society should work.

“People are starting to feel less safe.”

Smith says gangs are growing in strength and recruiting more youth members.

“Some of these robberies in the malls are pretty professional and slick, but with the dairies gangs send in underage kids to do a ram-raid because they know they can’t be prosecuted.

“I spend a lot of time with dairy owners and they’re pulling their hair out about how to protect themselves.”

He says the Labour Government is dividing rather than uniting Kiwis.

“I think they’ve lost the country now and their agenda is so radical.

“David [Seymour] and the rest of our team do a leader’s tour when [Parliamentary] recesses happen.

“People are angry and I’ve never seen people so engaged politically so far from an election cycle.”

Smith says he loves being an MP and he’s keen to stand for ACT again at next year’s general election.

“David is the only one directly elected, in Epsom,” he says.

“The rest of us are out there trying to obtain party votes from around the country.

“We believe this [Botany] is a great place for us to get our message to and it seems to be getting traction.

“We know there’s a mood for change out there so we have a high level of confidence, but we aren’t taking anything for granted.”

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