Labour unashamedly embraced big government, a partnership where the iron fist of state regulation, tax and subsidy would direct the economy, and all major areas of social policy.
National was thought, by many, to offer something different, a change in direction, suspicion of the state, belief in less taxes, less state intervention in the economy, and being more open about choice in education, health care and superannuation.
After all, National offered part of this in 2005, and to a limited extent went in that direction (haphazardly and inconsistently) between 1990 and 1999. Isn't it fair to assume a change in government is a change in direction?
Well no. You see this National government runs deficits, doesn't reduce the size of government, spends more on state health and education, maintains the national superannuation ponzi scheme and has continued to subsidise and interfere with the economy. Property rights are no better off. National is being what it is used to being - a conservative party that keeps what Labour did before and tinkers.
To be fair to National, John Key didn't offer too much more than that in the first place. So some thought it was right to vote ACT.
Bringing Sir Roger Douglas back into the fold gave some hope that a Nat-Act coalition could see one of NZ's two bravest former Finance Ministers having a key role in Cabinet. After all, if Labour scaremongered over Douglas, it wouldn't be hard to ask why Clark, Cullen, Goff and King would complain about a man being in Cabinet who THEY all shared Cabinet with. However, John Key (and the National Party) are political invertebrates.
So ACT got Rodney Hide as Minister of Local Government. Well that was something. Time to reverse the Labour/Alliance "powers of general competence" granted to local government, time to at least cap rates to inflation, time to have local government protect rather than abuse property rights.
No. Not only did it mean none of that, but the Nats took Labour's Royal Commission of Inquiry into Auckland Governance, and implemented almost all of its recommendations. A new big Auckland council, with almost unlimited powers to do as it wishes.
Is that what ACT voters wanted? Bigger, stronger local government?
No. Same with the dabbling with the "hang 'em high" crowd represented by David Garrett.
ACT had potential, it did believe in less government once, it did have senior leaders who would talk the good talk. As flawed as Rodney Hide is, and Sir Roger Douglas, there were more than a few occasions when one could say "bravo".
However, ACT's first real chance at power (it wasn't part of the 1996-1999 National led governments) hasn't just been disappointing, it has even seemed counter-productive.
So what now?
The obvious answer I would give is to offer Libertarianz, although some may say it is still a small party, and many have harbour hesitation whether those within it have the capability or the interest in stepping up to be a serious electoral option for the next election.
So I might suggest this, from afar. It is time for those within ACT and National, who do want less government, less tax, the shrinking of the state consistently, to contact Libertarianz. To attend at least one meeting, and talk about how to move forward.
You don't need to agree with all of the policies, but to believe in the principle of much less government.
No one else is going to do it.