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This Election Is Wide Open

Sunday 14 Jul 2002

Speech by Hon Richard Prebble, Leader ACT New Zealand
At Riva Café, 89 Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay
On Sunday 14th July 2002, at 9am

Last week a political earthquake was recorded by ACT's nightly tracking polls.

ACT's tracking polls have accurately predicted the official polls. Our polls predicted ACT breaking 6 percent, before the TV polls did, and we had National down to 24 percent. We have also tracked the rise and fall of New Zealand First.

So ACT's polling is accurate. The political earthquake which we recorded last week, may shake Labour down to defeat.

ACT's polling has shown Labour below 50 percent for more than 10 days. Last weekend, Labour was at 46 percent in our polls.

The way daily tracking polls work, the margin of error is high on any one day. Over two days, the margin or error is less, and over a week the poll is very reliable.

So we can say - with almost as much certainty as there was no GE in the corn - that Labour's plan to achieve a majority government has failed. One thing that will not happen is that Labour will govern alone.

Then came the second mighty shake. On Wednesday and Thursday of last week, Labour took a huge hit. Labour fell to 41 percent and then to 38 percent in our poll.

Clearly, the John Campbell interview, the Corngate allegations, the government's failure to answer promptly the allegations in Nicky Hager's book, together with the police report on Paintergate - showing a prima facie case - have shaken the public's faith in Labour.

Two forces are at work, shaking Labour's lead. One is the government's mishandling of the GE allegations, despite having a day's notice. Until now, the government has been sure-footed in handling the media but it was remarkably incompetent in responding to Nicky Hager's allegations.

Threatening the media with lawyers over Paintergate was stupid. But putting Marian Hobbs on TV to re-assure us about the corn was a stark reminder that this is a one-woman government.

The double-whammy hitting Labour is that Helen Clark's whole election strategy is built on "stability", and persuading voters to support Labour to stop the Greens.

For a while, this seemed a master stroke. National's polling showed a third of all Labour supporters were only voting Labour to stop the Greens.

The media bought into this analysis. So TV, in particular, has been claiming that the election issue is GE and the debate between Labour and the Greens. This cut out National and ACT, and prevented debate on other issues.

But the whole strategy depends on Labour polling over 50 percent. Once Labour falls below 50 percent there is no point voting Labour to stop the Greens.

That is what has happened this week. On Wednesday Labour was down to 41 percent in our tracking polls, and on Thursday they were down to 38 percent.

National, which has been polling just 24 percent on our polls - just like the official polls - has jumped to 31 percent. Centre-right voters are abandoning Labour once they realise Labour can't stop the Greens.

Labour now has a real problem. It has given voters no positive reasons to vote Labour. Here is a challenge for you. What are the three major policies Labour is campaigning on? Can you name just one?

How can Labour campaign on stability when it will be reliant on either the Greens or - heaven help the country - New Zealand First?

Now let me say why ACT is rising steadily in the polls. ACT is running an issued-based campaign, on the issues which most concern voters - health, education, the economy, one law for all, and crime and justice.

ACT's policy of Zero Tolerance for Crime has got voters' attention. They also like our Truth-in-Sentencing. Voters realise that ACT has a policy to attract investment, growth and jobs - lower company tax than Australia and a tax cut for every worker.

So voters then want to know - has ACT a solution to the problem of hospital waiting lists? Well, as it happens, we have. A common sense solution - use the private sector to perform operations that the public sector doesn't have the resources to perform.

Tomorrow I will be announcing ACT's policies on education. ACT alone opposed the NCEA as being politically-correct madness. Parents with secondary school pupils are realising that only ACT has spoken out against this experiment that the government is doing with our children. Education is an issue in this campaign.

ACT's policies are proving bullet-proof. The McLeod Tax Review costed our tax policy and showed it is affordable. When Labour attacked our plan to use private hospitals, the public asked - why is it okay to fly cancer patients to Australia but not to use a private hospital in this country?

A government that can't solve the teachers' pay dispute after two years, can't criticise anyone.

ACT has managed to keep out of all the personality slanging matches and just concentrate on promoting our fresh, new ideas to the real problems.

I am confident not only that ACT will increase its representation but also that we will have a real election - as our latest polling shows.

It is too late for Labour to now suddenly discover some news principles, policies and vision. The ACT Party owns that territory.


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