Kirk Speech to Central North Island Conference
National Party President
Judy Kirk Speech to Central North Island Regional Conference
Thames War Memorial Civic Centre,
Madam Chair, Dr Don Brash, Members of Parliament, Board of Directors, General Manager Steven Joyce, Electorate Chairs and Members of the National Party.
Thank you for your very warm welcome to my home region. Thames is an excellent venue for your annual regional conference. My memory of the one highlight of the last election was the winning of the Coromandel seat, Sandra Goudie and her team experienced the feeling of success, a feeling that I want us all to experience next year on Election Day.
If there is one message I want to leave with you today, it is about the importance of the Party Vote. The Party Vote will determine the make up of the next Parliament.
It is the Party Vote we must win.
It is the Party Vote that we must vigorously campaign for.
Do not misunderstand what I am saying; the Electorate Vote is also important and we will run strong Constituency campaigns. We need to win more electorate seats. But we need our MP's to be in Government, not Opposition, and that will only happen if we secure the Party Vote.
When I became President, I had a number of aims:
• Help bring about change to the constitutional structure of the Party to make it a more effective political machine.
• Change the culture within the Party
• Establish a Candidates' College so that potential candidates are better prepared for the rigours of politics.
• To bring the organisational and parliamentary wings closer together and involve the organisation in policy formulation.
• To recognise the value of the regional and electorate chairs and to strengthen the organisation.
The first of the objectives was achieved with the Constitutional Conference on 12th April 2003 which greatly improved the structure of the Party. The governance and management of the organisation is now clearly defined. The last year has involved bedding down the many changes.
Importantly, the new Board is up and running. It is working far more effectively than the former National Management Board. Rather than being bogged down with management detail, the new Board is able to adapt a more strategic approach to the operations of the Party.
I pay tribute to the members of the Board who have had to make some tough decisions. They are an effective team. It is a privilege to chair a group of such dedicated and talented people. An Audit Committee has been established, ably chaired by Roger Bridge and assisted by Alan Towers and CNI's David Bennett. They keep a keen eye on the Party finances and indeed at this year's Annual Conference for the first time, the Board will report to delegates on such matters.
There is a new role of the regions, which are performing very well. For example, in the CNI your membership this year is already passed the total of last year. It has not been an easy transition. Revolutionary changes take time to be accepted and there are still issues to work through. By and large, however, the new structure is working very well. The regional chairs play an important role. This year they will be chairing candidate selections and preparing electorates for the campaign. Their role has evolved into one of providing support and advocacy for their electorates.
The Party staffing structure has been revamped. Steven Joyce as General Manager is to be congratulated on his outstanding achievements. Steven is now able to concentrate on the big picture and is supported by our new Operations Manager, Megan Campbell. The office is becoming far more responsive to the needs of electorates and the regions. The support, advice and friendship from Steven is invaluable and appreciated. It is a privilege to work with a person of such talent and knowledge. The pace has been fast, we have shared some hard and difficult times but had fun along the way. Thank you, Steven.
Three full-time field officers have been appointed. I acknowledge from the CNI region, Alison Renwick - your knowledge and expertise is appreciated. We have a small and dedicated team of nine across the country who are coming together to benefit the whole Party.
The electorates are responding to their greater responsibilities, focussing on membership, fundraising and candidate selection, lifting the profile of the national brand at the grass roots.
The importance of electorates within the party structure was highlighted by the recent meeting at Taupo of the electorate chairs where there was a very good attendance. We talked about campaigning, fundraising, the candidates selection process, Kick Start (our new direct marketing membership initiative) which is having results beyond all expectations and policy development.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge the electorate chairs. You have a most important role and I thank you all for your work. All volunteers who are motivated by what National stands for and wanting a National-led government.
The Party's Culture and Leadership
My second aim was to change the culture of the organisation. We all must work as one team, back ourselves and each other. Unity and discipline are essential if we are to be successful. We are a united team led by Dr Don Brash. Our leader is a skilled communicator. He is able to articulate a clear and precise message. As one political commentator noted:
"Don Brash has struck a cord with many, now everybody knows his name. He has brought an elegant, business savvy into New Zealand politics".
Don Brash is decisive, a strong leader, honest and caring. He has a keen sense of humour. He has a vision for New Zealand's future. Don Brash and Judy Kirk are under no illusions about the task ahead for the National Party.
The next election will substantially influence the sort of nation New Zealand becomes. I ask these questions:-
- Will National be the driving force in the next Government?
- Answer : Yes
- Will Don Brash be Prime Minister next year? -
- Answer : Yes
The new Candidates' College
The Candidates' College was launched in Parliament last November by Sir George Chapman. It has met for training days in Auckland and Wellington. Sixty four potential candidates have attended the College. I hope there will be a contest in every open electorate this year. Competition is the lifeblood of the Party. At the moment, I cannot think of one major selection which will not be contested by a number of people, any one of whom would be a good candidate. To see this new initiative in action is very exciting.
Strong and well prepared candidates are important in our plan. We could be looking at the biggest intake for many years. I am very grateful to Don, the Caucus, previous leaders and MPs for their support and help with the college. I also wish to thank Steven and the establishment committee for their help. It has been a highlight for me, an idea now a reality.
The policy processes are starting to work well. The Policy Consultation Committee meets monthly. The Chair, Chris Finlayson is now attending the Caucus Policy Committee. In addition there have been a number of excellent pieces of work - I refer in particular to Katherine Rich's paper on Welfare. In addition, Policy Advisory Groups are being established. The Board recently approved the Classic Liberal Advisory Group, and Asian Policy Advisory Group. Bernadine Pool in LNI is working to develop a policy advisory group which addresses the needs and concerns of our citizens over sixty years of age.
I would like to take the opportunity of thanking the Chair, Chris Finlayson for his work and dedication. Your Regional Policy Chair Tim Macindoe is also making an important contribution.
So generally overall:
• We have made great strides in the last twelve months
• There has been a sea change in the way we are viewed; we are now seen as a major political party with a credible claim to Government in 2005.
• I am absolutely delighted to see the positive change, not just for the Leader and the members of the parliamentary team, but particularly for you the loyal delegates and observers who have stayed with the Party through the tough times and are now starting to see the promise of the good times.
As I said at last year's Regional Conferences, all the changes needing to be made would not be achieved in the first month or in the first three month or even the first six months. I said we had to make a start. All delegates, observers and party members took that on board, knuckled down and the results for the party are obvious for all to see. I think we have made greater progress in the last 12 months than one could have believed possible.
I emphasise there is still a lot to do. The polls look good, but we must not be complacent. It will be a tough competition. The foundations are in place, they are firm and strong, the building programme well planned. Don Brash and the team are ready for the battle ahead and a win in 2005.
Delegates and Observers, thank you for all you do for our great Party. I am always mindful of your contribution. I am proud to be the 16th President of the National Party. The Party that will win the Party vote next year - make no mistake, that must be our primary aim.
Thank you for your advice, friendship and support.