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Some In National Want ACT To Disappear

Some In National Want ACT To Disappear

Monday 31 May 2004

Dr Muriel Newman - Speeches - Other

Final ACT leadership candidates' meeting, New Plymouth

The ACT leadership primary selection process is giving the Party an opportunity for a new beginning and a fresh start. More of the same is not an option.

I'd like to convince you that, firstly, I am the best person to be your new leader, and, secondly, to outline my strategy to take our party forwards. This week, the `NBR' poll had ACT rating at 2.6 percent - with four percent of that support being from men, and only one percent from women. I'd like to ask you why you think that is.

Auckland University political scientist Dr Raymond Miller says, in a May 21 `NBR' article, that it is because ACT's main messengers have not presented a woman or family friendly image. He goes on to warn that the Centre-Right will need to project a sense of empathy and connectiveness with women if it is to broaden its support before 2005.

The article examines gender patterns over the past two decades, and concludes what we've always known: women are more likely to support a party with a female leader, with 5-10 percent more men supporting National than women.

It analyses the National Party's support and finds that, during Jim Bolger's decade as leader, six percent more men supported National than women. When Jenny Shipley was leader, there was massive swing, with 18 percent more women supporting National than men. Under Don Brash, that has reversed.

What this reveals is a great opportunity for ACT: many thousands of women who would vote for a Centre-Right party if it had a female leader. Put bluntly, if women supported ACT as much as men, our future survival would be assured. At the last election we would have gained 10 percent of the party vote and had 12 MPs.

The media would no longer focus whether ACT would break the five percent threshold or win a lifebelt seat, to the courage of our policies and ideas, and our vision for a free, prosperous and proud New Zealand. ACT would be on course to becoming the major force in New Zealand politics that many of us believe is our potential.

When I am leader, the perception of ACT as hard-nosed and heartless, a party of rich men and big business, will finally be put to rest, once and for all. But I don't want your vote just because I am a woman - I want it because you have decided I'm the best person for the job.

I have a warmth and openness that will grow our support and unite the Party, and a more inclusive style of leadership. I have grown up in a poor family, have been a solo mum on welfare. I have experience in teaching and farming, have gained a doctorate degree and a black belt in kung fu. I have been a business leader - nine years as the New Zealand Assistant General manager of Michael Hill International, and the first woman President of the Northland Chamber of Commerce. Now eight years as a Member of Parliament.

I have served my apprenticeship, and now I'm ready for leadership.

In 1993, Sir Roger Douglas invited me to join ACT. I spent two years on the road helping to build the Party. I've been an ACT Board Member, I'm a long term Member of the Campaign Committee and my own electorate in Whangarei is one of the strongest in the country.

I'm, Deputy Chairman of a Parliamentary Select Committee and, as the MP elected by Caucus to be the Whip, it is my job to work with all of the MPs as a team.

Some say ACT's role is to keep National honest. Let's be clear: it's not about National. National has stolen our policies, said it's not interested in accommodations on constituency seats and has just formed its own Liberal Division. I understand that some in National are rather outspoken in saying they want ACT to disappear. I can state categorically that, under my leadership, they will be disappointed!

The future is about ACT standing tall, proud and firm - lifting the hopes and aspirations of all New Zealanders - earning our own place in the next government, based on our own merits.

Changing leader is the first step toward winning a fourth term in 2005. As leader, I would ensure ACT's election campaign began on June 14, with a 100-day strategy to relaunch the Party. We will begin with ACT's "World Tour" - a nationwide tour to introduce the new leader and remind communities, from Kaitaia to Invercargill, how ACT's policies will help them.

In that 100 days there will be a series of key policy launches, starting with welfare reform. Welfare is an issue that I am passionate about, and that ACT members see as the biggest problem facing New Zealand.

The 100-day campaign will culminate with the release of a "living manifesto" - "ACT: The Way New Zealand Should Be". This document will outline ACT's positive vision for New Zealand and be something to give to friends and neighbours to show why you support ACT. It will be a publication you can be proud of.

Then there will be a drive to raise $1 million for the campaign war chest - knowing an election could be held early next year - and a membership drive to rejuvenate the party from the grassroots up. We must harness the energy and enthusiasm of our members and supporters, to become an army of messengers promoting our values and beliefs.

Finally there's the leadership of Caucus. Caucus needs a leader who can bridge division, build a team and pull a group of eight talented MPs into a united force. I can do that.

Under my leadership the party will re-focus on Sir Roger Douglas's founding vision for ACT - that of helping the dis-advantaged by creating a stakeholder society. Coming from a poor background, the realisation that there was a political party dedicated to lifting the hopes and aspirations of families like ours was the reason I joined ACT.

I've never lost my faith in that vision, nor my focus. It's the reason I'm asking for your vote.


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