Kirk Speech CanterburyWestland Regional Conference
Judy Kirk National Party President
Address to Canterbury-Westland Regional Conference 2005
Fellow National Party members
The General Election is at most 188 days away.
I am sure every Party president has said in election year that this is the most important General Election the Party has faced. But the reality for the National Party is that, if ever there was an election that has to be won, and is there to be won, it is the 2005 election.
Labour hasn't won three elections in a row for sixty years, and I’m not planning for it to happen on my watch.
We are ready.
All candidates, bar one, have now been selected. And, as per usual, the Canterbury Westland Region boasts an outstanding line-up of MPs and candidates.
• In Ilam, the indomitable Gerry Brownlee.
• In Nelson, the energetic Nick Smith.
• In Banks Peninsula , a seasoned and effective operator in David Carter.
• In Rakaia, our new MP Brian Connell, who has already become a strong constituency MP.
This year the region has also produced three outstanding female candidates:
• Nicky Wagner, a successful business woman and hard-working member of the Policy Consultation Committee, for Christchurch Central
• Kate Wilkinson, a well-known and respected city lawyer, for Waimakiriri
• Alison Lomax, who has an extensive background in health services and management, for Wigram.
And that's not the end of it.
In Kaikoura, we have selected a sure bet in Colin King to replace the retiring and hard-working Lynda Scott.
In Christchurch East, we have David Round, a prominent lecturer at Canterbury University .
And look at West Coast Tasman. Last year I made headlines when I said West Coast Tasman was a seat the National Party would do well in.
The selection of Chris Auchinvole confirms my belief.
We won the Party Vote in 1999 and the seat is moving further into our demographic. We will win the Party Vote again in 2005.
Some may say I have sounded like a broken record of late, in my emphasis on the Party Vote. I make no apology for that.
I’m telling you now, you will hear me say it, and keep saying it, until everyone understands this critical point – under MMP the Party Vote is the single most important vote.
It is the only vote that determines the outcome of the election.
It’s as simple as this – the party with the largest Party Vote has the largest number of seats in Parliament. The party with the largest number of seats in Parliament then has the first opportunity to form a government.
Therefore, our campaign strategy is also very simple – to win the Party Vote in 2005.
Once we have achieved this goal, and once the voters have decided the outcome for all of the parties, we will work with those with similar philosophies and form a strong centre right government to lead this country.
Winning the Party Vote can only be achieved through the hard work of our caucus, our candidates and our people on the ground all working together as a team.
The time for talk is over; the time for action in every electorate is upon us.
National is prepared for the challenge. Look what we have achieved in the last three years:
We have rebuilt our membership. Membership is approaching double what it was in 2002 and is about four times that of Labour’s today.
We have rebuilt our funding base. We have worked hard to place our funding on a sound footing so we can fight a strong MMP campaign.
There is still more to do in both these areas – but we are well on our way.
We have taken the crucial step of redeveloping pride in our brand.
As a broad-spectrum liberal-conservative party, we have reconnected with our core supporters:
• Firstly, the agricultural and rural sector – here David Carter and his team have worked hard to develop policies that will back rural New Zealand and appeal to this critical sector of our economy, a sector which is a crucial part of National’s own heartland.
• Secondly, the business sector – small and medium sized businesses are the driving force of our economy but they are being stifled by red tape and over-regulation. National will cut the cost of doing business. A new brochure will shortly be released detailing our commitment to our friends in small and medium sized businesses. They are responsible for growing this country and we are right behind them.
• Families – National is family-friendly. The biggest issue facing New Zealand families right now is Labour’s NCEA disgrace exposed by Bill English. He is holding Labour to account on this and will continue to do so.
• Those over sixty – we have pledged that under National superannuation is secure, the Super Fund continues and the age of eligibility will not change. Further, we have launched nationwide ‘Super Blues’ groups which, through their initial success, are now are gaining momentum.
You and I both know that the National Party is truly national - we represent the broad cross-spectrum of New Zealand .
We represent town and country; urban liberal and provincial conservative; single people and married couples – all bound together by a philosophy which emphasises freedom and individual responsibility. We have reconnected with real New Zealand .
You and I both know that Don Brash is the embodiment of that reconnection.
He understands the values of the Party and of New Zealanders. In Don we have a unique opportunity to have a world-class statesman – a class act – as our next Prime Minister.
I am so looking forward to the day, a fortnight after the election, when Don Brash receives the seal of office from the Governor General.
We have brought together a fresh and innovative set of policies.
Those policies emphasise freedom and individual responsibility. They are not extremist. They are sound, sensible policies that will ensure New Zealand has a strong economy into the future and a standard of living which compares favourably with that of Australia .
We understand the need for professional campaigning.
Our Campaign Manager, Steven Joyce, and I have been to Australia to study the Liberal Party model. We watched closely the closing stages of the last Australian election as our sister party scored a famous victory.
We have studied similar developments in the United States with the Republican win in November 2004, and we are closely following the UK election.
We have brought together a well-resourced, central campaign team that is leading our campaign and is much further ahead in its planning that at this stage of the 1999 and 2002 campaigns.
We have also redeveloped strong links between the Caucus and the Party, which are working together as a single team to prepare, to plan and to execute the plan.
The culmination of this teamwork was the list selection decision, announced earlier this month, when the Party decided to commit to putting its hard-working MPs into the top 30 positions on the list for the first time under MMP.
The Party asks so much of its volunteers, but you are the passionate people who will turn the Canterbury Westland region blue on Election Day.
You are the ones who can be relied on, day in and day out, to door-knock, scrutineer, attend to special and overseas votes and, importantly, to motivate your friends and neighbours to vote National. And you do a fantastic job.
However, modern day politics means we need more of you.
Throughout this year’s round of regional conferences I will be running a nationwide Volunteer Drive for the National Party. I am launching that drive here today.
There are many jobs to be done and we need as many people as possible to do them. It need not be a lifelong commitment – although for many of us here today it has been!
We all need new volunteers to help. To give a few hours here, and a few hours there, and to put in a big effort for us on Election Day.
In America and Australia we have seen a surge in voluntary political activism as emphasis returns to good old fashioned campaigning. We need that in New Zealand .
Let’s encourage and welcome more helpers to the team. There is a job for everyone who wants one – there cannot be too many volunteers.
You have seen the new Party website, on it we have a volunteer sign-up page, so please encourage everyone you know, and everyone they know, to use it to sign-up as a volunteer for the National Party for Campaign 2005.
I personally am so grateful to you all for all that you already do.
In this important year I ask for one colossal effort from you all in the period leading up to the election.
So, in this last but most important leg of the race:
• keep up the great work
• encourage others to get involved
• be proud of the National brand and its talented candidates, and
• together let us work for a historic victory on Election Day.