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Judy Kirk - Northern Regional Conference Speech

National Party President Judy Kirk

Speech to National Party Northern Regional Conference

Sunday 25 May 2008

One day in the next few months, New Zealand will hold a General Election. Imagine these scenarios:

* We win West Coast-Tasman, Rotorua, Taupo, Otaki, Hamilton West and, for the first time ever, Auckland Central. We now have a clear majority over the Labour Party in terms of electorate seats. A stunning achievement, but we get 42% of the party vote. Net result: we watch from opposition as Labour governs badly for another three years.

* We win no more electorate seats but we gain 48% of the party vote. Result: government and a chance to make a real positive difference for New Zealand. The culmination of all we've been working so hard towards for nine years.

These examples show just why I repeat myself time and time again, indeed until I am blue in the face, that the party vote will determine whether we become the government or whether Labour can cobble together enough support to gain a fourth term.

And you know what; I still get people who say they want to help the National Party by giving their electorate vote to the National candidate and their party vote to another party. Some people just don't get it, even after four MMP elections - the up-coming election will be our fifth - that the party vote will determine the result. So please, please emphasise to anyone who will listen that the party vote is critically important to our success in 2008.

As you know, we have set ourselves some big targets for the party vote this year. These build on the great achievements of 2005, where we almost doubled our party vote.

Simply, if we are to be a long-term government, then we will need to register very large increases in our party vote across the country. The current polls are good but really they mean nothing. We can take nothing for granted.

The key to success is to believe in ourselves and in our team. This party is more unified than it has been for a generation. There is no reason why we cannot be confident of a great and historic result in a few months time.

We mustn't be complacent nor should we be panicky if the polls move around a little bit over the next few months. We know from previous experience that, as the General Election campaign gets underway, support for the minor parties will rise. That has been the pattern.

So if that pattern reasserts itself this year, don't worry unnecessarily, just focus on getting as many National supporters to the polls as we can.

The only poll that matters is Election Day and the key to winning that day is getting the vote out. Not just the votes in the electorates, but the overseas votes, particularly in Australia, and the special votes. A huge effort is going into the overseas votes this year; there's no secret that both major parties are factoring in the overseas votes as never before.

The vital component in getting the vote out is our volunteer effort. Caucus can't do it alone; but each one of you along with your electorate and branch teams can.

You have every reason to be positive about the campaign and the first reason starts with our leader.

John Key is a man who is ambitious for New Zealand, who inspires hope and confidence and who will bring fresh leadership to our country. I enjoy working with John - he's easy to get to know, whether he's talking to dyed-in-the-wool National Party supporters, students or people going about their daily business.

He likes people, and doesn't regard them as a statistic or treat them with lofty disdain. He is very much a man of the people. He thinks through the issues, he has a practical and commonsense approach and always has at the top of his mind the effect of government decisions on ordinary New Zealanders. He is also able to make quick decisions when he needs to. He will be a great Prime Minister of New Zealand.

The second reason is the caucus.

Caucus is strong and will be stronger still after 2008. I'd particularly like to mention our front bench team, toughened by the long years of opposition, and daily outperforming their opposite numbers in the House.

I'd also like to record my sincere thanks to Clem and Anne Simich for their contribution over the last three years. I wish you and your family well.

The third reason is our new candidates.

Just look at the new candidates who have offered themselves. Collectively they are a diverse and highly talented group united in their aim to work with John and the current caucus team for a better New Zealand.

I have absolute confidence in our caucus team and the new candidates, just as I have in our campaign team.

Which brings me to the fourth reason to be our positive about our campaign.

We have the same campaign team ably led by our Campaign Chairman, Steven Joyce. He is a very good operator. The campaign he ran last time was excellent, not just because we won awards for our effective advertising campaign, but because of the way the party vote was increased from 21% to 39%. On election night the final result was anyone's guess. Steven has generously made himself available again and we are grateful to him for that.

I am also particularly proud of our Head Office team, who work so closely with the regions. Thank you especially to Mark Oldershaw and Jo de Joux. We have a small but effective team and again the results are there for all to see. Membership is greatly improved. You would be surprised at how busy people are processing applications to join the National Party.

Membership is the life-blood of the party and, even though we are almost halfway through an election year, we must never slacken on the membership front.

You know the old adage because I've said it time and time again: invite a person to a function and they'll become a supporter; invite them a second time and they'll become a member; and before long, they will be actively engaged in helping our party.

The National Party has always been the biggest political party in this country and I want it to stay that way.

No speech in 2008 would complete without mention of the minefield that is the Electoral Finance Act.

It was pushed through by Labour and its friends by the smallest of margins with the express aim of shutting down the National Party. Our billboard campaign and other advertisements last time were so effective that they are determined never to let us do that sort of thing again.

What a shocking piece of legislation. It goes against the National Party grain in every respect. Never forget that our great party was formed in the depths of the Depression to counter the socialism and control-freakery of the first Labour Government. Seventy years on, we are confronting the same Labour Party menace. Some things change and some things never change.

Some people wonder why we are making such a fuss about the Electoral Finance Act. I'll tell you why. It's all about freedom of expression; you can't simply shut down debate because you don't like what's being said.

It's very much at the heart of our philosophy that our opponents are entitled to have a contrary view. Care for democracy and freedom of expression is central to what this party is all about. We will never retreat from those fundamental beliefs.

We will beat the Labour Party, even though they have passed the Electoral Finance Act and are abusing well-established conventions about using government advertising material for party-political purposes.

I don't think it's a damned good idea, Mike Williams; I think it stinks and I think you and your party should be ashamed of yourselves and what you have done to this democracy. You're not prepared to fight with us on ideas. You'd rather break all conventions and ram through anti-democratic legislation. Well you will fail.

I have been President of this party since the dark days following the 2002 General Election. We fought so hard between 2002 and 2005 just to keep going and we more than survived at the 2005 election; we almost won it. We almost surmounted impossible odds.

In 2008, a rejuvenated strongly performing National Party is poised to go into Government again, not for the sake of winning but because there is so much to do - rebuilding our infrastructure, creating a first-class education system, giving our people meaningful tax-relief.

Labour has had nine years to improve New Zealand. Instead they've created a litany of lost opportunities. Our OECD ranking is no better; 1 in five children are leaving school without the ability to read or write; our health system is a shambles and 1 in 10 New Zealanders wants to vote with their feet. What a dreadful legacy.

The National Party is committed to a better New Zealand. John Key will tackle the hard issues Labour has given up on. We're ready for government:

* Our leader is ready;

* Our caucus is ready;

* Our new candidates are ready;

* Our campaign team is ready;

* Your president and board are ready;

* Every electorate organisation is ready.

So let us go forward from this conference and from the National conference in a few months' time and campaign for New Zealand's future. Let's make this a really great win for National, and a really positive change for our country, in 2008.


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