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Roy: When Hearts Lead

When Hearts Lead

Heather Roy MP
Sunday, August 10 2008

Speech to ACT Auckland Regional Conference; Raye Freedman Centre, Epsom Girls' Grammar School; Sunday, August 10 2008

This election, New Zealand stands at the crossroads of history. So too does the ACT Party.

The outcome of this election will determine whether our nation embraces a fundamental change of direction or continues its current and accelerating slide toward nationalism and ultimately isolationism.

The result will hinge on two voter options - the choice between the short-term benefits for some being offered by the major parties - or the road less travelled; to forego those offerings in order to leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren.

This is a far more important result than whether ACT has a presence in Parliament or whether we hold two, five or eight seats - because if we do not campaign this year in a way that encourages voters to replace their fear with hope, to choose tomorrow over today, then the economic and social challenges we will face in 2011 and beyond may well be 'a bridge too far'.

How do we do that? By doing what come to us naturally: speaking to the heart.

You may be familiar with the campaign themes of 'bringing our children home' and 'beating Australia by 2020'. You will probably have seen ACT's 20-Point Plan, which summarises the main issues that we believe must be addressed. Detailed policy statements have or are being developed for each of these areas.

However, if we do not learn the lessons of history, we are destined to repeat them. We have prepared a carefully thought out manifesto for every election. Many of our ideas have been adopted by other Parties but we have not yet found the touchstone of influence that will bring about the fundamental, rather than incremental change that we know the country needs.

If ballots were cast purely on the basis of rational policy analysis, we would not have the well documented pattern of protest and swing voting that we see. We would have seen a greater percentage of the nearly 25 percent of those polled, who have at one time or another been open to voting ACT, converted from consideration into reality.

Viewed in health terms, our past campaigns have been successful operations but the patient died.

My purpose in saying this is not to be dour, defeatist or to knock the hard work of so many in previous elections. It is to properly define our challenge and to lay out how I believe we must approach this campaign. If we continue to do what we have already done, we will continue to get the same result. We must do all of that and more.

Classical liberalism is a vision, an ideal. We can best explain it through the example of our own lives.

In both totalitarian and democratic states, major power brokers use fear to control public opinion. This comes in two forms:

1. Fear of the 'other choice' - the opposition, or fear of the unknown - dog micro-chipping to protect our children from being mauled by dogs.

2. Fear of losing the protection of those in power - i.e. a dependency relationship.

Our challenge is to help voters to fight their fear. This is not a new concept. Many of you will have read or heard of Roosevelt's 1933 Inauguration Speech in which he said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself". He was speaking not of war but of the economic situation of the day. He was exhorting Americans to relax a bit and lift up their heads. We must show the voter why it is important to take a risk and vote for ACT.

Fear, as an emotion, trumps the logical component of fear. It's no coincidence, I believe, that Hearts are the highest suit in a pack of cards.

ACT is acknowledged as a thought leader. But the hardest thing about having a new idea adopted is getting the old one out. You can't sneak it out, you have to blast it. When people consider political parties and policies, they are more inclined to use their head. When people consider who they would follow, they do so with their heart.

That's because no-one can adequately define leadership. We recognize it when we see it, miss its absence and always yearn for more. We must communicate ACT's 'thought leadership' messages to the hearts of the voters.

We already have the right message around which to frame this: "Bring Our Children Home"
It's simple, embraces our core goal and speaks straight to the heart.

It answers the 'why' question in voters' minds while leaving the way open to their further exploration of our detailed policies - the 'how'.

Few would argue that New Zealand would be better off if our brightest young talents came home to live and work here. However, why would they return to a stagnating economy, low salaries, excessive taxation and the prospect of working to support the entitlement mentality of others?

We know that ACT's approach - our 20 point plan - would change the economic situation to one which, over time, would create an attractive option to our 'lost children'.

In that group we must embrace not just those overseas but also the 'lost children' who walk our streets, truant school and feel that life has little meaning. There can be neither unity nor equality while any group of New Zealanders feels dis-enfranchised. The feeling for them is real, even if the facts do not support their feeling.

We know the facts about our schools, our hospitals, our economy. Now it's time to present these in human terms, rather than tables.

The media and advertising agencies understand about appealing to the hearts not the heads and that's why they deal with emotional impact and human drama over detailed statistical analysis.

People will take big risks, even to the extent of their own life, in order to protect and nurture their young.

By way of example, consider these two requests by a fundraiser and choose the one you would give $5 to.

a. Your donation will go to Rokia, a seven-year-old girl who lives in Mali in Africa. Rokia is desperately poor and faces a threat of severe hunger, even starvation. Her life will be changed for the better as a result of your financial gift. With your support, and the support of other caring sponsors, our organisation will work with Rokia's family and other members of the community to help feed and educate her, and provide her with basic medical care.

b. Food shortages in Malawi are affecting more than three million children. In Zambia, severe rainfall deficits have resulted in a 42 percent drop in maize production from 2000. As a result, an estimated three million Zambians face hunger. Four million Angolans -- one-third of the population -- have been forced to flee their homes. More than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.

If you are like most people, you would donate to organisation 'A'. In fact, in a study, only a little over $1 in every $5 was given to 'B'. It is simply too easy to disassociate yourself from the statistics but much harder in the case of the 'identifiable victim'.

Speaking to the heart does not mean being soft. It does mean that less is more. One picture tells a thousand words. One song can evoke powerful memories and feelings which lock in and resonate more than any speech or line of text ever can.
ACT's detailed messages can be summed up very simply:

• 1 Plan
• 1 Team
• 1 Goal

A goal without a plan is just a dream. No party has effectively captured and used the language of the heart. Where they have tried, it has often lacked the underpinning detail necessary to turn the goal into action. It has remained a dream or broken promise.

The Ace of Hearts lies discarded on the table. It is time for ACT to pick it up and use it to change the suit. Having done so the two, five or eight of Hearts become the decisive last cards.

Many of you have heard my 'Power of 8' presentations and will now realise that this approach has been in development for some time. You will remember the powerful imagery of the music videos 'Your Choices - Your Legacy' and 'What Does it Mean to be Free'.

To take this work one step further, you are about to see the first public performance of a music video concept that has been designed specifically for ACT in order to provide impact to our key message of 'Bring Our Children Home'. It has been developed as a potential campaign song over which the imagery can be tailored to underpin any media or audience. It is not intended to explain the detail of ACT's approach but to get the attention of those who might not otherwise take the time to read our policy proposals.

As you listen and watch, think about your own electorate, your own campaign and reflect on the power of this type of message to open up the hearts and minds of people you know to ACT's vision.


ENDS

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