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Franks To Run Again -- Catherine Judd

Franks To Run Again -- Catherine Judd

Confirmation meeting for Stephen Franks MP, Candidate for Wellington Central, Museum Hotel, Wellington

This evening is one of those rare and special occasions when I can put on several of the various hats I wear in my life. I'm here as president of ACT, I'm here as a Wellington Central voter, and I'm here as a long-standing friend of Stephen and Cathy and the godmother of their daughter Isabella.

I've known Stephen and Cathy for over 20 years and, for the last 16, our families have shared summer holidays together at Awaroa.

As a slight aside, our holiday accommodation in Awaroa consists of four railway carriages, which we purchased after Richard Prebble as Minister of Railways restructured New Zealand Rail - thanks Richard.

Stephen and I have a number of other things in common. We are both a little inclined to leave things to the last minute. You won't know what this means, but we are both subscribers to the Burpee Garden catalogue.

Although contrary to some opinion, we haven't spent the past 16 years discussing politics, and Awaroa is not a hotbed of political debate. I do believe, however, that I had a hand in Stephen's decision to stand for Parliament in 1999.

If I did, I feel very proud to be associated with that decision. It was a bold, brave call and, as a result, we now have in Parliament one of New Zealand's finest, most experienced commercial lawyers, the best in Parliament by a country mile.

Yesterday I went over to the House and listened with pride as Stephen spoke for ACT in - what he rightly described as - a defining moment: the passage of the Supreme Court Bill.

As Stephen described it, it will make hero judges - it will make judges political appointees, participating in government and altering our long-standing tradition of an impartial non-politicised judiciary.

Our party and our Parliament need people like Stephen, who are prepared to give up a career in their profession to serve the country. The law-making process needs people who can bring his kind of intellectual rigour to the process and speak out when bad law is being made.

I received word this afternoon that I was to speak on the importance of tonight's meeting. Perhaps the most important thing is that it highlights the significance of another quality we have in, and expect of, ACT MPs - the ability to campaign. Tonight we have with us not only one of New Zealand's most experienced MPs, but also a legendary campaigner - our party leader.

Richard Prebble set the standard for campaigning when he took Wellington Central in 1996. It's a hard act to follow but, I'm sure, Stephen will continue to learn from Richard and continue to develop his political campaigning skills. Being selected as the ACT candidate for Wellington Central gives him a great opportunity to raise the flag for ACT and build our support in this city.

Finally, let me make one last point - there is still much to be done.

We have had a great couple of months, successful regional conferences in Wellington and Christchurch, an outstanding Foreshore, Law & Politics conference, and a growing interest in a centre-right strategy - an idea we pioneered.

We launched a great new ACT book this week - Deborah Coddington's `Let Parents Choose'; we are stepping up our fundraising efforts; we are up in the polls. As Dick Morris, a key strategist for Bill Clinton would say, we are experiencing "the big Mo" - momentum. Morris said:

"Momentum is one part victory combined with one part secrecy and one part bluff. You have to let the press dump on you, deride your chances, say you're finished, and call you "history" to be able to capture momentum when you confound their predictions. It's a little like having to enter a college fraternity. You have to pay your dues.

Then, when you come out "better than anticipated," you have to let the press discover you and publicize that you now have "momentum". Donors, voters, politicians, and more importantly, other reporters read the stories and presto: momentum.

Then, fasten your seat belts and keep your wits about you. It's a heady ride."

So I hope you all have your seat belts fastened!

Politics is relentless and, just when we are all getting tired, it is time to shift into another gear. The next general election is only around 18 months away. Wellington Central is one of our leading electorates and we will be asking a lot from all of you in this room tonight.

You must be one of the best-funded, well-organised electorates in the country - that will require hard work. I know that you are up to the task, and I look forward to another exceptional result for ACT in this electorate. Can I say how fortunate Stephen is, and we are, to have Catherine Franks as well - I know she was a reluctant political bride. But she has become a tower of organisational strength in this electorate, and will continue to be Stephen's most effective and greatest fan.

Congratulations to Stephen on being our Wellington Central candidate. I wish you and your team all the best.

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