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Brooke van Velden's Speech At ACT's 'Change Makers' Rally

Good afternoon ladies, gentlemen, friends, family, distinguished guests. To everyone in our ACT community, whether this is your first event or you’ve been here since the beginning, welcome.

It’s been a big year.

This time last year, you joined us at the Skycity theatre as we prepared for the biggest campaign of our lives. The need for a change of government was critical, and the consequences of failure would be grave. I’m sure there are not many in this room who thought New Zealand could have survived another three years of Labour’s insidious effects on the country’s economy, law and order and cultural identity.

ACT saw that it wouldn’t be enough to simply swap the Government from red to blue, we needed to evict Labour’s ideas too. It cannot be stated enough that all we do is to empower you. Where other parties play Santa Claus, buying votes by taxing and regulating those who create value and distributing the loot to those who might vote for them, only ACT is committed to getting government out of your way so that every New Zealander can succeed on his or her own terms. It takes courage to vote for the party that is not offering you handouts, but the opportunity to achieve on your own merit.

I can only assume that you are all here today because you too believe this. And thanks to good people like you who share in this vision, the mission last year was a success. Our MPs spent their time away from Parliament travelling the length and breadth of the country meeting and listening to the real New Zealanders outside the Wellington bubble who keep the country running. It is impossible to represent the real New Zealand from Wellington, where the Greens won the party vote. ACT is unashamedly the party for people like you who want to make, create, do and achieve, not those who want to sit in Wellington casting out nets of regulation to hold you back.

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While David and the team travelled the length of New Zealand meeting tens of thousands of people, generous supporters like you made the process possible. Our supporters handed out leaflets, ran market stalls, put up thousands of billboards to paint our roadsides pink, set up public meetings and organised visits with businesses who had struggled under Labour and needed real change. I’d like to give particular mention to those dedicated volunteers who supported my electorate campaign in Tamaki.

Thanks to the efforts of people like you, the campaign succeeded. ACT achieved a record result, bringing 11 MPs to Parliament. Importantly, ACT won a second electorate in Tamaki, cementing the party as a serious and permanent fixture in New Zealand’s political landscape.

The tide turned, the election was won, the Government changed. You now have a coalition government working for your interests, not its own. ACT has seats at the Cabinet table for the first time giving you value for your vote by identifying and eliminating billions of dollars of waste, ensuring that your taxpayer dollars are treated with respect to be spent efficiently and effectively, and pushing the government to go far further and faster to reduce the size and the scope of government bureaucracy. To all of those whose support got ACT here, I thank you. To the supporters, volunteers, donors, and voters - we could not have done this without you, and we will not disappoint you.

ACT now has five Ministers and a Parliamentary Under-Secretary, all of whom you will hear from today. All of these people are working tirelessly to ensure that the values you voted them in for are represented at all levels of Government decision-making. All of our Ministers delivered significant savings in the budget recently announced. Andrew Hoggard contributed to over $400 million in savings across the Ministry for Primary Industries. Karen Chhour delivered over $300 million in savings in Oranga Tamariki. Unlike Labour, we are focussed on frontline services, not the back-office bloat which ballooned by over 18,000 public servants under the last government for no improvement in outcomes. We are now on the path to correcting Labour’s economic vandalism.

As Minister of Internal Affairs and Minister for Workplace Relations & Safety, I oversaw over half a billion dollars in savings across both portfolios. I repealed Labour’s so-called Fair Pay Agreements which would have stifled the economy. I made 90-day trials available to all businesses, so that more businesses could take a chance on hiring more people. I set clear priorities to reform the Holidays Act and the Employment Relations Act, and Health and Safety laws, so that employees and employers alike can get on with doing what they’re good at without being hampered by unfit for purpose regulations.

In addition to our five Ministers, ACT has six parliamentary MPs who are ensuring that there is a strong voice for your values in the lawmaking process, supporting Ministers in their work to make Kiwis’ lives simpler and easier, and serving as our ears on the ground, hearing your concerns and taking them to Wellington.

David Seymour has worked tirelessly as the electorate MP for Epsom since he was elected in 2014, but I’d like to now take the opportunity to give special thanks to the people of the Tamaki electorate. Tamaki had been held by the National party since Robert Muldoon was elected as the local MP in 1960, and last year’s result is truly the sign of ACT as a serious and growing political movement in New Zealand. To the volunteers who supported the campaign, to the staff who have so smoothly established a high-high-functioning electorate office, and most importantly to the people who trusted me with their vote, I thank you.

During the campaign I held 130 street corner meetings across the electorate to meet and hear directly from locals about your concerns and hopes for the future. I’ve promised to be a visible hard-working local MP like David Seymour. While I now spend Monday to Thursday in Government and Parliament in Wellington, I am keeping my commitment to keep my feet firmly on the ground in Tamaki returning to the electorate office in the Meadowbank Mall each Friday. We’ve also hosted successful community meetings and street corner meetings are starting back this month although it might be difficult to keep up the pace of 130 meetings again this year!

An accusation often levelled at politicians is that “we only see you in election year”. I’m proud to say that it is unusual for ACT to hear this. Our MPs are near constantly on the road travelling to regional New Zealand to hear from the people who elected them, and David Seymour and I dedicate much of our time to being on the ground in our electorates helping constituents. Parliament is called the House of Representatives for a reason, and too often do politicians forget it. ACT delivers multiple nationwide tours every year, because we believe it is impossible to represent New Zealanders without meeting them face to face, boots on the ground in their own home towns.

That’s what ACT’s about. It’s not about the politicians’ agendas, it’s about yours. It’s not about Wellington picking winners and punishing the successful, it’s about allowing every New Zealander to succeed on their own terms, and on their own merits. We’re here for the change makers who believe that they have the agency to seize life buy the horns and make the most of it. Our job from here is to get the government out of your way.

Today you’re going to hear from our MPs about the work they’re doing to do just that. We are working to make your lives easier and simpler, and we are accountable to you for the work we do.

I thank you for giving your Sunday to be here. Holding politicians accountable is key to a functioning democracy, and I applaud you for doing your part. I’m looking forward to hearing from the rest of the ACT team and our guest Paul Henry - I hope you are too.

We are not going to rest on our laurels. We’re now on the path to a more prosperous New Zealand, and I hope you will continue to walk alongside ACT in getting there.

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