The 230 attendees were a broad spectrum of ages, many of them young, all of them eager to hear how Seymour and the party was rising to the challenge of staying relevant with only a single MP in parliament and a meagre 0.7% of the vote in last year’s General Election.
Under the theme ‘New Zealand The Way You Want It’ I found myself in agreement with most of what was said. This is not surprising given my political compass shows I am slightly to the right of centre politically and a libertarian when it comes to matters of authority. You can take the test for yourself. It’s on the ‘About Me’ section of this website. My compass can be summed up as I don’t like being told what to do by anyone but especially by left wing governments.
David Seymour was the star of the show. I was first impressed with David when I heard him speak in a debate on Waiheke during the 2011 General Election. He held his own against Jacinda Ardern and Nikki Kaye and wiped the floor with hard left Green Party list MP Denise Roche. His speech yesterday reminded the audience of the party’s core values of small government, low taxes, and individual responsibility. Who could argue that these aren’t necessary in an age when big government is grabbing most of our hard earned money only to waste it on policies that disadvantage rather than advantage the less well off and reduce the nation’s productive capacity.
As David said, it is the mission of ACT ‘to stop the centre ground in New Zealand politics moving left’. The National Party has successfully made the centre ground its own but there is always the clear and present danger that they will cross the line to appease the left wing in its own ranks and become too enamoured with increasing government power. “We are for New Zealanders who most want to see a smaller role for government” David said, “this means giving a greater role in decision making to businesses and communities”.
Influential blogger David Farrar, a National supporter, analysed ACT’s strengths and weaknesses with a view to offering some advice about how they might grow their vote and so achieve the party’s goal of 5MPs at the next General Election. He first praised the party for its altruism, a rarity in politics, in promoting Charter Schools in line with its philosophy of less government in education. Charter Schools are flourishing in South Auckland where ACT cannot expect to be rewarded with a single vote. Perhaps, he suggested, it was time they focussed on policies that would reap rewards in terms of votes and suggested two possibilities, an attack on corporate welfare and support for a euthanasia bill.
Other speakers included conference host Stephen Berry, who made a pitch for the mayoralty of Auckland. He stood against Brown in 2013 under the ‘Affordable Auckland’ ticket. He outlined the well known and well understood anti-mayor sentiment in the nation’s largest city. He rightly railed against Brown’s big spending, big debt, and big taxation while cutting core Council services.
Five young ACT supporters told us their thoughts on the theme of the conference and what they wanted for New Zealand in the future. They were all bright, articulate and interesting speeches with the audience picking David Howells, who talked about the future prosperity of the country arising from a diverse nation of new immigrants, as the winner of the $2000 prize.
Other speakers gave plenty of food for thought that I will be referring to in future blogs.
In summary I can say it was a most enjoyable and interesting day. I talked to icons of the party like Richard Prebble, speaker and venue host Alan Gibbs, who David Seymour described as ‘Kryptonite for Socialism’. I found myself in agreement with much of what was said and left thinking that if Gibbs is 'Kryptonite for Socialism' then Seymour is doubly toxic to that brand of coercive philosophy
The party is in good hands with their leader David Seymour who is only 31 years old. He has already shown a politically maturity in advance of his years. His age is his biggest advantage in being able to re-vitalise the party. He has a following of clever, articulate young men and women who are active on campus and in the community. The future of the ACT Party is theirs.