National Conference wrapup

August 4th, 2009 at 12:37 pm by David Farrar

I’m old enough to have attended the last victory (won Government) conference for . It was in 1991 and was also in Christchurch. Both saw a new Government nine months or so into office, and both coping with a nasty recession.

However in 1991, the conference was not just attended by the party faithful, but there were around 8,000 protesters, close to 1,000 Police (they cancelled leave for every police officer in the entire South Island), and bomb squad sniffer dogs. While the 2009 National Conference did not attract even a sole protester despite National now being in Government. I can’t ever recall a conference by National in Government that didn’t attract protests before.

And in spring of 1901, National was at 22% in the polls – 20% behind Labour. As we head into spring 2009, National is at 56% – 25% ahead of Labour. A remarkable contrast.

So the conference was obviously a buoyant one, with delegates and MPs in good heart. It was at the Christchurch Convention Centre, and here is the view from the Crowne Plaza next door.

DPF 004

The PM’s speech was of course the highlight, and it was very good planning he used it to announce a timely and major initiative. In Government, people like a speech of substance, not just bashing the other side. In fact John did not mention the Opposition once during his speech.

gave a very sober and insightful speech on the realities of the economy and the challenges ahead. And I thought Simon Power’s speech on all the justice initiatives was first class. Also was good to see the Young Nats President Alex Mitchell use his speech not just to fellate the party, as Young Nats sometimes do, but demand action on voluntary membership of student associations and warn against any moves to increase the alcohol purchase age from 18 to 20.

What didn’t work so well was the Ministerial forums. Maybe I’m just getting old and cynical, but hearing five minute brag sessions from Ministers about what they are doing turns me off. I’d rather have less Ministers with more time to talk policy in detail, than giving each Minister five minutes and time for only a couple of questions. I did enjoy joking that anyone who wanted to ask Paula Bennett a question should be obliged to first state their IRD number :-)

Even more than that, what I personally would have preferred is a Ministerial Q&A session – say for 90 minutes. I know this was meant to be the victory conference, so maybe they may do it next year. But I think giving delegates the chance to ask questions of any and all Ministers is a good look, and gives delegates more of a chance for interaction.

Then we had the Board and Presidential elections. I’ve known the five people elected to the Board for pretty much a decade or more. They are all good people, who will do a diligent job on the Board. There are not any of them that I would not want on the Board as they bring a good mixture of skills, experience and geography.

But having said that, I am disappointed did not get on. As I had a role in the vote count, I thought it was inappropriate to “take sides” before the vote, but I do not share any of the reservations that had towards Wira. I’ve known Wira since his first wife was a candidate and he has been involved for at least two decades, including service as a Vice-President of the Party.

His record of achievement speaks for itself, in that he is now formally Sir Wira. Both Labour and National Governments have used him as a trouble shooter to sort out dysfunctional agencies. Someone with that governance experience would have been well placed to contribute to the Party’s Board. Plus there were also some obvious advantages in terms of relationships with the Maori Party – but that is a secondary consideration to me. Merit is what I value.

So why did Wira not get elected? Well there was a variety of reasons. Hekia, his wife, being an MP was one of them – but not really the major factor in my opinion. The main reason is that Wira was touted as a potential President, despite not being a current Board member. And it seemed there was a reasonable chance of Wira becoming President if he did get elected. By no means certain, but a reasonable chance.

What this meant, is those who did not want Wira to be President, followed Whale Oil’s advice and ranked him lowly to keep him off the Board. I have no doubt he would have been elected if he ruled out standing for President. Now I was not a delegate myself, so didn’t have to think about who I would leave off the Board if Wira got on. As I said, they are all good people – but there were only five vacancies.

Peter’s election as President was not a surprise. One press gallery journalist had quite a laugh on Sunday morning when they saw on my laptop I already had written a story announcing Peter’s election as President, and was just waiting for the official announcement to click the publish button.

I believe the number one objective for the President is to raise the money the party needs to function, and win elections. Peter’s business background should do him well in that regard and again respectivelly disagreeing with Whale, I expect Peter will remain President through until the 2011 election at least. Of course it will be up to delegates at the 2010 conference to make that decision on re-election to the Board.

Also have to mention the well deserved awarding of the Sir George Chapman trophy for service to the party went to our own blogging Homepaddock – Ele Ludemann. I won’t even mention how she was alseep in her room when they awarded her the prize :-)

simonb

This is a hazy photo of the screen, but had to share this photo of Tauranga MP forming part of the conference dinner entertainment, Simon took it all in good humour as the entertainers put him into a number of poses.

The conference saw retire as President also after just under seven years in the job. This makes her the third equal longest serving President. Sir Alex McKenzie did 11 years, Sir George Chapman nine years and Sir Wilfred Sim and Ned Holt both also did seven years. I was counting votes during the farewell to Judy, but understand it was warmly given and received.

The number of people attending must be a record for a non election year. Around 700 people attended and there were 574 voting delegates. I saw many people there who hadn’t been to a conference for quite a few years.

It will be interesting to see what the mood is like in twelve months time at the 2010 conference.

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15 Responses to “National Conference wrapup”

  1. Graeme Edgeler (3,290 comments) says:

    “not just” or just “not”?

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  2. ironswan (14 comments) says:

    David (or anyone else there for that matter) , what was the reaction to the calls for VSM? Is there backing amongst the MPs for this?

    [DPF: Many MPs back it, but the Minister seems totally against any change this term]

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  3. Brad H (37 comments) says:

    “And in spring of 1901,”

    Gosh you must be old :-p

    What is keeping you looking so good?

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  4. tvb (4,518 comments) says:

    National has done many initiatives on justice issues. I could include MMP, Matrimonial Property reforms (1976), removing the spousal defence for Rape, introducing Preventive Detention and much else. As the editorials said Labour spent much of its time in the justice rushing through half baked legislation on removing peoples rights to free speech in election year. As for Wira Gardner Whaleoil revealing Michelle Boag was behind his campaign would do it for me. That woman simply does not get it and Wira should have known better. And the little hissy fit after the result did his cause no good at all. But John Key is in a forgiving mood, so he will pop up again minus Michelle Boag I hope.

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  5. TripeWryter (716 comments) says:

    There were a couple of times in the mid-late 70s, and in the mid-80s, that protesters forced National Party delegates to walk into the conference behind barricades, and with police escort. Both times the conference was in the Christchurch Town Hall in Kilmore Street. Great view from The Christchurch Star building.

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  6. Scott (1,821 comments) says:

    David — it’s nice to see National enjoying some popularity. However, I do wish they would man up on one issue, on the anti-smacking legislation. Sometimes you have to make hard choices and do things that some people won’t like. Doing the right thing by repealing the anti-smacking legislation is one of them.

    Actually I wish they would do two things. The second issue is — Less taxes, less government interference in people’s lives and less government generally.

    When I think about it — those two things are something that National parties should embrace? If the National party stands for anything it is free enterprise, less government and more individual responsibility.

    So let’s get back to the basics — 1) lower taxes, less government and 2) stop telling law-abiding parents how to raise their children.

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  7. NX (504 comments) says:

    I was counting votes during the farewell to Judy, but understand it was warmly given and received.

    Without a doubt. After all, from what I understand, Judy was integral in wooing the last two leaders of the National Party; Don Brash & John Key. Both leaders were successful in their own right.

    I had to laugh during the 2008 election debate when Helen Clark pleaded with John Key to keep to Judy Kirk off her back. She was desperately trying to divert attention from the H-fee scandal instigated by Mike Williams, the Labour Party President.

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  8. peterwn (3,312 comments) says:

    Concerning Wira, I sense there is a long history of feuding in the background.

    Whaleoil panned Wira for virtually ‘opting out’ after 2002 and during the Brash era. It should be remembered that for the 2002 election Wira was spearheading National in the Maori seats – he did the best he could but it was a lost cause. National pulled the plug on the Maori seats after that and in effect pulled the plug on Wira. Wira’s and Hekia’s consultancy had varying dependencies on Government work, and they needed to keep their political heads right down to minimise the effects of the previous vindictive Labour government on their business. This Gave Whaleoil a big stick to beat Wira with both on his blog and elsewhere.

    An adverse comment was also passed about Sue Wood concerning the ‘running down’ of party funds on her watch. At the time Muldoon got right stuck into her for failing to deliver members and funds (and torpedoed her attempt to stand for Parliament in 1987) . Trouble was that Muldoon ‘burnt off’ much of the membership in his time, and the Bolger-Birch Government in 1990’s were not particularly careful nuturing the membership in the 1990’s thus pavng the way for the 2002 electoral disaster for which Michelle was IMO rather unfairly blamed. For example my late mum was Womens Vice President of the party years ago, but voted Social Credit (I think) out of protest in 2001.

    It is only about now that the Party is regaining some of its former glory. So hopefully tis historic feuding can stop and things can move forward. I better not say any more, my foot may get jammed you know where.

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  9. william (46 comments) says:

    Speaking as someone close to some delegates from Auckland I have to say that the reasons they didn’t vote for Wira were rather simple. They just don’t like him. He is not regarded as “one of them” and as such is not regarded as someone they would want representing their party. They weren’t going to risk him getting the presidency. What they want in the future is a lurch to the right and they just couldn’t see Wira delivering that. Goodfellow on the other hand is just the right hue of blue (blood).

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  10. philu (13,393 comments) says:

    was there any discussion of the virus..’one-term-itis’..?

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  11. homepaddock (408 comments) says:

    “I won’t even mention how she was alseep in her room when they awarded her the prize.”

    Had you mentioned that you might have also mentioned the holiday cut short and 36 hours of travel to get to the conference which caused the need for the siesta :)

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  12. noskire (842 comments) says:

    Did you get a Club Suite David? Well worth it for the cocktail hour…

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  13. bobux (349 comments) says:

    peterwn

    Trouble was that Muldoon ‘burnt off’ much of the membership in his time, and the Bolger-Birch Government in 1990’s were not particularly careful nuturing the membership in the 1990’s thus pavng the way for the 2002 electoral disaster for which Michelle was IMO rather unfairly blamed. For example my late mum was Womens Vice President of the party years ago, but voted Social Credit (I think) out of protest in 2001.

    A good point, overlooked by Whaleoil and many others. Muldoon drove away the young and liberal-minded. And when Muldoon himself was deposed, the followers of his personal cult left too. The following government (surely Bolger/Shipley rather than Bolger/Birch) was deeply unpopular for most of its term, largly as a result of making tough decisions (and selling them badly). Shipley steering the party to the right at a time the country was obviously veering left was the last straw for some. It would have been a miracle if the party wan’t short on both members and cash by the time 2002 rolled around.

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  14. donkey (43 comments) says:

    I see Simon Power didn’t mention his comment to the UN in May about The National Party signing the Indigenous peoples treaty did he?

    The core rationalisation of the treaty is to empower self determination for indigenous peoples wherever they are.

    Which just happens to fracture National sovereignty in the countries involved.
    Who benefits from that?
    The UN in its aim of holding more power over sovereign nations.

    Helen Clark refused to sign up to it over 10 years, why?

    The so called status of tangata whenua is being pushed in NZ as being first class and the rest of us not.
    they own the land and we stole it.
    I say to national everyone who is a citizen and passport holder is first class and equel no matter how or when their parents got here.

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