Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Prebble: Time for Act to start again

Dr Whyte will make his first speech as party leader at the annual conference in Villa Maria Estate Winery Auckland. Photo / Natalie Slade
Dr Whyte will make his first speech as party leader at the annual conference in Villa Maria Estate Winery Auckland. Photo / Natalie Slade

Act campaign manager Richard Prebble said in the three weeks since Jamie Whyte had
been elected leader the party's war chest had increased from $80,000 to $240,00 in cash
and pledges, and membership was rising from its low of just 600.

It was also moving from its position of zero, three polls in a row, "What a difference a new leader and three weeks makes," Mr Prebble said at the party conference in Mangere.

The mood in head office was "positively Christmas like," he said.

"When you have got a great product but a terrible image, you have to rebrand, refresh and start again."

As well as revealing the depths of its recent membership, Mr Prebble revealed that the
party had assets - and for some years had had a New Zealand based 18-seat call centre
capable of 300,000 calls between now and the election.

It had given the party the ability to do its own polling.

"We know who to call and what they want to talk to us about."

He also revealed the party had since 1996 used the services of US Republican pollster
Gene Ulm of Public Opinion Strategies.

Mr Prebble said the party's work with Mr Ulm had convinced him that the biggest factor in
changing people's votes was not election advertising but when people in their social group said they were considering voting for a party or person.

With the party's polling and new funding, Act was planning to directly contact within three week the 150,000 people it believed were Act voters as well as the Epsom electorate that the party has held since 2005.

David Seymour is the party's candidate in Epsom, allowing the party to bring in more MPs
under the MMP system despite falling short of the 5 per cent threshold and providing
confidence and supply for National.

Mr Prebble said contrary to the view that Epsom voters did not like the role they had in
New Zealand politics "the people of Epsom are quite happy with the burden of who should be the Government."

It was no coincidence that the two seats Act had held, Wellington Central and Auckland
Central, were both the highest taxed electorates in the country - tax to pay for bribes such as Labour's baby bonus. They had got where they were because they worked hard and saved.

Mr Prebble said it was time "to steal the people of Epsom's values rather than their money."

Mr Prebble also said Dr Whyte, a former philosophy lecturer, had been "suckered" into
answering a question on the laws around incest - he said the Government had no role in
relationships between consenting adults - but that wasn't a bad thing.

"I'd rather he was suckered in last week than election week," said Mr Prebble, the Act
leader from 1996 to 2004.

- NZ Herald

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