I hosted the Business New Zealand election conference in Wellington yesterday.

The leaders were all there ... Bill English, Jacinda Ardern, Winston Peters, James Shaw, David Seymour and Gareth Morgan.

And it was a crucial audience for them all. They all need to connect with corporate New Zealand.

And who had the greatest engagement with the audience?


I would say ACT leader David Seymour, and Gareth Morgan, from TOP.

It's not necessarily their policies that connect with the crowd. It's more their ability to challenge the audience. Their ability to make the audience think outside the square. They don't dish up the fluff, they dish up the facts.

Morgan spoke as the economist - and pointed out that he had more business experience then the combined leadership of all the political parties.

And that, in essence, is true.

He talked passionately about how he have to address what has become the "tale of two New Zealands".

Young New Zealanders are being saddled with debt because of their education, they're paying for the baby boomers' retirement - the same baby boomers who have priced them out of the housing market while they enjoy their tax free capital gains.

That won't sit well with many of you, but the man who addressed that crowd - Morgan the economist - a lot of what he said resonated with that crowd. And that crowd is a traditional centre-right audience.

Kiwis are working harder, not smarter, Morgan said. The country's stuck in a left versus right ideology. We need to think outside the square.


I watched the audience. No-one was glancing down at their smart phones. His views on business, the economy and inequality resonated.

And David Seymour was also very engaging.

You can see why Winston Peters calls him the chihuahua at the gate barking at every cat that goes by. He questions and challenges everything. He is that chihuahua and he is barking at every cat.

Seymour attracted some interesting headlines at the conference - he did call a New Zealand First MP a "f-ing idiot" - but in the context of his address, it wasn't quite as outrageous as it sounds.

But like Morgan, he challenged the audience's way of thinking. The failures that have led to the country's housing crisis - and how you fix it. His push to raise the super age. Tax cuts.

ACT will only work with National. Morgan says he doesn't care who's in power. Actually, his language was a bit stronger then that. He's only interested in policy and influencing policy - and that can be with the right or the left.

But what was refreshing about the Business New Zealand conference was that we got to hear, in a little more depth, about policy - not personalities which we seem to have been focussed on for weeks.

And that would be my challenge to you. Seek out some of the smaller parties' manifestos.

Open your mind to something other than the standard left-right ideologies because that is the strength of MMP.

How might some of these smaller parties enhance a coalition? At the very least, they'll make you think.