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ACT Party `Could Go Out Of Business' Douglas Warns

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Roger Douglas
Roger Douglas

Wellington, Feb 26 NZPA - ACT MP Sir Roger Douglas has warned his party it is in danger of being stranded in the middle ground of politics, and seen by voters as nothing more than an appendix to National.

He told ACT's annual conference in Wellington tonight successes achieved as National's partner in government were not reflected in the polls, or by other measures of support for the party.

"This is not new territory for the ACT Party, but it is certainly a place in which we would rather not be," he said.

"We need to engage in an internal debate to figure out what we are doing wrong, and how we can do it better."

Sir Roger was scathing about National's policies, saying it was moving to the political centre ground rather than fight Labour.

"Some believe our role is to deliver stable right-of-centre government, but if National are essentially willing to move to the centre to win votes, then we are defining ourselves in reference to a moving target," he said.

"Defining ourselves in that way will see us sacrificing our principles to follow National blindly as it convulses around the political spectrum trying to hoover up votes."

Sir Roger, a founder of the party and an MP since the last election, said some people in ACT had either lost sight of its original message or had become so blurred that they considered it a faction of the National Party.

"We have lost sight of what makes us different," he said.

"If we dedicate ourselves towards tactical wins through our relationship with National, we will go out of business unless we also dedicate ourselves to convincing voters that our ideas have merit."

Sir Roger set out what he believed ACT should do -- not define itself by reference to other parties but find common ground with voters.

"The common ground is what we all know to be true about the state," he said.

"The state showers the educational institutions with cash, and yet many are uneducated.

"The state spends an enormous amount of health care, and yet many are uneducated.

"The state hands out welfare wherever it sees poverty, and yet many lack genuine well being and security."

Sir Roger said National had convinced itself that minor tinkering would deliver massive improvements.

His message to party members was that they should get out on the streets and sell ACT's policies.

"I believe that we need to sell ourselves better -- we need a change of focus," he said.

"I would be disappointed if once again we put off debating the key issues because we are worried about offending a few people."

ACT leader Rodney Hide will speak at the conference tomorrow, when he is likely to respond to Sir Roger's warning about the party's future.

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