Not attending ACT's conference myself, I've spent the last couple of days digesting the reportage on it, which has actually been very good. For an excellent background to the conference, I suggest listening to last Friday's Focus on Politics programme from Radio New Zealand, which examined the state of ACT. ACT MPs Rodney Hide, Roger Douglas and David Garrett were interviewed for the programme, along with University of Otago Politics lecturer Dr. Bryce Edwards.
All of the participants on the programme shared some interesting insights. Hide explained that his low profile since the election was driven by a desire to become involved with the "doing", rather than the talking. Garrett gave a surprisingly frank admission that he had learned not to "joke" with journalists, lest these comments be published (although he gave no indication that his most controversial comment to date - that we've become too hung-up on people's rights - was made in jest). Douglas made some guarded comments over Garrett's anti-crime agenda (see one of my later posts).
Edwards gave some excellent analysis on ACT's first 100 days, particularly with regard to the party's apparent de-emphasis of its traditional economic issues, despite the country being in the midst of a recession. If you prefer a written version of Dr. Edwards's insights, you can also read a detailed post he has placed on his personal blog.
For raw material on the conference itself, ACT's website has transcripts of several of the speeches given to the conference, although unfortunately not Dr. Lees-Marshment's presentation. Nevertheless, the speeches by Hide and Garrett in particular are worth reading. As might be expected, Garrett seemed somewhat defensive of his hardline crime stance: "Although some people – even within the Party and, perhaps, this audience – have accused me of being indifferent to human rights, it is a given that prisoners should be entitled to decent and humane treatment while in prison. I firmly believe that that is right". For John Key's speech, go to the National leader's own site . NZPA has a report on Key's speech to the conference and an in-depth report on the event as a whole.
In the remainder of the print media, John Armstrong appears to have attended the conference and produced two good write-ups both previewing and reviewing events, while Colin James has written two excellent pieces which perceptively examine ACT's present situation, one in Management magazine, the other in his column in the Otago Daily Times (not yet online, but probably on James's website in the coming days).
In the blogosphere, there is coverage from the usual sites: David Farrar considers John Armstrong's analysis, while The Standard has the usual counterpoint based on Colin Espiner's summation of events.