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ACT NZ Central Divisional Conference - Prebble

Act New Zealand Central Divisional Conference - Speech

Sunday 6th Aug 2000

Richard Prebble

Speech -- Economy

I am pleased to report to this divisional conference of the ACT Party that the ACT MPs are the most effective opposition to the Alliance/Labour coalition.

ACT is leading the fightback.

Your ACT MPs have not been frightened to hold this government accountable.

ACT has lead the fight against tax increases, ACC nationalisation, and now against the union-promoting Employment Relations Bill.

The coalition government is the greatest threat to our nation’s future in my lifetime.

We face a government that is ideologically opposed to free enterprise.

We have had bad governments before. We had Sir Robert Muldoon’s think big that left a legacy of failed projects and huge debts.

Bill Rowling’s government mishandled the first oil shock.

Winston Peters was out of his depth when faced with the Asian meltdown.

Bill Birch just fiddled and allowed the momentum of the Douglas/Richardson reforms to run out.

But none of those governments were deliberately anti-business. Those governments did recognise that wealth was created by the private sector. They knew that it was free enterprise that created jobs and growth.

For a free enterprise system, you need a framework that recognises property rights, the sanctity of contract and rule of law. You need a society that recognises that wealth is created by hard work, thrift and personal responsibility.

This Labour/Alliance coalition does not recognise these values. It is setting up a new framework.

The government is attacking property rights, the sanctity of contract and the rule of law.

The government, by statute, is tearing up the West Coast Accord, an agreement the High Court has ruled is a binding contract.

In the Forests (West Coast Accord) Bill, Clause seven, there is a provision denying the Crown's liability to pay compensation. The firm of Westco Lagan has a binding and enforceable contract. The bill takes away Westco Lagan's property. The bill is Socialism. It is a gross abuse of the power of the state.

Contracts mean nothing to this government. Contracts for F16s have been reneged on.

In the Employment Relations Bill, clause 257, after 2 October, any union, by democratic vote, can tear up a lawful collective agreement, no matter that it has years to run. No matter that employers gave valuable consideration for these contracts.

The coalition has a proposal that a telecommunication commissioner be appointed who can tear up telecommunications contracts, write his own, telling telephone companies what prices to charge and who they can sell to.

The government is holding an auction of spectrum for mobile phones. Publicly they expected to receive $600 million – privately they hoped for more than double that sum.

As of Friday, the world’s telecommunication companies had bid just $40 million - a loss to the taxpayer of $560 million.

Who will invest in a country that expropriates property rights and does not recognise contracts?

ACT finds itself having to fight for fundamental freedoms that we had taken for granted.

Make no mistake. Ministers like Margaret Wilson, a very nice lady, is a dedicated socialist.

She believes in collective economic decision making, in democratic economic decisions, and she believes the union represents this.

The measures that force companies to divulge confidential information to trade unions is part of her ideological belief that businesses must be in partnership with unions.

So businesses find they have Jim Anderton as their unwanted partner on one side, and the trade union as another unwanted partner on the other side.

This government has no knowledge of business. Only Jim Sutton, Jim Anderton and Dover Samuels have ever employed a fellow New Zealander.

Some 47% of government MPs are former trade union officials.

43% are ex-teachers. Some like Phil Goff have been both.

They believe profit is a dirty word and that all businesses are out to exploit and are worse than the Mongrel Mob.

This must be so. A police officer needs a search warrant to enter a gang headquarters.

Under this Bill the labour inspectors - the new employment Gestapo - can enter any work place at any time, search through your documents without a warrant and issue instant fines without a court case.

Business is presumed guilty in a personal grievance case.

Drug dealers are treated better than businesspeople.

I heard National Radio's political editor Al Morrison on Friday. Earlier in the week he defended the government's use of privilege to silence opposition criticism of the bill, on Friday he dismissed my criticism of labour inspectors' "police state" powers, saying ACT needs "reasoned arguments".

History teaches us that parliament shouldn't pass laws giving sweeping powers to state officials just hoping they won't be abused. The power is always abused. At least police officers are trained. These labour inspectors are being hired off the street and will be in our businesses in less that two months.

The government knows so little about business that it writes laws for big companies not realising that 92% of us work in firms employing less than 10 people. A small business cannot afford to pay for trade union education leave.

The government MPs do not realise that most of us are in business and are entrepreneurs for the challenge, not the money.

It’s the challenge of creating a new enterprise, of producing a better product, of giving someone a chance in a job, that is the real reward.

Few business people invest solely for money and those that do are not very successful.

These compliance costs are killing the fun. No one goes into business to fill out forms or to argue with trade union officials.

We do have choices of what to do with our investments. The withdrawal of 15,000 people from the workforce is a warning to the government. You cannot force people to invest and create work.

Business and small business needs a champion. ACT is fulfilling that role.

If we are frank about it, National has failed to champion the advantages of the free enterprise system.

The attack on property rights did not start in November last year. Acts like the Resource Management Act, the Forest Amendment Act and the Pastoral Lands Amendment Act are attacks on property rights. National's electricity reforms, which split electricity businesses without compensation was an attack on property rights.

Last week I was attacked by National for saying they would repeal the Employment Relations Bill.

I assumed that was correct.

I am pleased to see Jenny Shipley’s commitment but it’s a worry when apparently a section of the National caucus thinks standing up against a union-promoting bill is too electorally risky.

National put forward 25 changes that they say are needed to the legislation and say only one change in five has been done.

This implies that if all 25 changes were made that bill is satisfactory

ACT disagrees. ACT is totally opposed to the proposition that the state should force employers to pay for trade union education, collect union fees, that inspectors should have rights of entry ore that employees should have to negotiate with the unions. None of these are in National’s list.

ACT voted against the whole, Bill in the select committee.

ACT will vote against the total Bill in parliament.

If ACT’s strong stand strengthened Jenny Shipley’s position to also promise to repeal the Bill, then ACT has had a very good week.

If National had reformed the Employment Court with its bogus awards of $500,000 for stress and reinstating workers caught stealing, much of the bad press the Employment Contracts Act has received would not have occurred.

ACT is going to put forward later this year fresh new ideas on how we can have employment laws that recognise the right of individuals to be free to contract without interference from trade unions. To get rid of these complicated employment rules with the crippling penalties if you make a mistake. To outlaw the bogus personal grievance cases.

We need to restore the best of the Employment Contracts Act so we create an environment that encourages investment, growth and jobs.

ACT is going to issue our fresh new ideas for employment law this year. So ACT can set the agenda.

As a Party of chronic overachievers, ACT does not just want to lead the opposition. ACT wants to lead the debate on how we can create a New Zealand that leads the world.

The ACT MPs intend to launch early next year our vision of how we can close the gaps.

The Labour/Alliance closing the gaps policy is the Pol Pot theory – Year Zero. The gap is closed when everyone has nothing.

The government with its envy taxes is reducing incomes to close the gap.

ACT says that we should be lifting incomes, not reducing them.

ACT says the real gap is between New Zealand and the developed world.

While Labour looks inwards, the rest of the world is racing away.

Jim Anderton, on election night, made a plea for young New Zealanders to return home.

Since the election the migration has turned to a flood. Since the election 50,819 New Zealanders have left the country. When the figures for July are out, on Tuesday, I predict the outward migration has continued.

We are now losing not just our best educated young people, but also whole businesses are migrating.

We need to create a New Zealand, an environment that attracts our best to come home, bringing their talents and capital with them.

A great challenge. My own daughter is on her OE in London.

In six months in New Zealand dollars, she is earning $66,000 a year, and the company is investing in her in selecting her for an expensive training programme in marketing. By next year, she, a 27 year old, will be earning more than her father. A 39% tax rate certainly won’t attract her home!

So we need to look again at key ACT policy planks. Look again at our low tax policies.

I think we need to look also at policies like superannuation.

We have the chance to put forward fresh new ideas of how to resolve the coming superannuation crisis.

To put forward policies so innovative that New Zealand once again becomes an exciting place to live, to work, to invest, and to raise a family.

Let’s do it in a way that creates a compassionate country, one that reaches out to the truly vulnerable in our community.

Our handout welfare system has trapped tens of thousands. We need hand up welfare that liberates, while giving real assistance to the truly vulnerable.

It’s a big challenge I am setting. Like the business people we represent, we are not in politics just to win power, just as they are not in business just to make money. ACT is for values not politics.

ACT seeks a mandate for our vision of a free society, where people make choices and accept responsibility. A compassionate, prosperous New Zealand.

We have the talent. We have the fresh ideas. Now we have the opportunity.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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