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Our Prosperity, Our People, Our Future - Shipley

Rt Hon Jenny Shipley
Leader of the Opposition
Our Prosperity, Our People, Our Future

North Harbour Stadium Oteha Valley Road Albany

12.00 noon, Friday 24 November 2000

Governments are elected to govern.

A year ago New Zealanders were promised a better, brighter future.

One year on, Labour is demanding that voters give them another two or three terms.

I say, not a chance.

As 2000 comes to an end, race relations are at an all-time low. Labour has divided New Zealand, not brought us together.

Price increases this year mean everyone will pay more this Christmas - those on low incomes will be hit hardest of all. New Zealanders are paying a premium for Labour's great leap backwards.

All of us are poorer than a year ago.

At a time when commodity prices are booming, we shouldn't be languishing - being left behind. New Zealand should be flying as it was when we left office.

But we're not.

We're part of a global environment - and at the moment, New Zealand just doesn't compare at all well with alternative investment destinations. And our dollar has been sold down to reflect that view.

It is simply wrong to say that this state of affairs is something New Zealand can do nothing about. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Labour-Alliance Government is responsible.

We have one of the worst performing currencies in the world - not just the OECD. It is in large measure a reflection of the confidence the world has in the long-term path Labour has put us on. A 20% devaluation since it took office.

At a time when Governments all around the world see the benefits of smaller government and lower taxes, our Government increases spending and slaps on envy tax to pay for it.

Then they sit back and scratch their heads wondering why our best and brightest are choosing to work off-shore.

At a time when countries around the world recognise that a more flexible labour market creates jobs, we are creating a more rigid labour market.

When the benefits of competition - responsiveness, service delivery and effectiveness for people - are recognised world-wide, Labour turns the ACC into a monopoly.

A folly that makes no business sense. Without competition what will keep the system honest?

In big spending areas, like education and health, State-run monopolies are back in vogue here, but nowhere else in the world.

Parents' choice of school has been removed.

And this week Labour admitted in Parliament to dumbing down the exams students sit. Labour will not give students the percent or mark they actually get in their exams, and have removed the scholarship level we proposed for the National Certificate.

Instead, performance will be squeezed into one of three bands - Credit, Merit and Excellence. It will mean that someone who gets 30% will get a credit and someone with 76% will be given an excellence grade.

Labour have also gone back to the old district health boards which never worked in the past.

The result will be kids consigned to under-performing schools and politics returning to health. No-one will be better educated. Health services will not improve.

But it is deeper than that.

For National, it's about applying our values to the issues we face in a pragmatic way. For Labour it's about Socialism.

Labour's first 12 months have marked New Zealand's first year in the new millennium. But far from taking us forward or setting us up for the future, they have set us back 20 to 30 years. Only a National government will be able to regain the momentum.

That is why I want to talk to you about our nation, our prosperity and our future.

Our Prosperity

Our prosperity depends on how we perform as a country relative to the rest of the world. Relative because we cannot celebrate an economy that is growing when that growth is behind the rest of the world.

Prosperity is critical to everyone's standard of living. We, as an Opposition, must be critical if we believe Government is getting it wrong.

The privilege to criticise carries responsibility. We must call things as they are.

In the short-term, the economic environment has stopped declining.

Export growth will be strong on the back of a very low dollar, a lift in commodity prices and strong world demand.

But as we look forward over the next 12 months, growth will be offset by the pressure on household budgets as interest rates rise and prices rise. Kiwis' living standards will edge down and wage demands will start to emerge.

Our medium-term prospects are nothing to write home about. The Treasury in its long term modelling of the New Zealand economy uses a growth rate of 1.5% and no fall in unemployment in 2005.

New Zealand will continue to lag behind countries we used to compare ourselves with, those we were in the same league with.

The United States is in the midst of its most significant period of growth and wealth creation for many years. Singapore is currently growing at 7.5% and Ireland is running at 8.5%, the same average growth rate for the past six years.

Tell anybody in those countries their long term outlook is for 1.5% growth - New Zealand's growth path - and they'll ask: What's gone wrong?

A Left-wing, short-sighted, Labour-led government is in office. That's got to change.

Today, and over the next few weeks, National teams will be out around the country to mark Labour's report card, one year on, and share our vision for the future.

But just as Labour needs to be held to account, people need hope for the future. National will provide that hope.

A programme to propel New Zealand forward for the next decade.

One built around enterprise, excellence, education and an environment for the future.

Where wealth is created and we have much to share.

Labour is about redistributing wealth, rather than creating it. About making everyone the same. But in doing so they insist on bringing the top down - not the bottom up.

They are committed to weakening the strong and penalising the successful. National believes you can lift those at the bottom if you lift us all.

We would do well as Kiwis to dwell on this historic quote:

"You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.

You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.

You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.

You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.

You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.

One cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatreds. You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man's initiative and independence.

You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves."

This is where National stands. It is a key to New Zealand's prosperity.

National is committed to a welfare system that cares for those who need support, but we support mutual obligations being understood.

Community work for welfare support is part of this. We believe it leads to inclusion, to improved self-esteem and respect and better attitudes and habits for the person involved and increases support and commitment from the taxpayer.

Labour by contrast is soft on these issues. It's in the process of removing sanctions for those on welfare who won't work, but at the same time it has failed to increase welfare support or student holiday payments as it promised.

We're committed to a fair welfare system and a strong, growing economy to give hope to all Kiwis.

Which brings me to employment rules for workers and employers.

National believes this is about opportunity for people and potential for growth. Labour believes this is about conflict, control and pay-back. New Zealand can't afford Labour's changes.

There was no widespread dissatisfaction with the predecessor to the Employment Relations Act. It had brought great benefits to the economy.

Officials told Labour its Act would cost jobs and make New Zealand less competitive in the world. But Labour went ahead and reduced our competitiveness and added costs to business.

Labour pushed ahead because the Act will increase union membership, secure the virtual life-long positions of union officials and provide funds for the Labour and Alliance parties. Political expediency at its worst - a vote for income for Labour, not jobs and increased wages for Kiwis.

National will repeal the ERA with new law that provides protection, but unlocks our potential, within the first few weeks in office.

Employment law is a key to unlock economic growth.

Labour has destroyed the strong growth it inherited, plunging business and consumer confidence to levels not seen since the world-wide market collapse of 1987.

It's come perilously close to putting the country into a recession. But the longer term outlook is where the focus should be. Whether New Zealand will remain in the developed group of economies and whether Labour or National is likely to provide the best chance.

Put bluntly, New Zealand's relative outlook has deteriorated since Labour was elected.

Labour's big spending plans lead to this. Other countries spend less as a percentage of GDP which lowers the need for taxes and frees up enterprise. More profits, more jobs, more disposable income.

I returned from Ireland a few weeks ago. There, government spending is projected to be 27.5% of GDP in 2001. Over the Tasman, government spending is about 32% of GDP compared with around 40% in New Zealand.

As the dollar has pushed domestic prices up and the Government is unable to resist the temptation to spend more, we risk a repeat of the tight monetary and loose fiscal policy that brought us the worst recession since 1991 - a direct result of Labour's excessive spending which left deficits.

Labour for 2000 has front-loaded much of its new spending, leaving a very tight fiscal position towards the end of this term.

But Clark has promised paid parental leave

Maharey continues to promise more in welfare

Anderton must fund the $80 million for his bank

King hasn't funded the cost of health changes

Dyson keeps promising to remove income and asset testing

Maori MPs want $50 million for Maori television.

The list goes on.

Cullen has delivered deficits before. We risk history repeating itself.

And then there's the $2 billion for the super fund. A fund that we now know at its peak will only contribute 14% to anyone's superannuation.

There should be restraint, but Labour has raised expectations too high and the pressures to spend more will intensify.

One way or another Kiwis will pay.

If this happens it will be a tragedy. A return to the all-too-familiar pattern. The New Zealand economy fades under severe fiscal stress, the Government falls apart and a new one faces the long, hard road back to a balanced economic policy.

All this gets us back to where we started, but with the gap between us and the more successful countries even wider and harder to bridge.

The enduring problem is that New Zealand's disadvantages of size and isolation are no longer being compensated by superior policies.

One year on, continuing on Labour's policy track risks depopulation and the absence of significant new industries establishing in New Zealand.

Instead of the jobs, skills and independence that will come from economic success, the opposite will be our experience and Maori perhaps more than others will suffer the most.

This is where Labour poses the biggest risk to New Zealand.

Labour's gaps policy.

I have never seen such simmering resentment in the wider community than I see at present:

- Race, not need being the test

- Holocaust comments

- Guests in our own land

- Special representation for Maori

- More favourable treatment for Maori on asset sales - - Post-colonial stress disorder

All talk, yet Labour has not negotiated one Maori land settlement since it came to office.

Enough is enough.

National believes we can bring New Zealanders together without this racial division.

This is a policy that is opening gaps in New Zealand. I believe the answer lies in looking at what our goal is.

We must settle the grievances, invest in our people, raise our sights and find a place to stand together and face the future.

Our People

Let's start by asking what kind of a people will we be in 2040, the bicentennary of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The demographics tell us that we will be an even more diverse mix of people.

Listen to these facts about New Zealand today.

Two-thirds of young Maori who are married or in de facto relationships are partners to a non-Maori. Those Maori who marry other Maori are often marrying someone of multi-ethnic identity. The majority of Maori children growing up today have a non-Maori parent.

In time, much the same will be said of our Pacific peoples and our new migrants from around the world.

National believes that New Zealanders, no matter what their ethnic origin, must feel part of one country with one justice system for all. Where we have clear expectations about how we treat our children and each other.

There is no place for excuses or for those who want to re-write history. There must be a place for us to value and respect differences, but also a place for the many things we have in common.

To do otherwise separates and divides people. By 2040, though, we could be two people, not one, if Labour's policies stayed unchecked.

National remains committed to completing our work on grievances - we're almost there.

But we strongly oppose the idea of two classes of citizen by including the Treaty in social legislation.

I say listen to the people, Helen Clark.

You cannot divide by edict, law or policy what the bedrooms of this country have already brought together.

The people will not let you.

Don't pretend that things are as they are not.

Don't let a few extremists impose their view.

Labour has sent a shiver of unease through middle New Zealand. It insults Maori self-esteem with policies of preferment, and engenders resentment among others.

Many Maori find it disturbing.

Make no mistake, Labour's actions aid and abet the political activists and extremists. Those whose agenda is to conscript a constituency to achieve autonomy and separatism.

Labour is allowing it to happen.

I was told recently about a well known Wellington lawyer who used the image of a pyramid of champagne glasses - describing how pouring one Treaty clause in health at the top will have a flow-on consequence that can't be stopped.

Well, in a few days time, despite some changes, that clause will be law. It's true that the opinion polls have persuaded the expedient side of Helen Clark to amend the clause, but that will not be the end of the matter.

Once there is a Treaty clause in social legislation, nothing can prevent reference to the Courts to decide how the Treaty should be interpreted.

Labour made this mistake in the 80s. It is about to repeat it in 2000, to the cost of us all. It is wrong and New Zealanders will all pay a high cost for the misjudgement.

Need, not race, will unite us. Race, not need, will divide us.

National's policy has no racial preference.

We are all New Zealanders. Diverse in our culture, but with equal rights as Kiwis.

In the past, I have raised the need to debate the future of the Maori seats, almost a unique anachronism in a world where no other Western democracies make similar provisions.

Why do half of all Maori voters prefer to go on the general roll? Why does Labour promote the Maori roll?

Labour clearly benefits, which is why Labour advised its electorate secretaries last week to sign up as many Maori as possible on the Maori roll.

Does the allocation of seats on the basis of race encourage the belief that Parliament should deliver services on that basis?

Is it healthy for a major party to be so dependent upon seats allocated on such a basis?

Perhaps it is no surprise that Labour is now legislating for two Maori to be elected onto each of the new District Health Boards.

These are questions few will debate, but it is essential that we grow in our courage and honesty explore these complex questions. To ignore them does not contribute to a strong New Zealand capable of securing this country's future.

If MMP is retained in its current form then this matter should be dealt with as proportionality is assumed.

Such a decision would simply put more balance in our democracy, because it is in all our best interests to have policies that provide genuine opportunity for all to succeed.

National's conservative values and a shared vision for the future gives me confidence that we will achieve broader support. We will have to work hard to earn it.

We must be the party for mainstream New Zealand.

National wants a confident and ambitious people driven by the freedom, self-reliance and enterprise of individuals who are:

* passionate for excellence, achievement and success,

* committed to a united society based on tolerance, diversity, independence, and

* determined to make their community and environment a better place. These are values that give all individuals self-esteem and rid them of the shackles of dependency. That is the way forward for us all.

But it is not how the world sees us today.

Our Future

When I go overseas, leaders in other countries ask me what has happened to New Zealand. It hurts me to hear that question because I am proud of my country.

But I tell them that National will be back.

Indeed, history suggests that once every decade National is elected to office to enact a bold and ambitious agenda.

The challenge I, as leader, am setting is not merely one of creeping past the winning post in 2002, but of having a plan that will inspire New Zealand.

For the record, I intend to lead this party into the next election, so our vision can be realised and our goals be achieved.

My vision for New Zealand is one in which Kiwis passionately believe in New Zealand, seize opportunities and share the rewards.

We have a strategy through to 2002 which we will now roll out.

New Zealanders will see a lot more of us, and hear a lot more about us.

We will set the scene for a decade in office. A decade that will transform New Zealand into an assertive and innovative player on the world stage

We will have a clear programme aimed at wealth creation, based on low tax, small government and a strong, clear focus on individual effort, personal responsibility and reward for enterprise.

There is no reason why business should not rank New Zealand higher than Australia for its tax and regulatory environment, the quality of its work-force or the spirit of entrepreneurship.

Our plan is based on making New Zealand the most attractive home for talent, effort, skill and capital in the world.

And we will succeed because we will owe nothing to noisy special interest groups. We are there for every New Zealander. For the many, not the few.

New Zealand's future success lies in education.

Education will be a centrepiece of the next National Government. We be bold.

We must transfer power from the producers of education to students and parents. Every parent must be able to choose where their children go to school.

To make the right decisions for their children, parents must be well-informed about school quality, teacher qualifications and, above all else, the performance and standards of their children.

We must be as open to alternatives in the delivery of education as we are about the knowledge and skills being delivered. A one-model-fits-all approach will deliver only muddled mediocrity.

By deliberately reducing diversity, choice and competition Labour will ensure education standards will be the loser. National will seek excellence and achievement. The prize of scholarship will be there for those who want to seize it and get ahead.

Many parents, people in the education sector and industry wanted National to go a lot further than we did in our last term. They are desperate to see New Zealand kids as good as the best in the world. The time is right for an ambitious response to that call. We must find ways to empower those with talent from all backgrounds to succeed, to achieve excellence. National is bitterly disappointed that Labour has dropped the level four scholarship in the new National Certificate. National believes it is essential that top students have a programme and exams that will stretch them to the very best levels internationally. This is not a domain for the rich, or for egg-heads. There must be a path for normal, well-rounded students who want to be professionals to be globally competitive. Our education agenda will explore including a significant examination that is internationally relevant. We want brilliant kids from Otara and the North Shore going to Harvard. National will not allow any sectional interest in the education sector to block the development and improvement necessary if students are to be able to live locally, but act and think globally. Anything less is not good enough for young New Zealanders at the beginning of this century. Any other exam or test system which is part of the qualifications structure will give each child a mark. We will not mask a child's attainment level with some bland banding system as Labour is doing. So students will get a top-class, international qualification. And on New Zealand terms.

We will also be rigorous reviewing teacher performance. If a child turns up illiterate at age 10, we should be able to review why that has happened and track back to ensure that it is not a teacher performance failure.

If it is a performance issue, we will act.

No child will be left behind by National.

Labour is stripping away every quality assurance mechanism in the education sector that holds parents, students and teachers accountable.

Nor will we be cowered by political correctness. We will not be afraid to put competition back into education and we will embrace technologies that may radically change the way our teachers teach.

We see teachers as one of the many mentors or tutors that educate our children.

That is the only way we will produce a generation of New Zealanders with an unfettered imagination, who thrive on innovation and have a passion for success.

At the tertiary level, we want to look at the whole loans proposition in a new way.

Today, we have brains in chains. Tomorrow, we must unleash the intellectual value of educational institutions to bring the interests of students, research, industry and investment together.

Education is critical in creating an environment in which individuals can make their country, their communities and their homes better places to live.

We must ensure that our children leave school with the life-skills and values they will need in their careers, and as parents. And parents must accept their responsibilities too.

Our ideas will be frontier ideas, not yesterday's solutions. They will build on our strengths and explore new opportunities like the life sciences. Bio-technology expertise is one of New Zealand's huge competitive advantages. We will not let a few deny New Zealanders the huge opportunities in medicine and food that bio-technology provides.

These are big ideas. Important ideas that will take us forward - help us get ahead.

Yet, Labour's best idea for young people seems to be legalising marijuana. There must be better values to be provided in 2000 than that.

School principals are seriously alarmed at the signal this would send to young people. Marijuana smoking among school children is already a problem - particularly among Maori students.

We doom more people to failure if we follow Labour. Poor performance will be the result.

The consequences of poorer performance, whether economic or educational, will devalue and downgrade us all.

National wants healthy communities that are capable of building stronger relationships and a greater sense of personal responsibility in all citizens.

This is no simple task. But it is vital.

We can get there with a great deal of no-nonsense, sleeves rolled up, common-sense.

At its heart will be this proposition: Kids need committed adults - all the help their parents can give.

Our policies will be built around that foundation. Because that is what will create a strong, viable and cohesive society.

National will explore the full range of options - from changes to our tax system to strategies in schools; from increasing the liability on parents for the actions of their children to initiatives aimed at reducing attitudes of dependence.

Achieving strong communities involves a three-way partnership between the government, private business and our voluntary sector.

National will ensure that each of these partners recognises the contribution made by the others to the quality of our lives and to our growth as a nation.

The next National government will be no carbon copy of the last. Times move on and so have we.

Expect us by 2002 to have developed fresh new policies for the next 10 years.

We will liberate the spirit that is in us all.

We want New Zealand to become the most dynamic trading nation in the Pacific - a nation respected by our neighbours and allies, sharing the burden of regional responsibilities in defence, enjoying the fruits of our efforts, feeling rewarded as risk-takers and uplifted as Kiwis.

There is marvellous expertise in this country. And our people are second to none.

National has kept to its task in this post-election year - rebuilding, reconnecting, reinvigorating and reviewing.

In short, good performance, steady work and sticking to the task.

Analysts and commentators have sought to write our agenda. Let me make it clear, that won't happen.

We're clear about our responsibility. We won't be diverted. We intend to win the 2002 election for those who take risks and carry the hopes of others on their shoulders, for those who work hard to build the New Zealand of today, and those who have high expectations of us tomorrow.

We will put heart and soul back into our communities. And we will provide New Zealanders with a future.

All races treated with respect, and standing together facing the future.

All families whose experience is a rising standard of living.

Businesses capable of producing jobs for our children and schools producing children for the jobs that are available.

An environment in which all can take pride and feel assured of a sustainable and enduring future.

And social services that meet our aspirations, supported by the taxpayer and private giving.

That is National's vision for New Zealand. A New Zealand where we will again get ahead.

Why settle for less?


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