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"Closing The Gaps" - Richard Prebble Speech


Tuesday 3rd Apr 2001 Richard Prebble Speech -- Other

Speech Launching ACT's new publication at New Zealand Portrait Gallery, Bowen House, Wellington, Tuesday, 3 April 2001, 5.30pm

Thank you for coming to the launch of ACT's new book - Closing the Gaps. I thank the New Zealand Portrait Gallery for letting us hold the book launch here.

This gallery, here in Parliament is one of Wellington’s best kept secrets - although it’s not meant to be. It’s a real jewel and one which needs more visitors, so do tell your friends it is here. Closing the Gaps is ACT's 10th book - ten books in just six years. Why write ten books?

The international consultants, Kortlang group, who advised ACT on our election campaigns, said of us - ACT are fabulously successful book publishers, but can book publishers become a successful political party?

Kortlang advise political parties in Australia, the United States and Britain. There has, in their view, never been a Party like ACT, anywhere in the world.

ACT is still the only new Party in the MMP Parliament - all the others are existing MPs flying new flags. ACT is the only Party to increase its vote in every election we have fought.

Why? - the secret is the books. Over 200,000 adults have read a book by ACT. Over 90% of our members joined because they read an ACT book.

There is not a single powerful new idea in politics that did not start with someone writing a book. Ideas we take for granted today, from parliamentary democracy, women's suffrage, to the advantages of international trade, you can trace back to a book. What's revolutionary about ACT is we are speeding up the process. ACT is proclaiming the new ideas and promulgating those ideas - a ‘just-in-time’ process for politics.

There are ideas in this book that are new and will become reality in a decade. One that has caught the media attention is Gerry Eckhoff's " kiwi farming " - the idea that the kiwi could become so common people could eat them.

ACT asks the question, "why is it illegal to own and breed kiwis"? Under DOC's tender care kiwis and many other native birds will soon become extinct in the wild.

Ken Shirley points out the World Health Organisation has New Zealand as 41st out of 199 members. We spend 6.4% of GDP - Singapore, which is 6th, spends just 3.1%.

He asks if we should we adopt the Swedish model which has adopted a competitive health model, privatised state hospitals, reduced costs, lifted nurses incomes and improved quality.

Ken points out that ACC now operates a competitive model with 86% of its elective operations being performed in the private sector.

Rodney Hide makes a passionate case for low tax. Let me quote a great Rodney Hide-ism - "Great Grandad paid one dollar in ten of all he earned to politicians. Our grandparents won the Second World War paying one dollar in four. We pay more than one dollar in three" - and we are losing the war against poverty.

Muriel Newman makes a passionate case for welfare reform - she states: "The most unsafe environment in which to raise a child is a family headed by a solo mother with a series of partners."

Owen Jennings makes a call for reform of local government - "If Nelson City Council can purchase a night-club and sell it a year later for a huge loss, under the current limitation", he asks, how much worse will it be when they are given much more powers?

Penny Webster makes the case for more freedom for agriculture. She states - "The economic gains from liberating agriculture would rank with those from the removal of tariffs and the deregulation and corporatisation of industries, like transport and communications."

Donna Awatere Huata's contribution is the case for school choice. Donna claims that "it is not wealthy Pakeha who have led the movement for school choice. It is Maori women."

Stephen Franks makes a strong attack on the elite who control our justice policy for whom"true compassion for victims ranks below the `needs' of criminals."

"Who are the victims of crime," he asks? "The answer is overwhelmingly the poor”, who this government claims to represent. If the government really wanted to help the poor, they’d get tough on crime.

In my own contribution I outline a vision of New Zealand society as magnificent as a beautiful beach and as free as the feeling you get as you tramp the hills. A formula of freedom and low tax.

So it's a book of bold ideas. We have published it to stimulate debate and lift the quality of decision-making. There are more important things than the inability of Ministers to know where they live.

Our book has already achieved the aim of lifting debate and providing wonderful cartoons of roasted kiwi and made BBC radio news.

We now have the more modest task of persuading our fellow citizens to share our vision of choice, freedom and personal responsibility, but that's tomorrow's task - today we launch the book - an important step on the journey.


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

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