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Jenny Shipley: CNI Regional Conference Speech

Speech By Rt Hon Jenny Shipley
11.15am, 28 April 2001
National's Central North Island Regional Conference
Rotorua

Introduction

New Zealanders dare to dream of a better future.

Our National Party and National MPs must dare to believe in New Zealanders' common-sense. I believe Kiwis have a common commitment to secure that future by electing a government that can inspire and deliver. By the end of next year we must be their party of choice because our vision for New Zealand over the next ten years is such that the overwhelming number of Kiwis say, they're my values, that's my party, this is my future.

We have a different future to offer from Labour.

Cherish Freedom

Our policies will allow New Zealanders to feel the freedom of:

* Expressing opinions without being crushed, abused or put-down or fired. * Earning a living and feeling rewarded for their efforts. * Choosing the school for their child where excellence is pursued and values exist. * Knowing that the police on the street are not reducing as is currently the case. * Being assured that their government has secured their interests with their neighbour, their trading partners and has the ability to defend this relationship and our interests at home. * Standing shoulder to shoulder with every New Zealander knowing that we are one people and one country that respects and values our diversity. Freedom matters to us and to our future.

Our challenge is achievable!

Good Government is not just about good management or good quality spending - it's about strengthening our heartbeat as a nation. Next election, our vision for the future will create a picture of who we, as a people, can be by 2010 and what we need to do together to achieve that vision and make it our reality.

We won't shy away from the big issues - issues for Government, issues for Kiwis to deal with. We'll get it right for the future by making the best decisions even if at times they are the toughest to make.

Each regional conference will signpost the broad direction we're considering.

New Zealanders expect National to manage the economy well and we will. A fast, open, dynamic, responsive economic environment will bring new confidence to small and large employers, their shareholders and employees. But that's not enough. To strengthen the heartbeat of our country we need to strengthen the social ties that bind us.

Rebuilding our Social Ties

We cannot take the first steps without ensuring that the most able and the least able can make the journey to the future together. We will not succeed if we diminish the achievement of our most able in order to accommodate the least able.

National intends to have New Zealanders lift their sights, educate them to succeed to their maximum potential, aim to achieve high real wage increases for them through higher economic growth rates, so we can keep them home and bring them home. Then we can expect to lift every New Zealander. That's our goal.

It is no coincidence this series of regional conferences will put a marker in the ground around key issues and particularly social policy issues.

Too often in the past National hasn't told its story or shared its plans and many of our successes have gone unrecognised or have been misunderstood. Often New Zealanders have thought we didn't care yet nothing could be further from the truth. We do care, but we do have a different point of view from the left. Some of our ideas are well known. Some are new.

We must start afresh to tell our story!

There are three 'heart beat' issues I want you to consider.

National passionately believes in and will strongly promote that: 1. Every child must have the best start in life - a loving family, the best education and proper care.

2. High quality social services will be available to all Kiwis in genuine need while still positively emphasising personal and family responsibility.

3. We will aim to unite New Zealanders of all ages and every culture with a shared commitment to our future and one standard of citizenship for all.

Each of these areas have key points of difference between ourselves and Labour.

The Children

There is a lot of truth to the saying "give me the child at 7 and I will show you the man". To build strong families and able adults we must focus on and cherish each child. We as a people have some way to go.

Our story is not a pleasant one. We have:

* 50 cases of child abuse or neglect investigated every day in New Zealand.

* The highest rate of child deaths and the highest youth suicide rate of any country in the OECD.

* The second highest teenage birth rate amongst developed countries even though this has been falling steadily since National introduced the Sexual Health Strategy in 1996 - one of our hidden success stories.

Is it insecurity, hopelessness, isolation and desperation that creates this situation? Is it that we all haven't the nerve to say enough is enough and mean it?

The answers are not simple but they're achievable. We are not going to sanctimoniously moralise on these issues, but we are going to speak about them honestly and frankly so we can build and develop new ways to make changes.

* So often we know some of the potential solutions. Several New Zealand studies show that children and young people succeed best when two parents, be they together or separated, are there for the child. National will look again to see that our welfare programmes actively support achieving that outcome.

* Children in families where only the one parent is around experience reduced levels of parental supervision. Often these families face increased financial and emotional stress. National will look again at whether we have the incentives and requirements right.

* The evidence is that where the parents are not there physically or emotionally for the child the children are many more times likely to be involved in criminal offending, early onset sexual activity, substance abuse, and to experience depression and anxiety. National is going to speak about this frankly. Families and community hold the answers here. If support is needed it will be there, but responsibility must be taken by those who can make the real change.

In 1998 National sought to raise these issues with public discussion around the Code of Social Responsibility. Some Labour MP's who derided the idea now speak of solutions being found in areas other than just money! How things change!

* While a lot of families are not fatherless by choice, fatherlessness is undoubtedly a contributing factor to juvenile problems. The absence of critical role models adversely affects academic achievement and personal adjustment. This is a crusade in New Zealand beginning to happen. The late Laurie O'Reilly as children's ambassador saw the need. Where are the new champions?

* We kid no-one by pretending Governments can legislate morality and parental commitment but we shouldn't fudge the issues where clearly the remedy lies in the hands of some adults who must change their behaviour. Abuse will stop if adults keep their hands by their side and their emotions under control. We must expect that to be the norm and quit the excuses.

National must halt the never ending call that Government should do something about it and strike a new balance of Rights and Responsibilities. Commonsense tells you this is necessary! We can deliver because we are not trapped by politically correct dogma.

But we must go further. We must find ways of removing the barriers which undermine parental commitment and raise society's expectations of parents obligations to their children. Family is the first and the best place for a child to be raised but not in fear.

Every child is absolutely entitled to expect to be loved and cared for within the family.

Where that doesn't happen we cannot let a generation of children end up "lost in care". As Mick Brown points out they may be no better off if they have no sense of permanency and inclusion.

Expect our policies to provide guidance, support and encouragement for parents to take more responsibility for their children.

In this way, young kiwis will grow up in an environment which provides greater permanency, protection and security.

That will create a generation that is confident, enjoys healthy self-esteem and grows to enjoy independence and the opportunities that releases.

However, where families fail after every effort has been made to provide safe care for a child, expect us to look for permanency in an alternative secure, stable and enduring family setting while providing for birth family links to be maintained.

Expect us also to search for ways for mutual obligation between Government and families to be discussed further. Expect a sensitive but clear vision for children and their families from National's election policies.

New Zealanders over the last two years have made it clear they want real solutions, not more reviews or more excuses. Steve Maharey, the current Minister, has been all talk but to date has not delivered. He sat on Judge Brown's report for four months, announced its findings and now deathly silence. His test will be on Budget night, then it will be clear if he should be taken seriously.

Fully funding the Brown Report findings and fulfilling commitments to foster parents are the minimum we should expect. Anything less will be a serious breaking of promises. I predict Labour, despite their promises, will fail to meet the expectations they've created.

Social Security to Social Development

National strongly supports the values that lay behind the establishment of New Zealand's social security structure. It was born to provide a hand up, not a hand out! Government came second, not first in New Zealanders' lives. It supported people's independence. It did not seek to create dependency. These values are what National can offer New Zealand.

By contrast, in the past week we have learned that Labour wishes to take a different road now. Work and Income is out, Social Development is in! You heard me right "development".

The decision, made in the absence of any advice, appears driven by a vindictive desire to get rid of Christine Rankin, but that is another story. So much for Labour's commitment to quality social policy. More restructuring is their solution.

National led in the 90s with intelligent social policy, developed independently across all agencies. We worked hard to empower and enable people, making it harder to stay on welfare indefinitely and removing the shackles of dependence.

By reducing the number of people stranded on benefits, providing assistance for women on the DPB, combining income support and employment services - these all made a huge difference. We provided encouragement. We were firm. We got results for people out of work and for the taxpayer.

But Labour has ditched community work, removed sanctions if you don't take the job you're offered. They're sending the wrong message yet employers are crying out for staff.

Labour's result - long-term unemployed numbers, those out of work for more than a year, have jumped by more than 20% since the election.

What's worse, despite this talk of helping low income people, Labour have said to New Zealanders you're better off on welfare than in work.

On Monday, the Labour Cabinet decided that 48,000 low income families struggling to get by, but in work, would not be eligible for the Community Service Card. Despite what Annette King says, some workers who have a CSC currently will lose it because they have had a small wage rise in the last year. Beneficiaries and Superannuitants are protected, workers have been abandoned

The message to those 48,000 families is that you aren't better off under Labour. I invite Helen Clark to explain to those families why it is better to spend $80 million on a People's Bank than $14 million on assisting their children with health care.

What a blunder! What a huge step back for New Zealand. What a slap for the taxpayers if people don't believe it's worth trying.

And you know what Annette King said. She said the card system is flawed because it is a very poor way of providing health services. Tell that to low income families who will now miss out. National when in office always increased CSC entitlement for beneficiaries and workers alike. It is discriminatory to do anything less.

What could be a higher priority for health spending than on low income families?

Our policies will respect the needs of all New Zealanders to a fair go.

>From the genuine need of those without hope of a job, to have a chance to work.

To the genuine need of the working family struggling on $30,000 a year. The one that expects taxes, which go to those out of work, are met with a reciprocal obligation to find work.

There are other ways to go.

For instance, one option would be to consider immediate financial support and training opportunities for those who lose their jobs with the expectation that people will return to work as soon as possible.

This would send a very strong signal that the benefit is intended as a transitional payment between jobs; not a long-term choice.

It is not just the incentives we must put right in social policy. We must recognise that demand for social services often arises because of failures in economic policy.

Again Labour has failed.

Labour's economic policies have led to the largest single rise in annual food prices in a decade.

Consumer prices rose 4.0% in this Government's first year in office. Hard working families are worse off.

The families Labour were elected to help have been hurt most.

Foodbank queues are longer than ever before.

Many New Zealand families feel more excluded and let down.

Closing the Gaps

That disappointment is reflected in other areas as well.

We cannot talk honestly about social policy without recognising we are a diverse people. We have an indigenous Maori people. We are many cultures and long may they flourish.

But we are one people, one country. To succeed we must have a shared future together.

National will continue to work for inclusion to be the experience.

We cannot argue with the facts today. Maori and Pacific Islanders are disproportionately represented in the negative statistics. But in many areas great progress has been made - particularly during the 90s.

Further progress does not lie in an edict to close the gaps.

Policies based on race, not genuine need, lead to deep rifts, not solutions that deliver a shared future. They also trap people without expectation or hope of change. Recipients become stripped of their dignity and dependent on the State. Others harbour unhealthy resentment which festers.

Labour has made a series of blunders in this area. As a result, little progress has been made. The mechanistic approach of putting Treaty clauses in social legislation to close the gaps is wrong. We will abandon that policy immediately and replace it with policy based on meeting genuine need and making progress that will improve and enable Maori.

We will continue to courageously and decisively settle Maori grievances so we can look ahead.

We are unlikely to be drawn into the recent report of the Community and Voluntary Sector Working Party.

It proposes a Waitangi Commission to "consider issues of iwi self-determination and constitutional change" and treaty auditing, not just in social policy, but across all policy.

Reading that report, as I read the word "partnership" in that context, the word "separatism" came to mind.

People with a closed nationalist and separatist mindset have no place in a shared future. Nor do revisionists.

Labour and its social policy advisers must make it clear if they're going to implement this recommendation. National says, leave the rules of the game and its umpiring, to Parliament, where Maori and other New Zealanders sit side by side making decisions for this and future generations. We, the Judiciary, and the duly mandated Maori leaders are capable of forging the future.

But let me be clear, New Zealand has no future if Maori and Pacific Islanders are left behind. That must never happen.

Nor do we have a future if we increase State dependency as Labour has done or go down the path of separatism as more extreme elements of Maoridom demand.

National will adopt another way forward. One that recognises that the future of this nation can never be shaped by a Social Welfare Department or the generosity of the State alone.

The only way forward for New Zealanders as one people will depend on the determination of each one of us to be confident and independent, respectful and tolerant and clear about our goals. We are determined.

To settle injustices so we can move forward.

To be a giver not a taker in the broadest sense.

To share a future together.

Mick Brown says family violence alone is estimated to affect one in seven families or over 480,000 New Zealanders.

The economic cost is estimated at $1.2 billion per year which is more than our export receipts from wool. Each week 2500 Women's Refuge beds are occupied throughout the country.

Our future as a nation depends not on the generosity of welfarism. The generosity of spirit, the resolve and character of each one of us as a citizen will make a new future for New Zealand.

This Labour-Alliance minority Government is incapable of turning that attitude around. It is stuck on the State dependency treadmill and has no clear vision for New Zealand.

Create a Conversation

So let's lead the debate and create a lively and interesting conversation of which New Zealanders feel they are a part. Last year I challenged the Party to value its conservatism but to look ahead. You're doing that this weekend.

Our tasksforce reports do that as well!

Controversial, challenging, insightful, all searching for a middle point which reflects our conservative values while meeting the challenge of being contemporary and relevant to the lives of our people today.

These reports raise issues of our times which we must deal with and this conference and the weeks that follow provide us with the opportunity. We have a responsibility to lead.

New Directions

During these five conferences some of our Caucus team will begin signalling possible new directions for the future. Watch for these new ideas.

Next week, for example, Gerry Brownlee will speak of how National will deliver an improved, high-quality education for young New Zealanders and how we will measure their skills, attributes and achievements, both within the school and as compared to others.

We'll indicate how we'll encourage students to understand that there is a direct relationship between their effort and attainment at school and the future opportunities that will be available. These are ground-breaking new ideas.

Between now and the spring we will, as a party and Parliamentary wing, complete the process of finalising our new vision for New Zealand and the policies that will bring it to life.

I want you to be proud of the past, but feel free to 'kiss your shadow' and lighten your touch, as we move forward to new ideas for the future.

I want you to be seized with a sense of urgency. We are not giving Labour six or nine years. They have 18 months to go and that's all!

Build your team of 35!

Bank the war-chest.

Build the desire for change in your community.

Build a sense of expectation.

But most of all believe in what you know is right, what works, what creates incentive for people to perform, what provides security, what delivers rewards in its richest sense: * a feeling of inclusion * a love of excellence * a deep feeling of well-being * a renewed confidence * a sense of hope

This is the National Party at its best. The Party I love and believe in.

We know what's required, let's do it!


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