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Plain English 12/4/2002

Economic package On Monday National is releasing our plans for growing a strong, sustainable economy. This will be a substantial document - a serious plan for lifting our long-term economic prospects. It will have the features I have talked about for some time - a long-term view, adapted to our unique national qualities, and consistent with the best international thinking about how to get better economic growth. It picks up ideas from the Knowledge Wave work, Michael Porter's work and the best of OECD thinking. National will not wait around for the economy to turn down - we will engage in a positive debate about how to maintain success and push it further. Too often New Zealand has made its decisions about direction in the midst of a crisis, so this is a special opportunity.

Lower taxes Lower taxes are a part of the package, because hard working New Zealanders and small businesses need to be encouraged and rewarded. But lower taxes on their own are not a silver bullet - we are also going to be talking about education & skills, infrastructure and investment, and encouraging new ideas. Monday's announcement will demonstrate the scope of the plan and we will follow up in coming months with more detailed policy consistent with the direction, i.e. small business, education, workplace law.

We can afford tax cuts We can afford tax reductions as well as social spending - in fact we have allowed for levels of spending similar to Labour's last two Budgets - but not its big election spend up. A lot of people will quite rightly question this. How can we afford all this, but Labour can't? The main reason is that Labour is locked into the Cullen Fund. It requires $2 billion to be put away every year, most of which will be invested overseas. We believe New Zealand should instead choose a higher growth path - in the end that will provide more security for older New Zealanders in 30 years time than a fund which will return 10c in the dollar for future superannuation costs. 12 months ago the Caucus decided not to sign up to the Cullen fund, so New Zealand has a lot more options for economic growth. The significance of that decision was little noticed at the time, but it will be at the heart of political debate this year.

Air NZ Official papers released this week show that Singapore Airlines was keen to inject up to $850 million into Air New Zealand, but the Government wouldn't make a decision to allow Singapore to lift its stake to 49 per cent. SIA went as far as offering to purchase the extra shares, but not take up the voting rights, in recognition of the Government's "political" problem. There was a real opportunity to get SIA money in, but that opportunity was lost. That's history and now taxpayers face the real costs of maintaining a small international airline on a weak currency.

Anderton's hypocrisy Parliament sits next week and Jim Anderton is in for a tough time. Imagine if I proposed that I would continue as the National leader in Parliament, while I become the Labour leader outside Parliament, while another person is elected to become the leader of the National Party. This is the arrangement Clark and Anderton have made to get through to the election. It's so bizarre it's hard to believe. Both Helen Clark and Jim Anderton campaigned hard against party hopping - now he is doing it and she is backing him to the hilt - just 4 months after passing the party hopping legislation. I disagree with the view it doesn't matter - there are still some standards of public ethics, and only Helen Clark and Anderton would have the nerve to think they would get away with it. High poll ratings are numbing their moral sense.

Wigram campaign launched I was down in Wigram this week launching Alec Neill's campaign for Wigram. I was surprised at the anger among voters in the Wigram electorate. What was once a safe seat for Jim Anderton is now wide open after his betrayal of his voters and his Party. Alec Neill will make sure the voters of Wigram are not simply used as a vehicle for Jim Anderton to see out his last days in politics in the comfort of the Ministerial limousine. We launched the campaign at Pacifica Seafoods, within the Wigram electorate. This company employs 260 staff, and had plans to employ 400 more before the Government's aquaculture moratorium halted them. The staff were telling me how disappointed they were in Anderton supporting the moratorium. That's why we think he's in trouble.

Grey Power For a conservative party National has low levels of support amongst older voters. I spoke to the national AGM of Grey Power yesterday about my ambition to rebuild the trust between National and older New Zealanders. Our research shows many older voters used to vote National until the 1993 election, and they would like a good reason to come back. National created a lot of insecurity for older people with various twists and turns in superannuation policy through the 90's. We have learned the lessons and we are earning back our credibility. Politicians can agree on some things - we agree with Labour on paying 65% of the net average wage at age 65 to married couples, and we will not be changing that.

Citizenship I've been talking to people around the country about what it means to be a citizen of New Zealand. It's something we don't really focus on much as a country - about the rights and responsibilities we all share. Under National there will be one standard of citizenship. This is a simple idea but one which people are reacting to strongly. I am keen to build this sense of a common bond between different people. I don't believe we should all be the same, but this nation needs a common sense of purpose and a shared sense of our history.

The Environment I want to see National dominate the environmental debate over the next decade. The Greens have taken over this territory on the left, and Labour is weaker than it has ever been on environmental thinking. National needs to lead this debate or the vacuum will be filled by the Greens with unpredictable results! The Blue Greens were set up to advise the National Party on these issues, and they are picking up speed. A Blue Green forum at Kaka Point, a small coastal town in my electorate attracted 50 people - a political meeting would have pulled two. One of New Zealand's most prominent environmentalists, Guy Salmon, has put his name forward for the List which has sparked the interest of people who haven't taken National seriously on the environment before.

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