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Plain English - 28 June 2002

PLAIN ENGLISH - A WEEKLY UPDATE FROM BILL ENGLISH, LEADER OF THE NATIONAL PARTY


Four weeks and counting

Campaigning is so interesting and enjoyable; I don't know why we don't do it more often! An election is that period when - for just a few weeks - people take a genuine interest in politics and in the Opposition. My tour around the country finished yesterday - from now on we have to organise ourselves to meet the media needs for the election campaign. Media organisations concentrate their budgets on the official campaign and even then I won't be able to travel too far beyond their financial reach.

Education Policy

This was launched today and I've already had an excellent response! I start from a commonsense approach that what matters most is an inspired teacher and an enthusiastic student in the classroom. The rest of the system needs to support learning, not dictate how it's done. I strongly support professionalism for teachers and self-management for schools, because it's the people who know our children and their community who can make the best decisions - teachers and parents.
Under National all secondary schools will become self managed, and primary schools can opt to designate an organisation to do their management if they don't want to do it themselves
Labour's education policy has been reactionary - a trip down nostalgia lane to the best thinking from the 1970's. Parents and schools have moved on. In dozens of school visits, especially to secondary schools, it's clear we need a big step forward, because the retrofit has failed.

Economic Clouds

Recent data shows the end of the golden weather. Sorry folks, that was as good as it got - 3% growth and dropping back. We are still falling behind Australia. We need more to offer to people earning $11 and $12 dollars an hour, to the under 30's who want to pay off loans and save for a house. A 2% economy won't do it, and nor will more committees. Our policy follows the lines of orthodox policy around the world regardless of political colour - fix infrastructure, free up education, lower taxes, and get behind small business.
The economic debate reared its head this week with Michael Cullen's foray into Muldoon style economics let the public see him lose the financial credibility contest with Don Brash.

Inspiration

I recently visited a Rotorua school for young mothers - an example of alternative education that was started by National. I met a dozen 17 and 18 year olds in class with their babies next door. We had a great chat about kids, staying at home (I was once a house husband) and about their own prospects. These young women had complicated their lives, but they are focused and keen to see more of their peers getting the same opportunity. They didn't't want dependency and knew the traps of sitting back waiting for someone to do it for them. With a bit of help they are breaking the cycle. Good policy, based on respect, works.

A Financial Scandal

Plain English readers will be aware of my warnings about health cuts. I recently informed a well-known political journalist of these facts and was told it just couldn't't be true because Labour were smart. You be the judge! We left the public health system financially stable, ready and able to focus on the hard job of making decisions about priorities and integrating services to better meet public needs. Labour scrapped the financial disciplines, so despite more new money, health boards have run up financial deficits of about $300m - that is an overdraft of $300m. By this time next year it will be up to $500m. It should be ZERO. That's a $500m black hole in the public health system. The Government has only recently discovered this and ordered $120m worth of health cuts from 1 July (it's in the Budget) to try and get the beast under control. The only choices the elected DHB's are making is where to cut - after the election of course!
This is a financial scandal of BNZ proportions. National's plan is to pay off the deficit, which will need hundreds of millions more than Labour is planning to spend. The only other choice is that patients pay through lost services.


Policy rollout continues

National has unveiled a number of new policies this week including: Superannuation, Tourism, Economic and Regional Development, Children's and Accident Insurance. These are innovative and attractive strategies, which give voters a real choice and establish National as a credible, alternative government. We will be releasing more policies next week, as well as during the campaign. For more information on National's policies, and to keep up to date with what's happening on the campaign hustings, go to www.national.org.nz


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