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2002 Election Campaign Opening - Bill English


30 June 2002

Hon Bill English National Party Leader

Embargoed against delivery at 2.30pm

2002 Election Campaign Opening Speech

Thank you for your work for the National Party - the party of the national interest, the party that wants New Zealanders to have the future they deserve, the party that shares the aspirations of New Zealanders from all walks of life and knows how a country needs to earn a living.

Can I thank our MP's, candidates and party workers - you have done a wonderful job to prepare for this snap election - your urgency, your commitment and your confidence means National will drive the election campaign I am opening today.

As voters start to take seriously the choice that they have, our support will grow.

I have been travelling the country for months now - and I am inspired every day by the people I come across.

Like a woman working for $12 an hour raising three children on her own, the quiet heroism of two young parents struggling to raise a child with severe disability, a young woman trying to decide whether to devote her time to serious sport or her new small business.

Then there are the people who are just getting on the job of raising a family, contributing to their community, paying off the mortgage.

I stand with them, and National stands with them. These people contribute much and don't ask for much in return - just the chance of a better income, a decent education for their kids, personal safety on their own streets.

They have a strong sense of a fair go - that we should live with the consequences of our actions, that doing the right thing has its reward and politicians respect their capacity to make their own decisions about what matters to them.

They all deserve a Government that works as hard as they do to get this country on the front foot. As one voter put it to me, I want a Government that works for me, not one that rides on me.

Because unless New Zealanders send a message on 27 July about the things that matter to them most, then we'll all wake up the next day to find the features of a re-elected Labour Government.

These are starting to emerge from the fog of slick generalities - pay equity, permitting general strikes, higher inflation and so higher interest rates, indifference to education, incompetence in health, lots of pretty pictures, and liberalised marijuana law, but you won't be able to smoke in bars and you'll pay more tax called a "Health Tax".

Isn't it amazing - Helen Clark is apparently responsible for the America's Cup, but the teachers' strike is nothing to do with her; she's responsible for the success of Lord of the Rings, but not the financial scandal in our hospitals.

This election like every other is the way we make the decisions on what really matters for the direction of our county. What we're seeing is greenmail - Labour, who have no new policy and no new ideas to run on, trying to manipulate the voter over the Greens' GE policy.

Now in the first place, giving absolute power to Helen Clark is like giving a teenager two dozen beer, a fast car, and telling them to drive safely.

I ask you this - will New Zealand really be brought to its knees by Ian Ewen-Street. Who is he?

Is the business community really so timid that Nandor Tanczos has them shaking in their suits?

Helen Clark thinks you will fall for it. I think it's ridiculous.

Labour and National both endorsed the findings of the Royal Commission. I am seeking from Helen Clark, a commitment that Labour would vote with National to ensure progress on GE.

I can give the commitment that National would vote with Labour to defeat the Greens on GE. We've done it before on matters of national interest, like free trade, and commitment to the Afghanistan war.

National and Labour agree on lifting the GE moratorium. End of story. That makes the Greens irrelevant.

What about the Green's threat to bring down a government over this issue ? I don't believe them. Their bark is much worse than their bite.

If they bring down a Labour-Green coalition, New Zealand gets what it needs, a National-led Government. The Greens wouldn't do it when we disagree with them on just about every issue.

I challenge Helen Clark to back up her opposition to the Greens by campaigning against them in Coromandel. Quite simply Helen, if you don't campaign against the Greens in Coromandel, your attacks on the Greens have no credibility.

The best way to make sure the Greens have no influence is to vote National.

Enough of the phoney war - this week we are into the real campaign and the real issues. The end of the golden weather is coming. We've had the best export conditions in 30 years, we peaked at 3% growth. Business confidence is falling as commodity prices fall and interest and exchange rates rise.

I am ambitious for this economy - for sustainable growth of at least 4 %. That's what we will need to have the kind of country New Zealanders want.

People with student loans wanting to buy a house need an income big enough to pay off the debt, buy a house and get set up. The 2 % economy we are headed to won't do it.

People working for $12 an hour and trying to get ahead need better incomes. The 2% economy won't do it for them.

I want world class education for every child and a world-class health system for our older people. A 2% economy won't do it for them.

And it won't catch us up to Australia because even now we are still falling behind. And more committees won't fix it.

What will is sound policy that lifts every small business in this country. Our economic policy isn't for the few who can get grants, go to meetings and read strategies.

It's for the thousands of small businesses - we will get this country going through tougher times only if everyone is in the team.

So we will cut costs. The Dunn report identifies 162 pieces of legislation weighing business down. We will act on this report, starting with the big ones like the RMA.

National will stop passing new rules, and apply common-sense to the rules we have, so business can more easily do business.

We will lower taxes. Lower taxes are good for the economy. They encourage people to succeed and businesses to reinvest in the workplace and that's why we are cutting tax on businesses, because everyone benefits.

In the late 90s, we reduced a tax on an income of $35,000 from 33 cents in the dollar to 21 cents.

We will reduce the company tax rate to 28c by the end of our first term, and we will put the top tax rate back where Labour first put it 13 years ago - it was fair then, and it's fair now.

The tax issue is simple - will New Zealand be a better nation if it's future is fired by aspiration, or by envy? I stand for the aspirations of New Zealanders.

We will introduce a 90-day trial period during which an employer and an employee can agree, if they wish, to see if things work out without obligations or the risk of workplace grievances.

It will give young, inexperienced people and older people who might be overlooked because of their age a foot in the door. It will help migrants, people with disabilities, women returning to the workforce.

The biggest idea our opponents have for the economy is the Cullen Fund. Here's a $50 billion difference between National and Labour. I want to tell you what they are doing with our money. Every year for the next 50 years $2 billion will be taken from the taxpayers of this country, put in the fund and invested outside of New Zealand. Jim Anderton will be your personal funds manager.

Your money will fatten the wallets of the bankers of Wall Street, while at home we can't afford good teachers in front of our classrooms.

And we say that's wrong. We say invest that money in New Zealand to make our country grow.

We say put New Zealand's future first. Let's invest the money in our businesses, our roads and our young people.

We are not going to give away the choices of a generation. 30 years of investment either here or somewhere else and I back us

So, we'll back public-private partnerships and invest in the infrastructure to build a modern economy. New ways of financing will bring roading projects on quicker and spread the burden beyond today's taxpayers and ratepayers.

We need all the tools we can find to break the Auckland gridlock that costs $1 billion a year. With Labour you'll have Greenlock and no progress.

There is no point in having a strong economy or ambitions for your country if people cannot feel safe in their community.

In the past few months, I've met communities where people going about their everyday lives were hunted down and executed. I am thinking of John Vaughan, Marcus Doig and the three people shot at the Mt Wellington RSA.

They were people who left their homes the day they died with every right to feel confident they would be back safe with their families later.

92% of New Zealanders sent a message last election for action on crime. But Labour never listened.

National will lock up the bad criminals longer to protect the community. That's why we have a policy of Life means Life for the Worst .

We will increase the minimum non-parole period for all other murders from 10 to 15 years. The kidnapper of baby Kahu was sentenced to 11 years - you can get less for taking a life.

National will double the non-parole period for violent offenders. They will have to serve a minimum of two-thirds of their sentence before being considered for parole.

And we will ensure there is no automatic right to parole.

We will back up tougher sentences with 500 more frontline police because police presence prevents crime. We want a police force you can see, to make our communities safer

Another aspect of security is superannuation.

For many people after they turn 65 it is either the only or the principal source of income for the rest of their lives. It must therefore be made absolutely secure. We will not change National Superannuation. I wouldn't want to have to tell my mother some politician had changed her super.

Superannuation is tied to wages, and the best security for the future living standards of older people is a productive well educated workforce and a strong economy.

And if you're planning your retirement, we'll back you with an up-front tax rebate on the savings you make.

I want to warn older people today about the looming crisis in our health system. They have relied on Labour's reputation to secure their health services, but Helen Clark has let them down.

We'll announce our health policy tomorrow.

Let me outline the problem we will have to solve. National left the public health system in good order. In the last two years the health boards have accumulated financial losses of $300m.

By this time next year that will rise to $500m - a financial scandal on the scale of the BNZ - same party, same problem. That's why Labour have ordered $120m of health cuts - after the election.

Kaitaia Hospital is just the start. The cuts are coming and they will be big.

Those cancer patients flying to Australia will have to get cut price fares.

We can rescue public health. I will lead the next big step in public education.

On Friday I announced our education policy - professional pay for teachers, and self management for schools, where the teachers and the community who know our children best make the decisions about their education.

The critics were devastating - they said the policy was terrible because it might lead to industrial disruption in our schools.

Day one of an incoming National Government will see an offer on the table that will get teachers back in the classroom.

57,000 fifth formers only get one shot at a qualification this year. We'll make sure they get it.

But that's only a first step.

As a parent, I've had 10 years of children at school and at least another 15 to go. What works is an inspired teachers and an enthusiastic pupil - the rest is detail to support the learning.

Parents want professionals they can trust in the classroom.

We are willing to pay good teachers more - better pay, more focus on quality and performance.

At a time when our community is becoming more diverse, and technology is extending its reach, our schools need more freedom to reflect the changing community around them, and the special and individual needs of the young people it's teaching.

So, we will start by putting principals, parents and teachers in charge of their schools; not politicians, union leaders and bureaucrats.

All secondary schools will be moved to self-management from 1 January 2003 with an option to designate an approved agency to manage their budget. Self-management for primary schools would be phased in to recognise the problems associated with smaller size in many cases.

Schools would be funded on a single funding formula combining all the property, operations and staffing. The formula would take into account roll numbers each year, educational needs, rural isolation and the status of the property.

We would also allow schools the choice to opt out of national contracts and the national payroll system, and develop their own site agreements.

In this way, schools will be able to better develop their own culture and profile. This would go hand in hand with our policy of giving parents the choice of school their child attends by repealing Labour's rigid zoning laws.

We want diversity in our schools. So, we will over time raise the funding for independent schools to 50% of the equivalent entitlement for State school.

And we will make it possible for successful schools to manage struggling schools, so more schools can benefit from what works well.

Raising standards will be a top priority. We will train high quality teachers and have minimum academic standards.

We will delay by one year Level Two of NCEA, so the schools can get Level One right.

And I want our young people to know their effort and their success will be applauded, so we will raise the value of A Bursaries from $200 to $2000 and B Bursaries from $100 to $1000. This will help pay the tertiary costs of 12000 young New Zealanders.

The time has come to set our schools on a course to take the next generation of New Zealanders forward.

I have outlined our plans for the future New Zealanders deserve, for the economy, for education, for tougher sentencing, for health and superannuation. And it's with an eye to the future that I want to outline our plans for settling Treaty claims.

I want to leave to the next generation a country led by bright hopes for the future, not burdened by divisions of the past.

I believe in one standard of citizenship - a set of common rights and obligations that draw us together regardless of our race, culture or beliefs.

The right to a fair go, and the obligation to contribute to the common good. The right to respect for our own views and the obligation to respect others' views, the right to raise and educate our family according to our own beliefs and the obligations to support others to do the same.

That's why we need to settle past Treaty claims, to do justice to those with grievance and to move on. So, we will close the book on historic claims within our first 12 months.

We'll settle all past claims by 2008.

We will do that because every citizen who has been wronged has the right to justice from the Government. And we will do it; so all New Zealanders can focus on building a common future.

Of course it will be hard, but wouldn't it be great?

Wouldn't we be a better people if we had resolved these issues?

If we can achieve that, we can achieve anything.

Let's turn our stumbling blocks into stepping stones.

I have encouraged this party to reach out - we have changed and renewed ourselves.

National brings to the hustings MP's and candidates who know family life, who understand business, people with sound, moderate instincts form every walk of life and every background, but bound together by a strong sense of ambition for this country and its people - we are a team, determined that New Zealanders get the future they deserve.

I ask this of you - show to the voters what I have seen leading this party - the commitment, the determination, the will to do what it takes to make a better nation, because that will persuade people.

I've heard a lot of chatter about tactical voting, and soft choices - it's simple - vote for what you believe in, vote for what you stand for, vote for the policies you support.

Voters haven't heard enough yet on the future of our country, our families, our businesses. National stands for the innate sense of aspiration in every New Zealander, and we back them to achieve it.

I am campaigning on aspiration, not on envy.

I am campaigning on parents deciding about education, not bureaucrats.

I am campaigning on lower taxes, not higher taxes.

I am campaigning on investment in New Zealand, not Wall Street.

I am campaigning on tougher, not lighter sentences.

I am campaigning to lead a country that knows it needs to work for its future.

And I am campaigning to lead a National Government that will work for the future New Zealanders deserve.

New Zealand deserves a choice of Government that will work for them - they will hear from me this campaign, and let them hear from you.

Thank you.

ENDS

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