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I’ve Been Thinking about the Election

Friday 5 Jul 2002

Speech by Hon Richard Prebble, leader ACT New Zealand

To the University of the Third Age, Canterbury University Extension Studies Building, Christchurch, on Friday 7th July 2002 at 10.30am

Thank you for the invitation to speak to this University of the Third Age conference. I thought some observations on the election would be of interest.

I believe the commentators are struggling to cover this election, and are failing the voters. To listen to the commentators such as TV3, the issues are the Treaty, and whether the Greens' ultimatum over GE means Labour cannot govern. That's nonsense.

ACT has Rolls Royce polling. The real issues facing the country, in order, are health, education, law and order, and the economy.

I have been the only leader to mention health, perhaps because only ACT has a workable solution to the problem of hospital waiting lists - use the private sector.

New Zealanders' concerns over teaching go much further than the PPTA's wage claim. Indeed, most thinking New Zealanders realize that for quality education we must pay good teachers more. The public realises that the PPTA claim does not solve the real problems, such as how to attract qualified science teachers.

School principals tell me that advertising for science teachers often results in no response. They are following what they call a `warm body policy' - putting anyone in front of science classes.

The commentators and the government are about to get a real shock on law and order. Ninety-two percent of us voted for tougher sentences for violent crime.

This week, judges are starting to sentence violent criminals under Labour's new law that will see violent offenders released after just a third of their sentence - the opposite of the Norm Withers' referendum.

Labour is sitting on the 2001 victims of crime household survey that shows violent crime in New Zealand is the highest in the English-speaking world. I see that in an internet poll asking what party has the best solution to violent crime, out of 4000 respondents, ACT received 45% support and Labour just 4%.

The economy is always an issue. Labour's claim that New Zealand is a low taxed country has outraged the country's tax specialists and made tax an issue. Business knows that our company tax rates are, for the first time, higher than Australia. The young people who are leaving know that New Zealand has the highest tax on low incomes in the OECD, and higher taxes on medium incomes than any of our trading partners.

ACT's polling shows that our tax cut for every worker is a policy that has `legs'. Support for it is growing.

Thinking people know that a well-designed tax cut encourages investment, growth and jobs. An issue that is subterranean, but still real, is that the present rural boom, based on a low dollar and low interest rates, has come to an end.

Where is Labour's policy to handle an economy with a higher dollar, higher interest rates and higher inflation? Dr Cullen has no answers. His risky gamble of investing $2 billion a year in overseas sharemarkets is looking very foolish. The fund would have lost $200 million this year.

Helen Clark and Labour are trying to persuade us that GE is an election issue. No poll says that it is. A massive 80% of the electorate support the Royal Commission's recommendation to, with adequate safeguards, proceed with caution.

Only 10% of the electorate says no to any GE. The same 10% also want to stop the world and get off!

GE is really a non-issue. As Helen Clark said last night on the leaders' debate, the lifting of the moratorium in 18 months does not mean the release of GE. All it means it that field trial applications can be processed. Given the elaborate safeguards - it is very unlikely any field trial will begin before the next election.

The whole issue is bogus. It's an excuse by Labour and the Greens not to address the real issues on which they are vulnerable.

While ACT is the party that first proposed a time limit for Treaty claims - an idea Winston Peters voted against, and an idea whose time has now come - it is not as important to the voters as health and education.

While the commentators have missed it, the public have noticed. ACT is addressing the real issues. The other parties are engaged in photo opportunities.

The billboards say it all. All ACT's billboards are issue-based:

Zero Tolerance for Crime

Lower Taxes than Australia

A tax cut for every worker

One law for all

Next week we are rolling out our billboard on health. National's billboards are of their candidates - every man for himself! Labour's have no message - just a photo of Helen.

As you go to the Left the photos get bigger. Laila Harre's airbrushed photo, I think, says something about her. It's like teenagers wanting to be pop stars.

Jim Anderton has a Saddam Hussein-sized photo.

Why is it that these politicians think that we are voting in some beauty parade?

ACT's polling shows that over 80% of voters say they want an issue-based election. They want to know more about the parties' real solutions and not about trivia.

ACT alone has put out a 57-page, carefully-researched manifesto. It's on our website - www.act.org.nz (http://www.act.org.nz/) .

We have received over 250,000 hits on our web page each week of the election, many from the 184,000 eligible overseas voters - who can vote electronically this election.

ACT has gone up in every poll since the election was announced. It's issues, not personalities, that are going to matter on Election Day.


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