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Sowry Address to National Party Conference

Sowry Speech - Address to National Party Conference


Leader of the National Party, Bill English, President, Michelle Boag, colleagues, candidates, delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

Delegates, I want to start today by acknowledging the work that has gone on already in this campaign by our President, Michelle Boag and our Leader, Bill English.

I want to particularly acknowledge the leadership that Bill is giving to candidates, to Members of Parliament, to us all, as he travels the country with Mary, working endlessly and tirelessly to get the message through to New Zealanders about the values and the vision that we have for this nation.

It's good old-fashioned honest hard work and I believe it will pay dividends. New Zealanders can see it and New Zealanders respect it.

Bill English is a man of integrity and strong convictions. His leadership style is inclusive, and visionary.

Bill English thinks long term. He believes, as we do, that to enable New Zealand and New Zealanders to compete in the world we need to implement policies that create a growing New Zealand for future generations.

In his political life, like all of us here, Bill English is first and foremost a member of the National Party. He knows that our party is about more than one person.

And there lies one of the key differences between Labour and National. Strong effective leadership can never be about just one person - rather it is about one person leading a strong team.

You are part of that team.

In three weeks' time, voting will be underway. New Zealanders will be deciding the future that they want.

Labour wants us to believe that this election is all about Genetic Modification; or is it all about them being able to govern alone? If governing alone is so important to Labour why don't they support letting the public have a referendum on MMP? That's our policy.

If the election is about the Greens being a fringe party - according to Miss Clark a bunch of "Goths and anarcho-feminists" - why then doesn't Labour campaign against the Greens in Coromandel? We are, and we are going to win Coromandel.

Labour has decided that this election is not about policies. It's not about new ideas. It's not about a legislative programme that they are pursuing.

It's all about having control without a plan.

Their campaign is based on what they have delivered.

So what have they delivered?

Labour's delivered the highest rate of violent crime ever. Labour's delivered a slap in the face for 92% of New Zealanders who voted for tougher sentences. Labour's delivered a Treaty settlement process that will still be going in 2025. Labour's delivered striking teachers, concerned parents and worried kids who don't know if they'll have a real qualification at the end of this year. Labour's delivered combined district health board deficits of over $300 million currently and rising to half a billion dollars next year. Labour's delivered New Zealand cancer patients to Australia for treatment because they can't be treated here. Labour's delivered two Alliances when we only started with one, and a deaf ear to people calling for the public to have their say on the electoral system.

In my role as Health spokesperson I have travelled around the country talking to health professionals, visiting hospitals and talking to district health boards. I have heard their story. The health sector is suffering. The symptoms are huge operating deficits and cuts to health services.

National left the health sector with operating surpluses in December 1999. The Labour-led Government has turned that surplus into deficits - $63.8 million in 2001 and a projected $220 - 250 million deficit in 2002.

DHBs have submitted business plans projecting a combined deficit of around $200 million for each of the next three financial years.

In short, the operating deficits for DHBs will be in the vicinity of $500m by the end of June next year. That's why we need a rescue package for DHBs.

The dire financial straits of the DHBs is what is driving the inevitable health cuts.

If we look at just the past few weeks we have seen the following:

The Auckland DHB, with a deficit of $72 million for the financial year just finished, and facing a similarly large deficit next year - but has been told by the Labour Government to find $25 million in savings. So it is looking at a number of cuts: for example amalgamating specialist paediatric services with adult services. The board has also decided to restrict the number of heart, lung, kidney and cancer patients it treats from the neighbouring Waitemata and Counties Manukau board areas. This would mean that those patients would have to be sicker than their Auckland City counterparts, or wait longer, to receive treatments including kidney dialysis and radiation therapy at the Auckland board's hospitals. In Northland, Kaitaia Hospital has had to close down its after hours and weekend services and has stopped providing emergency maternity services. The Otago DHB, with a deficit of $10.2 million last financial year and facing an additional $15 million deficit over the next three years is looking at cutting the number of elective operations it delivers. People will not qualify for surgery and more will have to wait longer. The Waitemata DHB has a deficit of nearly $17 million and it is looking at a range of health services to cut in order to save costs. So far we know the treatment for infertility is on its target list of cuts - we don't yet know what else is being considered. That's why on Monday we released our rescue package for health. It's a package designed to make sure that the Labour Government's overdrafts are paid off by the Government not by patients. It's a package designed to ensure that the health sector can focus on delivering health services to New Zealanders; a package that puts health as a top priority for government spending, ahead of Jim Anderton's Kiwibank and the only thing the Government could say was that the Minister of Health thought that our package was financially irresponsible. Let me tell her what's irresponsible. It is irresponsible to tell the media and the public that 20,000 people disappeared from hospital waiting lists over three months because Labour had cut the surgery queues, - - when in fact all they had done was create a new type of waiting list called the active review list and shunt 17,000 patients onto that list. It is irresponsible to ask the Auckland District Health Board to make $25 million worth of cuts to services which means that people from the North Shore or South Auckland have to wait longer to be treated, - - or they must be sicker to qualify for the same level of treatment as a person from Grey Lynn or Mt Eden. It is irresponsible that the New Zealand health service has to send breast cancer patients to Australia for radiation treatment because they would have to wait far too long to get treatment here in New Zealand. For two-and-a-half years, Labour has enjoyed a low dollar, low and stable interest rates, high commodity prices and the best growing conditions in a generation. Even then, the best the economy has been able to achieve is 3% growth. If this is as good as it gets - then it's not good enough. As we go to the polls, things are changing. Commodity prices are down, interest rates are rising and the dollar is up. That's having a negative impact on business confidence. Recent business confidence surveys are pointing down, with the National Bank survey back down into negative territory. And that's happening even though the dollar and interest rates are at levels that are still supportive of growth. Labour's pledge card for business and growth in 1999 should have read like this:

* Reregulate the labour market * Renationalise ACC * Raise Taxes * Do nothing to the RMA * Outlaw stress in the workplace * Fail to deal with infrastructure problems * Increase compliance costs * Impose a "one size fits all" bureaucracy on the education sector * Ratify Kyoto before our trading partners

New Zealand isn't growing because the inflation target band is too tight, or because the Reserve Bank's interpretation of it is wrong. The reason New Zealand isn't growing is because Labour can't deal with the issues that matter when it comes to improving our long-term performance. National is committed to no less than 4% sustainable growth. Getting there will require a lot of determination and hard work. * National will reduce the tax burden. * National will lower the barriers to doing business by fixing all the major Acts that are imposing regulatory bottlenecks such as the RMA. * National will introduce a Regulatory Responsibility Act to ensure that every new regulation has passed the rigorous test of proving it will do more good than harm. * People should have the right to choose what sort of accident cover they should have. National will reintroduce competition in the accident insurance market so that people have that choice. * National will make substantial changes to the ERA to ensure it is flexible, good for job security and business growth, while retaining "good faith" in bargaining. * New Zealand's growth is stifled by infrastructure bottlenecks - most notably our roads. National will make use of private sector skills and finance to fix our infrastructure needs. The clearest message that the New Zealand public have given politicians in recent years is that they want tougher sentences for violent criminals. Every politician, with the exception of Phil Goff, knows that was what the 92% of New Zealanders who voted for the Withers Referendum were saying.

On Monday, the Government's so-called "tough new sentencing laws" came into force. On that same day, Justice Minister Phil Goff said "Public expectations are for tougher punishment for the worst offenders and these have been met in the new legislation".

By Thursday, the legislation was discredited and the Minister was in full retreat. It took just four days for this tough new flagship law - which took over two years to pass - to be revealed as a farce. Because on Thursday, Haden Brown was sentenced to nine years' jail for bludgeoning his mother with a hammer.

She is likely to be forced to spend the rest of her of her life in care; but because of the Government's new law, he is going to be eligible for parole in just three years. Sentenced for nine, out in three - that's weak and wrong.

Phil Goff has tried to imply that this ruling is the judge's fault. That is wrong.

The fault lies with Labour's legislation - and National pointed this out to them time and time again. As the judge in the case found, the law actually gives a very clear direction to judge's that they must apply leniency.

Parole at one-third will now be the norm, Mr Goff - not the exception.

People did not vote for a law that lets a man who attacks his mother with a hammer as she sleeps be eligible for parole at one-third of sentence. They didn't vote to halve his non-parole period.

And now we have a new credit card bearing Helen Clark's signature.

A card with the vague commitment of "Tougher sentences for the most serious offenders." Remember, Phil Goff said that they had already passed tougher sentences for the worst offenders. He used those exact words.

So why would it be on the credit card? Why would you promise to do something you said you had already done?

It is on their credit card because deep down they know they haven't delivered - and that fact has been starkly revealed to all New Zealanders in the last week.

I say to Mr Goff - you had plenty of opportunity to fix the law to meet the needs of New Zealanders, we gave you plenty of warnings, but you ignored them.

You and your Party are soft on crime.

What he should have done is what National will do - ensure that no violent offender is eligible for parole until they've served at least two thirds of their sentence, and only then if it is safe to release them.

That is what people voted for - and that is what National, and only National, will deliver. I want to finish today with a message we all need to take to those National voters who are very concerned about the role the Greens will play in any future government. We are concerned too. But playing with your party vote will not solve anything. A vote for Labour is a vote for Labour Green policies. And I say to any centre-right voters who may be thinking about voting Labour to try to keep the Greens out, on Sunday the 28th of July, you will be very very very upset when Helen Clark and Jeanette Fitzsimons turn out to be very very very good friends. Only a vote for what you believe in will deliver a voice for your aspirations in Parliament. National is ambitious for New Zealand - and we are the only Party with a policy programme that allows those ambitions to be realised. It's time to get the future you deserve.


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