English Address to National Party Conference
7 July 2002
National Party Annual Conference
Wellington Town Hall
Hon Bill English National Party Leader
National stands for a strong economy. National stands for standards in education. National stands for tougher sentencing. National stands for settling Treaty claims.
National stands for the people I meet every day:
The quiet heroes dealing with suffering
The sheer commitment of men and women building a business
The generosity of so many people in their communities.
People who go to work every day, collect their pay and stretch their income to pay the bills.
Decent, hard working, honest New Zealanders who want to know that their efforts, their values, their commitment to this country is valued.
These people see ahead of them a long hard road, but they stick to it.
They don't ask for much - the hope of better incomes that come from a strong economy, that violent criminals will be dealt with, that their kids will get an education.
And I don't want to send cancer patients to Australia; and not have teachers back in the classroom.
It will be hard work, but I'll work with you because New Zealanders are at their best when we work together.
That's my kind of leadership.
I say to voters who respect decent hardworking people and believe in a strong economy and a safe community - vote National for a strong National Party.
The end of the golden weather for New Zealand is coming. We've had the best export conditions in a generation and we've peaked at 3% growth, business confidence is falling as commodity prices fall, and interest and exchange rates rise.
Yet, we're going to need at least 4% growth for the kind of country people want.
Because if you're a parent like me and you want a world-class education for your child and every other child, and a world-class health system for our older people - a 2% economy won't do it for them.
We're falling behind Australia. Where we follow now, I want us to lead.
I stand against the complacency that this is as good as it gets. Because the gutsy people I've met and talked about will be held back by that complacency.
The message to them from Helen Clark is 'You're doing about as well as I think you should, just stay there, don't try too hard, don't dream too much, don't reach too far, I just want your vote, so I can sit pretty'.
We owe it to those people to do better because they deserve a better future.
So, I am announcing today plans for our young people who are a powerful constituency for a strong economy and who need better incomes. Imagine you have a student loan. You want to buy a car, to buy a house, to set up a family, but in New Zealand you just can't earn enough to do it all. A 2% economy which is where we're headed won't do it for you.
I say to every one of them - your country has more to offer you than a lifetime of debt.
And you have more to offer your country, than the need to earn an Aussie dollar to clear your debt.
I say keep our nurses and teachers, our fitters and turners, our programmers. Lets keep our young, skilled New Zealanders.
Let's not lose the next generation who we need to create better prospects and prosperity as our population ages.
If you back New Zealand, if you stay and contribute through your work, your skills and your effort, we will back you.
You stay we pay!
My National Government will write-off 10% of every student's loan each year that they stay and work in New Zealand for the first five years after they leave polytech or university.
And that will start with this year's students!
Whether you're a medical student with a $60,000 debt or doing a one-year secretarial course with a $2000 debt it will be across the board. 10% a year off.
A student with the average loan of about $15,000 who gets a $35,000 job will be able to clear their debt in just 7 years. That's if the Government pays off 10% a year and the student matches that. We will write off about a third of the average loan.
Under National, there will be no lifetime mortgage to learning, but a fair deal for all.
It's fully costed and fully affordable.
This fits with our policy for younger people at school which raises the A Bursary from $200 to $2000 and the B Bursary from $100 to $1000. Twelve thousand school leavers will benefit from that each year and they can use the money to offset tertiary tuition costs.
National puts as much value on excellence as Labour does on mediocrity. Vote for it. If you want excellence, why vote for mediocrity?
That's why we'll also pay good teachers more. Teachers have choices. We have to have them, they can go elsewhere.
I will lead the next big step forward in public education - self management for schools. Labour says it will create industrial unrest. Why doesn't someone tell them what is happening now? The system is broken. It's our duty to fix it.
We need everyone to contribute because no government can make a country move on its own. It worries me when 18,000 people under 20 are on benefits.
They're young. They're fit. But doing nothing!
It's a waste.
My Government will abolish the dole and the DPB for people under 20. We will replace it with a Youth Transition Programme. In return for a higher level of support, this policy will require a much higher level of commitment to getting into work or training. National unashamedly is investing in young New Zealanders. I believe in them, I back them. Labour's biggest investment is the multi-billion Cullen Fund - $2 billion a year for 30 years - fattening the wallets of the bankers of Wall Street as they shuffle your money around the world - your investment everywhere except here. You can vote to stop it - I say to people who invest in their own houses and businesses, why vote for your spare cash to be taxed from you and invested overseas? That's wrong. I am not going to give away the choices of a generation. Thirty years of investment here, or somewhere else? Labour says somewhere else, I say New Zealand. That's why we're the National Party. That's why we're the party that gives real leadership to New Zealand. I want to deal with the issue of leadership. Labour are running on it - no programme, just secret plans about where to take New Zealand, like Margaret Wilson's Equal Pay Commission. You think pay parity for teachers is a problem - try comparing builders with bakers. Helen Clark campaigns on integrity and trust. We have stayed quiet on the issue of signing paintings and let the law take its course. But now the police have reported. The police found there was a prima facie case of fraud - but in the public interest they didn't lay charges. So she got off. Today we see the real story - at the heart of the Government a sordid tale of lies, deceit and convenient forgetfulness. People using false names and trust accounts to procure the painting, then destroying it. A Clark operative, Chris Carter, appears to have lied on her behalf to the police and refused to co-operate with them. The alleged offender - the Prime Minister of New Zealand - of course knows nothing about it, but was she honest to tell the police she remembered nothing at all, even with the TV stories on her painting? It's only the people she works with every day who were involved. She said it was a trivial matter - so why so much effort going to the edge of the law to destroy the evidence? This wouldn't matter so much if it didn't overflow into political issues that matter to real people. I just don't believe Helen Clark when she says she is trying to settle the teachers' dispute. She is more worried about her reputation for hanging tough than about getting teachers in schools. What sort of leadership is that - give the unions everything they want then pretend you're not there when it all falls down around your ears. And isn't it a surprise to find Labour covering up the financial scandal in the health system - a scandal the size of the BNZ. Health is hard - I've had the job. I left a healthy health system, Helen Clark will leave a mess that will take years to clean up and hundreds of millions of dollars for no extra services. What sort of leadership is that?
And these are the two areas Labour say they are good at. That Helen Clark cares about.
So you know what to expect when they don't care - Labour inherited a 4% economy, took it through the best export conditions in 30 years and it headed for 2%. What sort of leadership is that?
That's why you can't believe the credit card. It let voters think there would be no new taxes. Within a week, it's revealed they intend to raise a new health tax and more petrol tax. Helen Clark's staff are trying to obtain copies of the credit card to burn it before the investigation into the signature.
So if we can't believe the credit card, just what is it that Helen Clark intends to do if re-elected?
Crack down on crime?
Labour's tough new law that came into effect this week. Hayden Brown, who bludgeoned his mother with a hammer, received a nine year sentence - that's tough, but he's eligible for parole in three years.
Ninety two percent of us sent a message to this Government last election for action on crime, but they never listened.
One thing they did do was change the law, so that a violent criminal can be back out on the street after serving one third of their sentence. We will lock up the worst criminals 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 murderers from 10 to 15 years. And we will double Labour's non-parole period for violent offenders. They will have to serve a minimum of two-thirds of their sentence and then parole will not be automatic.
There's a time when the test of leadership is to do things that are a challenge like settling the past Treaty claims. This week I visited claimants in Taranaki - Te Atiawa. I talked with them about our policy - they want their claim settled. I wasn't surprised.
I want to leave the next generation a nation bright with hope, not burdened with division from its past.
I believe in one standard of citizenship, a single sovereignty. Everyone knows, a set of common rights and obligations that draw us together regardless of our race, our culture or our beliefs.
The right to a fair go and the obligation to contribute to the common good. The right to respect from others for our own views and the obligation to respect the views of others. The right to raise and educate our family according to our own beliefs and culture, and the obligation to support other families to do the same.
That's why we need to settle past Treaty claims.
So, we'll close the book on historic claims within our first 12 months and we'll settle past claims by 2008. We've had our critics because a lot of people have got used to living with the grievances of the Treaty and the tale of misery that's been the status of Maori in New Zealand. And that's the worst thing we can do - get used to it.
I read somewhere about the soft bigotry of low expectations; you see there's a whole lot of people who think we should live with this, and you know why? Because fundamentally they don't believe that Maori can do any better.
And I despise that attitude.
Wouldn't we be a better people if we resolved these issues, because we know if we can achieve that, we can achieve anything?
And I say this - If Labour can't resolve a teachers' strike, how are they going to resolve the bigger issues of the social status of Maori in New Zealand?
On the Treaty, our cause is great and the time is now. In education, the need is urgent, and time is now. That's leadership.
We have heard a lot about tactical voting in the last few weeks, people who support our policies and could vote Labour. Don't. Vote instead for what you believe in, for what you want for your country. I say to National supporters - you won't change Labour by voting for them.
This election is a battle between Labour and National and the best way to get sensible policy and leadership you can trust is a big vote for National. Why endorse crumbling secondary schools, when you can vote for raising standards and self management?
Why endorse soft sentencing when you can vote for tougher sentences? Why endorse any more costs for small businesses in a slowing economy when you can vote for less?
Why endorse health cuts when you can vote against them? Why endorse leadership that needs the police to keep it honest?
I'm totally committed to restoring the National Party as a dominant political force of the next ten years.
And we'll do that with better ideas, we'll do that with better people, we'll do it with the will to deal with difficult issues, we'll do it by being with people, we'll do it by reaching out to those who used to support us and those who are starting to realise they need to. And we'll do it with the kind of gritty determination of a party that knows it has to work to earn the right to govern.
I ask this of you in the next three weeks - show to the voters what you have shown to me, the commitment, the determination, the will to do what it takes to create a better nation, the determination that has seen us through the hard times because you know that's what will persuade people.
Campaign on aspiration and against envy.
Campaign on parents deciding on education, not bureaucrats.
Campaign on lower taxes, not higher taxes.
Campaign proudly for investment of your taxpayer dollars in New Zealand, not on Wall Street.
Campaign on tougher, not lighter sentences.
Campaign to lead a country that knows it needs to work for its future, so it can get the future it deserves.
Under my leadership we will be a country where you are free to get ahead, to be different, to be the best, where winners are cheered not jeered. I want a country where no one is written off because they had a bad start, and everyone shares the hope of a better standard of living that goes with a vibrant robust economy.
This is a National Party with a new heart, with new leadership, with new energy. Let's take it to the people.