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ACT Campaigning on the Real Issues

ACT Campaigning on the Real Issues

Sunday 7 Jul 2002 Richard Prebble Speeches -- Governance & Constitution

Speech by Hon Richard Prebble CBE Ellerslie Convention Centre, 11am, Sunday 7 July 2002.

We are launching today ACT's election campaign. Today's launch is another first - an international rally. This meeting is being live-streamed over the internet so that the over 200,000 eligible voters overseas can participate in our campaign - a campaign in which ACT has already defied the commentators' predictions. In the latest NBR poll, ACT is climbing while the Greens are falling.

I predict that on election night ACT will be the third party in Parliament. ACT is on track to again increase the number of MPs we have in Parliament.

Why am I optimistic? It's not just the polls. ACT is still a new party - the only genuinely new party to break into Parliament under MMP.

ACT has a new approach to politics - an approach based on values. And voters are starting to notice.

ACT alone is running an issue-based election campaign. And ACT is campaigning on the real issues - health, education, the economy, your right to be safe, and one law for all.

ACT's billboards are issue messages -

· Zero Tolerance for Crime

· Lower taxes than Australia

· A tax cut for every worker

· Best for small business

· One law for all.

Every one of ACT's billboards directs voters to our website - ( - where ACT has a 57-page manifesto. In the last three weeks, ACT's website has received 900,000 hits - half from overseas.

ACT's issues-based approach is a new type of campaigning. Well, actually, it's very old - the sort of campaigning we used to have when parties had manifestos, not meaningless credit-card slogans.

The billboards of the different parties say it all. ACT's billboards have no photos, just policy. National's are photos of each electorate candidate - no messages. It's every man for himself in that party.

Labour's just have a photo of Ms Clark and an imperial demand for both votes. The Alliance hoardings are trying to portray Laila Harre as the Madonna of Parliament. Let's not go there to find out what that means.

Then we come to the Jim Anderton First Party. Why is it the further left you go, the bigger the photo? Have you noticed that Jim Anderton's picture is not only Saddam Hussein size but they are starting to look alike?

Of course you cannot put up policy billboards if you have no policy. All the other parties in parliament are - the Greens included - old parties recycled.

Peter Dunne has just formed his fourth party. He is the only man to have been to the future and back again.

Then there is Winston Peters. For three years he has done nothing in Parliament. Now he wants us to forget that not once but twice he has been in positions of responsibility - first as Minister of Maori Affairs, then as Deputy Prime Minister. Did he fix it while he was in power? No, he was a wrecker, not a builder. Each time he's made it to cabinet he's proved unable to work responsibly with others. "Can he wreck it? Yes, he can!"

Whatever good points Mr Peters has they are hopelessly outweighed by the negatives. He will be a destructive wrecker again if he gets power.

I hope every New Zealander, including every new New Zealander, who was thinking of voting for Labour, has noted Helen Clark's statement that she will consider a coalition with Mr Peters.

Let me tell you what is not an issue this campaign - that's the phony debate between Labour and their only coalition ally left on the left the Greens.

The Greens so called bottom line ultimatum is completely phony. On day one - it was total opposition for any GE. Then it was pointed out that the Greens would be preventing diabetics from ever getting a cure. So now the ultimatum does not include medicine.

Why is GE O.K. in a medicine bottle but not in a can? Let me illustrate how phony the Green stand is.

To visit East Timor - one of the Green MPs' favourite places - the regulations require you have a cholera injection. The World Health Organisation only approves a GE-modified cholera injection.

The Green MPs were told this. They lined up for their jabs and taxpayer funded trips to East Timor. When they returned I asked them - "Is everything okay? Are you perfectly regular?"

"Oh yes," they said.

So it's safe to conclude that GE material has passed through the Green MPs and they have released it into our environment.

The Greens and Labour are happy to debate GE because it attracts attention away from the fact that they don't have solutions to the real issues. In the Greens' case, they don't want voters examining their support for extreme Maori nationalism. They don't want to remind voters of the fact that Sue "Lets have a demonstration" Bradford, Keith - "workers of New Zealand support Pol Pot" - Locke, and Jeanette "I didn't mean that" Fitzsimons demonstrated at Waitangi this year, in favour of New Zealand honouring the 1835 treaty with the United Tribes that they say grants Maori a separate Parliament, separate courts and a separate nation.

This is dangerous gobbledy gook.

When you have policies like that, no wonder the Greens prefer to focus on one issue.

Labour has promoted the bogus claim that this election is a choice between Labour and the Greens. It's like Air New Zealand claiming the only choice of airline is between Air New Zealand and Freedom Air. The fact is that a coalition with Labour is what the Greens want and is their only way to power.

I predict that Labour and the Greens, if they win, will form a coalition. Every centre-right voter who votes Labour to stop the Greens, will feel sick on the Sunday after the election.

Labour and the Greens are already in de facto coalition. Clark told the Greens the date of the election before the Labour MPs knew. Helen Clark is still endorsing Jeanette Fitzsimons in Coromandel.

GE is an ideal debate to distract attention from the fact that Labour has no policies, no programme and no vision.

ACT's vote is lifting because we do have a vision, values and practical solutions to the real issues. Politics is the contest of ideas. It is the triumph of ideas that has made ACT so influential in Parliament.

ACT has led Parliament on issue after issue - from free trade, to foreign policy, to Auckland traffic, to the Kyoto Treaty. In this election ACT alone has positive, practical solutions to issues in health, education, law and order and the economy

Other third parties have disintegrated because they are based on expediency and personalities.

ACT's slogan I like the most is "Values Not Politics".

I'm proud to be able to say that in six years, ACT's MPs have a 100 percent record of voting for principles. ACT is the most attacked party in Parliament, but we are never accused of being inconsistent with our principles.

When you vote for ACT, you know you are voting for MPs who will always vote for freedom; always vote for choice; always vote for personal responsibility.

That's what makes ACT different from all the other parties which are seeking your vote.

All the other parties believe they know best - that they can spend your money better than you can. They are like the consultant who borrows your watch to tell you the time. They want to take your money and spend it for you.

I don't accept that it is somehow risky to allow taxpayers to keep their own money. What is risky is letting politicians have even more money.

I don't accept that it is somehow praiseworthy that this year the government has a $2.3 billion surplus. That just means we are paying too much tax.

ACT's belief in personal responsibility is what makes our party different. This is ACT's core brand, our guiding light.

It is ACT's belief in personal responsibility that has caused us to take a strong stand on law and order. Under our current justice system, wrongdoers are not held accountable for their actions.

When ACT arrived in Parliament, our MPs pointed out from their first speeches that our justice system is failing. Offenders go unpunished. People are not safe.

A country where a woman can't go for a jog in her own local park is a nation that has lost its values.

It is a shocking fact that you are more likely to be the victim of an assault in New Zealand than in the United States.

At the last election, 92 percent of us voted for Norm Withers' referendum for tougher sentencing. Labour and the Greens have done the exact opposite. Now, a violent offender can be released after just a third of his sentence.

The new Sentencing Act has been in force for just one week. Last Wednesday, Justice Salmon sentenced Haden Brown to nine years jail for brutally bashing his mother with a hammer, leaving her permanently disabled. The judge admitted that under the new law, Haden Brown will probably be out in three years. But the judge said he was powerless to prevent this.

On Thursday I spoke outside the pizza parlour where Marcus Doig was gunned down. His killer will not do one day in jail for that murder. That's because under section 83 of the new Act, all sentences are now concurrent.

Marcus Doig's killer committed two murders. The law now means you can do one crime and get the next one for free.

Both old parties have been letting violent offenders out of jail early for years. Early release from jail is the most unsuccessful rehabilitation programme ever. It's an utter failure. Seventy-four percent of early-released prisoners have re-offended within two years.

ACT says let's have Truth in Sentencing. If you do the crime, you will do the time. It will reduce violent crime because you can't re-offend while in jail.

Official statistics show that violent crime has increased 10.9 percent under Labour. On Friday, Labour put out its justice policy. Labour believes that if you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one.

Let me quote from Labour's policy statement - "violent crime is tracking down".

There has been a crime wave under Labour - it's on our TV news every night. Violent crime is up 24 percent in Auckland. I would hate to be around when Labour says crime is increasing.

But Labour's nerve knows no limits. Credit card promise number six is to get tough on violent crime. Isn't that what Labour promised three years ago?

It is just six weeks since Labour passed their Sentencing and Parole Bill and now they are promising to fix their own legislation. Why? Their focus-group polling shows Labour is in trouble on this issue. So, just six weeks later they have decided to promise to amend their own legislation to introduce tougher sentencing. This is a word for this, and it's called hypocrisy.

To tackle violent crime, ACT supports the successful New York approach of Zero Tolerance for Crime - sometimes known as "broken windows".

It's a policy that targets entry-level criminals - for example, the young man who does street crime like graffiti and vandalism.

Crime has come down 40 percent in New York. There were fewer murders last year in New York than in any year last century.

Would it work in New Zealand? Yes it would. I am a former Minister of Police. When I was Minister, I noticed a district in South Auckland where crime was significantly lower.

I asked - "What are we doing differently here, because this neighbourhood is socially identical to others around it?" The Commissioner reported that the local community policeman would not tolerate graffiti - he wouldn't have it on his beat.

I hate graffiti, so I was curious. Next week I got into my LTD and visited the community police station. "Congratulations on lowering crime," I said. "But tell me, how do you get rid of graffiti?"

"It's easy, Minister. I just go to the local school and ask the pupils who did it. They know. Then I go to the offenders and give them a pot of paint and tell them to paint it out. The word gets around."

Zero Tolerance for Crime is a policy that holds people accountable. It makes a statement that "this is a society that has standards". And it works.

This is also at the core of ACT's education policy - standards.

Standards in education, without exams, are meaningless. It's an indictment on our society, and one of the causes of crime, that there are secondary schools where a third of the pupils can't read a simple textbook. There are schools where a third of the pupils failed to pass a single School Certificate subject.

Labour's solution is abolish School Certificate, so no one can fail any more, then to create ghetto schools - force pupils to attend by taking away school choice.

ACT alone opposed the NCEA. The teachers are overwhelmed by paper work and the pupils are disillusioned by having no meaningful mark.

One mother, whose sixth-form son was given "no achievement" for maths, asked me, "What does that mean?" It means he got a mark of somewhere between zero and 48 percent.

The mother thinks her son might have got 47 percent and, as he needs maths for his career, he should continue. The son, being a boy, thinks he got zero, that he is a failure and wants to drop maths. NCEA is removing incentives from a whole generation.

We need Truth in Education. ACT will restore marks and standards. Let's set the goal of ensuring every child is able to read before going to secondary school. Imagine what a difference that would make to schools.

But let me say this. For quality education we must pay good teachers more. The PPTA's claim and the government's pay offer do not address the need to pay good teachers more or the need to attract suitable talented recruits.

The principal of one of New Zealand's top schools, Roger Moses, tells me that many schools now have a "warm body" policy in science - put any teacher in front of the class. It's not uncommon to have no applicants for senior teaching positions. The number of teachers with MAs in English has halved in the last decade. We are dumbing down our schools.

For quality education we must pay good teachers more.

ACT's policy is -

· Raise standards

· Hold schools accountable for student achievement

· Restore local control to schools

· Give every parent a choice - if the local state school for any reason does not meet their children's needs, they can take that pupils funding entitlement and enroll their child at the school of their choice, public or private.

Let's leave no child behind. It's the compassionate thing to do and we will test each pupil to make sure it happens.

Last election Labour campaigned to reduce hospital waiting lists. Now they write to patients and say "you have been waiting too long so we have taken your name off the list and are referring you back to your GP". Now we have patients waiting to go on a hospital waiting list. I have never heard of anyone being cured by this method.

Labour - who are shameless - are now promising that the waiting list just to get on the waiting list will be reduced to six months, over the next three years. That's politics - create a problem and then campaign that you are the party to fix it.

ACT has a common sense solution to hospital waiting lists. ACT's policy is that if you have been waiting past the medically safe time, the local hospital board must book you into a private hospital to have your treatment.

For example, after breast cancer women need to start chemotherapy within four weeks. Here in Auckland, women are waiting a life-threatening 15 weeks for treatment.

Under ACT's policy, after four weeks the women would be treated privately.

It is the practical, workable solution. It will save money - over the medium term. It costs money to have people waiting for operations - GP visits, time off work, sickness benefit, not to mention the pain and suffering.

As MP for Wellington Central, I was confronted with the problem of some of my constituents having to wait over a year for heart operations. One of my best friends died waiting for an operation that his surgeon told the family would have saved his life.

I made inquiries and found that the private sector had capacity, and was 30 percent cheaper. "Why don't you refer your heart patients to the private hospital?" I asked. "We'll be criticised," was Capital Coast Health's reply.

I said, "I'll call for it, you do it, and if you are criticised, I'll defend you."

That's what we did. In 18 months the backlog was gone. I never got a letter from a constituent complaining that his heart operation had been done privately. I got a letter from the trade unionist, Pat Kelly, asking if I could get him the same deal to have the operation he needed.

Under Labour, the contract has been cancelled. Patients are now waiting for over a year. At least two heart patients on the waiting list have died this year, who would be alive today if they had received their operation.

If we want first world health and education systems, we need a first world economy. New Zealand's current prosperity is built on a rural boom, good weather for farming, a low dollar, low interest rates and good export prices. Labour can take no credit.

The economic outlook is rapidly deteriorating. The dollar is appreciating, interest rates are rising, commodity prices are falling. I believe the rapidly deteriorating economy is the real reason for the snap election.

Labour has no policy to deal with a slowing economy. Where in the world has any country achieved innovation by government committee?

We have these slogans every election. My favourite was Mike Moore's "Lamburgers". Remember when he campaigned saying if only we could get every American to eat one a year.

ACT alone points out it's the private sector that creates jobs, growth and wealth. New Zealand can't compete as a trading nation with higher company taxes than our trading partners, and higher tax on low and medium incomes than Australia, the UK, the US and Canada.

On Monday, as part of their policy that if you tell a lie, make it a big one, Helen Clark said only Mexico in the OECD has lower taxes than New Zealand.

The accounting firm KPMG has done a study that shows that we are paying higher income tax than our trading partners.

My son Malcolm, who is at university, is working as a painter in the holidays. On $20,000 a year, he is paying 21 percent effective tax. In the UK he would be paying just 3.2 percent. No wonder his older brother and sister are now in London.

Our tax rates are driving our best and brightest young people overseas - 184,000 have left since Labour took office. That is more people than the whole city of Wellington.

ACT endorses the McLeod Tax Review recommendation to immediately lower company tax below Australia, to 28 cents, to encourage investment, growth and jobs. ACT also endorses the recommendation to immediately reduce personal tax to two rates - 28 and 18 percent.

That would give every worker a tax cut. No one would be worse off.

McLeod says it's affordable.

I'm told that when Dr Cullen read the McLeod report he flung it across his Beehive office saying, "I've spent $1 million to cost ACT's policies".

Thank you Dr Cullen. The McLeod tax plan can be financed from the surplus. ACT will cancel Dr Cullen's reckless gamble of investing $2 billion a year in falling overseas sharemarkets.

ACT has a list of spending that could be cut without being missed. ACT won't finance People's Banks, or Closing the Gaps social spending, or Jim Anderton's picking winners, or Maori TV.

There's over a billion dollars of useless spending that won't be missed. Together with the surplus it's more than enough to finance real security on our streets, pay teachers more, reduce hospital waiting lists, and give every working person a tax cut.

ACT's tax package is really a pay rise for every worker. A teacher on $40,000 will get $670 extra in the hand a year - more than Trevor Mallard's pay offer.

This will help create a margin in favour of working rather than being on a benefit. Today there are 400,000 working-age beneficiaries - one for every four full-time workers. In 1970, the ratio was one beneficiary to 28 workers.

Our tax cut is a package with a purpose: It will create new jobs and growth, and encourage beneficiaries back to work, so becoming taxpayers, so earning more revenue for the government.

ACT proposes that we then have a 2-cent tax reduction each year - as more tax revenue comes in from the growing economy. Our goal is a flat rate of tax of 18 percent. Our objective - to be a first world nation again.

Of course we must tackle other problems - like the increasing tide of red tape. ACC, OSH, the Resource Management and Employment Relations Acts. ACT proposes a bonfire of regulations. We need government to be business friendly.

On this campaign I was with Ron Scott, ACT's Tauranga candidate, and we stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Mount Maunganui. Ron told me that the restaurant was recently held up in an armed robbery.

So I spoke to the proprietor. He told of his ordeal - he and his staff held up by a robber armed with a shotgun, just a week after Marcus Doig had been shot. But he said what happened afterwards was just as bad.

His staff were so rattled, they closed the next day. The insurance company say he is not covered for closing because it was voluntary. In his stress he failed to pay his GST. The IRD said they were sympathetic but he must pay a 10% penalty. His lawyer then told him, "You must be careful, under OSH any of your staff can sue you anytime in the next seven years for having an unsafe place of work. We recommend counselling for all staff." So he called victim support. Could they come and see his staff, before the restaurant opened at 7pm? "Sorry, we only work 9 to 5."

He told me the robber stole a few hundred dollars. The government has made him liable for tens of thousands of dollars. The proprietor said to me, "Where is the justice?"

"When the robber is caught, he will get legal aid, and a free medical check up to see if he is sane. If he goes to jail, he'll get colour TV, a cooked breakfast, a world-class gym and a student loan to study extra-murally."

As the proprietor said, "The government has stolen more from me than the robber".

He is right - the Victims Rights Bill promised by Labour remains on the order paper, unpassed while Labour can find time for their politically correct agenda.

I do warn voters of Labour's real agenda. Margaret Wilson admitted this week she will introduce new laws to give trade unions new powers, to force successful companies in a tender process to employ the unsuccessful firm's employees, and she will bring in half a million dollar fines for employers who cause "stress".

Labour's guarantee not to increase income tax and GST is a guarantee to keep New Zealand tax rates above our trading partners. Labour has not said anything about not increasing the new health tax or not increasing petrol tax by a dollar a litre and not increasing ACC levies. Labour just spells TAX - L-E-V-Y. The Greens want Carbon Taxes, a tax on capital, resource taxes and an emission tax (10 cents a sheep and 30 cents a cow).

Both Labour and the Greens support race-based policies. I believe the increasing use of race as the basis for government decisions to be a very serious issue. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

ACT leads, the others follow. The Hon Derek Quigley, ACT co-founder, introduced a bill to set a timetable for treaty claims. All settlements must be fair, full and final. Every other party in Parliament - National, Labour, Alliance, Greens and New Zealand First - voted against a timetable for treaty settlements. Eight ACT MPs to 112 MPs. But now it's an idea whose time has come.

National's copied our policy, even the timetable of 2008 for all settlements. Winston Peters says now agrees and says he always did - he must have had a bad night the day before the vote. Even Jim Anderton now says he thinks there needs to be a timetable.

Only Labour and the Greens want an open-ended grievance industry.

ACT believes in the Westminster ideal that we have from the Magna Carta - One Law for All. The Treaty promises, in Article III, British Citizenship.

Why is British Citizenship cherished? It's the proposition that every citizen is equal under the law. That regardless of race, colour, creed, status, religion, political belief we are treated the same.

When I hear Helen Clark, Jeanette Fitzsimons and the rest of that politically correct lot talking of New Zealand being a bi-cultural society, I wonder. My wife comes from the Pacific, Rodney Hide's wife is Chinese. Our children are not white. How do they fit into Helen Clark's New Zealand? I know they have no place in Winston Peters's New Zealand.

I do not want my children to be some privileged minority. I want them to be New Zealanders, with an equal opportunity, who will be valued for their hard work, thrift, personal responsibility and integrity. Just like, and no more, no less, than anyone else.

On this campaign I visited my old university - Auckland - and was talking to some second year law students. They tell me that 20 percent of all law school places are now allocated by racial quotas. One of the students had been excluded. He had higher marks than the students let in on a quota, but was the wrong race.

I asked them how they felt. They all felt he had been done an injustice. We are creating new grievances.

ACT is for a colour-blind government. ACT has the liberal vision - a society where you can achieve according to your aspirations. A nation where our children can have great expectations.

ACT has the quality team. ACT's policy to select quality MPs is one of the reasons for our influence in Parliament. It took courage for Donna Awatere Huata to move from the Maori roll to the General roll - but that's what she believes.

In Ken Shirley we have one of the few scientifically qualified MPs, that's why we have lead the case for science not emotion on the GE debate. In Rodney Hide, we have one of Parliament's most vigilant and able MPs.

Stephen Franks is regarded as Parliament's best lawyer and has led our campaign for Truth-in-Sentencing.

Our rural team, Owen Jennings, Penny Webster and Gerry Eckhoff, are the reason ACT's rural vote continues to grow.

This election ACT's vote among women has increased and I think that's due to Muriel Newman, Donna, Penny, our President Catherine Judd and ACT's willingness to select exciting, talented candidates like Deborah Coddington, this year's winner of the top journalism prize at the Qantas Awards.

We have selected another talented woman in our top 10 - Heather Roy, who will be a new star. And ACT shows it commitment to new New Zealanders with the selection of Kenneth Wang, and to the new generation, with the selection of a young, successful entrepreneur, Paul King.

All were selected on merit, after a democratic ballot of members. They are talented, they personify what ACT stands for. They are the reason why ACT will be the party of new ideas, practical solutions and influence in our new Parliament.

We have made a bold decision this election, not to seek the safety net of a constituency. Given the present polling, I have no doubt that Rodney Hide would have won Epsom. But ACT does not seek back door representation.

We seek to enter the front door of Parliament with a real mandate.

If you want MPs of principle, who will always support freedom, choice and personal responsibility, MPs who will every day protect the taxpayers interests, MPs with a plan to make New Zealand a first world nation again, MPs who have a vision of how this country can again be an inspiration to the world - then give ACT your party vote on Saturday 27th July.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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