English Address: St Peters Cathedral Church Hall
Hon Bill English Leader of the Opposition
Address to a public meeting, St Peters Cathedral Church Hall, Hamilton
Half a world away - the war is raging .
Our worries are insignificant compared to the pain and suffering that's been inflicted on the Iraqi people.
And I mean the pain and suffering imposed on them by an oppressive dictator, who's murdered thousands of his own.
Even though we're so far away - we can still be heard.
Helen Clark was.
Comments about our old friends, Australia, Britain and the US were quoted in Arab newspapers this week as pro-Saddam propaganda.
And now, our closest friends and allies - and some of our most important trading partners - appear to be turning their backs on us.
Why? - because we've turned our back on them.
Why wasn't Helen Clark brave?
Why didn't she tell John Howard to his face that she thinks Australia is trading troops for a trade deal?
Why didn't she tell George Bush she thinks Al Gore would have made a better President?
I say to our Prime Minister whatever you think of the war, don't destroy our long term relationship with Australia, Britain and the US.
National supported the UN process to the last - but when that failed - the National Party backed our close friends and allies.
New Zealand should be prepared to lend a hand in the rebuilding of Iraq after the war - with or without any UN peacekeeping mission.
We're good at it.
Bougainville, Bosnia, East Timor - whoever is in charge after the war we should be helping the sick and the starving - helping Iraq to rebuild.
The war has provided a convenient cover for other decisions made here at home - so the National Party's getting on with business.
It's our business to put a stop to the cringing political correctness that is suffocating development and allowing thousands of New Zealanders to waste away on dependency.
Lost hope for them - lost opportunity for us.
We're making it our business to lift New Zealand's economic prospects by backing our businesses and our people.
We have a mission to make sure you have power when you flick the switch on the wall.
It's great to be here among real New Zealanders.
Kiwi battlers who know the value of hard work and know the rewards it offers.
And that's why the National Party says work is the best way into work and work for the dole will work.
A National Government will also overturn Labour's decision to abolish the work test.
The Government's recent decision to abolish this test gives sole parents an 18 year opt out clause.
And under the cover of the war - Labour's announced it would start phasing out asset testing for elderly in care.
But here's the promise from 1999.
"Labour will abolish asset testing in its first term."
Here's a question - on what date will asset testing go?
I've seen the media release claiming asset testing will be abolished - but when?
There is no date!
It's a Clarkism one third truth - two thirds spin.
They've done it time and time again with one issue in particular - the Treaty of Waitangi.
They're giving Maori rights over and above the ones all New Zealanders should enjoy, but they are not telling you about it.
You should know when the government changes rights, especially when it is done by stealth.
Let me start with the taniwha.
Most of you will have heard about the one up the road at Meremere. It stopped work on a much-needed multi-million dollar expressway until a $20,000 embankment had been built, so the taniwha would not be disturbed.
You might have thought that was an isolated matter, but it's not. Take the Local Government Act, the biggest constitutional change since MMP. The business end of the Act says that in every decision your local council makes, it must take account of the special relationship Maori have with land, sea, air and water and other taonga. Maori have rights as voters, ratepayers and property owners, just like anyone else. But this clause gives the force of law to spiritual beliefs - taniwha for instance - to a group defined by their race. I too have spiritual beliefs, and a relationship to the land in central Southland where I come from, but these won't have the force of law. Helen Clark told Parliament last November it was nothing to do with the legislation - it was all to do with the local council.
But that's not true.
While she was telling us that, the Government was planning to extend some laws to take away any choice the council has.
Helen Clark's Government has moved to change the RMA to make the protection of wahi tapu something councils must recognise and provide for.
That's not all.
Councils will have to recognise and provide for "ancestral landscapes".
They will be classified as "matters of national importance".
That means every development proposal will be open to an objection based on threats to "ancestral landscapes".
The Government assumes the only people with ancestors are Maori.
And - more of a worry - the Environment Court says Maori ancestral land is simply "land which has been owned by ancestors".
I have ancestors. They have farmed land in Southland for generations - seen its seasons come and go.
They're buried under it.
Some is now owned by other people.
Does that give me a say over their property?
Ancestral land could extend to all harbours lakes and rivers too.
Labour has banned public submissions to Parliament about these changes.
The only people who'll be allowed to advise the select committee are government officials.
You get no say.
The current law has caused problems, the new law will certainly make them worse.
In a couple of years, National will repeal this nonsense - along with a lot of the other PC policies that are being rammed down our throats.
Here's another example -
Last week, a photographer for a paper just north of Wellington decided people would like to see progress on the new local health centre. She went along to the building site - and was promptly banned.
You see, the photographer was a woman - and the District Health Board had an agreement with the builders with that no woman would be allowed on the site.
Why? Because the local iwi had decided the presence of a woman would break the tapu. After a day's publicity, they changed their mind - and the photographer could take her picture.
But the media missed the real point. How did a public body like the Capital Coast District Health Board, with thousands of employees, mostly nurses, and policies on discrimination and equal opportunity - how did they ever agree to a legal contract banning women from a building site? How come the Government didn't stop it until there was some bad publicity?
I'll tell you.
Because we have a Government that can't say no, that has encouraged and presided over such a pervasive and total atmosphere of political correctness on Maori issues, that smart people feel forced to agree with any claim or assertion backed up by so-called Maori culture.
The Government should have said no. The District Health Board should have said no.
The same could be said for the fourth article of the Treaty. I always thought the Treaty had three articles - until I found an Article IV talked about at the Waitangi Tribunal, and included in Government documents.
National blew the whistle and Helen Clark backed away fast.
But the Government is still promoting Article Four. It's in material used to educate civil servants about the Treaty.
That's why the Treaty and its role in New Zealand are burning issues we have to resolve - openly, confidently, fairly.
So, let's go back to the start.
More than 200 years ago settlers started coming here looking for an opportunity to create a better life, and get a fresh start in what became the first, free British colony for a couple of centuries - No slavery, no convicts no forced labour - a fair chance for everyone.
All that was confirmed in the Treaty, which established a nation founded on one sovereignty and common citizenship for all.
New Zealand was to be a mixed-race nation, formed with equal rights and full citizenship for the indigenous people and the settler Europeans.
So the Treaty created equality and it brought peace. We have been and we are an egalitarian democracy. Any person is as good as the next. It's our national ambition to "equalise upwards" - that's the New Zealand enterprise.
Since 1840, New Zealanders haven't always been able to live up to the Treaty's promise. The crown betrayed the trust and goodwill of Maori. Promises were broken, land was confiscated, and people were dispossessed. The laws denied Maori rights of citizenship. Maori land could be taken for public purposes without compensation.
In recent decades, the wounds of the past have begun to heal as the Crown has recognised the wrongs it did to its own citizens. I am proud of the record of the National Government, which settled the first large Treaty claims.
But we have a legacy to deal with - a version of New Zealand's history that's not a happy one. It's a story of European injustice and destruction, and Maori loss and reparation.
And it's outlived its usefulness.
It's a version of history where some of us can do no wrong and most of us are the bad guys.
But it's too negative, too divisive, too much an excuse for social failure. This is why it won't work for the future.
Most New Zealanders don't believe they are to blame for the mistakes of history, nor for all the problems so worryingly revealed in those negative Maori statistics.
The PC brigade would have us believe that the European arrival to New Zealand was all bad, their descendants and new arrivals should feel guilty, that Maori have always been victims and every generation has to make up for it.
But that view of our history can't continue, it must be put behind us, where it belongs.
Somehow it's being kept alive, firmly embedded in the civil service and the Labour Government.
There are three big things wrong with it - European settlement was not all bad, Maori are not all victims and we cannot build trust and understanding on guilt and recrimination.
So, we must stop the momentum that builds grievance, victim status and separate interests into every public institution.
New Zealanders must draw a line across this land of ours and say enough is enough. Stop the constitutional experiments in the Local Government Act, the New Article four, and now the RMA.
But it will be hard to stop. Arguments about the Treaty will end up in the new Supreme Court Margaret Wilson is setting up. And what priorities has she given to the Supreme Court?
Well, first of all, she wants a judge to be appointed not just on their professional record, but whether they are well versed in tikanga Maori.
One criterion for an appeal to the Supreme Court is that: -:
"the proposed appeal involves a significant matter relating to the Treaty of Waitangi or tikanga Maori".
That even comes before the second criterion that "the proposed appeal involves some other matter of general or public importance."
It doesn't matter who the judges are - they will feel the same as the health manager who agreed to ban women from the building site. They won't be able to say no when the political direction is separation.
National will change that to unity.
We must not put up with this sort of social engineering. Who has decided that their version of the Treaty must be the primary consideration in our law and in public decision-making? - Only the Labour government, with no mandate, and certainly no public support to do so.
Labour is prepared to use any crowbar to wedge the Treaty into the heart of our law and constitution, against the will of the people.
Even government departments, from Customs to IRD are drawing up their Treaty plans. Is there a culturally better way to collect tax? Shouldn't every taxpayer be treated with respect?
Will any of this fix the real problems: too many Maori in prison, half of all Maori children born into one parent families, lack of education, little hope for a secure job with a good income?
No. Because not enough Maori are gaining the self-determination that really works - economic success, and independence from the clutches of government. Instead it's more dependency. It does our nation no good if a significant proportion of this population is waiting for the next welfare handout, or the next Treaty handout.
Progress for Maori comes the same as it does for any New Zealander who has aspirations - economic opportunity. There's a deceptively simple recipe - supportive families, good education and work.
Maori success in business, families and education gets lost among the recriminations for bad government policy.
The Clark Government's greatest failing is its abdication of duty to lead by honestly addressing the relationship between Maori and other New Zealanders.
Honesty and straight talking is essential if we are to trust each other.
And it's arrogant to say that if people were better educated they would think differently. We all have a sense of what it means to be a New Zealander - a sense of our nation. That's why the unease of so many New Zealanders must be heard.
It's time to rethink how this nation realises the promise of its foundation. We can be a country where every citizen is proud of our common New Zealand heritage, where our children know and respect our dramatic history, a country where everyone has the same rights and obligations.
Differences among us won't go away - they are part of our social fabric. But we can live better with the differences if we can break out of the suffocating atmosphere of political correctness, guilt and fear.
I believe in the inherent, reasonableness and fair-mindedness of New Zealanders.
National will make sure their voices and their concerns for their country are heard.
It's time for the people to take back the job of defining our democracy, to push aside the government theorists and bureaucrats.
You cannot force people to believe what they do not believe.
And, ultimately the Treaty will take the role it is given, not by bureaucrats, but by the citizens of our country.
It's time for people of goodwill to stand up for one standard of citizenship.
Lets make 2003 a turning point for the silent majority who are now ready to reclaim their country.