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Bill English Address Lower NI Regional Conference

Bill English Address to the National Party Lower North Island Regional Conference

Solway Park Hotel, Masterton

One of New Zealand's worst problems is the number of young Maori men in prison.

I want to tell you about Don Karauria who runs the remand prison in Auckland. It's a hard job looking at them waiting for hearings. Some will be innocent, some guilty. For some prisoners it's a first, frightening experience. For others, it's another episode in a downward spiral of crime.

Don does a good job. He handles 40 per cent of New Zealand's remand prisoners with 20 percent of the funding. He has a lot fewer prison officers and a lot more support staff. But he has a bad relationship with the Government. He shouldn't, he's Maori, and the majority of his prisoners are Maori. Don Karauria is enterprising, innovative and successful. He deals each day with the most difficult and disadvantaged people in New Zealand.

He's making a difference where it's hard to make a difference with people who are at the bottom of the cliff. And yet he is about to be legislated out of existence because he has dared to show there is a different way of running a prison that works better and costs less. And all because he works for a private company. And Labour says no matter how well he does, that's such a sin that he must be stopped.

National backs this sort of New Zealander. He can see a better way and has the initiative to have a go. National gave him and his company the change to make government more effective on behalf of taxpayers and he is successful.

We support people who challenge the mantras of political correctness, who want solutions that work, not worn out 1970's ideology.

We are a broad based party. A conservative party. We seek to represent the people who believe in enterprise and reward for effort, who know they can do it better than a government; who don't wait around for someone else to do it for them. These people are in every workplace, every sports club and every business. They belong to committees, and to voluntary groups. They run businesses, they own homes, they raise children, and they borrow money and pay it back. They have two jobs to get ahead. Or they are older people who have done all these things, are proud they have passed on these values to their families, and are now enjoying their retirement.

They are the people who pay the bills, their own bills and everyone else's. Every Government giveaway - they pay for it. Every publicly funded binge on political correctness they pay for it. Every benefit collected, they pay for it. They pay the government bill, on top of groceries, school costs, car maintenance, rates increases, university fees and saving for retirement. And most don't earn near enough to do all this at once. While the government wallows in waste and uses their tax to buy votes, these people are watching every cent. And they're proud New Zealanders. They deserve good political representatives. They expect National to be united, competent and decent, and they will support us.

That's why we're talking about welfare and it's the country's biggest waste of human potential and the biggest bill. We're talking about the Treaty because how it's dealt with will determine the attitudes and the essence of New Zealand for decades to come. And that's why we're talking about the economy because without higher sustained growth, the squeeze on the average Kiwi will just get tighter, and the gap with Australia will just get bigger.

Is it challenge enough for National to represent these people? No. We also have to represent the national interest. In the last month, the Labour Party have been reckless with our national interest revealing their instinctive desire to align New Zealand with France, China and Russia, rather than what Helen Clark calls the small Anglo-American group. But today I want to remind you of the national outlook at home.

Our population will age. Our expectations of health, social service and quality of life will grow. Those expectations will be more and more dependent on fewer and fewer people who work and earn. And as we face these growing demands from the non-working population, the working population will change. The work force of the future is today's children. About 20 percent of our children and young people suffer from third world literacy and numeracy.

And our accumulated social capital is running down. The clubs, the churches, and the free association that binds a community and does well what government does badly. So it's a substantial task and big government is not the answer. It's our conservative principles that underpin a strong economy, a cohesive community and effective government.

We are applying those principles to economic policy and it will be sorely needed because the Government is creating an economic quagmire - dropping confidence, energy shortages, unworkable roading policy and State takeover of infrastructure industries.

We believe a market is much more likely to sort out the problems. We believe in certainty, consistency, and transparency. That's an approach to economic policy that is second nature to Don Brash.

Regulate, control, nationalise, that's Dr Cullen.

Gerry Brownlee picked the energy crises six months ago. Pete Hodgson found out this week. He has had almost four years of investigations, consultants and Cabinet papers. He said we couldn't again have a winter crisis. So he's responsible for this one. We support the savings campaign. What we oppose is a Government trying to blame the energy market for the shortages. The market is the messenger. It's telling Labour that they must let new electricity generation get going. Left wing fundamentalism about coal conservation and Kyoto stops new projects. Without new generation we will have cold showers and no heaters every winter.

Helen Clark will make short-term political decisions to look like she's in charge. And she will make the problem worse - more spin than a hydro powered turbine.

We simply can't lift or even maintain growth without dynamic infrastructure industries, with national strategies powered by effective markets. This is a Government that not only wants to run most of the economy; it also wants to tell us how to think It's our job to put a stop to it; the cringing political correctness that stifles debate. And our determination to have public debate about the role of the Treaty of Waitangi is politically incorrect.

There have been breaches of the Treaty. Lands wrongfully taken, injustices that should be put right, so we can all move on. Most New Zealanders don't like living with guilt and recrimination.

There's a public suspicion that the settlements to right the wrongs of the past have been a bit too generous. And there's also concern that too little of the settlement money reaches those who need it.

Right or wrong those are the perceptions and they have built up a feeling that we should put the past behind us as soon as practicable to settle the balance of claims, fully and finally. Most Maori want settlement as much as everyone else

Labour has finally come out of hiding to say something about their Treaty policy.

It sent Dr Cullen to do it. Where was the brave Prime Minister? Nowhere to be seen - out of the country sipping latte with Jacques Chirac. No New Zealand Prime Minister has had so little to say about the Treaty. Helen Clark won't talk about it because Labour's views are all bad news.

So what did Dr Cullen say?

First of all, there was personal abuse. Labour is so sensitive about Treaty policy that it accuses anyone who even raises the issue of bad faith and racism. It is vital New Zealand discusses this issue openly and honestly.

I will not allow the acid tongues of Dr Cullen and Helen Clark to stop the debate.

We can agree on one point. He believes that there is one sovereignty, that it did pass from Maori to the Crown, and now resides in Parliament. I agree that the Treaty was one step in a series of events that transferred sovereignty

He then says our sovereignty "will soon be subject to judicial interpretation entirely by New Zealanders, thanks to Margaret Wilson". Dr Cullen has confirmed what National has argued - that Labour wants the new Supreme Court as primarily a constitutional court. In the hands of Margaret Wilson and Helen Clark this is a dangerous tool, when the Court's first duty in legislation is to deal with Treaty issues.

National opposes the Supreme Court.

Dr Cullen's comment makes it plain Labour has no rules, no principles for making decisions about any Treaty claim that comes along. It is like a ship that has put to sea, but has no compass.

Labour does believe Maori have rights under the Treaty that no one else has.

But it has no idea what that means or how far it goes. Dr Cullen doesn't describe those rights - that bit that really matters. We have a right to know what the Government thinks the special rights are.

He names one - the right to have government protect the Maori language. But are there any others he is willing to own up to? Instead of describing those rights, Dr Cullen waffles. He says the Treaty is a living document where new applications or implications may arise as circumstances claim. He says there are processes to go through, understandings to reach, limits to be explored.

This is the smartest man in the all-powerful Government and he can't explain how he makes decisions on the Treaty. I'll tell you how - in secret, to keep Labour's Maori MP's happy, driven by Margaret Wilson and her fellow travellers like Joris De Bres, who is right now hiding behind legal immunity from prosecution for making racially inflammatory statements.

Dr Cullen also believes the Treaty guarantee of equal rights of citizenship has no effect on the special rights he talks about. This means Labour has no sense of the limits of self-determination, or treasures to be protected. This matters in New Zealand. Maori are not a small population, or limited to particular regions - they are a fast growing community spread right through the country. We share workplaces, households, our beautiful country, and it will become more so. Things Maori will increasingly be part of the life of every New Zealander.

In every situation where there are different rights, there is the potential for resentment.

I was asked recently by a 21-year-old student why it is so much easier to get through university if you are Maori. That is the seed we cannot allow to grow.

So I ask Dr Cullen - what other rights do you have in mind, besides language?

Every New Zealander has a right to their own property, to choice in education, to a health system that respects their way of life, and a society that respects their cultural beliefs. Every New Zealander has the right to economic opportunity sufficient to allow them to fulfil their individual potential.

Maori culture is unique to New Zealand, a source of unique identity and pride for every citizen. It doesn't need a Treaty to allow it to exist - it needs the pride and persistence of people who want to maintain it, and we are a richer country for such people.

National believes that in a democracy our common citizenship does limit any special status for Maori.

Thank you Dr Cullen - we know now where you stand. Let me tell you where National stands.

We stand for one standard of citizenship. That's about equality and equal opportunity for everyone. Any person is as good as the next. It's our national ambition to "equalise upwards" - that is the New Zealand enterprise.

And the future of New Zealand will be a whole lot better if we start to focus on what unites us.

Why is it when Maori at long last have acquired full and equal citizenship, is the Government creating new rights that no one else has? Surely the time has come to ask why it is we continue to have separate representation in Parliament.

Let's look back at the history of the Maori franchise.

In 1867 the Maori Representation Act created what at the time was described as four "temporary" seats. Prior to that, the Constitution Act of 1852 had provided for male landholders a franchise, but since Maori land was owned communally it effectively meant Maori had no franchise.

Following the wars of the 1860s, the Government made concessions by establishing the seats, but separate representation limited the franchise severely.

When they were established the 4 seats represented a population of about 50,000 Maori compared to the 72 seats allocated to about 250,000 Europeans.

While this disparity in proportion decreased over time, it was not until 1996, that the number of Maori seats rose to 5, the year MMP was introduced.

State paternalism over Maori representation has denied Maori rights as citizens for most of New Zealand's history.

Did you know that:

It was not until 1967 that the prohibition against those on the Maori roll standing as candidates in general electorates, and vice versa, was lifted?

It was not until 1949 that for the first time prepared electoral rolls were used in the conduct of Maori elections?

That registration as an elector in a Maori electorate did not become compulsory until 1956?

In 1986, the Royal Commission on the electoral system proposed that under MMP there would be no separate Maori seats, no Maori roll and no Maori option. It pointed out that separate seats encouraged Maori MPs to look after only Maori interests and provided limited incentive for MPs in general seats to respond to Maori interests.

Under MMP, Maori representation no longer depends on Maori seats. At the 2001 census, 14% of the population identified themselves as Maori. Maori have 18 MPs or 15% of all MPs.

Today, more Maori than ever are in Parliament and they are spread across several parties. MMP has seen the first female Pacific Island MP. There are two Asian MPs.

These developments are welcome.

I say the Maori seats fulfilled a purpose, but their time is now over

In recent decades, there has been a progressive restoration of Maori rights as citizens. It was only as recent as the mid-1990s that the prohibition on some Maori land leases from charging market rents was lifted.

In my view, it is time to show we believe in New Zealand, that we can offer to each citizen sufficient freedom and integrity that they can be represented, have their say and reach their potential.

And the challenge for Labour will be to select Maori candidates in general seats.

I will be seeking the support of my Caucus and the party for a policy to bring an end to the Maori seats.

This will be part of a wider citizenship policy I will release later this year which reflects my view that Maori have the capacity to participate the same as any other citizen.

Some will say it is too soon, that the seats should stay until Maori have the same social and economic status as the rest of New Zealand I say let's show our faith in future, and in this country.

Let's stop pretending that getting on the committee answers the problems. It won't fix problems like 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.

Maori need 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.

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.

Let's make 2003 a turning point for the silent majority who are now ready to reclaim their country.

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