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English Speech: National Party Regional Conference

Bill English Speech: To the Northern Regional Conference of the National Party, Waipuna Lodge, Auckland.

I heard a story the other day from a couple with a young daughter. They're Aucklanders.

They work hard. Not enough income to make life easy, but a bit more than what entitles them to any welfare assistance.

Mum leaves for work every day and puts her daughter into day-care. It costs her $200 a week to do that. By the time her travel and other costs are taken care of she ends up with less than her neighbour who's on the DPB.

She says she's worse off than the woman next door. That she and her husband would be better off if they separated. She'd get more money and spend more time with her daughter. Her husband of course would see them both less. He's self employed, running a small business, long hours and a low income. He's tired of the bureaucrats who treat him like a tax dodger because his income changes month to month.

We represent this family. People who know the value of hard work, who believe in self reliance 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 in next week's Budget - 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 nearly 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, but they don't want $30m spent on the America's Cup, when the same government plans to cut back the pokies money that buys netballs for their children's club .

That's why we're talking about welfare. The couple I've talked about don't like paying the bills when the government is encouraging welfare dependency. It's the country's biggest waste of human potential and the biggest bill. We're talking about the Treaty because whether we go down a path of separatism or unity 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.

Katherine Rich will release a major discussion paper on Welfare in a few weeks. Her message is positive, firm and fair, firm about the obligations that go with the support of the community, fair to those in work and those who try hard to get it.

We believe every person has potential - no-one is hopeless. We shouldn't write people off with the excuse they can't do anything about their circumstances. Labour see them as a locked in vote - that handouts mean you care.

We will bring in work for the dole. We will bring back work testing.

We want to change the mindset, to bring an end to the culture of dependency. New Zealand will make no progress on welfare while Labour is in power. The true face of that dependency is the blank look in the eyes of kids who have been brought up without aspiration, or hope. And Labour want more of it.

Dependency is not just about benefits, it's a mindset that says its someone else's job to fix my problem and to pay the bill as well. My philosophy is this - the problem isn't really fixed until you fix it yourself, the answer is in your hands.

Labour pours out more of this sort of rubbish on Maori than on anyone else. They need dependent Maori support, and they're spending the money to get it. It creates resentment, dependency and suspicion all round

New Zealand can do better than that, Maori are much better than fodder for Labours political machine

That's why its worthwhile to debate the Treaty of Waitangi, and Maori seats, however difficult it might be.

Last week I announced our position on the Maori seats. The critics have said I don't know the history. I do, but we can't be bound by that history, to be forever making up for it. Second they said it's too soon to abolish the seats. I say let's show some faith in New Zealand, and belief in our democratic institutions. They can be a force for unity - ever growing numbers of Maori seats will foster separation of our interests. I am confident we can take account of Maori interests, that boxing them up to one side won't work.

We are one nation - New Zealanders.

Progress for Maori is the same as for anyone else - supportive families, good education and work.

And if you think its not that important - just look at what Labour has said in the last few weeks

We see Labour talking about special rights under the Treaty, at the same time it's pushing through legislation for the new Supreme Court.

It's a potent brew of constitutional change.

Dr Cullen says our sovereignty "will soon be subject to judicial interpretation entirely by New Zealanders, thanks to Margaret Wilson".

He then goes on to say this about Maori rights under the Treaty.

"In essence these can still be regarded very broadly as some form of property rights which, being guaranteed to Maori by the Treaty, do not apply automatically by virtue of the Treaty to other New Zealanders."

"Its what we signed in 1840 whether Mr English likes it or not."

Others have weighed in.

Law Commissioner, Dr Ngatata Love, said of the Supreme Court legislation "If the Bill goes through local courts will have to give greater recognition of the Treaty and tikanga issues".

Lord Cooke wants the Supreme Court to make the running on what the Treaty will mean. He believes the public are not capable of understanding the complex issue involved.

I believe New Zealanders are absolutely capable of knowing what it means to be a New Zealander, whether they want unity or separatism.

We cannot trust Helen Clark, Margaret Wilson and activist judges who see the Treaty as a constitution.

Who will the judges listen to? By Lord Cooke's measure it won't be the people, they are too ignorant. It might be Danny Keenan, writing in the Herald. He says "one standard of citizenship should be seen as a device of denial for Maori." He says MMP is a temporary stopgap until there is an appropriate style and degree of Maori political representation consistent with the Treaty.

Labour believes there are special rights under the treaty, but they can't tell us what they are except the right to the Maori language.

Every New Zealand citizen 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.

Did Lord Cooke mean protection of the Kiore, the Polynesian rat, on Little Barrier Island? The rat is eating the eggs and chicks of a well known endangered species - the kiwi, but the rats are protected as treasures. Its nonsense.

Maori culture is unique to New Zealand, a source of unique national identity. 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.

We believe that our common citizenship does limit special status for Maori.

National stands one standard of citizenship. For 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.

Yesterday I visited Freemans Bay primary school. Its 54% European and 46% Asian, Maori, Polynesian and a host of other nationalities. Those children need a strong message that what they have in common is more important than their differences.

Demographic reality is that New Zealand will get more diverse. That will make common citizenship even more important. Only National can lead this crucial debate over New Zealand's future.

Labour is leading down the road to separate development. We are going to have Margaret Wilson's politically appointed Supreme Court that will be charged with making the Treaty our constitution.

Enterprise - it's the answer to dependency and to those who think the Treaty is responsible for Maori development. And it's what grows our economy, provides the jobs and the health and education services we need.

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.


Speaking of handouts, next week we have the Budget. The golden weather has come to an end; the exchange rate is up and commodity prices are falling. Dr Cullen will try to keep the surplus for next year, when he really needs it.

An energy crisis signals a winter of discontent. Business confidence is dropping, small businesses are counting the cost of all the new government regulations.

New Zealand's largest company, Telecom, says it has cut back investment by over $0.5 billion in the past two years because of heavy-handed government regulation. Carter Holt, our second largest company, says future investment in New Zealand is now in jeopardy.

There has been no spectacular failure - its worse, a long slow strangulation of the spirit of enterprise - the risk takers and the innovators are punished not encouraged. The government has its sticky fingers on more and more of our economy.

There will be no relief for business fro m more and more compliance cost - and no relief from minister's photo opportunities either.

Its time the Government showed whether spending hundreds of millions on Jim Anderton's projects has actually worked. I'm told by local bodies and local development agencies it's a joke - they can't get the money they want because of the bureaucracy, and the bureaucrats show up trying to give them money they don't want.

Dr Cullen thinks the sherry tax is out of the way. This tax will have more impact in rest homes and retirement villages than on young people. It got the bagging it deserved.

Then there will be health and education. In education the answer lies in raising literacy and numeracy standards, encouraging innovative schools, giving parents choice and improving teacher quality.

Labour always come up with the same answer - more rules, more money.

Everyone has a right to a high standard of education. Where there's failure, we'll fix it and where there's excellence, we'll encourage it.

In Health you will see your taxes going on one of Labours big projects - a public takeover of the family GP.

The Budget will also talk of a tax credit for low-income families. We will support help for families if it preserves the gap between work and welfare.

But the Budget will do nothing to solve the big infrastructure problems. That's one of the basics Governments are expected to get right.

Roads, so people can travel, power, so people can enjoy the comforts of modern living and businesses can run. It's part of being a first-world economy. Without them New Zealand would grind to a halt.

Aucklanders know more about what happens when infrastructure breaks down than any other New Zealanders.

Becky Ashe of Mission Bay has it right. She is the 37 year-old Auckland mother quoted in the New Zealand Herald on Thursday. She says she's getting the blame for the power crisis, and it's not her fault. That's why the savings aren't coming. I can understand this couple's frustration. People voted Labour in on a promise it would fix electricity. Labour had reviews, reports, consultants. Then the crisis of 2001 gave it a good reason to make big changes. It did nothing. Now people who trusted them to fix it have to take cold showers all winter.

New Zealand needs more electricity generation, or we will have cold showers every winter. New generation costs hundreds of millions and takes years to build. New Zealand needs a long term sound energy strategy driven by an effective market

Labour should sort out its policy on coal, Kyoto and conservation.

You can't invest hundreds of millions of dollars in a power station without knowing what fuel to use and how much it's going to cost.

Another problem is the Resource Management Act. More rules and regulations, more costs and delays and this week, more RMA legislation to make it worse. That's another uncertainty.

The Government's plan for Auckland infrastructure is much the same as that for the slowing economy. The car is slowing down because it's running out of fuel.

And what's Helen Clark and Dr Cullen's answer? They want to hold onto the steering wheel even tighter. They want a bigger say, more control and as Dr Cullen says - more bureaucrats and less market.

That's what Auckland motorists do in their frustration with gridlock, but it doesn't make the road ahead any clearer. It's not that no one's tried.

Auckland mayors worked hard to overcome their historical differences. They back our plan with a united voice - a powerful signal to Wellington.

John Banks and the other mayors took Labour at its word. That it understood the problems and knew how to fix them.

They have been badly let down.

The Government has managed to alienate provincial New Zealand by cutting their projects on top of taking an extra 4 cents a litre in petrol tax.

Where is it by the way?

But Labour has produced a damp squib of legislation. It's Helen Clark's compromise between the silly demands of the Greens and Peter Dunne's Transmission Gully requirements.

Roger Sowry has described the Land Transport Amendment Bill as a cruel hoax.

I recently received a copy of a letter to the Prime Minister about this Bill. It was signed by Business New Zealand, the AA, Federated Farmers, the Meat Industry, the Forest Owners, the Road Contractors Association, the Road Transport Forum and supported by a number of employer and manufacturers associations.

A few months ago they were all supporting the new transport legislation. So did National. We have changed our mind, and so have they.

They said the Bill was inconsistent with improving New Zealanders' living standards to the top half of the OECD. They say it won't work and they are right.

National's view is clear on the Land Transport Bill.

Economic efficiency should be retained as its key purpose. And the Bill should be used as a vehicle to enable genuine public private partnerships to be introduced to help build the infrastructure of a modern economy.

Consultation is the new weasel word. A new project has to go through consultation under the RMA, the Local Government Act and now the Transport Act - including the particular provisions in each act for Maori consultation. So Auckland will wait at the red light till it's all done .

And even then the Minister can say no to the project at the last moment.

What should happen? Auckland needs every tool there is to get its roading and public transport network completed.

We will fix the RMA, allow public private partnerships, congestion pricing, and tolling. We will take the politics out of the funding formula, and put back economic criteria. Then it will easier to close the funding gap.

Unless these straightforward changes are made, Auckland will remain gridlocked for many years to come.

The Auckland mayors went out on a limb, showing real determination, and Labour have let them down. John Banks wants the tools to do the job - Labour has locked them away.

This party turned a corner three weeks ago. I saw in the National Party their will to win when it embraced sweeping changes to our organisation. That commitment is matched by the commitment of the caucus, to advance policy consistent with our principles.

We have set our platform. National is campaigning for a strong economy, for one standard of citizenship, against welfare dependency, for standards in education. You know what we stand for. Lets go and tell the country.

You have a role as important as the MP's - to support National and its philosophies in your communities.

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