English Speech - Region National Party Conference
Bill English Speech - Central North Island Region National Party Conference
To the Central North Island Regional Conference of the National Party, Waikato Events Centre, Heaphy Terrace, Hamilton.We represent people who know the value of 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 this 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. Hard working families on low incomes 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 within the next week. 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. Welfare must be seen as a second chance, not a way of life. If people need help getting work, we must give it to them.
We want to end the culture of dependency. It's a mindset, where it's someone else's job to fix my problem and to pay the bill as well.
And this Government has turned the welfare-to-work focus on its head. The so-called Ministry of Social Development admits that 70% of its time is spent on income support and only 30% on job outcomes. That's a disgrace.
Over 350,000 New Zealanders are welfare beneficiaries. That's equivalent to more than twice the number of people living in Hamilton. And you know what - the biggest growth figure in Thursday's Budget wasn't on the economy because economic growth is going to halve - it was the number on sickness and invalids benefits.
Welfare isn't just a problem for those on welfare. It's for the families and the children.
Education is one of the best tickets out of poverty a child can be given. That's why raising standards and tackling predictable failure are priorities for us.
A number of countries have concluded that it makes sense to consider linking school attendance to welfare eligibility for parents. In Canada, for instance, a child must attend school in order to be included in the calculation as a dependent child.
It is the role of the education system to tackle truancy, but the welfare system's potential role should not be overlooked.
Truancy is linked to youth offending. The welfare system may provide another way to encourage school attendance in conjunction with a wider truancy strategy which we will address in our education policy.
Sanctions could be applied if parents do not cooperate with efforts to deal with their child's truancy problems. Such provisions are worth investigating and will be included in our welfare discussion paper.
Because the true face of dependency isn't the swept up Winz office, it's the blank look in the eyes of kids who have been brought up without aspiration, or hope, whose parents have known nothing else but the welfare cheque and the subsistence life it pays for.
I want a country where the Treaty doesn't become another form of dependency. The Government's attitude to Maori and the Treaty is at best confused, at worst cynical.
They need dependent Maori support, and they're spending the money to get it. That policy creates resentment, dependency and suspicion all round That's why it's worthwhile to debate the Treaty of Waitangi, and Maori seats, however difficult it might be.
Recently, 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 people - New Zealanders.Progress for Maori is the same as for anyone else - supportive families, good education and work.And if you think it's 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." "It's 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 believe 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. It's 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 for 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.Last week, I visited a primary school in Auckland. It's 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 New Zealanders 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.Budget
The Budget is the end of Labour's brief fling with the economy. Back in 2000 Labour said the economy was the top priority. They set a cap on government spending. They wanted to transform the economy. They set up a partnership with business. They adopted a growth goal - top half of the OECD by 2011.
It's like a plane flying along with the bits falling off - transformation has gone, they dropped the partnership with business, the growth goal has disappeared and the spending cap has been discarded.
Now its back to old Labour - using the proceeds from the productive people of New Zealand to buy the votes of favoured sector groups.
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 - it's worse, a long slow strangulation of the spirit of enterprise - the risk takers and the innovators are punished, not encouraged. They get no relief from more and more compliance costs.
There's no relief from Anderton's photo-opportunity machine either.It's 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. In education, the answer lies in raising literacy and numeracy standards, encouraging innovative schools, giving parents choice and improving teacher quality. 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.And you ask what we would do for Health. One part certainly works and we would leave it alone - the family doctor. Labour are engineering a government takeover of the family GP, under the cloak of cheaper GP visits. It's just because they don't like doctors and don't like private enterprise.
While they are busy clogging up our schools and hospitals with bureaucracy, the problems of roads and energy get worse,Take the power crisis. People feel they are getting the blame for something that's not their fault. We're not saving as much as we need to because the Government won't take responsibility.
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. But 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. We need clear and certain policies on Kyoto, and whether coal generation is politically correct. 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.
It's getting worse. As the economy slows down, they want to hold onto the steering wheel even tighter. As Dr Cullen says - more bureaucrats and less market.Roading is doing no better than energy, with Labour's oddball mix of control regulate and spin.
Provincial New Zealand paid up an extra 4 cents a litre in petrol tax. We were told it was needed to fund Auckland's new roads. So we paid. But now projects in the South Island and outside Auckland have been cut. And the roading subsidies have been cut.
That wasn't the deal. 4c petrol tax was meant to look after it along with legislation that enabled Auckland to pay some itself - using tolls for instance.It gets worse. The new legislation takes away economic benefit as a criterion for road funding. So there's less weight given to the economic contribution from the provinces, and more weight given to what politicians think should be done, in other words, political decisions.
Has this done Auckland any good? No. Auckland Mayors like John Banks have waited patiently for the Government to give them the tools to do the job - but they have been let down.
Will this do Hamilton-Auckland roading plans any good? No. People in the Waikato will be let down too.
You aren't the only ones. 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.Now they say the Bill won't work and they are right.National says there is a better deal that can help everybody. This is what we need for better roads:The rules should retain economic efficiency
Take the politics out of the funding formula
Fix the Resource Management Act
Public private partnerships, tolling, and congestion pricing should be allowed
And a lot less consultation.
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. And even then the Minister can say "no" to the project at the last moment. After the lucky years comes the hard work. The economy is more flexible and adaptive than it used to be, but that is no cushion for bad policy. While Labour prepares for a second term spend up, we must prepare to stop and reverse the sclerosis clogging the veins of the economy. 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.
Don't doubt the power of those principles as a force for good in the life of every New Zealander.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. Let's go and tell the country.