Sowry Address to National Party Conference
Sowry Address to National Party Conference
Madam President, Leader Bill English, Parliamentary Colleagues, Delegates:
This conference is a turning point for our Party. We have just voted for the first Board of the NZ National Party. We have re-written our rules. We have restructured the Party to give it the focus and flexibility we need in the ever-changing MMP environment.
But, valuable as they are, rule changes will not win us the next election; nor will the new Board on its own; nor for that matter the Caucus on its own. It will require all of us, together, united and disciplined, focussed and hardworking.
We need to listen and we need to get our mainstream message out to middle New Zealand.
Together, we have decided on the key policy messages for the year:
- Policies to achieve economy growth
- Welfare that works
- One standard of citizenship
We have learned since the election and the time for reflection is past.
Now we have to show New Zealand that we're passionate about this country, and we are.
National put Treaty issues on the agenda this year, openly discussing issues that obviously frighten the Government - on that topic alone, the differences between us and them have never been clearer.
Our Leader, Bill English - he is standing up for all New Zealanders - he is holding Clark to account - making her talk about the things she doesn't want to talk about.
The opposition, with National at the front, is back in business.
And that's exactly where we should be with the talent that national has to call on.
It's hard to imagine the economy in a safer pair of hands than those of our Finance spokesman, the ever-credible Dr Don Brash.
And our Welfare spokeswoman, Katherine Rich. She has written the best policy paper I have ever seen from any Party or politician. It is balanced and forward looking. It's sensible. It is everything that Maharey is not, nor could ever be.
We have the team - the government doesn't. Instead, it employs nearly 30 highly paid spin doctors to manage the message. Even then, Parekura Horomia's spin is more like a really slow turn.
It has been embarrassing actually, watching Parekura Horomia's performance in Parliament. Here is a Minister who doesn't read his papers, isn't well briefed, doesn't read the letters he signs out, or the Official Information requests he gives to other Members of Parliament.
He is clearly a Minister who's not on top of his job.
And you know he's in trouble when the Prime Minister insists on another Cabinet Minister sitting beside him to whisper the answers to questions in his ear.
But on our side of the House we know the Prime Minister isn't trying too hard to save him - because the Minister she sent to whisper in his ear was Ruth Dyson.
As if he didn't have enough to deal with.
Delegates, over the last six months, National has led the charge, exposing weaknesses across a wide range of government activities.
And we've been successful. We have forced the government to remove volunteers from the OSH legislation.
Wayne Mapp campaigned tirelessly to expose the inadequacies of the hapless and hopeless George Hawkins, who had to be replaced as the Minister in charge of leaky homes.
Gerry Brownlee had the government at sixes and sevens over the energy crisis. And they still have no solution. The best they can come up with is another tax.
Lynda Scott has been taking Annette King to task as New Zealanders die on hospital waiting lists and she's got the Minister on the ropes over her continuing failure to act on the three-year-old cervical cancer inquiry
Tony Ryall found holes so big in Phil Goff's weak parole legislation that you could drive a truck through and David Carter has been taking National's promise to repeal Labour's bizarre new flatulence tax to farmers.
And the talent just keeps coming.
Murray McCully has been at the front of the charge attacking the culture of political correctness, exposing the waste at the taxpayer funded Te Mangai Paho and putting the Race Relations Conciliator to the test under the very legislation Joris De Bres is supposed to enforce.
Nick Smith is leading our charge to end the experiment in social engineering that is the politically correct Care of Children legislation, while Richard Worth is working with ACT and New Zealand First to stop Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson from axing our ties with the Privy Council.
I could go on - but I'm here to tell you today that every National Member of Parliament is playing their part. They are working hard for our Party, their constituents and for the future well being of all New Zealanders.
We have a Caucus full of talented skilled individuals who can work as a team and are more than equipped to hold their own.
In stark contrast, the Government gives all the hard work to two Ministers - Cullen and Mallard.
Delegates, when you stack all these issues end on end, it doesn't look to me like a Government that's in control. It's a Government that's spending all its time in damage control.
This is a Government with the largest Executive ever, the largest staff ever - all devoted to message management.
You just need to look at how Helen Clark has behaved.
On leaky homes - Clark called it a media beat up, got caught out then put Cullen in front of it.
On foreshore and seabed claims - The minister for everything who's responsible for nothing said Labour would legislate.
No sooner had the words been uttered than Helen Clark backed down in the face of a Maori Caucus revolt and put Cullen in the hot seat.
On the energy crisis - Clark put her head in the sand again, saying there was no crisis, then Dr Cullen swept the mess under the carpet.
When the going gets tough the tough get going and the Prime Minister goes overseas.
Never before have we had a Prime Minister who treats Parliament with such contempt.
When New Zealand needs answers, she avoids the hard questions and gets Dr Cullen to do the dirty work.
She's so touchy about her image that she's taken to hiding from the media recently, taking the back steps into Parliament to avoid questions.
I ask you is that strong leadership?
Avoiding Parliament and reporters is outrageous enough, as Prime Ministers have always faced the music before, but when you put it together with her multiple memory lapses and her multiple apologies, it paints quite a sorry picture.
In fact the picture painting -- or rather the SIGNING of a picture which she didn't paint -- was one of her first apologies.
Then there was the apology to Parliament over golden handshakes to the Historic Places Trust. Then she apologised for defaming Auckland orthopaedic surgeon Joe Brownlee - and I should emphasise that he's no relation to our Gerry. It wasn't a set-up, just another Clark botch-up.
On the GE inquiry, Clark blamed the Greens and officials for a letter which she signed herself, seeking less rigorous options for the inquiry. She apologised saying she had rather a lot on at the time and she wasn't infallible. You can say that again.
In February last year, she apologised to the Chinese for a poll tax in 1881.
She apologised to Gays for discrimination and Samoans for injustices from New Zealand's administration.
Then she took on a role of foreign affairs commentator during the Gulf War, insulting George Bush in the process. This time our ambassador in Washington had to trot along with the apology, but we still haven't been told what was in the note. She simply refuses to tell Parliament. So much for our chances of a Free Trade Agreement.
That's apologies for you - then there's the "selective amnesia."
Do you recall those wondrous clauses in the Resource Management Act Amendment Bill about "ancestral landscapes", "cultural landscapes" and "spiritual" values? Clark claimed in Parliament that she had no knowledge of them and they had not been brought to her attention. They came from her department, Culture and Heritage, we produced the papers proving that she signed them, and she then had to apologise for misleading Parliament.
Once we were aiming for Economic Growth to get back into the top half of the OECD by 2011. Helen Clark spoke of it, wrote about it, it was accepted policy. Last year it was suddenly disowned by the PM. Helen Clark said then: "I have no recollection of that document. If it is there it is clearly wrong and does not reflect Government policy." So much for economic growth.
The list goes on, but I won't bore you with any more, except to say WHERE IS THE VISION IN THIS GOVERNMENT?
We've seen compliance costs skyrocket for small and medium sized businesses and the worst is still coming.
They're braced for costly changes to the Holiday's Act and a review of the Employment Relations Act, which will allow Labour to strengthen the position of trade unions.
Using the cover of our strong economy, for which this Government can take no credit, Labour has systematically set about making things worse for New Zealand business and all New Zealanders.
Business is battling the red tape, there are greater compliance costs and more tax. Already, the number of New Zealanders paying the top personal income tax rate is twice what Labour promised us in the 1999 election campaign.
Not prepared to settle for that, Labour has been slapping us around with a raft of sly taxes that all of us are paying.
Since the election, Labour has increased the tax on petrol and the tax on sherry, port and Madeira - which was supposed to stop binge drinking among youth. But I don't know too many who hit the tiles with a bottle of port under one arm and a bottle of sherry under the other.
Labour's tax mad.
They're now talking about a new 10c a litre regional petrol tax, an electricity tax, an increase in gaming duties - a new flatulence tax and a possible dedicated health tax.
So much for the promise of no new taxes.
After fumbling so many political hot potatoes, you've got to ask why New Zealanders aren't angry.
Why aren't the lobby groups - the special interest groups, like the churches - more vocal in their criticism of this Government?
I believe they've succumbed to the threats, the bullying, and the exclusion that groups are subjected to when they criticise this Government.
Who can blame them?
They're worried the Government will deny them access to ministers or funding, so instead they've decided the best way forward is to stay silent.
Labour's good at the old-fashioned trade union tactics.
They dish out favours for the loyal and punish anyone who's courageous enough to question the direction.
Where's the legislation to make our economy go faster?
There is none!
Where's the legislation to make the economy grow?
There is none!
Where's the legislation that rewards people who take risks - the innovators, the motivators, the people who will create jobs?
There is none!
Where's the vision for New Zealand's future - Labour has none!
The National Party does, and with your support and all of us working together in communities all over New Zealand, we can ensure our message is heard.
We can end the politically correct journey to mediocrity and replace it with one standard for all - all striving to each be the best we can be.