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Prebble On Leadership -- Richard Prebble


Monday 8 Sep 2003 Richard Prebble Speeches -- Other


Today I would like to set out an agenda for a Centre Right victory in the next election. The key to success is leadership.

If you were a visitor to New Zealand you would be forgiven for thinking that all the opposition need to do to win is to remember to file their nomination papers.

This week a quarter of the Cabinet are at Hui discussing with 15% of the population the ownership of our beaches. What is there to discuss?

Labour holding 11 hui with Maori and none with the general public. So today I have announced that ACT is organizing a top quality conference, international speakers, open to the public - though I am still not sure what there is to discuss. How can there be a debate over who owns the nations beaches?

Last week the producers of half our export income came to Parliament to protest at a proposed tax on the flatulence of cows and sheep. Our Prime Minister said ten days before the election "I believe in total disclosure. I have nothing to hide. All the government documents will be made public" and admitted last week that 184 documents were not released including a memo saying the corn may be contaminated.

Two weeks' ago Maori TV that has cost so far $70 million but not broadcast a picture, lost yet another Chief Executive but the government won't take responsibility for "operational" matters. This year Parliament has dedicated more time to legalising prostitution than any other measure.

There is a Select Committee holding hearings on a proposal to require old ladies to have a microchip inserted into the ear of their miniature poodles and they must fence their houses leaving a gap to the front door for the burglar to enter without being troubled by the dog.

Our "popular and competent" Prime Minister (we know this because she told us) when she is not touring overseas visiting war memorials - she will do anything for our soldiers providing they are dead, she will climb any mountain - in fact go anywhere except front up. Last week she opened a cooking oil distributor in West Auckland rather than meet the farmers. Even I thought that was going to an extreme.

In light of all this you may say why does the centre right need an agenda? Under First Past the Post we did not. The commentators would say, "Oppositions do not win elections, governments lose them!"

But not in MMP.

Voters have a choice. Labour supporters alternative is not just National but they can vote for other government allies, the Greens or as they did last election United, or perhaps next election a new party of the left to replace the Alliance.

Parties need to do more than just oppose the government, though that is important. The centre-right must lead on the issues, putting forward our own practical positive solutions.

ACTs role since we have been in Parliament is to promote leadership. We have been described as the real opposition. ACT is able to lead because no one is under any illusion as to what ACT stands for and just as important what we stand against.

ACT has a 100% voting record of always voting for what we stand for and 100% record of always voting against what we oppose.

The anti-FART tax petition is in the name of an ACT MP Gerry Eckhoff because ACT alone has always said New Zealand must not sign or ratify the Kyoto Protocol until after the USA, China and our trade competitor Australia.

ACT has never voted for a tax increase.

ACT always votes for more freedom, choice and personal responsibility, for less red tape, and more personal accountability.

You cannot imagine an ACT Government taxing you to pay for microchips in poodles, Maori TV, Americas Cup challenges, subsidies to The Warehouse, or hui on who owns the beach.

Leadership is more than just where you stand, though it's a good start.

For real leadership that people will follow it is necessary to set out a vision. There is today an opportunity for the Centre-Right to set out a clear vision in contrast with the sense of drift and expediency.

The Labour government today is faltering because having run a manifestoless election campaign today Labour has no programme. Government's without a programme end up in crisis management mode. A government with a clear vision would not be sending much of the cabinet tomorrow to Blenheim to a hui over the foreshore.

I have known Helen Clark for 30 years. To this day, I have no idea what her mission statement is.

I suspect it's Margaret Wilson's who is very clear - she seeks the Socialist republic of Aotearoa where the Treaty partnerships create a class of privileged citizens and then the rest of us. Wilson believes that kiwis have only collective rights and are not entitled to make individual choices.

Helen Clark and Margaret Wilson do not share the values of the vast majority of New Zealanders including Maori.

The average Kiwi battlers dream has not changed.

To be able to buy your own home. A piece of property that is your own. Home ownership is now just a dream for the majority of young people. For those of us who have achieved the dream of home ownership are discovering that our house is no longer our castle.

If the Government can confiscate the beachfront of our neighbours, then no one's home is safe.

Farmers are to be told that the Mongrel Mob has the right to roam over their land picking out the cattle they intend to rustle. The desire to own property that you can call your own is the dream that drove our ancestors to cross the ocean to come here. It's a dream the centre right owns. Let's have policies to make it achievable again.

The average Kiwi does not want much. After the house it's a car and the freedom that comes with it.

In Auckland it means gridlock and Wellington is not far behind. If Sydney with four million people can build motorways to get that city's traffic moving, so can we.

It was the centre right that first built our motorways and it was the centre right that can do it again. Let's pledge to resolve the roading mess.

The key to our dream is what we want for our children, what we had, a world-class education. We can argue whether New Zealand children's education is above or below Hungary but what we cannot argue is that education standards have fallen. Let's leave argument about the Treaty out of the classroom and instead teach our children that they really, need to be able to read, write, and do arithmetic. The centre-right vision - a world-class education system with no child left behind.

Then we want a health system that is available when we need it.

They say in America the first question is "are you insured?"

Once, we boasted that our health professionals said, "What's wrong?". Now the first question is, "Are you a Maori?".

I am serious.

More and more institutions are asking what is our race.

At a public meeting in this city a woman showed up and said that she had recently enrolled at the new primary health organisation, as our GPs are now being corralled. The first question was - "Are you Maori?"

"Why do you ask" she replied? "Because if you are Maori then we get a bigger subsidy and you pay a lower fee"?

The woman then said, "My husband and I are European. These are our children - they are Maori."

The assistant wrote this nonsense down and her children are paying a lower fee.

The number of Maori enrolled in the last census is biologically impossible.

The Government triumphantly records as a success huge increases in tertiary enrolment by Maori; large increases in Maori health enrolments while still expressing puzzlement at widening education and health gaps. No check has ever been made on anyone claiming to be Maori, no matter how preposterous. The average kiwi sees race privilege as unfair and we are hitting back by saying - "I am a Maori".

The whole system is corrupt. The tragedy is that Maori are failed by this system.

So let's put forward the vision of a New Zealand where every one can succeed by their own efforts. Where the daughter of a social welfare beneficiary can succeed in any field. That vision of New Zealand is not a myth.

I attended a meeting recently where the Mayor of Auckland reminded us that his father was New Zealand's most notorious safebreaker. The son of the bank robber became Minister of Police. That would have not happen today. A young John Banks today would be told he is a victim that he is entitled to be put on welfare.

I consider I had in comparison to John Banks a wonderful childhood; two loving parents, but we were, though I did not know it very poor. The Anglican Church paid its clergy a pittance. My father did not pay any tax until the 1960's. Yet my brothers and sister and I have been able to achieve what we wanted to achieve. If this nation is to be successful, we need to be a country that recognises and celebrates success. Success by your own efforts is a kiwi value. A society that celebrates success is a vision that only the centre-right can promote.

So let's do so.

It is the role of the Government to promote law and order. Labour believes that crime is caused by society so they see the criminal as a victim. The centre-right believes that all citizens must take responsibility for their actions so only the centre-right can implement effective zero tolerance for crime policies. Instead we have a Government that has joined the robber and seeks to penalise success.

There was no fiscal reason for lifting the top rate of tax by 18%. Every year there has been a surplus.

Labour's credit card pledge was that only 5% of taxpayers will pay the top rate was Labour's credit card pledge. Now 18% of all workers are paying the 39% tax rate - plus 33 other stealth taxes.

These taxes are only justifiable if you believe that its governments that creates jobs and growth. Labour is deliberately over-taxing voters, to fund vote buying initiatives to their main support groups.

New Zealanders know that Governments do not create wealth, they just take it. It's the private sector, and in this country small businesses that create wealth, growth and jobs. The centre-right should repeat this one over and over. The alternative vision to Labour's overtaxing to fund its main vote groups, is much lower taxes, to enable sustained 4% growth and higher living standards. The success for Ireland through lower taxes, is compelling. Through lower taxes they have leapt from 20th in the OECD in 1994 to 4th in 2001 - in just seven years, with average growth of 9%.

When I was born, New Zealand was one of the wealthiest countries in the world. When I was a student, New Zealand per capita was richer than Australia.

Now we are between Spain and Portugal, a third poorer per capita than Australia. Lets have the Kiwi vision of beating Australia. We can do it.

We all know that a Labour, United, Green or Alliance government will never do it.

They do not share our values.

They do not share our vision.

They do not share our goals.

My message is clear.

If we provide the leadership, the values, the vision, the country will respond. Let's do it. Let's get back up with Australia, where we belong.

For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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