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Peter Dunne Speech to Diplomatic Club - Oct. 9th

Peter Dunne
Leader, United Future New Zealand
Speech On Local & International Politics

Speech to Diplomatic Club

12.30pm, Thursday, October 9

Wellington

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the invitation to speak to you on my view of New Zealand politics today and where I see it heading in the not-too-distant future.

I would also like to make a few remarks about New Zealand's role in the wider international community.

Let me begin by saying that we are in the midst of a seachange in New Zealand politics.

Many predicted MMP would lead to an upheaval in the political landscape and events to date are proving them right.

Not only have new parties emerged but the National Party, which once bestrode the New Zealand political landscape as the natural party of government, is arguably in a state of terminal decline.

If opinion polls accurately reflect the view of the electorate, its leader (who today celebrates his second anniversary in the job) is seen as weak and ineffective; factions are forming within its greatly weakened Parliamentary caucus; it has sacked one of its MP's for telling the truth but won't expel him in order to retain Parliamentary funding; one faction wants to bond with ACT on the right; another faction goes ballistic at the very mention of ACT; the leader won't meet with the head of his own policy formation committee ...... these are not the signs of a healthy, vibrant, effective political party.

And already, one can see the political vultures circling.

Although ACT protests that it wants to work with National to form the basis of a centre-right Government, Rodney Hide is licking his lips at the thought of taking Richard Worth's electorate seat off him ..... while others speculate about running Ruth Richardson against Gerry Brownlee in Ilam.

Regardless of the outcome of the electorate vote in those contests, the cannibalising of the party vote will harm both parties' prospects of getting up the numbers to ensure a majority in Parliament.

Some months ago, a previous speaker addressed you on the prospect of a 'coalition of the right'.

That analysis was badly flawed.

While National and ACT scrap among the bones, the Winston Peters Party aka New Zealand First sits by - saying as little as possible apart from random attacks on immigrants - siphoning off many of the votes the two parties of the right should be gathering.

Mr Peters has no intention of working with the other parties of the right - he plainly sees his future as supplanting the role of National in Parliament, and if that means being the loudest voice in permanent opposition, then so be it, he obviously feels much more comfortable in that role.

If the death of the National Party is imminent, it will lead to an interesting realignment of voters' loyalties.

ACT, with its doctrinaire, contemptuous attitude towards the voters, will probably maintain, but not increase, its 5% support.

Former National voters will have to choose between the xenophobic Peters Party or turn to United Future with its commonsense pro-business, pro-family policies.

It is those sorts of calculations that lead me to the belief that I could one day be the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

And I have a very clear vision of where I would like to lead New Zealand.

The absolute belief in strong and vibrant families as the cornerstone of a strong and vibrant nation lies at the heart of my vision.

Beyond that, I believe passionately that all New Zealanders, whatever their gender, creed or race, share the unique gift of our nationhood, and that it is time to assert that nationhood as never before.

I want a New Zealand that embraces our emerging multiracial society and the variety of cultures about us, while never forgetting our bicultural heritage.

I want a New Zealand where being a Kiwi is a byword for a spirit of tolerance, inclusion and wisdom; where our beliefs and attitudes are forged on the basis of our collective experience, not prejudice or imported dogmas; and, where our social institutions and government structures reflect our renowned national pragmatism and ingenuity, not merely our colonial past, or palely imitating the moves of others.

All these may seem bold predictions and the most wistful of dreams for the leader of a party with but 8 votes in a 120-seat Parliament, but MMP makes it possible.

Parties that command the centre ground of New Zealand society can garner enough votes to become a credible coalition partner with another party, or groups of parties, and in those negotiations, most Ministerial posts are on the table.

Let me give you a horrifying example.

If Labour is forced to turn to the Greens to form a coalition government after the next election, we could see Jeanette Fitzsimons as deputy PM and, on occasion, stand-in Prime Minister, with anti-trade Rod Donald as Minister of international Trade and the dopesmoker Nandor Tanczos as Minister of Justice.

I venture to suggest that if United Future were to be a coalition partner, the prospect of myself as deputy PM would be much less alarming to the New Zealand and international community.

I see United Future as being firmly in the centre of the political spectrum with a role of keeping the big parties honest as they jostle to form a new government.

We believe stability in government is in the long-term interest of all New Zealanders and we will hold fast to that view in the years ahead.

On the other side of politics, the Greens will retain their grip on the 7% of New Zealanders who believe in worldwide conspiracies, who hate progress, loathe business and love drugs while the Progressives will continue their inexorable slide into the dustbin of history, leaving only Labour as the consistent party of the centre-left as a serious player in the political marketplace.

While Labour is the immediate beneficiary of this chaos it has no reason for long term complacency.

At nearly 90 years old, it has already outlived the traditional shelf-life of New Zealand political parties by about 30 years, and cannot consider itself free forever of the plight the National Party now finds itself in.

Labour's good fortune was not to win the 1996 election.

It was inevitable voters' unrealistically high hopes would be dashed by the first MMP experience, and the parties involved severely punished, and so it proved to be.

Labour's nightmare today is that it could happen all over again, especially if a future Labour-led government ended up having to rely on the Greens.

That is why Labour is rather quiet about National's plight.

It knows too well it could be next in line.

In the light of this massive realignment of political loyalties, it will be fascinating to see how the voters will deal out the cards at the 2005 election.

The polling patterns are already interesting.

Since May-June of this year, Labour has steadily fallen from averaging over fifty percent down to 46%.

The beneficiaries have not been National, and any intermittent increase gained by ACT has only been at National's expense.

It is New Zealand First, and to a lesser degree, United Future, that have picked up at the Government's expense.

The Greens have improved in the last month, but only back to where they were at the start of the year, largely due to the GM issue.

But I am confident of one result and that is the voters will once again deal a favourable hand to United Future to ensure we will continue to play a pivotal role in the new Parliament.

If I may turn my gaze to a wider horizon, I'd like to give you some perspective on where New Zealand now stands internationally.

The state of regional Pacific security troubles me greatly.

I see a pattern emerging of island states embroiled in civil war, corruption, failing economies, rapidly deteriorating infrastructures and seemingly irreconcilable political deadlock.

This has necessitated intervention by New Zealand, Australia and other states in East Timor and the Solomons and now Australia is talking about sending police forces into Papua New Guinea.

And that's without mentioning the situation in Indonesia where international terrorism struck such a cruel blow to innocent tourists in Bali, just one year this coming weekend.

New Zealand has contributed its bit towards those efforts, as well as to the wider war against terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and other world trouble spots, but frankly speaking, it's not an effort we can afford to continue indefinitely.

I have advocated before for an ANZAC force that would see the combined use of both Australia's and New Zealand's defence resources in support of the security of our region and I have seen and heard nothing in recent days that changes that view.

It is fashionable to bemoan the state of our defence forces as evidence of a lack of commitment by the current government to regional security and the Western alliance.

The issue is, of course, far deeper than that.

While Australia and New Zealand will always have political differences as two sovereign nations, the reality remains that there are probably no two countries on earth that are closer in so many basic ways.

Neither has the capacity to defend itself.

My proposal simply recognised those features and argued for us taking the great ANZAC spirit to another level which would see us working alongside each other where we have common cause with an integrated force, based around each country contributing its own areas of expertise.

In a world of increasing bilateralism it makes common sense, and I will never apologise for promoting common sense!

In the same spirit, I favour New Zealand and Australia working together with our Pacific partners to explore and develop the concept of a Pacific Union to pursue both our common regional political and economic interests.

I also believe we need to work much, much harder on our relationship with the United States.

We cannot turn back the clock and pretend the events of the 1980s did not occur, or more importantly, that New Zealanders no longer feel that way, because I do not believe that is the case, but we must work more constructively to develop new areas of potential partnership at both the political and economic levels so that the great historical friendship of American and Kiwi can be revitalised once more.

The current situation of continued polite sufferance is just no longer acceptable, or in either of our common interests.

Finally, let me say a word about our relationship with China.

There is no doubt of the increasing economic and political importance of that great nation, or of the significance for a variety of historical and other reasons of New Zealand's continuing close relationship with China.

At the same time, I do not support our current policy towards Taiwan.

I find it bizarre, to say the least, that the nations of the world are very good at agreeing with the rights of small nations to self-determination in out-of-the way places like East Timor, or in rallying around the need to remove despicable tyrants like Saddam Hussein, even if they do not agree on the methods, but that these same nations are mute when it comes to the Taiwan issue because of an unwillingness to offend China.

While the issue is ultimately one for the people of China and Taiwan to resolve peacefully, the free world cannot stand idly by, preaching democracy to the totalitarian states, and then failing to support democracy when it occurs in a state like Taiwan.

Where is the logic in admitting Taiwan to the WTO, for example, but failing to allow it even observer status at the WHO?

As a long-standing friend of both, New Zealand should be prepared to be in the vanguard of breaking the deadlock, rather than forever running for cover every time the issue is raised.

New Zealand has a long tradition of standing up for the little guy; taking a principled stand on issues of foreign policy, and having an impact on the international stage, far above the weight our population and geography would imply.

In the last 30 years we have produced outstanding international statesmen - from Norman Kirk to David Lange; from Keith Holyoake to Jim Bolger - all independent and proud Kiwis, recognised properly in their own right for the significance of their contribution.

The challenge for the current generation of political leaders is to pick up the torch they have left for us and assert afresh the great New Zealand internationalist tradition.

ENDS

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