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Undoing The Damage


Undoing The Damage

Richard Prebble Speech to Auckland Regional Conference Alexandra Park Raceway, Auckland 10:30 am, Saturday 18 October 2003

ACT's role is to lead.

The ACT party leads and the other parties follow.

Our nation is crying out for positive leadership. There are important issues facing New Zealand from how to get back up to Australia's standard of living, to improving education standards, to lowering crime, to resolving the treaty industry, to our place in the world.

On all the issues ACT is providing leadership.

You can only lead if you know where you are and where you want to go.

The ACT party knows where we stand.

ACT is a party that believes that the individuals have the right to make their own choices in life and we believe that citizens have a duty to the extent they are able to take responsibility for themselves and their families.

We extend assistance to those who are truly vulnerable and a hand up to those who have been hurt by misfortune.

ACT believes in the core values that made this country. The values of honesty, thrift, and personal responsibility. They are the real family values.

ACT knows where to lead our country. It's to the first world, not the third.

To take our place again, alongside Australia as a first world nation, with first world health and education and first world opportunities.

Rodney Hide challenged his state radio interviewer this week to name a race of people who have been led to success by a government department.

No governments anywhere have produced wealth. The economic success that we seek comes from the private sector, from the effort and enterprise of individuals. So it follows we must encourage that effort and enterprise.

Never doubt what a difference that our effort makes.

This week we had a dramatic example. The campaign against the FART tax was lead by the ACT party.

It is true that 63,000 people signed the anti-flatulence tax petition.

Its true farmers marched on Parliament.

And it's true that a National MP got so excited he drove a tractor up the steps of parliament. But the leadership came from ACT.

The petition that we signed was the petition of Gerry Eckhoff, ACT MP.

Gerry and his two assistants, the pantomime cows Gertrude and Sally travelled 7,000 kilometres around New Zealand campaigning against the tax.

When ACT's bus left on the tour - I spoke to a crowd of 40 and told Gerry to come back with a crowd of thousands. No other party joined us to see Gerry off, but they borrowed our bus's loudspeaker system to welcome him back.

No one doubts, that but for the FART TAX campaign, the producers of over half our export wealth would today be paying this ridiculous tax.

Why could ACT give leadership? The reason is simple.

ACT has never changed our stance on Kyoto. As a treaty it is deeply flawed. No country is going to be more adversely affected by its provisions than New Zealand.

Already the forestry industry has had its carbon credits nationalized without compensation, an act of communism.

The FART tax on farmers is just the first of the carbon taxes that soon we all will face. Soon 100,000 car owners will find that their family car has failed the new emission tests and their second largest asset is worthless.

Few ACT voters will be affected. For many Labour homes, Judith Tizard's new law will be a major financial catastrophe. The effect on global warming will be nil, on the family concerned, it's a disaster. ACT's stance has been clear. New Zealand should not sign Kyoto until after Australia, China, and the USA.

ACT has credibility. We are being proved right, we can lead.

This week the Clark/Wilson Government showed how dangerous it really is.

A major part of our constitution was swept away by a bare parliamentary majority. A step towards Margaret Wilson's agenda, the Socialist Republic of Aotearoa.

Margaret Wilson is the most dangerous politician I have ever seen.

ACT's Stephen Franks lead the campaign against the abolition of the Privy Council. ACT could do so because ACT has been consistent. ACT has always said that having a neutral, international high calibre final Court of Appeal is very valuable.

ACT won the campaign in the court of public opinion, 80 percent of New Zealander's want a referendum. Stephen Franks is determined. He has not given up. If we can gather the 310,000 signatures, we will have a referendum and a historic victory.

It does not matter what the issue is, it is the ACT party that is leading.

Our Government has, at the cost of $370,000 consulted only with Maori on who owns the foreshore and seabed.

ACT took the initiative and consulted with the whole nation in our Foreshore, Law and Politics conference. ACT MP Heather Roy organized the conference. We invited international and national experts, local body and interest groups, Maori and the public. ACT now has a clear position that is intellectually rigorous, principled and sound.

ACT says the Crown should appeal the foreshore decision and still can by joining the Marlborough District Council's appeal. The Crown owns the foreshore and seabed. The Crown is all of us and that includes Maori. Together we all own the foreshore.

Private property rights should be recognized but that's for the court not the Government to determine.

ACT is leading also on foreign policy and defence.

This week President Bush will visit Australia and that country looks like completing a free trade agreement with America.

New Zealand's trade policy is in disarray. The World Trade Talks have collapsed and only New Zealand in the Cairns group of free traders has no prospect of a free trade agreement with the USA.

Our country has never been more isolated.

ACT's Deputy Leader Ken Shirley is leading the parliamentary case to drop our cold war policy of banning nuclear powered ships.

ACT says it's time to take our place again at the international table as a responsible member of that alliance of democratic countries that has for sixty years first defeated fascism and then communism. Now free nations together must defeat terrorism.

How can it be that under Helen Clark New Zealand finds itself allied with France and Germany?

ACT is now providing inspirational leadership on an issue essential for our survival, the standard of education of our next generation.

Education is an issue where every political party agrees on the goal. As New Zealand is further from our markets than any other nation, we have to have the very best education.

We know we can do it, because only thirty years ago, we were number one.

When I went to school, New Zealand children in the international comparison tests were ranked as first for reading.

Now we are out of the top ten and in maths we are below some third world nations.

Parliament's response has been to throw money at the problem. Real education spending has over the last 20 years doubled but standards have continued to fall.

ACT has been saying, there has to be a better way. There are many better ways and some lead back to the family.

There is a policy that will cost no more, and will lift standards significantly.

That's school choice.

Around the world, in Britain, the USA, in Australia, school choice is gaining momentum. In New Zealand Labour is leading the other way. Trevor Mallard proposes closing 300 schools, the ultimate denial of choice.

School closures in the countryside and closed zones in the cities are ACT's chance to lead. Rural school closures lead to left-wing Sweden adopting school choice. Small rural communities were given the option of taking over closing rural schools.

The left-wing thought the parents would fail. They succeeded and Swedish education has never been better.

Failed urban public schools have lead to the voucher scheme in the USA where the Supreme Court this year said vouchers are constitutional.

Private schools like Edison in New York are dramatically improving education achievement in the ghettos.

New Zealand can do it to. Deborah Coddington's brilliant new book "Let Parent's Choose" is a manifesto for education achievement.

School choice is a movement the ACT party leads.

ACT will make school choice the education issue in the next election.

As an Aucklander I would like ACT to take the lead on another issue, solving the Auckland transport gridlock. Our roads are third world. Anyone who has visited Sydney and has travelled on their new freeways knows that our roading problem can be solved. The Government's new transport bill was written by the Greens. Get ready to walk to work.

ACT alone has the solution. First completely rewrite the Resource Management Act so we have workable planning laws.

Second, we must invest in infrastructure.

I am a fellow of the New Zealand Transport and Logistics Institute. This week I attended a speech at the Institute by the Hon Stephen Norris, former Conservative Transport Minister, and I suspect, the next mayor of London. The media widely reported his comment supporting cycling and opposing white elephant transport projects.

What they did not report was his more telling observation. Britain has more flexible labour laws and less red tape than France. Yet France with its 35-hour week and legendary red tape consistently outperforms the UK. How can this be?

The answer is that France unlike Britain and New Zealand, has invested in infrastructure. The French motorway system is the best in Europe; the UK's is the worst.

Economists say that Auckland's transport cost the country a billion a year. I think that is an under estimate. Improving the nation's infrastructure would transform the quality of our lives.

Another policy ACT leads on will also dramatically improve the quality of life.

Imagine if we halved crime. Half the murders, half the rapes, half the robberies and half burglaries,

It's Achievable.

A Zero Tolerance Policy cut crime in New York by more than 50%.

ACT's Police Spokesperson Muriel Newman, this month visited Mayor Ray Mallon in the United Kingdom. As Chief Constable of Middlesborough, Ray Mallon promised to half crime by applying zero tolerance techniques and achieved his target in just a year.

It's a policy that works. It's based on ACT's values of holding individuals accountable for their actions. It's a policy where ACT leads.

Which brings me to the challenge that the organisers of this conference set down "breaking out of Helengrad - what will it take?

Labour is a government under siege. They have no vision, no policy, and no solution.

Labour has inherited a set of economic policies put in place by Sir Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson and is the beneficiary of better terms of trade.

All my life, our terms of trade, the relative value of what this country produces has been declining.

It appears that the Uruguay round of trade liberalisation has shifted the terms of trade in our favour.

While countries like France produce more milk, this country produces over 40 percent of the world's internationally traded milk. A small improvement on agricultural access has a significant effect on our economy.

Labour's only achievement is to say that they have not altered fundamentally the policies they inherited.

But they are taking us in the wrong direction.

The size of government is increasing. Red tape and compliance costs are increasing.

Tax collected is massively increasing. The surplus is a massive $5.6 billion. Michael Cullen is holding the cash for a massive election year spend up.

Already the political rhetoric is on how to spend the surplus. "We have children living in poverty.... when the government is sitting on a fat surplus. That surplus is built on the back of that poverty." Or so says Rod Donald the socialist deputy leader of the Green party.

You sort of have a vision of the Government taxing child chimney sweeps.

The Council of Trade Unions economist Peter Cumming is quoted as saying "the poor are waiting for their big payoff from this Government".

Only ACT points out where this money has come from and whose money it is.

Just one third of all adults pay over 90% of all income tax.

Labour has been over taxing those who work.

When Labour lifted income tax by 18% to 39 cents in the dollar tax, it said that this would only affect 5% of taxpayers. 18% of all those in work now pay the top rate of tax.

It is working families who need tax relief.

Those in work have received nothing from Labour. We don't qualify for state house rents, for family support, we do pay Labour's health taxes, extra petrol tax, increased ACC levies and it is very unlikely we will watch Maori TV.

The quality of our schools has fallen, the hospital waiting lists are longer and we watch Labour give away money to the America's Cup Campaign.

Now we are told that the surplus came from the poor.

A working person on $25,000 a year with a dependent spouse and two children paid last year in income tax $26.79 cents.

Dr Cullen says his priority is to increase family support, which of course, largely goes to those on benefits.

A person on the Domestic Purposes Benefit with two children last year paid no income tax but received a tax credit of $899.60.

The household on the average wage, in contrast pays half their income in income tax, GST, government charges and rates. Unless of course they smoke in which case they just work for the Inland Revenue Department.

For basic fairness ACT is campaigning for tax relief for the taxpayers.

For five billion, in line with McLeod tax reform recommendations. We would have a top tax rate of 28 cents and lower the bottom rate to 18 cents.

A lower tax rate than Australia. A tax rate that would make New Zealand an attractive place to invest, work and live.

Tax reform is the issue that we use to break out of Helengrad.

We in ACT believe that our fellow citizens can always spend and invest their own money better than any politician.

So ACT says we do not buy into the election spending promises.

Lets give the money back to the people who earn it.

It's the only honest thing to do. It's why ACT leads and we will succeed.

Let me leave you with these pleasant facts.

ACT's membership and fundraising are both at record levels for a post election year. Our public opinion polling is a record for ACT in a post-election year.

Political parties fall into one of two categories. Some parties like Greens and New Zealand First in pre-election public opinion polling score higher than they ever receive in an election.

There is a good reason. In between elections those parties promise every thing to every one. During an election the contradictions in their manifestos cause their support to fall.

ACT is the other way round. We take principled positions that often lose us support. When the whole of Parliament wanted to pass police state dog laws that would have made dog owners second class citizens only ACT said no.

We have been proven right. The parliamentary Select Committee has thrown out nearly all the proposed changes. But when elections come and the spot light falls on ACT's practical positive solutions our support always rises.

ACT has always received more than double our average public opinion polling support in the period between elections.

ACT is on target to double our representation in parliament and become the main third party.

With 18 MP's the ACT party can and will lead this country to the values that will make us again a great country.

Never doubt how powerful is ACT's message.

A country where every New Zealand regardless of race, gender, religion and politics has an equal opportunity is what attracted me to Labour.

Labour no longer believes in that message. Now they promote the policies of envy and the aim of the social engineer, a nation where we are all equal by pulling down those who have succeeded. ACT is now the party of equal opportunity.

ACT's values have a universal appeal. The new educated successful Maori middle class, those who achieved not by the grievance industry but by their own hard work are attracted to ACT, as are the emerging new Pacific professionals and business people.

ACT's ideas are new but our values are old. This is why the new immigrants from Asia, Europe, South Africa and the Americas recognise and empathise with ACT's values and are supporting ACT in increasing number.

We are the party of the future.

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