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United Future sets policy goals for 2004

Media statement
For immediate release
Tuesday, 3 February 2004

United Future sets policy goals for 2004

Getting rid of GST on rates emerged as one of the significant policy goals set by the United Future caucus at its first retreat for 2004, which ended at Wallaceville in Upper Hutt today.

Leader Peter Dunne said GST on rates was an unjust tax on a tax and removing it would be a practical and simple way to help hard-pressed New Zealand homeowners already struggling with rising interest rates, and soaring health and education bills.

He estimated the move would cost the Government about $260 million a year.

"Everyone talks about helping the family - we want to do something practical and implementation of this policy would mean the average New Zealand household would save $138 a year," said Mr Dunne.

Other policy goals the caucus has set itself for this term of Parliament include

* practical steps to ease the loans burden on tertiary students and encourage graduates to continue living and working in New Zealand

* giving tax breaks to community volunteers

* getting funding for the Families Commission to establish parenting assistance programmes

* seeking massive property confiscation from drug dealers and criminal gangs

* pushing for a radical overhaul of CYPFS, so that New Zealand children and families at risk get the best possible support and protection.

"There are two issues that will dominate the immediate political agenda: the question of the foreshore and seabed ownership and the massive social assistance programme for lower-income families the Government is planning to announce in the Budget," he said.

Foreshore and seabed

"The foreshore debate is vital to us all, because it's not just about the ownership of a particular piece of real estate, but because it raises fundamental questions about the New Zealand identity, about how we view ourselves and how our communities can live amicably together.

"In that context, I am bemused by our political opponents who castigate us for supporting the Government's current proposals. If they should ever pause for thought, they should ask themselves what would happen if we didn't.

"The answer, of course, is that Labour would turn to the Greens for support and the price the Greens would extract in terms of greater recognition of Maori sovereignty would simply exacerbate the problem, rather than settle it.

"Looking further ahead, if the Government's plans for resolving this issue are rejected by Parliament, then we'll all be back exactly where we started, with Maori going to the Maori Land Court seeking the definitive word on just what, if any, their ownership rights over the foreshore and seabed are.

"The resolution of this matter will tell us a lot about ourselves and whether New Zealand in the future will be an outward-looking, cheerful, excellent place to live or a collection of separate communities riven by suspicion, fear and dissension.

"Clearly, United Future prefers the first alternative, but it is going to require great leadership, clear thinking and a lack of bigoted rhetoric to achieve that result."

Social assistance package

Mr Dunne said the massive tax surpluses the Government has accumulated from the efforts of working New Zealanders over recent years are to be partially distributed to lower-income families who are still struggling to make ends meet, even though the economy has been performing better than expected in recent times.

"As the cornerstone of New Zealand society, the family needs all the support it can get.

"But that support must not be simply handouts that do nothing to promote the long-term health of our families, our communities and our nation.

"Families that merely sit about waiting for the next payment from Work and Income are not an asset, but a drain on New Zealand society.

"This year will see the Families Commission start its vital research work into the New Zealand family, research that will help future Governments produce better policy so that our families can live more prosperous, fulfilling lives."

Environment

Mr Dunne said the caucus had continued its very productive talks with representatives of the Outdoor Recreation party.

"New Zealand desperately needs a sensible environmental policy that conserves our nation's resources without mindlessly hindering intelligent development.

"We have started developing such a policy which we will be releasing in the next few months.

"United Future and ORNZ can deliver a policy which will avoid the mindless fanaticism of the Greens and their allies in the Department of Conservation and the open slather ' dig everything, sell everything' approach of the ACT party."

Tax policy

Mr Dunne said the caucus was heavily involved in developing a tax policy that would assist New Zealand business to be more productive and would allow New Zealand families to make more of their own decisions about how their pay packets are spent.

"This will be an important part of our package for the next election," he said.

ends


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