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Championing The Taxpayer

Championing The Taxpayer

Gerry Eckhoff Speeches 10TH Annual Conference ? Christchurch: Sunday March 7, 2004

It is very rare - and, I suspect imprudent - to start a speech at your party's conference with a direct quote from somebody's Labour Prime Minister (she's not ours, but I assume she must belong to somebody). I quote from Hansard - Adjournment debate Christmas 2002:

"With regard to the opposition, I have only a few reflections to make. I agree with very little that ACT says, but what I will credit ACT with, is that it has a coherent position, developed from first principles. It will always have my respect for that and for the energy with which it approaches its task of advocacy"

You will note the phrase - "first principles". I wonder what principle, the Prime Minister based her U-turn on the foreshore and seabed issue on - and now the closure of schools is to be re-addressed. Again, what principle is that based on? I think the principle of expediency.

You will also note, of course, that she referred to ACT as the opposition. We - and I emphasise the word "we" - can take considerable pride in what we all have achieved so far. It is not just MPs and their spouses - not just ACT's Board, members or supporters, but all of us can take a collective bow.

Sorry, I withdraw the word collective - I mentioned spouses. I have never met Dr Peter Davis but I understand that, at his wedding to Helen Clark, he referred to marrying Miss Right.

I bet he didn't know then that her middle name was `always'. Actually it dawned on me the other day that I have something in common with the Prime Minister: we both pull our trousers on one leg at a time - but that's it.

The Chinese say "you are cursed to live in interesting times." I suspect these times will be the watershed years for New Zealand again.

Just as Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble changed the political scene forever during the 80s, so too will the pendulum swing back in favour of the businessman and woman - the farmer, the manufacturer, the producer, the grower, the contributors - the creative people that abound in New Zealand.

ACT is the voice of these people, and will continue to be so.

National too has found its voice. It has found that vein of support by espousing ACT policy that we had signposted years' ago.

The ACT Party's strength and policies has made things happen for National, and for the Centre-Right that is pleasing. Our beliefs and philosophies are reflective of middle New Zealand in all its shapes, sizes and colours.

The policies that Richard, Ken, Rodney and Muriel espoused for years in the House are only just starting to be heard - despite the fact that we have been preaching the gospel of one law for all and no race-based legislation for 10 years.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have one huge advantage over all the other parties: we may have our faults, but being wrong isn't one of them. Sound arrogant? Maybe, but also truthful.

We are not wrong in having an enduring belief that the foundation of freedom belongs with the individual courageous enough to swim against the tide; who challenges the conventional wisdom of the day; who refuses to perpetuate failure; who strives to achieve, while not always succeeding; who fears less the label of crackpot, than the stigma of conformity; who values the advice of their peers; who is accepting of an alternative opinion; who understands that the greatest strength one can have is to recognise their own weaknesses.

I have an unequivocal faith that we - the ACT team - will continue to succeed. The subsidy that a failing National Party gave us is now gone. Thanks to Don Brash - and only Don Brash.

We must fight even harder to achieve, not just for our survival, but also for a greater share of the vote - especially the rural vote, of which I am especially fond.

At the last election too many rural folk stayed away. That attitude has changed for a number of reasons, and the Government decision to constantly redistribute land rights almost guarantees that vote back to the Centre-Right.

I recently asked the Parliamentary Library to tabulate the costs imposed on farming since the 1970s. That report was 100 pages long and, on business 180 pages - 280 A4 pages of controls, regulations and costs.

Is there a more obvious reason for New Zealanders to support our party? Our task is to ensure ACT receives more than its fair share of the vote because we do the hard yards - we lead the big issues. We do make it happen.

Example? ACT won, what I call, the battle of the bulge - the so-called `Fart Tax'. We forced the backdown - not any other political party. That was a real victory against even more cost to dairy business in New Zealand.

We must also win the battle to retain the rights of exclusive use and quiet enjoyment of our land. We must retain the right to grow our business in rural New Zealand, just as those in urban New Zealand can do.

If there is to be a "taking" of rural land for a genuine public good, let it only be with compensation for which the Government is then answerable to the taxpayer.

You know, we - the ACT Party - probably use the word "taxpayer" so much more than any other party. We constantly point out that there is no such thing as Government money, only taxpayer money. That is why we, at least, are careful with - and respectful of - that long-suffering person: the New Zealand taxpayer.

The Government, of course, refers to "Government money". Governments neither create nor add wealth to New Zealand. Their job, as they see it, is to redistribute your assets for their electoral advantage. The U-turn by the Government over the foreshore and school closures exemplifies that.

I would also like to say a word or two about control of the rural environment. Is there anybody left who still believes that Crown ownership equates to environmental protection?

The Waitaki River is essentially Crown-owned and controlled; yet Labour chooses to fast-track that development - despite very substantial opposition. The Government has also decided that the use of water for irrigation should be a distant second to power generation.

Have you noticed that private landowners with "natural values" are subject to extraordinary control and regulation? Yet the State can destroy with impunity those values which belong to us all. The State can take or thieve from us, as it will. Aesop once said, "We hang petty thieves - the great ones we appoint to public office".

State control equates to expediency when required - private control by shareholders or stakeholders of the Waitaki wouldn't allow the Government subsidiary anywhere near that water.

There are much better options.

You may recall that, some years' ago, I suggested private that stewardship or farming of our national symbol (the kiwi) would guarantee its survival - State control would ensure its demise. That suggestion caused a great deal of hilarity - for a while.

Just recently the American Environmental Protection Agency (DOC equivalent) announced the removed of 30 endangered species from the list of 1000. A cause for celebration? No - they were removed because they had become extinct. Enough said.

Thank you for the privilege of being a Member of Parliament and thank you for the privilege of being a part of the best political party in New Zealand - probably the world.

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