The Coming Election
The Coming Election
Speech to ACT Waikato/BOP Regional Conference; The Pavilion, Rose Gardens, Cobham Drive, Hamilton; Saturday September 4, 2004.
ACT Believes in Freedom
The great thing about belonging to the ACT party is that you have an answer to the question, "What do you believe in"? Freedom! No other party in New Zealand politics has an answer to the question - What do you believe in? The reason for that is simple. They don't believe in anything other than power.
The ACT party believes in freedom of the individual. We stand tall for the free market, for entrepreneurship and for good but limited government.
That means that we see government as vital to the proper functioning of a free and prosperous society but that government shouldn't attempt to do everything. We believe that government should focus on its core tasks and do them well. These core tasks include the defence of the nation, the protection of the citizens from the thugs and the bullies, and ensuring that key infrastructure, such as roads, are provided.
What we have in New Zealand is big and bloated government that funds hip-hop study tours to America, Maori television, hand-outs to businesses, and race-based grants to close the so-called gaps. Government has money for these extraneous things at the expense of our military, our own protection, and at the expense of core infrastructure, such as roading.
The problem we have with government is not government itself but our government's values and priorities. They are topsy turvey. The things that we can do for ourselves the government wants to do for us and the things we can't do, government neglects.
We believe in freedom because it's good in itself. Slavery is wrong. Totalitarism is wrong and so too it is wrong to tell people how they must live their lives and use their own resources.
But we believe in freedom for another reason too. We believe in freedom because it is freedom that generates prosperity. Not governments. Not taxes. Not government spending. Not committees. Not central planning, but freedom. The freedom to work, to invest, to be entrepreneurial, that's what generates wealth, not government. The government has a core function in providing the conditions for prosperity but doesn't generate that prosperity; people do, with their skill, talent, and their effort.
We can sum up the ACT philosophy in another way. We trust people. We trust Kiwis to look after themselves, to manage themselves, and to do well for themselves. We trust Kiwis to look after their families and their neighbours. Parents care for their children's education more than any Minister of Education can ever care. Parents know more about her children's circumstances than Trevor Mallard ever can. And so ACT trusts the people.
Our goal is to establish the ACT party as a permanent feature of New Zealand politics. That means that we must ensure a proper functioning party organisation. Our goal contrasts sharply to New Zealand First, which is simply a personality cult.
I am proud of what ACT has achieved in its time in Parliament. A Party that consistently stands up for individual freedom and personal responsibility. The Party that first challenged race-based preferences. The Party that first campaigned on toughening up on law and order. The Party that campaigned for the overwhelming need for welfare reform. The Party that has made tax cuts part of our political debate.
It's crucial that we have an ACT party in our Parliament, consistently standing up for individual freedom, personal responsibility, the free market and limited government. Our aim should be to ensure that ACT survives for many decades to come and becomes part of our political culture.
It is important that we recognise the long term nature of our political ambitions for our Party and our country. We must look beyond any one election or the politics or moods of the day. We need to ensure a strong deep political organisation, bigger than any one person or particular group. It means that we have to pay special attention to attracting young members to carry the torch of freedom over into the next generation of political leaders.
Our aim over time should be to secure two or three good seats and to build our support to 10 or 12 percent.
The Coming Election
I suggest our goal at the next election be to win seven percent plus of the party vote. I believe that we can do that. That means that we must show that we can work with National in opposition, through the campaign, and on into government. Our ability to provide good and stable government will stand in marked contrast to Helen Clark whose only possible coalition partners are the Maori Party and the Greens. That's the country's worst nightmare. It's Helen Clark's also. We must establish ourselves as part of the alternative to the Labour-Green-Maori government.
I have spent my first period of my leadership getting round the country talking to members and supporters and listening to voters. I believe it is now time to start opening up on this government and exposing their flawed policies for what they are.
It is crucial that we show that we complement Don Brash and the National Party but important too that we establish our political independence and credibility.
We need to give our voters reasons why they should vote for us. We must point out that National's policies are way too similar to Labour's for the country's good. Don Brash has signed up to Helen Clark's 39-cent tax rate. That 39-cent tax rate was wrong when Helen Clark put in it, it's wrong now, and it should be gone. We need to lower the penalty on working and investing in New Zealand. We need to be celebrating and rewarding success, not punishing it, and we need to be dropping our tax rates, not leaving them where they are.
There is only one way tax rates are going to come down in this country, and that is if people vote for ACT.
There's only way to ensure greater freedom and prosperity, and that's to vote ACT.
Don Brash was right at Orewa to point out the danger and absurdity of race based preferences. He identified the problem. What we need to do is come up with the solution.
The Government's response has been Trevor Mallard as Minister in charge of Race Relations. He is undertaking a review of what they are calling targeted policies and programmes.
But this review programme shows that the Government's response has been all spin and no substance. It is simply declaring a race to be needy and then justifying race-based preferences on the basis of need.
The problem is the Government still defining "need" on the basis of race. They are not determining "need" on the basis of the resources available to individuals. There is no doubt that Maori figure predominantly in our poor social statistics, but that does not mean that there are non-Maori who are not doing well. And of course, many Maori are doing very well.
Mallard's entire approach is fundamentally flawed. Our government shouldn't be operating policies based on race. The solution is simple: an end to race-based policies.
The National Party has again pointed out the problem of New Zealanders having to pay too much tax. But again they haven't come up with the solution.
In fact the National Party are sticking to Helen Clark's 39-cent tax rate. Once again, it is left to the ACT party to come up with the solution. There was a $6 billion surplus last financial year. It would cost the Government $5.5 billion to drop the top rate of tax and the company tax to 20 cents. There is a solution to the problem of New Zealanders being over taxed.
There's the answer to providing New Zealanders with a freer and more profitable economy.
The National Party is right to be complaining about NCEA. The problems of the NCEA go a lot deeper than just Cambridge High. The New Zealand Qualifications Authority's NCEA update 21 urges teachers to adopt, "creative" ways of recognising achievement. For example,
"For many students there will be opportunities for teachers to measure student performance against the standard in a range of activities outside the classroom. Observation of an activity or performance such as kapa haka, sports events, drama production, debating, public speaking or music festivals can be used when making an assessment of student performance. Work completed for one subject may also contribute to evidence of achievement in another."
Where is the objective standard in that? Where is the possible consistency?
It is one thing to identify the problems of the NCEA but what is the solution. Well, the ACT party trusts parents. We need school choice so that the school funding follows the child whether the child goes to a private school or a government school. I suspect that many parents favour external exams objectively marked, rather than NCEA. It should not be the politicians or the bureaucrats foisting the system on us, rather it should be left up to the schools themselves and to parents. That's why trusting people and school choice is so crucial.
The number one priority of any government is the security of the country and the safety of the citizens. Helen Clark's government has been derelict in running down our military capacity and disbanding our combat air wing. She has been derelict in further isolating New Zealand and its people from its traditional allies, the Australians and the Americans. We need to rebuild our military capacity to be able to defend ourselves and we need to rebuild our traditional relationships with our allies. Our nuclear powered ships ban should be gone - by lunch time.
For law and order, we should be setting a simple goal. We should be aiming to make New Zealand the safest place to live and visit in the world. There is no reason why we can't achieve that goal. All it requires is government making it a priority.
ACT's Dr Muriel Newman has put welfare reform on the political table.
We have a government that trumpets the lowest unemployment in years. That's great. But surely with unemployment at an all time low, we have a marvellous opportunity to reform our welfare system so it better provides for the needy and doesn't trap so many of our people in dependency and poverty.
And even with lowest unemployment in years we still have 360,000 working-age adults dependent on benefits.
We have eight times the number of sickness beneficiaries that we had 30 years ago. And nine times as many invalids.
I don't believe that we have got that sick and that incapacitated in just three decades.
Our welfare system is a cruel system: it entices people in and then traps them in poverty, dependency and despair.
Those who don't care are happy with the status quo. Those who care know we have to change it.
Once again it is ACT that has the solutions.
We have a big job in front of us. But we like big jobs. We need to give it everything we have got. Our country and our future depend upon it.