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ACT - The Workers' Party

ACT - The Workers' Party

Thursday 20 Jan 2005

Rodney Hide - Speeches - Other

Rodney Hide, Leader ACT New Zealand - State of the Nation Address; Crown Plaza Hotel, Auckland; 12noon, Thursday, 20 January 2005.

In the wake of the horrific Asian tsunami, talking politics this summer seems almost frivolous.

Typically, New Zealanders have rallied in response to the catastrophe, showing their compassion and their resourcefulness.

The Prime Minister has managed the Government's response well. Without doubt she is a good political manager who can sell Labour's policies. But political leadership is about more than just day-to-day management.

ACT believes that political leadership should be about principles, beliefs and a vision for New Zealand. That means a leadership that can lift its head above the immediate political opinion polls. It means a leadership that can look forward five, 10 years and beyond and help build a future that is positive and bright.

We might be being well managed politically day to day, but where are we heading? Without clear direction, we are drifting. And we are not drifting to a better place. It is getting tougher and harder to work and to get ahead in New Zealand.

Looking ahead 10 years from now:

· Will we be performing economically up with countries we like to compare ourselves to or will we be slipping further away?

· Will our streets and homes be safer?

· Will we be a nation understanding and comfortable with our diversity or will we be increasingly racially divided still arguing over who owns what?

The political decisions that we are making now will in a large part determine the answer.

We are a nation of good people but more importantly we have the potential to be great. What we need is just the opportunity and the incentive to achieve.

I am always amazed at New Zealanders' resourcefulness, their ingenuity and their entrepreneurship. The "can do" attitude is alive and well in New Zealand. We still have a work ethic.

I am especially impressed by so many of the young New Zealanders I have met. They are bright. They are confident. They are keen to contribute.

There are new and exciting businesses. There is huge opportunity. There is a keenness and willingness to work and to contribute.

There is huge opportunity but there is huge frustration too. Excessive government and bureaucracy are crushing our resourcefulness and willingness to work. It's especially hard for small business. Big business can afford the HR managers, the RMA consultants, the OSH experts and the phalanx of lawyers that being in business today in New Zealand demands.

But small business can't.

Time and time again plumbers, electricians and retailers have told me they would like to expand and employ more staff but won't because they don't want the extra hassle, the worry and potential expense. They are afraid of getting someone who doesn't work out - or of not being able to sustain the increased business - and of being hit with the costs and legal bills of an employment dispute.

I am amazed at how many business people in their prime are selling up because they are sick of the hassle of being in business. The hassle they are complaining about isn't meeting customer demands, managing staff, and keeping costs in check - the hassle is our own government.

The lost potential is enormous.

And what's Helen Clark's economic policy? To tax and to regulate hard. And then to say, "look at us helping business by handing out your money!" But the money only ever goes to the favoured few. New Zealanders don't work hard to pay taxes so that our government can give $1.5 million to international computer giant EDS.

Working Kiwis paying for such handouts are struggling. Michael Cullen had to admit that the average Kiwi household is no better-off than it was five years ago. It earns an extra $8,000. That's good, But that entire amount has been eaten up by extra tax and higher prices. That's bad.

The average household is no better off after five years of Labour despite earning an extra $8,000.

Helen Clark's so-called "Working for Families" package is about to make it even tougher to get ahead.

For example, a family with one income earning around $50,000 will keep just 11 cents of every extra dollar they earn. The Government takes 89 cents, 33 cents tax, 30 cents loss of family support, 25 cents loss of accommodation supplement, and 1.2% ACC levies.

What sort of incentive is it when the Government takes nine dollars out of every extra 10 earned?

Imagine this. A family earning $35,000 a year works hard and increases its income by $20,000. They get to keep only $2,500 of the extra $20,000 they earn. Why would anyone bother?

Our own government is denying New Zealanders the opportunity and incentive to get ahead.

People have been made to think that this is as good as it gets. I don't subscribe to that notion, nor should you. We can and we must do better.

Come Election 2005, New Zealanders will be hungry for a contest and they will want to see Helen Clark taken on. And we intend to make it a contest.

I have no illusions. It will be a tough fight for ACT, but for anyone who harbours any doubts, we are more determined than ever. It's always been tough for ACT as we challenge the status quo and look not where we are but where we could be.

ACT's philosophy, principles and sheer tenacity remain as strong as they were when the party was formed more than 10 years ago and I was party president.

Let me remind you what ACT stands for: ACT stands for individual freedom and personal responsibility. We are dedicated to enabling New Zealanders to have more opportunities and choices in their own lives.

Our vision is for a free and prosperous New Zealand. We are proud of our country. We know New Zealanders can match the world's best.

We oppose state control, big government, high taxes, government waste and bureaucratic red tape. We oppose cradle to the grave welfare. We detest the growing culture of political correctness and `victimhood'.

ACT's values are New Zealand's values. Our opponents accuse us of being a party for the rich. They are wrong. We have never been a party for the rich. Our nine MPs are not wealthy. The overwhelming majority of our 145,000 voters are just ordinary everyday Kiwis. My father was a truck driver for Pete's sake!

That's why I am in ACT. ACT is the party of working New Zealand. Who else is standing up for workers? Labour has abandoned them. Labour's too busy with minority interests and providing for those who don't work. National remains a conservative party looking after the big end of town.

ACT is the only party promising a bigger pay packet for all working people. Why? Because that's how we build a better and stronger nation. We need to reward hard work and enterprise. Not stomp it down. We need to look after those who work and produce to prosper and succeed as a nation.

The ACT Party I am privileged to lead is the big voice in Parliament for the little guy who struggles to be heard.

ACT does something better than other political party - we keep governments on their toes, and we hold them to account. The Government labels this as scandal-mongering but ACT just asks the questions, it's the answers that cause the trouble!

I make no apologies for me and my team holding the Government to account. I know how hard New Zealanders work for their money. It makes me sick when I see how government wastes it. Governments forget that it is your money that they are spending.

ACT never does.

ACT is a hard working party of positive and practical ideas.... ideas that other parties have since been pinching. I like that. We have plenty more policies for others to pinch.

I never thought I'd live to see Jim Anderton steal our policy on lowering taxes, but last year he did! That's got to be good for New Zealand.

ACT has led the debate on one law for all New Zealanders, full and final Treaty settlements with a fixed timetable, tougher sentencing, welfare reform, school choice and tax cuts. We are pleased that these ideas are gaining currency across the political parties. We will work with everyone and anyone to achieve a freer and more prosperous New Zealand.

We don't take the privilege of representing you in Parliament for granted. We know we have to win sufficient support of our fellow New Zealanders to earn the privilege. But that's what keeps us on our toes and working hard. You won't see ACT complaining about competition.

Despite what we've been led to believe, Election 2005 will not be a good old-fashioned two-horse race. It will be another typical MMP election and the outcome will be typically MMP.

The next government will be a coalition one. Whatever happens this year, the reality is no party will get over 50% of the vote.

Consistent with the past, smaller parties will enjoy some bounce with their collective support jumping from 20% to around 40% at election time.

It might also be sobering for so-called political predictors to check out where ACT was nine months out from each of the last four elections, according to Colmar Brunton:

1.6% before the 1996 election,

3.9% before the 1999 election,

2.7% before the 2002 election,

2.8% before the 2005 election.

I don't for a second take any comfort from these figures. We have a lot of work to do. But we love a challenge. We will be back.

In these crowded party political times, ACT will need to be bolder (not Brash) than it ever has been before.

ACT is without doubt the natural and ideal coalition partner for a Brash-led government -especially now that National is increasingly moving to the centre and signing up to Labour policy. ACT will need to be the brains and the spine of the Brash-led government.

But we are an independent party. We are working on our own steam to earn the privilege of being in Parliament. Why? Because we want a better deal for working New Zealand, that's why.

Here's what we need to do to give working New Zealanders a better go.

Number One, make New Zealand the safest country in the world:

The number one job of any government is to defend us from the thugs and the bullies. That means the bad guys get caught and their punishment fits their crime.

Our government is failing us. We are no longer safe in our streets, at our work, in our homes. The police are stretched. Sentencing is a joke.

The numbers of unthinkable attacks and murders this year has been disgusting - and we're only up to day 20.

I'm sick of hearing of about sex predators being supervised rather than locked-up, elderly grandmothers assaulted and bludgeoned to death, and young women in distress not having their 111 calls answered.

ACT's law and order policy will be the toughest.

After five years of Labour's soft on crime, ACT will be in government to end the pussy-footing and pampering.

We should begin by setting a goal: to make New Zealand the safest country in the world. We can do that. We are after all a small country, a long way away from the world's trouble spots.

Helen Clark's government has no goal in dealing with crime. It has no solution. It's too soft.

Number Two, more money in every worker's pocket.

Hardworking Kiwis are overtaxed and over governed. Government spends far too much. And it taxes even more. The forecast government surplus is $6.5 billion.

That money should be returned to the New Zealanders who first earned it.

We should drop the business AND top personal rate to 25 cents in the dollar. We should extend the 15-cent rate up to $38,000.

We would go from four rates of income tax to just two.

The "cost" to the Government? About $5.8 billion a year. We could drop tax and not cut one dollar of spending.

Someone on $40,000 a year would be $35.86 better-off a week. Someone on $60,000 would be $66.55 better-off a week.

It's simple, flatter and across the aboard. More money in everyone's pockets and, best of all, it would boost prosperity.

That is a tax cut for every worker. It would make for bigger pay packets this year and every year.

Bigger pay packets help in so many ways.

There's no doubt that student loans are huge burden. We need to provide graduates with the wherewithal to pay their loans off easier, quicker and with less financial strain. Across the board tax cuts would do that.

Home mortgages are a problem. The answer is simple. Return to the people who earned it that big surplus the Government is sitting on. That's ACT's answer. Our tax cuts will be a big boost for those with a big mortgage.

Number Three, enable New Zealanders to get on and prosper:

The best way to provide for better health, better education and better retirement incomes is to build a more prosperous country.

The trouble is the Government is throttling our ability to produce.

The good news is that cutting taxes is a good start to making New Zealand more prosperous. It will boost investment and entrepreneurship.

The Government thought they might embarrass us by having the Treasury look at ACT's tax policy. But Treasury concluded that ACT's claim that its tax cuts would produce 1 percent extra growth was absolutely correct. That's an extra $15 billion over 10 years! $15 billion that we wouldn't otherwise have.

Tax cuts are a great way to boost the economy. But there's much that the Government can do.

For example, get out of business's way. Helen Clark's government has introduced an array of new taxes, ACC levy hikes, piles of paperwork, mountains of health and safety regulations, the new Holidays Act, and now those in the hospitality industry have to also act as smoking police. Such heavy-handed government is stifling entrepreneurship and crushing business.

We desperately need a Regulatory Responsibility Act in New Zealand to reign in the red tape

And let's not forget one thing: farming remains the backbone of New Zealand. Rural New Zealanders have had a rough deal under Labour. Helen Clark doesn't think rural votes are worth worrying about - unless they come to town. Remember the fart tax?

Rural communities are plagued with crime. The police are miles away. And our own government prosecutes you if you try to stick up for yourself and your property.

Those in rural communities have become second-class citizens. If you have a creek, river or lake on your property soon everyone in the country will be able to wander across your property without having to ask. That no-trespass rule won't apply if you live in town. That shows the double standard.

Put ACT into government and we will have a government that will defend private property, not pinch it. A government that recognises and values the hard work of rural communities.

Number Four, colour-blind government:

New Zealanders don't care about skin colour or ethnicity. We judge people by their character and their actions - not by their race.

So too should our government.

To do otherwise is racist.

It's a core New Zealand value that people be treated equally irrespective of their race, religion or creed.

It's also the key to living successfully and peacefully in an increasingly diverse and multiracial society. Helen Clark doesn't get that. She wants to pigeon-hole New Zealanders in boxes - and have different polices depending on what box you are in.

The coming election will give New Zealanders a choice: a government given over to a racial pecking order or one that is blind to a person's race.

ACT was the first party to call for one law for all New Zealanders. We will be the party that will deliver it.

Number Five, immigration policies that serve New Zealand:

Unlike some other political parties, ACT supports immigration. We are a supporter of the new New Zealander. If it weren't for immigration over the past 15 years this country, particularly this city, would be a much poorer place.

In government we will encourage immigration but with a difference. We want new New Zealanders with the skills and attributes this country needs if we are to reach our potential in the 21^st century.

We need a positive immigration policy for New Zealand -- one that is hard-headed and designed with the best interests of New Zealand as its objective.

And the best immigration policy of all! Economic and social policies so that our young people travel the world but come back to work and to live because of the opportunities and the lifestyle here at home.

We need our best and brightest if we are to succeed and prosper.

Number Six, social policy that delivers:

Our government is quick to point to bigger budgets if there are any doubts in the delivery of its social programme.

But pouring in more money doesn't guarantee better outcomes.

Just look at health. The Government claims it has increased spending by over 30 percent. Yet official figures show the number of elective surgery operations has increased by less than one percent. Total waiting lists have moved little - from 189,000 to 175,000 - and again the Government's own figures show over a thousand New Zealanders died while on the waiting list in the year to August 2004. That's right, died waiting.

Billions and billions extra have been thrown into health but for what result?

We shouldn't measure government success by how much money we throw at a problem. We should be looking at the results. Sadly for taxpayers this government all-too often just pats itself on the back simply for spending more money.

We need to involve the private sector more in healthcare not less. Unfortunately, for New Zealanders Helen Clark's government is ideologically opposed to private health care.

The same with schools. It's tough for families who want to send their children to an independent school. They have to pay twice. Once through their taxes. And again through school fees. ACT says that's wrong. We want to give parents the choice. Under ACT, the money will follow the child whether that child goes to a private or state school.

Just imagine the opportunity that will give to parents and to their children. They will for once be able to afford to send their children to a school of their choice whether that be a Christian school, a specialist school or to a government school. It will be their choice.

The one-size fits-all state-run education system needs to be opened up to choice and to competition. I believe that school choice is the one policy that will best provide us with a bright future. Education is the key to our future success.

And does anyone believe we are buying a better society by throwing more and more money at welfare? There are jobs to be had but no one to fill them Paradoxically we have 350,000 working age adults languishing on benefits.

As ACT's Deputy Leader Muriel Newman explained in a speech at the weekend we are doing no one any favours with a welfare system that sucks too many in and lets too few out. We need to reform welfare so once again it looks after the truly needy but doesn't trap those who can work and contribute and live fulfilling lives independent of the state.

Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake - this election ACT will challenge the myth perpetrated by this government - that New Zealanders don't mind paying extra tax because they are getting better services.

They do mind. When we spend our money we want to see results.

Labour came to office with aspirations to take us up the wealth ladder of OECD countries. Realising its policies weren't going to deliver a more internationally competitive and prosperous country, the Government dropped any ambitions it might have had to climb any ladders.

We like to think of ourselves as economically comparable to Australia, the UK, France and Italy. The sad reality, confirmed by the OECD last week, is that we are today ranked `low middle income' alongside the likes of Cyprus, Greece, Israel and the Czech Republic!

New Zealand may have lost five years of opportunity but ACT hasn't dropped its ambition to lift each and every New Zealanders' standard of living.

This government has squandered all opportunity. It has had no thought for the future other than locking in votes - drawing its support out of poverty and dependency.

ACT represents hard-working middle New Zealand - people who want a fair go, greater prosperity, and who want their country to reach its full potential.

ACT is always at its best in election year... and this year will be no different.

Over the coming months we will be fighting on every working New Zealanders' behalf like never before.

We know what New Zealanders are capable of. It's our job to give them the chance.


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