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Brash Speech: A new government and a new direction

Don Brash Speech: A new government and a new direction

Address to National Party Southern Region Annual Conference, Shoreline Convention Centre, Dunedin

I must say it’s great to be back here in the South, where I have been a frequent visitor in recent weeks.

I can tell you, with great sincerity, that it feels great to be here, and I say that for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, everything I see and hear tells me that this part of New Zealand is going to make a huge contribution to the election of the next National Government. I am hugely optimistic about the party vote you will deliver for the National Party in this region.

You all know that it is the party vote that really matters under MMP. And the good people of the South, who are so sick and tired of the treatment meted out to them by the Clark Government, are set to give the National Party a really solid party vote.

I am equally confident about the fact that you will deliver three Labour-held constituency seats to the National fold.

My recent visit to Aoraki, where Jo Goodhew is doing a simply superb job, tells me that Jim Sutton’s days as the MP for that electorate are well and truly numbered.

In Otago, Jacqui Dean is about to abruptly terminate the political career of one David Parker, who I understand has made the same impact in his electorate that he has made in Wellington: virtually none.

And further South in Invercargill, where Mark Peck has seen the writing on the wall, the people of that city will trust Eric Roy to provide the representation that has been missing on the issues that matter to them.

Dr Conway Powell is fighting the good fight in Dunedin South against David Benson-Pope - a man under pressure.

I have no need, I am sure, to extol to this audience, the virtues of our Education spokesman, Bill English. But I shall anyway, because Bill has done a superb job, both in exposing the serious shortcomings of Trevor Mallard and David Benson-Pope, and also in providing a clear alternative path for the future of education in this country.

The parents of New Zealand can rest easier, knowing that Bill English will soon be the Minister of Education in the next National Government. And I am personally grateful, too, for the support Bill has given to me.

I want to pay tribute to the contribution of Katherine Rich, who has done such an outstanding job of giving the National Party a credible voice in this City, and playing a senior and influential role within our caucus.

This region is poised to have a strong voice in the future of our country as Bill and Katherine are joined by candidates such as Eric, Jacqui, Jo and Conway in the National Party Caucus which spearheads the next government of New Zealand.

We have the people. We have the policies, too. You will all have seen the favourable response to our Education policy recently. In this region, parents, pupils and schools have been particularly badly treated by this Government. We will increase parental choice. We will lift the performance of schools by shifting decision-making away from centralised bureaucracy and back to schools and communities.

We will return standards by overhauling the NCEA and introducing national literacy and numeracy standards, and by providing assistance for those who do not meet the standards by the age of seven. We cannot afford to lose our youngsters at the rate we are doing.

And the teacher unions will not stop us. Southland parents will remember that it was the unions who conspired with the Labour Government to hatch secret plans for widespread and brutal school closures to stop parents choosing which school their children could attend. The unions and their Minister, Trevor Mallard, were prepared to dictate the future of Southland schools from their offices in Wellington.

Well I can assure you that under a National Government led by me, education will come first and the choice will be one for local communities. No union, no bonus payment for union membership, and no bullyboy politicking will stand in the way. In fact National will extend the $500 lump sum payment made to union members last year to those teachers on individual contracts who missed out. Teachers should be paid for competence and hard work, not for union membership.

This week you would all have seen the indictment of the Government’s law and order policy that was contained in the report on the failure of the 111 system. I cannot recall anything in recent years which has so comprehensively catalogued Police failures, but still the Police Minister survives. National has been pointing out these failures for months. We would not leave rural communities without this emergency access. And nor would we allow serial rapists and murderers back on the streets. I simply do not accept Labour’s parole programme for serious and repeat offenders.

Let me briefly at this point outline our other key election planks:

National will bring in a tax system that rewards enterprise, rewards skill and rewards hard work. We will lessen the burden on the hundreds of thousands of middle-income families who, under the policies of the current Government, are taxed as if they are the new rich. These policies will be announced closer to the election, once we have seen what is left in the Budget after Labour’s reckless pre-election spend-up.

National will end the Treaty grievance industry and the indulgent culture of waste, extravagance and political correctness which surrounds it. As a nation we need to step ahead as one people, not separated by two standards. Labour’s system will condemn New Zealand to the status of a divided nation and a Pacific backwater. We are better than that. Our people deserve more than that.

National will address the welfare rorts that, in a time of plenty, have left move than 300,000 adult New Zealanders on welfare - that’s the equivalent of two and a half Dunedins! There are many genuine cases needing welfare and, of course, National will always maintain this safety net, but this growth in welfare dependency at a time of plenty is an indictment of Labour policies. Rather than making welfare a lifestyle choice, beneficiaries need to be encouraged into work, any work, to get one step on the ladder to a better life.

National will address the bureaucracy and waste in the Health system, which has led to billions of extra dollars being poured in, but fewer operations coming out the other end. That represents a collapse in productivity which is typical of what is happening throughout the public sector.

I mentioned earlier why I always enjoy my visits south. There is another reason, too, why I am pleased to be here in the Southern Region. This is a region which is characterised by Southern men and women who are straight shooters. People who mean what they say, and say what they mean.

And, you know, up in Wellington, particularly at parliamentary question time, we haven’t been getting too much of that recently.

A culture of evasion, deceit and half-truth pervades the Clark-led government of this country.

The public of New Zealand deserve better. And want better.

Most of you will know that I came to politics from the Reserve Bank. At the Reserve Bank you get used to basic concepts like speaking the truth. Because if you don’t you will destroy your credibility with the markets and interest rates will go sky high.

Over recent weeks, as Helen Clark’s involvement in the Peter Doone affair has been exposed, and as she has been asked to explain herself, we have seen a very different world laid bare: one which will destroy her credibility and bring its own negative reaction in the political marketplace.

For those of you who have been too busy to follow the intricacies of that affair, or been unfortunate enough to have watched “TV1 News” who appear quite happy to cart their cameras around the world, providing photo opportunities for Helen Clark, no expenses spared, but who will go to any lengths to avoid showing her being held to account in our own Parliament - let me go straight to the bottom line:

And let me say, at the outset, this has nothing to do with Peter Doone, whose actions were judged and who lost his job five years ago. This is about the actions of Helen Clark, who should be judged in the court of public opinion and who should lose her job later this year.

Faced with questions over whether the Government should continue to have confidence in the former Police Commissioner, Helen Clark had a duty to preside over a process in the Cabinet which laid out the facts, considered the advice, and made a considered and solemn decision about the fate of our most senior serving Police officer.

Instead, Helen Clark decided to leak material to a journalist.

She read parts of confidential Cabinet and Police reports to that journalist.

She encouraged the journalist to run the story.

And she spoke to the journalist’s editor to encourage the editor to run the story.

And then, just to cover her tracks, Helen Clark got the newspaper to add to the article: “Helen Clark refused to comment on the story.”

The problem is that the story was both wrong, and defamatory. And when forced, in the face of defamation proceedings, to account for their actions, the newspaper company had no choice but to point out that the leaked information - or, rather disinformation - came from none other than Helen Elizabeth Clark, Prime Minister. Without her involvement, without her encouragement, the newspaper would never have published this article.

And now our Prime Minister is laying smokescreens over her involvement in the affair.

Anyone who is prepared to read the Hansards of her answers to Parliament on the one hand, and the signed briefs of evidence to the Court on the other, is left with a sense of wonderment that Helen Clark’s nose hasn’t grown three feet long.

In the Parliament she says she just answered a few questions and had no responsibility for the story run by the “Sunday Star Times”.

Yet the court documents make it clear that she might as well have dictated the story herself, and that it most certainly would never have been run without her assurances as to its accuracy.

Let me be clear: the issue here is not that Helen Clark got the facts wrong. Or that she deliberately misrepresented the facts to the newspaper on FIVE occasions in order to achieve her own ends. The issue is that the Prime Minister of New Zealand has lied about her involvement.

And I am spelling this out to you today because some media, especially state television, who seem to cower in fear of their next call from the Ninth Floor, simply haven’t covered the facts that make that conclusion blindingly clear.

Now we have seen the selective leak of one detail from the transcripts in order to try to whitewash the Prime Minister’s involvement. This is the new tactic, even though Helen Clark has refused my calls in Parliament to release all the transcripts so the public can make their own decision on the facts.

Today, I want you to know, the credibility of Helen Clark, the ability of our Prime Minister to tell the truth, the ability of her Ministers to tell the truth and to give honest answers in our Parliament, is firmly on the agenda as an issue for the 2005 general election. I make no apology for that.

New Zealanders have had enough of the culture of evasion, deceit and half-truth which characterises not just this Prime Minister but her Cabinet, and in a few weeks time they will have the opportunity to do something about it.

Thank you all for your work. Go out and spread the word. Labour has to go. And only National can set this country on the right road.

Ends


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