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This Election Is A Three Horse Race

20 May 2005

This Election Is A Three Horse Race

An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters to Grey Power Northshore on Friday, 20 May 2005 at 1.30pm at the North Harbour Netball Centre, 44 Northcote Road.

I want to begin by thanking all those New Zealanders, no doubt some of whom are amongst this audience today, who have sent messages of support and sympathy for my constituents in Tauranga and Western Bay who have endured a most terrible flooding this week. Many of them have lost their homes, whilst hundreds of others sustained considerable damage.

I am always humbled by the warmth of New Zealanders at such times, but never more so than on this occasion, given the huge response I have received on their behalf. Thank you sincerely for your kindness on behalf of the people of Tauranga and Western Bay

Every three years political journalists start interviewing their typewriters (or computers) about which parties will form the next coalition government.

They do this for two reasons.

The first is that covering what is really happening in Parliament is not sexy enough for them,

And the second is that they don’t have to worry about reporting any facts.

In fact you could say that in many newsrooms, facts are now a thing of the past.

This situation allows the government to govern by way of a process known as the “mushroom principle”.

That is you keep everyone in the dark – then every so often cover them with a load of compost.

Anyway reporters love to divine the future, like a group of educated gypsy fortune tellers.

Under MMP this means not just musing about the party likely to win the most votes, but also about possible coalition permutations.

Whole forests of trees are cut down to carry these messages.

We saw this happen in Monday’s New Zealand Herald, which had coalition talks already underway.

What the Herald deliberately sought to do was mislead its readers. New Zealand First will enter no arrangement of any form until after the election. Yet they set out to make mischief and front page fiction. But you can be sure that they will not be in this hall today, as packed as it is, in their own circulation area, and on past performance, nothing I have got to say will be reported.

Take the Herald’s Wednesday pre-budget piece, who did they have? Someone who has been in Parliament five minutes and has never written a nations budget, the Labour Party President and then Peter Dunne and Rod Donald, that’s it. How’s that for neutrality? Marvellous media – yeah right! And this is just the beginning of the election season.

We will be voted in to achieve a particular policy programme for those who have supported us.

This will include our policy for seniors, on law and order, ending the Treaty gravy train, promoting New Zealand business and exports and a range of other issues.

That agenda can be achieved by New Zealand First with either of the tired old parties – so why would we nominated one over the other now?

It doesn’t make sense to nominate National or Labour as a coalition partner now.

It would mean that we accept all their policies whereas we have our own and we will campaign hard on them.

Once the voters have decided the make up of parliament, we will then work with those prepared to accept our policy platforms.

Right now we don’t know who that will be. Both are much of a muchness. We want to send a clear signal today about the dangers of this practice of trying to pick winners and why voters should not be limited by any lack of imagination on possible election outcomes.

This latest outburst though clearly illustrates the failure of National’s leadership.

The Brash experiment has failed and devoid of any real leadership alternative, National are now trying to poach off New Zealand First.

It is understandable why some in National are scoping around for new leadership given Don Brash’s recent performances.

This political hitchhiker has failed to display any political aptitude at all.

In the recent foot and mouth scare, rather than act with any sense of propriety it was Don Brash who said publicly that the government was using the scare as a means of distracting the media.

To air such public views is in fact far worse than Bill English’s so called Aff-Gaff.

While this claim appears to be a hoax, it has already started to cost this country substantial export income.

It is very important for any government to take the people into its confidence in matters such as this.

You must have the people with you.

Dr Brash would have been better advised to keep his mouth closed rather than to put both his feet in it.

We have also seen the recent spectacle of him trying to ride the Doone case as a form of political crusade.

In his attempts to discredit the Prime Minister, he doesn’t seem to understand that the public already knows she can be deceptive over some issues.

Remember “paintergate”, and when she “swirled” allegations about Dover Samuels to get rid of him.

Remember the u-turns and flip-flops on policy fronts like closing the gaps when her poll ratings were threatened.

What Dr Brash fails to understand is that what people want is a clear alternative with vision, and this is what New Zealand First provides.

That is why this election will be a three horse race.

While we are starting from behind both tired old parties – we have momentum and policies on our side and we have the stomach for a tough campaign.

What most journalists and commentators fail to grasp is that the two tired old parties consistently shed support during election campaigns.

With around 15 percent of the electorate undecided at this stage, and with support inevitably coming from both Labour and National which is already occurring, New Zealand First will take its place as a strong third political force.

A quick review of the British elections highlights my point.

Labour won on with 36 percent of the vote, the Conservative’s got 32 percent and the Liberal-Democrats 22 percent.

Now under first past the post this actually produced a 60 seat win for Blair.

His 36 percent equated to 356 seats of the 646 seat parliament, while the conservatives 32 percent only equated to 197 seats and the Liberal Democrats 22 percent only brought them 62 seats.

How different things would have been under MMP.

New Zealand, like Britain and like most other nations with proportional systems, will have three strong political parties.

It will not be a two horse race with several smaller parties scrapping for coalition agreements.

It will be a contest of three larger parties with one or two minor players on the margins.

However, until the exact numbers are known, it is really too early and folly to discuss exactly what shape a future government will take.

What comfort you can take though is that New Zealand First will be well positioned to pursue our policy programme.

You know that immigration will be fixed with New Zealand First as part of the equation.

There will be no repeat of the Ahmed Zaoui fiasco and the welcome mat for undesirables will be taken away.

We will be ensuring that those who come here are those which benefit this country.

They will be filling jobs which are the result of genuine shortages in the Labour market that New Zealanders can’t fill.

They will speak and write English and they will be committed to our traditional values.

We will be releasing the full details of our immigration policy next week.

We also will be delivering to our seniors and this will be done by issuing a golden age card to all those 65 years of age and over.

The elderly are us - an integral part of us – the soul of the country.

But when you look at where government policy is in relationship to the elderly the omens are not good.

The government is playing ducks and drakes with superannuation indexing – quietly undermining the integrity of that support mechanism.

And they are already penny pinching in areas that affect some of the most vulnerable elderly.

In the elderly care sector right now the talk is of crisis.

“Meltdown” is one of the milder terms being used to describe what is happening to elderly care.

A few years ago the consulting firm Price Waterhouse did a major study of government funding for elderly care and found a fundamental shortfall of funding levels of around 20 percent.

That chronic under funding is partially addressed in yesterday’s budget. However, the vast majority of this money simply covers the costs of under funding for the past five years and we believe, based on the Price Waterhouse study, that it will not be nearly enough.

New Zealand First however, is committed to providing a better future for senior citizens and that is the purpose of our golden age card.

It is our pledge card to you in return for your party vote at the next election.

What does it mean for you?

It means raising the level of superannuation from the current rate of often under 65 percent of the Net Average Wage for superanuitant couples to 68 percent.

In the long term our aim is to lift superannuation from 72.5% of the Net Average Wage for couples and singles relatively.

We will also correct the anomaly related to the non-qualified spouse and bring their rebate rate down from 70 cents to 30 cents in the dollar like other benefits.

The card also includes improved subsidies for healthcare and pharmaceuticals.

We also intend to:

improve the rates rebate scheme; lower charges for power, gas and telephone; improve access to savings incentives in the form of bonus interest rates on term deposits; and extend transport and other discounts available to seniors.

We propose that the card be developed as a ‘smartcard’ so it can be ‘loaded’ with all of the relevant information associated with the cardholder’s benefits.

For example, when you go to the doctors or the chemist, all the benefits and subsidies you are entitled to will be automatically recorded on the card so you won’t have keep filling out forms.

This will also apply to your lower charges for power, gas and telephone – it will all occur automatically by swiping the card.

The current rates rebate scheme is not accessed by all who might be eligible because many people are not aware of its existence or how to access it.

It provides too little to too few.

With our plan a swipe of the card will establish eligibility and credit the appropriate amount.

You won’t have to play hide and seek with officials to get your entitlement.

Our aim is to see this card become a universally recognised symbol for all of the associated discount schemes, including travel.

What it means in brief is this – “the holder of this card is a valued member of our society. Please give this person every courtesy”.

Also included in our policy, but not part of the Golden Age Card, is the need to dramatically increase funding to the eldercare sector and to remove income and asset testing which was only partially addressed in yesterday’s budget but not in the amounts which will make inroads into what is a sector in crisis.

This policy is based on a vision of our seniors living a better life, with dignity

Already Labour and National have come up with umpteen reasons of why we can’t afford to treat our seniors with dignity.

We say with a little leadership and refocusing of priorities it can be done. Do you know something, they are going to spend $170,000 on sex-change operations but I want to be helpful, so I have got some advice – if you have a cataract problem, or a hip problem then apply for a sex change operation and get the hip or cataract operation done at the same time. But, my suggestion to you is… get the cataract or hip operation done first and the moment you can see or walk – get out of bed and start running. On a serious note though, I have had one offer from a Wairarapa farmer who has kindly offered to perform many of the male-female operations totally free of charge!

Your choice now is to decide which type of leadership that you want to follow.

Crunch time is coming.

Labour and National have both reiterated that they will be sticking with the present superannuation system.

That means that they are happy to let the rate continue falling below 65 percent.

We say that is not good enough.

New Zealand First is committed to the concept of our senior citizens living out their lives in dignity and some comfort– not shivering under a blanket in a dark corner.

We say, vote for a better way of life for you and your families.

Vote New Zealand First with your party vote.

We will make it happen.

ENDS


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