Don Brash's Full Speech To National's Conference
Don Brash MP National Party Leader: New Zealand Needs A Change Of Government
Address to the National Party Annual Conference, Duxton Hotel, Wellington.
New Zealand needs a change of government!
Madam President, fellow delegates and friends of the New Zealand National Party.
This week, over 600 of our fellow New Zealanders will pack up and move to Australia.
There is nothing special about this week.
That is what has happened each and every week over the past year.
New Zealanders voting with their feet on the future prospects for themselves and their families under a Clark-led Labour Government.
A city the size of Gisborne has departed our shores for Australia in the past year alone.
And the problem is not just that the numbers get bigger as each week passes, though they do.
But rather that those who are leaving are those we can least afford to lose - some of our brightest and best.
Nearly a quarter of all tertiary-educated New Zealanders are now living overseas.
The gap in average after-tax incomes between New Zealand and Australia has almost doubled in the past five years.
Now, the Australian Treasurer has brought down a Budget with tax cuts which signal that the competition for skilled workers just got a whole lot tougher.
And Michael Cullen just brought down a Budget which signals that we don't even want to be in the race.
Ladies and gentlemen, New Zealand needs a change of government.
On four previous occasions in our history, the people of New Zealand have turned to the New Zealand National Party to provide a new direction - to help our country find its way again.
On most of those occasions, the public sought change because we faced some form of economic crisis.
In 2005 things are a little different.
Not even the Clark Government could generate an economic crisis out of the most buoyant international conditions in 50 years.
In 2005, New Zealand faces not a Budget deficit but a leadership deficit.
In 2005 New Zealand faces not an economic crisis but a crisis of confidence - a lack of the confidence to back ourselves with policies that will see New Zealand get ahead as a nation because New Zealanders can get ahead.
In 2005, New Zealand needs new leadership, a new direction, and a new government.
Today, I want to pay a tribute to our President, Judy Kirk, whose tireless dedication has played such a key part in the re-building of the National Party.
I want to thank, too, our Campaign Director, Steven Joyce, for the outstanding skill and strategic focus that he has brought to our campaign effort.
And I want to thank all of you, the people who make such sacrifices and who work so hard to see that this country gets the sort of government it needs.
You are the backbone of the National Party.
And today I salute your commitment, and I thank you personally and sincerely.
I take this opportunity, too, to acknowledge my deputy Leader Gerry Brownlee and my caucus colleagues.
We have a small team, carrying a big workload, and I want to thank each of them for the part they have played in getting us to where we are today - within reach of an historic election victory.
For the Labour Party, 2005 has been the year in which the political chickens have come home to roost.
The hallmark of the almost six years of the Clark Government has been the victory of spin over substance.
The Ninth Floor Spin Machine, the army of Beehive media flunkies, the focus groups, the massive taxpayer-funded advertising campaigns - these are the hallmarks of the Clark regime.
When I made my first Orewa speech about the Treaty of Waitangi, I was condemned by Helen Clark and her colleagues as a racist - until, of course, the pollsters, the focus groups and the Beehive PR men got on the job.
Then, according to the spin, I had identified some serious issues which the Government, coincidentally, was in the process of addressing.
The funny thing is that everyone knows a year and a half later that nothing has really changed - except that Trevor Mallard announced three days ago that what I had said at Orewa about many government spending programmes being based on race and not on need was absolutely true.
Now, of course, we are supposed to believe that the people who created the $360 million Closing the Gaps programme - and thus wrote the textbook on race-based funding - and who then branded me a racist after my first Orewa speech, are now the same people who will preside over the elimination of race-based funding.
And so it has been with law and order, social welfare and education.
Every time I make a major speech, the Labour spin merchants have been busy, often even before they know exactly what I am going to say, claiming that the Government is already implementing our policy.
Well, perhaps it is time the public simply cut out the middle man, and elected the people who are really setting the political agenda.
The budgets and the bureaucracies keep getting bigger, especially for the spin merchants; and the exotically named programmes, the slogans and the straplines are all there.
But middle New Zealand - hard-working average income families - know that the serious issues confronting them in their daily lives are just not being addressed.
This Clark Government, you see, is not a government of mainstream New Zealand, for mainstream New Zealand.
Mainstream New Zealanders have some fairly basic, but non-negotiable, expectations of their government.
And none of those expectations is unreasonable.
They expect to send their kids to school, to have them taught to read and write, and to have their performance measured by an assessment system that is fair and meaningful.
And now they know Helen Clark's Government demonstrably can't deliver that.
If they are in personal danger, they expect to be able to dial 111 and have a police car arrive to protect them.
Well, Helen Clark's Government certainly can't deliver that.
When they are sick or injured, they expect to be able to go to hospital to get the operation that a 50% increase in taxpayer funding in the past five years should be able to buy them.
And Helen Clark's Government can't deliver that.
When they or their family need something from an agency of the government, they expect they will be dealt with fairly, and not be asked about their ethnicity in order to determine their entitlement.
Well Helen Clark's Government most certainly won't deliver that.
The things that mainstream, hard-working, over-taxed New Zealanders expect from their government are not that complicated, and they are certainly not unreasonable.
But, almost six long years down the track, New Zealanders are getting the message that Helen Clark's Government just isn't going to deliver on these expectations.
In recent months, we have seen a succession of Labour's disasters paraded before us:
the breakdown of public confidence in the 111 emergency call system;
the total debacle over the implementation of NCEA;
the enormous waste of taxpayers' money in tertiary education, best exemplified by the Wananga o Aotearoa;
the shambles in the Immigration Service;
the complete failure to deal with hospital waiting lists;
the uncontrolled expansion of the bureaucracy;
the failure to accelerate the road building programme in Auckland, despite all the fanfare;
the failure to deal effectively with the leaky homes crisis;
the plan to allow members of the public to wander across private farm property;
Helen Clark's journalistic excursion, followed by her serious memory loss, over the Peter Doone affair;
the multi-billion dollar mistake about the implications of ratifying the Kyoto Protocol;
and on and on the list goes on.
But the real values of this Labour Government were revealed by the Budget last month. Thanks to a buoyant world economy, low interest rates, and an influx of people after September 11, the domestic economy too has been buoyant. That buoyancy would of itself have led to a sharply increased flow of revenues to the government.
Not content with that, Labour pushed up personal income tax rates, and taxes on petrol, cigarettes and alcohol.
And the result was a vast flow of revenue so that, despite an enormous increase in government spending, the Labour Government still sits on a Budget surplus without precedent in New Zealand history.
Almost everybody - and certainly the Labour Party President, Mike Williams - expected that Michael Cullen would ease the tax burden ever so slightly.
After all, thanks to his increased tax take, the average household has seen no increase in its income, after taking account of tax and inflation, under this government.
Well, Michael Cullen did announce a little tax relief - a miserly shift in the thresholds three years from now, while many hard-working New Zealanders - senior policemen, teachers, nurses, and tradesmen - are told by Michael Cullen that they are the new rich, destined to be among the 22% of full-time wage and salary earners facing tax of 39 cents in the dollar.
And why was he so miserly? Essentially because Michael Cullen and Helen Clark, and the rest of the Labour Party, believe that they know how to spend the money earned by hard-working New Zealanders better than we know how to spend it ourselves.
It is no use Helen Clark and Michael Cullen saying that the circumstances aren't right for tax relief. If circumstances aren't right for tax relief when the government is running an enormous surplus, when on earth will they be right?
No, one of the defining differences between Labour and National is our attitude to taxation.
Labour believes that it can spend your money better than you can spend it yourself, and for this reason the more money they can squeeze out of you and direct in ways which are good for you the better.
The National Party believes that the money you earn belongs to you, and we want to take from you in tax only enough to do the things which are best done collectively - like protect us from enemies within and without, like care for those unable to care for themselves, like ensure everybody can get access to a high quality health system, like ensure no child grows up without a first rate education. Everything beyond that should be left with you, not paid out to hire more bureaucrats, or fund more twilight golf courses.
The real tragedy is this: by starving individual New Zealanders and companies of their share of the fruits of their hard work, the Labour Party is denying them the resources to invest in a stronger economy.
Put simply, the Labour Party is, before our very eyes, literally stealing from New Zealanders the opportunity and the resources to create a future which might keep our children and grandchildren here rather than in Australia.
Well, almost six years down the track, New Zealanders are awake to that.
And now, unnerved by a few close polls and public reaction to the bungled Budget, Clark, Cullen and Co are playing a very predictable game: the scaremongering has begun.
Hardly a day goes by without some new horror story about civilisation as we know it coming to an end if I become Prime Minister of this country.
Well, let me just take a couple of minutes to tell you about myself, and why I am standing before you today.
As some of you will know, I was brought up in a Presbyterian manse.
My parents were committed Christians. My father was a pacifist, and somebody who believed that government had a huge role to play in supporting those who could not support themselves and guiding the economy.
He devoted much of his life to trying to relieve suffering, first in New Zealand, and then from his base as Deputy Secretary of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, throughout the developing countries of the world.
I was brought up to believe that to be Christian was to be socialist.
I took myself out of school cadets and at the age of 18 registered as a conscientious objector.
I marched in demonstrations against nuclear weapons and against whites-only All Black tours to South Africa.
My Masters thesis, written under the guidance of a neo-Marxist economist, deplored New Zealand's dependence on foreign capital.
And I voted for the Labour Party for years.
But I have come to my senses!
I still care deeply for those who have been beaten and broken; for the children and teenagers whose parents beat the daylights out of them, so that they have never known the love and support which surrounded me from the day I was born; for the criminals who have grown into adults in a loveless and uncaring world; for the sick and the disabled who are unable to support themselves.
And perhaps because I remain a patron of the Amnesty International Freedom Foundation, I still want to live in a country which lends its weight in opposition to torture and the abuse of human rights, wherever that abuse occurs.
But over the years I have come to recognise that socialism doesn't work. I have come to recognise that our capacity to provide high wages, good healthcare, excellent education and all of the other good things we expect depends entirely on the productive efforts of those who work hard, acquire skills or take a risk.
It has become clear to me that it is the ultimate in hypocrisy to claim a concern for the sick and the needy whilst slowly strangling the goose which will lay the golden eggs to pay for our hospitals, our schools, our housing and our social services.
And I say to Helen Clark and Michael Cullen today: there is no bigger threat to the quality of the healthcare which New Zealanders will enjoy in ten years' time than a tax regime which strangles initiative and hard work today.
There is no bigger threat to the quality of education our children will receive in the future than a tax system which destroys the culture of enterprise and initiative in our society.
There is no greater threat to our capacity to care for the needy and disadvantaged than a tax system which tells our brightest and best that they and their families would be better off in Australia.
Let me be absolutely clear about this.
The National Party will go into the 2005 election campaign promising lower taxes because we care about having a properly funded healthcare system, because we care about having world-class schools staffed by well-paid teachers, because we want to live in a country which can afford to show real support for those who, through no fault of their own, are unable to care for themselves.
Ladies and gentlemen, the National Party has a plan for a more successful, more prosperous New Zealand.
Over the coming weeks, I will be unveiling the components in that plan:
A plan to give New Zealand the modern infrastructure, especially in roading and electricity, which is the key to better economic growth.
A plan to change the Resource Management Act to remove the roadblocks which are stalling both our infrastructure development and investment in productive enterprise.
A plan to provide world class schools, and programmes which deliver basic numeracy and literacy.
Policies to focus our investment in meaningful tertiary courses, and bring to an end the social engineering and political correctness which is rife in our tertiary institutions.
Policies to ensure that hard-working New Zealanders are not carrying the burden of supporting those who choose not to work.
And, most important, a taxation policy which shows our faith in New Zealand getting ahead, through the efforts of New Zealanders with the incentive to get ahead.
Delegates, the Budget in May 2005, after almost six long years of the Clark Government, made one thing very clear: our country has lost its way.
There simply is no Clark Government plan for a better New Zealand.
Under Labour, this is as good as it gets.
Today, I take this opportunity to say to all New Zealanders, we can do better than this.
New Zealanders are better than this.
We do not need to wave goodbye with the white flag of surrender as 600 of our countrymen depart these shores for Australia each and every week.
New Zealand families do not need to resign themselves to their children and grandchildren growing up in another land.
Given the opportunity, given the leadership, New Zealand can start the process of closing that income gap, that gap in the quality of social services, with Australia.
And that is the essential choice which confronts this country only a few weeks from now.
On the one hand, a tired and increasingly discredited Labour Government, which has simply run out of steam, run out of ideas, and has no bold plans, no big aspirations for our future.
And even when they do have new ideas - like their early childhood policy, or their recent decision restricting school bus services - it turns out that at heart they're small, mean and petty ideas, just applied on a nationwide scale.
So the choice is between more of that on the one hand, or on the other a re-vitalised, re-focused National Party team, which knows this country can do better - much, much better, if only the government would leave New Zealanders the resources and the space to get on with the job.
We owe it to our children, and we owe it to our children's children, to give them that future.
That is the goal that brought me into this party, and into political life.
If we maintain the energy, maintain the focus, maintain the teamwork, that is the goal that is now within our grasp.