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New Zealand First’s Direct Democracy Policy

An address by Rt Hon Winston Peters to members of Pohutukawa Coast Grey Power, Friday, 05 August 2005, Maraetai Bowling Club, Te Pene Road, Maraetai, 11:45am

What Do The People Say?: New Zealand First’s Direct Democracy Policy

Last Sunday New Zealand First launched its 2005 election campaign.

Over 860 New Zealanders filled out the Bruce Mason Centre in Auckland’s North Shore as we began our journey towards 17 September 2005.

It was a great start to what will be a defining campaign.

New Zealand First is parliament’s third largest party and we are about to get a whole lot larger.

With this growth comes great responsibility to those that voted for us.

You have every right to ask of us: “What will you deliver in return for my vote?”

You see there are untruths and myths which have begun to emerge as this campaign unfolds and we need to dispel a few of these today.

One of the worst of these is being peddled by those who see tax cuts as the panacea for seniors.

This is blatantly untrue and you must get this message out to your communities as fast as possible.

Tax cuts will have absolutely no impact on your rate of superannuation in the short term.

And those peddling this deceit should know better.

Whether it is a movement in the scales tax rates kick in, or a reduction in those tax rates, or even the introduction of a tax free threshold – not one of these changes would increase your rate of superannuation.

This is because of the way superannuation is calculated.

The only way to increase your rate of superannuation is to lift the rate as a percentage of the Net Average Wage – and New Zealand First is the only party which will do this.

We have outlined 5 policy priorities which will form the core of our post election negotiations.

They are: our seniors policy including the Golden Age Card, our immigration policy, our law and order policy, our Treaty of Waitangi policy aimed at rooting out the bro’ocracy and Treaty gravy train, and our economic plan which places New Zealanders first, not foreigners.

The focus of today’s speech is two key policies that are vital to New Zealand’s future, and to yours.

Much of the focus on our senior’s policy has been on our Golden Age Card and our promise to increase superannuation.

It is true that these are central features of our the policy, but, there is a second thread which is equally vital to the long term future of our seniors in New Zealand.

This relates to the crisis within the elder care sector.

Many of you will have recently received a Tuis letter from the Prime Minister. Helen Clark has been busy writing to seniors with claims of her government’s ‘successes’.

These include SHE says:

- Increased New Zealand Superannuation

- Big investments in healthcare

- Drivers’ Licence Tests

- More help with rates

And she promises that they “keep their pledges to you!”

That’s about as credible as her claim to have not noticed the LTD was doing 175km per hour – a lack of consciousness and conscience that has resulted in four good men appearing in the dock.

Let’s examine her other claims.

Increased Super – when New Zealand First launched its Golden Age card promising to raise superannuation to 68% (and move it to 72.5%) of the net average weekly wage Labour said it wasn’t affordable.

Well now they’ve opened the coffers for students and given the lie to that.

Worse, they have failed to meet even their own minimal target, and have paid less than 65% for FOUR consecutive QUARTERS. i.e. ALL YEAR!

Her health claims are worse. Health Minister King has recently stated on national television that she cannot (or will not) set charges for doctors’ visits. Any increased subsidies under Labour have often made absolutely no difference to the fee paid by most patients.

Her promises to provide more hip, knee and cataract operations are hollow. That can only happen if other surgery is curtailed – and the serious illnesses that are left untreated will end up costing us more. Her government has taken no meaningful steps to build the capacity of our hospitals and health system to meet the increasing needs of an ageing population. Their so-called increased funding has increasingly found its way down the bureaucratic plug-hole of a myriad of DHB, PHOs, and other curious creations.

Her pledge card in 1999 promised to get rid of income and asset testing. In 2005 she is claiming that it is important to her that her party tackles this area of discrimination against older people. No mention of her previous unkept promise…they keep their pledges.

With millions of dollars in its coffers Labour has promised NOT to raise your super in line with New Zealand First’s policy, has made only small concessions on drivers’ licencing tests and rates assistance that go nowhere near the promises on our Golden Age card.

And she wants your vote.

Her other claim related to aged residential care.

Well let’s talk about that.

In many ways the neglect of our seniors requiring residential elder care amounts to state sponsored elder abuse.

In fact, the last 5 years under Labour has seen this industry so chronically under-funded that it has reached a crisis point.

This period of under funding now means that without substantial cash injections into the sector it will collapse.

And the trend of overseas companies buying out and controlling our aged care industry looms large.

What a shocking indictment on our society when we fail to care for our own and we are reliant on foreigners to house and care for our seniors.

What type of country consigns the care of our seniors to the whim of foreigners?

Over the last 3 years more than forty local providers, primarily from the religious and not for profit sector, have closed their doors either by selling to foreign investors or simply shutting up shop.

One retirement home is currently considering closing its doors and reopening as a backpackers’ lodge.

Without a large injection of cash this trend is certain to continue.

Labour’s message to our seniors is clear – they won’t increase pensions and they won’t provide adequate support for residential care services.

Put your backpacks on and hit the road, says Helen.

A Price Waterhouse Coopers study found that the industry’s residential care services required a minimum 20% increase in the funding of this sector over the next 3 years.

Healthcare Providers New Zealand are currently running a campaign to raise awareness of the threat to long term viability of this industry without an injection of cash.

They estimate that without a $197 million dollar injection per year over the next 3 years then the crisis will deepen.

The fact that residential care has dropped from 7 to 5% of the health budget highlights Labour’s neglect of some of New Zealand’s most vulnerable citizens.

Compounding this crisis is the reality that residential care nurses get paid up to $20 less than hour than nurses working for District Health Boards.

In fact, some carers get paid as little as $9.80 an hour.

We are meant to be a first world nation and this is simply not good enough.

New Zealand First makes the following 3 commitments.

First, we will dramatically increase funding to the elder care sector to place it on a stable footing. We will also remove income and asset testing for those requiring long stay hospital care and asset testing for those in long stay private care.

Labour has been far too slow to meet it promises in this regard.

Second, we will ensure that a portion of this funding is ring-fenced to raise the abysmal pay rates of people working in this sector.

Finally, we will put in place a long term plan which recognises both the reality that our aging population will see those aged over 65 increasing from around half a million now to nearly 800, 000 in the next 20 years, and the fact that the best type of residential care is local care rather than a McDonalds style large urban-only option.

Now today let us turn to one of the most fundamental aspects of any democracy ‘the right of citizens to have their say’.

It was the famous French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau that put forward the proposition that those who rule must share in a social contract with those they rule over.

Indeed it is widely recognised that Rousseau’s ideas sparked both the French and American revolutions and the thrust for a democratic ideal.

One of the basic tenant’s of Rousseau’s ideas was that people must be treated with equality – and that this equality must extend to a recognition of their views and opinions on major issues.

New Zealand was once described as the most egalitarian society on Earth but successive Labour and National governments have driven economic and social wedges between us.

Over the past 5 years of Labour New Zealand has witnessed a period of the most dramatic changes to our social and constitutional fabric.

And all of this without any real public consultation.

From gay marriage through to legalised prostitution and the abolition of the privy council this current Labour government has embarked on an unadulterated assault on what it means to be a New Zealander.

Do you remember being asked about these things?

Well your memory is not at fault – you were never asked.

In fact these major changes were made on the whim of MPs consciences.

And National is no better.

From large scale state asset sales through to the endless insertion of references to the ‘principles’ of the Treaty of Waitangi in the 1990’s National reshaped the face of this nation and not once stopped to ask New Zealanders for their views.

They now have the audacity to try and claim that they will fix this problem when they were the major contributors to building it in the first place.

The key point here is that successive governments have toyed with our political and social fabric without the courtesy of asking New Zealanders to have their say.

Together and separately the “B” team of Brash, Brownlee and their brats and the “C” team of Clark, Cullen and their chattering clones have destroyed New Zealand’s fundamental culture.

New Zealand First says that’s not good enough.

We think that New Zealanders views and opinion should be respected and we are prepared to let you have your say on these major issues.

Let me put it to you this way, there would be no civil unions under New Zealand First unless you, the public, said so through a referendum.

There would have been no legalised prostitution unless you, the public, said so through a referendum.

And there would have been no change that stopped appeals to the Privy Council unless you, the public, said so through a referendum.

After all, it is your lives that these laws impact on.

New Zealand First’s direct democracy policy is designed to give you your say.

It is based on a greater use of public referenda – of binding public referenda.
Referenda will be conducted where:

- there is neutrality and impartiality in the question;

- there is fair dissemination of all of the facts on both sides of the argument;

- there is certainty in the poll (i.e. the question can be clearly understood);

- there is appropriate time for debate to be conducted; and,

- the referendum's objective is capable of being met within the country's fiscal constraints.
Major constitutional changes (like the decision to abolish appeals to the Privy Council) will have to be subject to referenda.

There could be no sale of significant state assets (like the fire sale conducted by Labour and National between 1984 and 1996 for a paltry $16.46 billion) without a referendum.

We wouldn’t have endless social engineering taking place without public consultation. The whims of a political regime should not be foisted upon the populace by means of unwanted legislation passed by temporarily empowered politicians.

When a narrow majority of MPs voted to lower the drinking age most of you would have shared my concerns. It is little comfort now to hear the calls to raise the age again. That issue should have been put to a referendum.

Referenda will be conducted on important social policy, on significant economic strategies, and on New Zealand's relations with the world.

This is fundamental to a healthy democracy.

'People power' by means of referenda should, where possible and practicable, replace MPs conscience votes.

The process needs to be fair, practical, transparent, and transcend party politics.

Binding referenda will be triggered by petitions achieving support of 10% of the electorate. Both government and members' (MP’s) bills that have the support of parliament can, where stipulated, also trigger a binding referendum.

Referenda will be conducted either on the first Saturday of November each year or in conjunction with a general election.

Referenda qualifying before March 1 will be conducted in the following November to provide sufficient lead-in time.

A revamped Electoral Commission provided with greater resources will conduct up to four citizens initiated referenda, as well as any government or parliament designated referenda each year, and will also be responsible for ensuring that balanced dissemination of all of the facts on both sides of the argument occurs in timely fashion.

A successful referendum result will be achieved by simple majority and may only be vetoed by the vote of 75% of all Members of Parliament within one calendar month of the result being declared.

These then are New Zealand First’s promises. We will

- hold binding referenda on key issues;

- in accordance with its 15 founding principles and to honour the result of the 1999 referendum, reduce the number of Members of Parliament to 99;

- reduce cabinet and require greater accountability and performance; and,

- ensure greater contestability of policy advice and require that social impact analysis accompany economic cost/benefit analysis in government decision-making processes.

Our democracy is too precious to be trifled with – you must be allowed to have your say on major issues.

The notion that the Member’s of Parliament voting according to their conscience somehow supersedes the will of the people must be rejected.

When it come to your lives, your values, your morals, your rights and your nation we want to hear your say.

This is why New Zealand First is your only choice for change – we are the only party willing to give you your say on the big issues, the ones that really matter.

So on September 17 make your party vote count – make it a vote for the “A” team of New Zealand politics – give New Zealand First your party vote. Vote for your say – give New Zealand First your party vote.


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