Peters: New Zealand First Annual Convention
Rt Hon Winston Peters
Leader New Zealand First
New Zealand First Annual Convention
Rotorua Convention Centre
Sunday 20 November 2005
Building a Better Future
This AGM has been like no other in our party's history.
For the first time ever, Doug Woolerton is not overseeing these proceedings as president of the party.
Doug, along with many of us here and thousands of other New Zealanders, formed this party in 1993.
We shared a vision of a third alternative to the two old parties, one which rejected extremes and embraced what was great about New Zealand and New Zealanders.
We had a vision of a party that would look out for the interests of those the two old parties were neglecting: hard working New Zealand families and others who wanted to escape the suffocating cloak of political correctness.
We wanted a party that would end the sale of our valuable assets to foreigners and would protect our borders.
And we built such a party from scratch.
That party bears the name of the nation it was designed to protect and serve.
That choice of name was not by coincidence.
Doug was integral to our growth as a party – without him, it is doubtful we would have been as successful as we have been in the past.
I want to personally thank him for everything he has done.
This AGM is also the last for Kay Urlich as our Treasurer.
Kay has spent many thousands of hours in the often thankless task of making sure our books balanced.
This is not an easy task, and there is no limelight or adulation associated with this role in the party.
But she has done this most ably for many years now and we all owe her a lot.
I want to thank the New Zealand First caucus for the grit they are showing in the face of extreme provocation.
But this is really not a fair contest.
While I have been away, the team are making mincemeat of our many opponents – but then lions facing jackals always do.
We have new office holders elected today.
Congratulations to all of them.
Can I ask you that you give them the support they will need to succeed in their jobs.
It is never easy taking such a role after the long and successful tenure of others, but I believe they are well equipped to do the job.
We are fortunate in New Zealand First.
We have built up such depth, that when people of talent step aside, there are others to replace them.
We have a bright future as a party and it remains in good hands.
There is this challenge to all of those elected today.
There will be an election in 2008.
It may seem some time away.
But we must start preparing now.
We need to be a finely tuned campaign machine in 2008 and that will take several years of hard work.
But the sooner we start the better prepared we will be.
Now some of you will have mixed feelings about the 2005 election and the aftermath.
2005 saw the arrival of big spending American and Australian style politics into New Zealand.
Both Labour and National would never have spent as much before on a campaign.
We had every other party in parliament gunning for us.
Act dedicated half of its billboard space to trying to destroy us.
United Future and the Greens both targeted us in their campaigns.
Labour and National worked tirelessly to discredit us.
Never had such a concerted effort and so much money gone into targeting a single party before.
And yet we survived.
In fact we did better than survive.
We remain parliament’s third largest party.
That is no easy achievement in the climate we found ourselves in.
And we did this because we had great policies and outstanding candidates fighting for us.
I want to personally thank each candidate for fighting for our cause during the campaign.
It is not easy being a candidate – especially when everybody else wants to bring you down.
But these men and women did us all proud, so please show your appreciation to them.
I want to thank my staff and all those who worked behind the scenes on the campaign.
To those party volunteers who put up hoardings, delivered flyers, helped raise money and the myriad of other tasks which needed to be performed – I say thank you.
Those long thankless hours resulted in our party returning to parliament.
Sadly not all of our previous MPs were returned.
These were fine MPs who served this country well.
And I make you this promise – this will not be the last we see of this group in representing our party in parliament.
Now after a disappointing campaign it would be easy to play the blame game – it was this persons fault or that.
That is the cheap and easy option – which would bring only short-term recriminations – with no long term benefit.
The more difficult path – but the one which will ultimately yield the greatest outcome in the longer term – is to learn from our mistakes and move forward positively.
If we wallow in the past, we risk being subsumed by it.
We have much to look forward to and such a solid base to build from.
Now I want to deal with some issues which have been raised with me and others.
Why did we agree to support Labour in a confidence and supply agreement?
The answer is actually very straight forward – if we did not, then there could have been no stability.
I cannot stress enough that stability had always been our overriding objective.
We had to avoid the extremes.
You see both sides were claiming they had 57 votes each.
The problem was that one side was relying on a volatile mix of parties and so had no prospect of stability going forward.
Therefore we simply chose the option which offered the greatest stability for the nation.
Had we not done this – then I am totally convinced we would have shortly been fighting another election.
And you know exactly who would have been blamed for allowing that to occur.
It is also worth noting that we said we would negotiate with the party with the largest number of seats in the first instance – and that is exactly what we did.
Some of you would have wanted to see Labour out of office – to you I give this assurance.
Labour knows it cannot pursue a radical extreme agenda and there are obligations and opportunities on both sides.
What we will see is a period of multi-party democracy which we have never experienced in this nation before.
But this is a good development – and we should embrace it.
It means that we are able to see our policies succeed, but with the freedom of being able to question the government when we think it has gone astray.
Now when we were last in Rotorua I made a speech.
Some of you may be familiar with it.
Some are now saying we went back on our word.
Curious that – because every other political party following the election asked, nay, demanded that we did.
We did not call any other political party.
Every one of them called us.
And every one of them was part of a 57/57 stalemate.
Does anybody seriously want to dispute that now.
What on earth do people think these parties post election were coming to talk to us about?
Does anyone think they came to us hoping, nay, demanding that we maintain our Rotorua position of abstention.
Every other party wanted us to change from our Rotorua position.
It is breathtaking hypocrisy for anyone to argue that it was we who went back on our word.
We made a judgment call based on the circumstances that were unfolding around us.
It was a unique situation which required a unique response.
We made the judgement call that both the government, and our party's arrangement with it, would lead to stability.
The September Rotorua speech was based on a range of hypothetical scenarios.
But an unstable, evenly poised, Mexican stand off was not a scenario which we had envisaged.
And amongst our many so called experts, boring the populace witless trying to rewrite history, who amongst them envisaged that either – a Mexican standoff back then.
Not one – but you wouldn't think so to hear them now.
The country required certainty and so we broke the impasse, and today only the losers are whinging.
We knew that not everybody would be pleased with this decision.
It was really a genuine catch 22 situation.
If we kept strictly to our preferred position of abstention on confidence and supply, then we would be entering the most unstable period of government in our history.
If we took the option that provided greater stability – we would be criticised for “not keeping our word”.
We faced reality and chose the option which offered the nation the greatest long term stability.
I can report that my first foray into the foreign policy arena was a genuine success – despite what some journalists have reported here in New Zealand.
I attended every scheduled meeting in Korea and yet all of those journalists did not attend one.
That's right not one.
Yet they have the temerity to report the way they have.
What public jury would believe a 'witness' who was never at the scene!
I was there, they weren't, so who are you going to believe.
It seems some among their number want to carry on their antagonistic approach of the election campaign.
I can report that my range of both formal and informal meetings all went very well. I was able to forge new relationships and reacquaint myself with others.
These were important meetings, which laid the ground work for the APEC leaders meeting this weekend, which will tackle priority issues such as counter-terrorism, infectious diseases like avian flu and the promotion of stronger economic growth in our region.
It is no small coincidence that when we made the first Rotorua speech, it was in response to the fact that the only question the media would ask us during the election campaign was 'who will you go with'.
We wanted to talk policy – they wanted to play their own game.
Now it seems the media are at it again and the only question they want to ask is, how can you be Foreign Minister outside cabinet?
Well we are back in Rotorua and so I will again try and answer their questions so we can all move on.
I have met with a range of Foreign Ministers over the past week.
Of the 18 I met, only one asked the nature of this arrangement, and that out of friendly curiosity.
Indeed the demarcation of responsibility between myself and our trade Minister is understood perfectly well by APEC counterparts. This stands to reason, as many of them such as Korea, Japan, and Malaysia have exactly the same arrangement.
There is no confusion.
I can do the job because the government, myself and each of those I deal with understand the arrangement.
It is not the impediment that some in the media are making it out to be.
In fact the whole thing is the proverbial storm in a tea cup.
I am asking the media to now please start to report the substance of what I have done rather than obsessing with the trivial.
We will all get along a whole lot better if they do.
I want to make the following observation.
What we have achieved in our negotiations the whole nation can share in.
For our seniors there will be increased superannuation, a Golden Aged Card and a huge injection of funds into elder care.
We will have 1000 more police over the next three years.
Let me tell you what the president of the police association, Greg O'Connor had to say about this.
"Dear Mr Peters.
On behalf of the 7,200 police officers that the police association represents, I am writing to thank you and your party's efforts in successfully obtaining from the current government a commitment to providing 1,000 sworn police officers.
You will be aware that the Police Association has been campaigning for more officers to fill a dangerously high shortfall in the number of police officers the public of New Zealand require to ensure that New Zealand is adequately policed."
There was much more in the letter, but he concluded by again expressing his thanks to New Zealand First.
This will benefit every New Zealand home and family.
Now there are other New Zealand First gains of huge significance to all New Zealanders.
We will see dramatic moves toward a higher wage economy – increasing the minimum wage, making company tax more competitive and a focus on a strategic export plan.
Other achievements we have secured include progress in addressing the Treaty industry and on reforming our immigration laws.
There will be no further strategic asset sales and we will ensure that the carbon tax proposal in relation to the Kyoto protocol is thoroughly reviewed.
We will ensure that free health care for under sixes is a targeted objective in health and will work to ensure there is adequate emergency healthcare access.
We will ensure the neglected racing industry is placed on a fairer tax footing compared to other gaming industries and that it can maximise its export potential.
Now there are many more New Zealand First gains I could outline for you today – but time does not permit.
But the most significant gain of our arrangement is that we are now positioned to actively see these promises come to fruition.
The nature of this agreement demonstrates how a party can influence policy from outside of government.
It is based on constructive engagement and compromises.
So when you hear any criticism of New Zealand First – tell them of our many gains and how valuable they are to all New Zealanders.
We have much to look forward to as a party.
We are history makers in this party and we have survived and flourished when others have tried to bring us down.
Now let’s conclude today with this thought.
Last Friday morning we all awoke to the news that New Zealand would be hosting the 2011 world cup.
This is a huge achievement that we should all be proud of.
It will be great for New Zealand.
But there are lessons to learn from the bid.
Our bid was the smallest of the three bids.
It did not have the huge money that Japan or South Africa had on offer.
It was also according to most bookmakers, the third favourite in a three horse race.
Those are not good odds.
And yet we won, what many of us thought was becoming impossible.
And why did we win?
Because a dedicated team, which embraced the maximum potential from the talented operators available, worked tirelessly to achieve a particular goal.
They never lost sight of the objective.
So when all the negativity was swirling around them, and everybody was writing their bid off, they put their heads down and kept working.
It was a monumental feat in organisational skill and deserves all the plaudits it is receiving.
From the Rugby Union office workers all the way to the Prime Minister.
We are a party under siege from others.
Other political parties covet our success.
We have a talented team.
We must now go forward, utilising that talent to its fullest extent, and we too can achieve great things.
So please be positive.
Yes we must learn from our mistakes, but with hard work, dedication and focus we can continue the great work of this party and its vision into the future.
After all it was Winston Churchill who said
"Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the Climb."
Let us all enjoy this climb together.