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Roy: Looking Forward for New Zealand Luncheon


Heather Roy Thursday, 2 February 2006 Speeches - Other

Looking Forward for New Zealand Luncheon, Crowne Plaza, 2 February 2006.

When I drive home from Wellington airport I pass a painted graffiti on a retaining wall. It says:

We have not inherited the planet from our ancestors, we have borrowed it from our children.

I suspect the author comes from the Green party. The point is well taken. The consequences of our actions have consequences that go beyond our own lifetime. But the past, the present and the future are of course inextricably linked. Our actions in years gone by determine our present. Our decisions today affect the world of the future. For this very reason and for the sake of the New Zealand I want for my children in ten years time we must engage in forward thinking, thinking well beyond that of tomorrow. When it comes to political leadership we are going to have to do better than the strategy of our present government - i.e. polling the public frequently and reflecting back to them the views they already hold.

Sir Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble had a vision for the country's future in 1984. The benefits of Rogernomics are still plain to see today. It is telling that despite the rhetoric of this 5th Labour government all that was put in place economically by Sir Roger is still intact today. Unwise decisions have been made since, especially in the area of social policy but if it wasn't for Rogernomics New Zealand would be in a much worse state today. This shows the power of forward thinking and why the future of NZ for our children is dependent on a vision and the policy to allow the vision to develop.

One paradox of the last election was that ACT lost support just as our policies moved into the mainstream. Our policies were adopted wholesale by the National party and every party except Labour was advocating a tax cut of some description.

Clearly people who want to influence the future of New Zealand's policy would be well advised to help design ACT's policy because we are getting ideas into the public arena first.

As the two old parties take up ACT's ideas of the 1990s the challenge is to find the next generation of radical new policies for the next decade.

Politically, ACT is in a position to support any party proposing legislation that supports our philosophy and under MMP we can form alliances with anyone. For example Rodney and I sit beside the Maori Party in Parliament and I am pleasantly surprised by some of our areas of similarity. In a recent interview of Dr Pita Sharples published in the New Zealand Herald he said "there was too much dependency on welfare in Maoridom - something Labour had not addressed." And I could add that this is not a problem confined to Maori.

But today I don't want to dwell on the politics of getting policy into legislation. Instead I want to discuss how to get from philosophy to policy. We have to ask where the country is heading, what problems are we are likely to encounter? And what do we want to achieve?

Many love pessimistic predictions, and are only happy when predicting doom. The truth however is more prosaic. The world is becoming more prosperous, New Zealand is sharing in this rising prosperity but we lag behind other countries - our relative position is slipping. The main effect is a loss of our young people overseas and this is likely to be compounded in the future as people become more international. Our young people will choose the country in which they live in the same way as we chose which city to live in. Citizenship was once determined almost entirely by birth, today citizenship is increasingly a matter of choice.

The problem of selective migration was recently highlighted by a KPMG report on population trends. New Zealand, the report concluded, was suffering from a "man drought" affecting the thirties age group. Apparently women in their 30's have the same ratio of men to choose from as women in their 80's. New Zealand men appear more inclined to migrate than women upsetting Nature's balance. I'm just pleased that I got married in my twenties!

The population's skewed age and sex balance is one effect of economic underperformance.

But New Zealand's main problem is the creation of a permanent underclass of alienated people with no stake in prosperity or social harmony. The warning signs have been there for some time. Sir Roger Douglas has been talking about the problem for the better part of 20 years and suggesting solutions.

In order to reach the right conclusion, find the solution that works we must first ask the right questions. Sir Roger has done this time and time again. In a speech he gave on welfare in 2004 he asked this question:-

"What sort of programme has a chance of uniting New Zealand society, providing choice and giving the disadvantaged a stake in future prosperity and social progress?"

The question is relevant to all areas of social policy - welfare, health and education especially.

In the short time I have I'd like to look at two areas of Social Policy - health and education - as examples of how we should be looking to the future to unite society, provide choice and give all kiwis a stake in future prosperity.

Once the question is asked some key principles must be established.

Health is the area I have spent most of my parliamentary career examining to date. Since Labour came to power in 1999 total public spending on healthcare has increased by 40% with less surgery performed per head of population now than then. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been poured into primary health with no evidence of better access for disadvantaged New Zealanders. 180,000 people wait for an appointment with a hospital specialist or for surgery their doctor has told them they should have, the same number that were waiting in 1999.

Quality healthcare for 2006 and beyond must be:-

available to all

easy to access

and affordable

Available, accessible and affordable (the 3A's)

Well functioning health services in the future depend on looking to health providers who can deliver the 3 A's. Public vs Private is an academic argument. Patients don't care as long as they get good treatment when they need it. Even Labour MPs who strongly advocate the public sector as the only way have been known to 'go private' when they want quality timely service. We must break down the artificial barrier that exists between public and private and look only for the best treatment in the best time at the best cost.

The other area that must be addressed is that of how much the state can continue to supply for the ever expanding demands of the population. How much responsibility should people take for their own healthcare?

In Education the key principles are similar but with a slightly different focus.

Every child must have the right to a quality education regardless of where he or she lives and regardless of the financial position of his or her parents.

Children must be central to education - decisions made to benefit children not to satisfy funding requirements or bureaucrats.

Parents must be involved. They should be able to send their child to the school of their choice.

Our schools provide variable education. The way to improve this situation and lift the standard is to let parents choose the best school for their child with government funding the chosen school. You can call it a scholarship, an entitlement, a voucher - the words are not important. The quality of the education, striving for excellence is very important.

At the moment choice is limited to those able to afford private schooling or houses in "better' areas. Choice should be available to all - and it would be the disadvantaged who would benefit most. The way out of poverty is through education.

With these two examples in mind New Zealand - with the right leadership - can move from asking the right questions to adopting the key principles and then with a vision in place develop policies that will achieve the aim. A united New Zealand society, providing choice and giving the disadvantaged a stake in future prosperity and social progress.

New Zealand in 2006 and beyond, if it is attract citizenship by choice must look to an integrated programme which redefines the 'social contract' between the state and individuals.

The 1970's saw the extension of the welfare state with the introduction of the Domestic Purposes Benefit and expansion of Muldoon's Superannuation Scheme.

The late 1980's and early 90's saw a trimming of the burgeoning welfare state.

The beginning of the 21st Century doesn't have to go down in history as the safety hammock that has become so distended we can no longer determine who is genuinely in need of help and who, in the right circumstances, can take care of themselves. It's time to redefine 'the social contract'. It is government that must lead that charge but we won't see this from Labour. We in ACT suggest its time for the 'social contract' to reflect 2006, for individuals to keep more of their own money and take more responsibility.


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