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Rodney Hide - Forward Thinking for New Zealand

Forward Thinking for New Zealand

Rodney Hide Thursday, 2 February 2006

Crowne Plaza, Auckland, 2 February 2006

It's a great pleasure to welcome you as leader of the ACT Party and as Member of Parliament for the electorate of Epsom.

I love being MP for Epsom. It's a great privilege.

The support since the election has been overwhelming.

Epsom people love that their vote caused the election night upset. Their vote mattered. Their vote made a difference.

Epsom people like winners. They appreciate hard work. They like seeing their MP out and about in the community. They like personality and fun.

They like having Rodney Hide as their MP. I intend to keep it that way.

I'm meeting Epsom people in their places of work, in their homes, and out enjoying themselves. I very much enjoy getting to know them and their concerns.

The experience has re-energised and re-focussed me.

These are the people and families that I represent. And not just here in Epsom but right around the country.

Epsom people's values are ACT's values. They work hard. They look after their families. They care for their community. They love their country.

I have visited business after business.

I've been shocked how tough government makes it to be in business. It's incredibly tough. And government is doing it to us with our own money! How crazy is that? We pay for government to make it harder and harder for us to make a living. It's got to stop.

Small business needs a champion. That champion is me.

Every day I'm reminded how hard people work for their money. I see how carefully they spend it.

And then I see Helen Clark's big, bloated government. Squeezing people's weekly budgets. Forcing up interest rates. Making it tougher and tougher to be in business. And taking all that money and callously wasting it.

It makes me sick.

And Helen Clark's priorities?

Plenty of money for hip-hop tours. Plenty of money for hand-outs. Plenty of money for prisoners as victims.

But no money for Police.

No money for Defence.

No money for basic infrastructure.

Last week I visited an elderly widow who lives in a lovely home in Epsom. It can't be easy for her maintaining it. But she does. She keeps her home and garden tidy and beautiful.

Her home was tagged with graffiti four times last year. It's been tagged twice this year already.

We have an elderly lady all alone with young thugs prepared to walk all over her property and graffiti her house with spray cans. She doesn't feel safe. And who can blame her?

It's a story repeated up and down our country.

One constituent who came to see me has been burgled three times in three years. The police were too busy to take finger prints for two days following the first burglary.

He realised the police are too stretched for he and his family to rely on. He put an alarm system through his house. He had it monitored. He put up a big electronic gate. He bought a Doberman cross.

And still he was burgled.

The third time the police were so busy it took them six days to get to fingerprint the place.

These are good honest, hard-working people who have paid taxes all their lives. Lots of tax. And they can't even get a police officer when they need one.

And Helen Clark tells us that crime is down. Yeah right.

I have met with the police several times. They are very impressive men and women. They are understaffed, under-resourced, and under-paid.

We need more police. We need them properly paid. We need them properly resourced.

And what's Helen Clark done? She's dropped police spending 11 per cent as a proportion of core government spending.

That's Helen Clark's priorities: Our money for everything - except for what we really want and really need.

Crime is the number one issue in Epsom.

I know. I had my little Smart Car broken into twice in December. The second time was in broad daylight outside my electorate office in Newmarket.

The criminals know they can get away with it. They know that crime pays.

We need to reverse that.

The second big issue is transport.

Epsom clogs up every morning and every evening. It can get clogged up at any time of the day.

It's a result of years of under-investment in our country's basic infrastructure.

Auckland needs a modern integrated transport system. That means a strategic roading network and a high quality public transport service.

I'm against tolling our existing roads. Kiwis are taxed hard enough as it is. What we need is the money government takes from us spent on our priorities, not Helen Clark's.

We could knock a billion dollars a year off our welfare bill alone if we provided for just the needy, not the greedy.

Crime and transport are Auckland-wide issues.

So to be the best MP for Epsom I must be MP for Auckland. That's what I intend to be.

That's my job as MP for Epsom.

Now my job for ACT and for the country.

For ACT, things are different. We have gone from nine MPs to just two.

That limits our time in Parliament. We'll need to pick our issues and our opportunities carefully. But don't worry. Heather and I will continue to hold government and Ministers to account.

It will be tougher - but we love the challenge.

Heather Roy is a marvellous colleague. She's always positive, she likes people, she works hard. She's a great organiser. She has to be. She has five children. Heather is a very talented Member of Parliament. We are very fortunate to have her. And so too is the country.

During her summer break Heather went out with our police and the St Johns. That's Heather. She likes hands-on experience and finding out what's actually happening on the ground.

ACT has a top MP in Heather Roy.

Things are different for ACT too because the National Party has rejuvenated.

ACT campaigned in 1996, 1999, and 2002 beside a National Party that had lost its way. It had no ideas. We campaigned for tax cuts, welfare reform, and one law for all New Zealanders. National stood opposed to all three.

National is now rejuvenated under Don Brash's leadership. National has adopted the ideas that ACT brought to Parliament. That's good.

I look forward to the day when Labour too sees the wisdom of letting people keep more of their own money, of a welfare system that works, and laws and policies the same for all regardless of whakapapa.

ACT can take pride that ideas we brought to Parliament are gaining ground.

But it also means that ACT must move on. We must refresh our party. We must re-launch ourselves with new vigour and fresh, forward-thinking ideas.

Why? Because we care about our country. And because there's such a lot to be done.

ACT is crucial to New Zealand's future success.

It's only by liberating New Zealanders from the shackles of government and the third-rate performance of state-run monopolies in health, education and welfare that we can succeed as a nation.

That's why ACT is so important.

ACT is the only party to keep alight the torch of liberty in our Parliament.

Our country needs in our Parliament a party committed to free enterprise, to limited government, to choice and to competition.

A party that understands and stands proudly in the classical liberal tradition.

A party that speaks out.

That party is the ACT party.

ACT's goal is a free and prosperous New Zealand.

ACT's principles are individual liberty and personal responsibility.

National has embraced some of ACT's polices. But not our philosophy or principles or drive or ambition.

That's not a criticism of National. National must be a broad church to attract the support it needs to win government.

But ACT as a small party can stick to its guns and to its principles.

Journalists were dumbfounded a year ago when I declared ACT the workers' party. But there's no better boost for productive people - whether they be business owners or employees - than letting them keep more of their own money and getting out of their way.

Compare that to taxing productive people hard and bossing them about.

ACT is the party for the workers of New Zealand.

ACT is the party for a clean, green New Zealand too.

Government doesn't conserve resources. It wastes them.

Good environmental policy is not about wearing the longest hairshirt. Quite the reverse. Its prosperity and strong property rights that will best ensure a clean and green New Zealand - not big government and not policies that make us poor and miserable.

I spent nearly twenty years of my life studying environmental science and environmental policy.

I know what it takes to care for the environment.

We need good science, strong property rights and a prosperous economy for sound environmental management. That's ACT's policy.

ACT is the party for a clean, green New Zealand.

ACT speaks out on the issues that other parties shy away from. Like immigration.

Our country is a nation of immigrants. Our immigrants have bought energy, ideas, business nous, and business contacts. They have added to and developed New Zealand's economy and culture.

That goes for our immigrants of old. It goes for our immigrants of today.

To succeed as a nation we need more immigrants, not less. What we need are immigrants who will lead productive and fulfilling lives here and contribute to our nation.

Our focus should be ensuring that we get the best immigrants for New Zealand that we possibly can.

ACT is now the only party in our Parliament that favours immigration.

Bashing immigrants might make good politics. But it's bad policy.

We need to look beyond the here and now. We need to look to where we want New Zealand to be in 20 years time.

ACT's vision for New Zealand is ambitious.

We want New Zealanders standing tall and proud at the top of the world.

Knowing who we are and all that we can be.

We want our economic performance to be putting us at the top of the OECD ladder with a small, smart government, not a big, bloated one.

We want our country clean and green, with our natural environment the envy of the world.

We want New Zealand to be the safest country in the world with zero tolerance for crime.

We want our education system to lead the world with independent schools on a level playing field with state schools.

We want a health system that delivers - not driven by a failed ideology. That means a health system where private provision ensures efficient delivery and the state ensures access for all.

We want a welfare system that sees the 95 per cent of New Zealanders who can look after themselves doing so with the five percent who can't properly looked after.

We want a country of many cultures, many races, rejoicing in our diversity, celebrating our freedom and unified as New Zealanders.

ACT has a glorious and ambitious vision for New Zealand.

To deliver on our vision we need principled and practical policy.

Let me just detail one such policy.

There has been much talk of tax cuts. But tax cuts can be sustained only if we limit politicians' ability to ever-increase government spending.

We have limited politicians' ability to debase our money with the Reserve Bank Act. We have limited their ability to run budget deficits with the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

We need too to limit politicians' ability to ever-expand government.

That's why we need a Taxpayer Bill of Rights. That Bill of Rights would provide a strict Parliamentary test or a reference back to taxpayers for increases in real government spending per kiwi.

Under Helen Clark government expenditure has increased in real terms by $3,000 a year for every man, woman and child in the country. That's a huge increase. Helen Clark did that without debate. And without consent.

A Taxpayer Bill of Rights would impose spending caps to lock government expenditure at present real levels per capita.

The cap would enable government spending to increase to compensate for inflation and population growth. But that's all. Expenditure increases beyond that would need 75 per cent support of Parliament or a referendum.

That's as it should be. Proper debate. Proper consent.

That would set a firm fiscal discipline on politicians that's now totally lacking.

If we had had that fiscal discipline these past six years a family of four would be $240 a week better-off. The economy would be in much better shape.

And what family has seen a $240-a-week improvement in government service? None. Their money has all been wasted.

The Taxpayers' Bill of Rights is an example of the practical, principled policy we need to deliver our vision of a free and prosperous New Zealand.

It's popular too.

This year the economy will dominate the news and politics. We are in for a hard landing, not a soft one.

Business confidence has slumped to a 30-year low. Home owners and businesses face the highest interest rates in the developed world. Inflation is running at three-and-a-half percent. The Reserve Bank's growth outlook for 2007 is for just 2 per cent and then a piddling 1.5 per cent.

This from a Finance Minister who in Budget 2001 declared 2.6 per cent growth "not good enough" and committed to lifting growth "to 4 per cent a year or more".

Michael Cullen has failed by the goals he set for himself.

The failure of Clark and Cullen's economic management is becoming all too painfully obvious. Through the good years, they made doing business in New Zealand tougher and tougher. They spent up large and left taxes high.

The year will be a tough one for families and for business. It will be a tough one for Clark too. The economy will dominate - that's the very area where she's weakest and where her government has performed so poorly.

I predict Michael Cullen won't see out this term as Finance Minister. I understand he's already discussed it with colleagues. He will retire from Parliament at the next election.

Helen Clark will try and freshen up Labour with a new Minister of Finance - probably Phil Goff.

She will try and dump MPs Jim Sutton, Dover Samuels, Jill Pettis, Russell Fairbrother, Dianne Yates and Ann Hartley.

But that won't help her or the country. The real problem is her old-fashioned, out-dated policies. They sounded great in the university common room all those years ago but they have failed the people of New Zealand.

Winston Peters appears to have given up. He's taken on Foreign Affairs simply an opportunity to see the world while he can.

Peter Dunne only interest is in being Minister of Revenue. He doesn't care whether it's a Labour-led government or a National-led one. As long as he's Revenue Minister he's happy.

The Green Party will sorely miss Rod Donald. As Jeanette Fitzsimons admitted last week the Green Party has failed to deliver MPs to Parliament capable of leadership. She's told party members to vote Green campaign manager and non-MP Russel Norman her co-leader.

She also admitted that the Green Party could be wiped out. They will rue the day they lost the seat of Coromandel.

The Maori Party is now the new thing in Parliament. Their four MPs are smart and hardworking. Heather and I have enjoyed working with them.

Pita Sharples started the year declaring war on Maori dependency and poverty. In this he has ACT's full support.

The Maori Party will be full of surprise. They totally reject Labour's patronising of Maori. I suspect the Maori Party's vision for New Zealand is not too different from ACT's.

I look forward to working with the Maori Party on the policies on which we agree and the debate on the ones we differ. I think we are all going to learn a great deal and that's got to be good for New Zealand's future.

Don Brash will lead National into the next election - so long as his caucus keeps their collective nerve.

But Don must kill the question over his leadership quick smart.

He should take a leaf out of the late Sir Robert Muldoon's book when confronted with the "colonel's coup" in 1980.

Sir Robert reached beyond his caucus and enlisted his supporters across the country to retain his job and dispense with the ambitions of his opponents.

Don Brash needs to front up at caucus on Tuesday and put his leadership on the line. He needs to tell those MPs who are destabilising his leadership to put up or shut up.

They won't put up. They don't have the numbers.

Don then needs to ask the National President and Party Head Office to conduct a ballot of all members to test their support for his continued leadership.

He should also ask for a poll of members to rate the performance of his ten most senior National MPs and those who are known to be seeking his job.

That members' poll would demonstrate to the National caucus that Don Brash is the first choice as National leader and that some of his more ambitious colleagues are not as well regarded as they think.

Don must end the speculation over his leadership before it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A members' poll would do it.

It was through his boldness that Don Brash took the leadership of the National Party. He needs that same boldness to retain it and stamp his authority on the party.

It's going to be a very interesting year.

President Catherine Judd has announced her decision to step down.

Catherine has been everything that I could have asked for in a President and more.

She gave me her full support. She worked tirelessly in what was the toughest campaign ACT has ever fought. She was always positive and in good cheer. She came out door knocking with me in Epsom.

Catherine has been President of the ACT party for five years. She ensured a smooth transition to a new leader when Richard Prebble stood down. No other third party has achieved that. She ensured our survival at the last election. She did that against all odds.

Catherine leaves big shoes to fill. I know Catherine will continue to assist me and the ACT party. But I know too that I will miss her support and advice that she provided me as our President.

This year ACT has a new start. We will have a new President.

We need to look forward, not back. We need to rebuild. We need to develop new fresh policies for taking our country forward.

It's going to be a great year for ACT.

We live in the greatest country on earth. It's our job to make it even better.

I'm going to need your help.

So please pitch in. For your country's sake.

Thank you.

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