Winston Peters NZ First Annual Convention 2006
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Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First
Annual Convention 2006
15 October 2006
The New Zealand Way
As former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson said, “a week is a long time in politics”.
This week began with Korea detonating a nuclear bomb and concluded with the Auditor-General dropping one of his own.
While the furore surrounding the Auditor-General's report has dominated the political debate, sadly much of this has been without all of the facts.
Few commentators have bothered to adequately inform themselves of the factual basis of this matter and even fewer have bothered to apply any balance to their coverage.
We are studying the Auditor-General's report as it relates to our party. As we have said from day one, if we owe money, we can and will pay it back, if it is shown we have done wrong.
There are some in politics who will prematurely respond to swirling public controversy and hope that by doing so they can move on.
But the advance of democracy over centuries has always arisen from the actions of people who have gathered all the facts and from them made wise judgements.
There are fundamental principles involved here, the primary one being to do what is right and lawful.
You have our guarantee that this is exactly what we are going to do. And that is not new.
Unlike the rest, we did not take money from Telecom or Sky Casino.
Unlike the rest, since our formation, New Zealand First has massively under-spent our parliamentary budget by millions of dollars.
In short we have a track record of probity and accountability. And we resent having our good name called into question and will fight to defend it.
Over this weekend we have held elections for several party officers – including for the party presidency, vice presidency and board.
The party has happily accepted the outcome as we always have. Democracy doesn’t scare us.
We know our obligation is to fall in behind our team and support them all the way to the next election.
We have a strong team capable of doing exceptionally well in 2008.
Now to a most unusual issue – the myth being perpetrated by some that I will not be standing at the next election.
Well we hate to burst their bubble, I am not going anywhere else, anytime soon. I will be standing in 2008 as long as New Zealand First is happy for me to.
Now to address another matter of some concern to our party.
It relates to our working relationship with Labour.
Some have suggested we should have gone with National.
But here is the problem.
National didn't get enough seats. Any arrangement with them would have involved a five-way deal with the Maori party, Act and United Future.
Now normally you would accept that a four-legged stool is more stable than one with three. But if each of three legs is headed off in different directions it simply can't work and that was the equation we dealt with.
If you need proof of that, you just need to consider that Don Brash can't even manage to get the Maori party to dinner.
That relationship would have been over by lunchtime.
Don Brash is no friend of New Zealand First. In fact while some in National were trying to persuade him to work with us, he unilaterally decided on a strategy to try and take us out.
He failed then, and any future leader of National who tries to do so again will similarly fail.
But it is worth making this point. Over and over and over again.
We are a centre party. We can work with either of the two old parties as long as they get enough seats, and abandon radical agendas.
But theirs is not our problem – our job is to get more votes for New Zealand First and ensure our policies come to fruition.
This is where there is a real lack of understanding of how MMP works.
You see it is not “an either or choice” between Labour and National.
It involves a range of possibilities and combinations.
So don’t worry about what the polls are saying now. Polls go up and polls go down. In fact over the last few years they have been all over the place.
In the end the next election will be a choice between New Zealand First’s influence on Labour or National.
If we have demonstrated one thing in the past year, it is that we can positively influence a government without threatening stability.
We have even managed to achieve what some said was impossible – convincing Labour of the value of tax cuts. And make no mistake, it is us that is doing so.
From tax breaks for the racing industry, through to tax cuts for business and tax credits for exporters, Labour has come to see our point of view.
And let us add here today, that if the real cash surpluses continue – and that’s $3 billion dollars – then there is scope for personal tax cuts.
We would suggest that moving tax thresholds is the way to go – so watch this space.
And could we please stop the dishonesty of some politicians saying that $11.5 billion is available for tax cuts. Dishonesty or plain ignorance, you take your pick.
Now to the nature of our relationship with Labour. It is a professional working relationship. We are both independent parties who have learnt to work together constructively for the good of New Zealand.
To give credit where it is due, Labour consults and works with other parties when resolving issues. More importantly, they are prepared to change their mind. Labour has come to understand MMP. National refuses to. Don’t ask New Zealand First, ask ACT.
We will have an independent rates inquiry – New Zealand First promised that.
Whilst all others flopped all over the place, our colleague Brian Donnelly ensured we kept our promise.
We will soon have a dedicated Seniors card – New Zealand First promised that. Very soon we will be making a major announcement on its name and its benefits, and they are significant.
Superannuation has been increased – New Zealand First promised that.
We have tougher immigration laws and they are going to get tougher still – New Zealand First promised that.
By 2008 we will have one thousand extra frontline police – New Zealand First promised that.
While National seeks to destroy public confidence in the police by questioning their integrity, we have helped Labour see the value in bolstering support for this essential public service.
We gave the “Buy NZ” campaign backbone. Peter Brown and New Zealand First did that.
Your MPs have led the debate on the number of MPs in Parliament; on the age of criminal responsibility, and on the Treaty principles argument. In fact we are the only party that has had a rational and consistent position on race relations in this country.
We could go on. But there is one area where we remain deeply concerned for New Zealand’s future. It is the scourge of violence.
It is not the New Zealand way to beat up our elderly – yet this is commonplace.
It is not the New Zealand way to kill our children – yet this no longer shocks us.
It is not the New Zealand way to resort to violence when we have a dispute with our spouse – yet this happens far too often.
We have heard all the excuses, but quite rightly many New Zealanders are asking: What is happening to our country?
New Zealand as a civil society is at risk. An uneasy pervasive sense of fear has entered our national psyche.
The Police and other agencies may argue over the fine print of crime figures but ordinary Kiwis are not fooled. Lost in all the numbers is the reality that these are real people being abused, violated and killed. These are people's children, parents and grandparents.
Like a plague, the level of violence in our society continues to grow.
Our televisions are daily emitting dark images of a world where random acts of brutality are creating communities under siege – some communities are coming apart at the seams.
Any unlawful killing is a tragedy, but some of the most recent murders have been particularly foul.
Death does not come uglier than that of the defenseless Kahui Twins.
“Once Were Warriors” has moved from the cinema screen to the streets.
And sadly public confidence in the police to stem this tide of criminality is ebbing.
They know the police are overwhelmed. But we
simply must not blame the police.
We say the police are to be commended for their response to this escalating mayhem.
In fact, in six out of seven homicide cases in South Auckland recently, the police have apprehended suspects.
But in the course of one generation, New Zealand has gone from being a fundamentally law abiding country to one where violence is widespread.
New Zealanders can see that there has been a coarsening of our culture. Violence has become part of a way of life for too many. But this is not the New Zealand way we want.
The politically correct approach of the left, or the heartless approach of the far right, has failed to fix the problem. They never could.
The left's attempts to replace our families and communities with government agencies were always doomed to failure as was the far right's mantra of individual hedonism and self-interest.
Neither understands that the core of a
good society is built on families and communities.
Put simply, as a country we need to acknowledge that current policies are not working.
There is a proliferation of programmes and initiatives – but violence is more endemic than it has ever been.
Well New Zealand First is prepared to make a stand.
We do not share the resignation that the problem is too big and can't be fixed.
But we must all be part of the solution.
We are not prepared to see our country abandoned to the predators – the New Zealand way has never been to turn a blind eye.
Because for New Zealand First freedom from violence is a core value – that is the New Zealand way.
New Zealand men need to wake up to the reality that it is not manly to beat up your wife and kids – in fact it is the worst form of cowardice.
The New Zealand way is about self-discipline, but it is also about mates stepping in and saying violence is not right. This is particularly so where alcohol and drugs are concerned. It is no coincidence that escalating violence corresponds with escalating drug use.
New Zealand men need to stand up and be real mates. Sometimes only a real mate can calm someone down when they are out of control. Sometimes only a mate can deter someone from joining the degradation of drugs.
This is about communities and families stepping in and taking responsibility for their own.
Like the Sammy Davis Jnr old song “Don’t blame the Children”.
Remember – it is not the children making the drugs. It is not the children making the porn. It is not the children pushing all manner of false prophets, masquerading as music artists promoting violence and degradation.
The children are the victims – many are quickly loosing their innocence and succumbing to their environment.
Violence is begetting violence.
We have teachers too afraid to confront violence in their classrooms, because they too often have to bear the brunt of families and communities failing to instill self discipline in our young.
Even worse we have teachers being killed. This is not sensationalist – this is fact.
Our schools must be part of the solution as they are a fundamental part of our communities. Our schools must teach values – New Zealand values – but they can only be effective if they are reinforced at home and in the wider community.
Community groups must be strengthened and supported.
It will be a long, arduous and often thankless task – but we must rebuild our communities.
We must rediscover the social and civic glue that has been lost in New Zealand.
This problem is not without hope.
We have successful communities all over New Zealand.
But sadly these are diminishing with time.
We believe three concrete steps must be undertaken.
1. Strengthening the family and core institutions – this is not a new idea but one that has to be pursued because there is no substitute for a nurturing family.
Families, schools, churches, and community organisations all have a role in giving our youth people a sense of place and responsibility.
We must rebuild our civil society.
2. Delinquency prevention – this entails intervening immediately and effectively when delinquent behavior occurs – and when it first occurs.
Many criminal careers begin in childhood.
Typically, delinquent children who do turn to crime lack either parental or community guidance. Returning parental responsibility is critical.
Most are not bad kids at their core, they just need guidance and values.
3. Identifying and apprehending the small group of serious violent criminals.
The evidence is that only a small proportion of the population commits a high proportion of crime.
The time has come to stop tolerating the behavior of this group.
This includes tackling gangs and drug syndicates head on.
We need the police to be properly resourced and relentless in dealing with this threat to our social stability.
New Zealand faces a stark choice: Allow our society to deteriorate or resolve to tackle social disorder with vigor and urgency.
The trickle of violence of a generation ago is already today’s river, and tomorrow unchecked, will become an unstoppable torrent.
New Zealand First and Ron Mark have long advocated policies that deal with lawlessness which, if given a chance, will restore New Zealand to the peaceful country it once was.
The others have all had their chance, whether from the far right or the far left. They have both failed. It’s long since time that policies of plain common sense to deal to violence were given a chance. That is the New Zealand way.
For thirteen years we have been at the vanguard of defending this country and its people.
From securing our borders through to more police. From free healthcare for under sixes to increased superannuation.
When no one else would take up the fight we did. When no one else would challenge the two big parties we did.
We have made real change and people's lives are better because we did.
But we must continue to rally for the cause.
2008 will be a huge election and we will again be pivotal to the outcome.
The rallying cry must go out now.
We need your help, your talents, your contributions to the cause of saving our great country.
And return it to the New Zealand way.
So we have two challenges in preparation for 2008.
The first is a shopping list of wise policies that you want for the next government. The second is preparing the team and the candidates you want in Parliament to deliver on those policies.
That’s the challenge and we will be up to it.