Key: North Shore National Party luncheon
John Key MP
Leader of the National Party
28 November 2006
Speech to: North Shore National Party luncheon, North Harbour Stadium
It’s a real pleasure to be giving my first speech as Leader of the Opposition here in my own electorate of Helensville. The opportunity to do so means a great deal to me.
In 2002 and again in 2005 the voters of Helensville expressed their confidence in me as their representative. Even though being Leader of the Opposition brings its own workload, I will continue to serve the people of Helensville to the best of my abilities, and I will continue to spend as much time in this electorate as I can.
And in 2008 I will be asking the voters of New Zealand to express their confidence in me as Prime Minister of New Zealand.
On many occasions I have read in the media that John Key did a good job against Michael Cullen at the last election, that John Key knows his stuff on finance, but that no one knows what John Key really stands for.
Well, I’m pleased today to have the opportunity to say a few words about what John Key stands for, because I know him rather better than most commentators. I would like to share with you something of what drives me, what I believe in, and what I will be bringing to the job of Leader of the National Party.
You may know that before entering politics I had a career in international finance. That career was sufficiently successful that from time to time the media likes to question me about what I might be “worth”.
Such questions imply that in the totality of my life, my investments are the most important assets I have accrued. How wrong that is.
As a husband and father, the things I value most in life are not anything you’ll see listed on the Stock Exchange.
I think all New Zealanders would agree that the security, happiness and welfare of their family, which is also dependent on the security and welfare of their community and country, is the most precious thing to them.
No amount of money insulates against the anxiety that every parent sometimes feels for, and about, their children.
No amount of money enables a parent to buy happiness and self-fulfilment for their sons and daughters. Those, like most of life’s most valuable achievements, are earned, not bought.
I support families. In modern New Zealand they come in many shapes and sizes, so let me tell you that I for one will not pre-judge the construction of them. They are in my view the most important institution in our society, and any government I have the privilege of leading will do what it can to support them.
My views on parenting, on families and on society, are shaped not only by my experiences during my career, but even more by my own upbringing.
My father died when I was a young child. I do not remember him.
I was raised, along with my sisters, by my mother, in a state house in Christchurch.
Back then I thought I was poor and, by most standards, we were. As I grew up, though, I recognised that what my mother gave to my sisters and I was far more valuable than money.
She instilled in us the desire to improve ourselves by our own hard work, the confidence that we were able to do it, and the hope that it was possible to do so. She instilled in me an ethic of hard work and determination and a genuine belief that “you get out of life what you put into it”.
The State gave me the education that allowed it to happen. Those fundamental characteristics that were instilled in me – and the opportunity that was given to me, which I seized – I believe readily translate to New Zealand society as a whole.
There will always be a social welfare system in New Zealand because you can measure a society by how it looks after its most vulnerable. Once, I was one of them. I will never turn my back on that.
Yet, also, you can measure a society by how many vulnerable people it creates – people who are able to work, and able to take responsibility for their own lives and their children’s lives, yet end up depending long-term on the State.
My mission is to raise people’s sights, to be fearless and imaginative in policies that encourage people to set their aspirations higher.
A government I lead will have fair policies that encourage enterprise and hard work, and trusts people to get on with their lives and make the best choices for themselves.
The government, of course, has an important role to play in the modern economy. But the appropriate role for the government is in the background, not in the foreground. We need to improve the regulatory and institutional conditions under which firms operate, and then step back and let them establish, grow, export and hire staff.
So, whether they are school leavers stepping into first jobs, mothers venturing back into the workforce, graduates, iwi or entrepreneurs courageously starting their own businesses, or New Zealanders abroad thinking of returning home – I want them all to know that the way to a better future is in their own hands.
I want to give them the confidence that improvement is possible, and to assure them that policies are in place that will reward, rather than discourage, their industry.
I am ambitious for New Zealand and I want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves.
I believe in equal opportunity for all, and in the State playing its part to ensure this. How people choose to use that opportunity is up to them. They have everything to gain.
I am by nature an optimistic person. I am, after all, a Blues supporter.
I have enjoyed my work as an MP and as Finance spokesman, and I will continue to do so as Leader of the Opposition.
I have lived overseas, in Asia and in Europe, but I chose to come home.
It is a privilege to be a New Zealander, not only because, as they say, it is a good place to bring up children, or even because we produce the world’s best oysters.
It is also a good place to achieve your ambitions.
The tyranny of distance is reducing, with a billion people now having access to the Internet. The growing economic powerhouses of the world – China and India – are located, if not in our backyard, then in our street. New Zealand businesses have access to the world.
However, though I think there’s no better place in the world to live, we all know New Zealand can be a better country still.
We have some companies achieving world-best standards, but too few. We have some world-class tourism operations, but too few.
We are inclined to say educational standards are good enough, because they are better than some other countries.
I heard someone say recently that crime rates have been improving, as though averaging more than one murder a week is something we should all be relaxed about.
Well I’m not. National has never been a party that thinks mediocrity is good enough, nor will it be under my leadership. As a boy, I had high aspirations for myself, and as a politician, I have high aspirations for my country.
Building our nation’s confidence, instilling a real pride and a sense of what it is that binds us together as New Zealanders, striving for excellence, and ensuring we use our past successes as a bridge to even greater achievements, will be paramount should National become the government.
If you are looking for a guide to my political philosophy then I suggest you look no further than the core values and principles of the National Party.
Personal freedom, individual responsibility, a competitive economy, and support for families and communities are the very principles under which the party was formed 70 years ago, and they are as relevant today as they were then.
Individual policies – those that deliver on the core values and principles – will of course be specific to each generation as our nation changes and as the challenges we face change.
To not do so would argue that what worked in 1976 will be just as effective in 2006, and for a variety of reasons I doubt this is so.
What you can be assured of is that our policies will always be measured against our core principles. Let me be also clear that I make no excuses for saying those polices will be harvested from wherever we see the best results being achieved.
I am interested in what works, and not what should, or could, or might work in theory.
I do not intend to blindly follow an ideological path without ever challenging the concept or considering its appropriateness in our unique New Zealand setting.
And New Zealand is unique. That is quite clear. Our peoples are unique and our environment is unique.
While there is only one New Zealand, it is made up of people from many backgrounds. There are people whose parents, or grandparents, or great-great-grandparents came from Europe, from the islands of the Pacific, from Asia, from all around the globe, together with the indigenous people of this country.
The National Party will always believe in one standard of citizenship and I want to make this very clear to you today.
Yet within that standard of citizenship we should celebrate the cultural, religious and ethnic differences we all bring to New Zealand.
Maori are the tangata whenua of this country, and we have nothing to fear by acknowledging that. It is part of what makes New Zealand unique.
I welcome the Maori renaissance, and some of the great initiatives like the kohanga reo movement which have come from Maori, for Maori.
It is encouraging to see Maori using the resources they have to help address the obstacles that are standing in the way of their own young people achieving their potential.
It is in the interests of no one, and to the shame of us all, that an under-class has been allowed to develop in New Zealand. This under-class is represented by all ethnic backgrounds, and when I talk about lifting people’s sights, I am talking about all New Zealanders.
It is not the New Zealand way, and if left to fester it will impinge upon us all. My party is deadly serious about addressing these issues.
As I just said, we have a unique people and a unique environment.
When I left university, if anyone had heard of global warming they were keeping it to themselves. Now, no one with any awareness of the world can be ignorant of it.
It is a mystery to me why the political Left acts as if it has a monopoly on environmental policies, when it is obvious to anyone who cares to look that all of us, across the political spectrum, with the exception perhaps of the Greens, have taken too long to put the protection of our environment at the forefront of our thinking.
That needs to change. In the National Party we have taken steps to do this, and we will be taking more steps.
I hope this gives you a brief overview of some of the core principles that motivate me as Leader of the National Party.
There is much, much more to come, and I relish the challenge of building the policies and vision that will help create for New Zealand a more dynamic future.