Hide: There Should Be No Limits To Success
There Should Be No Limits To Success
Speech to Remuera Rackets Club, Remuera, Auckland; Waitangi Day
Fifteen expeditions attempted Everest before Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made it. These two men pushed up past higher than any one had ever been. On and on they climbed higher and higher to be first to stand on top of the world. It was a huge achievement, one that made Ed Hillary a household name around the world.
Ed Hillary showed us there were no limits to what kiwis can achieve. Many had tried; he was the first to succeed. He proved the impossible possible. He set a big goal - and achieved it - through planning, determination and sheer grit and hard work. Sir Ed Hillary could have done anything following his climb of Everest. He chose to use his great mana to give the Sherpa people in their words "eyes to see" building schools, hospitals and bridges.
That's why Ed Hillary was our greatest New Zealander. It took great guts and determination to be the first to the top of the world's highest mountain. It took great humility to remain to us just Ed Hillary, kiwi bloke. It took real humanity to work and to achieve for the Sherpa people.
We said goodbye to Ed Hillary this year. It was a time to reflect on this great man and what he means to each of us. We each have our Everest to climb. We each have our opportunity to make the world a better place. Ed Hillary taught us to lift our sights and to make the most of the opportunities we have to make a better world. I pledged on election night 2005 to be the best MP Epsom could have. Epsom people broke with tradition to place their trust in me. It's important to me to return the people's trust by being the best MP that I can be.
I knew I had the capacity to work hard. I had also proved I was an effective MP. But I needed to do more. I first and foremost had to work to represent everyone in the electorate, not just those who had voted for me. I have gone out of my way to open my door to everyone. That's what being a good MP for Epsom is about. I have also learned to work with all parties in our Parliament on issues of concern to the people of Epsom. Again, that's what being a good MP for Epsom is about - putting aside party and political differences to work for the good of Epsom and the country as a whole.
Not long after the last election I was visiting a local school. I was introduced to the young pupils as "their MP". I felt very proud and privileged at that moment but also very conscious as they looked up with their young eyes that I needed to behave in Parliament in a way that would build the respect that we would like for our Parliament and political leaders. I was no longer the Parliamentary "pitbull". I was MP for Epsom, ACT leader.
There was one other thing I had to change. I had to get fitter. I was fine sitting around in Parliament debating politics for long hours but it had proved tough work in the 2005 campaign knocking on doors in Epsom and campaigning through the rest of the country. I knew my level of fitness was not sufficient to do my best to be MP for Epsom. I resolved to do something about it.
I had the great fortune to meet the President of Remuera Rackets Nigel Nathan who made it his job to get me fit to be MP for Epsom. That has been my Everest. It was a big challenge. The Club here has been fantastic in providing me with facilities and support, advice and encouragement. Two years on and I am 40kgs lighter and fitter than I have ever been in my life. Nigel and Remuera Rackets have given me a whole new life.
I now run up the hills of Epsom delivering my newsletters, whereas I used to huff and puff and stagger.
My ACT colleague Heather Roy has helped me enormously in my role as MP for Epsom. She has managed ACT's responsibilities in Parliament when I have been committed at functions, meetings and the general work of a constituency MP here in Epsom. Epsom voters really did get two for the price of one when they voted me as their MP. I have also had the pleasure of working with National MP Richard Worth and Green MP Keith Locke on local issues in the electorate. I have kept my Election Night promise to the people of Epsom and have worked hard to be the best local MP that I could be.
At Sir Ed's funeral I thought about all he had achieved and the people he had helped. It made me think about the opportunities that we in ACT have to make the world a better place. It's a great privilege being an MP to be able to help constituents like Dave Henderson whose tax case has now been immortalised in South Pacific's movie, "We're Here to Help". As MPs we get to help constituents every day. It's a great privilege.
But we can do more, much more. Just look at the opportunity that is in front of ACT.
Our hard work in Epsom is paying off. Epsom provides us with something that ACT has never enjoyed before - the guarantee that every party vote for ACT will count. ACT has been haunted in past elections by the prospect that we wouldn't make the five percent threshold and party votes for ACT would be wasted. It made it very tough for us and for voters. ACT was always teetering on the edge of oblivion.
The good people of Epsom can guarantee that every party vote cast for ACT through the country will count. That makes a big difference. There is no danger that party votes for ACT will be wasted. They will count to the election night result - but more particularly we can make them count more than any other vote to the future direction of the country. That's the opportunity we have this election.
ACT can and will do well this election. John Key is understandably campaigning for a change of government. He is aiming to win votes from Labour simply by offering a new fresh, face. His promise is not to change Labour Party policy, but simply to tweak and tinker Labour Party policy.
That means what we have now is as good as it gets. It's policy - what government does - that matters to our success as a nation, not who is sitting in which particular seat in Parliament. And National is promising not to change it. And this is where ACT's opportunity to improve our country's fortunes lies. Our opportunity is to change our country's direction, not just the government.
ACT is the only party in our Parliament with the opportunity afforded by MMP and our small size to have a principled and consistent political philosophy. It is a philosophy that has been developed by some of the greatest minds down through the ages and tested over hundreds of years. Our philosophy is best captured in the phrase, "Free to Chose". It is the understanding that a society best prospers when people are free to make their own decisions and with a government limited to its core functions which it concentrates on and does well.
We oppose big bloated government sticking its nose into every facet of our business, family and personal lives. We believe in New Zealanders. We don't need government telling us what to do. We can do far better looking after ourselves.
When ACT says we want to make New Zealand a better place we mean we want to make New Zealand a freer and more prosperous country. Prosperity is important because without prosperity we can't provide for ourselves or for others. Far too much time gets spent in politics working out how to carve up our economic cake. Far too little time gets spent considering how to ensure a bigger and bigger cake.
We in ACT believe that personal freedom and individual responsibility matter. We believe that people should be free to make their own choices in life but - and this is critical - that along with that freedom comes the responsibility of accepting the consequences of our decisions. That's what being a fully adult human being entails. Our government now too often divorces us from the consequences of our decisions. And that is the fundamental cause of many of the social problems we confront today. ACT provides in Parliament the only proud and consistent voice for individual liberty and personal responsibility. Making the country freer is also the best policy for making our country more prosperous.
Our opportunity this election is to succeed in the party vote sufficiently that ACT is needed to form the new government. That is our goal.
In achieving that goal ACT must bring to parliament MPs of the calibre the country needs in our law making and policy setting. Brains, experience and energy do matter in getting decent policy. We are now selecting candidates who will be ACT MPs by the end of this year.
We will also be announcing the key policies that we will bring to government to make for a freer and more prosperous New Zealand. We will make those policies part of our campaign and the basis for our support in Parliament and in the new government.
The key areas we have been working on are Health, Education and the Economy. Health remains a basket case. The problem always gets diagnosed as a lack of resources with the solution simple and obvious: pour more money in. Well, Labour has rained in the money. It has poured billions in and then billions more, all to no avail. Health spending has increased under Labour from $6 billion to $11.5. It's almost doubled. If lack of money were the problem, all problems would now be fixed. I'm sure it's done some good but we certainly haven't seen $5.5 billion worth of improvement.
What Health desperately needs is greater transparency and accountability. Patients need to know what they're entitled to and what they can expect. Taxpayers need to know what their tax dollars are buying and that they're getting value for money. That alone would be a good first step in a sector where political success is still determined by money spent rather than results achieved.
We all know the key to our future health and success as a society is education. But what are the other parties doing? Boot camps? Making young people stay at a school longer? We can do better than that. Much better. ACT is working on exciting policy in education that will improve vastly the opportunities for young New Zealanders and their families. We can make a big difference in education. And by making a big difference in Education, we can make a big difference to our country's future success.
We are blessed in Epsom with great schools and a great diversity of schools, from Auckland Grammar, through Baradene and on to Mind Alive. The diversity is great. And we need more. Our young people are individuals and a "one-size fits all" approach won't work. Staying on at school until 18 would not have suited my son. And there are a lot of sons and daughters it wouldn't suit.
The other area ACT will make a big difference is in the economy. The Prime Minister talks of two percent growth this year and looks forward to three percent. Three percent is nowhere near good enough for New Zealand. We can and we should do better, much better.
Labour has failed to get New Zealand into the top half of the OECD. We are not even succeeding at being average! We have been led from proud achievers to a country underperforming. We are falling behind Australia and other countries we like to compare ourselves to. We are losing our best and brightest overseas.
We must be more ambitious than being average, and failing even at that. We need to set our sights high, establish a clear plan and implement it.
And we need to get our economic thinking straight. Prosperity is not generated by government, by politicians, bureaucrats, or government committee. Wealth is generated by kiwis going about their business doing their jobs. Sound economic policy follows that obvious truth. We need to make it easier and more rewarding to get ahead in New Zealand. Successive governments have deadened the incentive and removed the opportunity for New Zealanders to get ahead.
Red-tape is strangling the country making it hard to do business and to succeed. The delays and costs for mindless bureaucracy are truly shocking. We have a monster nanny state - what's amazing is that anything gets done in our great country given the obstacles that government erects in everyone's way. The monster nanny state is growing bigger and fatter by the day. It is out-of-control.
Much of the work in my Epsom office is created by bureaucracy, bad law making, and political bungling. I had a wonderful business in Parnell that was all set up and ready to go. It was the Miracles 24 hour child care. It is a fantastic facility. It is an innovative idea that was to be professionally run with parents looking forward to the service to be offered. But the city's bureaucrats and bad law have knocked it on the head. The law was contradictory and confusing and the bureaucrats chopped and changed their position putting delay and delay upon the business and piling up cost after cost. It was truly disgusting treatment that is repeated up and down the country every day.
Another wasted opportunity, another business lost, all for nothing.
It's not enough that politicians be against red tape. We must do something practical about it. Heather and I have worked this past year with the other political parties to get ACT's Regulatory Responsibility Bill before the Commerce Committee. It's no mean achievement. We got ACT's Bill through its first reading 114 votes to six. We have heard submissions and the Committee is now deliberating. Our Bill serves to protect property rights and the freedom to contract. It forces Parliament and government to respect New Zealanders fundamental rights and establishes a regular review of all existing legislation.
The Regulatory Responsibility Bill would put a bonfire under mindless red-tape and eliminate the stultifying and unnecessary regulation strangling the country. ACT is working to pass legislation before the election and to pass an even better Bill post-election. We will have more to say this year about Regulatory Responsibility.
We need to cut red tape. We also need to cut taxes to boost the incentive to work and to invest. It's great that both Labour and National agree that tax cuts are a good idea. That's progress. But the key to tax cuts is getting government spending under control. That's the one thing that both National and Labour resolutely refuse to do. Labour's election tactic has always been to bribe Kiwis to vote for them with their own money, witness interest free loan for students. National's approach is now to match Labour's spending dollar for dollar and even to raise it!
The free-loan policy wasn't deigned to improve educational outcomes - it was designed to win the Labour Party votes. And it worked. It worked so well as vote catcher that National has had to buy into it.
Pork-barrel politics won't transform our economy to a world-class performer. We need government on a diet. There's no need to cut government spending - but we do need to hold the increase. You don't have to be in starvation mode to be lean and healthy, but you certainly have to stop getting fatter and fatter, and you do have to set a goal, exercise discipline and make some tough choices. Our politicians are doing none of these things.
What's especially wrong about government spending now is that New Zealanders get no say in it. And yet it's their money. Labour decide what they'll spend - and what kiwis will have to pay for - and National get dragged electorally having to agree to Labour Party spending.
The way to get some restraint is to give taxpayers a say. That's where ACT's Taxpayer Rights Bill comes in. ACT's Taxpayers Rights Bill will cap taxes to what they are now. Politicians would not be able to increase taxes just on a whim. They would need first to gain taxpayer support for any increase through a referendum.
There would be no need to cut government expenditure - just to hold it in real terms per capita. That's the goal ACT will set for government. A tax cap will force politicians to budget and to set priorities. That's what ACT means when we say we need, High Performance Government, not fat, bloated government.
Of course, politicians could increase the tax take above the rate of inflation and population growth - but they would need the people's permission through a referendum first, after all it is their money. It's only fair and proper that they gain consent. That would force politicians to have to be spending our money wisely and well and to have a good reason for any tax hike. ACT's Taxpayer Rights Bill will make a dramatic difference to government, government spending, and tax. It will boost tax home pay and our economic performance.
Since Helen Clark took office government revenue has increased a whopping 75% percent. That's 3.3 billion dollars a year. Government was big, bloated and inefficient in 1999. It's now bigger and more bloated. There's no discernible difference between government services now and what they were in 1999. They are certainly not 75 percent better.
Imagine if ACT's Taxpayer Rights Bill had been in force since 1999. Government revenue would simply have to have been held constant in real terms. It would not have been cut by one dollar. Labour Party politicians would have had to exercise restraint and discipline instead of spending up large at the country's expense.
Our government would be leaner and more efficient and New Zealanders would be richer and our economy stronger. Government would be spending 9 billion less with the top rate of tax and company rate of tax being 20 percent. That's without cutting one dollar of government spending. All that we must do is hold government spending.
That's what would be achieved with ACT's Taxpayer Rights Bill made law. That's what we can achieve by year's end with sufficient support from voters this election. We have enormous opportunity in front of this year.
I have learnt these past two years that there are no limits to success. We just need to lift our sights. We need to set big goals, we need to make our plans, and we need to execute them with hard work and determination.
We have an opportunity this election to make a difference to the future direction of our great country for the benefit of all. It's going to be a great year. I am already loving it. It's going to be a great year for ACT and a great year for our country.