Peters: Stratford Grey Power - "Perseverance"
Stratford Grey Power
St Andrews Presbyterian Hall,
10.30 am, 19 March 2008
There’s an old saying that “perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”
We in New Zealand First know a thing or two about perseverance.
We celebrate our fifteenth birthday in July this year.
That’s fifteen years of hard work – often against the odds, and often as a lonely voice.
We have been written off so many times in the past that we have lost track, yet here we are fighting fit and gearing up for another election.
We have watched with some amusement in the early stages of this year as the so-called experts have tried looking into their crystal balls and manufactured all manner of predictions.
We have some rather foolishly trying to find parallels between the U.S. election races and our own.
Some of the comparisons are just absurd. John Key may be a fresh new face – but Barack Obama he is not.
And there really are only limited comparisons that can be made between Helen Clark and Hillary Clinton.
But if there really is to be a comparison made – it should be about the mature, experienced guy who has persevered over the long period of time.
Now there is a real parallel here in New Zealand, but modesty prevents me from revealing just who that might be.
We know in New Zealand First that after years of perseverance – our time has come.
We know this because all the signs are there like beacons in the night.
Our policies – foreign control of assets, law and order, race relations, strengthening our immigration system and financial security for the elderly - are the issues that matter.
We are strong on these issues - our track record speaks for itself – and we speak for ordinary New Zealanders.
That is why New Zealand First is the best insurance policy New Zealanders can take out.
National is moving closer and closer to Labour – to the point where they are really two sides of the same coin.
The Maori Party and the Greens are getting more and more radical about what they want – soft on drugs, soft on immigration, and soft on crime.
In case you hadn't noticed Act has just resurrected the economic mad scientist in the form of the superannuation slasher and asset seller Roger Douglas.
In fact the only party talking any sense is, as usual, New Zealand First.
More and more people are telling us you are right on immigration, keep going.
You are right on strategic asset sales, keep going.
We could go on. But there is a really positive vibe about New Zealand First, our policies and our ability to deliver no matter who is in government.
That is not to say that there is not much hard work to be done – there is – but a feeling is growing in our team and among our supporters that it is our time to step up and shine even brighter.
Our hard work over the past fifteen years has laid a solid foundation for us to build from.
We are the only party in New Zealand with the policies, experience and courage to put New Zealand back on the right track.
Now let us deal with one issue that has already begun to raise its head – the “who will you go with?” question.
It plagued us in 2005 and so let me deal with it here and now.
Our position has not changed. We will negotiate first with the party that has the most seats following the election.
At this stage we do not know who that is – so any other questions are a moot point.
We do not have a preference, and we will not be advocating for one side over another.
But we will work with the party the voters tell us to.
We will be working to ensure our position is one of strength.
That is why we are the party of perseverance.
Let me give you example from the past two weeks – something near and dear to your hearts – the rate of New Zealand Superannuation.
You see we have been concerned about the base rate and mechanism for calculating New Zealand Superannuation for many years.
When we were in coalition in 1996 we ensured that the iniquitous surtax was removed and the base rate sustained – only to see National put it down when the coalition ended.
We then used our leverage with the Confidence and Supply Agreement with Labour to have the base rate lifted from 63.28%, which it had slipped to, to over 66% of the Net Average Wage for married couples.
We believed that your deserved more than what you had been getting.
But here is the problem – with inflation now so high – particularly in relation to the basics of food, power and housing, this increase in the base rate is just not enough.
You see the last increase amounted to only $8 a week for those living alone and $13 for married couples.
It is an increase you would not have got had we not been there to deliver it, but it is not enough.
We need to do more – and no other party in parliament will do it but us.
We hear stories of retirees not even able to afford the basics, like food, power and medical care.
We are hearing these stories from around New Zealand so we know we must do more.
We know that the claims of some about the costs of our policy over super simply don’t stack up.
It is affordable to increase New Zealand Superannuation – particularly if you do it as New Zealand First intends, incrementally over time.
We were disappointed when some in Grey Power took cheap shots at us over the SuperGold Card.
We were equally grateful for the many hundreds who wrote and rang to thank us for the card.
Some of the criticism we received was useful, and we aim to address it over time.
We delivered the card in August last year and told you it was just the beginning – that it would continue to grow.
Well that is exactly what has occurred.
From 188 businesses at the launch there are now over 700 companies on board with nearly 4,000 outlets.
And can we once and for all end the criticism of those who claim that it is not the same as the Grey Power discount books.
That was exactly the point – the SuperGold Card was designed to be complementary and work together with Grey Power’s locally-based discount booklets.
We have many of New Zealand’s largest companies on board – companies local Grey Powers aren’t able to negotiate with, but which we can.
There is more to come this year to help those in retirement and despite the unfounded criticism we will continue to work on your behalf.
Now let us turn to an issue of great concern – the state of our economy.
As the Good Book tells us – in life we reap what we sow – and this has proven more than true in relation to our recent economic performance.
The decades of blindly hocking off our best assets are now coming home to haunt us.
Apart from Kiwibank – and if Jim Anderton ever did anything right it was in setting this bank up, and the Taranaki Savings Bank – our major banks are all overseas owned.
Our financial futures are very much decided by corporate fatcats in Sydney, London, New York and Tokyo.
And as the commentators keep reminding us – there are dark clouds looming on the economic horizon because of the financial crisis sweeping through the world's banking system. A crisis created by the same corporate fatcats.
We will feel the effects of this here and we warn you here and now that retirees will be targeted when the economy turns down unless we are there to protect you.
Just remember the Asian crisis – what was National’s solution? Slash superannuation.
That’s right. You have done your bit for this nation, but you will be the first to come under attack when the failed policies of the past are resurrected and begin to bite.
And this problem could get a lot worse. National has said it will continue to privatise and sell off our strategic assets.
They might call it partial privatisation or partial selling off – but don’t be fooled by the language.
If National had its way we would see 49 percent of Auckland Airport sold.
Forty nine percent ownership is as good as total control in business terms when there are diverse shareholders.
Now let me deal with one aspect of this sale that some have raised in the media – the claim that when I was Treasurer I sold off Auckland Airport.
Just ask yourself this question – why is Auckland Airport now in New Zealand ownership and control?
The answer is because when we signed off on the partial sale of Auckland airport in the 1990s it was conditional on the shares being held in the hands of New Zealanders.
We wanted ordinary New Zealanders to benefit from the success of Auckland Airport and any value added by our travel industry.
Which is precisely why we are fighting so hard now to stop foreign ownership and control.
But they won’t stop there and Labour is equally guilty on the following:
Fonterra – prepared to sell.
New Zealand Dairy – prepared to sell.
And if we were to buy back the railways, National would sell that again.
Have they learned nothing from the past?
Assets sales means that more of our hard earned profits go offshore.
Profits offshore mean we are dangerously exposed when the global economy turns down and retirees bear the brunt domestically.
Even those who have put a little aside are exposed.
How many people here have lost money through Blue Chip or any of the other dozen or so financial services which have gone belly-up over the past two years?
It is a disgrace, but it happens when our economy is not our own.
And we must briefly address the proposed China Free Trade Agreement.
Let me be clear – our policy position has not changed, we do not favour FTAs with low wage economies.
We have not seen the full details of the proposed China FTA – so we cannot respond in detail.
But we would make this point – both Labour and National have already nailed their colours to the China FTA mast.
When we look at the China FTA we will ensure that retires are not caught in the crossfire.
You know there is a lot to worry about if you stay hooked into the media.
But among all the doom and gloom there is a ray of hope for seniors – we will be fighting for you and your cause.
We will not see you exposed and we will not see you become the whipping boys for the failures of others.
Grey Power members need to ask themselves six questions this year.
Do you really want the Maori Party to hold the balance of power after the next election?
Do you really want Roger Douglas to cut your superannuation and healthcare funding?
Which party can work with either of the two old parties while ensuring its own policy agenda is being followed?
Which party has the track record on opposing asset sales, on fighting crime, on tackling the Treaty industry, on facing up to the tough immigration questions and on building an economy which delivers for all New Zealanders?
Which party has the track record of delivering on its promises to our retirees and which party is committed to raising New Zealand superannuation, while ensuring that the funding of other social services is not cut?
Which party has persevered no matter what the personal cost?
Think about the answers to these questions carefully because they will determine your standard of living and lifestyle after the next election.
All we ask is that you judge us by our actions.
And while you are thinking, just remember Rogernomics and Ruthenasia.
The restructuring of the eighties and the cutbacks of the nineties.
History has a strange habit of repeating itself.
Be warned, be vigilant and be with New Zealand First.