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John Key Speech To Annual National Conference


John Key MP

National Party Leader

3 August 2008

National’s Blueprint for Change

Speech to the Annual National Party Conference

Wellington

(NOTE: CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY)

What an exciting time it is to be a member of the National Party.

As we come together for our annual conference we have less than 100 days to go before one of the most important elections in our party’s history.

This is an election National must win. An election that New Zealand needs us to win.
An election I am determined we will win.

Today we can once again reaffirm the very values and principles this party was founded on. Personal responsibility. Love for families. Support for our communities. Respect for one another. And a fundamental belief that less government is better than more.

Those principles that laid the foundation of our party in 1936 are as relevant today as they were back then.

In the next 100 days, as we accelerate toward the election, we will have to work harder than ever to achieve our goal. Be more focused than ever. Be more determined than ever.

We must draw on all our resources, and energy. And we will need your help.

So let me thank you right now for all that I know you will do to help National win this election. Stuffing envelopes. Knocking on doors. Selling raffle tickets.

Every action, no matter how large or small, will bring us closer to our ultimate goal of leading New Zealand’s next government.

Today, I’d like to single out some very special people. The party president, Judy Kirk. My deputy, Bill English. My caucus. My staff. And, of course, my family and my wife, Bronagh.

My Beliefs

At my first speech as leader nearly 20 months ago, I spoke of what drove me personally as an individual – the traits that I felt I could bring to the leadership of our great party. They are the same traits I know I can bring to the leadership of our country.

I want to talk a little about them today.

I believe in hard work.
I believe in education.
I believe in a fair society.
I believe in playing by the rules.
I believe in the power of families.
I believe in being pragmatic, and not being blinded by ideology.

Most of all, I believe that this country, that New Zealand, is capable of so much more.

This is a beautiful place with boundless opportunity. So I won’t accept that the bottom third of the OECD for average income is where we rightfully belong.

I simply won’t believe we have to put up with losing 80,000 of our people every year to other parts of the world.

I don’t think it’s good enough that Kiwi families are struggling to buy a house or pay their mortgage because of world-beating interest rates.

I am horrified that the gap between our wages and those in Australia are now wider than they have been in our history – at more than 35%.

Some people claim money doesn’t matter. The truth is that a lack of money can make things a lot harder for New Zealanders and their families. A lack of financial certainty can put a strain on even the strongest relationships or the best of parents.

I know that right now plenty of Kiwis are feeling that pressure.

I believe a responsible government, a compassionate government, must do all it can to provide financial certainty to the New Zealanders of today and the New Zealanders of tomorrow.

To do that, we must improve our economic performance. I worry greatly for our country’s future if we don’t. If we stay on the same growth course and speed, by 2030 the gap between wages here and wages in Australia will have risen to over 60%.

How can we hope to hold on to our young people, the educated, the talented, the motivated, if on the Monday you can earn $50,000 for doing one job and on the Friday earn $80,000 by simply moving across the ditch?

We can do better than that. New Zealand needs us to do better than that. Labour might not have a plan. Labour might not think it’s a priority. But National does.

We have a plan to steer New Zealand on a course to a more prosperous future. And we need to get to work on that plan straight away.


National’s Blueprint for Change

So let me tell you about some of National’s Blueprint for Change.

1.

As a country we have had to wait nine years for a tax cut – nine years of lost opportunity where all that most of us have to show for it is more debt and more mates in Australia

So, first and foremost in our Blueprint for Change, National is going to cut your taxes.

We will have an ongoing programme of personal tax cuts. It will be a responsible programme, and a transparent programme.

Labour has begrudgingly, after nine long years, given in to the pressure and intends to provide some tax reduction in October this year.

National will build on those tax cuts. We will treat the proposed October tax cuts as the first tranche in our tax-cut programme.

That will be followed by a further tranche of tax reductions on 1 April 2009, and another tranche on 1 April 2010.

Our tax plan has been carefully crafted. It reflects our objectives of allowing Kiwis to keep more of their incomes and ensures they face better incentives. It will be funded by National making clear choices and displaying a sense of our priorities. It will not require the Crown to borrow in order to be funded.

2.

National knows that when it comes to high inflation in this country, Michael Cullen’s poor-quality, uncontrolled spending has been part of the problem and not part of the solution.

We may have been able to afford Labour’s undisciplined approach in the good times but the country can now no longer afford it.

National will be disciplined about government spending. Because we know that the price of extravagant government spending is devastatingly high interest rates for New Zealanders.

3.

We also know that in the past nine years this city has been graced with 10,000 extra bureaucrats.

Well, we say enough’s enough. We will put a lid on it. We will stop the growth.
We will get our priorities right. National will reign in excessive growth in the public service.

Our focus is on frontline services and tax cuts, not more bureaucrats and policy analysts.

We will re-balance public spending priorities so that critical services like schools and hospitals get a fairer share. We will re-balance public-spending priorities so we can fund the services that New Zealanders need and deserve.

4.

National knows New Zealanders are sick of worrying about the surging levels of violent crime in this country. We are not going to put up with it.

So National will launch a full-frontal attack on gangs and the “P” trade they support.

We will change the laws, we will mandate the police, we will lock up the criminal gang members, we will do what it takes to combat a drug problem that wrecks the lives of the users and their families.

And while we’re at it, we will get serious about youth crime. That will include funding Fresh Start programmes using, for example, army facilities to turn around the lives of youth offenders. Programmes that can establish boundaries, discipline, and respect, while giving young people who are running off the rails a chance for a fresh start.

5.

National will remove the roadblocks that restrict New Zealanders’ ability to grow their businesses and grow our economy.

Within the first 100 days of our first term, National will introduce to Parliament a bill to reform the Resource Management Act.

This legislation will simplify and streamline the existing Act. It will include removing the ministerial veto over consents, reducing the number of consent categories and putting an end to frivolous and vexatious objections.

Following the enactment of that legislation, National will develop further reforms on the more thorny issues of improving the management of water, oceans, and our urban environment.

We are determined to remove the handbrake the RMA places on growth. We are determined to let good ideas flourish in this country. We are going to get New Zealand moving again.

6.

National will tap into our communities and our private enterprises to rebuild the ladder of opportunity for every single New Zealander.

National will do what it takes to deliver more chances and better-quality services to Kiwis from all walks of life.

We will do what works. And let me be very clear today, that includes inviting the private sector back to the table. National will dispense with Labour’s blind ideology that has locked the private sector out of government services and ideas for so long.

We will work with this country’s entrepreneurs, this country’s non-government organisations, and the best talent we can find to get the job done for Kiwis, and get it done well.

7.

National will raise education standards in this country.

We won’t put up with more than one in five children leaving school without the qualifications or skills they need to succeed.

We will set national standards in literacy and numeracy for all primary school pupils.
We will require schools to test to see if kids are meeting the standards. We will require teachers to tell parents about the results – in plain English.

And we will require schools to do something about it when kids are below standard. We will do this because, unlike Labour, we refuse to write some children off as hopeless.

We will do this because we’re not afraid of confronting failure, we’re not afraid of being honest about progress, and because we believe in accountability.

8.

National will grow the amount of superannuation paid to our senior citizens each week.

Today let me make a pledge: National will retain all the superannuation entitlements and eligibility rules that our senior citizens currently enjoy. We will keep this pledge and I will resign as Prime Minister, and as a member of our Parliament, rather than break it.

And what’s more, as we cut taxes and grow average after-tax wages, we will progressively increase the amount of super paid to senior citizens.

9.

National will deal with the mess of the Electoral Finance Act. It’s bad law. It doesn’t work. And I’m sick of watching Labour break it.

So, upon gaining office, we will repeal the Electoral Finance Act. And once it’s gone from the statute books we will reach out to all the parties in our Parliament to reach a genuine consensus about proper, workable, legislation that can replace it.

Let me also say, National will retain the measures in the current Act which provide greater transparency in political donations.

10.

Finally, we’ll open our ears to New Zealander’s views on their voting system.

New Zealanders have had to wait long enough for a chance to kick the tyres on MMP. So, National will give them that chance by holding a binding referendum on MMP by no later than 2011 .

And, if a majority of voters decide MMP is not their preferred electoral system, we will offer them a choice between a range of electoral systems to replace it.

Focusing on the issues that matter

Delegates, that is a list of 10 important changes that a National-led Government will make to the way this country is run.

They are very important steps and they are only 10 of the many we will take to change this country for the better.

Put simply, I want New Zealanders to have greater control over their lives. I want them to feel that the Government doesn’t get in the way, but instead offers them support when they need it. A Government that underpins our society – not smothers it. A National-led Government will be resolutely focused on the issues that matter.

And we will take the sensible steps needed to tackle some of the difficult issues of our times.

This will include introducing an Emissions Trading Scheme that balances New Zealand’s responsibility to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions with our need to grow our economy. A scheme that isn’t a giant cash cow for the government. A scheme that’s designed to work, not designed to get me a job at the United Nations. My goal is to have such a scheme on the statute books within nine months of taking office.

National will also continue progress along the path of resolving remaining historical Treaty claims.

We will do this so New Zealand can unlock the potential and opportunity of the many iwi who have waited too long to have their grievances resolved.

And National will work hard to put hope and opportunities into the lives of those in our emerging underclass.

Too many Kiwis are being left on the scrap-heap of negative statistics – in a toxic mix of crime, drug addiction, welfare dependency, and low-education levels.

You will see our Government take practical steps to put rungs back on the broken ladder of opportunity.

Delegates, National will focus on our Blueprint for Change because we know that over time it will translate into higher wages and greater opportunities for everyday Kiwis.

But, as Bill English pointed out yesterday, setting our economy on a new course and speed will not be a simple exercise. It won’t be solved by firing a single silver bullet.

All the aspects that drive our economy, from regulation to the size of the state, will need to be improved to reach National’s goal of achieving higher levels of economic growth.

I’m confident that day by day, week by week, National can make the large and small decisions that add up to an economic step change.

Infrastructure

One critical aspect of this will be building the infrastructure New Zealand needs for long-term economic growth.

Today I want to outline for you some of National’s thinking in this important area.

Right now, we have a significant infrastructure deficit. The result is poor productivity and increased pressure on inflation and interest rates.

This deficit spans from our roading network through to our energy supply. Nor is it a problem limited to central government. Over the next decade, local government will face an infrastructure deficit of some $30 billion.

National believes that building better infrastructure is essential to fuelling higher levels of non-inflationary economic growth for years to come.

So our infrastructure policy will be comprehensive and bold.

This will require leadership. National will appoint a Minister of Infrastructure to reshape, co-ordinate and then oversee the Government’s infrastructure objectives. It will be spelt out in our National Infrastructure Plan.

This 20-year plan will be developed in conjunction with local government. It will set a clear direction for vital national infrastructure investment, including top priority projects.

The plan will set out the intended local and central government infrastructure investment in roads, public transport, electricity, telecommunications, and water.

It will be a plan that takes into account New Zealand’s needs in a rapidly changing world. Changes like the increased importance of renewable energy. Changes like the growing price of oil and the need for public transport and roading networks that reflect that. Changes like growing connectivity between countries and people and the need for telecommunications networks that make the most of this.

National will look to invest in future-proof infrastructure.

That’s why, for example, our National Infrastructure Plan will include up to $1.5 billion in Crown investment for an ultra-fast broadband network connecting 75% of New Zealanders. And that’s why we will double the Broadband Challenge Fund and refocus it on rural communities.

Our National Infrastructure Plan will also include a new category of state highway. We will call these Roads of National Significance.

These Roads of National Significance will be singled out as essential roads that require priority treatment. This would include, for example, State Highway 1, the essential backbone of New Zealand’s roading network.

Roads of National Significance will be central to our development and investment plans.

In addition, National will introduce Priority Consenting.

We believe there are some infrastructure projects that are of such critical importance to the New Zealand economy that they deserve priority treatment.

National’s new Priority Consenting process will streamline consents for major national infrastructure. These will not go through the local council but instead will be called in and determined nationally.

The law will require a decision on these Priority Consents within nine months. Because New Zealand can’t afford the current situation where some infrastructure projects take longer to get resource consent than they actually take to be built. Priority Consenting will dramatically reduce the time required to grant approval for major infrastructure projects.

It will still allow for proper environmental assessment and will enable communities to have their say. New Zealand’s environmental standards are important. But I am convinced that in many cases we can improve the efficiency of the processes we use to protect those standards.

Without this priority treatment for vital infrastructure projects, New Zealand risks losing huge amounts of time and money through bottlenecks, delays, and cost escalations.

In order to finance our increased infrastructure commitment, National will step up our levels of Crown capital investment.

We are prepared to increase the Crown’s current infrastructure investment by up to an extra $500 million a year above levels projected by Labour. This is in addition to the broadband investment commitments of $1.5 billion over six years that I’ve previously outlined.

This will result in National investing close to $5 billion of additional capital investment over the next six years to fund infrastructure over and above that foreshadowed by Labour. This means that at the most National will be running a gross debt-to-GDP ratio around two percentage points higher than Labour is planning.

So you can see that National will be achieving this step up in investment while remaining within conservative debt levels.

Most importantly, this will be an investment that delivers considerable returns to New Zealanders for generations to come. That return will come in the form of enhanced services and enhanced capacity for our economy to grow and compete with the rest of the world.

Because right now New Zealand doesn’t have a debt problem, it has a growth problem.

National is not prepared to stand by and watch New Zealand be held back by utterly inadequate transport networks, inadequate electricity supply, and inadequate telecommunications. It’s time to take the handbrake off. It’s time to turn the growth engine on.

We will also pass laws to introduce a new range of financing techniques for national infrastructure projects.

In 2008, infrastructure is New Zealand’s missing asset class. National will turn that around. We believe New Zealanders should have an opportunity to invest in the infrastructure that will help build our country’s future.

First, we will introduce infrastructure bonds. Secondly, we will make greater use of public-private partnerships.

These new financing and asset management techniques will open up infrastructure to a wide range of financial investors. This will include Kiwi mums and dads through their super funds and Kiwisaver accounts.

It will also include Crown financial institutions, such as the NZ Super Fund and ACC which, at their own discretion, will have the option of investing in quality long-term assets while at the same time investing in our futures.

These financing techniques have been used in many countries throughout the world. In fact, New Zealand is one of very few nations that restricts itself to only building infrastructure from current revenue.

Financing techniques like those I’ve suggested today are commonplace in Australia, the UK, France, Germany, Canada, the United States, you name it. But they are brand new to New Zealand. We say, they’re well overdue.

We will do what it takes to get this country moving and growing again.

Conclusion

Delegates. We are into the countdown period before the start of election 2008.

New Zealanders from one end of the country to the other are seeking a brighter future.

They are ready to shift responsibility to a new generation which can see beyond the walls of yesterday’s political debates.

They want a government that can lead them out of these difficult economic times, into a brighter future. A Government that appeals to the best in each of us. A Government with a sense of the possible, a sense of how great we can be as individuals and as a country.

New Zealanders want reassurance and hope. And most of all, they want a government which won’t be tired and distracted but which will be focused and determined on the issues that really matter. We are that party. We will lead that Government.

And we will lead a Government fuelled by the politics of aspiration, not the politics of envy. A Government for tomorrow, not the government of yesterday.

As we leave the conference today and filter back to our regions, remember that this year is our chance to move from an opposition that says, to a government that does. Our chance to change for the better the lives of many hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders.

This is our chance to stand up and be counted. Our chance to be strong. To show real leadership. To deliver on our vision.

This year is our year. Together let’s go out and win that election.

Ends


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