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Copeland: Kiwi Party National Conference

Kiwi Party National Conference

Gordon Copeland Speech
Saturday, 9 August 2008
Kia Ora. Haere Mai.

I want to begin today by warmly welcoming you to the inaugural national conference of The Kiwi Party.

People frequently ask me, what is distinctive about The Kiwi Party and why are you involved.

Without hesitation I answer “Because it is a Party founded upon Judeo-Christian”. Some then ask well what do you mean when you talk about Judeo-Christian values, and I reply they are the values which are foundational to Western civilisation. They are timeless, transcendent and universal values. They are the foundational to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They underlie the Treaty of Waitangi which is the founding document of our nation.

Tragically New Zealand has steadily moved away from those values, in favour of relativism and confusion. As a grandmother so eloquently put it to a Parliamentary Select Committee, “you people, through legislation such as the Relationships Property Act, Prostitution Reform, and Civil Unions, have removed the moral signposts which have guided our nation since its beginning. I grieve because I know that my grandchildren will no longer have Parliament setting the boundaries and guidelines we all need to become decent, compassionate, caring, law abiding citizens of this beautiful land."

How true.

Central to the values which this Party holds is our conviction concerning the irreplaceable and unique role of marriage and family. All of the evidence, and there is loads of it, shows that the best outcomes for our children, in terms of health, education, income, and by far the lowest involvement in crime, flows from households which are headed by a married couple.

Kiwi plans to rebuild a marriage culture in this country and to re-establish the right and responsibility of parents to raise, educate and train their children. We will provide Government subsidies for marriage preparation courses, marriage enrichment courses, and parenting courses of all kinds; pre-natal, pre-school, and right through the teenage years. Those subsidies will go directly to course providers. We already have some wonderful programmes in this country, but they are touching only a relatively small proportion of our population and the providers are continually struggling for the financial resources they need to keep going. We want these courses made available to all couples and to all parents so that they have the knowledge and skills needed to raise great kids.

Let’s clearly understand our present situation and the urgency of the task which awaits us. Our statistics for violent crime, domestic crime, child abuse, youth crime, fatherlessness, singleparent families, teenage pregnancies, the number of abortions, the rate of truancy, misbehaviour in schools, and the rate of home ownership have all deteriorated under the Helen Clark-led Labour Government. Neither Labour or National have policies which will arrest that deterioration and begin the long task of rebuilding our society. It is a formidable challenge.

Let me just give you a couple of statistics.

Crime committed by 10-13 year olds in New Zealand increased by 30% in the year 2007 to 1,200 offences. Amongst 14-16 year olds, crime has gone up by 47% since Labour came to power. A sample of the 7,000 young people involved in the Youth Justice System each year makes sober reading. Just 12% came from a home where they are living with their mum and their dad, 28% are living with one parent only (normally their mother) and a massive 60% are living with neither their mother nor their father. You can see, from those statistics, why we are committed to the rebuilding of a marriage culture and indeed it is appalling really that I am one of perhaps three MPs in the current Parliament who will even use the “m” word, that is marriage, within a Parliamentary context.

We have bought into the lie that family form doesn’t matter and that to talk of marriage is to judge sole-parent or defacto families. What utter garbage that is. Solo mothers are amongst the first to applaud these Kiwi policies and they tell me that it was never part of their life plan to end up as a single parent. There is no reason why we cannot continue to support single parents, whilst at the same time working hard to reduce their numbers over time.

We call these policies a “fence at the top of the cliff” approach and I am utterly convinced that we must start at that end of the problem if we are to effect real change for the benefit of our children, grandchildren, and generations to come. There is no disputing that the deterioration in the social fabric of New Zealand is significant. People are no longer safe. Not in their mother’s womb. Not in the streets, and sadly not even within the walls of their family home. Faced with these realities, we need a radical change of direction. Indeed the goal of The Kiwi Party is nothing less than social transformation and social renewal.

The prosperity and happiness of a nation is no more than the subtotal of the prosperity and happiness of its families. Families are the living cells of a nation. If they are unhealthy, we have an unhealthy nation. If they are healthy and thriving, we have a healthy and thriving nation.

Kiwi wants a Royal Commission to both understand and address family breakdown in New Zealand and we have prepared detailed terms of reference to that end. We will repeal the Prostitution Reform Act.

Our aim is to build strong New Zealand families and I will mention just a few of our other policies in that regard.

Kiwi will introduce income splitting for married couples raising dependent children. This would be particularly beneficial for single income kiwi families. For example, a family with an income of $70,000 would see a saving of $4,790 per annum or $92.12 per week. This is right and just. Both partners contribute to the raising of the family and their different but complimentary roles are recognised. It is also a tangible recognition by society that being at home to raise children is real work; in fact it is the most important work that anyone ever does.

Kiwi will address systemic poverty by raising the minimum wage from $12 to $15 per hour with an offsetting tax credit to employers. Increasing wages from $12 per hour or from $480 per week to $600 per week will give a huge boost to those workers and their families who are on that rate.

After tax at the new 21% rate, their take home pay will increase by $94.80 per week! That is almost eight times the extra $12 per week which Michael Cullen has delivered to those people through his Budget. It will also be a significant benefit for those on $13 or $14 per hour. The increase to $15 will eventually work its way right through our whole wage structure taking everyone up to a different level.

Perhaps more significantly however it will lift the standard of living for our most financially vulnerable families and thus help build a participation society.

Presently the annual Super adjustment lags, on average, 9 months behind the movement in the cost of living. Kiwi will change that so it is always up to date. In addition our $15 per hour minimum wage initiative will lift Super as well. Together these two moves will boost the married couple rate by $942 per annum, or $18.12 per week.

You will find the rest of tax policy set out in your folders and I encourage you to read that through. In combination our policies will raise wages for the lowest paid kiwis, significantly reduce taxes for couples raising dependent children, boost New Zealand Super, reduce rates, make additional funding available for health, and give start up businesses a much needed tax break.

Housing affordability is also an urgent priority for New Zealand. Housing is now less affordable for young kiwi families than at any time in my adult life. In some areas of New Zealand, notably South Auckland, only one third of families are now living in their own home, with two thirds renting and these statistics are getting worse. Right across the country home ownership levels have reduced significantly.

Frankly the Government’s response is frighteningly inadequate. They do not have answers to restore the dream of home ownership, with all of its enormous advantages for our families and communities. Simply stated, home ownership must become a national goal.

The Kiwi Party’s policies will help to get us there.

Firstly we want to greatly increase the supply of land for subdivision. Artificial restraints on the supply of land, through so-called “smart growth” initiatives have been the single largest contributor to the increase in house prices we have seen over the last three to four years. The economic equation is quite straightforward. If you intervene to limit the supply of land for housing then its price will go through the roof!

We should aim to see new houses coming into the market at 4 times the average wage or about $190,000. Imagine what a difference that could make for young families. At the moment you pay $170,000 or more just for a section!

Secondly the new “development levies” now charged by local councils are, in reality, a “new house purchaser infrastructure charge.” They can add as much as $20,000 to the cost of a new home. New infrastructure such as sewerage, roading etc, should be financed by issuing bonds with debt repayments spread on an intergenerational basis.

Thirdly, new requirements imposed by the Building Act in 2004 went way over the top. While builders need just four or five pages of plans to build a new home, they now need 12 or 13 pages of plans to obtain the building consent! That is absurd and must change.

These three issues, taken together, essentially explain why housing has become so expensive.

The current severe unaffordability crisis is the result of poor law and regulation. The good news is that it can be fixed and these Kiwi Party policies will get the job done.

Now before I finish I want to shift gears a little and talk to you about a new Kiwi Party policy initiative which I am announcing today. The Kiwi Party believes that 100% Government ownership of state owned enterprises (SOEs) is a sub-optimal arrangement for the New Zealand economy. If the 20th century taught us anything, it was that Government’s are not good at running commercial businesses. Sadly the debate around the ownership of our SOEs has degenerated to a simplistic choice between the two options of “own the lot” or “sell the lot”. In recent times the “own the lot” view has won the day because New Zealanders rightly resent the ridiculous way in which key assets such as Telecom, the Bank of New Zealand and NZ Rail were simply flogged off to overseas owners.

Kiwi believes however that there is a middle which is a better way. We will sell down 20% of SOEs to New Zealand resident shareholders. SOEs will remain 100% kiwi owned and controlled, but the 20% sale will create additional investment opportunities for kiwi residents (including the NZ 3 Super Fund) to invest in New Zealand whilst, at the same time, releasing several billion dollars of new funds for investment in the nation’s infrastructure including roads, rail, schools, hospitals, and ports. National is proposing to do some of that through new borrowings but it could all be funded simply by allowing New Zealanders to have a 20% direct ownership stake in their own companies.

The SOEs would then be listed on the Stock Exchange, have directors elected by a wide representation of New Zealanders - rather than simply stacked with the government of the day’s cronies, and would face all the reporting disciplines of the market like any other listed company.

I’m looking forward to this year’s election campaign. I believe kiwis are seeking change. They are looking for transformation. They earnestly desire a society where housing is again affordable, where we go back to building strong, stable, enduring families, see drug abuse brought to an end and a vast decrease in the level of criminal activity in our communities.

You and I can be part of that change.

We are not alone in this endeavour. Thousands of New Zealanders long for and are prepared to work for the much needed changes in our society which I have outlined today. Together you and I can bring about change. We can initiate transformation. We can eliminate systemic poverty. We can reclaim family life. We can move to a culture of life. We can see every kiwi valued and appreciated in a participation society. We can see an end to drugs and crime. We can reclaim out values. We can make history.

Your time has come.


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