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National/ACT Supply And Confidence Agreement

National/ACT Supply And Confidence Agreement Rodney Hide MP Sunday, December 7 2008

Speech to ACT Supporters; ACT Asian Chapter BBQ, Cornwall Park, Auckland; Sunday, December 7 2008

At our recent election, New Zealand voted for change; for a new direction.

The people voted for an end to the nanny state; an end to politicians and bureaucrats meddling in every aspect of their lives; an end to the politics of envy.

They voted to make New Zealand safer. They voted to get government spending under control. They voted for smart green policies. They voted for a quality education system that teaches children to read and to write. They voted for a taxation system that rewards and celebrates success - not punishes it. They voted for an end to the red tape that is tying New Zealanders in knots. They voted for a vision that will see us catch and match Australia. They voted for policies that will see our kids come home - not leave.

In short, they voted for a Centre-Right government and now - thanks to the historic agreement between National and ACT - New Zealanders have one.

This has been achieved because of the strategic objectives we in ACT set ourselves over the past three years; during the election campaign; and in its aftermath.

That ACT is now a part of the new government, in a position to affect policy, is no accident.

It is what we set out to do three years ago. It has been our sole objective, influencing every political decision and every strategic move.

Critically, we determined that policy would drive every step we took. Personality politics would play no part in the ACT agenda. We would play the ball - not the man.

And should the name Winston Peters be crossing anyone's mind: yes, we successfully showed Winston Peters for what he was. But that wasn't about the man or the Party; it was about demanding what New Zealanders expect and want - honest government and Ministers held to account by the law. But, in the end, it wasn't me or State agencies who determined the outcome. It was the people of New Zealand. No more. Job done. We move on.

There is now real work to be done and ACT - and, more importantly, ACT policies - are now firmly embedded in the new government's agenda, thanks to the Confidence and Supply Agreement we signed with National.

This brings me back to our three-year strategy. A strategy based on policy with a 20-Point Plan driven by our goal of catching and matching Australia.

In the election campaign itself, we focussed on the three core policies of getting tough on crime - really tough - with our 'Three Strikes and You're Out' policy; a determination to cap government spending growth; and dumping the dopey Emissions Trading Scheme.

Our Law & Order policy will save lives - 78 people would be alive today if our 'Three Strikes' policy had been in place. Innocents murdered by thugs who had offended again and again, only to be released again and again - to kill. ACT's Three Strikes will see an end to it.

No one believes that government spends your money with discipline and restraint.

Capping government spending will make every Kiwi household richer to the tune of hundreds of dollars a week. Ten years of capped spending in place would have seen the average household better off by $230 a week. That's just the tax savings, without the benefits of the stronger growth that follows from government trim and lean - not bloated and fat - and a tax system that rewards and incentivises success rather than punishes it. ACT's Taxpayer Rights Bill puts government on a tight budget and eases the squeeze on hard-working Kiwis.

Dumping the ETS will save farmers from bankruptcy and small businesses from going to the wall. It will stop the price hikes that families will face.

They were the core policies ACT campaigned on. Sensible policies that make a real difference.

What we needed to deliver the policies was clear: we needed voter support to elect MPs in sufficient numbers so we could be heard at the top table.

To gain the wider vote, it was essential that the good people of Epsom continued their support of me. I enjoy being MP for Epsom and strive every day to be the best MP for Epsom that I can be. The response through the campaign and on election night from Epsom has been humbling.

We'll never take the people of Epsom for granted. It is they who allowed ACT supporters throughout the country to vote for the Party they truly supported, confident their vote would count. Epsom voters are directly responsible for ACT's Parliamentary presence. Without Epsom, there'd be no ACT. That's not something you forget - nor is the wonderful support I've had through three years as MP for Epsom and through the election campaign itself.

Throughout the election campaign we pledged to support a National-led Government. The moment the results were in, I repeated that pledge to John Key and the nation. We would give him a guarantee of confidence and supply. Whatever the outcome of any discussion we might have, he would be able to offer the country stable government.

With the economic challenge confronting the country we considered stable and certain government a priority. The country voted on the Saturday. They had a new Prime Minister and government that night. It hasn't always been that way under MMP and the country couldn't risk the soap opera conducted over many weeks that we have endured in previous MMP elections.

Having assured the country of a change of government, National and ACT sat down to talk. How we talked.

If you were to believe what was written and said during that week, you would think ACT and National were scrapping away over who did what. Or that National played the Maori Party off against the ACT Party. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I reassured John Key that he had ACT's vote for confidence and supply. He then explained that he wanted to work with both the Maori Party and ACT to form a government. He said what mattered was having a good relationship amongst the Parties that had the best interests of the country at heart.

What John said, John delivered.

It wasn't an arm wrestle; it was genuine cooperation, working through the differences in a constructive way, fully aware of the great economic challenge the country faces. What was best for New Zealand was the benchmark against which we tested our ideas and our decision making.

We quickly built upon the trust and respect John Key had established in Opposition. Then it was down to business. Our first goal was to establish the direction for the country, then to work through individual policies, and then - and only then - to work out how we could best contribute to the new government with ministerial positions and so forth.

It was made easy by ACT and National having a shared philosophy and vision for New Zealand. And by John Key's willingness to listen and work with others.

We set the country's goal in our agreement as catching and matching Australia by 2025. That means closing the income gap that really matters: the one across the Tasman.

We've seen politicians set endless lofty goals for the country but nothing concrete for which they could be held to account. We made our goal concrete. We set a timeframe and made it measurable. Not just in 2025 but every year. To close the trans-Tasman income gap we need a sustained lift in New Zealand's productivity growth rate to three percent a year or more. It's a stretch, but we have done it before and we can do it again. That's how we measure our performance.

And it won't be us politicians defining how we are doing, but a high quality advisory group that will be offering up advice and reporting annually on our progress. The goal is concrete, it's measurable every year, and it will be measured and reported upon.

That's the strategic direction. We wanted to build up the relationship and the sharing of ideas we had established in negotiations. We also didn't want a process of consultation where the major Party simply told us what it was doing. Nor did John Key - hence the birth of the Leadership Council. That's an opportunity for John and I to meet monthly to discuss the major strategic elements of the government's programme, review our progress on improving productivity growth and consider new initiatives.

The Leadership Council provides the opportunity to discuss the 'big picture' of our Government's direction.

Now the policies. There's much that National and ACT agree on. We endorsed National's founding philosophy in our Confidence and Supply Agreement. But we campaigned on our differences. We needed to resolve the differences.

We didn't do it through an arm wrestle. It wasn't one Party winning at the expense of the other. We did it through establishing proper process for resolving the issues, with the best interests of the country forefront of our thinking. We will make New Zealand safer. ACT's 'Three Strikes and You're Out' Law & Order policy for violent offenders will have National's support to a Select Committee. And with tens of thousands of honest Kiwis rallying behind too, we'll make it law. It will mean an end to the violent thugs being released - time and again - to maim and rape and kill, in a devastating cycle of violence.

Most people will get the message - and for those who can't count, we'll do it for them: one, two, three, you're out. More to the point, you're in; in prison for life. Die in there, if need be. And for those who call me a cold-hearted and uncaring bastard, I only have one thing to say: 78.

Seventy eight; that's the number of people murdered by killers who would have been behind bars under the law we now plan for New Zealand; 78 innocents killed by men with multiple previous convictions. Men who shouldn't have been on the street; men who will no longer be once ACT's three strikes and you're out policy kicks in. No apologies to the cringing Left for that. None.

New Zealand voted for change. Voted for safer streets. We must, and will, deliver.

We quickly agreed on our agreement on Law & Order.

Climate change policy was tougher and illustrates how National and ACT worked together. National campaigned to keep the Emissions Trading Scheme. We campaigned to dump it. We needed to work through the two opposing positions.

We agreed that the case for an ETS had never been put - or the costs and benefits properly explored and considered. We agreed to a fundamental review that should have happened before New Zealand committed to an ETS. We drew up draft terms of reference. We can now have a rational look at the problem and the proper policy response for New Zealand.

In the meantime, we have committed to dumping the silly thermal generation ban and delaying the implementation of the ETS until the review of the proper policy response is completed. That's smart politics. And it's smart for the country too.

We have taken an equally determined view of government spending. Capping core government spending will put the quality of spending under the microscope. We need to put taxpayers in the box seat on government spending and, with ACT's Taxpayer Rights Bill, we will.

You are careful about how you spend your money. The government should be even more careful when it spends your money - or, through deficits, your children's money.

We committed to establishing task forces to review base government spending. It's essential that taxpayers see value for their tax dollars - that hasn't been happening for years. The spending reviews will enable us to ensure value for money across government spending.

And no more dawdling on tax. We have set a medium-term goal of a top rate of tax at 30 percent. In doing so, I can but repeat, we have made the clear statement that New Zealand now has a government that will reward and celebrate success - not punish it.

And if you want further proof of the determination to combat red tape, look no further than my appointment as Minister of Regulatory Reform. John Key has put me firmly in the driving seat and you can expect work to now proceed on the Regulatory Responsibility Bill.

Add to that the decision to take a long hard look at the Resource Management Act, and put school choice on the new government's agenda, and you will begin to get some idea of how determined we are to make a real difference. It was only after we had settled the policy we considered how we could best contribute within government.

Many of the problems evident within central government are also seen in local government. Some are the flow-on costs of poor central government decision-making, where the Bill shows up at the local government level. Some originate within local government itself. There is much to be done.

That's why I was so delighted and honoured when John Key offered me the post of Minister of Local Government.

When first elected MP for Epsom I set out to make everyone there proud of me. I have now set myself a similar task — to make every ratepayer in this country proud of me.

I shall do that by putting the interests of ratepayers first and foremost. I shall, if you like, be the Minister of Ratepayer Rights.

If anyone can tell you about red tape it is the long-suffering ratepayers of New Zealand. If anyone can talk authoritatively about bureaucratic bungling, it is ratepayers the length of this country. If anyone can point to financial excess it is ratepayers - and none more so than pensioners and others on fixed incomes. The harsh reality is that local government is out of control and needs to be reined in.

We need to hold rate increases to the rate of inflation, or if not there must be a compelling case made. We need to cut red tape and bureaucratic bungling. Services must be provided efficiently - there should be transparency in the costs and, ideally, some competition in delivery mechanisms.

The good news is there are Councils throughout New Zealand who want to do better, and I look forward to working with them to make it possible and show others the light.

As a member of the Cabinet Expenditure Control Committee process I shall be part of the government's focus on eliminating programmes that do not deliver value for money. An attitude I shall be instilling at the local government level. That, I trust, sums up the ACT attitude.

We went into the election with a clear set of principles and policies. We fought the election on policy. And in every discussion with John Key and his team, we have focused on policy. That's why I am so proud of the agreement we have. An agreement filled to the brim with ACT policy that has been accepted by the new government. Allow me to remind you. New Zealand now has a strategic direction with a clear aspiration to catch Australia by 2025.

Law and Order will be taken seriously with an emphasis on catching and locking up criminals, forever if need be.

We now have a smart green approach to the environment with the thermal generation ban gone and the ETS business deferred.

All government spending, every last cent of it, will now come under the microscope.

The government has tax in its sights with the medium-term goal of at least getting the top rate down to 30 per cent.

Red tape will be cut. No ifs or buts. It will be cut. The nonsense will stop. And that will include the Resource Management Act which is due for - and will receive - a major overhaul, along with longer-term property and water rights.

And, of course, we shall create an environment that encourages increased productivity that will lead to greater prosperity for all.

All of the above, not to mention a no-nonsense approach to education and health, was brought to the table and insisted upon by ACT.

That was our promise. That's what we have delivered. Yes, we face tough and uncertain economic times but I truly believe ACT was born for a moment such as this. Now we have to make it happen. And make it happen we will.

ENDS


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