Prime Minister's Address to National Party Conference
Rt Hon John Key
Prime Minister &
Leader of the National Party
29 June 2014
Address to National Party Conference
Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington
Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow National Party members.
Thank you for your warm welcome.
It’s great to be here today.
Doesn’t it feel good to be a member of the National Party?
Doesn’t it feel good to support a government that does things, rather than an opposition that just whinges and says no?
We’re a government that’s practical enough to know that when a storm blows trees over, you can mill them and create jobs.
Compare that with the Labour Party who’d leave all that dead wood lying around doing nothing.
Mind you, we shouldn’t be surprised because that’s what they do in their own caucus.
Today I want to thank my talented team of MPs.
I want to thank our support partners. Together, we are providing stable government that’s making a real difference for New Zealanders.
I want to thank our President, Peter Goodfellow, for his dedication and commitment.
I want to thank my friend and deputy, the author of six great budgets and the proud owner of a new book about yours truly, Bill English.
I want to thank my wife Bronagh for her support and encouragement – I couldn’t do it without you.
And I want to thank all the National Party volunteers who’ll be busy in the coming weeks delivering leaflets, canvassing, putting up hoardings, and sometimes coming back the next day to put them up again.
Your efforts are crucial in this election.
And I know that what motivates me also motivates you.
It’s about working for New Zealand to make this country the best it can be.
It’s about being proud to call yourself a New Zealander.
I want to tell you that what we do is making a difference.
When National came into office the economy was in tatters.
Getting it back on track has been tough.
But this month we recorded the third-highest growth rate in the developed world.
Our country’s trade surplus is at a 20-year high.
And next year, after all we’ve been through as a country, I’m proud to say that the Government’s books will be back in the black.
Ladies and Gentlemen, those are all good things.
They are economists’ measures and they’re hugely important.
But actually, they’re not the way most people measure progress.
Most people use measures that are closer to home and closer to their hearts.
Their questions are more likely to be: “Can I provide the best for my family?”; “Will my kids get a job when they’ve finished their education?”; “Will the health system be there when my family needs it?”; “Am I safe in my home and on our streets?”; and “Will my parents be looked after in their retirement?”.
In answer to all of those questions, we can say “yes”.
A strong economy isn’t an end in itself.
It’s a way of delivering the things people care most about.
And my real sense is that New Zealand has become a much more assured and much more optimistic country.
People are confident they can make a difference in their own lives, and that their children and grandchildren have good prospects.
New Zealanders know that our country is well managed and on the right track.
And they are demonstrating that by their actions.
When we first came into office, a net 3,000 people every month were leaving New Zealand to live in Australia.
That’s now dropped to only 200 a month because people know they’ve got a brighter future here in New Zealand.
We have a plan, and that plan is working for New Zealand.
Over the last year an extra 84,000 jobs were created.
Wages are rising every year, faster than inflation.
New Zealanders have worked hard to get our country back on its feet.
And the Government is ensuring that families share the dividends of that growth.
That’s why the heart of this year’s Budget was a $500 million package for families.
We’re increasing paid parental leave, we’re boosting support for families with new-born children, and I’m proud to say that we’re the party that’s bringing in free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children under 13.
In our party we believe in supporting families.
Some people think that caring about people and their families is solely the territory of the Left.
Well that is complete and utter nonsense.
And the actions of our government are proving that.
I’m in politics because I care about other New Zealanders, particularly those families who need a hand to pick themselves up.
My family was one of those and I’ll never forget it.
I know where I come from.
My government has been very focused on making sure that the taxpayers’ money we spend helps people lead more independent, productive and hopeful lives.
You’d be surprised at what a novel approach that is, compared to the previous government.
We’re seeing positive change.
It’s under a National-led government that around 1,500 people a week are coming off welfare and into work.
Compared with two years ago, nearly 30,000 fewer children are living in homes dependant on welfare benefits.
I want to share with you a story I read in the paper a little while ago.
It was about a woman who’d raised six kids on the sole parent benefit.
She’d been on it for close to 20 years, until one day her nine-year-old daughter said, “It’s cool being on the benefit. I’m going to go on the benefit like you.”
That sentence – that simple sentence from the mouth of a nine-year-old – made her mother stop in her tracks.
She went out and she got a job.
I don’t imagine it’s easy for her – far from it.
But I absolutely do know that work offers the sort of independence, opportunity and self-esteem that a life on welfare never can.
I’m proud of our welfare reforms under the leadership of Paula Bennett, and I know you’re proud of her too.
The work we are doing in that area is one of the unsung stories of this government, and it’s led to profound changes that are truly transforming people’s lives.
There are other great stories to tell.
Achievement at school is rising and under our Government, more apprentices are being trained.
Just this week I was at WelTec and a young man got up to speak to us.
He said he wasn’t too proud of his past but he’s had the opportunity to do a Pacific trades training course, he’s completing his apprenticeship, and he’s already had job offers – including on the McKay’s to Peka Peka roading project.
To me, that’s what we mean when we talk about investing in our young people.
That’s what we mean when we talk about changing peoples’ lives.
And that’s what we mean when we talk about a brighter future.
We have in front of us right now the best opportunity in a generation to have a long, stable period of rising incomes, as long as we stick to the path we’re on.
It’s just 83 days to the election.
In that time we will be putting in front of New Zealanders a range of exciting new policies.
Our policies will build on the strong foundations we’ve laid over the last six years.
We are proud of what we’ve done, but there is so much more to do.
We’ll have new health initiatives.
We’ll have new ideas to raise achievement in our schools.
We’ll have new policies in economic development, transport, science, justice, welfare, law and order, and the environment.
And that’s not all.
Of course, all the policies we’ll announce are underpinned by our strong commitment to grow the economy and carefully manage the Government’s finances.
We’ll continue to focus attention on what matters.
And we’ll continue to support Christchurch through the rebuild.
I want to specially thank Gerry Brownlee, who has a huge commitment to his city and his community.
We made a commitment to the people of Canterbury on day one and we will not waver from it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the future is positive for New Zealand.
National is the party for people who care about that future.
It’s for people who want to ensure that New Zealand keeps moving in the right direction.
And not just next year, but well beyond that, so New Zealanders find opportunities in an economy that values their skills and produces new jobs and higher wages.
Treasury is forecasting 170,000 more jobs in the economy over the next four years, together with rising wages – if we stick to the path we’re on.
Our challenge is to match and better those predictions.
I know we can.
But as I said yesterday, there is another way things could play out in this year’s election.
National is ahead in the polls at the moment but this election is going to be much, much tighter than many people realise.
We’re going to have to work hard for every vote.
Because that’s what our opponents will be doing, despite their shortcomings.
Labour has David Cunliffe, who takes himself so seriously that other people don’t have to.
The Greens have two co-leaders who want to be co-deputy-prime ministers in some kind of bizarre job-sharing experiment.
Internet Mana – the Maori radical meets file sharing party – is a strange mix standing for goodness knows what.
So if our opponents got into government it would be a complete circus – a recipe for political and economic instability that would be hugely damaging for New Zealand.
Our opponents will be cavalier in their spending promises. It’s already started.
They can do that because if they waste money they’ll simply tax you more.
In only five years, the last Labour government increased its spending by 50 per cent, driving mortgage rates into double digits.
In contrast, National respects New Zealanders and their hard-earned incomes.
If we can’t use that money as well as you can, you should keep it.
That will be one of the choices we’ll have as we post surpluses in the years ahead.
Repaying debt, spending a bit more on public services, putting money into the Super Fund, investing in infrastructure and modest tax reductions are the kinds of choices we’ll have.
One of those will be our investment in infrastructure.
Over the last six years, our Government has invested heavily in vital infrastructure to make up for years of underinvestment – from ultra-fast broadband, to schools and hospitals, to roads and rail.
I think of national infrastructure like the framing in a house.
Framing is not usually visible, or glamorous, but everything else in a house depends on it being solid and reliable.
The solid framing of this country is our infrastructure, and households and businesses depend on that.
On good roads, for example, you get better public transport, more efficient freight movement, faster journeys and – very importantly – safer trips for New Zealand families.
That leads me to the announcement I’m making today.
One of the key things we did on coming into government was designate seven Roads of National Significance in, or around, our largest population centres.
Of those important projects, we’ve already completed the Victoria Park Tunnel.
The huge tunnel boring machine, affectionately known as Alice, continues to drive progress on the Waterview connection in Auckland.
We are making rapid progress on the Waikato Expressway, the Tauranga Eastern Link, the Kapiti Expressway and the Christchurch Southern Motorway.
And the first sod will soon be turned on the long-awaited Transmission Gully project north of Wellington.
A lot of time was spent discussing and debating these projects in the past.
Under a National-led Government, we’re getting on and making them happen.
Our Government has also been busy in the regions.
We’ve built the Kopu Bridge on the way to the Coromandel, and the Kurow bridges in North Otago.
We’ve extended the Hawkes Bay Expressway and Dunedin’s Southern Motorway.
But there are still more regional roading projects that need to get underway.
The National-led Government has always recognised the vital importance of our regions.
The regions have led this country’s economic recovery and the regions supply a lot of the exports that pay our way in the world.
That’s why today I am pleased to announce a package of 14 regional roading projects across the country.
To get these projects going we are committing an extra $212 million of targeted funding.
That’s on top of the $360 million we’ve already proposed for regional roads across New Zealand.
So together, that’s nearly $600 million for roading projects across our country’s regions.
The additional funding I’m announcing today will come from the Future Investment Fund, which was set up from the proceeds of the Government’s share offers.
We always said that the money from partial share floats would go towards buying new public assets for the good of New Zealanders and their families, and this is a perfect example.
The 14 projects are spread across the country from Northland to Otago, and from the East Coast of the North Island to the West Coast of the South Island.
Each project is important because it makes the road safer, helps the region be more productive or improves the way the roading network operates.
Local councils, local media and the public have long highlighted their importance.
On the West Coast, for example, people know – all too well – the infamous one-lane, combined road and rail bridge between Hokitika and Greymouth.
Under our plan, we’re looking to start construction next term on a modern, two-lane road bridge, with room for bikes, and a completely separate rail bridge.
Another project is the realignment of the Normanby Overbridge on State Highway 3 near Hawera.
There have been a number of serious and fatal accidents on this stretch of road, so this project will improve safety and save lives.
Other projects include replacements for antiquated bridges at Kawarau Falls near Queenstown, over the Motu River between Gisborne and Opotiki, and across the Opawa River in Blenheim.
There are also state highway improvements in Arthur’s Pass, Northland and on the East Coast.
Gerry Brownlee is releasing details of each project today, so I won’t list them all.
But what I can tell you is that our announcement accelerates these projects – in some cases by up to 20 years.
Until today, there was no guarantee these projects would be funded in the foreseeable future.
We are providing that certainty.
Five of the projects are ready enough that construction can begin next year – should National get the privilege of governing for another term.
We are committed to funding a further six projects and – subject to the usual investigations – construction would start within three years.
The other three projects will be further investigated and designed to the point of consenting – ready for construction to begin.
Taken together, these roading projects represent a significant new commitment in our regions.
They are another example of the Government’s focus on ensuring that the benefits of the recovery are spread across all of New Zealand.
And they are an example – just one example – of our economic plan to support growth in a modern economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow National Party members.
Our country is firmly on the right track.
Our party is in good heart.
Our government – our National-led government – is delivering strong and stable leadership.
The choice at this election could not be clearer.
That choice is between a positive direction for New Zealand, or a leaderless circus of parties that would do great damage to our country.
That’s why we need you to redouble your efforts to ensure that the choice this country makes on September 20 is the right one.
Together, let’s keep working for New Zealand!