Speech: English - National’s Annual Conference
New Zealand National Party
Rt Hon Bill English
Prime Minister &
National Party Leader
Speech to National’s Annual Conference
Thank you for that generous welcome.
I quite liked that video. I was particularly pleased they left out the spaghetti and pineapple pizza.
Delegates, Cabinet colleagues, MPs, fellow National Party members.
Isn’t New Zealand a great place to live?
We’ve got a strong economy. More New Zealanders are staying home to build their lives here. And we’re confident about our place in the world.
Few countries have such a positive outlook.
All of you in the National Party have contributed to that success.
You’ve worked hard in the interests of New Zealand through the good times and the bad.
And on the threshold of election year, you’ve seamlessly installed a new leadership team.
Thank you for your support. Thank you for your confidence. And thank you for the honour.
I want to thank someone who keeps it real and has a talent for connecting with New Zealanders – my deputy Paula Bennett.
Before the last election, I was campaigning in Hamilton and a woman stopped me in a shopping mall.
This woman told me that, like Paula, her daughter had been a teenage solo mother and had lost her way a bit.
Somehow, the daughter ended up going along to one of Paula’s speeches.
That young woman was so inspired that she left that speech and enrolled at teachers’ college and is now doing really well.
Paula – that’s what I call making a difference.
After the Budget last month, one commentator said some Budgets focus on infrastructure, some on public services and some on raising incomes.
I want to thank the first Finance Minister to pull off all three at once – my friend and colleague, the talented Steven Joyce.
Steven sure is better than the last finance guy.
And his discipline and focus on issues that matter are at the core of National’s success.
But he is following the previous Finance Minister’s advice – don’t take too much notice of the Prime Minister.
I’m proud of our other senior ministers Gerry Brownlee, Simon Bridges, Amy Adams and Jonathan Coleman.
Together we lead a united Cabinet, and a Caucus that’s connected to our communities and focused on what matters.
We lead a Government that delivers for all New Zealanders.
But we’re only Members of Parliament because of you, the National Party.
I want to thank our fantastic President Peter Goodfellow.
My thanks to our Board, electorate chairs, all our volunteers and the professional team at National Party HQ.
You are the backbone of our party.
Your efforts will be crucial in the upcoming election campaign.
It will be tough. It will be tight. But we are united, we are energised and we are ready.
I also want to thank someone who at times might have felt she was a solo mother raising six children – the love of my life, Mary.
Mary, and Luke, Tom, Maria, Rory, Bart and Xavier, thanks for all your advice and support.
Your sacrifice is our privilege.
Delegates, at the end of last year, we farewelled a man who gave so much to this party.
He was a great Prime Minister and a fantastic leader. We are a more confident country because of him – the incomparable Sir John Key.
Back in December we wished John well and then got straight back on with the job.
Because we understand that being in Government is not about us. It’s about what we do for people – making a difference to their lives.
Because National is a party that cares about people and gets things done.
We are upfront about the challenges, and we are practical about the solutions.
And we listen, because others care too and have insights we can learn from.
This party’s principles are our anchor.
A belief in the empowering nature of free enterprise, individual freedom and personal responsibility.
Principles that are the foundation of success for New Zealand.
But none of them is more important than the Kiwi belief in a fair go and our willingness to give a hand up to those less fortunate.
They are equally deserving of an opportunity to contribute to society and to set off down their own path to independence.
I strongly believe that if we can build on our current success, we can offer everyone better opportunities.
On Thursday I met 25 recovering drug addicts, and I admired their quiet courage to change their lives.
That day I also spoke at the World Class New Zealand Awards, where I met Kiwis whose brilliance is changing lives around the world.
And this week we will beat the Lions again, win back the America’s Cup and Lorde’s new album will be number one in the charts.
Delegates, that’s why I’m optimistic about New Zealand’s future and why I back all New Zealanders to succeed.
Their hard work over many years, backed by National’s strong economic plan, has created one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world.
We’re creating 10,000 jobs a month.
The books are in surplus and debt is falling.
Exports are growing.
And remember those long debates about why so many Kiwis were leaving?
Well, now they’re staying.
Five years ago a net 40,000 people were leaving for Australia every year.
This year, a net 800 came home.
So 150,000 more Kiwis now live and work here, instead of on the other side of the Tasman.
That really is success.
Some don’t see it that way. They see it as too many people, too many houses, too many problems.
But if that pressure is driven by a generation of New Zealanders staying home because they see better opportunities here, then I embrace it.
It’s a choice.
We either decide we’re up for it, or we’re not.
The opposition have certainly made their view of New Zealand clear.
And after nine long years, their policies are just like them – worse than when they started.
They think more projects like the Waterview Tunnel are too much for us, that trade is to be feared and housing developments opposed.
They’re too negative to welcome opportunity.
The Labour leader says it’s time for a breather.
He hasn’t done anything, and he’s already out of breath.
Their bleak and lazy view of our country smacks of a lack of confidence in New Zealanders – that somehow it’s all too hard to be successful.
Well, National is up for it. And New Zealanders are too.
National will take the path of growth and openness – and govern with the ambition New Zealanders have earned.
Because that’s the attitude that has delivered a strong economy and strong government finances.
It’s delivered more jobs, more apprenticeships and more police.
Better roads, better classrooms and better broadband.
Higher wages, higher school pass rates and higher benefits for struggling families.
Less crime, less tax and less unemployment.
Fewer regulations, fewer rheumatic fever cases, and one I’m particularly proud of, 60,000 fewer kids in benefit-dependent households.
That’s what National’s delivering for New Zealanders.
And families get some of the biggest benefits.
Let me tell you how.
Last year, I met a group of young mums in West Auckland.
I listened to their stories of grappling with the pressures of family and finances, paying for housing and putting aside for the future.
National is improving their lives.
They’ll find it easier to get their children into early childhood education, thanks to a significant extra taxpayer investment.
It’s cheaper for them to go to the doctor and get prescriptions, with free doctors’ visits for under 13s.
Their older children are now more likely to get NCEA.
In April last year, those families on a benefit received an extra $25 a week – the first increase in over 40 years.
They may have moved into work, given well over 200,000 jobs have been created in the last three years.
And if one of those women is a care and support worker, she will get a significant pay boost from next week – $200 more a fortnight for a full-time worker on the minimum wage.
That’s on top of normal pay increases.
Since we came into office, the average wage has increased by around $12,000 – twice the rate of inflation.
These are the opportunities that come from growth and National embraces them.
But we know we must keep investing to support that growth.
And we know we can – because we’re doing it already.
By building the Waterview Tunnel to help complete the Auckland motorway network.
By investing in other significant roads, so four lanes will stretch from Cambridge to Whangarei and from Levin to Wellington.
By rolling out ultra-fast broadband so that by 2020 we will be one of the world’s most connected countries.
All at the same time as rebuilding Christchurch and Kaikoura.
We can all be proud of what we’ve achieved, but it’s not enough.
It’s not enough for people whose businesses are just taking off, or whose lives are just turning around.
It’s not enough for first home buyers waiting for more houses to be built.
It’s not enough for people who haven’t yet seen the benefits of growth.
We need to do more.
Already this year we’ve announced significant steps in our plan to ensure all New Zealanders share the benefits of growth.
Next month we’ll see the first group of the extra 1125 police staff arrive at the Porirua Police College.
From April, the Family Incomes Package – which Labour opposed – will boost the incomes of 1.3 million New Zealand families by an average of $26 a week.
For one of those West Auckland families I mentioned earlier, if they are earning $48,000 a year with two children, their income will rise by $35 per week from 1 April.
And depending on their housing costs, they could be eligible for an additional $100 per week in Accommodation Supplement.
By June next year, we’ll have delivered nearly 3000 of the 34,000 houses we will build in Auckland over the next 10 years – adding to the 10,000 a year already being built
And we’re working at making New Zealand predator free.
You see, these are the positive choices that a growing economy and growing surpluses give us.
And we’re just getting started.
So many New Zealanders have potential yet to be realised and aspirations yet to be fulfilled.
We will keep working hard for them.
Today, I’m setting out my vision to take New Zealand into the 2020s.
We’ll work for a New Zealand where innovation and hard work is recognised and rewarded.
We’ll work for a New Zealand that embraces trade and growth, and the opportunities they bring.
We’ll work for a New Zealand that looks after the most vulnerable, and helps them change their lives.
And we will work with any New Zealanders who share our sense of purpose.
That’s National’s New Zealand. And that’s my New Zealand.
We’re doing so well as a country, but we must grasp this rare opportunity to do so much more.
So here’s what we plan to do next if we have the privilege of leading New Zealand for the next three years.
We will deliver the economy, the environment, the infrastructure, the incomes and the public services to take New Zealand into the 2020s.
Before anything else, National will keep the economy front and centre of everything we do.
Because we know we have to keep the economy growing before everyone can share in the benefits.
Our economy is becoming more dynamic and diversified.
Traditional strengths, such as meat and dairy, continue to grow.
And we’re seeing fantastic developments in new service industries like ICT, tourism, education and high-tech manufacturing.
National will continue to support that growth.
Another priority will be protecting the environment for future generations, and growing the value of New Zealand’s clean green brand – our strategic advantage in a competitive world.
With a strong economy we can have high environmental standards.
So we’ll work with local government and farmers to invest extensively to improve the quality of our rivers and lakes.
We’ll work to resolve the challenging infrastructure requirements for urban water.
And we will ensure that the quality of every significant waterway across our country is regularly measured, to make sure they improve.
Next, we’ll build the roads, schools, hospitals, housing, rail and broadband to support growth through our ambitious $32 billion infrastructure programme – the biggest in New Zealand’s history.
I tell you, it’s a good time to have shares in an orange cone company!
The next stage is to allocate the $1 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund, which will help to build tens of thousands of new homes sooner and faster.
We will have more to stay about that in the next few weeks.
We’ll partner with local government and the private sector, and use all available financing and funding mechanisms to get more things done, rather than get hung up on who does it.
And we’ll continue to seek more worthy projects to add to that programme.
Another priority will be further raising take-home incomes and reducing taxes.
National wants to do more to put more money in people’s pockets and reduce the pressure on those families most in need.
We believe that taxpayers make better use of their own money than politicians.
A strong economy on its own lifts incomes.
But of course the Government can also help. The Budget’s Family Incomes Package was an excellent step forward.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could do it again?
Well, we can.
If we are able to keep lifting growth and carefully manage the public finances, we will be able to further reduce taxes and lift incomes.
Finally, National will push government agencies to provide even better public services for their customers – all New Zealanders.
We will keep investing in core services like health and education – with an increasing focus on tailoring services to the individual needs of your family.
I’ll give you some examples.
Some of our children aren’t doing as well in maths as they should be.
That’s a stumbling block towards further study and careers in science and technology.
So we’ll focus on ensuring our young people have the maths and digital skills to set them up for the 2030s, not the 1980s.
And in health, too many of our young children end up in hospital for avoidable illnesses like asthma, pneumonia, eczema and dental conditions.
So we’ll work hard to resolve this and ensure all our kids have a healthy start to life.
Changing how government works is difficult and takes time, but it’s worth it for the lives we can change.
We’ll continue to focus on keeping our communities safe.
As well as the extra police staff I announced earlier this year, we want to roll out programmes to target gangs, organised crime and drugs, to reduce the harm they cause.
In other areas we’ll aim to have fewer people who rely on government services.
By rolling out the tools of social investment for all government social services, we will massively improve the lives of our most vulnerable citizens.
Our opponents think caring is promising more money.
But the need for more spending is often a sign of failure, not success.
I call it servicing misery.
Our aim is simple – to change lives.
Changing lives means delivering less crime, less welfare dependence, less drug abuse, less self-harm, less family violence, and fewer people unable to fend for themselves.
Changing lives means caring enough to dig into the nitty gritty and help someone become more independent.
And I can tell you, this is a government that really cares.
Ladies and gentlemen.
Over the next three months, we will campaign hard to earn the privilege of leading this great country for another term.
The choice is stark.
You can choose a New Zealand which is open to trade, open to investment, happy to have Kiwis stay home and embraces the challenges of growth.
Or you can choose an unruly alliance of Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First.
A miserable group that finds growth frightening, that wants to shut down investment, shut down trade, shut down growth and shut down opportunity.
They would rather New Zealand slowed down to their pace.
Well, we’re going with ambition, success and opportunity.
Only one party will go in to this election proud of getting the Government's books back in black – National.
Only one party knows what it takes to create new jobs and opportunities – National.
Only one party will listen and work with communities and families to change lives and reduce dependency – National.
And only one party wants to lead a successful, proud and confident country into the 2020s – it's National.
National is the party that will drive New Zealand’s prosperity.
So let’s get out there and tell New Zealanders – on September the 23rd, give your party vote to National.