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"Learning the Lessons of The Past"

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May be subject to change at delivery


Address to Rural Women New Zealand

"Learning the Lessons of The Past"

Quality Hotel, 100 Garnett St, Hamilton
Tuesday 22 May 1999 at 4.50pm


Right now New Zealanders, including rural women, are assessing what the future holds for them.

All of us are concerned about our lifestyle, our families, our income, and our security in business and in the community and our future.

These issues are important to everyone. And because they are important to you, they are important to us.

In planning for New Zealand's future, the National Government has been listening to the concerns of rural communities.

National has and will continue to work for the country.

You as rural women are a major force in speaking out on the successes and the needs of rural communities.

You have raised concerns about the drivers' licensing regime and the impact on rural school buses in particular.

The new licence system is proving a great success. Remember it was put in place to help deal with recidivist offenders.
Police have already removed some serious traffic offenders from our roads and we're very pleased about that.
Since May 3rd, 1200 vehicles have been taken off drivers and locked up for 28 days.
Over 2000 people are now seeing better because they are now driving with glasses. Both measures mean that you are safer than you were.
The new licensing system has helped this happen.
You will have heard there have been a few teething problems and we have decided to make the system smoother.

Today, Transport Minister Maurice Williamson has announced several changes including a major reduction in the licensing costs for bus drivers.

Drivers will also be given the option of paying fees annually rather than five yearly. This will benefit rural drivers in particular who may not wish to be endorsed for five yearly periods.
School bus drivers in rural communities who often take a term as bus driver for a year or two, will benefit from this change.

The message is this: National is listening to people, as it has done for the past nine years. We are listening and acting so that we can improve the lives of all New Zealanders.

We want to help people make money so they can buy things for themselves and their families.

We want to help people stay healthy and provide them with care when they need it.

We want people to be housed properly and cared for properly. And that includes everyone from the cities to the farms throughout the whole country.

For the vast majority of New Zealanders we achieved this goal.

We can proudly say that in 1999 we have some of the best social services in the world and I, for one, intend to keep it that way.

We have one of the best public health systems in the world and I, for one, intend to keep it that way.

We have one of the best education systems in the world and I, for one, intend to keep it that way.

In education, we have 5,000 more teachers in our classrooms than we did 10 years ago.

New professional standards in primary and secondary education means better quality teaching that we have ever had.

We have spent over $1 billion on school property. Only 10 years ago, school buildings were a disgrace from years of neglect, with over $600 million of deferred maintenance overdue. We have fixed that and many rural schools have benefited.

Information technology is a key priority and we're spending $50 million to get IT into schools. This will be particularly important for our rural schools so they can overcome barriers of distance.

A pupil at a school like Arthurs Pass, will have the same access to the knowledge banks of the world as a pupil in the heart of Silicon Valley.

In funding of rural schools, Education Minister Nick Smith is working on a new approach with a graduated system that will see more equitable and effective funding of schools in your communities. Decisions will be announced later this year.

In the area of business, it has been the National Government's vision for a long time to make New Zealand a better place to do business and make money . . .

To make this country attractive to investors.
To make it easier for everyone to get a slice of the action.
To make New Zealand the place to be.

If history has taught us anything, it's this: You can rely on National to create the environment, the conditions and, where necessary, the rules for business to function smoothly.

We all then have to decide what we can and should do for ourselves.

There is a terrific debate going on concerning the future of ourselves as New Zealanders.

As we consider this issue we must remember the lessons of the past.

In 1972 when Britain joined the European Economic Community a shockwave was sent through our economy. Our biggest market was under threat and so too was the backbone of our economy - the dairy industry.

A third of all our products were sold to Europe and the door was being closed in our face. A bit of deja vu perhaps?

We were no longer a part of Britain or Europe. Neither were we part of the Asian economic circle. We were forced to realise that New Zealand was a part of the Pacific.

The world has changed since then and I for one don't want to go back, but we should remind ourselves what it was like.

In 1973 oil prices quadrupled and our terms of trade plummeted

Labour borrowed to get us out of trouble but it didn't work. Debt was high, unemployment was high, inflation was high.

Real incomes fell 11 per cent from 1973 to 1977. New Zealand was not an attractive place to be, so naturally, people left.

In the 1980s we had Think-Big as an answer to the Oil Shocks of 1973 and 1979. We had wage and price freezes. The Government controlled everything.

In 1984 Sir Roger Douglas floated the dollar, scrapped agricultural subsidies without any transitional assistance, and introduced GST.
Helen Clark, Michael Cullen and Jim Anderton were part of this government when these decisions were made.
Small investors got caught up in speculating and they got burned in the sharemarket crash of October 1987.

The same year, the Labour Government began it's programme of Asset Sales.

Then in 1990, Labour brought down its infamous "Forestry Fudge" Budget, in which it forecasted a small surplus on the basis of potential proceeds from forestry cutting rights.

And perhaps most shocking of all, later that year the Government committed itself to a whole lot of new spending that wasn't even mentioned in its Budget.
They were in fact spending the money they expected to get from the Telecom sale.

National was swept into office in the 1990 election and began the process of carefully repairing the economy and redefining the role of Government.

We had learned from the lessons of the past and we began to put things right. We instituted a programme that would create growth and jobs.
We no longer spend more than we earn. We have paid off large amounts of our public debt. We have reduced the amount of tax people pay.

Since 1991, the New Zealand economy has grown by almost $30 billion. There are 284,000 new jobs. In 1990 1.47 million people were employed. Today 1.74 million are working. Inflation is down, and interests rates are down.

Health spending is up by 50 per cent and education by 25 per cent. Incomes have been bolstered by $3 billion through tax cuts and tax credits.

The option being offered to New Zealand in 1999 is whether we continue to improve on these results or go back to the 1970s.

Labour and Alliance oppose trade expansion and would take us backwards. National supports expanding trading opportunities because it means growth and jobs.

We can go forward where we expect the private sector will create 100,000 new jobs based on the next three year forecasts, or we can go back and allow the State to create artificial employment and run business.
National's approach works.
History tells us the other approach has been tried and failed.

Today there is a lot of concern about free trade and whether New Zealand is moving too fast for the rest of the pack.

We are the hosts of APEC this year, and I can tell you we're not going to drag the chain. As I have said before, APEC means trade. Trade means jobs and wealth.

Even in controversial areas like lamb we have made real progress.
We earned $38 million in the USA for lamb sales in 1994.
We earned $138 million for lamb in the US market in 1998.
Even if we face tariffs as were discussed last week, it will cut back those earnings by $11 million in year one; $6 million in year two, and $4 million in year three.
While this is unacceptable, it is not a reversal of free trade.

Jim Anderton should keep quite where trade is concerned. He was part of the strip tease show and rural people have long memories.
They also know the future success of rural communities depends on us moving ahead in APEC and the World Trade Organisation to improve our trading prospects.

Recent critics of our leadership of freer trade remind me of the opponents to New Zealand's economic reforms of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
They complained about the reforms, but they are pleased to have the benefits and don't want them reversed.

Today many countries look to New Zealand as a leading light in terms of our economic reforms and the benefits it has brought us. It is those same reforms that allowed us to recover quickly from the Asian economic crisis.

I want to remind New Zealanders that earlier this year a Harvard University study on "The Quality of Government" ranked New Zealand first in the world.

That's right. We were ranked No.1 for efficiency and No.1 for political freedom . . . The best in the world! . . . We must value that and move ahead.

Listening to the Opposition you would think we were trailing many others. The opposition opposed most of the reforms and would reverse them at great cost to us all.

Cars are now cheaper. New Zealanders don't want them to go up in price again.
The reduction of tariffs has reduced the costs of goods considerably to the extent that a new Hilux truck is $9000 cheaper because of the tariff cuts.
You know those changes have happened in other areas. Farm machinery, twines, chemicals, fuel and gumboots are all cheaper.

Rural communities should remember the benefits of the changes and remember the parties that opposed them.

In terms of the agricultural sector, National has worked hard to improve conditions for farmers. Agricultural and rural businesses have benefited in a quantifiable way through improved industrial relations practices.
Labour and Alliance would reverse the ECA to the great cost of the rural sector.

Remember that the cost of processing a kilo of cheese has dropped 25 per cent in the last 10 years. The cost of processing a 15 kilogram lamb has dropped 20 to 25 per cent.
Reverse the ECA and you will reverse the savings!

Remember that every one percent drop in interest means an annual saving of $2,200 to the average sheep and beef farmer. The drop in interest rates is helping many farming families remain viable today.
Labour and Alliance spending plans would put interest rates up.

We have abolished conveyance and stamp duties, that will result in $14,000 savings on the sale of a $750,000 farm.

All of these changes underpin the value National places on agriculture and improving the viability of the industry - an industry that women are very involved in.

Just yesterday I spoke to "The Women in APEC" meeting in Wellington attended by powerful women leaders from around the world.

Each one of those women is an outstanding ambassador for their country and all women throughout the world.

And each one of those women is committed to APEC's goal of free trade so we can create more jobs for more people throughout the world.

A part of the meeting has been set aside solely for the purpose of hearing these women's success stories. And that's just what we need groups like Rural New Zealand to do.

We need successful women to bounce ideas of each other and to talk about the business strategies that work.

Statistics show that women start small businesses at a faster rate and with greater success than do men.

I know many women farm in partnership with their spouse and others do work outside the farm. Chances are you will be successful and it's imperative that you share your knowledge with others.

You are the leaders in business and farming and you must lead by example and be a teamplayer on a much bigger team - whether it's your wider farming community, Federated Farmers or the entire country or in Rural Women New Zealand.
What a great name!

I look forward to working with you over the coming months and years.

You may be interested to know that this Friday the Deputy Prime Minister Wyatt Creech will launch a national tour from the Wairarapa called "National is working for the country". At the same time, Minister of Education Hon Dr Nick Smith will launch the south island leg from Tuamarina, south of Picton.
National MPs will be visiting rural communities all over the North and South Islands to hear what you have to say. We will also be telling you what we are doing for rural communities.
You will hear much more of this.
I and other National MPs will be talking to your districts about the gains to date and listening to your ideas and concerns.

Let me make it clear, the National party and the National Government never forgets its roots. We know clearly where our party has come from and we know clearly who our supporters are. And we will go back there to build on that relationship and to hear what the people require of us.

In the meantime, the Government will continue to play its role as facilitator and lubricant for the economic engine.

We'll be there for farmers and their families. We'll maintain our economic and monetary policy that has stabilised the exchange rate and lowered the interest rates.

We'll maintain quality social services for rural communities and we'll maintain rural roads and keep them in public ownership.

We care about your lifestyle, your families, your income and your security. We can move forward and improve on these areas or we can go back.

We are proud of our record.
While we face difficult times we have made good progress.
I will be seeking the support of many of you so we can progress in the future.


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