A Nightmare Masquerading As Vision
Theme: A Nightmare Masquerading As Vision
(An Address by the Rt Hon Winston Peters MP, Leader of New Zealand First, to a Public Meeting, Puriri Park Function Centre, Orewa, AUCKLAND)
Today in New Zealand Politics everyone is talking about vision. No one seems to know what that is but apparently it is an attachment that every politician should have but does not.
Instead, our current political leadership is a nightmare which most New Zealanders find disturbing.
If you suffer from pangs of conscience, or from compassion, or from a sense of justice or fairness then you are advised not to listen.
I want to tell you of a once proud country founded on the principles of justice and equality, which became world famous as a caring society.
In this society women voted alongside men, Maori fought, worked and played alongside European.
It was a wonderful country to be young in – and it was a great place for the old.
This young country had a proud record of achievement in science, in the arts and on the sports fields of the world.
So; what happened to it?
For the past fifteen years our leaders had a vision, and without any reference to you they put it in place.
Their vision is of a country that lends money to improve North Korea’s nuclear capacity whilst denying our nuclear veterans a promised $200,000.
It is a country that provides golden handshakes (and golden parachutes!) to retiring board members whilst cutting our senior citizens’ superannuation.
It is a country that flies bureaucrats in charter jets to resort hotels while our young people flee overseas to escape the burden of their student loans
It is a country in which MPs who should know better vote to lower the drinking age and ignore our growing drugs culture.
It is a country where we issue driving licences for life and then make everyone re-apply for them at considerable expense.
It is a country where the individual can literally be hounded to death by the Inland Revenue Department while the fat cats move offshore to European exile taking your dollars with them.
It is a country where we waste millions of dollars on a dysfunctional police computer, and at the same time force senior detectives to leave homicide inquiries to reapply for their own jobs.
It is a country that has government spending on policy advice of half a billion dollars a year, while everyone in this room can tell them what’s wrong.
It is a country that spends its money on unprotected frigates, unarmed F-11s and lemon carriers whilst sending our boys and girls to Kosovo and Bosnia with elastoplast and broken trucks.
It is a country whose children are now suffering from Third World diseases because of poverty, overcrowding and a failure of the health system to immunise against the most common diseases.
And only this week, this country allowed its bureaucrats to decide whether its food should be irradiated – without any public consultation.
In short, this country is floundering under a nightmare masquerading as vision with no clear sense of purpose or direction.
And while this has been happening the leadership has been focussing on the really big issues.
Like arguing for the rights of gay couples to adopt children.
At a time when we are crying out for positive leadership and bold policies – we get this sort of nonsense from Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark.
Are ordinary New Zealanders clamouring for gay couples to be given the right to adopt children?
Of course not!
Are gay couples clamouring for the right to adopt kids?
Of course not!
But for Mrs Shipley and Ms Clark, this is a great way to divert public attention from the real issues facing ordinary New Zealanders, like whether their children are going to have jobs when they leave school.
Or, whether they can afford to educate them.
Mrs Shipley would rather the youngsters were in bars because she voted to lower the drinking age to eighteen.
Mrs Shipley thinks that the young people are all going to sit around in cafes.
Alcohol and drugs makes this problem worse.
Most of these youngsters need guidance and a job.
The so-called conscience vote in Parliament was a nonsense.
Who with any sort of social conscience, and armed with the facts of life in New Zealand, would send young people into bars and bottle stores?
New Zealand First MPs decided not only to vote against liberalising the drinking laws – We are also trying to persuade the MPs who voted FOR lowering the drinking age to change their minds.
New Zealand First is announcing its policies, or the main features of it, well before the election campaign.
We will start by changing the Reserve Bank Act to include export growth, economic growth and employment in its policy settings.
Bold courageous action is needed to change the course of the country after fifteen years of blind ideology and navel gazing.
The time has come for the people of New Zealand to take their country back from bungling bureaucrats and weak politicians.
New Zealanders want leadership they can trust.
They don’t want politicians who pretend that the real problems don’t exist and politicians who take up non-existent issues.
They want politicians who are prepared to share their power with the people.
That is what MMP is all about – and the only people who don’t know this are the politicians.
The public’s understanding of MMP and current political realities surpasses that of many journalists and definitely other Leaders.
The public want the people – not the politicians – to determine the next government.
They want true power sharing between political parties in government and not cosy pre-election deals that are more about the all out pursuit of political power and the perks of office – than what is best for New Zealand.
With the public’s vote for MMP the politicians and the media all had a responsibility to inform the public about this new system.
Instead, the media continued to report as if they were still in a First Past the Post environment, and the two old parties and their Leaders acted as if there had been no change.
They still have not come to terms with it.
The Labour Party believed then – as they do now – that they are “THE Opposition”.
And the National Party always acted like they were “THE Government” even when they were only part of the Government.
It was only when the First Past the Post façade was exposed for the myth it was there was a leadership change, caucus grumblings and a coalition breakdown.
The Coalition breakdown, and its aftermath, has increased the public understanding of MMP. For it was only after that – that the public began to see the influence that New Zealand First had managed to exert.
Last week, New Zealand First withdrew from negotiations with the Energy Minister over power pricing legislation because of an issue of trust.
Max Bradford could not seem to accept that he is in an MMP environment and that some issues can only be advanced through negotiation and compromise.
Our Deputy Leader, Peter Brown, a skilled and careful negotiator negotiated the power price issue in good faith.
Remember, it was Mr Bradford who asked to talk to us claiming that without our support the bill would lapse.
We thought we had a commitment that we would keep everything under wraps until we had reached an agreement.
Max Bradford meanwhile told others two Fridays ago that he was going to introduce the legislation anyway whether we “liked it or not”.
We were only one small point apart when he had to pretend he was totally in control of the situation and that New Zealand First could take it or leave it.
The tragedy is that bill could still proceed if he would only bend over the one remaining detail and that is to act against monopolistic retailers who use their position to exploit consumers.
But the real issue here, and more important than power pricing, is National’s complete failure to understand how MMP works since they simply refuse to understand that MMP is about power sharing in the people’s interest.
It’s about trust and cooperation in the national interest.
For there to be true political leadership in New Zealand’s future, we have to create an environment which returns politics to the people, where decision making involves everyone.
That is why New Zealand First offers the people of New Zealand a partnership where true power sharing exists.
Still the two old parties go their own merry way regardless of what the public thinks.
The public say they want more constructiveness and co-operation between political parties, more true power sharing.
The two old parties ignore that call and continually go on the attack.
But we are at a critical stage in New Zealand Politics.
As the public are becoming more and more understanding of the realities of coalition government, and the need for a modifying and centrist influence, they are once again turning against the old parties – and their attempt to dominate and control everything – against the public’s wishes.
The public are to be congratulated and I am certain this public understanding of how MMP works is going to grow and threaten the two old parties and the establishment.
There are hundreds and thousands of forgotten New Zealanders who get a say now under MMP – who never had a say in the past. Certain apologists for the First Past the Post System call that the tail wagging the dog. It is not of course but, rather, a dangerous dog, for the first time in a long time, having a leash on it.
New Zealand First learned from our differences with National not being made clear enough while we were in government.
Consequently, any future government that we are a part of will be more open and transparent – the differences between the parties publicly known and understood – for the public have a right to know.
MMP is different from First Past the Post.
The public have to see those differences, see the increased representation, see the modifying influence and see the social conscience at work.
The critical issues for this election in 1999 are these:
A track record of keeping political promises and;
Making MMP work for the people.
New Zealand First is on the way back.
We are the only party which can stand up, look the voters in the eye and say we kept our promises. Who else can say that?