Peters Speech To Public Meeting - Taupo
(An Address to a Public Meeting, Senior Citizen’s Hall, Storey Place, TAUPO)
There’s an old saying that a week is a long time in politics.
A year can be an eternity. Exactly one year ago today the first MMP coalition government split up.
Many in the Beehive were in a state of shock and, on the surface, New Zealand appeared to be in political turmoil.
Many political careers were on the line – especially mine.
This new party, from Heartland New Zealand, which had gone from being just an idea to government in three years was, our critics said, in ruins.
New Zealand First, in the perception of nearly every journalist and political commentator, was finished.
That was one year ago.
How times change.
Many of these same people who said a year ago that we were finished, now want me to discuss New Zealand First’s place at the centre of New Zealand politics.
I shall not be wasting my or your time doing that.
The only people not surprised at what is happening are the people in provincial New Zealand, and those in New Zealand First itself.
We always knew it was only a matter of time before people realised that New Zealand First was actually the prudent and sensible partner in the coalition, and that our policies worked!
What these self opinionated experts failed to understand, was that we were in a new political era, and that there were always going to be a few hiccups with MMP.
A political system can’t be changed overnight and be expected to function perfectly the next day.
When we arrived in the coalition government we soon found that the “system” was still geared to First Past the Post.
For example, at the start it was hard to get access to the full range of Cabinet papers.
It was only because I was Treasurer (and held the cheque book) that we gained access to much of the appropriate information.
The Prime Minister had a big staff and access to the general flow of information while we, in New Zealand First, were treated in many ways like another Opposition party.
It was the same in the House. The whole seating plan did not acknowledge MMP.
It was difficult for many of our inexperienced MPs.
On one side of the House sat Labour, devastated and bitter that it could not be the government – despite, their worst result since 1928, gaining only 27 per cent of the vote.
On the other side sat arrogant National MPs, who think power sharing is an electricity bill for a student flat!
Gradually we managed to push through important measures.
We scrapped the super surtax,
we got free medical care for the under sixes,
we funded thirty thousand more operations at public hospitals,
we increased education spending dramatically,
we lowered interest rates and the exchange rate,
we put more police on the streets to fight crime.
However, we always realised that at some stage, an issue would arise that we and National would not agree on.
Enter Mrs Shipley – who became Prime Minister – to get rid of New Zealand First and engineer the break up of the coalition.
National simply could not tolerate any of the checks and balances that are necessary within government.
Some critics of MMP say that when smaller parties go into coalition with bigger parties, it becomes a case of the tail wagging the dog.
This is not true. It is more a case of the dog being kept on a leash, restrained from chasing cats, worrying sheep and biting passers-by.
Democracy is not a perfect system of government, but we, as a nation, have always believed that it is better than any other system.
Thousands of New Zealanders, who died on battlefields in far off places, shared this belief.
In his address at Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln described it as “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
And that is what New Zealanders want. That is why they voted for MMP in the first place.
They don’t want backroom deals between political parties and politicians deciding the outcome of the election, before the election is even held.
They want politicians who will share power with the people.
That’s why we are not aligning ourselves with either Labour or National.
We will talk to them after the election, when the voters have decided on the shape of the new Parliament, and not before, when nothing has been decided.
We now have experience in MMP and the transition to the next government will be a lot smoother than the last.
One of the biggest problems with minority single party rule is that it is basically corrupt with the bureaucracy and vested interests running the government.
That is what is happening now.
This is why Wellington has been hit by a series of bureaucratic scandals.
We’ve had the Tourism Board fiasco, the Fire Service scandal, a computer budget blowout in at least six government departments, and an uncontrollable department called WINZ. That is just a short list of weekly disasters.
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 want leaders who will admit that they are human and can make mistakes.
They want leaders who will concentrate on the real issues affecting New Zealand.
They want leaders who will take them into their confidence.
And they want leaders who value people as people, and care about what happens to them.
This is probably the worst outcome of the failed economic experiment of the past fifteen years – the loss of our traditional values.
We were once a kind and caring people. We valued our young and our old.
We did not believe that the rich and powerful should seize our natural resources.
We did not want taxpayer owned assets flogged off to foreign owners.
We want New Zealand back!
We want the government cleaned up.
We want our young people to be educated and trained without student loans bankrupting the family .
We want our public health system to treat us when we are sick.
We want our government to restore our national super, so we do not spend our remaining years on the breadline.
We want jobs for everyone willing and able to work, and we want to be safe in our homes and on the streets.
Effective law and order is a fundamental principle of a civilised state.
The government has a duty to protect its citizens – especially those unable to defend themselves.
One of New Zealand First’s achievements in the coalition government was to put an extra 500 police on the streets to fight crime.
Now, we have police numbers being reduced, police officers being forced to leave crime scenes to reapply for their own jobs, and police districts being changed without consultation.
In short, front line police are being prevented from fighting crime by a bunch of hand wringers in police headquarters with a dysfunctional computer system.
Recently a family had to leave Invercargill because a gang moved next door.
The father gave evidence at the trial of a gang leader, and for performing this civic duty, this man had to take his family and run because the gang swore it would take revenge on him.
We have a message for criminal gangs.
New Zealand First is going to transform them into work gangs.
They are not going to earn their so-called “patches” by committing crimes.
going to earn their keep by doing an honest day’s work under
a New Zealand First “Tough Love” policy .
It costs about sixty thousand dollars a year to keep someone in jail.
We believe that this money would be better spent setting up work camps where offenders who are not a physical threat to society could be gainfully employed under strict supervision.
Offenders would have a healthy outdoor life with plenty of physical activity, free of drugs and alcohol.
They would be fitted with electronic bracelets and all their activities would be closely monitored.
They would learn the work ethic, and those prepared to be rehabilitated would be given some training to acquire new skills, so they did not slip back into a life of crime on release.
The present system is not working. Our jails are a training ground for criminals.
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 centrist influence, they are once again turning against the old parties – and their minority attempts to dominate and control everything.
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.
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 because people know that we never reneged on a promise, and we delivered - even our harshest critics admit that.
We had our principles and we stuck to them.
We are again being attacked because we won’t join the power blocs and take part in their power games.
We are here for the people’s interest.
We are the only party which can look voters in the eye and say we keep our word.
None of the
others can do