Peter Dunne Address To Wellington Rotary
EMBARGOED AGAINST DELIVERY
HON PETER DUNNE MP
LEADER, UNITED NEW ZEALAND
ADDRESS TO ROTARY CLUB OF WELLINGTON CENTRAL
MICHAEL FOWLER CENTRE, WELLINGTON
TUESDAY 28 SEPTEMBER 1999 AT 1:00 PM
The 1999 General Election is now only 60 days away.
Already, despite all the uncertainties, there are some predictions which can be made with confidence about the likely outcome.
The Government that emerges from it will be more extreme than what we have at present.
We face the equally stark prospect of either National dragged further to the Right to appease ACT; or, Labour pulled sharply to the Left to accommodate the Alliance.
If New Zealand First is allowed anywhere near the frame we face the certainty of more ego-driven grandstanding from Mr Peters of the type we saw in the aftermath of the last election, where the country's interests come a distant second to indulging his personal vanities and where, at a time convenient to him, he will pull the plug on any agreement reached to allow him to get ready for the next election.
With any of these outcomes, more turmoil, more uncertainty and more instability will be the result, and, God knows, we have had enough of that over the last three years.
This country has no appetite for a further round of radical, ideologically driven reform, from either the right or the left.
But nor does it have any enthusiasm to dismantle the changes of recent years in favour of a return to the kind of fuzzy "feel good" policies more reflective of the 1970s, fuelled by high taxes, routine Government interference, and restrictive employment arrangements.
The real issue of this election is that New Zealanders want now, above all else, a Government of consolidation, sanity and stability, which concentrates on making sure that all our people get some real benefit from the changes of the last few years.
It is simple as that, but where is such a Government going to come from?
Who is going to provide the balance we so desperately lack at present?
Listening to the noise from all the other Parties, you get a real sense such a goal is impossible because they have lost the plot, and narrow political posturing has become more important.
Another round of polarised politics, playing to the exclusive agenda of either the Left or the Right will not achieve the Government New Zealanders want.
Nor will handing the so-called balance of power to a bunch of flaky, erratic egotists like New Zealand First with no guiding principle other than the temporarily popular.
Our country has had a gutsful of politicians whose ambitions have run away with them, and who have held the country to unacceptable ransom in pursuit of the next big headline.
I believe both the major Parties should make it clear now that they will not deal with New Zealand First after the election.
While they prevaricate, they play into Mr Peters' hands and increase the prospect of the summer holidays and the millennium celebrations being highjacked by more meaningless coalition talks.
Surely the one thing we have learned above all else in recent years is that as a small, isolated trading nation, we suffer the consequences of economic and social dislocation more severely than most, and we cannot afford that.
We have no wish to settle for second-best, but at the same time we want to be certain that our goals are focused, realistic and attainable, and we are seeking leadership which can deliver that.
What, New Zealand desperately needs now is a sensible and reliable moderator, committed to maintaining forward momentum by ensuring the essential balance of economic progress matched by social responsibility, and above all else to the simple goal of making things work the way they were supposed to.
Only the United New Zealand Party can be that moderator.
We can provide the heart the Right so desperately needs, or the head so lacking in the Left.
We can do that because we are a centrist party in the liberal tradition for whom achieving positive outcomes on the things we agree upon with other Parties is far more important than forever arguing over the things we disagree about, or grandstanding just for the sake of it.
In that, we are like so many of our fellow Kiwis: sensible, practical and determined, and not easily deterred from our ambitions.
As New Zealand's Liberal Party, and a part of the great international family which includes the Free Democrats in Germany and the Liberal Democrats in Britain, we have some unique qualifications to play that unifying and moderating role.
As liberals, we value the power and responsibility of the individual citizen, but we also recognise that individuals live in communities and that our country is made up of many diverse communities.
We welcome the diversity our communities contribute to our society: the remarkable cultural richness and diversity our ethnic communities contribute to the uniqueness of our country; the heritage and economic contribution of our provincial and rural communities; the contributions of our churches and voluntary agencies and local groups to our towns and cities.
These are all important elements of our society which are being left out of our national tapestry at present, yet which all go so much to the heart of what it means to be a New Zealander today.
As a Party we seek to reach out to and embrace the new New Zealand communities who have come to our country from Asia and the Pacific in recent years, and to provide them with the effective voice in our Parliament they deserve as valuable and welcome contributors to our society.
We seek to reach out to and embrace disillusioned National supporters, scared off by the extremism of ACT, but who could never vote Labour, yet who want to see stable, sensible Government maintained.
We seek to reach out to and embrace Labour voters, frightened off by that Party's increasingly rigid adherence to political correctness, and its acquiescence to the extremism of the Alliance, and worried that any future Labour-led Government will be but a shadow of those past.
We seek to reach out to and embrace the many now politically homeless New Zealanders who sought salvation in New Zealand First three years ago, but who have been so bitterly embarrassed and disappointed by its scandalous, irresponsible, disgraceful and unreliable behaviour since then.
We seek to reach out to and embrace those decent, middle class New Zealanders whose commitment to family values saw them support the Christian Coalition last election, only to have their trust repaid by it tearing itself asunder as the hard-line fundamentalists took control.
We seek to reach out to and embrace worried rural and provincial New Zealanders, concerned about their future, through a primary industries policy which places strong commitment on restoring the wealth of rural and provincial economies, based on the traditional family farm, and a genuinely export friendly economy.
We seek to reach out to and embrace students who find it difficult to equate the rhetoric about the knowledge economy with the reality of their mounting student loan debts, through a realistic policy that will slash their interest debts by almost three quarters, and a decent student support regime, to encourage them in their studies.
We seek to reach out to and embrace the business community, worried that looming extremism from either the Left or the Right is the last thing the country needs right now, by being the insurance policy they can take out to ensure the continuation of a stable economic and political environment within which they can make their investment decisions.
All these groups have been left out of today's political tapestry - yet all have valuable roles to play in the future development of our country.
United's mission is to weave their interests together once more to ensure they can succeed and prosper as part of a genuinely cohesive and united New Zealand.
While the more tabloid elements of the Press Gallery may seek to deride us as consequently boring and unspectacular, let those arrogant know-alls never forget that in so doing they also deride mainstream New Zealand which craves the certainty and stability a Party like United offers.
With United, what you see is what you will get and that same straightforward approach will influence our choice about which grouping of Parties we will support after the election.
We have no interest in the type of post election auction shambles New Zealand endured in 1996 - for us, we are only interested in working with Parties with whom we have policy compatibility.
We will look at the policies on offer, and how they fit with our policies and will decide our support on that basis, and no other.
Our fundamental vision for New Zealand is of a modern civil society, based on reason, knowledge and justice, rather than a stagnant one rooted in tradition, authority and superstition - a country where people are unafraid of new challenges and ideas, where we strive for excellence in all areas, and our achievements are founded in basic common-sense.
As a small, comparatively isolated country at the end of the world, New Zealand is always going to have problems making its voice heard, or ensuring its ongoing social and economic progress.
For example, given our current sluggish economic growth performance, our declining population growth, and our virtually endemic balance of payments problem, we face the unpleasant reality of needing annual growth of about 4%, just to stay still.
To put things into perspective of how difficult the task facing us really is, it is worth remembering the Government's upbeat claim when it launched its so-called Bright Future package that that placed us on track to achieve annual growth rates of around 5%.
While that sounds good, it is in reality a net positive of a mere 1%, at a time when the tiger economies with whom we compete are achieving net rates 4 and 5 times that.
We clearly have to do much, much better than we are, and the Left's "Return to Gdansk" policy promoted by Jim Anderton, and not significantly repudiated by a timid and frightened Labour Party for fear of upsetting him, and therefore having no one to govern with, will not achieve that.
We have to move on, and become much bolder and smarter, if we are to survive long-term as an independent viable nation.
As a small country, we live by our ability to trade, especially in manufactured and primary products, and therefore, we have to become far more aggressive in developing a genuinely export friendly economy.
That means taking active immediate steps to remove impediments and eliminate costs that inhibit our chances of trading successfully.
We have to look to promoting tax cuts where and when we can to keep our system internationally competitive, and must be aiming to reduce company tax to 30 cents in the dollar over the next three years, as well as looking to the abolition of the Fringe Benefit Tax and phasing out remaining excise duties.
Australia's recent tax announcements are an overdue wake-up call to us in that respect, and show once more how clearly out of step Labour and the Alliance are with their plans to put taxes up.
Incidentally, Dr Cullen's intransigent reaction to the Australian moves, not to mention his obscene arrogance to West Coasters on the forestry issue recently, show he lacks the calm, stability and basic tolerance needed to be Treasurer, and is manifestly unsuited to that role.
We must also address remaining restrictive labour practices like, for example, the Holidays Act and the Employment Court.
Yet, a Labour-led government, riddled with militant trade union secretaries, and propped up by the Alliance will never have the stomach to deal with those issues.
Indeed, the paralysis caused by the Ansett dispute is but a small foretaste of the norm likely to prevail if the Employment Contracts Act is repealed and strikes for multi-employer contracts permitted.
At the same time, because we are a small country that no-one owes any favours, we can never lose sight of the fact that just getting to the front of the field will never be enough for us.
We have to stay there, whatever its twists and turns, and that will require a sense of flexibility and adroitness we are still yet to demonstrate fully, although this is not a licence for the slash and burn of the far Right, in either economic or social policy.
However, underpinning all of this must be our acute awareness of New Zealanders' increasing sense of uncertainty and belief that public accountability has become a glib phrase that applies to everyone else but the Government and its agencies.
Therefore, any Party seeking to truly secure New Zealand's economic and social future, has to first win the confidence of the average Kiwi through a new and genuine partnership.
And given Kiwis' immense disillusionment with politics, and politicians of all Parties, that of itself will be an awesome task.
However, it has to be achieved as a priority, otherwise all our wider and bolder goals will count for nothing.
That new partnership with New Zealand has to be based around the best of traditional Kiwi values, not a slavish adherence to rigid and tired ideology of whatever manifestation, or blatant pandering to narrow, sectional interest politics, the way the Mauri Pacific bully boys seek to do.
New Zealanders are renowned for their sense of innovation - our ability with Number 8 fencing wire is legend - and we need to bring some of that sense of innovation to thinking about our future.
We need to become a country unafraid of asking the question "why not?" when problems arise.
And sensible, small Parties can carry out that "why not" role, in or out of government.
So United says, why not commit ourselves to a progressive immigration policy designed to grow our population to around 5 million people by 2015, and contributing 0.5% per annum to economic growth, or $2 billion over the next 4 to 5 years?
Why not recognise now that the face of New Zealand will change dramatically over the next 50 years, as our population becomes far more multi-cultural and diverse, and why not start now to lead that change, rather than merely react to it, as it takes place around us?
Why not establish a Business Finance Advisory Service to assist small and medium sized businesses get off the ground and promote their ideas and plans; and commit up to 1% of GDP to promoting high quality scientific research?
Why not identify from birth the 3% of New Zealand children who are disadvantaged, and work with them and their families to make sure they do not end up as just another statistic on our increasingly violent streets?
And above all, why not enshrine this new partnership in a genuine Citizen's Charter, setting out the rights of our people to access to the best education in the world; a genuinely responsive health system; a welfare system that uplifts people in time of need rather than enslaves them in poverty; a sound economy and an accountable government?
And, at the same time, why not balance those rights with responsibilities to use talents and skills to the benefit of the nation; to live healthy and productive lives; to become self-reliant and to provide where possible for your future; to work hard, practise thrift and be good employers; and, to play our individual part as responsible members of our community?
These are a few of the issues a small party like United can promote, to keep the big Parties focused on the real issues facing Kiwis today.
They are not National issues, or Labour issues - they are New Zealand issues, crossing the political divide, but equally avoided by both.
Yet, if you believe the polls, this MMP election is going to see most Kiwis - who have been soured by the experience of the last three years - opting to shun the small Parties and return to one or other of the major Parties, who are largely responsible for this country's development over the last 50 years.
That surely has to be the ultimate irony - an electoral system designed to thwart the power of the big old Parties potentially entrenching them and attendant disillusionment and cynicism more strongly than ever.
The best way to make MMP work as it was intended - and bear in mind, it has worked extremely well in Germany for half a century, and how we envy their economic performance - is to vote for a smaller party that is not riddled by extremism or populism, and which can keep the others honest.
That way we can get both the more representative Parliament that proportional representation provides, which is one of MMP's positive features, and effective Government, which has been lacking at times in recent years and has consequently brought MMP into disrepute in some quarters.
For pragmatic Kiwis worried more about the country's future than the ideological purity of what the politicians are saying, and looking for a way sensible way through, United New Zealand is a real insurance policy.
We are the ultimate hedge against extreme or disruptive policies.
Unlike many of the other small Parties, we are going to be in the next Parliament, because we are going to win Ohariu Belmont.
That means a Party vote for us will not be wasted, unlike a Party vote for, say, Christian Heritage or Future New Zealand.
The real issue, therefore, is whether we can get sufficient Party votes to be there in sufficient numbers to be the critical and sensible balance the country needs to ensure ongoing economic and social progress.
If we achieve 2.1% of the Party vote, that is an average of around 615 Party votes per electorate, in addition to holding Ohariu Belmont, there will be three United MPs in the next Parliament, which would certainly be the balance of power.
Therefore, it is time to get real.
The real challenge of this election is simply this.
Do you really want more taxes, more bureaucracy, more government intervention from Jim Anderton and compliant Labour; or more scorched earth policies from National to keep Richard Prebble happy; or, Winston Peters anywhere near power?
Unless we all do something to stop them, now, any and all of these things could happen.
It will be too late afterwards to cry over spilt milk.
I have no desire to spend next year attending a series of "Coping with the New Government" seminars, as the business community seeks to come to grips with what Michael Cullen and Jim Anderton are inflicting upon the country.
We can stop all these nightmare scenarios happening and secure New Zealand's economic and social future but we will need the active support of like-minded people to do so.
Ultimately, the choice is yours.
If you really want stable, sensible and reliable leadership for our country, who would you rather trust to hold the balance of power in the next Parliament?
A Party of Jim Andertons, Richard Prebbles, Winston Peters, or a Party of Peter Dunnes?