It's not often I get the opportunity to speak to an audience, at least not a friendly one. I'm going to take a few minutes, however, to talk with you about vision, drive, ACTivists and ACT.
Most New Zealanders I speak to, and especially the young Kiwis, agree that this Government is not delivering. It's all spin and no substance - in health, education, employment - a Government which promised more jobs is merely shuffling the figures to produce a shady bottom line that must, long-term, be seen for the scam that it is.
In tertiary education - which was supposed to be a key policy plank for this Government - Labour, Alliance and the Greens have delivered nothing. Shifting $35 million from private to public training establishments achieves nothing for the high-budget universities, it's a drop in the bucket, but it will decimate the training colleges for those who want to enhance their education by becoming hairdressers, mechanics or tradespeople. Freezing fees with bribes that are lower than inflation is a stupid waste of time that has destroyed any remaining credibility Labour had on university campus.
As the three years of Labour and the Alliance grind by, it's becoming increasingly clear to New Zealanders that in fact we don't just have a Government - we have a State. We have bureaucracy growing out of control in response to Helen's mad fetish for keeping everything firmly in the palm of her own cold hand.
In 1999, the Government promised to cut waiting lists, but people are still dying while climbing the slimy ladder of health bureaucracy. Today, searching for the phrase "hospital waiting lists" doesn't return a single hit on the Labour Party web site. Labour's only achievement on waiting lists has been to re-shuffle the cards so those in the most pain get surgery first. Isn't it strange, isn't it sad, that these opponents of the free market now use physical pain as their new currency?
And pain begets pain - in a country with so much to offer, young New Zealanders have among the highest rate of suicide anywhere in the world.
Last month the Minister for Youth Affairs, Laila Harre, spoke about a programme called “Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa”. This is the peak, so far, of the Government’s programmes aimed at youth. It contains nothing that will reduce the suicide rate. Young people die in despair, in frustration. Suicide rates are high when youth see no future - and perhaps the scariest thing of all, is that no matter how many speeches Laila Harre gives, no Government can provide an individual vision that gives young people enough to live for.
Fine Ministerial phrases such as that the strategy "will help communities work more proactively, and therefore less reactively, towards positive outcomes for young people in a number of ways" will not save a single young life, and will not give one person direction, one person purpose or one person a sense of self-worth.
Laila Harre sees the desirable attributes of a
young Kiwi as:
Feeling that they are contributing something of value to society
Feeling connected to a range of groups where they belong
Believing they have choices about their future and;
Feeling positive and comfortable with their own identity.
None of these things are able to be legislated for. Rather, they grow spontaneously when people are set free - free to develop themselves, to be themselves, to live as autonomous individuals able to interact with the world around them, instead of being part of a State machine.
What we really need - what unlocks the doors to all these desirable elements, what unlocks the doors to life itself - to good health, education and employment, is self-determination, putting every single New Zealander in charge of their own lives and letting them decide their own path, instead of quite literally legislating people out of existence.
But faced with this, with all the problems of New Zealand today, what response does the Government have? Youth who supported Green Party candidates in smoky cafés, preaching alternately from David Bellamy and Karl Marx, now revisit those cafés to discover Green MPs with lattés, their eyes clenched shut to keep out the light of reality.
Starry-eyed idealists supporting Alliance have found their only achievement to be a half-baked bank. In fact, the Alliance were one of the fastest parties in New Zealand's history to back out of their election promises, telling me just weeks after the election that they wouldn't be able to deliver a single piece of their flagship 'free tertiary education' policy.
What hope do these parties have to offer young Kiwis? Absolutely none.
What hope can a young New Zealander have when the Government either tells them they're victims of a vast racist conspiracy they can never overcome, or that they must spend their lives wracked with guilt for the sins of their ancestors?
When the Government trades in pain, when people are left to die in hospital so the NZSO can play to cynical academics, what hope can we have for our society? When children are forced to attend a school that doesn’t meet their needs for a reason so shallow as it's close to where they live, what future do they have? When workers are employed for eight hours a day, but after tax is taken out are only paid for five, why should anyone seek a job?
Why should young kiwis fight on? Because they want a vision, and if the Government won't give us a view of the society we want, someone else will.
And there is a group of hard working Kiwis who fight on. These are the people who own small businesses, who look after their children, who get the job done and look forward to a day when their hard work and achievement can be valued, instead of having to hang their heads in shame for doing well for themselves. And there is a party that fights for these people, with vision and drive, and it's ACT New Zealand.
It takes a lot of courage to stand up and speak one's mind when rocks are hurled from ivory towers, and when bitter, shrivelled words are spun from ninth floor offices down upon your head. Since its formation, ACT has had that courage, and has won support from Kiwis who recognise people like themselves - not born into privilege, not leeches on the Government purse, but those who've done well, worked hard, made their own ways in the world and, valuing success, found their own path to it.
ACT is the only party on the centre-right that has this courage. The National Party has lost it somewhere, thrown away principles and values in a fit of desperation. On a visit to Massey University early this year I was astounded at the number of students who told me they'd support ACT but were worried about being in coalition with National. National were seen as too populist, as too eager to say anything in order to claw their way back to the Government benches.
There’s a lesson there for ACT.
ACT must be careful not to fall into the pit of political expediency. Some recent positions have created the perception that our politicians will support anything that keeps them employed, rather than following the ideals and vision that ACT is all about. These perceptions, formed rightly or wrongly, are always hard to shake off.
So if ACT has the vision to shape the New Zealand of tomorrow, and continues to show the passion to defend our principles, values and vision, how do young Kiwis get involved? Well, to quote Friedrich Hayek, "we must raise and train an army of fighters for freedom", and that is the role of ACTivists. That is why I am here today - listening, recruiting, seeking your support. ACTivists are freedom's army, and right now we're getting into campaign mode, ready to use every weapon to drag control of our own lives back from the Labour thugs and Alliance goons who seek to have us all sucking harder on the teat of
State. ACT is the party of freedom, choice and responsibility that stands in their way, and ACTivists are the young New Zealanders ready to stand up on ACT's front line. Let's stay together, let's fight against the dark army of socialism together, and turn the brave vision - a vision New Zealand can share, unite behind and fight for - a vision of Values, not politics - into reality.
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