Speech To Newmarket Rotary Club - Michelle Boag
Wednesday 6 March 2002 - Embargoed 7.30 pm
By Michelle Boag, President, NZ National Party
One of the questions I constantly get asked is:
"Do you really think you can win the next election?"
Sometimes I get a bemused and condescending look when I say, categorically, "Yes!"
So why am I so categorical?
It's very simple
The supposedly invincible Helen Clark, darling of the photo opportunity, is under funding health, she's messing up education, and she's out of touch with New Zealanders.
That's not a recipe for sustained success.
You can only blame a previous government for a limited time. The Labour Alliance regime have turned this tactic into an art form, but it is time is started wearing thin with intelligent New Zealanders.
There are two reasons our health system is in a crisis:
1. Despite taking an extra $400 million from the "only" promised tax increase from 33 cents to 39 cents, the governments increase in health funding in the last two years hasn't even kept up with inflation. On top of this, our low dollar has translated into increases in drug costs which are much higher than inflation. And before you say "but", in the last 7 years of National, we were funding health between 5 - 7% above inflation every year. That is fact. 2. This government has spent at least $20 million on a change of governance from the HFA model to elected and politically appointed Boards. That is money that could have gone to nurses salaries, to cancer patients who had to travel to Australia, or to the childrens heart unit.
It's time for the Minister of Health, Annette King, to stop saying "woe is me", get off her chuff and fix it. Hypocrisy example number one - give health the same level of funding National gave it and the problems will lessen.
Education is a mess.
This year New Zealand schools had 7,000 extra pupils turn up - nearly 6,000 more than they expected, equivalent to 100 classrooms and teachers. This is a direct result of government policy giving too much authority to the bureaucrats and not enough to the schools. Teachers, headmasters and parents know how to deliver good schooling - government-directed bureaucractic form filling is costing teachers too much time and children too much learning.
What about Labour's philosophy on education? Hypocrisy example number two - don't talk about a competitive and innovative economy when you won't allow competition in learning.
Here we see the greatest hypocrasies of them all. National had the economy growing at 4%. This government has had the best economic conditions for decades, and growth can't get any better than 2%. Clark talks grandly of an innovative economy and fostering growth while she does the following: 1. Implements the trade union legislative agenda in total 2. Reverses ACC privatization, costing businesses more 3. Imposes new OSH regulations that impose extra costs on businesses - you've all seen the Business New Zealand estimate of $26,000 extra costs on an average business from these changes 4. Puts huge and unnecessary impediments in the way of the bio-technology industry so that development projects go overseas - a knowledge economy? Not ever under Clark. 5. Refuses to allow amendments to the RMA which would encourage investment in New Zealand. 6. Gathers 200 million more than expected in revenue, still insists on a tax increase to pay for Auckland roads, then allocates only 41% of the tax increase to roads in total - not even Auckland roads. Meanwhile the Greens get $3 million to promote "walking".
My list could go on forever - but we haven't got all night. I think you get the picture.
The best description of this government's Treaty policy is keep them poor and with their hands out. This week an Official Information report made it clear the government hadn't
given the Office of Treaty Settlements enough money to settle the claims currently process - so they were told to stop negotiating.
Most Zealanders want historical Treaty claims settled so we can move on. National wants Maori claimants to get their rightful resource allocations so they can set about building business and creating wealth for their people. Labour would rather dole out money to their mates on a totally discretionary basis - and there's hundreds of millions going into that process. It's now clear Labour don't want iwi to get control of their own destiny. They'd rather have them totally dependent on Labour's patronage. 90% of the businesses affected by Labour's moratorium on aquaculture are Maori businesses. Denying Maori the right to self-development and the capacity to build an asset base is not only hypocritical, it's very sad for Maori and very sad for New Zealand.
The public spoke loudly about their views on tougher sentencing in the referendum on violent crime. The government has done the opposite, introducing provisions to allow rapists out after a third rather than two thirds of their sentence has been served. Let's be honest - Labour is soft on crime, always has been, always will be.
So what are National's answers? Obviously we haven't announced them all yet, but let me give you a few examples.
First, if elected we will have a binding referendum on MMP. The public thought they were getting it when the voted for it - they didn't. With the collapse of the Alliance and Labour's potential coalition partner looking more like the Greens than ever, New Zealand needs stable government. New Zealand will have a real choice for stable government under National.
Second, this afternoon we announced that Labour's zoning policy will go under National. Schools will be free to develop their own zoning policies with their communities, not be directed by the Ministry. We will provide extra teachers and classrooms to schools that need those resources to cater for students who want to go there. We will not deprive schools of classrooms and teachers because a school down the road isn't full because it's not doing a good job for its community.
Thirdly, we have announced a policy of "Life means Life" for the worst killers in our society. Some people are a threat to our communities and they shouldn't be released.
Fourth, we have announced a way of completing the Auckland roading network - without putting up taxes - by simplifying the consent processes and allowing for private funding of roads to get Auckland back up to speed. We will also make changes to the Resource Management Act to stop it being an impediment to growth.
Fifth, we have announced the introduction of tax incentives to encourage people to invest in longer term savings.
And what about Bill English? He's a man of integrity, a man who does understand what New Zealanders want for their families and their communities, a man who is ambitious for New Zealand and is passionate about making New Zealand a prosperous, successful and happy place. When he was Minister of Health, the health sector got more than Helen Clark is giving them. He's committed to an education system that teaches aspiration, not mediocrity. He's in touch with New Zealand and the hopes and desires of our families.
With a story like that, how could I not be enthusiastic about National's prospects? People who quote opinion polls to me should look at the Australian polls right through election year, when Labour politicians were picking their Ministerial limousines and houses.
One last word on the polls. As a country, we're in danger of having our mood driven by the latest poll. Labour's own polling company, UMR, is testing public opinion every time an issue arises and telling Helen Clark how to play it for maximum votes. That's not leadership - that's slavish adherence to political opportunism. That's why we have seen Helen Clark become variously the courtesan of big business, the "close political ally" of George Bush and John Howards best trading buddy. She slipped up though when she took Grace off the Queens menu - I'll bet she didn't poll that one, and not surprisingly, her instincts were all wrong. She is out of touch with New Zealanders and National's Leader, Bill English, couldn't be more closely in tune with them.
That's why I think National can win this year and why I'm happy to be the President of the National Party right now. I know I'm backing a horse that's been training hard, is race ready and has complete faith in its jockey. What's more, we're fit for a sprint down the home straight.
Thanks for the opportunity to speak to you tonight.