Young Nationals Speech CNI Regional Conference
Speech notes to CNI Regional Conference
28 April 2002
Youth Vice President
NZ Young Nationals Chair
New Zealand's Global Responsibilities
Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today.
Firstly I would like to acknowledge the strong Parliamentary Team in the CNI region, particularly Max Bradford and John Luxton who, as you all know, are retiring at this years election. John Luxton's dry wit, knowledge and experience will be missed. Max is someone who I have had the pleasure of working with over the last few years in relations to defence and his retirement will leave a significant gap. It is a measure of the strength of the relationships that Max has forged with other nations at a personal level that the National party still has dialogue with many of our supposed allies. Supposed not so much because of the way that they treat us, but the way that the Labour regime has portrayed New Zealand.
Given that acknowledgement I guess it is rather appropriate that I have chosen the topic of New Zealand's global responsibilities.
Although firstly I guess a background. When I began writing this speech, late on Thursday night it was originally going to be on the Environment, with particular - negative - reference to the Greens. Or as I prefer to call them the Dope Smoking Communists who hate GE Party. After all the Environment is very much an issue pertaining to youth, I can tell you that a number of my peers are swinging between National and the Greens. These are young people who are economically conservative, social responsible and concerned about the Environment. Basically they are National voters and when I explain that the Greens are in fact fringe lunatics there is a general surprise - "but the Environment is so important." True. Unfortunately the Greens contribution to environmental issues ends at the name. Take the issue of possum control - possums chew through around 21,000 tonnes of vegetation a night, and there is about 70 million of them. Worse they are a vector for Tb - it is estimated that a major Tb outbreak in NZ could cost our economy $5 billion. The Greens have a "solution," believe it or not we are meant to seed areas of conservation and agricultural importance with the ashes of possum carcasses.
Now if they haven't been sitting too close to Nandor and his 'special' cigarettes I just don't know.
Anyway that is what I am not going to talk about but with Sandra Goudie in the room I could not help but have a quick crack at such an easy target.
Pointing out the importance of the environment can be done any week but I began writing this speech on one of New Zealand's most special days. Thursday was of course ANZAC day, a day when two nations largely stop and remember. Once again record crowds around the country flocked to services held around all parts of the country. Today's generations paid tribute to those who had served their country and remembered those thousands who simply did not come back. For in every town, every city, every community there is a monument, a plaque in a Hall or some form of recognition that local blood had been spilt in a foreign field.
As a child growing up in Wakanui I remember often standing in the Memorial Hall, usually before a School Concert or some such festive occasion, just gazing at the names of those who had gone to War from a small farming community. Recognising many of the surnames as from families which had first established the district and seeing in the middle the significant proportion who had 'paid the ultimate sacrifice'. Above all I remember the ages. At eight or nine - 18, 19 and early twenties seemed a long way a way. It seems all to real now.
On reaching the age of eighteen I, unlikely too many previous generations, did not go to war. With worldly possessions and parents' blessing I headed to University. To a relatively certain future, where the greatest risks were failing a paper or having one too many the night before. It is difficult to comprehend that for several generations of young men, and women, the future was uncertain at best and the risks were bullet, bomb and bayonet.
At University I lived at College House, a Hall of Residence. The College Library was established by the estate of an Officer killed during the battle of Cassino during the Italian campaign of World War II. Around the walls of the same Library hang a photo of the College Students from each year, since establishment of the Hall in 1850. During the period of the First World War there are pitifully small numbers of young men, dropping to a low of four students during the worst year of the First World War. In the dining hall hang pictures of students, young men, who had sat at the benches much as today's students do, but decades previously. These young men heard the call of duty and responded, but never returned.
Why have I given you some part of my life story? Because I believe that it goes some way to explaining why ANZAC day has become perhaps the most significant day in the New Zealand calendar.
Every time I walk past a War Memorial I make a prayer of thanks and in many respects it is a selfish prayer. I am thankful that I do not have to go to war to protect the freedoms we possess today. On ANZAC day it is my chance, and the chance of my generation, to say thank you. It is for this reason that I believe young people come to the ANZAC parades and services in ever greater numbers and it is the reason that so many Australians and New Zealanders make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli.
I also believe that it goes some way to explaining why my generation is concerned about New Zealand's place, and responsibilities, in the democratic global community.
I am wary of riding on the back of ANZAC day for political debate, however it is a day of reflection and hand in hand with reflection walks history. In 1941, New Zealanders fought and died on Crete as they were pounded mercilessly by German paratroopers, fighters and bombers. During that battle New Zealanders learnt a lesson in blood - that courage and good training is no substitute for air cover and a balanced force. The then Labour Prime Minister vowed that never again would New Zealand soldiers go into battle without their own air cover. Fifty years later and another Labour Prime Minister applies selective application to history and scraps our air-strike capabilities. Not only has she let New Zealand down, she has let New Zealand's friends and allies down. To the point where a request by Australia to retain our A4 Skyhawks for a few more months whilst there FA-18s were on active deployment in the Gulf was denied.
Ladies and gentleman on my recently completed University tour, defence and specifically the airstrike capability was the issue most often brought to my attention outside the perennial issues of student loans and health. It is clear that the Labour regime will continue to take New Zealand down a path of isolationism. It is a sad irony that a government made up of anti-Vietnam ideologues is mortgaging the future of my generation and those to come.
National must, on attaining the Treasury benches, repair our relations with friends and Allies. Firstly we must show Australia that we are a serious, if smaller, partner in the ANZAC relationship. National must also move to have New Zealand reinstated as a full member of ANZUS.
Ladies and gentleman if there is a message I want to convey today it is that of remembrance. The ANZACs that have gone before provide the freedoms that we enjoy today.
Let's not put at risk the honour of the past with the policies of the future.
God bless the ANZACs.