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Rt Hon Jenny Shipley - Dare to be radical

Rt Hon Jenny Shipley - Dare to be radical

Rt Hon Jenny Shipley Leader of the Opposition

Keynote address

Wellington regional conference New Zealand National Party

Dare to be radical

The history of the National Party is one of progressive and caring conservatism -- strong government but fair. Good economic managers for a social purpose.

We've been the preferred choice of New Zealanders more often than not. But we're in Opposition because the perception was we had no more to offer.

New Zealanders voted for change. We have 2 ½ years to change their minds.

Since last year's election, we've all had time to take stock.

We've listened to the electorate and we've learnt lessons.

Some of the lessons have been hard.

We didn't keep in touch with enough New Zealanders during nine years in Government.

We didn't explain to people some of the reasons behind our actions.

We presumed that good policies and sound management would speak for themselves.

We presumed that New Zealanders would believe that strong economic growth was a virtue in itself.

It clearly isn't. We've learnt.

And now it is time to move forward.

That's what I mean to do. I must take every one of you National Party people with me.

And together we must take New Zealanders with us. If we do that, we will once again be the lead party of government in 2002.

So how? We have to become radical conservatives.

Don't fall off your seats. You haven't slipped into an ACT conference. I don't mean radical as in extreme.

Being radical has two other meanings of importance to us.

Being radical, in the sense I want to talk about today, means going back to our roots.

Being radical means thinking about the fundamentals. And being brave enough to express them in ways that will touch all New Zealanders.

It means thinking afresh about what the National Party stands for. And putting those ideas to work for New Zealanders in the 21st century.

It is time for National to take on this task with urgency and enthusiasm - and I'd note that if you're a young American radical means being cool or excellent, desirable, admirable and fashionable.

That is the task. Today I will talk a little about what that means for the economy.

At other conferences I will talk about the same challenge in terms of families, children, New Zealand in the world, sustainable management of people, resources and the economy - in other words, all aspects of the leadership we need to demonstrate.

And it gives me great heart to say, we have a very strong foundation from which to begin the task.

Let me assure you, being radical does not mean throwing out a single one of National's core values.

To the contrary, it means getting solidly back in touch with them.

National will differentiate itself from Labour and all other parties over the next two and a half years.

Radical conservatism means reconnecting with our roots and expressing them in a contemporary way to which New Zealanders right across the social spectrum can subscribe. They are values that have consistently made National the largest mass membership political party in this country and they'll do so again.

Strong and Fair

We have achieved that because we refuse to be tied to special interest groups like other parties. We are a broad spectrum party that will always be there for New Zealand.

But we live in a fast-changing world and complex society. So, we must be equally radical in laying down new roots and networks which will develop into fresh, contemporary policy.

We have to go forward with policy development conserving what has served New Zealand best, but equally boldly accepting the challenge to change and offering next generation policy's

Being radical conservatives means having a strong set of core values but being brave enough to reinterpret them for today's world.

There are some lessons we can learn from the formation of the National Party.

In the 1930s when our party founders formed the National Party, they were bringing together two broad strands of political representation - the business concerns of the Liberal Party and the rural interests of the Reform Party.

From the start, National was, therefore, a party of broad interests, not of narrow sectional support.

We were formed to be a voice for the whole community. We were born out of an idea of diversity and shared interests, not sectional divisions. We accepted as a given that urban and rural New Zealanders' futures rested together in mutual success.

Nothing could be more necessary once again in the New Zealand of 2000. So our heritage serves us well.

Day-by-day it becomes more evident that the Labour-Alliance minority government has made many commitments that serve narrow sectional interests. It is paying back its supporters - and it is clear they intend to make the rest of New Zealanders pay the cost.

* Taxes have been put up despite advice that they will not collect the revenue expected. It's contributed to killing business confidence and will cost jobs and suck money out of every town in New Zealand.

* No other modern economy is renationalising services but this Government has rammed through the re-nationalisation of ACC to satisfy its fellow travellers despite near-unanimous opposition. Ideology has won out, and reduced costs and improved work place safety have lost! Payback is the only explanation. This Government has defied officials' advice and international trends.

* Now the Labour-Alliance minority government is driving its ideological juggernaut through the industrial relations landscape. New Zealanders must demand that the Prime Minister say who are the key advisors on the ERB that they refuse to make public are when the changes have the potential to create so such damage to New Zealand. It will again add to costs, cut jobs and increase industrial strife. Payback is the only explanation. Regional Growth and development was promised yet all of these changes will cost jobs in the regions.

As these paybacks to sectional interests become more and more clear, the country will desperately need a party that represents all New Zealanders - town and country people, workers and bosses, small business people and self employed entrepreneurs and innovators, social service providers and family people.

National is that party. And it is the only one on the New Zealand political landscape.

Right from our formation, we've been the only truly broad churches of New Zealand politics.

If we look too at the reason for National's formation, we find a set of strong, simple, clearly-stated ideas:

* that individuals are the best managers of their own destiny;
* that the State makes a mess when it tries to interfere in people's lives;
* that by creating the conditions to allow individuals to get ahead, then New Zealand will prosper;
* that fresh ideas and innovation are at the heart of the Kiwi way;
* that families - of all shapes and configurations - are the lifeblood and the glue of New Zealand communities;
* that if we strengthen families we strengthen New Zealand.

The challenge for us today is to re-explore these ideas and say what they mean for New Zealand in the first decade of the third millennium.

As we do so we must create a groundswell. Radical in reflecting our roots. Radical in public appeal. If our ideas are big, and bold and true, we will carry New Zealand with us.

From where we stand now, that may seem a daunting task.

But it is not.

In last year's election, 39 in every 100 people voted Labour. And 31 in 100 voted National. That was no landslide, Labour did not win an overwhelming mandate. Labour acknowledged recently their base support is 28 in every 100 votes. We have much to work on. Their vote is soft and our opponents know it.

In each small suburban street, it represents just two or three households who we have to win over again.

So how do we do it? We must be the party with broad electoral appeal. Within our constituency of support we must foster niche interest groups in order to expand our support base overall.

National, for instance, must be pro-business but not merely the party of business. Because by creating positive business conditions, every New Zealander benefits.

We must be pro-farmers, but not merely the party of farmers. Because all our futures are inter-dependent.

We must be pro-environment but not only a party for extreme greens. Many New Zealanders want to enjoy prosperity but in a sustainable way in people, land and resource terms.

We - alone among New Zealand political parties - have the grassroots to do that. I want to thank each and every one of you for the work you put into last year's election.

To be in fighting form for the 2002 election National must be contemporary and conservative. Progressive, caring and radical where necessary. Equally, in its desire to be progressive, National will conserve what has served New Zealand well to date and build on it.

Over the next 850 days it is our challenge to demonstrate to New Zealanders - to their hearts and their heads - that we pursue strong economic growth not just because we favour the business sector but because a bigger, better economy serves everyone. It makes us all better off.

A stronger, fairer and more prosperous New Zealand. By managing the economy well, we can achieve our social purposes - better than any other political Party in New Zealand.

That is the heritage of our achievement in the 1990s. Let us never forget that and never let our opponents forget it either. The prosperity that New Zealand enjoys today is National's legacy. The choices that the Labour-Alliance Government faces - are owed fairly and squarely to National's achievement in Government. You can all be proud of that regardless of how frustrating you now find it.

The next National-led government will move New Zealanders achievement on to a new plateau, where everyone knows and shares the benefits.

We have a long way to go yet to flesh out our detailed policies. But I can tell you now, some things will be fundamental in our radical conservative vision for New Zealand.

We will set about delivering an economy, a society, that is fuelled by a hungry appetite for positive change - for new ideas, new technologies, to build on our existing strengths - not about yesterday but tomorrow.

Labour's first five months have been about giving away that wealth, not creating it. They are yet to prove themselves, to be tested and the jury is out.

We will be all about rewarding people for effort - not higher taxes and more State control.

We will foster the transfer of property rights from the State to the individual, not the reverse.

We will hold fast to the benefits of competition rather than the heavy hand of the State - because that is the only way to lift performance and allow every New Zealand family and business to reap the benefits of more choices and lower costs.

In contrast, Labour-Alliance policies tie them to special interests.

Instead of really helping New Zealanders to stand tall in a strong and fair nation, there's a lolly-scramble on. And the damage is being done. It is already destroying investors' confidence. Young people are leaving New Zealand, mortgage rates are rising. We are all paying for no good reason.

New Zealand has a very left-wing socialist Government engaging in the policies of nostalgia at a time that the world is moving forward.

What New Zealand is experiencing is not Tony Blair's "third way".

There's a lot of humbug attached to Blair's so-called third way. But let's look at the fact.

Where Blair has been successful in Britain, it's because he's moved Labour to the mainstream. In New Zealand, the Prime Minister would have us believe she's in step with the third way, but she, Anderton and the Greens are moving us out of step with our trading partners

* Instead of opening up the economy with lower taxes and competition, Labour in New Zealand is stalling the economy through its heavy-handed, big-Government style of management
* Instead of supporting education through publishing the competitive performances of schools, Labour is denying choice and stamping on innovation in schools.
* Instead of supporting the independence of the Central Bank, Labour is letting Anderton make outrageous attacks on the Reserve Bank with the sort of political interference we haven't seen for decades.
* Instead of promoting privatisation and competition in new areas such as airports, the Post Office and industrial injury compensation, the Labour-Alliance Government is opposing all that.
* Instead of opening up energy to competition, Clark has put the brakes on.
* Instead of attacking unemployment by having a flexible Labour market, Clark's Government is moving back to a highly unionised approach.
* Instead of taking a tough stance on cannabis. Clark wants to decriminalise it.

Blair has stolen the clothes of the Tories. Labour, the Alliance and Greens haven't even attempted the same approach. That is becoming more evident day by day.

Thankfully, this provides a tremendous opportunity for National.

We are 150 days into the Labour-Alliance Government. The greatest risk to us was that the Labour Party and its coalition partners would have been able to create an impression of competent economic management.

From the performance in the first five months, it is certainly not true. In the eyes of the New Zealand or the international business community, there are constant contradictions, constant inconsistency, constant intervention, constant domination by the Prime Minister, her advisor and a small group of Ministers. Consistently erratic behaviour by the Deputy Prime Minister is not improving New Zealand's reputation.

The common values message that National will promote will be in sharp contrast to the Labour-Alliance political ideological accommodations that are creating an illusion of hope which is in fact an empty shell.

To quote an Australian Labour politician, Mark Latham "a sense of nostalgia offers nothing more than a shimmery of false comfort and expectations". That is an apt description of the situation in New Zealand.

There is something immoral about those in public life who know well that the past is unbelievable.

Nostalgia offers no solution for New Zealand in the future.

National does. And we will be in a position to offer it in 2002 if we work unsparingly.

We are the party of the mainstream; not the extreme. That is what I mean by radical conservatism. Building on our history, keeping up, moving ahead.

I believe that New Zealanders are keen to get on. They are risk takers and are willing to invest in people and plant to create wealth, so that all of us have something to share.

As National Party people, we believe that we can best achieve this by unleashing the potential within New Zealand entrepreneurs. We need to free them up not tie them down.

Next time around, we must do far better in convincing New Zealanders that a strongly performing, open economy, really will benefit them because it's true.

A strong GDP means it is easier for families to make ends meet.

A low tax environment means better prospects for hard-working Kiwis to get ahead and feel rewarded for their effort.

A growing economy means that kids really do have the prospects their parents hope for and will stay in New Zealand to realise them.

In other words, we must give the economy a fresh face, with a human touch.

I know National can do it in winning back the hearts and heads of New Zealand. I want you to leave this conference with the same certainty. Strong and fair, progressive and caring, reflecting our roots and moving forward.

We will be the innovators of this first decade of the millennium.

Let's dare to be radical and make it our own.


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