Prebble To ACT Christchurch Regional Conference
Sunday 18 Nov 2001
Speech by Hon Richard Prebble, CBE
to ACT Party Christchurch Regional Conference
Cotswold Hotel, Papanui Road, Christchurch
on Friday, 16 November 2001 at 7.30pm
It's a pleasure to be speaking at the Christchurch Regional Conference of ACT. I believe your decision to take the Party to the public is both innovative and bold.
Holding workshops on the issues at the Christchurch Show and opening the forums to the public is a first. I am pleased to report that the ACT Party is in great shape. We're in the middle of the regional conference season - Christchurch today and our Northern Conference, Northland/North Shore, tomorrow.
I note that last Saturday both ACT and the Alliance held conferences in Auckland. ACT's of our Auckland Isthmus Region and the Alliance their National Conference.
The Alliance conference was boosted by their 10 MPs and 40 staffers from Wellington. There were more delegates at ACTs regional conference than the Alliance nationwide event.
This is a feature of ACT that the commentators miss - ACT is, in membership, the third-largest party. ACT is better organised and ACT has Parliament's best campaigners. ACT's vote has increased every election.
I believe our goal of 20 MPs and holding the balance in power is very achievable. I can report that your MPs have served ACT with distinction.
Ken Shirley, my deputy, runs the organisational side of the parliamentary party like clockwork. Part of the reason ACT MPs are effective is quite simple - we are the best-organised team.
This week the Minister of Education launched a personal attack on Donna Awatere-Huata. He accused her of being the only MP concerned at New Zealand children's performance in reading. I've told Donna that she should take Mallard's attack as a badge of pride.
If our Minister of Education thinks that Donna Awatere-Huata is the only person in New Zealand who thinks it's a scandal that 40 per cent of pupils leaving school this year can't read well enough for the jobs they're applying for, then this government is totally out of touch.
The ACT MPs are totally in support of Donna Awatere-Huata's campaign to improve our standards in reading.
ACT has this vision - a nation where every child learns to read and write well enough to be able to gain employment and no child is left behind. The two old parties have failed two generations of children.
ACT - Mr Mallard - will campaign on a policy to restore New Zealand's education standards, and if our children can't read, how can they learn and become productive citizens.
Rodney Hide is a one-man Opposition. However, he has slipped up. Rodney has been questioning the Attorney-General, Margaret Wilson, over the appointment of her friend Susan Bathgate to three jobs. Well, it turns out the extraordinary Ms Bathgate is not a triple dipper, she's a quin dipper - five government jobs. How did you miss those other two jobs, Rodney?
Why did the Minister, when answering in Parliament, fail to mention that her friend Ms Bathgate has not three but five government jobs? If it wasn't for ACT, Ms Bathgate would have kept all the money.
Three months ago, Margaret Wilson was a close friend of Ms Bathgate. Now she is just an "acquaintance". At this rate, next month Margaret Wilson will claim she took Ms Bathgate's name from the telephone book.
During show week, ACT's rural caucus of Owen Jennings, Gerry Eckhoff and Penny Webster have all been working hard.
At the last election, ACT got its biggest lift in support in rural New Zealand and here in the South Island. Our South Island MPs' hard work makes a considerable contribution to ACT's increased support.
Muriel Newman has made her role the Opposition spokesman on Social Welfare. Even Steve Maharey acknowledges this. With one person in three now dependent on the State, welfare reform must be a priority. Welfare reform is an issue ACT owns - thanks to Muriel Newman.
ACT's parliamentary team is effective because of the party's policy of selecting quality candidates. Stephen Franks personifies the advantages of this policy. He is, after just two years, recognised as Parliament's leading lawyer and the enemy of politically-correct nonsense being put in the statute book.
There is within the party a strong resurgence. I believe the Liberal Project, the brainchild of President Catherine Judd, is a wonderful project. I feel inspired myself by the contributions that I have read and heard.
We need to reiterate that our vision of personal responsibility is the most powerful force for good in the world.
Economic liberalism has been responsible for the most significant improvement in people's lives: * private property rights * sanctity of contract * the rule of law and one law for all.
Free speech and democracy have transformed the world.
The principle that governments should not do for the citizen what people can and should do for themselves, has empowered people to take charge of their own destiny. It's a vision of a free, prosperous New Zealand that ACT owns.
The ACT Party is putting forward a vision of New Zealand that the vast majority of New Zealanders share.
New Zealand as a trading nation in a global economy must reduce personal and business taxes to make this country competitive with Australia - a policy ACT owns.
The answer to superannuation is to provide a sound basis for retirement planning - that can only be achieved by giving tax relief so ordinary New Zealanders can save. The link between tax relief and secure retirement is a policy ACT owns.
We will never solve the chronic crisis in health without using the resources of both private and public health. We need tax relief so ordinary families can afford health insurance - another policy ACT owns.
Only ACT advocates welfare reform. At the heart of ACT's reforms is the proposal that able-bodied adults who seek government assistance must, in return, do a 40-hour week of work. All other adults in the community must work for a living.
Although official unemployment has halved since the early nineties, the number of able-bodied adults on welfare has continued to increase and is now 60,000 more than it was then. ACT alone advocates real welfare reform.
I note that a recent survey shows business confidence has fallen but those on benefits have never felt better.
I can see the election billboard - `Vote Labour - it's never been a better time to be unemployed'. Well, it's never been a worse time to be an employer.
Right now in front of Parliament is a bill of imposing a $500,000 fine and two years jail on an employer who causes an employee stress.
This is a Labour/Alliance government that simply doesn't understand business. Only two Labour ministers have ever employed a fellow New Zealander with their own money. Seven of ACT's nine MPs have run their own business and know what real stress is - having to make wages every week.
Neither of the two old parties will tackle the issue of setting a date for full and final settlement of Waitangi Treaty claims - only ACT advocates one law for all.
No party in Parliament has any solution to what is, I think the biggest threat to our country's future. Our best and highest graduates are leaving. The reasons are complex, but student debt is contributing.
The latest figures released this week reveal that the honey-pot of interest-free loans while studying has seen the average student debt double in just two years.
I observe that the government's own $985,000 tax review, which Dr Cullen dismissed in 10 minutes, states that high taxes are driving out our most talented people. ACT says tax relief is the way to alleviate the student debt mountain.
Let me make it clear. The best tax relief is a single, low, flat rate of tax.
The parliamentary party is looking hard at the McLeod tax review's recommendation of a two-tier tax system, instead of today's three. Two is better than three tax rates.
Reducing the bottom rate from 19.5 to 18 percent, and the top rate from 39 to 28 percent, does have the electoral advantage of being able to say: `ACT, lower taxes for everyone'.
ACT is the only party with any new practical solutions.
ACT is the only party with policies to produce better education and health services.
ACT has policies to help grow the economy. How? Let's recognise we are a nation of small businesses. The husbands and wives who mortgage their homes to start businesses and offer employment don't deserve Jim Anderton as their unwanted partner - taking none of the risk and 50 per cent of the reward in taxes and user-charges.
ACT says we must reward small business people for their risk and effort, through lower taxes. ACT's pledge to voters is to treat taxpayers' money as carefully as we treat our own money. It is not the role of the tax system to redistribute wealth.
It is wrong for the government to use taxpayers' money to set up a highly risky Kiwibank. It was wrong for Helen Clark to spend $180 million on the arts when she couldn't find $14 million to extend the community card for subsidised health to the truly needy.
It's wrong for Helen Clark to defend the actions of Associate Minister Tariana Turia. In saying that, I don't want to give my critics a chance to again accuse ACT of racism. ACT's position is non-racist. ACT says the government of New Zealand should be colour blind. It shouldn't matter what race a person is.
If Matt Robson, as Minister of Corrections, was to say he has the right to intervene on behalf of European prisoners because they are quote "his people", that would be condemned as racist.
That is exactly Tariana Turia's position. Helen Clark says she deserves a medal. Helen Clark should fire Tariana Turia because that Minister has no idea that she is a Minister for all New Zealanders, not just Maori. She has a duty to treat every citizen, regardless of colour, the same.
At the heart of our system of Westminster democracy is the principle of equality before the law. ACT stands for this principle. This is reason alone to throw out this government.
We are being taken down a very dangerous path. It's a course that will end in tears. New Zealand can be a prosperous, successful nation - but only if we embrace the Liberal Vision. There is one party that advocates that liberal vision - that is why ACT must win the balance of power next election.