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Influence, Not Power

Influence, Not Power

Friday 28 Nov 2003 Richard Prebble Speeches -- Other

ACT Scenic South Regional Conference Leader's Speech November 29, 2003 Rydges Hotel, Queenstown

It is good to be here today in beautiful Queenstown, in Gerry Eckhoff country, in the Scenic South for ACT's Southern Regional Conference.

While the party has had a challenging three weeks, while I was away, I am able to report that the ACT party has had our most successful year in our history.

No matter how you measure it, membership, fundraising, public opinion polling, this has been our best post election year.

But ACT is a new sort of party. We are a party that seeks influence not power.

Values not politics.

The political commentators have never understood ACT. They have tried to label us as they do the old political parties. When ACT first stood, the media ignored the party. Although ACT put out detailed manifesto policy papers, carefully budgeted policies and our figures were checked by a leading accounting firm, still no coverage was given.

ACT identified major issues facing the country. First New Zealand's economic growth was below that needed to become a first world nation.

ACT identified that too many pupils were leaving school unable to read.

It was ACT that first said that the country could not afford a welfare system supporting 200,000 able-bodied working age adults and growing larger every year.

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ACT alone said we need a timetable to end the treaty grievance industry, by fair, full, and final settlements.

It was ACT that pointed out the first duty of government is to protect the security of the nation. We need to resolve our difficulties with Australia and the USA.

At home we need to crack down on crime. End our revolving door prison system and have a zero tolerance approach to crime.

It was as if ACT, the new party, was fighting one election, and the old parties another.

Despite being written off as extreme, ACT got elected and is the only party under MMP to have held and grown our vote every election.

But our real success is our influence.

The five-point plan put forward by Dr Brash could have been written by ACT.

In fact we did write it, at conferences like this.

Labour has adopted the goal of New Zealand being in the top half of the OECD. Where did the government get that idea? From ACT, from conferences like this. At our conference in 2001 we adopted the goal of New Zealand being 10^ by 2010, 10^th in the OECD by 2010. ACT leads, the other parties follow.

Now both old parties have acknowledged we must close the wealth gap or we will lose a whole generation of New Zealanders to Australia.

It was ACT that pointed out the education failure. Too many pupils leave school unable to read.

Donna Awatere Huata is a disgrace and should resign but let us not forget why she was selected.

Education failure, especially by Maori, is a national catastrophe.

ACT has not abandoned our stand that the public near monopoly school system has failed. We need to give more choices in order to lift school standards.

Both the old parties now acknowledge there is a problem.

Labour, alone in the OECD, refuses to acknowledge that ever expanding welfare is not sustainable. It was a Democrat President, Bill Clinton, who reformed welfare in America. It is a Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair who is attempting welfare reform in Britain. Only in New Zealand is there a refusal to acknowledge the issue of welfare trapping adults into dependency.

So I was pleased to see Dr Brash included it in his agenda.

And to see his statement that as a nation we need to deal finally with historical grievances.

When ACT's Derek Quigley introduced his Treaty of Waitangi Settlement Bill to set a timetable for full, fair, and final settlements, every party, including New Zealand First were against this. Last election, every party, with the exception of the Greens, said there must be a timetable for settlements and ending claims.

Winston Peters actually just photocopied ACT's policy and put his party's name on it.

ACT's also winning on the issue of crime. Both old parties in government have been soft on crime.

Labour believes crime is the result of society and it follows they think the criminal is also a victim. So they think punishment is wrong and punishing for crime has been removed from the statute book.

We in ACT believe in personal responsibility. People choose to commit crimes and should be held to account.

ACT has introduced a fresh idea to the debate. Active policing does work.

Communities like New York have shown we can make our neighbourhood safe.

This is an issue ACT will win.

On my recent visit to America, I visited New York; I went to see people like Harvey Rosen from the District Attorney's Office in Manhattan. He told me he was a Democrat and thought Mayor Guilliani was nuts when he said he would reduce crime and he was starting by cracking down on graffiti.

But as, Rosen admitted, it's worked.

I felt safer on the streets of New York than I do on the streets of Auckland.

We will abolish parole because it does not work. We will send criminals to serve their full court imposed sentence because that works. You cannot rob, steal, rape, and murder when you are in jail. We will introduce zero tolerance for crime policing and make our neighbourhoods safe for our children.

I was pleased to see Dr Brash acknowledge that this government's foreign policy has failed.

It is said never make a doctor a minister of health, a general, minister of defence and now we must add, a political scientist, Prime Minister.

New Zealand today is more isolated than ever before in our history. This government's biggest failure is in foreign policy and defence an area our Prime Minister will not accept official's advice because she believes that she is the expert.

It is pointless for the government to blame Australia, the UK, and the USA for our isolation. It is this country that is isolated. It is this country that is left out of free trade talks.

It is this country that needs to resolve the isolation. Only a centre-right government can forge a new relationship with our traditional allies and achieve new trade access for our exports.

Dr Brash's five-point plan demonstrates how important ACT is.

In a parliament without ACT, those issues would not be debated.

I recall being on a panel with Michael Cullen, Bill English, Peter Dunne, Rod Donald and Winston Peters in front of a business audience in the 1999 election.

Michael Cullen said that a Labour government would introduce the knowledge economy. Agriculture, he told us was a sunset industry.

National agreed with this rubbish and National had a plan, which we have now all forgotten to divert investment from agriculture to the new Knowledge industries.

I alone said they were talking nonsense. "Human beings had not stopped eating and the world demand for quality agriculture product was going to grow", I said.

"It was not government's role to divert investment into knowledge industries.

It is government's role to create a climate where the private sector can invest to create jobs, growth and prosperity."

I also said that the only advantage of politicians predicting where to invest, was as a guide to what not to do.

If Labour and National say agriculture is a sunset industry, I predicted it was "going to be one hell of a sunset".

Of course, the two old parties would like us to now forget their solemn statements regarding agricultures demise.

And we must also remember Labour was elected claiming that the Rogernomics/Ruthenasia reforms have failed.

Helen Clark used to give a silly speech talking about the lost decade of the nineteen nineties.

She does not give that speech any more because Labour has kept most of the Roger Douglas/Ruth Richardson reforms.

The deregulated financial sector, the independent Reserve Bank, the end of subsidies, the public sector reforms, the SOE model, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the floating exchange rates, and the commitment to more free trade.

Clark has also dropped that silly speech because New Zealand in the nineties grew at a faster rate than this country has for thirty years.

Our growth rate is up and our unemployment is down.

Let us not let Labour get away with now claiming the credit for policies they campaigned against.

On my visit to North America I visited leading Think Tanks.

At the Cato Institute they pointed out that in their Economic Freedom Index New Zealand is fourth.

"The others must be awful", I said.

"Every country always says there must be a mistake", they said. "The ones at the bottom say that things are not that bad and the ones at the top say that they are not that free."

The Fraser Institute, the influential Canadian Think Tank said their research showed a direct co-relationship between freedom and economic performance.

This is a message we must deliver. As New Zealand has risen on the freedom index so has our prosperity.

We need to also point out that we are the far side of the earth.

Just reaching the same standard won't do it.

We have to be leading edge or no one will come to the edge.

Our tax rates must be lower, our business environment friendlier, our school standards higher, our welfare system more effective, and our streets safer.

So where to from here?

The ACT caucus was at a retreat when Dr Brash won the National party leadership. We have won. Can we disband and go back to our more rewarding careers?

Then National's caucus elected Nick Smith and we realised our job was not


We have had a victory. We have not won the war.

ACT's agenda will be the issues that the next election is fought on.

But setting the agenda is just the first stage.

Having got economic growth, education standards, welfare reform, racial separatism, personal and national security on the agenda, ACT must now provide the practical positive solutions.

The old parties won't.

Fortunately ACT does have fresh ideas and workable solutions for each issue.

I sincerely believe that if ACT did not exist, National would not have changed direction.

The centre-right cannot succeed without ACT.

All the other parties know that.

I predicted to my caucus we would come under even more attacks. We have. I predicted that our polling will fall, it has.

We will come through this.

Donna Awatere Huata will be ejected from Parliament. If the Speaker won't do his duty, the courts will.

Deborah Coddington will come through these personal attacks. It is American personality politics to attack an MP for the activity of a spouse. It is not often I agree with Helen Clark. When there was media criticism of the Minister of Immigration's husband's conduct, Helen Clark was quoted in the Herald as saying, "I am really not going to accept responsibility for the spouses of members. I have enough trouble accepting responsibility for my own".

In my case, I am Doreen's responsibility, but maybe that's because it's the guys who are usually the problem.

Deborah Coddington is the best MP of any party elected in the last election.

Her new book `Let Parents Choose' is going to be the catalyst to lifting education standards and she is going to be an MP of great influence.

I said to her prior to her selection when she said that her husband's businesses were in some strife, that we were selecting her, not her socialist partner.

She is the MP, not him.

Is not the left interesting?

I note not one lefty has come to Alister Taylor's defence.

While I sympathise with those he owes money to, I acknowledge that he has been New Zealand's most influential publisher in the last thirty years.

Books that have changed the way we think and look at our country have only been printed because of him.

It's a shame he is so hopeless with money.

Deborah will come through this storm in a teacup.

New Zealanders will see that ACT is the party that is addressing the real issues of concern with real solutions.

Politics has just become interesting again.

The centre right is now a viable alternative government.

Labour has run out of ideas, policy and vision.

The next election is going to be a real contest.

The future is ours.

While this has been our best year, the best is yet to come.

Where ACT is winning is in the contest of ideas. ACT has recognised that elections are about ideas, not power.

Labour can only win by adopting centre-right policies.

Let me leave you with this thought.

What is more important than our policies are our values.

ACT is the only party to recognise that values are what democracy is really about.

The electorate does not share the politically correct, anti family, anti business, anti- personal responsibility values of Margaret Wilson and Helen Clark.

We do not raise our children telling them that they have no responsibility and it's all societies fault.

No, we teach our children the values of honesty, hard work, thrift and personal responsibility. That their own effort does matter.

These are the values this country was founded upon.

They are the values of our fellow New Zealanders. They are the values we want our government to be founded upon.

Values not politics are the reason why ACT is going to continue to be the party to influence our nation's direction.


For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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