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Brash - Speech: Address-In-Reply

Brash - Speech: Address-In-Reply

Dr Don Brash

Leader of the Opposition

Address-In-Reply speech

February 1, 2005

Mr Speaker,

I move that this House has no confidence in the Government led by Helen Clark who, given the opportunity to outline her vision for New Zealand, has failed to even identify the big challenges which lie ahead for our nation; whose Government has confiscated from hard-working New Zealanders the fruits of the best international economic conditions we have enjoyed for many decades; and who sees our future as the creation of an all-powerful, all-knowing government, rather than the result of the kiwi spirit of enterprise, skill, innovation and hard work which resides with individual New Zealanders.

It seems that Helen Clark's idea of a vision speech amounts to no more than outlining what the Government will do with taxpayers' money.

I would like to thank the Prime Minister for clarifying that the Labour Party believes the Government is the solution to everything, and that individual responsibility and enterprise have no role in modern New Zealand.

This is a Prime Minister who continually confuses the efforts of New Zealand workers with the muddling efforts of a handful of Ministers.

She claims her Government has carefully built a surplus, but it was taxpayers who built that surplus - that is why families are struggling financially; that is why average real disposable incomes have not lifted at all under this Government; that is why the income gap between NZ and Australia continues to widen.

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Growth has been strong, yes, as it was through the 1990s. But it has had nothing to do with this Government.

The unemployment rate has come down because of that growth, as it did in the 1990s, but the numbers on Sickness and Invalids' benefits have risen by around 40% since this Government came to office.

Spending on health is up hugely, but to what effect? We have had a massive growth in bureaucracy, little impact on waiting lists and an actual decline in operations performed.

The overall crime rate is down - it has been falling ever since the early 1990s - but violent crime remains close to record highs. The biggest risk a violent criminal faces is getting a speeding ticket as he leaves the scene of the crime.

What Labour do not understand is that confiscating taxpayers' money and advertising a spending increase is simply not good enough. You have to get value for the taxpayers' money used.

That so-called vision speech was nothing more than election-year puffery - a collection of rambling, incoherent, meaningless feel-good phrases.

To listen to this superficial, politically correct and economically illiterate nonsense coming from Helen Clark is a depressing experience for all New Zealanders who want to get ahead in life.

This is a vision of big government, but small people.

A vision of well-funded bureaucracies, but struggling families.

This is Labour's vision of an ownership society: you earn it, but the Government will own most of it.

The reality is that this is a Government which will drag you, via high taxes, five steps back down the ladder of success, then use your money to lift you back up three, while kicking away the two rungs above you. And then expect your thanks.

This is a Government that thinks government has money to spend, rather than understanding that every dollar it spends has come from some hard-working taxpayer.

This is a Government that never examines its own spending decisions nearly as carefully as hard-working families have to do every week.

It is hard to know whether Helen Clark is really aware of what she is doing to working people in this country. She seems so enamoured with spending their money, and then offering some of it back to them in subsidies, grants and incentives, that she has lost sight of the fundamental unfairness of the transaction she is promoting.

Equally disturbing is that she is starting to sound like Steve Maharey - spouting an incoherent mess of bureaucratic weasel words.

She talks of the ownership society. But what most prevents many New Zealanders owning their own homes and other assets is the over-taxation of hard-working New Zealanders, which is the hallmark of this Government. The National Party and I strongly support the concept of home ownership, but Labour's tinkering won't offset the impact of over-taxation.

What Helen Clark will not do is state clearly where she stands on the major issues of the day. How can you outline a vision for New Zealand if you not only fail to address the major challenges which will determine this country's future, but don't even identify them?

I have identified quite clearly what I see as the pressing issues for New Zealand. And, unlike Labour, I am making it plain to the electorate just where the National Party and I stand on these issues.

Just over a year ago at Orewa, I outlined the National Party position on Treaty issues. I argued that government funding for education and healthcare should be based on need not on race; that separate Maori electorates, set up in 1867 as a temporary measure for five years, should finally be abolished; that the Crown should own the foreshore and the seabed; that Maori New Zealanders should have the same rights - no more and no less - as other New Zealanders under the Resource Management Act and the Local Government Act; that we should do away with vague and undefined references to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi in legislation and government documents; that we should accelerate the resolution of claims under the Treaty of Waitangi, and ensure that all claims are resolved, fairly, fully, and finally.

With a will, and the right government in place, all of this can be achieved, with Treaty settlements completed by 2010. National is committed to that goal.

The Labour Party is paying lip service to these issues. Under Labour there will be no end to the Treaty grievance industry, no end to the special treatment of Maori in the Resource Management Act or the Local Government Act, no abolition of separate Maori electorates, no end to political correctness in the education system which sees our children brain-washed with a revisionist version of New Zealand history - or should that be herstory.

I have made it clear that the next National Government will change all this.

Six months ago, I addressed the issue of Law and Order.

I made it clear that we would abolish parole for all repeat and violent offenders so that rapists and murderers, among others, are kept behind bars for their full court-imposed sentence. I made it clear that we would increase police numbers, require DNA testing for all people convicted of a crime, and amend the Proceeds of Crime Act to target organised crime more effectively. I've also made it clear that we would block Labour's plans to pay compensation to some of our most vicious criminals for their "hurt feelings".

I regard the range of measures I announced as a clear statement of National's willingness to defend the values that guarantee social cohesion and mutual trust, and of our determination to insist on the rule of law.

Labour has made some polite noises about dealing firmly with criminals, but the reality is a joke. Just last Sunday, the media reported the case of the leader of a Middle Eastern gang in Auckland, convicted of 22 offences of theft and burglary - offences to which he pleaded guilty - being sentenced to 200 hours of community service! This is Labour's idea of getting tough on crime.

During this past year I have also outlined National Party policy designed to solve the transport gridlock in our major cities; I have spoken on energy supply issues, on the environment and biosecurity; I have attacked the culture of big government that this Government is fostering, a culture that is evident in a bureaucratic nightmare strangling our health and education sectors in red-tape.

Together with my caucus colleagues, we have exposed the diversion of a stupendous amount of taxpayer money into programmes which have had no oversight by anyone with an ounce of common sense, and where there has been absolutely no accountability for the disastrous results.

If he had any sense of decency, Steve Maharey, the Minister who was in charge of the numerous rorts in the tertiary education sector and in social welfare, would have long since resigned; and if she had any, Helen Clark would have sacked him.

I have also attacked an emerging culture which accepts mediocrity, and which kills aspiration by penalising success.

Just over a month ago I outlined the National Party stance on taxation issues.

My speech focused on incentives. We need a tax system that rewards enterprise, rewards skill and rewards hard work. Yet today we have a tax system that punishes all these things.

Our tax rates are too high at all levels; our taxation of families is punitive; our tax and benefit system is destroying incentives for work and penalising those who work hard; it punishes those who save, and blocks their ability to build an ownership stake in society; and because of this our tax system is fundamentally unfair.

We want the initiative, energy, ideas, and drive that Kiwis have to be expressed and developed in this country, not exported across the Tasman.

Just last week I addressed the issue of entrenched welfare dependency.

We have around 15% of the workforce on benefits; add in the children of those working-age adults and we have more than the equivalent of Christchurch and Dunedin combined.

Our forbears would be aghast if they could see what has happened to the attitudes of personal responsibility, self-reliance, and independence which have been the essence of the Kiwi character.

As a result of the change in attitudes, a solo mother interviewed by an Auckland suburban newspaper saw nothing ironic in saying that, while the father of her daughter provided her with some financial support, "some solo mothers want independence and should not have to rely on fathers for financial support". Independence? What nonsense. Why should fathers escape their financial obligations - as they have increasingly been able to do under Helen Clark's Government - and oblige taxpayers to carry the burden?

And what about those who, already on the DPB, have several additional children? Nobody pretends it is easy to deal with this situation, but there is surely something fundamentally wrong with a system which allows, perhaps even encourages, women to have more and more babies on the DPB - and at last count, there were more than 6,000 women on the DPB who have had two or more children while on the DPB, more than 1,700 women who have had three or more children while on the DPB.

Helen Clark seems content to tolerate that situation. National is not.

We need to remind ourselves that welfare benefits are funded from the taxes levied on those who go out to work each day, including the tens of thousands of New Zealanders who work overtime or take second jobs on very modest incomes, and who find themselves little or no better off than their beneficiary neighbour or relative as a consequence.

These are New Zealanders who are trying to do the right thing, by themselves, by their families, and by other taxpayers. For them, this transfer of income to fund welfare - on average $50 per week for every worker - takes place at a huge cost to their ability to save, to educate their children, to buy their own home. These are the New Zealanders Helen Clark has forgotten.

And these are the New Zealanders whose attitudes of self-reliance and personal responsibility will be massively undermined by the Working For Families package; because that package will mean the self-reliant will end up in much the same financial position as those who don't make the effort, who don't take on responsibility, who don't do the overtime or take on an extra job, and who don't invest in building marketable skills.

The Labour vision has pulled the plug on aspiration, and drained away the confidence people have in building a future in this country. As a result, we are bleeding talent overseas.

The massive inflow of new migrants required to replace these losses threatens to change the nature of our society more abruptly than is healthy, and more decisively than most of us want.

This is no way to build a nation with a common set of values and sense of purpose.

>From talking to New Zealanders, it is clear there are many aspects of the way New Zealand is developing that concern them.

Part of it is economic - we don't seem to be able to generate jobs that pay enough, and we grossly overtax hard-working people.

Part of it reflects inadequacies in our social policies: our health system seems always to be lurching from crisis to crisis; our education system is failing about a quarter of our children, and is achieving mediocre results for many of the rest.

Part of the problem reflects the fact that our communities, especially the poorer ones, are becoming fractured: we have gone soft on crime, and are reaping the consequences; and our families are struggling to cope while this Government overtaxes them and wastes much of their money.

Part also is cultural and attitudinal - our policies punish enterprise and achievement, encourage acceptance of mediocrity and thus undercut aspiration.

Part of it is that we have allowed the goodwill symbolised by the Treaty settlement process to be swamped in a riot of race-based political correctness.

It is this interrelated set of concerns - part economic, part social policy, partly cultural and attitudinal - which lie behind the departure of so many New Zealanders from this country.

Turning this around will be the priority for the next National Government.

These are issues that the Labour Party is woefully ill equipped to deal with because their policies foster most of these problems, rather than solve them; in many cases Labour does not even recognise them as problems.

As we have just heard, the Labour vision has immense faith in a centralised bureaucracy, with all the social engineering that goes with it, but little faith in the common sense of ordinary people who would rather make their own decisions with their own resources.

The Labour vision has no role for competition to encourage innovation and service quality, but instead actively encourages state monopoly.

Labour policies are sending a terrible signal to the next generation of New Zealanders about how to get ahead in life.

There is a dismal lack of imagination from this Labour Government, an unwillingness to debate issues, a fear of new ideas, a fundamental gutlessness in standing up to the challenges we face. Helen Clark leads a Government enamoured with ideas that are 30 years out of date. Theirs is a classic tax-and-spend government.

And as it has become apparent that Labour's core values are wildly out of line with those of ordinary New Zealanders, this Government has even stopped standing up for principles they were proud to proclaim just a year or two ago. Rather than nailing their flag to the mast, so unprincipled has this Government become that Labour will go down with no flags flying.

What New Zealanders will be deciding at the next election is much more fundamental: what is fair and unfair, what is right and what is wrong.

It is right that we have one law for all; it is wrong that different races are treated differently.

It is right that violent and recidivist criminals should serve the sentence given them; wrong that they should be free after serving only one third of their sentence.

It is right that enterprise, initiative and sheer hard work be rewarded with lower taxes, and wrong that punitive taxation should stop people getting ahead in life.

It is right that the unemployed should be given financial support conditional on contributing to the community; wrong that we should pay them to be idle indefinitely.

I don't believe in a culture of envy; I believe in a culture of aspiration and achievement.

And a culture like that, when harnessed to shared values of compassion for those in need, and a determination to take care of the weak, the ill, and those who have simply stumbled upon bad luck, will produce a society we can all be proud of.

This is the sort of New Zealand the National Party represents and will be fighting for at the next election.


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