Hide: A Bold New Start
A Bold New Start
Thursday, 12 October 2006
Speeches - Other
Speech to ACT New Zealand 10th
Anniversary In Parliament Dinner, Romford's
Tamaki Yacht Club, Auckland, 7.30pm Thursday 12 October 2006.
It's great to be back amongst ACT's fellow travellers. Heather Roy and I have recently returned from a trip to Europe, and it's wonderful to be back in Auckland - and even back in Auckland's traffic.
While we were away, Heather and I met with think tanks, likeminded politicians and liberal leaders.
Catherine Judd used to say that we represented the world's only classical liberal party in parliament.
That may be so, but the liberal vision at the heart of our philosophy beats strongly around the world.
For the first time we have made significant contact with other parties which carry the liberal torch.
And we have seen how the desire for individual liberty, free trade and independence from government is present in every country.
Tonight we celebrate ten years of the liberal flame burning in New Zealand's Parliament.
Commentators said we weren't going to make it in 1996, and once we got to Parliament, they said we couldn't last.
Every election we were written off. Last year, almost every journalist in the country delivered our obituary.
But ACT is still here - and we will never give up.
After a decade of MMP, we remain the only completely new party elected from outside Parliament.
Giving up is not the Kiwi way.
Of course, we want more than to just survive.
We have never fought for bums on seats.
We didn't enter politics because we sought power.
ACT does not fight to defend privilege, or to take what belongs to others.
We are here because ACT believes in the simple right to live our lives as we see fit.
We're fighting for our country's future.
And we have achieved so much in these first ten years.
ACT has held both National and Labour governments to account.
We stopped the 'Parliamentary Palace', asked hard questions of the IRD and blocked the 'fart tax'.
We have never paused in promoting new ideas - many of which are now embraced by our political opponents.
Ideas like tax cuts, zero tolerance for crime, and an end to the treaty grievance process all came from ACT.
But no other party has yet accepted our broader philosophy, our principles, or our vision.
Despite being told we've had 22 years of reform, government spends more of taxpayers' money today than ever before.
That is why ACT still has unfinished business.
It would be easy to focus on our whakapapa, our heritage and our past, but our best is yet to come.
ACT's ideas were first implemented by a Labour government, which was dedicated to more freedom and choice.
Now we stand in opposition to a Labour government which is taking choices away.
After ten years, our values remain unchanged.
We stand for a strong society, a prosperous economy, and a quality of life that's the envy of the world.
But we know that these things will not be achieved just by focussing on short-term political headlines.
ACT's vision is to change more than the statute books - it is to change the way Kiwis think about government and community.
And our victory depends on real people - thousands of us - across the country.
The big challenge that we have faced since the last election was relevance.
With two MPs, people thought we might not be able to achieve much.
Yet since the election, Heather and I have put more Bills before Parliament than ACT had in any of the previous five years.
We have built bridges with other parties, and my Bill to cap local government rates came within a bauble's breadth of getting passed to Select Committee.
If other parties stick to their election promises, my Regulatory Responsibility Bill will pass.
That Bill makes government more accountable for all laws and regulations - like the Institute of Chartered Accountants says, my Bill "affords New Zealand a tremendous opportunity to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of government."
The Institute correctly notes that my Bill "is not another initiative to reduce business compliance costs. It is far more important. It is about reducing all regulatory costs and better realising potential benefits, whether they be financial, social or environmental and irrespective of where they fall."
The Institute says my Regulatory Responsibility Bill represents "a significant improvement to the infrastructure that produces our regulation. A comparison can be made with the improvements that have come from the Fiscal Responsibility Act. It is about making decision- making more transparent, accountable, consultative and robust. It is pro-democratic."
That's not bad for one private member's Bill.
We have spent the year debating big issues - tax, the environment, privatisation, health and constraining government.
I barely found time to learn to dance.
We know the answers to New Zealand's problems won't be found just by talking to other MPs. Heather and I have to get outside of Parliament, and deliver our message direct to Kiwis.
So we have taken every chance to talk to people about how ACT can make a real difference.
We will continue as a champion of Kiwi values and enduring ideas.
Ideas like individual liberty, caring for the environment and the freedom to trade.
Today these ideas endure in Parliament because of our members and supporters.
We do not claim to know all the answers to New Zealand's problems - in fact, we know that there is no satisfactory answer which government can impose.
Individuals, families and communities benefit when they can choose their own path forwards, instead of being made to follow one dictated by politicians.
What we can do is put politics in its place, and give families back the rights and responsibilities that both Labour and National governments have taken away.
I am proud to be leading ACT in our tenth year in Parliament - and to be the elected representative of Epsom.
But I am not here merely to keep a seat warm.
After ten years, ACT is the only party offering hope and a coherent vision of a better New Zealand.
At a time when the other parties have so much in common, we are the only ones who dare to talk about renegotiating the contract between Kiwis and our government.
We cannot afford to let squabbles between National and Labour interfere with the bigger challenges that confront New Zealand.
Like how we can restore democracy and participation in public life.
How we can build an economy for the long term, while caring for the environment.
How we can rebuild neighbourhoods, and make public services better.
We believe that the key to achieving these things is more transparency, greater accountability, and less politics.
ACT defends Kiwis who want to enjoy what's theirs, to make decisions and take responsibility for themselves, and who want to succeed.
That is the Kiwi Spirit, and they're what we mean when we say that ACT is a liberal party.
We know that political parties don't determine the future - individuals do. Together, we can change our country for the better.
Through enduring reforms.
We can never reinvent the past, but we can lay the foundations of the future.
Linking with Liberal parties around the world, we can usher in freedom and prosperity - not just for Kiwis - but for mankind.
It's a bold vision. It's a big goal.
But I've never been afraid of a challenge.
After all, the greatest trees grow from a single seed.
And this party will grow from Epsom, through Auckland, and around the country.
The people of Epsom guarantee that every Kiwi who supports ACT will count.
Our ideas will endure - ideas like constraining the growth of government.
Liberals understand that we need limits on what politicians can do, because otherwise they will use their power to political advantage, at the expense of taxpayers.
We would constrain local government through capping increases in local body rates, and central government, through a Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
A Taxpayer Bill of Rights works like my proposal to limit rates. Government's income would be capped at the level that it is now.
Not a single dollar would need to be cut from health or education, because government spending could grow with the population and inflation.
But politicians would have to live within that budget - unless taxpayers gave them explicit permission to spend more, through a binding referendum.
New programmes could be funded, by prioritising and spending money more wisely.
But if politicians wanted to reach deeper into the pockets of hard working Kiwis, they would need to ask taxpayers first.
After all, it's your money that politicians spend. They should have to account for how they spend it, and give you a damn good reason when they want to take more.
A Taxpayer Bill of Rights would put Kiwis in control of government spending.
It's a big ask - for politicians to give up their ability to reach ever- deeper into our pockets - but ACT has always stood for bold ideas.
A Taxpayer Bill of Rights would make New Zealand more democratic, and more prosperous.
Policies like this - making politics more transparent and politicians more accountable - will not only work, they will endure.
They will make our beautiful country more free.
They will return power and resources to individuals and communities.
ACT stands for a bold new start - a government that people can trust, and which trusts the people.
Together, we can tackle the big questions that confront our nation.
That is our challenge for the next ten years.