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John Key Speech To Regional Conference

John Key MP

Leader of the National Party

27 May 2007

National: Tough on Crime

Speech to the Central North Island Regional Conference, Rotorua

It's a real pleasure to be addressing the Central North Island Regional Conference as Leader of the National Party.

It's wonderful to be joined today by eight caucus colleagues from this region, two of whom were new to Parliament at the 2005 election. This line-up is proof that the National Party is in great heart. I am hugely proud to be leading this wonderful party of ours. It’s a privilege to be your leader.

The National Party is built on age-tested principles that reflect what is best about New Zealand. We are a party of enterprise; a party of personal freedom and individual responsibility; a party of family; an inclusive party; a party of ambition. We believe in every individual's capacity to shape their own life, and we believe in this great country of ours.

Today, I would like to thank every member and volunteer here who helps make this party strong. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the work of National Party Regional Chair Jo Stuart, and Party President Judy Kirk. The efforts of our members are what keep us vibrant; keep us connected and make us heard. So to you, party members, thank you.

I am excited about what lies ahead for us and I have a crystal clear message for all of you: National is absolutely committed to winning the next election. And the one after that. And the three after that!

We have the drive. We have the fresh ideas. We have the people. And we have more Kiwis behind us than any other party in this country.

Let me tell you, I am determined to lead National to Government in 2008. I am determined to serve all New Zealanders with the strength, the courage and the energy that they deserve.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we must be determined.

The mission before us

A great mission lies before us. New Zealand is at a critical juncture in its history. Big winds are blowing in our direction.

The explosion of the Internet is bringing billions of potential customers within our reach. Our booming and ever-wealthier Asian neighbours are reaching out for new services and new products. People everywhere are seeking safe and green havens in an increasingly unstable and dirty world.

New Zealand is uniquely placed to respond to these global forces. We need to harness the opportunities they bring and ensure every Kiwi can use them to build a better life.

We must act now to give the New Zealanders of tomorrow maximum opportunities, security and choices. These are our children and grandchildren I am talking about. As we have had

the gift of a great country, so must they. That's why I want to lead a National-led Government.

New Zealand has to be more ambitious, more outward-looking, and more responsive than ever before. We need to maximise the contribution of every single New Zealander.

Tragically, Labour is running dial-up policies in a broadband world. To steer this country forward we've got to change tack. We've got to change the crew in Cabinet, and above all – we've got to change the Captain!

National is ready to lead

The National Party is ready to ratchet this country's dreams up a notch.

Our caucus is in cracking shape. I am proud to lead a group of men and women who are experienced, driven, and in tune with everyday New Zealanders.

It was no accident that Labour lost 10 electorate MPs in the last election. Those MPs were booted out because they had lost touch with their voters. New Zealanders chose National MPs to replace them because National MPs can be trusted to listen and work hard for the causes their constituents care about.

This region’s representatives are proving that to be true.

• The Bay of Plenty’s Tony Ryall

• East Coast’s Anne Tolley

• Taranaki-King Country’s Shane Ardern

• Piako’s Lindsay Tisch

• Coromandel’s Sandra Goudie

• Tauranga’s Bob Clarkson

• Hamilton East’s David Bennett

• And, of course, Georgina Te Heuheu

Those MPs have got their teeth into real issues and they've put their hearts into their work. National is lucky to have them. And we're lucky to have a formidable Shadow Cabinet that is taking it to Labour like never before.

While Labour's Ministers spend time asking each other patsy questions our MPs ask the hard questions – the questions that matter. National is a great team. We are firmly united and we are ready to govern this country.

New Zealand wants National

And it's not just me who thinks it. New Zealand thinks it.

For the past six months, I've had the privilege of travelling New Zealand from city to town talking to the people who make our country tick. I've been to places like McGehan Close and met people like Aroha Ireland, a young girl with big dreams for her future. I've milked cows in Horowhenua. I've visited primary schools in Canterbury. I've met with iwi in Ruatoria.

In every one of these places I have found people who are quietly cheering for the National Party. Sure, there are plenty who are loudly backing us, but there's something else happening as well.

Even people who voted for Labour in 2005 are telling me they don't think Clark and Co represent the future of this country.

Kiwis are sensing what I see every time I return to Parliament: Helen Clark has lost her mojo. Turns out she lost her Taito as well. Labour has lost the pulse of the people and it has lost New Zealanders' hearts. 'Third -term- itis' has well and truly sunk in. It's up to National to ensure this 'third -term- itis' is terminal.

Labour's attempt to blame every problem and crisis on past governments has lost credibility. They have had nearly eight years, a fair shot by any definition. Sure, Clark and her crew are experienced now. But is it good experience? No, it's not. The bulk of Labour's so-called experience is in the dark arts of ducking for cover and shirking responsibility.

New Zealanders are impatient for fresh thinking. That’s’ why they’re looking to National.

The National Party will win the next election because people can trust us to stand up for their aspirations. National will applaud ambition, we’ll back everyday Kiwis, and we’ll stand up for the things that matter.

The three ‘Es’

In the lead-up to election 2008, National will announce policies that flesh out our vision for a better New Zealand.

There are three themes that I will keep coming back to as I lay out my vision: the economy, education and the environment. I will keep coming back to those three 'Es' because they are the things that I think will be vital to New Zealand's success in our rapidly changing world.

The first ‘E’ is the economy. National will emphasise this theme because we are committed to delivering New Zealanders the fruits of a wealthier country. Make no mistake – Labour’s policies are seeing us fall further and further behind the rest of the world. The recent Budget did absolutely nothing to alleviate that slide.

Michael Cullen has given up on growing our economy, instead he’s preparing for retirement: Labour’s retirement.

Well, National is a lot more ambitious than that. We think Kiwis deserve higher wages and lower taxes during their working lives, as well as a good retirement. That’s why we will pursue economic policies and infrastructure development that will keep New Zealand competitive on the world stage. Make no mistake – Bill English’s first Budget will include tax cuts.

The second “E” is education. There’s no doubt that New Zealand’s future growth will require a better-educated workforce.

At a bare minimum, we need to do something about the one-in-five children who are failing at school. That's why, in a speech last month, I announced our policy of setting national standards in reading, writing and maths – requiring all primary schools to test kids against those standards and ensuring the results are reported to parents.

Labour has rejected this idea. They think it's cruel to measure achievement and highlight failure. I'll tell you what I think is cruel – robbing struggling kids of a future by turning a blind eye to their troubles. That's what's really cruel.

Over the next few months you can look forward to more education announcements, including how National plans to fix the mess of the NCEA.

Finally, we come to the third ‘E’, the environment.

National won't sit back and let the political Left act as if it has a monopoly on environmental policies.

New Zealand's clean green environment is vital to our unique Kiwi lifestyle, and National is committed to preserving that lifestyle for future generations. Our environment is also vital to the clean green brand that New Zealand sells to the world.

In the years ahead, global consumers will look closely at our brand through the lens of climate change. Consumers will demand not just “green” products but climate-friendly products. National is committed to positioning New Zealand to turn that demand into a great opportunity.

That’s why last week we announced our ’50 by 50’ climate-change target and a series of measures for achieving that target. This target is comparable with targets being set by other developed nations and it makes sense for New Zealand's agriculture-intensive economy.

So those are the three 'Es': the economy; education; and the environment. They are the things that, done better, will help ratchet New Zealand up a notch.

Rest assured that they are not the only issues National will concern itself with. We aren’t going to make rash promises to do everything for everyone – most of the time Kiwis don’t want the Government poking its nose into their lives. But there are some things that we think a Government must do and that Labour is failing to get right.

Law and Order

Today I’d like to spend some time talking about one such area – law and order. This is an area where, even measured by its own yardstick, Labour has failed.

Labour came to power saying it would be tough on crime, and tough on the causes of crime.

Well, Labour should ask Karl Kuchenbecker's family if they think they've lived up to that promise. Karl Kuchenbecker – a good man, a father of two young boys – was killed by a man on parole.

He was killed by a brutal man who police wanted back in prison. He was killed by a man who should have been locked up for life.

I'll tell you what I think about that. I think a Government responsible for a tragedy of that magnitude has well and truly lost the right to call itself tough on crime. A Government I lead will not put up with that.

Under my watch the worst offenders – the repeat violent offenders like Graham Burton – will not get parole. National will make sure our sentencing and parole laws are focused on keeping the public safe.

But that’s not the only part of law and order that National will get tough on. There is more to being tough on crime than locking people up. We need to look at the big picture here.

As I said in my speech at the Burnside Rugby Club earlier this year, when I talk to New Zealanders they tell me they are worried. They are worried about the growing number of LA-style gangs; worried about teenagers tagging their neighbourhoods; and worried about bullies threatening the communities in which they used to feel safe.

They are right to be worried. Criminals are committing more violent offences in New Zealand than ever before. The number of robberies, grievous assaults and abductions are climbing. There were 11,000 more of these violent offences last year than there were in the year Labour came to power.

If those numbers don’t mean much to you, consider this: there’s now a violent offence in New Zealand every 10 minutes.

So what can we do about it? I’ll tell you what – we can do a lot more than Labour is doing. We must do a lot more than Labour is doing.

We can tackle crime in a number of areas:

• We can work to prevent young people embarking on a life of crime.

• We can crack down on thugs who are getting away with criminal behaviour.

• We can do a better job of respecting victims’ rights.

• And we can clean up our prisons.

Later this year, National will be releasing a law and order discussion paper which will propose sound policies in each of these areas. Today I’m going to give you the outline of our approach.


I want to make one thing clear. I don’t make excuses for criminal behaviour because I believe every individual is responsible for their actions and must be held accountable for them.

Not all criminals come from deprived families and not all deprived families breed criminals. But the truth is we’ve got a growing underclass in this country. Helen Clark can deny it all she likes, but the vast majority of Kiwis agree with me.

We need to be honest and acknowledge there are certain factors that make it more likely that people will become criminals. We need to do what we can as a country to eliminate those factors.

Some of this stuff is pretty commonsense, but Labour just isn’t doing it right. Labour has been soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime.

We need to start at the formative year of people’s lives. We need to give all kids a decent education – and that includes making sure they turn up to school in the first place. Under Labour, around 32,000 kids are playing hooky in any given school week.

Kids need to have some meaning in their lives or there is a high risk they will go off the tracks and end up on drugs and in a gang. I’ve visited plenty of community groups this year that are doing a great job of turning lives around – one by one, little by little.

National will turbo-charge the efforts of those groups, not just sit in an ivory tower coming up with government scheme after government scheme. That’s why in recent months I’ve announced a series of policies to back charities and the voluntary sector.

National will work hard to get people off the conveyor belt of crime.


We will also crack down on those who are already committing crime.

National will not expect any community to put up with violence and anti-social behaviour. Giving Kiwis security requires plenty of police on the beat for sure, but it’s also about giving police the right priorities.

As it is, police are required to spend too much time collecting revenue from speeding tickets and not enough time on the beat. That’s not the fault of the police – that’s the Government’s fault. Clark and Cullen are so used to siphoning money from your pockets that they expect the police to do it for them as well. I’m not advocating speeding – people should obey the speed limit. But when it comes to police time and effort it’s a question of priorities.

Don’t just think, though, that the responsibility for rejecting criminal behaviour falls solely on the police. Ordinary New Zealanders, politicians and government agencies have an important role to play.

Let me tell you a story that illustrates this.

In Auckland’s Mt Albert there’s a street called Range View Road. Range View Road is home to some good families trying to raise their children well. It’s also home to violent youth gangs. Those gangs have been terrorising the street for months – aggravated robberies, drugged-up people on ‘P’, and threatening behaviour had become common-place.

Things got so bad that this month the police warned Aucklanders to avoid visiting Range View Road altogether. If people can’t visit that street for fear of harm, imagine what it’s like to live there?

Most of the Range View Road troublemakers were living in one Housing New Zealand, Government-owned, property. The residents knew it and the police knew it. So one good resident said enough was enough and phoned her local MP. She waited one week, two weeks, three weeks, four weeks – and her local MP didn’t do a thing.

Then the story hit the papers. Suddenly, Housing New Zealand evicted the offending tenants. And the local MP, one Miss Helen Clark, spoke about how appalled she was about the misery those tenants had inflicted on their neighbours.

So I ask you: Why did it take our Prime Minister so long to act? Why, when there are thousands of people waiting for houses, should Housing NZ put a roof over the head of people who use that roof to engage in criminal activity? Clark may offer excuses but I say this: Not on my watch.

National will do better at preventing crime and we will do better at cracking down on criminals.

Victim’s rights

We also have a different approach to Labour when it comes to respecting victims.

It makes me sick to see how some victims of crime are pulled through the wringer while every bit of assistance is given to criminals.

In July last year, not far from here, Whetu Te Hiko murdered 66-year-old Lois Dear in the Tokoroa school classroom in which she had taught hundreds of young children. Te Hiko’s horrific crime shattered lives, terrorised a community and appalled a country.

So it’s no surprise that Lois’s son hopes that Te Hiko suffers in jail. I can understand that. What I can’t understand is why Mr McNeil was asked to tone down that message when he spoke to the courts. What is fair or just about that?

Justice must be served, but it’s not served by removing victims’ rights to speak the truth about the horror a criminal has put them through.

Where there is a balancing of rights to be done between criminals and victims, and where there is doubt about what action should be taken, I will take a side. And that side will be the side of the victim. I would much rather be the Victims’ Watchdog than the Minister for Criminal Sensitivities. I care how victims feel, not how criminals feel.

Finally, National intends to take a very different approach from Labour in the way we run New Zealand’s prisons.

Prison should be tough. Prisoners shouldn’t be waltzing around on the heated floors of the Milton Hilton, high on ‘P’ or cannabis, playing Playstations, watching blue movies and texting on cell phones. Prisoners should be focused on the stern tasks of getting off drugs and booze and developing the skills to lead a non-criminal life.

So why has Lois Dear’s son been getting threatening phone calls from people who are behind bars? Prisoners shouldn’t be using cell phones to harass victims. They shouldn’t be using cell phones – full stop.

They shouldn’t be using drugs, either. Our prison service is so lax under Labour that prisoners can get their hands on pretty much whatever goodies they please. Things have gotten so bad that in recent weeks 20 prison guards have been suspended for corrupt behaviour.

Meanwhile, it has been clear that not enough prisoners are being put through the kind of courses that might help break the cycle of crime.

Sure, it’s expensive to provide more of these courses, but the money can be found if the priorities are right. Labour has spent $11 million landscaping new prisons. For $11 million we could put 2,200 inmates through a drug treatment programme to help get them off ‘P’.

Something is very, very wrong in our prison system. National’s Justice Spokesman, Simon Power, has called for new leadership and I back him 100% in that call. I also back his efforts to get an inquiry into how far the rot has spread. I challenge Helen Clark to tell me why the public don’t deserve that.

A Government I lead will have firm policies in law and order and we will respect the rights of victims. From McGehan Close, to Range View Road, to the Milton Hilton – from preventing crime, to policing crime, to punishing crime – National must do better than Labour is doing. And we will.

Yesterday’s gone

Before I leave you today, let me sound a warning. The National Party is up against a desperate, dying Government.

As Labour becomes panicked about the prospect of leaving office, you can expect them to resort to a cynical game.

There may well be big spending promises and there may well be unfounded accusations against National. But in the end, Helen Clark will resort to what she knows. And what she knows are the battles of the 1980s and ‘90s.

National must not be tempted to engage in those never-ending debates. Kiwis don't want to resurrect the mothballed decisions of history. We owe a debt to those who came before us, but we do not honour them by re-entering the battles that have already been won and lost.

We must not allow Helen Clark to dress our new national conversation in the dated clothes of yesterday.

We are in a new century and a new millennium, with different and more complex challenges. The debates that Clark cut her political teeth on are over.

The next election will not be a choice between where we are and where we've been. The next election will be about where we go next.

It's time to turn the page. I'm impatient for tomorrow – New Zealand is impatient for tomorrow.

A new generation is ready to take the helm. It's time to put National on board and welcome the winds of change. Only National has the vision. Only National has the energy. Only National can map out the future this country deserves.

Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow National Party members, there is plenty of work to do. Strong tides have brought us here; and there are stronger tides to come; get yourselves ready, we're going to need all hands on deck.

Thank you.


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