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John Key's "My Key Commitments To You" Speech

John Key: My Key Commitments to You Speech at National Party Campaign Opening Sky City, Auckland

It’s time for a change of Government. It’s time for a fresh start.

I stand before you today full of confidence about New Zealand’s future and full of the determination needed to lead that future.

Because I know you are looking for fresh leadership at this election and I am ready to step up and make sure you get it.

You are all rightly sick of political sideshows, bossy government, and yesterday’s fights. You’re sick to death of hearing about Winston Peters, and you’re sick of being told what to do.

You are looking for a Government that will focus on the issues that matter to you – a Government with a plan for economic recovery, and a Government with fresh ideas and the energy to meet the challenges this country faces.

At this election National is offering exactly that.

I am campaigning on strengthening our economy, on rising to the challenge presented by tough global conditions, and on delivering greater prosperity to New Zealanders and their families – because Kiwis are sick of struggling to keep up with the cost of living, they’re sick of worrying about soaring interest rates, and they’re sick of high taxes.

That’s what Labour has delivered for nine years and that’s what National is here to change.

I am campaigning on raising education standards, on running a crusade on literacy and numeracy, and on ensuring our schools are working for all students – because New Zealanders are sick of the long tail of underachievement in our schools, they’re sick of wondering how their children are really doing, and they’re sick of yesterday’s schools.

That’s what Labour has delivered and that’s what National is here to change.

I’m campaigning on improving safety in our communities, on cracking down on criminal gangs, on going to war on P, and on getting dangerous criminals off our streets – because New Zealanders don’t want LA-style gang crime, they don’t want spiralling youth crime, and they don’t want dangerous criminals on our streets.

That’s what Labour has delivered and that’s what National is here to change.

I’m campaigning on getting more out of our health system, on delivering shorter waiting times, on reducing bureaucracy, and on backing our doctors and nurses – because Labour has put in more of your money but they haven’t got the results, and that’s what National is here to change.

The Economic Context

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is no ordinary election campaign.

Because this election comes at a time when the global economy is in turmoil and at a time when we are all concerned about what the future may contain.

Unlike Labour, I’m not prepared to mislead the New Zealand public about the situation this country finds itself in.

I understand how tough times already are for many of you. I also understand that the events we’ve been seeing on our news bulletins each night – the diving sharemarkets, the bank bailouts, the collapsing firms – though seemingly far away, have and will continue to have real implications for many New Zealanders.

I won’t continue Helen Clark’s business-as-usual farce.

A National Government will rise to these challenges.

We have been monitoring the build-up in problems in the financial markets over the past several months, and particularly in recent weeks, and the scale of intervention by other governments.

We have kept in close contact with the Reserve Bank, and I am satisfied that its current plans are sufficient at this stage to maintain confidence in the New Zealand financial system over the coming months. Should it become necessary, however, National is committed to working with the Reserve Bank to ensure financial stability. We will do what needs to be done to keep our financial system strong.

But I’m also here to tell you that something has to change.

Because Labour doesn’t have what it takes to get us through this one. They have ignored the evolving economic crisis and they have done so at your peril.

Getting through this storm will require an astute and economically focused Government.

Labour simply isn’t up to the task. They are fair-weather economic managers. They know how to spend your money and play with a surplus. But they don’t know how to boost economic growth and get value for your money.

Today, somewhere else in Auckland, they’re launching a campaign for re-election. They’ll be talking about economic transformation and listing a whole bunch of buzzwords.

Well you know what? Labour’s actions speak louder than their slogans. Because Labour had nine years of great global conditions.

Ask yourself this: Do you really feel better off?

You had nine years without a tax cut.

Interest rates doubled.

Inflation went through the roof.

The wage gap with Australia widened.

And more of your friends and family have left this country permanently.

It’s a shocking record, and Helen Clark and Michael Cullen should be judged by it.

Warren Buffett has a saying that, ‘You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out’. Labour managed to disguise their loose economic management in the good times, but now that the tide is out they are awfully exposed.

When Michael Cullen opened the books last week, what was his news for struggling Kiwis? A decade of deficits. A decade of deficits and what’s he planning to change? Absolutely nothing.

Worse than that, he revealed almost 60 fiscal risks – extra spending promises to add to the red ink.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Michael Cullen’s number just came up. And he signed his valedictory in red ink. Because New Zealand can’t afford our fair-weather Finance Minister any longer.

Only National will show the discipline and resolve needed to ensure Kiwis can have financial security in the years ahead. Only National can make the most out of every taxpayer dollar. And only National can get New Zealand out of the red ink.

National’s economic management plan

Earlier this week, while Helen Clark was announcing another business-as-usual purchase of a $40 million estate for DOC, I released National’s economic management plan.

It’s a plan to bring discipline to government spending, to reduce red tape, to reduce personal taxes, to boost infrastructure investment, and to raise education standards.

It’s a recovery plan to ensure our country and our families get through these tough times.

Some say it has not done enough. Some say it does too much. Some say we should have cancelled all tax cuts and battened down the hatches.

I’ve got a few points to make about it.

First, let me be clear: National’s tax reductions on April 1 next year will come right when our economy needs them.

It would be absolutely wrong to tighten the screws on the economy at this point. It would cost people jobs and it would grind our economic engine to a halt. What our country actually needs is a boost. Reducing taxes will stimulate the economy and that is what we will sorely need by April next year.

Second, National’s plan faces the fact that we must lift productivity in this country.

Labour has a dreadful record on productivity and National will do better. That starts by sorting out the Beehive’s own backyard and getting some productivity improvements in the public sector – reducing administration costs, cutting red tape, pushing money into frontline services.

We will do that, Labour won’t do that. End of story.

Third, National’s plan recognises that lifting productivity also means removing the bottlenecks in the economy – the roading problems and the creaky communications networks that are holding business back. That’s why National will fix the Resource Management Act and that’s why we’ll invest more in the infrastructure the economy needs to grow.

Fourth, lifting productivity also means encouraging businesses to invest.

The guys in red like to talk about this idea. But let me tell you something. I’ve had a bit more to do with business than them and it’s actually more straightforward than they think.

The number 1 reason that private companies invest is because they are profitable and feeling positive about the future. All the R&D credits in the world won’t cut it if companies aren’t making any money. We have to get the fundamentals right first.

Finally, a Government that cares about the future of our children and our grandchildren simply must have a plan for digging us out of deficit. That’s what National’s plan will do. It won’t be an easy task.

So it’s no surprise that Labour has nothing to say on this one.

Only National has the backbone needed to deliver for our children and dig this country out of deficit.

But there is no free lunch. The road out of deficit involves making some hard choices.

And we’ve done that.

We’ve been straight-up and said that in its current form, Labour’s gold-plated KiwiSaver scheme isn’t affordable. It’s not affordable for the three out of four working-aged Kiwis who haven’t joined, and it’s not affordable for the Kiwi taxpayer.

National’s plan will get us more quickly out of deficit, but not yet as quickly as I would like.

If we’re to get New Zealand out of deficit before this year’s new entrants go to secondary school then we must grow our economy faster.

I know we can do it.

You want to know why? Because I’ve actually worked in the world of finance and business. Helen Clark hasn’t. I’ve actually picked up a struggling business and made it grow. Helen Clark never has. And I’ve actually got stuck into a business, trimmed its sails, and delivered some profits to its shareholders.

And that’s what I am determined to do for this country.

Key commitments

In laying out our economic plan, National has been very clear about our priorities.

We all know what will be the first to go under Labour, whether they want to admit it or not, and that is the rest of their tax-cut package.

Well, unlike Labour I’m going to be straight-up about my priorities. That’s why I’m sending a card to all of you. It’s called My Key Commitments to You and it will be delivered to every household in New Zealand over the next 10 days.

In it are 11 commitments that I make to you.

Some people might suggest it’s similar to the pledge card Helen Clark has previously released.

Well, there are several differences, but let me tell you the really big difference. This one is not paid for by taxpayers. Our commitment card is proudly paid for by supporters of the National Party. Unlike Helen Clark, we’re not breaking the law to make someone else pay for it.

Let me tell you what it says.

If National is elected to lead the next Government, I personally guarantee we will deliver on the following 11 key commitments.

Number 1, we will strengthen the economy, increase after-tax incomes, and ensure Kiwis can get ahead under their own steam by reducing personal taxes on 1 April 2009, 1 April 2010 and 1 April 2011.

Under National you won’t have to wait nine years for tax reduction. We will deliver tax reduction five months from now, on 1 April 2009. And unlike Labour we won’t cancel our tax cuts.

We’ll get New Zealand through this recession and on to a growth path.

Number 2, we will maintain and build New Zealand’s asset base by increasing investment in infrastructure such as roads, broadband, and public transport, and by not selling Kiwibank or any other state-owned company.

I’m not interested in selling assets – I’m all about building assets.

We need to unblock the bottlenecks in New Zealand’s economy. We need to make sure there aren’t barriers in the way of productive growth. We need to invest in the breakthrough technology that will get us up to speed with the rest of the world.

Number 3, we will ensure government spending is focused on frontline services such as health and education by capping the number of bureaucrats and putting real discipline around government spending.

If I am elected Prime Minister of this country on November 8, I will bring the chief executives of government departments together and give them a simple message: Your mission is to facilitate the development of a more successful, prosperous nation – not to stand in the way of those who seek to create that prosperity.

And my message to government employees will be just as clear: You must focus taxpayers’ money on the frontline services that New Zealanders have a right to expect. And you must scrutinise every dollar to make sure it is money well spent.

Labour has been a fair-weather Government in rosy economic times. Labour is used to being awash with cash and being able to waste your money. Well, the surpluses are now all gone. It’s time for a National Government that will get the most out of every single dollar.

Number 4, we will make our communities safer by ensuring the worst repeat violent offenders are not eligible for parole.

This week, an editorial in the New Zealand Herald suggested National won’t follow through on this policy. Well, I’ve got news for them. I am 100% committed to this policy and I will see that it is delivered. Because parole is a privilege not a right.

Some people say that’s not fair on criminals. Well, on this question, as on all law and order questions, I’m prepared to take a side. And that side is the side of law-abiding New Zealanders.

You have had to put up with escalating violent crime for too long. I’m determined to get on top of it.

Number 5, we will confront failure in our school system by setting National Standards in literacy and numeracy, requiring every pupil’s progress to be assessed and the results reported to parents in plain English.

I was able to get where I am today because I received a good education. Today, one in five children is leaving school without the qualifications and skills they need to succeed. Those kids are New Zealand’s future.

We’re going to tackle their literacy and numeracy problems early. We’ll make sure parents know how their child is really doing. And we’ll make sure teachers work with struggling kids to get them up to standard.

It’s time to put the rungs back on the ladder of opportunity.

Number 6, we will tackle our health workforce crisis by introducing voluntary bonding for new doctors, nurses, and midwives, and by boosting the number of funded medical student places by 200 over five years.

Health professionals are leaving this country in droves.

Labour has ignored this crisis. They’ve focused on the bureaucracy. We’ll focus on the front line. Simple as that.

Number 7, we will give families financial certainty by continuing all Working for Families payments at current levels, keeping 20 hours ECE, and keeping caps on doctors’ fees.

Mums and dads do some of the hardest work in the world.

I salute the families who juggle so many pressures, who turn up in their thousands to school sport, who help look after each other’s kids, and who do all they can to raise their children well. They deserve our backing.

My Government will support them, it will back them, and it will trust them to make their own choices about what is best for their kids.

Number 8, we will give seniors financial certainty by keeping the age of eligibility of NZ Superannuation at 65 and steadily increasing the amount of Super paid each week as a result of our personal tax cuts.

I pledge to keep NZ Super at 66% of the average after-tax wage.

Labour hasn’t made that pledge. Labour hasn’t put aside the funds for that pledge. Labour is hoping our seniors won’t notice.

Well, I won’t play games with our senior citizens. They have given their working lives to this country. My Government will be straight with them and we will make sure their Super payments rise every single year.

Number 9, we will encourage people to save for their retirement, while making it fairer and more affordable for everyone in these tighter economic times, by retaining KiwiSaver, with contributions at the 2% plus 2% level.

We know that 4% is a lot to ask from some people worrying about their credit card debt, trying to pay down their mortgage, or struggling to make ends meet.

We want young New Zealanders to be able to join KiwiSaver and stay in it for their working lives. Not to have to put off joining because 4% is too much of a stretch. Not to have to drop in and out.

So we will make KiwiSaver more affordable and more enduring – for those in it to today and for those who might join tomorrow. We’ll make KiwiSaver a 2 + 2 plan while preserving the right of those who want to contribute at higher levels, to do so.

Number 10, we will provide a safety net for those who are unable to work, by passing a law to maintain and inflation-index all benefit payments, while encouraging those who can work to go back to work.

I believe in the welfare state. I personally benefited from it when I was growing up and I will never turn my back on it. So I will work hard to protect the vulnerable from the sharp edge of a recession.

But I also believe in people getting ahead under their own steam. So we will do what it takes to get those who can work back to work.

Number 11, we will encourage students to get rid of debt sooner by keeping interest-free student loans and offering a 10% bonus on early repayments.

Young New Zealanders who are furthering their education, who are working hard, and who are gaining the skills this country needs, should know: We back them in that choice. We applaud their aspiration. We want them to contribute to this country.

We will make it easier for them to get rid of their debt and we will make sure they can see a brighter future here in New Zealand.

Because right now one in four of our tertiary-trained people live overseas. They don’t live there because they didn’t get a student allowance. They live there because they could see a brighter future outside New Zealand.

So National will work hard to show our young people that they can have a real future in New Zealand where their aspiration and effort will be rewarded.

Ladies and gentlemen, those are my 11 key commitments. I have signed them and I will see them through. If I am Prime Minister I will deliver more than these 11 commitments. I am campaigning on a fresh set of policies across many areas of government.

And most importantly, I am campaigning on bringing much-needed economic leadership to the Beehive.


I have absolute confidence that New Zealand can look forward to a brighter economic future.

My confidence in New Zealand’s future is based on my confidence in everyday New Zealanders.

Kiwis are resilient. You will do what you have to do to get through this recession and get through it well. You just need the confidence that things will improve and that your Government will deliver.

I am here to give you that confidence.

Ladies and gentlemen, at this election, New Zealanders have a clear choice.

When you wake up on Sunday the 9th of November what do you want to see?

Do you want more of the same? The same directionless economy? The same political games and distractions? The same loose management of your money? The same excuses, buck-passing, and the same failure to deliver real results?

Because that is what you will get from the Labour Party.

Or do you want fresh leadership focused on the issues that matter to you? Fresh leadership with a fresh focus on the economy and your financial prosperity. Fresh ideas, fresh solutions and fresh resolve. The will needed to turn this economy and this country around.

Because that is what you will get if you vote National.

So, for the next four weeks, I’ll be campaigning on New Zealand’s shared aspirations for the years ahead.

Ladies and gentlemen, in 27 days New Zealanders can have a more ambitious future. A more successful future. A brighter future. A future they can believe in.

My friends, it’s time for a change. Let’s go out and deliver it.


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