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Speech: Dunne - UnitedFuture 2011 Conference

Speech Notes
Embargoed until 10am

Hon Peter Dunne
Leader of UnitedFuture

Address to the UnitedFuture 2011 Conference

21 August, Newlands, Wellington

'Fairness and Choice'

Good morning and a warm welcome to you all, but especially to Prime Minister John Key who I suspect you have noticed in our midst this morning!

• Let me get straight to the point – Prime Minister, I take your presence here today as speaking volumes for three years of a constructive, high-trust, good faith working relationship between National and UnitedFuture.

• I can assure you that that is the relationship we have enjoyed with you and National, and as a coalition partner in government.

• We are from different parties and we have different policies, but we have done what New Zealanders want and played a part in working together for a strong centrist government.

• We are determined to do that with you for the next 3 years.

Fairness and Choice

Let me get straight to another point, ladies and gentlemen – why UnitedFuture?

To answer that question of any political party you need to start with two more fundamental questions.

• First, what is the New Zealand that we live in today? What are it strengths, what are its weaknesses?

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• Second, what kind of country do we want New Zealand to be in the future for our families and for our children?

When you explore those questions – when you actually stop and ask New Zealanders those very questions – you get some thought-provoking answers.

Politicians tend to complicate it, but in the end politics comes down to some remarkably simple philosophies.

Today I am going to give you two of those simple philosophies, both of which UnitedFuture is committed to – fairness and choice.

• Is this country as fair as it can be for all, but particularly for middle New Zealand?

• Do the people who are the backbone of this country have the kind of choices they deserve? Do they get a fair go?

The answer is too often, no. If you talk to the average Kiwi that is what you will hear.

Tell me who among you here today has not thought or said:

• It is so hard to get ahead

• You do everything right, but you are no better off

• We would love to have another child, but we just cannot afford it

Recognise any of that? What about these?

• We don’t seem to be any better off than those who earn much less

• We work our backsides off – but for what?

• Just getting good schooling and healthcare for our kids breaks the bank

• We would be much better off if we didn’t have kids

That, my friends, is what makes politics real

You do not need to drill down and analyse this country with research upon research; inquiry upon inquiry.

Those are the issues that are at the kitchen table for New Zealand families.

And those are the issues that mean a party like UnitedFuture has a purpose and a job to do for New Zealanders and especially for the mums and the dads trying to keep it all together and get ahead

Also the older New Zealanders who struggle to stay warm, and fear the cost of going to the doctor, and wonder if they will even see their grandkids when they are growing up in Australia.

They are the people that we are there for and that we will represent.

These are just average, everyday Kiwis wanting to get ahead and live a good life. Not asking to be millionaires; not with their heads in the clouds.

All they want is fairness. All they want is choice.

All they want is a Kiwi future like the one they grew up with as kids in this country and which somewhere along the way has become so much more elusive for so many.

Good homes, good jobs, good schools, good healthcare; the outdoor lifestyle… all of it, and enough in the pocket to make it all not a struggle.

It does not seem too much to ask. It is not unattainable. It is doable.

UnitedFuture will back a government that continues to be aimed in that direction; UnitedFuture will help push a government in that direction.

That is our role. That is our job. We will not shirk from it.

We will come to the table with ideas that work; with policies that make a difference to normal, everyday Kiwis.

We are not bound by the ideology of the left or the right. We have only one question: does it work? And if so then let’s damned well do it.

What UnitedFuture offers:

We have announced a number of policies in the last few weeks, and we have been delighted with the response they have received.

• We have the Winter Warmers policy, with a $50 per month winter power bill subsidy for over-65s… and after the week we have just with a snow-bound New Zealand, don’t we need that!

• We will introduce a free annual health check for over-65s

• We will exempt all overseas contributory pensions from the provision of Section 70 of the Social Security Act

• We will allow people to choose to take superannuation at reduced rates down to the age of 60, or at increasingly enhanced rates if they wish to hold off until between 66 and 70 – it is all about choice!

We will unveil further new and innovative polices in the weeks ahead – and they all come back to families, young and old.

We will not be bound by ideology and dogma They will be straightforward policies geared at helping the lot of middle New Zealand.

Income Sharing

Take Income Sharing as a classic example.

Legislation to allow parents with dependent children up to 18 years to share incomes for tax purposes is now half way through the parliamentary process.

It is about giving wage and salary earning parents more choices – the same choices self-employed or small business people already have.

It is about fairness and equality – recognising the contribution both parents make to raising their children.

And I tell you what… while the political chattering classes might have all sorts of views on it, all the polling says that Mum and Dad New Zealanders, the middle and heart of New Zealand, love it.

They say just give us a break – and that is what we are doing here.

There is a bigger picture though.

Working for Families is an established part of the social landscape and is fundamentally a brilliant idea.

However, it is too rigid in some aspects, especially around abatement levels, and more work needs to be done in this area to ease the way for families who rely upon it.

At the same time, we need to more closely integrate the option of Income Sharing into Working for Families arrangements, for those families who will benefit from it, and choose to take it up.

Again, it is about those two key words – fairness and choice.

Preserving New Zealand’s great outdoors

Access to the great outdoors lifestyle one of the things defining us as Kiwis – part of the quality of life we see as unique to our country, and why it is the best place in world to live and raise a family.

In a nutshell, what does UnitedFuture stand for on this?

Quite simply, our commitment is to enshrining in law public access to all resources, including game, waterways and coastline.

And believe me that is necessary. Do not presume for one minute that the outdoors that we have always enjoyed is going to stay the way it is if we are not vigilant.

One of biggest threats across New Zealand is destruction of animals and poisoning of waterways that indiscriminate use of 1080 poison is causing.

We have always argued against indiscriminate aerial dropping of 1080, and welcome the support of many communities across New Zealand for that position – but now we need to go further and eradicate the use of 1080 completely.

And so we will seek an immediate ban on the continued use of 1080 in any shape or form, and the use of the millions of dollars currently spent on 1080 being diverted to other forms of pest control and scientific research.

New Zealanders managing their recreational resources

Tramping, hunting, fishing are part of the Kiwi birthright – a further example of the outdoors lifestyle that makes our country the envy of the world – and why so many people seek to come home to give their families and children the opportunity we too often take for granted.

Of course, we have to conserve our precious natural environment for future generations to enjoy – that will come through judicious and proper management of our physical and natural resources – not through locking them away so they can only be viewed from afar, or worse, commercially exploiting them now to the point of virtual extinction.

The Game Animal Council – which was agreed under our confidence and supply agreement with National and which we are now working through the detail on – and opposition to 1080 are part of a comprehensive resource management approach.

This is all about recognising the need for the highest standards of environmental protection on the one hand, and the capacity and abilities of New Zealanders to take a responsible, natural self-management approach on the other.

It is time to extend that approach from the land to the seas around us – we will push for an integrated approach to recreational marine fishing to ensure that the million plus Kiwis who like to fish can continue to do so, and have their voice heard clearly, and without having to play second fiddle to commercial interests.

The image of a family fishing together is a potent metaphor for all that is good in our country.

Protecting New Zealanders’ health

Like most Western countries, public health spending is at record levels – yet still there are problems with waiting lists, and people getting access to the care they need.

It is not good enough for a country aiming to be the best place in the world to live and raise a family.

New Zealand waiting times are dropping – mainly because of increased spending

• Still too high by standards of comparable countries – 6 months vs 6 weeks
• Current levels of spending unlikely to be maintained

So a new approach is needed – three key principles:

• Maximise what we have
• Money Follows the Patient
• Introduce Universal National Health Insurance

Maximise what we have – this means greater use of public and private surgical resources to reduce waiting times

Money Follows the Patient – hospitals funded on the numbers of patients seen, not the size of their bureaucracies

Introduce Universal National Health Insurance – based on ACC model – starting point: encourage older New Zealanders to retain their private health insurance through a tax rebate scheme for over 65s

So, why UnitedFuture?

This morning I have laid out a number of policies that we believe will make New Zealand a better place.

Cynics, however, might say, why should you pay attention to the policies of a small party?

Well, we are not just any small party.

The saying ‘punch above your weight’ could have been invented for UnitedFuture when you look at the list of what we have delivered.
• The Families Commission
• Medicines New Zealand under which nearly 250,000 more Kiwis get access to medicines they need
• All donations to charity tax deductible
• Business tax reform

And in this term alone:

• Transmission Gully getting the go-ahead
• The Game Animal Council which is set to go
• Income Sharing legislation before Parliament
• Payroll Giving introduced just 18 months ago to benefit charities which are already $3 million better off (and Telecom just signed up)
• Major personal tax cuts
• Gift Duty on the way out – in fact, I guided the bill that does away with it through Parliament just this week.

By the measure of getting things done, on a pound for pound basis, on an MP for MP basis, UnitedFuture has been THE most successful support party under MMP.

We do not apologise for driving policies that middle New Zealand believes in and getting them in.

We are a centrist party. We by definition will attempt to work with parties to the left and the right of us, depending on how acceptable the policy mix they offer at the time is.

I have to say again, however, that Labour puts itself out of that equation in 2011 with policies such as its punitive capital gains tax.

And remember this – nothing but nothing gets achieved from the Opposition benches. Just ask the Greens. For all their MPs over many years now, what have they actually delivered for their supporters?

I do not say that to have a go at them. It is not a cheap shot.

I say it to demonstrate that being on the government benches is where you can deliver; where you can make a real difference – and surely that is the point of politics: to make a difference!

I have done that; UnitedFuture has done that.

Ministerial achievements

The Prime Minister has also chosen to make me a Minister in his Government, both Revenue Minister and Associate Health Minister.

I will leave the final judgment to him, but I believe that I have served honourably and well. To use some good old fashioned rugby parlance, I do not drop the ball and I have an eye for the gap! He has accordingly tasked me with some interesting work!

Suffice to say:

• I have been the Revenue Minister who has helped lower your taxes under both National-led and Labour-led governments. When Peter Dunne is Revenue Minister, taxes go down!

• I have led the way to young New Zealanders no longer risking their health, safety and well-being with Kronic. And I have done it properly. No gaps, no loopholes. No ifs, no buts.

• I am currently – and I will announce the latest developments here today – working on guiding the changes that will make our Child Support system better and fairer – fairer for the 200,000 children who rely on it, and fairer for the parents.

Child support, I have to say, is one area that has generally been regarded as a poison chalice. You can often watch politicians run a mile from addressing it!

Why? Because people do not think the system we have is very fair, and politicians know that it is complex, not easy to fix, and frankly when you get involved in people’s families and relationship break-ups, no one tends to thank you!

But get involved we must as a government because there is the welfare of an awful lot of children – more than 200,000 who are utterly dependent on a good and fair system – at stake here.

I have led the review on this and we are doing something about it. We are going to make it fairer.

What I can announce today is that Cabinet has now agreed to a number of changes that I put before it at its last two meetings. Legislation will be before Parliament in the next few months and among its key features will be:

• Changes to the formula that determines the amount of child support payable by taking into account of:
o the actual cost of raising children today
o the degree of shared care between parents who are living apart, and
o the income of both parents.

Of particular interest to many parents will be that the number of nights a year used to determine shared care between separated parents will be lowered from 40 percent to 28 percent of nights. This change seeks a better balance by recognising the significant costs involved with having children stay with a separated parent, such as sleeping and recreational facilities.

Child support payments will also be deducted directly from the paying parent’s pay-packet.

Changes will be made to the current penalty rules to encourage parents who default on their payments to resume their payments. Right now, these penalties get out of hand and it is not productive. People get overwhelmed and just shut up shop. It gets to a level of debt where it is basically ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’. People are overwhelmed and switch off and that means switching off to their children’s needs, which we do not want. It becomes too punitive and counter-productive.

These are very important changes; they will not please everyone, but I think most New Zealanders are going to see them as fair. And if they see them as fair, they are more like to comply voluntarily – for the sake of their kids. And that is why we are doing this.

Why would National want UnitedFuture in the next government?

In closing, looking at the bigger picture again, why would a Prime Minister want UnitedFuture in the next government? What do I and UnitedFuture bring to the table?

First, and crucially – do not under-rate this – we can be relied on to keep our word: we do what we say we will do.

You have not read about disputes; you have not seen stoushes; you have not seen the toys thrown out of the cot – ever.

Not with National, or previously with Labour. When we have a point of difference that needs sorting, well, we do just that – we sort it.

We sit, we talk. I meet regularly with the Prime Minister, as he will attest.

It may mean we do not vote with the Government on certain issues – but when that is the case it is done properly and it is talked through. It is about good faith and good process. It is about trust.

And let us be political here for one minute: at the very least with UnitedFuture, the Government will be ‘plus one’ – that is one more seat than they would have without us.

Indeed it may well be more. It would not take much of a shift in the polls with an imploding Labour Party, for us to pull in two, three or more MPs. It is not beyond being a very real possibility.

Against that background then, I want to make the following commitment for the future.

• National needs a reliable mainstream partner – people do not want to be dragged to the far right or the far left – they want government that works

• Labour and Greens highly volatile – Goff’s comment that Labour will work with those who agree with its policies shows he is not an MMP leader – MMP is about finding common-ground, not simply fallen in line behind a major party

• UnitedFuture is still the party that makes government work

Thank you. And let us enjoy this conference today. I invite you to mix and mingle with our Prime Minister this morning, and I look forward to hearing him speak shortly.

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