Speech: Key - National Party Conference
Address to National Party Conference Sky Centre
Convention Centre, Auckland
Embargoed until the Prime Minister starts speaking
Sky Centre Convention Centre, Auckland
Ladies and Gentlemen, isn’t it great to be in the
This is my ninth annual conference as Leader and it’s as much a privilege today as it was back in 2007.
This is our first time together since the election last September – what a night to remember!
My thanks to everyone who worked so hard for that victory.
We have a fantastic team and it starts at the top – so please join me in thanking our hard-working President Peter Goodfellow.
Another person I want to acknowledge has delivered seven great Budgets, and this year his beloved Highlanders finally won the Super 15 – so join me in thanking my good friend and deputy Bill English.
On a personal note, I’m forever grateful for the unfailing support and encouragement of my family – Bronagh, Stephie and Max.
Winning a third term after such an unusual election contest was a great achievement.
So I also want to acknowledge the campaign team and its chair Steven Joyce.
Finally, I’d like to thank all our MPs, candidates, office holders and volunteers.
What a wonderful job you’re all doing.
In three elections now, New Zealanders have chosen us to deliver strong, stable government.
They trust us to deliver on the things that actually matter – like jobs, education and opportunities for their children and grandchildren.
And we are delivering.
Under this National-led Government, 74,000 jobs were created across the economy last year.
Was that a one-off?
No, because 82,000 jobs were created the year before that.
This Government is focused, energised and full of ideas.
Three weeks ago, we started free GP visits and prescriptions for children under 13, and I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a great way to help Kiwi families.
We increased paid parental leave and it’s going up again next year.
The centrepiece of the Budget two months ago was a $790 million package to reduce hardship among children in New Zealand’s poorest families.
That’s right – a National-led Government is the first to raise benefits for families with children in 43 years.
In the balanced way we do things, we’re also putting more work obligations on sole parent beneficiaries.
And we’re boosting childcare assistance for low-income working families.
Our new KiwiSaver HomeStart package began on 1 April, and over the next five years it’s going to help 90,000 first home buyers into their very first home.
We’re tightening the tax rules for people who are buying and selling property just to make a quick profit.
And anyone who’s registered a car lately will have had a very pleasant surprise – because ACC levies have fallen and they’re going to come down even more.
We’re rolling out fast broadband into small towns and big towns right across the country.
And because we recognise the importance New Zealand families place on health and education, we’re putting almost two-and-a-half billion dollars more into these areas over the next four years.
All this is possible – in fact it’s only possible – because of good economic management.
New Zealanders can see our country is on the right track.
You’ll recall in 2008 I stood in Westpac Stadium in Wellington and said that 35,000 people – the capacity of that stadium – were leaving each year to live in Australia.
Well, do you know what that figure is now?
It’s next to none.
That stadium is now empty, bar a few people rattling around in the changing rooms.
Kiwis are staying in this country – and coming back from Australia – because they want to live, work and raise their families right here in New Zealand.
National’s policies are making a difference.
Take our reform of the welfare system, which is now focused on what people can do, not what they can’tdo.
I’m proud of the fact that the number of sole parents on a benefit is now the lowest since 1988.
I’m even prouder of the fact that 42,000 fewer children are living in benefit-dependent households compared with only three years ago.
That’s right, 42,000 fewer kids are living in a household that depends on a benefit.
Those are the stats.
But it’s the real people behind them we care about.
People who are trying to make a positive difference in their lives and the lives of their children.
This Government is backing them.
We’re also backing Kiwi businesses, through our business growth agenda, through sound economic management, and by getting our own finances into good shape.
While other developed countries are still racking up debt, we’ll be among the first in the world to start paying it down.
We’re keeping a tight rein on spending, because we know that taxes are paid by people who get up early in the morning to go to work.
And they’re paid by people who’ve had the confidence to invest in a business or farm.
We’re a Party that admires and respects that.
We know New Zealand’s prosperity is created by private sector businesses, large and small, throughout New Zealand – from Kaitaia to Bluff, from the West Coast to the East Cape.
Of course, New Zealand will always face global risks.
At the moment, we’re facing a drop in dairy prices, and uncertainties in Europe and China.
I feel for Kiwis affected by these events.
But the worst thing we can do as a country is talk ourselves into some sort of economic funk, when that is completely unjustified.
Opposition parties spend all their time talking their own country down.
But the truth is the New Zealand economy is fundamentally sound.
New Zealand isn’t solely dependent on dairy – or on China.
We export a whole range of goods and services to a whole range of countries.
Many of those markets are doing very well.
Tourism is a great example, where a record three million overseas visitors came to New Zealand last year and spent more than ever.
The lower Kiwi dollar will be a further boost to tourism and in fact to all export industries.
Lower interest rates will also help support the economy.
The services sector, which makes up around two-thirds of the economy, is expanding at a good pace.
The manufacturing sector, too, is in its 33rd consecutive month of expansion, a period which started almost exactly when the Opposition a manufacturing crisis.
Also, I believe we’re a much more resilient country than we were seven years ago.
The country is better placed to deal with global challenges and uncertainties – like those we’re seeing at the moment.
And New Zealand’s longer-term prospects remain strong.
The Asia-Pacific countries on our doorstep are becoming wealthier and they want the high-quality food we produce.
We have over three billion potential customers just one long-haul flight away.
Earlier generations could never have imagined the global opportunities opening up for New Zealand.
I want to lead a country that embraces those opportunities.
An open and confident country that backs itself on the world stage.
As I’ve said many times, we won’t get rich selling things to 4.5 million New Zealanders.
But we could by selling to 4.5 billion people overseas.
Our Party supports strong international connections.
We value the benefits that free trade agreements deliver and the opportunities they offer.
I back our farmers, our manufacturers, our ICT companies and in fact all our export industries to succeed.
If we can get an equal crack at world markets, we’re up there with the best in the world.
That opportunity is what free trade is about for New Zealand.
When the previous Government, with the full support of National, signed a free trade agreement with China in 2008, our annual exports to that country totalled $2.5 billion.
Since then, they’ve quadrupled and China is now our biggest trading partner.
That FTA has had huge benefits for New Zealand.
Just a few months ago, I was in Seoul to witness Tim Groser signing another free trade agreement – this time with Korea.
When that agreement comes into force, half our exports to Korea will immediately be tariff-free, and almost all the rest will follow.
I can tell you that the kiwifruit growers of Te Puke are going to be delighted when the 45 per cent tariffs they currently face are finally removed.
We’re also in the final stages of negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement.
TPP has been a big focus for our Government.
A successful conclusion will mean a trade agreement with a number of countries, including the giant economies of the United States and Japan.
This is something that successive governments in New Zealand, of both stripes, have been actively pursuing for many years.
That’s because it will mean better deals for Kiwi producers and exporters, better access to world markets, and better prospects for growing those markets in the future.
It will help diversify the economy through a broader range of trade and investment relationships.
And it will flow through to higher incomes and more jobs for New Zealanders.
New Zealand’s connectedness with the world is also about people coming to New Zealand to live and work.
Immigration benefits New Zealand because people coming here provide more of the labour, skills, capital and business links we need to grow.
A lot of people coming to New Zealand settle here in Auckland.
But as I go around other parts of New Zealand, mayors and employers often tell me they can’t get enough workers of the type local businesses need.
Southland, for example, is always crying out for workers in the dairy sector.
Across the whole South Island, in fact, the unemployment rate is a very low 3.6 per cent.
I can assure people that New Zealanders will always be first in line for jobs. That will not change.
And Auckland, as our largest city, will continue to grow.
But I believe we can do a better job of matching the needs of regions with available migrants and investors.
So today I’m announcing some changes to our immigration settings.
The first is aimed at encouraging people who come to New Zealand as skilled migrants to take up jobs in in the regions.
Around 10,000 skilled migrants get residence each year, together with their family members, and almost half of them come to Auckland.
We want to balance that out a bit, by attracting more people into other parts of the country to help grow local economies.
Currently, skilled migrants with a job offer get 10 extra points if that job is outside Auckland, and those points count towards the 100 they require.
From 1 November, we will treble that, and give them 30 extra points.
In return, they’ll have to commit to a region for at least 12 months – up from the current requirement of three months.
New Zealand also needs entrepreneurs to start new businesses, expand existing firms and create jobs.
So the second change we’ll make is to encourage entrepreneurs wanting to come to New Zealand to look for business opportunities in the regions.
Last year we launched an Entrepreneur Work Visa, targeting migrants who offer high-level business experience, capital and international connections.
Currently, people applying for this visa get 20 extra points if they set up a business outside Auckland, and that counts towards the 120 they require.
From 1 November, we will double that to 40 extra points.
Immigration New Zealand expects to approve up to 200 people next year under this visa.
With the changes we’re making, we expect to see most of these entrepreneurs setting up or growing businesses outside Auckland and creating new jobs across the country.
The third change I’m announcing will help employers find out faster whether New Zealanders are available to fill a particular vacancy, before they lodge a visa application with Immigration New Zealand.
From 1 November, they’ll be able to contact Work and Income directly to check availability.
This is a small measure, but it’s been really appreciated by employers in Queenstown and we’re extending it across the country.
The fourth announcement I want to make today is that the Government intends to provide a pathway to residence for a limited number of long-term migrants on temporary work visas in the South Island.
These people and their families have been in New Zealand for a number of years.
Their children are at schools. Their families are valuable members of their communities. And they are conscientious workers paying their taxes.
Their employers want to hold onto them because there aren’t enough New Zealanders available.
Around 600 overseas workers in lower-skilled occupations in the South Island have been rolling over short-term work visas for more than five years.
We envisage offering residency to people in this sort of situation, who commit to the South Island regions where they’ve put down roots.
We’ll set out the details of this pathway early next year.
Finally, the Government will consider a new global impact visa.
This would be targeted at young, highly-talented and successful technology entrepreneurs and start-up teams, who want to be based in New Zealand, employ talented Kiwis and reach across the globe.
There’s been quite a bit of interest in this idea and we’re going to look at it carefully over the next few months.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Taken together, the changes I’ve announced today will contribute to a better balance in our immigration settings.
They will help spread the benefits of migration across the country, particularly in those regions crying out for workers, skills and investment.
As I said earlier, we need to be more connected with the world, because that’s where our opportunities come from.
This is just one small part of that approach.
We’ll also continue to press on with free trade agreements, build stronger investment links, and embrace the openness and connectedness that characterises successful countries in the 21st Century.
Fellow National Party members.
I’ve had the privilege of leading this great country for almost seven years, and what a privilege it is.
Under this Government, our country has a better set of books, higher incomes, more jobs, better education standards, safer communities, better and faster health care, and fewer people reliant on benefits.
As a team, we’re making a positive difference to the lives of New Zealanders.
Our country is stronger and more resilient.
More confident and more assured.
National has an amazing team of talented MPs from one end of the country to the other.
And we’re supported by thousands of members who work so hard for us.
I thank you all.
Our Party is in great heart.
And there is much more for us to do.
We’re a busy Government.
We’re a Government that’s ambitious for New Zealand, a Government that’s working for New Zealand, and I feel honoured to lead that Government.