National Leader’s Speech At Annual General Meeting
Good morning delegates. It’s an absolute privilege to be speaking as your leader.
I’d like to acknowledge the party president, regional chairs, board members, National Party staff, our MPs, our candidates, and most importantly, you – the delegates, members and volunteers. Thank you to you all.
Thank you for all your hard work over the past months putting up hoardings, knocking on doors and being the face of the National Party. Thank you for your commitment to our values and for sticking with us through thick and thin.
You, our volunteers, did National proud this campaign. Everywhere we went you were there, full of energy and enthusiasm. I truly value all your support. Thank you for your confidence. We, your National Party MPs, are indebted to you.
Make no mistake, I will ensure that in this next three years we grasp the opportunity to repay your trust. I expect each of your MPs to deliver on your faith, to work hard, and to make you proud.
This year has been difficult for so many. Difficult financially for countless businesses, difficult mentally as we have wrestled with the strain and anxiety of lockdowns, and difficult emotionally for those who have been separated from loved ones because of Covid-19.
I know it’s also been a difficult year for many National Party supporters. While the country was focused on the Covid-19 challenge this year, I felt the National Party was far too focused on itself.
We did not spent enough time talking about the things that matter to New Zealanders. The consequence of that can be seen in our election result and our reduced caucus.
It was tough to see so many hard-working and talented MPs leave Parliament. We thank them for their service and we hope to see some of them return.
Naturally we will reflect and review on what led to this result. Our review is open to you and I encourage you all to have your say. We value your ideas and your wisdom.
We must – and we will – take this review extremely seriously. The 33 National MPs who have the privilege of representing your party in Parliament all have a responsibility to take the recommendations of the review on board, to work hard, and to be more disciplined.
We will only recover by being united.
When I agreed to take on the leadership of the National Party weeks before the 2020 election I knew it was going to be tough. I always believed a win was possible but I was under no illusions as to the size of the challenge.
Right now, victory in 2023 might seem like a big hill to climb, but it is not beyond us. Faced with such a hill, I believe we must not over complicate things.
Let me tell you some of the things I believe National needs to do in order to re-emerge from this loss a stronger, more disciplined and more connected party.
First, we must stay true to our values. The National Party values of individual freedom and choice, personal responsibility, limited government, competitive enterprise, and equal citizenship and opportunity.
They are the values I believe in. They are the values that you believe in. They are New Zealand values. They are the values that have made our country great and the values that our country needs now.
I believe we recover from Covid-19 by empowering people and businesses to invest and grow, not by adding more tax to those who get ahead.
Secondly, we must give New Zealanders a reason to vote for us. We must be bold and inclusive. We have to motivate people to change the Government in 2023.
People will not vote for change without reason. We need to convince them to have high hopes for themselves, to believe a better New Zealand is possible, to expect more from their Government.
We must make ourselves an inspiring alternative. We must prove we have the bold ideas to improve this country. National will work tirelessly over the next three years to advance the issues that matter – to set the agenda.
We need to listen.
We will talk about jobs, debt, housing, transport, health, education and law and order.
And, we will listen.
We must show, over the next three years, why the current approaches aren’t working. We will set out our agenda to grow the economy, to double our $8 billion dollar tech industry.
We will expose the government’s wasteful spending and the costs it is putting on businesses, the shackles holding back innovation and entrepreneurship, the closed thinking that hinders progress across so many policy areas, the failure of imagination, the lack of ambition, and the tolerance for bland mediocrity. That mediocrity is robbing too many New Zealanders of the opportunities and choices they deserve.
We will set out a better way. National will not be afraid of taking agenda-setting policies into the 2023 election.
I have asked my spokespeople to be bold, to look hard at the issues New Zealand is facing, to dive deep, to set our sights high, to be courageous, and to propose substantive new solutions that will shift the dial.
In a crisis, we need to be more than a modified status quo. There are so many areas where New Zealand needs better policy.
Our education system is falling backwards, rapidly. More than one-in five-children are leaving our schools without the basic literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed. Our next generation is learning less than the generation before.
National will take a radical look at education. Paul Goldsmith is excited to jump into this portfolio.
Local Government is failing to deliver the roading and water infrastructure this country needs.
It is failing to deliver better housing, transport or value for money. Christopher Luxon will be looking at ways to bring Local Government policy into the 21st century.
Our Reserve Bank system is creaking under the pressure of lower and lower interest rates. Andrew Bayly will consider what changes are needed to ensure tools remain for the inevitable next crisis.
We have three years to do this work and to bring New Zealanders on board with our vision, to be bold, and to give New Zealanders a reason to vote blue.
Covid-19 brings great challenges but it also brings opportunity; opportunity to address the long-term issues facing our nation and to grow our way out of this crisis.
I have given myself the portfolio of Technology, Manufacturing and Artificial Intelligence. I’m excited about the potential of these sectors. Tech exports by themselves are already $8 billion, similar to our total meat exports. Tech is among the highest-paying and fastest-growing industries in the world.
Covid-19 is providing an opportunity for New Zealand to grow the tech sector further. More business is being done in the cloud than ever before. Distance is no longer a barrier. As thousands of Kiwis return home from places like Hong Kong, London and San Francisco, there is an opportunity to take advantage of the brain gain.
The world is going to change in response to Covid-19 and we are going to change with it. I will work over the next three years to bring a big and bold tech policy to the 2023 election.
New Zealanders need a Government that is serious about building our nation, about fixing education, infrastructure and housing, about seizing opportunities in tech and AI.
We will show that Labour cannot deliver the future New Zealand deserves.
We will be a robust Opposition.
We will hold the Government to account.
We will show we have the ideas and the plans to deliver better housing, better transport, safer communities and more jobs.
My fellow members, I believe National is at its best when we speak to the aspirations of New Zealanders, when we voice your hopes and give you reason to believe they can be realised.
The belief that hard work should reap reward. That we can deliver our children greater opportunities than we had. That each of us has it within us to shape our own lives for the better if given the choices and responsibility to do so. That the solutions to our worst problems lie not in the hands of an ever–bigger State, but in stronger families and stronger communities.
These are the values National will apply to solving New Zealand’s challenges.
Three years will come and go very quickly. There is much work to do to come back stronger. But we have done it before and will do it again. New Zealand needs us to.
Thank you for staying the course with us. For challenging us to be better. For believing in us and what we have to deliver this country. We will be back.
The campaign has started. Let’s get on with it.