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Trust Act - Speech -- Richard Prebble

(Note. Correcting earlier moved under wrong byline.)

Trust Act - Speech -- Richard Prebble


Sunday 24th Oct 1999
Richard Prebble
Speech -- Other

Ladies and gentlemen. In just five weeks the country votes to decide what direction New Zealand is to take.

I believe the ACT Party is going to do well. Actually, I believe we're going to do surprisingly well.

Sir Roger Douglas and the Hon Derek Quigley have made great contributions to the nation but I believe their foresight in forming the ACT Party will be their greatest legacy.

I must note, Sir Roger, that this week's Time Magazine Special Edition of the century's 100 most influential people of the South Pacific, records just two of New Zealand's current leaders, yourself and ACT MP Donna Awatere Huata.

It was an unprecedented achievement to get a newly-formed party into Parliament first time round. At this stage last election ACT was at two percent: and on election night ACT won eight seats including the constituency of Wellington Central.

But this time will be even better than last time. All the polls agree that ACT is now the third party.

It's good to have a unique position in an election, and we have the best one going. We are the only party offering a programme of positive change.

So I'd like to open our campaign with a question.

This country used to have one of the highest standards of living in the world and my question is: Why can't we again?

We had full employment. Virtually no crime. A top flight education system.

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Solid economic growth. And tax at around 25 percent.

Can we have that again? Why can't we have that again? Is there any party thinking how we can have that again?

I am genuinely sorry to say that there is one party - but only one.

The ACT Party is putting in front of New Zealand a new way. A positive change.

Because more of the same just isn't an option.

Spending more on a welfare system that traps people and destroys their hope?

An education system that fails to teach reading and writing?

Bureaucracy that loads more and more red tape on farmers and small business?

A police force that spends a hundred million dollars on a failed computer system but can't knock on the door of a known criminal when they've got his address?

Only real, positive change, now, will arrest the growing gap between the haves and have nots, employed and unemployable, rural and city, young and old - and perhaps most importantly, between the 105 races and ethnic groups that make up the one country that is New Zealand.

And a change starts with the electoral process, here, today.

When New Zealanders voted for MMP they couldn't know what they were letting themselves in for.

I thought I'd seen it all. After 20 years in Parliament I thought I was beyond surprise.

We had taxi-scandals. We had tax-scandals too. We had politicians leaving parties, joining other parties, forming yet more parties. We had the most senior financial officer of the government being fired. We had ministers voting against the government they were serving in.

What haven't we had!

Well - one thing we haven't had is any positive progress - and that's what ACT's mission is this time round! That's our mission in the 46th Parliament that takes us into the new Millennium!

ACT has always refused, and still refuses, to be a party of secret deal making.

Even our opponents agree that the ACT Party says what it means and means what it says. We are the one party that has a 100% record for keeping to its principles. That's not unusual in New Zealand politics - it's unheard of.

The ACT Party has set out to restore some trust, integrity and honesty to New Zealand politics. And to say what's fair not just what's politically correct or popular.

Our mission is not to keep others out of office, but to get the right values back into government.


Like Recognising that it's the private sector, not government, that creates jobs.

ACT stands for the values of a free society.

Sanctity of contract.

Respect for private property.

The rule of law.

ACT says it's hard work, thrift, personal responsibility that have created this country. Not government regulation. Not government dictates. Not the endless outpouring of feel-good legislation that's clogging up our arteries as a nation.

ACT's eight MPs have stood up for these values and have never wavered.

That's what you can trust them to do what they say they will do.

ACT has never been tempted to try to bribe you with your own money. ACT MPs have never forgotten that there is no such thing as government money - it's your money, the taxpayer's trust.

We have seen since Parliament was prorogued for the election, $15 million of taxpayers money being announced for a Maori language programme.

No-one in New Zealand trusts that money to reach Maori children in Otara; the money will never help a Maori school pupil read.

No, it will go on some barely relevant CD for a special interest group or on silk pyjamas for some over-paid consultant.

We think that is money very poorly spent.


Because ACT is the party of middle New Zealand.

Our values are the country's values.

As New Zealanders, we know we live in one of the most beautiful countries.

We love the green clean open feel of our nation. The fact that we can walk on a beach, climb a mountain and enjoy a $1 million dollar view whether you are rich or poor.

What we also love about New Zealand is that this is the nation where everyone has a fair go.

Or it used to be.

The axe-wielding radicals like to tell us to respect the Treaty. I tell them to respect the law!

>From our founding document, both Maori and Pakeha were British citizens. The quality, that made and makes British citizenship prized, is that we are all equal before the law.

Every survey taken of Maori and non Maori states that New Zealanders do not want different laws depending on your ancestry.

We want to be equal before the law.

Parliament has no mandate for a different legal system, for racial quotas at university, for preferment because you say you have a two hundred and fifty sixth part of Maori blood in you. That's great grandmother with five more greats before it.

Here in this city a man came to me after a meeting. He said he ran a dairy. His son had been born in New Zealand and had been dux of his local school. He said his son had been turned down by the Auckland Medical School because he was Indian.

Can this story be true? I was so amazed I rang up one of the people I knew on the Med. School's selection panel. He squirmed a bit, but he finally came out with it. He said, "Yes," on the some of the selection panels he knew of that would very likely be the case.

ACT asks what nation with two legal systems has ever avoided strife?

The fact is - every other party is actively setting up separate systems based on race, or are sitting on their hands and letting unelected bureaucrats do it for them.

ACT readily acknowledges that there have been some shameful grievances, some surprisingly recent. Read Donna's book if you don't believe me.

Let's resolve these genuine grievances. Let's settle them in an honest and generous way. Then we can move forward, together, as one country.

Only ACT proposes a timetable to settle legitimate treaty claims.

A cut off for new claims. If after 160 years you don't know of a grievance, you can't be suffering too acutely.

Let's make all settlements fair, full and final.

Let's go through the statute books and remove all racial discrimination.

One law for all. That's the only decent, civilised way to curb these entrepreneurs of racial strife.

It is time to settle the legitimate Treaty claims, so the Treaty can once again be a founding document that unites us, not threatens to divide us.

Only ACT is making this stand!

But ladies and gentlemen. We must also recognise that welfare in this country has also gone off the rails.

25% of all households in this country receive all their income from State benefits. 45% get at least a portion of their income from benefits.

And it's not that it costs so much, it is that welfare delivers so little.

New Zealand has proportionately more fatherless families than any other OECD nation.

Almost a quarter of all children in New Zealand are growing up without the role model of a parent who gets up and goes to work every day.

Benefit led or opportunity deprived?

The Government is worse at pretending to be a parent than it was at pretending to run an airline or telephone company. But in the old days it just meant you couldn't get a flight for a week or a phone for three months.

The state is capable of impoverishing every child it touches.

We need to positively change for stronger families.

We need to make welfare a hand up not a hand out.

I can remember as a teenager in this city going to hear the late Norman Kirk.

He turned to us in the audience and said;

"We must always keep the ropes of the social security safety net pulled tight, so that if anyone falls onto the net they are bounced back into the community."

"We must never so loosen the ropes so that the safety net becomes a hammock and welfare becomes a way of life."

There were just 38,000 people on welfare when Norman Kirk said that.

Today it's ten times that.

No Labour, Alliance, New Zealand First or even National MP will make a speech like Norman Kirk - because one adult in three on state assistance is one voter in three.

That's putting politics before values.

Only ACT has the courage to say the present system is not sustainable.

If you want to know the reason for the rising tide of crime, it's our welfare system.

Let me say it for the record - of course most lone parents do their best, many do a fantastic job, many choosing to decline government assistance, many who don't have that luxury.

But, the statistics show that, on average, children raised in a lone parent households, where the adult does not work, do not do as well at school, are more likely to end up on a benefit and are much more likely to become involved in crime.

So yes, let's really help teenage mothers by giving them a mentor and insisting they finish school and get training so they can become self-reliant adults.

The left has been attacking the community wage.

Let them come to Otara, to the Rangatira Trust where Buddy and his daughter Kathy have over 25 people who have all been out of work for 52 weeks, in work experience.

The Trust has a contract to paint out graffiti. The ACT Party has been to Otara, to the Rangatira Trust.

Muriel Newman, who has herself been on a benefit, has been out to Otara.

Those people are proud that they have a job.

The Trust has a 70% success rate of getting its people into real jobs. Welfare can be done differently, differently to paying and forgetting.

ACT wants to positively change welfare so every unemployed person can have the dignity of being able to make a contribution to society.

We must have positive change for stronger families, to ensure that regardless of your home life you have a chance at a job, a career, and to fulfil your potential.

To bring them into society. Not condemn them to a life of hand outs. I am honoured to be leading the party that is leading the debate on welfare. We'll see what positive change can really mean.

ACT is also the party that is leading the debate on law and order.

All the parties find law and order in election year.

But the public is continually outraged at a justice system that puts the rights of offenders ahead of rights of the victims.

The public doesn't want politicians wringing their hands and saying it's all very unfortunate.

ACT says let's have truth in sentencing.

ACT is the only party that will insist that all offenders serve at least 80 percent of the court-imposed sentence.

That's fair. People want to trust in the sentences that judges order.

The causes of crime are complex. Perhaps the best crime prevention is good parenting - and ACT has supported the Early Start Programme giving parenting assistance to families most at risk.

But jail does work. It's hard to rob and bash a pensioner, again, when you are behind bars.

ACT from the moment we arrived in Parliament has been attacking our revolving door bail system. It needs to be positively changed.

ACT has attacked the bizarre law passed by National and Labour that automatically discounts most prison sentences by a third, no matter how badly the offender behaves, no matter what the judge ordered.

So we have a Justice Department that doesn't believe in justice.

But believe me, I do. And if the voters give us a chance, I will amend it. Hell and high water notwithstanding, I will amend that act to put trust back into the justice system.

Certainly a good education would help too.

Last year's Survey of Adult Literacy found that 75% of Maori unemployed could not read or write properly. 60% of inmates in our prisons have the reading, writing and arithmetic ability of children in form one.

We led the world in 1970 in teaching our children to read.

Someone in the Ministry of Education must have decided that was an unfair advantage - so now we lead the world in remedial reading.

Donna Awatere Huata, who would make a great Minister of Education, is right. Let's set the world's best reading, writing and arithmetic standards. Children from whatever background react to their teachers' expectations.

The less you expect, the less you get. The more you expect the more you are rewarded.

Nothing will close the gap between Maori and the general population faster than if every school pupil left school able to read.

First we have to set that as a goal for our schools. It's ACT's goal.

But look at us: we have come to such a low ebb in New Zealand that the idea of having every child able to read and write by the time they leave school is a bold policy objective!

Think how high our standards were a generation ago.

When you go quiet at night you can hear the sound of angels weeping.

To achieve these goals we need another positive change - the economy.

The media ask - why won't ACT do a coalition with New Zealand First?

It's not personal - it's the principle.

New Zealand First, like Labour and the Alliance believe that the answer to every problem is more government spending.

ACT says more government spending is very rarely the answer - usually it makes the problem worse.

Last week the Treasury issued its fiscal forecast - It's not a bad forecast but it's not a good forecast either.

Let's not forget that the fiscal position before the last election was the best we've known in our adult lives.

Mr Peters took over an economy that had just received a credit upgrade, the economy was growing at 5 per cent. Unemployment was under 6 per cent and falling. A massive $6.5 billion surplus was predicted.

So they thought they could afford a good old, traditional, political spend-up.

A five billion dollar spend up. ACT's continuous opposition has been crushingly justified.

In less than two years, New Zealand had a credit downgrade, the economy was in recession. The Government's spending spree had turned the surplus into a deficit, 14,000 jobs were lost and unemployment rose to 7.6%.

Was that the media's fault? They were blamed. Was it the opposition's fault?

We too were blamed. Was it the Asian collapse? All of Asia certainly got blamed.

No. There's a simple truth. There are five billion reasons why the economy stalled - and every one is Winston.

Sacking her glad-handing coalition partner was the best decision Jenny Shipley made.

Steadying her hand as she signed his notice is, personally, one of the most important things I have done in public life, inside or outside of a Cabinet.

Without ACT, Mr Peters would still be Treasurer.

Interest rates were 50% higher 12 months ago.

Only ACT opposed Mr Peters. Labour and the Alliance said that the only thing wrong with his programme was that he didn't spend enough.

You've surely seen the Alliance poster with the photograph of Mr Anderton and the slogan: The Alliance "At the HEART of the next government".

I never make personal attacks on my political contemporaries, as you know. But I have to say that poster is the most eloquent reason for voting ACT we could ever have thought of.

With Mr Anderton, at the heart of a new government as the economic Tsar, the tax, the spend and the bust will be greater.

Deputy Prime Minister Jim Anderton.

I don't think we need go into it further.

The US economy, that has not only balanced the books but has a massive surplus, is now in the longest economic boom in recorded human history.

Tony Blair's Labour Government, elected on a pledge not to raise taxes, is booming.

The Liberal Government in Australia has balanced the books, and is reducing corporate taxes to 30 percent, Australia is growing faster than New Zealand and faster than the USA.

The Irish Government with a 10 percent corporate tax rate is growing even faster.

Low taxes are the key to a booming economy.

If we made some positive changes the New Zealand economy would grow and create jobs.

We must make these positive changes.

ACT has two suggestions.

First a low flat rate of tax. Flat tax is fair. It does not penalise hard work, thrift, or personal responsibility.

What's fair about higher taxes? The Labour/Alliance programme offers tax rises, by their own admission, designed to punish.

The corporates will go to Australia, the beneficiaries can't pay, its just hard working New Zealanders being taxed more and getting less.

And the ACT team has heard how angry you are about this - yet no other party is really listening to your anger. The other parties think Government is for MPs, that tax dollars are theirs to spend, not yours to keep.

This election - tax is an issue. I urge voters to look at two independent surveys of the parties' tax policies.

Infometrics, the leading firm of economic consultants, has examined the tax policies of all the major parties.

I should correct that. Infometrics said:

"The tax policies of New Zealand First were explored but a lack of coherence to their policy statements precluded a formal analysis."

"On failing to understand their written statements on policy and not being able to make any personal contact with New Zealand First, we have left them out of our formal assessment."

This is the party that wants its leader to be Treasurer again.

Here is what Infometrics says about ACT's policy;

"There is clear daylight in the gap in quality between ACT's tax proposals compared with those of the other parties."

Infometrics says that a two-year freeze on the growth of government spending will deliver ACT's policy of moving to a flat rate of tax in five years. Which Infometrics estimates will result in a five percent improvement in economic growth.

And that's not cutting spending, that's just spending the same next year as this year.


The Manufacturers Federation Survey also wholly endorses low tax as the single biggest driver of prosperity.

The headlines you'll see at the end of the next term of government will say:

"Five per cent growth."

"Thousands of new sustainable jobs created."

"Taxes headed for historic low."

"New Zealand leads the world."

I think everyone in this room would enjoy reading those headlines.

There is a second measure that would make an enormous difference and that is to cut red tape and excess bureaucracy.

In researching my latest book - 'I've been writing' - I had a researcher count the number of new laws and regulations, affecting business, passed in the 1990s. Its 5,200.

Hong Kong has 1,000 in total.

But many of these laws are written for big businesses. We are a nation of small businesses. 800,000 of us work for small business.

13 percent of the average small business revenue goes in compliance costs.

That's more than a profit margin. Thirteen per cent in compliance costs. Twelve and a half per cent in GST. Thirty three per cent in corporate tax. Boy, the State takes a big bite.

Who's wondering how small businesses survive?

In the 1970s, when we did not have these laws, the environment did not collapse, workers were not exploited and we had fewer accidents.

ACT says we need fewer "feel good laws" and more personal responsibility.

We will be amazed by the release of energy and activity by lowering compliance costs.

The biggest beneficiary will be agriculture.

Let me say here in Auckland that ACT does not accept Labour and National's claim that agriculture is a sunset industry.

The world will always need food and will pay well for clean green and top quality produce that our farmers lead the world in producing.

Europe has an inexhaustible demand for organic food. If our lumbering producer boards hadn't been stifling enterprise for years, we might already have a massive organic trade in those fabulously expensive supermarkets in Europe.

Owen Jennings has been pointing out what's killing farming: the costs that farmers cannot control, the off farm costs of local and central government.

Restoring the bottom line profitability of farming is one of ACT's top economic priorities.

If farming is profitable, our balance of payments will improve, as farms expand, our rural towns will grow and rural unemployment, a huge social problem, will fall.

Maybe Labour is right and Aucklanders do not care about 200 jobs on the West Coast. I think Labour is wrong. Aucklanders do care about those West Coast jobs.

As ACT's Deputy Leader Ken Shirley, who once represented the Tasman Electorate on the West Coast, has said:"If Labour's most loyal electorate can not trust them not to break an accord that Labour signed, why should anyone trust that party."

I pledge to you today as I did last election - that ACT will honour your trust.

ACT will bring the Kiwi sense of fairness into politics.

With your help - we can achieve positive change.

There have been those who've doubted ACT would succeed. But we proved them wrong.

We proved them wrong in the Taranaki King Country by-election, where even though an election eve poll, said we were a poor third, we went within less than 1,000 votes of winning.

This election, ACT is the only party rising in every poll.

The voters of Wellington Central, the country's most intelligent Electorate are, according to the polls, going to re-elect me as their MP - a trust I promise to fulfil.

ACT is filling a crucial role.

Voters from both major parties realise that only a party vote for ACT can bring some sanity into the election outcome.

Because there is something worse than either Mr Anderton or Mr Peters being in the government. It's Mr Anderton and Mr Peters being in the government.

I am saying that we will not ever, not under any circumstance, go into coalition to support a government that includes NZ First and Mr Peters.

As I say, it's not personal. Winston Peters is a barrel full of monkeys. If you want a rascal for a party there's no better choice. But he has no business in government, he has no business on the fringe of government, and this party will never be associated with him even by proxy.

And you can trust me on that.

Because this election is all about trust. I say to Jenny Shipley, when you open your campaign in seven days demonstrate trust to the voters.

Tell it how it is. The first 24 months, with Mr Peters as our erratic Treasurer, were a nightmare. Then with ACT's solid support you sacked Mr Peters and the last 12 months have been better, much better.

But it could have been much better but for your government being forced to rely on the Alamein Kopu's of Parliament.

Ask the electorate to back you or sack you. Ask the electorate to back the centre right for positive change or back Clark and Anderton and Peters to take us back 30 years.

What no-one wants or deserves is to have MPs who have no mandate to be holding our country to ransom.

If Clark and Anderton won't rule out a deal with New Zealand First - so be it.

Take the strong ground, give the nation a lead, and Prime Minister the centre right will win a strong mandate.

Here in Epsom we are giving voters, in the nation's safest centre right seat, a choice. There is no chance of Labour coming through the middle.

ACT's polling says that Epsom is a seat that we can win. On election night it's a seat to watch. In fact all campaign it's one of the seats to watch.

Why should the people of Epsom not have an MP who personifies the energy that is Auckland. Parliament's most effective new MP - Rodney Hide, on November 28 will be Parliaments most effective new constituency MP.

The country has a choice, we could have more of the same. Will history repeat itself? This time even more farcically than the tragic farce two Novembers ago?

If Labour manages to continue to conceal its policies from the public - their most intelligent strategy so far - there may be a swing to the left.

That will certainly clarify the condition of the New Zealand economy - and may be the end of the left for years to come.

National may yet do well, though never well enough to govern by itself. But what do we really want in a government now? Ideas. Energy. Idealism. Goals. Values. Trust.

This is the Government that did not even know that Tourism Board members were paying themselves golden handshakes until ACT blew the whistle.

I say again, we desperately need ideas, energy, idealism. We need positive thinking. We need progress. The world is bounding ahead of us and has been for six years.

We need some action! ACT believes this country can again be the world's best country in which to live. This November we can take a step towards that goal.

When you leave here today, tell your parents, tell your workmates, tell the bus driver, the postman, farmers you know, teachers, police, tell everyone for the next 34 days. ACT. The Party vote for positive change.


For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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