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PM Shipley’s National Party Campaign Opening Spch.

Sunday 31 October 1999


As the song says, "nobody does it better than New Zealanders".

The mums and dads of New Zealanders love their children dearly and every day they do their best for them. Employers all round this country take the risk and create new work, and workers get a chance because we are New Zealanders.

Young people are law-abiding people and they give us a view of how the future can be. Older New Zealanders everywhere are proud of the contribution that they have made to the New Zealand economy and indeed they do a lot of important voluntary work everyday.

I can't think of a country that actually does it better than New Zealand. We have terrific people in this country and they need the best possible government that we can deliver. That government is a National Government.

During this campaign we are going to ignite the imagination of New Zealanders as they consider which party is the best party to lead New Zealand forward. I am going to say to them, and I know you will too, "no party can do it better than the National Party."

The National Party will deliver a positive campaign. It's a people to people campaign, because over recent months as I have travelled around New Zealand, people say, "talk to us about the things that matter and we want to know that you understand them and you have got plans for us so we can commit to you."

Of course, we'll do the debates. I think there are six head to head debates. They tell me it's probably more than ever before and I am determined to let New Zealanders be able to draw the contrast.

We will also have major announcements. There will be significant policy announcements that will capture the minds of New Zealanders and give them every confidence that we know where we are going and where want to take New Zealand.

Then there's our campaign bus, which I affectionately call Lipstick One. It will be visiting towns and cities, malls and halls, woolsheds and back streets and main streets. We are going to a number of racing clubs and we have already been to a number of them. We are going to saleyards and a variety of shows. In other words, we are going to be out there with New Zealanders, talking about their hopes and dreams and how we can make them happen.

National MPs and Ministers will continue their stunning presentations, which show that National not only knows there are problems, but that we have workable solutions that can make a difference. Our members will be out there demonstrating that.

We will take this campaign to every corner of New Zealand. We will give people a deep sense of who we are, what we stand for, and what they can bank on in terms of our future plans for them.

The second thing I want to talk to you about this afternoon is why we are more credible than any other political party, in what we say we'll do and how we'll actually be able to do it.

We have a record of success. It's a record that sets out our priorities and is one we are able to deliver. The difference between ourselves and others is that we know how to run an economy and then grow it to give New Zealanders more opportunities.

Very briefly, the four big keys to a growing economy are these:

 You have to have a government who can keep families' costs and business' costs down and we've done that by controlling inflation.

 The second issue is the cost of money. We have brought interest rates down to the lowest levels in 30 years and families and businesses all around New Zealand are better off.

 The third key area is the area of tax. Tax is important because it rewards people for their effort, while still meeting social obligations. This country will always run a system where there is sufficient tax collected to do the things that we all agree need to be done. But if we have some to spare we will give it back to New Zealanders so they can make their own decisions.

 And fourthly, of course, there are employment conditions. The ECA is critical. Getting costs down, like ACC, has been critical, and electricity prices and these things have led to an environment that has given employers confidence.

If we can create conditions where confidence exists, employers will invest in their businesses and in our country. If they invest in our country new jobs are created and this government's policies have seen over 200,000 new jobs created in the last decade.

As those jobs have emerged and real workers have been in those jobs they pay more tax. And as they have paid more tax we have more to share as a country.

Remember that our gift to New Zealand has been an economy that has grown from $71 billion to $99.7 billion over the decade, and our revenue base has gone from $24 billion to $29 billion in real terms. So, far from cutting social spending to do things like tax reductions, the National Party has been able to increase spending as well as put more money in New Zealanders' pockets.

New Zealand people want us to be able to pay off the mortgage as we have been doing and every New Zealander owes less today than they did in 1990.

In addition to paying off the debt we have also been able to spend more in areas that are really important to New Zealanders.

It's interesting to me that when Helen Clark left office as Minister of Health, she left a legacy of closing hospitals. You maybe interested to know that since Helen Clark left the role of Minister of Health, the amount of money we have spent on health services in New Zealand has increased by over $2 billion a year.

The New Zealand National Party has increased social services and given families back more of their revenue back so they can make their own decisions.

The key point to remember is that it's not at the expense of peoples' hopes and their dreams. It's been achieved through growth in the last decade so we have more to share.

No other party standing for office this year is offering the same mix of policies that delivers this growth. Indeed, in the area of inflation, social spending, interest rates, tax and the ECA, all political parties are promising change. The point I want to make is that no other political party can guarantee the environment where growth and jobs will flow, other than the National Party.

And we've got independent commentators who say if we continue to manage the economy National's way there will be a further 100,000 plus jobs that will emerge so New Zealanders will have a better chance.

Won't voters want to offer that to young people coming out of school? Won't voters want a party that has a track record and is on track of delivering more opportunities?

I am very confident that when the options are made clear, that New Zealanders, will quickly see that the New Zealand National Party has not only got the record, but is the only credible party that can make these claims to New Zealanders.

I want to talk about three key issues on the minds of New Zealanders. They are the issues of jobs, student loans and tax.

Jobs matter. A successful society should measure itself against whether or not it can provide work for New Zealanders and indeed provide more workplaces for our people. National delivered. The Employment Contracts Act that was introduced in 1990 has modernised the New Zealand labour market and over 200,000 additional places are there because of those conditions and we must not turn it back.

There are other reasons why the ECA is important. The ECA has allowed New Zealand women to decide, in conjunction with their employer, the right number of hours and the right time of the day for them to go to work, as well as meet their family obligations.

The Opposition claimed that people's real wages and the proportion of women's wages in relation to men would not change under the ECA. In fact, women are now earning 84 per cent of the male wage in 1999. When we began this decade it was around 80 per cent.

Since 1991 real wages have gone up. During the Labour period in government real wages fell. I challenge Helen Clark to demonstrate, by any evidence at all, that under her regime real wages would climb. Indeed I ask her to retract her claims she made to the CTU yesterday, that real wages had fallen under the Employment Contracts Act. That is not true.

The Labour/Alliance and Green bloc would take our industrial relations back to a male dominated, conservative union movement, because that what was elected in New Zealand yesterday. I don't think women workers want to go back to being dominated by male unionists.

Ladies and gentlemen, workers go home with more pay and are striking less because they have a direct relationship with their employer. We are going to fight to retain the ECA because it's good for New Zealand and we can't afford to go back to the dark old days.

Student loans
The second issue that's on the minds of many New Zealanders is the issue of students. The National Party is very fair to young people coming out of secondary school and looking toward their future. I want to give you one or two facts that will help confirm my claim.

There are 32 per cent more young people studying in tertiary institutions than there were in 1990. The number of Pacific Island students enrolled in tertiary study has increased four fold since 1990. The number of young Maori people has increased six times during that period and overall the participation rates are very encouraging indeed.

While we have heard a lot about student debt I want to remind ourselves this afternoon that every year you as taxpayers are putting $1.6 billion into students while students are borrowing an average of $618 million a year. So $1.6 from the taxpayer and $618 million topped up through student loans.

Is this fair? A young hairdresser who wants to start up a business, or a young panelbeater, or a young farmer, or tourist operator who wants to start up a business, must go to the bank and borrow the first dollar and the last dollar. The taxpayer is nowhere to be seen.

The borrowing done by these young businesspeople is an investment in their future. It's an investment in themselves that will deliver a cash flow. I wonder if we can persuade students that in borrowing for their future they are investing in themselves that will allow them to be far more employable in the future through their qualifications.

And a person with a tertiary qualification is more likely to get a job and to be paid better. Most graduates begin earning around the average wage or above. Even young teaching graduates start on $34,500 – significantly above the average wage.

I think we need to argue that overall the scheme is fair and the changes that come into place on 1 March will make it fairer still. That is, a quarter of the interest is written off while they are studying. Once they are earning, half of their repayments goes on principal, half goes on interest and if there is any balance left over, it will be written off.

This is a good deal. If we do more, we are going to penalise other enterprising New Zealanders who we expect to back themselves. I believe with our low interest rates and competitive tax rate, and fair student loan system, National is offering young New Zealanders a very good and fair deal.

On the issue of tax, the choice is pretty clear. The Centre and Centre-Left are going to put your tax up. The Centre and Centre-Right are going to bring your tax down.

It's not as simple as that though. If we put tax up, it will kill growth and all the benefits that flow from a growing economy will start slipping away.

National has two priorities in tax. Bill English, the Treasurer, has announced the Family Tax policy which will come in on 1 April, and that will reward hardworking New Zealanders with a lower tax rate.

We have also said the second priority is the corporate and personal tax rate at the top level. We are very confident that we will be able to deliver on this promise during our next electoral term. We will look at delivering the corporate tax reduction first to keep our brightest and best businesses in New Zealand.

Two important questions need to be asked about the tax policies of the Centre-Left.

1. If you are promising more spending how are you going to fund those promises?


2. If you can't raise enough revenue from your proposed tax increases, what promises don't you intend to keep?

They have to come clean and say how you they going to tax New Zealanders to fund their undertakings. You can't have it both ways.

If my suspicion is correct the contrast can perhaps more fairly be drawn in this way. Under a National Government you will have a tax structure that's fair and will bring taxes down over time.

If a Labour/Alliance/Green Government were to be elected you would not only have to be telling the government what you earned each year, you would be having to tell the government what you owned.

It is absolutely clear that Jim Anderton intends to impose land tax, wealth tax and transaction tax of some sort. So it's time for the Left to explain which of these taxes will be there and whether or not New Zealanders do face an environment where, each year, they will have to file their income register and their asset register for the government to pry into. It's time for them to come clean.

I want to talk to you about three key areas where we will be making some progress.

Standards in education, the knowledge-based economy and information technology.

Standards in education
Under a National Government we want teachers to be able to explain that they are capable of teaching our children and standards are one of the ways in which we can test and make that judgement.

But parents are also entitled to know whether their children are achieving at the rate that they would wish and National intends to introduce standards for the benefit of our children. I say to principals and teachers – think of the children. National intends to introduce standards and types of assessment that will allow this to occur.

Knowledge-based economy
The knowledge-based and information-based society is about unlocking the potential of universities, businesses and Crown research institutes, so we can catch that next wave of growth.

Through programmes like our scholarships we are enticing graduates to go into postgraduate study. We will identify brilliant ideas, see that they are backed in their early stages and then allow them to move on so that they can assist with wealth creation.

You will see more from us on how we will drive this knowledge-based society because we think it's critical.

Information technology
The last issue of new frontier is an idea that Maurice Williamson and others have been working on. We believe we can do much of what government does with e-commerce. And it's exciting. We want you to do business with government anywhere, at any time, and over the next three years you'll hear much more about how we think we can improve your access to government on-line.

Environmental issues
Ladies and gentlemen, there's a lot of philosophical nonsense being talked about the use of resources in New Zealand. And the New Zealand National Party will not allow a few extremists to lock up our land, sea and forestry resources for no good reason.

We believe that sustainability is not only a credible economic approach, it's also fair to New Zealanders as it allows them to unlock the potential of the resources that make us unique as a country. I say to the people of the West Coast, you are entitled to sustainably log your forests, so you can have jobs and we can manage the environment that makes those special native forests so unique.

There are other issues I want to quickly touch on.

The unique identity that makes us New Zealanders is important and National intends to retain the kiwi flair and flavour that makes us who we are. We will see that radio, for example, is available so that real kiwi values and kiwi culture is available to New Zealanders and that's important.

Law and order
In the area of law and order, again, success has many parents. This party has been able to deliver a falling crime rate in New Zealand by toughening up the law, breaking the telephone links between jails and the community and stopping the politically correct nonsense that says that you cannot approach criminals when they have a well-established criminal record and history.

National's commitment over the next three years is to use our policing resources and the law to focus more tightly on the few who spoil it for the majority. We know that if you catch criminals early and deal with them firmly you actually reduce the amount of crime in your community and you will hear more about this when Tony Ryall and Clem Simich announce our law and order policy in a few days' time.

We started the decade with Welfare that Works. At the end of the decade the welfare system does work and I am very proud of that

But what I am trying to say to you is that this country, led by a National Party, will always walk beside those people who need care but we will also seek to empower them so they have a better life.

For the first time in a decade the number of mums and dads on sole parent benefits is falling and that is directly the result in my view of the welfare agencies sitting down, person to person, and treating them as if they matter.

We are also involved in early intervention and Roger Sowry and the team of social ministers are making a huge difference there and we will talk more about that on Tuesday when we make some announcements.

And thirdly, we are prepared to prompt the reluctant. It is important that people understand there is a social contract. We will walk beside you, but not unconditionally. I remind those who puff themselves up, that the Blair government is doing this, the Howard government is doing this, the Clinton government is doing this, and the Shipley government is doing it as well.

The final two key areas I want to mention briefly are the Treaty issues and New Zealand in the world.

Treaty issues
The Treaty is a founding document made by two parties. Under a National led government I want three things very clearly understood. The Treaty embraces a single government. It says, clearly, there will be only one government in this nation and I want to say very directly, National only will support that notion. We will not allow any others to contest this view.

On the issue of settlements, I give you a commitment from the National Party that we want to move this along, so we can enter a new century with these things behind us. I say to Maoridom, mandate your people and get on and negotiate. Get out of the courts and into the room so you can discuss these things with ministers so we can make progress.

On the issue of an outward-looking New Zealand, trade is the bloodline for New Zealanders and their jobs.

I'm very proud of Lockwood Smith and Don McKinnon in the work they are doing. And if we are to continue to grow as a people and a nation we need to forge new relationships with other countries. We have our relationship with Australia but now we have got real opportunity with Korea, Singapore and Chile. And as we heard the President of the United States say, we are also working to see if we can have five countries – Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Chile and the United States – work together in a free trading bloc. What a prize that would be if we could succeed in gaining it because it would bring further jobs for our people.

Open trade matters for other reasons as well. If you want regional security and international stability and security, you must allow developing nations to be included in economic activity internationally. Aid is a very poor substitute for inclusion and participation. Trade is the fair and moral way to include all people internationally and National intends to continue to fight for that right.

An outward-looking New Zealand is important for other reasons. I have been fascinated over the last decade as we as a party have argued that we need to reinvest in our servicemen and women, but almost every political party in the Parliament has condemned our every move. Yet in recent weeks we have seen New Zealanders embrace the fact that we want capable servicemen and women to help keep the peace or, if necessary, make the peace in our region.

I am very proud of New Zealand armed services. We are going to continue to reinvest in a credible armed service. It is not good enough to have a home guard and then wish to participate internationally. We are going to have a modern armed service and National is committed to ensuring that that happens.

Can I just pay tribute to the servicemen and women who are away at the moment. I was reflecting this morning that it is eight weeks ago today that Don McKinnon and I decided that New Zealand should help facilitate a resolution in East Timor. That week was one of the more extraordinary weeks in New Zealand's diplomatic history and many people contributed to the success that was achieved there.

It's seven weeks ago that about 11am in the morning the minister from Indonesia told us that President Habibie would allow the UN into East Timor. And yesterday we celebrated the fact that the Indonesian army left East Timor in order to allow the aspirations of the East Timorese people to achieve their independence.

New Zealanders can be proud that we have had servicemen and women involved in achieving that goal in a very short time. It's something the National Party and New Zealand can be proud of.

The campaign
And so to the next three weeks and about six days. There is a choice to be made in this country and it's a choice that's very important.

I am very proud to lead a party that is actually taking this country forward.

This government is only two years old in terms of being led by myself and I want to acknowledge the talented teams of ministers who now make up the front bench and also the talented team of backbenchers who are itching to be part of the front bench. They are an incredibly good group of people who are capable of taking this country forward. They are talented. They are energetic. They are committed to this country. And they are very determined to make a difference and are very ambitious for New Zealand.

Ladies and gentlemen, National Party people are unashamedly positive people. We acknowledge the problems where they exist, but we find solutions for them. Our opponents can only best be described as pessimistic people. People who know how to describe the problems, but have nothing to offer in terms of what might fix them.

I condemn those who constantly talk New Zealand down. I condemn those who want to destroy our confidence as a people. I condemn those who seem determined to promote misery and uncertainty which is killing the spirit of some of our people in our country. Indeed, it is damaging our international reputation.

I want to offer the voters a very optimistic future and indeed, I am optimistic about this country.

National comes into this election campaign with a gifted group of people, a set of plans for the future, and a record that New Zealanders know a lot about.

We’re committed to promoting enterprise. We are people who value families in all of their diversity, and we want to offer New Zealanders a chance to test the passion that is inside us.

I offer myself as Prime Minister, our talented team of people, and a strong clean cut set of policies that we have got to offer this country.

The voters must make a choice, and I call on New Zealanders to reject the temptation of taking this country back. There is no future in the past. The future is ahead of us.

Victory can be New Zealand's ladies and gentlemen, if they give a strong endorsement to the National Party on election day, and I invite New Zealanders to give National their party vote on November 27th.


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