21 August 2011
Address to United Future New Zealand conference
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for inviting me to speak at your conference.
I am delighted to be here today with members of United Future New Zealand.
I want to acknowledge my hard-working and effective ministerial colleague – and Leader of United Future – the Honourable Peter Dunne.
Peter, it’s great to be working alongside you.
Over the past three years, I have been privileged to lead this stable, National-led Government, with three strong support partners: ACT, the Maori Party, and, of course, United Future.
National forged an agreement with these parties because we knew we could achieve more for this country by working together than by standing alone. And I’m pleased to say that our approach has been a success.
I spoke at the ACT Party conference in 2009. I’ve visited marae and spoken to members of the Maori Party. And here I am this year at the United Future conference.
It’s great to have this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution United Future has made to our Government.
I strongly value the good working relationship between our two parties.
Of course, we don’t agree on everything. After all, we are different political parties. We have different ideas, different policies, and different processes.
But that’s a perfectly healthy part of a democracy. And it’s a necessary part of the MMP electoral system under which we operate.
The important thing is that, together, we are providing a strong, stable, results-focused government for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
Because that is crucial for the future of this country.
New Zealanders need a forward-looking government that tackles challenges and maximises opportunities.
And that is what they have found in this National-led Government, with the support of United Future.
Working alongside United Future, and our other support partners, we are making great progress for the people we serve.
As we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks, financial markets around the world continue to be volatile and uncertain.
Some of the world’s biggest economies have been struggling with high debt and low growth.
It’s still unclear how the European debt situation and the downgrade of the United States will ultimately play out.
The good news is that here in New Zealand, despite this international volatility, things are looking up.
Actually, we’re very well-placed compared to most other developed economies.
Employment is rising. Wages are growing. Households and businesses have been saving more and paying off debt.
And, despite the earthquakes, the economy is growing more strongly than anyone had predicted.
In the first quarter of this year, the New Zealand economy grew 0.8 per cent while the Australian economy shrank 0.2 per cent.
The Government has a very strong Budget plan.
In only three years we will be one of the first developed countries back in surplus.
After that, we will be repaying debt while other countries keep borrowing.
Government debt will peak at less than 30 per cent of GDP, thanks to the measures we have taken over three successive Budgets.
In comparison, the average government debt of developed countries will soon approach 80 per cent of GDP.
New Zealand has a chance to stand out from the crowd of debt-laden countries, but only if we stick to our plan.
And our economic policies are making the country more competitive, so we can make the most of opportunities coming our way.
Interest rates in New Zealand are low. Commodity prices are strong. Trade with Asia is booming.
With sound economic management, we are in a good position to grow solidly over the next three years, create more jobs, and increase wages.
I believe that New Zealand is on the right path, but we must stay on track.
In these times of global uncertainty, New Zealand needs a strong and stable government.
It’s critical for the future of this country that we stay on this path, and make the most of the opportunities that are now emerging.
New Zealanders need a government that maximises our opportunities, makes responsible decisions, and builds a brighter future for this country.
That is what New Zealanders have found in this National-led Government, with the support of United Future under our Confidence and Supply Agreement.
This National-led Government is building the brighter future that New Zealanders deserve.
That is what we are here to do, and, together with our support partners, that is what we are doing.
I’d like to take this opportunity today to touch on some of Peter Dunne’s specific contributions. There are, of course, many and I won’t list them all today.
I believe that you, the United Future members, are well served by Peter in Parliament.
Peter has done as excellent job as Revenue Minister and Associate Health Minister. He has also made good gains in his capacity as Leader of the United Future Party.
Last year the Government undertook the largest reforms to the tax system in 25 years.
Peter, as Revenue Minister, advocated strongly for making the tax system fairer and encouraging investment into more productive parts of our economy.
Changes included across-the-board reductions in personal income tax, cutting the company tax rate, and a number of property and other tax changes.
Peter is also the man who got Kronic off our streets and away from our kids.
He has stopped the synthetic cannabis industry in its tracks.
Under Peter’s lead as Associate Minister of Health, the Government changed the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill, to ban unregulated psychoactive substances such as Kronic.
It’s unacceptable to the Government that a product that causes potentially lethal risks was available freely to our young people.
Thank you, Peter, for taking action on Kronic and making this happen.
Peter is also the man behind the Government’s payroll giving scheme, which gives ordinary Kiwi workers a chance to support charities.
This scheme has been hugely successfully so far. More than 1000 employers have signed up – including large companies such as Telecom.
About $3 million has been donated to registered Kiwi charities in just over 18 months since the inception of the scheme.
Peter is also the Minister who I have trusted to take the vexed and complex issue of creating a fairer child support system – an issue that has for many years been in the “too hard” basket.
Under our Confidence and Supply Agreement with United Future, the Government also created the Game Animal Council this year.
It is a new independent statutory hunting body, which will improve the management of game animals in New Zealand. It’ll preserve access to, and enjoyment of, the great outdoor for New Zealanders.
Ladies and gentlemen, as you know, Peter and United Future have made a valuable contribution to the National-led Government.
I know that your contribution won’t stop here.
On Friday next week, we will enter the regulated period for campaign expenditure. It’ll be exactly three months before New Zealanders go to the polls.
So it is timely for me to briefly touch on the Ohariu electorate, in which Peter Dunne has again been selected as United Future’s candidate.
Can I first acknowledge my colleague Katrina Shanks who makes a tremendous contribution to the National caucus, and as a list MP in this electorate.
In the upcoming election, it is, of course, up to the voters of Ohariu to make their own decisions about what they do with their electorate vote.
What I can say today is that National will be running a strong party vote campaign in this electorate.
In Ohariu, and throughout New Zealand, we will be emphasising that the National Party needs strong support if it is to form another National-led Government.
If the people of New Zealand want another National-led Government, then our message to them is simple: give National your party vote.
The election on November the 26th is critical for the future of this country.
The National-led Government has made excellent progress for New Zealand.
We have put New Zealand on the right path. And we are full of enthusiasm for the work ahead.
But we are not taking anything for granted. The election will be a contest of ideas. Like United Future, the National Party will be campaigning hard.
We will be working hard for every vote. We will be getting out and about around the country to talk about our plan. And we will be continuing our hard work to build a brighter future for New Zealand.
None of us can predict what the result on November the 26th will be. But, if National is fortunate enough to be re-elected, I know we will want to continue to work with like-minded political parties. And that includes the people I stand here in front of today – the people of United Future New Zealand.
Ladies and gentlemen, as I said at the outset of this speech, we know that we can achieve more for this country by working together.
We will continue to disagree from time to time. We will continue to have different approaches to many issues. We will continue to compromise at times in order to work together.
But the important thing is that, together with our support partners, this National-led Government is making a real difference to New Zealand’s prosperity.
I know you’ll agree that there is so much more we can do in the years ahead.