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06 May 2007
NEWS: National's Economic Agenda

National Party Leader John Key has offered a glimpse of a future National budget. Speaking at the National Party's Lower North Island conference in Palmerston North, Mr Key said National's first budget would focus on 10 points which clearly showed National's desire to boost New Zealand's competitiveness. They are: · A commitment to an ongoing programme of 'real' personal tax cuts, and which includes the previously announced policy to eliminate the cap on charitable donations. · A substantial investment in infrastructure across public transport, roading, telecommunications, water and energy. · A Resource Management Act Amendment Bill that will reduce the costs, delays and uncertainties of the RMA, while reaffirming National's commitment to high environmental standards. · Policies that deliver the right incentives for people to choose work rather than welfare. · A programme of action to reintroduce competition to the ACC system. · Changes to labour laws, such as the 90-day trial that will mean those who are most vulnerable in the labour market can be given a chance. · An ongoing programme to fix the fact that 1 in 5 New Zealand kids are not succeeding at school. Improved education is central to National's vision. · A stop to the flood of new regulations and red tape. · Immigration policies that ensure we attract the best and skilled migrants that our country needs. · A sensible spending track that recognises the value of our core public services but doesn't think the government should do everything in our society. "National has a sense of purpose about what we want to do in government. Labour doesn't," says Mr Key. "They have run out of ideas and are busy cannibalising all of ours. "After 8 years, they have reduced New Zealand's competitiveness. They have been too busy harvesting the crop and not busy enough preparing the soil for future generations." Click here to read and comment on the speech

06 May 2007
SPEECH: National’s Economic Agenda

National’s Economic Agenda Speech to the Lower North Island Regional Conference, Palmerston North It's a real pleasure to be addressing the Lower North Island Regional Conference as Leader of the National Party. It's great to be joined by nine caucus colleagues from this region, eight of whom were new to Parliament at the 2005 election. Congratulations are due to those MPs and the voters and volunteers who helped get them to Parliament. This line-up is proof that the National Party is in great heart. I am hugely proud to be leading this wonderful party of ours. It's a privilege to be your leader. The National Party is built on age-tested principles that reflect what is best about New Zealand. We are a party of enterprise; a party of personal freedom and individual responsibility; a party of family; an inclusive party; a party of ambition. We believe in every individual's capacity to shape their own life, and we believe in this great country of ours. New Zealanders from all walks of life make National what it is and we take strength from our diversity. Today, I would like to thank every member and volunteer here who helps make this party strong. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the work of National Party Regional Chair Patricia Morrison, and Party President Judy Kirk. The efforts of our members are what keep us vibrant; keep us connected and make us heard. So, thank-you. I am excited about what lies ahead for us. I have a crystal clear message for all of you: National is absolutely committed to winning the next election. And the one after that. And the three after that! We have the drive. We have the fresh ideas. We have the people. And we have more Kiwis behind us than any other party in this country. Let me tell you, I am determined to lead National to Government in 2008. I am determined to serve all New Zealanders with the strength, the courage and the energy that they deserve. Ladies and Gentlemen, we must be determined. The mission before us A great mission lies before us. New Zealand is at a critical juncture in its history. In a new century we find ourselves in uncharted waters. Big winds are blowing in our direction. The explosion of the Internet is bringing billions of potential customers within our reach. Our booming and ever-wealthier Asian neighbours are reaching out for new services and new products. People everywhere are seeking safe and green havens in an increasingly unstable and dirty world. New Zealand is uniquely placed to respond to these global forces. But we cannot sit back and wait to be blown any which way by these lucky winds. Because if we do not adapt to take these winds – if we don't lift our sails accordingly – we may find ourselves in peril. We need to harness global opportunities and ensure every Kiwi can use them to build a better life. I'll tell you what won't work. It won't be enough to simply chant slogans of "economic transformation". We need more than warm platitudes. New Zealand needs a vision of what we want and how we plan to get it. We must act now to give the New Zealanders of tomorrow maximum opportunities, security and choices. These are our children and grandchildren I am talking about. As we have had the gift of a great country, so must they. That's why I want to lead a National-led Government. We need to raise our sails and catch the drift of this new millennium. We simply won't get the future of our dreams by treading water. We have to be more ambitious, more outward-looking, and more responsive than ever before. We need to maximise the contribution of every single New Zealander. Tragically, Labour is running dial-up policies in a broadband world. To steer this country forward we've got to change the tack. We've got to change the crew in Cabinet, and above all – we've got to change the Captain! National is ready to lead The National Party is ready to take the helm. We're ready to ratchet this country's dreams up a notch. Our caucus is in cracking shape. I am proud to lead a group of men and women who are experienced, driven, and in tune with ordinary New Zealanders. It was no accident that Labour lost 10 electorate MPs in the last election. Those MPs were booted out because they had lost touch with their voters. New Zealanders chose National MPs to replace them because National MPs can be trusted to listen and work hard for the causes their constituents care about. Just look at this region's representatives in the National Party caucus. The Lower North Island has gone from having one National MP – the obviously outstanding Simon Power – to a total of nine. We have Napier's Chris Tremain, Tukituki's Craig Foss, Wairarapa's John Hayes and Whanganui's Chester Borrows. We have our wonderful list representatives; Chris Finlayson, Nathan Guy, Mark Blumsky and our newest addition to Parliament, Katrina Shanks. All of these MPs have made their presence known in Parliament. They've got their teeth into real issues and they've put their hearts into their work. National is lucky to have them. And we're lucky to have a formidable Shadow Cabinet that is taking it to Labour like never before. While Labour's Ministers spend time asking each other patsy questions we've got MPs asking the hard questions. Like Simon Power asking why six months on from the tragic death of Liam Ashley the Corrections Department still hasn't made changes to prevent the tragedy happening again. Simon asks the questions that matter and the National Party asks the questions that matter. The caucus are a great team. We are firmly united and we are ready to govern this country. New Zealand wants National And it's not just me who thinks it. New Zealand thinks it. For the past six months, I've had the privilege of travelling New Zealand from city to town talking to the people who make our country tick. I've been to places like McGehan Close and met people like Aroha Ireland, a young girl with big dreams for her future. I've milked cows with Nathan Guy in Horowhenua – skilfully avoiding an early-morning shower. I've visited primary schools in Canterbury. I've met with iwi in Ruatoria. In every one of these places I have found people who are quietly cheering for the National Party. Sure, there are plenty who are loudly backing us, but there's something else happening as well. Even people who voted for Labour in 2005 are telling me they don't think Clark and Co represent the future of this country. Kiwis are sensing what I see every time I return to Parliament. Helen Clark has lost her mojo. Turns out she lost her Taito as well. Labour has lost the pulse of the people and it has lost New Zealanders' hearts. 'Third -term- itis' has well and truly sunk in. It's up to National to ensure this 'third -term- itis' is terminal. An analysis of Labour's performance, even when measured against its own objectives, paints a bleak picture. Labour came to power saying hospital waiting lists were a disgrace. Those lists have only got worse. Labour's attempts to manipulate the numbers by bumping sick people off waiting lists is the new disgrace. Labour came to power saying it was disgraceful that Kiwi kids were leaving school unable to read, write and do maths. Billions of dollars later and their own agency reports that a disgraceful one in five kids are failing at school. Labour came to power saying they'd be tough on crime. Well, Labour should ask Karl Kuchenbecker's family if they think they've lived up to that promise. Karl Kuchenbecker – a good man, a father of two young boys – left home on a quad bike and was sent home in a coffin by a paroled man who should have been locked up for life. I'll tell you what I think about that. I think a Government responsible for a tragedy of that magnitude has well and truly lost the right to call itself tough on crime. A Government I lead will not put up with that. Labour's attempt to blame every problem and crisis on past governments has lost credibility. They have had nearly eight years, a fair shot by any definition. Sure, Clark and her crew are experienced now. But is it good experience? No, it's not. The bulk of Labour's so-called experience is in the dark arts of ducking for cover and shirking responsibility. The National Party will win the next election because people can trust us to stand up for their aspirations. Helen Clark thinks everything good in this country is down to Labour and everything bad in this country is down to National. She's wrong. In the end, our country is only as good as what each New Zealander decides to put into it. New Zealanders are impatient for fresh thinking. That's why they're looking to National. Kiwis aren't interested in out-of-touch ideas like state-funding of political parties; they want their politicians to focus on the real issues. That's what National's been doing; we've spoken out about our growing underclass, the failures in our criminal justice system and the staggering failure rate in our education system. We've been setting the agenda and leading the political pack. Let me tell you, we will continue to stick up for ordinary Kiwis on the issues that matter. Parents before politics The events of this week are a clear illustration of that commitment. Many parents throughout this country were rightfully concerned about the effects Sue Bradford's original amendment to Section 59 would have had on how they brought up their children. The bill, as it originally stood and as supported by a majority of Parliament, was set to expose good parents to criminal investigation and prosecution. There were enough votes to pass it and Labour was determined to force it through. But I was convinced our parliamentarians could do better. I do not want to see a society where we criminalize good parents for doing their jobs. But nor do I want to see a society where the law can be used to shield people who abuse their children So I called for compromise. I sat around the negotiating table and I argued the case for Kiwi mums and dads. So, this week National was able to put our support behind a revised amendment that will protect good parents from being criminalised. Is it a compromise on some parts? Yes, it is. But is it a better situation than that of the bill that would have gone through 10 days ago? It most certainly is. To those who say you should have made Labour the fall-guy, I say this: National put parents before politics. We called for compromise and we got results. Sometimes – not all that often, let me say – but sometimes, politics is best left parked at the door; this was one of those sometimes. Had National not reached out we would have been left with legislation that would have put parents in New Zealand in a very unfair position for 18 months. The National Party caucus showed some immense strength to stand up and say there is a better way of doing this. If the bill does not work, then I for one, if I am Prime Minister of New Zealand, will work to change it. But I think we are right to give it a go. The three 'Es' In the lead-up to election 2008, National will continue to set the agenda. We will continue to announce policies that flesh out our vision for New Zealand. There are three themes that I will keep coming back to as I lay out my vision: the economy, education and the environment. I will keep coming back to those three 'Es' because they are the things that I think will be vital to New Zealand's success in our rapidly changing world. The "Es for Excellence", if you like. They are the things that, done better, will help ratchet New Zealand up a notch. Today I'm going to spend some time talking about that first "E" – the economy – but before I do let me illustrate why education and the environment are so important. Education lifts our people up by giving them the skills and knowledge to foot it with the best in the world. A poorly skilled workforce will condemn our country – and the people in it – to a humiliating race to the bottom. At a bare minimum, we need to do something about the one-in-five children failing at school. We need to nip under-achievement in the bud. Education is supposed to be a liberator, but if you can't read and write, you'll never be free. That's why, in a speech last month, I announced our policy of setting national standards in reading, writing and maths, requiring all primary schools to test kids against those standards and ensuring the results are reported to parents. Labour has rejected this idea. They think it's cruel to measure achievement and highlight failure. I'll tell you what I think is cruel – robbing struggling kids of a future by turning a blind eye to their troubles. That's what's really cruel. In the next few months you can look forward to more education announcements, including how National plans to fix the NCEA mess. Then we come to the second "E" – the environment. New Zealand's clean green environment is such an important part of the Kiwi way of life and such a big part of the image New Zealand sells to the world. It is special to us and we have an obligation to preserve it for the New Zealanders of tomorrow. National won't sit back and let the political Left act as if it has a monopoly on environmental policies. We will enter the debate on the big environmental issues of our time because they are too important to ignore. You can expect to hear more from us on climate change, clean water, forests, and on the environmental issues that impact on "Brand New Zealand" and the Kiwi way of life. Helen Clark may say 'carbon neutral' more times than we do, but rest assured that National will be coming up with sensible environmental solutions that will outlast today's trendy buzzwords. So those are two of the "Es". National's Economic Agenda With Cullen's eighth budget just two weeks away I'd like to talk to you in some depth about the first 'E' – the Economy. Our economy has good years and lean years. That happens in every country. But in every country, the pattern of having a few good years followed by a few lean years, followed by a few good years, and so on, happens around a particular level of national income. So, the US has its up-years and down-years, but it's a far richer country than we are. And Bangladesh has its up-years and down-years but it's a far poorer country than we are. What has happened in New Zealand is that Labour has sat back and enjoyed a period of almost 8 up-years. They have enjoyed spending the tax revenue that those up-years have provided. But there are two things I need to point out. The first is that Labour's run of up-years is rapidly coming to an end – just ask the 350 workers at Fisher & Paykel. Labour doesn't know what to say to those workers. But, more importantly, over the past 8 years Labour has done nothing to increase the level of our economy. They have done nothing to increase the level of the economy despite having every opportunity in the world to do so. How do we know this? Well, when Labour came to office in 1999 our economy was ranked number 20 out of the 30 developed countries in the OECD. Just a fortnight ago, the OECD released a report on the New Zealand economy. That report showed that our economy had now slipped down to number 22 in the OECD. So, we are well and truly on a race to the bottom. Our competitiveness is falling every year. We like to think we can compare ourselves with Australia, with the US, with the UK and with Canada. We can't – we are not in their league. The countries we can honestly compare ourselves with now are Portugal, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. That is an indictment on the economic management of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen. In a week-and-a-half Michael Cullen is going to announce his 8th Budget. It appears that at long last he is going to try to do something to pick up the level of our economy. Some of this will be totally ineffective. What will work – like cutting the company tax rate – is taken directly from National's policy at the last election. But overall, the measures Michael Cullen will announce will be too little and too late. I want to tell you that in 2009, when Finance Minister Bill English is preparing to deliver his Budget, things will be very different. Let me tell you 10 things that will be in Bill English's first Budget. First of all, there will be a commitment to an ongoing programme of personal tax cuts. These will be real tax cuts, which put money back into the pockets of hard-working New Zealanders who are trying to get ahead under their own efforts. There will be a substantial investment in infrastructure across public transport, roading, telecommunications, water and energy. This investment will involve initiatives from both the private sector and the public sector. There will be an acknowledgement that our Resource Management Act Amendment Bill is progressing swiftly through the House. The amendments in this bill will reduce the costs, delays and uncertainties of the RMA while reaffirming National's commitment to high environmental standards. There will be policies that deliver the right incentives for people to choose work rather than welfare. There will be a programme of action to reintroduce competition to the ACC system. There will a recognition that knocking a few of the rough edges off our labour laws will pay dividends. In particular, the 90-day trial period we introduce will mean those people who are most vulnerable in the labour market can be given a chance. There will be the start of an ongoing programme to fix the fact that 1 in 5 New Zealand kids are not succeeding at school. Improved education is central to National's vision. There will be an order given to the government bureaucracy to stop the flood of new regulations. Labour has trained everyone to think that every problem has a rule that can fix it. That thinking has led to the red tape and compliance costs that businesses face every day. There will be immigration policies that ensure we attract the best and skilled migrants that our country needs. Finally – and this is number 10 – there will be a sensible spending track that recognises the value of our core public services but doesn't think the government should do everything in our society. National has a sense of purpose about what we want to do in government. Labour doesn't. They have run out of ideas and are busy cannibalising all of ours. After 8 years, they have reduced New Zealand's competitiveness. They have been too busy harvesting the crop and not busy enough preparing the soil for future generations. Rest assured – these economic policies are not the only issues National will concern itself with. We will always have firm policies in law and order. I share your concerns about growing crime rates and I am determined to crack down on the offenders who threaten the security of our families. We will pursue one standard of citizenship, and will make the most of the cultural, religious and ethnic differences we all bring to New Zealand. And we will have health policy that focuses on best outcomes for patients; not what is best for the bureaucracy. We will do all of this and more. In all areas, we will implement policies that will achieve the best results. Yesterday's gone Before I leave you today, let me sound a warning. The National Party is up against a desperate, dying Government. As Labour becomes panicked about the prospect of leaving office, you can expect them to resort to a cynical game. There may well be bribes and there may well be unfounded accusations. But in the end, Helen Clark will resort to what she knows. And what she knows are the battles of the 80s and the 90s. National must not be tempted to engage in those never-ending debates. Kiwis don't want to resurrect the mothballed decisions of history. We owe a debt to those who came before us, but we do not honour them by re-entering the battles that have already been won and lost. We must not allow Helen Clark to dress our new national conversation in the dated clothes of our yesterdays. We are in a new century and a new millennium, with different and more complex challenges. The debates that Clark cut her political teeth on are over. The next election will not be a choice between where we are and where we've been. The next election will be about where we go next. It's time to turn the page. I'm impatient for tomorrow. New Zealand is impatient for tomorrow. A new generation is ready to take the helm. It's time to put National on board and welcome the winds of change. Only National has the vision. Only National has the energy. Only National can map out the future that this country deserves. Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow National Party members, there is plenty of work to do. Strong tides have brought us here; and there are stronger tides to come; get yourselves ready, we're going to need all hands on deck. Thank-you.