29 January 2008
NEWSLETTER: Key Notes No. 25
2008: A fresh start
Welcome to the first edition of Key Notes for 2008. Over the coming months I will be laying out National's vision for New Zealand and the policies we believe will help New Zealand make a much needed step-change.
Today, I spoke at Ellerslie in Auckland about some issues that I consider to be vitally important for ensuring we achieve all we can as a nation. For the full text of my speech click here.
Asking the hard questions
I also challenged the Prime Minister to answer the questions Kiwis are really asking:
• Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?
• Why, under Labour, is the gap between our wages, and wages in Australia and other parts of the world, getting bigger and bigger?
• Why, under Labour, do we get a tax cut only in election year, when we really needed it years ago?
• Why are grocery and petrol prices going through the roof?
• Why can't our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?
• Why is one in five Kiwi kids leaving school with grossly inadequate literacy and numeracy skills?
• Why, when Labour claim they aspire to be carbon-neutral, do our greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an alarming rate?
• Why hasn't the health system improved when billions of extra dollars have been poured into it?
• Why is violent crime against innocent New Zealanders continuing to soar and why is Labour unable to do anything about it?
Those are the questions on which this election will be fought.
Focusing on Youth
The energy and enthusiasm of the vast majority of our young people make me hugely optimistic for our country.
But the sad fact is a growing number of our young people are failing to deliver on their potential.
This wasted potential is there for us all to see: teenage parents with no plans for their or their children's future; illiterate and innumerate school leavers; youth gangs prowling our neighbourhoods and sporadically dishing out beatings.
National's Youth Plan
Today, I outlined some new policy that forms part of our plan for giving young people the future they deserve.
National's Youth Plan is about giving young New Zealanders the opportunity and responsibility to better themselves, no matter what their circumstances, abilities, or track-record.
National expects that all young people under the age of 18 should be in work, education, or training.
National will provide a universal education entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds. This will allow them to access, free of charge, a programme of educational study towards school-level qualifications.
Most will continue their education at school. However, the entitlement will allow 16- and 17-year-old school leavers to access education at a non-school provider if it can better meet their needs. For example, a polytechnic, wananga, private training establishment, or industry training organisation.
Courses offered under the Youth Guarantee will have to meet strict quality criteria.
This new entitlement will be on top of, not instead of, the education entitlements young people have now.
Sixteen and 17-year-olds who are not working, and who fail to take up this new entitlement, will not be eligible to receive a benefit (except in special circumstances such as illness). Teenage parents will be specifically catered for.
Alongside focusing on education, National will tackle the increasing problem of youth offending.
It's time to provide the Youth Court with a modern set of tools for getting teenagers out of the crime cycle. We must act now to defuse these unexploded human time-bombs.
First, we are going to extend the jurisdiction of the Youth Court so it has the power to deal with 12- and 13-year-olds accused of serious offences.
At the moment, 12- and 13-year-olds accused of high-order crimes, such as aggravated robbery and home invasion, can be dealt with only by the Family Court. National thinks the Youth Court, with its wider range of powers, could play a much stronger role in getting these young offenders back on track.
New powers for the Youth Court
National will give the Youth Court the power to issue a new range of compulsory orders. These will ensure we're going to get young people back on track before it's too late. We will back these orders up with funding for the relevant services.
• Parenting orders: Parenting courses to address problems at home that may be contributing to a young person's offending.
• Mentoring programmes: Providing role models to young offenders for a period of up to 12 months.
• Drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes: Designated funding to help get young offenders sober.
National recognises that some young people have committed crimes so serious and so chilling that we must take drastic action:
• Longer residential sentences: Up to six months in a Youth Justice facility.
• Fresh Start Programmes: Revolutionary, year-long, intensive programmes designed to instil discipline and address underlying causes of offending; including up to 12 weeks of residential training at, for example, an army base.
• Spotlight Sentences: Non-compliance with court-ordered supervision contracts will result in electronic monitoring using an ankle bracelet.
I look forward to keeping in touch throughout 2008,
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