30 October 2011
Speech to National Party Campaign Opening
Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow National Party members,
I’m proud to be launching National’s campaign for the 2011 election.
It’s an election where the stakes for New Zealand are high.
And you are an important part of it.
All of us have a role to play in this election, whether it’s door knocking, putting up hoardings, posting flyers, driving people to the polls, or any of the hundreds of jobs that need to be done between now and November 26.
And we all have to be at the top of our game, because election campaigns are tough, and there is no room at all for complacency.
We need to be out there every day, selling our case.
For each of the next 27 days until the election, I will be out there talking about our plan for a brighter future and I want you to join me in doing that.
You can be assured that your MPs and candidates are working tirelessly to get our message across.
And what a great team we have.
Today I want to acknowledge their efforts and look forward to them joining me on the stage at the end of my speech.
In the end, this election is going to come down to two things.
First, it’s about who can provide strong, stable leadership in difficult and uncertain times.
The world remains a turbulent place.
The images we see on our televisions from Europe and the United States remind us that strong political leadership is absolutely vital.
National has shown over the last three years that we can deliver strong and stable government in what have been very difficult times.
We’ve shown that we can work constructively with a number of other parties in Parliament to get things done for the benefit of New Zealand.
And the alternative is too awful to think about – a directionless, Labour-led government without a real plan to deal with these critical times.
Instead, all they have is a formula for more borrowing, more spending, more tax, and some vague notion of paying it off in the never-never. They would also impose big new costs on business.
That would be a recipe for disaster, just as New Zealand is starting to grow again and bedding in the economic recovery.
Which brings me to the second key factor in the election – who has the most credibility when it comes to the economy.
That’s vitally important because when we talk about the economy we really mean our economy.
We are all a part of it.
Our economy keeps firms in business, people in their jobs, and families in their homes; it pays for medicines and health care, educates our kids, and pays our Super when we’re older.
So whether a party has economic credibility or not has very real consequences for very real people.
National has a straightforward and comprehensive plan to build a more competitive, stronger economy.
We’re balancing the books sooner by getting back to surplus in three years.
That means less debt and lower interest rates for households and businesses.
We’re creating incentives for people to work hard, save and get ahead, through changes to tax and welfare.
And we’re building better roads, broadband and other infrastructure so New Zealand businesses can grow.
Through these actions, we’re creating a more competitive economy and backing Kiwis’ ability to get out there and take on the world.
That means a more export-focused economy with more jobs for our kids.
And it means we can have better frontline services in health and education, stay strong on crime, and get on with the job of rebuilding Christchurch.
That’s our plan, and what I can promise you this election is a continuation of that plan.
It’s working, despite the difficult circumstances we’ve all endured over the last few years, including a recession in 2008, the worst global financial crisis since the Great Depression, and the devastating series of earthquakes that hit Canterbury and destroyed whole parts of Christchurch.
182 people died in the earthquake on 22 February this year and our thoughts remain with the families and friends of all the victims.
I know it’s been a difficult time for New Zealanders over the last few years.
We’ve had more than our fair share of adversity, and we’ve all been tested during this time.
But difficult times are when sound, stable and responsible government matters more than ever.
Faced with challenges, the National-led Government set about dealing with them in a measured and balanced way.
We supported New Zealanders through the recession, while at the same time putting in place measures to halt the rapid growth in government debt.
We undertook the biggest overhaul of the tax system in 25 years.
We cut personal tax, company tax, and taxes on savings; increased taxes on consumption and property investment; and closed a lot of loopholes and opportunities for tax avoidance.
We tightened our belt, and reprioritised billions of dollars towards front-line services in areas like health and education.
We put aside money to fund the government’s share of Christchurch reconstruction.
And we took a number of steps to increase genuine national savings.
The results are already starting to show.
The economy has grown in eight of the nine quarters since our first Budget was delivered, despite the earthquakes and the lingering impact of the global recession.
Interest rates have fallen to 45 year lows.
Households this year will have a positive savings rate for the first time in nearly a decade.
Exporters have been getting very good prices for what they produce and our trade with Asia is booming.
The important thing is that ordinary New Zealanders have benefited from this recovery, even though it hasn’t always been easy.
43,000 jobs were created last year.
Wages in the pocket have been rising faster than prices.
And the Government has been able to deliver better public services, with a focus on results.
Hospitals are performing 27,000 more elective procedures each year, with more frontline doctors and nurses. Emergency dept and cancer waiting times are down. And we’re making visits to after-hours clinics free for children under six.
We’ve passed 18 new laws to clamp down on illegal behaviour. We’ve taken a much tougher line with boy racers, sentencing, parole and bail. We’ve clamped down on gangs and P, and we’ve given the Police more tools to do their job.
Crime is down in every region of the country.
We’ve invested heavily in infrastructure projects that will help deliver a brighter future, like new State highways, rolling out ultra-fast broadband, and upgrading the rail network.
National has delivered for New Zealanders in difficult times.
And what does the future hold?
You know what you’ll be getting under National because it’s largely set out in the Treasury’s independent pre-election analysis – the PREFU.
This shows the budget deficit reducing significantly over the next two years before we run a $1.5 billion surplus in 2014/15.
After that we will be paying off debt, while other countries continue to borrow.
The economy is expected to grow at an average of three per cent a year over the next four years, with 170,000 more jobs than at the time of the Budget.
Unemployment will fall steadily to below 5 per cent.
Wages will continue to rise.
Interest rates will remain low.
And the government will continue to invest in high-quality public services.
That’s pretty good, but I actually think we can do better than this.
There are huge opportunities out there for New Zealand.
We are a food-producing country in a world that is demanding more food.
Our trade is increasingly shifting towards Asia – the most vibrant economic region in the world.
A growing middle class in China, India and across the continent is tuning in to the goods and services New Zealand can supply.
I’m unashamedly positive for New Zealand. I think we’ve got a great future ahead of us.
But we need to get out and seize that future – it won’t come delivered on a plate.
No-one owes New Zealand a living – we have to earn it.
That’s why it’s so important to create a more competitive economy.
An economy where businesses have the confidence to invest, expand, and take on new staff.
And an economy where we sell more of what the world wants to buy.
However, the world comes with challenges too.
The global environment is full of uncertainties and the Treasury has highlighted the European debt crisis as a major risk to the world economy.
That makes it even more important to have a strong, stable government at the helm.
So that is what National has to offer this election:
- strong, stable government, with a great team of Ministers and MPs
- sound, proven economic management that builds off our progress over the last three years
- and a positive vision for New Zealand , where the dividends of growth are seen in jobs, wages and better public services.
The alternative is Labour.
Where do I start?
Labour is a party without a plan.
Instead, they have a collection of election gimmicks and slogans, like GST off bananas, all of which would come with a hefty price tag.
Together these would create a $16 billion hole in the government’s accounts over the next 4 years alone – and far more over the longer term – which would have to be funded through borrowing.
Labour knows that.
So they have suddenly decided that every New Zealander can work another two years longer, to pay for some of their spending spree.
Even then, their numbers are a long way from adding up, because their retirement changes don’t start having a significant effect for at least 15 years.
Where does that leave us?
Labour would simply borrow more, spend more, tax more, and impose more costs on every business in the country.
And now they now want to push back everyone’s well-earned retirement.
Why would you vote for that?
Why would you vote for a party that thinks the answer to a global debt crisis is more debt?
It just doesn’t make sense.
But it’s certainly true to form.
When Labour was last in government they increased their spending by 50 per cent in only five years.
In Opposition, they have opposed every piece of spending restraint we’ve introduced.
Yes, every one.
And now their election promises consist of – you guessed it – more spending.
And when it comes to loading costs onto business, they are in a league of their own.
A big increase in the minimum wage, a compulsory KiwiSaver policy that hugely ramps up costs to employers, a new capital gains tax on all businesses, a more expensive ETS, an irrigation tax on farmers, more transport taxes, and a1970s industrial relations policy – all of these would add up to big cost increases for the 500,000 businesses in New Zealand.
That’s seven big, extra costs on business.
Businesses, both big and small, have only a few ways to meet these sorts of costs – reduce wages, cut jobs, increase prices or simply shut up shop altogether.
This is not the future I want for my kids – and I know you don’t want it either.
Let’s face it – Labour just does not understand how businesses work.
I know, and you know, that the only way people get jobs, and wage rises, is when someone is prepared to put money and time into their business, seek out new opportunities and grow.
Through the promises it’s made, Labour is telling those people not to bother.
Well I am far more optimistic than Mr Goff.
I back New Zealanders to get ahead.
But we have to give them the right environment to operate in, and a platform from which they can compete with the best in the world.
That only happens when we think carefully about things like taxes, and about regulations, and about the overall flexibility of the economy.
And it only happens when we keep debt low, invest in modern infrastructure and encourage savings.
That last point is what I want to talk more about this afternoon – keeping debt low, investing in modern infrastructure, and encouraging savings.
Because that’s precisely what our extension of the mixed-ownership model is all about.
As I go around New Zealand and talk to people, I find they increasingly understand what we’re planning to do with the mixed-ownership model.
They understand that we already have a living, breathing example of mixed ownership in Air New Zealand, which has been operating under this model for almost a decade.
They understand that the government will retain a majority stake in Meridian, Mighty River, Genesis and Solid Energy, so we’ll never lose control.
They know these companies provide an opportunity for New Zealand savers who are looking for somewhere to put their savings, and not in housing or finance companies.
And they understand that by extending the mixed-ownership model to these companies, the Government will free up $5 to $7 billion for reinvesting in new and valuable assets, without having to borrow.
Today I am announcing how this reinvestment will happen.
If re-elected, National will put the proceeds of mixed ownership – which, as I said, will be between $5 and $7 billion – into a new Fund, called the Future Investment Fund.
The Future Investment Fund will be used to buy new assets on behalf of New Zealanders, and to upgrade and modernise our existing assets.
The new projects I am talking about here are things like major hospital redevelopments, new schools, and transport projects.
They will result in assets that are long-lived, are here in New Zealand, and are owned by the Crown on behalf of all taxpayers.
We will set a high bar for projects to be funded out of the Future Investment Fund and the case for these projects will have to stack up.
They will have to deliver substantial social or economic dividends for New Zealanders.
Decisions on spending from the Fund will be made on a case-by-case basis, by ministers, as part of the normal Budget process.
We intend the Fund to run for at least five Budgets, but this of course depends on how much the mixed ownership model raises. The higher the proceeds, the more new investment we can pay for without having to borrow.
We will be very transparent about the proceeds that go into the Future Investment Fund and very transparent about what assets are being paid for out of the Fund.
In this way, the public can be assured that the proceeds of mixed ownership are not being lost.
Far from it – the money we raise from mixed ownership will be used, in its entirety, to pay for valuable new assets that will benefit New Zealanders for many years to come.
And because we will have the money already there in a Fund, we don’t need to go out and borrow that money from overseas lenders, increase our debt, and pay higher interest payments offshore.
Today I am also announcing the first project to come out of the Future Investment Fund.
The first priority for the Fund is education.
We are putting aside $1 billion of the Fund, over the next five years, to modernise and transform New Zealand schools.
That’s because the environment in which teachers teach, and kids learn, is hugely important.
But kids across New Zealand go to schools that are as different as chalk and cheese.
Some kids go to very modern, new schools.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit some of these schools, like Albany Junior and Senior High Schools in my own electorate.
These schools don’t look anything like the ones most of us went to.
A time-traveller from the 1960s wouldn’t even recognise them as schools.
For a start, they are not made up of rectangular, one-teacher, single-class classrooms, with 25 desks all in lines and a blackboard – or whiteboard – at the front.
They are built in a very modern way, to support modern teaching methods and modern technology.
Typically, they are built around what are called ‘flexible teaching spaces’.
These are open plan areas with breakout rooms coming off them. The whole area can easily be reconfigured and used in a variety of ways.
This sort of space gives teachers the flexibility to teach small groups of students, or larger groups sharing resources with multiple teachers.
And they are designed to enable teachers and students to make far better use of technology than is possible anywhere else.
Other kids go to more traditional schools that nevertheless have built new teaching areas.
But most kids go to schools that were built during the post-war baby boom, or even before that. In fact 60 per cent of New Zealand schools are over 50 years old.
They weren’t designed for new technology, quite obviously, and they weren’t designed to support modern teaching methods.
What is more, quite a number of school buildings are either earthquake risks or are leaky.
The point here is that kids will struggle to learn in a poor environment.
So our goal is to ensure that as much as possible, all schools, whatever their age, can provide the same learning opportunities as new schools.
That will be a long-term project, stretching out 10 years and beyond.
And it will require a considerable investment.
As things stand now, the existing money for school building projects will be needed simply to maintain the existing school network and to help address health and safety issues like earthquake proofing and leaky buildings.
And to do anything more would require borrowing.
So we are going to take $1 billion from the Future Investment Fund and put it towards accelerating our “21st Century Schools” building programme.
This programme will cover the next five years and involves:
- building new, modern schools
- rejuvenating existing schools on the same site
- building new, modern teaching areas in existing schools
- and wiring up many more schools with fibre, to take advantage of ultra-fast broadband.
All these new schools and all these new teaching areas will be built as modern learning environments and incorporate flexible teaching spaces.
They will all be set up to accommodate the latest technology.
And because we’ll be relieving a lot of pressure from the rest of the school building budget, there will be more resources available for smaller rebuilding and redesign projects, which again will involve modern designs and modern technology.
So the $1 billion we are contributing from the Fund is a very big investment in schools and therefore in the future of our kids.
It will allow us to increase the total amount spent on school building projects each year by more than 50 per cent.
That level of investment would not be possible without the mixed ownership model.
Our 21st Century school building programme is also bolstered by the Government’s major investment in ultra-fast broadband.
All schools will be connected to ultra-fast broadband over the next five years.
At the same time, we’re wiring up the inside of schools with fibre so they can connect with the new broadband network.
And the next step is to develop a dedicated on-line network for all New Zealand schools.
I’m pleased to announce that the Government has agreed to fund the development of this network. It will be called the Network for Learning and it will go live in 2013.
Schools will be able to access this network once they are wired up for ultra-fast broadband.
Our Network for Learning will enable schools to access learning resources on line, connect with other schools across the country and around the world, and allow teaching to be delivered at a distance, for example to students in rural schools.
It will ensure that teaching and learning in New Zealand reflects modern educational methods and makes the most of new technology.
With over 2,500 schools and more than 800,000 users, it will be the biggest network of its kind in the country.
Taken together, our 21st Century building programme, ultra-fast broadband, and the new Network for Learning, will give our kids learning opportunities that are second to none in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow National Party members:
Make no mistake – New Zealanders have a very clear choice this election.
They can choose to go forward with a strong, stable National-led government and build on the last three years.
A National government that stands for a prosperous, safe and ambitious New Zealand, where all Kiwis have the opportunities to get ahead under their own steam, no matter where they are born or what their parents do.
Or they can stop, and then head backwards, with a negative Labour Party that wants to borrow more, spend more, tax more, put more costs on business, and push back everyone’s well-earned retirement.
Personally, I think New Zealanders are aspirational for their future.
That’s why I’m asking them to give their party vote to National on November 26.
Let’s get out there and win that election.Tweet