Good morning and welcome to our 30th Convention, four days after out 30th Birthday on the 18th of July.
These are difficult economic times with costs rising everywhere so our sincere gratitude to all of you personally for being here and for your tireless work and enduring belief in the Party we are proud members of.
It is also a time for reflection and appreciation to those wonderful supporters who formed this Party in 1993, in a climate of deep cynicism about our endurance. Many of those members and supporters are still working today and knowing this has been a cause for our ongoing commitment to our country.
We formed back then a Party called New Zealand First and we have never stopped our work to make our country first, as it once was.
For us it’s critical to keep looking forward to the future and shape our plans and policies always with that in mind.
It’s been a difficult road but we have travelled it, together. We’re still standing when so many political parties, over the last 30 years, have come and gone, like brief flickering lights in our political universe.
Only three parties have survived from first being elected under FPP in 1993 until today. National, Labour and New Zealand First.
In our first campaign Labour and National conspired with legislation to stop us being funded, but one of their members, from one of our oldest political dynasties, despite seeing New Zealand First as a threat, was alarmed at this naked unfairness and came to privately warn me of what they were trying to do.
Politics is like that sometimes, in a sea of political dirt there are nevertheless inspiring acts of integrity and sincerity. And New Zealand politics must regain its dignity.
This 30th Convention for New Zealand First is at a pivotal time for our country. Never has New Zealand needed as much our political party of experience, certainty, balance, and above all, common sense.
Our Mission from the start has been to promote and defend the interest of the many and not the chosen few.
And on this Mission we have racked up massive achievements, far too many to repeat here, and way beyond those of any new political party. We have not tried to build our reputation on what we’re going to do, but on the pillars of our past performance.
We are the Party that began and gave free doctor visits to under 14-year-olds. Defended seniors when under attack by all the rest, by law elevated their Super and brought in the Super Gold Card with all its benefits.
New Zealand First gave real budget increases to Health and Education and Aged Care.
When other parties froze police budgets and closed Police Stations New Zealand First, alone, immediately turned those figures around.
When Kiwi Rail was utterly run-down New Zealand First in three short years turned that around too.
We inherited in 2017 a Defence Force $20 Billion forward budget with not one cent put aside for it. New Zealand First began fixing that too, by modernising our Defence Force utilities, regaining respect internationally, and restored our ability to help our Pacific neighbours in climate crises.
When New Zealand’s Aid was the lowest in the OECD New Zealand First alone, not once, but twice, turned those figures around dramatically and briefly restored New Zealand’s respect in the Pacific, the Blue Continent in which we live. An isolated country at the end of the earth needs friends and it was New Zealand First’s policy and resources, that again, alone, recognised that, not in talk but in action.
When our provinces were for decades neglected and forgotten New Zealand First made critical investments, fractional in cost compared to so many recent government pet projects, and proved that the provinces are New Zealand’s economic heartland.
Remember how some scoffed at this investment. Well when the projects began to open we were in danger of being injured in the rush to take the credit. ‘They came to jeer and stayed to cheer’.
Remember the whispering campaign about the ‘handbrake’ in the last government. Well the moment we were gone, the media having given Labour all the credit, and Labour shamelessly taking it, often for policies that were never theirs, the wheels fell off. The headlines since, weekly, have been one disaster after the next.
The next government as well will need a turbo charger for good ideas and a handbrake for bad ones.
As said before, New Zealand First has countless achievements and these are just some of them.
This Convention is critical for it sets the scene for our comeback. Everyone here this weekend knows the magnitude of the task we have ahead and the work we have to do.
This is serious business, but nevertheless a time to celebrate Our Mission, enjoy our companionship and recommit ourselves to our unique commission that lies ahead – we are going to save our democracy and in doing so, save our country.
But be warned, as we rise the dirt will start all over again, in fact as you know it’s already started. That’s a barometer. That’s a real poll, that’s a sign that our opponents are really worried. Expect it and ignore it. Just repeat to yourself the words of Chumbawamba - ‘I get knocked down. But I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down’.
Last, when you’re speaking to your husbands, wives, family or friends not here this weekend, please pass on our personal thanks for the sacrifice they are making to enable you to be here.
God Bless and have a great Convention.
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