Restoring Democracy Critical in Restoring New Zealand’s Economy

Greetings and thankyou for the opportunity to talk with you this morning.

We meet here today at an inflection point both for New Zealand's economy and our political system.

A series of recent events, if not addressed properly, will see this country’s continued rapid slide in both economic performance and fundamental democratic freedoms.

Yesterday, a Minister walked off from her colleagues to join another political party.  There was no warning to the government’s whips or any MP colleague, and the Prime Minister en route to London had no idea what was going on back home within his caucus.

Members of Parliament are elected every three years by the will of the people.  In President Lincoln’s famous words “government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

When a Member of Parliament is elected, it’s on their promise to serve their electorate for the next three years.  There has never been a Member of Parliament that has placed, before election day, a codicil, or caveat on their intention to serve out the term.  The Minister in question, stood in her electorate in 2020 on that known understanding and promise.

That there have been past MPs who, on the changing fortunes of their Party have simply resigned from Parliament to take up a new job, does not excuse the blatant failure to fulfill their election campaign promise.

We have witnessed over the years, countless lazy excuses for failing to serve out an electoral term.  And frankly far too many of New Zealand's leaders and opinion makers have excused this behaviour.  That wanton condonation of what is nothing short of a breach of contract, electorally speaking, does not excuse past precedents.

The real point here is, that if Meka Whaitiri wants to be judged for having integrity, then she should have resigned from Parliament and fought a by-election to gain a new mandate, thereby justifying her continuance in parliament – not waiting until the closing six months to do that which she clearly intended to do long ago.

There is a great personal sacrifice and expense in resigning to seek a new mandate, but nothing short of that justifies the behaviour we witnessed on Wednesday. One hundred and sixty nine years after we set out to become one of the worlds greatest democracies with an unbroken line of elections, save in war time - a claim shared by only eight other democracies today.

What was shocking about Wednesday’s political attack on the principles of democracy, were the number of media and commentators who just simply didn’t get the point.  In our democracy the people are meant to be masters, and the politicians servants. But Wednesday’s actions now have an electorate in limbo not knowing what is going on, because the perpetrator of this event simply wouldn’t say what was going on either.

These reflections come from someone who resigned from parliament to seek a new mandate, without pay, and yet still paying his former staff during the electoral hiatus waiting for the byelection. And knowing that he would lose forty percent of his superannuation entitlement whilst doing so.  These reflections come from someone who is speaking from experience knowing the road ahead is difficult, but must be travelled if you have integrity.

The Speaker of the House yesterday highlighted the perilous electoral mess this incident has created.  A sitting Minister of a governing political party has wilfully run roughshod over the very principles of our democracy.  No longer does the voice of the electorate determine the actions of the representative they voted for.  It is now personal egos and agendas that take priority over the integrity of the House, the seat, and the people they purport to represent.  We now have an ‘Honourable Member’ continuing to sit in parliament with another Party, which no voter wanted, nor asked for.  There is no ‘Honour’ in that.  There is now a new definition of representation being forced upon our country – “its my way or the highway”.  This is a boat that has left port with no port to go to – for this boat no wind is the right wind.

Suffice it to say expect a challenge to the yesterday’s Speaker’s ruling.

However, as serious as this is for democracy, there are numerous storm clouds that have come upon us and which we must now confront.  Time is of the essence.

If we are to turn this country around, and restore our economy to the very top of first world nations, and our critical social institutions with it, then politicians must lift their sights.  Away from their personal and Party interests to the national interest.  This is not impossible and past politicians in the halcyon years of this country, despite being of different political persuasions, achieved that outcome and in doing so made us the envy of the world.

Such was their success, that political scientists would visit New Zealand to try and gain an insight into how a country 12,000 miles away from it’s markets, with a land area the size of the UK, but with a population only the size of Manchester, could nevertheless build every modern utility and infrastructure seen only in much larger populations.

Back then of course, in a slightly bucolic way, the first thing we would ask those arriving in New Zealand was “What do you think of New Zealand?” An immodest question, but it speaks of the pride across the political divide that New Zealanders took in their country.

So what we have done in past times, must be our goal again, right here right now, to rebuild New Zealand’s conflicted democracy and shattered economy.

This is a meeting of business men and women.  But before any government can help you and our citizens, it must dramatically lift its sights away from the plethora of petty squabbles to policies that have as their purpose the regaining of our national pride. And a sense of greatness in our economic and democratic performance, with policies that take everybody with them whilst abandoning the “Them vs Us” mentality.

Just last week, the government floated a new tax policy having demarcated three hundred and eleven wealthy people who were required to give over personal information for the government to form many unacademic assumptions.  All tax policy where it applies to citizens, is meant to be in secret.  So what happened here?

As Robin Oliver, a leading tax expert, with no political axe to grind, pointed out, the government’s conclusions were hopelessly conflicted with provisos and riders on nearly every conclusion. 

However, let's start with one.  How do you tax a gain that is purely on paper and not realisable until sale, if ever?  And in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle, and Auckland’s water bomb in the weeks before that, where was the talk about compensating capital losses?  And more importantly given the massive balance of payments deficit we have, and the debt we are building up, at over $1billion extra a week, what in the government's tax policy would address these deficits in the next five years?

There were no answers to those questions.  But an “envy feast designed for political purposes”.  As the famous Louisiana politician, Long, said many many decades ago, tax reform is like this:

“Don’t tax you,

Don’t tax me,

Tax that man behind the tree.”

We are never going to make it as a country if we have such pathetic law formation with no possible chance of success.

There is a way out of this country’s economic demise.

First, we must get our exports and wealth creation returns way above our import costs.  We have not been paying our way as a country for the last fifty one years.  We must start paying our way now.  Put simply, every governmental effort must go into expanding our exports, adding value wherever we can before sale, whilst rapidly catching up and getting ahead of IT and technical changes benefiting other successful economies. 

As one travels around this country there is a growing sense of depression and a loss of hope amongst so many people, and already, there is the beginnings of a mass exodus from New Zealand.  An exodus of people we simply cannot afford to lose, somewhat like the Irish experience before wise policies gave rise to the ‘Celtic Tiger’ becoming a leading performer in Europe in the nineteen eighties.

Surveying the economic and political scene in New Zealand is cause for real concern now and much of it arises from a lack of focus on what is important and what is not. 

One of the greatest headlines one could have read about this country in recent times, should have been yesterday’s news, but it was consigned to page A30, and just 15cm in the New Zealand Herald. 

It was a story about the NZ Superannuation Fund and its departing chief executive after fifteen years.  Matt Whinerey is leading the New Zealand Super Fund that has been a stellar performer against World Wide competition. To quote “earlier this week the fund was recognised by the Global SWF (Sovereign Wealth Funds) as the best performing sovereign investor globally in the last ten years”.

The fund has reached $60 billion and it is expected to double that to $120 billion in the next decade. 

What was missing from this article, apart from the sad relegation of its importance, was that for nine years the previous National government had stopped contributing to the fund even though Treasury recommended against that seccessation.  This is not to berate a past government, but to point out what is missing in our national economic and political psyche, seen in countries like Singapore and Scandinavia, and parts of Asia – once way behind us, now way ahead.

Second, investment in our critical human capital is suffering from a lack of political purpose and understanding.  Our educational standards are slipping everywhere, and worse still the non attendance of so many of our school children makes future failure, both individual and national, a frightening prospect.

Our education, health, and law enforcement also critically depend upon a sound economy - and all capable of providing first world standards.  Everywhere one goes and much of what one reads, is a complaint about lack of investment in these areas.  Our capacity to fund these areas properly is suffering from a failing economy, and to dismiss concerns as being a problem shared around the rest of the world, is simply false excusatory obfuscation.

All manner of self appointed experts are advising that we have to rein in our economic expectations, whilst joining the chorus complaining about the lack of attention to the concerns previously outlined.

When are we going to hear this country’s political leadership explain in terms that a ten year old can understand the importance of exports to an “export dependent economy”? Or what are their plans to provide the credit to support exporters offshore trying to earn and return money back to benefit “The Family New Zealand”? Or how their strategy will dramatically increase New Zealand sales and reduce our trade deficit?

The fact is, our country does have a sound resource base, but it's often not being used in every area to advance the national economic interest.

Our health system is in a mess and it needs a rapid rebuild, with new super hospitals and state of the art technology and equipment, with specialist units for heart, cancer and orthopedic patients.  And we have to reward our doctors and nurses and specialists much better whilst investing in their training and retention.

To regain our position as a world leader in education, we have to rebuild our education system beginning with “the three Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic”.  And in doing so, we have to restore the commonsense of those politicians as long ago as 1873, who made attendance at school compulsory and enforced it.  We must restore zero truancy and reward teachers.  Our motto must become “they learn, you earn.”

On crime we must begin a five year plan to attack burglaries, ram raids, drugs, gangs, home invasions, sexual assaults, and domestic violence.  We've got to bring back sentences that will seriously hold criminals to account, and make New Zealand safe again for the young and old to walk our streets.

In the next five months we are going to criss cross this country, holding countless meetings, to spell out our priorities. 

However, having said that, something more serious must be addressed immediately by the next government. 

That is the unmandated changing of our country’s name that was rarely ever used by early Maori and certainly not in the South Island - Ngai Tahu has always referred to that Island as “Te Wai Pounamu”.

So why is Radio New Zealand and TVNZ, both taxpayer funded, as well as all of our government departments, deciding to change their names and our country’s name? Was there a referendum on this? Or a policy statement from the former Prime Minister saying this? And what on earth is the Human Rights Commission doing demolishing our right to call our country what it is world wide famous as – New Zealand.  This is a mal use of taxpayers money for an elitist purpose.

This unmandated shift is being accompanied by their preferred legal and constitutional distortion of the Treaty of Waitangi.  Their misrepresentation of all three clauses of the Treaty knows no bounds, is not based on fact, but their present agenda-driven fiction.  Which says that the Maori chiefs in 1840 didn't know what they were doing.

History records that it was the Maori chiefs who wanted the Treaty with Queen Victoria, the Crown, and their concept of tino rangatiratanga, understood back then but not often now, cemented that understanding.

It's astonishing in New Zealand today how many Maori, apparently fluent in the language, think that tino rangatiratanga relates to them.  It doesn’t.  It means “the chief’s word is gospel”. 

It is preposterous that these so-called academics and “influencers” don’t understand their conundrum – if no one in the British Empire, including the home countries, was in partnership with Queen Victory on 5th February 1840, how come Maori were - two days later? 

The truth is, we were not there on 7th February 1840, and we are not there now.

Let's get one thing very clear.  Maori entered the Treaty to protect both Maori and new settlers - and they ceded sovereignty to do that.  It was all encompassing and all inclusive. 

To argue now, that the Treaty is the foundation document for their claim of co-governance, is simply academically dishonest and legally and constitutionally incorrect.

Worst of all, they casually recite the judgement of a 1987 case involving the then Judge Robin Cook, and falsely claim that the case was about partnership. 

That claim is ludicrous.  As retired Judge Willy has pointed out, “as to the notion of Partnership it was and is constitutionally impossible for the Crown to enter into a partnership with her subjects.”

All around New Zealand universities, academics, and the Human Rights Commission, are fostering deceit on this issue.  Misinterpretations and misstatements are manifold.  They attack the very core of this country’s democracy. 

The most outstanding Maori politician in this country’s history was Sir Apirana Ngata, steeped in Maori and who gained a law degree in just two years.  He was a political and academic phenomenon. 

And many of us prefer his view that the Maori did cede sovereignty, over that of a bunch of “Johnny and Hone come latelys” preaching this new dictum alongside their anthem of hate. 

Meanwhile, the four things that Maori want and need, safe affordable housing, access to a good health system, education escalators for their children, and first world incomes, gather dust far from the priorities of these elitist radicals – and their cultural fellow travellers.

To rephrase President Lincoln’s famous statement “they are of the people, but what they are doing is not by the people, or for the people”.

These people attack anyone who questions the authenticity of their narrative – as a potato, being brown on the outside and white on the inside.  Which is risable really – laughable in the extreme – because the Maori potato is not white on the inside but dark.

We could have talked much more about our economy today, but none of that will matter if we don’t defend and save our democracy. 

Our democracy is at an inflection point.  And I'm asking New Zealanders, whatever their background, race, or religion, to rise up and defend it.  The very future of our country depends upon it. 

If you want that, if you mean that, if you commit to that, then people will look back in our future to these few months, and say ‘those people in 2023 began rebuilding the luckiest country on earth’.