Rt Hon Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Good afternoon. Welcome to you all here today and party supporters watching from around the country. We appreciate your hard work keeping New Zealand First strong; thank you for keeping the faith.
Sixty-three days out from Election Day, we are determined to go on making history.
That has been our historical challenge even before MMP began - and on September 19 we will, together, ensure they do not shut out your voice, by shutting us down.
What’s at Stake in 2020
When New Zealand First made its choice in October 2017, to enter a coalition with the Labour Party, it took many by surprise. The Labour Party lacked experience in government. However, we had just endured nine long years of neglect by the National Party.
Three years on, New Zealand First’s record of achievement is impressive and unique, laid out, full page, in yesterday’s New Zealand Herald. No other Party has an 80% plus achievement record in under three years.
We have used our experience to help government through many crises, and to avoid a number of pitfalls.
We’ve used common-sense to hold Labour and the Greens to account. We’ve opposed woke pixie dust. We’ve defended socially conservative values, like the right to believe in God. We’ve focused on the wisdom of sound economics.
Whilst the rest have been politically correct, we’ve set out to correct politics.
We’ve been an accelerator for good ideas and a handbrake for bad ones. In this campaign we will detail why this was so important.
Now the hardest work is still before us, after the scourge of COVID.
New Zealanders facing post-COVID economic futures have to feel secure that a political party recognises how they feel and can trust that party to guide a safe course.
This September also provides a clear choice for voters - how to make their party vote count.
The best way they can do this is to use their vote to take out some necessary insurance:
Insurance against the ideological urge to tax, tax, tax;
Insurance against BIG GOVERNMENT and the view that NANNY STATE knows best;
Insurance against the folly that tax payers money can solve any problem;
Insurance against extremism - from either side of politics, and;
Insurance against any who would seek to govern alone.
In 1996 New Zealand began modern coalition politics, having rejected the elected dictatorships that produced first Labour and then National Governments blindly pursuing their neo-liberal ‘revolution’ without regard to human costs.
When the government was formed in late 2017 some said we wouldn’t last a year.
When the House rises on August 6, we will have gone full term.
They said we would never be able to agree. As though you enter a coalition as a bunch of yes men or woman. Our job was to improve government decision making – and we have.
With over 180 government bills passing into law, New Zealand First has been a seriously constructive presence.
Then some said New Zealand First would collapse the government.
New Zealand First has always been a constructive, always active, sometimes persuasive partner, in the government’s effective response to the March 15 attacks in Christchurch and to COVID.
It’s tough being the smaller party in a coalition - rarely sharing in the limelight of success but never failing to be cast as the villain.
How futile does a Capital Gains Tax look right now? And on Auckland Light Rail and many others, we have stopped bad, uncosted ideas and called them to account.
When are light rail supporters going to tell you the cost – which is billions above what they have so far admitted. Or the transport shut downs everywhere across Auckland, which will grind the city to a halt.
New Zealand First shut down Auckland light rail because sunlight and fiscal sense demanded it. If Aucklanders knew the cost and disruption of light rail, they’d be shocked with collective alarm. What we do know is that New Zealand First’s heavy rail alternative will cost 15% of light rail – and we can start building it now.
The real story of the last three years is New Zealand First’s outstanding gains.
We’ve been the quiet but dynamic achievers in this government.
Two weeks ago the press gallery asked about National’s claim that ‘Labour had only three competent Ministers out of 17 in Cabinet.’
Can’t they count. Labour hasn’t got 17 Cabinet Ministers.
Our response was immediate. We speak for New Zealand First. New Zealand First has four high performing Ministers and a very effective Under-Secretary.
Questions over competency or controversy have never been an issue for us. Whilst front benchers on both sides of the House have been spilling out of Cabinet, or National’s front bench, our Ministers have been steadfast. Doing their jobs, securing the resources needed to make good on our campaign promises. They have managed their Ministerial portfolios brilliantly.
Ron Mark has done a great job. So has Tracey Martin.
And Shane Jones has made the biggest green statement of all, a billion trees, and the Provincial Growth Fund. Action, not words.
And covering for us abroad and at home has been Fletcher Tabuteau, stepping up when asked.
And when has our caucus put a foot wrong? We are a rock solid team.
On Foreign Affairs, in our neighbourhood and further afield, our country has a new found respect. Ask Australia, ask the Pacific and ask Japan and Asia.
In three short years Ron Mark has secured vital defence assets to play both a defence, and as importantly, a humanitarian role, at home and in our pacific neighbourhood. Amongst other things they will be vital in the Pacific’s response to COVID’s economic calamity.
Minister Mark has delivered when before there was only National’s unfunded promises.
Minister Shane Jones was tasked to invest in regional New Zealand through the Provincial Growth Fund, the one billion trees strategy, and start moving government departments to the regions.
New Zealand First saw the neglect of our small country communities by previous governments and was determined to deliver new economic opportunity, new jobs, and new hope for forgotten people, towns and regions.
Why? Because we in New Zealand First have the regions in our DNA.
We’re not Wellington theorists. We are a practical party.
Rather, we share the simple belief that our cities are built upon the fertile and productive countryside. We were saying that long before COVID. Which begs the question “how sincere is the recent discovery of that by other political parties?”
As William Jennings Bryan said, “Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms, and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”
We understand this. Investing $3 billion in our regions to spur economic activity, growth and jobs, jobs, jobs.
Remember, “success has many fathers, failure is an orphan.” But you here this afternoon know who conceived, committed, and drove this policy to reality.
For the provinces the PGF has been a Godsend.
Not as National claims, a slush fund, but rather a critical lifeline for New Zealanders living outside of the cities to back their own futures.
Now, look at what Minister Martin has done for our seniors.
We now have a modern SuperGold card; backed by a proper website, by over 5000 committed businesses, and by an App – an App that already has more than 130,000 users.
Then there is the work for our children, as Minister for Children and in Education. Under Tracey, our child care services have got the biggest boost in funding ever. Children are being helped sooner; families are getting help earlier.
Tracey has had to confront controversy in her leadership of Oranga Tamariki. Elements of the Maori Party, in cahoots with some in the media, making much of those Maori children removed from care.
Could the system be better? Yes it could.
But if a mother has her first four children removed by the state why wouldn’t the state be concerned about the fifth child. It must.
The other side of this story is a blight on us Maori. It isn’t colonisation that’s to blame. Colonisation is the fig leaf used to always evade taking responsibility for protecting our Maori young.
Colonisation is our dim past; not our present, or our future.
Under Tracey Martin, we have turned a very important corner.
In foreign affairs it’s been a balancing act, but we have dramatically turned around a dismal inheritance from National - That is, the lowest aid contributor in all of the OECD.
The Pacific Reset, even more important post-COVID, has been the key to New Zealand fulfilling its duty of care to our many friends in the Pacific. We are here in South Auckland this afternoon and 100,000s of thousands of pacific people need to know that it’s this governments foreign affairs response that has stepped up to help their families and relations back home.
One Party has driven this. Secured the budget to do the job – That Party is New Zealand First.
And we have turned a failing $1.6 billion dollar racing industry around, saved tens of thousands of jobs, revived an industry, to grow our exports and help our economy grow as well.
Ladies and gentleman, we all know the media love bad news - which given the sterling performance of our Ministers, is probably the reason why we have spent so little time in the press whilst the old political parties have been hogging the headlines.
New Zealand First believes the role of government is to create the environment that allows every New Zealander to back their own future, free of state paternalism, interference, and obstruction.
We’re going to require everyone to do their bit. And not give a free pass to those who can but don’t want to work.
We say to New Zealanders, it’s your future.
And we’ll back you.
We believe there is nothing wrong with New Zealand that can’t be put right by the best of Kiwis.
We saw it after the March 15 terrorist attack.
We saw it during the tragedy of the Whakaari/White Island eruption.
We saw it during lockdown when our team of five million did the right thing to keep safe.
We see it now - people doing their best to keep local business alive.
Remember on Election Day the people are sovereign.
And the people have a choice:
- The choice between high personal taxes, or tax incentives for our exporters, to grow our economy and create jobs;
- The choice between cuddling crims or recruiting another 1,000 police to keep New Zealanders safe during a time of rising unemployment and societal stress;
- The choice between a return to disastrous open slather immigration or an immigration reset. Limiting immigration to only the 15,000 most highly skilled people who will add value to our economy. Not a return to the mass 72,000 per annum immigration distorting house prices, transport, education, infrastructure and health,
- The choice between attacking superannuants again, or New Zealand First defending them and keeping them safe.
New Zealand First, when forming the Coalition, ensured that superannuants were protected. Only a vote for New Zealand First guarantees their security.
We have walked our talk for 27 years.
We are the only party who can be trusted on preserving the current levels of super.
Superannuants need to remember:
o Labour introduced the surtax against super.
o National promised to repeal it, but instead put it up to 92 cents in the dollar.
o National attacked the 65% payment and drove it down to 60%.
o Labour took that payment back to 63% not 65%.
Superannuants need to remember that:
o New Zealand First had the surtax repealed.
o New Zealand First took superannuation, not back to 65% but 66% of the average working wage.
o New Zealand First brought in the Super Gold Card, extending the spending power of super – with 1000s of discounts, and free travel.
o New Zealand First is delivering an annual free health check for seniors, including an eye check as part of the Super Gold Card.
o On the winter energy discounts for superannuants, it was New Zealand First that first made that promise and delivered on it.
Every other political party has a record of using economic excuses to attack superannuants. Labour said anyone who says Labour is going to interfere with national super “is spreading rumour with malice,” and then attacked super. Then National said the surtax would be abolished “No ifs, no buts, no maybes”. Then they put the surtax up. And then National drove super down to 60%. Meanwhile the other “cling-on” political parties always allowed these attacks.
Direction of Travel on Tax Policy
New Zealand First was alarmed to see the release of the Green Party tax policy. Aside from its wealth tax component, which overseas experience emphatically shows always fails to achieve its purpose, proposing two new rates for those earning over $100,000 and $150,000 shows the Green Party’s tax programme is totally out of touch with the economic demands of the moment.
For many New Zealanders earning those incomes in our cities, or striving to – families laden with debt, high mortgages and job insecurity, New Zealand First says it’s your future, you keep your hard earned income.
We reject the envy merchants, who think the solution to every problem lies in your pocket. Who say they want to get close to you. It’s true – so they can slide their hand down your side and into your wallet. The only ideas these people ever have is how to spend someone else’s money and no idea how to grow a nation’s economy.
New Zealand First says aspiration and ambition is admirable, not something to be punished.
We’ll announce our tax policy in the campaign. But we will not support irresponsible tax policy, whether too much, too little, or too flat.
Tax policy needs to be smart, targeted towards our exporters, growth in the economy and jobs.
Law and Order
Through the Coalition New Zealand First was responsible for over 1800 new front line Police officers during our first term. We over achieved, swearing in over 2200 new Police Officers.
But we are still not satisfied. New Zealanders need to feel safe, especially during a time of so much doubt, insecurity and fear.
So today New Zealand First pledges that the next Coalition Government will set a new recruitment target; 1000 new front line sworn officers over the next three years.
And why would you believe us on this?
Because we’ve made that promise twice before and delivered twice.
That said, New Zealand First believes in the power of rehabilitation and redemption. So working with the Howard League, Minister Jones’ Provincial Growth Fund backed a “Driver’s licence in prisons” scheme.
Just last month 325 prisoners gained their driver’s licence and overall, since the programme started, over 3,000 have graduated, with over half of them going on to get jobs.
For these people, like the rest of us, a “driver’s licence is a freedom visa,” giving access to jobs and opportunity. This has been one of the greatest untold stories in recent history. Dealing with the core failures of education in society. And turning the results around with positive investment. New Zealand First is seriously proud of that.
The prisoners tell researchers that having a driving licence helps to get insurance, open a bank account and apply for loans. They feel better connected to their people, more like their neighbours, and they feel better about themselves.
The benefit of this prisoner licence programme is huge. Its smart economics as well.
That is the path to greater social unity and, additionally, independent research shows the benefit is $3.26 for every $1 spent.
We will expand that programme.
The magnitude of the COVID pandemic has shaken the global economy – and as an open economy New Zealand is deeply affected.
The end of the crisis is not yet in view but immigration policy needs a fundamental reset.
We are still in 2020 trying to deal with the problems of one of the fastest growing populations in the developed world - because of the unrestrained immigration of past governments. It was already apparent in 2017 that the scale of immigration posed huge economic distortions and costs:
- In the labour market, cutting Kiwis out of jobs, and undercutting the pay rates of workers;
- In housing, fuelling house price inflation and shutting out New Zealanders from the market;
- In exploding the already existing crippling infrastructure deficits in our cities, and;
- In tearing at the fabric of our social unity.
Since 2017 immigration numbers have fallen and COVID means we now have the lowest immigration since 1959.
With unemployment soaring, sustaining employment in the downturn is our priority.
New Zealand First says –
- Immigration is about fairness and kindness to New Zealanders.
- COVID has changed our world. And we need to look after our own people first, helping hard working New Zealanders get ahead. It means that immigration should be about the people we want in New Zealand, not the people who want to come to New Zealand.
- Immigration should be about what we can cope with in schools, hospitals, home ownership and infrastructure.
- We are going to fix the two old political parties failures on immigration.
- Our immigration policy puts New Zealanders first.
- In the next government we will demand the immigration portfolio because for decades the old parties have failed us.
It is common sense that in these times of extreme job stress, that if a job can be filled by a New Zealander then it should be.
New Zealand will always have a need to meet critical skill shortages through immigration. Such migrants are welcomed, but the level of immigration that prevailed prior to COVID means a reset is imperative.
There is only one Party that understands what the cost of mass immigration has been to the New Zealand worker. And New Zealand First is the only Party to argue for, and deliver a proper minimum wage, to put the interests of the New Zealand work force first.
One impact of COVID has been a shift in thinking, away from short-termism to a longer perspective. High immigration is neither free nor fair.
New Zealand First, as part of the immigration reset, will not allow immigration beyond 15,000 per annum, and only for high-skilled workers who will add value and help grow our economy.
Only by increasing the power of New Zealand First’s hand at the election can New Zealanders be sure that an immigration reset will happen.
Predictions about the campaign
One safe prediction about the next sixty-three days is that there will be forces trying to divert New Zealand First: from showing why people should take out insurance of a party vote for New Zealand First.
Who are those forces?
Political activists masquerading as journalists or political commentators;
The click bait media who are already in the tank for a Red-Green government;
Dirty politics practitioners, inside and outside of parliament.
We expect it, we are ready for it, but we won’t be diverted from our goal of again making history.
This is an election where voters want to know who can best help them through the tough times ahead.
This is an election about the economy.
This is an election about the future.
This is an election where stability and experience have never mattered more.
New Zealand First is the party of stability and experience.
New Zealand First understands the serious economic challenges facing people.
Voters don’t believe we can spend our way out of this. Those who say we can - are setting the country up for economic disaster.
New Zealand First is the insurance voters need to avoid an ideological lurch in either direction.
Most of all, we are the only party that for over a quarter of a century has put New Zealanders first.
We say to voters, back us, and together we will.
Back Your Future.
Back Your Future.
Back Your Future.