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Change Of Government And Direction

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

6 July 2008 - A Speech to ACT Wellington Regional Conference by Rodney Hide MP; The Museum Hotel, Cable St, Wellington; Sunday, July 6 2008

Elections allow us to chuck out bad governments, once we're sick of them. That's what's going to happen this election - Labour is toast.

But in chucking them out, it's not a simple choice of National or Labour. Under MMP, you must choose the Parties that will make up the next government. Do you want National propped up by New Zealand First, or do you want ACT and ACT policies around the Cabinet table? Do you want Bill English as Minister of Finance, or Sir Roger Douglas?

That's what your Party vote decides. You get to vote Labour out. You also get to shape the new government. Your Party vote decides the make-up of the next government.

Your Party vote also determines the country's future direction. Do we stick with Labour's present direction by staying with Labour's policies? Or do we change Labour's policies and change the country's direction?

You can change the government by voting National. Or you can change the government AND change the country's direction by voting ACT. That's what a Party vote for ACT does. ACT is the only Party offering a change of direction this election, as well as a change of government.

It's a choice New Zealanders have to make with their Party vote this election.

Here's what ACT is offering:

ACT has set a big goal for the country and developed a 20-Point Plan to achieve it. No other Party has done that. Our big goal is to beat Australia by 2020 economically, socially, politically. It's a big goal; we've been slipping behind for years.

It's a goal to challenge New Zealanders and lift our sights. It's a goal to sort us out into those who believe we can and should, from those who believe we can't and shouldn't try.

It differentiates ACT from every other political Party - all of which accept New Zealand as second rate to Australia. ACT doesn't. ACT believes we can beat Australia - we don't accept for one moment that it's a given that more and more young New Zealanders with get up and go should do just that. ACT's goal is to provide for an economy and a New Zealand that our best and brightest want to return and contribute to. That's why we have developed the plan and the policies to bring our children and their children home.

We desperately need their talent, their energy, their creativity.

We did it once; we can do it again.

When I was young we all wanted to travel; to see the world. But we never doubted that we would return to New Zealand as the best country in the world. New Zealand was the best place to live, with the best opportunities. It's not any more; years of poor government, second rate policy and third rate politics have taken care of that. Young New Zealanders still want to go overseas but, now, they leave with no intention of returning.

We need to make New Zealand once again attractive for New Zealanders to live in and to contribute. That's the goal ACT has set for New Zealand.

It's a big goal. The average wage in Australia is $450 a week above ours. To beat Australia we need to boost wages by on average $500.

We can't boost wages by $500 a week with handouts carving up the economic cake. We must bake a bigger bake. That's the only way to boost wages $500 a week. It means setting our sights 10 and 20 years ahead with a plan to get where we need to be. That's what ACT has done.

What surprised me in producing ACT's 20-Point Plan was the agreement among economists, commentators and business leaders about what's needed to boost our standard of living and beat Australia. They agreed on something else too: that no politician had the guts to do what's needed. It requires vision, principle, and guts - that's why we made the "guts to do what's right" ACT's slogan.

No one has ever accused the ACT Party of lacking guts. Meanwhile, the National Party is adopting Labour's policies. John Key's aim is to win votes off Helen Clark. He will stick to her policies but be a new, fresh face.

It's clearly working: National is riding high in the polls. National's "no policy" policy is good for National but it's bad for the country. National is providing no debate about the country's direction, what our goals should be, and what we need to achieve them. That job has been left to ACT.

ACT has plenty of policy but is low in the polls. Let's hope that's not a lesson for politics in the future.

So far, National has released 16 policies. The latest is a commitment from John Key to re-arrange and re-prioritise sports funding. Now, I'm sure SPARC could do with its funding re-arranged and re-prioritised - but it's not the most pressing problem confronting the country. It's not going to change the opportunities and standard of living for New Zealanders unless you're a SPARC staffer. It's not going to lift our country's performance or bring our kids home faster.

Yet our next Prime Minister devoted an entire speech to it. We're heading into the election with no policy debate or policy difference between the two old Parties. The only difference I can find is that Michael Cullen is prepared to sink $1.5 billion of taxpayers' money into KiwiRail because it loses money, while John Key wants to sink $1.5 billion into the telecommunications business that makes money. The only argument they have is about who should be spending your money, National or Labour. They don't argue about how much should be spent that's agreed. They don't argue about how it should be spent that's agreed too.

There's no difference in policy between National and Labour. But if we keep doing the same old thing, we will keep getting the same old result. It doesn't matter who's administering the policy; it's the policy that counts first and foremost. It's policies that will determine our standard of living in the future, and determine whether New Zealanders choose to return to New Zealand or stay away. Labour's policies are bad for our country, bad for Kiwi families, and they will be equally bad policies under a National-led Government.

That's why ACT succeeding this election is so crucial. That will put ACT's policies on the Cabinet table, and put Sir Roger Douglas in as Finance Minister. Sir Roger has demonstrated the vision, the principle and the guts that the country - heading now into choppy economic seas - so desperately needs.

ACT is a vote for a change of government ... and a change of direction.

Let's compare ACT's 20-Point Plan with National's 16-pointer.

What's our plan for stopping government wasting your money and the country's precious resources?

ACT will cut government spending to Australian levels. We will pass ACT's Taxpayer Rights Bill to cap government expenditure to the rate of inflation and give taxpayers a say through a referendum on any increase. We will close government departments we don't need, cut bureaucracy, limit Parliament to 100 MPs and Cabinet to 12 ministers. We will limit local government to core functions and cap rates.

What's National's plan for spending? To cap the number of bureaucrats. That's it. The Nats estimate the saving at $500 million over three years. That's a lot of money - but it's only a fifth of one percent of government spending. It's not even a drop in the bucket. Plus, the Nats plan to boost government spending with $1.5 billion on fibre and a more generous student loans policy. The Nats promise to spend what Labour spends and then some.

What about tax? ACT will cut and flatten taxes, starting with Cullen's 39 cent envy tax. That's a bottom-line for ACT. The only tax policy National has announced is to re-arrange taxes to assist community groups. They haven't said they will cut Cullen's envy tax. With ACT, the legislation will be introduced to the House this year, and will come into effect at the start of next financial year.

Red Tape? ACT says slash it through ACT's Regulatory Responsibility Bill. National is voting against my Bill.

On education, National says scholarships or vouchers for 16 and 17-year-olds. ACT says scholarships for every school-aged child. Parents should not have to pay twice for sending their children to a private or independent school. And teachers and principals should not be forced into a State monopoly. ACT will make such a difference to parents and students. We will empower them by giving them choice. Only ACT will do that.

Last week, National said it would opt for choice and competition in ACC. That's good. ACT agrees. But we should also have choice and competition in healthcare and for sickness, invalid and unemployment insurance. Why just ACC?

ACT says we should Sell state businesses where private firms can serve customers better. National says it will keep all State assets - including Air New Zealand and KiwiRail, which Labour re-nationalised.

On law and order, National says boot camps, with criminals hit with a $50 dollar victims levy. ACT says let's get serious: zero tolerance, private security to assist police, truth in sentencing, night sittings of courts and private prisons.

ACT's policies come from best-practice policies around the world. It's going to take best practice to beat Australia.

There is now next to no policy difference between National and Labour. I used to say National was Labour-lite. Now, with its spending plans, I think National is Labour-plus.

That's why your Party vote for ACT is so important. That's what will make the difference. ACT brings to Parliament the ambitious goal of beating Australia, and a plan with real policies to make a real difference. Oh, and Sir Roger Douglas for Finance Minister - a politician with demonstrated vision, principle and the guts to do what's right for the country.

A vote for ACT is not just a vote to change the government, but a vote to change the country's direction as well. That's the choice New Zealanders must make this election. You can choose to vote to change the government, or you can choose to vote to change the government AND change the country's direction.

A week ago I took part in the Corelli School of the Performing Art's pantomime Snow White'. I loved it. It's one thing to go and visit a school; it's quite another to get involved with students, teachers and parents. I became part of the school.

I love the Corelli School. Principal David Selfe and teachers set a very high academic standard and instil good values. But Corelli students also get to dance, sing, play music and act. They become confident and accomplished performers. The talent, the energy, the creativity of the school has to be seen to be believed. I love it.

I meet a young boy who is a wonderful dancer. Ever since he was young he wanted to dance. But I have no doubt that, at a State school, he would be bullied and teased. He goes to Corelli, where the students cheer and clap. He gets to perform, and to be proud of his performance. He gets dance lessons every day as part of his schooling.

He's a bright and confident young boy who will go on in life to do great things. I shudder to think what would happen to him in the schools for which he is zoned. His parents have to struggle and pay twice - once through their taxes and again through their school fees - for their child's education because he is special. They struggle. Many parents simply can't do it. Their children miss out.

I would love to be able to provide a scholarship for a child to go to Corelli. What difference that would make to that child's life. Just as Mr Selfe won a scholarship for music as a young boy back in London all those years ago; it made such a difference in his life and, now, the life of his students. I would love to make a difference like that. Just for one child.

But imagine what ACT's policy would do: it would do that for every child. ACT's policy is to provide that scholarship for every child, and to make a difference for thousands of children. The money is there now, paid for in our taxes. We would just use it to fund the students, not the schools. We would not distinguish between Corelli and a State school; they would be funded by the students they teach with the money provided through taxes to the government for our children's education. What a difference that would make. So many of our young would benefit from a school that specialises in the performing arts. It's the same for the parents of gifted children. They have to pay twice. Or parents with children who are good at sport. They should be able to attend a school specialising in high performance sport.

Those students in fact, every student should have a scholarship to the school that best suits them, whether State or private. We should strive everywhere for choice and diversity, rather than monopolised mediocrity.

We are so used to government monopoly in education it's hard for people to grasp. I remember queuing in the snow for bread in Bucharest in 1981. That night I explained to two doctors that, in the west, the government didn't monopolise the production and distribution of food. As a result, we had these huge supermarkets chock-a-block with food of everything description fresh and cheap. They were incredulous and didn't believe me.

It's the same now for parents and teachers. They can't imagine getting the schooling their children need with the decision being their's rather than the government's. And teachers can't imagine being able to teach their pupils in the way they need to be taught rather than always having to teach according to State dictate. We can't imagine hundreds of Corelli-like schools throughout New Zealand giving students the confidence, skill and experience that now only the few can enjoy at Corelli.

But the money is there now, spent by the Minister and divided up amongst State schools. The argument between National and Labour is which of them should be spending it. But ACT says it's your money: you should get to choose. The money should be divided up for the students, whether they got to a State school or a private school. Imagine the difference that would make.

More children could have the Corelli experience. Parents wouldn't have to pay twice, or have their children miss out. And more teachers would be free to provide what their pupils need, just like what happens at Corelli.

That's why this election is so important. We can with just a few votes make such a difference to our country's standard of living and to the future lives of so many of our young.

We are truly lucky to have this election and this opportunity. Let's use it.

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