Speech at the New Zealand First Convention 2012
Travelodge, Palmerston North.
“REMEMBER - THIS IS NO TIME FOR AMNESIA”
This is the first chance to speak to some of you since our convention last year.
To pay tribute to the efforts of many people who responded to the call to arms and worked tirelessly through 2011.
To those party members who worked hard as candidates, knowing they had little chance of making it into Parliament, we owe a special vote of thanks.
They were the real heroes of the election because their combined effort pushed our votes well above the five per cent threshold.
You will all remember how the “experts” wrote us off – but you never, ever lost your faith.
When we walked back into Parliament, the Opposition were a beaten lot.
They’d spent the three years of our absence being knocked around and trampled on by National and its motley bunch of cohorts.
The first thing we had to do was to put some steel into the heart of the Opposition and the psychological impact of our return cannot be underestimated.
They let National get away with murder during our absence.
Voters told us to “take it to them” and that’s exactly what we’ve done.
We are not intimidated and we don’t mind a scrap.
We were elected to keep an eye on things and to hold the government to account.
To be your watchdogs.
To let you know when strange things are happening and when there is a threat to the people.
And there are times in politics to bite – as well as bark.
Ladies and gentlemen the situation we find ourselves in is critical.
We have ended up with a parliament that is an affront to democracy.
National gerrymandered the Epsom and Ohariu electorates and then bribed the Maori Party.
Many sections of the media and the opinion polls claimed National was a shoo-in.
We knew that they weren’t.
But the result of all this was thirty per cent all of voters stayed home.
It’s a pleasure to report to you that all of your MPs have arrived at parliament running and are more than holding their own in the debates and select committee work.
Our Economic Future
Now let’s turn to the economy.
Unless we lift our economic performance dramatically, all that we value in employment, opportunity, health, education and the environment will be in jeopardy.
What’s becoming very clear now is that this National government has no vision.
- That there is no Plan A, let alone a Plan B.
Already this government looks intellectually tired and defeated and has nothing more to offer than old, obsolete treasury orthodoxy.
And that is why New Zealand First is totally committed to a plan to strengthen our economic base to deliver long term prosperity.
Because one thing is clear.
Nothing that the National government is doing addresses the serious issues facing our economy.
They are in an economic dead end street.
They bumble their way from crisis to crisis over class sizes, state asset sales, farm sales, casino bribes and ACC scandals.
They are still infatuated with bizarre free market economic theory when the result of their madness is staring them in the face.
Their addiction to so-called “free” trade agreements, despite the evidence of the damage this is causing, is astonishing.
They will not staunch the sale of our asset base.
They also lack any plan to build the economic base – in particular manufacturing and exports.
These ideologues have taken our manufacturing base from over 30% of our GDP to 13% and falling.
And you wonder why there are no jobs.
Some commentators have called this period “The Age of Austerity”.
In our view it is “The Age of Stupidity”, stifling creativity and initiative.
So New Zealand First is focused on an economic programme that is clear, distinct and designed to put us on a path to prosperity.
Take just three areas:
Exchange Rate Policy
First - our overvalued exchange rate.
It’s long since time to jettison the straightjacket that currently limits the Reserve Bank’s ability to contribute to a balanced economic policy.
An overvalued exchange rate damages our international competitiveness and hurts exporters just as high blood sugars damage the health of a diabetic.
The New Zealand dollar is now one of the most traded currencies in the world.
Yet nearly every commentator now accepts that our dollar is seriously overvalued.
We have argued that for years. But unlike these later-day converts we intend to do something about it.
We have prepared legislation that would give the Reserve Bank the flexibility it needs to promote growth, employment and our export base.
Manufacturing matters. We will stop manufacturing being treated as the Cinderella of the economy and give it the priority it deserves.
It is no accident that the countries that have weathered the global economic crisis in the best shape are those that have retained their manufacturing base, such as Germany, Sweden and Singapore.
As a small open economy facing fierce competition from multiple sources, our manufacturing base is under dire threat.
And the current regime does nothing to help.
We in contrast believe in assisting this sector with real Research and Development support and incentives to develop new markets, and a sensible state purchasing policy.
We have already sacrificed much of our manufacturing on the altar of free trade.
Some call this offshoring or outsourcing – we call it ‘job theft’.
We say it is time to put the interests of New Zealand companies and their employees first!
The folly of going for the short term fix of cheaper foreign imports is obvious.
For example, Kiwirail’s decision to build its new fleet of flat top container wagons in China rather than at the Woburn and Hillside Workshops.
Any small and short term benefit in terms of purchase price is soon outweighed by the wider loss in manufacturing expertise and longer dole queues!
The overseas ownership of our prime assets is sucking away our economic lifeblood.
Take one example – the banking sector of which over 90% is in foreign ownership.
A major cause of our chronic balance of payments problem is the torrent of profits and dividends that the foreign banks vacuum out of New Zealand every year.
New Zealand First will:
· give all government business to a locally owned bank; and
· make the Aussie banks explain how they plan to start adding real value to their business in New Zealand in return for what they take out of it.
Our agricultural land is at serious risk of being lost as well. Fertile, well watered land in the temperate zone is beckoning foreign buyers.
In relation to land ownership New Zealand First will:
· impose strict restrictions on foreign land ownership; and
impose similar restrictions on foreigners that Kiwis face if they want to buy land in many other countries.
In contrast to the government – we know where we want to go to build a prosperous New Zealand – not an impoverished one.
Now to some social issues.
There is a campaign to lift the age of entitlement for superannuation.
The campaign has been manufactured for the media by the usual suspects and political wannabes.
Ladies and gentlemen there is no ageing crisis.
The pension age – and the amount paid – is affordable.
Let’s face it.
$348 a week for a single person and $536 for a married couple is not a high income.
Many senior citizens find it hard to make ends meet.
And as for lifting the age from 65 to 67 – well tell me how many jobs are out there for people aged 65 and 66?
Today the Financial Services Council, which manages more than $60 billion in savings, released a report calling for the age of eligibility for super to be lifted to 67.
At the same time, the Council wants KiwiSaver contributions lifted to 10% of incomes.
And a taxpayer guarantee.
This is the start of the privatisation of national superannuation.
This council is headed by a former National Prime Minister who you will remember supported increasing the surtax and reducing superannuation.
And its Chief Executive was a disciple of Roger Douglas, selling state assets and imposing the surtax in the first place.
Just in case some people have forgotten that’s what gave rise to the Grey Power movement in the first place.
These two former politicians rejected the idea of a pension savings scheme back in 1997.
Now all of a sudden they are all for it – as long as they get their hands on it.
It’s time to start connecting the dots.
If any government listens to the council it will be the start of the end of a universal state pension scheme and the introduction of a means tested pittance.
Remember - this is no time for amnesia.
You know their history.
New Zealand First will never agree to reducing the pension and we will not be panicked into lifting the qualifying age now.
They are using all sorts of scaremongering, false forecasts and spurious demographics to convince you that we have a crisis on this issue now.
What we’ve got is a reversion to type by some political parties.
In the last 27 years both National and Labour have blatantly attacked universal superannuation.
They are again back doing it - in different ways now.
Labour wants an age increase, National wants to tie superannuation to the CPI instead of the weekly wage because they want to pay retired people much less.
It is a naked attack on the elderly tarted up as fiscal responsibility.
The only reason pensions are at their present level with no surtax is because of New Zealand First.
If not for us – it would be reduced by National – by lunchtime.
Finance Minister English has done it once before – and he will do it again given half a chance.
However, there is a serious superannuation issue and that is eligibility.
New Zealand has the most generous superannuation scheme in the world for recently arrived immigrants.
An immigrant can arrive here at the age of 55, pay no direct tax for 10 years, and receive full New Zealand super at age 65.
A young couple from China, where there is a limit on family size can bring in four elderly parents who don’t have to work here in the 10 years before they turn 65, yet they will all receive full New Zealand super.
They will also have access to free healthcare and all other welfare entitlements that New Zealanders work hard for all their lives.
Don’t expect the other political parties whose policies are so barren they include mass immigration to do anything about this.
New Zealand First is looking very closely at the situation.
We believe the welfare of New Zealanders comes first.
We are taking a stand over the crisis of poverty.
We will lift our economic act and provide employment for our people.
New Zealand has social and economic problems not seen since the Great Depression last century.
The plight of the large, growing underclass is a blight on our country.
The economic policies followed since the 1980s have created a set of permanent losers.
They are failing to achieve in the education system and in the job market.
For many, getting drunk or stoned is a way to feel better about themselves.
It is a way of life.
Unemployment is the cancer eating away our social fabric.
Maori and Pacific Islanders are the hardest hit.
Governments must exist for ALL the people – not just the privileged.
The ruling hierarchy ignores unemployment and poverty at our peril.
The policies followed by the National Party and its limpets are creating a truly Anzac country.
We are breeding, educating and training tens of thousands of future Australians.
The black jersey with the silver fern is being replaced by that awful yellow colour.
In ten years there will be a million of us there having fled John Key’s “brighter future” at home.
It is time to tackle the needs of the people just as successive governments did after the Great Depression last century.
When the first Labour government took office, they knew that a child could not learn at school if he or she was hungry, sick, cold or threatened.
They knew that families need work, homes, and a viable health and education system.
Between 1935 and 1984 there was an element of mercy in New Zealand politics.
This was a wonderful country for those of us fortunate enough to grow up in, gain an education and get a job.
This was once a great country that put its people first.
That is why we ,19 years ago, formed and called this party New Zealand First.
We are not called New Zealand second, third, or thirty third.
We are New Zealand First. That is what we believe in.
That this country is ours and it is for us before anyone else.
It does not belong to some foreign government or boardroom.
Our rights and livelihoods are too precious to be tarnished by currency traders, speculators and derivatives dealers.
We must never resign ourselves to the fate of being some international plaything.
We are New Zealand First, we honour the name, and we wear it with pride.
It is that name and our ideals which will see us come back even stronger in 2014.
That’s what this convention is about. That’s what our mission is. Let’s go from here committed to doing precisely that.