Thank you for your kind welcome. It’s great to join you all today for National’s first-ever virtual election campaign launch.
But it’s a bittersweet day.
We should all be here together.
However, because the rhetoric never matches reality with this Government, New Zealanders have again had our lives unnecessarily turned upside down.
If Ministers had kept their eye on the ball and ensured the testing they claimed was happening was actually happening, we would not have had a resurgence of COVID-19.
If the supposedly gold standard contact tracing and testing programme had been up to scratch, Auckland’s resurgence would have been stamped out by now.
But all the same, I am thrilled and excited to be with you all to kick off National’s campaign for Election 2020.
Let me start by thanking all of you.
Our strength is our people.
The many thousands of volunteers and supporters who know what improves the lives of New Zealanders.
For some weeks you, our volunteers, have been pounding the pavements – when you’ve been allowed to – you’ve been stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors.
You’ve been talking to other New Zealanders on their phones or their porches about their hopes, their fears and ideas.
Your work is what will get us over the line in just four weeks’ time.
We cannot do it without you.
Aside from today’s virtual format, this speech is unlike any a National Party leader has had to give in living memory.
That’s not something I say lightly.
However, I do not think the enormity of what is in front of us has sunken in for many New Zealanders.
For the past six months we’ve looked out for one another in ways we didn’t expect we’d ever have to.
Everything we anticipated has been torn up and thrown in the air.
But in our uniquely Kiwi way we’ve made the best of it.
Now the real challenge lies ahead.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me be straight with you – because you know I’m not one to sugar-coat things.
We are facing an economic crisis the likes of which we have never seen before.
Government lockdowns have crippled business cash flow and confidence up and down the country.
Job losses are increasing at the fastest rate in a generation and many thousands more are still to come.
The first full week of Auckland’s second lockdown saw 400 New Zealanders lose their jobs every single day.
In just a fortnight 5000 Kiwis found themselves joining the now 220,000 people on unemployment benefits.
These numbers don’t count the many people having to work fewer hours, or taking a wage cut, nor the many small business owners seeing their greatest asset eroded.
A wage subsidy made sense as a measure to support workers through a lock down, but it is more challenging as we face economic crisis.
The economic morphine pump is running low, so the pain will soon become very real.
As much as Jacinda Ardern tried to paint one week’s economic activity in Auckland off the back of a strict lockdown as a sign of positivity – a tortured piece of spin if ever there was one – there is no prospect of a rapid return to business as usual.
So, I’m sure you’re all asking, what’s the plan?
Let’s start with what it’s not.
Labour’s plan is higher taxes, higher power prices and a more restrictive environment for the traditional drivers of our economy.
Their plan is to make it harder to be in business.
Labour’s plan is short-term low-value make-work schemes – like pest and weed control, and riparian planting.
Laudable as pest and weed control and riparian planting are, they’re not the answer to economic recovery.
Labour’s plan is the sort of lazy incompetence we’ve become used to over the past three years, governed as we currently are by a bunch of naïve lightweights.
This all comes at a time when the people who employ New Zealanders need to be unleashed to deliver long term recovery and prosperity.
There is a better way.
You know from bitter experience that Labour cannot deliver on its promises.
You know that Labour always commits billions of dollars to low value projects that will ultimately fail.
And you know that Labour cannot be trusted on taxes.
You know that!
This is about the future.
Only National has a plan to grow the economy and shake off the challenges delivered by COVID-19.
National’s economic plan is centred on building infrastructure and getting rid of the RMA.
Our plan will deliver real jobs by creating the conditions to let that happen.
National’s economic plan lets small business owners do what they do best – grow businesses and employ other New Zealanders.
This crisis is a time to build critical infrastructure.
This includes rebuilding our schools, and upgrading our hospitals.
If we have to accept intergenerational debt, then let’s build intergenerational assets.
This election will determine what sort of country the next generation and generations to follow will inherit.
The legacy National will leave for the next generation is a complete upgrade of New Zealand’s transport, education and healthcare infrastructure.
But Government spending needs to be carefully managed – something you know National has an enviable track record of delivering.
Because unlike Labour, we get stuff done!
Let’s recap the investment highlights of our policy-heavy campaign.
National will deliver an utterly transformational programme to springboard growth.
This includes a $31 billion upgrade to transport.
We’ll duplicate Wellington’s Mt Victoria and Terrace tunnels; unclogging daily congestion that spreads for kilometres in both directions.
We will deliver the $1.8 billion four laning project from Christchurch to Ashburton, which National started and Labour scuttled.
We’ll invest an additional $4.8 billion in school infrastructure.
We’ll fix the schools, provide additional classrooms and build new schools to cater for our growing economy.
And we’ll upgrade healthcare infrastructure as part of a health system that is modern, high-quality and available to all New Zealanders.
To get all these projects moving we’ll finally do away with the RMA!
It strangles development, just when we need it to do the opposite.
The RMA will be replaced with an Environmental Standards Act and a Planning and Development Act.
These will deliver clarity and speed rather than the present murkiness, expense and delay.
All these things are huge commitments, but they’re needed and they’re needed now.
Above all, you can trust a National Government I lead to borrow and invest wisely, putting New Zealand on a long term track to pay down debt, greatly improving prospects for future generations.
We know how hard you’ve worked for the money we’ll be investing, and we will treat your money with respect.
That is one reason National will establish an infrastructure bank, to ensure efficient financing of New Zealand’s new and improved assets.
At this time more than ever it’s important that we effectively manage the vast sums of debt being borrowed to re-ignite the economy post-COVID-19.
This will help ensure the KiwiBuild and Auckland light rail disasters, where valuable time and huge amounts of your money was wasted, are not repeated.
Coming out of COVID-19 at pace means giving New Zealanders more chance to take advantage of the opportunities National will deliver.
That’s why on Friday I announced massive tax relief for households and businesses.
This will give confidence to all New Zealanders.
It puts more than $3000 – around $50 a week – into the back pockets of average earners just when they need it most.
It will help with pressing family expenses.
And it will help retail, tourism and hospitality businesses get through the coming economic crisis.
As well as tax relief for households, we will also double the depreciation rate for businesses investing in new equipment and machinery.
Bringing forward the amount businesses can claim in depreciation for new equipment and machinery will stimulate the economy by giving them the confidence to buy now and create new jobs now.
And there’s more to come.
In the days ahead I’ll announce policy that will do even more to springboard business out of the difficult times, further boosting long term employment.
National will create an environment that will see New Zealand finally reach its potential as a small technology powerhouse.
We’ll also announce policy that will keep New Zealanders safer in the COVID-19 environment.
National’s vision and blueprint to grow New Zealand out of the COVID-19 recession is very clear.
That’s why I have one sincere takeaway message today, for every New Zealand voter.
You don’t want to find yourself in the middle of next year, having just lost your job, relying on a bunch of people with a track record of dithering and not delivering, thinking bugger, I wish I voted National.
Vote National, and my experienced team will deliver a proper plan for you, your family and New Zealand to prosper again.
We will keep New Zealand safe.
National is confident, future-focused, and excited by the possibility and opportunity ahead of this great country.
Leading New Zealand through this deep recession will require a National Government.
One that is bold and decisive – not prevaricating and weak.
Only National has the vision and the plan.
With your help, I will be leading a National Government after October 17.
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