SPEECH: Leader’s Speech to the National Party AGM

Good afternoon. It’s a privilege to be speaking to you all today. To all the loyal and hardworking members of the National Party, I’d like to say a huge thank you on behalf of myself and the entire National Party caucus.

Good afternoon. It’s a privilege to be speaking to you all today. To all the loyal and hardworking members of the National Party, I’d like to say a huge thank you on behalf of myself and the entire National Party caucus.

We all appreciate how much you do – often behind the scenes. Without you, we wouldn’t be able to do our jobs, and the National Party wouldn’t be the enduring institution that it is, so thank you.

Every week I hear from thousands of Kiwis who are ambitious – ambitious for their jobs, for their families and for their country. They want a health system that treats them quickly when they need it, an education system that offers opportunity to their kids, and homes they can be proud of – to call their own.

They want to pay their bills and provide for themselves – they want to make decisions for themselves – they want their mums and dads and kids to be safe. That’s the country I want for New Zealand and the ambition I have for New Zealanders.

The next election will be on us quickly. We have just over two years. It is an election that is easily winnable – if National focuses on the things that matter to New Zealand – to those kiwis who deserve more.

You see, Labour is a party that is failing to deliver in almost every area that matters to New Zealand and New Zealanders. They’re rushing through changes and making announcements they didn’t campaign on and without New Zealanders having their say.

They are giving away your money with wasteful spending – they bought a motel in Rotorua for the homeless for $8.1 million when it was barely worth $4 million.

And you can’t trust labour on taxes. They ruled out any new taxes before the last election and then announced a Ute Tax afterwards. Penalising the very people who got the economy through lockdown – our farmers and the tradies we desperately need to build houses.

Labour is spin over reality – a hard-working family can’t live in one of the KiwiBuild houses they announced but will never build.

They promised we would be front of the queue for the Covid-19 vaccine. We’re currently last in the OECD.

Labour campaigned in 2017 on housing, mental health, light rail and child poverty.

Kiwibuild failed and house prices have risen $290,000 in just four years.

They’ve failed to deliver on their housing promise and what’s worse bought 4000 houses from the private sector - competing against first home buyers who should have been able to own them.

Labour promised to address mental health and announced $1.9 billion of spending. The money hasn’t been spent and mental health has become worse. Almost everyone I speak to knows someone who needs help. Labour failed to deliver – they’ve added just five – FIVE – extra mental health beds.

Jacinda Ardern promised to lift 100,000 children out of poverty by 2020. Child Poverty got worse. She simply failed to deliver – today there are 1500 more children in poverty than when she became prime minister.

Labour promised Light Rail down Dominion Road within four years. Four years later, they are still consulting. $35 million has been spent on consultants, yet nothing has been achieved.

Labour failed to deliver on that promise to Aucklanders.

Three weeks ago we started a campaign to Demand the Debate – the debate on things that matter to Kiwis. You see Labour is making decisions that the public deserves a say on.

It is making changes that have wide-ranging consequences for the type of country we live in and the type of place our children will inherit. Changes they didn’t tell voters about.

Take the oil and gas ban. They announced this on the steps of Parliament to Russell Norman from Greenpeace without campaigning or consulting the people that matter most – New Zealanders. Instead, Labour announced the ban to be a signal for climate change. The consequence is we will import two million tonnes of coal from Indonesia this year to generate electricity in the Huntly coal power station – most other countries use natural gas to transition towards a greener economy.

At a time when nurses are feeling undervalued and underpaid and our health system struggles as they look to Australia for better opportunities, Labour announced a $785 million cycle bridge over Waitematā Harbour. They campaigned on roads for everyone before the election, and then cancelled them the very same day they announced a cycle bridge after the election. Do you remember the debate on this? I certainly don’t.

Do you recall the debate during the election campaign about an $800 million increase in tax on landlords by removing the ability to deduct interest expenses? No, that’s because it didn’t happen. I will reverse that.

The Government choosing the Mongrel Mob to rehabilitate methamphetamine addicts over organisations with no gang affiliations has made New Zealanders angry. Giving $2.75 million to Lifetime gang member Harry Tam when Mike King’s ‘I am Hope’ and other worthy organisations go wanting is appalling. Not only would I not have given them the money, I would take it back.

We had to start the debate on the implications of Labour’s hate speech legislation, and a document called He Puapua, which includes recommendations for Māori wards in local government, a separate Māori health authority, and separate justice systems. The first two have already been adopted by Labour.

Labour received the He Puapua document long before the election and didn’t tell you about it. They are currently consulting with a small group of New Zealanders on fundamental change to New Zealand.

Labour fell 9.7% points in the latest TV poll, one of the largest drops for a governing party that I can remember. Because they are not listening to New Zealanders. One in every five people who supported Labour in May, changed their mind in only two months.

The Demand the Debate campaign is working – Kiwis are demanding a say.

Our billboards have been seen almost 4.5 million times.

Our Facebook posts have been seen by almost 1 million New Zealanders

Our internet ads on media websites and google have had almost 2.7 million views. We’ve sent out close to 1 million emails. Labour cannot use their majority to do whatever they want. New Zealanders deserve a say in the future of their country. Kiwis are demanding the debate on important issues that need fixing and today we will start that debate with them.

We won’t let Labour rush through a Ute Tax – in fact, I will repeal it. We won’t let Labour rush through constitutional change under He Puapua or Hate speech. We won’t let Labour rush to centralise our DHBs at the expense of our doctors and nurses and your operations. We will demand the debate.

Labour is taking assets that Kiwis have paid for under the Three Waters proposal and spending billions along the way. They estimate $185 billion of your dollars. They don’t appreciate you work hard for your money. They give it to the Mongrel Mob and announce very, very expensive cycling bridges.

Labour cannot use their majority to do whatever they want. New Zealanders deserve a say in the future of their country. And today we start the debate.

National can win the next election. But we need to be focused on the issues that matter to Kiwis. And we need to show that National is the Party that can get things done. That has the solutions for New Zealand’s big issues.

At the start of the year, in my State of the Nation speech I outlined my priorities for how the National Opposition would hold the Government to account. I said that National would focus on positively scrutinising the Covid-19 response. Our economic recovery. Hardship and public safety. Housing and infrastructure. And opportunities for New Zealand like the tech sector.

Across these areas we have done what we said we would:

  • Shining a light on the slow vaccine rollout
  • Escalating cost of living and skills shortages
  • Labour’s cosying up with gangs
  • I have developed my own Members Bill to address housing supply issues urgently
  • And we will soon hold a tech summit

At our regional conferences, I highlighted my belief that, in order to build back our support, we must be firmly grounded in the core values of the National Party. The foundation of our Party is built on the values of ambition and success – with lower taxes, reward for hard work, and equal opportunity for all.

The values of the National Party have served us and New Zealand well over the past 85 years, as they will for the next 85. These are the values that I’m sure attracted you to join the National Party in the first place and why millions of New Zealanders have voted to elect National governments since we were formed.

They are:

  • Loyalty to our country and its democratic principles
  • Recognition of the Treaty of Waitangi as the founding document of New Zealand
  • National and personal security
  • Equal citizenship and equal opportunity
  • Individual freedom and choice
  • Personal responsibility
  • Competitive enterprise and rewards for achievement
  • Limited government
  • Strong families and caring communities
  • And sustainable development of our environment

The National Party’s values are Kiwi values. They are the values that have helped New Zealand become the country it is today. They are the values that will see the National Party return to Government in 2023.

Today we start a process to answer some of the big questions that you and other New Zealanders have posed. The things that are important to you and to our country and that need fixing.

Over the next two years National Party members and our MPs will discuss and debate and engage to develop the policies and solutions that New Zealand needs.

Nick Smith started this process with you earlier in the year at our Regional conferences.

I want to thank Nick for his work and to thank all of you for being involved in this process.

You have told us that you want New Zealand to be a great place to live, work and raise a family with a strong economy so we can lift incomes, invest in the environment and have world class healthcare and education.

You want a National Government that will lift Kiwis up and trust them to make choices for themselves. That will empower New Zealanders to work hard and get ahead. And to enable New Zealanders to raise families in one of the greatest little countries on the planet.

Today I announce the seven fixes that National will be talking to Kiwis about.

We must strive to lift incomes and reduce the cost of living.

Right now New Zealand is a relatively low income country towards the bottom of the OECD

Today Kiwis have to work harder and longer than their Australian cousins to earn the same wage. It shouldn’t be that way. It’s why we are again losing people to Australia. It’s one of the reasons we have a skills shortage – doctors and nurses are better off in Australia.

Lower incomes mean fewer choices for the kiwi family. It’s harder for them to provide for their families and communities. To invest in businesses. We want more New Zealanders to be in a position to have choices in life, to be less reliant upon the government.

We must create an environment where business succeeds, where we raise productivity by producing goods and services of higher value, where there is less government interference, fewer costly regulations and where business can pay higher wages because they earn more not because people work longer.

Today we start the debate on ‘How do we lift incomes so New Zealanders can raise a family and get ahead?’

The second is technology and its role in increasing incomes and growing the economy

One of the highest paying sectors in the New Zealand economy is the Technology sector.

This is probably not the first time you have heard me talk about this. And it won’t be the last.

It is a portfolio I have taken on for myself and one I will keep as Prime Minister. You see, a young New Zealander leaving university with a Technology degree has the potential to earn more during their life than almost any other graduate that year.

From Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, to Gallagher’s in the Waikato, to our very own Space Company RocketLab, we punch above our weight.

The technology sector represents a huge opportunity for New Zealand. Tech is one of the world’s most highly productive and fastest growing industries. With potential to deliver fulfilling, exciting, high-paying jobs of the future for our young people. It will enhance our existing industries. Help us meet our sustainability and climate change obligations and drive many of the solutions we need in the primary sector. It will drive productivity gains across the entire economy and mean that kiwis will earn more.

Farmers and horticulturists have been early adopters of improved technology and science.

Productivity increases need to be shared across our economy.

Next month we will be holding a Technology Summit to engage with the best and brightest minds from across the technology sector, and to begin to chart a path forward for New Zealand.

So today we start the debate ‘How do we nurture a growing tech sector that creates more and better paying jobs and competes on the world stage?’

The third area of focus is an area that I believe is the number one social and economic issue New Zealand faces, and that’s housing.

Every week up and down the country I’m approached by Kiwis who worry their children will never achieve the dream of home ownership.

Labour has failed New Zealanders on housing and in the process have caused disposable incomes to disappear and hardship to increase. It means people are delaying decisions like having a family or starting a business. It means less stability for families. It means children growing up in small rooms in emergency motels.

KiwiBuild isn’t their only disaster.

Labour’s changes to tenancy and tax laws have seen rental costs increase by more than $100 per week, driving up Kiwis’ cost of living and locking many of them out of the housing market. And Labour has been extraordinarily slow to address our RMA issues. Now that David Parker has released draft legislation we see Labour plans to make the RMA more, rather than less, complex.

The way we approach town planning must change. We must give people the right to build –we can’t let home owners continue to be buried in planning rules. I have already introduced a Member’s Bill that would put in place emergency powers similar to those we used to speed up house building following the Christchurch earthquakes.

It would also provide local authorities with a $50,000 infrastructure grant for every new home they consent above their historical average. This is a short-term solution to planning challenges and infrastructure investment – a desperately needed one.

But we also need to develop the long-term fixes that address the cost of land, funding infrastructure, and also the Building Act and the cost of building materials.

So today we start the debate: Why does it cost so much to build or own a home in New Zealand and what can we do to fix it?

Because, rest assured, we will fix it!

Our current location, here in Manukau, is quite fitting for the fourth issue that needs fixing, which is transport. Getting from here, in South Auckland, to the CBD takes more than an hour using public transport. It’s a 20-minute drive with no traffic, but at least 60 minutes during rush hour – if you’re lucky.

And, of course, this is also where one end of the Mill Road Project was supposed to connect. A project that would have helped 120,000 people. But the Government cancelled that so they could build a cycle bridge that might benefit a few thousand on a sunny, windless day!

In fact they cancelled 12 roads that New Zealand desperately needs as soon as they came to government.

It is vitally important that people in New Zealand can get home to their families quickly and safely each day. Every day hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders lose between 30 minutes and an hour, to traffic. This is time mums and dads spend away from their children. The time a tradie spends not building a house. Goods spent not moving, making our country less productive.

National has a strong record invested in the full range of transport infrastructure. The City Rail Link, Bus Rapid Transit on the North Shore, National cycle ways, and our Roads of National Significance. Rail, buses, cycle ways and roads.
National delivered on our transport promises.

We will continue to invest in rail, bus rapid transit and cycle ways. But we also need more efficient roads to de-clog our cities and free people from congestion.

In a world where cars are set to be low and zero emissions, it doesn’t make sense that we need to stop using cars.
National’s fourth big fix will look at how we can deliver the transport infrastructure we need and reduce our transport emissions. And how we help Kiwis move around their towns, cities – and farms – in a way that’s best for them.
Today we start the debate on ‘How do we get New Zealanders home to their families quickly and safely?’

Our fifth fix is education.

We must restore our world-class education system if we want every Kiwi to succeed. Young people who do well at school have options. They very rarely get into trouble. Our prisons are not filled with people who did well at school.
The last National Government made huge progress in this area.

We set and achieved ambitious targets for achievement and success increasing the number of students leaving school with NCEA, particularly Maori and Pasifika students.

But as our Education Spokesman Paul Goldsmith has been pointing out, alarm bells should be ringing in our education system today. Standards are slipping. To quote the Education Review Office, there has also been a “slippage of expectations”.

Our international performance in foundational subjects like maths, science, and English is going backwards.

If we want our young New Zealanders to experience world-class living standards and incomes, they need a world-class education.

To lift incomes and give people choices we need to back our teachers and back our school to teach our kids. From Early Childhood, Primary Schools and colleges to tertiary institutions, we must give New Zealanders the skills they need to get ahead and our economy needs to grow.

The National Party has always understood the power of education to provide equal opportunities to succeed.

Today we start the debate: ‘How do we educate Kiwis to succeed globally?’

National has always believed you deserve to be safe in your home and in your community. It’s a government’s job to keep you safe. Something that we have always taken extremely seriously.

Sadly Labour have taken a different approach. And it’s not working.

They’ve promised to reduce the prison population, not by preventing crime, but by releasing criminals to offend again.

They spend far too much time listening to ‘experts’ on the theory and not enough time listening to frontline police officers and victims of crime.

The police college was closed for six months this year. Serious assaults have doubled. Yes, serious assaults in New Zealand have doubled under this Labour Government.

We’ve seen a shocking growth over the past four years in gang activity and violent crime. Gangs have been recruiting faster than the police! Up 50% in just 4 years.

Thousands of young New Zealand men – or too often boys – have been pulled into a life of crime, violence, drug dealing, and substance abuse.

These organisations are not just “community support groups” or “surrogate families”. They aren’t “motorcycle clubs”. Or – as I like to say – they’re not “Rotary in Leather”. They are organised criminals.

They are increasingly internationally linked, organised criminals. They import, cook, distribute, and sell methamphetamine. They commit violent crimes. They intimidate and bully communities.

These gangs have not changed, no matter what they say to sympathetic journalists. They’ve just got richer.

Police seized 2 million dollars from the Hawke’s Bay Mongrel Mob in May. That wasn’t money from member donations and sausage sizzles.

Luckily for the mob, the Government is happily engaged in what the Police Association has called money laundering. And they have given the Mob $2.75 million back via Harry Tam’s meth ‘rehab’ scam.

Law-abiding Kiwis shouldn’t be asked to put up with organised crime thriving in our towns and cities. Kiwis should not have to fear gun crime.

National backs the police to do their job. National is the party of law and order and this is our sixth fix.

Labour may not want it but today we start the debate: ‘How do we make our communities safer and reverse the growth of criminal gangs?’

Our seventh fix is health because Kiwis deserve a world-class health system that treats them and their families on time.

You shouldn’t have to wait for their hip or knee operation. A cancer patient shouldn’t be left in the Wellington hospital emergency department for 30 hours before a hospital bed can be found them. Your teenage son or daughter should be seen by a mental health professional when they need it and as soon as they need it.

The past couple of years have reminded us how precious our health is.

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout is a shambles. Labour needs to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate so kiwis are safe and we can re-join the world. We must set a pathway out of Covid-19 and let kiwis have a say.

New Zealanders sacrificed last year – the government must be open and transparent about when we will be vaccinated and about their plans.

But health is more than just Covid. 30,000 people are right now sitting on waitlists that they have been on for over four months – numbers not seen since Labour were last in government. Wait times like this will see families lose loved ones. Unnecessarily.

Labour has failed to deliver, National will fix it.

Health Minister Andrew Little has announced that he will spend half-a-billion dollars reorganising the health system. That’s half a billion dollars on administration and restructuring. It will not pay for a single hospital bed nor dose of medication.

Not a cent of that money will go to hard working nurses.

Our DHBs are not perfect, they need to be much more effective, but the way to help people is to treat them, to give them their operations not rearrange the deck chairs.

Labour has its priorities wrong and kiwis deserve better.

When it comes to mental health they are just missing in action. It takes far too long to be seen let alone treated.

Labour announced $1.9 billion in funding and then went home for tea. The mental health system has got worse over the last 4 years as the wait gets longer. Families are in despair. Mike King’s programme is not a Labour Government priority but the Mongrel Mob is.

In Government, mental health will be a key priority for National. New Zealanders will no longer bear this burden alone. We will have the first Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention reporting directly to the Prime Minister.

In health we will again set targets and demand accountability. Our focus will be on outcomes not layers of bureaucracy.
Today we start the debate ‘How do we ensure we have a quality healthcare and mental health service that retains skilled medical professionals and treats Kiwis on time?

Labour doesn’t want to talk about the issues that are important to Kiwis. They don’t want to engage with New Zealanders on the type of country they want. The important things are not being done and Kiwis are being left out. National will hold this debate.

Over the next two years we will engage with experts and the public and you, our members, to develop solutions. We will listen and we will discuss. We will demonstrate we are the Party that can deliver on our promises, and has the ability to deliver solutions for the country’s big problems. Outlining a vision to the New Zealand public. And releasing policy in each of these and other areas as we go.

The National Party is the party of strong families and caring communities. Freedoms and rights. Delivering on promises. Walking the talk.

We are the party New Zealand can trust to run the economy – to lift incomes and keep costs down. We understand it takes risk to start a business – and that the government should work with you not against you to succeed.
We understand farmers and their families. We understand they held our economy together before, during and after COVID and we value them.

We are the party New Zealanders can rely on to get things done. Labour cannot use their majority to do whatever they want. Kiwis don’t want to be left out. They want the debate. The want a say in the future of their country.

National will Demand the Debate. And remember: We are better together. Thank You.