Speech to National Party Central North Island regional conference
It’s great to be here in the Waikato for the first of the National Party’s regional conferences.
Isn’t it fantastic to be part of a region that is so blue!
This year we get to celebrate the Party’s 80th birthday.
We do so with the Party in great shape, and looking forward with strength and confidence.
As the founding members got together in May 1936 they chose the name National because of their determination that the new party represent all parts of the community.
The name National also emphasised that the Party’s principles and policies were rooted strongly in New Zealand.
All these years later, those factors remain at the heart of our appeal.
The National Party seeks to represent the hopes and aspirations of urban and rural people alike; we have in our party both liberals and conservatives; and our members include New Zealanders of all ages and ethnicities.
The National Party represents the very many New Zealanders who believe in private enterprise, personal responsibility and smaller, better government.
With this talk of birthdays, I also want to acknowledge one of my predecessors, and a favourite son of this region, Jim Bolger.
Jim is in great form as he gets ready to turn 81 at the end of May.
He led the National Party for eleven years and continues to be there at the end of the phone for advice and wise counsel.
I also want to acknowledge the outstanding MPs in the Central North Island Region:
- my Ministerial colleagues Simon Bridges, Anne Tolley, Todd McClay and Louise Upston
- Senior Whip Tim MacIndoe, who has given himself leave and is on a well-earned break
- Assistant Speaker Lindsay Tisch
- and Parliamentary colleagues David Bennett, Jonathan Young, Scott Simpson, Barbara Kuriger and Todd Muller
Individually and collectively they do your electorates and our Party proud.
I don’t have time today to tell you about all their hard work, or to set out what they are achieving as part of the Government. We’d be here all day.
But I do want to take a moment to highlight the outstanding job Anne Tolley is doing as Social Development Minister.
I’m thinking in particular of the work she’s doing to get on top of the awful problem of child abuse and neglect.
The Child Youth and Family review that has recently been released, along with an extensive work programme already underway, will bring genuine change in an area that needs it.
Anne, can I tell you that your Parliamentary colleagues and Party members alike are right behind you.
I also want to acknowledge and thank our Party President, Peter Goodfellow.
We are very lucky to have him, and Peter I want to say in front our fellow Party members just how much we value the work you do.
Can I also acknowledge the members of the Board.
They have a very important job in governing the affairs of the Party and assisting Peter.
To regional Chair Andrew von Dadelszen and your team – thank you.
Thank you for leading what is such a strong and vibrant region, and one that makes such a great contribution to the National Party.
And to the delegates that are here from right across the region, you have my personal thanks for the work and passion you bring to our great Party.
Our Party might have been around for 80 years but all of you show the energy and enthusiasm of youth.
Every delegate here – along with the tens of thousands of members around the country – contributes to the ongoing success of our Party.
We’ve won three elections and had the privilege and responsibility of being in government.
But I don’t take anything for granted.
We need to keep working hard to make this country a better place for New Zealanders and their families.
By doing so we’ll be an effective government and we’ll make the next election a winning one.
Our public support remains high.
Our Cabinet and Caucus are as focused and unified as ever.
And the party organisation is in strong shape.
We continue to lead a stable government, which history tells us is no easy matter under MMP.
Our relationships with ACT, United Future and the Maori Party are all strong despite the fact that we don’t always agree with each other.
By contrast there are the Opposition political parties.
Let me say just one thing about Labour then I am going to quickly move on to talk about the positive work our government is doing.
In Labour we have an Opposition that is increasingly turning to the desperate politics of smear and innuendo rather than doing the hard yards of developing an alternative vision for New Zealand.
But New Zealanders can see through that.
Meanwhile, we are continuing to be relentlessly positive about New Zealand.
Our job is to do the right things for New Zealanders every day and every week, and to demonstrate by our policies and our actions – not just our words – that we are worthy of their continued support.
This year is my tenth as your Leader and my eighth as Prime Minister.
I am just as excited about the year ahead as I have ever been.
You have my absolute commitment that I will do my best and give my all in pursuit of the values and policies our Party has long stood for.
People don’t always have to agree with everything the Government does.
I’d be very surprised if that was the case.
Even Keith Holyoake was said to have only agreed with his own government around sixty percent of the time.
I remember a comment that former Australian Prime Minister John Howard made in a speech once, when looking back over the Liberals’ long time in government.
“Love us or loathe us,” he said, “and there were plenty of both, the Australian people knew what we believed in and what we wished to achieve for their country.”
That is the approach my Government takes as well.
We tell people what we’re trying to achieve, we set out what we’re going to do and we stick closely to our word.
The next step in setting out our future plans is the Budget on 26 May.
My friend Bill English has delivered eight good, responsible Budgets and this one will be no different.
It will be a strong Budget that has at its heart a focus on the economy, with initiatives to help ensure New Zealand achieves a strong level of growth for the years ahead.
The Budget will reflect the sound position of public finances.
It will highlight that we are on track to achieve the Government’s goals of a balanced budget and paying down debt.
Recently we announced a package of tax changes to reduce compliance costs and make tax simpler for small businesses.
We are reducing the burden of interest and penalties, and introducing a new pay-as-you-go option for provisional tax that will help up to 110,000 small Kiwi businesses.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and this $187 million package will mean they can worry more about making their business successful and less about having to fit in with the needs of the tax department.
Feedback I’ve received tells me that these changes – particularly the reform of provisional tax – have been widely welcomed, and that’s great news.
Alongside a strong focus on the economy, the Budget will also ensure we keep meeting the needs of New Zealand families in key areas like health and education.
That has always been our priority.
And the economic and social sides of our agenda are closely linked.
Wealthier, growing countries have more choices and are in a better position to invest in more social spending for their citizens.
A strong economy means a strong health system, a strong law and order system, a strong education system, a strong defence force, and so on.
And a key part of our plan to achieve strong, sustainable levels of economic growth is being an open and outward-facing country.
You will have heard me say before that as a country we will not get wealthy selling things to ourselves.
99.9 per cent of the potential customers for our products live overseas.
That’s why free trade agreements are so important.
People of this region know this all too well, as many of you are involved in creating products and services for export.
Whether it is the dairy farmers of Te Awamutu, the kiwifruit orchardists of Te Puke or the tourism operators of Matamata’s world famous Hobbiton, this region relies on trade.
And trade is a long term proposition.
It takes time to build relationships, to build and expand markets.
In fact, trade relationships are usually so long term they transcend governments.
That’s why Labour’s decision to oppose TPP is so disappointing.
It breaks a long-standing bipartisan approach to trade matters, which has been vitally important for a country like New Zealand.
I am only recently back from a visit to China.
I can tell you that even with the downturn in dairy prices, our exports to China are going great guns.
Labour under Helen Clark and Phil Goff negotiated and signed New Zealand’s FTA with China.
They did so with the strong and public support of the National party I led in Opposition, and our votes made sure it became law in the face of implacable opposition from the usual suspects the Greens and NZ First.
During my visit to China I was again struck at the enormity of the opportunities for New Zealand.
Just take the example of tourism.
In the last year we had 368,000 visitor arrivals from China – and increase of 28 per cent over the previous year.
And those tourists stayed 38 per cent longer than the previous year, spending more money in the process.
What is more, this growth is set to continue into the years ahead – bringing in real money and creating real jobs for the next generation of young New Zealanders.
And it’s not just China. The Korea FTA is paying dividends as well.
So there is much to be optimistic of for the future.
But there is no room for sitting back and thinking that because progress is good the job is somehow done.
There is always more to do.
Both our MPs and party members have important roles to ensure that we stay connected to our communities.
Than you again for taking the time to attend and participate in this conference, and for all the work you do for our party.