Thank you for that incredibly warm welcome.
It is an absolute pleasure to be here at my second National Party Conference as Leader.
It is an immense privilege to lead our amazing party, which I’m proud to have been a member of for 27 years. It was back then, and is now, New Zealand’s most successful and most popular party. All of you have contributed to that success and our popularity.
It’s because of your enthusiasm, your dedication and you choosing to stay the course that we can, and do, have the best chance in a generation of making this a one-term government.
If we work hard, stay focussed and most importantly have the policies for a better New Zealand, National is going back to the Beehive in 2020. We know it’s all about you, and you can’t afford another three years of this Government.
We are lucky to have a tireless and hardworking President in Peter Goodfellow. Peter, congratulations on your re-election and I look forward to working with you leading into next year to make sure the party stays in great shape.
We’re also lucky to have our Westie Warrior Paula Bennett as our Deputy Leader. Whether it’s her work on holding the Government to account over drugs or inspiring the next generation of women in National, or getting stuck in and supporting our thousands of volunteers across the country, she’s been an incredible support to me and to our Party.
I want to pay special tribute to one of Canterbury’s own, Amy Adams. Amy is not just an outstanding member of the National Party, but a friend. We entered Parliament together, we served as Ministers together and she has helped our success in Opposition as Number 3 and Finance spokesperson.
Whether it be her family violence law reforms or expanding Ultra-Fast Broadband throughout New Zealand, or being the first Minister for the Environment to set National Water Standards, we will remember her as one of our most successful Ministers and MPs. Amy, on behalf of all of us, thank you for your contribution to making New Zealand a better place.
I’ve named two of the women in my life but there’s one who is my biggest inspiration and my biggest supporter. Who is mum to our three wonderful kids Emlyn, Harry and Jemima. Who employs people, runs her own successful business, and does pro bono work for charities and community groups. Who travels the country with me, meeting and inspiring many New Zealanders.
My wife, my partner in life and the love of my life – Natalie.
I’ve got to say – our household is generally pretty chaotic with three young, energetic kids. For the three weeks they were away in the UK very recently it got really quiet and pretty lonely around home. I’m delighted they’re here with us today.
People ask politicians why you get into politics. My answer is simple. It’s so Natalie, Emlyn, Harry and Jemima can lead better lives. It’s so they can live in a New Zealand that offers them the opportunity to be whoever they want to be.
I love you. Thank you so much.
I want New Zealand to be the best place to raise a family. I believe in family at the centre of everything we do. I want to see strong self-reliant independent families. Family is everything – from the young mum and dad raising their first little one right through to when we start caring for our parents.
National will always be the party that supports stronger and more resilient families.
Our bottom line is you.
At the moment it’s tough for families. Mums and Dads feel like they’ve been forgotten by this Government other than when they are piling on taxes, lifting the cost of living, and telling you what to do. People and their families want opportunities not obstacles.
Families up and down the country are crying out for relief from the extra pressures of more and more taxes being heaped on top of costs and charges that they cannot afford.
New Zealand can be the best country in the world to raise a family in, and we will make it happen. National is the natural home of talent. Last month’s reshuffle showed just that. We have 55 MPs absolutely fired up and holding the Government to account.
By comparison, the Government is bereft of talent and the capability to deliver on its promises to New Zealanders. New Zealand deserves better than this Government.
I know from day one, the next National Government has the talent, the drive and the capability to hit the ground running and fix the mess this Government is creating. We will have the policies that make New Zealand a better place to live, and we will have the people to actually deliver it.
People join the National Party because we love New Zealand. It’s our love for our country and the values this party has that binds us. It’s our belief in a strong economy that gives opportunities to all Kiwis.
It’s a strong, growing economy that means we can invest in the health system that you and your family can rely on, and allows us to build the infrastructure for a modern, successful New Zealand.
It’s our belief in personal responsibility. If you put in the hard yards, if you have a crack and you play by the rules then you deserve to reap the rewards. If you don’t play by the rules, then there are consequences. It’s our belief in individual freedom.
We will defend the right to free speech against a Government that wants to shut down legitimate opinion. We will defend individual freedoms because a free society is the hallmark of a strong and confident society. It’s our belief in pragmatism, not blind ideology.
We do things that work, based on evidence and outcomes. It’s our belief in being aspirational for everyone. We will never accept the soft bigotry of low expectations that exists today on the left of politics.
Because it was the National Party who showed that a solo mum at the age of 17 who was on the benefit can one day become Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Leader of this amazing party.
Because it was the National Party who showed that the son of a widowed mum who fled Nazi Germany, who was brought up in a state house, can go on to be Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Because it is the National Party that has shown that a young Ngāti Maniapoto boy from West Auckland, who talks like a boy from West Auckland, the son of a Baptist preacher and a teacher, can grow up to become the first Māori leader of a mainstream party in New Zealand, and the first Māori Prime Minister of our great country.
I want every Kiwi to know that New Zealand is the place of opportunity and that National backs you to succeed. Those opportunities are only possible when Government backs people, when we back businesses to hire more staff.
When we back innovation, growth and potential In the Peter Becks of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
When we back Kiwis to get ahead. Sadly, this Government is wasting that opportunity.
In just under two years, business confidence is at the lowest level it has been since the depths of the Global Financial Crisis. That’s not “junk” as David Parker describes it as.
That means fewer jobs, fewer businesses taking opportunities, and fewer people spending money in the economy. It means fewer opportunities for you and your family.
Economic growth has slowed from four per cent a year under National to just over two per cent. There are now fewer jobs being created in our economy because the Government is making it harder for businesses to create opportunities. This year so far, the number of jobs in the economy has actually declined.
The first decision the Government took in this year’s Budget was to tax every one of you more when you fill up your car. Then they relaxed their Budget Responsibility Rules so they can wrack up $17 billion more on the country’s credit card.
As Paul Goldsmith said, it took the last Labour Government two terms to lose its fiscal discipline. This Government has given up in just under two years.
More and more Kiwis are paying more tax. Did you know that your household will be $1750 a year worse off because of the taxes being piled on by this Government? Since they took office, Labour have hit your back pockets with nine sneaky, stealthy taxes.
You can’t trust Labour on tax.
When you add on that rents have increased by $50 a week since Labour took office, and a lot of other costs Kiwi families face, it makes things a lot harder for you and your family.
Labour might not think that your back pocket is a priority, but National does. National has always focussed on growing incomes for hard-working New Zealanders.
Because if your costs are rising faster than your income then you are going backwards.
We’ve already announced our plans to adjust tax brackets to make sure you keep more of what you earn and the Government doesn’t take more of it by stealth. Over time this will save you more than $1300 a year in tax.
We know the economy is about you. While the Government is busy tinkering with what you are allowed to say and think, what car you can drive and how fast you can drive it, they’re failing to deliver their responsibility to deliver core infrastructure to get you moving.
Despite all of the extra taxes being piled on, we are seeing nothing for it. All of our Roads of National Significance have either been cancelled or delayed.
And for what? A bizarre obsession with a slow tram down Dominion Road that they haven’t got a start date for, while people in Canterbury are bogged down in traffic without improvements and upgrades both north and south of the city.
National knows the way we get our country going is by building the modern infrastructure that gets us home to our families on time at night.
We know that infrastructure is about you. A strong economy can build that infrastructure.
But a strong economy can do even more for you. A strong economy means we can fund world class services, schools that are able to teach our kids the skills they need in a modern economy, an environment that we can be proud of, and hospitals where lives are saved.
And it’s health today that I want to talk about.
The Government claims that their investment in health this year is the biggest ever. Yet we have the biggest DHB deficits on record. There are fewer elective surgeries happening under this Government each and every week. And 38,000 more people aren’t seeing their GP because of the costs.
Yet despite claiming to be a caring and compassionate Government, they only put an extra 1 per cent into PHARMAC for life-saving drugs. That doesn’t even cover inflation.
This is a Government that has put 75 times more money into a political slush fund to help NZ First get re-elected than it has into PHARMAC.
It’s those drugs I want to talk about today, and I want to talk very personally.
You may have heard the incredible story of Tracey Elliott. Tracey is well known to some of you here today. Tracey was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in April 2014. The doctors told her she had 12 days to live. She did everything she could to fight it.
She started on Herceptin, had 60 rounds of chemotherapy and over 20 radiation treatments.
She defied the odds and won. But then it came back. She then went on a drug called Tykerb, which cost her $2300 every month she was on it.
It worked – and the cancer disappeared. But just this year, the tumours came back. This time though it was in her brain and surgery wasn’t an option. Her entire frontal lobe was a tumour.
She was told there was only one drug that would work. It’s called Kadcyla and it costs her and her family $9000 every three weeks. It’s fully funded in the UK and Australia. Over the past five years her treatment has cost her and her husband Troy over $500,000.
They now have to sell their house to be able to keep affording the drugs. That’s a decision New Zealanders shouldn’t have to make.
Tracey’s husband Troy has written to Jacinda Ardern two times about her story. Jacinda Ardern ignored every single letter.
Tracey's story isn't unique. All of us have stories of loved ones and friends who have been affected by cancer.
We need to do something about that. Over the last couple of hundred years many people have come to New Zealand for better opportunities and lives.
They shouldn’t have to leave again to get access to life-saving drugs. In Government, we were faced with some large challenges like the Global Financial Crisis and the Christchurch Earthquakes.
And we funded Herceptin because it was the right thing to do. But we’re now in a position where we are able to do more. It’s not up to someone else, Jacinda Ardern.
I’m sick of reading in the newspaper that people are going without life-saving drugs when I see this Government wasting billions and billions of dollars on policies that do not work and do not improve the wellbeing of New Zealanders.
It’s not right that the Government can find more than $2 billion for fees-free university but it can’t afford life-saving drugs.
It’s not right that the Government can find $3 billion for the Shane Jones slush fund but it can’t afford life-saving drugs.
And it’s not right that the Government can find more than $300 million for working groups but it can’t afford life-saving cancer drugs for deserving New Zealanders like Tracey.
New Zealanders shouldn’t have to set up Givealittle pages just to stay alive.
As Prime Minister I will not stand by and watch as people die when we have the opportunity to do more.
The next National Government will fund and dedicate an extra $200m for PHARMAC to fund cancer drugs.
We will ensure those drugs go to those who need them. We would expect the drugs PHARMAC buy from this fund to be those that demonstrate high levels of effectiveness internationally.
We don’t want just more drugs – we want drugs that will save and prolong lives.
We also want to put an end to what has become known as the ‘Cancer Postcode Lottery’.
Cancer is New Zealand’s single biggest cause of death. Too often people in regional New Zealand are disadvantaged because they don’t have access to the same services as those in our biggest cities.
It doesn’t just mean they don’t have the same ability to get treatment. It means often their diagnoses are far too late to prevent it becoming terminal.
New Zealand leads the world when it comes to treating kids with cancer. We figured out what works and we did it, and made it as effective as possible. Sadly the system hasn’t figured out how to do it for everyone.
This Government wants more Wellington bureaucrats in the Ministry of Health setting the strategy.
National wants medical experts, clinical professionals and the best in the world leading the charge towards making cancer care in New Zealand first class.
You may have heard of a man called Blair Vining. Blair has stage four terminal bowel cancer. Earlier this year he started a petition that got over 140,000 signatures. Blair’s plea is incredibly important.
He wants to stop people going through what he has gone through. As Blair’s daughter Lily said, it shouldn't matter where you live in New Zealand or whether you’re rich or poor, anyone with cancer should be able to receive the best possible care.
National will introduce legislation in our first one hundred days to set up a National Cancer Agency to deliver better diagnoses, better access and better treatment for cancer sufferers across New Zealand.
We won’t wait until we take office to work the detail out like this Government does.
From day one we will be ready to go.
We don’t pretend that this will solve every problem. We will have more to say on Health over the next year leading up to the election. But we are prioritising better access to cancer drugs and cancer care.
We will help people like Tracey and Blair lead better, longer lives.
We know it’s personal.
It’s about them, it’s about you.
We are halfway through the Government’s so-called Year of Delivery. We have just over one year until the next election.
As I have said to you before, I don’t want to be the next Prime Minister just because the current lot are incompetent. I want to win the contest of ideas that matter to you. I think we already are.
The Government have farmed out their decision making to over 280 working groups at a cost of more than $300 million. New Zealanders deserve better than that complacency.
When I travel from one end of the country to the other I hear one thing in common. New Zealanders want a Government that will deliver for them, for you. We’ve been clear what we will do.
National won’t introduce any new taxes. We will keep your cost of living low and index taxes to inflation.
National will ensure no new fuel tax increases and we will repeal the Auckland Fuel Tax.
National will create a Primary Sector Visa to help provide workforce certainty for employers in the primary sector.
National will re-open charter schools and reduce classroom sizes.
National will keep our communities safer and create a justice system that supports victims.
National will reform the Resource Management Act and actually build some houses.
National will repeal the Oil and Gas ban, the Industrial Law changes and the new Overseas Investment Act rules
National will introduce roadside drug testing and build safer roads.
National will reinstate public sector targets to drive better outcomes for New Zealanders.
And National will fund more life-saving cancer drugs.
Labour’s plan is to spend more, tax more, borrow more and hope for the best.
New Zealander’s can’t afford this Labour Government.
So now it’s up to us to seize this once in a generation opportunity to change the government.
So we need to stuff those letterboxes, pound the pavements and wave those hoardings every chance we get.
We need to work hard every day to get our message out there to New Zealanders.
And that message is simple – this country can do better.
We can be much, much better.
We will deliver a strong, growing economy to ensure better education, better infrastructure and better healthcare.
Because our kids need it.
People like Tracey and Blair need it.
New Zealand needs it.
Our bottom line is you.