The Government’s decision to impose a plastic bag ban while neglecting to address plummeting business confidence and slowing economic growth shows it’s focused on low-hanging fruit that won’t make any real difference, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“National wants to see an end to plastic bags too but both consumers and businesses were phasing them out voluntarily already and the Government’s failed to explain why a total ban is now needed within a year.
“Measures introduced by the previous Government alongside industry would already have seen a more than 75 per cent reduction in plastic bag use without new regulations and higher costs.
“Kiwis were reducing their plastic usage because it’s the right thing to do. They didn’t need to be told what to do by a Government increasingly looking like it thinks it knows best.
“Now it’s done though the Prime Minister should turn her attention to fixing the very real concerns around plummeting business confidence and our slowing economy because she has done nothing to ease those concerns or recognise the impact her Government’s anti-growth policies are having.
“Those policies are already costing Kiwi families who are trying to get ahead. New petrol taxes, union friendly labour law changes and rent increases have New Zealanders worried.
“And businesses are very concerned, meaning fewer jobs and opportunities for New Zealanders but the Government which has established 140-odd working groups to tell it what to do is refusing to listen.
“Nothing the Prime Minister has done this week will help right these real concerns and she and her Government need to get their priorities straight.”
The Government’s reckless and low-growth approach to running the economy is yet again on display with business confidence dropping to levels not seen since the global financial crisis, says Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges.
“When it seemed as though business confidence could go no lower, the latest ANZ business confidence survey has business confidence dropping another six points taking it to their lowest levels in 10 years. Firms’ views on their own activity are also down a further 5 points for the month.
“Businesses are becoming increasingly unlikely to hire more workers or increase wages, meaning fewer opportunities - meaning Kiwi families are less likely to get ahead.
“The fact that these numbers are at their worst levels in 10 years show just how worried businesses are and the Government must take responsibility as there is no other driver of this change.
“It is their low-growth policies such as union-friendly industrial relations reforms, restrictions on overseas investment, immigration uncertainty, axing oil and gas exploration and increasing costs on small businesses which have all been bad for business sentiment and the economy.
“Today’s ANZ numbers are on top of figures showing New Zealand had already fallen to second lowest in the OECD’s business confidence index after being the second highest in 2016 – a drop of 33 places. That’s a real concern.
“This is in comparison to Australia where there was a new job advertised in its mining, resources and energy sector every six minutes. While Australia is expanding the Government here in New Zealand is making it more and more difficult for businesses to grow and invest and we are going to find it harder to compete.
“The Prime Minister has made it her personal mission to turn around tanking business confidence. She needs to do it urgently by recognising her Government’s low-growth policies are causing real concern and slowing New Zealand down and she needs to put a stop to it.”
It is such a pleasure to be addressing you as leader of this amazing party, which I’m proud to have been a member of for 25 years.
I want to begin by thanking each and every one of you for giving your time to support us. For putting in the hard yards, raising money and knocking on doors.
You are the beating heart of the National Party.
Your commitment was put to the test following the last election.
It’s been a tough adjustment.
But National is strong.
National is vibrant.
And if we work together, National is going back to the Beehive in 2020.
We’re a fantastic team. And that is in large part down to our tireless President, Peter Goodfellow. Thank you Peter.
And can I also thank someone who never lets me forget my Westie roots. She has been an incredible support for me - my deputy Paula Bennett.
Paula and I lead a team of 56 talented, driven MPs who are truly committed to New Zealand.
From Invercargill to Northland, they live in, love and fiercely represent their communities, so let’s give them a big round of applause.
I also want to thank one particular MP who left Parliament this year after nearly three decades of service.
It is a great privilege to follow in the footsteps of a man I respect and admire so much, Sir Bill English.
Delegates, I want to tell you about a woman who moved to New Zealand 13 years ago.
She has never lacked aspiration or a commitment to hard work. Through plenty of perseverance she now has her own successful business and does pro bono work for charities and community groups.
She is a mum to three young children that she is home alone with on far too many nights.
So many working mums are like her up and down this country.
But alongside all of that, she is also my biggest supporter, my wife, my partner for life
Could you please join me in welcoming Natalie on to the stage.
And these are our three children Emlyn, Harry and our baby Jemima.
Everyday this family amazes and delights me. They inspire me to do all I can to make New Zealand a place we are all proud of.
I love you. Thank you so much.
Ladies and gentlemen.
I am proud to be a New Zealander.
We are all lucky to live in this beautiful country, tucked away in our corner of the South Pacific.
We are a successful, prosperous, confident nation that can and does foot it with the best in the world.
I love this place.
New Zealand is filled with so many opportunities.
It wasn’t always the case – ten years ago 30,000 people were leaving New Zealand every year to move to Australia, because that’s where the opportunities were.
Well, last year there were more coming the other way.
We’ve made great progress – because of the principles National bought to government.
The belief in personal responsibility, that if you put in the hard-yards, you deserve to reap the rewards.
The belief in an individual’s freedom to choose how to live their life.
The belief in enterprise as a way to create jobs, lift incomes and drive prosperity for all.
And the belief in a shared sense of social justice – a desire to give a helping hand to those in need.
These are my principles. They are National’s principles. And they are New Zealand’s principles.
There is a perception that on the right of politics we don’t care as much as on the left.
Our opponents do their best to make people think that, but they’re wrong.
Actually, if I think where I’ve come from, and everything about my upbringing, from my mum’s role as a teacher to dad’s work as a Minister – it’s all shaped me into someone with a strong sense of justice.
It is what drives me.
I want everyone to be given the best opportunity to live life to the full – and that’s especially important for the most vulnerable who need the extra support that New Zealanders as a fair minded people want to give them.
I mentioned personal responsibility earlier. Because there’s two sides to that coin.
We should do all we can to help people lead amazing lives.
But if people choose not to fulfil their end of that social contract, I believe there should be consequences.
If you commit a crime, you do the time. It’s for our safety, and victims deserve justice.
If you’re on a benefit and can work, you should be actively looking for a job.
But this Government sees things very differently.
They want to drastically cut the number of people in prison, regardless of the amount of crime committed.
They want to remove all benefit sanctions, so there’s no consequence if you fail a drug test or skip a job interview.
That’s just wrong.
It will not happen in a government I lead.
Delegates, this new Government had 9 years to get ready.
They did nothing.
Now they’ve set up 130 working groups at well over $1 million a pop – because they don’t have ideas of their own.
They’re incapable of making decisions and nothing is getting done.
Taxpayers are paying for Labour’s laziness.
Well, National will be the hardest working opposition this country has ever seen.
I don’t want to win in 2020 just because the Government is incompetent.
I want to win a contest of ideas, to demonstrate that National has the vision and the team to deliver a better future for everyone.
We’ll have the best ideas on the environment, how we can clean up our waterways and protect our beautiful country for our grandchildren.
We’ll have the best ideas for supporting the most vulnerable, to help them turn their lives around.
We’ll have the best ideas on law and order, on how to keep you safer by keeping our most violent predators locked up.
We’ll have the best ideas on health, on education, on housing, and on infrastructure.
And we’ll have the best ideas on the economy, because frankly, that’s an area where the Government has no idea at all.
Actually that’s not fair. Their plan is to tax and borrow more, so they can spend it – or at least ask a working group how to spend it.
Cancelling National’s tax cuts, and increasing costs by raising fuel taxes and housing taxes. All so they can spend billions more on diplomats, a tertiary fees policy that doesn’t deliver any more students, and a slush-fund for New Zealand First’s pet projects.
They’re out of control.
Unlike Grant Robertson, I believe hardworking Kiwis should keep more of their own money.
Now sometimes people can think the economy equals boring, or it means we’re focused on balance sheets rather than people.
But when I talk about the economy, I’m talking about jobs for new workers.
About wages for our families.
About the local sparky as much as the big corporation in the CBD.
About the opportunities we can give our kids to move into work and follow their passion.
About our ability to invest more in education and infrastructure and health.
All of this flows from the economy.
But those opportunities aren’t created by accident.
They’re built on the hard work of people who get up early in the morning to go to work, or who stay up late the night before to make the school lunches.
They’re built on the entrepreneurs who take a risk and hire their first staff member, or their hundredth, and the workers who produce world-class exports.
They’re built on a nation of innovative, passionate Kiwis who back themselves to succeed - the farmers just out of town, the butchers down the road, and scientists and teachers and IT whizzes.
National backs every single one of them.
Under National, we built one of the best performing economies in the developed world.
We dealt with the Global Financial Crisis and the earthquakes and we were getting ahead.
But we need to keep it going to ensure all New Zealanders can share in the gains - not everyone has yet.
But it is becoming increasingly obvious that the Government doesn’t have a clear plan for the economy.
They’re slowing New Zealand down, not speeding us up.
Whether it’s transport, with higher taxes and fewer new roads.
Whether it’s back to decades-old labour law changes which give power to the unions and just add compliance costs.
Whether it’s the cost of living, where changes such as higher fuel taxes, rent increases and higher income taxes are costing some Kiwi families over $100 a week more.
And whether it’s the decision to shut down oil and gas exploration.
Each of these policies on their own are bad.
Together, they’re going to see more New Zealanders head overseas because there’ll be fewer and fewer opportunities here.
New Zealand can’t afford this Government.
National’s approach is very different.
I believe in sensible, consistent economic policies that provide clear direction and encourage businesses to grow.
Policies that deliver new infrastructure, support investment, drive exports and help grow skills - because that is how opportunities are created.
Those opportunities are hard won, but easily lost.
I talked earlier about the 30,000 people that were leaving for Australia every year just a decade ago – because Australia was where the opportunities were.
I’m proud we’ve been able to turn that around, by creating opportunity for our kids here at home.
But I tell you what, other countries aren’t sitting still waiting for this Government to get its act together.
Other countries want what we have, and we can’t afford three years lost to working groups and inquiries and uncertainty.
We certainly can’t afford six.
Under this Government, business confidence is already at its lowest level since the Global Financial Crisis – while in Australia it’s the highest it has been in 20 years.
We can’t let Australia beat us.
We need to keep pushing. Otherwise it is all too easy to become an also ran, a place where our kids don’t see a long-term future.
I worry all we’ll export to Australia is our young people.
I want my kids to raise their kids here. And I know you do too.
I’m always thinking about how we can make this country better for our children.
How we can create opportunity for all, and help New Zealanders realise their dreams and ambitions here.
As a father of three young children, I feel it.
I want more for them.
More choice, more opportunities and for them to lead the best life they can.
I want all our children to see a pathway to their success, whatever that may be.
For too many, that pathway can look bleak.
If Social Investment has taught us anything, it’s that some of our children have the odds stacked against them.
That without targeted help they won’t achieve their dreams.
I want to fight for a better future for those kids.
I want to fight for all our kids.
The forgotten, the naughty, the good, the exceptional.
They all count. They all matter to me.
It’s got to be about opportunity for all, here in New Zealand.
And that starts with education.
So I want to put a few ideas on the table.
Education is the future leveller.
It was for me - from Rutherford High in West Auckland to Oxford University - and it must be for our country’s children.
If a little person’s brain is nurtured and taught how to think and work and learn, that child can go on to achieve great things.
Giving them the best start in life matters more than anything.
The early years are vital, and I believe there is a lot that can be done to improve early childhood education.
It starts with a focus on quality.
Most centres do a good job of looking after our young children, but a few not doing good enough is a few too many in my book.
We need to know what is happening in every early childhood centre in the country.
National will invest more to make sure our kids get the best quality start to their education, but we will also demand nothing but the highest standards.
Or frankly the centre should close its doors.
The next step is improving our primary schools.
With the right education we can overcome the challenges that some children face purely because of the circumstances they were born into.
The child that finds it hard to sit still and follow instructions.
The bright child that wants to be challenged.
The gifted child that doesn’t know how to channel their talent.
What they all have in common, what they all need, is attention.
Attention from a teacher that has the time to acknowledge their individual needs and nurture them.
A teacher who can set a learning programme that is suited to the child, who isn’t so busy managing a room of too many young children that they can’t recognise the individual qualities that sit within all of them.
All our kids should get the individual attention they deserve.
That’s why I want more teachers in our primary schools, to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.
Schools currently get one teacher for every 29 nine and ten year olds. It’s lower than that for younger children.
Those ratios should be reduced.
By giving our kids more attention, we can improve their education and set them up to take advantage of all the opportunities life throws at them.
Imagine the difference that would make to the children and to the teachers.
More teachers means more attention for our kids at a stage of life when they need it most.
Frankly, they need less Facebook and more face time.
Some will say that class size is less important than teacher quality.
Well I’d say they’re not mutually exclusive.
Teacher quality matters a lot, but I also believe that simply having more attention from teachers will make a difference to young children.
Sure older kids that are more self-managing can be in larger classes, but our young ones will be better off having more attention from their teacher.
After parents, teachers are often the most influential people in the lives of our children.
I come from a family of teachers – my mum, my sister and my brother. I want teachers to be highly respected professionals in our communities. They deserve that.
Part of that is pay, and it’s also about conditions such as class sizes and the investment we put into teachers to deliver quality learning to our kids.
Unlike our opponents, we will be prepared for Government in two years’ time.
We’ve got a two and a half year process to run the ruler over our existing policies, and propose new ones for 2020.
This year is about listening.
We want to hear from you - parents and pupils, families and farmers, businesses and communities.
We want your views.
We want to talk and challenge ourselves, and contest ideas.
In education, our team led by Nikki Kaye will use that input to develop discussion documents next year, and our plans and policies for the 2020 election.
Unlike our opponents we welcome different views.
And unlike them before 2020 we will have made decisions and we will be ready to lead.
My team and I will be working hard to ensure the next government is National-led.
We will make every day count.
We want to undo the damage this Government is doing now.
Come election year we will have the detailed, thought out and costed ideas to do that.
We will show you we have the plans and the policies and the people to earn your support and continue to build the country you deserve.
This country can do better.
In fact we can be brilliant.
National will bring strong leadership, the best ideas and the ability to make a difference.
I’m backing New Zealanders and I’m starting with our children.
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has announced National’s commitment to increasing the number of primary teachers to reduce class sizes and give kids more teacher time.
“With the right education we can overcome the challenges that some children face purely because of the circumstances they were born into,” Mr Bridges said at the National Party’s annual conference in Auckland today.
“There is one thing every child needs to help them achieve their potential, from the one that struggles to sit still and follow instructions to the bright child that wants to be challenged to the gifted child that doesn’t know how to channel their talent.
“And that’s attention from one of New Zealand’s world class teachers who can cater to the needs of each child, and spend more time with each of them.
“More teachers means more attention for our kids at a stage of life when they need it most.
“To achieve their potential and reach their dreams our kids need less Facebook and more face time with teachers.
“National is committed to delivering that by putting more teachers in schools to ensure smaller class sizes for our children.
“We’re also committed to attracting more teachers and ensuring they are highly respected professionals in our communities. Part of that is pay, and it’s also about conditions such as class sizes and the investment we put into teachers to deliver quality learning to our kids.
Mr Bridges said National would spend the next two years working with teachers, parents and communities on the details of the policy, along with the others it will take to the electorate in 2020.
“Unlike our opponents, we will be prepared for Government. We’ve got a multi-year process to run the ruler over our existing policies, and propose new ones for 2020.
“This year is about listening to our communities, next year about getting feedback on the ideas we put forward and 2020 about delivering the concrete plans that show New Zealanders we are ready to lead.
“We will make every day count. National will bring strong leadership, the best ideas and the ability to make a difference. I’m backing New Zealanders and I’m starting with our children.”
National has today lodged a Member’s Bill to implement a comprehensive medicinal cannabis regime that would widen access to medicinal cannabis and license high quality domestic production, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Over the past few months the National caucus has been considering the issue of medicinal cannabis while our Health Caucus committee members have been hearing submissions on the Government’s own, limited, medicinal cannabis Bill.
“New Zealanders deserve greater access to high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering but we must have the right regulatory and legislative controls in place.
“The Government’s Bill utterly fails both those tests, so we will vote against it. It includes only minor improvements to how cannabidiol products are treated, which the previous National Government had already facilitated.
“It is also totally silent on how a medicinal cannabis regime would operate in practice. The Government has said it will increase access now and leave it to officials to think through the controls and the consequences later. That’s typical of this Government but it’s not acceptable. So we’re putting forward a comprehensive alternative,” Mr Bridges says.
National’s proposed regime includes:
- Medicinal cannabis products will be approved in the same way a medicine is approved by Medsafe. No loose leaf cannabis products will be approved.
- Medical practitioners will decide who should have access to a Medicinal Cannabis Card, which will certify them to buy medicinal cannabis products.
- Medicinal cannabis products will be pharmacist-only medicine.
- Cultivators and manufacturers must be licenced for commercial production. Licence holders and staff will be vetted to ensure they are fit and proper persons.
- A licensing regime that will create a safe market for medicinal cannabis products. Cultivators and manufacturers will not be able to be located within 5km of residential land, or 1km of sensitive sites such as schools and wahi tapu.
- No advertising of medicinal cannabis products to the public will be permitted.
- The Ministry of Health will review the legislation in five years.
“National is determined to be a constructive opposition working on new ideas and new policies. National’s Bill is the result of significant work in recent months including study by MPs overseas and reflects a blend of international best practice, tailored to New Zealand.
“I encourage the Government to pick up the enormous amount of work done by National in Opposition and implement our comprehensive reforms to ensure New Zealanders in need can access high quality medicinal cannabis products to ease their suffering.”
More people are moving onto a benefit but fewer sanctions are being imposed on those who fail to hold up their end of the bargain as the Government reduces the responsibilities placed on beneficiaries to help themselves, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“New figures show that since the Government took office, there has been a 21 per cent drop in the number of sanctions imposed, despite there being almost 2000 more people on the Jobseeker benefit.
“This isn’t a sign that more people on benefits are being more compliant – it’s a sign the Government is going soft.
“These figures show a reversal of the trend under National which saw over 70,000 people moved off benefits and into work between 2011 and last year, and the number of children living in benefit-dependent households reduced by 60,000.
“The Jobseeker benefit is there to support those who need it but it comes with obligations including looking for work, turning up to appointments and staying drug-free. They must fail repeatedly before they have their benefit cut or reduced, until they meet the obligations.
“We know benefit sanctions are an effective tool to help people into work, with 95 per cent of people who receive a formal warning meeting their obligations within four weeks.
“Ensuring that benefits come with obligations is a fair agreement with the hardworking New Zealanders who are willing to lend a hand to people willing to help themselves. But this Government clearly doesn’t think it needs to be a two-way street.
“That’s worrying and signals a return to a system where the Government just hands out cash and sends people on their way. People’s lives are improved when they get off benefits and into work and that must continue to be encouraged.
“It’s important to help our most vulnerable by providing income support when they are out of work but also by incentivising them to get into work and improve their lives. This Government seems intent on tipping the balance too far the other way.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has today concluded a three-month tour of New Zealand, rounding off almost 70 public meetings attended by around 10,000 Kiwis who turned out to share their views about what matters to them.
“I have the honour of being leader of New Zealand’s largest political party which represents the views and aspirations of hundreds of thousands of Kiwis,” Mr Bridges says.
“This roadshow has been about listening to them about the issues they care about and to hear from them what they want to see the National Party focused on as we work towards 2020.
“Over the last three months, I’ve travelled from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and heard a range of views about hundreds of different issues.
“Crime, roading, housing, the environment, education, health and of course the economy were discussed at almost every meeting. New Zealanders are focused on jobs and opportunities for their families, protecting our environment for future generations and building on the progress we have made in recent years.
“And people are worried about the direction of this Government. They’re worried about the uncertainty and lack of leadership, the rising cost of living and the slowing economy and the Government’s soft on crime approach.
“It’s clear to them these are all being driven by decisions made by the Government – decisions that often look ill-thought-out, chaotic and destructive.
“National knows, and New Zealanders know, that we won’t get ahead with more taxes and low-growth policies that slow our economy down.
“And we know that New Zealanders want more than just a good vibe – they want real plans and policies that will make a difference and create opportunities for them and their family.
“I’m encouraged by the response I’ve had throughout the roadshow and it’s reinforced to me that National is in sync with New Zealanders and focused on the issues that matter to them.
“I look forward to using what I’ve learned from listening to New Zealanders to develop ambitious new policies for our country’s future as we look to earn the right to govern again in 2020.”
Health Minister David Clark going on holiday while nurses went on well-signalled strikes around New Zealand is the latest example of a Government failing to front up to New Zealanders.
“This is the first time in a generation there has been a nationwide nurse’s strike. New Zealanders are missing out on important health services while the nurses try and get an acceptable deal across the line, after the Government raised expectations around pay rises so significantly.
“But the Health Minister is MIA. At a time of one of the most serious disruptions in recent memory to healthcare in New Zealand he’s on holiday and leaving others to deal with the mess he’s helped create.
“This continues a concerning pattern of behaviour from a Government which is consistently failing to front up, to tackle the hard issues and to lead.
“Instead of making decisions it’s setup 134 working groups and reviews.
“Instead of telling the people of Taranaki that the Government was axing oil and gas exploration, the Prime Minister did it from Wellington then went overseas and still hasn’t held any public meetings in Taranaki to allow the people directly affected to share their views.
“The Prime Minister and Education Minister has failed to visit a single partnership school in spite of her Government’s callous decision to shut them down.
“And Statistics Minister James Shaw was also in the Pacific while the Census was conducted, in spite of serious concerns which have proven founded, with 400,000 New Zealanders left uncounted meaning serious flow on effects to everything from funding for hospitals and schools to electoral boundaries.
“And the Government is reducing its accountability by axing public sector targets meaning it won’t be held accountable for the quality of the services it delivers to New Zealanders.
“All of this shows a lack of courage and a lack of leadership and New Zealanders deserve better.
“National believes in accountability, it believes in fronting up and it believes governments should lead in the interests of New Zealanders.”
The Government’s borrow, tax and spend attitude means they will be increasing public debt by the equivalent of the cost to the previous Government of the Christchurch earthquakes, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Grant Robertson’s loose and untargeted spending promises means the Government is planning to increase its borrowing by $17 billion over the next four years. That’s the same as the cost the National-led Government faced to rebuild following the Canterbury earthquakes.
“We need to continue to prudently manage the books, to ensure we’ve got enough in the bank to cover the next Global Financial Crisis or natural disaster. Instead, the Government is spending billions on diplomats, a tertiary fees policy that doesn’t deliver any more students, and a slush-fund for New Zealand First’s pet projects.
“National carefully managed the books to guide New Zealand through the Global Financial Crisis and then rebuild following the Canterbury earthquakes. We borrowed to ensure we could rebuild and continue to support vulnerable New Zealanders but we made prudent spending choices in order to get back to surplus and then begin to reduce debt.
“But at the same time economic uncertainty is increasing internationally this Government is taking the opposite approach – spending up large now and hoping that the next rainy day doesn’t happen under its watch. That’s irresponsible. There’s a difference between borrowing to respond to economic shocks as National did, and borrowing to fund loose and untargeted spending as this Government is doing.”
The extra debt is made up of $11 billion of additional core Crown debt, and a further $6 billion hidden off the balance sheet in Crown entity borrowing.
“On top of the extra $17 billion of debt, the Government is also raising an extra $2 billion through higher taxes on fuel and housing, with more and higher taxes likely.
“This is a Government that is borrowing more, taxing more and spending more. Unfortunately it has no plans for how we as a country can earn more and in the meantime it’s reducing New Zealand’s ability to cope with international and domestic economic shocks.”
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has appointed new MP Dan Bidois as National’s Associate spokesperson for Workplace Relations and Safety and Simeon Brown as Associate spokesperson for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment.
“Dan Bidois has had an accomplished career as an economist and will make a real contribution to National’s fight against the Government’s backward and bad changes to New Zealand’s industrial relations laws.
“Supporting National’s Workplace Relations and Safety spokesperson Scott Simpson, Dan will help businesses fight the proposed changes which will take the power to run their own businesses away from hardworking New Zealanders and give it to Labour’s union members.
“Simeon Brown will help National develop new and forward-looking tertiary policies, in support of National’s Deputy Leader and Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson Paula Bennett.
“The Government has blown $2.8 billion to make tertiary education free, and bought nothing but the status quo, with only a 0.3 per cent increase in the number of students.
“Both MPs will play an important role in holding the Government to account and coming up with the plans and policies to help National earn the right to govern in 2020.”