National Party Leader Simon Bridges says he is saddened by the passing of former National MPs Katherine O’Regan and Tony Steel this week.
“Katherine served as a National MP for 15 years and as a Minister for six.
“She was a gentle person with huge strength of character and real concern for people who made a significant contribution to New Zealand and the National Party during her career both in and outside of Parliament.
“Tony Steel was an All Black, educator and National Party MP.
“His enduring passion for education saw him make a notable contribution both as an educator, including as principal of Hamilton Boy’s High School and as chair of Parliament’s Education Select Committee.
“My thoughts and those of the National Party are with Katherine and Tony’s family and friends.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges will this week begin a comprehensive tour of New Zealand aimed at hearing from Kiwis increasingly concerned by the Ardern-Peters Government and its unchecked assault on their back-pockets and their livelihoods.
“I’m proud to lead a strong, energised and united Caucus that is focused on holding the Government to account and coming up with positive plans for New Zealand’s future.
“Over the next two months I’ll be travelling around the country, going on a roadshow to connect with our communities and talk to as many New Zealanders from as many walks of life as possible.
“I want to hear from those communities, to introduce myself and to take the opportunity to outline my vision for New Zealand.
“National is a hard-working policy factory of 56 MPs and we’re determined to use our time in Opposition to develop positive, alternative policy to deliver for New Zealanders.
“We know New Zealanders won’t get ahead through high taxes and low growth policies that slow our economy down. So, we will develop the ideas that grow our economy and opportunities, building on the real progress New Zealand has made in recent years.
“We will undo the damage being done by the Ardern-Peters Coalition’s raid on our economy and on the back pockets of New Zealanders.
“Over time, I look forward to outlining those ambitious new policies on key issues that matter to New Zealanders like the economy, health, education, environment, and law and order – and for us to demonstrate we have listened and learned.
“Our country is filled to the brim with opportunities – we just need to make sure we get the settings right so New Zealanders can make the most of them. This roadshow is another step in our plan to do that,” Mr Bridges says.
Over the coming two months, Simon will visit the following places with further destinations likely to follow:
Alexandra, Ashburton, Cambridge, Christchurch, Dunedin, Gisborne, Gore, Greymouth, Hamilton, Hastings, Hawera, Helensville, Hokitika, Invercargill, Johnsonville, Kaikohe, Kawerau, Kerikeri, Lower Hutt, Masterton, Matamata, Motueka, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, North Shore, Paeroa, Pakuranga, Palmerston North, Rotorua, Taumaranui, Taupo, Te Kauwhata, Timaru, Tokoroa, Waikanae, Waipukarau, Whanganui, Warkworth, Wellington, Whakatane, Whitianga.
For more information visit: www.national.org.nz/events
Thank you for having me here.
One of the privileges of being a politician is that you get to meet people all over New Zealand from all walks of life.
A couple of weeks ago I went back to my old high school – Rutherford College in Te Atatu.
Yes I’m a born and bred Westie, something Paula Bennett will never let me forget.
Although I now live in Tauranga and I drive a hybrid rather than a Holden.
At Rutherford College I had the chance to talk with a group of amazing 16 and 17 year olds.
While some of them were a bit nervous about moving out into the workplace or further study, they all saw their futures being full of endless opportunity.
And they were right.
Those teenagers will have opportunities in their lives that we can’t even imagine today.
Right now, New Zealand is filled with fantastic opportunities. We live in a successful, prosperous, confident country that can take on the world and succeed.
As Leader of the Opposition I think there’s a view that I’m supposed to be grouchy and complain about things.
That’s just not my style. I’m energised by this role.
I genuinely believe we live in the best country in the world.
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.
Now there’s more coming the other way.
We’ve made great progress recently - but we must make the most of it to ensure all Kiwis can share in the gains.
Today I want to talk to you about the economy. What the Government should be doing to support businesses like yours to create jobs and grow incomes.
But before that, I want to tell you a bit about me.
At the next election I’ll be asking for your vote to become Prime Minister.
My team and I have two and a half years to prove that we have the best ideas for New Zealand’s future, with positive, exciting plans that capture your attention.
I’ll be asking for your vote, so you have the right to know who I am. You deserve to know what drives me, and what I stand for.
I’ve got a mixed background. Mum is Pakeha and Dad is Māori.
We weren’t well off, but we never went without.
Dad was a Baptist minister, so growing up it was the norm to get involved and support the local community.
I was a bit of a swot at school, but I probably talked too much – which you won’t be surprised to hear from a politician.
I loved debating and so ended up studying law – first in Auckland, and then at Oxford University in England.
When I came back to New Zealand I became a Crown prosecutor in Mount Maunganui.
I prosecuted hundreds of men and women, some of whom had done the worst things one person can do to another.
Assaults, rapes and murders.
Many days I was depressed by the dark side of human behaviour.
But other times I was inspired by the resilience of victims, and by previous offenders who were putting their lives back together.
That background is why one of my priorities is law and order.
I don’t apologise for that.
It bothers me that the Government is planning to slash the prison population by a third, without explaining how it will lower the crime rate first.
The only way it can do that quickly is to make it harder to send someone to prison.
In fact, Kelvin Davis says they’re looking at relaxing bail and sentencing laws for serious and violent criminals, and increasing the threshold for Police to prosecute.
I know from experience that as things stand only the most serious offenders get sent to prison – and the Government wants to raise the bar further.
It should be looking at rehabilitation and crime prevention, not just making it easier to get out of jail.
I believe in most people getting another chance to turn their lives around, and doing whatever we can to help them move away from a life of desperation and crime.
But I also believe that the worst offenders should be locked up.
In 2008 I wasn’t satisfied just enforcing the law, I wanted to help set it.
So I stood to be a Member of Parliament.
I ran in Tauranga against some guy who first became an MP 29 years earlier, when I was just two years old.
After I won I thought he might retire, but ten years later he’s our Deputy Prime Minister.
I became a Minister in 2012, and held portfolios focusing on the economy, infrastructure, transport, broadband and the Government’s finances.
So that gives you a quick overview of how I got here.
But to give you the full sense of what drives me I really need to tell you about my wife Natalie and our three young children. Emlyn who’s six, Harry who’s four, and little Jemima who’s a whole five months old.
Like any dad, I’m incredibly proud of my kids.
I’ve got a lot of photos of them on my phone that I’d love to show you after the speech, if you want to see.
As a politician sometimes there are sacrifices you make, and unfortunately that includes spending more time than I’d like away from my children.
But it also means that when I go to work in Parliament, I’m driven by the desire to make New Zealand an even better place for my children and yours when they grow up.
I’m ambitious for New Zealand, and New Zealanders.
We live in a great country, but we need to continue to create even more opportunities for the future.
And that’s why I want to talk about the economy today.
Now sometimes people can think the economy equals boring, or that we’re focused on balance sheets rather than people.
But when I talk about the economy, I’m talking about jobs for our children.
About wages for our families.
About the local sparky as much as the big corporation in the CBD.
About the opportunities we can give those kids from Rutherford College to move into work and follow their passion.
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.
There is, however, one group of people who don’t directly create those jobs – and that’s politicians.
Of course we have some part to play. Our role should be to get the settings right and then get out of the way - making good, consistent, sensible policy choices that give businesses the confidence to do business.
That’s one area where I have a major difference of opinion with the Ardern-Peters Government.
Labour and NZ First are more focused on government intervention. They believe they know how to run your businesses better than you do.
Shane Jones’ $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund is a good example. It’s terrible policy.
Now I’m sure there are some worthy projects that will get funded. But it will shift businesses from focusing on becoming more productive to chasing a subsidy from Matua Shane.
That’s not how to drive long-term productivity improvements.
When I was Economic Development Minister, our plan for the economy was set out in the Business Growth Agenda.
The BGA comprised over 500 different initiatives all designed to make it easier to do business by investing in infrastructure, removing red tape, and helping Kiwis develop the skills needed in a modern economy.
Some of those were big, some were small. I’ll admit some weren’t as exciting spending a billion dollars every year.
But together they were effective.
New Zealand has one of the best performing economies in the developed world.
Over 2.6 million New Zealanders are now in work – and that’s grown by almost 240,000 in the last two years.
That means that throughout 2016 and 2017 10,000 new jobs were created a month.
In fact the proportion of New Zealanders in work is the third highest in the developed world.
And the average annual wage is growing much faster than inflation – up $13,000 since 2008.
That is what a successful economy looks like.
But we need to keep it going to ensure all New Zealanders can continue to share in the gains.
It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Ardern-Peters Government doesn’t have a clear plan to do this.
They’ve announced 80 working groups or reviews already – because they didn’t do the work in opposition to come up with solutions.
And when they do make decisions, they make bad ones.
They’re implementing a series of policies that will slow New Zealand down rather than speed us up.
Whether it’s industrial law where they are strengthening their union colleagues or adding compliance on hard working businesses that will cost jobs rather than benefit workers.
Whether it’s transport, with fewer new roads and higher taxes – and you here in Auckland you’re getting a double-whammy with excise tax going up and a regional fuel tax on top.
Whether it’s immigration, where there are such mixed messages from the Government that employers don’t have the confidence they’ll be able to get the skilled workers they need.
Whether it’s the Tax Working Group, which I’m telling you now will lead to capital gains tax legislation before the next election.
And whether it’s the decision to shut down oil and gas exploration.
Each of these policies on their own are bad. Together, they are shutting down opportunities for those students at Rutherford College, rather than creating them.
Just on the oil and gas decision, the Government was quick to claim there would be no job losses.
Their confidence was somewhat undermined by making the announcement to students in Wellington, rather than fronting up in Taranaki and talking to the thousands of people whose jobs and livelihoods depend on the industry.
On that day I happened to be in New Plymouth at a company called Fitzroy Engineering, which employs around 400 people.
Within hours the CEO had said there would be no more investment and no more hiring.
He knows the impact on his business better than the politicians in Wellington.
The really tragic thing is that the main reason for the ban doesn’t even stack up. The environmental effects will be perverse.
Gas will dry up over the next decade, and industries that depend on it will be forced to switch to coal, which has much higher emissions.
What matters for the environment is not how much oil and gas we produce, but how much we consume. The only people that benefit from this policy are big oil producers overseas.
This is a government that is big on intentions, but small on plans and delivery.
It is one thing to do something because it makes a nice headline, but the reality is the impact on the thousands of people who have their jobs taken away will last a lifetime.
That’s why National is clear that we will reverse the decision to stop oil and gas exploration.
We will work on addressing environmental issues, but we will do it with purpose and a plan.
Because National’s approach is different.
I value enterprise, hard work and the rewards that go with success.
I believe in sensible, consistent economic policies that encourage businesses to grow, because that is how opportunities are created.
I believe in responsible management of the Government’s books. If we can avoid wasteful spending like the $2.8 billion spent on a year’s free tertiary education then we can invest more in world-class health and education services, and deliver better infrastructure.
I believe New Zealanders should be able to keep more of what they earn.
And that is the final thing I want to talk to you about today, the regional fuel tax.
I know that is important to you here in Auckland. And we know that more Aucklanders oppose it than support it.
The tax is not needed, the enforcement is complicated, and it will hit you in the back-pocket.
A typical Auckland family will have to pay around $700 extra a year as a result of the fuel taxes the Government has announced.
Under National, we were able to live within our means while still investing in major projects such as the Waterview tunnel, rail electrification and the Western Ring Route.
We were relentlessly focused on infrastructure. In the most recent Budget we had set aside a record $32.5 billion over the next four years for infrastructure investment.
The Government and Auckland Council should be applying more discipline to their own finances in order to properly fund core services such as transport.
And it isn’t just in Auckland – the legislation allows for a regional fuel tax to be rolled out in other areas around the country too. Already Christchurch is saying it wants it.
Well, my commitment is that we will repeal the regional fuel tax legislation.
A National government under me will invest heavily in transport – as a former Transport Minister I know how important it is, and how frustrating it can be when the system doesn’t work – but we won’t be using a regional fuel tax to do so.
If we manage the books right, we don’t need it.
Ladies and gentlemen.
New Zealand is a great country. And if we maintain our direction and momentum of recent years we can make it even better for our kids.
Moving into opposition is a chance for National to look at our position on certain issues, and understand the things that New Zealanders want us to focus on.
Although the one thing I hope you’ll take from my speech is we won’t be changing our focus on the economy.
Over the next two months I’ll be travelling around the country, going on a roadshow to connect with our communities and talk to as many New Zealanders from as many walks of life as possible.
I want us to be better at listening, so that we can understand what is important to you.
Our country is filled to the brim with opportunities – we just need to make the most of them.
A re-elected National Party will overturn the Government’s regional fuel tax to leave more money in the back pockets of hard-working New Zealand families, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Regional fuel taxes are unfair on New Zealanders. They are regressive, and hit poorer New Zealanders the hardest.
“The fuel taxes the Government has announced will leave a typical Auckland family around $700 a year out of pocket.
“The regional fuel tax is simply punishing Aucklanders for the Government and the Council’s lack of fiscal discipline.”
Mr Bridges made the announcement at his first economic speech today as National Party Leader, where he laid out his principle that the economy must work for New Zealand families and New Zealanders should be able to keep more of what they earn.
“Governments must manage the economy and its spending in a way that ensures hard work is rewarded and taxpayer money is not wasted by a lack of planning and bad spending decisions. Regional fuel taxes violate that principle.
“They impose more costs on families, while letting Councils off the hook for expenditure they should already be prioritising.
“Auckland Council is a clear case in point. We know it is a free spender of rate-payers money. It was true under Len Brown and it’s true under Phil Goff.
“All the regional fuel tax does is take the pressure off the council to do a better job of controlling and prioritising spending, and instead puts that pressure directly on Auckland families. It’s a disguised rates increase.
“And while Auckland will be hit first we know the legislation means it can be rolled out nationally, despite Labour promising before the election they wouldn’t. Already Christchurch is saying it wants it.
“National will stop the rot. We know you can invest in world-class transport infrastructure without regional fuel taxes. We built Waterview and new roads and bridges around the country out of fuel taxes, while at the same time investing in Auckland and Wellington commuter rail infrastructure out of the consolidated fund.
“All it requires is a diligent, disciplined approach to spending taxpayers’ money.
“Labour should do the same. They need to keep their hands out of New Zealanders pockets and stop putting family budgets under more pressure.
“And to Councils I say don’t get used to this raid on the back pockets of hard working New Zealanders because a re-elected National Government will repeal this tax.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges says after just six months the Government’s tally of inquiries, reference and working groups has soared to 75 as it desperately tries to compensate for its inability to think for itself or put in the work.
“After nine years in Opposition claiming they knew better, Labour, NZ First and the Greens put in so little work and came up with so few ideas they’re now outsourcing the job of running the country to consultants – wasting tens of millions of dollars in taxpayers funds in the process.
“There is now, after just six months, 75 different groups of people telling the Government what it should be doing. That’s more working groups than MPs in the entire government.
“It’s nothing short of an abdication of its responsibility to lead and it shows how completely out of its depth the Government really is - and how willing it is to waste taxpayers money which should be invested in areas like health and education.
“What we are now certain of is when Jacinda Ardern claimed in Opposition she could slash immigration without harming New Zealand businesses, balance the books without raising taxes and build more houses she wasn’t telling the truth. They had no clue then and they have no idea now.
“What is even more concerning for New Zealanders is when this Government has implemented its own, ill-thought through ideas they’ve been bad for New Zealand.
“Raiding our regions through fuel taxes, fewer roads and pulling the plug on important irrigation projects, putting a wrecking ball through entire industries like oil and gas and slowing our economy through low-growth policies like empowering unions and slashing foreign investment.
“These do nothing but take New Zealand backwards and undermine an economy which is delivering for all New Zealanders.
“Every day this Government is proving to New Zealanders it doesn’t have the ability to run the country, the ideas to take it forward or the best interests of New Zealanders at heart.
“National won’t make the same mistake. We’re working hard in the interests of New Zealanders and we’ll be ready with plans and policies if we earn the right to govern again in 2020.”
The latest Infometrics economic forecasts show that after just six months the Ardern-Peters Government is steadily dismantling New Zealand’s strong economy with poor policies, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Infometrics is saying growth will slow to below 2 per cent next year when Treasury’s pre-election forecasts had growth at 3.7 per cent in 2019,” Mr Bridges says. “That’s almost cutting growth in half.
“And Infometrics is unusually blunt in sheeting home the blame for their lower growth expectations to the policies of this Coalition Government.
“They identify infrastructure, house building and immigration policies as key reasons for the expected decline.
“And worse is to come. This forecast doesn’t take into account the Government’s employment law changes, and this week’s announcements around oil and gas and irrigation funding that will worry investors and slow down regional New Zealand.”
Mr Bridges says New Zealand should be speeding up, not slowing down.
“The world economy is growing faster than it was last year. We should be growing more quickly, adding more jobs, and seeing wages rise.
“If a slowdown happens, the Government will get less tax revenue. Treasury is currently relying on having strong growth next year, not 2 per cent. Lower growth means less money for social services like health and education and an even bigger problem for the Government’s budget.”
Mr Bridges says the Government is on track to be the author of its own misfortune.
“The only thing that has changed New Zealand negatively is the economic policies of this Government. They need to seriously rethink their approach.
“If this slowdown happens it will simply mean lost opportunities for Kiwi workers and their families, and less public services for all.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges says law and order, and the safety and security of New Zealanders, will be one of his core priorities as Leader of the Opposition.
“We have a Government that wants to cut the prison muster without first reducing crime,” Mr Bridges says. “That sort of ‘catch and release’ approach will put New Zealanders at risk.
“Around 98 per cent of people in our prisons are there for some of the most serious and violent types of crimes – including serious assaults, burglary, sexual violence and murder.
“The damage these people cause is immeasurable and their punishment shouldn’t be lessened just because the Government has an ideological view that there should be fewer people in prison.
“I know this first hand, having spent years as a Crown prosecutor putting serious offenders behind bars.
“The previous National Government responded to public safety concerns and made it harder for serious offenders to get bail. We shouldn’t make it easier for them to get out again just for the sake of reducing prison numbers.
“The Ardern-Peters Government needs a plan to reduce crime and deal with existing prisoners, rather than just reducing prisoner numbers.
“We need to help people move away from a life of desperation and crime. In Government, National had a huge focus on that and achieved real success - overall crime dropped but the rate of serious crime remains too high.
“Through our social investment approach we educated prisoners and gave them practical skills so they have a better chance of finding work when they are released.
“We also invested in drug and alcohol courts and treatment, and we started rolling out courts specifically targeting young Māori to help improve their lives before they ended up in prison.
“To safely reduce prison numbers you need to reduce crime and to do that you need the right plans and policies in place.
“This Government doesn’t have either and its stated intention to release more prisoners is dangerous and we won’t let it happen without a fight.”
Good morning. It’s great to be back here at Rutherford College.
Twenty-four years ago I was sitting where you are, probably thinking, “who is this guy and how long is he going to talk for?”
It was as a student here that I got my first taste of the spotlight, in a production of Oliver.
I tried out for the lead, but instead was given the role of Undertaker.
Politicians like to think that everyone knows who they are but that’s not something I take for granted.
I’m the Leader of the Opposition. I replaced Bill English two months ago.
I am the person who is trying hard between now and the next election to persuade New Zealanders that I should be the next Prime Minister.
Whether that happens is ultimately up to you.
I’m assuming all of you will be old enough to vote in the 2020 election, and you should do so. Your vote is worth the same as your mum or dad’s vote, and the same as mine.
Each person has the same vote as everyone else. That’s pretty basic, and it underpins our democracy.
As Leader of the Opposition there is a view that I’m supposed to be grouchy and always complaining about things.
But that’s not me.
For a start, we live in the best country in the world.
OK, I am biased, but there’s evidence.
Of 200 countries, New Zealand is ranked first for overall prosperity, first for personal freedom and first for civil rights. You live in the least corrupt country in the world, and the easiest to do business in.
It wasn’t always the case.
Ten years ago, 30,000 people a year were leaving New Zealand to move to Australia.
Now more people are coming the other way.
New Zealand in 2018 is a successful, prosperous, confident country.
I want to ensure we stay the best in the world because being the best at anything – as some of you will already know – takes real work and can’t be taken for granted.
Other people, or other countries, want that title. If we slack off, it’s pretty easy to suddenly find we’re second best, or third best, or not even mentioned.
I don’t want that happening to New Zealand.
I want New Zealanders to succeed.
I want you to have opportunities to gain new skills, to get your first proper jobs and to follow your dreams.
Because I will be asking for your vote in 2020, I believe you have the right to know who I am. You should know what drives me and what I stand for.
I grew up a Westie – one with a blended background.
My mum is Pakeha and Dad is Māori.
We lived near enough to here that I walked to school. As a family, we weren’t well off, but we never went without.
I am the youngest of six children.
Looking back at my time here at Rutherford College, I was a bit of a swot.
I had some fantastic teachers who taught me that ideas matter.
Although when I was keen to talk about them – which was most of the time – I think my teachers thought maybe they’d made a mistake in encouraging me.
A few of them thought I was pretty cheeky.
I’d often find myself getting into what I’d call ‘robust debates’ with teachers in class. I think they just called it arguing.
So, no surprise, I got into debating. It’s a useful job skill for politics - although I can safely say Mum no longer writes my debate notes out for me on those little cards.
I suspect that sometimes when she sees what I’ve said on the news, she wishes she still did.
Growing up, my parents instilled in me a strong sense of right and wrong.
Dad was a Baptist minister at the church around the corner from here, so as well as being a supportive family we were taught the value of serving the community.
I liked music and for a while, I wanted to be a conductor. But I also wanted to do something that involved thinking and talking, so I studied law.
You are all facing decisions about what to do when you leave school.
For some, university will be the way to go. Others will find their niche in the trades. Some might move straight into a job.
If you know what you want to do, that’s great. If you don’t yet have a clue, that’s fine too.
When you’re young, it can seem like everyone else knows more about how the world works, and where they fit in. Believe me, most of the time, that’s not the case.
But not knowing what to do with your life is not an excuse for not working hard to better yourself.
In fact not knowing what you want to do is all the more reason to stick at education or training, or following your passion, because you need to be in a position to grab opportunities when they come up.
Most importantly, do something. Statistically, life outcomes are poor for people who sit around and do nothing.
Unless you win Lotto - and sorry to break it to you, but the chances are you won’t - success is always going to involve hard work.
Naturally, our start in life influences who we grow up to be.
But even those who have tough childhoods do not need to be defined or limited by that. All of us have the ability to better ourselves, and improve our lot in life.
That belief is part of what drew me to the National Party.
I am ambitious for New Zealanders.
I back New Zealanders to succeed on their own two feet.
I back enterprise, and I think that people who take a risk and do well, and those who work hard, and who contribute to their communities, should be celebrated.
I also have a fundamental belief in personal responsibility. You can take pride in doing well, but you should take responsibility if you do harm.
As I said, I studied law. First, in Auckland, then at Oxford University, in England.
The most important thing that happened to me at Oxford was that I met the woman I ended up marrying.
I’m not sure about the early impressions I made. After our first meeting, Natalie told her parents she’d met a handsome Japanese guy.
I was happy with the handsome. I was perplexed by the Japanese.
On our first date I bought takeaway coffees. I was trying to impress her so I bought a black coffee even though I actually liked it with milk.
Black sounded cooler.
I didn’t put the lid on properly. I spilt scorching black coffee all over my hand - burnt myself quite badly actually - which wasn’t very cool at all.
But it can’t have been all bad. By the end of that year we were married and she came back to Mount Maunganui with me.
We now have three young children. Emlyn who is six, Harry who’s four, and brand new Jemima who turned four months old just this week.
My career in the law led me to become a Crown prosecutor.
I was responsible for making the case to a judge or jury in court that someone was guilty and should go to jail.
Over time, I was in charge of hundreds of trials, sometimes dealing with the worst things one person can do to another.
Assaults, rapes and murders.
It was a role of huge contrasts. Many days I was depressed by the dark side of human behaviour.
But other times I was inspired by the resilience of victims, and sometimes by previous offenders who were gradually putting their lives back together.
One particular case will be with me forever.
One morning, outside a Tauranga school, a guy called Tony Robertson, who already had a string of convictions, managed to convince a 5-year-old girl to get in a car with him.
He pretended to talk to her mum on the phone, and promised the girl Christmas presents.
Thank God, her brother, who was seven, went in to school and told the teachers what had just happened. They called the Police.
Immediately, Police organised a district-wide manhunt. One officer – Sergeant Dave Thompson - had a hunch on where such an offender might go.
He drove way out of town to Kaiate Falls.
There he found Robertson and the girl still in his car, crying. To this day, I believe Sergeant Thompson saved her life.
Like so many of our Police, he is a true hero.
For him, it must have been as rewarding as policing gets.
For me, my job was to prosecute Robertson. I tried to get him the strongest sentence New Zealand has, which is preventive detention. It means a person can be kept in prison their whole life.
Instead he was given seven and a half years in jail, and was let out in December 2013 because he’d done his time.
Less than six months later, he abducted a woman. This time there was no heroic police officer to save her.
Her name was Blessie Gotinco and Robertson raped and murdered her.
After that, he got preventive detention.
I’m sorry to relate to you such an upsetting case but it’s one reason why, as Leader of the Opposition, one of my priorities is law and order.
I don’t apologise for that. The lives of New Zealanders depend on it.
I believe in most people getting another chance, and I am a strong believer in rehabilitation to help people move away from a life of desperation and crime.
But I also believe that jail is absolutely the right place for some offenders.
It bothers me that the Government is talking about lowering the prison population, without explaining how it will lower the crime rate first.
In 2008 I was no longer satisfied just upholding the laws. I wanted to help make them.
That’s what Parliament does and I was elected as MP for Tauranga that year.
I became a Minister in 2012, and have since held portfolios focusing on the economy, infrastructure, transport, broadband and the Government’s finances.
Mine is a story about the benefits of strong families, hard work, education and giving people opportunities.
My values are the values of the National Party and, I think, the values of many New Zealanders.
You deserve to feel safe. I believe that law and order is important to the security of all of us, and our families.
But my top priority, which affects everything else, is to ensure that New Zealand has a strong economy.
A strong economy means more jobs and higher wages for Kiwis like you.
A strong economy means we can invest in the infrastructure and public services we need as a country, without raising taxes.
I talked earlier about how 10 years ago, over 30,000 people were moving from New Zealand to Australia every year. Some of you might have family members there.
That’s because Australia was where the jobs and opportunities were.
But when you finish school, I don’t want you to have to go to Australia to get your first job, or any job for that matter.
If you want to go on an OE, great – but it’s not great to be an economic refugee.
I want New Zealand to be a place you live knowing that you will have as many opportunities here as anywhere else. Actually more than anywhere else.
Those opportunities are thanks to a lot of hard work by Kiwis up and down the country.
It’s also thanks to the leadership of the National Government that encouraged entrepreneurship, creativity, innovation and job creation.
Those gains could be easily lost with the wrong government policies.
So for me, economic management comes first.
The final thing I want to cover with you is the environment and climate change.
The things that I think bring New Zealanders home, and keep us here, are family, friends, job opportunities and the environment.
Some of you might have seen that last month, the world’s last male Northern White Rhinoceros died in Kenya. There are two females left but you didn’t need to come top in Biology to know that it’s curtains for Northern White Rhinos.
These things are happening in the lifetime of your generation and mine, and they’re not only happening overseas. We have more endangered bird species here in New Zealand than any other country.
Protecting biodiversity is a human responsibility but it’s only one part of good environmental stewardship.
When I was Minister of Transport I announced a significant package of measures to help increase the use of electric vehicles in New Zealand, so that we use fewer fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help tackle climate change.
New Zealand is a great place for electric vehicles, because three-quarters of our electricity comes from renewable energy. That’s the fourth highest in the developed world.
And we’ve been relatively successful – in just the last year there were around 4,000 new electric vehicles registered in New Zealand. That’s almost as many electric vehicles as have been registered in Australia, ever.
There is never a silver bullet solution to environmental problems. It’s always complex, but there’s never any solution unless you prioritise the problem.
I will be doing that.
Never assume that just because the Greens are supporting the Government that everything is going to be okay. It isn’t, and it won’t be.
As I said when I started, I used to sit where you are when we had a speaker at school and I’d think “who is he, or she, and how long are they going to talk?”
So the answer to the first part of that question is that I’m Simon Bridges, Rutherford College old boy, Auckland University and Oxford University grad, former prosecutor, a politician, a husband, a father.
Mostly, I’m a person who loves my country and is ambitious for New Zealand and for New Zealanders.
As for the second part of the question, I’m just getting started.
I want to talk to people in every part of New Zealand. Thank you for letting me start with you here today.
Thanks for your attention. Good luck with whatever you do next and, I hope, like me, you’ll always be proud to have come from Rutherford College.
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has thanked retiring MP Jonathan Coleman for his many years of dedication and service to the National Party and New Zealand, and wishes him and his family all the best for the future.
“Jonathan has had a long and distinguished career in politics, including 13 years as MP for Northcote and nine as a Minister.
“He has been a diligent and committed colleague who has handled a range of challenging portfolios with a focus on getting results.
“As Immigration Minister he focussed policy on importing skills and capital while fundamentally reconfiguring the immigration network.
“As State Services Minister he oversaw legislation that implemented the biggest changes to public service operation in a generation.
“During his time as Defence Minister, New Zealand’s defence relationship with the U.S. continued to grow closer and Dr Coleman oversaw the withdrawal of New Zealand troops from three major deployments - Afghanistan, Timor Leste and the Solomon Islands.
“At the same time he drove the reconfiguration of NZDF to support New Zealand’s future foreign policy intentions.
“As Associate Finance Minister he was involved in the delivery of three very successful Budgets.
“And finally as Health Minister, Dr Coleman initiated and drove the New Zealand Health Strategy - the blueprint for the future of New Zealand health services - while delivering a continued increase in access to clinical services across the board.
“My colleagues and I wish Jonathan and his family the very best for this new phase of their lives.
“The National Party will now focus on earning the right to continue to represent the people of Northcote.
“I am confident that the new National Party candidate will show they have a real understanding of that community’s aspirations and a commitment to working with local people to achieve them.
“They will be backed by a strong and focused National Party committed to representing the interests of all New Zealanders. We will continue to develop new plans and policies to build on New Zealand’s strong recent progress and take us positively into the 2020s,” Mr Bridges says.
Dr Coleman’s resignation date will be determined in the next few days.
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has announced the election by Caucus of National’s three Whips, with Barbara Kuriger today elected Senior Whip, Matt Doocey Junior Whip and Tim van de Molen Third Whip.
“These three MPs have an important role to play in helping ensure the efforts of all 56 National MPs are focused on holding this Government to account and coming up with the plans and policies to take New Zealand forward.
“They have a big job. The National Party caucus is Parliament’s largest and it is brimming with energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to work in the best interests of New Zealand.
“It must also be disciplined and focused and represent our communities effectively.
“Ensuring that strength and talent is taking New Zealand forward is my focus as Leader and I am delighted to have these three strong MPs elected to play an important role in that.
“Our three Whips will help ensure the National Party earns the trust of New Zealanders and the right to govern in their interests in 2020.”