National has today released our sixth Discussion Document which will ensure children get a quality education and have the skills to succeed, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“National believes all children in New Zealand should have options and opportunities. We want all children to go on to achieve great things. With the right education we can overcome the challenges some children face purely because of the circumstances they were born into.
“We will support teachers so they can spend more time actually teaching. Too often our teachers are burdened with too much bureaucracy, teachers should be focussing on face-to-face time with our children.
“We’re committed to smaller class sizes in primary schools and more teachers. More time with a teacher means more opportunities for children to ask questions and get answers, and for teachers to focus on areas where a child may be struggling.
“It’s important parents know how their children are progressing. National will ensure that we continue to improve school reporting systems including better access to online reporting for parents.
We’re also committing to:
- Strengthening teacher training
- Investing to ensure children with complex needs are supported
- Ensuring every child from year 1-8 has the opportunity to learn a second language
- Better management and investment in education infrastructure
- Restoring power and assets back to regional polytechnics and restoring industry training industry
- Ensuring we have a university in the top 50 university rankings by 2030
- Reinstating partnership schools
We are also proposing or asking for New Zealanders’ feedback on:
- Creating a parent, child, teacher progress record (Child Passport)
- How we can strengthen monitoring and evaluation of early childhood education services
- Exploring alternatives to first year Fees Free
- How we can improve our reporting systems for schools and parents
“Education is one of my top priorities. National in Government will ensure we are giving our children the skills and opportunities to succeed in life.
“This document is part of the biggest policy development process by an Opposition ever. National values education, we value the work our teachers do, and we want to ensure our children are supported. We’re doing the work now so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020.”
I am really excited about today. Education is a top priority for me because I know it can transform lives. For me going to great schools in West Auckland and then Auckland and Oxford University opened doors and provided lifelong opportunities. While there are many different pathways to opportunity that’s what it can do for all New Zealanders as well.
I think about it all the time for my own three young children, Emlyn, Harry and Jemima, and I know all parents do.
Education is a great leveller which allows us to overcome the circumstances into which a child is born. It will also skill up and make New Zealand more productive and strong, allowing us to do so much, from building more roads and houses to solving scientific problems and understanding ourselves better.
Education along with health and infrastructure will be my top three investment priorities if I am Prime Minister.
I want to thank the education team led so well by Nikki Kaye for all of their hard work in developing this document and the thinking behind it.
Nikki will take you through it shortly. I just want to highlight a few things that stood out to me, acknowledging there is so much more here we could talk about that’s important that I won’t in the interests of time.
In Early Childhood Education you will see a continued focus that’s been in other work we have done on a child’s first 1000 days which is so critical, on social investment and on quality for our young.
In classrooms at our schools again the focus will be resolutely on quality. To me, as a son and brother to teachers, this involves valuing teachers and smaller classrooms in which our children get more attention. Over a long period of time teaching has become a less attractive career. Our proposals will ensure a greater respect for the profession of teaching and with the smaller classroom sizes we are putting forward this will be much better for our kids.
To get that quality, we know we also need to significantly strengthen what’s taught in our classrooms, the standards and curriculum. We will introduce progress reporting so you know how your child is doing. And, after slipping backwards over time relative to other countries, we will strengthen numeracy and literacy and a knowledge rich curriculum and the teacher training in this. Children must leave school with firm foundations in core areas of reading, writing, maths and knowledge.
A couple of other things may catch your eye in schools. As parents, Natalie and I want my kids to be digitally savvy. But I worry about how much time our young spend on screens. We are thinking about how we make sure kids aren’t spending too much time on devices and are also doing quality learning off-device as well as running around outside.
I also think about school rooms. You’ll see as the party of infrastructure we have significant plans for building our schools and classrooms. But personally I worry about so called ‘modern learning environments’ with 60 or more kids in them. I acknowledge some teachers and principals I greatly respect swear by them but rather than pushing all schools wholesale into them we will give schools the power and choice on this.
To develop the skills and increase productivity the way New Zealand needs to, what we do at tertiary level is obviously vital. First year Fees free has been an expensive failure. Not only has it not increased participation, there are fewer learners now than before. We propose scrapping it and think there are better ways to invest in education. We are exploring options and one is exciting: Education Saver. School age kids could receive a small sum into an account each year to go to their education future. It’s done in the likes of Singapore and could change the game, creating a value shift in all our families about the importance of education from a young age.
We are also clear on aiming for a University in the global top 50 and not slipping backwards as we have over time, a rural medical school for regional New Zealand’s success, and we will stop Labour’s disastrous polytechnics merger in favour of localism that works and increases apprenticeships.
This is our sixth discussion document and it shows National has the ideas and momentum in New Zealand politics while Labour is stuck in a rut, failing to deliver on its promises for New Zealanders. In short, this document is part of the biggest policy development process by an opposition ever.
We hope you like it – but more importantly that you enter into the contest of ideas with your feedback.
After sitting on its hands for two years, the Government has finally decided to consider one of National’s key election policies, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Firearms Prohibition Orders (FPOs) give Police more powers to search and take firearms off gang members. They apply to the most dangerous offenders who have convictions for firearms offences or serious violence.
“National campaigned on introducing FPOs in 2017, and we had a Members’ Bill before Parliament last year that the Government voted down. We’ve also included FPOs in our proposed 13 changes to the Government’s gun law reforms, but again it wasn’t picked up.
“It’s a shame the Government voted down our Bill when it was before Parliament and wouldn’t allow us to introduce it when we tried to again last month. Now it’s taking even more time to consult on this – it should just get on and do it.
“We’re pleased that the Government is now focussed on improving the safety of New Zealanders, even though it wants to spend another two months consulting on this. It’s also good to see that the Government is now starting to focus on dangerous criminals and not just law abiding firearms users.
“The Government is bereft of its own ideas. Housing First, Mobile Rural Health Clinics, the Container Deposit Scheme and fog cannons in dairies were all National Party policies. It’s great to see National Party policy being used to make New Zealand a better place.”
National has supported the Zero Carbon Bill through its final reading, but is committing to improving the Bill further should we earn the right to govern in 2020, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“National proposed a series of changes that would have ensured the Bill is in line with National’s climate change principles of taking a pragmatic and science-based approach, but unfortunately the coalition Government voted down all of our amendments.
The changes we proposed were:
- That the target for biological methane reduction be recommended by the independent Climate Change Commission.
- That the Bill makes clear the stated aim of the Paris Agreement is for greenhouse gas reduction to occur in a manner that does not threaten food production.
- To strengthen provisions that consider the level of action being taken by other countries and allow targets to be adjusted to ensure we remain in step with the international community.
- To strengthen provisions for the Commission to consider economic impacts when providing advice on targets and emissions reductions.
- That the Bill ensures the Commission considers the appropriate use of forestry offsets, and has regard for the carbon sink represented by crops, riparian planting, and other farm biomass.
- That emissions budgets be split between biogenic methane and carbon dioxide as recommended by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
- That the Bill includes a greater commitment to investment in innovation and research and development to find new solutions for reducing emissions.
“We have taken a bipartisan approach to climate change but we will continue to fight for the changes we think will make the law better.
“Should National earn the right to govern in 2020 we will make these changes in our first 100 days in office. We will ensure the Bill drives the right long-term changes and factors in the wider impacts on New Zealand’s economy, jobs and incomes.”
Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today thanked Maggie Barry for her nine years of service to Parliament and the National Party.
“Maggie has been a great representative for the people of North Shore and a valuable member of our caucus. She was a passionate Minister of Conservation who was instrumental in introducing Predator Free 2050 and she led the charge on other major conservation projects.
“Maggie has been a staunch advocate for seniors - both as Minister and as Opposition spokesperson.
“She has been a valued colleague and friend. We know Maggie will continue to support us throughout the campaign.
“National is the strongest and most popularly supported party in Parliament. We are brimming with talent and I have no doubt that we will see a vigorous contest for the North Shore seat.
“I wish Maggie and her husband Grant all the best for their future.”
The number of food hardship grants paid out since the election has doubled as everyday Kiwis are getting hammered by the rising cost of living, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“In the year to September, $26.5 million was paid out in food hardship grants. That’s up from $13 million in National’s last year in Government.
“The Government has tried to explain away hardship grants as people getting what they’re entitled to. That’s nonsense, I have travelled the country and people have told me they are doing it harder under Labour.
“Rents are up an average of $50 a week because of the Government’s poor policy making decisions and petrol taxes have been piled on. The Government is completely out of touch with how its decisions are affecting people’s lives.
“The food hardship grants are on top of a 46 per cent increase in electricity and gas hardship payments this winter.
“Families are doing it tougher under Labour. National will revive the economy. We will restore business confidence, we will ensure Kiwis get to keep more of what they earn and we will make sensible policy decisions which won’t mean more costs on families.
“New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.”
Hardships payments for electricity and gas went up 46 per cent this winter as the Kiwis feel the effects of a higher cost of living, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“There were almost 5000 more hardship payments for electricity and gas this winter compared with the same period last year. A total of 15,594 payments were made in the September 2019 quarter to help people pay their electricity bills.
“This Government promised to be kind and caring and to eliminate child poverty. It’s not kind or caring to pile on petrol taxes or to make being a landlord so difficult that rents go up an average of $50 a week. More Kiwis are struggling to put food on the table, pay the bills and put a roof over their head.
“Labour promised there would be nobody sleeping in their car this winter, it failed to deliver on that promise. It promised to end child poverty in New Zealand and yet seven of nine child poverty indicators have got worse under their watch.
“Even the Winter Energy Payment to ‘help seniors and families who need extra help pay for heating’ hasn’t helped because of all the extra costs that are being piled on.
“What makes it worse is that a significant number of these hardship payments were loans, which means that our most vulnerable are now in debt because they wanted to keep their families warm.
“Labour is failing to deliver on its promises. National will revive the economy. We will restore business confidence, we will ensure Kiwis get to keep more of what they earn and we will make sensible policy decisions which won’t mean more costs on families.
“New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.”
National has today released its fifth Discussion Document which focusses on social services and outlines a range of policies that will help to enable more Kiwis to gain economic independence and lead better lives, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“We want to build a strong safety net for New Zealanders, using evidence to pinpoint how we can best help vulnerable Kiwis out of cycles of poverty.
“People should be in the driver’s seat of their own lives, keeping more of what they earn because we know families know their own needs best.
“National’s plan for social services will focus on our transformative Social Investment approach, providing tailored, targeted solutions to the social and economic challenges Kiwis face.
“We understand that sometimes people need help to get back on their feet. We also know that help is paid for through the taxes paid by all New Zealanders – so there needs to be accountability and obligations met in return.
“The current Government lacks ambition for New Zealanders. There are over 22,000 more people on the dole than when it came into office and the social housing wait list has more than doubled, while seven of the nine child poverty indicators are worse. And all this in a time of high employment. It will be worse when the economic slowdown bites.
“Led by Social Development spokesperson Louise Upston, we’re proposing a range of positive measures to ensure our social services are well managed and provide the best opportunities for Kiwis to reach their potential.
Some of our commitments include:
- Reintroducing the Social Investment approach;
- Setting targets to ensure the number of children in benefit-dependent homes is reduced;
- Ensuring gang members and associates can’t access welfare if they’ve got illegal income;
- Partnering with Community Housing Providers to ensure local solutions to local housing challenges;
- Supporting Housing First to move people off the street and into stable housing;
- Increasing postnatal care to three days of fully-funded care in a facility of the mother’s choosing;
- Ensuring paid parental leave can be split between parents and taken together;
- Keeping superannuation at no less than 66 per cent of the average wage; and
- Developing a nationwide action plan to help communities with parenting support and resources.
We’re also proposing or asking for New Zealanders’ feedback on:
- How the welfare system can be simplified;
- Whether there should be a time limit on the dole for those under the age of 25;
- Extending the use of money management to all beneficiaries under age 20, and those up to age 25 who don’t fulfil their obligations;
- Providing intensive wraparound services for parents under 20 to ensure they achieve NCEA Level 2;
- Improving antenatal and postnatal education for parents;
- Investigating better ways to support people with dementia; and
- Improving support for foster parents and grandparents raising grandchildren.
“National believes social services should be a hand-up, not a hand-out. We’re proposing measures that respond to the diverse needs of New Zealanders, whether they’re new parents, looking for work, vulnerable children or struggling to find a place to live.
“This document is part of the biggest policy development process by an Opposition ever. The current Government has no plan to grow the economy and is failing to deliver for New Zealanders. We’re doing the work now in Opposition so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020.”
I’d like to welcome you all here for the launch of our Social Services Discussion Document.
I’d especially like to thank The Loft for hosting us today and more importantly for the work you do supporting children, families and the community in Christchurch.
It’s particularly appropriate to be hosted at the Loft because a belief in the need to support children, families and communities underpins National’s commitment to high quality social services. National’s Social Services Discussion Document sets out how we will support all New Zealanders to achieve their full potential and lead better lives.
Backing New Zealanders
National wants all New Zealanders to have a fair go.
We believe that as much as possible New Zealanders should be in the driver’s seat of their own lives. We believe they should keep more of what they earn and make their own life decisions, because Kiwi families know their own needs best.
But while we believe in a fair go, we do not believe in a free ride.
We understand that sometimes people need help to get back on their feet. We believe in a strong safety net that helps vulnerable Kiwis out of the cycle of poverty, by delivering what they actually need to make the most of their lives.
At the same time, we believe in mutual obligations and accountability. Our social welfare and social services are paid for through the taxes from the hard work of all New Zealanders, and that effort needs to be respected.
The current Government is failing vulnerable Kiwis. Despite all its big talk, and there has been a lot of it, the number of people on benefits is up, the social housing wait list has more than doubled, and child poverty indicators are worse. Sadly things will only get worse still as the economy slows, unless we get back on track.
National has a plan to turn the lives of vulnerable New Zealanders around.
We are not the types to just throw money at problems in the vague hope they will just go away.
We want to tackle the causes of disadvantage, not just the symptoms. Today I’m going to tell you more about that plan.
Each year, approximately $70 billion is spent on social services programmes in this country, from supporting new mums and babies as they start their first thousand days, to helping seniors in their later years, to those who depend upon the state when they are unwell or not able to work. We are committed to helping people to improve their lives.
National believes in what we call ‘The Social Investment approach’. It was designed by Bill English and Paula Bennett. It is proven to focus on better outcomes for those who need help the most and we continue to believe in it – because it works.
It means we’re investing in programmes with proven results because we know that more money doesn’t necessarily mean better outcomes.
Put simply, prevention is better than a cure. If we can use the knowledge we already have to help people help themselves before they’re in crisis, we can transform the lives of individuals and their families.
Our commitment to Social Investment is about ensuring spending is focussed on targeted interventions that strike at the heart of the issues affecting people’s lives and that tackle the root causes of disadvantage, not just the symptoms.
National took this approach in government, and it was working. For instance, we know that 70 per cent of the children known to the care and protection system will be on a benefit by age 21 and this cohort is nine times more likely than others to go to prison in their lifetime. We know that focussing on those children will end in them having a better chance at succeeding.
It’s about taking an evidence-based approach, using data and analytics to direct specific help to those who are most in need.
Targets are a big part of this. Setting targets works. It focusses the minds of the public service and gives government the tools to better measure intervention and outcome.
We set targets for vaccinations and the rate of vaccination increased.
We set targets for the numbers of kids achieving NCEA level 2 and the numbers increased.
We set targets for mothers registering with a lead maternity carer and the numbers increased.
We set targets for reducing the numbers of children living in benefit dependent homes and the numbers reduced.
It meant better results for taxpayers. But more importantly, it meant better results for families and vulnerable people.
Targets were dropped by the current Government and they haven’t been replaced. Not surprisingly all these measures have got worse. That means vulnerable New Zealanders are worse off – the vulnerable are again falling between the cracks. I find that as avoidable as it is sad.
In Government National was ambitious – because we knew we had to be. I remain ambitious for every single New Zealander.
We will be open to new solutions. For example, through our Social Innovation Fund, we will ensure local communities can tackle local challenges. We want to utilise the knowledge of those who know their needs best – and that’s parents and families and local communities.
I’m a big believer that families are the best form of welfare.
For those of you who don’t know my story, my beautiful wife Natalie and I have been married for 14 years. She’s phenomenal. She runs her own business and is a wonderful mother to our three children Emlyn, Harry and Jemima.
I’m away from home a lot and I’m constantly in awe of how she juggles everything. They say Leader of the Opposition is the toughest job in politics, it’s nothing compared with everything she does.
Our eldest child Emlyn is seven now. He was born with two clubbed feet. All the parents here will remember what a daunting time it is having your first child, let alone one who has higher needs.
Emlyn underwent surgery, without which he may never have been able to walk. There were surgeries, home visits, casts and going through something called the ‘Ponseti method’.
We were so lucky for the support we received. I’m happy to report that there’s no stopping him these days – running, cycling and dancing.
His story makes me acutely aware of the support that new parents need.
Natalie and I will always be grateful for the support we had for all three of our babies. I want to make sure all parents feel as supported as we were, especially early on.
We want new mums and dads equipped with the right skills, relationships and access to support services that will see their child grow up in a healthy, secure and nurturing family environment.
The first few days after giving birth are some of the most important, but they can also be the most challenging for new mums.
That’s why Louise Upston has been a relentless champion of the ‘three day stay’. We are committing to all new mums being entitled to three days of care after giving birth. We want that support to be available after each child. We’ve heard stories of women who’ve been rushed out the hospital door. That’s why we’ll ring-fence the funding. That means if one mum only wants to stay for one day, another mother who needs to stay longer will be able to stay for five. DHBs will have to use the funding for this purpose. This will help new mothers with breastfeeding, bonding and overcoming the baby blues.
Our seniors have spent their lives investing in New Zealand – they deserve our respect – so we will continue to invest in them. It’s important we give all Kiwis a chance to be happy and healthy in their later years, where they feel valued and supported to live independently for as long as they can.
That’s why we’re giving a cast-iron guarantee that we’ll work hard to keep their costs down and to keep Superannuation at two thirds of the average wage.
At every age, we know it’s important Kiwis have a place to call home. We know strong homes build strong families and strong families build strong communities.
For some, help is needed to put a roof over their heads. I’m proud that during our last term in government we built over 3,000 new state houses. Many of the newest state houses announced this term are from projects started by the previous National Government.
We want to continue the work we started, using the expertise and experience of Community Housing Providers to ensure state housing’s the right size, in the right place and of the right quality for New Zealanders to live in. The current Government is single-mindedly obsessed with KiwiBuild. That hasn’t resolved the issues so many Kiwis face, and it has been a complete failure.
We can’t ignore the fact that, right now, many Kiwis don’t have a place to call home. We will ensure vulnerable New Zealanders are housed more quickly. We’ll expand the successful Housing First policy we established in government, and we’ll set a target for reducing the time it takes to house priority cases in social housing. Under this Government, the wait time has increased, and that’s not good enough. A home is more than just a roof over your head, it’s a place to raise a family and be a valued and productive part of your local community.
People also deserve to be safe in their homes. New Zealand has one of the worst rates of child abuse in the developed world. Police respond to one incidence of family violence every seven minutes.
But some programmes have made progress. For instance, National introduced Integrated Safety Response pilots in Christchurch and the Waikato in 2016. These are led by the Police and provide a rapid collaborative response to family violence from health providers, NGOs and social agencies. I’d like to pay tribute to my colleague Amy Adams, who’s here today, for the integral role she played in establishing the ISR initiatives. Agencies working together is a key part of our Social Investment approach.
Today I am pleased to announce we will invest further to extend the ISR initiative to more communities, to further reduce family violence.
National takes a hard-line approach when it comes to welfare and I make no apology for this. We want to support people to support themselves and this is only possible because hardworking Kiwis pay their tax. We have obligations to these hardworking Kiwis too.
In the past two years, under this Government, we’ve seen the number of people on the dole rise dramatically, it’s increased by over 22,000. We’ve seen more hardship grants being paid out and the social housing wait list more than double as over 13,000 desperate Kiwis struggle to find a home. All of this at a time when businesses are crying out for workers.
The best way to lift someone out of poverty, is to get them back to work. Children in benefit dependent homes do worse in education and are more likely to end up on benefits themselves than those whose parents are in work.
The Importance of Work
I believe it’s profoundly irresponsible of any Government to abandon families to welfare dependency. We have real opportunities to break the cycle of dependency and improve the lives of the poorest New Zealanders, and it’s important we take them. It’s what responsible governments do. We can’t let Kiwis languish on the dole.
National will set clear targets for reducing the number of benefit dependent households and we’ll be renewing our commitment to a fair but firm sanctions regime.
For those who do take steps back to work – we’ll support you. We’ll increase abatement rates and ensure those who move off benefits and into work can keep more of what they earn. We’ll make sure work pays, both in its financial benefits and in the opportunities that employment brings with it. We’ll also look at ways to keep people in work when times are tough.
I hope you’ll take the time to read through our document, and please give us your feedback.
The document we’re releasing today is part of the biggest policy development process by an Opposition ever.
The current Government has failed the most vulnerable and is failing to deliver for New Zealanders.
We’re doing the work now in Opposition so we’re ready to hit the ground running in 2020.
We want all New Zealanders to live happy, healthy, prosperous lives. Our bottom line is you.
An additional $132 million of dole payments have been dished out to people who are able to work in the past year, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“New Zealanders deserve a fair go but not a free ride. Since Labour came into Government an additional 22,000 people have gone on the Jobseeker Benefit.
“Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni doesn’t seem to care how many people go on the dole and she doesn’t believe there should be sanctions if people show no willingness to get into employment.
“Being in work lifts people out of poverty and improves the lives of families. There’s no excuse for taxpayers having to pick up an additional $132 million, a figure that doesn’t include inflation. This figure is just for people on the Jobseeker Benefit - people who are fit to work and doesn’t include other benefits.
“Employers are crying out for workers so there shouldn’t be people who are able to work lining up for the benefit.
“This week National will release our Social Services Discussion Document. We’ll release our positive plans to get more people into work and improve the lives of individuals, families and communities.
“National is aspirational for New Zealanders, we want people to have a safety net when they need it but we recognise that this is paid for through taxes and there needs to be accountability and obligations with that.
“The Minister needs to explain to taxpayers why they’re funding an additional $132 million in welfare and what her plan is to get people back into work.”