Welcome to the 83rd National Party Conference.
How good is it to be back in Christchurch celebrating 83 years of the National Party?
Can I start by welcoming two very important people, Hon Sir Jim McClay and Rt Hon Sir John Key, former leaders of this fantastic party of ours. It’s great to have them here this weekend.
I also want to acknowledge our National Party Board, led by Peter Goodfellow. We have Andrew Hunt, Alastair Bell, Pat Seymour, Glenda Hughes, Roger Bridge, and Rachel Bird. They work tirelessly for us behind the scenes to make sure the machine is fighting fit for 2020.Thank you for everything you do.
And our superb HQ team with Greg Hamilton at the helm. We are so lucky to have a group of people dedicated to supporting our MPs, our electorate committees and our rank and file members’ right around the country.
To the wonderful Young Nats led by Sam Stead, here in big numbers. You are energised, you are determined and you will be critical to our success next year.
Finally, my beautiful wife Natalie - what a woman. She runs her own successful business, raises our three children Emlyn, Harry and Jemima and supports me as my friend, my advisor, my love.
But Delegates, this is all about you and New Zealanders.
The New Zealand National Party has a bottom line.
Our bottom line is you.
Last year I welcomed you to our annual conference, we were a new team with new ideas. In the past 12 months we have listened.
In 2017, 44 per cent of voters asked for a strong government, a team with depth, a healthy economy.
What they got was indecision, horse trading between three parties who lack a coherent plan for this country, broken promises, new taxes and rising cost of living.
The very people who were promised the most, who are struggling the most are actually doing worse under this Government.
More people homeless, lining up for food parcels and a growing number of people on welfare while businesses cry out for workers.
All that platitudes and hope have given us is a weakening economy that’s not delivering for anyone.
We cannot and will not sit back and think this is as good as it gets. You deserve better, you deserve and are entitled to expect a government that delivers.
I feel a deep sense of urgency as I watch this country that I love falter, as I see middle New Zealanders struggling to pay increasing rents and to put petrol in their car.
We must win the election next year and put this country back on track to success and opportunities for everyone.
New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.
Our economy is stalling - uncertainty plagues our businesses and it’s having a detrimental effect on our everyday lives.
So what is the most important part of the economy? Is it GDP? Is it Interest rates? Is it the share market?
It’s actually you. The people of New Zealand.
You are the engine room, the heart, at the very centre of everything that is the economy.
You are what drives me and 54 other MPs and thousands of members of this party to get up each day and fight for a better New Zealand.
Our bottom line is making sure you and your family have every opportunity to live the best life you can.
Everything we do is working toward an economy that works for New Zealanders - that works for you.
A strong economy means we can invest in a health sector that you can rely on. I will not accept that only New Zealanders who can afford it will get access to cancer drugs that are freely available in Australia.
The New Zealand that I want to lead will not have a two class health system that provides care for those who can pay and leaves others suffering because they can’t.
A strong economy means we can get access to those drugs and mothers can give birth in actual maternity centres, not on the side of the road in Lumsden.
A growing economy is about a transport system getting you home on time, and where a visit to the grandchildren or dropping the kids at day-care doesn’t mean sitting in grid lock or driving on dangerous roads.
We are the party of infrastructure.
This Government has cancelled roading projects and haven’t started any new projects. This affects you in your everyday lives.
We can grow the economy, we can invest in projects that will make your life easier.
A strong economy means schools, tertiary institutions and early childcare centres that set high standards.
That delivers real results for children and young people that sets them up to thrive and live big lives.
A housing market that builds houses. I know that one is foreign to this Government. Don’t get me started on a minister that fails at delivering KiwiBuild and is now in charge of the whole economy - needless to say, you deserve better.
We weren’t perfect on this, but we weren’t Phil Twyford either.
This beautiful country of ours needs to be protected and looked after - a growing economy means we can invest and improve our environment.
A justice system that lets you and your family feel safe. One that actually catches the bad guys and holds people to account.
That means that those in small businesses all around this country don’t live in fear of the next hold up, and your children can feel safe walking home.
A successful economy means a welfare system for those that need it but not a hammock and the soft bigotry of low expectations that we are seeing today.
Under this Government there are thousands more who can work – but don’t.
A strong economy means confident thriving businesses that create more jobs and increase incomes.
This Government think they create jobs but the only jobs they are creating are more bureaucrats in Wellington telling you what to do in your life.
We know it’s the men and women of New Zealand that work hard, that take risks that worry about paying wages in small businesses throughout the country who are the backbone of our economy.
We salute you, we thank you, and we support you.
A strong economy is all about you.
In all of these important areas of your life, National has a plan and a track record of getting things done. We are the ones that can manage the economy to ensure it is delivering for you.
A rising tide lifts all boats, there are economic solutions to the issues in our lives.
They all have one bottom line: you.
So ladies and gentlemen. I know you love this country as much as I do. I know you care, I know you want to make a difference.
Our economic plan will be put to New Zealanders over the next 12 months leading up to the election.
We will outline an education and health system that actually delivers for you - we will be clear about what we will do and unlike this current lot we will be ready to work hard for New Zealanders.
Enjoy your conference, debate, discuss and put forward your ideas.
Because New Zealand can’t afford another three years of this Government.
We must start today with a sense of urgency.
Deliver our brochures to every letter box, knock on every door and we will make a difference.
Our bottom line is you.
A strong economy means we can provide the services and support that New Zealanders are looking for. As our economy falters, welfare numbers increase and this Government heaps costs on New Zealanders, National Party Leader Simon Bridges has declared his bottom line: You.
“A strong economy means we can provide the healthcare you deserve, we can have an education system where your children go on to lead successful and fulfilling lives, it means you will have a warm, dry and affordable home, it means safer roads that don’t leave you in congestion so you can get home to your family faster,” Mr Bridges says.
“We cannot and will not sit back and think this is as good as it gets. You deserve better, you deserve and are entitled to a government that actually delivers. We have a strong team of 55 MPs who understand this. The National Party team is the best and strongest team in New Zealand politics.
“National is the party that understands the economy and can steer it in the right direction, so we can afford all of the things New Zealanders deserve. We understand what works for New Zealanders. We understand what works for you.
“National will continue to hold this Government to account. And we will continue to work hard to develop policies that have you at the centre of them. We will be ready to go in 2020, to make New Zealand better for you.
“The National Party has a bottom line. Our bottom line: You.”
The Government’s constant outsourcing of work has left taxpayers with a $317 million bill, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Over the past 21 months, there have been 279 working groups created or reviews launched. That’s a working group every two days since the Labour-led Government has been in office.
“The Government has used working groups as an excuse to stall on doing any work while the coalition squabbles in the background.
“It shipped off work to the Tax Working Group, the Welfare Expert Advisory Group, the Business Advisory Group and the Fair Pay Working Group. All of these groups reported back with recommendations but the Government has done little or nothing with them.
“New Zealanders will be scratching their heads wondering why their hard-earned taxpayer dollars are being spent on working groups when the work isn’t even being used. They’ll be asking themselves, what is the point of this Government?
“The Government has broken many promises it made leading into the 2017 election, like $20 million for rare disorders, $10 cheaper GP fees to all New Zealanders and free annual health and eye checks for seniors.
“Not every review is wasteful. We support the Government in calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Christchurch terrorist attacks, but the constant outsourcing of work takes the focus off the important reviews that really matter. Over the same time period when we were in Government, we had 113 reviews, less than 40 per cent of what this Government has called for.
“The Government has no plans for growing the strong economy it inherited, or for improving the lives of New Zealanders. Rather than having a plan and a vision for New Zealand it’s focused on keeping the coalition together and treading water.
“On top of all the working groups, the Government is making poor spending decisions, including more than $2 billion for fees-free tertiary, which has resulted in fewer students, $3 billion for Shane Jones’ slush fund and $2 billion on KiwiBuild, which has resulted in next to no houses.
“National would cut the waste and invest taxpayer dollars in more considered and targeted ways. Savings from these reviews alone could fund the Roxburgh children’s village for the next 90 years, fund 5,600 cochlear implants, restore and maintain full facilities at the Lumsden Maternity Clinic for more than a hundred years, or axe the regional fuel tax.
“National is doing the work in Opposition so we’re ready should we earn the right to govern in 2020. We have already released three comprehensive discussion documents and there are six more to come. Our polices will be in place and our legislation will be ready to go in time for 2020.”
New Zealanders who are wasting up to 85 hours a year in motorway gridlock had better get used to the slow crawl because the Government has no plan to rescue them any time soon, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Today’s Auckland Congestion Report, released by the Automobile Association, will have motorists sinking in their car seats. It shows they are losing an average of 85 hours a year to congestion, up from 79 hours in 2017.
“The only reason Auckland’s congestion hasn’t got significantly worse is because National unlocked the city’s network by building the Waterview Tunnel.
“But congestion is going to get worse under this Government, which has no meaningful roading relief planned. Its only idea is to pump billions into a slow tram down Dominion Road that will do little to improve the lives of most Aucklanders.
“Meanwhile it has cancelled, delayed or gutted a dozen major transport projects across New Zealand, including Auckland’s East West Link.
“Transport Minister Phil Twyford is deaf to motorists’ pleas for help, having spurred the Business Council’s call to get on with these roads to avoid an infrastructure crisis.
“What really stings is that Auckland motorists are getting less but are paying more in the form of a regional fuel tax on top of the three fuel tax increases since Labour took office.
“The only thing motorists are getting from this Government is a tax on the price of their car, multiple taxes on fuel, and the chance to go slower through reduced speed limits.”
The paltry 135 electric vehicles that have been added to the Government fleet since the Labour coalition took office shows it is failing to lead by example, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Information released to National shows only 135 electric vehicles have been registered for the first time to any government agency since the present Government took office. In real terms, the Government itself has done nothing on electric vehicles since the election, except propose more taxes.
“There’s about 15,500 vehicles in the Government’s fleet. Prior to the last election, National committed to a hard target of making one third of them electric or hybrid vehicles by 2021, alongside our much bolder ambition of having 64,000 EVs in the country by then.
“National believes electric vehicles are the future. Since our Electric Vehicles Programme launched in May 2016 the number of EVs on our roads has increased from 1406 to 14,867.
“Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter has been quick to tell New Zealanders they need to go out and buy an electric vehicle to avoid paying the Government’s car tax. But she clearly isn’t putting the screws on public servants.
“The Government is sending a clear message to New Zealanders, do as we say, but not as we do.
“Rather than taxing ordinary New Zealanders into compliance, Julie Anne Genter and Transport Minister Phil Twyford should be getting tougher with government agency chief executives, pushing them to adopt EVs at a faster pace.
“National supports incentivising people to buy electric vehicles if their lifestyle can accommodate them rather than dictating what cars people can and cannot drive, and slapping them with new taxes.
“Instead, as it has in so many other areas, all the Government wants to do is pile on taxes of up to $6000 a car. New Zealanders can’t afford this Government.”
Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today apologised to Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter for releasing false information about the Government’s car tax.
“In recent statements, National claimed Labour’s car tax would increase the cost of some of New Zealand’s most popular vehicles by up to $3000. We were basing this on information in the Government’s Clean Car Discount Scheme.
“But we’ve since had a good look at another piece of work by the Government – its Clean Car Standard Scheme – and discovered even more hidden costs.
“The truth is, the actual cost of Julie Anne Genter’s car tax on Kiwis could be more than $6000 per vehicle.
“Alongside the Government’s plan to tax higher-emissions vehicles, it is proposing a vehicle emissions target, meaning importers will be charged a penalty of between $50 and $100 per gram of CO2 on vehicles that don’t come in under the target from 2025.
“That could slap an extra $4500 onto the import cost of an average new car and an extra $2250 onto the cost of an average used car – costs that will almost certainly be passed on to buyers.
“More than 91 per cent of the vehicles being imported into the country today don’t satisfy the Minister’s emissions expectations, so this could be a massive tax grab for the Government.
“Julie Anne Genter wants to tell Kiwis what cars they can and cannot drive, and dictate to dealers what cars they can and cannot sell.
“She’s clearly spent too much time in Wellington and not enough in the regions because she hasn’t clicked that not all New Zealanders have low-emission vehicle options that fit their lifestyle.
“What, then, are car dealers in Feilding, Greymouth and Dargaville supposed to do? They can’t just start selling cars their customers don’t want.
“I’d like to say sorry to the Minister for underestimating the true cost of this tax on hard-working New Zealanders, which she thinks is just a ‘small fee’ they’ll be happy to pay.”
If the Government is serious about improving road safety it needs to get on with building safer, well-engineered highways, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Julie Anne Genter is completely out of touch with New Zealanders if she thinks that reducing speed limits is the answer.
“Kiwis lead busy lives and we don’t need the Government telling us to go at a slower pace. We would rather see our tax dollars spent on new, high-quality roads that are safe to travel on at 100km.
“Getting the kids to school, tradies getting across town to finish a job and delivering fresh produce to our supermarket shelves is the reality of our everyday lives and we shouldn’t be standing in the way of that.
“This Government hasn’t built a single new road. A few rumble strips and reducing the speed limit isn’t a plan.
“Julie Anne Genter is determined to force people out of their cars by piling on more costs. She showed her true colours when she called motorists ‘car fascists.’ This Government has piled on higher petrol taxes, a regional fuel tax and a proposed car tax.
“Slower speeds will isolate regional New Zealand and put a handbrake on our economy.
“National committed to major investment across New Zealand’s regions to fund much needed highway projects, and we committed to the second generation of our Roads of National Significance. These projects would have dramatically reduced road harm, created jobs and provided economic opportunities.
“If the Government is serious about wanting to save lives then it will reverse its policy of not investing in quality new roads, act on drugged drivers by introducing roadside drug testing and put more money into road safety policing, which saw a cut, in real terms, in this year’s Budget.”
The Government’s car tax will hike the price of some of New Zealand’s safest vehicles, while making some with the poorest safety ratings considerably cheaper, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter appears hell-bent on pushing her car tax agenda at the cost of keeping people safe on our roads.
“She doesn’t seem to realise many of the vehicles she wants to subsidise with her car tax may be banned from entering the country because of their low safety rating.
“A Government working group is considering a ban on importing cars with 1-star and 2-star safety ratings, including models like the Suzuki Swift and Mazda 2 Demio. Both of these cars will be cheaper under Julie Anne Genter’s ‘feebate’ scheme.
“Even stranger is the Government wanting to tax a large number of 5-star safety rated cars, including the Toyota Camry, Ford Ranger and Holden Colorado.
“Julie Anne Genter has been selling the public on her car tax by claiming it will make many popular cars, like the Nissan Tiida, cheaper. But she seems to have forgotten her own vehicle safety policies.
“Unfortunately for the Minister, it will be illegal to import a Nissan Tiida into New Zealand in 2021 because cars that don’t have electronic stability control are being phased out.
“In fact, many of the cars identified by the Government as being cheaper as a result of its car tax also won’t meet import safety standards from 2020.
“As the Minister responsible for road safety, how can Julie Anne Genter propose subsidising vehicles that are too dangerous to be on our roads?”
The Government will pocket almost half a billion dollars in new taxes even if its plan to hike the price of higher-emissions vehicles doubles the amount of cleaner cars on our roads, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter claims her plan is revenue-neutral. But her ministry’s own numbers reveal she is misleading the public.
“National calculates that even if imports of electric and low-emission cars doubles – putting an extra 26,000 on our roads each year – the scheme will raise $85 million more in taxes than it pays out in subsidies each year, adding up to $426 million over the first five years.
“If the scheme was introduced today, and there was no change in motorists’ behaviour, New Zealanders would be forking out more than $1 billion in tax on vehicle sales over five years.
“Basically, the scheme will only be revenue-neutral if the uptake of low-emissions cars happens at an unprecedented and unrealistic rate. Otherwise it’s just another sneaky tax grab from hard-working Kiwis already struggling with the rising cost of living.
“The Government may say its policy is ambitious, but it has already shown it can’t live up to its own hype. It campaigned on an ambitious promise of building 100,000 affordable houses through KiwiBuild, only to abandon that target less than 18 months into its term.
“Setting aside the big numbers, the true cost here is the extra few grand a Mum and Dad with three kids will pay for a used seven-seater van, just so a banker can buy a cheaper Tesla.
“The Associate Transport Minister needs to be honest about how much money her plan will actually take from Kiwis’ back pockets, and what she’ll do with her tax bounty if it isn’t paid out in subsidies. Another slush fund to keep NZ First happy perhaps?
“National supports greening the vehicle fleet through incentives, not penalties. Our policies saw the number of EVs on our roads jump from 1406 in May 2016 to 14,867 in June 2019.
“New Zealanders simply can’t trust the Labour-led Government on tax. The capital gains tax debacle demonstrated it can’t sell new taxes to the public direct, so now it’s finding creative ways to dress them up as ‘small fees’ – as Julie Anne Genter likes to say.”
Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges has today announced a reshuffle of the National Caucus.
“Paul Goldsmith will become the spokesperson for Finance and Infrastructure following today’s announcement from Amy Adams that she will leave at the next election.
“Paul is the natural choice for the Finance role. He has done an outstanding job holding the Government to account in the Economic and Regional Development portfolio.
“Regional and Economic Development will now be split across two spokespeople. Todd McClay will look after Economic Development, while Chris Bishop will take over the Regional Development and Transport portfolios.
“Chris has done a brilliant job as spokesperson for Police and deserves to take on more responsibility.
“Jo Hayes has been appointed the spokesperson for Māori Development and Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations following the departure of Nuk Korako. Jo is a passionate advocate for Māori.
“Gerry Brownlee will pick up the Foreign Affairs portfolio, Brett Hudson will take on the Police portfolio and Tim Macindoe will become the Shadow Attorney-General.
“Other changes include Michael Woodhouse as the Associate Finance spokesperson, Maggie Barry taking over the Disability Issues portfolio, Stuart Smith will be the spokesperson for Immigration, Todd Muller will be the spokesperson for Forestry, Nicola Willis will take on the Youth portfolio and our newest MP Paulo Garcia will become the Associate Foreign Affairs spokesperson.
“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank both Amy Adams and Alastair Scott for their valuable contributions to the National Party and Parliament. Amy was a brilliant Minister across a range of portfolios. The changes she made to domestic violence laws as Justice Minister have made families in New Zealand safer. Amy has excelled as our Finance spokesperson and has been an outstanding member for Selwyn.
“Alastair should be proud of the work he has done to prevent drug driving, and for the way he has represented and advocated for the people of Wairarapa. I’m pleased they will be here for the rest of the term to help us form policies for the 2020 election.
“National is the largest and most effective Opposition this country has ever seen. I’m proud to lead such a talented and hardworking team.”