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.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has welcomed the Green Party’s decision to give the Opposition its allocated Oral Questions in Parliament to allow it to better hold the weak Ardern-Peters Government to account.
“I said when I became Leader that National would remain firmly focused on being an effective Opposition and in the past weeks we have continued to do that.
“That includes during Parliamentary Question Time when Opposition MPs get Ministers on their feet asking questions of importance to New Zealanders, and those efforts will now be bolstered by the Green Party’s decision.
“National will use the Green Party’s Questions as well its own to continue to focus on the issues that matter to New Zealanders – the economy, law and order, housing, public services and the environment.
“The Green Party’s willingness for this weak Government to be held to account is commendable and we will honour the spirit of this move by doing so strongly.”
National Party leader Simon Bridges is heading a large delegation of National Party MPs in a show of support for rural communities at this year’s Central District’s Field Days event in Feilding.
Mr Bridges will be joined by local MP Ian McKelvie and Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy today. MPs Barbara Kuriger, Alastair Scott, Harete Hipango, Matt Doocey, Tim Van de Molen, Lawrence Yule and incoming MP Nicola Willis will all be on hand over the coming days to celebrate the event’s 25th year.
“With over 550 exhibitors and over 25,000 visitors this is one of New Zealand's largest regional agricultural events and is an important showcase for the primary productions sector.
“We recognise that farmers and growers are feeling the pressure of all the uncertainty the new Government is heaping on the sector.
“The Government is holding back regional New Zealand through its opposition to irrigation and water storage projects – all of which help grow jobs, boost exports and provide environmental sustainability.
“The Primary Growth Partnership has not only been frozen, but has been raided to the tune of $17 million to fund an unnecessary rebrand of MPI, at the expense of vitally important research and development funding.
“And for those farmers dealing with the spread of the cattle disease Mycoplasma Bovis, MPI has been forced to go cap-in-hand to industry to fund its containment – with no commitment to actually eradicate it.
“The Manawatu-Whanganui region is one of the regions the National Government backed through its 2016 Economic Action Plan.
“The Plan aimed to build on the region’s strengths in primary production and food innovation, and benefit modelling carried out by NZIER estimated the primary sector opportunities alone would have the potential to increase regional GDP by around $580 million by 2025.
“With the new Government largely ignoring the sector, National intends to continue to support an area so vital to New Zealand’s ongoing economic success,” Mr Bridges says.
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has unveiled his new caucus line-up, saying it reflects his intention to make the most of the party’s considerable experience as well as new talent – and to recognise hard work, new ideas and success.
“The National Party caucus is brimming with energy and enthusiasm and a willingness to work in the best interests of New Zealand. This new line-up reflects that.
“It is a strong mix of former Ministers and senior MPs alongside emerging ones who have proven to me they have what it takes to hold this Ardern-Peters Government to account, to listen to New Zealanders and to develop new policies for the 2020s.
“This means the energy of all 56 of our MPs – Parliament’s strongest and most diverse caucus - is focused on the role of Opposition, ensuring every MP has a chance to directly contribute to taking on the Government and driving innovation and policies in the best interests of New Zealand.
“The team I have announced today also reflects the strength and talents of the women in our caucus, with three in the top five positions, and eight in the top 20. And they are there on merit.
“Unlike our opponents who believe in quotas and catering to special and competing interests, the National Party believes in rewarding hard work and success - in Parliament and out of it.
“That’s how New Zealand will continue to get ahead – through being focused and ambitious, innovative and smart.
“National believes in a New Zealand that is confident, outward and forward looking, and backs itself to succeed on the world stage.
“This team of MPs is an alternative Government in waiting. It will effectively hold this weak Coalition Government to account and ensure the National Party earns the trust of New Zealanders and the right to govern in their interests in 2020.”
Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has appointed Amy Adams as Opposition Finance Spokesperson, saying she is the best person to ensure the Government builds on the National Party’s world-class economic record and does not squander New Zealand’s hard-won success.
“I am today announcing Amy Adams as our Finance Spokesperson and the third-ranked MP in our Caucus, ahead of the caucus reshuffle to show the economy remains the National Party’s number one priority.
“Having a strong economy allows us to invest in public services and create opportunities for New Zealanders – something the National Party has demonstrated over the past decade.
“And, as a result of our strong economic plan this Government has inherited one of the fastest growing economies in the developed world, one which is seeing 10,000 jobs created a month on average, rising household incomes, budget surpluses, and falling government debt. All this is helping ensure New Zealanders get ahead.
“However, the Labour-NZ First-Green coalition Government seems intent on squandering that through plans to impose more taxes on hard-working New Zealanders and through rolling out negative and backward looking policies which will slow down our growth and see New Zealanders miss out.
“The National Party will fight these changes and Amy is the best person to lead that effort.
“Amy is an incredibly experienced former Minister, serving as Associate Minister of Finance as well as holding a range of important and challenging portfolios, from Social Housing to Justice and Environment, which she handled with real diligence and focus.
“She has chaired Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Select Committee, has a background in commercial law and is a talented and hard-working member of the National Party caucus.
“Amy follows in the footsteps of the National Party’s hugely successful finance ministers, Bill English and Steven Joyce, and I have no doubt she’ll do a great job on behalf of all New Zealanders. I look forward having her on my team.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has thanked retiring MP Steven Joyce for his service to New Zealand and the National Party.
“Steven has made a huge contribution during his 15 year political career, including in the last decade in Parliament. In that time he has proven an exceptional minister, colleague, advisor and political strategist.
“As a minister, Steven has played a major role in helping create a stronger New Zealand, particularly in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis.
“Among his many successes, he oversaw the rollout of the ambitious Ultra-Fast Broadband programme, ensuring New Zealand is one of the most digitally advanced economies in the world.
“As Science and Innovation Minister he worked with the private sector to substantially lift investment in R and D, helping pave the way for some of the world leading science and business initiatives we are seeing and benefiting from today.
“And as Transport Minister he helped make New Zealand’s roads safer and more resilient, through initiatives like the Roads of National Significance.
“He was someone both John Key and Bill English turned to for advice and to get things done. That meant he was given some tough tasks but he consistently rose to those challenges. And I will also continue to use him as a sounding board as the National Party looks to 2020.
“He played a major role in rebuilding the National Party, leading the past five elections and helping turn National into New Zealand’s largest and most popular political party.
“Steven is a huge loss to Parliament and to the National Party and I want to thank him for his immense contribution to New Zealand, and his wife Suzanne and their children for sharing them with us. We wish him all the best.”
Simon Bridges has today been confirmed as the new Leader of the National Party, with Paula Bennett confirmed as his Deputy.
“This is an enormous privilege and I want to thank my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to lead a strong, united and focused Opposition with the ideas and talent to continue to take New Zealand forward,” Mr Bridges says.
“My focus as Leader will be ensuring we build on those policies to improve the lives of New Zealanders.
“Our caucus has an incredible depth of talent and abundant energy which is why we continue to enjoy so much support. New Zealanders believe in our vision for New Zealand and in our team.
“My job as Leader will be to hold the Jacinda Ardern-Winston Peters coalition to account.
“Their Government is big on lofty intentions, but struggling to turn that into real gains for New Zealanders.
“That’s why we will continue to present an ambitious and strong alternative Government, heading into 2020.
“I would like to commend Amy, Steven, Judith and Mark for putting themselves forward, and our colleagues for the constructive way we have handled this important decision. That gives me great confidence.
“I would also like to thank Bill English for his tremendous service. Under Bill’s leadership New Zealand has become a better place and we are grateful for all he has done.
“I’m delighted that Paula Bennett has been selected as Deputy Leader. Paula brings great experience and ability to draw people together and I know she will continue to do an excellent job.
“Our renewed focus on 2020 begins now and I can’t wait to get to work.”
The Government needs to turn its five days of korero with the Northland people into action, and commit to continuing the concrete steps National were taking to grow jobs and wages in the region, National Party Economic Development Spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“Two years ago the National Government, local councils, iwi and businesses jointly developed and launched the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Development Action Plan, which came up with 58 tangible actions across key industries such as tourism, forestry and horticulture to grow the Northland economy,” Mr Bridges says.
“Despite spending a lot of time talking about his good intentions for Northland, the Minister for Regional Economic Development is yet to commit to continuing to progress the Action Plan.”
The Action Plan is already delivering benefits for the region. Within the first year multiple projects to support the economy had been progressed, including the establishment of the Māori Forestry Collective for Tai Tokerau, funding for the Hundertwasser Art Centre and the opening of Pou Heranga Tai – The Twin Coast Cycle Trail
“As usual, Mr Jones is all talk and no action,” Mr Bridges says.
“Already he is backing down from his flagship policy to plant one billion trees over ten years. In his latest statements he has said just five million extra trees will be planted in the first year – meaning it would take 200 years to reach his goal.
“The current approach is having an impact – 14,000 new jobs have been created in the last five years, and the number of people in work is the most ever. We need to keep growing this number, which is why the Government should commit to the actions in the Tai Tokerau Northland Economic Development Action Plan.
“The Government needs to turn its good intentions for the people of Northland into concrete actions. It is vitally important that the new Government commit to continuing the important projects of the Action Plan, to further support the Northland community.”