• Lockwood Smith
International Trade

Real Estate Agents' Business Breakfast

Mr Chairman, Real Estate Agents from the area, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you this morning. I don't intend to take up too much of your time.

It sounds almost trite to say that this will be a defining election for New Zealand.

But as real estate agents, you'll know that it's true.

Your livelihoods are firmly tied to New Zealand's well-being, and more than almost any industry, your livelihood is the first to be effected by fluctuations in the economy.

People stop buying and selling houses when the Reserve Bank tightens monetary conditions and interest rates hike up.

I'm not sure that any of you were in the industry as long ago the late 1980s.

But if you were, I'm sure that the late 1980s were very difficult as New Zealand's economy adjusted to the 1987 crash.

Similarly, we know that as the economy picked up through the 1990s, sales and your livelihoods would have improved.

For you therefore, this election is important. But for the same reasons, it's important for New Zealand.

Obviously, I've done a bit of thinking about this election, and in my view, it's an election about leadership.

It's about Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark.

It's about their contrasting attitudes to New Zealand and New Zealanders.

It's about their contrasting values and world-views.

It's about their contrasting teams.

New Zealand is an extraordinary country, and we have to show New Zealanders just how passionately we feel about it.

In 1999, the idea that women should be able to exercise their democratic right to vote is something we take for granted.

But it wasn't 100-odd years ago.

It took New Zealand to first establish that principle.

And you think of Mt Everest standing there for thousands upon thousands of years - to the north there's China, to the south India - literally hundreds upon hundreds of millions of people could have climbed it.

But it took a New Zealander to get there first.

More politically, you can think of a world where there was no social safety net.

It was the Savage Government in New Zealand that established the principle that there should be a safety net for those in genuine need.

And you think of when it became obvious, in the 1980s, that tight, state control didn't work.

It was New Zealand that embarked on the economic reforms that are now being mimicked by the Labour Party in the UK, and the Social Democrats in Germany - economic policies that are now basically the world standard that others try to reach.

And we can think of how the world is moving from the industrial era to the knowledge area.

Jenny Shipley and her Government have confidence that as New Zealanders, we will again lead.

We have confidence that by forging links between tertiary institutions, the research community and the business sector, we'll be the world leaders in biotechnology, in design and in marketing.

It comes down to confidence in New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Jenny Shipley and National have confidence in New Zealand and New Zealanders.

And that's our message for this election.

Today, I want to talk a little more about this, specifically in the context of the economic reforms of the last decade.

I want to argue that for your industry, it's crucial that we maintain the economic fundamentals that have delivered higher wages, more and better jobs, and raised living standards in New Zealand.

The reforms sorted out the Government's accounts and of interest to you, have brought interest rates down to 30 year lows.

We introduced price stability so New Zealanders could plan for the future.

In the workplace, we introduced law based on co-operation rather than confrontation.

We maintained a broad-base, low-rate tax system.

We opened New Zealand to the world.

How New Zealanders responded was more important, because all the reforms were based on confidence in how New Zealanders would respond.

And they've proved that we were right to have confidence in them.

They've invested in businesses, and developed sensible workplace arrangements.

And the results are stunning.

On average, six hundred more people have been employed for every week that National has been in office since 1991.

Statistics released just last week showed that we now have more people employed in New Zealand than at any other time in our history.

And that's grown our economy by 37% since 1991 - by more than a third in just eight years.

It means we've been able to cut tax, increase social spending and pay back all our public overseas debt, all at the same time.

In historic terms, it's almost like being the first to climb Mt Everest.

It's an almost unbelievable achievement and is one of the reasons why a study by Harvard University last year ranked your National-led Government as the best in the world.

And we have confidence in New Zealanders to respond just as positively to the measures we're now putting in place in response to the knowledge revolution.

Just as in the early part of this decade, we're not looking for people to celebrate in the streets about what their Government is doing - that's not the point at all.

We're looking for people to get down to work, forging the links between education, research and business, and with overseas investors, venture capital specialists and marketing experts.

And we're looking for them to celebrate one another's success.

There's no doubt New Zealanders can do it - become the world leaders in biotechnology, design and marketing.

The only thing that can hold us back is the negativity inspired by the Labour Party, and the anti-business attitudes of its front bench.

And the facts are that you'd be hard pressed to find more than one person on Labour's front bench with significant business experience.

By contrast, 40 percent of Labour's top 50 list candidates have union backgrounds.

With socialism discredited around the world, centre-left parties faced a major challenge of finding new guiding principles.

Most lived up to the challenge, such as the British Labour Party and the German Social Democrats.

Labour in New Zealand however failed to find a new rationale.

All it has left is its logo and its pollsters.

With no ideas to put up, all it can do is pull down.

I'm happy for it to try to pull down the National Party - that's the normal cut and thrust of politics in a democracy.

But I'm not happy for it to try to pull down New Zealanders.

It wants to tax families and businesses more.

Even in opposition, Labour has promised to spend so much more that it has been forced to admit it would raise tax for some.

Its spending record in the 1980s suggests the reality would be much worse.

The irony is that Michael Joseph Savage would spin in his grave.

Even after he introduced the cradle-to-grave safety net, the Government took in tax just 14.8% of everything produced in New Zealand.

Under this National-led Government, Wellington takes around 35% of everything produced in New Zealand.

You could argue we're more than twice as profligate as the First Labour Government.

It means that if you work nine to five, you don't earn anything for your family until after half past eleven.

Labour's spending habit would mean you wouldn't earn anything until after lunch.

With the Alliance, it'd be even worse, meaning that there'd be less and less point in going to work at all.

Why would you want people to earn less for doing a day's work?

Everyone would pay more tax under a Labour/Alliance Government than under National.

And why would you want to repeal employment law that's based on co-operation rather than confrontation?

Under Labour between 1986 and 1990, we lost 2.6 million days in New Zealand to strikes.

National has cut this by over 90% - between 1994 and 1998, we've lost just over 199,000 strike days.

Why would you want to stop businesses from making workplace insurance arrangements that work for them?

Why would you want to stop people needing housing assistance from being able to rent the accommodation of their choice, or even start to pay off a mortgage?

Why would you want to stop schools from being able to choose to manage themselves?

Why would you want to stop private hospitals from being able to help reduce our waiting lists?

The answer to all these questions is that Labour is beholden to some lobby group or union in Wellington that push these irrational positions.

Labour cannot lead because it has no idea of where it wants to go, and no idea of where New Zealand should go.

This is a defining election for New Zealand's future.

It's an election about leadership.

A vote for National is a vote for a better Zealand.