New Zealand National Party Canterbury/westland DivisionPrime Minister
A day can be a long time in politics. Twelve months has gone by in a flash.
There's been clear air and turbulent air, high points and low points, pauses and great progress and plenty of politics.
Economically and climatically it couldn't have been more demanding.
As a country we have been challenged by Asia's declining economic fortunes.
We have had to deal with one of the severest droughts of recent times.
But New Zealanders are resilient and our policies have delivered a positive environment to do business and business has got on and delivered.
While the economy has suffered from declining demand from our neighbours for our goods and services, our exporters have risen to the challenge.
This city, this region, are on the move. Over coming weeks I believe we'll see evidence of the serious first signs of recovery.
Sound Government policies and superb Kiwi ingenuity has been the key to this.
Our open and competitive business environment allows New Zealanders to take on the world. We're good at it and we're innovative and we're flexible.
Those who are promoting misery in New Zealand should get out and see the real character of our people.
Our people and our country are better characterised by a half full glass than a half empty one. The knockers should stop trying to hold New Zealand back from the recovery in confidence and intentions that is now under way.
As the Leader of the National Party and as Prime Minister I assure New Zealanders my Government has and will get on with the job of providing political and economic stability.
MMP has delivered a different reality from most people's expectations.
Change occurs. Change can be managed. MMP creates a stable framework within which this can occur.
While most New Zealanders voted for a system that would by its very nature require greater consultation, negotiation and at times compromise, these facets of the political progress are still new.
For many, it's been hard to get used to.
But it can and does work, if MPs work at it.
MMP requires enormous patience to develop, legislate and implement policy.
The break up of the Coalition, the formation of new political parties and the resignation of others provided political flashpoints this year.
Through this National has been focused, progressive and accommodating where necessary in delivering stable government and a credible policy programme.
I'm proud of it. New Zealand can be proud as well.
The National Government has delivered:
more disposable income for every New Zealand household,
interest rates at an all time low,
falling prices on many essential items,
inflation at low and stable levels,
business confidence on the rise,
and the economy is beginning to grow with a buoyant export sector.
While doing this we have been able to invest more in health, education and welfare.
We've kept our sense of priority while still making progress.
New Zealanders want to be rewarded for their efforts. We've done that.
In difficult times the tough and the best get going.
We've delivered progress for all New Zealanders.
New Zealanders have delivered as well by working hard through these testing times.
The contest is now on. Our future direction as a country is under debate.
We're clear about the sort of New Zealand National can deliver.
National is about creating the opportunities for you to have the freedom to make your own choices, whilst at the same time being there for you in times of need.
We champion all employers and workers who are the wealth creators because they create the profits, provide jobs and pay the tax so we can make other investments in our people. Wealth creation brings opportunity.
I want New Zealanders to be rich in skills, attitude and in the rewards they receive for their efforts. I do not share the view of others who would have us through their policies be poor in every respect.
We believe everyone should be rewarded for their efforts and we believe in fostering wealth creation, unlike the parties of the left who would, through redistributing wealth, hold everyone back.
Highlights of the past year for me have included our education, health and employment programmes going to the cause of problems.
Rebuilding and strengthening people's skills and confidence is a key goal. New Zealand must be bold, in these matters.
This year has confirmed for me New Zealanders want a chance to make their own choices.
I've been privileged to see people up close making those choices.
Earlier this year I presented awards to an amazing group of women who had seized their opportunity to gain skills to help them into work.
In a Wider Opportunities for Women course sponsored in partnership with the Education Training Support Agency, Community Employment Group and Enterprising Manukau, these women were looking to the future, with courage and support, to move off welfare into work.
In the words of one young Maori woman, who had us all in tears:
"I am 24 years old and have one child. I have been on the DPB for five years. I would never have realised my potential if I had not encountered this programme. This course has given me a taste for the working environment and I learned new skills. I am looking for meaningful paid employment and the WOW course has helped women like myself take that first step."
The community's investment in this young woman provided her with the courage to step towards independence.
New Zealanders want resources put at the top of the cliff. They don't want us to lock people into lives of misery. New Zealanders want to break the cycle, to give everyone hope by supporting them as they have a go.
Here in Christchurch, we've been testing out a powerful new programme, Family Start, to provide intensive help to some of New Zealand's most disadvantaged families. It's worked.
Workers on the programme walk alongside families for up to five years, helping with parenting skills, budgeting and accessing other services. Already Family Start is working with families to build on their strengths, not dwell on their disadvantages.
In the words of one young woman on the Christchurch Early Start programme, the forerunner to Family Start:
"My programme worker opened my eyes. She was my support person and guided and helped me with my son. I gained the courage to speak up for myself, go on a secretary course. I'm hoping to get a job."
This programme is delivering such positive results we're exporting it to other New Zealand centres.
Next week I will launch the programme in West Auckland.
Putting children centre stage in our education system has also been a result we've achieved.
Teacher unions have their place, but not ahead of our children's interests. We're investing heavily in young New Zealanders. Check your local school out.
Every school I've visited this year and I've visited many, has been building new facilities, or investing in new equipment, or employing extra staff, with the support of a Government committed to education.
Government and the community are driving education in New Zealand.
For example, Westlake Girls' High School was one of the first to opt for bulk funding, because they believed it would provide better learning opportunities for their students.
Part of the school's innovative approach included building seven new classrooms from its own funds and adopting an extended school day to make better use of its facilities.
Nearly a quarter of all schools have now opted for the flexibility of the fully funded option.
We intend to provide this choice. New Zealanders will fight to prevent this choice being removed.
New Zealand children are full of spark and intelligence. They give me great hope for our future, the next generation of 'can do' Kiwis.
We need to back them.
This year has confirmed for me that New Zealanders are some of the most enthusiastic and innovative people in the world:
they do believe in themselves,
they do expect to succeed,
they don't want to hark back to the past,
they don't want to be told Government knows best,
they like freedom,
they expect New Zealanders to take responsibility for their own behaviour and actions.
I intend to see that they have that choice at election time next year.
This year I have met many enthusiastic people who are succeeding through innovation, flexibility and a 'can do' attitude.
In the highlights of this year, two things stand out.
First, people are getting on with the job, sometimes with Government support but without waiting for the Government to do it all for them.
Second, New Zealanders' stunning 'can do' attitude. Ordinary New Zealanders, using Kiwi ingenuity and enterprise, achieving the extraordinary.
These are the values that underpin New Zealand's future. We can take on the world and win. Win by increasing our wealth as a nation, win for our children and win so we can better look after those in need.
My job as Leader of the Government is to help unlock that potential. To succeed we have four critical tasks.
First, we must renew our commitment to invest in building the skills, knowledge, enterprise and ingenuity of all New Zealanders.
You are aware of the ambitious target we have set ourselves to ensure all nine year olds can read, write and do maths. This needs all of us to pass on the message that reading, writing and maths are fun, and unlock doors to knowledge and understanding.
National has shown a real commitment to education. We have increased spending on education by $2.7 billion since 1990, but education alone is not enough. We need a Government that is committed to giving people the room to experiment, have fun, achieve all without needless rules.
National is that Government.
We also need a Government that will act as a catalyst and we're doing this.
Second, the Government must ensure stability and security for its people. National is determined to break the cycles of disadvantage that lead to welfare dependency and limit people from being the best they can be.
National has, and will continue to, build upon its responsibility for those in real need. We are creating certainty in health, reducing crime, supporting those who fall on difficult times.
New Zealanders have every right to expect the Government to help them get back on their feet.
National is committed to dealing with the underlying causes of disadvantage, not just treating the symptoms.
Third, the Government must foster a strong identity for New Zealand, a place where we all feel we belong and are making a contribution.
I've been lucky enough to travel overseas this year and it continually reinforces my pride in our country and our people.
We will be first to the future when the Year 2000 dawns, and I want to see us be first not just geographically, but in our attitude.
As a nation built on the Treaty we must continue to build a partnership.
As islands with a unique ecology, we must protect and improve on our environmental heritage, and as a nation of migrants we must continue to build a strong nation out of our diversity.
Finally, we must continue to provide a stable economic base to keep the country domestically productive and internationally competitive, able to afford to meet our aspirations.
Free, enterprising, innovative people, with a strong sense of identity and a supportive, facilitative government, make for a strong New Zealand.
Our future depends upon:
investing in people,
breaking cycles of disadvantage and providing for those in time of need,
stimulating a positive identity,
preserving economic stability.
This is my vision for New Zealand, a country where we all can thrive, belong and be proud of our achievements and successes.
As we move into next year let us be confident that New Zealand's prosperity and future is bright.