• Winston Peters


Chairman Arthur Davis, delegates.

It is a pleasure to be here this morning to address your conference, which has been called to discuss the issue of a single financial services market place.

But before making some observations in this area, I would like to touch on events of the past two weeks, particularly the way they were portrayed in the media, and referred to by sector commentators.

One sector leader said on radio this week that anybody, and I quote, "anybody operating in a business-like fashion would have made that decision (to Coalition or not) some time ago without imposing a period of uncertainty, both on the domestic and the international market."

Such a comment illustrates a lack of understanding of the new political process in this country, and sector leaders should be urged to take time out to study this process. I raise this as a constructive criticism!

You in the business community know full well that company mergers can take months to work through, and the analogy holds true in politics under MMP.

So what are the commentators on about?

To change the Prime Minister is no small matter, and we needed to know why?

We in NZ First wanted a reassurance that our agreement, the Coalition Agreement, would still stand.

NZ First is a centre party. We stand for policies that benefit mainstream New Zealanders, and not those on the extreme left or the extreme right.

Learned commentators who have studied coalition governments formed out of the process of proportional representation agree, that the replacement of a Prime Minister for reasons other than ill health or death constitutes a change in government, even if the party composition remains the same.

A change in the Prime Ministerialship is therefore no minor issue.

NZ First said it had questions requiring answers, so over the past two weeks we have worked through that process.

National's and NZ First's leadership met on several occasions, and reports were made to each Caucus on the results. More questions were raised and information sought.

It was made clear to all those interested, that the issue would go before the NZ First Council last Friday, then caucus on Saturday. Further space to make a decision was required, and a decision was made by the combined council and caucus on Sunday.

All in all, the process took less than two weeks. Two weeks!

Some commentators might think that an inordinate time, but the NZ First caucus, and those who attended the party convention last weekend, would disagree.

There are also a handful of political journalists who should look to their laurels as well over the reporting of developments these last two weeks.

The NZ Herald on Monday, for instance, described our talks last weekend as "holding the country to ransom," and "credibility-ravaging."

That is arrant nonsense.

These writers fail to understand that we live in a new democracy, that issues have to be talked through and all avenues explored before agreement is reached.

Ms Clark might like to make unilateral decisions without reference to her caucus, but that is not the way we do business in NZ First.

Yesterday we released a summary of the joint discussion points to make it clear that we are determined to stick to the programme outlined in the Coalition Agreement.

We promised certainty of action and policy over this three year term of government and we will deliver on those promises.

The summary of the joint discussion makes that perfectly clear.

Talk of winners and losers is nonsense. We are all winners from a policy of consistency and moderation! More than that, we are all winners from a Government committed to economic growth, fiscal prudence and fair social policies.

Now to the conference topic: the single financial services market place.

The business and financial services sector is one of the key sectors in the New Zealand economy, employing slightly less than a quarter of a million people, but growing up to 17% a year.

The continually changing nature of the financial services market, in particular the development of a single market place, reflects both the impact of international trends and a competitive market place.

The key issue at this conference is how the financial service industry should be regulated in an environment where many providers of financial services are now engaged in similar business?

The key driving force behind this debate is the Wallis Report in Australia, which has resulted in Australia considering the possibility of a super regulator for the financial industry.

By International standards we in New Zealand have a lean, efficient regulatory environment, though the split between banking and insurance regulation remains.

Reform of financial markets has been a core element in the economic reform process over the last decade.

Without a competitive and efficient financial services sector, the economy's ability to compete in the international market place would be constrained.

To this end, the Government will ensure that the regulatory environment continues to encourage an open and competitive market place for all providers of financial services where compliance costs are minimised and where regulatory bodies remain an appropriate size.

Mr Chairman, delegates, I wish you all the best in your discussions.