THE WAY AHEADPrime Minister
"The Homestead", Oamaru
New Zealanders like winning.
We all want to succeed as people, as families, as communities and as a nation.
We all want to have the opportunity, through freedom and choice, to be able to lead satisfying and fulfilled lives.
The National - New Zealand First Government is committed to continuing to take this country in a direction that will allow us all to prosper.
We want New Zealanders to feel rewarded for their effort. We want New Zealanders who need help to have someone to walk beside them.
And rightly, we have high hopes for ourselves, our children and our future.
As New Zealanders we pride ourselves on our individuality, our self-reliance, our independence, our generosity of spirit.
We are a small outward looking country and these characteristics have served us well over the years as we have responded to the changing world around us.
Over the last ten years we have been on a remarkable journey together.
Now we are clear sighted about where we stand at home and where we stand in the world.
We also are realistic and accept that if we are to continue to prosper as a nation change has to occur.
The question is can we manage change in a positive way so that New Zealanders feel they are benefiting overall and not losing.
As we have managed this change a new New Zealand has emerged.
We are paying our way and are now in our fifth year where we have not spent more than we have earned.
In achieving this, it has given us the opportunity to look to the future with confidence.
It also has enabled us to start the debate on 'where to from here?'
What do we want for ourselves, for our families and for our country?
I'm sure most would answer freedom, security, the opportunity to work.
We all need to feel rewarded for our efforts.
But we can't discuss our future in terms of economic policy, social policy or opportunity unless we are realistic.
I believe we have to be disciplined as a country.
To understand that each generation, each year has to honestly confront the issues and choices before us.
We must avoid the temptation of deferring addressing the issues of this generation and leaving them to the next generation.
In looking ahead we need to consider what are the keys to ensuring our ongoing success.
Firstly, we need to manage our economic affairs.
There was a time when economic policy was the subject of huge debate.
I believe that not only in New Zealand but also internationally there is now much less debate as to how modern economies work.
So the arguments of left and right in terms of economic policy are much less relevant than they were in yesteryear.
Even Labour appears to endorse our economic approach with Ms Clark telling her conference 'On the economy we are pragmatic. If it works and can deliver to ordinary people and the country, let's back it as our guiding principle'.
Now I'm not sure what all that means but I guess we'll find out over the next two years if Labour can pluck up the courage to come out of the broom cupboard.
Most countries understand what it means to deliver efficiency and effectiveness in terms of performance and quality of public spending.
To their credit even the Labour Opposition recognises an extra billion dollars on health is not the solution to the insatiable demand for health care.
Most countries know that productivity means that you stay competitive with those whom you are selling against.
Even the Labour Opposition knows that international trade agreements are important to New Zealand. What the Alliance thinks is not at all clear but then that is not unusual.
New Zealanders have understood that our economic success has grown from our ability to continue to trade and do well by focusing on efficiency, effective use of public resources and on productivity.
But to continue to progress we cannot afford to become complacent.
This will require us to ask ourselves, as employers, workers and politicians to consider how we can do things differently so we remain competitive.
It is this competition that allows New Zealanders to enjoy high standards and the good things in life.
From the Government's point of view this means we are committed to delivering an environment that allows the economy to flourish and expand.
In doing so our people prosper, wealth is created and we have tax revenue to share.
We need to attract new business to New Zealand.
This is a good place to do business.
We have to deal with the realities. I am proud that the current Coalition Government has committed itself to the key elements of good economic performance.
Plenty is happening.
Debt repayment is a key issue. We can't walk away from the debt we have accumulated over the last two decades.
We must not over-reach ourselves in wishing for things that we can't afford.
And people must think carefully about whether they believe governments are better at spending their money than they are.
The Opposition have made it clear that they don't want to see New Zealanders keeping more of their hard earned cash through tax cuts next year.
Roading reform is an important element of the future.
We have had a steady increase in the number of vehicles on New Zealand roads for nearly ten years, but there has not been an equivalent increase in the spending on our roads.
Roading makes up 6% of the GDP in New Zealand.
Whatever we do we must come out at the end of the year with both a pricing system and a management system that can allow the roading network to be maintained and expanded at the same rate as the economy grows and expands.
Addressing issues within the electricity sector is important to the Coalition Government because we believe New Zealanders and business are entitled to know they are not paying more than necessary.
The electricity reforms are our best chance of getting power at a competitive price for both domestic consumers and industrial users.
Settling Treaty issues is imperative and we must be courageous enough to continue.
The recent Ngai Tahu settlement marked an historic moment in this process of setting our faces to the future.
I am committed to ensuring we continue this process in the interest of all New Zealanders.
In the coming months you will see results delivered.
But economic success is only half the equation.
We have become comfortable with talking about economic efficiency and effectiveness and productivity.
However we are not so comfortable with talking about relationships, expectations and obligations.
As I listen to people talk about what is important to them, what their hopes are for the future, their need to feel confident and secure, there is often a piece of the conversation missing.
Currently there is no consensus around the issues of responsibilities and obligations that lie between Government, communities, families and individuals.
To do well New Zealanders need to look after themselves and each other.
In striving to achieve this the Government has a role but so do families and communities.
We need to reach new understandings about the relationships between what Government can guarantee and what real New Zealanders are responsible for themselves.
Expectations need to be realistic and based on honesty and fairness, not on political hype or self-interest.
Governments can always spend more on social programmes and I'm sure we will but we should also ask the question as we do so are we adding to the independence or dependence of people.
The National-New Zealand First Government believes we must consider further our obligations:
as parents to our children
as children to their families
as individuals to our communities
and as Government to New Zealanders collectively and individually.
To be confident as we move into the next century this conversation must be had.
We need to talk openly and frankly about what are the things that will make society feel cohesive.
If we can get this right what a stunning future we have.
In the days ahead as we continue to debate the big social issues of health, welfare, education and law and order, I would ask that you talk about not only Government but also personal obligations, expectations and responsibilities.
The Government will be creating opportunities next year for New Zealanders to be involved in this debate.
We also need to remember that the 'Government' is you and I.
And we have personal choices and political choices.
Settling on the answers isn't easy but neither is doing nothing.
Despite the politics of the last twelve months the National - New Zealand First Government has delivered major gains for real New Zealanders in the last year.
As the media has continued to feast on the politics and the personalities there have been significant policy gains that are making a real difference.
In health -
all children under six can now go to the doctor free and get free prescriptions
more people treated in our public hospital than ever before
we have done away with user charges in our public hospitals
In education -
more teachers in our classrooms
more classrooms and schools and more money in our schools to help run them well
a much better deal for children with special education needs
In welfare -
more money for CYPS to help children that are being abused and to help young offenders
assistance to help people get into work when their youngest child turns 14
working towards coordinating services that help families at risk
In housing -
lower rents for some low income and beneficiary Housing New Zealand tenants
more than 290,000 low income and beneficiary families can now get an increased subsidy from Income Support for their housing needs
2000 extra homes for low income and beneficiary families in Auckland
In personal security -
recruiting 200 more frontline police
we've strengthened police powers to deal with gangs
and introduced tougher penalties for drink drivers
In overseas trade -
New Zealand has got fishing and forestry picked for fast track liberalisation within APEC so we will see early benefits for exporters
we've struck a historic deal with China enabling a major expansion for our wool exports
we've signed three open skies agreements this year
The next two years will see results delivered that create real choices and opportunities for all of us.
Watch this space!