Prime Minister John Key began his speech to National’s conference yesterday by looking at what motivates him and the party:
. . I know that what motivates me also motivates you.
It’s about working for New Zealand to make this country the best it can be.
It’s about being proud to call yourself a New Zealander.
I want to tell you that what we do is making a difference.
When National came into office the economy was in tatters.
Getting it back on track has been tough.
But this month we recorded the third-highest growth rate in the developed world.
Our country’s trade surplus is at a 20-year high.
And next year, after all we’ve been through as a country, I’m proud to say that the Government’s books will be back in the black.
Ladies and Gentlemen, those are all good things.
They are economists’ measures and they’re hugely important.
But actually, they’re not the way most people measure progress.
Most people use measures that are closer to home and closer to their hearts.
Their questions are more likely to be: “Can I provide the best for my family?”; “Will my kids get a job when they’ve finished their education?”; “Will the health system be there when my family needs it?”; “Am I safe in my home and on our streets?”; and “Will my parents be looked after in their retirement?”.
In answer to all of those questions, we can say “yes”.
A strong economy isn’t an end in itself.
It’s a way of delivering the things people care most about.
A strong economy matters because without it we can’t afford the other things that matter.
And my real sense is that New Zealand has become a much more assured and much more optimistic country.
People are confident they can make a difference in their own lives, and that their children and grandchildren have good prospects.
New Zealanders know that our country is well managed and on the right track.
And they are demonstrating that by their actions.
When we first came into office, a net 3,000 people every month were leaving New Zealand to live in Australia.
That’s now dropped to only 200 a month because people know they’ve got a brighter future here in New Zealand.
We have a plan, and that plan is working for New Zealand.
Over the last year an extra 84,000 jobs were created.
Wages are rising every year, faster than inflation.
New Zealanders have worked hard to get our country back on its feet.
And the Government is ensuring that families share the dividends of that growth.
That’s why the heart of this year’s Budget was a $500 million package for families.
We’re increasing paid parental leave, we’re boosting support for families with new-born children, and I’m proud to say that we’re the party that’s bringing in free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for children under 13.
In our party we believe in supporting families.
Some people think that caring about people and their families is solely the territory of the Left.
Well that is complete and utter nonsense.
And the actions of our government are proving that.
I’m in politics because I care about other New Zealanders, particularly those families who need a hand to pick themselves up.
My family was one of those and I’ll never forget it.
I know where I come from.
My government has been very focused on making sure that the taxpayers’ money we spend helps people lead more independent, productive and hopeful lives.
You’d be surprised at what a novel approach that is, compared to the previous government. . .
This government has focussed on the quality of spending rather than the quantity.
In doing so it’s made positive differences to the lives of individuals and their families and significantly reduce the long-term liability of welfare.
We’re seeing positive change.
It’s under a National-led government that around 1,500 people a week are coming off welfare and into work.
Compared with two years ago, nearly 30,000 fewer children are living in homes dependant on welfare benefits.
I want to share with you a story I read in the paper a little while ago.
It was about a woman who’d raised six kids on the sole parent benefit.
She’d been on it for close to 20 years, until one day her nine-year-old daughter said, “It’s cool being on the benefit. I’m going to go on the benefit like you.”
That sentence – that simple sentence from the mouth of a nine-year-old – made her mother stop in her tracks.
She went out and she got a job.
I don’t imagine it’s easy for her – far from it.
But I absolutely do know that work offers the sort of independence, opportunity and self-esteem that a life on welfare never can.
I’m proud of our welfare reforms under the leadership of Paula Bennett, and I know you’re proud of her too.
The work we are doing in that area is one of the unsung stories of this government, and it’s led to profound changes that are truly transforming people’s lives.
There are other great stories to tell.
Achievement at school is rising and under our Government, more apprentices are being trained.
Just this week I was at WelTec and a young man got up to speak to us.
He said he wasn’t too proud of his past but he’s had the opportunity to do a Pacific trades training course, he’s completing his apprenticeship, and he’s already had job offers – including on the McKay’s to Peka Peka roading project.
To me, that’s what we mean when we talk about investing in our young people.
That’s what we mean when we talk about changing peoples’ lives.
And that’s what we mean when we talk about a brighter future.
We have in front of us right now the best opportunity in a generation to have a long, stable period of rising incomes, as long as we stick to the path we’re on.
But that opportunity will be lost without another National-led government.
It’s just 83 days to the election.
In that time we will be putting in front of New Zealanders a range of exciting new policies.
Our policies will build on the strong foundations we’ve laid over the last six years.
We are proud of what we’ve done, but there is so much more to do.
We’ll have new health initiatives.
We’ll have new ideas to raise achievement in our schools.
We’ll have new policies in economic development, transport, science, justice, welfare, law and order, and the environment.
And that’s not all.
Of course, all the policies we’ll announce are underpinned by our strong commitment to grow the economy and carefully manage the Government’s finances.
We’ll continue to focus attention on what matters.
And we’ll continue to support Christchurch through the rebuild.
I want to specially thank Gerry Brownlee, who has a huge commitment to his city and his community.
We made a commitment to the people of Canterbury on day one and we will not waver from it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the future is positive for New Zealand.
National is the party for people who care about that future.
It’s for people who want to ensure that New Zealand keeps moving in the right direction.
And not just next year, but well beyond that, so New Zealanders find opportunities in an economy that values their skills and produces new jobs and higher wages.
Treasury is forecasting 170,000 more jobs in the economy over the next four years, together with rising wages – if we stick to the path we’re on.
Our challenge is to match and better those predictions.
I know we can.
But as I said yesterday, there is another way things could play out in this year’s election.
National is ahead in the polls at the moment but this election is going to be much, much tighter than many people realise.
We’re going to have to work hard for every vote.
Because that’s what our opponents will be doing, despite their shortcomings.
Labour has David Cunliffe, who takes himself so seriously that other people don’t have to.
The Greens have two co-leaders who want to be co-deputy-prime ministers in some kind of bizarre job-sharing experiment.
Internet Mana – the Maori radical meets file sharing party – is a strange mix standing for goodness knows what.
So if our opponents got into government it would be a complete circus – a recipe for political and economic instability that would be hugely damaging for New Zealand.
The weaker the bigger party is the more power the wee parties have.
A government led by a weakened Labour Party dominated by the Green and New Zealand First parties and also beholden to the Internet and Mana Parties would indeed be a circus and a very unstable one at that.
Our opponents will be cavalier in their spending promises. It’s already started.
They can do that because if they waste money they’ll simply tax you more.
In only five years, the last Labour government increased its spending by 50 per cent, driving mortgage rates into double digits.
In contrast, National respects New Zealanders and their hard-earned incomes.
If we can’t use that money as well as you can, you should keep it.
That will be one of the choices we’ll have as we post surpluses in the years ahead.
Repaying debt, spending a bit more on public services, putting money into the Super Fund, investing in infrastructure and modest tax reductions are the kinds of choices we’ll have.
One of those will be our investment in infrastructure.
Over the last six years, our Government has invested heavily in vital infrastructure to make up for years of underinvestment – from ultra-fast broadband, to schools and hospitals, to roads and rail.
I think of national infrastructure like the framing in a house.
Framing is not usually visible, or glamorous, but everything else in a house depends on it being solid and reliable.
The solid framing of this country is our infrastructure, and households and businesses depend on that.
On good roads, for example, you get better public transport, more efficient freight movement, faster journeys and – very importantly – safer trips for New Zealand families.
One of the key things we did on coming into government was designate seven Roads of National Significance in, or around, our largest population centres.
Of those important projects, we’ve already completed the Victoria Park Tunnel.
The huge tunnel boring machine, affectionately known as Alice, continues to drive progress on the Waterview connection in Auckland.
We are making rapid progress on the Waikato Expressway, the Tauranga Eastern Link, the Kapiti Expressway and the Christchurch Southern Motorway.
And the first sod will soon be turned on the long-awaited Transmission Gully project north of Wellington.
A lot of time was spent discussing and debating these projects in the past.
Under a National-led Government, we’re getting on and making them happen.
Our Government has also been busy in the regions.
We’ve built the Kopu Bridge on the way to the Coromandel, and the Kurow bridges in North Otago.
We’ve extended the Hawkes Bay Expressway and Dunedin’s Southern Motorway.
But there are still more regional roading projects that need to get underway.
The National-led Government has always recognised the vital importance of our regions.
The regions have led this country’s economic recovery and the regions supply a lot of the exports that pay our way in the world. . .
National has already made significant improvements to transport infrastructure and plans more.
The chances of a left-wing government in which the Green Party held sway placing any importance on keeping the regions moving are slight.
. . . Taken together, these roading projects represent a significant new commitment in our regions.
They are another example of the Government’s focus on ensuring that the benefits of the recovery are spread across all of New Zealand.
And they are an example – just one example – of our economic plan to support growth in a modern economy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow National Party members.
Our country is firmly on the right track.
Our party is in good heart.
Our government – our National-led government – is delivering strong and stable leadership.
The choice at this election could not be clearer.
That choice is between a positive direction for New Zealand, or a leaderless circus of parties that would do great damage to our country.
That’s why we need you to redouble your efforts to ensure that the choice this country makes on September 20 is the right one.
Together, let’s keep working for New Zealand!
The right choice is the one that’s working.
The wrong choice would reverse the gains made and destroy many of the dividends of the hard work that’s been done.