National Party leader and Prime Minister Bill English’s speech to the party’s campaign launch today:
It’s great to see such a marvelous crowd. And a sea of blue.
Welcome to National’s campaign for Election 2017!
Thank you Nikki and Paula for those wonderful introductions.
And a special thanks to my daughter Maria for the way she sang our national anthem.
Maria, everyone here was glad it was you instead of me. I did offer!
Can I also acknowledge my son Xavier who is here today. Also my sons Luke, Tom, Rory and Bart. You all make be very proud.
I also want to thank my wonderful wife, Mary – thank you for everything.
Mary’s worked out that the best way to spend time with me these days is to join me on stage at our campaign launch.
Hers is the story of many new New Zealanders.
Her families came to this country from Italy and Samoa on the promise of a better life. And they found it through community and family.
They instilled in their 13 children the value of hard work and personal responsibility.
Mary is now a doctor, a business owner, a volunteer and a fantastic mother of six kids.
Like most parents, Mary’s mum and dad worked hard to ensure their children had better prospects than they did.
Their success makes me proud of my country.
And that’s what this election campaign is all about.
It’s a campaign for every New Zealander who wants to bring their dreams to life.
Who wants to see their small hopes grow bigger.
Who wants the New Zealand of the 2020s to be confident, successful and prosperous.
It’s a campaign for Kiwis who are prepared to work hard and back themselves.
To all of you, I say this:
We’re a party delivering for New Zealanders.
We share your ambition for the future.
We have always known this election would be close. That’s how it is under MMP.
On our side, we have a strong record of proven success and a confident vision to take New Zealand forward.
We have the best team.
We have MPs who listen to their communities.
We have Ministers with great ideas for making this country even better.
And we have new candidates passionate about our future.
But most importantly we have you – our volunteers and supporters.
You make us strong.
You make us united.
And you’re making New Zealand a better place.
Together, we’re creating a strong and growing country.
We are now a nation of opportunities for all.
Opportunities to build success for our families.
Opportunities to deliver on the potential of each and every New Zealander – providing we stay on track.
We will not squander these opportunities New Zealanders have worked so hard to create.
Remember just how far we’ve come together.
Since 2008 we’ve faced a recession, the global financial crisis and devastating earthquakes.
The economy shrank, unemployment rose sharply, and we faced large deficits and spiralling debt.
Fast forward to 2017. We now have one of the best performing economies in the world and the books are in surplus.
Under National, families up and down New Zealand are reaping the deserved rewards of that turnaround.
Over 180,000 new jobs have been created in the past two years and unemployment is the lowest since the GFC.
The average annual wage is up $13,000 since we took office, that’s twice the rate of inflation.
New Zealanders recognise progress when they see it.
In 2008, a stadium full of New Zealanders was leaving for Australia every single year.
Our children and grandchildren were heading for the departure lounge in search of better opportunities.
For the first time in a generation, more people are moving to New Zealand from Australia than going the other way.
That’s what success looks like and I’m proud of it.
New Zealanders’ hard work is helping the economy to grow.
But on its own, a growing economy is not enough.
Because National understands the pressures of running a household, paying the bills and saving a bit for a rainy day.
We’re making sure families are rewarded for their hard work and can see the benefits of growth flowing into their households.
And National is focused on making that happen.
Take a young couple, each on the average wage and looking to buy their first home.
Since 2008, their joint income has gone up by $26,000 a year.
And next April, they’ll get another $2000 boost from our Family Incomes Package – something Labour opposes.
And if we get re-elected, we want to do that sort of package again.
We’re also helping them get into that first house.
If they’ve been in KiwiSaver for five years, a combination of government grants and their own KiwiSaver would mean they have $50,000 to put towards a house.
Add in our Welcome Home Loan programme, and they would need to save another $10,000 to have enough for a deposit for a $600,000 home.
Or take a retired couple on New Zealand Super.
Since National came into office, their Super payments have gone up by 25 per cent – or $6000 a year.
From next April, they’ll receive another $680 a year on top of the normal increase as a result of our Family Incomes Package – cash Labour would take away from them.
Superannuation is based on after-tax income. When taxes go down, superannuation goes up.
And if they don’t have much other income on top of Super, they’ll now be eligible for an $18 GP visit from next July – saving them money every time they go.
That’s how National really is helping families.
Under National’s strong economic plan, we’re also building the houses, roads, schools, hospitals and broadband needed by our growing communities.
We’re investing to get our school leavers ready for work and to ensure our health services are world class.
We’re providing more police on the beat to keep our communities safer.
We’re lifting thousands of children out of poverty every year. And by one measure, our Family Incomes Package will reduce child poverty by 30 per cent.
We’re investing to improve our environment and protect our beautiful landscapes and fresh water and meet our climate change targets.
And we’re backing Kiwis to succeed on the world stage.
That’s why we’re leading the charge to finalise the TPP – because our exporters are world beaters when they’re given the chance.
The great thing is, if we stay on course we can do even better.
New Zealanders are ambitious for themselves and National is ambitious for them.
So in 27 days, voters will have an important choice.
A choice between two very different visions for New Zealand.
National’s plan to keep New Zealand moving forward – a confident plan for a confident country.
A strong National team energised by new ideas. A team that’s open to trade, open to investment, and knows how an economy works.
Or an unstable, untested group on the left that would risk it all with unpredictable and unclear policies.
Take the Labour Party, their policies have two things in common – working groups and more taxes.
Do you want a water tax?
Do you want a new petrol tax?
Do you want a new capital gains tax?
Do you want higher income taxes?
And nor do I.
Hard working New Zealanders aren’t an ATM for the Labour Party.
Labour wants to turn its back on Kiwi businesses and families, and add more taxes that would slow our economy and make it harder to compete in the world – just when we’re getting good at it.
Here’s the thing: we don’t need more taxes, if we manage the government finances well.
National focus on how well spending works, not on how much is spent, aiming for the quality of the spend not the quantity.
When forecasts show on-going taxes there is no need for new or higher taxes.
Unlike them, I back New Zealanders.
I believe in the Kiwi character, that when people make their own decisions and take responsibility they can and will succeed.
Here’s what I mean.
Recently, I met a determined young woman who lives with a condition that means her joints can dislocate with the slightest movement.
Her story had a big impact on me.
Diagnosed at 23, she was contemplating a painful and difficult life ahead.
Then she came across a new programme called Enabling Good Lives – National’s partnership between government and people with disabilities.
It’s about helping people one by one – giving those who want it more choice and control over their support, so they can choose what’s best for them.
It gives them the dignity of being responsible for themselves.
This young woman told me life is 10 times better because she’s living the way she wants.
Today, she is working as an advisor in the disability sector and speaks about the difference this approach has made in her life, and how she wants others have the same opportunity.
There are thousands more New Zealanders like her.
National respects their capacities and will enable them to have better lives.
Through our social investment programme, we’re changing lives person by person, family by family and community by community.
For example, we’ve set a target to reduce the number of children admitted to hospital with preventable conditions like rheumatic fever.
So now when a child turns up at the hospital with bronchial problems, we expect someone will be sent to their house to sort out problems with curtains, insulation and heating.
Another example is young mothers.
Too many don’t get the help offered by Plunket or GPs because they move house, they don’t answer the phone or they’re in hiding because of domestic violence.
I’m committed to changing the system from hoping those young mothers will turn up looking for help, to going out and finding solutions that work for them.
Moving from servicing misery to reducing it.
We’ll continue to expect personal responsibility and accountability.
In return, we’ll treat people with respect.
Our approach is about faster action, more trust and less bureaucracy.
And we can look taxpayers in the eye and tell them we’re investing their money well because it’s getting results.
Results like a 60 per cent reduction in teen parents on a benefit.
And 60,000 fewer children live in benefit dependent households because their parents can get jobs in our strong economy.
This is more than a plan.
It’s a mission.
And I’m committed to it because when we change lives, we change our country.
We reduce child poverty.
We help more families to live independently.
And we keep more children safe from violence.
National is turning ideals into practical results for people.
As proud of I am of getting our country’s books in order and back into surplus, that’s not what gets me out of bed in the morning.
What drives me is helping all New Zealanders achieve their goals and improve their lives.
What drives me is ensuring every child who grows up in our country has every opportunity to succeed.
We don’t give up on any of them. There’s always a way forward.
National is especially focused on education.
Isn’t Nikki Kaye doing a fantastic job as Education Minister?
She’s passionate about every child getting the opportunity to reach their potential, no matter what their background.
And she will do whatever it takes to deliver a New Zealand that’s open, ambitious and confident about the future.
We owe it to our children that they leave school equipped to succeed.
Every single child matters – they matter to their family, to their community and to our country.
And they certainly matter to me.
So National has put students at the centre of everything we do in education.
It’s working. Around 85 per cent of 18-year olds now get NCEA Level 2 – up from less than 70 per cent in 2008.
The improvement among Māori students is even better. Three out of every four Māori students now achieve NCEA Level 2. A few years ago, it was around half.
National is working hard for students and parents to build on those achievements.
We’ve increased the number of students who start school ready to learn by increasing early childhood participation to 97 per cent.
We’re sharing teaching expertise through our Communities of Learning.
And last month, we confirmed we’ll replace decile ratings with better targeted funding for kids at the greatest risk of not achieving.
Students from a decile 1 school recently told me what they thought of those ratings.
They said they were tired of having to explain why they aren’t useless.
No young New Zealander’s aspirations should be limited by a decile rating, and we will remove them.
National has also introduced National Standards, allowing parents and teachers to share valuable insights about every child’s learning.
Labour wants to abolish National Standards and prevent parents from getting that information.
I know from personal experience – quite a lot of it actually – just how valuable it was to get feedback about how my kids did at school.
All of these changes are improving achievement by our students.
But we can do even better.
We can do even more to help our young people embrace new technology, find new ideas, create new ways of working and build stronger global connections.
Nothing can replace the thousands of motivated, professional teachers who care for and educate our children.
But we can improve the tools they use and the support we give them.
So today, I’m announcing that National will implement a targeted four-point education package – costing $379 million.
Digital learning for senior students, more resources for maths, and a guarantee that all primary school students will be able to learn a second language if they choose to.
And we’ll make it even easier for parents to track how their children are doing at school, through an expansion of National Standards.
Let me talk you through the package.
First, we want our young people to have the best opportunity to take advantage of new technology – to become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Rod Drury or Frances Valintine.
So we’ll invest $48 million to introduce exciting new digital learning opportunities for Year 12 and 13 students.
Each year, new Digital Academies will offer 1000 students specialised, IT-focused learning. They’ll be similar to our Trades Academies, and they’ll be just as successful.
And new Digital Internships will provide mentoring and tailored learning from businesses for 500 year 12 and 13 students, a pathway between skills gained in the classroom and real IT careers.
The second part of our announcement today is a $126 million investment to raise maths achievement for primary school students.
National Standards show we need to lift our game in maths. So we’ll provide our students and teachers with the tools they need to do that.
We’ll help 1200 teachers a year complete extra university papers targeted at teaching maths to primary students.
We’ll also provide intensive classroom support for students, where schools have identified the need to improve their maths.
That’s all alongside extra funding for classroom resources like digital apps.
If we want our children to succeed on the world stage, from this small country at the bottom of the globe, they need to be good cross-cultural communicators.
So the third part of our package is a $160 million investment to give all primary school children the opportunity to learn a second language, if they choose.
Schools will choose from at least 10 priority languages, which we expect to include Mandarin, French, Spanish, Japanese and Korean, along with Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language.
Finally, I can confirm that a new National-led Government will update National Standards, so families have more comprehensive and more timely information about their children’s achievements in the classroom.
It will be called National Standards Plus.
National Standards has successfully set clear expectations about what every student needs to achieve in reading, writing and maths.
It provides a valuable snap-shot of how your child has performed across the year.
National Standards Plus will build on this by allowing you and your child to track their progress in more detail, online, as it happens.
We will show you your child’s progress on your mobile phone.
Some schools have already rolled out tools that support this approach.
I’ve met these children.
It was amazing meeting a little 10-year old who sat me down and showed me how much he’d achieved in the last month and what he would learn next.
I want to see that for every child in every school.
By moving the reporting online, the new system will help our hardworking teachers by streamlining their paperwork and allowing them to focus more of their time on teaching.
And teachers will have better information at their fingertips to help them develop the individual learning paths they already create for students.
National is always looking to the future.
Our teachers and schools work so hard to create opportunities for our children and these measures will further help more of our kids reach their potential.
Ladies and gentlemen.
National is a party of fresh ideas for a confident and outward-looking New Zealand.
A country that’s moving forward and heading in the right direction.
But to be in the National Party is to never be finished.
To never be satisfied.
To take nothing for granted.
And to never stop working.
That’s my pledge to you, and that’s my pledge to New Zealanders: to never stop working alongside you to make our country even better.
So over the next four weeks, I’ll be talking – and listening – to New Zealanders about our country’s future.
National has a strong team with a confident plan to keep New Zealand heading in the right direction.
We will fight hard for every single vote.
Will you join me?
We have a clear message: If you want a growing economy – party vote National!
If you want an economy that can afford world leading hospitals, schools, roads and public transport – party vote National!
If you want higher wages and better jobs – party vote National!
If you want to raise family incomes – party vote National!
And, if you want to secure your future and New Zealand’s future – on 23 September, party vote National!