I move, That the House take note of miscellaneous business. It just goes to show what 2½ years in Opposition does to some people who used to see themselves bestriding the body politic of this nation. After 2½ years in which to learn why they were unceremoniously flung from office by the people of New Zealand, why their policies were discredited, and why they were kicked out on their heads, what work have they done to prepare themselves to be Government, if they ever get that opportunity again? Absolutely nothing. They have done absolutely nothing. In fact, they have spent their whole time in this House in the last 2 weeks focusing on things that matter to not one New Zealander. They have been focusing on things that matter to not one New Zealander.
We have a country that has gone through the global financial crisis, a huge mining tragedy, and devastating earthquakes. We are facing enormous financial challenges and enormous personal challenges for New Zealanders, and what do the Opposition members focus on? They focus on completely irrelevant minutiae of interest to no one but themselves. That is not a recipe for being an alternative Government. That is a recipe for spending another three or four terms in Opposition. That is what we see opposite. This Government is rescuing New Zealand from the worst peacetime blows since the Depression and the Napier earthquake.
What Labour hates the most is that New Zealand is coming through the storm with the strong and determined leadership of John Key and the National-led Government. Because the Opposition has spent 2½ years on not addressing any big policy issues, and not trying to learn the lessons from being kicked out as the most despised Government this country has ever had, it now finds itself 6 months from an election putting all its energy and effort into stuff that does not matter. Have we had any questions in the last 2 weeks about what is being done to help people in Christchurch? Not one question. Have we had any questions or suggestions in the last 2 weeks on how we can get our country moving forward, creating jobs, wealth, and prosperity? Not one question. Have we had any questions on how we can leverage the billions of dollars of extra money that has gone into health and education? Have we had any questions on how we can improve that? Have we had any questions or policy ideas on how the one in five kids who leave school without being able to read and write well enough can get a better education? Not one. Have we had any questions on how we can get our health service to provide even faster and better services for New Zealanders? Not one. But have we had questions on the petrol that Ministers have used? Yes. Have we had questions on painting a building: Premier House? Yes. Have we had questions on a carpet? Yes. Have we had questions on who is guarding whom? Yes.
We have had no questions on the issues that really matter to New Zealanders, and that is why I say to members opposite that they are destined to spend an even longer period in Opposition than they fear. After 2½ years in Opposition, the very best they can provide is a question time of silly questions to the Prime Minister, from which they have not scored one point whatsoever. Labour is a party that is really suited for failure, and that is what we are seeing.
What we are seeing from National is a determination to deal with the issues that really matter to New Zealanders, and those are the issues of getting our economy moving forward and creating jobs, wealth, and prosperity. The National Government wants to keep down the taxes paid by the people whom we rely on to create jobs for other New Zealanders. It is determined to make sure that the one in five kids who cannot read and do maths well enough get the opportunity to be better educated. It has put 500 extra doctors and over 1,000 extra nurses into our public hospitals.
We can tell when a Government is in trouble. It is when it focuses on the Opposition, and not on its own policies.
I ask the House how many people were listening this afternoon when John Key told the House that he did not know when Merrill Lynch got into trouble. That was the Prime Minister who previously told the House that he got up every morning and looked at what was happening to Merrill Lynch shares. That was the Prime Minister who had $40 million riding on Merrill Lynch. He knew that it collapsed in the first half of September. He knew that he made commitments about KiwiSaver in October. To pretend that the global financial crisis happened after he made his commitments is to reinvent history, and outside this House we could call him a lot of other things. That goes for a number of comments I will make.
I hear the intellectual wing starting up down the back of the House. Mr Quinn is away again. The brightest man in National is chipping away again.
The member will resume his seat immediately. It is no grounds to interrupt the member who is speaking, just because someone disagrees with what the member is saying. The member can take a call, but I do not want members to be interrupted in mid-flight.
At some risk of commenting on your ruling, Mr Speaker, I say to Mr Quinn that sometimes it is better to keep his mouth shut and let people think he is a fool, than to open his mouth and prove it.
Let us talk about the BMWs, because what we know today is a scandal. We know that John Key went to a fundraiser at BMW. His office knew he went to a fundraiser at BMW. Notwithstanding that, his staff sat down with VIP Transport Service and with Ministerial Services and agreed to an upgrade and a renewal of a contract for BMWs, and 2 days later $50,000 went to the National Party. If that happened overseas, we would say it was corruption. We, of course, cannot and will not make that allegation in the House, but if that had happened in Australia in New South Wales, Thailand, or India I would have called it corruption. It is wrong.
There is certainly at least a perception of a conflict that the Prime Minister is responsible for. No one else in this House is responsible for that. He is responsible twice: he is responsible as the Minister responsible for Ministerial Services and he is responsible as the Prime Minister, who is responsible for the Cabinet Manual as it concerns the conduct, public duty, and personal interest of Ministers. In this particular case I make no allegation of personal interest, but I say that there was a donation from a BMW dealer that was preceded by a personal visit to that dealer’s office. What did the Prime Minister do? He schmoozed up to the clients of that BMW dealer, got $50,000 for the National Party for doing it, and there was an order for BMWs, all within the period of about 3 weeks. That is outrageous. That is not the sort of thing—
The New Zealand Labour Party never ever schmoozed up in that way. It never used taxpayers’ funds—millions of dollars—on BMWs and got something in the back pocket for the party. We would never do that, because this party has ethics.
I say that John Key does not know the difference between being a chief executive officer in business and being the Prime Minister of New Zealand. He is taking the morals and ethics of Merrill Lynch, a company that was at the dirt end of a lot of deals, and went down when the global financial crisis came. They did not have the ethics to do proper deals. He was in the middle of that, and that is the level of ethics that he has transferred to being the Prime Minister of New Zealand. I say to him that we do not believe in that sort of approach in New Zealand. We have higher standards for our Prime Ministers. We do not have extra carpet being laid through Premier House at the same time we are cutting hours for old people. We do not have Murray McCully taking a jaunt, spending $70,000 on a plane in a way that was absolutely unnecessary, while old people are being hurt.
The last fortnight has been a period of great change, rejuvenation, and optimism within the ACT Party. When we returned to Parliament last Tuesday we did so having elected a new ACT leader, Dr Brash, and a new leader of the ACT parliamentary party. Dr Brash, of course, is a former leader of the National Party, and is deeply concerned for the current economic and social state of our country, at a time when we are borrowing over $300 million a week and we have high levels of unemployment, particularly amongst Māori, Pasifika, and young people. Dr Brash’s economic credentials are unparalleled. He spent 14 years as Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, and 5 years working for the World Bank in Washington, DC, and has served on many policy advisory committees for the Government since 1974. He has spent extensive time in private enterprise. More recently he chaired the 2025 Taskforce charged with analysing and promoting policies that will, first of all, lessen and then eliminate the income gap between New Zealand and Australia. The Government’s response to two very well-reasoned reports has been to scrap that task force, out of sheer embarrassment.
How ironic it was, then, that the Prime Minister’s first response last week to the new ACT team was to move a motion congratulating the New Zealand Breakers basketball team on their outstanding victory in the Australasian National Basketball League. They dared to dream, to achieve something that few New Zealanders had thought possible and that has never been done before. They won an Australian-based A-grade professional sporting championship. The ACT Party asks why New Zealanders cannot also dream, as the Breakers did, and aspire to raise our living standards, to raise the level of prosperity in this country, and to address our social problems. We have done it before. We have been successful in the past, and there is no reason why we cannot be successful again. But it requires the courage to articulate economic policies and the honesty to present them.
It is a pity that when Phil Goff lamented the price of electricity at Grey Power’s national annual general meeting last weekend he did not tell the meeting also that he voted for an emissions trading scheme that increased the price of electricity by 10 percent. Members can expect to hear more from ACT on the emissions trading scheme, choice in education, the damage to our society of a debilitating culture dependent on social welfare, and the wasteful use of Government resources.
The ACT Party will present a different approach to the public in the coming months. We do, however, remain absolutely committed to the confidence and supply agreement that we signed with National, and will continue to provide solid, reliable, and stable government. But there will be one change: we will not be taken for granted. National opted to insert a Treaty clause in the Environmental Protection Authority Bill going through this House this very afternoon. We were not consulted on that, and we certainly were not given the 48 hours’ notice required under the confidence and supply agreement for major amendments of this nature. Heather Roy, on behalf of the ACT Party, voted against that Treaty clause in the Committee stage, and this afternoon ACT will be voting against the third reading of the bill. Thank you.
I want to start by trying to offer a little bit of advice to Opposition members. [ Interruption] They do need to listen to advice from somebody, and if they do not want my advice, that is fine. I will give my advice to them anyway. My simple advice is that the voters of this country vote on only two things. They vote on their hip pockets and their kids’ future. Those two things determine what most people finally go to the polls on. We can sit in this House and debate all sorts of things until late at night or under urgency, and the vast bulk of New Zealanders would not even know that Parliament is sitting. We can debate the minutiae and have fights about whether new carpet should have been laid in Premier House or whether the BMW fleet should be upgraded. Again, New Zealanders do not actually care. I am trying to tell Opposition members something that it would be in their interest to listen to.
New Zealanders want a credible alternative plan for delivering things that affect their hip pockets and their kids’ future. Part of that plan certainly would be the standards in education. I do not know a single person who is not worried about their kids’ achievements. If Opposition members really want to start scoring some points, they should be focusing their attack on something that improves the educational outcomes of our country. But, no, once again we get back to whether, indeed, Premier House should have had some paint put on it after 12 years. Frankly, most people do not care.
Other people will be saying: “Well, I’m really interested in whether our incomes will match those of Australia. What would you do? How would you go about it? What’s your economic management tool?”. I watched Breakfast on TV this morning, and I watched Labour’s Opposition spokesman on finance—
My colleagues have to stop asking the hard questions. I do not know what he said. Well, actually, I do. I have a transcript and I will help my colleagues by repeating what David Cunliffe said in reply to Corin Dann’s tough question. Corin Dann said to him: “OK, but you’re looking to get back into surplus by a similar time frame here—2016, something like that—so what would you cut instead?”. That is a pretty simple question. It is a very straight question, and I think the Speaker would allow that in this House as being a straight question. He asked what he would cut. I want members to follow the answer. I want some advice, following what he said. This is what the Hon David Cunliffe said: “What Labour has said is that we will aim to reduce net debt, including the Crown’s financial assets, across the business cycle. We believe that about a 10-year horizon is appropriate. We believe we can do that around as fast as the current Government is planning to but in a much more responsible way, because—let’s not kid ourselves—debt reduction is not the only goal here. You see the Australian Budget. They are, at the same time as reducing debt, managing to get more Australians into jobs, cutting their unemployment by 500,000 people to only 4.5 percent. We’ve got nearly 7 percent—155,000 Kiwis looking for work—and we have a responsibility for every Kiwi that wants to get a job.” Do members have a clue about what is happening here, and what Labour will do? He is telling us what Australia has, and what New Zealand has, but what will Labour do? This was his golden opportunity on Breakfast to tell us what the plan is, to tell the nation. He says: “If we’re talking about saving money, how about the thousands and thousands of Kiwis that are dodging their way out of the tax net …? Perhaps every New Zealander ought to be paying their fair share …”. That is it; that is Labour’s economic plan. There is not one statement in there about what Labour would do with tax rates at the higher end, because we know it wants to address that; we know it will. There was no stuff in there about whether Labour would make cuts to programmes that the current Government has put in place—not a mutter, not a murmur, nothing. But, oh boy, Labour is back on the attack when it comes to whether a piece of carpet looks shabby at Premier House and needs to be replaced. If Labour members have a polling organisation working for them, they should get that polling organisation cranked up to start asking some questions of the public. Do they care about that stuff? I can tell you that, no, they do not. That headline passes within a day. Yes, it might be the talking point of the day, but it passes.
What New Zealanders care about long term is their kids’ futures and their hip pockets. If they will vote for another party to be the Government and for another person to be the Prime Minister of this country, they want to know that that person has a plan, has laid it out succinctly, has said what they will do, and has costings for it. We have heard nothing of that from Labour—nothing of it. But members opposite are getting into who was travelling where, and whether the Prime Minister should have taken a helicopter from Hamilton to Auckland. It is just rubbish.
I rise to address the situation in Christchurch and the plight of the people of my city as we head into winter. Two and a half months after the devastation that rocked and racked New Zealand’s second-largest city, Christchurch remains in a strange psychological state, essentially one of suspended animation. Most of us have survived the immediate crisis of the death and destruction, the liquefaction, and the deprivation of power, water, and sewerage. We have mourned our dead, apologised to other nations, straightened our backs, shut down the inner city, restored basic services, shared education facilities, and established a new Government agency for the rebuild, with extraordinary powers given to the Minister for Canterbury Earthquake Recovery.
Now is the time to plan for the rebuild. That planning is rendered more difficult and painful by the fact that it coincides with the southern winter, which is always a delightful challenge, but on this occasion is an excruciating turn of the screw. There are those out there whose homes are totalled, many whose homes are half-broken yet livable if one does not mind subzero temperatures at breakfast, and others for whom the future is uncertain and unpredictable.
We do not yet know precisely the nature of the land in our brave new world. We have had two massive earthquakes and half a dozen major aftershocks. We have had 6,989 ripples, large and small, as the land reconfigures and settles down to the new tectonic era. We know that the peninsula has jerked up by a metre, the estuary has gone sideways a bit, and the flat land has sunk by perhaps one-quarter of a metre. But is that the end of it? We do not know. We do not know how many more aftershocks we must endure, or whether they will flatten out within a year, a decade, or more.
This militates against our planning. We have a 9-month recovery strategy, which the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority is to coordinate, and a strangely concurrent 9-month recovery plan to be led by the Christchurch City Council. But our ability to plan for two new cities and their surroundings is munted by a lack of surety—the vexing human inability to see the future.
Meanwhile, people continue to suffer, especially in the eastern suburbs, through broken homes that will let the winter cold creep in. It is a race against time, with the health of our children at stake. I know that the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and Fletcher Construction are doing their best to rectify a daunting situation with the installation of heat pumps and woodburners as fast as they can. I am working with energy Minister Hekia Parata to assist in the warming of Christchurch. I participated this morning with her and the Prime Minister in celebrating the 100,000th home under the insulation programme that the Greens pioneered under Jeanette Fitzsimons. There is much more that we can do, especially in Christchurch, and I look forward to cooperating with the Minister in the coming weeks.
We need to engender a sense of hope in the community—a community that is seriously traumatised. We need to develop a positive vision of the city as it might yet be: a 21st century eco-city that has green spaces, walking and cycling pathways, affordable public transport, an efficient and clean energy system, and environmentally sound waste management—a city that has, in short, sustainable living as its core value.
I have initiated a series of public forums to hear from the public what kind of city and what kind of surrounding suburbs they want to have. My “Visions of Christchurch” meetings are designed to achieve an optimal mix of public input with expert advice. They are designed to provide a distinctly Green vision for the recovery strategy and plan. The first meeting was held in Hagley Park in the netball centre on 20 April. About 200 people braved the cold night to have their say on what kind of city we want. The message was clear, with six themes emerging on what the people want. Those themes were green spaces, architectural beauty, social harmony, sustainable business, environmental sustainability, and risk management. The second meeting is in New Brighton on 12 June and will focus on the eastern suburbs. The third will be on 19 June in Lyttelton. The fourth and final meeting will be back in the city centre in early July.
I look forward to cooperating with the Government and with Opposition members in rebuilding our city along sustainable and resilient lines.
Tēnā koe. Tēnā tātou huri noa i tō tātou Whare. I rise with absolute excitement and pride—indeed, with energy and resources—to talk about the plan and ambition that this National-led Government has for Aotearoa New Zealand, while at the same time observing with despair the margins the Opposition has chosen to occupy. The issues and items the Opposition seems to think are of interest to New Zealanders are completely missing this point. As previous speakers on this side of the House have outlined, New Zealanders are concerned about what the economy is doing and how they are affected by it. They are concerned about education for their children. They are concerned about health for themselves, their families, their friends, and their communities. They are concerned about law and order, and about the safety of their homes, streets, workplaces, and neighbourhoods.
What is this Government’s response to that? It has responded in absolutely every area of concern and interest to New Zealanders. Despite having been dealt the most difficult hand that perhaps any Government in a generation has been dealt, the Government has responded, and it has focused on the systemic and structural, because it understands that New Zealanders want long-term sustainability. New Zealanders want to see that they will have strength in their hip pockets, as my colleague the Hon Maurice Williamson has described it so matter-of-factly. New Zealanders want to know that they have a Government that is focused on the priorities and on what is important to them.
Notwithstanding all of those more general national application issues and priorities, this Government has also focused on Christchurch, and on how we support that wonderful city and that very challenged community to rebuild and recover. That is important not only to Christchurch but to New Zealand. Christchurch is the second biggest economic hub for our country, which is why this Government has spared no level of energy, commitment, and focus to work with the people of Christchurch and Canterbury to help rebuild and recover that centre of activity, for its people themselves and for us.
In the tax area, as the Opposition knows and as this House knows, we have taken steps to re-engineer the whole tax platform to get the kinds of behaviours that, again, we know will be sustainable over time. We have tilted the tax platform to ensure that we move away from the behaviour encouraged by the Opposition, which was to consume, borrow, and spend.
Not even to hope, because under that Opposition the situation was hopeless! Instead, we on this side of the House have recognised that New Zealanders are capable of making decisions for themselves. Instead of the Government interfering and intervening in their lives, as was characteristic of the previous Government, we have said to almost 75 percent of New Zealanders that the tax rate is 17.5 percent, so that the general public—at least the 72 percent who are now on that 17.5 percent tax rate—can make their own decisions about how they spend that near to 83 percent.
We have encouraged investment in savings, because we also understand that it is not the Government that creates wealth; it is businesses that create wealth. It is not the Government that should be involved in make-work schemes for employment; it is businesses that should be employing people. We understand that we need to support businesses to take risks on young people, Māori, Pacific Island people, and on all kinds of people in New Zealand, to give them the opportunity to secure employment, and to make decisions for their families.
We understand that health is important. We have heard the Minister of Health speaking in the House today about the kinds of investments that this Government has made, notwithstanding the difficult—difficult—economic context in which we are operating. We have focused on education too, because unlike that Opposition we are not prepared to consign one in five students to some sort of scrapheap of dependence on the State.
We want New Zealanders to be resilient and self-determining; we do not want them to be reliant on Uncle Trevor or Auntie Helen—or on Uncle Parekura, for that matter. We want them to be reliant on themselves. We want the Government out of the lives of New Zealanders. We want to support New Zealanders’ independence. Nevertheless, we have done very practical things. We have put 300 more police on the streets. We have done so much for this country.
The National members do not like it. Each of the three National speakers has got up and said they think Labour should not be dealing with minutiae, and they have then spent a big part of their speech dealing with Labour’s dealings with National over minutiae. It seems that the National members do not like it, and the reason that Labour will continue to deal with minutiae is as follows. What National really wants is for Labour to stop concentrating on National, which is one of the key roles of her Majesty’s loyal Opposition. National should not expect any forgiveness in that direction.
Yes, I do admit that an $800,000 overspend, in the context of the entire police budget, is small. In the context of the entire budget of the Government $800,000 is small, but in the context of the expenditure on one man, the Prime Minister, it is large. It is twice the amount of money that we think his salary is worth. We think that a person should not be responsible for causing an $800,000 overspend, on the basis of his own proclivities. Only this Prime Minister takes bodyguards to the gym. Only this Prime Minister takes bodyguards as far as the debating chamber, to 10 metres from where I am sitting, because it suits him. Only this Prime Minister takes bodyguards on private holidays to Hawaii and Italy. Only this Prime Minister pretends that he cannot have any say in the matter. We know that is bunkum; he is the Prime Minister, after all.
We will continue to focus on National, and if National thinks that spending $800,000 on the well-being of one man is minutiae, then I say we will continue to focus on it and we will see what the people of New Zealand say. The National members say the $800,000 is trivial; we say it is indulgent. They call it small; we call it wrong. They say it does not fix the economy; we say that tomorrow National will make the lives of many New Zealanders worse, and if the National members continue to keep their own noses in the trough, then they lack the moral authority to ensure that they do not do harm to other New Zealanders while they do themselves everlasting good.
Do members remember the ministerial housing debate? Do members remember that? It was long ago. It was the first one. The Prime Minister said we should not worry and National would fix it. He said the rules were a mess. Bill English, the Minister of Finance, was double-dipping, so the Prime Minister said he would fix that and make ministerial housing cheaper. [Interruption] The National members do not like it. There is a continual response from the rabble during my few minutes here on the stage. But National said it would make ministerial housing cheaper. Well, we have been following that, and National has not made it cheaper. Ministerial housing is now more expensive after the fix than it was before the fix. What is more, and this is important, an unknown amount of taxpayers’ money goes into Ministers’ pockets—an unknown amount of taxpayers’ money.
So the anatomy of this self-deception is starting to become clear. National announces changes, like those to ministerial housing, saying it will fix the matter, but it does not fix it. The National members hide behind the word “security”. We saw that in the House yesterday. We saw it last week, with the Vela brothers and their $2,000 helicopter ride. At the end of last week we learnt for the first time that the Prime Minister is facing threats, but there was no ability to tell us where those threats are coming from or what they are, because that is a security matter, as well.
The third trick they pull is that they bet on not getting caught out with their inconsistencies. We heard Chris Hipkins today ask the Prime Minister how it was that he aggressively reviewed Ministerial Services line by line, but he missed the BMWs in their entirety. Which part of that do we believe? They keep forgetting; that is another trick. We have the Prime Minister’s chief of staff already forgetting his meeting with other officials on BMW matters—forgetting because it suits. We have the idea that it does not matter what Ministers do—that there is no conflict of interest. We are told by Ministers that there is no conflict of interest, and that they have had advice to that effect. They never, however, release the advice. The anatomy of the deception is becoming clearer.
It would be wonderful if Mr Hodgson concentrated on relevancy, but instead, once again, we have a tirade of trivia emanating from that man.
In 1854, a little before the New Zealand Wars, a madcap, almost suicidal, charge by 600 cavalrymen was memorialised by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The last few weeks of political life in New Zealand could be likened to the Charge of the Light Brigade. After all, we have Hone on the left of us, Don on the right of us, and Phil in between us, wriggling and writhing. His not to reason why, his but to do and die. Andrew Little will make him cry, sooner or later. The question is when Andrew Little will run the sabre through. Will it be before the election—
—any time—or after the election? We know that Andrew Little is going up and down the country doing the numbers. The likes of Mr Hipkins have been talked to by Andrew Little. The sabre could be run through at any old time.
What does it matter? Labour is in tatters. It has no plan. All its members can talk about is trivia. That is what they immerse themselves in. Mr Goff, the leader of the Labour Party, is the very man who should be talking about substance. Perhaps one of the only things he has done substantially is sell off New Zealand State-owned enterprises, probably more than anyone else in the history of the New Zealand Parliament, but now he has changed his mind. Now he has changed his mind.
Then we have Annette King, the lady who in 1998 said that a waiting list of 89,000 was criminal. She went on to build the biggest health bureaucracy in the history of the world, with a waiting list of 130,000, from which she culled 10,000 at a time. Productivity in health went nowhere, despite her increasing spending from $6 billion to $12 billion. One of the reasons why New Zealand is in the dire situation it is in is that we had Ministers like her doubling expenditure but not looking at productivity.
Then there is the Hon David Cunliffe, the man of the people, who looks after his downtrodden constituents by remote control from his upmarket house in St Marys Bay. He was the man whose polling went up when he left for Tokyo. It actually went up.
Then there is Shane Jones. Members probably saw him on Make the Politician Work on Sunday night. What happened? He went to sleep. He went out on that boat, past the Manukau Heads, and they required a fire alarm to wake him up. He was supposed to go out and help fishing, but if he had not had the fire alarm, then he probably would have been out there for 3 days and come back still having not realised that he was supposed to be working. We certainly cannot rely on him.
Thank goodness for the John Key - led National Government. Thank goodness for the solid set of achievements in a raft of areas that the Government has been focused on. For instance, there is more elective surgery, 1,000 more nurses, 500 more doctors, and shorter waiting times for radiotherapy.
I will concentrate for one moment or two on the very fine feat in immunisation that has been achieved by the National Government over the last few years. In 2007 only 67 percent of our 2-year-olds were immunised. The number is now 88 percent. This is an incredible improvement. Recently—only last week—$54 million was put into maternity services. We have a forward-looking, progressive National Government that is looking after the future of our children.
We know that the National Government is in trouble when the best it can put up in its defence is Maurice Williamson and Paul Hutchison—if that is all they can come up with! It is like a fifth-form debating D-team, because there is no defence for the absolute hash they have made of things in the last week. We have John Key and Bill English marching around telling New Zealanders that they have to learn to live without the “nice-to-haves” and that they will have to tighten their belts, but, oh no, not them—they are going to give themselves brand-new BMWs. The ones they have now are only 3 years old, but that is all right. They will give themselves brand-new ones with nice, heated seats, so that when Bill English is down in the deep south paying his annual visit to his constituency, he can ride around in a BMW with a heated seat.
What else do those members do? They go and refurbish their ministerial houses—new carpet! Some families cannot afford to put food on the table, but, oh no, John Key needs new carpet—new carpet for him! While he is at it, he will fly from the V8 Supercars to his golf club in a military plane. Those are the National Government’s priorities. While New Zealanders cannot afford to make ends meet and are having the fees for their kids’ early childhood education go up, all their health costs go up, their cost of living go up, and their power bills go up, those Government Ministers are quite happy to splash out on the small stuff for themselves. It is the small stuff for themselves that they are interested in, and they have absolutely no qualms about that.
What did Hekia Parata say about that? She said she wants the Government out of New Zealanders’ lives. In other words, the message from this Government to New Zealanders is that they are on their own. If the going is too tough, then this Government says that New Zealanders are on their own. This Government does not want to know about it. It does not care about it. It does not care about what is going on in the households of ordinary New Zealanders, because its Ministers are riding around in their leather-seated BMWs with heated seats. They are re-carpeting their houses. They are flying around in military helicopters.
Of course, then we have John Key with his eight or so security guards every day, making sure he never has to come into contact with an ordinary New Zealander. John Key does not want any ordinary people anywhere near him. He is so paranoid about coming across an ordinary person that he even has to take security guards with him when he is going on holiday. He has to surround himself with bodyguards when he is going to his private compound in Hawaii on holiday. But it is not only that—he makes the taxpayers, whom he does not want to know, pay for his security. He makes them pay the $30,000 for his security guards to fly with him to his holiday home in Hawaii.
This Government has its priorities all wrong. It calls it balanced—it calls it balanced. Government members are cutting the support for real, ordinary working Kiwis and boosting the money that they are spending on themselves, and they call that a balanced approach. It seems very balanced in the back of their BMWs, with their wonderful wheel alignment, I am sure. But it is not so great for New Zealanders who are struggling with the everyday cost of living.
This Government does not know how to manage conflicts of interest, either. John Key did not think it was a problem to sign off on a massive BMW upgrade for the Government within days—within days—of attending a National Party fundraiser hosted by a BMW dealer. John Key did not think that was a problem, at all. He thought it was fine for a BMW dealer to give 50 grand to the New Zealand National Party at the same time as he was approving a big upgrade of the BMW fleet, which was only 3 years old. Some of those cars have done only 30,000 kilometres. That means they will be pretty attractive when the Government comes to hock them off. Who are they going to hock them off to? Who are the dealers who will be selling the BMWs? I would like John Key to front up and explain that—that is what I would like John Key to front up and explain. But he will not. He will not, because he does not think he has any responsibility for it, despite the fact that it is his signature on the statement of intent that signs off on all of the work. But, oh no, despite his aggressive line-by-line review of Ministerial Services’ expenditure, he did not bother to read the line that said he would get a new car for himself with fancy leather seats and all the other bells and whistles that go with it. These fancy BMWs have fancy mobile offices with phones so that Bill English can sit in the back of his car down in the deep south, and catch up on the news on the internet while he is cruising along with his heated seats. This is a Government that has its priorities all wrong.
Does Labour have anything relevant to say? Does Labour have any plan for the future? Does Labour have any new ideas? No, no, and no. Those members are paralysed by their miserable showing in the polls, they are squabbling among themselves, and they are bogged down in irrelevancy and pettiness. There is no leadership, no inspiration, and no future. The public is not interested in their petty politics. They are interested in the things that matter to them: the things they need to live their lives well.
Since National became the Government we have worked hard to deliver on health, on education, and on law and order for New Zealanders. Despite the financial crisis, the global economic recessions, and the tragedies of Pike River and the Canterbury earthquakes, we have not wavered from our commitment to deliver stronger economic growth for New Zealanders as a whole.
After listening to Labour’s recent meaningless, confusing waffle on matters financial, everybody can see that New Zealand needs a Government with a plan, a Government with experience, and a Government with the skills to manage the economy going forward. Yes, our economy is stronger now than it was when we inherited it from Labour and, yes, we are better-placed to meet future challenges, but we still have much to do. Members will see that in the Budget.
While Labour has been in disarray, ridden with scandals and with Goff focusing on putting down leadership challenges, we have made good progress on education, health, and community safety. National is committed to improving our education system. We will not accept that one in five young people can leave school without any qualification. We are fighting to change the system so that it delivers for every child. Through national standards in reading, writing, and maths in our primary and intermediate schools and through boosting trades and skills training in schools, more young people will get the learning opportunities that they need. We are getting better value out of our tertiary education system and providing good new opportunities for young people who are struggling to find work. Every young person needs a quality education, and we will make sure that they get one.
In health, National is committed to providing great health-care. With our new, clear targets we are now getting much better value for money, with over 1,000 more nurses and 500 more doctors and with 20,000 people getting elective surgery every year. Cancer patients are being treated faster. They now have a maximum of 4 weeks’ wait, compared with a 16-week wait and a trip to Australia. Medicines are more accessible and more children are being immunised. By working smarter, we are getting more bang for our health buck, and all New Zealanders are benefiting.
All this excellent progress is exactly why Labour members have been slinging the dirt at our Prime Minister, attacking him over everything and nothing. They cannot nail us on education, they cannot nail us on health, and they cannot nail us on law and order. In contrast to Labour’s wasteful negativity and political backbiting, National just has its head down and is getting on with the job, which is exactly what every good Government should do.
The first thing I say in response to the prior speaker, Nicky Wagner, who said that we could not nail National on anything, is that it is very hard to nail blancmange.
Sometimes this House has a sense of unreality. One feels like one is in a Disney movie. Today the general debate has been an example of that. The ACT Party came here and described what has happened to them—the National Party takeover of the ACT Party by a septuagenarian—as rejuvenation. Rejuvenation! Then these institutionalised front-bench members of National came and told us, the Labour members, that we have no plan. They put up Tony Ryall, who is a veteran of the Bolger administration and a veteran of the Shipley administration. He is a veteran who has been a veteran for so long that he is replacing the Gallipoli veterans on the front line of Anzac ceremonies. He is as bereft of ideas as National is. Then we heard Maurice Williamson coming up with the same phrases.
They have obviously polled and they have found that they are in trouble for not having a plan. What is the Crosby/Textor response from National? To accuse Labour of not having a plan. This is on the same day that National said it will reverse its reversal on KiwiSaver. Having dropped the contribution rate from 4 percent to 2 percent for KiwiSaver, it is now saying that it will put it back up to 4 percent. That is the big plan for the Budget. No wonder this country is in an economic malaise. The National Government has no credible plan.
That is why it has given up on its promises of the last election. I remind listeners that National was elected on the promise to close the wage gap with Australia, not to put up GST; to lead us to a brighter future, not to the economic malaise we are currently suffering from; and to have higher standards, not to buy new BMWs and pretend that it was not aware of it. National was going to have a step change in the economy. Instead—I think the ACT Party made this point in the House yesterday—we have the highest rate of youth unemployment that anyone can remember. The National front bench members, these institutionalised members who are retreads and have been here now through three administrations, tell us that we have no a plan.
We already have more ideas out there than they have: a tax-free zone, so that the first so many thousand dollars of earnings are free of tax; GST taken off fresh fruit and vegetables; ring-fencing of losses; and a lot of other initiatives. If we put anything more out there, National will just steal it. In fact, its latest policy of reinstating what it cut last year on KiwiSaver is stealing Labour policy. We had a 4 percent contribution rate for KiwiSaver, and National cut it to 2 percent and is now reinstating it to 4 percent. So to hear those members say that we have no plan is rather galling.
Rejuvenation? Rejuvenation, according to National, is retreads from three prior administrations who still have not come up with a credible plan for the economy. Rejuvenation, according to the ACT Party, is bringing back the National Party into ACT via Don Brash and John Banks, in order to bring Don Brash and John Banks into Parliament. They are both former National Party members, and John Banks was the failed mayoral candidate for Auckland at its latest election.
There will be a choice at this coming election, and it will be about who New Zealanders trust to grow the economy. National’s response is to pretend that all of these problems are not of its making. It knew the global financial crisis was here. As Trevor Mallard said today, it is quite incredible for the Prime Minister to deny that he knew that the global financial crisis was coming when he made all of his rash promises to cut taxes. The Government has no plan.
I was looking forward to taking this last call because I was hoping beyond all hope that I might be able to make an excellent contribution to the arguments put forward by the Opposition.
But what have we seen? We have seen a continuation of the extraordinarily poor performance that has characterised this Opposition in recent times. Did members know that question time once again finished before 3 o’clock—again! That was after about 20 minutes taken up with forestalling by the Opposition shadow Leader of the House to try to drag it out. This is what members of the Opposition are reduced to. Instead of following the Speaker’s lead and asking searching, penetrating, and focused questions, those members do not have a clue. So it is all over before 3 p.m. as it was yesterday, and as it was last week, and that is after 20 or 30 minutes of points of order just to try to drag it out. By the way, most of those members are lost anyway. This is just an appalling performance, and it is no wonder that those members are reduced to what Mr Hodgson likes to refer to as “minutiae”. They are going to focus on this because it really will drag down this Government!
They talk about helicopter rides. Has Labour forgotten about the 2006 helicopter ride to bring back Chris Carter’s toothbrush? Did members know that? A Minister of their administration got an air force helicopter ride in 2006 to bring back a toothbrush he had left behind from the islands where he had been. It would have cost him $2 to go down to the corner shop, to the grocery store, or to the supermarket to buy another one. But, no, he had to waste taxpayers’ money on sending a helicopter. Perhaps the toothbrush was pink and he could not get any other pink toothbrush. But I do not know why he had to send a helicopter at enormous taxpayer expense to go and get it.
One really has to ask whether we can have the real Opposition. It seems to me that the real Opposition at the moment is the fourth estate. There is Mike Parkin on Television One talking about the Diplomatic Protection Squad, and there is Patrick Gower on TV3 talking about self-drive cars. Bring them in, but do not pretend to pinch their lines.
Let us talk about, for instance, Diplomatic Protection Squad holidays. Labour members ask, as Mr Hodgson asked, who needs the Diplomatic Protection Squad when they go on holiday. Well, if Prime Ministers have men-mountains like Darren Hughes, Chris Carter, and Damien O’Connor, and they tag them along on their holidays, I suppose they do not need the Diplomatic Protection Squad, because those people will look after them. Or, of course, there is that man-eater, Judith Tizard, who is going to save the Prime Minister while she is on top of Mount Cook. Who needs the Diplomatic Protection Squad when they have such a coterie of hangers-on to save them and to ride to the rescue?
It is interesting that we are talking about the Diplomatic Protection Squad. At the weekend the United States President, Barack Obama, went to Fort Campbell to honour the SEALs. One would think that when the president went to Fort Campbell to honour the SEALs, who are faceless, extraordinary soldiers, he would be under the biggest security and would not need to have his own security detail. Clearly, the Opposition is totally unaware that when the President of the United States went to Fort Campbell this weekend to honour those people, there was a bevy of security people associated with them.
Then, of course, we have ginga No. 2. He seems to have jumped ship; he seems to have left the nest of the duck to go and sit at the foot of the chicken man. He has got on top of, for instance, the cost of $275,000.