‘The National-Labour race is over; Kiwis need to decide which support party’
9 May 2011
Hon Peter Dunne
MP for Ohariu and Leader of UnitedFuture
UnitedFuture Ohariu Electorate Annual General Meeting
Monday, 9 May 2011
Good evening and thank you for coming here tonight for our Ohariu electorate annual meeting.
I think we have real reason to gather with optimism and hope on this autumn evening. We have a particularly interesting few months ahead which will culminate in the November election.
Without being rash, one might quite fairly say that the stars are aligning both within this electorate and on the wider stage for UnitedFuture.
I am going to do something a little unusual tonight. I am going to discuss – in some detail – other political parties, some of whom are our political opponents.
I am going to do so for a simple reason – come November 26, New Zealanders are going to have to make the very same calculations and judgments that I am making tonight.
It seems almost certain that New Zealanders will want John Key back leading a National-led government.
One does not need the gift of prophecy to see that coming.
John Key may well be a perpetual over-achiever, but he can, sometimes through no fault of his own, fall into bad company.
We would like to save him – and New Zealand – from that fate, post-election.
Three years in government and New Zealanders like John Key.
More importantly, they trust him. He is the archetypal good Kiwi bloke. We know it; we feel it.
This Government has taken charge through some tough times.
Actually, they have been unbelievably tough times.
Three years ago, who could have imagined the combined impact of a global financial crisis, Pike River and two Christchurch earthquakes, one terrible, the other quite catastrophic?
This county has, to put it bluntly, had a hell of a time since the last election.
We have been tested – and will be tested more – in ways that we as New Zealanders have not known in generations, certainly since the Second World War.
One reason I am very confident National will lead the next government is that Labour, at this point in the political cycle, is not a viable, functioning alternative.
Actually, I am being polite here.
Events of recent times bring the term ‘cot case’ to mind.
With no new faces on their front bench, they are essentially going into this election with the re-heated caucus that New Zealanders threw out three years ago, and as one would expect, they seem bereft of new ideas.
It is not really possible to generate new ideas when you have yet to accept that your old ideas have been rejected.
As for the other players coming to the table in 2011, well let us take a look at the options.
When I first turned my head to this speech, Rodney Hide was still leader of ACT and Osama bin Laden was still in ensconced in his Pakistani fortress.
They have both since met merciless fates, one at the hands of the US Navy Seals, and the other at the hands of a force considerably more scary.
One is now a bloodied corpse; the other at the bottom of the sea.
New Zealand voters would do well to take note of the way in which Dr Brash dispatched Rodney Hide – his long time friend, indeed a man who he used to share family holidays with – without so much as blinking.
When you add the far right extremist and ideologues of the ACT Party to Dr Brash, the mix is now, to coin a phrase “extremely toxic”.
They are all people on a mission with an evangelistic belief in the rightness of their ideology to the extent that they are prepared to accept hurt and pain to New Zealand families as mere collateral damage on the way to achieving their ideological goals
These people really do believe in burning the village to save it.
And as Dr Brash showed last week, they will not blink.
So come November, New Zealanders really will need to decide if that is the direction they want a second-term John Key government pushed in.
There is also some talk that Don Brash will rename ACT before the election, and well he might, but no cosmetic change will hide the reality of what the party is.
ACT writ large is the Association of Consumers and Taxpayers.
I have always found this a most telling name for a political party. They do indeed know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
If I or most New Zealanders had to choose the two words that most fundamentally defined us, I can tell you now that those two words would not be ‘consumer’ and ‘taxpayer’.
And therein lies ACT’s essential problem.
They are out of synch and out of touch with the way New Zealanders see themselves and the priorities and values that they live by.
For one thing, I am a citizen before I am a taxpayer or a consumer.
I am a New Zealander.
I value the broad community that we live in, and the many smaller communities that make up this country.
There are so many other ways I would choose to define myself than by the descriptors that ACT has chosen of taxpayer and consumer.
I do not believe I am alone in that.
There is something utterly soulless about the ACT description of itself and by inference, the rest of us.
We are people who live in families, and have neighbours and workmates who we want to see live happy, fulfilling and successful lives, just as we do for our own families and children.
We live in communities, towns and cities.
And we care about those families, neighbours and workmates in those communities, towns and cities.
It will be a sad day for New Zealand when the dog-eat-dog far right policies promoted by ACT take a hold on this country’s soul.
An ACT-influenced National government would be a frightening lurch in that direction.
New Zealanders – middle New Zealand – do not want a National-led government being dragged to the right in its second term.
There is another thing that Middle New Zealand does not want.
And I am going to speak his name: Winston Peters.
His obfuscations, half-truths, dancing on the head of a pin and, ultimately, his destructiveness, finally caught up with him in 2008.
My only concern about Winston Peters in 2011 is a very simple one: that people will have short memories.
Actually, he relies on that.
He counts on it.
One can only hope that his recently auctioned ‘No’ sign goes on a national tour later this year, stopping in every town hall and Grey Power meeting five minutes after Winston Peters darkens its doorstep.
People need reminding in one simple word of the destructiveness and duplicity that Winston brought to New Zealand politics.
There is no more apt reminder of why New Zealanders should not have Winston Peters back – ever – than that sign.
That sign said it all, but in a way that he never intended. It should be his political epitaph. ‘No.’
I salute John Key for ruling him out yet again as a potential coalition partner.
It was bold and it was principled, just as it was in 2008.
Running a country is hard enough; you need to do it with people whose word today means what it meant yesterday, and will mean the same tomorrow.
The wink, the grin and a good deal of opportunistic fact-free scare-mongering should never again be enough for Winston Peters to re-enter a House that has been more honourable for his absence.
I do not believe that he will return. New Zealanders are not foolish.
And then there is the Maori Party.
As I have said before, the key to understanding this unlikely but genuinely strong relationship is that John Key’s invitation to join him after the last election was the first time in modern political history any major political party had invited Maori to join in government.
Labour talks about the relationship forged with Ratana in 1935, but the truth is it was always a subservient one, where Maori political loyalty was taken for granted and rarely reciprocated in a meaningful way.
Maori know that.
That is why the strength of the bond now formed with National cannot be underestimated.
While it could never say so, the Maori Party has been prepared – as I predicted it would this time last year – to tolerate a watering down of its Whanau Ora plan, and compromises over the foreshore and seabed – for now.
But all bets will be off in a second term.
With the fall-out from Hone Harawira’s long and acrimonious departure, and electorate polls showing damage done to the likes of co-leader Pita Sharples for backing of the Marine and Coastal Area Act, sheer political survival is going to dictate that they will need to play a strong and more activist hand to hold their vote.
That strong hand will in many areas run counter to where Middle New Zealand will want a National-led government to deliver.
And briefly, a word on Hone Harawira.
As much as he was a thorn in the side of the Maori Party while within it, what we are seeing now is that without its structures and disciplines to protect him from himself, he is showing what most have long suspected – that he is undisciplined, uncouth and with a propensity to engage his mouth before his brain.
Anyone looking to stand with him politically, frankly, is someone asking to be burnt.
National therefore faces the unenviable possibility of being the largest party in Parliament – indeed the only party capable of forming and leading a government – but with potential partners in ACT and the Maori Party whose core demands are likely to tear it in diametrically opposed directions.
And both those directions would take it far away from its core support base and the centre ground pragmatism that has characterised the Key administration to date.
So while we are talking political contenders in 2011, let me be a little blunt here.
As much as Rodney Hide was perpetually floundering in Epsom, all the polling I have seen has me ahead in Ohariu.
I want to thank you for your efforts in keeping it that way, too.
This may well disappoint certain cynics and media darlings, but there is still a place in New Zealand politics for a politician who says what he will deliver and delivers it.
There is still room in New Zealand politics for a politician who occupies the middle ground and strives, issue by issue, to see things reasonably and to deliver things that will make life better for New Zealand families.
I do that in Ohariu by being completely involved in this community – first by actually living here in this electorate.
That allows me to be truly accessible to the people of Ohariu and their concerns.
It may not be fashionable among the beltway aficionados, but there is a constituency out there that wants straight talking, commonsense and policies that work.
I serve the people of the Ohariu electorate diligently and, I hope, well.
I know full well that I serve them only at their pleasure.
I respect that and I hope – and I do feel – that they respect me and the service that I have given and continue to give them.
I also give Ohariu and the Wellington region a voice in government that is heard and able to make a difference.
I stand on my track record: I can be relied on.
I do not drop the ball.
I do not make silly decisions, and I pledge here and now never to appear on Dancing with the Stars.
When I give my word in politics or in my personal dealings, it means something.
It will mean tomorrow, what it means today, and what it meant yesterday.
I will deliver what I say I will deliver.
That has been UnitedFuture’s role.
This party has been and is a voice for middle New Zealand families, and it is why we have endured.
For the record, this is what we believe and stand for:
- Ideas and principles are more important than serving special interests.
- Promoting social advances involves all of us, not just the state.
- Participation is the key to successful communities and nations, and families are the building block of these.
These are the politics of principle and courage.
They are utterly consistent with our role as the protector and upholder of common sense in politics.
I look at things in a very straightforward way: is it right or is it wrong?
Will it work?
Is it good for New Zealand?
And then I set about getting the result that we need to get.
Just last month, we delivered on part of our Confidence and Supply agreement with the National-led Government with the announcement that a Game Animal Council is being established.
A couple of weeks before that the Income Sharing Bill came back from the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee with the next step to be its Second Reading.
Something like 8,300 families in this electorate alone stand to benefit by anything up to $9.000 a year, and will be able to spend more time raising their children if this Bill becomes law.
A few weeks before that we drove the Wellington and Hutt City Councils into telling the public which buildings they knew to be a real risk to the public in the event of a Christchurch-type earthquake.
We developed the national medicines strategy, Medicines New Zealand, to ensure all New Zealanders are better placed to get the medicines they need when they are ill, and at a price they can afford.
Our ongoing tax system reforms to make it fairer, through the range of personal and business tax cuts I have been part of introducing since 2007.
And include in that, this year's work with the Minister of Finance on Budget 2011's tax changes, and we have indisputable track record of improving the lot of families across the board, thus making it easier for them to play a full part in the development of our society.
We have pushed successfully for major infrastructure developments like Transmission Gully to keep our communities more connected and closely linked.
In short, we are getting results on issues both big and small.
We are punching way above our weight on the things that matter to New Zealanders and make a difference in their lives.
We need to tell our story this year and remind voters of why a vote for Peter Dunne in Ohariu and UnitedFuture in the party vote will be part of delivering a focused, centrist National-led government for the next three years.
UnitedFuture will be there to give a voice to Kiwis who want a National government, but one that is moderated from any extremist tendencies.
We are there for voters who want to keep National on track, while giving it a partner that knows how to balance the chequebook, but also understands social justice and compassion – a partner with a hard head, but a warm heart.
I welcome you all tonight and I invite you to join me on what is an exciting journey ahead.