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2013 ACT Annual Conference
ACT Leader Hon John Banks
I’m excited by the challenges and opportunities for our Party and for our country.
An academic once wrote:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
I am honoured to be here amongst a group of like-minded individuals who change worlds in their own lives.
Alan Gibbs – thank you for your staunch support of ACT and for welcoming us to your wonderful Farm.
New Party President, John Boscawen; former President, Chris Simmons; ACT Board members both retiring and new; ACT Members and visitors – thank you for your commitment and service to ACT.
Our mission and our challenge is to return a bigger, refreshed, revitalised and re-tooled ACT Party to Parliament in 2014.
I am a born optimist. I have always believed in the power of individuals to make a difference in their own lives, and the lives of others.
For me it is not what government can do for you.
Rather, it’s about what you should be free to do for yourself while respecting the freedoms of others.
At its most basic, that is what ACT Party stands for.
The seeds of my philosophy are found in my background and life experience.
At primary school, hunger set the initial course of my life; I decided that I would never go hungry again.
My first teacher at Clareville School taught me that I could be successful if I was prepared to work hard.
I believed then as I do now, that through enterprise, initiative and hard work, every citizen should have the freedom to achieve.
ACT stands for a New Zealand where even the poorest child from the most humble background should be able to get ahead.
We believe that the law should treat everyone as equal. We believe in upward social mobility through the freedom to achieve.
We stand four-square against the entitlement society.
The entitlement society is the notion individuals are entitled to live at the expense of everyone one else; that a state benefit is a right, not a privilege; that the recipient owes nothing in return to the society that provides that benefit.
Fifty years in business and thirty years of elected office has taught me that not every economic and social ill can be addressed by creating a government programme or passing yet another law.
After all, a government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.
My experience is that laws and government programmes almost always have unintended consequences.
For example, welfare programmes designed to afford independence more often than not, create dependence.
Universal benefits intended to help those who are most in need, are offered up to those who neither need nor value them.
The entitlement society empowers politicians and civil servants and disempowers individuals and families.
It destroys the belief that individuals and families can and should be able to get ahead through their own efforts.
We face a housing affordability crisis in Auckland.
First home buyers face housing costs almost as unaffordable as London.
It is a problem largely created by former governments through the RMA and building regulations.
Now, according to Labour and the Greens, a government created problem requires a government ‘soviet style’ housing solution.
Young people would be expected to queue up for a house chosen by David Shearer and Russel Norman.
Unfortunately Mr Shearer’s promised dream home price rose from three hundred thousand dollars to half a million in a couple of months. That is inflation of Banana Republic proportions.
Worse than queuing for one of Dr Norman’s chicken coops is that he is promising to build these fowl houses with printed money.
Labour’s solution is even worse. You won’t fix the problem of the artificial scarcity of land at its source by throwing $30 billion at one symptom.
There is not a squeak, NOT A SQUEAK, from either Labour or the Greens on the need for Resource Management Act reform to address the causes of the problem.
I have told the National Party that we have a one in 20 year opportunity to fix the RMA.
The truth is, it is now working in the opposite way to what Parliament intended.
The RMA that promised so much has delivered so little.
The RMA is the epitome of a law with unintended consequences.
The original 382 pages were intended to replace 59 Acts of Parliament.
We were told it was supposed to free up development.
We were told it was supposed to bolster the fundamental freedom to build.
And we were promised simplicity.
Twenty-three years later, it is a 900 page job destroying machine.
The RMA is now one of the major constraints on investment, growth and employment.
It is now a significant cause of the housing unaffordability. It is used to constrain the supply of land thereby creating a massive transfer of wealth from first home buyers to those who already own consentable land.
The ACT Party agrees that we need to reform the timeframes in the Resource Management Act as National has proposed.
But we need to go further, much further, if we are serious about housing affordability.
And the ACT Party is serious about housing affordability.
We need to reverse the anti-development and anti-subdivision presumptions of the RMA in favour of the freedom to build on one’s own property. And we need much less prescriptive plans.
ACT’s Freedom to Build policy is our contribution to the housing affordability debate. It would do much to return the RMA to what Parliament originally intended.
The Freedom to Build is a presumption that you can develop your property if you respect the like rights of your neighbours.
This will increase the supply of land that can be built on.
The result would be that young people would be free to achieve home ownership if they are prepared to work hard and save hard.
In a property-owning democracy the role of government is not to build houses.
Let me tell you about three other areas where ACT is making life better for New Zealanders.
I believe in inspirational leaders. Our Partnership Schools will empower the parents of our most vulnerable learners by giving them more choice.
We will open the door of opportunity by providing a world class education to everyone, including the poorest of families and the most vulnerable of learners.
Partnership Schools will give dedicated educators the flexibility and freedom to meet the individual educational needs of their students.
In return for this freedom, there will be a higher level of accountability for the results they achieve.
Our critics don’t understand that ACT has always championed choice in education.
We have always wanted to empower parents by having the funding to follow the child.
We believe in choice.
ACT’s Aspire Scholarships introduced last term allow poor kids from low income families to go to private schools.
Partnership Schools will begin first school term next year.
As a former General Secretary of the UN has said…
“Literacy is… the road to human progress and the means through which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.”
ACT agrees with that totally.
ACT will give dedicated and inspirational educators the tools they need, so that all of our young can walk the road of progress; so all have a real opportunity to achieve their potential.
I want to thank Catherine Isaac and the Working Party she leads for the excellent policy work they have done and continue to do.
ACT’s Regulatory Standards proposal will help New Zealanders to better scrutinise legislation for both intended and unintended consequences. It will create a ‘one-stop-shop’ for all critical information about a government Bill and will help New Zealanders push back on poor laws.
This Bill is a useful first step, but ACT would like to go much further by passing the Regulatory Standards Bill which would test legislation against a set of principles including better protection of private property rights.
ACT believes in private property rights.
For that to happen we will need to be back in Parliament in 2014 in larger numbers.
ACT’s spending cap proposal will require politicians to adopt a spending trend-line with a ‘please explain’ requirement for spending above that line. New Zealanders will be better able to judge the quality of government spending and the future cost of current programmes.
That will help better with decision making on Election Day.
Election campaigns are marathons not sprints.
Success in 2014 depends on what we do today, this week, this month, this year.
The campaign ahead will test our mettle, the commitment to our values and what we stand for and stand against.
Some in the media and our opponents will write us off. That’s nothing new. They did that in 2011. They did that in 2005. They did that in 1996.
That’s because the choice of Government; the choice of Prime Minister will likely depend on us.
Never in my lifetime has the Opposition been less ready to govern.
Never has the opportunity to keep nudging the National Party toward our values been more important.
Nor has the risk been greater that MMP will deliver us Russel Norman and his printing press.
Voters will clearly know what we stand for. And what we stand against. ACT’s values have not changed from the values its founders stood for. And they are not going to change.
ACT’s values are timeless.
We stand against heavy tax burdens to fund wasteful and unnecessary spending.
We stand against the stifling of freedom, enterprise and initiative with red tape.
We stand against attitude that the government must do something every time something bad happens in the community.
We stand against privilege
We stand against corporate welfare in all its forms.
Most of all, we are against entitlement. The notion that people are entitled to live at the expense of everyone else.
We stand for the dignity of the individual.
We stand for preserving the freedom to achieve.
We stand for allowing individuals to pursue goals of their own choosing.
We stand for individual initiative and enterprise.
We stand for personal responsibility, including responsibility for losses.
We stand for choice through open, competitive markets.
We stand for free trade.
We stand for price stability.
We stand for smaller government and lower taxes.
We stand for equal citizenship.
We stand for government that excels in performing its core functions.
We stand for government welfare that gives people a hand up not a hand out.
These propositions express our values. They are timeless.
What’s more they are right for the times we live in.
I want you to know that together we can and will make a difference – in taxation, welfare, law and order, equal citizenship, red tape, fiscal discipline and in education.
I want you to decide that our values are worth your effort over the next 21 months.
ACT's Freedom To Build Policy document can be found here.