Here's John Key's speech to the faithful. As political speeches go it's pretty staid stuff, in line with most New Zealand oratory.
But let's examine the content.
Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow National Party members, it's wonderful to see you!Go John! Get people feeling good about themselves. They're riding high in the polls and are feeling bullet-proof.
I'm proud to be here as Prime Minister.
I'm proud to be the leader of this great Party.
And I'm proud to be leading a government that is making New Zealand a better place.
When our Party was formed back in 1936, it chose the name "National" because it wanted to be a Party that represented all New Zealanders.Well not quite. National was born out of the Reform/United coalition in the 1930s - a coalition that hopelessly failed to deal with the great economic crisis of the time. The name change was as much about burying the past and putting a new name to the same tired old politicians as it was about broadening the support base.
That's exactly what we are doing.
The National-led Government is relentlessly focused on what matters to all New Zealanders.Whatever the rights or wrongs of this Government, one thing it isn't is relentlessly focused, other than on the polls. It is a largely populist government that goes where the polls take it.
Last election, New Zealanders voted for a brighter future.Yes, but we don't always get what we want.
And we're doing what it takes to secure that future.To secure the Government's future, he means.
Fellow National Party members, we couldn't do it without you.Yawn. This is all standard stirring-the-troops stuff.
So I want to thank all the Regional Chairs, the Deputy Chairs, the Board Members, the Electorate Chairs, the volunteers, and the members.
You make this party strong. You stick with us through thick and thin. You are the reason National is in government today.
In particular, I want to thank our Party President Peter Goodfellow.
I also want to pay a special acknowledgement to my friend and deputy, Bill English.Does anyone believe the two are actual friends?
What a great job he is doing as Finance Minister.
He's delivered two Budgets that have steered New Zealand out of recession and put the economy firmly back on track to grow and create jobs.I don't think anything English or Key has done could be said to have "steered" us out of recession. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that we have largely been a rudderless ship in that respect.
And where is the evidence that the economy's back on track? Growth is stagnant and unemployment is up.
I want to thank all our wonderful Members of Parliament, who do such a good job of representing New Zealanders - from Northland to Invercargill, from the East Coast of the North Island to the West Coast of the South Island.Tolley, Brownlee, Williamson, Bennett...
I want to thank my hard-working team of Ministers.
I'm delighted to lead a very talented Cabinet.
And I'd like to thank our partners in Government - ACT, the Maori Party and United Future. Together we make a very stable and balanced Government.Key is helped by the fact that the Maori Party will do anything to ingratiate themselves with National, in the hope that Key might see fit to throw them some scraps. And because they viscerally hate Labour. Dunne will do a deal with anyone so long as there's a ministerial post in it for him. Rodney is getting what he wants. Yes, a stable government.
As with all partnerships, from time to time we disagree. That's healthy and normal - after all, we're not the same party.
But our partnerships work because they are based on trust, respect, and a willingness to find solutions together.
The relationships we have with these three parties demonstrate to New Zealanders our ability to lead a stable government.
I am confident we can do so well into the future.
Delegates, when we meet at next year's conference, we will once again be close to an election.All true. The Nats are looking very strong and, unless Labour regroups, will probably run away with the 2011 election. They may even be able to govern alone.
An election we are in great shape to fight.
An election we are in great shape to win.
We have a strong, united party organisation.
Our opponents have been floundering around trying to work out what they stand for - and indeed what they stand against - and waiting for instructions via text message from New York.It is always a good idea in politics to kick an opponent when they're down.
Meanwhile, we have been getting on with the business of making New Zealand a better place.I hadn't noticed. Unless we substitute "kneejerk" for "cracking pace". Then I'm all good with that.
We have already achieved a lot and we're setting a cracking pace.
I want to talk now about some of the things we've done, and what they mean for everyday New Zealanders.The Government did almost nothing of any consequence to get us through the recession. And economic times are still tough. The fact we're not still technically in recession is a happy accident. But another bout of negative growth could be around the corner, and we will be no better prepared for it than we were in 2008.
The first challenge we faced as a government was the global financial and economic crisis.
We steered New Zealand through that crisis by showing strong economic leadership.
We protected New Zealanders from the sharp edges of recession.
But at the same time we resisted calls to spend billions more on extra stimulus.
Zealanders through their mortgage interest rates or business loans.Here Key is talking as if the battle is already won. I'm not so sure we've seen the last of the tough times.
The Government got that balance right and New Zealand is better for it.
I appreciate that some families are feeling the pressure as the economy recovers.
That's why it is so important that we lay the foundation for higher economic growth and better times ahead.
We were elected to put New Zealand on a higher growth path and that is precisely what we are going to do.
Economic growth is not just a theoretical construct - it impacts directly on people's lives.All meaningless rhetoric. Talk big and hope nobody notices there isn't a plan to go with the words.
It means an increase in people's incomes, to give them better choices, more security and a higher standard of living.
It means an increase in the income of New Zealand as a whole, to provide better public services like health care, law and order, and better incomes in retirement.
It means improving our performance compared to other countries, so our young people know there is a bright future for them right here in New Zealand.
We have a six-point economic plan to go for growth.National has proposed nothing major to encourage significant growth. Talk of six-point plans may sound impressive, but actions speak louder. Where is the real plan?
The drivers of this plan to get New Zealand growing faster are the following:
Underpinning all this is a disciplined fiscal policy.
- Changes to the tax system to make it fairer, so that hard work and enterprise are rewarded
- Demanding better, smarter public services
- A multi-billion dollar investment in infrastructure
- Cutting red tape and regulation
- Better business innovation and an ambitious trade agenda
- And improving education and skills
We will maintain firm control of the government's finances, so we can return to Budget surpluses and keep debt tightly under control.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we are making real progress on our economic plan.
First, let's look at tax.Key's tax-talk is bollocks. It makes no sense to compare us with Australia unless you compare everything. Furthermore, there is little evidence that lowering taxes increases economic growth. We are only modestly taxed compared with other OECD countries, and have been for some time, yet it doesn't seem to have helped our economic performance.
Right now, a lot of countries around the world are looking at raising taxes.
We have been able to cut some of our taxes.
Personal taxes have been reduced across the board, to reward effort and to give people an incentive to get ahead and make a career here in New Zealand.
Our top two personal tax rates will soon be 30 per cent and 33 per cent. In Australia they are much higher - 37 per cent and 45 per cent.
On a straight dollar-for-dollar basis, Australians earning over $55,000 will soon pay more income tax than New Zealanders on the same salary.
That's a big change from the current tax scale where an Australian doesn't pay more tax than his or her New Zealand counterpart until they earn almost $230,000.
These tax cuts will arrive in people's pockets from October 1. And the vast bulk of New Zealanders will be better off through our GST and personal income tax switch.
The company tax rate will also be reduced to 28 per cent.
That is lower than Australia's company tax rate, and indeed lower than anything Australia is planning.
By lowering the company tax rate we are encouraging productive investment in New Zealand and better paid jobs for our people.
And many people will either be worse off by the tax changes, or no better off. Those on higher incomes will do better.
I want New Zealanders to be aspirational - to want more for themselves and their families, and to know that they have opportunities to do that.
Our tax reform encourages that.
As a party which has personal responsibility as one of its core values, we know that the best way for New Zealanders to get ahead is through their own hard work, and their own effort to make a difference to their lives.For a PM who claims he's not interested in ideology but in "what works", that's textbook neoliberal economic theory. Personal responsibility and freedom from state intervention.
We're also making good progress toward better, smarter public services.Slash. Burn. Repeat cycle.
Since we came into office - and after years and years of increases - the number of public service bureaucrats has finally gone down.It's an audacious move to congratulate oneself for creating jobs, while at the same time patting yourself on the back for increasing the number of unemployed people. These "bureaucrats" didn't just disappear into a hole. Many of them are now on the dole.
That's because we are clear about our priorities - and our priorities are frontline services, not a larger bureaucracy.More nonsense. Those who were performing the frontline services will now be doing more of the paperwork those now-redundant bureaucrats were looking after. Someone has to do the paperwork.
We're also taking big steps towards addressing New Zealand's gaping infrastructure deficit.There's nothing particularly startling or bold in National's infrastructure plans. Many people have criticised the plans for being underwhelming.
All over the country we've been kicking off major new roading projects to get the country moving.
We're investing billions through Transpower to upgrade the national electricity grid.
We've put money aside for rolling out ultra-fast broadband across the country.
Another important aspect of our economic plan is cutting red tape and regulation.Red-tape hunting is futile and achieves nothing. And what are these changes?
We're searching in all areas of Government to find places where overly-restrictive regulations are getting in the way of doing business.
That has already resulted in changes. There are more to come.
Let's not forget this is the party who within 12 months of being elected had already changed the Resource Management Act.Yes, but those changes were hardly radical ones, and will do little to appease those who want to see the back of that legislation. If that is the only example of red-tape cutting, then it's not much of an achievement.
Delegates, science and research is a priority in the Budget because we know that our future economic performance depends on generating and using new ideas.There's been some tinkering by National with public sector science funding, and most of these changes are welcome ones. But there's not really any new money.
We want to be a smart economy.
Fellow members, we also have an ambitious trade agenda because unlocking overseas markets will boost New Zealand exports and help our companies grow.Free trade has been a priority for the last few governments. Key is carrying on the good work of others. It's too early to tell whether Key's jetsetting has achieved anything concrete, although our Chinese masters will doubtless be impressed by our grovelling behaviour.
We are currently negotiating with some of the biggest countries in the world - the United States, Korea, India and Russia.
At the heart of our trade push are living standards and jobs.
Because we know that only a strong economy can provide financial security for our families, real opportunities for our young people, and world-class public services.
That's why my visit to Korea, China and Viet Nam was so valuable.
I'm delighted that we have injected new life into trade talks with Korea.
I have ambitious goals for trade with China, and I hope that Viet Nam will join us as a full participant at the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiating table soon.
There is no doubt there are enormous opportunities for New Zealand in Asia - we are determined to make the most of them.
Delegates, education and skills are also essential parts of our plan to lift this country's economic performance.
We're moving forward with our Youth Guarantee and Trades in Schools policies and at the younger end of the education system we've introduced National Standards in our schools.
I want to read from a letter about National Standards. It was written to Anne Tolley from the parent of a child with dyslexia.
The letter reads:
"We struggled for years to try and get some idea of just how badly this was affecting her. I am furious we wasted several crucial years, while we were told by the school 'not to judge her against everyone else', and that 'she will catch up when she is ready'. How on earth can any professional teacher object to having a national standard, and object to parents being aware of these?"
I couldn't agree more.
Anne gets a lot of letters like this, from parents who really appreciate being told in plain English how their child is doing at school, so they can do something about it.
With National Standards, we are putting parents and their children first because we are not willing to stand by and let one in five children leave school without the qualifications and skills they need to succeed in a modern economy.
National Standards will help to identify kids who are falling behind or those that can be extended, so that teachers and parents can get alongside them and support them.
Friends, this Government has made a choice. That choice is to put the future of our children and this country ahead of the interests of those who resist change even when the status quo had been so clearly failing our kids.I'm sure Key and his Education Minister have received a few letters from teachers, principals and educationalists on the subject too. It's a shame he didn't decide to read one of those. But anyway, what would those people know about education?
I for one am very proud of that.
It's wrong to suggest we have a crisis in our education system. Our system is actually pretty good and does well when measured against those from other countries. The fact that many kids leave school without adequate skills isn't always the fault of the education system. Some children come from homes so messed up that it really doesn't matter what steps you put in place in the classroom to improve educational standards, unless you also do something about the home environment.
And those parents who are desperate to know how their kids are going are unlikely to be the ones with children in trouble.
We're getting a great response from the public in other areas where we're making a real difference too.
The second letter I want to read from was written to me by a mother-of-three who was about to begin Herceptin treatment.The decision to fund Herceptin was a popular one. Deciding which drugs to fund and which not to is a difficult decision, because there isn't enough money to go around. Cancer patients put up a public fight for better funding, and you can hardly begrudge them their success. In health issues, as Gareth Morgan has said, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.
She wrote: "I want to express my gratitude and sincerely say thank you for easing the financial burden for my family. In times like this it is really hard to get through day-to-day. I wish you and yours the best of health, happiness and a long life - because that is what you have given me."
I am personally very proud that our party has delivered on our promise to fund a full 12 month course of Herceptin.
It is money that has been very well spent.
The Government's law and order policies have also had a great response.Um, because they probably won't work? We've been cracking down on crime for years, without any success.
And why shouldn't they?
We've put more police on the streets and it's making a difference.If crime is down in Manukau then that's a good thing. Though I suspect that, as with all crime figures, you can cherry-pick the ones you want and ignore the ones that don't suit your narrative. And how are other police districts doing?
We've already got 255 new frontline police officers in the Counties-Manukau district.
The police in that district can be far more proactive because there are far more of them.
For example, bag snatching is down 80 per cent as we add more front line Police on the beat.
We're hiring more Police and we are putting more of them on the street.
Provisional statistics also show that house burglaries in the district are down by almost 14 per cent compared with the year before.
That's not all we're doing to make our communities safer.A war on drugs. That's bound to work.
We've declared war on P and we're cracking down on the gangs that sell it.
Already in the first seven months of this year a total of 23 kilograms of methamphetamine has been seized - that's four times as much as we seized in the same period last year.Including making the nation's strategic assets safe from the scourge of priest-led vandalism.
Fellow National Party members, these are just a few of the things the National-led Government is doing to make New Zealand a better place.
We are doing what we were elected to do and we have kept our promises.There probably is at least another term of National, unless Labour starts engaging with the voters.
New Zealanders put their trust in us and we are delivering.
There is plenty more to come from this Government.
Today I want to announce some policies that will help productivity and employment in New Zealand.The critical issue affecting economic growth is productivity. Our workforce is not as productive as it should be, and that is in part due to the reluctance of employers to invest in new capital. Playing around with employment laws to make it easier to fire people won't change that. In fact, it may have the opposite affect. if you treat workers like a commodity you can hardly expect them to be loyal and hard-working. Also, making it easier to ditch new workers does nothing to encourage the mobility of labour.
As we continue to grow out of the recession, it's important we have the right environment to create more jobs.
It's also important for greater growth that we improve New Zealand's overall productivity, meaning we generate more value from the hours we work.
I know these can be fairly abstract concepts.
So this is how I look at it.
In the real world, economic growth happens because a business sees an opportunity and is prepared to invest, expand and put its own money on the line.
If these measures are the means by which we are going to grow the economy, let me just say now how truly screwed we are.
Employment happens because a business is prepared to give someone a chance - often someone they have never met before and know very little about.The law has worked well for employers, as you would expect. Where's the downside in being able to fire someone at will? As for the employees, Key hasn't actually talked to any of them.
So an important role for the government is to give businesses of all sizes the confidence to do these things - to seek out new opportunities to invest and take on new workers.
Shortly after the 2008 election we introduced a 90-day trial period for businesses with fewer than 20 employees - as we said we would do.
We introduced that trial period to encourage employers to take on new staff, and to expand job opportunities for people who often struggle to get work.
We wanted those people to back themselves - to say "give me a go and I will prove I can do the job".
That law change has worked extremely well.
We recently received an evaluation of the 90-day trial period from the Department of Labour.Just like Fox News is. It's not fair and balanced unless you ask employees how they view the law. The Department of Labour study Key keeps quoting didn't ask employees how the law affected them. Plus those probationary laws in other countries give workers more rights - they can't just be summarily dismissed for no reason.
It found that half of employers had used a trial period when hiring workers.
And in relation to the last employee they hired on a trial period, 40 per cent of employers said they would not have, or were unlikely to have, hired that person without the trial period.
The evaluation suggests employers viewed dismissals during the trial period as an unfavourable outcome, and actively tried to avoid them.
Take this quote from an employer who used the trial period:
"I think this new 90-day trial period for a small business such as my own is a brilliant idea, and it gives me the confidence to be able to take someone on like I've done and know that if they don't work out we can do something about it, whereas before you were stuck..."
In general, employers have acted responsibly, and workers have been treated fairly.
So I want to announce today that the Government is going to extend the 90-day trial period to cover all employers.
That's all employers, not just those which are small or medium sized.
As with the existing law, the 90 day trial period can only be entered into by a written agreement between the employer and the new worker at the beginning of the employment relationship.
This is a policy of opportunity. It is about giving people the chance to find a job, and nothing is more important than that.
We are giving many more businesses the increased confidence to hire new employees, and giving many more people a chance to prove themselves in the job market.
It's worth noting that many other developed countries we compare ourselves with have similar policies. A number of countries have employment rules that go even further.
For example, in the United Kingdom, no employee - whether or not they have agreed to a probationary period - can normally make a complaint of unfair dismissal until they have completed 12 months continuous employment.
Similarly in Australia, employees must have served a minimum employment period of 12 months if they are employed in a business with fewer than 15 employees, or six months in any other business, before they can make an unfair dismissal claim.
So I consider that the 90-day trial period we are introducing is very fair and balanced.
But there are arguments both for and against the 90 day trial, as I mentioned in my post yesterday.
But that's not all.Does that mean some of these measures are too draconian for the other support parties? That says a lot. These measures have Act's imprint all over them.
Extending trial periods is just one part of a package of amendments to New Zealand's labour laws that the Government is releasing today.
The key elements of these changes were signalled in National's election manifesto.
They are now going to come into effect.
In advancing this package, I would especially like to acknowledge the involvement and assistance of the Act Party, who will be working with us to ensure the passage of legislation through Parliament.
The package contains pragmatic solutions to real issues facing real businesses and employees.How I laughed when I read that. These changes are almost completely ideologically driven.
I have often said that I am interested in what works, not ideological changes for the sake of them.
That applies in the area of labour relations as much as it does anywhere else.
National campaigned at the last election with an express commitment to improve labour laws in this country with targeted changes, rather than a radical revolution.
That is precisely what we are doing.
Another area of change will be the personal grievance system.
We are committed to maintaining a fair and equitable system that protects the rights of New Zealand workers.
But there are currently a number of problems with personal grievances.
So we are going to make a number of changes to more speedily resolve employment problems, discourage poor practices, reduce costs, and improve confidence in the system.
For example, we will give the Employment Relations Authority the ability to filter out vexatious or frivolous claims at an early stage.
We will also introduce penalties for delaying behaviour at the Authority, and ensure that an employer's processes are not the subject of pedantic scrutiny.
We are going to make some other changes to improve the way the Employment Relations Authority works, including moving to a more judicial mode of operation, with the right to cross-examine witnesses.
We will be protecting reasonable union access to the work place, although prior consent of an employer will be required.
That consent cannot be unreasonably withheld.
However, this change will make access to worksites consistent for everyone, enabling visits to occur at times when they will not compromise things such as workplace safety.
Another change is around employers talking to staff.
Currently, many employers feel they cannot communicate directly with their workers during collective negotiations.
So we are going to amend the law to make it clear that employers can communicate directly with their staff while bargaining is underway, including talking to them about the terms of any settlement offer.
There will also be changes to the Holidays Act.
The issue of "relevant daily pay" has proved to be the most difficult and frustrating part of the Act.
We are going to fix this issue by introducing a new calculation known as "average daily pay" for workers with variable hours and pay.
This will be based on an average of their pay over the last year.
This will fix a festering issue that has proved difficult for both workers and businesses over the past seven years.
National's election manifesto also proposed a change to the Holidays Act to allow workers to "cash-in" their fourth week of leave.
That is part of the package we are announcing today.
Workers will be allowed to request a trade of up to one week of their annual holiday entitlement for cash.
Strict conditions will apply. Cashing-in leave entitlements can only be at the employee's request and cannot be raised in salary negotiations.
In particular, we do not want to see a situation where employers can pressure workers into taking this option.
Altogether, this is a package of changes that I believe is pragmatic, credible and effective.
These changes will provide more clarity. They will reduce delays in the system and resolve problems earlier, meaning that both employers and employees can have more confidence in the system.
This package is one more step on the road to a more productive economy and increased employment.
This package is about increasing opportunities for employment.I examined some of these measures yesterday, so there's no need to go over them again. I concluded that most of the reforms are not designed with employee welfare in mind.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the National Party is firmly focused on looking forward.In other words, when's the next poll due?
We are focused on securing that brighter future that New Zealanders so resoundingly chose when they cast their votes in the 2008 election.I really am getting tired of that "brighter future" phrase. The only brighter future I see is that god-awful canary yellow jacket Rodney Hide wears. And that's a bright future that frightens me.
You have today heard of the actions that our government is taking to put New Zealand on the path to that brighter future.
New Zealand needs strong leadership if it is to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead.Where is this strong leadership?
New Zealand needs responsible management of the country's finances, so that debt can be kept under control and a strong foundation can be built for the future.Responsible to a point. But tax cuts are more important still.
And the National Party is the right party to deliver that leadership.Blah blah blah. Key here uses the "rule of three", a standard rhetorical device. But it's hardly stirring oratory, is it?
We will back New Zealanders to be the best they can be.
We will make sure Kiwis have the opportunity to reach their personal goals and dreams.
And we will do it by governing in a pragmatic and balanced way.
We will be guided by the values and principles that have underpinned this great Party for so many decades.Which decades are we talking about here? The brutal strike-busting anti-union values of the fifties, the irresponsible Muldoonist interventionism of the 1970s that so royally screwed us for decades, or the hard-right policies of the '90s that continue to impact on those at the bottom of the heap?
Because we believe in a future where we celebrate achievement.Especially if I can get my photo taken alongside the All Blacks.
Where we reward effort.Only some effort. Wealthy and need a tax cut? We can help!
Where the economy is strong and our communities are safe.We all want these things. Hey, I want a pay rise, and a new car too!
Where education standards are high.
Where our young people choose to live in this country because it offers all the opportunities they need and want.What has National done to encourage people to stay in this country and not skip to Australia? I can't think of anything that would make a bit of difference to most young people deciding whether to stay or go.
My fellow Party members.
In a year's time we will once again be gearing up to fight an election.That is true.
We will be in great shape for that battle.
We will have a team we can be proud of, a record we can campaign on, and forward looking policies that will take New Zealand the next step towards a brighter future.Underwhelming. Or am I just being churlish? But then I'm hardly the target audience.
Thank you very much.
This is why I could never be one of the Party Faithful. Imagine having to sit through that and keep your eyes open.
There's no vision or big picture in Key's speech.to inspire the masses. Just constant talk of a "brighter future", a meaningless phrase that will get nobody excited. Key will stay popular because he's not prepared to do anything too controversial. When anything he proposes gets a negative reaction he's usually quick to back down.
Key's mediocre speech proves that he's got no grand plan to get us out of the economic slump we're in. So all his talk of strong leadership is hot air.