Speech: Enough Of Arrogance And Cover-Ups, The Ticking Time-Bomb Of Design And Construction Shortcuts

Speech Grey Power, Howick, Pakuranga & Districts,
 Friday,June 23,
10.30am

ENOUGH OF ARROGANCE AND COVER-UPS, THE TICKING TIME-BOMB OF DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION SHORTCUTS

This past week will come as a major disappointment to National Party supporters and older New Zealanders who have long memories of our politicians.

 

Older New Zealanders grew up in a more formal time when certain standards of behaviour were expected by those in authority. 

There was not a perfect time, nor was the behaviour of politicians perfect.

Yet there were standards.

The behaviour of National’s Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay in making secret recordings of a staff member. It was at best naïve and at worst illegal. In his youthful inexperience he ended up having to lie about it.

To lie about it made his actions even worse.

But more serious was the former Prime Minister and the present Prime Minister, members of the National Party board, all knowing that their MP was lying and all involved in a cover up using hush money from the Prime Minister’s office.

This is a most simple political scandal:

1.  An MP illegally recorded the communications of others; that was the first crime;

2. His superiors learned about it and arranged a confidentiality settlement where the breach of privacy crime was the critical element of that;

3. The police were involved in the complaint;

4. Mr Barclay and his superiors were then involved in an attempt to obstruct the course of justice. That is also a crime.

5. They used taxpayers’ money to do so.

6. This was not a normal industrial relations dispute. Anyone who thinks Mr English is off the hook has to be dreaming because there are a litany of texts and communications that Mr English will be called upon to answer.

This is a low point for even this National government.

It comes after a long trail of arrogant, over-bearing behaviour from National MPs that the New Zealand public are getting sick of, such as:

• The National Party-controlled Finance and Expenditure Committee shutting down an inquiry into the South Canterbury Finance $800 million blow out.

• Nicky Wagner insulting the disability community.

• Alfred Ngaro throwing verbal threats to the Salvation Army and media.

• Simon Bridges trying to stop KiwiRail replying to a legitimate Official Information Act request for information that was in the public interest.

• Shane Reti calling a campaigner and saying no more funding would be available if she didn’t shut up about dusty road problems.

• Jonathan Coleman telling critics of health funding they are a bunch of Lefties.

• Maggie Barry being abusive about critics of DOC underfunding. This long trail of over-bearing arrogance, hush money, and cover-ups is not the behaviour New Zealanders expect, or want, from their representatives in Parliament.

Maggie Barry

The just mentioned Maggie Barry is of course the Minister for Seniors. She has attempted, falsely, to portray herself as a friend. She has even expounded the virtues of the SuperGold Card which her own party has tried to undermine from the day it was first proposed. In the latest issue of Greypower magazine she had the temerity to state: “We have built the card into the great success it is and National remains absolutely committed to growing its value and usefulness.”

NZ First introduced card

Let’s get some facts clear here. It was New Zealand First who introduced the SuperGold Card to improve the quality of life of New Zealand’s seniors to acknowledge their contribution to our society, and make their Super go further. There was a lot of opposition especially from National. They thought it was too expensive. But we persevered and established a research team to design the SuperGold Card launched in August 2007. Since then the SuperGold Card has been an enormous success and has greatly improved the lives of tens of thousands of Seniors.

National opposed card

But don’t thank National for it. They would have booted the card out years ago –if they could. But they realised the card had been so successful, there would be too great a backlash from the voters, so they let it carry on.

They kept on sniping though. In 2010 Steven Joyce decided he wanted to chop free SuperGold Card transport on off-peak transport services. We took up the battle on behalf of our Seniors again. And we won.

Then National capped the transport component of the card.

Last year Maggie Barry said SuperGold Card holders in Auckland and elsewhere would have to buy new smartcards to get free travel on public transport in off-peak hours. This was right against what the SuperGold Card was all about.

It was designed to be totally free. But she had her way and tens of thousands of cardholders were inconvenienced and had to pay $10 to get new smartcards. Maggie Barry saying the National Party has built the card into the great success it is today “is blatantly false” and another example of arrogance.

Retirement capital of the South Pacific

Remember too it was National, the same party that carped over the SuperGold card, which rolled out the red carpet to retirees from around the world.

They put up a green light up there on North Cape and said “scrape together a few dollars and come on in.”

87,000 of them did – and who could blame them?

A good climate, great living conditions – oh, and free healthcare. They didn’t have to worry about having health insurance like they do in the United States. And what would they become eligible for once they gained residency after just 10 years? The SuperGold Card of course. The card that National balefully condones.

Affordable Healthcare Bill

New Zealand First tried to sort out this problem of old retirees coming from overseas and clogging up our health system without having to pay a cent. We introduced our Affordable Healthcare Bill.

We wanted a 25 per cent health insurance rebate for people aged over 65, a requirement that migrants have health insurance on arrival and maintain it for 10 years, as well as the removal of fringe benefit tax from health insurance to avoid penalising employers who provide insurance for staff. This bill would have taken the pressure off our health system.

National opposed the bill – so did the Greens, ACT and United Future – and it didn’t pass.

SuperGold Health Check Bill

Next in 2015 we wanted to introduce our SuperGold Health Check Bill before Parliament. The intention of the bill was to provide three free GP visits with the SuperGold Card each year.

Grey Power supported this bill. Unfortunately United Future, ACT and National did not. It lost by a single vote. Yet we have a Seniors Minister who says the government is making “excellent progress on seniors’ issues.” (Greypower magazine June 2017)

NZ Super

Which brings us to NZ Super. This is something National doesn’t like either. Because, like the SuperGold Card, they think it’s too expensive. Labour are all over the show with NZ Super too.

The last two elections, in 2011 and 2014, Labour said they wanted to bump the retirement age up to 67. This election Labour has done a somersault. They’re back to 65 for the retirement age.

Before the last election National said they wouldn’t touch NZ Super. Now they’ve flip flopped as well. They want the age up to 67 - by 2040. These are just the latest back flips these two parties have taken with NZ Super.

It’s a wonder they didn’t put their backs out years ago. In 1984 Labour promised no change to superannuation. A year later they imposed a surtax. In 1990 National promised to remove the surtax. But they didn’t.

They increased it to 92 cents. Labour announced they would lift the age of entitlement to 65 and National followed up, not over 20 years as they promised but over eight years.

In 1996 National promised to maintain NZ Super and then after breaking the coalition deal with NZ First in 1998, cut Super from 65 per cent of the net average wage to 60 percent.

NZ First post-2005 set Super at 66 per cent of the net average weekly wage and then brought in the Gold Card to make that 66 per cent go further. In 2008 National promised not to change superannuation settings.

First they stopped government contributions into the NZ Superannuation Fund, or Cullen Fund, And second, then started taxing the Fund. If National had kept contributing $2 billion a year to the Cullen Fund it would now be worth $50 billion, instead of $33 billion. Only one party has stood firmly behind NZ Super and has been unbending in its stand – New Zealand First.

Key to affordability

Ignore all the rubbish National and others spin about NZ Super being unaffordable. It is affordable. The secret to maintaining NZ Super’s affordability is increasing the size of our economic cake, restoring productivity, and controlling immigration.

This is achievable, but not with present and recent policies. We have unlimited economic potential. But we cannot sustain the large number of immigrants who are coming here.

With a stable population and increased productivity, the affordability of NZ Super will increase further and raise our living standards. Increasing the country’s economic productivity towards the top of the OECD would make a huge difference. New Zealand has huge untapped economic potential. Even with a highly conservative 2.5 per cent economic growth our GDP more than doubled by 2050. It’s as simple as that.

The ticking time bomb of substandard construction and political oversight

On page A29 of the NZ Herald today a managing director of an Auckland real estate firm has issued a warning which everyone of you must see and pass on. He’s talking about today’s new buildings of substandard design and construction and the low quality of the materials being used.

He says New Zealanders are in for a harsh wake up (within the next 10 to 15 years). When these buildings start to disintegrate, exposing non-compliant electrical wiring, shonky plumbing, cladding or roofing products and walls out of plumb.

The steel mesh in concrete foundation slabs and driveways won’t last. Nor will some of the steel beams and girders. He paints a nightmare scenario much worse than the rotten homes that started being built in NZ in the 1990s.

I urge you to get a copy of this article and then perhaps in a period of introspective consideration ask yourself personally whether you have any responsibility for allowing this to happen.

When you read an article like this, which is factual it tells you just how rotten politics at local and central government is. Pure rotten, and there are no other words for it. And the personal and familial tragedy that will rise from this will be dreadful to witness.

Of course the architect of all this was the Hon Maurice Williamson, the member for this electorate for many years. Ask Parliamentarians what their role is in this, and they’ll cough and splutter and look the other way, and try to move on to a new subject. But one politician you won’t be able to blame is me.

I said it was rotten back then, and forgive me, but I have kept on saying it.

Conclusion

We have considered issues that are relevant to seniors today. And it is clear that, in spite of all the talk from National and Maggie Barry, they are not a government working for the best interests of seniors.

But as all of you know, this coming election will be decided on other issues also. As seniors you have been around long enough to sort out what is going on. You can see through the spin. You can see the housing crisis and it’s not getting better but much worse.

You endure the clogged motorways and the stressed-out health system. You worry about your children and grandchildren and their futures - buying houses, getting jobs. You wonder if this country is going in the right direction.

And you see a government arrogant and condescending in its power. New Zealand First knows hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders, including committed National Party supporters, have been deeply disappointed by the government.

We urge you therefore, to ask yourselves these questions:

Is this government making New Zealand better?

Are they doing their best for all New Zealanders, not just some?

Only you can answer those questions. New Zealand First would urge you to think very carefully.

Yes, we have policies for seniors, because we are the seniors’ best friend. But we have strong policies also for all New Zealand that will get our country back on track.

We believe New Zealanders hold the key to the future of this country; not string pullers on some distant shore. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for a change.