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No Second Class Citizens

Posted on 28 Jun 2009

John Boscawen - Speech to ACT Wellington Regional Conference

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is just over seven months since I was elected an ACT MP. From the moment I arrived in Parliament I was constantly aware of the privileges of an MP and the privilege to represent you, as we try to create a more prosperous society.

To those of you who helped with our ACT Campaign and helped elect me as an ACT MP, I say thank you.

Over the past seven months I have tried to speak out on behalf of those who have recently lost all or some of their life's savings in finance companies or related investments. My call for an inquiry looks like it may bear fruit.

I have commenced research of the cost and availability of cataract surgery. A basic procedure that restores full sight to the elderly, and a procedure championed in third world countries by the Fred Hollows Foundation at a tiny fraction of what New Zealanders are required to pay as a result of licensing of Ophthalmologists.

In April I was privileged to travel to Vietnam and Japan on the Speaker's Tour with Hon Lockwood Smith and had the opportunity to discuss cataract surgery with the Japanese Department of Health. Incidentally cataract surgery is cheaper and far more readily available then in New Zealand.

In May and June, I took parliamentary time off to stand in the Mt Albert By-election and to present ACT's policies to the people of Mt Albert and the wider electorate.

I return to Parliament at a time when my private Member's Bill to amend the so called Act-Smacking legislation and based on Chester Borrows amendment could not be more topical.

I joined ACT in 1995 and have been involved in all of our election campaigns ever since - either as a candidate, campaign manager, fundraiser or Board member.

Ironically I first stood for Parliament in 1996 - in the first MMP election - and in Epsom, the site our leader now holds.

My role then was to encourage voters to give their electoral vote to sitting MP Christine Fletcher, and their Party vote to ACT. We achieved just short of 8000 Party votes, or 21 percent. Little did I realise that I was to be an MP 12 years later.

I know wish to devote the remainder of my speech to why I was initially attracted to join ACT, and why I am still here today, as the reasons are substantially similar.

Firstly, back in 1995, my attention was caught by the fact that ACT was founded by Hon Sir Roger Douglas - a man who has shown such courage, vision and determination in reforming the New Zealand economy during the 1980s. The man whose reforms are largely unscathed today, despite the most recent nine years under a Labour/Clark Government.

Secondly, ACT set out policy program in a book: ‘Common Sense For Change'. This laid out a unique set of policies in Superannuation, Health, and Education that represented a totally different way of approaching social issues in New Zealand. I could see in 1995 that if those ACT policies were implemented, we had a real chance at substantially raising the living standards of all New Zealanders. We could address the real underlying issues of poverty. We could give all New Zealanders the choice to participate and to feel that they genuinely shared in the riches that this country has to offer.

Fast forward now to the present - just under two weeks ago caucus gathered at its regular weekly meeting. Sir Roger Douglas distributed the draft of a speech he was considering giving later that week. From our Leader down, we were all impressed. I could see immediately that it drew upon the policy principles first laid out in ‘Common Sense For Change' in 1995.

Roger gave that speech, entitled ‘Two Classes of Citizenship, nine days ago in Rotorua. He received a great response and in subsequent days, it has been widely distributed via the internet.

Roger I know wishes that he could be here today, but in his absence he requested that I give his speech to you as this speech addresses ACT's core beliefs and highlights the reason ACT was created.

Many think that ACT is a Party for big business. It is a real tragedy that ACT suffers from the stereotype. It is a tragedy because the profile is so out of whack with the reality.

The reality is that we do have 2 classes of citizens - we need to look at the facts.

For almost 80 years, New Zealanders have experimented with the welfare state. What have the consequences been?

Do all children receive decent education? No

Do most people retire with enough money to live in comfort? No

Does everyone receive health treatment when they need it? No

Have we eradicated poverty? No

On the very goals that welfare state has sought to achieve, no one could genuinely argue that it has succeeded. Even the modern day proponents of the welfare state, be they in National, the Greens, or Labour, all know it has failed.

But they think they have the solution. They think the solution is more money. I have never heard a Politician from those Parties come across a problem that they believe could not be solved with just more money.

That is why, regardless of who has been in power, the budgets for welfare, education, health have all shown an almost inexorable growth.

Two Classes of Citizenship

New Zealand has two classes of citizens. We have two classes not because the Government isn't doing enough for the poor, but because what the Government does for the poor denies them choices, destroys the incentives they have to get ahead, and subjects them to political abuse.

In New Zealand, we have the haves and have nots.

The haves are the people who do not live from payday to payday, but earn enough to set some aside - to save, or buy healthcare when they need it, or buy education for their kids. The have nots are those who scrape by, and rely on the state for all their social services.

In New Zealand, we have the privileged and the unprivileged.

The privileged are those who get others to pay for their whims and fancies. The unprivileged are those who face the vicissitudes of the market economy, while being taxed to pay, for example, for the tertiary education of the affluent.

In New Zealand, we have the fortunate and the unfortunate.

The fortunate are those born in a school zone that happens to have a good school. The unfortunate are those born in an area with a poor local school. Zoning locks them in, and if they want to escape, they need to pay twice. They either need to move house, or they need to go private. Only the wealthy can afford to do that.

We have those who receive handouts, and those who pay for the handouts.

And the tragedy is that handouts are often not delivered to the ones who need them. Working for Families delivers money to many who are comparatively well off. Government subsidies for business force relatively poorer taxpayers to pay for those lucky enough to get a Government grant.

In fact, every party in Government claims to share essentially the same goals when it comes to welfare. National, Labour and the Greens are all wedded to the current system. Only ACT has an alternative to the failing status quo.

The problem with the status quo is that it's all about power. Politicians control who gets an operation, where kids get educated, and how much superannuation you receive.

I can share the goal of equal opportunity for all, and have a different way of achieving it.

There are few things we have got as backward as we have with the way we try to help Maori.

There is no doubt that Maori suffer disproportionately from poverty. But if we continue to encourage Maori to look to the past, we will continue to create the system that locks them into poverty. Only if we are willing to look forward and devolve control of the money to individuals, will we deliver solutions to the problems they face.

We have become a nation rife with bureaucracy, recklessly determined to re-use the ideas that have failed to solve poverty for over 80 years.

But if we always do what we've always done then we'll always get what we've always got. What 80 years of political control has achieved is a larger welfare budget, more people on welfare, and barriers for those at the bottom to actually get ahead.

Health

54 percent of your and everyone else's personal tax goes towards healthcare. The growth is scary, when just two years ago the figure was 41 percent of your personal tax.

Saying 54 percent can hide what this means. If you earn minimum wage, you will pay about $2500 every year for healthcare. If you earn the average wage, you will pay over $6,000 for healthcare.

People say we have a free healthcare system. But in reality healthcare has never been so expensive.

Healthcare is not free. It costs you.

You'd hope that when healthcare costs the average person $6,000 per year that it would actually deliver.

But it doesn't. Despite the enormous cost, we ration healthcare. People who are sick get placed on waiting list. On that waiting list people get worse, not better. Some die.

The suffering that takes place on health waiting lists is rationalised away, as if the goal of equality justifies denying healthcare to people who desperately need it.

If the health system treated every one like this, then at least it would treat s all equally. But the most pernicious effect of socialised medicine is how it creates second class citizens.

The first way it does this is through a bizarre mixture of subsidies. Some medicines are fully subsidised, some are partially subsidised, and others are not subsidised at all. Decisions over what medicines you can take are actually determined not by the patient, not by the doctor, but by a bureaucrat in Wellington.

The second way it creates second class citizens is through the way pressure can be applied to get treatments performed. Doctors, patients, politicians, can all pressure the system to get certain operations at the expense of others.

If you can get your story on Campbell Live you can be sure that you'll get treatment.

But your treatment will come at the expense of somebody else and because the affluent tend to be more politically connected, the more influential, and more organised, treatments for rich come at the expense of the poor.

The third way it creates second class citizens is the fact that wealthy people can afford to pay twice. They can afford to pay tax for healthcare, and then buy insurance on top.

The very people who are denied this opportunity are the very people that universal healthcare was meant to help. While the poor die on waiting lists, the rich pop down to the private hospital. No one would seriously contend that the system treats people equally.

But the supposed solution to the problem is the same kind of lies we hear from all the other parties in Parliament. All the problems could be solved of only there was more money.

When will we wake up to this lie?

Under Labour, health spending increased in real terms by 50 percent. Yet we still have waiting lists. We still have a system that creates second class citizens.

Despite the huge increases in resources at their disposal, the productivity of doctors actually reduced by 15 percent. Nurse productivity dropped 11 percent.

If we simply gave the person on the average wage their $6,000 back that they currently pay, this would enable them to buy catastrophic health insurance, put money aside for their healthcare in retirement, and pay for their day to day healthcare needs such as doctors visits.

Superannuation

Superannuation today locks you into poverty in your retirement. These low levels of superannuation occur despite the high costs to taxpayers.

Superannuation costs you one third of your personal tax. If you earn the average wage, that is $4,000 per year.

Superannuation is not free. It costs you.

But, of course, our super scheme is designed so that people pay for the retirement of their parents. If we simply adjusted the system so that money went to pay for your own retirement, most would have a cushy retirement.

If that money was invested in the bank - earning seven percent nominal interest (five percent real) - then the average worker would retire with $1,804,300 in the bank.

It would be like you won lotto and then retired.

Education

Apparently we have a free education system. But it is not free.

GST receipts cover the cost of education. In other words, 12.5 percent of everything that you and every one else buys only just covers the cost of education.

Most people know ACT's education policy. We call it school vouchers, or tax credits that effectively ensure education money follows the child.

The problem with our education system is lack of choice. But there is one small group who have choice in New Zealand.

The very people who have choice are the wealthy. They're the people who can move house for the school zone, or pay twice to privately educate their child.

The very people who are ripped off are the poor. News reports recently indicated that police were now stationed in 10 South Auckland schools, and that this program is being expanded to the Bay of Plenty.

The real tragedy is that there will be kids in those schools whose parents desperately want them to escape, but they are not allowed. The Government won't let them.

The Government continues to force the least well off into the worst schools, and they have managed to convince them that they do it in the name of equality.

They express concern that 30 percent of kids leave school with poor educations, unable to read or write adequately. But when you look at schools in the poor areas, this percentage is much higher. They get the rawest deal.

When it comes to enabling people to improve their lot, education is one of the best ways they can do so. Yet the very people who need this opportunity the most are denied it by the Government.

But on the tertiary level, the current system creates second class citizens in an even more concerning way. At least, when it comes to most education, the rich are forced to pay twice for quality.

When it comes to tertiary education, the poor are forced to pay for the education of the wealthy. Most people receiving the costly tertiary education courses are those from middle and upper classes.

Those who leave school and get a job pay to educate those who leave school and get a degree. The poor subsidise the wealthy.

Then many of the wealthy use their human capital in jobs overseas, leaving others to pick up the bill for all the failing aspects of the welfare state.

25 percent of skilled workers have now fled the high taxes of New Zealand for better prospects off shore. We will not attract them back with larger welfare states and higher taxation.

Conclusion

When you look, not at the goals of the welfare state, but its actual performance, the results are depressing. In the past 80 years we have grown far wealthier then we once were. Yet today, there are more that receive welfare then ever before.

We have created a system that gives options to those who can afford them, while denying choices to those who most desperately need them.

We have created a system that taxes and regulates opportunities for the poor out of existence, and destines them to poverty.

We have created a system that creates two classes of citizens.

And at the very same time, the solutions put forth by the other parties in Parliament are just more of the same. More health spending, more education spending, higher taxes on the wealthy. Only the ACT Party stands against the philosophy that is creating two classes of citizens.

When will we wake up? On its own terms, the welfare state has failed.

Heather Roy's Diary

Posted on 27 Jun 2009

As CoOL As It Gets
This week the issue of Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) appeared in the media again with articles in both the 'Sunday Star-Times' and the 'Herald On Sunday' newspapers, as well as press releases from a number of different interest groups.

CoOL been an issue in New Zealand for some time, with an increasing interest by the public in knowing where their food comes from. Many countries have mandatory CoOL regimes - some applying only to imported foods, and some applying only to fresh and whole foods.

A number of other nations, however, have no regime and rely on fair trading practice regulation. New Zealand is one of these countries - although we do have mandatory CoOL requirements covering wine, clothing and footwear.

Some groups have been lobbying for mandatory labelling, while their opponents advocate either remaining with the status quo introducing a consistent CoOL scheme that is voluntary.

The policy of successive Governments has been that CoOL across all food types should be a voluntary practice for the food industry. When used by producers and retailers as a marketing tool, this practice is influenced by consumer demand.

The reasoning behind this is that the implementation of a mandatory CoOL scheme imposes labelling costs on producers and retailers, which is inevitably passed on to consumers. In 2005, the NZIER released a report detailing these additional costs for composite products - such as jams and pickles, which have not only the whole food component but contain other ingredients like sugars.

That report found that a move to compulsory CoOL would create large costs for food companies - an estimated $91 million over 10 years.

A further consideration is that of trade: food is very important to our economy. As a significant food exporter, New Zealand requires as much flexibility as possible in marketing our food both domestically and in export markets. We are also heavily reliant on imported ingredient foods for use in those foods that are processed. Compulsory CoOL could affect the viability of the New Zealand market for exporters - reducing the availability and increasing the price of ingredient foods.

Consumer choice includes the right not to have extra cost imposition as a result of other consumers' preferences. Mandatory country of origin labelling would impose an extra cost on all consumers by increasing the cost of food.

By comparison, voluntary CoOL - in response to consumer interest - allows for considerations to be based on demand for such an initiative.

It is for this reason that the National-led Government is looking favourably on voluntary - rather than mandatory - CoOL.

In my capacity as Minister of Consumer Affairs, voluntary CoOL is an area I have identified for examination during this Parliamentary term, and which the National Party has indicated an interest in progressing. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs is the Government agency responsible for the labelling of food.

I am now leading a process to develop co-ordinated information that retailers and manufacturers can use to display on single-ingredient foods - such as fruit vegetables, meat and fish - and whole foods like nuts and flour. Point of sale information is the sensible place to start.

The work on this voluntary accord - which draws in the Ministers of Trade, Food Safety, Agriculture, and their departments - is already being progressed. Key amongst this work must be a robust cost-benefit analysis - some consumers are willing to pay extra for knowing where their food comes from; others, already struggling on limited budgets, cannot afford even small increases to their weekly food bills.

Producers and retailers will make their decisions based on demand for the initiative, competitive advantage of doing so, and any additional costs it might dictate.

Lest We Forget - Outbreak of the Korean War (June 25 1950)
Like other nations, New Zealand believed that North Korea's invasion of South Korea was undertaken at the instigation of the Soviet Union.

The belief of the day was that firm resistance to the spread of communism was necessary and New Zealand was involved in Korea in a military capacity from 1950-57 - first as part of the UN 'police action' to repel the North Korean invasion of South Korea and, then, in a garrison role after the July 1953 armistice.

In total, around 6,000 men served with 'K Force' - the New Zealand deployment to Korea. This included 1,300 sailors on board the Royal New Zealand Navy's Loch-Class frigates, and their legacy lives on in the names and pennant numbers of the recently-commissioned inshore patrol vessel fleet.

Forty-five Kiwis lost their lives during our seven-year commitment to Korea. One member of K Force was taken prisoner, held in northern North Korea for 18 months and repatriated after the armistice - as was a New Zealander who had been shot down near the North Korean capital Pyongyang while serving with the RAAF.

While New Zealand's contribution to the UN force wasn't large, the war impacted significantly on our approach to international relations. The events in Korea gave New Zealand a chance to pursue a security commitment from the US - resulting in the ANZUS Treaty of 1951, which was to have long-term implications for New Zealand's foreign policy.

It should also be noted that, once it was clear the conflict would remain isolated to Korea, New Zealanders paid little attention and there were occasional complaints that K Force was a 'Forgotten Force'. It was not then, and is not forgotten now.

ENDS

Public Consultation For Defence Review 2009

Posted on 26 Jun 2009

Hon Heather Roy speech for the launch of Defence Review 2009 Public Consultation; Te Papa, Cable Street, Wellington; Friday, June 26 2009.

Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to reinforce Hon Dr Wayne Mapp's introductory comments about Defence Review 09. We have both noted often that the primary role of any government is protecting its citizens, and the release of the defence Review 09 Terms of reference on April 21 reflected the importance of that challenge.

The history of this nation is tightly woven with its armed forces. All Kiwis have some connection - past or present - through families, friends and neighbours. The state of our three services reflects, not just practical requirements but also, the respect we hold for the sacrifices of our forebears. That's why it is especially appropriate that the launch of the public consultation phase of the review today is set amidst the backdrop of Te Papa.

I am well aware that there are many differing views on how New Zealand's defence should be conducted. I'm pleased to have specific responsibility for ensuring that those views are heard and the public consultation documents you see laid out here are one of the many methods that enable every New Zealander to have their say as part of the review process.

Submission forms can be found inside this document, which is available from public libraries and RSA clubrooms. There is also the ability to make an online submission through the Ministry of Defence website at www.defence.govt.nz. Dedicated phone lines and email addresses offer further choice for submitters, and a series of public meetings will be held around the country later this year.

An undertaking of this scale cannot be achieved without the efforts of many, and I would like to acknowledge the staff members at the Ministry of defence and Headquarters New Zealand Defence Force who have brought this impressive set of media together.

I also acknowledge the Royal New Zealand RSA, represented here today by National President Air Vice marshal (retired) Robin Klitscher and other senior members.

The presence of Neal Garnett and other members of the Defence Industry Committee of New Zealand represents one of three companion studies covering Defence Industry, Youth Programmes and Voluntary National Service. The views of the public on these issues is also welcome.

At this point, would Robin Klitscher and Gina Manning - representing the past, present and future links of New Zealand society with its armed forces - please come forward to receive the first two copies of the public consultation documentation for Review 09.

ENDS

Anti-Smacking Legislation Counterproductive And An Insult To Tino-Rangatiratanga

Posted on 26 Jun 2009

Peter Tashkoff, Spokesperson For Maori issues

Anti-smacking legislation is not simply useless, but is in fact making the problem worse. What’s more it is an insult to Tino-Rangatiratanga of whanau, ACT New Zealand Maori Issues Spokesperson Peter Tashkoff said today.

“This well meaning legislation is based on a false ideology that attacks the Tino-Rangatiratanga of families, and has had the opposite effect to what even its supporters intended,” Mr. Tashkoff said.

“Why do we have this legislation to begin with? It was sold to us as a way to stop kids being violently assaulted by their caregivers, but now we see that if anything, things have gotten worse. This is known as the law of unintended consequences; it’s what you get when you pass laws based on ideology. The supporters of the bill are now claiming that was never the intention, and that somehow the bill was just meant to make us all nicer people.

“It’s rubbish of course, all that the bill does is move one notch closer to a situation where the people have no power and the state has it all. If a child refuses to go to school the whanau are not allowed to lift a finger to make them, yet a complete stranger working for the state is allowed to use whatever force is needed to do so. In the same way, you can’t smack a child that refuses to obey, but try not paying your taxes and just watch what extent the state can go to in order to force your obedience. This is an insult to the dignity of families and an insult to Tino-Rangatiratanga. When as a country did we ever buy into the ridiculous notion that strangers care more about kids than their parents do?

“And look at the effect on whanau. Sure its fine if you have the regulation 2.4 kids, or your kids are very young, but look at the larger families, which is where Maori are at, and see what’s going on. I’ve heard reports of kids running riot the length and breadth of the country. This law, which was meant to make things better, has simply loaded more stress onto families and has led to more, not less, conflict in the home. Supporters of the law have tried to pass off this effect as being as a result of ‘higher reporting by the police to CYFs’ but that’s simply a rationalisation to excuse an effect that doesn’t agree with their ideology. Parents in these homes know that after the law was passed children became more challenging and more undisciplined, and that conflict and stress levels in the home rose, not fell. The law has made things worse not better.

“Irrespective of a small number of criminally minded people that carry out extreme violence whether to children or adults, there can be no question that the people that care most about kids are their own parents, not strangers paid by the state.

“That’s some of the reasons why the ACT party stands for the repeal of this anti-smacking legislation, and that’s why I do too,” said Mr Tashkoff

Ministers Launch Defence Review 09 Document

Posted on 26 Jun 2009

Minister of Defence Hon Dr Wayne Mapp and Associate Minister of Defence Hon Heather Roy today officially launched the public consultation document of the National-led Government's Defence review 2009.

"This Government must make important decisions on Defence - decisions which will form our path for decades," Dr Mapp said.

"The role that the Defence Force plays in securing our environment and our people must be understood and properly defined, and the Defence Force given the right tools to do that job.

"Such decisions cannot be made without proper consultation and planning. The consultation document which we are launching today is intended to stimulate debate and consideration of New Zealand's defence and security issues.

"All New Zealanders have a stake in these issues. We need the views of every sector of society to produce an enduring plan for Defence," Dr Mapp said.

"ACT and National campaigned in 2008 on the promise of a Defence Review within a year of taking office. Today's launch is a further affirmation of the Government's intent to honour its commitments," Mrs Roy said.

"Defence Review 2009 will look out as far as 2035. The New Zealand Defence Force belongs to all New Zealanders, all New Zealanders should have a say on the direction of the NZDF into the future.

"This public consultation document will assist in gaining the public's views. It will be available at libraries and schools, and from the Ministry of Defence website (www.defence.govt.nz). I encourage all New Zealanders to read the document and provide their feedback through the included submission form so that their views can be recorded and taken into account," Mrs Roy said.

ENDS

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