Thank you for hosting my colleague Mark Cameron and I here in Southland. We call Mark the authentic voice of rural New Zealand. He’s the only working farmer in Parliament. He milks cows in the morning and questions the Government in the afternoon.
Speaking of primary industries, you can measure a politician’s commitment to the south by whether they come here outside oyster season. I always seem to time it wrong.
I’m especially grateful to be hosted by the business community. Too many people have somehow made business a dirty word. The word ‘entrepreneur’ is often said with a sinister overtone. We need to change that.
Let me give you an example of how anti-business attitude breeds. Labour MP Duncan Webb is a law professor who never left university until he entered parliament. Institutionalised, some might say. He has a Bill in parliament that would force businesses to measure and report ‘social’ goals every year.
In his world, business is bad, but more bureaucracy can make it good. Here’s ACT’s view.
Business happens when entrepreneurs, investors, workers, and customers come together to achieve things they couldn’t do by themselves. The beautiful thing about business is that they come together voluntarily.
Nobody’s forced to start, invest, work at, or buy from any business. People get involved in business to trade value for value, and get stronger together. Win-win is possible through the power of innovation.
We should celebrate business as a beautiful thing, but can you imagine the current Ministry of Education putting any of that in the curriculum?
They’re not the only Government department that need a shake up, but they’re probably the first.
My speech today is about the current Government’s odd ability to centralise everything and divide everyone at the same time. They do it by politicising nearly every aspect of our lives. You pick an area of Government policy, and I’ll show you politicians shifting power to Wellington, dividing people, and dividing wealth.
In the initial COVID response, Jacinda stumbled into success. It was very lucky that we were the 63rd country to get a case, because we almost missed the boat even then.
On March 15, 2020 Jacinda was planning to bring people from all over the world to commemorate our nation’s tragedy in Christchurch. She was planning to attend Polyfest with people travelling from all over the Pacific.
Six days later, on March 21, we had the Alert Level System announced. By March 23 the whole country was at Alert Level 3. And you wonder why people say a week’s a long time in politics.
At that time the rhetoric from the beehive was about ‘flattening the curve.’ A few weeks into lockdown, it became clear that we might eradicate COVID from New Zealand completely.
Sealing New Zealand off from the world was the easy bit. Reconnecting is the hard part. We still haven’t done it after 18-months. It looks like we’ll do two years in national isolation.
As ACT has said in our three COVID policy papers, we need a much nimbler policy response. We need to set clear rules of the game, but the Government centralises everything.
Take the vaccine stroll out. Every year, GPs vaccinate hundreds of thousands of people for many different diseases. They know all about vaccination. They also have records of their patients’ health, so they know who is vulnerable. You can make a similar argument about pharmacies.
Any sensible person would ask them to lead a vaccination program. The Ministry of Health did not ask them. In fact, GPs as late as September were waiting for the Ministry of Health to sign them off as being capable of vaccinating people!
The way the rules are made is overly centralised, too. It makes no sense to have a limit of 50 or 100 people on a hospitality business. Large venues can’t cover their rent, small venues pack people in.
Perhaps the point was to prevent large crowds? Why then, can a butchery in a supermarket open, but not the butcher next to my local dairy, which can open, by the way. What matters is not whether a business can operate safely, but whether it has followed the rules set in Wellington.
The Government should have set the goal of reducing transmission, hospitalisation, and ultimately death from COVID. It should have let each business sector work out protocols for doing so.
We remain locked down in part because the Government is incapable of trusting anyone outside Wellington to do anything.
We could go into the centralisation of healthcare with 20 DHBs being replaced by one healthcare agency that knows all. Suffice to say, if it wasn’t a bad idea before we saw them roll out the COVID response, it clearly is now.
This kind of problem will be familiar to people in Southland.
The Freshwater laws effectively say you must plant your winter crops before it’s warm enough for them to survive. Sitting in Wellington, it might seem like a fine idea to make sure all winter crops are planted before December 1, but farmers know that’s nuts. The difference is farmers have local knowledge.
Mark Cameron put up a Bill in Parliament that would ban the Government from making National Policy Standards, leaving it to local Government. Labour block voted against Mark’s Bill, so they are free to continue ignoring local knowledge.
Six months ago, freshwater laws were the big kahuna of water policy centralisation. Not anymore, there’s a new water power grab in town. The Three Waters power grab defies belief.
Yes, there is a problem with Three Waters. There’s a problem with infrastructure nationwide. That doesn’t mean the answer is to centralise control of it.
The new water entities will be unwieldy, unresponsive, and distant for most people. The Government has tried to say they are five times more efficient. They told the people of Whangarei that they’d pay $4000 per household for water if the council kept running it, but only $800 if the Government runs the same infrastructure.
I asked Nania Mahuta if she could name any other example of something becoming five times more efficient by letting the Government run it, I think it’s fair to say she didn’t have an answer.
Then there’s the undemocratic Governance, where you get seats at the table based on who your ancestors were. Kate Shephard is on the $10 note for the simple idea of one person, one vote. New Zealand’s Government, academics, media, and even judiciary have dumped that idea too easily.
I know Southland Institute of Technology is an innovative gem of the South. Unfortunately, not every polytech was so well run. It’s fair to say many of them were useless. In the real world, businesses go broke, more useful ones take their place, and everyone gets better off over time.
In Labourland, all the polytechs got merged so the failure could be shared around. You just have to ask yourself, why would creative hard-working people stick around in an environment where your efforts make no difference. If you do a good job, the Government will take you over. If you do a bad job, the Government will take you over.
Your current local MP here got so desperate in the face of this bureaucratic barbarianism that she fled to Parliament.
Centralised education doesn’t stop with polytechs. Remember when the Government wanted to take the power of parent elected Boards of Trustees and establish new entities called Hubs? Well they backed down after public outcry but now they’re quietly centralising control of education anyway.
When this Government was elected, the Ministry of Education employed 2600 people. That is separate from people who work at schools. In fact, that’s more than one bureaucrat per school, there are only about 2500 schools in New Zealand.
Now there are 3500 bureaucrats. The Education Minister says they’re there to manage property. Who was managing school property for the first 150 years of education in New Zealand? In any event it is more centralisation. Not to mention these bureaucrats are imposing a history curriculum that says nothing about business or technology, whatsoever.
Then there’s the Resource Management Reforms. There are two kinds, the Govenrment’s kind, and the kind that National Party’s gone along for the ride on.
There’s the Government’s Natural and Built Environments Act. Under this act, the Minster for the Environment in Wellington could end up deciding what sort of houses are built in your street. There will be a regional planning committee, that refers disputes to the national planning committee, that refers to the Minister.
It is centralisation on steroids, but everyone is getting in on the act.
The National Party just signed itself up to a Labour Party idea that Wellington should decide what sort of houses can be built in practically every street.
Instead of locally decided council zones, the Government in Wellington will decide that three three storey homes can be built on any section. The Medium Density Residential Standard will be imposed on every residential area of the five largest cities and anywhere else the Minister chooses. It allows an eight-metre wall one metre from your boundary and you have no right to say anything about it.
Forget the fact that there’s a major infrastructure funding problem nationwide, now if you build three, three storey homes in the middle of a single-family home suburb, the Council must connect you.
The problem with all these policies is that they are divisive. They’re managing to centralise power but set people against people at the same time.
Every aspect of our lives is politicised as the Government tries dictates from Wellington.
Farmers feel under assault from an avalanche of regulation that the Government has unleashed on them.
Employers and set against employees as Government tries to put new costs on employers. They think they are helping employees but they forget that bother need the other. Remember, business is voluntary cooperation, but Labour doesn’t get that.
Landlords have basically been designated a terrorist group.
The Three Waters proposal turns us from a nation state, where citizens are born free and equal with the same political rights, to an Ethno State where you have to check your family tree to find out what your political rights are.
The only people the Government does want to work with locally are the gangs. Remember the days when the Government worked beside law abiding citizens to stop the gangs?
All of this is a real shame. We need policies that respect local knowledge.
Why did charter schools work? Because people in struggling communities often have more insight into why they’re struggling than people in the one-size-fits-all-and-paid-well-fortnightly-without-fail Wellington civil service.
If half the charter schools were presented as proposals to the Ministry of Education, they would have found a way to kill them before they opened. Luckily they did open and they worked.
We should let councils make planning decisions, then restrict the decisions they can make to protect property rights, instead of dictating from wellington what can be built in your street.
We should let councils enter into voluntary agreements with their neighbours if they really think there are benefits from economies of scale in managing three waters.
We should make employment law a matter between employers and employees.
We should allow schools to self-govern, and Polytechs, too.
We should look to primary healthcare to do vaccination roll outs.
Altogether, we should stop the politicisation of everything. Each New Zealander should be born free with an equal chance at life, not commodified into identities.
We should be uniting New Zealand behind good ideas to create wealth rather than dividing people and dividing wealth. The first step is to abandon this Government’s fetish for centralisation.