Speech: Brooke van Velden

Real Change Now, SkyCity Theatre, 4 June 2023

Thank you, thank you…

Can I just ask for a show of hands… How many people do we have from Auckland here today?

Anybody from Tamaki?  … My people!

And lastly… How many of you have come from further than, say, 100Kms away?

Wow – Well that is a big compliment… To us and to you.  Thank you – You are exactly the people we will depend on, if we are to deliver the change this country needs in October.

Well, if I sound a bit croaky or tired… I apologise.  I have come here straight from Taiwan -  A wonderful country that understands a thing or two about the importance of freedom.

And – no matter how big or small you may be – how important it is to stand up to bullies.

We travelled to Taiwan, because we wanted to see for ourselves how another small island democracy is making its way in the world. They fought COVID the smart way with less restrictions. They diversified their economy to become the leading manufacturer of silicon chips. They transitioned from dictatorship to democracy (some days I feel like that could be useful for us, too)

I especially went to stand beside those who share our values. Those who care about democracy, the rule of law, and freedom, because the flame of liberty is hard to light, and so easily extinguished.

What I got was a country that lives in the real world. They know the CCP are testing their air defences every day. They know an invasion could happen. But they don’t dwell on it. They’re not busy being victims. They’re busy building their lives, their homes, and their businesses against the odds, and their Government encourages that attitude.

Case in point, when COVID hit, Labour, New Zealand First and the Greens set up a website so you could dob in your neighbours for breaking the rules. Their Government set up a website so people could suggest new ideas for dealing with the pandemic, and the Government actually listened and did some of them!

That, in a nutshell, is the kind of leadership New Zealand could do with. Leaders who encourage, leaders who listen, leaders who act.

The bottom line is, our message to everyone here who cares about freedom… Accountability… and the rule-of-law…

We in ACT stand with you.

We will stand up for you.

And we will never be cowed by bureaucrats or bullies in telling the truth at the top tables of power, anywhere in the world.

Now, it is a long way from Taiwan to Tamaki, but in a funny way, ,many of people’s concerns are just the same in Taiwan and Tamaki, in Timaru and Twizel.

Each wants only the best for their kids. Each wants a place to call home. Each wants an interesting and well-paying job.

Whether you live in Taiwan or Tamaki, you are struggling right now with turbo-charged inflation… And you probably have serious questions about what those in authority are going to do, or not do, to make it better or worse.

Then again, there are some differences. I don’t think they don’t know what a ram raid is up there. I explained to them that in New Zealand, some kids don’t go to school, instead they steal cars and drive them through shop windows to steal things. Sometimes not to steal anything at all.

I explained that those kids face no meaningful consequences, but gave up. That was too hard to explain, and I was trying to build up our country’s reputation.

While they’ve moved towards democracy, more and more people here feel like their voice doesn’t count. It’s not fun being a minority, too many minorities find themselves on the wrong side of this divisive Government.

Here’s a good example of an oppressed minority who need a voice, net taxpayers. After five years of Labour, tax is up $40 billion a year since Labour got in, but it’s still not enough for Grant Robertson. They’ve borrowed more on top of that.  People are entitled to ask, where have all those billions gone?

How is it possible that the healthcare system was better before COVID came along?

How is it possible that fewer kids are in school…but more are attacking our shop owners?

Where’s the Accountability?

Where are the fresh new ideas to solve our communities’ problems?

Where is the hope for a generation that trusted in Chloë and Jacinda? Where is the hope for those who’ve had their hopes dashed, hopes that with enough kindness we’d fix mental health, and housing, and the environment.

All of it’s gone backwards. Mental health has never been worse, with general healthcare not far behind. Housing is less affordable than ever. They declared a climate emergency, but nobody thought to clear the drains, strengthen the river banks, and get us ready for an actual emergency.

It’s that practical approach and, dare I say it, an economics degree that would have helped them achieve their high ambitions for New Zealand.

An example is the legislation I’ve presented that would share half the GST on construction with the local council. 

So, when a new apartment block goes up, yes people can make their homes here…. But a much larger chunk of the tax collected by Wellington should come back to make sure our infrastructure can cope.  And yes, so that local people can swim in the sea without fear of floaties… after a rainstorm. 

Wouldn’t that be a change for the better?

I’ve presented fresh alternatives to the three-three-storey mess that Labour and National rushed through. Traditional Auckland design standards should apply, and councils should be allowed to veto intensification where the pipes are broken. 

A stronger local voice would be a change for the better, from Tamaki to Takanini.

But young professionals concerns have shifted, or at least there are new ones. I wouldn’t walk downtown in Auckland or Wellington after dark. I’m a citizen of this country and I have every right to, but I’m also not stupid. I know people who catch ubers short distances to their car because they’re afraid.

Wherever I go, I have heard just how tired local police are of catch and release.

It’s not a fun game, especially if you’re a hard-working business owner that suffers the consequences of hard crime to your livelihood, life, and limb.

That is why our party has presented an escalating series of consequences for youth offenders…  From instant practical penalties where they get put to work straight away, to ankle bracelets, to secure facilities. 

Real accountability for the criminals who make locals’ lives a misery would be a real change for the better.

So friends, let’s make the change happen… Together.

To me – and I believe, many of you I believe -  These ideas come quite naturally...

Cause and effect thinking… reward and consequences… Free enterprise, and careful economic management.

Personal freedom to be who you want to be… and say what you believe without being cancelled or judged. 

After all, the best antidote to bad ideas isn’t censorship or cancellation… It is better ideas.

Those are the values I learned from my parents who are small business owners. They’re the values I learned on the factory floor in my first job.

And they are the values that helped me to buy my first home in my 20s… No, not with help from the bank of Mum and Dad… But from the school of hard work, and the academy of a bit of sacrifice.

It CAN be done!

Like many in my generation - and please don’t walk out in horror - I voted Green at university.

After all… which genuine Kiwi doesn’t care for the environment?

Who doesn’t want clean streets, clean beaches, and a secure future for those who come after us?

But as so many of my friends and contemporaries ask… Why exactly is cancel culture… identity politics… state control and bullying a mandatory part of the bargain?

And why – after decades of promises and targets from successive governments containing red, blue and green…are we no better off? Why is it the only thing we’ve gained are more crows feet?

Speaking of ageing, many of my friends hope to become parents. They’re not, though. They’re finding the housing market is the best contraceptive around, although it’s even more expensive than even Labour make out in their gutter politics.

People who want to do the right thing, to bring up kids in a safe, warm environment, are finding it harder and harder every year.

I know my friends will get there, like me they’re knuckling down, waiting, saving, and sacrificing.  Then it’s time to think about education.

And, when they see an Education Minister become Prime Minister, despite an attendance rate in our schools of just 47%... They quite rightly ask, ‘what on Earth is going on?’

In our neighbouring countries, they get worried if attendance dips below 80%.

Is an ideological war on charter schools… Quite possibility the best ladder of opportunity we have for talented but disadvantaged kids – of ANY ethnicity – really the answer?

But perhaps, this is what we should expect from the man who, as Police Minister, presided over sky-rocketing crime rates.  And who never asked the simple question… Whether making street gangs partners with our Police Force is a good idea?

And who, as Health Minister, presided over the tightest lockdown rules on Earth… Preventing thousands of us from saying goodbye to our loved ones… but which still failed to keep the virus out.

We will be paying the price for his botched ordering of the vaccines… And the ludicrous, byzantine PSR testing regime… for years.

And believe me, it will be those struggling, the poorest who pay the highest price.

So much for kindness.

So, I ask you…  Doesn’t our country deserve much… Much better than this?

My passion while studying, was economics. I am currently Parliament’s only trained economist.

Actually, now that I think of it… that might explain a few things.

In China and India… Over the last two decades of the last century, billions lifted themselves from poverty through free trade and free enterprise…

I saw what my parents did in their businesses through fresh eyes.  Let us say it openly and without fear - Business and commerce are not evils… Properly channeled, they are forces for good.  They bring out our best and our boldest.

We are not about ideology… We are about ideas. 

And that is why ACT is the fastest-growing political movement in the country.

We are the party of political entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur is not a sinister word, the way some people shade it… Entrepreneurship means problem solving… every, single day.  I grew up with it in my family… And I see it everywhere as I pound the streets and sidewalks of Tamaki… 

And we need more of those people in our politics… Not fewer.

So, that is why I came to the snake-pit of Wellington…  Firstly, to help businesses fight for the freedom to solve their customers’ problems.

I got to see how Wellington worked. 

Then David Seymour asked me to come to Parliament and help get End of Life Choice done.

Now, you may not agree with it, and that’s OK... We are ALL grown-ups here.  It’s about choice.

But I’m proud that, every year, hundreds of New Zealanders facing some of the most unimaginable suffering now have the dignity… and pride… and choice about how they go and when they go.

That is an example of the kind of change for the better… that transcends the old ‘Red vs Blue’ divide.  It showed us what one, young, talented MP can get done alone. 

Now, just imagine what we could do with fifteen or twenty of them!

Make no mistake… ACT WILL be the coming force in the next Parliament.  Everybody knows it.

So if, like me, you believe in Sensible Spending and value-for-your-taxes…

Getting money where it’s needed, and not on ludicrous vanity projects and PR exercises…

If you want to see real accountability for whoever is in Government…

And real action on the issues that matter to YOU…

Then, we are not just asking for your vote.  But your ideas and insights too.  This isn’t ‘my’ campaign, it’s OURS. 

So together, let’s deliver a real change to how we govern our beautiful country.

Thank you.

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