Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Winston Peters urges voters to ‘take our country back’

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Winston Peters, left, arrives to address a Grey Power meeting in Howick on March accompanied by former NZ First MP Darroch Ball, right. Times photo Chris Harrowell

If New Zealand First is part of the next Government it will change the te reo Maori names of state agencies back to English and ensure offenders who assault members of the emergency services serve six months in prison.

Those are among the general election policies unveiled by party leader Winston Peters during his ‘real state of the nation’ address to several hundred people at St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Howick on March 24.

The event was hosted by the Grey Power Howick Pakuranga and Districts Association and was a political homecoming for Peters, who worked as a lawyer in Howick before first standing for Parliament in 1975.

He used his speech to criticise the records of previous Labour and National Governments in policy areas including law and order, health, the cost of living, education, and the economy, among others.

Peters said Kiwis are facing the highest cost of living increases in the last 34 years, inflation is climbing, and the country is facing a recession.

“All costs are going skyward. Food, rates, power, petrol, rents, mortgages, school fees, insurance, university fees, [and] health care.

“What’s the response from Wellington? No inquiry into banking charges, benefiting foreign banks.

“No inquiry into supermarket costs or energy costs. No action, just more promises, and more ‘borrow and spend’.

“The real crunch is coming for you the workers, middle-income earners, and the seniors who now have so little disposable income.”

He said every political party in Parliament wants to increase the retirement age. NZ First opposes such a change.

New Zealand was once a world leader in education, but its literacy and numeracy rates continue to decline in core subjects, coupled with a “continued fall in student achievement over the past two decades”.

The education system would rather teach a young child “virtuous self-identity theory” than basic maths and English, Peters said.

“Our education system should be fundamentally focused on education, not using our children in some sort of woke social re-engineering programme for vulnerable undeveloped minds.

“With truancy levels running at over 60 per cent in many schools it’s clear there’s no plan to fully train our young human capital.”

Peters criticised the current Labour Government for allowing 50,000 more Kiwis to depend on the jobseeker support benefit while employers are “crying out for workers”.

He said New Zealand once had a world-leading health system but “cracks are now emerging everywhere”.

Almost 70,000 Kiwis have been waiting more than four months for medical treatment or for a first specialist appointment, Peters said.

Hospital emergency departments are “under siege” with “big gaps in critical staff and for many patients the choice is dismal”.

“All the while hundreds of Kiwi nurses, doctors, and midwives have been unjustifiably and unconstitutionally mandated out of a job. Under NZ First these mandates will end.”

Peters used Te Whatu Ora (Health NZ) as an example of a state agency with a name that he said most Kiwis do not understand.

NZ First will change the names of every Government department back to English.

His party will fund St John Ambulance, Plunket, and mental well-being charity Gumboot Friday charity.

“We will ensure rescue helicopters and Surf Lifesaving NZ are properly funded.

“We will ensure Pharmac has more funds to get medication to the people that need it most, but the first thing we are going to do is sort Pharmac out.

“That’s what we should be investing in as a country, not Auckland bridge cycle ways, Auckland light rail, and countless other ‘cultural virtue-signalling’ madness.”

Turning to law and order, Peters said the Labour Government is soft on crime.

He said total crime is up 33 per cent, violent offending up 42 per cent, sexual offending up 16 per cent, theft up 49 per cent, and ram-raid burglaries up 465 per cent last year.

“Under NZ First, if you commit a crime and [are] part of a gang, it will be law that it is an automatic aggravating factor in your sentencing.

“If you assault a first responder, [such as a] police officer, paramedic, fire fighter or corrections officer in the course of their duty, there will be an automatic six-month minimum mandatory prison sentence.

“We will no longer allow gangs to run amok on our streets like they are doing, and have been allowed to do, these past few years.”

On the controversial issue of co-governance, Peters said the Labour Government was now trying to put it on the “back-burner”, but still believed in it.

He ended by urging his audience to “take our country back”.

“With co-operation, conciliation, inclusivity and teamwork, our country can make it out of this crisis to a better future for every New Zealander.

“We can become again the envy of the world.”

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