14 Jun 2020

Todd Muller touts National Party's government vision if elected in 2020

2:44 pm on 14 June 2020

New National Party leader Todd Muller has made his pitch to voters for the position of prime minister in a speech in Bay of Plenty today, in the rural community of Te Puna where he grew up.

National Party leader Todd Muller speaking at Te Puna rugby club rooms on 14 June, 2020.

National Party leader Todd Muller speaking at Te Puna rugby club rooms on 14 June, 2020. Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

Part of that pitch was a direct criticism of past governments, including National governments, being too slow and too timid when trying to address "the social deficit", or to help New Zealand's "underclass".

Muller rolled Simon Bridges for the party leadership in May, and now faces a race to lift his profile and the National Party's public support before the September election.

Muller paid tribute to both the previous Labour and National administrations for aspects of their economic management, but had harsh words about their record on social and environmental challenges.

"For all their strengths, I do not believe that previous governments, or the current government, moved fast enough or boldly enough to address the social deficit, or help the underclass, or however you describe the deep-seated social problems we continue to see all around us."

He was similarly critical of past action on climate change policy and freshwater reforms.

And he is driving straight into Labour territory, signalling an intention to invest in welfare, core public services and to take more action to alleviate poverty and on enviromental issues.

"Among other things, that means National will not increase the taxes New Zealanders pay. Nor will we ever cut benefits, and we will continue to increase New Zealand's investment in hospitals, schools and the welfare safety net," he said.

Muller also acknowledged the government's treaty relationship with Māori.

"Later in life, I became very proud that it was my party - the National Party - that has done so much to honour our nation's founding document, the Treaty of Waitangi, and address the breaches of the past, and the present.

"I have also come to see in adulthood, that which I did not see as a child; that there is a relationship between the Treaty promise of tino rangatiratanga and the importance the National Party places on the values of self-determination for individuals, families and communities. As prime minister, I will seek to advance those values."

Muller also laid out his party's plan for the coming years, claiming National was the best party to get the economy back on track, and New Zealand "cannot risk a Labour Government being in charge".

"As prime minister, I will lead a strong and extraordinary team, of seasoned ministers from the Key-English Government and brilliant new talent. Our job will be to maintain financial discipline, and invest wisely, the tens of billions the country is borrowing".

National Party leader Todd Muller heading to the Te Puna rugby club rooms on 14 June, 2020.

National Party leader Todd Muller heading to the Te Puna rugby club rooms on 14 June, 2020. Photo: RNZ / Charlie Dreaver

There had already been massive job losses with 40,000 lost in April, Muller said, and worse to come.

"According to Infometrics, there will soon be a second wave of job losses, twice as bad as the first. That means around 120,000 families will have lost their income by the election, and it will be worse by Christmas," Muller said.

"Infometrics forecast that in October, November and December - just after we have voted - New Zealand families will be hit again by a third wave of job losses," he said.

"Everyone's fear is that the third wave of job losses and unemployment will be the worst of all.

"Creating tens of thousands of new full-time jobs and building a better economy than before the Covid-19 crisis will be National's top priorities in its first term.

"My job, in the 2020s, is to make sure that, at the end of this crisis, your family is not just left with the $140 billion loan Labour is taking out against your future earnings."

He said the National Party would do that through its JobStart programme, urgently addressing "long term social deprivation", building road and public transport infrastructure and "restoring the Government's books".

He laid out the list of what he said were the failings of the Coalition Government, and also put himself alongside Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, in the kind of approach he would take.

"In my lifetime, New Zealand prime ministers have tended to be kind, competent or bold.

"Some have managed to be two of those things. My background in business and politics, and my grounding here in Te Puna, mean I plan to be all three - kind, competent and bold."

He delivered his speech at his old rugby club rooms in Te Puna, presenting himself as a family man, and one closely connected to his local Catholic church and his community.

"As an old-fashioned, traditional family, we were taught and grounded in our parents' values. But, as we grew older, we were also taught to make our own decisions about what we accepted and did not," Muller said.

"To me, that is what drives social progress: that we learn from our parents but we challenge their ideas and develop our own."

He did make a slip of the tongue, when talking about the party he actually belongs to.

"I joined the Labour Party rather than the National Party...should I start again? I joined the National Party rather than the Labour Party when I became active in politics in 1988."

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