English: We will provide yardstick for Govt

National leader Bill English says the Government's decision to scrap Better Public Services targets is "a recipe for lazy, ineffective government". Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

Bill English has warned the Government his party will closely watch whether it lives up to its bold promises, saying New Zealand’s future “isn’t written in good intentions”.

Delivering his State of the Nation address to outline National’s plans for the year ahead, English sought to put the spotlight on the favourable economic conditions the coalition had inherited and the potential damage its policies could do.

The National leader’s Wednesday address, delivered to a friendly crowd of businesspeople over lunch, was overshadowed by leaks earlier in the morning about rivals lining up to replace him.

English sought to make light of the speculation, opening up by mentioning the large media contingent that had gathered.

“A bit of leadership speculation certainly does turn out the journalists - I hope someone feeds them so they get in a good mood.”

He said National was more positive about New Zealand’s prospects than the Government, citing the strong economy his government had left behind along with job growth.

However, a recent drop in business confidence showed many were worried about the Government’s plans, which he dismissed as “a nostalgic belief in trees, trains and trade unions - that large government subsidies will recreate the supposed golden era of the 60s and 70s.”

While its plans to eliminate poverty, create jobs and make New Zealand a better place were shared by everyone, “New Zealand’s future isn’t written in good intentions”.

English said the Government’s decision to scrap its predecessor’s Better Public Services [BPS] targets undid six years of work “to focus the public services on changing lives rather than just spending money, [and] on digging into our hardest social problems rather than just brushing over them to do the easy stuff”.

“It is a recipe for lazy, ineffective government that will do real harm to the lives of thousands of New Zealanders because they won’t get the coordinated intensive service they need.”

Mentioning teenage mothers who needed access to education and those who had been on a benefit for years due to undertreated illnesses, English said the Government had “chosen to throw away the tools to attack this part of poverty”.

“It is a recipe for lazy, ineffective government that will do real harm to the lives of thousands of New Zealanders because they won’t get the coordinated intensive service they need.”

National would seek to hold the Government to account by regularly requesting official data to track its progress against the scrapped BPS targets, publishing the results online every six months for the public to view.

English also highlighted concerns with proposed changes to industrial relations rules, saying the Government’s plans to remove 90-day trials and the “starting out wage” would make it harder for young, unskilled and vulnerable workers to find jobs.

He hit out at plans to reintroduce centralised wage bargaining, claiming the reforms were “about supporting union officials, not New Zealand workers”.

English revealed National was launching a Protect New Zealand Jobs campaign to explain the proposals and fight the changes, urging those gathered to speak out.

“If you can get your voice heard then the Government can be influenced, and these industrial relations changes can be significantly moderated.”