Election 2023: National leader Christopher Luxon's full speech at the party's annual conference

  • 25/06/2023

National leader Christopher Luxon has delivered a major speech at the party's annual conference. 

Luxon used the speech to lay out some policies he would put into place if National win the election later this year. 

He said National would give low to middle-income families a tax rebate on childcare. 

 National will increase breast cancer screening rates. 

And National will get rid of the unpopular Three Waters policy. 

Luxon said National, if elected, will get tough on law and order including limiting the discretion judges can use when reducing a sentence. 

Read the full speech below.  

MPs, candidates, delegates, National is coming back!

We’re coming back to manage the economy well and to the end the cost-of-living crisis.

We’re coming back to give you tax relief, to fix the roads, to cut the hospital waitlists, to build more infrastructure, and to produce more clean energy.

We’re coming back to make our education system world-class again, and we’re coming back to make our country safer. That’s a Prime Minister’s job and if Chris Hipkins won’t do it, I will!

Delegates, National is going to get New Zealand back on track!

Nearly three years after I came to Parliament, people still ask me, “why politics?” You know part of the answer, because in the National Party we share similar values and motivations.

We believe in personal responsibility and reward for hard work. We know that bigger government isn’t better government. We want strong families, and safe, caring communities. We love our country. We look around the world and know that New Zealand citizenship is a precious gift. But it’s obvious we are heading in the wrong direction.

When I went overseas, as a young grad, I wasn’t driven out by the cost of living. But it’s driving people away now.

I met a young teacher and a nurse who had been saving for their first home but the property price explosion under this government kept it out of reach.

Then, the fastest-ever rise in interest rates made a mortgage unaffordable, so when I met them, they were looking to go to Queensland. I don’t want the biggest suburbs of young Kiwi families to be in Brisbane.

I don’t want older New Zealanders aching to hug their grandchildren, that they talk to on Zoom, but who are growing up in Australia because their parents were forced overseas. And I certainly don’t want more New Zealanders becoming victims of brazen offenders riding a crime wave across our country.

We’re seeing scenes every day that just don’t look like the New Zealand so many of us grew up in. I say, “enough”.

My whole career has been spent turning problems into solutions, opportunities into results and getting things done.

That’s the leadership that New Zealand needs right now.

So when people ask me why I came to politics, and when they ask you why you’re walking streets in the rain, putting leaflets in letterboxes, I say, like you do: “Because New Zealand can be so much better than this.”

People are fed up, especially in businesses and on farms where red tape, regulations and fees have too many people saying, “It’s so hard, I don’t know why I bother”.

And the only reward for success right now is higher taxes, and Labour and the Greens talking as though successful people are to blame for those who are struggling. That is so wrong.

Kiwis who are struggling need a well-managed economy so they can have higher wages, tax relief, an end to the cost-of-living crisis and a housing market that works.

No wonder there’s such a mood for change everywhere I go. People are sick of the division, sick of the mismanagement, sick of the lawlessness. New Zealand is ready for a change of government, and so is National.

Governments are defined by their priorities, and a top priority for a National Government I lead will be fixing the economy.

Kiwis are sick of slogging their guts out, only to fall further and further behind.

During Covid, Labour’s printing of money was the fifth highest in the world. Their spending was the second highest, per capita, among developed countries. The pandemic is over, but the spending has not stopped.

Labour’s spending is 80 per cent higher than National’s six years ago. That explosion equates to an additional $28,000 per household a year.  But nothing, absolutely nothing, has improved by 80 per cent. In fact, most things have gone backwards.

To pay for all that spending, Labour’s taxing more, and borrowing more.

The Government is collecting an additional $100 million a day in tax. But even that’s not enough. Debt has exploded from $5 billion in 2019 to $71 billion today. This is credit card economics.

We’re now spending more on the interest on our debt than we’re spending on primary schools or police. Servicing debt is this Government’s fourth highest expense.

This is New Zealand under a Labour government. New Zealand can’t afford three more years of it.

A National government will stop the waste and bring back responsible economic management.

We’ll manage the economy for the middle-income family I met who were at risk of losing their house because of rampant interest rates.

We’ll manage it for all the Kiwis putting in long hours, getting their kids off to school every day, paying their taxes, doing the right thing, but going backwards.

We’ll manage it for the small businesses who’ve been crying out for staff and can’t understand how there can be 50,000 more people on the Jobseeker benefit now than when National left office.

With such a fast rise in interest rates, New Zealanders with mortgages feel like they are on a treadmill that’s going faster and faster and they’re at risk of falling off.

New Zealand needs a fresh start. A different approach. A new team. Real solutions.

National’s team has been working hard on how we’ll take New Zealand forward. I want to quickly go through some of our plans with you.

Some you might know, but some you might not. 

Nicola talked yesterday about how we’ll grow the economy and bring an end to the cost-of-living crisis.

We’re going to provide tax relief. You earned your income, you should keep more of it and you should decide what to do with it.

Farmers and growers are the backbone of our economy – but Labour’s obsession with new rules and regulations has put them under siege.

A National Government I lead will get Wellington out of farming. We have set out 19 actions to make life easier for farmers.

And we’ll put hard limits on forestry conversions of prime agricultural land – that are devastating rural communities and driving young Kiwis out of farming.

But above all – we will bring respect back to the relationship with farmers and growers that has evaporated from Wellington.

Because if you’re working every hour of the day feeding New Zealand and the world, your business matters, your voice matters, and your community matters.

Let’s look at education. There’s nothing I’m more passionate about. We should be teaching the basics brilliantly. But half of New Zealand’s Year 8’s are not where they should be in the basics.

Half of the total roll of students are not even regularly attending school. A good grounding in the basics sets kids up for life.

So, under National: Every day, every child in every school will do an hour each of reading, writing and maths.

Here’s another policy: Electrify NZ. National will deliver on New Zealand’s commitments to be Net Zero by 2050. We’ll make it easier to build projects like windfarms, so that New Zealand can double its supply of clean, renewable electricity.

To help young families with that difficult work/childcare juggle, and the cost of living, we’ll give 130,000 low and middle-income families a tax rebate on early childhood education, up to $75 per week paid directly into their bank accounts.

And we’ll pay for it by ending the flagrant addiction to consultants and contractors in Wellington.

Here’s some more quickfire policy:

We’re going to extend free breast cancer screening for women from age 69 to 74 – and save the lives of 65 women a year.

We’re going to end the ban on gene editing because other countries have the technology that will help farmers lower farm emissions, so our farmers should have it too.

We’re going to deliver more nurses and midwives, by making their student loan repayments - up to $22 thousand over five years - provided they remain working in New Zealand.

Three waters is a goner.

No-one’s going to cry over that. We’re going to keep local assets in local hands but with strict rules for investment so we all have reliable, clean water supplies.

We’ll get infrastructure built. I had a vet tell me that because of the Waikato Expressway – a National government project – she could get two extra jobs done a day, and still get home to her two young kids at a reasonable hour. That’s the difference good infrastructure makes and a National Government I lead will deliver it.

Delegates, you can tell that all our policies have things in common. They speak to National’s values of rewarding hard work, encouraging growth and helping New Zealanders get ahead.

They are affordable, practical and deliverable. They will get New Zealand back on track.

There are more policies but let’s come to law & order.

I won’t ever forget a meeting at an Auckland dairy a couple who told me how they slept above their small shop, and their young child slept near the front counter. One night, at 2am, there was an almighty crash as a stolen car was driven straight through the front of their shop in a ramraid. Imagine it.

I’ve met many victims of crime and even more who worry they’ll be next.

In some shops, it takes courage to go to work each day. Under a National government, New Zealand will be different.

Under a National government I lead, Labour’s soft-on-crime experiment will end.

It hasn’t worked. There’s more crime. There are more offenders and there are so many more victims that the money’s run out to help them all.

I’ve already announced that National will back Police to tackle gangs.

We’ll ban gang patches in public places, and we’ll stop gang members gathering in public.

We’re going to tackle youth crime, too. Under National, people who choose to commit crimes will learn that there are consequences.

National’s Military Academies for repeat, serious, young offenders are needed because Labour’s wet bus tickets have just the effect you’d expect – none. We’re going to use those academies to help kids turn their lives around.

Over the past five years, violent crime has increased by 33 per cent, gangs are growing faster than the Police, and retail crime has doubled.

The Police can’t deal with all this alone and it’s time the courts stepped in with tougher consequences for offenders.

Today, I’m announcing tougher sentences for criminals, more support for victims,  and more rehabilitation for more prisoners.

I don’t pretend there are easy solutions to preventing crime. But I can tell you what doesn’t work are soft messages like Labour’s target of a 30 per cent reduction in the prison population. I’d love to see that too, but only if  there’s a  30 per cent reduction in crime. 

Therefore, I’m announcing today that National will remove that prisoner reduction target.

National says New Zealanders have a right to be safe, and feel safe, in their homes, at work, and in the community.

So National will restore real consequences for crime with stronger sentences for convicted criminals.

I announced last weekend that we’ll make gang membership an aggravating factor in sentencing.

Too often, the public is left aghast at weak sentences for serious crimes.

Sentences are a punishment, a deterrent, and they show the public that justice is being done.

Judges need discretion to account for the unique circumstances of each case. However, New Zealand sets no limits on how much a judge can reduce sentences. That means they often end up far lower than victims and the public expect, and far lower than is required to acknowledge the harm and suffering that’s been caused.

For example, a 60 per cent sentence reduction was given to a 19-year-old who, carrying a knife, kicked down the front door of a pregnant woman, assaulted her and kidnapped another person. The sentencing starting point was eight years and six months, but it was reduced to three years and five months.

That’s why I’m announcing today that National will impose a new limit on judges’ discretion.

They will be allowed to reduce a sentence by no more than 40 per cent. Any more than that undermines the purpose and impact of the sentence and undermines the public’s faith in the courts.

National also says that an offender will receive a reduced sentence for their youth, and for remorse, only once. You might be sorry the second time, and you might still be young, but if you’ve enjoyed a previous sentence reduction because of it, then that ship has sailed.  It’s a reminder to learn from experience.

We’re also going to restore the Three Strikes policy for serious offenders.

This was brought in to ensure the worst repeat violent criminals faced appropriate sentences for continued offending.

Labour, in another of its soft messages to criminals, got rid of it. We will bring it back with clearer guidance on where judges can make exceptions – and where they can’t.

I make no apology for being tough on law and order. This Government obviously isn’t putting the public’s safety first, but a National government will.

We’re also going to end the practice of taxpayers paying for written cultural reports about offenders’ backgrounds in an effort to reduce sentences.

This used to be rare but this practice has morphed into a cottage industry that’s lowering sentences and taxpayers are footing the bill. There were eight taxpayer-funded reports in 2017, and more than 2400 last year.

National is going to unwind this growth. Offenders will still be able to ask the court to hear from someone who knows them, but taxpayers won’t be paying for that.

We’re going to take the money that would have been spent on reports for offenders and give it to victims instead. 

National believes victims should be at the heart of our justice system.

Victims receive support in various ways and there’s not enough money for grants for things like counselling or transport to and from court. We’ll put the money in there, boosting funding for victim entitlements by about a third. This will mean more help for victims to deal with the aftermath and trauma of crime.

The final point of National’s sentencing polices relates to rehabilitation for prisoners.

It makes sense that if you have people locked up, you should do what you can to turn their lives around. That’s ultimately better for them, and better for all of us. The more offenders who change their ways, the safer our communities will be.

But not all rehab programmes are available to all prisoners. Remand prisoners – the ones who are awaiting trial or sentencing but are locked up because they are deemed a risk to society - can’t access all rehab programmes.

With nearly one in two prisoners on remand, that means a significant proportion of prisoners are missing out on the opportunity for proper rehabilitation, or are starting it too late.

Therefore, I’m announcing today that under National, all prisoners will be eligible for all rehabilitation programmes.

If you want to try to turn your life around, we’ll help you do that. But if you re-offend, be warned. Under National, you’ll face tough consequences.

A National government is serious about protecting the public, and serious about there being real consequences for criminal offending.

National will rebuild what Labour has eroded because Labour’s changes have not made New Zealand safer.

They’ve made it more dangerous.

Delegates, in 100 days, the polls will open for advance voting.

This will be an election that will shape the future of our country for years to come.

The choice is stark. Labour can continue only as part of a Coalition of Chaos with all the taxing, borrowing, wasteful spending, fluff and slogans that would come with it.

The alternative is a National-led government managing a strong economy well, so New Zealanders get ahead.

A strong economy can afford the things we all want – more accessible health services, better education for every child, more environmental protection, better highways, resilient infrastructure, safer roads and safer streets.

Labour will give you excuses – National will give you results.

New Zealand is in tough economic times but a National government can turn things around. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again. A government I lead will light the way and bring all New Zealanders with us.

Ladies and gentlemen, New Zealanders want a change of direction but National is taking nothing for granted.

In these next 100 days, we are relying on your help, for every leaflet you deliver, every door you knock on, every dollar you raise, every hoarding you put up, every hoarding you put back up a second, third or fourth time, every National social media post you like and share, and every conversation you have that helps win us another party vote.

Every single action is necessary, and every single action is appreciated.

Those single actions together will build the momentum that will take us into government so the turnaround can begin.

We’re going to fight this election campaign as though New Zealand’s future depends on it – because it does.

We’re going to fight it to win because New Zealand needs a National government.

National will end the cost-of-living crisis.

National will lift incomes and provides tax relief.

National will restore law & order.

National will get things done.

National will get New Zealand back on track.

So let’s go and change the government!