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Bill English: The Beginner's Guide

Today, Bill English becomes the 39th Prime Minister of New Zealand. It’s a position he’s been after for a while ‒ and he’s well known for his disastrous last attempt, where he led the party to their worst ever election result in 2002. Since 2008, he’s been this country’s Finance Minister.

Labour has spent our time in Opposition fighting on key issues like health, housing, education, and law and order ‒ so people can get the best possible opportunities and live safe, fulfilling lives. English has failed our people on these issues at every turn.

Health:

Under Bill English, the health budget has been cut by a staggering $1.7 billion. This isn’t the first time he’s threatened our public health service, either: as Finance Minister under Jim Bolger, he refused to rule out future privatisation, and he was responsible for Crown Health Enterprises, National’s failed attempt to make hospitals commercial.

Just last week, English’s very own Health Minister, Dr Jonathan Coleman, hinted he felt that English had neglected health: "I think we've got to be very careful before we look at tax cuts. We've got to make sure we are properly funding health and education."

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Our public health system, which was introduced by Labour in 1938 and was the world’s first universal health service, has provided a vital lifeline for millions of Kiwis over the years. We’ll always fight for it, even if English thinks it’s expendable, and in Government we’ll fund it properly.

Housing:

Just last week, our new PM outright denied that there is a housing crisis.

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He should try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of young Kiwis who are locked out of the housing market, despite working and saving hard ‒ or maybe to those who’ve watched the average house price rise by 63% since National came into power in 2008 (the average house price in Auckland, by the way, has gone up by over 100% in the same time ‒ it’s now over a million dollars).

Bill English just doesn’t seem that fussed about housing ‒ he’s taken out more than half a billion dollars in dividends from Housing New Zealand as well, and he’s trying to sell off social housing despite record demand and growing waiting lists.

It’s a disgrace to milk state housing for a dividend: we’ll make Housing New Zealand a public service, we’ll substantially increase the number of state houses, and we’ll end English’s failed state house sell-off.

English might want to pretend that there isn’t a housing crisis, but Labour has a solution, and we’ll fix it.

Economy:

Bill English likes to think he’s masterful at running the economy, but this is the first year he’s reported a surplus ‒ and that’s at the expense of good public services, like our health system.

Our debt has increased by $52 billion since English became Finance Minister in 2008 (it was $10 billion then, it’s $62 billion now) and we’ve got 27,000 more unemployed Kiwis. In fact, he’s not paid off a single dollar of debt since he’s been in Government.

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The gap in income between New Zealand and Australia has got worse since National came into office in 2008 ‒ it’s widened by a third.

Labour’s going to back Kiwi jobs and workers by making sure the Government buys Kiwi made. English voted against that just last month.

Law and order:

Last week revealed the disunity within National’s caucus - and shots were aimed squarely at Bill English. Not only did his Health Minister complain about underfunding, so too did his Police Minister Judith Collins. She admitted funding for more police has been withheld: “The country needs them and they need them now...I’ve been waiting for that to happen.”

There are now over 200 burglaries a day in New Zealand, up 18% in the past year alone, and fewer than one in ten are ever solved; we’ve got an overstretched police force and English doesn’t seem that bothered.

When we’re in Government, we’ll fund 1,000 more police officers and the resources that they need to make our communities safer.

Education:

Bill English is in charge of the Budget, and twice that Budget has included increases to school class sizes. The public let English know what they thought about that, and the Government was forced to back down.

We’ll end National’s funding freeze so our schools get the resources that they need, and we’ll invest in recruiting, retaining, and providing ongoing development to our teachers.

Bill English’s personal views:

As a country, we’ve changed a lot since the last time Bill English was Leader of the National Party. But has he?

The Prime Minister of this country needs to represent each and every New Zealander. But while John Key voted for marriage equality in 2013, English voted against it, and against civil unions in 2004. A few months ago he declared that some young people are unemployed because they’re ‘pretty damned hopeless.’ During his last stint as National leader, he was photographed smiling while holding a sign that called Helen Clark ‒ our first elected female leader ‒ a ‘mad cow’. And recently, he used an extraordinary power to veto 26 weeks of paid parental leave, despite a majority in Parliament.

That doesn’t sound like someone who reflects New Zealand values or New Zealanders’ views.

So what can we do?

We’re facing some tough challenges in New Zealand. Thousands of New Zealanders don’t have a roof over their heads, or can’t get the hospital care they need, and parents are worried that their kids aren’t getting a quality education. Bill English isn’t just short on answers on these issues ‒ he’s part of the problem.

On many issues, his values aren’t New Zealanders’ values. He voted against marriage equality, and he favours privatising prisons and selling state houses. We’ve moved on, and he's standing still, stuck in the past.

It’s time to change the Government and get New Zealand heading in the right direction again. Click here to get involved.

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LabourVoices on December 09, 2016

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