In this edition of Plain English I talk about what's been going on in our electorate over the past few months and our new programme of reforms to the welfare system.I welcome your comments so be sure to click through and tell me what's on your mind.
We are now well into 2012. I hope you had the opportunity to relax over the summer break and spend some time with your family and friends. I'm enjoying being back at work.
I had a great time over the Christmas New Year period with all my family together. We enjoyed being at home in Dipton and then a holiday in the north. Some highlights included attending the Te Anau rodeo and climbing Ben Lomond with the family and catching up with friends and extended family.
I have completed a round of meetings in the electorate including a dinner in Lawrence, a breakfast meeting in Balclutha, and meetings in Gore and Winton ending up in Te Anau. Queenstown's meeting will be held in early March.
The Southern Field days were held at Waimumu, just outside of Gore, recently. The event is a celebration of all that's positive about farming in the South. Around 31,500 people came through the gates to enjoy this rural extravaganza.
I was joined by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, Minister for Primary Industries Hon David Carter, and my southern colleague Eric Roy. We spent much of the day catching up with farmers and the exhibitors.
The 60-hectare site hosted more than 640 exhibitors, and most people admitted you had to be pretty committed to get around the whole site and enjoy all there was to see in one day. Innovation in the agricultural sector is important and the field days showed confidence built on good prices and hard earned resilience.
The Clutha Southland Branch of the National Party held a dinner in Gore and this was a well organised evening. The Prime Minister was the guest speaker at the event and the dinner was attended by former MPs Sir Robin Gray and Murray Rose.
Mataura Primary School hosted a breakfast where the Prime Minister and I were guests. The menu was designed by 9-year-old Jordan Franks who had won the school competition to create a menu for the Prime Minister.
The pupils then had the opportunity to ask the Prime Minister questions. Partial asset sales and New Zealand's financial situation were among the questions asked.
Making welfare work
National believes that those who can work, should work, and we'll help them to do just that. Delivering better public services is one of the National-led Government's four key priorities for our second term, and welfare reform is a significant part of this.
The benefit system is simply not working and not delivering for New Zealand. One in eight New Zealanders of working-age, is on a benefit, while 220,000 children live in benefit-dependent homes. This is creating too many vulnerable people and trapping them in a life of limited choices, poverty, and poor health. Evidence clearly shows children are better off when their parents are in work and not on welfare.
This week we announced a two-stage programme to fundamentally alter the welfare system with a new work-focused benefit, greater work expectations, and an approach that focuses on the long-term cost of welfare dependency.
This month we will introduce legislation that will require some beneficiaries with children to be work available, as well as those on Widow's and Women Alone benefits. It will also target support for youth who are on a collision course with long-term welfare dependency.
Later this year we'll introduce more legislation to overhaul of benefit categories and clamp down on fraud.
Budget Policy Statement sets out clear plan
National is delivering strong and stable Government in difficult times.
The Budget Policy Statement issued on 16 February confirms National's clear economic plan for the next three years - including a return to budget surplus and starting to reduce net debt.
Our plan will guide Budget priorities over the next three years. The main priorities are responsibly managing the Government's finances, building a more productive and competitive economy, delivering better public services within tight financial constraints, and rebuilding Christchurch.
Budget 2012, which I will deliver on Thursday May 24, is about sticking to that plan to build a more competitive economy that supports more jobs, higher incomes, and ensures New Zealand pays its way in the world.
The Budget Policy Statement shows the Government is on track to post a surplus of $370 million in 2014/15, keep net debt below 30 per cent of gross domestic product, and reduce this to 20 per cent of GDP by 2020/21.
More information: http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleID=37940
MMP review - giving New Zealanders a say
New Zealanders voted to keep MMP in the referendum and we are continuing to deliver on our promise by having the Electoral Commission undertake a review of how MMP works.
National campaigned in 2008 on giving New Zealanders a say on their electoral system. The National-led Government kept this promise by holding a referendum on the electoral system alongside the 2011 general election - a referendum that Labour originally opposed.
We strongly urge New Zealanders to have their say on this review by making a submission. Making a submission is easy - they can be made online, by email, or by post. Submissions can also be presented in person.
Details of the review and the aspects of MMP being reviewed can be found at: http://www.mmpreview.org.nz or by calling 0800 36 76 56 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 0800 36 76 56 end_of_the_skype_highlighting.
Environmental champions sought
Nominations for the 2012 Green Ribbon Awards which recognise the achievements of New Zealanders who are dedicated to protecting and improving our environment are now open.
This year, the Awards include a new category, recognising the Green Economy.
The Green Ribbon Awards showcase the inspiring achievements of New Zealanders who are dedicated to protecting and improving our environment and these Awards are the Government's way of acknowledging their work and saying thank you, on behalf of all New Zealanders.
Winners will be announced on June 5 to coincide with World Environment Day.
For Category details and nominations forms for the Awards which close on 23 March 2012, visit www.mfe.govt.nz/green-ribbon.
MP for Clutha-Southland
15 Main Street,
P O Box 266,
ddi 03 203 3000 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 03 203 3000 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
68 Clyde Street,
P O Box 103
ddi 03 418 4288 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 03 418 4288 end_of_the_skype_highlighting
1085 Frankton Road,
P O Box 2192,
ddi 03 441 4093 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 03 441 4093 end_of_the_skype_highlighting