At the start of the year, I spoke up about the growing underclass in New Zealand, and how living with crime is a reality for far too many Kiwis. It seems that just about every week we get a reminder of this.
Karl Kuchenbecker, a father of two, was shot dead by a murderer on parole. Liam Ashley was killed in a Corrections van. Twenty corrections officers have been stood down or sacked for corruption, and an entire prison is under investigation. Labour needs to do better on law and order but doesn't know where to start.
National does. Recently I spoke about how National will be tough on crime. Our justice spokesman, Simon Power, is putting together a discussion paper that will be the foundation of our law and order policy. It will include innovative crime-fighting strategies that confront the underlying problems in our communities.
Rebuilding the ladder of opportunity and helping New Zealanders climb out of the underclass will be a step in the right direction. But we'll also crack down on habitual criminals. Under National, repeat violent offenders will not get parole.
We will give police the right priorities, and get other government agencies to play their part. We'll make sure that prisoners aren't waltzing around on heated floors, high on 'P', and texting their criminal mates on the outside.
From preventing crime, to policing crime, to punishing crime - National must do better than Labour is doing. And we will.
Our discussion paper will be out soon and we'll be looking for your input. In the meantime, you can read my full speech (and give me your comments) by clicking here.
Many people have congratulated me on the promising poll results we've seen lately. National has achieved a great deal in the past six months, but politics is a team effort and the thanks need to go to the caucus and the party for all the hard work and long hours they've put in.
Polls can change in a moment, and there's a long way to go to the election. I expect Labour to throw everything at us as it starts to panic about the prospect of leaving office. We can't afford to be arrogant or complacent. Our hardest work is ahead of us.
I really enjoyed being interviewed for half an hour by John Campbell on his show recently. Go to www.johnkey.co.nz to see backstage footage (and leave your comments, if you like). If you didn't catch the show, it is archived in three segments on the TV3 website. To watch that, click here to visit TV3.
Setting the agenda - again
Back in February, I spoke about how National wants to turbo-charge the voluntary sector, and I announced our policy on the tax treatment of charitable donations. This aimed to encourage people and businesses to give more money to the groups that do good work in our communities.
Labour attacked the policy at the time, but they have since stolen it and claimed it as their own. Dr Cullen announced in the Budget that the Government will adopt our policy from April next year.
This is great news for community groups, and great news for the thousands of Kiwis who rely on their help. But the Government can do more. That's why, at Plunket's annual conference, I announced five further policies that National will introduce to help community groups and encourage the good work of volunteers.
First, payments that charities make to volunteers to reimburse their expenses will be tax free. It isn't fair that volunteers should pay income tax when a charity reimburses their costs.
Secondly, we will make honoraria payments tax free up to $500 per year per person. Again, it's not fair that honoraria payments to volunteers should be taxed.
Thirdly, where the Government asks a community group to provide a service, we will expect to pay the full cost of that service, including relevant overhead costs.
Fourthly, we will reduce bureaucracy and compliance costs, especially when a charity provides a service for the Government.
And finally, we will investigate developing a venture capital fund to boost organisations that have the capacity to do more, or to do things differently.
We won't mind if Labour steals these policies too!
You can read my full speech to Plunket's annual conference here.