We are committed to working both critically and constructively in Opposition and that approach was on display at National's annual conference in Auckland last weekend.
Despite now being in opposition, our delegates were in great heart and energised to help prepare imaginative, affordable, evidence-based policies for our next election campaign. I am delighted with our leader Simon Bridges' commitment to increasing funding for more teachers and lowering class sizes in our primary schools.
Sensible Medicinal Cannabis Legislation
Along with the majority of my Hamilton West constituents, I recognise the need for improved access to medicinal cannabis products in order to ease the pain of those suffering from serious conditions. I endorse National's recent initiative to improve access to medicinal cannabis with appropriate safeguards. Our bill presents a comprehensive alternative to the Labour-led Government's own bill, which has been widely criticised and lacks appropriate regulatory and legislative controls.
I have listened carefully to local views on this issue. Our proposals are the result of significant work by National MPs, drawing on international best practice and expert recommendations. Legislative changes must be safe and fit for purpose in order to protect the wider community and ensure that cannabis isn't promoted for recreational use.
Our bill ensures that medicinal cannabis products will be regulated by Medsafe, and their access will be controlled by medical practitioners through the use of an ID card system.
I am confident that National's bill ensures that the rights of sufferers and the community are both protected.
Government's welfare approach increases long-term hardship
It's important to help people in times of need by providing income support when they are out of work, and the Jobseeker benefit is there to support those who need it. But it should come with obligations, including requiring applicants to be looking for work, turning up to appointments, and staying drug-free.
We know benefit sanctions are an effective tool to help people into work, with 95 per cent of people who receive a formal warning meeting their obligations within four weeks.
Under National's watch over 70,000 beneficiaries moved off the benefit and into work between 2011 and last year, and the number of children living in benefit-dependent households reduced by 60,000. Since Labour came into government, there has been a 21 per cent drop in the number of benefit sanctions imposed, despite there being almost 2000 more people on the Jobseeker benefit.
With unemployment continuing to fall thanks to the strong economy the current government inherited, the number of people on the Jobseeker benefit should be falling, not climbing, and New Zealanders should be concerned at this increase in dependence on the state. People's lives are improved when they get off a benefit and into work and that must continue to be encouraged. Unfortunately, this Government's abandonment of mutual obligations will mean fewer people in work and an increase in the servicing of misery.