A look back at John Key's previous state of the nation speeches - and whether he followed through on them

John Key's state of the nation speeches have had a mixed impact over the years.

The one with the biggest impact was probably his first, his so-called "Burnside speech" about a growing underclass, which he delivered in 2007 when he had just become Leader of the Opposition.

Its sequel a few days later made even more impact when Mr Key visited the McGehan Close mentioned in his speech in Owairaka, and issued an impromptu invitation to 12-year-old Aroha Nathan to accompany him to Waitangi.

The following year, he spoke to a National Party audience in Auckland about youth crime, setting out what essentially became National's youth justice policy for the 2008 campaign, such as extending the powers of the Youth Court which went on to be implemented.


The more memorable speeches have had one strong theme, usually a policy promise. The less memorable ones are those that fit the brief more, a broad-ranging view of the state of the nation but which have no strong hook.

In 2013, for example, the forgettable catch-cry of Mr Key's speech was the New Zealand needed to be "a magnet for investment". He announced some new policy around apprenticeship and attacked the Resource Management Act as a brake on housing and investment.

Almost every policy promise made in his speeches has been carried out because it has been pre-negotiated with support partners.

They are different from United States President Barack Obama's state of the union speeches in that regard.

Mr Obama can exercise some powers on his own without Congress, but if he wants policy requiring law change, he needs the support of both Houses, at present dominated by Republicans. And conversely they need his support because he has the power of veto over legislation.

Perhaps the most infamous state of the nation speech was Don Brash's so-called Orewa speech on racial separatism, also in Opposition, which divided the country and saw National's poll rating go from about 25 per cent to about 45 per cent.

Sir Robert Muldoon immortalized the Orewa state of the nation speech when he would end his holiday at Hadfield's Beach near Orewa to speak to the Orewa Rotary Club.

2009 - SME relief package


Barely two months after gaining power, Mr Key's first speech was a policy response to the unfolding global financial crisis.

It was a package designed to help small and medium sized businesses valued at $480 million over four years, such as cutting the filing requirement for fringe benefit tax, changing rules around gst registration, and reducing IRD's 'use of money' penalty rates.

2010 - Waitangi

Mr Key didn't give a major speech in January but gave a vision-style speech on Waitangi Day at Waitangi about New Zealand beyond Treaty grievances.

2011 - Asset sales

Key used the state of the nation speech to float the policy of partial state asset sales for Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis and Solid Energy as an election policy platform. The policy was confirmed in the Budget and became a central theme of the 2011 campaign. All were partially floated except Solid Energy in the following term.

2012 - Surplus

Mr Key used the speech to accentuate the forecast budget surplus for 2014-15 - we wont find out until the accounts are posted in September this year but it will be touch and go - and floated the idea of setting specific targets for results in specific parts of the public service, a policy which was fleshed out during the year, still exists today and is reported on every six months. Speech to Waitakere Business Club.

2013 - NZ must be magnet for investment

Announced incentives for new apprenticeships and condemned the Resource Management Act as being a brake on housing supply and investment.

Speech given to North Harbour Club.

2014 - Excellence in education leadership

Announcement of $359 million school leadership policy offering financial rewards for recognized teachers and principals. Policy is being implemented. Speech given to Waitakere Business Club.