We can't afford any more free rides - Rodney Hide

ACT leader Rodney Hide expands on his views why free off-peak travel for Gold Card holders is a luxury New Zealand can't afford.

In my speech at the ACT Party annual conference, titled Jobs – not Borrow and Hope, I noted that in New Zealand we have, to our great cost, politicised too many decisions which are best left to market transactions.

The result is a war of all against all as we seek to advance our material interests at somebody else's expense.

I mentioned students wanting interest-free student loans, pensioners wanting the Gold Card, the middle-class wanting free childcare, and so on.

My point was that this is a path to certain ruin. It is a path that has been an economic and social calamity for a number of the smaller European countries.

We have to face some basic facts.The government is already borrowing $300 million a week. Debt levels are starting a vicious upward spiral. We have over $10 billion in additional costs from the Christchurch earthquakes.

Future generations are being saddled with an enormous debt to fund our current spending.

Nobody has an entitlement to dump debt on future generations. Rising interest costs will squeeze out other spending in the decades ahead.

Already our children, and our grandchildren are leaving this country for good. If we don't take action soon, the future exodus will be vastly greater, and it will utterly transform our society.

Some of those who have written to this newspaper complaining about those comments should consider the profound consequences if nobody is prepared to accept that we need to tighten our belts. I raised these issues because I am deeply concerned about the future of our society, the viability of our economy and sustainability of the government's budget imbalance.

Some have noted that I took a MP travel perk. That is true, as that perk is part of MPs' remuneration. But it was wrong and was inconsistent with my previous opposition to the structure of MPs' remuneration, which is paid partly by such perks.

I had tried to hold myself to a higher standard, which I regret I did not meet. I apologised for that and, uniquely, I repaid it. I am proud to say it was the ACT Party that forced the current openness about MPs' expenses – it is long overdue.

But we now need to look forward, face reality, and accept that all New Zealanders need to scale back their expectations of what government can provide. I accept that many pensioners struggle, but certainly not all do.

Government assistance to any age group should be based solely on need.

We simply can no longer afford an open chequebook at the expense of our children.

North Shore Times