What an incredible honour it is to have been selected by my National Party colleagues to replace John Key as Leader of the National Party and Prime Minister of New Zealand.
I will approach the role in the same positive manner as my friend and predecessor. John Key believed passionately in the ability of New Zealanders to make their mark on the world and thanks to his leadership and his unwavering confidence and optimism, New Zealand is a better, more confident country.
Fortunately, I am not undertaking this task alone. I will have the support of Paula Bennett, a smart, accomplished and energetic woman who has become just New Zealand’s second female deputy prime minister, and National’s 57 other Members of Parliament. Together we make up a strong team full of ideas about how we can make New Zealand an even better place to live, work and raise families.
Economically New Zealand is making good progress at a time when many other parts of the world are grappling with big economic challenges and deep-seated political uncertainty. Our economy is growing, the government’s books are in surplus, more people have jobs and fewer people are unemployed.
Over the past three years, 250,000 extra jobs have been created and Treasury is forecasting that another 150,000 jobs will be created over the next five years.
However, in a turbulent world we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. We need to take advantage of the opportunities that have been created to spread the benefits of economic growth more widely and to ensure we create opportunities for our children and their children.
In the coming months and years we will invest in the public transport, schools and houses we need to support a strong economy and growing population.
We will also focus on better incomes for our households, safer communities and smarter government support for the most vulnerable.
We will also continue to build our links with the rest of the world and our reputation as a successful economy open to trade, investment and immigration.
The National Party has always valued enterprise, hard work and the rewards that go with success and that is not about to change. We recognise the aspiration of all New Zealanders to flourish.
We will support those who take risks to create new jobs and new business and we will support those who have the courage to leave behind welfare dependency and build better lives for themselves and their families.
As Prime Minister, I value the contribution the New Zealand Indian community makes to our country immensely. Like my predecessor, I am committed to ensuring your voice is heard at the highest level of government.
Finally, wherever you and your families are from, and whatever your traditions are, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and hope you get to spend some time relaxing with your families.