Last night when I was interrupted by the House rising I was making the point that a number of speeches from members on the opposite side of the House—on the left-hand side of politics, if you like—were about people who suffered hardship in their earlier life as a result of being in a low socio-economic group, and as a result of poor social policy. In fact, one of those speeches was a personal one. I made the point that the left do not have a franchise on this story. It is not unique to the left. Some of us on this side of the House have also experienced in our earlier lives the effects of living in low socio-economic areas.
I did not hear during the long debate that led up—
I am sorry to interrupt the member, but I ask that the level of noise be reduced. I am trying to hear the member. There is a lot of activity and movement. I ask that the volume be lowered.
Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker; I will speak up.
I did not hear in that debate what those members would do about that problem, apart from increase taxes, spend more, and borrow more. There was nothing of any substance in terms of how we might turn round the socio-economic circumstances of the bottom quarter. There is only one way to do so, and that is by developing an economy that has more depth and breadth and has the ability to fund better and more available social policy for those who need it. That is what this debate is about. It is a debate between the philosophies of the left and the right. The Key Government has set out a programme going forward that will develop an economy that will deliver the social policies we all desire.
I draw the analogy with farming. In farming there are good times and bad times. In the good times, we must invest. There is a time to invest. We must invest in the growth of the business we are involved in. When times get tough, which happens on a regular cycle, we must consolidate. We must look to where we can improve our efficiencies and to where we can make some savings and pay off some debt.
It is no different for the Government. The reality of the last 9 years of the Labour Government was that we were in good economic times. What did we do? We squandered in most cases the opportunities to develop a backbone—a framework—that could drive forward the economy. The John Key - led Government is setting out on a path of looking at where we can find further efficiencies in Government assistance, Government agencies, and Government departments. We are looking at ways we can encourage investment in development and exports. We are looking at ways we can improve our infrastructure: telecommunications, roading, rail, and others.
If we add up the figures and look at what has been achieved so far, we will see that the turn-round in the 2 years that National has been in Government is nothing short of astounding. Now we actually have a plan. We have a blueprint. We are not lurching from one social crisis to another or looking to spend more or tax higher. We are looking to encourage people to invest. We are looking to encourage people to produce more. We are giving incentives to people to live in New Zealand, work hard, and achieve a prosperous future for themselves, their families, and the community.
There is quite a difference between the direction of this Government and that of the previous Labour Government. Listening to the speeches from members on the other side of the House, one comes to the conclusion that the only thing that Labour has learnt in its 2 years in Opposition is that it did not spend hard enough when it was in Government. If Labour was given the opportunity to come back into Government, it would go straight back to the same trend it had then, which was to spend more, borrow more, and hope that somehow or other someone would find an answer to the problem. Obviously, that is an unsustainable path to go down.
It is interesting to hear from the member interjecting from the back. He spoke immediately before me when I spoke last night. His whole speech was dedicated to spending more and having more social policy, with no opportunity whatsoever for anything else. National is the party that can build a brighter future for New Zealand. That is exactly the path the John Key - led Government intends to go down.
If we look at any other business model that has been attempted and at any other kind of structure—governance or private sector—around the world, we will find that when one goes down the path of social spending that exceeds the ability of the State and the business community that supports the State to fund it, we see failure. We see inevitable failure. We occupy a space now, in terms of our total debt internationally, that compares with some of the countries that have gone down that path. Australia’s economy, after many years of a conservative Government—before the change of Government to Labor—is stronger. There is no better comparison to make than with our neighbours directly across the Ditch.
The Opposition spokesperson on finance is interjecting. I have heard no policy vision yet from that member in terms of how he can see a way forward in growing the New Zealand economy—nothing whatsoever. All I have heard from that member is that we do not tax the rich enough and that we have to tax the rich a bit more. All I have seen is a rerun of policies that failed in the 1950s, in the 1970s, and again in the 2000s, and a regurgitation of the same old approach: spend, hope, and borrow, but forget about the economic sector. The National Government has a vision.
There was nothing new in Shane Ardern’s speech except slandering the Labour Opposition. Labour has a vision for a better future where every New Zealander counts and where New Zealand’s economy is going forward strongly. Let me reaffirm that Labour will have a fully costed economic package that will not add to net debt and that will reduce net debt across the cycle. The National Government has failed New Zealand and has failed New Zealanders, and we can see hope dying in the eyes of New Zealanders up and down the country. Welcome to National’s recession.
Until yesterday, people thought the only double-dip Bill English was into was his own housing allowance. Yesterday, he discovered two more double-dips. He thinks Australia is in a double-dip recession—where has he been—and he has finally admitted that New Zealand is heading for a double-dip recession. He has no one left to blame. He cannot blame the world economy, because world markets are rising. He cannot blame the previous Labour Government, because Labour has been out for 2½ years and he has had the reins. This is National’s recession. National took a bet. The bet was that China would grow and Australia would grow and that all we had to do was stand still and our export prices would grow and New Zealand would be brought back up on to the rise. Well, some of that happened. China did grow, Australia did grow, and we had a 30-year high in export prices. But what has happened in New Zealand? Unemployment is back up to 6.8 percent, with more than 150,000 unemployed. Prices are rising faster than wages. New Zealanders at the bottom and in the middle are doing it tough and are worse off today than they were 2 years ago.
That pressure has a human face. In National’s recession the failure is best captured by McGehan Close. Do members remember McGehan Close? It is the street where John Key campaigned, whose poverty he manipulated, and whose residents he made promises to. They have now said that he has done little to help the poor. “He’s just making everything better for high earners and not the low-income ones. Bread, milk, everything that we need that is a basic necessity for us is going to be more expensive. It’s going to be harder for us to feed our kids.”
Wow! That is the voice of New Zealand. That is the voice of hope dying in the eyes of a generation—as one young person in four is unable to find their first job on leaving school; as one Māori woman in two is locked out of the labour market; as young New Zealanders cannot finance their way into their own homes; as young New Zealanders see our family silver being flogged off before their eyes; and as young New Zealanders are being told that they will have to pick up the tab for the baby-boom superannuation because National does not have the bottle to pay into that fund. Hope is dying in the eyes of the young generation and they will not, they know, own their own future.
Where are the jobs? They were not there for Petarina Slater, who did 150 interviews and could not find a job. They were not there, in my electorate, for the Serbian scientist who has a PhD and is delivering Countdown supermarket pamphlets because that is the only job he can get. They are not there for the specialist doctors who are driving cabs around New Lynn because they are locked out of the medical profession. They are not there for the economist from Sri Lanka who is doing basic clerical work for a State-owned enterprise, because that is all he is allowed to do. They are not there for the Samoan man who lost his job at a factory in South Auckland and cannot afford a State house. He moved in with his brother, and now 16 children are living in a three-bedroom house in Kelston. They are not there for the family who live around the corner, in a garage, and whom I visited not long ago. The Samoan man is now working in a bakery, thanks to some help from our office. Those jobs are just not there for New Zealanders up and down this country.
I tell Mr English that the double-dip is happening in New Zealand, not in Australia. Australians are doing fine, because they had a good old-fashioned Labor Government that invested in stimulus, job creation, research and development; and getting things moving. They were not flogging off the family silver and getting stuck in a rut of their own making. In 2008 John Key told the grand lie that New Zealand—
I know what the point of order is going to be. Speaker’s ruling 42/5 states that one cannot imply that someone has lied. I ask the member to withdraw and apologise.
I withdraw and apologise. He made the grand promise that New Zealand would catch up with Australia. When he made that promise the wage gap was 34 percent of GDP per capita. Do members know what it is now? It is 37.5 percent and rising every year—on the Government’s own numbers. If members do not believe me, believe the 36,000 New Zealanders who left for Australia last year alone. That happens to be a higher number than in 6 of the 9 years of the previous Labour Government. The number of people in the exodus is going up. Hope is dying in the eyes of New Zealanders. Food prices are rising faster than wages, and more New Zealanders are on the unemployment heap. This Government laughs. Hekia Parata laughs. She laughs, because she has use of an LTD and is on a quarter-million-dollar salary. She is sitting pretty and she is getting out of touch with Mana. That is why she is not the MP for Mana. Members opposite might be reminded that laughing does not last when New Zealanders are suffering.
Even those in work are doing it hard. Last year wages rose 1.7 percent and inflation was 4 percent. It does not take a PhD to work out that people are nearly 2.5 percent worse off. Wages went backwards, on average, by 2.5 percent; they were cut 2.5 percent under National. That is simple; it cannot be argued with, except that Bill English tries. He manipulates the numbers to say that since National was elected wages, after tax, have gone up. My colleagues have asked me how he does that. Firstly, he took a starting date before National was elected—in the year in which Labour was still governing. Then he added back in the effect of Labour’s Budget 2008 tax cut. Then he used a different data series than the comparison with Australia. Then he dropped in National’s tax cuts, which the country could not afford and has had to borrow to fund. When we take the proper New Zealand income survey data it shows that average incomes grew about 5 to 6 percent per annum under Labour. Under National they have grown 0.4 percent for the average wage, and minus 0.75 percent for the median. So the incomes of 50 percent of New Zealanders, at least, have gone backwards since National was elected. One cannot argue with those numbers; that is the data. I say: “Welcome to National’s recession.” It is the one in which there is no global financial crisis left to blame and where National has had its hand on the tiller for 2½ years.
Where is National’s plan for jobs and growth? Its plan was to take away the research and development tax cuts and appoint a Chief Science Adviser. Its plan was to take away half of the grant fund to the Ministry of Economic Development. I tried to ring the economic development agency in Waitakere, and I could not get through. Why? Rodney Hide abolished it! He simply abolished it. In the super-city legislation there is no economic development agency left in west Auckland. The Government does not care. It would rather prevent Māori from having an elected seat on the super-city council and spend $5 million on an advisory board. Can we have that money to create jobs in west Auckland? That would be very, very helpful.
The problem for National—and members opposite are looking at their feet because they do not like the truth—is that they are still in the grip of Reagan-Thatcher-Chicago school economics. The theory goes: “If you just cut—
Mr Power should listen to this. “If you just cut the Government sector enough, a million flowers will bloom, interest rates will drop, the current account will be beautiful, and everything will be right in the garden.” You know, the latest international data shows that for every one public sector job, two private sector jobs are created: one on average for procurement from public sector activity, and one more from the multiplier effect of lifting aggregate output. The multiplier—that is what economists discovered after the last great depression—says that when the Government gets in and helps, people get confident and they themselves invest. They hire people, they build things, they make things, and they sell things, and we get out of the doldrums. We get out of the rut. Why have those members forgotten the lesson of the 1930s—the lesson that Forbes and Coates taught us. It took Michael Savage to put things right. It took Michael Cullen to cut New Zealand’s debt to zero. Government members complain that New Zealand was left a pile of debt; but there was a credit of net debt when Labour left office.
I will start by saying happy New Year to all members in the Chamber. It will be a very interesting year ahead, indeed. I will briefly make a couple of quick comments on the Labour Party reshuffle.
You see, I watched with some interest to see who had progressed, who had gone back, and who had stayed in the same spot. It is always interesting, from the Government side, to watch Opposition reshuffles; I have been involved in a few in my time. The thing that interested me was that when we came down for the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement on Tuesday—which I will get to in a moment—I sat here and thought it would be interesting to see the new faces in the nine front-bench seats of the Labour Party. Much to my disappointment, nothing had changed. They were the same nine faces who had been there prior to Christmas. They were slightly altered in position, but by and large nothing had changed. I do not want to cast any aspersions on Grant Robertson. I think he probably has a pretty promising career ahead, but in no one’s book is sitting on the cross benches the same as being on the front bench. Labour’s attempt to sell its two new front-benchers, when they are actually sitting on the cross benches, does not cut any mustard at all, I am afraid.
I have a couple of interesting observations. David Parker is up to No. 4. He is an astute sort of character, who no doubt will make a strong contribution to the Labour line-up. In particular, I am looking forward to his making true the headline: “Parker to lead campaign against asset sales”. We have now been in here for two question times, but I do not think we have had a question from him yet. He asked for the job and got the job, we were told. Unfortunately, I do not think that Clayton Cosgrove, the Opposition spokesperson on State-owned enterprises, was told about that, as he did not seem to know anything about that particular delegation.
It is worth saying there will be people on the Opposition side who will be disappointed with the reshuffle, and it is worth mentioning just a couple of those as we pass by. H V Ross Robertson continues to be disappointed with, and underutilised by, Labour. In fact, I was sitting here before and could not see, across the benches, the seat where his traditional sheepskin cover was located in the new line-up. I see it now over there, slightly slumped down and not set up with the usual pride that Ross Robertson would expect from his sheepskin there. It is rumoured, of course, that he deserved better. The majority in his seat alone would probably tally up to a total bigger than the majorities of all the Labour front-benchers parked up together, and it is a pity that Labour does not recognise those who are working hard on the ground.
Other questions popped into my head. What happened to the promising Clare Curran, or, in fact, the upcoming Ashraf Choudhary, and the sturdy but reliable Rick Barker? What happened? What became of those reasonably hard-working characters during the reshuffle?
What interested me the most, though, I have to say, was to see, during Phil Goff’s reply to the Prime Minister’s speech, how few of the Labour members lifted their heads to listen to what Phil Goff had to say. Everybody was very busy—very busy. There was lots of important paperwork and lots of correspondence that had to be dealt with. Heads were down; no one was looking. To be fair, apart from the Hon Darren Hughes’ permanently transfixed glaze of adoration, everybody else was looking down and was absent from the debate. Clayton Cosgrove—good old Clayton Cosgrove—had to be pried from his seat to clap at the end of that contribution to the debate, and, frankly, Ruth Dyson thought that Ethiopia was a better option.
Who lost out in the reshuffle? Well, apart from Mita Ririnui, who I see is almost as far back in the House as Chris Carter now, the only person who has really lost out from this reshuffle—and members opposite know this in their heart of hearts—was the Hon Phil Goff. It is only a matter of time.
National, on the other hand, under the stewardship of the Prime Minister, set out in his statement a clear and definitive path for the year ahead. It is a plan for growth, a plan for debt reduction, and a plan for good use of capital, versus what the other side has to offer, which is a 58 percent tax rate to try to pay for its uncosted promises in its borrow-and-hope strategy. I will take this opportunity to give the Opposition and others a bit more explanation about the Prime Minister’s statement in respect of the justice sector in the year ahead.
Members of the House and the public can expect the Government to be focused on victims’ rights during the course of 2011. They can expect to see amendments to current legislation in that area, as we move to deal with matters that the previous Government got nowhere near. Under that Government, victim impact statements were censored and edited. That will change when this Government brings legislation to the House. Under this Government, prosecution services will be talking to victims, not leaving them on the sidelines as happened under that Government. Under this Government, more information will be made available to victims as they enter the courtroom, unlike the situation under that Government, when victims were not told about how processes worked or what was going on in a courtroom at any one time.
The Drivers of Crime initiative will be continuing with a considerable degree of focus this year, and this year this Government is prepared to tackle the tough issues about how the justice system treats children. For too long the justice system has been prepared to settle into a situation where an adversarial system, a pistols-at-dawn system, for dealing with child witnesses and victims has been allowed to continue. The previous Labour Government did not deem it appropriate to deal with this issue at any time over its 9 years in office. It was prepared to see children, as victims and witnesses, treated badly by the court, because it was not prepared to make the fundamental changes that are necessary. That will change under this Government, starting with work this year.
Another area that concerns this Government considerably is why children, women in particular, and other vulnerable parties have to wait so long for matters to be resolved in the Family Court. In the last 5 years the Family Court saw the number of cases heard increase by 7 percent, but costs increased by 43 percent. When Labour was in Government, it did nothing. It did nothing to look after those parties in our court system. That will all change under this Government this year, when we undertake a fundamental review of how the Family Court is operating, to the benefit of those people. Under that Government, children were waiting 15 months from the time that an information was laid on an offence that they were in involved with, either as victims or witnesses. They waited 15 months before that matter was committed to trial, and that lot did nothing—they did nothing! That will all change under this Government.
Members can expect to see further measures to protect children, and to actually hold to account those parents and caregivers who live under the same roof as a child who is neglected or abused, but who take no responsibility for what is going on. That Government did nothing about that issue for 9 years. This Government will get on and legislate to make those homes safer for the children and women who suffer in that environment. This Government has introduced safety protection orders and further measures in relation to offender levies, to make sure that the victims of crime get what they deserve and are treated with respect by the court system and the justice system. I was very disappointed to inherit a legacy of such imperative and serious issues having been ignored by the Labour members.
Of course, Parliament will deal this year with the criminal simplification legislation and, most important, legislation relating to alcohol. It will be a busy year ahead for the justice sector. Not only do we have many new initiatives, much drive and momentum, and a big appetite for reform but we will have to spend a lot of time on cleaning up the mess left by that lot before the 2008 election.
The Minister for State Owned Enterprises, the chap in charge of selling our State assets, had 10 minutes to stand up and tell this House, to justify to New Zealand, the rationale for why he is going to sell our power companies. Do members know what that Minister did? He spent 5 minutes talking about the Labour reshuffle. Not once did the Minister for State Owned Enterprises justify to New Zealand the rationale behind why he will sell our power companies. That just about says it all, does it not? There is no plan, there is no rationale, and there is no justification.
There are only three points I would like to speak about today. The first point is inequality—the growing gap in our communities between the few who have an awful lot and the many who have very little. The second point is the reality gap. By that I mean the gap between the words the Prime Minister uses and the policies his Government puts in place. The third point is a very simple question: where is the plan? It is a very simple question that is very difficult to answer, but I think it is about time, after 2 years, that the people of New Zealand had an answer to the question of where the plan is.
Let us start with inequality. In this House yesterday I asked a question that went something like this: “Is it fair when someone on a million dollars a year receives a tax cut of a thousand dollars a week when someone on the median wage gets a tax cut of around $15 a week?”. Mr English had the nerve to stand up in this House and say that there was no inequality in that tax policy, at all, because the economic models told him so. So let me get this right: there is no inequality, so it is perfectly fair that someone earning a million dollars gets a thousand dollars a week, and someone on the median wage gets $15. Really? If that is not inequality then I do not know what is. I suspect that Mr English’s definition of inequality differs significantly from mine, because for me a thousand dollars a week versus $15 a week sure sounds unequal and unfair.
The drive to implement the philosophy behind equality of opportunity drives me; it is why I am here. I believe that every New Zealander should have the opportunity to be as good as he or she can be. As members of Parliament, it is our responsibility to ensure that all New Zealanders get this opportunity. But the Government is failing in that role. Education is one example. In Napier, the high schools used to be hives of activity after dark. People came from all over the city to interact, to learn, and to better themselves. When I drive after dark now past my old school, Napier Boys’ High School, the lights are out and there is no one home. Why? Because $13 million was cut from the adult and community education budget. That pretty much killed night classes in Napier. There is no equality in it.
Ten thousand people in Hawke’s Bay used to take night classes; now none do. Before these classes closed, I met a young woman who had just left school. She was learning to sew so she could make her own clothes. Gone! I met a retired woman who was learning to quilt in order to make presents for her family. Gone! I also met a woman who was learning Italian. She was told by National’s member for Napier that if she could afford to go to Italy, then she could afford to pay for night classes. Wrong! The reason this woman was learning Italian was that her grandkids live in Italy and she wanted to able to talk to them. She cannot afford to go to night classes—they are gone. Napier’s people are poorer for it. New Zealanders are poorer for it, and the gap between the very wealthy and those who are struggling continues to grow. Where is the fairness and the equality there? There is none.
I will talk about the reality gap. We all know that in November 2008 Mr Key looked into the camera and said to every New Zealander that National would not increase GST.
He said that—National would not increase GST. But do members know what? He did.
Phil Goff will never break his promise, and perhaps that is the difference between the two men. Mr Key broke a fundamental election promise. Mr Goff will not. How can the people of New Zealand now trust Mr Key when he says that National will sell only 49 percent of State assets? He said he would not, but that simply does not cut it anymore. People cannot believe his words anymore. They are hollow.
There are some other things Mr Key said in last year’s speech on his statement to Parliament. Twelve months ago Mr Key said: “The good news is that New Zealand has weathered the worst of the global crisis, and New Zealanders can be pleased at how well this country has come through it.” If Mr Key believes that over 150,000 unemployed and a Government borrowing $300 million a week are indicators that we have come through this recession, then someone organise that man another focus group. His Minister of Finance now believes we are in a double-dip recession. But the sad thing is that we could have avoided that, with a good plan for economic development and growth. Mr Key believed that he could muddle on through and it would all be OK. Well, I say to Mr Key that he is not at Merrill Lynch now.
Another quote from the Prime Minister 12 months ago was this: “2009 was not an easy year for many people. Some lost their jobs, some their savings, and others their confidence. Yet things are undoubtedly looking up.” Mr Key said that 12 months ago. He told us last year that things were looking up. Wrong! Why is that? Because he had no plan, except to mine national parks. He had no plan, and the country is spiralling towards a double-dip recession. Mr Key is very definitely not at Merrill Lynch now.
He also said in last year’s statement to Parliament: “The policies we intend to introduce this year will be a big part of the country’s improvement this year, next year and into the future.” That is what Mr Key said a year ago. Let me repeat that: “The policies we intend to introduce this year will be a big part of the country’s improvement …”. The major policy of last year was to increase GST to pay for tax cuts for the very wealthy—that is cruel. We are now going backwards and that is a fact the Government cannot argue against. There were no policies introduced last year that improved the economy or the country. This Government simply has no plan.
I have spoken about inequality and how the policies of this Government have introduced the gap between the very wealthy and the rest. I have shown that the rhetoric from Mr Key simply does not match the policies of his Government. I have reiterated time and time again the request for National to please show us the plan. The Government is playing with the lives of 4.5 million New Zealanders and it has no plan for how to cope with a double-dip recession. That is simply not good enough. Thank you very much.
I must say, it is great to be back here in the Chamber at the start of 2011, which, of course, is election year. Listening to this debate today, I think the public will get a very clear idea about the battle-lines for the coming battle.
No matter how often the Labour Opposition members repeat the myths and half-truths and make misrepresentations, the fact is that the public know what is really going on. If people really want to know the difference between the two sides, they should just have a look at the two leaders’ state of the nation speeches, which they gave 2 weeks ago just before the start of the parliamentary year. I tell people who are listening at home or watching on TV that they should go to stuff.co.nz to download the Prime Minister’s speech and they will see a very clear analysis of the economy, of what needs to be done in New Zealand, and of what the answers are. Most important, they will see the policies that will support a return to economic growth.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the House, there is Phil Goff, whose big election year promise is that he will make the first $5,000 of earnings tax free. Everyone will get $10 in the hand, and somehow that will turn the economy round. The member Mr Nash was talking about the election being about trust. Well, he is right; it will be about trust. It is a shame for Mr Goff that on the day he came out with such a bogus load of rubbish masquerading as policy he also could not answer a straight question about whether he dyed his hair. It is a trivial matter. It is an absolutely trivial matter. There is no problem with dying one’s hair, but why can Mr Goff not be upfront about it? I tell members that it is the small things that undermine the public’s trust, and that issue certainly is one of those small things.
Those guys over there have spent this 15-hour debate talking down New Zealand. Mr Cunliffe recently returned from his holiday in his Herne Bay mansion. He will be back now ministering and talking down to the people of New Lynn for yet another year. He lost the party vote there last time. I am sure that if he goes a bit further, he may well lose the seat there this time around. Mr Cunliffe was talking down New Zealand in the most derogatory terms. He believes that removing GST from fruit and vegetables will cure obesity. He believes that by announcing all these uncosted promises he will suddenly, somehow, get the economy going. But Labour members do not have a plan. I can tell members that there is a God in heaven, and I know there is, because after Phil Goff’s time as leader he is going to deliver us David Cunliffe as the Leader of the Opposition. That is the day I know that the Labour MPs will not be looking forward to, but on this side of the House, things are just going to get better and better.
A clear choice is laid out this year for the public of New Zealand. We have two alternatives. We have John Key, a man with a sound professional record who can manage the economy. He has shown the efforts we are putting into clear policies in order to turn this economy round. Or we could vote for Labour, New Zealand First, or the Green Party. If we get that lot, I can tell members what we will get. We will get soaring tax rates, a top tax rate of 50 percent, Winston Peters as Deputy Prime Minister and probably Minister of Finance, and a completely unaffordable, punishing emissions trading scheme. Do members know what else we will get? We will get a capital gains tax.
Labour members are going around the country moaning and complaining to their base. They are out there talking to the 25 percent of people who always vote Labour and who will always agree with them that it will make progress. Members opposite know how politics works. There is the 30 percent of people who vote for Labour—always 25 percent to 30 percent—there is always 30 percent who vote for the centre-right, there is probably 10 percent who vote for a variety of small parties, and then there is the 30 percent in the middle who vote for the party that delivers on their aspirations.
John Key has been out there now since the end of 2006, painting an aspirational picture for New Zealand. I tell members that the people I represent on the North Shore of Auckland, the people in Northcote, Glenfield, Beach Haven, and Birkdale, agree with John Key’s message, because they want a better future for themselves and a better future for their children. They are backing the people with the vision for New Zealand.
Labour members can talk down the country as much as they like, but, at the end of the day, the public do not vote for negativity. If members really want to know the formula for success and for the future, they should look at what is happening around the world. I was listening to a commentator the other day on the radio, and she said that we have been on a debt-fuelled binge, that we are living beyond our means, and that we have to focus on value for money for public services, on decreasing the deficit, on savings, and on an export-driven economy. She said that that was the way to success. But she was not actually talking about New Zealand. Those comments were from a woman called Laura Tyson, who is a professor at the University of California, Berkley. She was talking about the situation in the US, but, word for word, it is the formula that we are applying here in New Zealand. Anyone with any economic sense knows what has happened over the past few years in Western economies. There has been a debt-fuelled boom in consumption and there has been an explosion in the growth of Government spending. Finally, the day of reckoning has come. It has come here in New Zealand, and we are doing something about it.
As my colleagues have said right through this debate, we are in the same category as Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. We are in the danger zone in terms of private debt as a proportion of GDP. That is why we need this plan now. We are focusing on value-for-money public services. We are making the structural changes to the economy. We are putting the focus on savings, growth, and raising exports. Treasury says that 3 percent growth is anticipated this year. The path ahead is clear. There is a plan. I have outlined our plan for the economy. If members read the Prime Minister’s speech, they will see that it is very clearly listed there.
The members opposite should say what Labour’s plan is. David Cunliffe, speaking on behalf of the people of New Lynn via Herne Bay, is saying that people should not worry, because there will be a fully costed set of accounts before the next election. But so far, in three parliamentary sitting days this year, every time Labour members open their mouths there are more promises—$5 billion has been added to the total bill, or $10 for everybody per week. That is going to cost $1.6 billion.
Did members see Phil Goff on TV when the press gallery asked Mr Goff where the money would come from? Frankly, Phil Goff did not know. Have members heard what Labour is promising for early childhood education? David Cunliffe must be in mortal fear—I could use another expression—because he knows he has to find the money for this stuff, and he knows that at the end of the day the only way he can do it is by driving up taxes. The aspirational people in Birkenhead, Northcote, Beach Haven, and Birkdale will not vote for higher taxes. They will not vote for more emissions trading scheme costs. Labour members know it—their heads are down and they have no reply. They know what will have to happen for Labour to be able to pay for its promises: it will be higher taxes, it will be more people going to Australia, and it will be bad news for New Zealand.
So there we have it; the debate has been framed for the year. Members should read the Prime Minister’s state of the nation speech, because it is very, very clear. There is a clear plan there about making the Public Service more efficient, about restructuring the economy, and about export-led growth. It is a plan that makes sense to people out there in the electorate. They get what we are doing. They have confidence in John Key. The members opposite are a shambles and they are in disarray. We could go on about their shambolic, disorganised front bench, their disorientated leadership, and their lack of options. Quite frankly, the contest has been framed. The people will make up their minds, and it will happen very quickly. Kia ora.
It is a real concern if that speech is an example of the kind of thinking that is sitting around the Government Cabinet table in New Zealand. A Minister has just risen and said that ordinary voters will not support having to pay more for an emissions trading scheme. That Minister sat in a Cabinet that pushed tens of billions of dollars of costs away from the polluters of greenhouse gases and on to ordinary Kiwi families, who are already struggling. He is a member who made the ordinary voters of New Zealand pay more so that the polluters pay less. I say to Mr Coleman that he might want to take that comment back.
The previous speaker also talked about debt. Thank God we had a Labour Government that paid down Government debt, instead of giving the tax cuts that the National Party screamed for, for 9 years. We are not in the same position as Portugal, Ireland, and Greece. Do members know why? It is because they have Government debt of between 80 percent and 144 percent of GDP. What does New Zealand have? We have Government debt of 25 percent. Most of our debt sits in the private sector—90 percent of it is in the private sector, not in the Government sector. So to say that New Zealand is in the same category as those countries, which have incredibly high Government debt, is misleading. As Selwyn Pellett said, it is mischievous at best and dishonest at worst. But if that is what our Government actually thinks, then we have no hope. The Government will be trying to fix problems that do not exist—the wrong problems—and as we know, it is all a smokescreen for the Government to do what it wants to do all the time, which is to slash Government services and make ordinary Kiwi families pay more and get less from their Government.
The Prime Minister’s speech had no vision, it had no plan, and more and more I am starting to think that being Prime Minister is just another thing that John Key wants to tick off his bucket list. There was only a cursory mention of housing in his speech. I think that is very unfortunate, because housing could have played a very important role in this Government’s response to the recession.
I will talk a little about the state of the nation in housing, 2¼ years on from the election of this National-led Government. The Minister of Housing, Phil Heatley, commissioned a report last year. He received it in February, and released it a few months later. The report told him that New Zealand currently is short of 70,000 dwellings—that was in April 2010, when the report was released. The report from the Department of Building and Housing, which was released in September-October last year, also pointed out that we will have a shortfall of another 15,000 houses in the next 5 years and another 10,000 in the decade following. Minister Phil Heatley urgently responded—urgently—in January of this year to the Department of Building and Housing report that came out in the middle of last year. His response was that he would send a pretty strong message to local government that it needed to have more dense housing developments. That is true, but it is certainly not nearly enough to address the incredible housing shortage.
An estimated 20,000 New Zealanders are already homeless or in inadequate housing. There is enormous pressure on State housing, which is still there from the 1990s when the then National Government hocked off nearly 13,000 State houses, mostly to its developer mates. That Government carried out no modernisation whatsoever. In 9 years of a Labour Government we had to try to repair that damage. We had to try to rebuild the housing stocks. I pay tribute to all the Labour housing Ministers at that time who, despite a housing boom, managed to add another 8,000 houses to the State housing stock in order to address the shortage and to carry out urgently needed maintenance work at the same time. We would have loved to do more had the money been available, but of course Labour was left with an economy in crisis after the last National Government, so we did exactly what we could.
The State house waiting list with Housing New Zealand Corporation is nearing 11,000 families, and we know that there are more out there who would be on the waiting list if they felt they had a genuine chance of getting a State house. The Government, in last year’s Budget, slashed the money for the acquisition of State housing and maintenance of State housing by 80 percent. Housing New Zealand Corporation has been told that it has to build new houses out of savings within baseline, because there is no more money for State housing in New Zealand.
We are facing a crisis in the rental market. Rents are up by 25 percent in some parts of Auckland, and that is in 1 year. There has been a 25 percent jump in rents in 1 year, and rents across the country are up by 9.5 percent. Auckland listings on TradeMe dropped 24 percent, compared with the same time last year, and had an 8 percent increase in demand at the same time. I thank my colleague Jacinda Ardern, who will win the seat of Auckland Central because she is on to this issue. She is working with me on the issue of housing in central Auckland, while the current National member is part of a Government that is sitting on its hands and doing nothing about the rental crisis. The supply of rental properties is also down in the Bay of Plenty by 22 percent and in Northland by 14 percent.
When it comes to housing affordability, prices have dropped by only about 5 percent since their peak, which means that a first home is still out of reach realistically for most of those who want to get into home ownership. A recent survey showed that housing affordability in New Zealand, when compared with income, was on a par with New York. In Auckland and Tauranga housing inaffordability is on a par with New York, yet this Government does nothing.
We have a building sector in crisis. Jennian Homes cannot remember a quieter time. The number of dwelling consents issued in December was the lowest since records began in 1965. We are losing skilled workers overseas. What was the Minister’s response to this? He stated: “It was a pre-recession issue and it will be a post-recession issue.” In other words, he will not do anything. He then said that building activity will rebound. But of course, as the chief executive of the Registered Master Builders Federation, Warwick Quinn, stated: “When the bounce comes, … if we keep losing capacity as a result of the low building activity now, we won’t be in a position to respond properly.” We will not be in a position to respond properly, because we will not have the skilled workers, and that will only exacerbate the housing shortage.
The Minister of Housing has tinkered around the edges. He is shifting assets around. He is not doing anything to add to the housing stock. The tragedy is that we had a real opportunity to make housing a key part of the recovery plan for New Zealand. Why would we have done this? We would have added houses to the housing stock and reduced the housing shortage. We would have kept people in work, we would have saved our residential building industry, we would be purchasing local products in local stores and keeping local businesses afloat, and we would have been stimulating our economy. That is what we could have been doing over the last 2¼ years of a National Government. Instead, all we have seen is the building industry crisis worsen, the rental sector crisis worsen, and a Government that is sitting on its hands on all these issues.
We have heard a lot of talk about Australia. We were going to catch up with Australia at one point. The Government has stopped talking about that quite so much now. Let us look at a country that did include housing as part of its economic stimulus plan after the global financial crisis hit. The Federal Government in Australia came out with a social housing initiative. Do members know how much money it put towards this initiative? It put in A$5.638 billion over 3 years for social housing in Australia. That Government planned to build 20,000 more social houses and upgrade 70,000 dwellings. It has actually exceeded that, I have been told. It has exceeded the number of dwellings it has been able to upgrade. That was back in 2008-09, and, as of 30 November last year, of the 20,000 homes that were part of the Australian Government’s economic stimulus package, 18,000 are already under way and being built.
One does not need to accept this from me; accept this from some of the builders in Australia. We can look at Monash, Victoria, where affordable housing and social housing was part of the Government’s stimulus plan. Holden Peel Builders, which is a local building industry in Monash, said that this time last year it had no work booked for the year ahead. Now, thanks to that Government’s investment in housing, it has work locked in for the next 18 months. Its company director was asking himself where the work would come from. He said: “Because of this project, instead of laying blokes off we’re putting on … new apprentices.” He also said that all the guys who work for them are from the local area. He said: “If you believed the press, [for us it was going to be] financial Armageddon.” Now he says that they are feeling good and employing people. They are not laying off workers, they are building houses, and they are stimulating the economy. Maybe that plan is why Australia did not go into recession, despite what the Minister of Finance said yesterday.
Let me start my first contribution of this year with this: I am proud to be part of this National Government, which listens to the needs of the people. Firstly, I would like to speak on small businesses. I belong to a family that has always been in business. I myself have been involved in various businesses for the last two decades. From my experience, I can certainly say that one needs a lot of skills to manage customers, suppliers, and purchasers, and to comply with the legal requirements for running a small business. I also can say with full certainty that the members of this Government and our Prime Minister, John Key, collectively have enough experience to understand what the requirements of small and medium sized businesses are and what difficulties they are facing in today’s difficult economic times. Ninety percent of businesses in New Zealand are small and medium sized businesses that employ fewer than 20 people. About 70 percent of them claim to be family businesses. The Government has done a lot to help small and medium sized businesses since we have come to power. We want businesses to do business and not just the paperwork.
This Government has incorporated the 90-day trial period, which gives opportunity and flexibility to both employers and employees to gain in employment. There have been some doubts from the Opposition about the 90-day trial period, but from my personal experience I know as a fact that no employer ever wants to lose a good employee. Once one finds a good and loyal employee, the business becomes well-organised and cost-effective and can run smoothly. Therefore, the 90-day trial period, in my opinion, has given people with less experience the opportunity to gain employment in positions that previously might not have been possible. It has also given employers the opportunity to hire people whom they might not have previously, in order to find an employee who will be an asset to the business.
In New Zealand we have to be multitaskers to run our businesses efficiently and profitably. For example, if one is the owner of a retail business, one will have to work as a teller, an upper-tier manager, and also manage the accounts. But it also does not stop there; the owner of the business has to have support from family members in difficult areas. I appreciate all those family members who help to run their family businesses. If one looks at the number of hours they put into retail business, one sees that it is very extensive and usually they have to work 7 days a week.
The other issue that this Government has addressed effectively—and it is one we should be proud of—is law and order. When this Government came to power, the situation was very bad. The previous Labour Government had not put enough initiative into law and order. Before the 2008 election National promised to take action to tackle violent crime, address the drivers of crime, and put victims at the heart of the justice system. Under the leadership of the Hon Simon Power we have toughened sentences and restricted bail for violent offenders. We have also increased support, compensation, and services for the victims of crime.
Another major milestone that we have completed under the leadership of the Hon Judith Collins is that we have employed an additional 300 police in Counties-Manukau, and 200 across New Zealand. Last year during my visit to one of the public meetings in Manukau I asked students how they felt about law and order in their area. One of the students replied that she lived in Manurewa and used to feel very scared when walking home from school or from friends’ houses, but now she feels more confident as she sees more police on the street. She said that now occasionally police drive through or walk around the neighbourhood. That ensures her safety. Labour left the country in total confusion and National has picked up the pieces. The probation and parole services were in crisis, criminals were pocketing millions in illegal proceedings, and there was a serious shortage of police to tackle these issues. I am proud that this Government has worked hard to bring confidence to the citizens of South Auckland, in particular.
On the topic of law and order, I also add a small note on taxi driver safety. As most of us are aware, last year there was the tragic death of taxi driver Hiren Mohini. His death caused shock waves around the taxi industry, and taxi drivers were very fearful for their safety. The Government has listened to the concerns raised by the taxi industry and has worked hard to put new law into place quickly, such as cameras for the taxis. Although there is no way that we can make drivers 100 percent safe, evidence from overseas shows that the installation of cameras in taxis dramatically reduces the risk. Drivers who work during the night feel that this measure will greatly enhance their safety.
Time and again it has been pointed out, as Labour members talked, that we have very high unemployment. The reason behind this issue is that Labour, during its long term in Government, did not make any provision for sufficient mechanisms in place to ensure that if and when we had an economic crisis we would not have such high unemployment.
When we took over from Labour, one in five school-leavers could not read or write and had no maths skills, which are basic necessities for anyone for success in life. The Government has introduced national standards into schools to overcome this problem. National standards will eradicate the problem of those who are falling behind, and will enable teachers and parents to identify those who are falling behind and provide them with the help they need.
Before I conclude, I would like to touch on another important issue of infrastructure. New Zealand’s economy extensively depends upon exports. Produce needs to be dispatched on time, and exporters should have reasonable facilities to access the overseas market. Unless we have world-class telecommunication and infrastructure, we will not be able to compete with other suppliers from overseas. We must ensure that our exporters have world-class facilities, and because this Government has a strong focus on economic growth, we are investing in science and innovation. It will be vital to lay a strong foundation for growing businesses and increasing our exports. The new Ministry of Science and Innovation will be an effective bridge between science and industry to help turn great ideas into export success. This will not only increase our export revenues but also create new jobs. The National Government has a positive attitude about the progress of this country. We have to ensure that we expand the economy so that everyone in this country benefits from this growth. Thank you.
Kia ora tātou katoa. To members of the House, talofa lava, I le paia ma le mamalu ua aofaga potopoto. I wish members of this House and all of the staff a happy New Year. I particularly wish the previous speaker, Mr Bakshi, commiserations. As he spoke, I could feel how hard it was for him to say that he was happy to be with the National Government. He struggled through those words. I know that that is true, because he lives in Papatoetoe, in my neck of the woods in Manukau. He would be engaging with many of his community; and many of the Sikh community, the Indian community, and the wider Asian community would be telling him how awful this Government is. He will be struggling to face the people whom he purports to represent. He will be struggling to look them in the eye because in Manukau, in Māngere, and throughout the parts of Auckland that are listening to this debate many families are struggling and suffering as a result of the recession in the early years of this Government, as a result of this Government’s stupid policies, and as a result of this Government’s inaction. The Government is sitting on its hands and doing nothing, and its focus is simply on the mega-wealthy of this country and also people from overseas. Those actions speak louder than the words that we heard in the previous speech and in the Prime Minister’s speech 2 days ago.
In the short time that I have been in this House, I have looked to the Prime Minister’s statement as something important. No doubt many people up and down this country look to the Prime Minister’s statement at the beginning of the year to give them some direction as to what will happen that year, to give them some hope amid the struggles of life that they are experiencing, to give them some vision as to whether they will have a better life the day after tomorrow and next year, and to give them some sort of confidence in their bones that this Government and its policies will look after all New Zealanders. I have to say with sadness that that has not been the case. The Prime Minister’s speech was dull. It lacked any vision. There was no desire whatsoever to really connect with the community. In fact, the Prime Minister did not even read out his statement; he simply tabled it. We tried to follow it, but he was all over the place. He treated it with disrespect. When people of this country are struggling and having a difficult time making ends meet, they look to the leader of the country to provide some sense of hope. I have to say that there was nothing of that sort 2 days ago when the Prime Minister made his speech.
The media has been correct in reporting what the statement contained. The front pages of the Dominion Post and other newspapers have highlighted that the Government, in this term, will constrict further economic growth, sell off State assets, and sack a number of public servants. It already sacked 2,000 public servants last time, but now it is intending to do more, because it believes that by constricting growth, selling off State assets, not addressing the unemployment numbers, and sacking public servants, we will somehow be better off with that sort of scenario.
Every day, people in my constituency come in and complain about this Government. Every day, people in my constituency tell me about the difficulties they are facing. They ask: “What is this Government doing about it?”.
At the start of the school period I took my daughter to buy a school uniform. There were parents there who struggled when they were told about the cost of a blouse, skirt, or pair of pants. The cost of some of those things was outrageous. In total, the package that I bought for one child was $555. I was angry about that. As a backbench politician who earns good money like every other politician here, I was able to afford that, but that is not the case in my own family and in my community, where the median income is about $40,000 per year. I ask members how they think an average family with four kids feels trying to make ends meet. Some schools offer second-hand uniforms that are cheaper or half price, but, when I asked about those uniforms, this particular school had none available. Other parents could afford to buy only one set of the uniform. That cost does not include the donations that schools now rely on. It does not include the stationery that children require. It does not include after-school activities such as sports, piano lessons, drama, or music. All of those things cost money and for the majority of families that cannot afford it, their children will miss out. Why is that?
This Government is determined to focus on what I call the mega-wealthy. The mega-wealthy do not need money. More than 600 people on the Inland Revenue Department database earn $1 million a year, and they got an extra $1,000 a week that they did not need. For some reason this Government hopes that those people will spend that money and that the benefits that go to the mega-wealthy will somehow trickle down to the rest of us. The rest of us got only 25c extra an hour. I ask the Prime Minister whether he could live on $13 an hour. Could he live, survive, and provide for his children on $13 an hour? The answer is no. No family can live and provide a quality of life for themselves on $13 an hour, but that amount is what many people throughout this country are receiving, particularly within the Pacific communities.
I am disappointed that the Prime Minister is out and about in the wider community telling Pacific people how good he is to them, how wonderful Pacific people are, that he will do things for the Pacific community, and that he wants the Pacific community vote, but he did not make a single reference whatsoever to Pacific people in his statement. Is that because the Government tried to buy the Pacific vote by giving $4.8 million to the Pacific Economic Development Agency without going through the proper authorities? For some reason or other, after being asked a truckload of questions throughout last year, and without giving the proper information to the Minister of Pacific Island Affairs, Mr Bill English, who was responsible for this, announced a few days before Christmas, without going through the proper channels, that the money was going out to four organisations. We still do not have an answer as to what that money will do for the Pacific community.
High unemployment is what we have got from this Government. High cost is what we have got from this Government. GST is on the rise. Basic food prices, the cost of power, and the cost of living are staggering for ordinary, working-class families up and down this country, but all that Government members can muster is a smile and a wave. That is what we got for all of last year. I know that on 26 November people will be asking whether they are better off under the National Government, and the answer will be no. People will vote out this Government, because if we allow National to govern again after 26 November, we will be worse off. That is National’s legacy. Everyone in New Zealand will suffer as a result of this Government.
Kia ora. It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. I start by wishing you, Mr Assistant Speaker Barker, and all other members of this House a happy New Year. I know that from time to time we can be controversial and confrontational in this Parliament, but I hope that all members have been able to spend a bit of time with their families. A member opposite asked whether I had made a New Year’s resolution to be nice to him. He should wait until later on in my speech, as I am not absolutely sure that is the case. But I genuinely wish members a good year ahead.
The previous speaker, Su’a William Sio, spoke after my talented and hard-working colleague Kanwaljit Bakshi. He was concerned that Mr Bakshi did not mean the things he was saying and that he did not believe in this Government. I can tell him that Mr Bakshi is a hard-working member of this Government. He is out and about all over the country talking to everyday New Zealanders about the challenges they face and what the Government is doing to make their lives better. He is genuine in his support for the things we are doing. I will not show the same discourtesy to Mr Sio and say that he did not believe what he was saying. Sadly, he did believe everything that he said. He believes everything that the Labour Party tells him to say, which is something for the country to consider.
The parties in this Parliament this week started this year exactly where they left off last year. The Prime Minister delivered a great statement in this Parliament only 2 days ago. He is a Prime Minister who is positive, has drive and determination, and is aspirational. The Prime Minister has a job to do and he is focused on getting that job done for New Zealanders in order to build a stronger and sustainable future for all New Zealanders. We on this side of the House are a united team. We are focused on the challenge; we are not shy of it. We are in touch with everyday mums and dads. By the way, we have more seats in this Parliament that are held by directly elected MPs—therefore, we are in a much better place to know what is going on on the ground.
Let us compare that situation with what we are seeing from Labour. It is all a bit depressing really. Labour started 2011 as it ended up last year, with a leader who is looking unsure and is lacking in confidence. He is more worried about the colour of his hair than about the damage that some of the untested promises he has been making all over New Zealand since the beginning of this year will do to our economy and to New Zealanders. I will talk about his reckless policies a little more in a moment.
Labour is disillusioned, has a lack of direction, and is certainly low in the polls. Mr Sio was talking about what will happen on 26 November. I am certainly not one to take anything for granted, and I will be working as hard as every other member on this side of the House to make sure New Zealanders know about the importance of their choice on 26 November. But I ask Mr Sio to get in touch with reality a little bit, to realise the challenge that is in front of him, to stop coasting, and to go and look at every single poll over the last year or more. They will tell him what New Zealanders are thinking at the moment, rather than what he thinks.
Mr Sio should get out and talk to New Zealanders. They are concerned. They are worried about their future. They want changes. There is no doubt about that. I say to the members opposite that I do not think New Zealanders are listening to Labour, because New Zealanders are extremely intelligent people.
What have we heard from the Opposition members and their leader, Phil Goff, in election year? The election plank this year is to spend, spend, spend and tax, tax, tax. That is it. We actually heard a lot of that over 9 years before National came into Government, but there it is: spend, spend, spend and tax, tax, tax. Nothing has changed. A year ago I picked up newspapers and there was Phil Goff riding around on a motorbike, apologising to New Zealanders and saying that Labour has learnt and that it wants to re-engage with them. What happens this year? It is the same old stuff that happened over the 9 years Labour was in Government.
Where will this spending happen in our economy if Labour gets back into Government? Labour is promising a tax-free threshold of $5,000 for every working New Zealander, at a cost of $1.3 billion. There will be no GST on fruit and vegetables, at a cost of $250 million. Labour will not be taking dividends from State-owned power companies. It did not consider not doing that over the 9 years it was in Government, but now with desperation in Opposition it says it will not take any dividends from State-owned power companies, at a cost of $700 million.
Funding will be restored for early childhood education, Mr Goff said, at a cost of $400 million. I guarantee that none of that $400 million will go to Māori and Pasifika children or to the children of New Zealand in low-decile backgrounds who are not engaged in early childhood education. That is not where it will go. I say to the ladies and gentlemen of the public who are listening today that the Labour Party is showing New Zealanders all over the country a sleight of hand. The National Government is spending $1.4 billion on early childhood education this year, which is more than has been spent in any other year. Where will the extra $400 million go that Mr Goff has said he will spend? It will not go to the people whose children are not in early childhood education. It will not go there at all.
A Labour Government would restore research and development tax credits at a cost of $330 million. It would increase paid parental leave to 18 weeks at a cost of $50 million. It would restore full contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, at a time when the country can least afford it, at a cost of $2 billion.
What do all of those figures add up to? Just over $5 billion. It would be $5 billion of extra spending and $5 billion of promises, and where would the money come from? Mr Goff said a Labour Government might do something with defence—which would be a one-off change or cut; it would certainly not be continuing—and that it might tighten up on a little bit of tax avoidance. If there were $5 billion worth of tax avoidance in the New Zealand economy at the moment, then our hard-working Minister of Revenue and Minister of Finance would have found it by now.
They are empty promises of lots of spending. That suggests to me that it is nothing more than a desperate wish list to buy votes. We have seen it before with Labour at election after election. Labour members will say anything, will promise anything, and will commit to spending anything so that Mr Goff can become the Prime Minister of New Zealand and so the members opposite can get better jobs. They are more interested in themselves; they are not interested in this country. That is it: there is no thought at all about financial security for New Zealanders, no thought at all about what the extra borrowing will do to interest rates in this country, and no thought at all about what will happen to our credit rating. It is just spend, spend, spend and tax, tax, tax. Well, it did not work 3 years ago. I guarantee that if that is all Labour has, New Zealanders have nothing to worry about, because it is nowhere near enough to get Labour over the line.
Conversely, what does the National Government have in store for New Zealanders? A clear plan is needed, and we are paying more attention to what New Zealanders need. We are building a brighter future for New Zealanders, keeping New Zealanders here in this country, and giving them a reason to stay here. [Interruption] What did I hear from Mrs Chadwick opposite? I do not want to give her any more publicity. She really finds it very difficult to get it herself.
In the newspaper in Rotorua this week an article had Mrs Chadwick saying that 45,000 New Zealanders are leaving New Zealand every week. Let us work that out. How many weeks are in a year? Mrs Chadwick has said that 2.3 million New Zealanders a year are leaving New Zealand. People should look at the article. It was probably a mistake, but I draw attention to it because there are lots of mistakes, and they mean that the Opposition is not paying enough attention to what is going on.
The Government will focus this year on achieving two main goals: continuing to build the foundations for a stronger economy so that we have better and more sustainable jobs that will be good for hard-working New Zealanders who want to work in our economy, and getting better results from our Public Service. We will hear screaming and yelling about cuts and job losses, but this is about taxpayer money being spent on a Civil Service, and taxpayers deserving and expecting a return from that spending. They want their money to be used well. They work very hard for it and they want us to be delivering for them. That is where we will see some action.
Members opposite say there is no plan. Well, a 20-minute speech the other day just started to touch on the plan. The plan is to build a world-class infrastructure to help businesses compete in this country, to build skills and knowledge to future-proof jobs in this country, to help exporters to sell more of their goods to the world at a better price, and to give businesses confidence and certainty so that they will invest. It means building upon savings and investment, and putting in place some rules to make it easier for New Zealanders to save and invest. There will be more security and they will get more for that investment.
I could talk about a lot of other things in my 10 minutes, such as infrastructure, roading, and delivering on the provision of broadband. It is all about a better future, a stronger economy, and a better country to live in. It is about delivering more for the important sector of science and technology so we can be innovative and so that New Zealanders will have better jobs. It is not enough for Labour to say that it is OK for people to have a lack of education or a lower education, to have not been given the chances they should have been given. Labour is quite happy about them having low-paying jobs. We want more for New Zealanders. We are driven to make things better for New Zealanders. We will be working in health and education, in law and order, and for vulnerable children.
I want to speak on something that was missing from the Prime Minister’s statement on Tuesday. The printed version of the speech avoided any mention of foreign affairs. This actually fits the National Government’s foreign policy direction, which is well away from having an independent foreign policy for this country or engaging proactively with solutions to the world’s key problems.
I think that was illustrated again yesterday when I asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, why he was not calling for the immediate resignation of Hosni Mubarak as Egypt’s President. All of Mr McCully’s replies referred to a “transition” under way in Egypt, by which he meant talks between Mubarak’s new Vice President, Omar Suleiman, and some Opposition leaders. Other Opposition leaders, like Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, stayed out on the streets and out of the talks, saying that Mubarak must go. ElBaradei said that Mubarak is the symbol of an outgoing regime, and that if he does not leave, the regime will entrench itself and come back with a vengeance. As if to reinforce this point, TV last night showed the offices of a Cairo human rights organisation, whose computers had all been smashed by Mubarak’s goons that very day.
In reality, Mr McCully is taking his guidance from the US State Department, which still refuses to call for Mubarak to resign now, having propped up his ruthless regime for 30 years. The United States - led so-called transition will be to another pliant ruler who it hopes will conspire with Israel against the Palestinians, as Mubarak did. The Egyptian people and their interests do not really come into the equation. In fact, the huge demonstrations in Egypt are essentially viewed as a problem by the Key Government.
In John Key’s opening speech this week he elaborated on his written statement to the nation by warning of “the risk that there will be a great period of unsettledness in the Middle East”. To the people of Egypt, Tunisia, and elsewhere mass demonstrations are opening up great opportunities for democratic regime change, but for John Key and the Mubarak administration they are risks—risks that democratic Arab Governments might not obey Western dictates the way that the regimes they replace did.
The second area where the subordination to the United States foreign policy has shown itself recently is in the year-long extension of the SAS mission in Kabul. It is not any secret that the United States was pushing for this, along with the British Government. So at the very time that the rationale for foreign forces staying on in Afghanistan is weaker than ever, the Government is extending the SAS mission. It is reduced to pitiful arguments like the need to fight terrorism, when everyone knows that al-Qaeda barely exists in Afghanistan. There is no better way to make people around the world angry enough so that a minority of them end up as terrorists than to have foreign forces in a country like Afghanistan killing the locals. That is the way to breed terrorism around the world. That is why it is so wrong that our SAS is in Afghanistan.
The sad thing is that the National Government is going more and more into Washington’s corner, just when we need more Western countries to be speaking out independently for peace and democracy. There do not seem to be any Western countries speaking out against the Afghan war or for Mubarak to resign now. We should be asserting ourselves with the same sort of pride we showed when we became nuclear-free.
We did not get applause from the United States Government, the British Government, or the French Government then—they were all nuclear States. We did not get any applause from any single non-nuclear Western Government, either. All of them lacked the courage to stand up to the three Western nuclear States, even though a large number of their people were supportive of New Zealand’s antinuclear stand.
Now the themes of the National Government’s foreign policy seem to be: first, if possible follow America; second, follow Australia, which will probably be following America anyhow; or third, if we are dealing with the foreign policy of a big country we trade with, then tone down or eliminate any criticism of that country’s Government. This last approach applies to China in particular.
New Zealand’s criticisms of China’s human rights record are so muted as to be barely noticeable. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade claims to bring up the issue of human rights with Chinese officials when they have meetings, but behind closed doors. That is probably some official saying to his or her Chinese counterpart: “You’ll be aware I have to bring up human rights? Now that’s done, let’s get on to the real business.” Late last year when the imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize, New Zealand was virtually the last Western Government to give her any positive acknowledgment—about 4 or 5 days later—and it seems it did so only because it would have been a little funny if it was the only Western Government not to make such an acknowledgment.
The trouble with being so soft on the abuse of human rights in China, and playing up to the Beijing Government—for example, by banning New Zealand Ministers from meeting with the Dalai Lama when he visits here—is that the Chinese Government then thinks it can throw its weight around in this country. A good example of that occurred recently when the Chinese consul-general in Auckland wrote a letter to all the Auckland city councillors asking them not to attend a Chinese cultural evening with links to Falun Gong, a movement that the consul-general, in the letter to the councillors, proudly declared had been banned in China. There was no recognition at all that perhaps New Zealand councillors would not be terribly sympathetic to the Government banning a meditative or religious group, or whatever Falun Gong is.
New Zealand politicians are now seen as a soft touch, so that the Chinese consul-general and the Chinese Embassy think they can order us, representatives of the people, around in our own country. There was a letter to MPs from some collaborators of the Chinese Government; supposedly, 29 Chinese organisations based in Auckland. The letter described Falun Gong as an evil cult, and it asked me, and presumably all other MPs who, presumably, received that form letter, not to attend the performance of the Shen Yun troupe, the Falun Gong - aligned group.
How can we be proud of being so obsequious to the Chinese Government when it is throwing its weight around in that way? The fact is that the world is crying out for leadership, and it is often up to small countries to provide it. The campaign to achieve a convention to ban cluster bombs, finalised in 2008, was driven by three countries, each with about 4 million people—that is, Norway, Ireland, and New Zealand, to its credit. We have yet to get some of the important countries, like the United States, to sign up, but we are well on the way.
At least we are sticking to our nuclear-free policy, which is a good example of the way in which small countries can have a global influence for good. But that is probably more because of the pressure of the people, so that no party in this Parliament dares to stray from that policy. To combat such pressure from the people of New Zealand for a strong pro-peace, pro-democracy foreign policy—an independent policy—Governments like the current Government try to keep out of the gaze of the New Zealand people the level of their accommodation. That is what the WikiLeaks papers have shown. There are a whole series of examples there of the US keeping quiet about its military relationship with New Zealand, hiding the fact that full intelligence relations were established with New Zealand in August 2009, and mentioning intelligence targets that would cause “political damage” if the New Zealand public knew about them, etc.
Although it might appear that the Greens are having an uphill battle in Parliament to get Governments here to have a more independent, more courageous foreign policy, we do for the most part have the people of New Zealand behind us. Most New Zealanders now watching the Egyptian people on the streets instinctively support their call for the dictator to go immediately and not to allow the regime to stay entrenched in power. About half the New Zealand population, if opinion polls are anything to go by, think our special forces should not stay involved in the interminable war in Afghanistan, and it is no accident that the printed version of the Prime Minister’s statement did not refer to foreign policy. John Key’s subservient foreign policy is at odds with the independent, peace-loving spirit deep in the hearts of the New Zealand people.
I begin my speech this afternoon by congratulating the Prime Minister on his statement to Parliament on Tuesday. The National-led Government was elected to secure a brighter future for New Zealand. We were elected for our vision of a safe, prosperous, and successful New Zealand. We were elected because we believe that all New Zealanders can, and should, reach their goals and dreams.
As the Prime Minister read his speech to Parliament on Tuesday he talked about the $64 more that New Zealanders earning the average wage will take home in their pay packets each week, thanks to the National-led Government. He talked about the new company tax, which will give businesses more capacity to grow and create new jobs by making our companies more competitive with those in Australia and in the rest of the world. That is important if we are serious about our growth. It is important if we are serious about raising the prosperity of New Zealand and all New Zealanders. He talked about opportunity; he talked about a real future. In the Prime Minister’s speech the people of New Zealand saw a Government of action; they saw a Government of vision. I am proud to be a part of this National-led Government.
On Tuesday the co-leader of the Greens Metiria Turei got up and spoke about her father—an ordinary guy who just wanted to have an ordinary life. She hopes for that ordinary life for all New Zealanders. Well, we in the National-led Government do not want to turn out just ordinary New Zealanders. We have a vision of creating a New Zealand where our children will have the best possible opportunities, get the best possible futures, and have choices about where they work, because in New Zealand we have globally competitive salaries. Our people are so well-educated and so well-thought-of that they can go anywhere in the world to get a job. They have options but, more important, we want them to have options to come back to New Zealand and live in this great country.
Last year I was in Ōhāriu giving an address at a prize-giving at St Benedict’s School in Khandallah, and I quoted Sir Ernest Rutherford. Sometimes we forget that we have great New Zealanders. He said that we did not have much money in New Zealand, so we had to think. He, Sir Edmund Hillary, Richard Pearse, and Kate Sheppard were all just ordinary Kiwi kids, but they had an extraordinary vision, and that is what the National-led Government aspires to for all our children.
When Labour left office in 2008 one in five children was leaving school not able to read, write, or do maths well enough to succeed. In fact, one in five could not go out and get a job, because they were not educated enough. In early childhood education 8 percent of Māori children are missing out, 15 percent of Pasifika children are missing out, and 12 percent of children in lower socio-economic areas are missing out. In fact, in some areas one in four children misses out. These areas include Counties-Manukau and Northland. These figures might have been acceptable for the Labour Government. Labour members sit there and laugh at these statistics. But it is not acceptable for a National-led Government.
We know that education is the key to economic success, we know that it is the key to personal freedom, and we know that it is the key to choice. The National-led Government is committed to building the skills and knowledge of New Zealanders, and building what we need for future-proofed jobs. It starts with getting the basics right.
There must be one electorate where 100 percent of kids can’t read and write.
The previous member for Ōtaki over there is asking about the children in Ōhariu. I will tell members about the children in Ōhariu. Around 2,400 children are currently enrolled in early education in Ōhariu, but the important thing is that we make access to early childhood education easier for all children. In Ōhariu we are lucky. We are predominantly middle-class, we are well educated, and we know the value of education. But if one is talking about children in South Auckland, or if one is talking about children in Northland, those parents do not understand, or put as much emphasis on, education as they would in other areas where they already have higher participation in early childhood education.
Our priority is to make early childhood education accessible to even more children. We are spending $1.4 billion on early childhood education over the next 4 years—the most ever spent by any Government. This is being spent by a National-led Government. It reflects the importance we place on the future of our young children.
Government spending on early childhood education has almost trebled in the last 5 years, but the number of families accessing early childhood education has stayed low. We have to ask ourselves whether we are spending the money the right way. We need to target Māori and Pasifika children, and children from low-income backgrounds. These children are less likely to take part, but would benefit the most. That is why the National-led Government is investing $91.8 million in five community-led projects that will allow 3,500 extra children across the country to access early childhood education.
This Government is focused on building better literacy and numeracy skills in primary school children around New Zealand. Part of this focus is our national standards policy. I think every parent has a right to know how their children are doing, whether their children need additional help, and whether they actually need to be extended. If we are to produce the brightest, we have to ensure they get every opportunity in New Zealand to become the brightest.
We are also building more responsive secondary schools that can provide a wider range of pathways so students who do not want to pursue the academic path to university have options. They will have options to build their skills and talents, and will have choices in life, just like everybody else.
We understand it is not easy at school for every child. Yesterday the Prime Minister talked about the more than 220,000 children who live in benefit-dependent households. That is 220,000 children who live in benefit-dependent households. I am absolutely passionate about this issue. We know that getting people off benefits and into work improves their quality of life and their children’s quality of life. This Government is committed to finding pathways for people on benefits—pathways so they can have hope, so they can have prosperity, so they can have choice, and so they can get ahead in life. We do not want them to be dependent on the State, and they do not want to be dependent on the State. They want to go out and help themselves, so we are providing pathways for them. We will support people on benefits to find jobs that suit them. This Government is committed to helping people on to pathways to employment.
In the justice area, the Prime Minister talked about the Government’s work to protect children from abuse, introducing new laws to toughen the penalty for neglecting or ill treating a child. Nobody in this House would argue that we are the worst offenders for neglecting and abusing our children, but we all know that although the Government can put measures in place, it is not just the Government’s responsibility; it is the whole community’s responsibility to ensure our children stay safe. Our Government is committed to ensuring that we have this debate in New Zealand, that it is at the forefront of people’s minds, and that if one sees something happening at the end of one’s street, one goes and does something about it.
Our Government is one of ambition, it is one of encouragement, and it is one that believes that every New Zealander can be more than just ordinary. We believe in a world-class education system, a globally competitive economy, globally competitive salaries, effective health-care, valuing families, opportunity for all, and encouraging ambition: I am proud to stand here as a member of a National-led Government today. Thank you.
There is a saying in the United States: “selling the Brooklyn Bridge”. A person who could sell the Brooklyn Bridge would be a con man, a fraud artist, and a huckster. Selling the Brooklyn Bridge was the oldest scam in the book. The cons began after the bridge was built in 1883, and went on for years. The con man who was most famous for selling the Brooklyn Bridge was a guy called George Parker, who claimed to have successfully sold the bridge twice a week for several years. Some of his victims even put up traffic barriers to try to make a buck out of their new purchase. But those poor suckers did not realise they already owned the bridge. What is the difference between John Key and those scam artists who sold the Brooklyn Bridge? It is a rhetorical question, and I am not expecting an answer from you, Mr Assistant Speaker. National’s policy to sell off our most valuable, high-performing, and profitable State-owned enterprises is a scam on the people of New Zealand. It is a fraud; we already own Meridian Energy, Solid Energy, Genesis, and Mighty River Power.
Let us look at what Mr Key said in his Prime Minister’s speech to this House. Mr Key said he wants us to own our own future. How will he help us to do that? He will sell off our assets. I do not know who is writing Mr Key’s lines these days, but that is either so good it is bad, or it is so bad it is good. All over New Zealand, mums and dads are watching TV and looking at each other in amazement, thinking “What is this guy on? He is supposed to be our Prime Minister. Does he think we’re completely stupid?”. You see, either Mr Key is out of touch or he is starting to believe his own spin, because the mums and dads he is talking about all over New Zealand are struggling to make ends meet. Petrol is up, food prices are up—they have been whacked by this Government’s GST increase—and the fees to send the kids to kindy or early childhood education are going up. Families are not only struggling to save but they are struggling to get through to the end of the week, and Mr Key thinks they are suddenly going to pick up the phone and call their stockbroker, and ask him to hold a few hundred shares in our country’s energy companies.
Even if ordinary Kiwis could afford to buy up these energy companies, how long do we think those shares would remain in New Zealand hands? What do small investors do? They sell at a profit. The share prices of these high-performing companies will inevitably increase, and what will those small investors inevitably do? They will sell. Whom will they sell to? It will almost certainly be to foreign investors, and we can look to the experience of Contact Energy, which was privatised by the National Government in the 1990s. What happened? A controlling share ended up in the hands of Origin Energy, an Australian company. That is Mr Key’s idea of helping us to own our own future. The only real winners out of this policy will be foreign investors, not the mums and dads of Mr Key’s spin lines. In question time today Simon Power said that the Government was going to make sure that Kiwi investors would be at the front of the queue. Well, I have heard some pretty unconvincing explanations for this policy over the last week, but that is one of the weakest.
The main reason that the Prime Minister gave for putting forward this policy to New Zealand was that New Zealand has a debt problem, and as a response to this debt problem he will sell off some of our most valuable companies. He said that we have to borrow $300 million a week, on average, to pay the bills. On a number of occasions he has disingenuously likened New Zealand’s debt profile to that of Portugal, Ireland, Greece, and Spain. I think everybody knows now that the problem in New Zealand is private sector debt; it is not Government debt. This policy of selling off our State-owned enterprises will do nothing to tackle the structural problem in our economy that we have with private sector debt. In fact, it will weaken our Government’s balance sheet and weaken our ability to pay off our Government debt. Bernard Hickey has usefully pointed out that the rate of return on these four State-owned enterprises is over 7 percent, yet the Government is currently paying just over 5 percent on its recently purchased Government debt. The Government of New Zealand—the taxpayer—will be the net loser under this policy.
Mr Key put forward the idea that by privatising these companies they will be run more efficiently. I would have thought that international events over the last couple of years, with the global financial crisis and the behaviour of some of the biggest companies in the world, would have finally put to rest the mythology that the private sector is always more efficient. Mr Key even mentioned the case of Air New Zealand, and said that Air New Zealand would not be much more efficient and service-oriented if it were 100 percent owned. Well, what an extraordinary rewriting of our country’s history! It was when Air New Zealand was 100 percent owned by the private sector that it made the phenomenally stupid decision to purchase Ansett. Since the fifth Labour Government bailed out Air New Zealand, we have seen the company return to profitability and to once more become an innovative company that we can be proud of as our national carrier.
The Prime Minister also claimed that asset sales would be good for New Zealand’s capital markets. He is ignoring the advice of Treasury, which says that domestic saving and tax and regulation settings are much more important policy tools to increase the depth and breadth of our capital markets. Selling State-owned assets is the ultimate quick fix. It begs the question of what this Government will do when the cupboard is bare and when there are no more State-owned assets to flog off. It shows how absolutely bankrupt the Government is for ideas to grow the New Zealand economy and increase the wealth that is generated by New Zealand firms. National has nothing to say about savings, it has nothing to say about monetary policy, and it has nothing to offer the country on innovation and research and development, or on how investing in skills and training will give us the productivity increases that we need to grow more wealth in New Zealand. National’s solution, its idea, of an economic plan is to sell off four of our energy companies, and that shows how utterly bankrupt this Government is when it comes to policies that will grow the New Zealand economy and deliver the wealth and prosperity we need.
Most New Zealanders today are worse off than they were 2 years ago. It is clear to everybody that this Government does not have a plan. We have heard a lot of rhetoric about ambition. Katrina Shanks was just talking about how National wants New Zealanders to be more than ordinary. We have seen cycleways and we have seen Job Summits, but we have seen a woeful lack of serious strategic thinking about how to grow the economy. New Zealanders have seen job losses, cuts to services, belt tightening, and an increase in GST; all this Government has to offer are asset sales, cuts to public services, and tax cuts heavily weighted to the top 10 percent of earners.
John Key’s policy to sell State assets is a con. It is as simple as that. But New Zealanders are not stupid. They will not buy John Key’s version of the Brooklyn Bridge. They did not come down in the last shower, and they know when a con artist is trying to put one over them. Justice caught up with the con artist, George Parker, who sold the Brooklyn Bridge, and the long arm of the New York Police Department caught up with him and put him behind bars. Politically speaking, that is what I think will happen to John Key and this Government.
We saw it last year in Auckland. Aucklanders did not trust Rodney Hide and his plans to hand over Auckland to his mates, and their plans to privatise Auckland’s assets. Aucklanders knew that Hide was setting Auckland up to privatise their assets. And what did they do? They threw Rodney Hide’s candidate, John Banks, into the Waitematā Harbour. They elected a mayor who promised to protect their assets, and in whom they trusted to protect their assets, and they will do it again in this year’s general election.
Tēnā koe e te Mana Whakawā. Tēnā tātou huri noa i tō tātou Whare. Ngā mihi nui o te tau hou ki a tātou katoa. Happy New Year to all of us. Gong xi fa cai; happy Chinese New Year. I am delighted to stand to follow the speakers on this side of the House to talk about the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament. I start by reading the very first part of the Prime Minister’s statement, and I recommend to the members of the House that they read all 20 pages, because they seem to be under some misapprehension that there is not a plan. It might be because they have not taken the opportunity of actually reading the 20 pages of detail that carefully set out what that plan is.
But let me start at the beginning, because I think it bears reiteration: “This year the National-led Government will continue building a brighter future for New Zealand. Our 2011 programme will focus on achieving two of our key goals: We will build the foundations for a stronger economy and build better results from the public services New Zealanders rely on. These are the platforms upon which New Zealanders’ aspirations rest.” Is that not fantastic? There is so much in it, and, as I have already said, I really do commend it to members of the House, so they have the opportunity of informed debate.
This Government inherited an economy in very bad shape. I shall not rehearse the dimensions of that, because this House and New Zealanders are very familiar with that parlous state of affairs. We had to stabilise it. The good thing is that in 2011 the forecast is that we will grow the economy at just over 3 percent. What will that mean? It will mean better jobs and it will mean higher incomes, and that is important for all New Zealanders.
To do this, the recipe is quite simple. There are three ingredients: we need to increase savings, we need to increase investment, and we need to increase exports—it is as simple as that—while also constraining Government spending. That means we need to focus on growing and supporting our businesses to become ever more successful. It means that we need to focus on productivity and levers that will give us greater productivity in our economy. Some of the investments we have made to that end are medium to long term, such as investing in early childhood education, and paying the highest level of investment that has ever been paid. It is very irresponsible of members on the Opposition benches to mislead the public when the facts are that this Government is investing in early childhood education at a level never matched by any previous Governments. In addition, we have extended 20 hours’ free early childhood education to playcentres and kōhanga reo. In so doing, we have given practical effect to one of the cornerstone values of the National-led Government, which is choice. Parents get to choose whether they want to send their children to teacher-led early childhood education centres or to parent-led early childhood education centres. As a child who went to playcentre—one of the very first in New Zealand, in fact—as a daughter of the first graduate of kōhanga reo, and as a mother whose children went to kōhanga reo and to kindergarten, I feel very qualified to talk about the validity of the approach we are taking in early childhood education.
We have gone on to invest in national standards at the primary school level, because, as my colleague said earlier, it is important that we know how well our students are doing in primary school.
We have invested in education, in world-class infrastructure, in the State highway network, in the roads of national significance, and in broadband. We have invested in science and innovation, and, unlike the Opposition, we have invested in it in such a way that it will support businesses in their research and development to improve what it is they have to sell. We have invested in employment law reform, we have streamlined and simplified laws and regulations, particularly in resource management, and we have introduced the most comprehensive tax reform seen in a generation.
In terms of supporting businesses, from 1 April we will see our company tax rate reduce from 30 percent to 28 percent. So it behoves us all to look at what the opportunities are to invest in, in order to grow the economy, and one of those areas is in increasing exports. We have the opportunity of China, with which we have a free-trade agreement. In the year ended in June 2010 we had just over $4 billion worth of exports to China and we imported just over $6 billion worth of goods. There is an opportunity there to grow our exports into China. We have the opportunity of developing a free-trade agreement with India. Last year we exported just over $700 million worth of goods and we imported just over $300 million worth.
We have the opportunity of increased diversity within our nation of New Zealand to build on those transnational links. Over half a million people in New Zealand belong to different ethnic communities, which is 13 percent of the population as at 2006. Three hundred and fifty thousand of those, or 9 percent, have identified themselves as being of Asian ethnicity. The predominant groups within those are the Chinese community and the Indian community. Those communities, together with the wider New Zealand nation, have the opportunity to contribute significantly not only to our cultural wealth and our linguistic wealth but also to our domestic and export opportunities. I welcome the opportunity to work with our many and diverse ethnic communities.
We have another opportunity to increase productivity by involving half the population—women. We can unlock the potential they have to offer to our economy. As stated by the OECD, making better use of women’s skills is key to increasing productivity and raising our standards of living. In 2009, two-thirds of our university graduates were women. Women under the age of 50 are now more likely than men to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Women aged 30 to 34 have labour force participation rates that are low by international standards, so we have a job to do there, and more than one in three women work part-time. The largest single contribution to New Zealand’s productivity over the past 30 years has come from an increase in women’s labour market participation.
One of the other many investment pathways, as I have already intimated, is through building our businesses and our companies. Part of improving the performance there is about corporate governance. International evidence shows a positive correlation between women in leadership, and corporate performance. I propose to take a best-practice approach to women’s leadership and I will be focusing on the package of skills that boards need, and the skills that women can bring to boards, and to closing the gap with Australia with regard to women’s participation on company boards.
In the State sector this is at 41.5 percent as of last year, but in the private sector we have stagnated at just over 9 percent. Clearly we need to lift the performance of corporate governance if we are to lift the performance of our corporate sector. International evidence is unequivocal. We need to have a portfolio of skills across all of our boards, and we are in a parlous state. Of our 100 top boards in the New Zealand stock market, 57 do not have any women at all on them. This is something I think we will be joining with the corporate sector to address. We want to lift performance and we need to do that by focusing on how we strengthen corporate governance, and the skills that women bring to those boards will assist in that regard. Progress on this issue has been rapid in Australia, following recent Australian stock market guidelines requiring companies to set and report on gender diversity targets. We need to catch up with Australia.
Finally, in terms of our commitment to building the strength of our economy, it is important that women’s skills are realised and deployed, as they have huge potential for our economy. Our diverse communities have much to contribute to strengthening our economy and nation. The programme laid out by our Prime Minister in his statement to Parliament provides opportunities for all.
Tu nian ji xiang—good luck in the Year of the Rabbit. Kia ora tātou katoa.
I rise on behalf of the Green Party this afternoon to make a few short comments on some of the economic challenges facing us at the moment, and to give the Greens’ response. One of the most important economic challenges facing us at the moment is climate change. People often think of climate change as an environmental issue, but if one happened to be living in Queensland at the moment one would recognise that climate change has fantastic and diabolical economic consequences. No one particular extreme weather event can be said to be caused by climate change, but the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, such as floods, droughts, and cyclones, will be greater as a result of climate change.
When we look at what has happened in Queensland over the last month or so we can see there has been a very large, very expensive flood and a cyclone—a very, very expensive cyclone. Both of those kinds of events will happen more often as climate change advances. It seems to me that currently the cost of those kinds of extreme weather events is borne by the individuals themselves—they have to pay to fix up their houses. If they pay insurance, the cost might be borne by the insurance companies and hence collectively by everyone who pays premiums. Or, as is happening at the moment in Australia, the cost is borne by the taxpayers. Usually it is a combination of all of those factors. Currently the Australian Government is talking about striking what is effectively an extra tax to pay for the cost of the floods and the cyclone in Queensland.
It seems to me that if we were to take a purely economic approach to climate change, we would attempt to internalise those externalities. Currently, if we cause climate change by emitting a lot of greenhouse gases, we do not pay any of the costs. The Queensland coal industry, which is one of the biggest polluters on the planet as Queensland is the biggest coal exporter there is, does not have to pay any of the costs of the climate-induced damage it causes. That seems to me ridiculous. Why is it that those who are causing the pollution do not have to pay for any of the damage caused by the pollution? One of the most important things we can do is to—
The Deputy Speaker raised the question that a Minister was not present in the Chamber. The bell was rung and the Deputy Speaker declared that a Minister was present.
It seems that not only is the Government’s programme in disarray but it is having trouble keeping Ministers in the House. The problem with the Government’s programme, aside from it being unable to manage to keep a Minister in the House, is that the Government has no way of knowing what to do about climate change. When we look at the Prime Minister’s statement we see maybe one sentence about the emissions trading scheme. We can hear Sandra Goudie yawning very loudly; she often interjects during these debates to make the most inane comments. When we are debating an issue like climate change, which is a genuine threat to the New Zealand economy, of course Sandra Goudie yawns, because she does not even understand it.
The Prime Minister had one sentence about the emissions trading scheme in his statement. In that sentence, he talked about the way the Government is reducing the price signal through the emissions trading scheme. The Government has watered down the price signal. This means that taxpayers will pick up more of the cost of pollution, as opposed to those who pollute. The cost has to be paid by someone. Someone has to pay the cost of this pollution; it is just a question of who. It can either be the taxpayers, which is the Government’s proposal, or, as the Green Party would suggest, the polluters should pay the cost of pollution. But those are the only options on the table, because somebody has to pay the cost of the pollution.
Moreover, by introducing a charge for carbon we create price incentives to change the way our economy functions, so that we move towards economic activities that produce fewer greenhouse emissions. That is the nature of price signals. One of the most important changes we need to make is to use markets, which are very, very powerful mechanisms, to direct our economy in a more sustainable direction. That means we need a price on carbon emissions. That is absolutely fundamental to redirecting the New Zealand economy to make it much more sustainable. Unfortunately, when the Government got in it reduced the price signal on carbon by around half. That means the taxpayer will pick up the bill, and it means there is less of a price signal going through the New Zealand economy, so we will make investments further down the track that are very high carbon-producing investments. That means we are not making the transition that we need to make.
Another element of the climate change policy that was introduced by the Government is the “50 by 50” target that the Government supposedly recently introduced. If one were a layperson listening to the Minister for the Environment saying that the Government has adopted a target of reducing New Zealand’s emissions by 50 percent by 2050, one would think that meant a reduction in emissions. Sadly, that is not the case. The Minister, in talking about that, was comparing gross emissions in 1990—that is, about 60 million tonnes—with net emissions in 2050. Once again we hear Sandra Goudie yawning loudly; because she does not really understand this kind of stuff, that is her approach to it. The problem is that the Government is comparing gross emissions in 1990 with net emissions in 2050. If one compares net emissions in 1990 with net emissions in 2050, one finds that the Government is talking about “reducing” net emissions from 29 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 1990 to 30 million tonnes in 2050. If we look at the Government’s target of “50 by 50”, we see that it turns out to actually be an increase in net emissions of 1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year by 2050. In fact, the Government’s target, the so-called “50 by 50” target, is in practice, in reality, actually an increase in net greenhouse emissions. It may seem extraordinary that the Government should, effectively, mislead the people of New Zealand by not comparing like with like, but that is what it has done.
The other great challenge to the New Zealand economy as we go forward will be the end of cheap oil. One revelation in the last few days is that the latest WikiLeaks release has shown that the US embassy in Saudi Arabia has sent cables back to its capital in Washington that say the Saudi oil reserves are grossly overestimated. The Saudi Government is telling the rest of the world that the size of the Saudi oil reserves is actually much greater than it is in reality. This is what the US embassy has been telling Washington over the last few years. This means that world oil prices have now increased very significantly, and now petrol at the bowser has gone up to $2 a litre. In fact, that is just the beginning, because demand for oil is increasing more and more, but the ability to supply that oil is not increasing very much at all.
For an economy like ours, in which the transport sector is incredibly dependent on oil, that makes us incredibly vulnerable. The Government’s response to our vulnerability to oil prices is to build more motorways. Of course, that was largely the response of the previous Government, as well. It is a particularly absurd response to a vulnerability to oil supply. It is hard to fathom why, when all the evidence in the world is that oil prices can only increase quite significantly, one would invest billions of borrowed dollars in a transport mode that is entirely dependent on oil. Why one would take that path is really hard to fathom, but, none the less, that is exactly what we are doing instead of investing in buses, trains, cycling, and walking, which is exactly what we need.
The other great economic challenge facing us at the moment is around fresh water. New Zealand is fantastically blessed with a lot of fresh water, but we have a national crisis because so much of our fresh water is heavily polluted. Currently the Minister for the Environment has a draft national policy statement on freshwater management that would put in place rules for clean water. Rules for clean water are fundamental to protecting one of the key aspects of the New Zealand economy.
One of the key aspects of our economy, which the member for Coromandel has absolutely no idea about once again—
The member for Coromandel has no idea about any of this. The New Zealand economy is dependent on clean water. It is part of our clean, green image. It is fundamental to our economy. But we are ruining that by polluting our water. We need to put in place those clean water rules as soon as possible.
In this very brief speech I have touched on climate change, the end of cheap oil, and water. These are just three critical elements of the New Zealand economy that this Government currently appears to have very little understanding of—as we have seen from the interjections—and it seems to have very little plan as to what to do about them.
It is a privilege to rise in Parliament in the new year to speak on the Prime Minister’s statement. In the spirit of the new year, I acknowledge my parliamentary colleague across the House Darren Hughes and his rise to the spokesmanship on education.
On Tuesday of this week Metiria Turei gave a speech for her father in response to the Prime Minister’s speech. I respect her right to do that and to stand up for the difficulties that her father faced and the hurdles that she overcame. What she forgets, though, is that her father is not the only father in New Zealand. So I thought I would give a speech about two members of my family: my grandfather and my father. But it will be a different kind of speech to that of Metiria Turei. I too am from my family, my community, and my country. I too represent a constituency. I would argue that I represent a constituency that represents by far the majority of the people in this country.
There are many similarities between my father and Metiria Turei’s. They were both born poor and they both died young. My father died at just 54 years of age. He died from cancer, from smoking two packets a day for much of his life. That is why I was very pleased to see this Government take significant steps in last year’s Budget to dramatically increase the excise tax on tobacco. My father, Kelvin Robin Tremain, was born to Elsie and Albert Tremain. My father’s parents lost their first home; they could not afford the mortgage when Bert lost his job. Those were hard days, when it was a disgrace to be unemployed. But regardless of people’s qualifications, they got employment doing whatever they could, wherever they could. As a result, my grandparents shifted across the harbour to a rental property in the North Shore suburb of Northcote, before the harbour bridge was built. Bert was a skilled worker; Elsie was a housewife. My grandparents never drove and never owned a car. Can members believe that? They never drove and they never owned a car. In fact, they would be Metiria Turei’s ideal green citizens, albeit a century ahead of their time. Bert lived until he was 88; Grandma lived to 101. She died just a few years ago.
Bert worked until just a few years before he died, his final job having been that of a messenger for the New Zealand Herald. Management finally caught up with my grandfather at the age of 82 and suggested to him that a few years’ retirement might be in order. Bert was never going to be an outdoor bowler or a golfer; he was a worker, and he died just 6 years later. My granddad worked nearly until the day he died. Why? Because he knew that that was the way he could give his family a better life. Bert and Elsie knew nothing else. The fact was that there were no other options; the dole did not exist back then. When they lost their home, it was a disgrace to be unemployed anyway. The only thing they knew was that hard work, saving, and education was the way to create a better life for their family, not living beyond their means. The question that needs to be asked today is how it is that many people in this country who claim to be unable to afford to feed their families can still manage to find the money to run a car, to have Sky television, and to purchase a couple of dozen beers through the week.
Despite the tough days of the Great Depression, Bert and Elsie ultimately left the legacy of a mortgage-free home, shares—believe it or not—in Wilson and Horton, a superannuation scheme, and, most important, three educated sons with the same work and family ethic as theirs.
My own father happened to be born with a pretty handy set of skills on the rugby field, but that is not what I want to talk about today. What people do not know is that when Mum and Dad got married, Dad had a £500 overdraft. That was the benefit someone got when he played in the All Blacks in those days. My mum paid it off with her entire savings when they got married. Dad always joked that the only thing he got from 10 years in the ABs was a free Morrison lawnmower and a debt to Mum for the rest of his life. On retiring from the All Blacks, Dad started a business from nothing. Over a period of 20 years, he built it up to become one of Hawke’s Bay’s most successful businesses. I remember him and Mum working way past midnight at home, writing travel tickets into the morning hours. I recall him working Saturdays running chattels auctions, weekend in and weekend out. After 20 years he had built the business up to one that employed over 60 people, employing hundreds over the 20 years that he was in business. He loaned employees money, ran countless fund-raisers for community groups, and chaired committees.
My granddad and dad are no different from hundreds of thousands of Kiwis across New Zealand—hundreds of thousands of workers and business people who get up every day to make their own way in life and improve the lot of their families, their communities, and their country. Many of these people are now retired; many of these people belong to unions; many receive short-term benefits while they look for new jobs; and many cannot work because they are genuinely sick or invalids, but they still volunteer or contribute to their communities. They are aspirational for their families and their friends, their kids, and their grandkids, and they want New Zealand to be the place where their children raise their own families.
Those are the people who pay this country’s way. They pay the taxes that allow the Government and all its employees to exist. They pay the tax that allows us to have a First World health system and education system. They pay the tax that provides national superannuation payments; they pay the tax that provides for people in their time of need. These people are the people whom I represent and whom this Government represents.
My dad started his business with no support from any Government. He paid tax from day one, he employed people from day one, and, left alone, he paid more tax and employed more people. My dad was no political animal, but my sole recollection of his expressing outrage against the Government was about Rob Muldoon lifting the marginal tax rate to 66c in the dollar at an income level of $38,000 a year—or, in today’s dollars, $121,000 a year. What was worse was that the tax rate on incomes from $24,000 a year—or, in today’s dollars, $76,000 a year—was lifted to a whopping 45 percent. I remember Dad coming home exhausted after another day, throwing his hands up, and saying: “Thirty-three cents. All I get to keep, CJ, is 33c of every dollar I earn. It’s not worth it.” To be honest, I did not really understand that at the time, but now I totally get it. He had reached a point where it was not worth working any more, where it was not worth employing any more people, and where it was not worth paying tax any more.
That is, unfortunately, where the Labour Party wants to take this country. It wants to tax hard-working New Zealanders and hard-working businesses to the point where people say: “Bugger it. I’m out of here.” On this side of the House, we want to lift the aspirations of all Kiwis. We want to lift the opportunities of all New Zealanders. We want to lift the boat for every person. And that involves a clear plan, one that we have built upon and added to since long before election day in 2008. You see, we are not like the members on the Opposition side of the House. We do not just talk about planning; we actually get on and do it. That is what we have done in our first 2 years of Government, and exactly what we will continue to do this year and, if we are privileged enough at the end of this year to win at the election, for 3 years after that. For the benefit of the planning-obsessed members across on the Labour benches, I say our plan involves six key strategies: building a better taxation system and work environment, building better infrastructure, investing in education and skills, building trade opportunities and innovation, building better Government services, and removing the impost of Government.
The No. 1 priority has been to set a framework where people will be rewarded for hard work. That is about getting taxation right, and we have done that. By reducing the tax rate to 17.5 percent on incomes of below $48,000 a year, every New Zealander who works, who invests, or who receives a benefit in this country now pays less income tax than previously. That is right: every Kiwi who works, invests, or receives national superannuation or a benefit pays less income tax now than they did under the previous Labour Government. That is a fact.
We have lots more work to do in order to build a brighter future for people like my dad and my grandad, but that will require some tough decisions. When we have people who are given the choice of not to work, not to get up at 6 a.m., and not to pick apples—as is the case in Hawke’s Bay, where we have to bring in 3,000 employees—then we are setting parameters that provide pre-determined outcomes: people choosing not to work, people gaming the benefit system, and people with no future for themselves or their families.
It falls to me to make the final contribution for Labour in this debate, and, perhaps, to make some observations about the last 3 days of debate.
A starting point is to remind ourselves that the Standing Orders around the debate on the Prime Minister’s statement have changed in recent times. It used to be that Parliament began every year with the Prime Minister of the day reading out a prime ministerial statement, in “prime ministerialese”, verbatim. It was vaguely interesting, but it did not have any theatre to it. The Leader of the Opposition of the day could then get up, as he or she saw fit, and make a great speech with lots of theatre, drama, feeling, passion, or something, and the second speech was always better than the first.
Then the rules changed. The rules changed in such a way that although the Prime Minister had to put together a prime ministerial speech that was widely distributed prior to being given, and was embargoed until delivery, the Prime Minister could do what he or she liked in the House. As a result, because the Prime Minister of the day was part of the Government and therefore had the agenda, one might have expected the first speaker to win. Well, that did not happen. Three days ago Phil Goff beat John Key on every point. He had better delivery, better content, he believed in what he said, and he said it with an authority that Mr Key was not able to muster. Mr Key, I think, is starting to work out that “smile and wave”, by itself, will not do it any more. It is no longer enough, and nor is mincing, for that matter. It is getting more serious than that.
The cost of living really is going up. It is not just that the Labour Party says it is; it is now provably going up. Unemployment went up, surprisingly, just a few days ago. It had the Prime Minister rushing around saying the unemployment statistics are pretty unstable. He was actually starting to sound like Roger Douglas did in the 1980s. When interest rates went up Roger Douglas said they were “volatile around a downward trend”. So we have unemployment—“volatile around a downward trend”—actually going up. That is not working well for Mr Key and perhaps that was reflected in his performance. His Minister of Finance said this week that a double-dip recession is now on the cards—the same week in which he reminded us that Australia might be having a double-dip recession when, in fact, it has not even had one.
None of the plans that Mr Key has put in place in the last couple of years have worked. It seems to me that that might be why his speech was so lacklustre. The plan to dig up the conservation estate did not work. The 9-day working fortnight did not work. The bike track, or whatever it was, did not work. Waiting and hoping did not work. Restructuring the public sector will not work. Cutting the public sector will not work. In fact, it will drive the recession harder. Cutting early childhood education has gone down extremely badly for the Prime Minister. Flying the kite of asset sales has not gone very well for the Prime Minister, and it is about to go much more seriously pear-shaped for him as the debate continues, and as the information progressively comes into the public arena. While that was happening the Māori Party was fracturing this week, just like the ACT Party fractured last year. That is probably why Mr Key’s speech 3 days ago was not very good. It is no wonder he fell back on the okey-dokey, blokey-jokey stuff. It is no wonder he moved the earth for precisely no one, and it is no wonder he failed to give us any sense that he had any idea of what a plan for recovery might look like. So that set the tone.
The rest of the National Party then decided that it could do graceless behaviour, as well. I should acknowledge that many of them said happy New Year. This afternoon one of them even said so in Chinese, which was lovely. It was nice to see the National members not being graceless about the changes and the promotions that some of my colleagues had earlier this week in their portfolios. Therefore, I do not want to say they were entirely graceless, but they were mostly so. Mostly they said things about the previous Labour Government that are straightforwardly wrong. There were nine Budget surpluses in 9 years under that Government. Public debt was paid down to the point where it did not exist under that Government. Unemployment came down to the point where it was the lowest in the world.
Actually, not quite. Sometimes South Korea beat us, and sometimes we beat them, but it was the lowest, or second-lowest, in the world. If ever a country was going to have some sort of global recession effect, boy that was the place to start.
None of that has been acknowledged by the National members in the last 3 days. It has not been acknowledged right through that period. National had only one idea, which was that it wanted us to cut taxes. It wanted us to cut taxes when the economy was growing quickly, which, of course, would be wildly inflationary. That was the only thing that the National members wanted us to do when we were in Government. Yet they have not acknowledged that we delayed tax cuts until 2008 so that we could pay down the debt, so that we could get KiwiSaver started, so that we could get the New Zealand Superannuation Fund under way, and so that we could install, implement, and embed Working for Families and significantly address child poverty—some would say not significantly enough, but to make that progress.
Actually, while we were at it, we delayed tax cuts to buy back a couple of things that this country needs—an airline and a railroad—which, in the hands of the private sector, had fallen into disrepair and were going down the tubes. That is what we did instead of cutting taxes.
Then in 2008, when the global economy was going down and when everyone was a Keynesian, we brought in tax cuts. Those tax cuts did not alter the rich-poor gap in this country one iota, because that was one of the conditions that Michael Cullen put on himself before he went ahead with those cuts. None of that has been acknowledged by National members in the last 3 days. We did not need a lot of acknowledgment, but it is interesting, is it not, that even though National is well ahead of us in the polls, National members are feeling so graceless that they will not even acknowledge certain things. They said the opposite. They said there were wasted opportunities under the previous Labour Government and it had blown the economy to bits. They have said all sorts of things. They have made a series of assertions with statistics that are simply wrong. It is just in the nature of a debate—who cares—but it is interesting that over 3 days there was that level of gracelessness, and that the nice remarks were limited to happy New Year, and so on.
I have only a couple of minutes left, so I will just say that the other thing that struck me about the Prime Minister’s speech, and about the leadership he gave the rest of his caucus, was what he did not talk about. He did not talk about the rich-poor gap. He did not talk about the underclass, the existence of poverty, social justice, or social policy, at all. There were a couple of bits and pieces in his statement about how the Government wanted to be a bit harsher on beneficiaries and blame them—classic National stuff—but when Phil Goff stood up at the beginning of the debate and asked why Mr Key had a $1,000 a week tax cut advantage while the minimum wage went up by 25c an hour, nobody, over the last 3 days, set up a defence for it—no one. That was interesting.
The other interesting thing was that neither Mr Key nor anyone else in National over 3 days mentioned the environment. The Greens mentioned hardly anything else—good for them—and we did mention it from time to time. National members have not mentioned the environment at all. The Prime Minister’s statement is supposed to be broad ranging.
I certainly support the Prime Minister’s statement about having a programme to rebuild this nation’s economy. It is essential to continue strengthening our economy and achieve better results from the public services that New Zealanders rely on, because after 9 years of a Labour Government, New Zealanders are up to their eyeballs in debt.
Whichever way we look at it, we see that Labour’s social agenda failed this country miserably. The only achievement Labour can celebrate is in 2007 being the Government of the first country in the OECD to go into recession. Labour grew a bloated State sector with its agenda of creating a nation that is totally dependent on the State for survival. Fortunately, history will show that it has failed.
That is why the Prime Minister’s statement about rebuilding this nation is so important and so appropriate. The National Government is determined to rebuild this country’s confidence for investment and to develop the conditions for more enduring, more resilient, and better-paying jobs.
We are living in the fastest-growing region in the world. This nation has a comparative advantage by virtue of our climate, which makes us the envy of other nations. The Government’s economic plan is about ensuring New Zealand maximises these opportunities. I make that point again: the Government’s economic plan is about ensuring New Zealand maximises these opportunities.
This Government is rebuilding our economy and, at the same time, rebalancing our economy, because priorities got out of hand during Labour’s wasteful 9 years on the Treasury benches. Just consider this one fact: 60 percent of all new jobs created since 2004 were in the heavily dominating Government sector. Labour grew the Government by 60 percent. That practice has a drag effect and shuts out private investment.
We will see 2011 marked with further rebuilding of this country’s export base. We need to sell more of what we are best at producing and sell it at higher prices in order to pay down the debt that was built up over the last decade under Labour. For far too long this country’s export sector has stagnated while the previous Government focused on policies of self-gratification, which resulted in consumption and wasteful spending.
Let us have a closer look at a couple of the areas where this Government will create opportunities to rebuild the country’s economy, take a lead on the front foot, and strengthen the export sector. Do colleagues remember those fantastic days last year when we were debating in the House the Environment Canterbury (Temporary Commissioners and Improved Water Management) Bill, which is now an Act? About 12 months ago this Government took the decisive action to remove Environment Canterbury councillors and replace them with a team of commissioners, under the leadership of Dame Margaret Bazley. Such a challenge was far too big a step for any feeble Labour Government.
These opportunities were totally ignored under Labour’s watch and it effectively wasted the very best economic times in New Zealand for 30 years. When we consider the abundance of surpluses that existed during that time, we see that there was an ability to invest in capital investment. The ambitious project that we are talking about will require all the skill and all the wisdom that this country can muster, but the rewards are there. It will create thousands of jobs and it will contribute up to $1.7 billion annually to our nation’s economy. That is an example of what the Prime Minister was referring to when he spoke of rebuilding this nation’s economy and future-proofing it. All Labour could do, while that was happening, was attempt to sabotage it.
How is the Canterbury Water Management Strategy going? I am pleased to report to Parliament that progress is being made at a good rate. Solutions are being worked on collectively after what has proved to be a 20-year impasse. We are making speedy progress. Down at the bottom end of the electorate the Hurunui water zone group has been working well together. Minister Nick Smith has approved moratoriums on water takes on both the Hurunui and Waiau catchments. The Fish and Game Council and Whitewater NZ have withdrawn their appeal for a water conservation order over the Hurunui. A collegial approach rather than an adversarial approach is making progress. Clear leadership from this Government has put all stakeholders into the room and effectively told them to sort it out or they will force us to make the decisions for them.
This rebuilding is going on in New Zealand as we speak. New Zealand needs this rebuilding. Investment opportunities like these will require money—money that as a nation we cannot keep borrowing from overseas, for any number of reasons, as my colleagues have expressed over the last few days. But what a wonderful opportunity this represents for a number of our major institutions in New Zealand, for iwi, and for the 1.6 million mainly young KiwiSavers to play their part in rebuilding our nation’s economic future. What an exciting opportunity the partial sell-down of minority shareholdings of identified State-owned enterprises presents, with clear, measurable economic gains to the country, and the building of a stronger and broader investment base for our nation.
Aquaculture is another area where the Government needs to take a lead in rebuilding the primary sector. Aquaculture is a sector that under Labour became so bogged down by red tape and layer upon layer of bureaucracy that not one new aquaculture management area was set up by Labour’s 2004 Aquaculture Reform (Repeals and Transitional Provisions) Act. This sector certainly needs rebuilding and is potentially rich in jobs. The Government needs to provide certainty for the sector to reach its own goal of contributing $1 billion to the nation’s economy in 2025. It needs a Government that can produce legislation that encourages investment free from ambiguity, it needs clarity about undue adverse effects to other commercial fishing operations, it needs the ability to change to high-value species where research supports such changes, it needs the provision of research and development to refine and improve commercial yields and species development, and it needs a Government that can engage positively and fruitfully with Māori from the beginning of the process.
These two projects represent a whole raft of projects that are happening, and that will create thousands of jobs—jobs that are both resilient and production-based.
Rather than borrow and hope, like wasteful Labour, this Government has a plan for real jobs that will rebuild the exporting base on this country’s natural advantage. The export sector can never be forgotten, and is so important, yet Labour neglected it for 9 years. Only by essential infrastructure development will this country realise its potential. The Prime Minister in his speech articulated very plain thoughts of how to rebuild this country and its economy. I cannot wait until the election, where we can debate the wastefulness of the previous Labour Government and compare that Government with the John Key National-led Government as to which is the best financial manager and rebuilder of this country’s economy.
In conclusion I ask for this statement to be remembered: if we want a first-class education, if we want a first-class health service, and if we want a first-class police force so that we can feel safe in our beds at night, we need a first-class economy. I totally support the Prime Minister’s statement on rebuilding this country’s confidence in itself. Thank you.
First of all, I wish you, Mr Deputy Speaker, all colleagues in this House, and all the staff associated with this institution a very happy New Year. Unfortunately we got off to a start with the Prime Minister’s statement on Tuesday of this week, and that is the item we are debating. The Prime Minister tabled a statement to which he then spoke. In fact, it was unfortunate that he chose to do it like that, even though he is allowed by the rules to do it in that way—these are new rules and he is allowed simply to speak to his statement—because the country is none the wiser about what the Prime Minister’s statement involved. What we got instead was the usual fatuous frippery that is associated with John Key’s speechmaking.
People are none the wiser, and it is up to the Labour Party to demonstrate to the nation exactly what the risks are if a National Government were to be re-elected. The Government has platforms to offer this year; unfortunately they are the same platforms offered by the Tory Government in the 1990s. They are the same platforms offered by National Governments in the 1970s. They are the same prescriptions, the same mantras, and the same exclusive application of Government power. Let me give just two examples: tax cuts that benefit the rich and the selling off of State assets. Where have we heard this before: tax cuts that benefit the rich—that benefit the few and not the many—and the selling off of the nation’s family silver?