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Shipley's Address in Reply Debate

Rt. Hon Jenny Shipley
Leader of the Opposition

Address in Reply Debate

Mr Speaker, I move that the following words be added to the Speech from the Throne:

“This House has no confidence in the Labour-Alliance Government because of its total lack of a programme that will improve New Zealanders’ lives by increasing New Zealand’s economic growth rate or expanding our job market at recent rates.

“Further, by inclusion of measures such as the repeal of ACC and ECA legislation and increased regulation of the economy, this Government will damage New Zealand’s competitiveness and increase costs to business and social service agencies to the detriment of us all.”

The 21 December 1999 speech outlined the minority Government’s vision for New Zealand.

We were promised a new direction in economic and social policy terms.
Instead we’ve got a speech Norman Kirk would have been proud of in the 70’s.

It was full of tried and failed remedies such as nationalisation, centralisation, unionisation, increased regulation and control, anti-competitive attitudes and a “Government knows best” stance.

It was a speech dripping with ideology – positions the Government got locked into in Opposition. It is refusing to break out of its Opposition mode positions, regardless of all the advice of the damage its changes may bring.

This programme does not give confidence or inspire New Zealanders.

Mr Speaker - National in Opposition will oppose any measure we believe works against New Zealanders! If any Government measure unreasonably adds costs; reduces competition; unfairly favours interest groups as opposed to the public interest; locks into ideological positions without good explanation; or damages New Zealand’s place in the world, then National will rigorously oppose them.

We’ll work to block such measures in every way possible. We’ll be responsible and tell the public why we are opposed to measures that hurt New Zealanders.

We will expose Ministers where they are inconsistent, where they show double standards and when they do flip flops.

We will support and propose that which is worthwhile and positive for New Zealanders. And it will have to be good for New Zealanders both today, next year and in the future. It will have to be sustainable.

Mr Speaker, we have been promised a changed economic and social direction. As we begin the three-year term, National lays down challenge. We are setting the targets by which the Government must be held to account.

Let the public judge the Government on its performance.

Fair-minded New Zealanders judge economic activity by how many New Zealanders have jobs and can stand on their own feet and care for their families.
National is happy for our record to set the benchmark for the Labour-Alliance Government’s targets.

In December 1999 there were 1.771 million New Zealanders in work. While National was in Government, 296,000 new jobs were created. 70% were full time and 30% part-time.

We achieved 631 net new jobs a week for New Zealanders.

If you take it from when ECA was introduced, since September 1991, 313,000 extra jobs have been created for New Zealand men and women. To December 1999, that is 728 net new jobs a week since the ECA.

I challenge Government to set a target to match or exceed our job creation record which has given so many New Zealanders hope for the future.

Therefore, my first challenge is to equal our record. This is the minimum that the new Government must achieve:

 December this year 1,808,960 in work
 December 2001 1,846,920 in work
 December 2002 1,875,390 in work

To match the last 12 months job growth rate the Government will have to achieve, 47,000 new jobs, or 901 per week. National has left an economy that would achieve this target if no changes were made to New Zealand’s economic policy.

If Prime Minister Clark, Treasurer Cullen and Jim Anderton are as good as their word, their economic management, fiscal responsibility, regional development strategies will add an extra 75,000 to 80,000 jobs above what we would have achieved, Anderton has claimed. Let that be the target that the Government will be judged on.

My Second challenge is for the Government to match or improve on National’s record of getting New Zealanders our of dole queues and into jobs.

We’ve averaged a 0.5% fall in unemployment per year since September 1991. In December 1999 when we left office – unemployment was 6.3%.

To keep that trend going by the benchmark we set, this is what the Labour-

Alliance Government will have to achieve:
 2000 5.6%
 2001 5.1%
 2002 4.7%

My third challenge is to match the social gains for those who face disadvantage.
The Government says it is closing the gaps. It is setting up committees. But National delivered results. National worked to get Maori into work:

Maori unemployment was 25.6% in September 1991. By December 1999 it was 14.5% in December 1999. That’s still too high but great progress, but it is 43% down.
Pacific Island unemployment was 30.6% in 1991. By 1999 it was 12.2%. That’s a wonderful reduction. I challenge the new Government to match it.

My fourth challenge is to reflect carefully before rushing into repealing the ECA.

The results I have mentioned were achieved since its introduction. Every region in New Zealand has had reduced unemployment during this period.
The number of long-term unemployed, 26 weeks and over, has dropped since 1991 from 82,300 to 41,700 today.

These are huge social gains for many New Zealanders. This has been a remarkable closing of gaps.

I have no confidence this Government will achieve any gains or meet these challenges. National predicts reversals with the anti-business approach of the Labour-Alliance Government, and a stall in investor confidence.
My fifth challenge is to see sense on ACC.

The Minority Government is determined to return ACC to a State monopoly – there is still no explanation as to why? There’s no good reason, but hundreds of submissions against the move.

National’s new system delivered real benefits – namely reduced accident rates and far lower premiums. Good employers and employees are being rewarded for good performance. Poor employers are facing the penalties. There’s far greater incentives improve workplace safety to benefit of all.

ACC has become far more efficient because competition exposed slack practices and they had to match private sector.

Indeed, the Government’s own company, @Work, has reported dramatic improvements in workers’ safety. Surely the Government must take notice of that.
The Government can’t claim premiums will stay down if ACC is returned to monopoly. As premiums will rise, slack attitudes return. The repeal of work capacity testing will send totally wrong messages to workers. Good employers will have to carry bad employers.

Why do it? It ain’t broke – why fix it?

The Presbyterian church has reported a saving of $347,600. Does the Government know how hard it is to raise $347,000 for a church?

Similar savings have been made by the Salvation Army, Women’s Refuge, Richmond Fellowship – outstanding organisations serving New Zealand.

I challenge Government Members of Parliament to explain to their constituents why they will have to say goodbye to the savings they have made.

The Prime Minister and Judith Tizard, “Minister for Auckland,” must explain why they would reverse the 50 percent savings made by both Auckland City and Regional Council.

Rick Barker must explain reversing the Hastings District Council 70 percent savings, and Hawkes Bay Regional Council 53 percent.

Harry Duynhoven must explain the New Plymouth District Council’s savings.

In Wellington, Annette King and Marian Hobbs, what do you say to the Wellington City Council’s $500,000, or 40 percent, on ACC costs?

How do Trevor Mallard and Paul Swain explain why they would reverse the Hutt City Council’s savings of least $90,000.

How do Christchurch members such as Lianne Dalziel, Tim Barnett, Ruth Dyson, John Wright and Jim Anderton explain doing away with the Christchurch City Council’s $1,000,000 savings on ACC.

Tell us the benefits of what you’re doing, or don’t do it. I will give you notice – we’ll fight this.

The Government should also expect strong opposition and major campaigns on the ECA; the denial of funding choice for schools; any change in direction that will damage New Zealand’s trade; the removal of the work capacity test from the community wage; the downgrading of our capability in our defence forces; changes to health sector that will add cost and bureaucracy without increasing health services for New Zealanders.

We intend to win the arguments and where possible the votes.

Expect National to support and propose good ideas that will make differences for New Zealanders and our future.

This Parliament must find a way to give today’s and tomorrows retired New Zealanders confidence that their pension can be sustained at a level over the next 20 to 30 years without constant unilateral changes in policy which National and Labour have been guilty of in the last 20 years.

Last Friday I wrote to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister and other leaders again asking Government to take a long term multi-party approach that will reach a consensus on this issue.

National will consider supporting the new level of superannuation of 65% of the average wage if a multiparty process is set up to reach consensus on how that level may be maintained in the future.

I’ve also given a commitment that we will come to these talks with an open mind.
I urge the Minority Government and other parties to express their support for such an approach. A new century requires a new commitment to this issue.
In September last year the Super 2000 taskforce presented research showing 89% of New Zealanders want a multi-party accord on long term retirement policy. 97% wanted the public to know more about the impact of ageing on New Zealand. National supports a process that seeks consensus.

National notes State Services Minister Trevor Mallard’s concern about excessive golden handshakes. We look forward keenly to hearing details of his proposal to amend employment law to place limitations on employees rights to personal grievance procedures.

We welcome this new thinking – Labour opposed our efforts when we wanted to change the personal grievance procedures. But if they are genuine now, they can count on our serious consideration.

We support the expansion of mental health services and elective surgery, both of which received huge boosts under National. We support any improvement or expansion on cervical screening, breast screening and influenza vaccination programmes – all of which were major initiatives by us in recent years and are worthy of further expansion.

We are support continuing the Treaty Settlement process. Maori and other New Zealanders want this completed and put behind us. The momentum must continue.
We give notice we will oppose the opening up of the process or any relitigation of the money put aside.

We support Minister Gosche’s new-found commitment to have those who use roads, fund them. National will support any reasonable legislation proposal that will allow rapid road expansion solutions to be found for Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington.

We support open processes being taken on the review of the electoral system. We urge the Government to consider an independent Chair from within Parliament who enjoys multi-party support to oversee the process, an expert panel to be involved and public participation through one or more referenda to be included.
National is keen to be included in consultations which will set up a process that gives the public and all in the Parliament confidence.
Mr Speaker, the role of constructive opposition is to oppose, support and propose and expose the Government where that is appropriate.

We do intend to expose double standards.

The Prime Minister thought Doone’s actions were inappropriate and undesirable. Why did she then reward him with a platinum handshake and a $275,000 job in her own office.

We’ll expose “Flip Flops” of ministers like Steve Maharey.

While some would say these are early days for the new Minority Government in the flush of their honeymoon, the sings are already there.

The Prime Minister is already complaining that Government doesn’t want advice it doesn’t agree with – it is not a good look.

 We have a public service that represents the public interest, not a group of mandarins that will service a dictatorship. Bad mouthing the public sector is no way to build confidence of capability. The chat around town tells it all –

Has Helen checked your contract or your email yet!

Slapping the Greens as “out of line” is no way to build confidence in a Minority Government or good working relations.

The frustration of Ministers who aren’t allowed to speak because the PM wants to be the Minister for everything is already showing.

Mr Speaker, confidence must be built on substance. This Government has been found wanting – National Predicts as the flush of economic activity that began as result of National policy subsides and the full impact and implications of this Labour-Alliance Minority Government programmes is realised, New Zealanders will agree that this is not a programme about tomorrow, but yesterday.
And that’s not good enough.

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