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Anderton's Speech At Opening Of Public Trust

Hon Jim Anderton
Deputy Prime Minister
Speech Notes

Opening of Public Trust House
101 Carlton Gore Rd, Newmarket, Auckland

MC Kylie Hall,
Chief Executive David Hutton,
Invited Guests,

I'm very pleased to be here to open Public Trust House.

Public trust is undergoing a transformation.

It is reflected in the new marketing of Public Trust and in the move to these new premises here in Newmarket.

Public Trust as an organisation embodies the values this Government is committed to. Those values are summed up in the two words 'public' and 'trust'.

The 'public' element means that it exists first and foremost, because it is there to serve.

The public it serves is as diverse as New Zealand. From orphans whose estates need to be administered in a way that is absolutely beyond reproach, to some quite wealthy families whose needs are sophisticated.

In every case the priority is to serve the public.

The other element is the element of 'trust.' At the risk of sounding pious, trust is another value that has been eroded heavily over the last fifteen years or more.

Politicians have been as guilty as anyone of failing to honour the trust of the public. It's hardly surprising that as a value in itself, trust has been eroded in the corporate and community spheres as well.

I want to stress that this Government is committed to restoring values like trust, honour and integrity into public life.

Those values form the basis of the coalition agreement between the Alliance and the Labour Party. They are the values on which we are governing.

It's ironic that the most serious criticism the new Government has faced has been that we are doing what we said we would do. People can't believe it!

It's not only reflected in major policy commitments. It is also in the small things. Like the tiny primary school I visited in West Auckland a few days before the election. I was on a tight election campaign schedule, and I didn't have time to meet the children queued up to meet me, and promised I would return if I was Deputy Prime Minister. When I came back a few weeks later – I don't think they could believe it.

Keeping promises and trust are crucial to our social fabric.

I believe it's starting to restore people's faith in the democratic process.

Politicians watch opinion polls. One of the most disturbing I've seen in recent years was a poll saying that 17% of New Zealanders felt that democracy was not the best form of Government. When people lose faith in democracy, we face serious problems.

The values of public service and trust have combined to build a marketing campaign that I believe will be very strong for Public Trust.

The campaign is in its early days, but I understand it is already delivering results.

Independent market research tracking shows more people clearly getting the idea that they need to make or update their will. Awareness is growing that Public Trust is the place to go to do it. Public Trust had 400 new customers from the first two weeks of its wills promotion, and most identified the television campaign as the source of their inquiry.

The decision to re-brand Public Trust and promote its services throughout the year seems to have been vindicated.

An important part of the marketing strategy is the decision to make Public Trust services available on-line, including the opportunity to make appointments with advisers.

Over time, the growth of on-line services will make buildings like this relatively less important. There could be a down-side. It might mean an unfortunate reduction in opportunities for politicians to be present at gala openings.

The Pubic Trust website is receiving a thousand visits a week. That underlines Public Trust's leadership in e-government and e-commerce. New Zealanders are responding positively to that availability of information about trustee and financial services on-line.

This Government places a heavy emphasis on the need for New Zealand to develop new, high technology industries.

It is reassuring to see that Public Trust is a leader in the high-tech field. I visited the Public Trust offices in my new home town of Lower Hutt recently, where I was shown the electronic estate processing that has been introduced. I was very impressed to find that our own Public Trust is a world leader in the field.

The electronic processing of estates ensures that all customers are assured of the same high level of professional service no matter where they live.

What is particularly appealing is that the software ensures that the infinitely varied individual cases receive personal attention. Each wrinkle and complication in the settlement of an estate is identified. When a file is passed on, for example when the staff member concerned is away sick, there is a slick and accurate method of ensuring that relevant details are appropriately handled. A new person picking up the file doesn't have to re-interview families, or re-read bulky files to understand them. There would not be many law firms that could make that claim.

It means that Public Trust can offer a more personal, more accurate and more reliable service. I'm proud of that.

If more New Zealand enterprises can develop world class leadership in high-technology areas, then our economic development will be assured.

It is very reassuring that this innovation is the product of a public enterprise.

We are entering a new era of public enterprise.

The public empire is striking back.

The time is gone when the Government is going to sit back and run publicly-owned companies into the ground so that they can be closed or sold.

The hands-off era is over. The days are gone when the Government said it was better if the Government didn't exist at all. When more and more services were left to the market to provide.

There were too many examples where the market couldn't provide essential services, or provided them badly, or provided them only at a price many New Zealanders couldn't afford or too far away from where they lived.

There is always a role for the market. But there is also a role for public enterprise to keep private competitors honest, and to provide the services that others won't.

Public Trust is one good example. It is being turned around.

I don't have any hesitation in saying that if Public Trust had been neglected as it had been under the last Government, it's future would have been bleak.

Regulations have restrained its ability to compete. For example, it takes three to four weeks to get an Order in Council varying its interest rate.

Every business is affected in a climate where the Reserve Bank is putting up interest rates. But businesses such as Public Trust which depend on financial products and services are even more severely affected.

The Government will make changes soon to enable Public Trust to compete more effectively. I am hopeful we can do it this year.

The Government is supporting the growth of Public Trust in other ways, as well.

Public Trust recently purchased New Zealand Permanent Trustees from Axa. There haven't been many companies brought into public ownership in recent years. It was a purchase I strongly supported because I believe publicly-owned companies should be robust participants in the market.

Public companies will always have a strong market position because their customers are their owners. Customers know that that organisation exists for them, and them alone.

The idea behind the slogan 'Your word is law' is that customers will get what they want because Public Trust has a responsibility directly to them. Its first obligation is not to a shareholder, but to the public. And there are values of trust and integrity that it can never abandon.

Of course, bricks and mortar can never substitute for values. Here we are at the opening of a flagship new building. And yet Public Trust is the embodiment of the view that buildings are not nearly so important as what goes on inside them.

Public Trust's customers will be very well served inside this building, as well as outside it through the growth of on-line services, and through the network of offices around New Zealand.

I am confident that its future is very bright. It is entering a new era. It will grow.

It is my pleasure to declare Public trust House Open.

-- Ends --

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