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Mallard: Opening of the ABN AMRO new premises

Wednesday 7 June 2000 Speech Notes

Opening of the ABN AMRO new premises – Auckland
Speech - Trevor Mallard

It’s a pleasure to be here this evening. I get the feeling that I will be attending more events in this role as Paul Swain comes back on board and economic Ministers become more proactive.

I'd like to acknowledge the presence of my former colleague Sir William Birch.

I have inherited Sir William's former office in the Beehive and part of his former role. A couple of months into the job, Simon Upton wrote that in the Budget bilaterals process, I had the 'trouble shooting' role that Bill Birch personally savoured in the previous government. According to Simon I was to 'cut off the arms, legs and ears of unfortunate spending ministers in the pre-budget carnage'.

The bilateral process has been completed. I'm pleased to report that most of my colleagues are still walking, and listening as well as they ever did. The process has however been a bit bruising.

After nine years on the Opposition benches, we are all brimming with ideas within our portfolio areas on how where improvements can be made. But as the Rolling Stones once said – 'You can't always get want you want.' Colleagues have been told 'no'. Then they've trimmed and refined their bids and come back and been told 'no' again. One or two have nicknamed me Mr Gromyko. So while there are some exciting initiatives within the Budget, it is by no means a big splurge.

There has been a buy-in from my colleagues to the spending limits in the order of those signalled in the BPS and to a robust and growing operating surplus. This is not withstanding the $200 million unappropriated spending commitments most of which was discovered post BPS. Budget Ministers also chose to implement pledge card items including superannuation increases, income related rents and interest free student loans up front and leave some flexibility in the out years, rather than front load with discretionary areas and face tighter limits in out years. There will not be any huge surprises when the Budget is read next week.

We are committed to sustainable, long-term economic growth. We recognise that New Zealand businesses have to compete in fiercely competitive markets – domestically and internationally. We want to make the job of business easier, not harder. We want businesses to thrive, to create employment and to contribute taxes.

To do this we must help create an environment in which innovation is able to flourish. The electricity and telecommunications inquiries are testimony to this commitment. So too is the sale of 3 G spectrum next month.

I've been Acting Minister of Communications this year and have been privy to the exciting developments and made some important decisions in this area. For example, removing the previous government's decision not to have a competition rule for the 3G auctions means that there will be four competing networks with a maximum of 20% cross ownership. This will depress the return at the auction but prevent a monopoly either taking excess profits or delaying the introduction of the technology. I don’t need to tell you that investment in purchasing spectrum is the tip of the iceberg when setting up networks. But by being competitive and being early, I hope international telcos will experiment here in a way that will create employment. As an aside, the proceeds of the auction will not be included in next week's Budget. I have heard a variety of estimates of the value including $650 million from this firm, but the figures are rubbery and we have decided it would be inappropriate to include them. I hope we get credit for our fiscal prudence.

The Government recognises the need for overseas investment in New Zealand if our economy is to meet long-term growth targets. We do not have the savings base to fund the scale of investment required. I expect the vast majority of the spectrum development will be as a result of overseas investment. I want to give a clear message that New Zealand continues to welcome that investment and that we see it as a vital method of boosting employment in New Zealand – as it has for 170 years.

Budget 2000 reinforces this commitment with specific initiatives to promote business development and investment. I believe that these initiatives, seen in the context of the other policies we are pursuing, will demonstrate to New Zealand business and overseas investors our strong pro-business, pro-investment, pro-employment approach.

ABN AMRO, is a leading investment bank. Number one in the country in capital raising; number two for mergers and acquisitions; and number three for marketshare in New Zealand equities.

As such you will be a major player on the stage as the Government works to achieve it economic objectives. You are dealing with major investors on a daily basis. It is important that we communicate openly and fully.

Our view is that the effect of the Government’s policies is to make New Zealand a better place in which to build and grow a business and with it, a better place to invest in both now and in the future.

For example as Minister of Education, I am overseeing improvements to the education system so that this country has the skill level to meet the demand that investment opportunities will provide. This starts off at early childhood education level where we're aiming to increase participation especially of Maori and Pacific children. In our schools, we will make a major investment to improve literacy rates and give all kids access to the modern technology that they will need to be able to navigate when they reach the workforce.

The new apprenticeship system and tertiary education changes will encourage excellence, reduce waste through duplication, and will help develop the workforce needed in a modern economy.

Labour campaigned for office on the basis of a moderate and realistic programme which accepted the reality of globalisation and the responsibility of seeing that our citizens and companies could be competitive in the emerging new global economy. We have embarked on a modest rebalancing of labour law, but have not and will not adopt policies adverse to business which were not supported by more than 92 per cent of the electorate.

Finally, I'd like to congratulate ABN AMRO on the opening of your new headquarters and wish you well for the future.

Thank you.

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