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Jim Anderton Address Regional Conference

Jim Anderton Deputy Prime Minister Regional Conference speech
Address to Alliance South Island Regional Conference

11AM Sunday, 30th July 2000

St Peters parish, Beckenham Ave, Christchurch

Earning $27,000 per year - below the average wage, Private Leonard Manning was 24 years old. He was a solider, he died for all the things that the Alliance says it stands for - compassion, justice, integrity, pride in our country, democracy, human rights, human dignity, self determination and freedom. Let us honour him and his family with a moment of silence.

The most important discovery I make as I go around the country is the level of pride and passion that New Zealanders have at the local level.

It's almost humbling.

I visited Moerewa earlier this year.

Moerewa is a small town in the far North, which has had more than its fair share of tough times.

It lost the freezing works, it lost services.

There is not much left.

But there is the fiercest pride I have come across anywhere.

The people of that town have decided that their town can only go up.

They're looking at the stars.

As far as Moerewa is concerned, Moerewa is the best place in the world.

They want to have a future there.

And why shouldn't they?

The mood is the same in Southland, the East Coast, the West Coast in fact everywhere I go.

The Alliance has put its stake in the ground for regional development.

What it means is this: If you live in Christchurch, or Moerewa, or Hamilton, or Rotorua you have a future.

And it doesn't have to be in Auckland.

It certainly doesn't have to be in Sydney.

It should be right here where you live.

There is a fashionable view in some parts of New Zealand that regional decline is inevitable.

That it just happens naturally, and there is nothing that politicians can do, or should try to do, to turn back the inevitable march of history.

The Alliance rejects that view.

What we are here to do is to provide a future for the regions.

You cannot have a strong national economy if you have weak regions.

I have been paying special attention to the East Coast of the North Island recently. The East Coast has some of the lowest levels of computer ownership and use in the country.

In a number of the government departments they have between them about 2000 surplus used computers that they are not using.

Through the Tairawhiti taskforce, set up to help the people on the East Coast, we will be delivering many of these computers to schools, marae and community groups on the coast over the next few months.

This kind of hands on development and problem solving with the community has been unheard of in New Zealand for the past decade. But it is the way forward and we are committed to it.

In the Budget we unveiled a major regional development programme.

Industry New Zealand will enter partnerships with the private sector and with local communities to transform the economic base of New Zealand.

This Government’s commitment to industry and regional development is a commitment to more jobs and to rising incomes.

The economic development initiatives of this Government were a centre-piece of the budget.

The other important theme of the budget was the commitment to Closing the Gaps.

Every New Zealander who cares for their country feels pain at the rise of inequality among us.

Gaps are the legacy of the free market.

The last government ignored them at best.

It even created them at its cynical worst.

A lot of Alliance people have told me they were pleased with the government's first budget.

I've been encouraged by the warmth Alliance people have felt.

Because I know how hard you worked to get the Alliance into Government.

I know the persistence and resilience that it took to build our movement.

I want the whole Alliance to feel that it's been worth it.

The issue for the Government is not that the Alliance and Labour have different policies.

Of course we do, and we always will.

That's why we are separate parties.

The issue is: Can the Government resolve those policy differences constructively?

The answer is yes.

We have to recognise the relative strength of the parties.

We have to recognise that this is a minority Government.

We have to take the public with us in our entire policy programme, instead of imposing policies against the will of the people as the last Government did.

We have to recognise that policies should prevail on their merits and in the best interests of all New Zealanders.

We have to work in good faith to make the government work.

The Alliance should be proud of the contribution it is making to this Government.

Without the Alliance, this Government would not exist.

And therefore there would be no regional development programme underway.

There would be no rescue package for mental health.

There would be no visionary biodiversity package.

There would be no income-related rents for state housing.

Last Friday we achieved a great victory in the mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods.

No one should be under any illusion about the importance of delivering on those policies.

New Zealanders have almost forgotten what it is like to have a Government that honours its pre-election commitments.

The last Government I was a member in didn't.

The National Government, which replaced it, didn't.

The first coalition following the 1996 MMP election didn't.

This Government has set out to restore the faith of the public in the process of Government.

That means doing what we said we would do.

It means governing in the interests of the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders.

Not just the top five per cent.

I believe these last six months have gone a long way towards rebuilding New Zealanders’ faith in their system of Government.

We have almost single-handedly saved MMP.

National and Act are in disarray.

Just last week Bill English said that if we set up a superannuation fund to ensure the future of superannuation, he would raid it to pay for tax cuts for the most affluent New Zealanders.

Then later on he said that he was looking at Winston Peter's compulsory savings scheme, a scheme that was rejected by 92% of New Zealanders.

Superannuation is a crucial issue for all New Zealanders. We want to get some kind of agreement across party lines on superannuation so people can be secure in their retirement. That is exactly what the people of New Zealand want.

But it seems that National has no idea where it is on superannuation or for that matter on regional development.

Just this week National spoke against the Economic Development bill.

Each National party speaker got up and said although National was in favour of regional development they would not support the bill.

John Luxton actually tried to claim that the National party had a successful policy of region development over the last nine years.

He also said that the Topoclimate scheme, that we have funded in Southland, was too expensive and a waste of money!

I don't think he is going to be standing down there at the next election, but Bill English is.

And Bill English knows it.

Bill English takes a more pragmatic approach to regional development. He has said that the National party position of abandoning regional development wasn't supported by New Zealanders and it was time National changed its policy.

I also have support from Bill English for the Kiwi bank. Bill actually said on television that it was a good thing to have a low cost bank and that he would probably put his money into it!

Act has problems of its own.

There have been rumblings inside Act against the sleazy leadership style of Richard Prebble.

The Sunday Star times said just last week

"Two different factions in Act are now saying privately that Prebble will not last until the next election.

"The hand of party president Sir Roger Douglas' faction could be seen in news stories last week that there had been consideration within Act about removing Prebble
and replacing him with deputy leader Ken Shirley.

"Also manoeuvring are supporters of Rodney Hide who want Prebble out by the next election and replaced by their man.

"Both factions are feeding off a souring climate of public opinion towards Act and
Prebble.


The policies National and Act would be implementing if they were in government now would be intolerable.

 Yet another cut in superannuation

 Tax cuts for the most affluent, and huge user charge-tax increases for low and middle income earning New Zealanders.

 The sale of New Zealand assets.

 TVNZ.

 New Zealand Post - not a people's bank initiative.

 The remaining baby-ECNZs.

 The public hospitals.

 Even the roads.

Overseas owners would be on a spending spree at the National-Act fire sale.

There would be another round of vicious and divisive attacks on beneficiaries and the low paid.

Tariffs would be on an express train to obliteration…along with the tens of thousands of jobs that depend on a fair and reasonable balance in trade.

What else would National and Act take away?

There would be no income-related rents.

There would be more hospital closures and privatisations. This was even confirmed by Richard Prebble in the budget debate recently

No more money for waiting lists.

National and Act ran down the hospitals.

They ran down the schools.

They forced students into mountains of debt.

They laid waste to the natural environment.

They left New Zealanders doubtful that Government and democracy itself could deliver what they needed.

Parties like National and Act and NZ First want to take us backwards.

Back to the failed policies of the eighties and nineties.

They're stuck in the last century.

We can’t go back.

We need a new beginning.

And that is just what this budget and this coalition Government have set out to achieve.

As Alliance activists, you deserve your share of credit for helping to bring it about.

ENDS

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