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Letter To Richard Prebble From Jim Anderton

30 August 2000

Hon Richard Prebble
Leader of the Act Party
Parliament Buildings

Dear Mr Prebble

I read with interest your speech to the Business Brokers’ Division of the Real Estate Conference.

I noted your claim that I have never employed fellow New Zealanders with my own money.
Well, Richard, I did. I built a successful manufacturing engineering business, and was Managing Director for thirteen years.

In contrast I'm not aware that you have ever employed anyone with your own money. In fact, Richard, I'm aware that when you were in Government you destroyed tens of thousands of jobs with other people's money.

You make the claim that the Government is spending $120 million over three years through Industry New Zealand. This is wrong. I always knew you could not understand the simplest figures in the Crown accounts. The Government is spending $330 million over four years on industry and regional partnerships through Industry New Zealand.

I am surprised that you seem to be saying this amount of money is not enough. You have constantly bemoaned spending anything at all on economic development and high-value job-rich new projects such as the superyacht project in Whangarei.

You claim that a small businessman who employs eighty people attended a public meeting I spoke at in Manukau recently. First of all, Richard, you need to know that anyone in this country who employs eighty people is not a small businessperson. They don't even have a medium sized business. They have a big business.

We have very few businesses employing eighty or more staff. We certainly need more. That is why the Government is offering enterprise awards to the most innovative 250 businesses and entrepreneurs in the country.

The biggest problem these businesses face in getting off the ground is the need for assistance with marketing, management skills and the like. The grants are designed to help them purchase these skills. The grants are for $10,000. Not $20,000. So you got that wrong too.

You claim that it will cost $10,000 to apply for these grants. Wrong again, Richard. Enterprise Awards can be applied for by filling out a very simple form. The forms are designed for busy people. We've even set up a phone line to help. It's open until 10 o'clock at night because we recognise that's when innovators are likely to be at home, working on their ideas.

If the businessperson concerned really does have a business currently employing eighty people, then awards of this nature are probably not what they need. But if there is something the Government can do to help, I would urge you to ask this businessperson to contact me. I will personally visit. That is the kind of commitment to partnership this Government is making. But of course, then we would find out how much of your story is true and how much you've made up.

I can't help noticing, however, that the offer the businessperson received was free land, buildings and cash if he would undertake to employ thirty people within a year. I would like to ask if this is Act policy? Is Act really arguing that the New Zealand government should try to attract businesses by offering anyone who applies, sight unseen and on the strength of a form filled out over the Internet, free land, buildings and cash?

Richard, if the only way you can make any political mileage is by making up stories that are demonstrably and totally fabricated, you might as well give it all away.

Yours sincerely

Jim Anderton MP
Deputy Prime Minister

P.S.: By the way, I hear the Act party couldn't sell enough tickets to hold your $90 a head ball. Is this a reflection of the business acumen of the Act party? Or are the schemes Act MPs discuss in their offices a better guide? Perhaps if you tried even remotely to get the facts right, someone might buy a ticket.

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