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Immigration Policy - ACT Northland Tour

Monday 16th Oct 2000 Richard Prebble Speech -- Other

Today is the first day of a four day report back tour of Northland. We are travelling from Whangaparoa to Kerikeri. We are meeting with many people from concerned citizens to mayors, farmers to manufacturers and tourist operators.

We are looking at the good and the bad. From exciting developments like the new port, to developments no one wants in their neighbourhood, like the new prison.

We have brought the ACT bus. No other party regularly reports back as ACT does. We do it because we believe that democracy must be more than a report card every three years. As Leader of ACT I have implemented this policy and I am on the bus for the full four days. I am joined by ACT’s two Northland MPs, Muriel Newman and Penny Webster. Both MPs are a credit to the North and part of the ACT party policy of selecting quality MPs.

We have come to listen rather than lecture.

Muriel Newman has, through Parliamentary questions, shown that the North has not, so far, benefited from the coalition government’s policies.

It is recognised that a reliable way to measure how a region is going is the long term unemployment rate. For Northland it is alarming.

Here in Whangarei, long term unemployment to the year ended August has increased by 267, a 12.8% increase over 1999. In the Northland region there has been an increase of 24% - that’s an extra 1,874 people who have become long term unemployed. That is the human cost of this Labour-led government.

The true levels of unemployment will be higher because in the last year a record 72,000 New Zealanders left the country permanently.

The government says, correctly, that net migration is down slightly. But this is because the Labour government granted permanent residency to 62,051 people.

What the coalition does not say is that the number of New Zealanders who are business people, professionals, or who have high skills who are leaving, is at record levels.

The skills of those who are being given permanent residency is being lowered. Some 48,312 people with no skills at all were given permanent residence in the last 12 months. An increase of 5,517 people over last year.

The coalition is dumbing down New Zealand. My figures are current because the Parliamentary library has confirmed them. Act says we need to debate this issue.

No Minister made any statement saying it was government policy to reduce the standard of immigration.

It is not yet clear whether the lowering of standards is deliberate policy or whether, like dawn raids, the Minister just does not know what is going on.

If one projects forward the loss of skilled New Zealanders and then the lower average skills of those being granted permanent residency, then the country is headed in the wrong direction. We are in a global market for skills.

The real explanation for the figures is New Zealand is simply not such an attractive destination.

It seems to ACT that we must draw some clear conclusions. To survive New Zealand must become not comparable with Australia, but better.

Those who think like many Ministers, that we need to have policies that are the same as Australia, need to look at Tasmania, a state where the population is predicted to fall.

Peripheral economies are at a disadvantage in an integrating world. New Zealand struggles against the attractions of Australia, the UK and the USA.

Within New Zealand, areas like Northland struggle against forces attracting people, jobs and investment to Auckland.

The lesson is that we must offset all the disadvantages with every competitive edge we can create. Instead we handicap ourselves. Let me give you two examples - government and tax.

There is no reason why New Zealand needs to be badly governed, why we have to have laws like the Resource Management Act which place huge compliance costs on landowners and job creators. We did that to ourselves.

Tax – by setting a 39 cent tax rate we have handicapped ourselves in the global economy. We need to be like Ireland which introduced a 12½ per cent corporate tax rate and guaranteed it for 20 years.

Let’s remember that there are powerful forces going our way. The cost of transport and commodities is falling. The internet is the world’s new highway and we Kiwis are adapting to the new technology faster than most nations.

We achieved a 7% growth for a four month period in the 1990s and we can do it again.

We are going to need freedom, choice and personal responsibility – three values our present coalition opposes.

Values are the heart of ACT’s philosophy. ACT is the way of the future. ACT’s policies will attract talented New Zealanders home and keep them home.

On this values issue, the coalition represents the failed policies of the past and ACT the policies which will bring future success as a prosperous nation in a global economy.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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