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Jim Anderton Speech: A Year Of Achievement

6 December 2000 Hon Jim Anderton Speech Notes

A Year Of Achievement

Address to
Pegasus Greypower
Cashmere Club

It is amazing how things change.

They say a week in politics is a long time, well I can tell you from experience that a year in Government is a very long time. In fact a year ago seems like a whole other life.

Just over a year ago we were fighting an election campaign and talking about all the things that needed to change to improve New Zealand. Some of them seemed a great distance from where we were at the time.

The election was in full swing, the national government and its odd collection of supporters had limped along for nearly a year and the real changes needed to get our country working again remained undone.

We were optimistic, but there was also a niggling worry that somehow, as with the election before, National might manipulate their way back into office.

In contrast yesterday was a beautiful sunny day in Wellington.
Helen Clark and I celebrated the first year of the Labour Alliance Coalition Government with the release of a small booklet called "It was time for a change" that outlined the achievements of this Government. The 24 page book was produced from over 100 pages of submitted material.

We have secured the first government in a generation that truly looks after the interests of ordinary working people.

We have delivered the lowest level of unemployment for twelve years, an increase in superannuation, income related state house rentals, fairer industrial and ACC laws.

It's been so long since we had a government that delivered for ordinary working New Zealanders that we aren't very good at celebrating it.

And the next two years and the years after that promise more achievements as we restore balance to our economy and ensure that people are put first.

Security and opportunity are the hallmarks of the modern economy that this Labour Alliance Coalition Government is creating.

More jobs. Rising incomes. Stronger regions.

The economy is being transformed.

Our success in delivering a stronger economy and more jobs will improve the government's ability to deliver in other areas:

In social services, like health and education.

In security, such as superannuation.

We increased New Zealand Superannuation from April this year.

For years groups in our community have been ignored.

This government is restoring balance to our services and providing security for all our people.

On the 16th of August Cabinet approved the process and timeframe for the development of a Positive Ageing Strategy for New Zealanders which has implications across all portfolios.

We are increasing the child care subsidy hours in February of next year.

We have launched a modern apprenticeship scheme for young people.

There have been increases in the thresholds for the Community Services Card and Disability Allowance.

One 1 December this Labour Alliance Government restored income related rents for state housing.

There are many other achievements, as I said we filled a book with them.

All in one year.

And it was just over a year ago the Alliance was erecting election campaign hoardings. Some of them promised Our Bank…Opening Soon.

The Alliance policy was developed after looking closely at the way the large overseas-owned banks were operating. Fees were increasing. Branches were closing. Staff were being laid off in their thousands. Some towns were left without any banking services at all – not even an ATM.

And most of us realised that all these banks seem to charge exactly the same interest rate. And they all announced increases in interest rates within a day or two of each other.

All this while profits were sky-rocketing. Overseas-owned banks made a profit in New Zealand of sixteen hundred million dollars last year. Thirteen hundred million dollars of that was repatriated overseas.

A great number of New Zealanders were saying that they wouldn’t mind paying bank fees so much if they knew the profits would be recirculated in their own local communities.

And so we looked at what could be done.

The solution we developed was to establish a publicly-owned New Zealand bank using the NZ Post branch network.

Hundreds of NZ Post outlets are already networked to provide complex financial services. NZ Post already provides branch agency services on behalf of other banks and it had proven itself as one of New Zealand’s most successful businesses.

Some months ago Cabinet approved the idea in principle and asked New Zealand Post to prepare a detailed business case.

A year later in Government and we will soon be able to make an announcement about the kiwi bank, this announcement is likely in the very near future.

We know from the work already done that a locally owned bank is a feasible business proposition.

New Zealanders like the idea that their bank will be part of their local community. The fees it charges are used to provide services in their local area. Its profits are used to help the local community. That is a boost to communities everywhere.

People feel good about the idea of banking with a publicly-owned New Zealand bank. They feel even better when they find out it charges lower fees for full banking services.

Not surprisingly we have been encouraged by an Auckland University public opinion survey released recently which said that 58 per cent of kiwis supported the idea of a peoples bank and 40 per cent would seriously consider moving their banking to a people's bank.

Our critics claim that the bank will be subsidised. But the reality is that overseas-owned banks are making sixteen hundred million dollars a year in profits in New Zealand. That suggests to me that there might be room in the market for a bank that charges less.

Many people have been taken a bit unawares by the proposals as they are not used to a Government that wants to help its people or start things rather than closing, cutting or stopping them. It has been so long since any Government even tried to get involved to make the economy work that some people are in shock. I can understand their surprise.

I anticipate that the positive effects of a kiwi bank will be enjoyed by many New Zealanders – including those who choose to stay with the overseas banks. That’s because those banks are certain to make some kind of competitive response. They will cut their fees for their customers too.

In addition there will be much better service at the local level. There are fewer than nine hundred bank branches left in New Zealand. That is barely half the number there were

The entry of New Zealand Post into the banking market will increase the number of branches significantly from the very first day.

Governments over the last few years allowed communities all over New Zealand to lose their social services, like hospitals, schools and banks.

Not one member of those Governments was ever brave enough to show up at the closing ceremonies and take credit for their work.

I’m looking forward to opening a few bank branches. I promise you – I am looking forward to taking credit for my work.

A year ago, I set out with a straightforward assignment: Set up a publicly-owned New Zealand bank with branches all over New Zealand, offering lower fees than the existing overseas banks, do it within a year and make sure that the bank will stand on its own feet.

The impossible we do daily. Miracles take a little longer.

But I am very confident we are going to do it.

I am confident that there will be real benefits to New Zealand.

And I am confident that New Zealand of all income levels will join the bank because they want the personal service, local commitment and lower fees than they are getting now.

It's been a busy year. In some respects time has flown but at the same time the impressive list of achievements of this Labour Alliance Coalition Government shows me how much more we can do for all New Zealanders in the years ahead.


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