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Jenny Shipley Speech: American Chamber of Commerce

Jenny Shipley Speech to American Chamber of Commerce, Sheraton Hotel, Auckland. 19 February 2001

Vision without action is a hollow dream. Spin without substance is equally empty, yet that seems to be the Prime Minister's forte. This is the political battleground for New Zealand politics for the next two years. New Zealanders are yearning to believe in a New Zealand they can live, work and retire. Yet over the last year under the new Labour Government the net migration loss New Zealand experienced was the largest that we have seen since 1989 when Labour was last in office.

I believe that what lies at the heart of the loss of confidence that New Zealand is experiencing in itself is a deep seated awareness that New Zealand has been slipping back in relation to others in the world for a significant period of time.

While we grew during the 1990s, we didn't grow as fast as others. Their success has accentuated our slippage. If we are to turn this around we have to connect the hearts and minds of New Zealanders to raising our sights and succeeding together.

Political expediency can't be part of such a future. Political expediency however, abounds in this Labour/Alliance Government. Today is a good case in point. We are told on the one hand to seek modernisation and economic transformation. Yet today Cabinet will make a decision on the so-called "people's bank". It will be a decision that recalls the worst excesses of the 70's and 80's when Cabinet made decisions against independent and official advice, and the taxpayer later picked up the tab. A political deception has occurred. The "people's bank" business case plainly states it does not want too many low income people as customers.

We will use every means at our disposal to expose the deception that the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are undertaking. We will demand that NZ Post's Ross Armstrong appears before Parliament's Commerce select committee to account for himself and we will use the OIA process to obtain all information available.

Let me state again for the record: National believes there is no role for the State to play in banking. The 1999 World Competitiveness Report ranks New Zealand first out of 59 countries in terms of ease of entry into the banking sector. If 'MyBank' is such a good idea, NZ Post should be fending potential partners off with a big stick rather than relying on the Government to spring tax-payers funds.

National remembers that Cullen and Clark did not tell New Zealanders the full story of the BNZ prior to the 1990 election. They had vital information concerning the viability of the Bank for six weeks prior to the election, and they withheld it from the public. We know they have vital information from Cameron & Co and the Treasury concerning the future viability of the 'people's bank'. Our understanding is that both of these reports are negative. Again they are withholding that information. I intend to hold them politically accountable for any costs to tax-payers and savers.

We are a small country, we'll always have to be more competitive than most in order to maintain the standard of living New Zealanders have become accustomed to. But it's not here as of right - it has to be won, owned, believed in and sustained by the Government, by big business, by small business, by New Zealand families, by New Zealand workers, by every one of us who has the privilege of living here.

We have to keep up in the world. It states the obvious to say that we can not afford to lose our international competitiveness, and yet Labour's approach has seen a number of measures that have done just that.

Internationally, modernisation doesn't include: Increasing taxes Renationalisation of ACC Centralised decision making Reregulated labour markets Dumbing down of education

National's begun this year with a clean slate. For the first time since I have been Leader of National, I feel that we have an unencumbered opportunity to look at New Zealand, to look ahead and to consider what National can offer to provide a growth vision for New Zealand. This will be a long term view with real solutions that deliver real confidence, real inclusion, real involvement and real success.

New Zealanders look to National, not Labour, to look after New Zealand's long term interests. That's exactly what we intend to do!

We've got our team in shape. We've got our potential coalition partners working closely with us. We're planning for the future.

Our growth vision for New Zealand is grounded firmly in the belief that if we are to give people a sense of wellbeing, a sense of pride in New Zealand, a sense of optimism about the future in terms of living, working and retiring here, a sense of inclusiveness that gives every person a chance to get ahead, regardless of their skill set, then growth matters.

Growth is imperative because it allows us to lift our sights and to meet expectations and aspirations. It is the only way we can encourage and enable our people.

The current government tells us that growth is important, but it is completely unwilling to put the policies in place that will create the environment for growth. They talk of economic transformation, the new buzzword for economic progress.

But it is not sufficient to simply talk about knowledge, innovation and competitiveness, or to claim that we have an internationally competitive global labour market when in fact even the people on the port of Nelson don't have a New Zealand labour market let alone an internationally competitive one. Despite our warning to New Zealand that any major change backward in labour market law would take us back to the bad old days of strikes and demarcation disputes , less that 5 months since the law has been in place we have police controlling the workplace on the ports, and the meat industry is closed down at the most critical time of the year.

Labour is to blame for this debacle. The Prime Minister vowed to take all action necessary to solve these disputes yet is unwilling to stand behind her word. Her legislation limits employers choice of who provides work. That is symptomatic of Labour's inability to deliver the economic transformation they claim they're committed to.

Our vision for growth accepts the fact that we have to manage our economy well. We know for example that if we reduce government expenditure as a percentage of GDP over a number of years we will as a result see further innovation, expansion and inclusion occur. National will take a 10-year view and work to make real gains in this area.

Right through the 90's, when National succeeded in creating an environment for growth, the dividend of growth saw us pay off debt, reduce taxes and increase social spending at the same time.

It was only in the latter part of the 90's where the Coalition Government over-committed itself in terms of new spending, that the percentage of spending against GDP began to rise again, not fall. In that context we can still spend on matters that are of importance so long as the increased spending is not at a greater rate than the growth in the economy itself.

National's first priority will be to grow the cake rather than carve the cake up as Labour has demonstrated they are only capable of doing in year one. The quickest way in our experience to do this is to see that the gap between New Zealand and the rest of the world is as narrow as possible. Indeed it is preferable that New Zealand is leading the world. If we close that gap - other gaps take care of themselves.

Those who argue that through redistribution you can close gaps without creating genuine wealth are taking a short term view of New Zealand and are misleading the people they claim to be assisting.

We want to develop our people and growth allows us to do that. Growth matters because you can't have a world class education system without a world class economy. You can't have a world class health sector without a world class economy. You can't have an environment where everyone who wants to work can work without an economy that's able to generate jobs and genuinely increase capacity.

Expect us to be bold and innovative in our economic management and also in the policy areas of education, environment, health and population & immigration. In education we do not expect to be constrained by the current configuration of education services in New Zealand. New Zealand students both at school and beyond are entitled to know that they are earning an internationally credible qualification. We will look at all elements of the system to ensure that we can guarantee that. Expect integration of Business, universities and CRI's as we began with the Bright Futures strategy. This matters if we're to achieve sustainable growth in the future.

We reject entirely the current Government's approach to dumbing down the New Zealand education system and to delude young people by not telling them their own grades compared with their peers, let alone their international competitors. We will not continue with the NCEA as Labour is proposing. Expect major change in this area.

For young children we will be making it clear that we expect every child to have a good start in life. We will make clear that we expect parents to support and nurture children so that they are ready to learn. We will also ensure that the services and systems are in place to make that attainable.

Literacy and numeracy will lie at the heart of our early learning strategy along with the care and attention that each child is entitled to receive. There are some controversial policy issues to be explored in this area but to do anything less than to address them would do a great disservice to future generations of New Zealanders. Permanency and mutual obligations are key areas for development. In the area of environmental management New Zealand has to pitch itself toward proper sustainable development. A country like ours should never drop its standards in terms of maintaining its environment and managing waste effectively, ensuring that our biodiversity is protected, ensuring that the quality of our water supply and oceans are of the highest standard.

Having said that, there is absolutely no excuse for allowing that to cause development to lose momentum. It is outrageous that the Labour Government says the current RMA prevents anything being done with Transmission Gully or Auckland's transport problems because it would take 8 years to deal with the ecological planning consents.

Of course ecology in these sensitive areas deserves protecting but it is absurd to say that development should be prevented rather than finding systems that allow it to be a win-win situation. The productive sector, the tourism sector, and our social sector will all benefit.

Expect National to have a very bold sustainable development strategy that sets the highest of standards to protect our environment and secure our biodiversity but allows us to gain momentum in terms of allowing development to occur and ensures that the trade-offs required are properly balanced.

It also matters in terms of our long-term view. The National team has decided to put a programme together for the next 10 years. We will then define clearly what you can expect in each of the electoral periods making up that 10 year period.

Focus Group policy drivers as currently demonstrated by Labour are dangerous. Spin over substance will disappoint in the end.

The process that National is currently involved in is the most dynamic I have seen since the late 80's. Last year we kept our heads down. It was a year where we needed to absorb the defeat, understand the message, reconnect and re-establish our networks.

This year you can expect to hear a good deal more of us. While of course we will attack those things we disagree with in terms of the Government's programme we will also be putting in place very significant programmes ourselves.

We do have a different point of view from the current Government. Our commitment is to have policies which build the capacity of the economy to grow at double the pace that has been our recent experience. Expect our fiscal policy, our tax policy, our investment policy, our labour relations policy, and our entire policy framework to be consistent with creating an environment where doubling our current growth rate is a realistically achievable goal over a number of years.

Expect us to focus on small and medium-sized companies. They are the future of the New Zealand economy. I intend to ensure that we have a bureaucratic bonfire. Despite our efforts in the late '90's New Zealand business continues to be encumbered with unnecessary regulation. It adds to the cost of doing business and to a significant degree of frustration. It is our intention to see that the public sector which usually imposes the regulatory cost on small and medium sized businesses understands that their future is inextricably related to the future of medium and small sized companies'.

We will have a bureaucratic bonfire that still allows those standards that deserve to be kept retained while freeing up people in terms of both time and cost.

In addition to our education strategy our team is looking closely at the population and immigration issue. We need to ensure that family friendly policies are in place to encourage New Zealand's existing population to have children. In addition we seriously need to look to the international community to grow our skills and our diversity. Expect the National Party to have a very innovative population and immigration strategy. One which allows us to not only grow, retain and attract back our own population, but also to have an immigration strategy that attracts the world's best to help New Zealand's growth onto a higher plane.

It is my view that over a decade we do need to increase the population size of New Zealand. Other people from round the world will only come here if they believe that a growth strategy is sustainable so that they, if they settle here, can genuinely expect to get ahead and also have their aspirations met in the medium term for themselves and their family.

Expect us to maintain strong international relations, in particular our relationship with Australia. Expect us to share our regional responsibilities, not free load. Expect us to forge new trade arrangements and to promote democratic values wherever possible.

When National was last in office the New Zealand economy grew by 28% in real terms. While we were proud of that achievement other countries did better. In international terms we're slipping back. We mustn't delude New Zealand that there is an easy option to share wealth unless we create wealth. A growth strategy for the future will allow New Zealanders to have a sense of belonging, a confidence in New Zealand being a wonderful place to live, work and bring up their children, and to retire.

Our growth vision and the actions that will bring it to life are not an empty dream. Expect action and substance that will again see New Zealand become the magnet, the place to be, and the future for us all.

ENDS

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