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Advancing the progressive agenda - Anderton Speech

Hon. Jim Anderton
28 February 2001 Speech Notes
Speech notes for Auckland University

Advancing the progressive agenda

Alliance Public meeting
Maidment Theatre
Auckland University

Today I am going to talk to you about:

„h New Zealand and where we are as a country

„h What the Alliance is working on and has achieved as part of the Labour Alliance Coalition Government

„h And the Alliance's vision for New Zealand.

I want to start by saying that New Zealand is a unique and special country. The Alliance is committed to making New Zealand everything it can be.

If we want better health services, more jobs and free education we need to work for these things.

To do that we need your support and the support of all New Zealanders.

By the end of this presentation you should have a better idea of what the Alliance is doing as part of the Labour Alliance Coalition Government to create security and opportunity for all New Zealanders.

But first we need to know where we are and how we came to be here.

There is no question that when this Government came into office New Zealand faced considerable challenges.

Our problems are not new.

They began decades ago in the 1960s and seventies.

Free market policies begun in 1984 have not been successful in lifting our poor economic performance.

Our per capita income has declined relative to other developed countries since 1984.

In fact - it declined more since 1984 than it did in the 1974-84 oil crisis period.

Australia's performance has been much better - for example, during the Asian crisis in 1998, Australia grew by 5%.

When I tell business-people about this, they are often astonished.

That's because the wealthy have been shielded from New Zealand's relative economic decline.

The top 10% have had huge rises in both pre-tax and after-tax incomes.

Wealth hasn't trickled down.

Meanwhile, we have been getting deeper and deeper into debt. This is a situation that students are well placed to understand.

As a country we haven't paid our way in the world for 27 consecutive years. That's a world record.

We were told that the asset sales programme was supposed to pay off debt.

In fact, overall debt has soared: It now totals $105 billion, or $27,000 per person.

Compare that to Singapore, which has a $150 billion cash surplus.

These are not just numbers. The effects of poor economic performance have been harsh in many parts of New Zealand.

Unemployment remained stubbornly over 6% of the workforce through-out the nineties.

With high unemployment and the loss of services, more and more people end up on social welfare benefits. That means there is less money for social services like health, education, housing and superannuation.

We have imposed huge debts on students providing disincentives for people to study.

New Zealanders' living standards have been falling and debts climbing because we haven't changed the economy fast enough.

We have the lowest proportion of high-tech exports of any developed country.

It's not all doom and gloom, however.

The international investment banker Merrill Lynch recently looked at the qualities that make a country a great place.

They looked at things like the supply of capital, education and the skills of the people, the health system, the availability of new technology. Is the Government free from corruption? They looked at the social structure of countries and deducted points where they found wide inequalities.

New Zealand came out ranked seventh in the world.

New Zealand is a stable democratic country with an excellent infrastructure and a wealth of natural resources. But we need to change direction.

This Labour-Alliance Coalition Government has been elected to change direction and reconstruct our country.

This Government is committed to transforming our economy, addressing the broad range of social issues such as education and health, and restore people's faith in Government.

We're not going back to the past. We're taking a more balanced approach, in the interests of all New Zealanders.

We're committed to keeping the promises we made before the election.

Our highest priority is to transform New Zealand's economic base.

We need more job-rich, high-skill, high value, high-technology exporting companies.

We have to sell more products that depend on the skill and creative abilities of New Zealanders - and not just on our rainfall and sunshine.

We're doing it by taking a partnership approach - we're working with innovative companies to develop ideas:
„h Hobsonville super yachts
„h Wood processing on the East Coast
„h Avocado oil
„h Meat chips
„h Safety helmets

We're investing in regions. I've been to every region in New Zealand at least once in the first twelve months of this government.

Industry New Zealand is working with each region to identify the best opportunities for economic development. The Government will work with these regions and make the partnership contribution we need to make.

Tomorrow in Northland I will be announcing five more regions the Government will be working with in partnership.

The object is to create jobs - good jobs based on the skills and talent of New Zealanders, not cheap jobs.

At the same time we are restoring balance in the economy - and moving away from the extreme policies of the last Government.

We have:
„h Increased the minimum wage by $20 a week.
„h We increased superannuation by $20 a week.
„h Top earners are paying a fairer share.
„h We have introduced income-related rents for state houses.

These were all election commitments for the Alliance and Labour - and we have kept our promises.

We have set up a superannuation scheme. It ensures security for all New Zealanders when they retire.

National won't sign up to it. Can they really be trusted not to cut superannuation again, when they broke their word on super so often in the past?

If they wanted to persuade New Zealanders that they wouldn't cut super, they would sign up to this Government's scheme.

We have reduced the cost of education: The interest rate for student loans won't go up.

I would make it free.

New Zealanders don't seem to want to pay for that.

But if we want a high-income future, we need to encourage our young people to complete education to the limit of their ability.

And we shouldn't be driving newly qualified students overseas with a life-time debt burden.

We are governing in the interests of all New Zealanders.

We have the lowest unemployment level since June 1988.

The regions of New Zealand are growing very strongly.

There is renewed interest in New Zealand. I keep meeting kiwis who are returning home to rebuild New Zealand.

I am proud of the contribution my Alliance colleagues are making to this Government.

New Zealanders suffered successive governments that said one thing before the election and then did something else after it.

Those days have ended.

And we are governing co-operatively. Under this government you don't see the shambles of coalition partners squabbling in public. MPs brawling in the chambers of Parliament. Being prima donnas.

We are restoring trust in Parliament by passing an anti-defection bill. In future, MPs who want to party-hop will have to leave Parliament.

Think about what would happen if the Alliance was not in Parliament.

First, the Government wouldn't exist at all. We would have a National-Act Government headed by Mrs Shipley and Mr Prebble.

Imagine what that would be like.

We wouldn't be discussing setting up a bank - we would be discussing their intention to sell NZ Post.

We wouldn't have increased super - it would have been cut again.

We wouldn't have increased the minimum wage - Act wants to get rid of it altogether.

That would be life under National and Act.

The Alliance set out in this government to restore the public's faith that MMP could produce strong governments that work in the interests of all New Zealanders.

And we are working to improve security and opportunity for all New Zealanders.

Nowhere has that been better seen in recent days than in the decision to allow NZ Post to establish a kiwi bank.

This is a defining moment for New Zealand.

There is a simple reason why National and Act are so enraged about the bank.

This is about the kind of New Zealand we are going to live in.

For Jenny Shipley and Richard Prebble, it was a New Zealand where everything was sold. The Government had no role.

In the past, governments focused on cutting costs. They wouldn't take any part in building New Zealand's future.

The kiwi bank symbolises a future where we as New Zealanders control our own destiny and create jobs and other opportunities for our people.

The Act party says it wants to sell the bank.

National's leader Jenny Shipley says she wants to sell it.

The bank will be a fully-owned subsidiary of NZ Post, with it's own board. How could the Government order NZ Post to sell its banking arm?

If a National-Act Government sold New Zealand Post, that would be a tragedy.

This bank is a defining moment because it is about the approach we are taking to our whole economy.

We are builders, not destroyers.

If New Zealand wants a country where we try to do things, where we give things a go, then New Zealand needs to get behind this bank.

Opponents of the bank want to go back to the New Zealand of the eighties where we sit on our hands and hope that things will come right if everything is sold.

They should get real. New Zealanders can do anything we want to do.

This bank is about New Zealanders owning New Zealand assets.

We should have some control over our own social and economic destiny.

We should keep in New Zealand some of the profits that are made in New Zealand.

This bank is going to offer convenient, low cost banking.

I am amazed at the political opposition to that.

If a successful business like NZ Post can offer better service at lower cost - we should be encouraging them.

The bank will charge fees that are up to 30% cheaper than the average of existing banks.

It will have more branches than any existing bank.

The banks business case has been put together by experts, including banking experts.

It shows that - even on very conservative estimates ¡V the bank will make a profit after three years.

In a decade it will develop into an asset worth $500 million. All this from an injection of capital of $78 million, a small amount given the $468 million of dividends the enterprise has delivered to Government since 1987.

NZ Post needs new sources of revenue as its income is declining as electronic communication technology increases.

The bank will offer all the main personal banking services - eft-pos, cheque books, mortgages, as well as phone and internet banking.

The focus of this bank will be on personal service. The other banks sometimes seem to ignore their personal customers.
They're more interested in their big corporate clients.

The bank has been an important policy for the Alliance because we are committed to a vision of New Zealand where we can build for the future.

Our vision is one where the whole community has a role in building for the future, through well-run public enterprises and ensuring where the returns go to the whole community. We need to support our distinctive New Zealand culture.
It's a New Zealand where we value and protect our natural heritage.

The New Zealand in our vision is a New Zealand that is attractive to live in:
„h We want full employment and the Alliance has instigated the Jobs machine working in regions and with industries to create jobs.
„h Working toward paid parental leave.
„h The Alliance is committed to promoting and developing steps towards free education.

We have a lot of work to do.

We have to continue to ensure stable government. The Alliance has to advocate and work for issues that we believe in.

We also have to carefully select and progress issues where we have common ground with our Coalition partner, while agreeing to disagree where we need to.

The Labour Alliance Coalition Government will not be able to achieve all this in three years. The job of restoring security and opportunity and reversing the negative economic issues we face will take longer.

The Alliance will continue to advocate policies which support our people and build our communities. The number of MPs we have will play a big part in how successful we are. The more MPs the more influence we will have.

The campaign for the future of New Zealand is already underway. For the Alliance to continue to change New Zealand we need your support.

That is a New Zealand of Security and Opportunity.

That is the New Zealand which the Alliance, in Government, is working to create.


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