Delivering For Working People - Anderton Speech
Hon Jim Anderton Speech Notes
Delivering For Working People
Address to the executive meeting of the Amalgamated Workers Union
Top Floor, 307 Willis Street, Wellington
12 Noon Tuesday, 12 June 2001
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
Your invitation to me confirmed that your union is fully behind the concept of a kiwi bank, so I would like to take the opportunity to talk about that a little.
And I want to talk about the advances this Labour-Alliance coalition government is making on behalf of working people.
A lot has changed since this government took office.
We now have the first Government in a generation that is governing truly in the interests of ordinary working New Zealanders.
We are making real advances for working people, and we need to celebrate our successes.
Look back at our policies at the last election.
We had to prove MMP could work and prove the Alliance can handle Government - that Jim Anderton wasn't Darth Vader.
We had to prove that the Alliance could be a reliable Co-alition partner which would help deliver stable/secure Government.
- Super, $20 a week.
- Housing - Income related rents ($20 a week)
- Minimum wage - Adult: $20
- Youth: reduce to age 18 and ultimately remove for work of equal value.
- Remove NIL or below minimum wage for trainees.
- Jobs - lowest level of unemployment for 13 years (since 1988) and getting lower.
- Apprenticeships - 4,500 by end of first term.
- Education - one third of new spending this year ($200 million out of $400 million).
- Tertiary students- No interest charged on student loans. No increase in interest rates/fees.
- Jobs for Students. ("Jobs are no substitute for beenfits")
- Health - Elected boards - Lower/ less time on waiting lists
- Youth Suicide Prevention package
- Conservation -- Save Kiwis $55 million -- Stewart Island National Park -
- Paid Parental leave
My job as Minister of Economic Development is to bring about the economic transformation New Zealand needs.
We have created the Ministry of Economic Development and set up Industry New Zealand.
They are working in partnership with local communities, with business, with unions, with iwi and anyone else with good ideas.
We try to identify opportunities for New Zealand and to build on our strengths.
We need more job-rich, high-skill, high-value industries.
We need to create and sell more products and services that rely on the unique skills of New Zealanders.
For me the most exciting parts of the Budget were those targeted at New Zealanders who no longer live here.
The key programme is called "World Class New Zealanders".
It's a 'brain gain' initiative designed to identify and network with New Zealanders who are world class thinkers.
It's aimed at lifting the level of business expertise in New Zealand, sharing innovative ideas and exposing New Zealanders to international best practice.
Many opportunities will be created in regional New Zealand.
There cannot be a strong economy if the regions are weak.
We are working with regions to identify regional priorities, and build on strengths.
A region like the East Coast of the North Island has actually shrunk by 12% over the last fifteen years.
As economic activity declines, jobs disappear and essential services move away - like schools, hospitals, banks and petrol stations.
It's a cycle of decline and we have to reverse it.
On the East Coast - as in Northland - there is an enormous wall of wood coming on stream.
Forests that were planted twenty years ago and now they are nearly ready for harvest.
It is vital to ensure that as many of those logs as possible are processed in New Zealand.
Instead of just cutting down trees and exporting raw logs, we need to process more of those logs into valuable products.
It will require investment in infrastructure.
Transport infrastructure - roads, rail and so on.
It requires investment in skills - there needs to be training.
Forestry companies are beginning to identify serious skills shortages in the industry.
Yet they know that they have some of the responsibility for the way they have treated their staff over the years.
The timber industry is one example of where we are taking a partnership approach to develop new industries and create jobs.
One of the challenges for New Zealand businesses is to celebrate their successes and to see themselves as successful.
New Zealand needs to be proud and confident about its own unique culture.
- Te Kaha.
We need to see New Zealand perform on the world's stages.
We need to be proud of the things that make New Zealand distinctive.
We live in a world where there is growing demand for highly skilled labour.
For New Zealand to succeed, it must be attractive for skilled individuals to invest their energy and resources in.
That will take a strong, diverse economy.
One where skills, talent and creativity can be developed and rewarded.
Where those who try will be encouraged and supported.
Where working people can look forward to rising real incomes.
For many years the government has been on the sidelines, while private firms and the community have tried to do their bit.
Now the government is playing its part.
This bank is about New Zealanders owning New Zealand assets.
It will offer convenient, low cost banking.
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 business case has been put together by a very talented team. Banking experts.
The people who made NZ Post a leading company offering the lowest priced letters in the world.
The bank will make a profit after three years.
It will use the very latest technology.
The overseas banks are all stuck with old-style computer systems that are very expensive and difficult to update to new technology.
The new bank is going to enter the market with state of the art software that is much cheaper and more flexible.
The bank will offer all the main personal banking services - eft-pos, cheque books, mortgages, as well as phone and internet banking.
It's going to have a focus on family banking.
NZ Post is a trusted and successful business.
In the thirteen years since it was established as an SOE, it has returned $468 million to the government in dividends.
They are now asking for a small fraction of that back to invest in the future.
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.
I am proud of the contribution my Alliance colleagues are making to this Government.
Think about what would happen if we weren't there.
First, the Government wouldn't exist at all. We would have a National-Act Government headed by Mrs Shipley and Mr Prebble.
If I have one message for you today - it is that the Government needs the active support of working people to lock in the new direction.
If Jenny Shipley and Richard Prebble get the chance, they will turn the clock back.
The partnership approach to transforming the economy will go.
They will take us back to hands-off and the law of the jungle.
They will repeal the Employment Relations Act.
Working people need to organise - or the gains we are making will be lost.
Support can't be just from the sidelines.
It means active support.
I recognise that it is a two-way process.
The Government welcomes your participation, too.
Over recent months we have gone to great lengths to assure the business community that it has a role.
The reality is that no Government can hope to deliver jobs, rising incomes, security and opportunity for New Zealanders without the co-operation of the business sector.
The willingness of the Government to co-operate with business doesn’t mean that the union movement is excluded. Nor does it diminish or undervalue your role.
My door is open to the union movement to come and discuss issues when you need to.
Things will change over the next eighteen months.
The period of consolidation is over.
We will advocate for more progress towards the Alliance's vision for New Zealand.
Health - move towards free and universal
Education - move towards free and universal.
Jobs -- removing social welfare poverty traps.
Of course we can't achieve everything.
As the German Greens have said " Don't blame us for our weakness, give us more strength".
We want to do more and be better.
In health, education, jobs, housing environment.
BUT, we are governing on Labour's revenue base.
$5.9 billion divided by 3 = $1.96 billion.
The Alliance stood at the last election with an annual revenue base of $2.8 billion = $840 million extra per year.
Most of Labour's money was spent in the first year.
The country needed the change that the quick completion of the coalition agreement brought about.
But the Alliance also stands for a New Zealand that can do much better, that can be much more successful.
Ever since the budget I have heard from New Zealanders who ask the Government for more.
They want more to be done for pre-schools and kindies, in schools and in universities and polytechs.
They expect waiting lists at hospitals to be shortened and adequate provision to be made for the cataract operations, hip and knee replacements.
And these are all good things to do, and powerful cases can be made for doing them, and the Alliance supports all of them.
As New Zealanders, however, we all have to own the solution to these demands.
If Governments don’t collect enough revenue then they don’t have the ability to do everything that people want them to do.
Most of the revenue the Government collects is from tax.
In the Alliance’s view, the tax system should be progressive, so that the wealthy pay a higher proportion of their income than those of more modest ability.
For example, the Alliance believes a tax on financial transactions would be fairer than GST, since GST is levied on things like food and exempts foreign exchange speculators.
A progressive tax system is fairer because the wealthy have more ability to pay, while those on lower incomes are often struggling to get by and can’t afford to pay more.
If the tax system is fairer, then people are more likely to take ownership of the solution to things like education and better shorter hospital waiting lists.
It’s a bit like prisons. Everyone wants more prisons, but no one wants one built near them.
Everyone wants hospitals, but when we ask people who can afford it to pay a fairer share of tax, there are not too many volunteers.
When I was young and starting out, people of the age and comparable income to mine now accepted they had a responsibility to young people.
They took responsibility by paying their share so that the Government could help young families starting out to afford houses, to pay for a decent education system and to take care of the hospitals.
Far too many New Zealanders now want the Government to wave a magic wand and provide services without paying for them.
New Zealanders need to own the solutions to our own problems, and start taking responsibility for paying for the demands that are being made.
We do need to do more.
New Zealand can do better.
But it will only happen when New Zealanders accept their responsibilities in contributing to the society we want.
This Government is working for all New Zealanders.
Ordinary New Zealanders -- particularly many of your members -- have taken some very hard hits in the last 25 years.
If you want to turn that around, it means putting your money with your mouth is.
And it means actively supporting both limbs of the coalition.
Both are making a strong contribution to its success.
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.
When we have more strength in the Government, we will be able to deliver on more of our policies.
It's up to you to give us that strength.
Only the Labour-Alliance Coalition will be stable and govern in the interests of all New Zealanders.
And the only way to deliver that Government is to ensure that the Alliance continues to have a strong role in it.
I want to close by assuring you that I am available to this union to work co-operatively in improving security and opportunity for working people - just as I am available to other organisations, to community groups and to business.
In fact I have a challenge for you.
If you believe there is something I can do, or the Government can realistically do to create jobs, or lift the incomes of working people, I want you to bring your ideas to me.
I’m a pragmatist. If things aren’t working, I say we should stop doing them. When they do work, we should consider doing more.
I think working co-operatively with the labour movement does work - and I’m always available to do more.