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Address To Alliance Auckland Regional Conference

1 July 2001 Speech Notes

Address to the Alliance Auckland Regional Conference

Awataha marae, Akorangi Drive

10.00AM Sunday, 1 July 2001


A lot has changed since this government took office.

We have the first Government in a generation that is governing truly in the interests of ordinary New Zealanders.

We are making advances, and we need to celebrate our successes.

These days the Alliance in government is sometimes accused of putting the future of the coalition and the country ahead of the future of the party.

When the Alliance came into government, we had to prove MMP could work and prove the Alliance could handle Government. We had to prove that Jim Anderton wasn't Darth Vader. We had to prove that the Alliance could be a reliable coalition partner. That we would help to deliver stable, secure government.

I am proud of the role we played.

Those who counsel us to put narrow self-interest first are counselling us to walk away from some of our core values.

Values such as public service. The belief that there is a greater good and it is worthwhile to serve it.

Public service and selflessness are the highest standards that we can aspire to. Being in government to do the best we can for our country is noble. What greater calling can there be, than working tirelessly to make our country a little better?

To paraphrase John F Kennedy:

For of those to whom much is given, much is required.

And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each one of us, our success or failure, in whatever office we may hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions:

First, were we truly men and women of courage - with the courage to stand up, when necessary, to one's associates. The courage to resist public pressure, as well as private greed?

Second, were we truly men and women of judgment -- with perceptive judgment of the future as well as the past.

Third, were we truly men and women of integrity, who never ran out on either the principles in which they believed or the people who believed in them.

Finally, were we truly men of dedication -- with an honour mortgaged to no single individual or group, and compromised by no private obligation or aim, but devoted solely to serving the public good and the national interest.

Courage. Judgment. Integrity. Dedication. Those were the qualities spoken of by John Kennedy shortly before he took office in 1961. From the days when government was a noble profession. When public service and selflessness were thing leaders aspired to. They are stars to navigate by, and it is for us to make them fashionable values again.

The role of the Alliance is to inspire New Zealanders. To keep alive the promise of a better tomorrow. Where others lower expectations, our role is to aim high. To state our vision for what we can achieve, and for the success New Zealanders can achieve if we work together.

We need to start by reminding people that Government is good. Government is a positive force. And the Alliance is committed to being part of Government to harness that force, and use it positively. Positively to make New Zealand successful, to empower individuals, to realise dreams.

Government delivers gains for New Zealanders collectively that cannot be achieved by individuals, each abandoned to fight alone.

The Alliance is in Government because Governments can deliver gains for New Zealanders that markets can't.

We have made advances in Government, and we can be proud of them. We can celebrate our successes.

- Super, $20 a week.

- Securing the future for retirement incomes; Super Fund.

- Housing - Income related rents ($20 a week)

- Minimum wage - Adult: $20

- Youth: reduce to age 18 and ultimately remove.

- Remove NIL or below minimum wage for trainees.

- 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 or 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

- Kiwi Bank

- Apprenticeships - 4,500 by end of first term.

- Jobs. Lowest level of unemployment for 13 years (since 1988) and getting lower.

In Dannevirke, yesterday the police reported that the crime rate has halved. And the main reason, the local police say, is that the unemployment rate has halved.

Investing in the regions and securing more jobs is a success story for the people who get the jobs - but also for the rest of the community.

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 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.

New Zealand needs to be proud and confident about its own unique culture. 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 we celebrate our successes. We're not good enough at that as country.

This is a theme I return to whenever I speak to young people, or to groups working with the victims of National and Act - the unemployed, and drug addicts, and the sick on waiting lists. I say to them that every one of them is valuable. That each individual can make a contribution that only they can make. If they don't do it, no one will.

And the same is true for the Alliance. As an organisation generally, and as individual activists. Everything we do can only be done by us. Your contribution can only be made by you.

Alliance activists share a common belief in the values that our country should be built upon. A prosperous economy, delivering jobs and rising incomes for all. Respect for our unique, natural heritage. And a commitment to social democracy.

Last week I met with a UK economist, Tony Atkinson, who talked about the Social Agenda emerging from the last European summit.

Each Euro government is to measure every one of its policies against seven indicators. They are:

- Poverty

- Persistent Poverty

- Income inequality

- Long-term unemployment

- Low Education

- Jobless households

- Regional disparities

Making advances, defeating these social ills has in recent years been unfashionable politically.

But in Europe it is becoming popular again. It is our job to make it fashionable and vital again here in New Zealand. Step by step, as we work in government, we are making a contribution towards defeating each of them. I am proud of the contribution my Alliance colleagues are making.

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. National and Act stand for a soulless vision. It demands that the community should pull out of everything. Pull the state out. Sell everything. Let the market rule.

Those policies left New Zealand with social costs and divisions deeper than ever before. Their policies delivered deep poverty. Before them, food banks were unthinkable. They gave New Zealand the fastest growing gap between rich and poor in the developed world. They locked in unemployment across generations. They introduced fees for tertiary education and student loans scheme that will be a burden around the neck of young people for generations. And they sent the regions of New Zealand spiralling into a cycle of decline. If Jenny Shipley and Richard Prebble get the chance, they will turn the clock back.

We cannot allow that to happen, and that means we must make this government succeed.

We will not achieve everything we want, for we don't have the mandate for everything we promised. But we do have a mandate for our voice at the table, and it is up to the public of New Zealand to give strength to that voice. We have to give reasons for them to do so.

As the German Greens have said " Don't blame us for our weakness, give us more strength".

We will make advances for New Zealanders over the coming eighteen months.

Health - move towards free and universal

Education - move towards free and universal.

Jobs -- removing social welfare poverty traps.

And those advances will be our springboard towards inspiring New Zealanders to believe there can be more. 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.

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.

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. The wealthy should pay a higher proportion of their income than those of more modest ability. The wealthy have more ability to pay. Those on lower incomes are often struggling to get by and can’t afford to pay more.

A tax on financial transactions would be fairer than GST.

If the tax system is fairer, then people are more likely to take ownership of the solution to things like education and 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. In turn the Government would help young and old, sick and needy. New Zealanders would contribute when they had the means to contribute, and receive help when they needed help.

The government cannot help without citizens taking responsibility and making their contribution. The Government doesn't wave a magic wand to provide services.

New Zealanders need to own the solutions to our own problems. Take pride in fulfilling our responsibilities and being good citizens. New Zealand can do better if New Zealanders accept responsibility for making a fair contribution.

The Alliance set out in this government to restore the public's faith in MMP. To restore people's faith in strong governments that work in the interests of all New Zealanders. And we are delivering on that.

Not because it is expedient, or popular, but because it is right.

For your contribution to our achievements, I would like to pay tribute to you as activists, and urge you to continue your selfless commitment as we face the many challenges to come.


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