State Of The Nation - Jim Anderton Speech
28 July 2001 Hon Jim Anderton Speech Notes
The Dalmation Centre
10 New North Road
The Labour Alliance Coalition Government is half way through our first term.
It has been an eventful 18 months.
We have achieved a lot.
But there is much more to do.
What I want to do tonight is outline what the government has done and where we need to go to achieve the Alliance goal of making New Zealand the best small country in the world.
I want to begin by looking at how another part of the world is addressing some of the issues we face.
Recently I met with a prominent Nuffield College economist, Tony Atkinson and talked about the emerging social agenda in Europe.
Tony specialises in, among other things, income distribution and the problems of poverty in Europe.
Europe has adopted a goal of becoming “the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world, capable of sustained economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion". This is a vision where economic policy and social policy go hand in hand.
For many years New Zealanders were told that economic policy and social policy had to be separated.
For most of us, it is a pretty straightforward goal - more employment means a stronger economy and more ability to afford essential social services like superannuation.
But it is a very controversial view in New Zealand.
For example, there is a prominent economist and vocal supporter of the ACT and National parties who is travelling around the country right now promoting a referendum to get rid of MMP and reduce the size of Parliament.
And he said publicly before the last election, “unemployment is good for the economy.’
Great minds like this have been running New Zealand for a quarter of a century.
If they can link social policy, economic policy and employment in Europe, then why can’t we do it here?
There are six headings for future policy that have been adopted in Europe.
They are all goals that are equally applicable to New Zealand.
1. More and better jobs.
Not just any job will do - the commitment is to promote high-value, high-skill jobs, and to ensure there are opportunities for groups such as the long-term unemployed.
2. Changing the work environment to create a new balance between flexibility and security.
This means ensuring there is adequate provision for social needs in the workplace, such as paid parental leave and child care.
It means ensuring that working people have some involvement in industrial decisions, through collective bargaining and dealing with workers in good faith.
3. Fighting poverty and all forms of exclusion.
Just because overall economic standards are increased, doesn’t mean that poverty will automatically disappear.
For New Zealand, transforming the economy has to also mean transforming the distribution of wealth and ensuring that everyone benefits from the improvements.
4. Modernising social protection.
This means reducing poverty traps in welfare assistance.
It also means ensuring provision is made for the aging population, and that health and education systems are adequate to meet changing populations, and changing technology.
5. Promoting gender equality.
We need to recognise that women overwhelmingly bear the brunt of poverty and of reconciling work and family.
Even though we have women in most of New Zealand’s top jobs - including the Prime Minister, the Governor-General, the Chief Justice, and the chief executive of one of our largest companies - there are still not enough women in senior positions, and women’s pay continues to lag that of men.
6. Strengthening regions.
In Europe, regions are entire countries.
If they can strengthen regions as big as that, then surely we in New Zealand can strengthen our regions.
To use a rugby analogy we need strong super 12 regional economies to provide a strong dynamic world class All Black economy.
Every year the European Commission has to report on the initiatives it has taken to promote and achieve these six goals.
I’ve mentioned them at some length because they comprise an economic and social agenda that has been discarded in New Zealand for a generation.
As the ex-managing director of a manufacturing engineering company, I understand the importance of having financial watchdogs like cost accountants to say no. Most medium and large businesses need at least one voice which urges a conservative fiscal approach.
Unfortunately in New Zealand we gave such people the role of determining the social and economic direction of New Zealand for the last quarter of a century, and it has had disastrous consequences.
The constant advice of Treasury has been- don't intervene, don't get involved. Advice that would soon kill any business.
If Treasury had been advising the Maori and European settlers coming to New Zealand we wouldn't be here now. I can imagine the recommendations they would have made: "Treasury believes the fiscal impact of settling New Zealand could be negative and settlers should instead look for other opportunities in their current towns and villages."
One of the significant changes that this Government must make is to New Zealand attitudes and aspirations.
When we came into office and I started to build the Ministry of Economic Development out of the old Ministry of Commerce it was clear that many government advisers didn't even know the meaning of the words 'economic development'.
We have had to hire people who knew how to actually do things, and encourage change in the talented people we already had.
To the credit of the public service there has been a significant reversal in approach.
Attitudes have started to change toward the way we see our problems and solutions to them.
We need, as a nation, to believe that we can change things and we need to take the necessary action.
There is a long way to go.
We have significant numbers of people who have never worked. We have jobs we cannot fill and unemployed people without the skills to do this work. Paradoxically this is at a time when we have more training providers and universities than ever before.
Our regions lack adequate infrastructure.
We have had 28 consecutive years of balance of payments deficits.
Many key industries and businesses are owned overseas.
We have higher levels of poverty, gambling problems, alcohol and drug addiction and crime than at any time in our history.
It is a bitter irony that the new right has this language of empowering people through "hands-off" yet the outcome of nearly 25 years of following this is a larger number of disempowered people than every before.
The Labour Alliance Coalition Government has taken up the challenge.
I think the Alliance has been a significant influence here, far greater than our numbers would suggest. The Alliance tends to attract people who want to change things and who are actively involved in improving their communities.
They never accept "no" for an answer. Trust me, as the Alliance leader I know this from long experience.
And they are strong in their convictions.
In Government the Alliance continues to ask "why not?"
This has resulted in things like the Ministry of Economic Development, the industry and regional development programme, the Kiwi bank and paid parental leave.
There are many examples of positive achievements that this Government is advancing.
- 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.
- Health - Elected boards - Lower/ less time on waiting lists
- Kiwi Bank - lower fees, more branches, profits retained in New Zealand.
- Apprenticeships - 4,500 by end of first term.
- Jobs. Lowest level of unemployment for 13 years (since 1988) and getting lower. (Dannevirke).
- Economic growth; We have created the Ministry of Economic Development and set up Industry New Zealand. For the first time in a generation industries and regions are working with Government to remove blocks to growth and generate jobs.
A&G Price, Hobsonville, 500-1000 boats/ year in Invercargill, NZ Yachts (Whangarei), Classic Cars (Invercargill) and "We can do that"
I’m proud of our successes in Government and I want to outline where I think we are going.
I need to start by noting that there have been many things written about me personally as well as the Alliance.
Jim Anderton can never work with Michael Cullen.
The Alliance is irresponsible and will de-stabilise the country.
Jim Anderton in Government would be disastrous for business.
I was compared to Darth Vader (NBR, Evening Post).
Recently there were two media pieces talking about me as having changed and being an enthusiast for business and another suggesting the Alliance had lost its purpose.
The truth is the Alliance and I are in favour of the approach to Government that will ensure satisfying high paid jobs while providing the security of essential social services for all New Zealanders.
This has never changed.
In Government I am working towards full employment and a vibrant economy through the Ministry of Economic Development and Industry New Zealand.
The Alliance is committed to encouraging our economy to perform through Government involvement in partnership with the community.
The Alliance's key pre election economic document was called Partnership 2000 and set the blueprint for this Partnership approach which is guiding a lot of our work.
Another part of the Alliance social development programme which has been lacking in the past 25 years is our attitude to those who are left behind.
I have always believed that the test of a civilised country is how well it looks after its most vulnerable citizens.
At the same time as we are working constructively and positively to improve our economic performance we need to look at health, education and all our social services to see that they serve our people and our country as best they can.
When I was young and starting out, people of the age and comparable income to me now accepted they had a responsibility to their community.
They paid their share through the tax system and 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.
Today 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.
I strongly believe that for New Zealand to be the best small country in the world we need to again see ourselves as an inter-related community. We are successful only when we provide security as well as opportunities for all our citizens.
Ideas like public service have become unfashionable since the days when John F Kennedy invited his people to “ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country.’
Public service and selflessness are the highest vocations that citizens can aspire to.
The best service the Alliance can give is to work as part of a progressive government doing the best we can for our country.
This is why we will be part of the next government. We will be in a position to continue what we have started because frankly the alternative - ACT and National is too scary to think about.
Fundamentally I believe that the problems this country faces can be solved, provided that we have a government that is prepared, and able, to work for all New Zealanders.
Travelling New Zealand and visiting regions and businesses I have become more convinced than ever that the future of New Zealand is in all of our hands.
I have been astounded and amazed by what I have seen in my 40 regional visits to all parts of our country so far.
New Zealanders are the most creative and innovative people in the world.
Two weeks ago I visited the set of Lord of the Rings.
I see a movie every week, and I am certain that Lord of the Rings is going to be an astonishing film.
It is ultra-high technology, with special effects the equal of anything that’s ever been done before.
And it’s all being done on kiwi ingenuity.
I met Peter Jackson and the Los Angeles movie moguls who are under-writing the film. Peter Jackson insisting the film be made in New Zealand.
And they told me that Hollywood would not have been able to make a movie anything like the one Peter Jackson is making in New Zealand.
Most of the staff making props and costumes have never worked on a feature film before.
They come from farms where they’re used to solving problems with pieces of number eight wire.
One of the Americans said to me, “The concept of "impossible" is unknown to New Zealanders.'
This is a message I wish I could spread to every young New Zealander. This is what will build our economy and provide a secure future for us.
We have a legacy of talent and creativity, and every New Zealander has a unique contribution to make.
If you don’t do it, nobody will.
Two weeks ago I attended a presentation for Alan MacDiarmid, the Nobel Prize winning scientist - a New Zealander.
We need role models like him and like Bruce McLaren.
- Lincoln College Apprentices
- CWF Hamilton
- Angus Tait (profit share)
My vision for New Zealand is one where we embrace success.
Where every young New Zealander starting out has confidence to aim high, to be the next Alan MacDiarmid or Bruce McLaren.
And the self-assurance that comes from knowing that they are unique, that their contribution cannot be made by anyone else.
It can be achieved in the sort of society the European Council is talking about, where social policy and economic policy are integrated.
Where no one is left behind.
Where the aim is to build the most dynamic economy in the world, and the strongest social policy because the two go hand in hand.
It’s for others to lower expectations.
It’s my intention to aim high and to keep alive the possibilities.
If we choose to climb any mountain, then we can. If we have the courage and the dedication and the vision, individually and as a country we can achieve all of our goals.
There are much worse things we could aim to do.
As Invercargill Classic Car restorers said to me on Friday "we can do that!"