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Opening of SEEANZ conference

Hon Jim Anderton
13 September 2001 Speech Notes

Opening of SEEANZ conference


Official Opening of the Small Enterprise Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference.

8.30AM Thursday, 13 September 2001.

I would like to apologise on behalf of Mr Anderton for his absence this morning.

I'm sure you will understand that the dramatic and terrible events in the United States, and Mr Anderton's unavoidable duties as New Zealand's Acting Prime Minister, have kept him from joining you today to open the conference.

He has asked me to deliver some opening remarks on his behalf.

Thank you for the invitation to open the 14th small enterprise conference today.

I was recently shown some remarkable public opinion research.

It asked New Zealanders which one of the following factors do you want New Zealand to be most known for internationally in five to ten years' time?

Two per cent opted for the best sports teams per head of population.

One in five said 'a clean environment.'

Nearly a third said 'a fair and tolerant society.'

And half of all respondents selected 'a society which thrives on knowledge, creativity and enterprise.'

The results of this survey are enormously encouraging as you gather to discuss innovative, growing small enterprises.

Yes, we are proud of our clean environment.

And, yes we want a fair and tolerant society.

And so we should.

But above all, New Zealanders are accepting the challenge of building a society where we are known for our knowledge, our creativity and our enterprise.

I would like to see us as a community urge New Zealanders on not only in sport, but in everything we do, and to take pride in the achievements of all New Zealanders.

Early this month I visited the set of Lord of the Rings, here in Wellington.

This film 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.

There are more than 140 people in an old factory making the props and costumes, and most of them have never worked on a feature film before.

One of the American movie moguls said to me, ¡¥The concept of "impossible" is unknown to New Zealanders.'

We need to harness that creativity and unleash it in every industry, in as many firms and individuals as possible.

Wherever I go in New Zealand, there are creative people doing incredibly innovative things.

Our creativity and innovation will unlock our future prosperity.

We need to do that, because our average incomes have been falling behind those of other developed countries for thirty years.

New Zealand is the lowest exporter of complex manufactured products in the OECD.

Only 8,500 businesses out of 259,000 in the whole of New Zealand are exporting.

Just thirty companies earn half of our entire foreign exchange.

As a result, we haven¡¦t paid our way in the world for twenty-eight consecutive years.

Transforming the economy means reducing our reliance on raw commodities.

It means producing and selling goods and services that rely on our unique creativity.

New Zealand needs to sell far more high-tech, high-value, high skill products that the rest of the world wants to buy.

Small enterprises will produce the innovation we need.

Small and medium sized businesses are the majority of all enterprises in New Zealand.

96 per cent of firms employ fewer than 20 full time equivalent staff, and 85 per cent of firms employ five or fewer full time staff.

The predominance of small firms in NZ gives us a comparative advantage in flexibility.

We can bring products to market faster, adapt to new technologies and changes in the markets for our products faster, and, because we are small, we can get things done.

We can learn a great deal from other countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Japan¡¦s past economic success was based on the giant firms but the Asian economic downturn has brought about a recognition that small firms will drive the next wave of innovation and economic growth.

The Japanese delegation told the APEC Conference of Ministers responsible for Small and Medium Enterprises in August that in Japan 180,000 new companies are born every year.

Compare this to the figures for New Zealand, where in 1999 around 45,000 new companies were born.

Japan is grappling with the problem of how to create more small businesses.

No, for the cynics in the audience, the answer is not to start with large businesses and produce an economic crisis.

The Japanese Government is having to recreate through official government policy the kind of dynamism and have-a-go spirit that we take for granted here.

The Labour-Alliance Coalition Government is committed to supporting innovation and encouraging the development of innovative, growing enterprises.

We have created the Jobs Machine: Industry New Zealand and the Ministry of Economic Development.

Industry New Zealand has a budget of $330 million over four years.

Compared to the size of the New Zealand economy, that is not enough to bring about an economic transformation on its own.

Instead, it has to work in partnership with everyone who has a stake in economic development: Business, local authorities, working people, Maori and communities.

It has to be a catalyst, allowing private investment to lever off the Government's commitment.

Fifteen new or expanded programmes were announced in this year's budget, and a description of a few of them shows the difference we can make.

For me, one of the most exciting programmes is called 'World Class New Zealanders.'

It's a 'brain gain' initiative designed to set up real and virtual networks with New Zealanders overseas.

It will help to access international markets and promote New Zealand.

Two million dollars was allocated to promoting a culture of enterprise and increasing the number of New Zealanders willing to turn their ideas into commercial ventures.

It will build on programmes such as the Great New Zealand Business Venture, the Young Enterprise Scheme, and outreach programmes of the Ministry of Research Science and Technology and Trade NZ.

The programme will target students, teachers, universities and businesses at the national and regional level.

Support for incubators has been expanded.

The budget announced increased support to assist the commercialisation of intellectual property.

Enterprise Awards assist innovative small firms to develop early stage business concepts and projects.

In addition to working with singular companies, we have identified job-rich, high-skill, high-value industries with the potential for growth.

Sector strategies are being worked on.

The first under way is wood processing, and others will include
„h fashion, apparel and textiles;
„h tourism;
„h creative arts, especially music and film;
„h knowledge industries such as ICT and bio-technology;
„h manufacturing, such as light alloys.

We also recently introduced SNAP ¡V a programme which links businesses with students.

Snap is a smart way of matching the resource needs of businesses with the skills and interests of tertiary students looking for short ¡Vterm work.

Businesses get smart employees at reasonable rates to fulfil jobs that help develop the business.

Students get paid work related to their interests and studies, and get to show off their skills to potential employers.

In addition to the industry support measures in my portfolio, there are other measures that my colleagues the Minister of Research and Technology and the Minister of Commerce are implementing.

There is also specific assistance to Maori owned businesses to mention just a few and I believe you will hear about these later in the conference.

I know that you will hear from Pete Hodgson ¡V the Minister for small business, for research and science, and an associate Minister for economic development.

I have been constantly impressed with the innovation and resourcefulness of the companies and the ideas being put before me and Industry New Zealand.

Some of the ideas are immediate winners.

Some require more detailed assessment before their potential is obvious.

I do have to admit that a request to fund development work on a time travel machine had to be regretfully declined last year on technical grounds.

A hand-written one-page proposal from one hopeful applicant for $11 billion dollars to build an armaments factory was also declined ¡V but without a lot of regret I have to say.

There is a welcome combination of business, researchers, professionals, development agencies and policy-makers at this conference.

You all have a part to play in helping create an environment in which small and medium businesses can thrive and prosper.

Individually we hold our own knowledge, our own talents, our own resources.

In the past we have not always been good at sharing these with each other or in building constructively on the work of others.

Conferences are one good way to share knowledge and information.

But I encourage you to go beyond today¡¦s event to take an active interest in the work carried out by your neighbours here -- whether they are providers of professional services, academics, researchers, business people, providers of support for businesses or policy-makers.

People who care about the future of small and medium sized business in this country and indeed about the future of this country need to work together.

We need to gain critical mass and strength by moving in the same direction at the same time.

This is a challenge for each of you to be more inclusive, to provide more information, to take in more information.

It is not that easy to do but we must do it if we are to win.

I believe New Zealanders are the most creative and innovative people in the world.

We can be world leaders.

The Coalition Government's economic development policies are designed to harness and unleash that creativity and innovation.

I know it's your goal here this week too, and I wish you all the best in your efforts.

Once again, I apologise that I'm unable to join you this morning as I am required elsewhere in my capacity as Acting Prime Minister.


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