Hon Jim Anderton Speech To Upper Hutt Greypower
19 June 2002 Speech Notes
Upper Hutt Greypower
19 June 2002
I recently met a Chinese politician who was described to me as “one of China’s young, new breed of future leaders.”
He was 64 years old.
I told him that at 64 I might just head to China and relaunch my political career.
Meeting him illustrated how important it is to take a long-term view of progress.
New Zealand has been sliding down the economic ladder for going on 30 years. Getting back to the top has to happen one rung at a time.
Over the past two and a half years, many things have happened that New Zealanders can be very positive about.
For years I came along to Grey Power meetings, and listened to the concerns expressed by senior New Zealanders on superannuation, health, jobs and the sale of public assets to name just a few.
This government has changed direction in all of those areas.
It is a simple fact that New Zealand's population is ageing.
Now 12 percent of New Zealanders are aged 65 or over.
Within 50 years, that ratio will have risen to 25 percent.
As life expectancies continue to grow, the average period spent in retirement will also increase.
If superannuation is to be universally available at that rate, then there are only three ways to provide for it.
- put something aside today
- increase taxes over time to provide for the growing number of retired New Zealanders
- cut other services such as health, education and the police.
I have always argued that we should run a pay as you go scheme - where the costs of superannuation are funded from taxes today.
The super fund this Coalition Government has created maintains some pay-as-you-go element for the future, and allows us to continue to meet demands for other essential social services today.
Everyone who is against this fund will inevitably argue for cuts to superannuation in the future.
The National Party apparently thinks the money should be spent on other things.
- cutting the highest rate of personal tax.
- buying a fleet of space age air force fighter jets.
- a road between Hamilton and Auckland
- a lap-top computer for every school child
National’s focus on spending the super fund highlights an important point.
There will always be pressure to cut superannuation unless it is locked up in a secure fund.
This will be a major issue for New Zealanders to consider when it comes to voting at this year’s election: Which parties will pledge not to dismantle the fund and splurge the future retirement funds of New Zealanders?
I believe the secure superannuation scheme we have developed is a very good one:
- It locks into law the base rate of superannuation: sixty-five per cent of average ordinary time earnings for a married retired couple.
- It pre-funds a proportion of future costs, on a fair basis;
- It continues a significant pay-as-you-go component, so that no generation has to pay twice for superannuation;
- It maintains a voluntary second-tier system. Eg private superannuation and savings schemes ie universal super)
Overall, the superannuation policy this Government has put in place fulfils a long-standing commitment of mine to a publicly funded universal superannuation scheme.
I want to turn to some of the other achievements of this Government.
Many of you will remember a time when New Zealand’s unemployment rate was zero.
The achievement of this Government that I take the most personal pride in is that unemployment is lower now than it has been for fourteen years.
But I want to bring full employment back to this country.
One of the key reasons for the rise in employment is that we set up the Jobs Machine - the Ministry of Economic Development and Industry New Zealand.
They are helping to create more jobs, and good jobs, throughout all the regions of New Zealand.
Previous governments were concerned with a “level playing field” approach.
They were great at levelling everything, but nobody had any idea what would be built on this “level playing field.”
It seemed like the heartland of New Zealand no longer counted.
The attitude that came out of Wellington was, “Who cares if we shut the hospitals, post offices and banks¡Xeverybody can just live in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.”
But if you don’t have strong regions, how can you have a strong nation?
- Rugby Analogy
- Growth in all regions now for the first time in years
- Southland better than Singapore in its prime
Of course, the Opposition says our economic development policies haven’t had any impact.
Perhaps they just think we got lucky with the economy - that in almost a decade in government they never got as lucky as this Government.
Well perhaps they are right - but its like the great golfer Gary Player once said: “the more I practice the luckier I get.”
We have to keep making incremental increases that broaden and deepen the base of the New Zealand economy.
Think of the difference 10 years of progress will make.
More jobs will mean more money to spend in local communities, and that in turn helps to create the base for a stronger economy.
A network of stronger communities makes for a stronger nation¡Xstronger and more accessible essential services such as health and education.
There’s a lot of talk at the moment about law and order, about long prison sentences and harsher penalties.
Matt Robson is the Minister of Corrections - he’s in charge of prisons.
He has more money to spend on building prisons than I have for fixing the economy, which tells you something about our priorities as a nation.
But I believe that we would have to spend far less on building prisons if we could make the economy stronger.
Because if we halved unemployment, we would halve the crime rate.
We would ease pressure on all social services - welfare, housing, the health system, even education.
As this is election year other parties need to come clean on where they stand. Will they support continuing employment and an environment that promotes economic growth or will they want a return to the last 20 years?
The investment this Government has made in regional New Zealand is paying off.
The heart and optimism of the regions is growing along with their economies. The whole of the government now stands with them and they know that their future is crucial to the nation’s future.
Housing is not the only publicly owned asset that has been on the auction block for many years.
I know that Grey Power has been among the staunchest campaigners against the fire sale of New Zealand’s publicly owned strategic assets.
This Government has put a stop to asset sales.
We brought Air New Zealand back into public ownership.
And all over New Zealand last week, this week, next week, and for many weeks to come after that: branches of the publicly-owned kiwi bank are opening.
Retired people need local services even more than most others.
And the establishment of the kiwi bank will return those services to communities where they are needed.
Grey Power has always taken a close interest in the health system.
This government has a three-year funding package of almost three billion dollars in new money over three years.
I know that there are considerable problems in the health sector, and a lot more to do.
But the truth is that it has been run down over twenty-five years.
We cannot fix twenty-five years of neglect in three years.
Our new primary health care strategy puts an emphasis on making sure that the lowest income New Zealanders have free access to the doctor.
Next year, if my colleagues and I are back in the government, the emphasis will be on delivering free doctors visits for school age children.
After that our priority will be free doctors visits for retired New Zealanders.
And eventually we will be close to free primary health care for all New Zealanders.
I believe that is a goal that it is worth staying in government to achieve.
I believe that this Government is delivering progress for New Zealanders, and hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have welcomed our achievements.
I am standing again for re-election for a new progressive movement.
I am committed to remaining as a constructive, co-operative and common sense partner in a progressive centre-left government with the Labour Party.
If I am elected, Helen Clark has indicated that she would like to see me back in Cabinet.
Every vote for The Progressive Coalition is a vote for additional MPs in Government.
The Progressive Coalition is committed to being a voice for full employment, innovation and strong local communities in partnership with industry.
To using the fruits of economic growth to make social services stronger and to lift incomes.
And to securing communities and protection of our natural environment.
And I’m committed to continuing to implement progressive policies that all New Zealanders can be proud of.
We have already shown how to push hard for policies like regional and economic development, the jobs that go with that development and the Kiwibank.
We have ensured that we fight for policy that moves in the direction we support, but we don’t try to hold the county to ransom.
New Zealand is starting to work again. But there is a lot more to do.
The future of New Zealand lies in the hands of New Zealanders. Each one of us needs to be encouraged to reach our full potential.
If we want free health, free education, and all the other essentials of a modern, developed, first-world nation we need to increase the size of our economy and create lasting sustainable growth.
That is the challenge that I give you my commitment to meet. A society which is inclusive of all New Zealanders.
One which gives hope for the future and pride in who we are and what we have achieved.