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Jim Anderton Mission Impossible Speech

Hon Jim Anderton

1pm Saturday 22 June 2002 Speech Notes

Ambitions for New Zealand: Speech at launch of the Progressive Coalition

Glenfield Leisure Centre, Bentley Avenue, Glenfield, North Shore, Auckland

I’ll tell you what I liked about Mission: Impossible.

They used to do the impossible.

And the good guys always won.

I want to start by acknowledging Sandra Lee, whose stewardship of the Conservation and Local Government portfolios received almost universal praise this last week.

Sir Howard Morrison, who has a humbling determination to use his fame and success to ensure that talented young people have the chance to succeed.

I would like to congratulate the founding executive of the Progressive Coalition.

Six weeks ago they took on the task of creating a viable new centre-left coalition partner.

In six weeks they have built a political party capable of fighting a general election across New Zealand.

They have signed up 2000-plus members and that puts us among the top three political parties in New Zealand.

We are the fastest growing political party in New Zealand.

We have been through a messy political reorganisation. It is a triumph of the spirit of New Zealanders that we are still here, preparing for government, stronger and better for our experience, ready to move on.

We have hopes for New Zealand that cannot get stuck in the mire of negativity.

But I will just say this about the last few months.

Being in Government, even a minority Coalition government, is a privilege.

It is an opportunity to make a real difference for the people we represent. It is what we struggle for.

It is not something to throw away lightly.

The people who voted for us waited too long for change and leadership, and the responsibility is too great to let them down.

That is why we were determined not to let people who lost their nerve pull us down, complaining about what we have not done rather than celebrating success and opportunity.

Like toughened steel, the Progressive Coalition has been forged in fire and bred to be strong for generations.

It’s ironic that this is a party none of us wanted to form.

They have a saying in the Australian Labor Party that you haven’t really been a member until you’ve been expelled at least once.

To those of you who have walked with me through the years, thank you.

And to those of you who have come home now that the negative and destructive past has been cast aside¡Kwelcome home.

The dreams we have for New Zealand are worthwhile.

This election is in many ways more important than the last.

In coalition with Labour in this first term of the best government New Zealand has had in 27 years, we have only just begun to rebuild New Zealand.

This election is quite simply about whether we continue to build.

Or whether we throw it away.

The choices are stark.

- Turn back to the past with National/ACT or New Zealand First

- Refuse to face and meet the challenges of the future and hold the country to ransom like the Greens

- Choose the politics of indulgence and irresponsibility like some of our former Alliance colleagues

Or stand clearly for continuing the progress of the Clark-Anderton Government.

After nearly 30 years, , the Government of New Zealand is again working in partnership with the whole community for the benefit of all New Zealanders.

We have left behind the times when government worked on behalf of a few against the interests of the many.

The economy is stronger.

Real interest rates are lower.

Unemployment is lower than it has been for fourteen years.

Confidence is high.

Social services are rebuilding.

There are fewer living in poverty.

There are fewer who cannot find a home in which to live.

Student fees have effectively fallen.

Most hospital waiting lists are shorter.

Our natural environment is cleaner and its future a little more secure.

Communities are safer.

I want to praise my colleague Matt Robson.

The Corrections portfolio is thought by many to be a hospital pass.

Matt Robson has not only survived it, he has enhanced his reputation.

No Corrections Minister in our history has had to build as many prisons.

But Matt Robson recognises that every prison cell is both a tragedy and a failure.

No one is working harder than he is to ensure that young people don’t start out on a life of crime.

No one has more ambitious plans to reduce re-offending.

I am proud of our record in Government.

But we have only just begun to realise New Zealand’s potential.

Now is the chance to build for the future, to build the economy, to build world class social services to re-build New Zealand’s regions and our social cohesion.

I want to thank my close colleagues John Wright¡Xas safe a pair of hands in the political arena I have ever had the satisfaction of working with¡Xand Grant Gillon¡Xour tireless parliamentary whip for 6 years, who is going to be the next MP for Northcote!

A tribute also to Phillida Bunkle and Kevin Campbell, who have both made unique contributions to Parliament and New Zealand society. Politics can be a harsh arena and extremely hard on the family members of politicians, as I know all too well.

The Clark-Anderton Government is the most popular in living memory.

The Opposition says it is luck.

Often people say we have a lucky country, small green and with a good climate.

It’s not luck.

There are plenty of countries with beautiful climates where a tiny elite lives in luxury while the rest live in abject poverty.

Our ancestors saw the potential of New Zealand, the wisdom of co-operation and they were pragmatic.

They rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in on behalf of the many.

The Clark-Anderton government is the heir to that political heritage.

It’s not because of luck that the government has been popular.

It has happened because New Zealand has had the leadership of a constructive progressive coalition.

New Zealand has all too recent experience of one party governments that pushed through policies against people’s wishes and against common sense.

Those governments pressed ahead because they thought they were doing the right thing.

But they made New Zealanders feel betrayed, worse off and less able to meet the challenges the world presents.

This election is about whether we continue the winning formula, or whether we go back to the failed formula of one-party government.

One-party governments of any colour do not give the same thought, care and consideration to decisions that coalitions give.

Our presence as a serious, constructive but critical partner in government required every decision to be discussed and thought through carefully.

It required Labour to think things through much more than it would have had to without a coalition partner, with both a different policy perspective and a conscience, requiring on-going consultation.

It was us that asked Labour to develop new solutions to the housing crisis in Northland when children were dying because their families lived in accommodation with no adequate heating.

It was us that made sure that trade negotiations focused on our national interest.

It was us that caused a plan to sell Solid Energy coalmines to be reconsidered.

It isn’t that we forced Labour to do things it opposed.

Labour simply had to think things through and implement better policies than it would have implemented without a progressive coalition partner.

We provide a more ambitious vision for how New Zealand can be and we work tirelessly, but constructively towards achieving it.

We are a new party, but our ambitions for New Zealand have stood the test of time:

Full employment.

Free education and health care.

Support for families.

Strong communities and sensible protection for our natural environment.

We are the party that believes New Zealanders should have as much control over our own destiny as our small planet and responsibility as a good international citizen allows.

Where every young New Zealander starting out has confidence to aim high, and the self-assurance that comes from knowing that they are unique individuals -- that their contribution cannot be made by anyone else.

Where all of our children, whatever their background, have an equal chance to benefit from the opportunities our country has to offer and to share in its wealth.

Where no one is left behind.

If you can work, there should be a job.

If you are ill, you should be treated with a high quality medical system, regardless of your ability to pay.

If you need help, you should have your community at your shoulder.

My vision for New Zealand is one where we embrace success.

Where we build the most dynamic economy in the world, and the strongest social policy because the two go hand in hand.

Where no child lives in need of more to eat or health care he or she can’t access.

Where everyone can realise their own potential because high-quality education is available to all, regardless of income or status, because education unlocks opportunity for individuals and for society.

Where every child looks to the future with optimism, excitement and hope.

We have put so much effort into economic development because we can only realise our vision if we have full employment in strong thriving regions.

So many of our former political colleagues used to say that jobs were the number one priority.

Yet I am amazed at how little is heard about jobs these days from those who claim to represent working people.

We are creating jobs now - a new job every twelve and a half minutes since we came into government.

This Coalition Government has not tried to create employment on its own.

We are smarter than that, we are more flexible and we form partnerships with business and with communities.

We formed the Ministry of Economic Development and Industry New Zealand as its implementation arm.

That is how we helped grow the superyacht industry in New Zealand.

It is how we are unlocking the “wall of wood’ to bring jobs, investment and rising incomes to some of our most acute regions by processing and adding value to our forests instead of sending raw logs across our wharves and exporting jobs with them.

It is how talented young New Zealanders like Mark Billinghurst were attracted back to New Zealand to establish a virtual-reality laboratory in Christchurch - only the second in the world.

By working in partnership we helped regions plan for their futures and set thousands of small and medium-sized businesses on a growth path.

Companies like Blokart - a manufacturer of innovative land yachts that I first met at Tauranga Airport and then ran into at the Innovate conference in March.

Blokart is an example of a company that received assistance from Industry New Zealand and grew from a garage operation to a job-rich high-tech manufacturer which is at the threshold of millions of dollars worth of exports¡Xin just 18 months of this government’s first term of office.

We established business incubators, and a venture capital fund.

We supported an Innovation Park in Hamilton, a wine research centre in Marlborough and a wood processing centre of excellence in Rotorua with $2 million invested in each case.

We do all this because we cannot have the strong social services we expect in health and education unless we deliver good jobs, strong regions and world class businesses.

And we can’t pay secondary teachers as much as they deserve, we can’t deliver security for the most vulnerable and we can’t promise our children the future they deserve unless we have strong, dynamic and state of the art economic development.

And on the other hand, unless we have strong social services, we cannot reach our economic potential or claim to be a first world, enlightened and compassionate society.

A high quality, free public education system, a secure social welfare system, reliable health services - we need all of these to ensure that everyone is able to contribute to the future.

Our country has been divided against itself for too long, and it was showing the strains of pitting New Zealanders against each other.

Old against young, sick against well, rich against poor.

It’s our job to rebuild a cohesive society by building partnerships across the whole community.

We must take with us everyone who has a stake.

We work with business, not against it.

Employers and business groups are not opposition lobby groups.

They are people with expertise and the Progressive Coalition wants to work hard with them to lift the incomes of New Zealanders and ensure that everyone who can work has a high quality job.

I don’t wake up at night sweating over much.

Canterbury without the Ranfurly Shield, perhaps.

But what really starts a nightmare is thinking about what would have happened if we had not formed a government in late 1999 with Labour.

The regions of New Zealand would still be emptying.

They used to tell Southland that decline was inevitable.

Now it’s the fastest growing region in New Zealand.

If we hadn’t won the election in 1999, businesses would have been packing up and leaving.

They already were.

There would have been no Kiwibank, and the overseas banks would still be shutting branches and putting up their fees.

(Isn’t it strange how they can offer lower fees now, and branch closures seem to have stopped?)

There would be no paid parental leave.

There would be no national park on Stewart Island, no Royal Commission and moratorium on GE and there would still be logging of ancient forests on the West Coast

There would be no Sentencing and Parole Bill keeping the most dangerous offenders locked away, and nothing more being done to reduce re-offending.

There would be no secure superannuation fund, we would still have market rents for state houses, and the Employment Contracts Act would have been toughened.

Instead of investing in jobs, National and Act would have invested in a fleet of fighter jets.

The Clark-Anderton Government has reversed the tide.

And I want to praise the leadership Prime Minister Helen Clark has given to this government and to New Zealand.

She has been a voice for reason and common sense on major issues which have faced this Government:

- Refugee Boat People

- Terrorism

- Ministry priorities

- The development of our unique New Zealand culture

- And courage in the face of outrageous personal attacks

There were those who said that Helen and I would not, could not, work together in a constructive way.

Where are they now?

While it is true that candlelight dinners are not our scene, we have given this government united, strong and consistent leadership of the kind New Zealand has not seen in many years.

With all due modesty, can I ask where else that kind of leadership might come from?

Bill English? Richard Prebble? Winston Peters? Rod Donald?

But we have only just begun and The Progressive Coalition is ambitious for even more.

If you think this Government has been good, the best is still to come.

Over the course of the next two weeks or so we will announce eight cornerstone commitments.

Each represents a top priority for a coalition with the Labour Party in the next term of parliament - in the same way that economic, industry and regional development, the Kiwibank, and paid parental leave were among our top priorities in the previous term.

Our cornerstone commitments are realistic and achievable.

As a party formed only weeks before the election, we will not promise what cannot be delivered.

For every Progressive Coalition MP elected with your support, we will achieve at least one or two of our cornerstone commitments in a new Clark-Anderton Government.

We are ambitious but we are not reckless.

We have learned how to make a partnership work.

We will make clear commitments about how a coalition with Labour will work:

- We will never support policies that move away from our ambitions for New Zealand.

- We will continue to work constructively in coalition.

- We will continue to work in partnership with communities and industry to fulfil the potential of New Zealand.

- We will be a check on Labour at the Cabinet table, but we won’t make reckless demands or hold the country to ransom.

Times are better now in New Zealand, but we are on the brink of delivering better times still.

We cannot afford to threaten all that - either with National and Act, who would turn the clock back; nor with unstable coalition partners like the Greens and New Zealand First who would run the country by ransom note.

Nor should New Zealand take the risk ever again of delivering one party majority government in a single parliamentary system like ours.

I don’t doubt the sincerity of other parties also offering themselves for coalition.

But I am certain that the approach they have chosen to coalitions will not work.

We have learned a lot about that ourselves in this term of government

The Greens’ approach is to hold the country to ransom.

They negotiate by making public threats to bring the government down if they don’t get their way.

Richard Prebble and Michelle Boag are secretly delighted at the prospect of a Government dependent on the Greens for support, because it opens a window of opportunity for them.

It provides them with the chance next year to sneak into parliament by default as a result of another election caused by the Green Party’s withdrawal of support for a Labour-led government over a single issue would tar the whole government with the Green’s reckless brush.

No matter what the Greens sincerely intend by their stance, what they are doing will betray their supporters because they are making it less likely - not more likely- that they will achieve their policy goals.

They are driving even more voters to Labour so that even if they increased their vote share it is even less likely they could ever go into government.

The instability for the economy and the consequences for jobs of threatening to bring the government down over a single issue, within twelve months of it being formed, is quite simply horrendous.

If Labour gave in to the ransom demands it would be seen as weak and vulnerable to potential blackmail.

A vote for the Greens is almost certain to be a wasted vote because they won’t form part of the Government, and they won’t be a check on Labour at the Cabinet table.

Only the Progressive Coalition can be seriously considered likely to enter a coalition and be part of a constructive co-alition, multi-dimensional government.

Our voice at the Cabinet table has helped to keep Labour on track.

We don’t take all the credit.

Neither can Labour.

Labour on its own can not govern as the Clark-Anderton government has, and nor can it be as successful.

Nobody can seriously dispute that what we add to the Labour Party is a wider ambition for a better New Zealand.

The Progressive Coalition is ambitious to fulfil New Zealand’s virtually unlimited and largely untapped potential.

We are ready to work in partnership with Labour to achieve that ambition.

Stretching the family budget, finding time for children as well as work, staying healthy and participating in our community.

These are daily worries that people face.

They are my concerns too.

But while there is always a market for people who say we are doomed, and that all our new ideas are bad ideas even as things improve, I am an optimist.

We can make more progress and we are fighting this election on a platform of the need to continue to make progress through partnership.

Progress in the economy.

More jobs.

More skills.

More investment in innovation.

More investment in New Zealand.

Progress in restoring essential social services.

More progress in making our communities secure and strong again.

National and Act were thrown out of office in 1999 because they failed New Zealand.

They couldn’t make a coalition government work.

They couldn’t make the economy work.

Most New Zealanders felt worse off after three years of National-Act-NZ First government than before they started.

New Zealand’s overseas debt skyrocketed even as they sold our assets.

Interest rates were higher.

Unemployment was higher.

That is the past that National and Act want to take us back to.

New Zealand now faces a choice.

A choice between the old direction, the failed policies of hands off, or the new partnership where government stands with its people and plays its part.

And we face a choice between the style of coalition we had between 1996 and 1999: ransom notes and high drama.

Or our style of coalition: Partnership, co-operation, and ambition for a better New Zealand.

Before you vote in this election, consider your job, and the job opportunities opening up for our children.

Think of your mortgage.

Think of your school and hospital.

Think of your parents and their security.

And think about who will be responsible, constructive and progressive with the mandate you deliver.

Think of the ambition you have for New Zealand.

Think of who you want to succeed - the few or the many.

There is still much to do and we have just only begun.

But I firmly believe that we are on our way.

We are making progress through partnership.

Together we can do it.

Co-operation and partnership are the key to future prosperity for all New Zealanders.

Mission Impossible? We’re going to achieve the impossible.

Join us - let’s have some fun.

Let’s go back to our electorates.

Back to the streets to campaign and win our country back.

For those who have gone before us.

And in the interests of present and future generations of New Zealanders.

Mission Impossible? Impossible things we have learned to do daily.

Let’s go win

ourselves a country.


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