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PM Helen Clark's Campaign Launch Address

Rt Hon Helen Clark, Prime Minister

ADDRESS AT LABOUR’S CAMPAIGN LAUNCH AOTEA CENTRE,

Auckland 2.50 pm - Sunday 30 June 2002


I stand before you today, proud to be Prime Minister of New Zealand, and proud to be leading the New Zealand Labour Party in this election campaign.

I also stand here humbled by the goodwill being shown to our government from across the community.

We came into office almost three years ago, determined to make a difference.

The stakes were high – for us and for New Zealand.

Our country was drifting and it was divided.

We knew we had to work hard, and fast, to arrest the decline and get New Zealanders working together again.

We knew we had to work hard to restore confidence in a tarnished political system.

We knew we couldn’t solve all the nation’s problems overnight, but we believed we could make a good start.

This term in office has been about making that good start.

It’s been about honouring the commitments we made to turn the country round and move ahead.

It’s been about building the foundations for a New Zealand which offers hope, opportunity, and security to all its people again.

And it’s been about inclusion, partnerships, working together, and sharing a vision of what our country can be.

Last election we made specific pledges we were determined to keep.

I’m proud to say, we kept our word on every single one of them.

· We said we’d create more jobs, and we have.

Last year, unemployment reached a thirteen year low.

By December last year, the numbers on unemployment benefit were down more than thirty per cent on where they were when we took office two years before.

That means many more people are working under Labour.

· We said we would focus on patients, not profit, in our health system and cut waiting times for surgery.

That’s why we got rid of the profit-driven Crown health enterprises.

In their place are district health boards, with elected and appointed members there to serve the public interest.

And we’ve funded many more treatments in the public health system.

By the end of last year, the number of patients waiting more than six months for treatment had been halved.

That means many more people getting their hospital treatment when they need it under Labour.

· We said we would cut the cost of tertiary education to students, starting with fairer student loans.

We’ve delivered. We’ve frozen fees these past two years, and we’ve cleaned up the loans scheme.

Now, no full time student and no part timer on a low income pays interest on their loans while they are studying.

That’s a big saving.

And that’s why many more students are finding tertiary education more affordable under Labour.

· We said we would reverse the 1999 cuts to New Zealand Superannuation and guarantee it for the future by setting up a dedicated fund.

On 1 April 2000, we reversed the cuts. Today a single superannuitant is at least twelve dollars better off a week under Labour than they would have been under the last government’s policy.

And for a married couple, it’s nearly twenty one dollars a week more.

That’s assuming the last government would even have given cost of living increases – which is a brave assumption!

Now the New Zealand Superannuation Fund is up and running, with money being invested each year from our budget surpluses.

That means that when the baby boomers retire, there will be money available for their superannuation.

Under Labour there is security for all our superannuitants now and in the future.

· We promised to restore income-related rents for state housing, so that low income tenants paid no more than 25 per cent of their income in rent.

That was done in December 2000. On average, the rents decreased by more than thirty dollars a week.

That means more money for food and clothing and winter heating for our poorest households under Labour.

· We said we would crack down on burglary, and we have, with spectacular results.

Burglary is at a twenty year low, and overall crime is at a thirteen year low.

That means we New Zealanders enjoy more security in our homes and on our streets under Labour.

· We promised there would be no rise in income tax for those earning under $60,000 a year, and no increases in GST or company tax.

Nor have there been. We kept our word to New Zealanders.

Now the time has come for us to seek a new mandate.

We stake our reputation on being steady, reliable, predictable, and progressive.

And that reputation will stand whether we have a majority government or a minority government.

With Labour there will be no mad roller coaster ride, and no giddy destabilising change.

We value certainty, as does the community.

The changes we make are well signalled.

And we seek to work in partnership with others to get things done.

Because working together and sharing a vision, we are unbeatable as a nation.

In this campaign, Labour is making new commitments to New Zealanders.

On our commitment card are the key steps we will take given the privilege of leading the government in a second term.

These commitments build on the foundations we’ve laid.

Because there is so much more to do.

We are rebuilding an economy and a society which offer more hope, opportunity and security.

Our vision sees New Zealand lifting its living standards and sharing its success through higher incomes and better services for all.

Our country’s future success is utterly dependent on getting sustainable economic growth.

That requires a commitment from us all.

Getting growth is a top priority for Labour. And the commitment we make is to work with all sectors to create an innovative growing economy with more jobs.

Labour in government has set out to break New Zealand’s traditional dependence on the boom and bust commodity cycle.

We’ve stressed the importance of innovation to drive our economy up market.

We’ve carved out a role for government in the 21st century in leading and driving economic change.

We’ve worked with educators, with researchers, with business and unions, with local government and regions, and with Maori to create the conditions for growth.

More educated and skilled people will drive that growth.

So will more science and research , and the budget for that has risen by eighteen per cent under Labour.

We will nurture innovative new companies through the nation’s business incubators, and give access to seed and start up capital through our new Venture Investment Fund.

We will carry on our work to back businesses with a capacity to grow their size, their jobs, and their exports quickly.

Through Trade New Zealand’s off shore incubators, we’ll help our small companies get established in exporting.

A few weeks ago I saw 25 New Zealand technology companies at a trade fair in Sydney. Those companies are born global and it’s in our interest to get them to market fast.

And we’ll keep backing the nation’s export drive with vigorous brand promotion of New Zealand as not only clean and green, but smart and innovative as well. We New Zealanders are the people who made Lord of the Rings and won the America’s Cup twice.

Labour will support the nation’s regions to build their economies around their strengths and potential.

We’ll pursue our goal of having fast internet access available across New Zealand by 2004 to bring the latest technology to our schools, businesses and communities.

We’ll carry out our plans to invest hundreds of millions more dollars in the transport infrastructure to move people and goods more effectively.

We’ll work to attract new foreign investment where it can add to and grow New Zealand’s capacity for high value industries and high paying jobs.

We will get results because our government is smart, engaged, and active – and because our vision of what the New Zealand economy can be is so widely shared.

It’s about linking government policies up with the real needs of the economy and what it will take to drive growth.

Through the Employment Relations Act we are developing more settled and more productive workplaces.

Through the new health and safety legislation, we will develop safer and healthier workplaces.

And we are also committed to developing much more skilled workplaces.

Skills shortages choke off economic growth.

That’s why we brought back apprenticeships – to give industry the skills it needs and to give young people opportunities to train.

At last count we had nearly three thousand new modern apprentices in industries.

I’ve met many of them: young people committed to making their way in the trade and technical skills our country needs.

Our commitment this election is to double the number of modern apprenticeships.

By December next year, under Labour, there will be six thousand modern apprentices in place.

Education has always been a top priority for Labour, and it matters more now than ever before,

Investing in education is an economic and a social necessity, and we will invest as much as we possibly can.

We pledge to keep tertiary education affordable.

Our priorities will be to widen eligibility for student allowances by raising the parental income thresholds.

We will establish a system of maximum fees above which tertiary institutions cannot charge.

We are also making a specific commitment to get more teachers into schools.

Over and above the teachers required for projected roll growth, we plan to have around three thousand extra teachers in schools by 2007.

That’s a nice contrast with the party which boldly proclaimed this week that it wanted fewer teachers, not more!

Labour values teachers and the work they do. We want teachers to be fairly paid. But we also have to be responsible with the taxpayers’ money. That means we can’t just agree to any claim placed on the table. But what we will do is negotiate in good faith to reach a fair settlement , as we expect all employers to do. We’ve reached settlement twice through these means with the PPTA, and we will endeavour to do so again.

And for the secondary teachers, that’s a better deal than the return of bulk funding, site agreements, and performance pay. Those are the divisive policies of the 1990s which our country was so pleased to leave behind.

In health, our key pledge is to give better access to primary health care so problems can be tackled early.

Over the next three years $400 million more will be spent on primary healthcare .

In the next year alone we will reduce the cost of primary care to at least 300,000 New Zealanders. That means lower doctors’ fees for those New Zealanders and more in the coming years.

Over the next five years, we will spend up to $200 million on a vaccine to beat meningococcal meningitis. That epidemic is killing and disabling our children and young people, and we will get on top of it.

An extra $2.4 billion is going into the budget baselines of district health boards over the next three years.

Specifically we aim to bring waiting times down further.

Our goal is that no-one waits more than six months for their first assessment by a specialist, or for more than six months for their surgery following assessment.

On superannuation, our commitment is clear. We will continue to put government funds aside now to guarantee current superannuation for everyone in the future.

This financial year we paid $600 million into the new New Zealand Superannuation Fund and in the next we will pay in $1.2 billion. In each subsequent year we will keep investing to build up the fund so that we can afford superannuation for future generations.

We say: save now to save New Zealand Superannuation in the future.

Our commitment is to maintain New Zealand Superannuation at its current rate for married couples of no less than 65 per cent of the average, net, ordinary time wage, at age 65, with no means testing.

Our commitment to security for New Zealanders covers our children and our families too.

All our children should have the right to grow up in families which are healthy and well housed.

All our families need the certainty of knowing they can pay their way.

In our first term, more jobs and higher minimum wages have helped.

In our next term Family Support and family tax credits will be reviewed so that our low income families don’t slip behind.

And to make sure the government stays in touch with the needs of parents, we’ll be appointing a Parenting Council to give us advice on how we can better support that most vital role of raising the children who are our nation's future.

On crime, we’ve made progress, and we can make more.

Our commitment is to pass tougher sentences on the most serious offenders.

We are increasing the non-parole period in gaol for aggravated murder from ten to seventeen years.

Judges are now required to impose the maximum sentences under law for the worst offenders.

Judges can now impose minimum periods before parole of up to two thirds of a sentence for serious offenders.

Offenders who are a serious risk to society will serve the full length of their sentence.

And we have now made community safety the top consideration for the Parole Board. That means they cannot release inmates before the end of their sentence if they pose any undue risk.

But we need to do more than that.

Because locking up violent criminals for longer won’t stop them committing the crime in the first place.

So Labour’s commitment is to give more support to proven programmes to cut youth offending.

We want to break the crime cycle to prevent a new generation of hardened criminals emerging.

We are bringing in new programmes to change the behaviour of high risk serious young offenders, and we will fund more youth aid officers in the police force.

Police numbers under Labour are at their highest level ever – up 450 since we were elected.

Labour will do whatever we can to keep our communities safe.

On our commitment card, there’s a final, specific pledge.

Under Labour there will be no rise in rates of income tax, GST, or company tax.

We have to strike a balance between funding for our needs as a community, and what our households and businesses need to move ahead.

Just as households and businesses need to budget carefully, so does the government, and we have.

This government has run the country’s finances well.

We are highly credible managers of the economy, and we will maintain that credibility.

The economy is growing at good levels by world standards, and inflation is low.

The government is running surpluses and reducing the public debt.

And only this week the figures for the balance of payments deficit came in at 2.2 per cent of GDP, the lowest level in thirteen years.

But still New Zealand can do better, and it’s our job to see that it does.

There’s so much that is positive to build on.

And let’s celebrate the fact that New Zealand is being seen as an attractive place to live in again.

We are experiencing strong positive net migration.

About half of that comes from fewer New Zealanders leaving.

And of the half which comes from those coming to live here permanently, about a third is Kiwis coming home.

We need them all to build a strong, vibrant, dynamic nation for the 21st century.

Our government seeks to draw on all the community’s talents,

Our style has been about partnerships and inclusion.

As a minority government, we’ve worked with a range of parties in the Parliament.

And whether we are a majority or a minority government, we will seek to carry on those more collaborative ways of working in a second term.

Labour’s style is to listen, to learn, and to lead.

We’ve set out to build strong working relationships with local government and the regions.

We’ve partnered with business in many ways.

We continue our traditional relationships with unions.

We’ve broken new ground in working with non-governmental organisations in the social and community sectors.

And we’re working alongside Maoridom and Pacific peoples to support their economic and social development.

Throughout New Zealand a renaissance is going on in Maoridom in which our whole nation can take pride.

It’s not just that the Maori unemployment rate has fallen sharply under Labour and that hundreds of new Maori businesses have been created.

It’s also that Maori have seized the opportunity to get more involved than ever before in education, in health and social services, in housing programmes, and in building pride through the arts, culture, and sport.

Soon this incredible momentum will be able to be portrayed on the new Maori Television Service.

And the many new initiatives to spread te reo Maori will help build the audience for it.

Soon we hope to receive allocation recommendations from the Maori Fisheries Commission.

And we will continue to move as fast as we can to settle longstanding Treaty issues.

But that won’t mean the end of debate about the Treaty of Waitangi.

Because the Treaty is about a relationship.

It’s about how different peoples can live alongside each other and in peace.

If we in New Zealand can get that right, through mutual respect for each other, then we truly will be the envy of the world.

For as long as I am Prime Minister, and for as long as Labour is in government, we will do our utmost to ensure that our country is welcoming to and accepting of all those who dwell in our land.

The peoples of the Pacific and of so many nations are bringing us the gifts of their cultures and heritage and we New Zealanders are the richer for their contribution.

We also pledge to be strong guardians of our unique natural heritage.

We are investing heavily in preserving our environment and our unique biodiversity.

We’ve opened a new national park on Stewart Island, we’ve stopped forever logging of public native forest, and we’re improving the huts and tracks in our parks for all those who love the outdoors, as I do.

We are proud to be part of the international solution to the climate change problem. We will ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

And on genetic modification, we’ll follow the advice of the Royal Commission. That means a precautionary approach, with very strict controls, while preserving our options for the future.

Over our time in government, I’ve personally taken a strong interest in the arts and culture.

That will continue.

I am excited by what we are achieving.

New Zealand’s popular music has just had its best year ever.

Our ballet and dance, and theatre, opera, and orchestras are performing at a very high standard.

The visual arts are stunning, and this year’s budget contains a special boost for the nation’s writers too.

And across film, television, new media, and the design spectrum there is so much creativity.

For their intrinsic and their economic benefits, the arts and culture will continue to be a top priority for Labour.

During our time in government there have been many occasions when New Zealand has been called on to stand and be counted in the international arena.

Our government stood on the side of democracy for Fiji, and worked through the Commonwealth to see constitutional government restored.

We stood on the side of democracy for Zimbabwe, and remain appalled at the savage breaches of human rights and the rule of law there.

We stood against terrorism after September 11, both in word and in deed.

And we have been prepared to be part of the international solution to the world’s refugee crises, and to combat the criminal people smuggling trade.

Abroad, as at home, our Labour led government has been active and engaged in building a better world and better relationships between New Zealand and its friends, both old and new.

It all comes down to leadership.

And that’s what our government has never shied away from.

What we offer is strong, steady leadership to secure our country’s place in the ranks of progressive and advanced nations in the 21st century.

We know that minority governments can offer the country strong leadership and get good results.

That’s been our record and experience since 1999.

But to achieve that, you need partnerships in the Parliament which can guarantee confidence and supply.

Without that no government can survive.

Labour goes into this election knowing it can provide strong government.

We know the Hon Jim Anderton and his party will work with us to ensure that.

But there are others who would like to hold our government to ransom over a single issue, and who threaten to pull us down over that issue if they don’t get their way.

I understand parties being passionate about their issues.

But when that passion on a single issue becomes destructive of a Labour led government which is bringing economic growth and social peace and stability, that passion has gone too far.

And when that Labour-led government is also delivering on climate change, on biodiversity, on a strict regime on genetic modification, and on environmental and conservation policies across the board, then that urge to destroy is not only unreasonable but also bizarre. That is not what people wanted MMP to achieve.

I am now seeking a new mandate for Labour to carry on the work we have begun, with Jim Anderton, in the interests of New Zealand.

In coalition this last term, Jim Anderton and his colleagues have challenged us as they have worked alongside us. That’s what the nation hoped for from MMP – working together to get the best results for the country. And we have.

Our direction is clear. What you see is what you get. And the results speak for themselves:
· A growing economy
· More jobs
· More opportunity in education
· Better health care
· And more security in old age, in our homes, and on our streets.

Now is no time for complacency.

Good poll results only turn into compelling election victories with hard work from all of us.

Many New Zealanders have still not enrolled to vote.

Let’s find them and enrol them before election day.

And then there’s the turnout on the day.

We need everyone who wants this government to continue to cast their vote on election day.

Only one poll counts, and that’s on Saturday July 27th.

Between now and then, I’ll be travelling all over New Zealand putting Labour’s case for a new mandate. And so will our ministers and members of Parliament.

In government we’ve shown what we are capable of.

We stand against the divisive recycled policies of the 1990s and the politics of the fringe. We provide leadership and the direction to take New Zealand forward together in the 21st century.

In one term, we can lay the foundation.

In the next we can begin to build the house on top of it.

We are builders, not wreckers,

We believe in our country and its potential.

We are dedicated to its advancement.

We have high ambition for New Zealand and our people.

We offer ourselves to serve, if we are given the privilege of leading our country again.

With your support, we will be given that privilege and we will accept that challenge.

ENDS


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