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Anderton Speech to Fujian Chamber of Commerce

Jim Anderton
8 September 2002 Speech Notes

Speech to Fujian Chamber of Commerce

2:30 pm
Sunday, 8 September 2002
Speech on Economic Development and Immigration.
Cocktail party for Fujianese (China) Chamber of Commerce, hosted by Nong Li,
L.A. Restaurant, 440 Khyber Pass Rd, Newmarket

Thank you for inviting me to be with you today.

As Minister for Economic, Industry and Regional Development, it is always good to be with innovative entrepreneurs and business people.

As Leader of the Progressive Coalition in Parliament, I particularly want to greet my friend and fellow candidate Nong Li. I hope you will yourself speak to this gathering as an elected Member of Parliament after the next election.

As one of New Zealand's oldest Members of Parliament, I am always particularly pleased to be with kiwis of Chinese descent, because of what I regard as an excellent Chinese tradition of respect for the older and wiser members in society...

I particularly approve of the apparent evidence that Chinese politicians are often only just beginning to develop their real political potential in their mid 60s, and the real leaders would expect to peak in their 70s and even 80s!

For example, I hosted a visiting delegation from China a little while ago, and I noted that one of their delegation was described as an "up-and-coming political leader"... He was older than me!

Some of you may have heard I announced recently that it is my intention to stand again at the next election - so long as I am feeling strong and well, and so long as I believe I can contribute to making a difference in public life to the development of New Zealand and the wellbeing of its people.

Although I have now been in local and national politics for nearly 40 years, I somehow feel that all that time was preparation for the work we now have only just started since this Coalition Government took office in 1999, and especially since we were re-elected a month or so ago.

In addressing your Chamber of Commerce today, I wanted to take the opportunity to comment on some key matters that will be close to your hearts, particularly immigration and economic development.

For those who study population trends there are some key factors which people who think ahead have to take account of in making responsible government decisions today.

The world's population continues to grow dramatically, and this will put significant strain on the natural resources of this planet for another century or so. But the dramatic population growth is primarily a phenomenon of developing countries - still known loosely as the "third world".

In some regions, especially in Africa, it is possible that AIDS may tragically change what has hitherto been an apparently never-ending population explosion.

I recently heard a particularly sobering World Health Organisation statistic about Zimbabwe, for example - a country where some 6 million people are facing starvation over the next few months, as a result of government policies - that the average life expectancy had fallen from around 65 years to around 37 years over the last decade.

That is a staggering figure, with enormous implication for that country's economic development.

But I have also been staggered by recent statistics from developed countries, though in the opposite direction.

In the OECD countries, the post-World War II babies are getting older. For the first time in recorded history, generations are not replacing themselves and the burden of paying taxes, let alone keeping economies growing, is falling on fewer and fewer people.

The OECD estimates that over the next 25 years, around 70 million retiring workers will be replaced by just 5 million new entrants to the work force - a reduction in the working population of 65 million.

This contrasts with the past 25 years, where 45 million newly retired pensioners were replaced by 120 million baby boomers in the workforce.

Let me repeat those figures. 70 million pensioners will be replaced by 5 million new workers, compared with the previous 25 years when 45 million pensioners were replaced by 120 million workers.

Think of the inevitable consequence for immigration policy. All over the OECD, countries will be desperately looking for migrants over the next 25 years. Competition for the brightest and best will be intense.

Winston Peters and those who vote for him should contemplate this.

New Zealand’s population is forecast to actually fall when this starts to happen because this coincides with the fall in New Zealand’s natural rate of population decline.

Large developed nations like the USA, UK, or Germany, will be desperately trying to attract New Zealanders, as well as people from other countries.

New Zealand one of the smallest developed nations in the world shows the same broad demographic trend of an ageing population, not being replaced because of falling birth rates, of fewer and fewer workers having to support more and more retired citizens - let alone create economic development opportunities.

New Zealand will not only have to find the tax revenues for superannuitants, it will also have to find skilled and productive workers and in this it must compete in what will inevitably be a massive OECD competition for new migrants.

As regards superannuation, as part of the last coalition government, I strongly supported the responsible decision we took in government to start putting funds aside to pay for the retirement income required to meet the population bulge beginning in about 20 years time.

There are some politicians who simply refuse to think ahead on Superannuation, but I am at least comforted by the fact that the National Party in particular, was so roundly battered by the public vote in the last election for its lack of vision - not least on this critical subject.

I hope that all parties will in this term of Parliament unite in a cross-party accord on Superannuation so that we take it out of the realm of politics and guarantee that our children and grandchildren will not have to bear an impossible burden to pay for superannuation.

But getting back to immigration, New Zealand has always been a land of migrants, and especially so across the last century where the population has quadrupled since 1900.

That century of immigration would have brought many of you here today to New Zealand - just as it brought my family from Ireland.

Because kiwis are such travellers, we have also always seen large numbers leave for overseas - and that will of course continue - especially with the OECD countries trying to attract them.

But recent trends have seen increasing numbers returning. In the year ended June 2002 returning New Zealanders accounted for about 40% of the increase of long term arrivals - the highest it has been for some time.

There has been some recent political debate about immigration – and particularly as a result of Winston Peters' comments on floods of Asians, his misrepresentations of links between immigration and crime, security threats, etc.

It's hard to laugh at this, when it gets publicity and one knows that it will make a number of communities both anxious and angry.

But in my view the harder Winston Peters tries on these sorts of things, the more ridiculous he becomes. The more outrageous his comments - the more he should be treated as the bad political joke he really is.

Winston Peters has been doing what he always does - shouting from the rooftops about whatever it is that he can try to turn into a scandal, and fooling some of the people, some of the time.

But we must remember that 90% of the population did not vote for him, and my guess is that the vast majority in this country regard him as an embarrassing political opportunist who has used racial attacks to lift his political profile in a way that disgusts the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders.

Winston Peters sometimes seizes on things which have an element of fact - and then distorts them in his campaign for publicity, often adding explicitly inflammatory references which are designed to attract headlines.
Many media representatives find these outbursts good copy.

Perhaps his most outrageous example was his attempt during the election campaign to link the Oklahoma bombing (carried out by far right-wing white Americans) with imagined security threats posed by immigrants to New Zealand.

As regards all the rest of his rantings, I will deal with them in due course in another speech on another occasion.

For today, I will simply say that I hope you and your community regard him and his politics as just one of the embarrassments, like a bad joke, which we tolerate in a free society.

More importantly, I want to return to the main theme of economic development and immigration.

It will now be clear to you that this Government has turned its back on a critical part of the failed economic and social ideology of the 80s and 90s in regard to the role of the state in economic development.

We do not have a magic wand which can produce sustained economic growth. But we do know that abandoning planning for key issues like social and economic infrastructure, education, skills, finance and business development - was not just wrong, it had disastrous consequences of both our social and economic development.

This government has charted an ambitious course around its Growth and Innovation Framework as set out earlier in the year, and confirmed in the recent Speech from the Throne which set out our policy programme for this term in Government.

That policy envisages a coordinated programme of action across all fronts in government, short and long term, to improve basic infrastructure such as roads and electricity, build business confidence, provide skilled workers, and encourage investment and innovation.

My Ministries are central to that programme, in a team of senior ministers which includes the Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance, and myself.

In my view, New Zealand has to 'upskill' its workforce. That means better education for today's kindergarten kids, right through to tertiary students.

And it means encouraging a steady stream of skilled migrants to make their homes with us in New Zealand.

The ability to attract, retain and regain the people we need for sustainable economic development has implications for communities, regional development, business opportunities and jobs.

The richer ethnic mix that is emerging in New Zealand highlights the need for the development and maintenance of our workforce and communities - or what is sometimes called "social capital" - so that everyone can participate fully in our society.

My goal, and that of this coalition government, is that every single person and community will feel welcome here and will find an opportunity to build a family, a career, a business, and a secure retirement.

Immigration, sustainable economic growth, climate change, globalisation -all these issues have real implications for our national identity as we keep searching for our place in the 21st century amongst all the forces which are pressing on these islands in the South Pacific.

But one thing is surely clear: we stand on these islands together, as human beings, as kiwis, as businesses, as taxpayers and as voters - whatever our ethnic origin.

We struggle together for simple things: a better chance for our families, growth opportunities for our businesses, service to our communities and our country, a just and fair country.

Today I ask you to keep focussing on those things which unite us.

I wish you prosperity in your businesses, joy for your families, and may you keep up the tradition of respect for elders, especially in politics.

ENDS

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