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Robson Speech Re: Debate on the PM's Statement

Speech notes for Debate on the Prime Minister’s Statement

Parliament, 13 February 2003

Matt Robson MP, Deputy Leader, Progressives

Helen Clark’s statement to Parliament outlined the progress that has been made and will be made by the Labour-Progressive government.

I am not surprised that the unimaginative National Party put a motion of no confidence. I am surprised that the Green Party as part of the 63 votes that gives the majority to the Left in this Parliament would fall into line with National on that.

Confidence has been rising in the Labour-Progressive government because of the dramatic improvement in economic development and our social well-being.

What does that progress consist of:

A growing economy in every region. This is reflected in the lowest unemployment rate for fifteen years at 4.9%. That means into 15,500 fewer people unemployed than a year ago and 123,000 more jobs than in December 1999.

It means a fairer deal for victims. The Victims Rights Act passed in October 2002 gives victims mandatory rights including the right to be heard in court and to be informed of the impending release of an offender.

It means cutting the costs of tertiary education starting with a fairer loans scheme, committing $420 million over four years to this area. Fee maxima will be introduced to give certainty to students. Without the halt to the fee increases of the 1990’s students would be paying on average $1000 more a year by now.

There has been major progress on Maori television with more to come.

700 more teaching positions are being created above what would have been created with roll growth.

There will be 6000 in Modern Apprenticeships by the end of the year – an increase of 100percent since mid-2002.

We have ratified the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and implemented the findings of the Royal Commission on GE to put in place the most comprehensive set of guidelines in the world.

That is a set of achievements of government that the Progressives are proud to be part of.

But of course we want to go further.

We entered the election with a set of Cornerstone commitments. They were to move towards:

Full Employment Free Education and healthcare Support of families leaving no-one behind Strong safe communities Investment in New Zealand.

Each of those cornerstone commitments will be discussed in the budget round and we will seek to move as quickly as is possible on implementation.

In particular we are concerned with taking effective steps to eliminate poverty at all levels, in particular child poverty.

Poverty takes many forms and often is not recognised for what it is. But for the family that struggles to make ends meet that is where poverty is.

In this budget round and in other ministerial policy debates we want to discuss the following:

Setting a timetable to eliminate child poverty Prioritisation of spending on poverty issues Review of all government spending re the impact of children Supporting more interdepartmental and interagency approaches on policy development and service provisions, Increasing Family Start and other early intervention programmes and ensuring that NGOs have the resources to be effective Compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights Of the Child

These are important areas for the Progressives and for the government as a whole.

Yesterday Michael Cullen advised the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee as reported in the Dominion that his priorities were “ a big rise in family support payments and incentives to get beneficiaries into paid work because many children in low-income families under performed at school because they moved house and thus schools frequently.” Such steps are what the Progressives are working for to attack poverty at its roots.

The Prime Minister in her Statement referred to the Labour –Progressive Coalition Agreement to promote work and life balance policies.

As part of that balance the Progressives have introduced my four weeks minimum annual leave bill. We want that substantial part of the lower paid workforce that is deprived of the leave entitlement that management gives to itself to gain that increased quality time of rest and relaxation with family and friends. We are hopeful that other parties will act on this issue of equity and support the measure. With the trade union movement and community organisations we will campaign for four weeks as a step forward in the balance between work and life.

But international events also confront us. We face the most serious question of all for a nation - the threat of war. The Progressives stand unequivocally, as part of the government, for the principles of international law That means working in the United Nations not reverting to the principle favoured by the right wing ideology that dominates the American Republican Party that “might is right”. As Helen Clark said in her statement: “ The New Zealand Government, like most governments, has sought to uphold the principles of multilateralism, the international rule of law, and the authority of the Security Council throughout this crisis.” The people of Iraq deserve that protection and respect.

It is possible to stop, by weight of world opinion, the United States launching this war – a war that they want to advance their political, economic and strategic interests. The last time that they initiated “ regime change” in Iraq was in 1968 to install Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party. It wasn’t a good idea then it is not now. It can be stopped by the joint actions of peoples and governments saying as Chancellor Schroeder has done – “ Nein Danke”!

The Progressives are part of a government that is lifting economic performance though partnership with our communities and at the same time dramatically improving the provisions of the social wage to increase the quality of life. Our party outside of Parliament with over 2000 members and growing daily is confident that step by step the progressive goals that we have set will become part of the core government programme and that we will achieve our cornerstone commitments.

I look forward to our Party’s first annual conference in Auckland in September to report on significant progress for the party, the government and the country.

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