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Budget 2004 Debate: Speech by Jim Anderton

27 May 2004

Budget 2004 Debate: Speech by Progressive leader Jim Anderton

I would like to congratulate Michael Cullen on this budget.

The financial management of the two governments which Dr Cullen and I have worked in has resulted in unemployment falling to 4.3 per cent.

- I am very proud of that figure.

- In the nineties, the level of unemployment never dropped below 6 per cent.

- When Don Brash was Reserve Bank Governor he used to predict an unemployment rate around 7 per cent stretching out forever and seemed to accept that level of human trauma with equanimity.

The number of people receiving the Unemployment Benefit has more than halved since we’ve been in government.

- 193,000 more New Zealanders now have paid jobs.

When I came into government, I said my top priority was jobs.

- It remains jobs today, and we are delivering.

- I congratulate Michael Cullen for producing budgets which have enabled that outcome.

This year’s budget ensures that a better income for families in need, is the top priority for assistance.

- The Progressive Party is committed to ensuring no one lives in poverty.

- We are proud to support initiatives designed to reduce hardship for the least affluent families and in particular for those New Zealand children - far too many of them - who have been living in an environment of poverty.

I want to also emphasize the value of this budget in transforming the industrial base of the New Zealand economy.

- Budget 2004 takes a comprehensive approach to economic development.

It is focused on strengthening and deepening New Zealand's connections with the world economy.

- In other words – it helps us do a better job of selling to the rest of the world, high value, high-skill products that customers overseas want to buy.

- That is the only way we are going to ensure prosperity for all New Zealanders.

So there is $500 million over four years in this budget to help unleash New Zealanders’ creativity and talent.

- I’m not sure this House fully understands the importance of the economic development work this government is doing.

- Our broad approach is not limited to the economic development portfolio.

- It’s across the board, commerce, small business, finance, education, science and technology, immigration and a number of related portfolios.

The National party finance spokesperson calls it corporate welfare.

- Presumably he is going to get rid of it all.

I look forward to the National party telling exporters it would axe the $35 million provided in this budget to help to find new markets and strategic partners for New Zealand business.

- That money is needed because it was not happening fast enough without the government playing its role.

- There is an example of the difference we can make in the investment made by Denmark's Zenia House in wood processing in New Zealand.

- As Minister for Economic Development I went to Denmark – NZTE set up meetings with companies there and we sold them on the virtues of New Zealand radiata pine.

- No one had done that before the government got involved.

- The result is their commitment to a very significant investment in jobs and high value furniture manufacturing in New Zealand.

I look forward to the National party telling industry it would cut programmes aimed at improving the capabilities of our managers.

- When our ICT industry looked at their future, they wanted 100 companies to grow into $100-million a year companies.

- They identified one of their biggest obstacles to doing that was the shortage of managers capable of taking a company to that level.

- So the government is going to play its part.

- We will work with industry to boost management capability.

- If the former bond and currency trader who is now National Party's deputy spokesperson on finance thinks that’s corporate welfare, let him tell industry that National will cut it.

This Labour Progressive government is investing in science, and in the education sector.

- We are supporting the hothouses of innovation, and improving their links with the world, to help commercialise New Zealand innovation.

The performance of this government in accelerating the economy proves every economic idea National and Act stand for is wrong.

- The economy has withstood the tech wreck, the US recession, SARs, a drought, a flood, commodity reversals and countless more.

- These events used to be the kind of excuses the National party used for economic and social failure.

- Remember the Asian financial crisis, the drought, the BNZ and all the other excuses they came up with to explain what was wrong with the New Zealand economy and why they couldn't do anything to fix it?

- Now they claim it’s just a coincidence or luck that the economy is growing?

Maybe there’s another explanation for the poor economic performance then and the sound performance now.

- It’s that they’re over there, and we’re over here!

The economy is doing better partly because Michael Cullen didn’t blow the budget on tax cuts we couldn’t afford.

- The regions are doing much better.

- Instead of abandoning the regions as National and Act did, this government has backed them.

- Now, every region is in growth mode.

- Figures out this morning show that the flood stricken Manawatu-Wanganui region was one of only two regions in New Zealand to have a decline in economic activity, even then down only 0.6 per cent, in the March Quarter, and it still has 3.9 per cent year on year growth.

- Year on year growth across the whole of New Zealand is at 3.9 per cent.

I challenge the National Party to go out to the regions of New Zealand and tell it is going to close down the regional development programme.

- Tell the science sector you’re going to pull the tech funding.

- Tell the creative sector, you’re shutting down their partnership with government.

This government is growing the economy faster, more consistently and with more jobs.

- With this budget, it is also putting cash into the hands of New Zealand's families.

The wages of this government’s economic success are being paid to working people.

- Let National and Act say they will take their family assistance away.

- Let them say they will close down the industry assistance schemes.

- We’ll let the people decide which approach they want. I'm very confident which direction they will choose.

ENDS

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