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Hon Jim Anderton: - Speech to Grey Power

Hon Jim Anderton Minister of Economic Development Progressive Party leader Speech to Grey Power West Coast

Buller Working Men's Club, Westport 2pm, 13 July 2004

I want to start off by telling you the story of a mother who finds a letter from her daughter on the kitchen table.

“Dear Mum,

It is with great regret and sorrow that I'm telling you that I have eloped with my new boyfriend.

He is so nice, with all his piercings and tattoos and his big motorcycle.

But it's not only that mum, I'm pregnant and Ahmed said we will be very happy in his caravan. He wants to have many more children with me and that's one of my dreams.

I've learned to try new things, like marijuana and P.

Don't worry Mum, I'm 15 years old now and I know how to take care of myself.

Some day I'll come and visit you so you can meet your grandchildren.

Love, your daughter.

PS: Mum, it's not true. I'm next door. I just wanted to show you that there are worse things in life than the school report that's in my desk drawer. Call me when it’s safe to come home.”

It pays to have a long memory.

A few years ago when I met mayors from the Coast in my office I felt a little like the fifteen year old in that letter.

I remember trying to convince the Coast that the government was committed to working with you.

I said my priority was to secure lasting economic development on the Coast.

It’s fair to say the response from the Coast was a resounding ‘Yeah Right!’

I said at the time the Coast’s suspicion was understandable.

For many years central government had forgotten about or ignored the Coast at best, and actively followed policies damaging the Coast at worst.

So when yet another Minister came into town promising to work in partnership with the Coast, some scepticism was not all that surprising.

It’s been almost four years since then.

Let’s look at the record.

The National Bank’s regional trends survey tells a striking story.

The West Coast economy has expanded in every quarter since the beginning of 2000.

That’s seventeen consecutive quarters of growth on the Coast.

Now what happened in the four years before this government was elected?

The Coast economy went backwards in eight out of sixteen quarters.

When was the last time the West Coast economy grew for seventeen consecutive quarters?

When I told the Coast four years ago I was confident about the future of the region, there was a chorus telling me how hard things were.

The best thing that has happened to the Coast is that people don’t complain much any more.

People feel more positive.

In fact, a central reason behind the Coast’s growth is the renewed confidence in the future of the Coast.

There was a time when governments told the regions of New Zealand that decline was inevitable.

Nowhere more so than the Coast.

But I never believed it.

I always believed that if the regions of New Zealand were sick, then the national economy must be sick as well.

Now the regions are stronger again.

Guess what? The national economy is strong as well.

Each year since 2000, the New Zealand economy has out-performed the rest of the world.

Everyone keeps expecting things to slow down.

But they haven’t.

Unemployment is down to 4.3 per cent of the workforce.

Since this is Grey Power I looked at some figures showing what has happened to the older workforce.

The proportion of 60-65 year olds who are participating in the workforce has more than doubled in three years.

According to the Household Labour Force Survey, a quarter of 60-65 year olds were working in the paid workforce in March 2001 (24.7%).

Today, 55.5% of 60-65 year olds are there.

The proportion of 55-59 year olds in the workforce in March 2001 was 61.9%

These are the people who are approaching retirement, but have a few years to wait.

By March this year, more than 76% of 55-59 year olds were working.

That’s more than the average for the general population.

The older workforce has been getting the lion’s share of the 198,000 new jobs created since this government took office.

This is a story of economic success.

It is a story of social success, because the strength of any region flows from its economic success.

How can you have strong social services – health care, education, roads and the rest – when the region’s economy is in decline and people are moving away.

Now the jobs are back, and the services are returning.

Look at Kiwibank.

Remember how they told us bank branches had to be closed?

We found a way to open new branches of the People’s Bank.

And we made it profitable.

The regional development policies we are pursuing now in government are the same ones I wrote for the Labour Party twenty years ago.

Twenty years ago tomorrow, the fourth Labour government was elected.

I was in it.

I had a few concerns about the plans of some of the people elected, but no one really had any inkling of what was to come.

What came was an unmitigated economic disaster for New Zealand.

We underwent an extended period of economic failure.

Unemployment rose massively.

The regions were crushed.

All at a time when the rest of the world’s economy was soaring.

If we had just done what Australia did, every New Zealand family would be $175 a week better off.

Have we learned our lesson?

Perhaps not, there are plenty of parties out there ready to take us back to the past.

The Opposition still believes in asset sales.

Enjoying Kiwibank? Don Brash will sell it by lunchtime.

Air New Zealand – The taxpayer had to step in to save it.

Don Brash will sell it by lunchtime.

Solid Energy? Doing great things on the Coast.

When I came into government, there was a proposal to sell some of the mines.

We put a stop to that.

The pay-off has been immense.

It’s good to have the railways' tracks in public ownership.

National sold them for a dollar last time - actually gave them away!

Maybe next time they’ll sell them for two dollars.

Superannuitants are (or should be) getting much cheaper visits to the doctor.

It’s a matter of principle, no one should be denied health care because they can’t afford to pay.

Can you trust the Opposition to keep the price of doctors visits down?

You know how cheaper doctors visits came about?

The Progressive Party won them.

I negotiated with Annette King.

I said we would support the health package she wanted, but we wanted to see progress on reducing doctors’ fees.

She agreed to reduce the cost of doctors’ visits for superannuitants and under 18 year olds.

To her credit, she (and the Labour Party) kept their word.

Fees have come down.

That is the kind of progress you can achieve when you are in a co-operative coalition.

The Progressives won a significant victory when doctors’ fess actually began to come down.

Imagine my surprise when I received a letter in my mailbox at home from Helen Clark.

“Dear Jim”, it said. “The Labour Party is very pleased to have introduced much cheaper doctors’ visits for superannuitants.”

I read the letter carefully, and my copy seemed to miss out the line where it said, “by the way, thanks to Jim Anderton and Matt Robson for helping to deliver this.”

So there is a point in having a coalition partner around the cabinet table.

And it does matter who the partner is!

We don’t always get the credit.

But we are in there making a difference.

I started out by saying things could be worse.

The Coast economy is going better than it has in a generation.

The living standards of all New Zealanders are up.

Superannuitants have more security than there has been in years.

There is every reason to feel confident and positive.

When I look at the advantages New Zealand has, I am immensely positive about the future.

We are a talented and creative people.

There is fantastic innovation on the Coast -- Westfield Dairy, for example.

We are unleashing our creativity and reaping the returns in more jobs, better incomes for New Zealand and a more secure future.

We are making too much progress to go back.


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