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Anderton: The time for Social Justice is now

Hon Jim Anderton Progressive Party leader

The time for Social Justice is now

Speech on the Opening of Parliament 2005 2 February 2005

Mr Speaker,

Since 1999, the progressive Labour-led coalition government has overseen a transformation of our economy.

The Progressives are also working inside government for a transformation of our community. Our objectives are universal, public education from pre-school to tertiary level. Universal access to quality health care. The opportunity for every New Zealand family to have a home of their own.

That is, Social Justice.

The work we have done on the economy has been spectacular, and it will continue.

Programmes to promote industry and regional development, along with increased investment in research and development, have helped upgrade the quality and quantity of our exports.

New Zealand is now less vulnerable to things outside our control – like wild swings in global foreign exchange markets or the weather.

In simple terms, that means New Zealand is making strides towards having a more productive, independent, high skill, high value economy.

This is why the Reserve Bank recently upgraded its assessment of our 'potential' sustainable growth rate from 2.5 per cent in 1999 to 'around 3.7 per cent per annum'. That's also why we have started to climb up rather than fall down the OECD economic ladder.

Since 1999, we have also increased public investment in our education and health systems and we have introduced far-sighted laws on paid parental leave and a minimum of four weeks paid annual leave for workers.

These are programmes that both enhance the productivity of our economy and at the same time help working families to meet their employment and family commitments.

The Progressive Party and its predecessors have, of course, been a leading player in all of these key coalition government initiatives since 1999.

And this year, we'll be campaigning for representation in an historic third term Labour-led coalition government.

We plan to continue to contribute to making New Zealand an even better place to live, work and bring up a family.

Progressive will work with all parties who have contributed constructively to this government's programme so far.

We are prepared to work in a Labour led coalition with United, New Zealand First or the Greens. Those parties have all played a part in the success of this Labour Progressive government's programme.

The Progressive party stands for a New Zealand with growing opportunities for all, regardless of family background or inherited wealth and privilege.

We stand for social justice and we believe that the time for the policy spotlight to fall on social justice is now.

When was the last election year when social justice dominated the election debate?

Not in 2002, when Genetic Engineering was the controversial issue of the day.

Not in 1999, when the election was dominated by the collapse of the last National-led government.

Not in 1996, when immigration and MMP dominated.

Not in 1993, when the nation’s anger with the betrayals of the National party were the issue.

Not in 1990 when the electorate was sick of the political betrayals of Roger Douglas and Richard Prebble.

It’s been a long time since the foremost election issues were access to education, affordable high-quality health care and a home for all New Zealanders.

It’s time we put these issues back on the political agenda.

We have unprecedented economic success to build on – for which Progressives take our share of the credit with our coalition partner.

The issue for New Zealand is how we build on that success.

Because for all the work I’ve done on economic development, I have never believed that economic growth is an end in itself.

We need economic success to produce jobs, we need innovation and creativity to increase the incomes of New Zealanders and to give us positive choices.

The point of increasing our nation’s wealth is to ensure all New Zealanders have the opportunity to share in the success of the economy.

As our economy becomes stronger, we need to apply our success to our social problems. We must, for example, work on:

Cutting student debt and de-facto school fees.

Helping every young New Zealand family to buy their own home.

Guaranteeing access to high quality public health care.

Improving productivity through higher investment in economic development, particularly research and development

Reducing alcohol and drug abuse, particularly by young people.

This is what social justice means. It is an opportunity presented to us by our economic success.

The moment for social justice to take centre stage is now.

But we haven’t heard a peep about these issues from the Opposition.

Don Brash has given major speeches about the Treaty, about law and order and now he wants to take the babies from women on the DPB and hand them over for adoption.

His coalition partners are interested only in keeping the door shut to new New Zealanders and giving tax cuts to the wealthy.

That is the full bankruptcy of the Opposition's policy platforms.

We need an ambition for a socially just New Zealand.

We have an economic goal; returning New Zealand to the top half of the OECD.

It needs to be matched by a vision for a healthy, thriving, sustainable society.

New Zealand needs a vision of a socially just society, and that is the role Progressive plays as a pro-business development party with a social conscience.

We have devoted our energies to economic development because we know the pathway to social development is built on foundations of economic opportunity.

There can be no first world health, education or environmental services without a first world economy.

That pathway leads to a place where any young New Zealand family can expect to own their own home and we have a proposal to help them do that by capitalising family income support.

Our vision of New Zealand is one where we celebrate young New Zealanders gaining new skills instead of burdening them with a lifetime of debt; and Progressive has a policy to pay the first three years of student loan repayments to help students repay their debts faster and to help to keep our best and brightest here.

Our vision of New Zealand will offer the very best we can in health care.

The government invested three billion dollars more over the last four years in to the health system.

Yet there are still health issues to confront, waiting lists to shorten, prescriptions not picked up because of the costs and sickness where we have the means to prevent it.

It will be a tragedy for New Zealand if we can’t put social justice back on the political agenda.

If we can’t make priorities of these issues now, then when will we be able to do so?

When will student debt be an election issue; when will home ownership be important enough? When will the health system command the same attention as law and order, or immigration or tax?

For Progressive, this year they will all be issues; challenging issues for which we propose ambitious solutions.

We are committed to making 2005 a Year of Social Justice.

And as this parliament opens for business for the year, I assure the House, it will be the top priority of the Progressive MPs in our work here.


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