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Business NZ Election Conference

Speech Notes

Business NZ Election Conference

Green Co-leader Rod Donald

Wednesday 24 August 2005

I would like to make clear at the outset that the Green Party recognises successful businesses are crucial to a thriving economy. We believe the government's contribution to it's partnership with the business community should include:

· creating a stable macro-economic environment;

· providing essential infrastructure;

· establishing the right tax and regulatory framework

· and ensuring we have a healthy, productive workforce

so that businesses can get on with their business.

Our attitude to the business community shouldn't come as a surprise. After all, many of our MPs were in business before coming to parliament. My Dad was the manager of a Christchurch furniture company, DA Lewis, for over 30 years and I used to work there during the school holidays, so I have manufacturing in my blood.

My first business venture, Piko Wholefoods Co-operative, is still going strong 25 years on, as is Trade Aid Importers, the fair trading organisation I managed for six years before coming to parliament.

As I said in the previous session, the Green Party is extremely sceptical about the benefits of Free Trade Agreement and we believe the Labour Government's trade strategy - if it deserves that title - is fundamentally flawed.

In our view, New Zealand needs a strong manufacturing capability to survive the difficult times ahead. In other words, we believe our lean, mean manufacturers are worth protecting.

So it wont surprise you that one of our top business priorities is to end the government's fixations with free trade and foreign ownership and replace them with a strong "Buy NZ Made" campaign and tighter foreign investment rules.

New Zealand's lopsided international trading and investment relationship with the rest of the world is not only the root cause of our record $5.2 Billion trade deficit and our unsustainable $10.2 Billion current a/c deficit, but it is also the reason why decent, productive businesses are struggling to survive.

What's more, according to the Reserve Bank, New Zealand's high current a/c deficit costs every one of us with a mortgage or bank loan an interest rate "risk premium" of 1-2% - or $30 per week on a $100,000 loan.

The Green Party wants Kiwi businesses to pay your workers at least $12 an hour, as well as meet OSH standards and comply with the RMA but you shouldn't then be forced to compete against sweat-shop imports where third world workers, including children and forced labour, have been paid less than $1 an hour and made to work in inhumane conditions.

Neither should Kiwi businesses be expected to look after the environment if we don't ensure that imports meet the same energy efficiency and environmental standards you have to. We would protect you from unfair competition, and steer our economy towards sustainability and self reliance, through a combination of tariffs, import controls and international rules and standards.

Getting the NZ dollar down to where it belongs is another one of our top business priorities if we are in government after the election. Exporters, domestic manufacturers and tourism operators are all hurting because our dollar is overvalued but this transition will need to be managed carefully to ensure that inflation remains under control.

As I said earlier, our third business priority is a targeted support package for companies to help you achieve improved energy efficiency, waste reduction and pollution control, through such mechanisms as accelerated depreciation on for appropriate investment. This would accompanied by a suite of eco-taxes, including a carbon tax, a levy on hazardous substances, and a waste tax, designed to reward those companies that reduce their ecological footprint.

Our goal is not only to get our economy out of the red and back in the black. We want to green it as well. A green economy is not about doing without, it's about being more productive and less wasteful - making better, more durable products that last longer and consume less resources. It's about creating more real, satisfying jobs. And it's about the government investing in the right infrastructure, such as solar hot water and wind energy generation and a high quality passenger transport and rail freight network.

New Zealand has a small window of opportunity to transform our economy from one that depletes and wastes resources and pollutes the environment into one that is genuinely clean and green, and we believe the government has the responsibility to ensure our economy is future-proffed for the inevitable shocks ahead.

Unfortunately the Labour Government does not yet share our sense of urgency. Worse, it has been caught napping. Despite international oil prices exceeding three times what Treasury predicted last year they would be now, the Government is still planning to build more motorways instead of supporting our plan to invest heavily in public transport.

You can play your part by encouraging your staff to use public transport, setting an example yourself, switching to rail for freighting your raw materials and finished goods, and, where possible, producing your products closer to both their market and the source of raw materials.

A green economy offers tremendous opportunities for good businesses to flourish. And a Green Government would make it possible for that to happen e.g. our policies to invest seriously in solar energy and public transport will generate good economic growth.

Clearly, we want to build a strong, stable economy, not a "growth at all costs" one that leaves nothing left for future generations. That means working in partnership with you to steer the economy towards sustainability and self reliance.

We have had a significant influence in this parliamentary term - on transport policy and on legislation - 17 bills, from climate change to care of children, Supreme Court to OSH, Maori TV to ACC have only passed with our support. And it is our goal to have more influence in next parliament.

We have four main policy platforms in this election campaign: we want to secure New Zealand's energy future; we want to protect our environment for future generations, we believe every kiwi deserves a fair go and we want our people to be happy and healthy.

We have already declared which side of the fence we are on - a party vote for the Greens is a vote for a Labour-led government. But that is no blank cheque. We will drive a hard bargain in policy terms - we will need a comprehensive policy agreement with Labour to join them in coalition or work with them on confidence and supply. There will be points of difference - trade and investment, the super fund and genetic engineering - but we can agree to disagree without the relationship falling apart.

The Green Party stands for decent politics, we have bold policies to address the big challenges in front of us, and we have a top team of candidates to implement those policies.

We are ready for the responsibility of government - strong stable, stable government. And we are willing to share that privilege with Labour.

ENDS

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