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Copeland Speech on the Economy

General Debate speech notes

Gordon Copeland, United Future

Mr Speaker, your mailbag, like many other Members of this House, will I know be full of letters from New Zealanders appealing to this House to get away from malicious personalised attacks and to debate instead the many serious issues which confront our nation, its families, and its people.

United Future wholeheartedly agrees with those sentiments and today I want to utilise my time to talk about a number of those important issues.

Madam Speaker, following 21 consecutive quarters of economic expansion, the New Zealand economy contracted by 0.1% in the December 2005 quarter. That news coincided with the announcement that our balance of payments deficit was no less than $13.7 billion for the December 2005 year, 8.9% of GDP and coincidentally also the worst December year result since 1984 exactly 21 years previously.

These figures should act as a wake up call to every single Party and every single Member in this House.

We should be collectively applying our minds to work constructively and together towards the goal of improving, and improving rapidly, the strength of the NZ economy.

I want to turn to a couple of specific issues. Last week a group of woolgrowers called by my office to report that, in real terms, the price of wool is now at an historic low. In addition, the existing industry structures are, they believe, completely dysfunctional and beyond the point of no return. Indeed returns to growers are now so bad they tell me that many wool growers have decided to change farming practices because it no longer pays to worry about wool quality. Rather, sheep are being farmed simply for their meat.

I well remember, Mr Speaker, that the meat industry was itself in a similarly perilous state in the early 1980s. I was one of a number of consultants taken on at that stage by the Hon Bill Birch, in his capacity of Minister for National Development, to find a new pathway forward for the meat industry. Our conclusion was that nothing short of a reformation was called for, action was taken, and that industry has gone on to success. Nothing short of a reformation for the wool industry is now necessary.

So I today call on the Minister for Economic Development, the Hon Trevor Mallard, to emulate Bill Birch's example, call together the best brains in the nation and build a cross party consensus to undertake a total reformation of the wool industry in this country.

Forestry is similarly in a slump. The current problems are again acute, serious and urgent. We have a standoff between the New Zealand Forest Owners Association and the Government at a time when the industry is already under pressure because of international wood prices. The stand off is specifically about the Governments Kyoto protocol driven deforestation cap which aims to hugely penalise forest growers if the cap is broken but steadfastly refuses to contemplate providing any incentive at all for replanting following harvest or new green fields planting. That needs to change and change fast.

In December 2005, the Hon Nick Smith of the National party, wrote to the Hon David Parker, Minister responsible for Climate Change, offering their cooperation with a bipartisan approach to this issue and I am disappointed to learn that to date that letter has not even been acknowledged. That is simply not good enough, and today United Future appeals to both Labour and National, to park politicking for a bit and to agree to cooperate in a bipartisan and indeed multi party attempt to resolve these serious issues.


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