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Anderton: Christchurch Grey Power meeting

Hon Jim Anderton


Progressive Party leader

15 October 2008 Speech


Christchurch Grey Power meeting

In a couple of weeks from now, New Zealanders are going to make a choice.

What is that choice about?

It's a choice about who we can trust to lead us through the most turbulent economic times internationally that any of us can remember.

It's a choice about who will best protect and care for you, and care for New Zealanders who need us.

It's a choice about who is best prepared with a plan to strengthen New Zealand in this difficult environment.

This is a choice, this year, between a smile and substance.

Every election is about change. This year's will be about change too. It's a question of a change to what.

The Opposition says, when you look closely at what they're saying, we should change back to the failed policies of the past.

They want to go back to the asset sales of the nineties - that is why they say they will sell Kiwibank 'eventually'.

I asked John Key to sing a pledge saying he won't sell Kiwibank.

He won't sign it. Most National MPs won't sign it. Maybe Gerry will?

Now look around the world at the global financial crisis. A crisis! Not a tough situation. Not a global slow down. But a crisis, in the world's financial system.

And if you look at the UK, you see Gordon Brown buying up banks.

If you look around Europe, you see some of the world's largest economies buying shares in their own banks.

If you look at the US, you see even George Bush nationalising banks.

Now, George Bush is not a socialist. But he has come to realise the value of owning a publicly-owned bank.

And all this in countries which already owned the majority of their own financial system.

Now come back to New Zealand. When I said we needed our own kiwi bank, we owned one per cent of our financial system. The other 99 pr cent was foreign-owned.

Now 650-thousand New Zealanders belong to Kiwibank. It's ours. It's a huge success.

And hasn't it been vindicated in the middle of this global financial meltdown? Yes it has.

So how responsible is it for the National Party now to say 'we will sell Kiwibank eventually.'

That's what's at stake at this election.

That's the choice we face.

The Opposition has voted against every measure we have taken to strengthen New Zealand.

They voted against Kiwibank.

They voted against the ministry of economic development. The ministry of regional development. The ministry of industry development.

They want to destroy the two billion Fast Forward fund - the largest investment in science and innovation for our future this country has ever seen.

These are the policies that have helped us create nearly a thousand jobs a week, every week, since the government was elected nine years ago.

National wants to increase tax on business for research and development - not just any business, but their tax increase will be very precisely targeted at the most innovative businesses in the country. The ones who will give young New Zealanders a job. The ones who will lift incomes and help us pay for better health care, higher wages, better services for superannuitants.

That's who National is increasing tax for, so that they can pay for a tax cut for someone on the prime minister's salary, or mine, or Gerry Brownlee's.

There is another choice for New Zealand.

The alternative is a government that takes care of vulnerable New Zealanders, like those on fixed incomes.

A government that strengthens our economy, with the highest growth rate and the lowest unemployment we have had in a generation.

And I want to talk about what my party, the Progressives, can do as a partner within that government.

What MMP parties do is put ideas on the agenda that wouldn't otherwise make it.

Labour is now putting Kiwibank on its billboards! They weren't so enthusiastic about it when I came up with the idea. The same with four weeks minimum annual leave and paid parental leave.

Other MMP parties do the same - such as all the extra money Winston Peters got for more overseas aid and the Greens got some new cycleways and home insulation.

I want to tell you our priorities for a new government.

First, we want to see dental are made much more affordable.

If you live on a fixed income and you need to see a dentist for a filling or an extraction - you can get a bill for four hundred dollars, right there!

This is a huge hidden problem in New Zealand, and I want to see dental care brought into our health system.

Second, we want to take care of vulnerable youth. I want our young people to be all they can be, and they won't realise their potential if they are getting their brains wasted on alcohol and drugs.

So we say the drinking age should go back up to twenty.

We say no relaxation in the drug laws.

I've been the minister in charge of drug policy for six years and I banned party pills. I introduced tough new laws to fight P. And I can tell you that the drug that causes the most violence and crime in New Zealand is - alcohol.

Not because it's the most intrinsically dangerous, but because it's a legal drug.

So I don't want to see it made more available. And I don't want to see other drugs join it on the damage list.

Third, we've just come through a long, cold winter. I see a lot of people who struggle with their power bills, and they're going up every year.

Power companies are making bigger profits every year.

Most energy generating in New Zealand is owned by the public.

If we spent just one quarter of their gross profits on a rebate, we could give everyone $200 off their winter power bill.

It makes sense for the owners - the people of New Zealand - to achieve a dividend for our ownership.

Paying out a return on public ownership as a direct rebate to those most in need of assistance is a highly progressive way of helping families.

$200 means a lot more to someone whose income is low and fixed. It ensures the cash goes to a necessity.

These are our priorities in a new government.

MMP parties can achieve gains like this - just as we did with Kiwibank and four weeks minimum annual leave.

If you bring me Matt Robson and others from the Progressive team this year, we can achieve more of these gains for senior New Zealanders.

Like Greypower members, I've been round for a while.

I'm old enough to remember a few governments we have had in this country before.

We have a choice this year between the bold new ideas I have been talking to you about, or another direction that takes us back to the failed policies of the past.

I'm old enough to remember governments that got elected without telling us what they were going to do.

And then when they got elected, they said 'circumstances changed', and they hammered into the most vulnerable. They hammered into the elderly. They hammered into superannuation.

We can't afford to let that happen again.

And I ask for your support to help us stop them.


ENDS

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