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Speech: Goff - Govt’s deals to reward privilege

Speech Notes for Phil Goff for Speech in Napier
Thursday, 3 December 2009


Not relaxed about the government’s deals to reward privilege

With regard to the international economic crisis, there are encouraging signs that the worst is behind us.

The strong economic stimulus promoted by the Obama Administration, the Rudd Government in Australia and the Chinese Government, our three largest trading partners, stopped the world descending into economic depression.

So with the international economy starting to recover, what is being done to ensure New Zealand will gain fully from the benefits of the recovery, and that ordinary hard-working but hard-pressed New Zealander families will share those benefits?

Sadly, in both cases, all too little.

In contrast to the proactive response of other governments, National has opted to sit on the sidelines.

Unemployment has more than doubled to over 150,000 but there have been little or no initiatives to boost education and skill-training so our workforce is ready to take advantage of the recovery.

Investment in research and development has been cut not increased.

The need for a more effective monetary policy to promote an export-led recovery has been ignored.

Tax cuts went to higher income earners not lower income workers so the stimulatory effect they might have had was minimized.

And the fall in real wages, with cut-back in hours and the pay freeze has also reduced money available to spend and sustain jobs.

The cost of living has gone up.

There has been, according to the Department of Statistics, a sharp rise in families paying over $300 a week in rent for their homes from a quarter to more than a third of families.

Every week, the average family pays more than a third of their total income on rent or mortgage.

It might be less in Dipton.

What rent rises mean is that half of all households say they don't have enough to meet everyday needs.

The Government and the Prime Minister may be relaxed about that but most hard-working New Zealand families are not.

Up on the executive level, the recession is over.

They’re holding a party in the penthouse suite, but most families aren’t invited.

It’s a top-floor-only party.

How else can you explain the appointment by John Key of Don Brash to recommend the way forward on social and economy policy.

Don Brash recommended exactly what Mr Key knew he would.

Cutting the minimum wage by $100 a week.

Privatisation of every SOE.

Cuts to health, cuts to education, cuts to childcare and cuts to super.

Full road user charging.

Huge tax cuts for those at the top, over $630 a week for Cabinet Ministers, paid for by tax increases for anyone on the average wage and below.

I don’t have any doubt that the National Party would like to do this.

But they can’t and they won’t do it because New Zealanders won’t let them.

It’s hard enough making ends meet, without paying more for education and for health care.

Most New Zealanders think the big foreign-owned corporates are getting enough without having to hand over more of our assets, like ACC to the big Australian insurance companies.

So if the Government is not going to do it, why did they decide to spend $477,000 on Don Brash’s report?

Why give your mates $477,000 to cook up something you say you’re not going to do?

The cost is the equivalent of seventeen and a half minimum wage jobs.

Most of that money hasn’t yet been spent.

$330,000 of it will be paid out for the next reports on progress in implementing its ideas - the ideas the government says it is not going to implement.

So I have a challenge for the Government - if it’s dumping the report, why don’t they save the taxpayer the unspent $330,000.

Just say no thanks.

Keep the money and spend it on something worthwhile.

Cynics are saying the report was just an exercise to buy off the Act Party.

If that’s true, it’s an indictment on the government’s cynicism.

But it’s still a hell of a lot cheaper than the cost of the dirty deal to buy off Maori Party support for the Emissions Trading Scheme.

The deal between National and the Maori Party over the emissions trading scheme shows how willing the National Party is to reward privilege.

Let me explain how that deal works.

New Zealand has to pay for the cost of emitting climate changing gases.

That was what New Zealand signed up to when it signed the Kyoto agreement - and signing was the right thing to do, because climate change is real and we need a global response.

Having made that commitment, then there is an issue of who pays for New Zealand’s pollution.

Labour says: Big polluters should pay for pollution - the whole point is to reduce pollution, and get people to switch to cleaner, cheaper technology.

National has shriveled the share big polluters pay, and instead made hardworking taxpayers carry the burden.

Their scheme according to Treasury is a $110 billion subsidy for big polluters.

It is loading every hardworking family with a bill of $92,000 in today’s dollars.

It will cost our children and grandchildren dearly.

No wonder John Key didn't really want to go to Copenhagen for climate change talks with such a bad ETS.

It’s a pity its taken Barack Obama to show some leadership before John Key decided he wanted to be part of the photo op.

To hit the taxpayer with a bill like this, the National Government had to do a cynical deal with the Maori Party.

It’s done a deal that re-opens Treaty settlements that were made full and final in the nineties, to advantage not hard working taxpayers, not ordinary Maori taxpayers but a few large Maori Corporates.

They get about $1.75 billion.

The burden of paying will fall disproportionately on people less able to pay - hard working Maori and Pakeha taxpayers alike.

I oppose the special deal for a Ngai Tahu corporation, just as I opposed a special deal for Rio Tinto.

The subsidies aren't free – ordinary New Zealanders have to pay for them and in this case for generations to come.

It’s about privilege, and that’s why I reject it.

Labour stands for fairness.

The Maori Party has been crying racism every time it’s criticised - and it’s claiming it’s racist to criticise its policies.

I’m sorry but they’re going to get criticised more, because the government they are in is not delivering for Maori or for Pakeha.

Just as the Government is risking re-opening wounds and divisions with the deals it is making with the Maori Party, it is risking fresh divisions between the privileged and everyone else as the economy begins to come out of recession.

The cuts the government wants to make are not the cuts for the privileged - they only want to cut the services that hard working taxpayers depend on.

This week Bill English was claiming government spending is up 45 per cent.

He needs to give his numbers a bit of a hair cut.

You can tell he is a bit too relaxed about the figures when he doesn’t even correct for inflation.

In fact government spending as a percentage of GDP in 2008 was about the same as it was in 1999 when we were elected with an increase in last year’s budget as a stimulus against the effect of the recession.

Labour in government not only increased spending on some priority services, like education and health care, we also reduced net debt by more than 78 percent, and built up Crown net worth from $12 billion to more than $105 billion.

But let’s look at the spending he says was outrageous - the spending the National Government says is damning:

His number one priority is the extra three billion on education - that was an increase of 39 per cent.

It’s certainly true that spending rose when we made interest on student loans free.

His number two priority was the extra three billion on health care - it’s certainly true that spending rose when we introduced cheaper doctors visits and built new hospitals.

His number three target is the doubling of spending on prisons, and 48 per cent increase in police spending.

That’s because if you want to reduce crime, you have to catch criminals and then lock them up.

Now Bill English is saying he wants to undo it all, and go backwards in time.

We need to be careful with taxpayers’ money, but we should not be reckless with spending cuts.

And we should not be reckless with figures, as the finance minister has been this week.

Here’s what I would have said, if were confronted with these figures:

New Zealanders get good value for our tax dollar, overall though we should improve that where we can.

We have health care and education that is generally of good quality, but it won’t be if there are massive spending cuts.

We are going to work to make it better, so that young New Zealanders get the best possible start in life.

We are not going to slash police and corrections, as this government is doing - for example by cutting front line patrol cars by ten percent.

We are going to set good priorities that put the services people need ahead of privilege.

I would have said that our spending on health, education and police come ahead of the $110 billion dirty deal to subsidise big polluters.


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