Cunliffe: Building a Future for All - Conference Speech
SPEECH TO LABOUR CONFERENCE
CHRISTCHURCH, 2 NOVEMBER 2013
E nga mana o tenei rohe Ngai Tahu
Tatou katoa te whanau o te reipa
Tena koutou katoa
It’s great to be here with you today, with Christchurch’s new Mayor Lianne, our wonderful President Moira, our fantastic candidate for Christchurch East, Poto Williams, and to be part of the Labour team that is going to win the 2014 election.
I acknowledge our New Zealand Council, Te Kaunihera Maori, our affiliates, sector councils and my caucus colleagues. I want to especially acknowledge our previous leader David Shearer, leadership candidates Grant Robertson and Shane Jones, and my Deputy David Parker.
Mostly, I want to acknowledge you - every member of this, New Zealand’s greatest political party, whose membership has exploded by 75% this year!
We are here with good reason in this great city. To show our solidarity and determination to help get the rebuild moving. And to return a new Labour MP, Poto Williams, in Christchurch East. Thank you all for being here.
Christchurch, we admire your resilience and your strength. Your compassion for one another, and your determination to rise above adversity are an inspiration to the rest of the country and to this Party.
We are here today united and ready to win. Not for ourselves, but for every New Zealander who needs a new beginning and wants their country back.
We need to reimagine the future. To rebuild it. To reclaim the Kiwi dream for all New Zealanders.
The New Zealand we will build together is one most Kiwis can today only dream about.
Let me tell you a local story.
There ‘s a small road on the northern outskirts of Christchurch, just beyond the Styx railway over the bridge.
It is called Cunliffe Road. My grandfather, a railwayman all of his life, and my gran retired there.
They milked a cow; they kept chooks; grew their own veges; and fished for eels in the Styx river at the bottom garden. Like I did.
The house was a stone’s throw from the railway tracks, tracks on which my father’s family worked and which much of the early history of this country was built – with hard labour, with high hopes and fervent dreams of a more prosperous future.
Portraits of King Dick Seddon and Mickey Savage hung in the kitchen.
I grew up the son of a Vicar. We didn’t have much, but we never went without.
There was a good state school for me to go to, healthcare when my dad desperately needed it, and opportunities for me to work hard and get ahead.
We have all heard about our current prime minister’s own humble beginnings, his overseas success and his money trader’s fortune.
But in aspiration and core beliefs John Key and I could not be more different.
John Key and his colleagues grew up in same New Zealand I’ve just been talking about. They personally benefited from these opportunities but now deny them to all but an elite few.
They are pulling the ladder up behind them. – and that’s just wrong.
I got into politics because I believe that all New Zealanders, regardless of background or circumstance, should have the same opportunities.
Only when we all do, will we unlock the boundless potential of this country and its people, creating a better, fairer, more inclusive society that works for all New Zealanders, not just a privileged few.
This weekend, our Party sets out together on a challenging but exciting new path. The stakes could not be higher: for the very future of this country and all who live in it.
I am enlisting your support and commitment to help this Party return to government in 2014.
Helping to create a fairer, more equitable future for all New Zealanders.
2. A Tale of two countries
I grew up in a New Zealand where if you worked hard and played by the rules anyone could get ahead.
It was a country in which Kiwis could trust that government worked more or less in the interests of all its citizens.
Sadly, those days are gone. We are confronted by a government clearly ruling in the interests of a few at the expense of the many, and creating two New Zealands.
One for the rich and powerful, who don’t pay their fair share of tax because they have smart accountants to ensure they avoid it.
And there’s the other New Zealand.
Where people struggle to put food on the table for their families.
Where children go to school hungry, and senior citizens shiver in their homes.
Families who pay tax on every dollar they earn, pick up the slack for the mega-rich and the foreign corporations who don’t.
Middle New Zealand is working harder than ever. And what do they have to show for it?
A dying dream.
Middle-income Kiwi families can’t afford the rent or mortgage because of National’s housing crisis;
They can’t afford power bills from the profiteering companies National is determined to sell;
Many families can’t afford clothes or a treat for the kids, because under National their wages just haven’t kept up.
Now for the first time, a generation of hardworking parents are faced with the shocking prospect their children will do worse than them.
That’s why our best and brightest young people are leaving.
All this did not happen by accident. National deliberately chose this for New Zealand, because they still believe in outdated policies that reinforce privilege.
Some call it “trickle down”. It’s the idea that if the rich get richer, the poor get lucky. Such neo-liberal policies are fundamentally outdated and the Global Financial Crisis proved they don’t work.
Top economists around the world are casting aside these outdated theories, but National has not caught up.
Five years ago, John Key told New Zealanders, “wave goodbye to higher taxes, not your loved ones’’.
But he only meant it for the privileged few.
He gave massive tax cuts to the rich that they did not need while he put up GST on everyone.
Since that promise, 200,000 Kiwis have voted no confidence, and left.
We’re told we can’t afford the ‘social goods’ that since the time of Michael Joseph Savage have been our Kiwi heritage.
A good government stands alongside New Zealanders in case of disaster, ill health or bad luck.
Good government in partnership with people helps build industries and regions; dams, railways and ports, and plants vast forests.
Those birth-right assets belong to all New Zealanders. National - they are not yours to sell!
But not content with laissez-faire neoliberalism, National has tilted the playing field even further. Its Hall of Shame involves those shabby deals with Warner Brothers; Sky City; Rio Tinto and Chorus.
Business people are telling me they want no part of that. They want a level playing field that’s fair and transparent, not one set of rules for National’s mates and another for everyone else.
They also say John Key is a map without a compass; that National has no strategy for the underlying problems of our economy.
Mark my words, John Key’s answer will be to invite the royal family to bring its newest and cutest member here for a long series of photo ops in an election year.
They should come. But will John Key dare take the Duke and Duchess back to McGehan Close?
Will he take them to a closed sawmill in Rotorua or a boarded up tannery in Shannon?
You can be sure he’ll bring them to Parliament. But will they meet the nightshift cleaners he won’t pay a Living Wage?
The contrasts between National and Labour, between their New Zealand and ours, could not be greater.
This government is tired, arrogant and out of touch. It is off-Key and out of tune.
Labour is fresh, energized, true to its founding ideals and full of new ideas.
It is a Party ready to govern on behalf of - and most importantly, alongside – all New Zealanders.
3. Building a Future for All
3.1 An economy that works for all New Zealanders
In the last few weeks my team and I have visited families in Rotorua and Shannon whose lives have been shattered by the closure of their sawmill and their tannery.
They need an economy that works for all New Zealanders.
One that creates more value from every tree we fell, every litre of milk we produce and every fruit we pick.
When National thinks about growth, they think about growing volume. Milking more cows, digging more mines or drilling more holes.
They haven’t got a fracking clue.
There’s only so many cows we can milk without polluting our waterways. There is no limit to the ingenuiety of our Kiwi scientisits in making more high value products from the proteins in our milk.
We will reward innovation. National scrapped Labour’s R&D tax incentive. So our best and brightest took their ideas offshore.
The journey we need to be on is one from thinking about volume to thinking about creating value.
By contrast, National thinks it makes sense to truck New Zealand logs to a port, ship them to Asia for processing, and then import the timber back here to Christchurch for the rebuild.
How dumb is that?
Our Labour Government will give preference to Kiwi-made timber for the Christchurch rebuild.
When we create value we need more of it to stay in New Zealand so we can share it.
Our economy is being hollowed out because we don’t have enough capital.
Our banking, finance and insurance industries are almost all foreign-owned, which is why we always run an external deficit and build up international debt.
A Labour Government will address this fundamental problem.
By strengthening KiwiSaver. By building up KiwiBank. By restarting contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.
All of these things will help build an economy we own.
Of course we will balance the books, as we did every year in the fifth Labour Government.
But that is not enough to turn around long term economic decline.
Our pro-growth will help local Kiwi businesses access the investment they need to thrive.
And today, in this very brave city, I am announcing that Labour will confront the challenges of an insurance industry that is no longer Kiwi-owned. One we know from painful experience has not met Canterbury’s needs.
Just as KiwiBank gave us a customer-focused, low cost Kiwi-owned bank, KiwiAssure will give everyone a choice for better service, competititive premiums and local ownership that keeps profits here.
KiwiAssure will be a sister company to KiwiBank, within the NZ Post Group.
And like KiwiBank, it will offer customers an alternative and raise the bar across the insurance industry.
We will build an economy that works for all New Zealanders, by helping create more value and keep more of it onshore.
And having kept more wealth in New Zeaaland, that wealth needs to be shared fairly.
The economy we build will provide secure, well-paid jobs.
We will raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour – immediately.
We will promote a Living Wage.
We will protect vulnerable workers.
We will develop a new employment framework built on mutual respect.
We will scrap the unfair 90-day trials and restore fairness in the workplace.
We will train young Kiwis to rebuild Christchurch.
We won’t give priority to overseas labour which just happens to keep locals out and wages down,
We will invest more in our people and their skills and training.
Everyone will contribute their fair share.
We will raise the top tax rate for high earners but not middle income families,.
We will target those who speculate on capital gains and avoid tax using trusts.
We want a level playing field. National wants special deals for its mates.
National gave $30 million to Rio Tinto to keep the smelter’s closure off the TV until after the election. Labour will have a plan for an energy-rich Southland beyond the smelter.
National bent the rules to sell our laws to Sky City. Labour will regulate to address gambling harm.
National is about to hand over $400 million of your dollars to Chorus. Labour will deliver faster, cheaper braodband without subsidising foreign telcos.
So Labour’s economic plan means creating more value, retaining more value onshore and sharing more value across our community.
3.2 A fair and just society
That’s because Labour believes in a fair and just society where all citizens live in dignity.
• Warm in their homes through a Labour power policy that stops profiteering on electricity;
• Secure because when the worst happens there’s a safety net to catch them and give them a hand up;
• Safe with a world class health system that promotes wellness.
• Secure with Super that means they won’t be living in poverty when they’re old.
A fair society means having a shot at the Kiwi dream, incluiding home ownership.
That’s a dream increasingly out of reach for a great many of our young men and woman beaten down by stagnant wages and skyrocketing house prices.
Labour will build 100,000 affordable homes over over ten years.
We will help first home buyers, not punish them with harsh lending rules.
And unlike National, we won’t let offshore speculators rort our housing market.
A just society gives a great start in life for all our kids..
Labour will extend Paid Parental Leave to 26 weeks.
We won’t tolerate child poverty.
We won’t let kids go to school hungry
We will scrap the National standards
There will be no charter schools.
Instead we will build on New Zealand’s first calss public education system, that is led by some of the best educators in the entire world.
3.3 An environment we protect
Like so many Kiwis, I love our natural environment.
Last weekend I tramped the Routeburn track with my son (until snow turned us back).
As a kid I fished for salmon and trout in Canterbury’s rivers.
I might not look like a pig hunter, but my dad was and as a kid I loved following him through the bush.
We need to protect our forests and rivers and mountains.
Labour will protect our environment.
We will reverse National’s gutting of the Resource Management Act.
We will rebuild our Conservation Department to protect our world-class conservation estate.
We won’t, for example, build a monorail through a world heritage park.
We are not opposed to responsible mining, but we won’t approve new mines on high value conservation land.
We will insist on best practice environment and cleanup standards before we approve any more deep sea oil drilling.
We recognise climate change is a fact, not a philosophy.
We will restore an effective emissions trading scheme. We will not walk away from our responsibities to the planet, its climate or future generations.
We want a high value, low carbon, renewable energy, smart, clean tech future.
3.4 A nation we can all be proud of
Will will give our children a nation to be proud of,.
Including a principled and independent foreign policy.
Labour calls for an informed debate about the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement,.
National says it cannot release the negotiating text – that is a cop out. We expect proper briefings to the public, just as Labour did in government with the China FTA.
While we recognise the potential trade benefits, until there is a full and open debate we are not prepared to sign over a blank cheque on our national sovereignty.
A Labour Government will never spy on our own citizens without a judge’s warrant.
That’s why we will repeal the GCSB Act and replace it with legislation that upholds Kiwis’ rights and freedoms..
We will honour the Treaty of Waitangi,and support the development of a vibrant post settlement Maori renaissance based on mutual respect and partnership.
We will invite New Zealanders to participate in a constitutional conversation to help us towards a mature, stable constitutional form.
We will celebrate our unique identity by supporting our vibrant arts and culture sectors; including a renewed commitment to public broadcasting as one of the most important guardians of our democracy.
Labour will help New Zealanders look to the future with confidence, in who we are, where we stand, where we are going.
4. Creating the future
Our mission is to Build a Future for All, including an economy that works for everyone, a fair and just society, an environment we protect, and a nation we can be proud of.
Our Party, alongside all New Zealanders, can deliver this vision together.
But first we must win the election in 2014. I know we can win; my colleagues in caucus know it. We need you to know it and believe in it too.
Let’s build on the momentum we have gained.
Here’s what we have to do, caucus and members and supporters, acting as one. We have to organize.
Last election, nearly a million New Zealanders didn’t vote and we didn’t inspire them enough to do so.
With one quarter of that missing million, National’s days in government are over.
Some of them are in Labour’s heartland. They’ve voted for us in the past. We need to persuade them that we will make a real, positive difference in their lives.
Many of the missing million are in the regions. We’re going to crisscross this country until every town knows we are on their side.
We must listen to young people, because everything we do is ultimately for them.
Each of you has the power to help us reach the missing million. They are your neighbours, your co-workers, your friends. Talk about our Labour vision.
Every phone call you make, every piece of mail you deliver, finds us more new supporters.
With our caucus , our members and our supporters working together we are unstoppable.
So together, we are on a mission to win the 2014 election. We are ambitious, not for ourselves, but to serve the people of New Zealand.
Together, we will build a future for the children in this country who live in poverty, who go to school with empty stomachs, whose parents can’t afford to take them to the doctor when they are ill, who contract Third-World diseases through overcrowding in sub-standard housing.
We will build a future for the young people who leave school directionless without support, guidance or prospects.
We will build a future with our young people who come out of university with huge loans, fight their way into poorly paid jobs., and who can’t afford to buy a home of their own.
We will build a future with our businesses and exporters held back by the inflexible Reserve Bank Act that sets inflation as its primary target while ignoring the devastating effects of a high exchange rate.
We will build a future with our scientists who, are forced to look overseas for meaningful work
We will build a future with our public servants – our wonderful policewomen and men, our teachers, our nurses and doctors – whose work and worth has been so undermined and demoralized by this destructive Government.
We will build a future with our artists, authors, musicians and performers – who help us to understand not only where we stand in the world, but to feel comfortable in our own skins – and proud of who we are.
Creative, diverse, compassionate, innovative, generous, determined people happy at home in Aotearoa but punching well above our weight on whatever world stage we appear.
Together, we will build a future for all New Zealanders, with an economy that works for all of us, a fair and just society, an environment we protect, and a nation we can all be proud of.
We are a Party on the march. We are a winning team.
We have an important job to do for all New Zealanders.
We must work. We must win. And we must serve.
I ask you now to join with me in becoming the Sixth Labour Government.