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Stop piddling down our backs and telling us it’s raining

Stop piddling down our backs and telling us it’s raining

Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
3 July 2014

Federated Farmers National Conference
Thursday 3 July, 1.30pm

Events & Convention Centre, 354 Main St, Palmerston North

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today and to start with this acknowledgement.

We are an agricultural economy.

The pastoral sector that Federated Farmers represents can, both historically and presently, justifiably be called the backbone of the economy.

That is not a leap ‘back to the future’. It is a plain, hard fact.

For twenty one years, since our formation, New Zealand First has recognised and valued that contribution.

Some of you might remember as far back as 1984 and the advent of Rogernomics. Back then, there were many who were saying that agriculture was a ‘sunset industry’.

They were wrong then, but how few of them will admit it today?

It is vital that New Zealand strengthens its economic base to deliver long term prosperity for all New Zealanders.

Right now dairy and forestry accounts for 40 per cent of New Zealand’s annual export receipts – and of course we are now highly dependent on reliance on one market - China.

Relying on two products, and one customer, is not smart for your, or New Zealand’s future.

New Zealand’s international indebtedness is around a staggering $150 billion – one of the highest rates of indebtedness relative to GDP in the whole of the OECD.

This makes New Zealand a hostage to fortune in the event of a major external shock or disruption.

You all know we’ve enjoyed the best terms of trade for 40 years, but there are serious storm clouds on the horizon.

Two nights ago, the international dairy price decreased by almost five per cent.

This sort of price fluctuation and volatility is ominous.

It is an omen of further falls ahead.

Monetary Policy

For years, New Zealand First has called for the stabilisation of our overvalued currency.

Politically, until recently, we were a lone voice.

However, that message is as urgent now as it’s ever been in three decades.

Of late, the IMF and the OECD have been constantly warning of the overvalued New Zealand dollar.

The respected Peterson Institute in Washington has assessed the New Zealand dollar as the most overvalued exchange rate of the 34 that it monitors.

That overvalued dollar is costing you around 20 per cent of your returns.

Maybe you personally can afford it, but your members all around New Zealand can not.

For too long, monetary policy has been used as a club, a blunt instrument, to bludgeon the economy into submission.

But as you are no doubt well aware, the Budget was as silent on the overvalued dollar as it was on many other critical issues for New Zealand.

For some time, New Zealand First has been warning that the dollar would go to US90 cents.

Sadly, that warning was ignored, and right now, we’re not far from it.

If you’re sitting here, and don’t know why that’s bad for you and your membership, then you might ask yourself two questions.

First - Why am I sitting here?


Second - Who am I representing?

Instead of taking action, the apologists for New Zealand’s monetary policy decided the best course of action was inaction, collectively wringing their hands and muttering about being ‘concerned’.

Concerned, but not concerned enough to do a single thing about it.

It’s surreal, almost like being captured by some giant monetary force field, from which we cannot escape.

Of course, as former US President George HW Bush said, this is ‘voodoo economics’.

In contrast to the Government’s inertia on the dollar, New Zealand First had the legislation ready and waiting to broaden the Reserve Bank’s mandate in favour of balanced growth that will encourage exports and support both the agricultural and the manufacturing base.

And, twice in the past three years, in 2012 and 2013, our Bill to reform the Reserve Bank was beaten by just one vote.

One must confess to being rather bewildered at the lack of response by Federated Farmers to a critical measure that would have seriously assisted its membership and the country.

It is a matter of considerable irony that monetary policy designed to serve the financial markets, the banks and the money traders, goes uncriticised by those who are so damaged by its settings.

To speak with clarity, if the monetary policy of this country is designed to suit the banks and financial markets, then it follows, as night follows day, that it’s not designed to benefit or work for you or your membership.

There’s an interesting parallel here. On the left you have unions supporting political parties that sympathise with mass immigration, so destructive of the New Zealand worker, their pay and their conditions.

Across the political divide, you have those on the right, including this organisation, that supports monetary policy that’s so destructive of its membership, their incomes and their profitability.

Day after day on television, on the radio and in the papers, we witness this phenomenon – economists employed by the foreign banks telling the rest of us how good this monetary policy is for New Zealand.

These monetary policy commentators are not independent, they are not neutral – they are hired guns for foreign banks.

Which surely begs the question – why would we trust what they think or say, when they have such a massive conflict of interest?

Put simply, “stop piddling down our backs and telling us it’s raining”.

Some of you believe the Government’s line that we’ve had the cheapest interest rates in fifty years.

Money is an international commodity.

Overseas in the UK, Europe, USA, Japan and China, interest rates are way lower than ours.

So comparatively speaking, the claim “lowest interest rates in fifty years” is plain balderdash.

Or, to be agrarian, ‘bovine scatology’.

Foreign Ownership

The question of foreign ownership is fundamental to the future of the agricultural sector and all exporters.

How many of your children or grandchildren of the membership of Federated Farmers have the wherewithal to compete financially when our land is now an international commodity.

New Zealand First has repeatedly sounded the alarm on foreign ownership of New Zealand land, housing, and other assets.

We see large purchases of dairy farms by numerous foreign interests, and the 16 Crafar farms is the tip of a great iceberg.

There is far more foreign ownership of rural land than people appreciate - or some wish to acknowledge.

National’s agenda is clear. They are cavalier on the selling of our land, property and businesses into foreign ownership.

They have done nothing to stop it.

China does not allow it to happen. Nor does Japan. Even a little country like the Cook Islands is against it.

But New Zealand – it’s a free for all.

Moreover, the Government deliberately doesn’t want the facts.

It refuses to maintain any official data that might reveal the true extent of the foreign takeover of New Zealand land and homes.

National continues to pretend that the Overseas Investment Office (OIO) is a watchdog.

It is not.

The fact is that the OIO is just a rubber stamp.

Under National, turning a blind eye means the loss of our land to foreign ownership can only get worse.

And whilst we are at it - how does your membership in Kaitaia or Invercargill feel about paying high interest rates because of the unaddressed housing bubble in Auckland?

New Zealand First stands for a robust policy to protect our national interests and halt the losses. Because let us be clear. There is a difference between foreign investment and foreign ownership.

Much foreign ownership is bogus – nothing new is created – it is just existing assets changing hands and profits flowing out of our economy.

Agriculture is an important employment sector.

New Zealand First would not support any relaxation of current rules to make it easier for migrant workers to displace Kiwis looking for work.

Our position is clear –New Zealand jobs must go to New Zealanders, first.

Around 138,000 temporary migrant work visas are granted every year - many to migrants working on farms while at the same time nearly 150,000 New Zealanders languish on unemployment benefits.

Now, to those who say ‘show us the New Zealanders who will turn up on our farm and do the work’, let’s ask two questions:

Which country’s population works the second longest hours in the whole of the OECD?

Answer: New Zealand.

Which country’s people are the highest income earners of all immigrants to Australia?

Answer: New Zealand.

There’s nothing wrong with the Kiwi work ethic – just ask the Australian or British employer.

New Zealand First understands the tax relief policies that you need to employ New Zealanders on your farms and receiving first world wages.

But we’re not going to compromise and allow immigration to be a source of cheap labour and drive down our standards of living.

The pastoral sector faces great challenges.

They are commercial – in relation to market access – international competition and commodity prices.

They include grossly overpriced power costs, communications costs, and artificially inflated fuel costs.

All of which a sensitive government could assist you on, but for blind ideological reasons, will not.

And they also include the impact of climate change and environmental degradation.

Climate Change

No consideration of the future can ignore the issue of climate change.

Climate change as a result of increasing greenhouse gases is a major global challenge.

But, the recent Budget pretended otherwise.

Let’s face it. Even if you are a climate change denier, the international market will determine what we do and doing nothing, or too little, is not therefore an option.

New Zealand First’s approach to this issue is based on science, common sense, and a practical way forward.

Our stand last election has been vindicated. In 2011, we were the only political party that said that the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was nonsense.

We were the party that said that the ETS had become a racket to be used by speculators.

We were the party that said that the ETS was doing nothing to arrest greenhouse gases or climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is nothing as antiseptic as the saying “I told you so”, but we did.

There is no evidence that the ETS has delivered significant emissions reductions and there is no sign it is encouraging industry transition.

In addition, it is counter-productive to pay polluting companies large, taxpayer subsidies with no requirement on them to reduce emissions.

What will make a difference is New Zealand First’s Climate Change Policy.

We support the establishment of a formal planning process for each major sector to develop strategies, plans, research programmes and targets to achieve fossil carbon reduction, relevant to New Zealand.


The UK already does this under the 2008 UK Climate Change Act.

So each major sector such as agriculture, forestry, and transport will have a plan for decarbonising.

It would involve consultation and debate between government and the business community, universities and other sectors to ensure that the process will be independent and non-partisan.

But at the end of this process, we will have a credible plan of action for each sector.

Of course there will be transition costs, and where there are, they will be shared on a fair basis across society and the economy as a whole – and not just fall directly on the industry or sector concerned.

We’ll announce the specifics of our policy in coming weeks. Suffice to say, our plan is practical, fair, and will make the progress we urgently need to play our country’s part on this critical issue and at the same time, maintain our international markets.

Conclusion

Your membership faces many challenges. The current record terms of trade that you have enjoyed are already changing.

We consider that meeting those challenges outlined today will require an open minded and objective approach.

What it does not need is deeply entrenched ideology.

New Zealand First will always put the national interest first. In doing so, we will preserve your interests first.

Since 1882, this country, economically speaking, has had to export or die.

Our party, New Zealand First, most certainly understands that.

Thanks for the invitation to speak here for the first time in a long career. Unusual that, isn’t it?

But we understand your dilemma.

The party you’re supporting can’t make it this election, no matter what coat-tailing contortions it goes through.

So, we seriously appreciate the opportunity of sharing our view of the future with you.

We trust that you will share this view with your wider membership.

ENDS

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