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Green Party Co-leader James Shaw's 2016 Budget Speech


26 May 2016

Green Party Co-leader James Shaw's 2016 Budget Speech: Time to change the Government

E te Māngai o te Whare, tēnā koe.

Mr Speaker, greetings to you.

Ki a koutou, huri noa i te Whare, ngā mihi o te wā ki a koutou katoa.

To all of you across the House, greetings.

Mr Speaker, when New Zealanders needed homes, the Government has given us toilets.

The extent of this Government’s vision for New Zealand is a few more toilets for tourists, and presumably the rising numbers of Kiwi families who are living in cars.

Budget 2016 has shown, yet again, that in response to the great challenges facing our nation, all this Government is willing to do is plaster over the cracks when it could’ve been building houses.

For eight years now, we’ve had a Government that has put together its budgets on the basis of what will do well in the polls, rather than what will fix the problems we face.

This eighth (and, with any luck, second-to-last) budget shows just how much this Government’s first and only true commitment, is to stay in power; their only vision for New Zealand is that it remains governed by the National Party.

Mr Speaker, today the Government could have used its considerable powers to start solving the big challenges facing New Zealand. To leave a legacy, not just a length of tenure.

But it has chosen not to.

This Government does as little as possible, instead of all it can.

Budget 2016, as with every other for the last eight years, tries to make the Government look as if it is changing things for the better, when all it is doing is preserving the status quo.

This Government is the political equivalent of Milli Vanilli, lip-synching when they should be leading.

This Budget does not solve the housing crisis. It pretends to.

It does not create the clean, sustainable jobs that New Zealand needs, the ones that pay enough for families to thrive. It pretends to.

It doesn’t protect our rivers, or our wildlife. But it pretends to.

So what will be John Key’s legacy?

What will be remembered of this National Government, and how it used the enormous powers New Zealanders gave it to create lasting and meaningful change?

What have other prime ministers left us?

Michael Joseph Savage was the architect of the welfare state.

Peter Fraser created a world renowned education system.

Keith Holyoake abolished capital punishment, not because it was a popular move at the time (it certainly wasn’t), but because it was the right thing to do.

David Lange. Nuclear Free New Zealand.

Helen Clark left us KiwiSaver, Working for Families, and the Superfund.

And John Key’s Government? It’ll be remembered for nothing but this:

• Record numbers of homeless people;

• Children suffering from Third World diseases because of the condition of their homes;

• The biggest decline in home ownership ever;

• Two-thirds of our rivers so polluted they’re not safe to swim in;

• The highest ever rate of greenhouse gas emissions;

• Native wildlife inching closer to extinction; and the conservation estate crumbling.

After eight years and eight budgets, National has squandered the opportunities to create a meaningful legacy, one that leaves New Zealand in a better shape than when it inherited it.

National has chosen to do as little as possible, rather than all that we can.

Mr Speaker, the Green Party had three big hopes for Budget 2016.

First, that it would fix New Zealand’s housing crisis, give first-home buyers a look in, and get homeless families out of cars and into homes.

Second, that it would herald the start of the transition to a low-carbon economy with jobs that pay enough for families to thrive.

And finally, that it would save our endangered wildlife, clean up our rivers, and cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

Let me take a look at how Budget 2016 stacks up against these three major concerns, these three transformational shifts the country needs to undertake.

Housing

Mr Speaker, on our first measure, that this Budget would fix New Zealand’s Housing crisis, this Budget is a fail.

I can’t see a single new state house in this Budget, or any meaningful steps to help young families into their first home.

There is not one new initiative to make homes for affordable for those who don’t already own one. Or two. Or 11.

And when more homes need insulating, to keep kids healthy and safe, Budget 2016 has the smallest allocation for home insulation in years.

The other day the Minister for Social Housing, Paula Bennett, said that there was a housing crisis “for some people”. Well, she’s right.

It’s a crisis for people who don’t already own their first home. It’s a crisis for people who aren’t millionaires. It’s a crisis for people who aren’t the children of millionaires.

It’s a crisis for the Governors of the Reserve Bank, who point to our present housing bubble as the single greatest risk facing the economy today.

And it’s a crisis for those families who are living in cars and garages.

Mr Speaker, over the last few weeks I’ve been as affected as anyone by the daily stories of families, many with parents working minimum wage jobs, who aren’t just locked out of the housing market, they’re locked out of a house.

Families like mother of three Rhiannon, who joined us last week at the launch of the Green Party’s policy to free Housing New Zealand to respond to the emergency in front of us.

Ms Bennett says that the homeless have always been with us.

Well, that may be true. But only once before in our history have so many New Zealand families been forced onto the street.

It was during the Great Depression.

And you know what happened next?

New Zealand elected the First Labour Government, and a Prime Minister, Michael Joseph Savage, who built thousands and thousands of state houses — a heroic effort to make sure every New Zealander had a roof over their heads.

They made no excuses about how the homeless had always been with us. They weren’t interested in plastering over the cracks to make it look like they were addressing the problem whilst at the same time doing everything they could do appease the property investors’ lobbyists.

They actually wanted to solve the problem. That was their vision. That was their commitment.

Not just a commitment to staying in Government for its own sake, but in using Government to transform the country for the better.

But this Government won’t.

And that means, that while one set of Kiwis is growing wealthier at a staggering pace, the homeless families that are the victims of this crisis are now in debt to the government.

More than any, Maori suffer disproportionately from the failure to fix the housing crisis, breaking our constitutional obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

National pretends there is nothing we can do other than build more houses on the farmland on the edges of Auckland. But there are much more effective decisions it could take.

National could have taken the simple step of restricting foreign buyers from speculating in our small market and pushing up house prices.

National could have started addressing the supply-side of our housing crisis by simply building more houses — affordable, energy efficient homes.

Want to fix our broken housing market? We need to change the government.

It’s time to put families first, and ensure every New Zealander has a warm safe home to call their own. As Mickey Savage knew, the Government has the power and the money to ensure every New Zealander lives in a warm, safe, dry home — National just lacks the will.


Low carbon economy

Mr Speaker, on the second measure, that Budget 2016 would hail the start of a transition to a low-carbon economy, this Budget contains one first baby step forward and several, very large steps backwards.

Budget 2016 mentions “climate change” just once. To be fair, that’s once more than in any of the previous seven budgets they’ve presented.

A long awaited investment in Research & Development is a win for those who, like the Greens, have been pointing to New Zealand’s underinvestment in innovation as a real barrier to our ability to make the transition.

The end of the two-for-one Emissions Trading Scheme subsidy is long overdue, having in part, contributed to the 19 percent increase in New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions over the lifetime of this Government.

On the downside, they’re actually reducing the amount that they’re spending on climate research — at precisely the time when it’s most needed.

The National Government doesn’t get climate change.

Climate change is greatest threat to our long term prosperity and collective security and National don’t even want to talk about it, let alone start fighting it.

National Ministers are behaving like charlatans when it comes to climate action.

In December they signed the Climate Agreement in Paris, then immediately started undermining the pledges they made on our behalf.

What have they done since signing up to the Paris Agreement?

They’ve committed to keeping the Huntley coal burning power plant open, spewing millions of tonnes of greenhouse emissions into the air.

They’ve invited more oil companies to prospect in our seas, reopening the block offer.

There are a grand total of 1,216 electric cars on our roads and nothing that Simon Bridges has announced will make the transition to electric any faster.

Eight years on, and not a single Crown Car is electric even though the fleet has been replaced twice.

And they’ve repeatedly refused to include our most polluting sectors in the Emissions Trading Scheme.

No wonder that under National New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions last year were the highest ever, on record.

Looking across the House today, and I can’t see a single person on the right that is strong enough to break the mindset of a Cabinet dead set on protecting vested interests over the national interest.

If New Zealanders want a clean economy, they’ll need to change the government.

In September last year, I laid out a plan for the New Zealand economy that would deliver emission cuts needed to do our fair share and keep temperature rises below 2C.

If National is not prepared to demand change from polluting industries, and start working for everyone, then National is a threat to our future.

New Zealand’s got the resources and the clean energy expertise to become the world’s most sustainable country. It’s time to make it happen.

Protecting nature

The third hope we had for Budget 2016 was that it would protect New Zealand’s natural heritage.

As the DOC estate crumbles and our wildlife inches closer to extinction, National today cut operational funding to DOC by a further 6 percent.

National’s spending on conservation has been on average $56 million less per year than the last Labour Government’s.

That’s $336m that DOC has missed out on since John Key moved into the Beehive.

The Budget does contain a new $100 million fund to help clean up our rivers. Assuming this isn’t another slight of hand illusion like the $25/week benefit increase last year, we obviously welcome it.

The Green Party have been campaigning for years and years to pay attention to the polluted state that our rivers have been falling into. This allocation is a real win for the thousands of New Zealanders who have campaigned alongside us.

We have the know-how and resources to clean up our rivers, reduce climate pollution and protect the living things that we all love. So we say let’s make it happen.

Summary

What this budget shows is that John Key and his ministers have no interest in leaving a transformational legacy for New Zealand.

And that’s denying us all the opportunity to have a better country.

Today, we can rightly ask where is the equivalent of a Kiwibank in Budget 2016?

Where is the vision and compassion like that showed by Mickey Savage when he kicked off the great state house build?

Where is the bravery like that shown by David Lange when he stood up to the super powers and said no to nuclear ships?

Where is the moral authority that led Holyoake to abolish the death penalty?

The sad truth is, National has no vision for a legacy beyond a fourth term in government.

We need more than a few new toilet blocks and more plaster for the cracks that are becoming so painfully obvious.

National’s legacy will be more poisoned rivers, more extinct wildlife, and a nation divided into those who own a home, and those left further behind.

National has chosen to do as little as possible, rather than all we can.

We have a vision for a cleaner, fairer, and stronger economy. This National Government doesn’t. It’s time to change the government.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

In conclusion, greetings to all of us.


ends

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