“The Grapes of Wrath – America Votes – What It Means”
Rt Hon Winston Peters
New Zealand First Leader
Member of Parliament for Northland
3 NOVEMBER 2016
Thursday, 3rd November, 12pm
“The Grapes of Wrath – America Votes – What It Means”
When Chambers of Commerce were first established they were organisations to facilitate trade and you are concerned about events abroad.
In barely six days there is going to be a truly historic election in the United States. Against the predictions of nearly all of the experts the outcome is going to be determined by the following factors:
1. The winner will be the beneficiary of the critical timing of events
2. An undercurrent bubbling away in the United States for some time, and largely ignored
3. The level of rejection of the establishment that ordinary Americans perceive no longer has their interests at heart
Most of the commentary that you will hitherto have been the victims of is the result of the degree of personal anathema that the commentariate have towards various political personalities.
Rather than choosing to understand what is driving the American voters the commentariate have primarily focused on the political leadership. Their personal views have been preferred to hard core analysis of those who will have the real power on Tuesday in America.
That is not surprising because what is happening in America has been happening in other Western countries and it seems the lessons have just not sunk in.
People Will Be Heard
The result of the Brexit referendum in the UK was the political equivalent of a magnitude 8 earthquake.
The referendum outcome was a seismic event for democratic politics not just in Britain and Europe but elsewhere in the world.
Something very profound had happened.
The British public sent a clear and unmistakable message to the two major parties; the Conservatives and Labour.
‘We have had enough.’
‘We Will be Heard’
And in the UK the three words that the two major parties were unable to say were:
We hear you!
In describing what happened in the UK, words such as “mutiny” – “rebellion” – “uprising” come to mind.
What was behind the Brexit vote was a world of disenchantment, disgruntlement and a sense of disconnectedness experienced by a large swathe of the British people.
And what happened in the UK has parallels elsewhere.
For example, in Australian politics.
In the recent Australian early election called by Prime Minister Turnbull the governing party came near to losing the Lower House, and 14 seats were lost by the governing coalition.
In the Australian Upper House 35% of the seats ended up in the hands of neither the Liberal nor Labour Parties.
In the USA the mood for change has been obvious in both the Republican and Democratic parties.
Donald Trump, against nearly all predictions, displaced rival establishment candidates to secure the Republican nomination.
In the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders ran what is widely seen as an insurrection against the party favourite – Hillary Clinton.
In the British referendum and the Australian election, a number of issues were in play, including growing inequality and the loss of democracy, but one issue was central.
Immigration. Trump’s rise also reflects that.
Now in the USA the unfortunate timing of the Obama Care premium increases is having a profound effect at a time when the establishment party has no time to react to it – or their reaction to it just reinforces what a clear and present danger it is to the American voter.
The FBI’s re-opening, in the last week, its investigation into the “Clinton organisation e-mails” together with further Wikileaks revelations is also a matter of cataclysmic timing. The target can do nothing about it whilst any revelation in the next few days will only heighten conjecture and pointed guilt.
What the outcome means for both trade and foreign policy for NZ will be subject to much speculation. Suffice to say that if the wise couldn’t see what was happening leading up to this event then they will probably have little idea what is going to happen after it.
In short, there is going to be a correction in the policies favouring globalism as well as sobering news for those who regard it as inevitable.
In case you hadn’t noticed globalism is a Western phenomenon, not shared by the Asians in the same way, or for that matter the Eastern Europeans, or large sections of Latin America.
Many populations around the developed world, are concerned that their economies don’t in significant measure seem to serve them anymore. They are alarmed at the growing concentration of wealth in fewer hands and the growing gap between the haves and the have nots. These sentiments politicians ignore at their peril.
For example, in the UK both the major parties – the Conservatives and Labour have long had a hidden and undeclared pact,
That pact was an agreement to ignore public opinion on immigration.
You do not have to be a genius to see the parallels to New Zealand.
National, Labour, and every political party in NZ’s Parliament, but one, have played the same game here.
They have refused to accept that New Zealanders are deeply concerned with the level of immigration and its consequences.
There is arrogance behind this – a presumption that the views of the general public are of no consequence and irrelevant on the issue of immigration.
The public are being talked down to and being told they should just be quiet, polite and deferential.
They are being fed a line that immigration is only to be talked about by the “grown-ups” in a closed room that the public are not allowed into.
And the New Zealand mainstream media has played a big part by aiding and abetting the code of silence on immigration.
The truth of the matter is that the consequences of massive immigration fall on ordinary Kiwis and their families in their everyday lives.
Just to put the problem into perspective, New Zealand’s immigration is almost four times greater than Britain’s immigration intake per head of population.
In New Zealand we now have over 125,000 arriving annually and over 69,000 net staying.
That’s a city the size of New Plymouth every year.
Of course, among the migration flows there is a portion who are Kiwis returning home but the great majority are new migrants being given the right to permanent residence.
The consequences of this reckless and irresponsible flood of migrants are as plain as daylight to the public:
• Stagnant wages and job insecurity as cheap labour floods in
• A chronic housing shortage that is locking a generation out of home ownership
• Overcrowded schools
• Extended waiting time to even get on a hospital waiting list for vital treatment and surgery
• Overloaded infrastructure and congestion
These are not imaginary concerns – they are real!
With immigration running at record levels there is a massive impact and it is dishonest to suggest otherwise.
But only one party in New Zealand has had the guts to talk about the real issues:
New Zealand First!
Other parties have treated talking about immigration as taboo.
Because, if you discuss and debate immigration you will be branded as racist - xenophobic – ignorant – bigoted.
This censorship must stop! If you talk about immigration you are actually someone who gives a damn about your country.
You are someone who cares about what sort of country we are building and what sort of a country our children and grandchildren will inherit.
That used to be called patriotism before the word was treated as politically incorrect by the “thought police” who see themselves as gatekeepers of what can and cannot be said.
The word patriotism was banished because it runs counter to the globalisation agenda.
Well, at the risk of being branded unfashionable and untrendy, NZ First is proud to be patriotic.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to see rigorous control over who is given the privilege of gaining New Zealand citizenship.
It is highly sensible and rational to tightly control the numbers who gain entry to our country – as most other countries do!
This is just common sense – or used to be before political correctness deemed that having a rigorous immigration policy was a crime against globalisation.
The government has treated the New Zealand public with utter contempt on this issue. At no time has it sought to give a cogent and plausible explanation of its policy of flooding the country with new migrants.
What the government does do is resort to red herrings like saying: “Well, New Zealand is a nation of immigrants.”
Yes it is true that most countries have some immigration – but unlike New Zealand the level is set on a rational basis such as meeting critical skill shortages.
The magnitude of what is happening in New Zealand given our population size is breath taking.
Also, notice that while the government is constantly asserting how beneficial immigration is they produce not a shred of evidence to back this up.
With good reason – there is none!
The last thing the government wants is for the true costs that immigration imposes to be revealed.
For the one fact that none of the pro-immigration devotees will admit is that while immigration is driving up our GDP growth, GDP per capita is falling.
But let me be clear.
NZ First has no issue with people – it’s the policy that is wrong.
We do not blame people for wanting to come to New Zealand.
We understand why people want to improve their lives.
But we say the wealth, housing, jobs, health care and education of New Zealanders comes first.
History provides many examples of what happens when people are not heard. Sooner or later they will be - one way or another.
The French Revolution is perhaps the most famous example of the extreme scenario - when people erupt in frustration.
In that event it was the refusal of a governing elite to acknowledge the plight of the population and act in the interests of the people that culminated in a popular arising.
History has many warnings so we cannot be complacent.
Uncertain Guidance from the US Federal Reserve
The message from Jackson Hole on the 26th of August was far from reassuring.
In her speech to the high priests of the central banking world in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Janet Yellen – Chair of the Federal Reserve said:
“In light of the continued solid performance of the labour market and our outlook for economic activity and inflation, I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months.”
The Fed chairman also said that future rate increases would be “gradual” and “data dependent.”
That is as clear as mud!
But then central bankers have made an art form of ambiguity.
So the Fed may or may not start raising interest rates.
Meanwhile, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England and the Bank of Japan are still in interest rate cutting mode. (The UK, Australia and NZ all cut official rates in August and NZ will likely do so again.)
In NZ media and commentators continue to feed out the government line, ad nauseam, and that of the big foreign banks, that all is well. Independent views are rarely aired.
Conventional wisdom – foreign owned of course
This week on Morning Report, Radio NZ carried its latest sycophantic, toadyish obeisance to yet another agent for a foreign-owned bank renowned for screwing NZ bank customers and businesses.
This is of course meant to be independent comment, as though a chief economist for a foreign-owned bank is independent.
Mr Tuffley said NZ has the strongest growth of developed countries at 3.5 per cent and it will continue. (That is, of course, bull dust when our growth is based on immigration.)
He said: If Trump gets in there could be trade friction, especially with China, and that will hit Australia and NZ. (That’s drivel as well, it won’t be China we will have to worry about but the US.)
He said: NZ has a rosy outlook over all. (Again, rose-tinted nonsense.)
He said: There’s lots of people flooding in and income per capita is growing. (Well, he got that half right.)
He said: There’s growth in tourism and construction. (Well, one is production and the other is consumption.)
He said: Dairy is the only area suffering, but even then there will be price increases. (Clearly this man wouldn’t know one end of the cow from the other.)
September 2016 marked the eight-year anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers – the event that heralded the GFC. That event unleashed the era of quantitative easing by the major central banks.
So what have eight years of historically low – and now negative - interest rates – achieved?
Globally we see:
• Inequality has risen dramatically
• Economic growth is sluggish
• Productivity growth has stalled
• Incomes for most people are stagnant
• Savers are suffering
• Speculation has fed asset bubbles
These trends are evident in NZ as well. What is obvious is that inflation targeted monetary policy is played out – it has had its day. Central banks are out of ammo.
Implications for New Zealand
It is no exaggeration to say that the world economy is in an era of extreme risk.
The world is awash with debt and interest rates are at unprecedentedly low levels. (Globally around a third of all sovereign debt is now at negative yield.)
We have never been here before. The phrase “unchartered waters” is a gross understatement.
NZ First says that, given the international outlook, the government has a responsibility to recognize the state of the global economy and take the high level of risk into account in framing policy.
That means treading warily and taking steps to reduce, not increase, NZ’s vulnerability to an external shock by:
• Updating the obsolete Reserve Bank Act to take account of current realities and economic imperatives rather than using a sole anti-inflationary tool now totally out of date.
• Stopping “cooking the economic books” to create the illusion of growth. The NZ economy is not booming. Using an open door immigration policy to artificially boost growth is totally irresponsible.
• Putting the brakes on record immigration that is fuelling the housing bubble, in Auckland and now elsewhere.
• Making New Zealand’s national interest the priority instead of favouring massively profitable Australian banks and other international corporates.
• Not deferring taxation steps against international conglomerates operating in NZ and putting on hold urgent action of the type exposed by the Panama Papers.
We are in the centre of NZ’s famous wine-growing country. On Tuesday in America we are going to witness the Grapes of Wrath.
That’s what happens when the views of the general public are ignored – dismissed and brushed aside on fundamental issues - the scene is set for deep fault lines to emerge in a society between the people and those who govern them.
Brexit, Australia, Western Europe and now the USA all image those divisions.
In New Zealand we are fortunate we live in a stable modern democracy.
That means the public will be heard.
Next year New Zealanders will have their say - in the election.
New Zealand First is a party of moderation and inclusion.
We have never stopped listening to the New Zealand public; their concerns, their hopes and their aspirations.
So we are confident that our policies –set out here today, and on others vital to our country – reflect the view of the public.
And New Zealand First looks forward to delivering on those policies to build a secure and prosperous future that serves the best interests of all New Zealanders.