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Auckland's future at stake - Prebble Speech

Auckland's future at stake

Thursday 2nd Sep 1999 Richard Prebble Speech -- Environment

Speech to public meeting Selwyn College 7.30 pm Thursday 2 September 1999

Hon Richard Prebble CBE Leader ACT New Zealand

Auckland's future at stake

Auckland faces two threats. First, Labour's proposals to unleash industrial civil strife and second, the complete lack of leadership on Auckland's growing transport crisis.

As the country's manufacturing centre, there is no place more at risk from industrial strikes and trade union militancy than Auckland.

We quickly forget. In 1990 the city of Auckland suffered more strikes than any other city in the OECD. In Auckland we used to get the lot - the garbage collectors' strike, the bus drivers, the wharfies, the power, the airlines. It seemed that every day some service was out on a strike, usually just when you needed it.

By law workers had to belong to trade unions and unions could and did strike for national awards. Unions used to strike over political issues, like the country's foreign policy.

Since the Employment Contracts Act has been in effect, Auckland has not suffered a general strike. Oh yes, Auckland used to have general strikes called by the CTU.

Last year Auckland had one of the lowest strike rates of any city in the world. Labour wants to change that and put trade union secretaries back into positions of great power again.

I know from my sources inside the trade union movement that Labour has given promises to the union movement that unions will, by law, be given monopoly powers and the power to disrupt our lives with industrial action.

I can prove it, even though Labour hasn't yet released its official industrial relations policy, and even though today on Morning Report, Labours industrial relations spokesperson Pete Hodgson said the policy will, when it's released, be short, with no details.

The reason we know how radical Labour's policy is, is because Margaret Wilson wrote it.

Just a word about Margaret's place in the scheme of things. Margaret Wilson has been given, in effect, the second position on Labours list - because all the other MPs near the top of the list except Michael Cullen are constituency MPs. So Margaret Wilson is in effect a frontbench leader of Labour and almost certainly the Labour choice to be Attorney General and Minister of Labour.

Margaret Wilson also drafted the CTU's Workplace Relations Bill.

Pete Hodgson has repeatedly admitted - and let me quote from an article he wrote in June this year for the NZ Journal of Industrial Relations - that "the Workplace Relations Bill, a document released by the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions last year, is a rough approximation of our policy".

Mr Hodgson on Morning Report this morning said that it was "fanciful" to say the CTU's and Labour's policies were the same - but then he said they were "similar", in the very same breath!

Labours policy brings back compulsory unionism and legalises strikes to achieve national collective agreements. Here's how.

First - only unions will be allowed to negotiate a collective award. By law trade unions will be given a monopoly power.

Second - workers can only get the terms and conditions in the award, if they join the union.

Helen Clark tells employers their workers can still negotiate individual contracts - but they won't be able to get as good a deal as the union unless they join the union. In effect, it will be illegal to offer terms as good as the terms union members get. Who is going to sign a contract like that? It's a Clayton's right - it's compulsory unionism by the back door.

But it gets worse.

Pete Hodgson tried to shout me down on radio to prevent me saying this bit - which is the killer. Labour proposes to legalise strikes to achieve multi-workplace agreements.

Dr Michael Cullen told a joint meeting he and I spoke at that: "No one has told me what's wrong with strikes to achieve a multi-workplace agreement".

Well let me tell Dr Cullen. Right now Ansett is being disrupted by pilots' strikes. The same union that represents Ansett pilots represents Air New Zealand. The union wants the same agreement for both airlines. Under Labour they will strike to get it.

Today only Ansett is affected, but with a multi-employer contract Air New Zealand would be out on strike too, paralysing the whole country.

Labour proposes to lift the restrictions on strikes by essential services like transport - so we will see the ferries and other transport operators going on wildcat strikes.

It was Keynes who said that you must read the footnotes. Here's what the footnotes to Labour's policy say.

Labour will force the thousands of workers who have gone out and become independent contractors, to be covered by union agreements. If you contract with just one company - like our truck drivers - you will be covered, whether you like it or not, by the union agreement.

Helen Clark is right. This is not going back to 1990 - when Auckland had more strikes than any major city in the world - it's worse.

Some unions can't wait until November. Last week the Northern Distribution Union a week ago organised a violent picket of Nutype Accessories in East Tamaki. On the picket line were trade union thugs masked by balaclavas

Also on the picket line was Labour list MP Mark Gosche, the ex secretary of the militant Service and Food Workers' Union. I challenged Mark Gosche in Parliament about being involved in a violent picket with masked union goons and he did not deny his involvement.

There are union heavies who are already telling workers who have left the union that they will be black listed.

Auckland will, if Labour is elected, be hit by a wave of industrial strikes such as we have never seen before. Companies won't stay, they will up stakes and cross the Tasman. No city is more at risk than Auckland.

I have not even mentioned the Alliance. Let me quote Laila Harre, Alliance MP and former member of Socialist Action, the Trotskyist militant faction. She says the CTU's Workplace Relations Bill "falls short of establishing the essential rights of collective bargaining". The Alliance thinks Labour's policy is too moderate!

The second policy is transport.

Auckland's traffic congestion is now amongst the world's worst.

The average speed of a car travelling south into the city over the five kilometres from Sunnynook to Esmonde Road at eight in the morning is ten kilometres an hour. That's slower than the horse and buggy.

We know why.

Back in 1965 the De Leuw Cather report predicted that Auckland by the year 2000 would have 650,000 cars and would need 175 kilometres of motorway - most of which were mapped out twenty years ago. Only 110 kilometres have been built - Auckland now needs 65 kilometres of motorway and a second harbour bridge.

What we have instead is local government that is opposed to motorways.

Labour Party president, CIA conspiracy theorist, and Waitakere City Major Bob Harvey says that he is "absolutely committed to no more motorways".

Auckland Major Christine Fletcher is opposed to the eastern motorway.

The rest of the country is petitioning Transit for funds. We, in Wellington, are fighting for the Transmission Gully motorway. Here, in Auckland, our leaders are prepared to let the city choke to death.

Road congestion, according to a study by Ernst and Young, costs Aucklanders $755 million a year. The real cost in quality of life is much higher.

Of course Auckland needs more public transport, but no study ever has said that even the most expensive public transport scheme will met more than 10% of transport needs.

Auckland, like the rest of New Zealand, needs more roads. At an annual road congestion bill of $755 million a year we can't afford not to build the roads.

Only ACT is prepared to defy the politically correct and campaign in favour of a significant increase in spending on the country's roads and Auckland, which has the worst pollution, will be a significant beneficiary.

Vote Labour, and Bob Harvey promises that Auckland will die from its own congestion.

So your future as a city is on the line.


For more information visit ACT online at or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at

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