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Fairness, opportunity and security

Embargoed Until 1.45pm
Sunday, 7 November 1999

Labour
2000 web site


Rt Hon Helen Clark
Leader of the Opposition

"Fairness, Opportunity & Security: Our Families and Our Future With Labour"

Christchurch Campaign Rally


Canterbury Netball Centre
455 Hagley Avenue
Christchurch


1.45 pm
Sunday 7 November 1999

A week ago I launched Labour's election campaign at our wonderful rally in the Auckland Town Hall.

I said then, and I say again today, that this is not just an election campaign for Labour. What we have launched is a crusade: a crusade to reclaim our country

o from those who govern for the few not the many
o from those who have abused the trust the voters put in them
o from those with their noses in the public trough.

And so we are calling for the revival and renewal of our nation.

We will rebuild our country around the values the great majority of New Zealanders cherish.

Because, while National and Act have promoted selfishness, self-interest, and meanness, we New Zealanders overwhelmingly remain a generous and fair minded people.

While most of us are not poor, we hate to see the gaps that have opened up between our people.

We don't want to live in a society which operates without any recognisable moral centre.

We know, too, that our hard working families are under more pressure than they have been for many, many decades.

We watch our young people struggling with the costs of education - and we know it isn't fair.

We watch our older relatives, coping on sinking New Zealand Superannuation - and we know that isn't fair either.

We watch our family and friends who are sick, waiting and waiting and waiting for the hospital treatment which their life-times as taxpayers should have funded for them.

We know that New Zealanders are crying out for a government which will grab hold of these issues and say: we don't think it's fair either - and we are going to do something about it.

I come today to tell you that we are going to do something about it.

· That what matters most to Labour is rebuilding our country around the values of fairness, opportunity, and security.

· That we will abandon the free market purism of National and Act and get New Zealand back on track with decent policies to

o grow our businesses
o employ our people
o educate and train our young
o treat the sick
o look after the old, and
o take the pressures off our families.

And that's because we have a vision of a nation in the new century which is confident, bold, energetic, creative, and caring.

Which has the ability to provide a decent living for all.

Which doesn't block opportunity and deny security, but which goes out of its way to create them both.

That's the kind of nation I will be proud to lead and it's the kind of nation I will be proud to live in.

So what's to be done to rebuild our nation?

The task is huge, but I know Labour will make a difference.

For we will govern for the many not the few.

And that means always putting first New Zealand's ordinary families - as they bring up their children, our children, our future citizens, and as those parents move into retirement.

In this campaign we're focussing a lot on our children - because they are our future, and because they deserve the best possible start in life we can give them.

Every family knows the value of that free health care for under sixes. The free health care which National never wanted and Act is pledged to overturn.

You know, these Cabinet ministers who claim to know the needs of ordinary families have never known what it is like to borrow from the neighbour to pay for the taxi to take a child with bad asthma to the doctor.

But our families need the basic security of good child healthcare.

And for Labour that won't stop with free medical care for small children.

Because we know that the best health care is the preventive care which stops our children getting sick.

Under National that care is failing.

Too many of our children are falling through the cracks of the system.

They miss out on vaccination. And so the old, miserable diseases of childhood are back with a vengeance - like whooping cough and measles - diseases we should not see in this country.

Labour is determined to act for our children's health.

We will back to the hilt our Plunket and other community-based services to make sure that every New Zealand child enjoys the right to good health.

Rich, middle income, poor - Plunket has served us all. It is an icon of the New Zealand health system. It is a truly unique New Zealand movement. With Labour it will get the recognition and support it deserves to work for all our families.

In this campaign National is lecturing our families. It tells us we've never had it so good - that we should be grateful for the dollars which have trickled down from tax cuts.

But none of that rings true with New Zealand families.

Because we've all seen the other side of the tax cuts in the pressures on

· our schools
· our hospitals
· our students
· our old people
· our police and the other basic services we rely on.

And because of those pressures, our families are picking up the bills.

Those tax cuts don't go far

· when the school fees each year for a family can easily exceed $150
· when the school camp fees can be well over $100
· when more and more money has to be put aside for the school trips and the uniforms
· when everything seems to have gone up except the family's income.

But those school costs are just the beginning.

Because the nation's parents know that education for their children has to stretch far beyond school.

They know that in the new millennium those with higher education and training will work and those without it won't work much at all.

And so our families are prepared to make sacrifices where they can to help their children get ahead.

But the sacrifices have got ridiculous. The costs have got too great.

I met a young woman recently trying to get ahead. She has done three different technical courses, which, combined, give her a lot of skills.

But her student loan is $28,000 and she's trying to pay it back on her wage of little more than $7 an hour.

That's a tall order. National says the loan scheme is fair. But then just who are they in touch with these days?

We know the value New Zealand parents place on education. But we know too that there are limits to the costs that families can bear.

I say to you today that Labour is the party of education, has always been the party for education, and will always be the party for education.

Because we know that nothing makes a greater contribution to equality of opportunity than education, and because we know that our country's future depends in every way on our people being well educated and skilled.

That is why we pledge always to adjust our schools' funding every year by at least the movement in inflation.

That is why we pledge that the money National originally promised to bulk funding will be reallocated to all schools in a fair way so that all can benefit from that extra funding, not just a favoured few.

That is why we pledge to tackle student debt. With Labour our full time and other low income students won't pay any interest on their loans while they are studying - and the repayment terms will be better too.

And then there's our commitment to trade training.

What a massive step backwards it was for National to scrap the Apprenticeship Act in the early 1990s.

This country has been getting shorter of skilled tradespeople ever since.

Labour is going to arrest that decline.

We will bring hope to our families and our industries by bringing back apprenticeships and backing work-based training.

But then the hope which comes from restoring fairness, opportunity, and security for New Zealand families is what is driving Labour's crusade to change the direction of this country.

We know that something has to be done - and quickly - to keep our young people here.

They are disillusioned, and so many are leaving for bright prospects overseas.

On Friday night, Television New Zealand reported on my visit to Southland - a province which knows how tough it is to see its young people leave and its population decline.

One lady told the reporter that she feels like an orphan because her kids have gone.

If she's lucky, they might just have gone as far as Christchurch or Auckland.

And if she's unlucky they will be in Perth, Los Angeles, or London with no intention of coming back.

Years of ostrich like economic policy have left this economy leaderless.

National, with its head in the sand, says there is nothing we can do except ride the boom-bust cycle.

We disagree.

In the new millennium, the nations which succeed won't be the ones with "do nothing" governments.

No, the nations which succeed will have governments with vision, which are smart and active in pursuing their people's interests.

With Labour, New Zealand is going to have one of those governments working to grow our economy as one which offers challenging jobs and business opportunities and good returns.

Christchurch is well known for its developing clusters of high technology industries.

But so much more can be done to grow these clusters and the numbers of successful businesses and the numbers of jobs.

Our businesses are looking to Labour for better tax treatment for research and development and depreciation so that investment is encouraged. They will get that better treatment.

And we will support small and medium-sized business start-ups, expansions, exporting, and development of advanced products.

We will work in partnership with the private sector and community trusts to plug the gaps in access to capital.

And we will back our cities and regions developing sound economic growth strategies.

This is the new way, the Third Way, of the future - where smart, active, intelligent, passionate government replaces the hands-off indifference which has taken New Zealand backwards.

And that brings hope for our families too.

Because it means more opportunity for family businesses and for better paid and more challenging work.

Over time our goal must be much lower unemployment.

National tells us the best our country can ever do is an unemployment rate of around six per cent.

In fact, under National, unemployment has averaged 8.1 per cent.

Under Labour it averaged 5.3 per cent.

But that's not satisfactory either.

My vision is to build an economy which will do better than that.

We have a long way to go to build the infrastructure, the skills base, and the research and innovative capacity to achieve that.

But without vision the people perish, and I want New Zealanders to know that as your Prime Minister I won't regard unemployment staying in six figures as either desirable or inevitable and I will do everything in my power to bring it down.

I want to bring hope to our families in other ways too.

Because I am concerned that so many of our families are fearful of the insecurity which sickness and old age now bring.

Many middle income families have given up medical insurance because of the cost. Few have many savings or investments in superannuation schemes.

With the state of our health system and with no security about New Zealand Superannuation, those families are taking huge risks. They know that, but there is nothing they can do about it.

My vision is of a nation that doesn't leave its people one or two pay packets away from catastrophe.

I see our nation in the new century rebuilding the services we have all been proud to share.

I want us to rejoice in the quality of our health system and the speed at which it responds to our needs.

And I want us to take pride in the dignity in which our older people are living.

How often I have heard older people say wistfully: "I wish I lived in Australia. They look after their senior citizens".

And how often I have heard older New Zealanders say they believe this government finds them a burden and wishes they were dead.

This is wrong, and only Labour can change it.

With Labour our families will know that we are dedicated to restoring public faith and confidence in our public health services.

Here in Canterbury, you will elect your health board again - and it will be accountable again to you.

Your board will put you first as people. It will not be asked to make profits.

And we will work to establish maximum waiting times for treatment, so that families don't have to scrape around to pay for expensive treatment for close relatives in need. For so many families now, the pressure is on not just to pay their own immediate needs, but for the operation for a grandparent as well.

With Labour too there will be the security of a properly funded New Zealand Superannuation scheme. We will reverse National's cuts to superannuation and we will build up a surplus in the nation's superannuation account to cover the needs of the baby boomers in their retirement years.

All these measures - in education, in growing the economy, improving the health system, and restoring superannuation, are designed to build a strong, confident, and secure nation for our families.

We believe in a future together, not apart.

We will do everything in our power to build our economic strength and share the gains.

But we know that our quality of life can't just be measured in dollars and cents, and that the quality of our environment and the food we provide for the soul of our nation contribute to our well-being too.

And so, I commit Labour to the promotion of New Zealand's artistic, cultural, and natural heritage.

Because these are things which make us unique and define our identity as a nation.

In this new nation in the new century I want people to marvel at our talent, to see and hear our perspectives as a people reflected on stage and screen, and through music and the airwaves.

I want public television and radio of real quality which revels in telling our stories and reflecting our perspectives of the world.

And I want the world to be excited by this dynamic, energetic, and confident New Zealand which offers simply the best in design, in fashion, in software, in music, and throughout the visual and performing arts.

We can do it. I know we can.

And this new nation will value its heritage as much as it looks forward to its future.

The destruction at the National Library will stop, and we will begin rebuilding it as the holder of the leading collections it once was.

Of our natural environment, let me simply say this: for the short time each of us is privileged to be on this earth we are custodians of what we have inherited from those who went before.

In this country we are inspired by the magnificence of our forests and lakes and our rivers, mountains, and seashores. Let us build a future together which conserves them and doesn't destroy them.

In the 21st century a first world nation like ours will treasure its public indigenous forests for their intrinsic values and for the unique species which call them home. That is why I am passionate about the West Coast forests. But I am also passionate about a win-win solution which sees the Coast go ahead with a regional development package which is ecologically and economically sustainable.

There is a groundswell in New Zealand for change. We know that. We sense it.

And so do our opponents.

After nine years of meanness and misery, aren't you amazed at the money this dying government has found to splash around?

Act, too, knows that the people want change. It says it stands for change too. But it stands for the change people hate. The privatisation, the user pays, and more riches to the few. A National-Act majority government would be the most heartless and extreme this country has ever known. That's why it must not happen.

For two and a half years now, New Zealanders have said they want Labour to lead the change back to a fairer nation offering opportunity and security.

With your support, we will do that. But we need your votes.

Last election some of our supporters thought they had to use their party vote to find us a coalition partner.

That was a terrible mistake!

New Zealand First got the balance of power and put National back. And they would do it again.

This time, make sure your party vote counts for Labour.

Because only a party vote for Labour can change the government.

And only Labour can offer the leadership needed to take the country forward.

Over the last three years this country has gone backwards.

Parliament has been a shambles. Yet National and Act are once again praying for New Zealand First to rescue them from the public's anger. Don't let it happen.

The choice is clear. It's a party vote for Labour - or it's a return of the shambles.

It's Labour, or it's more and worse of the discredited parties of the political right.

That is why this isn't just any ordinary election campaign.

This is a crusade to reclaim our country for ordinary New Zealanders and their families.

We want our country back for us all.

We want to start the rebuilding.

We can't do it in a day or a month, but we can do it, and we will.

We won't over-promise. But we'll do our best to over-deliver.

Because this new nation facing a new millennium deserves better.

And I promise you all our commitment, our energy, and our experience in achieving that.

That is my personal promise to you and I intend to see it through.

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