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An Orchestrated Litany Of Whines

Cabinet Minister Pete Hodgson says the Business Roundtable and its political allies should stop depressing New Zealanders with their orchestrated whining about the country's future.

"Roger Kerr has been leading a chorus of moans about this country and now has the gall to fund an advertising campaign that complains about 'a generally negative feeling about New Zealand'," Mr Hodgson said.

"Many New Zealanders are appalled to discover that this campaign has been funded by precisely those people who have dedicated themselves for almost a year to creating negative feeling about this country's future.

"What makes this orchestrated whining even more destructive is the absence of any constructive ideas. All we hear from Mr Kerr is the same tired ideology he has been peddling for more than a decade.

"Promises of more privatisation and tax cuts did not win the last election for National and Act, nor did they have a positive effect on migration flows. In fact there was a higher net outflow of people from New Zealand last year than this year. (See attached letter to Mr Kerr)

"Fortunately Mr Kerr is not the 'voice of business' he pretends to be. There are plenty of people in business, including members of the Business Roundtable, who do not share his extreme views and his enthusiasm for advancing them through dodgy public relations campaigns.

"The Government has a productive dialogue with many such people in the business community, and will continue this at its summit with business leaders on October 24. Mr Kerr unfortunately believes the Government is not 'listening to business' unless it is following his orders."

Mr Hodgson said he was disappointed that Mr Kerr's latest publicity stunt had been abetted by some unprofessional journalism by the Holmes show, which failed to reveal the Roundtable's connection with it when it first featured the issue on Wednesday.

Attached: letter from Mr Hodgson to Roger Kerr.

6 October 2000

Roger Kerr
NZ Business Roundtable
PO Box 10 147

Dear Roger

I write to express my disappointment at the Business Roundtable's role in the advertisement "A Generation Lost?" published in The New Zealand Herald on October 5.

It has always been my understanding that the Roundtable sees itself as an open and direct contributor to public policy debate in New Zealand.

It disturbs me that you should resort to such furtive measures, funding an emotive and fact-free publicity stunt in lieu of a reasoned, researched and constructive contribution to public debate on migration.

It disturbs me even more that you would firstly choose not to have the Roundtable's involvement acknowledged in the advertisement, secondly deny (to the Dominion) that the Roundtable would contribute to the cost and thirdly admit (on Radio New Zealand's Kim Hill) that the Roundtable "made a donation up front … to cover the costs of the advertisements" but claim, somewhat incredibly that you did not know the size of that contribution.

That is not the conduct of an organisation that wishes to engage the Government in open, honest debate about serious matters of public policy.

If the Roundtable does wish to enter such a debate on migration, it would do well to balance its unscrupulous public relations activities with some basic facts.

In the year to August 2000 there was a net migration loss of 10,030 people, ten percent less than the previous year. New Zealand has had a net migration loss since 1998 and these recent flows have been driven by decreasing arrivals. Departures have been growing steadily since 1993-94, by about 9% a year, but there has been no sudden surge of late. Arrivals have been declining more sharply since the mid-90s, hence the net loss.

Nor has there been any remarkable increase in the number of young people leaving New Zealand, as your newspaper advertisement suggests. On average over the past 30 years New Zealand has lost a net 5300 people a year aged between 20-29. Many, if not most of these have departed on the traditional "OE", as you know. In the year to August the net outflow of 20-29 year-olds was 7021, an unremarkable deviation from the average. Higher net outflows occurred during the late 1970s, the late 1980s and last year.

I hope the Roundtable's next contribution on the issue of migration will be more constructive and better-informed than its last.

Yours sincerely

Hon Pete Hodgson
Associate Minister for Economic Development

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