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The Pacific - Our Own Backyard

Media Release – Embargoed Against Delivery (10.50am)

Rt Honourable Winston Peters address to Inaugural Pacific Economic Transformation Conference at Langham Hotel Auckland, 10.50am, 23rd October, 2008

The Pacific - Our Own Backyard

Thank you for the invitation to speak to you today.

The Pacific community adds much colour and vibrancy to the New Zealand way of life.

There has always been a close affinity between New Zealand First and the Pacific community.

We think it flows from the fact that we share a love of families, we care for our seniors, and we want the best for our children.

New Zealand First takes the interests of your community seriously.

We have the highest ranked Pacific Island candidate, among the main parties, in Asenati Lole–Taylor.

And we look forward to her to coming to Wellington and bringing a strong Pacific voice to parliament.

You and your people are descendants of the best navigators in the world, and your ancestors did not leave their Pacific homeland to come to New Zealand to be dependent on the welfare system.

They came to work.

And unlike the National party, it is New Zealand First’s belief that Pacific people have the skills and experience to become successful immigrants and that you can contribute positively to the economy of New Zealand.

And we want to protect your jobs.

You see when it comes to immigration – National’s racist undertones are clear, while Labour puts their heads in the sand trying to ignore trends that every first world country including the UK and now Australia are preparing for.

Both those countries have Labour governments but they realise that looming unemployment means that you have to protect and save those already employed in their country.

The present headlines about New Zealanders leaving for Australia are ignoring the obvious.

First, that they are a commentary on our recent economic performance over the last two decades where Australia’s growth (GDP) was 35% greater than New Zealand’s following the economic experimentation of people like Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.

Second, that Australia sought to be a high wage economy which we have not.

Third, that Australia’s announcement two days ago will mean a slowdown in departures from New Zealand.

Fourth that many leaving for Australia are recent arrivals in New Zealand, a group which the Department of Labour has refused to examine because the conclusions would be obvious – that time in New Zealand is a passport to Australia.

Seriously – can you believe Lockwood Smith?

Let me ask this audience how insulted do you feel when a senior National party MP says that Pacific peoples don’t know how to shower or use the bathroom.

That is the ultimate insult and these politicians want to be the government.

New Zealand First says once you are here we must look after you, your family and your job.

But our credentials go much further than this.

Over the next eight years New Zealand will spend more than $2 billion in development assistance to the Pacific region.

I made sure this would happen as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Indeed, when Condoleezza Rice came to New Zealand, I prevailed upon her to also visit the Pacific and meet its leaders so she could learn first hand the plight of the area.

No other Foreign Minister has achieved that.

You might ask: why does New Zealand First focus so much on the Pacific?

One reason is simple economics.

We have a direct interest in the Pacific being more prosperous than it is today, because it will lead to our own greater prosperity and help ensure New Zealanders and New Zealand's safety and security.

Another reason is that to stand by idly while our neighbours decline runs counter to New Zealand First values.

As Minister I launched the New Zealand Pacific Development Strategy which sets the future shape and direction for our country's assistance to the region.

There are four pillars to the strategy.

The first is strengthening governance, the second is achieving broader-based growth and improved lives while the third is improving health and education.

The final pillar is about helping the communities of the Pacific become more resilient to change, and better able to manage resources and conflict.

Good governance alone won’t lift people out of poverty.

That depends directly on increasing economic growth and strengthening trade. No country in the world has achieved one without the other.

Many Pacific nations see renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and even wave and tidal energy generation as the way of the future, and they are eager to embrace it.

However they freely admit that as small island economies, they lack the expertise to assess the best options, the cost, and the true value of such technology.

Dr Rice heard those concerns, and offered to raise them with the US Department of Energy, with a view to the United States providing some expert advice.

It is that sort of response that made the meeting in Samoa so valuable, and showed that despite the vast distances of the wider Pacific, the region is truly one family, committed to working together on common development challenges.

We raise this because New Zealand First has a track record of delivery to the Pacific community in New Zealand and through out the region.

You understand more than most the need to improve the business-enabling environment in the Pacific.

This requires the investment environment to be more secure, the promotion of fair competition and the ability of firms to hire the people they need.

The Pacific nations need to be empowered to gain the full return from the natural resources they enjoy.

There are bars of gold swimming in the waters of the Pacific and it is time Pacific nations got the full benefits of this critical resource.

This audience also has a role to play.

Access to export markets is the critical element of any nation’s economic success and forums such as this must help open doors within New Zealand and beyond.

Governments must play their role, but the business community provides the networking, experience and practical knowledge that it takes to succeed.

The New Zealand and Pacific communities are interlinked in so many ways.

New Zealand First understands this.

That is why we pushed for New Zealand superannuation being transferable to the Pacific Islands.

That is why we made the Pacific region the focus of our foreign policy.

That is why we have placed a Pacific candidate in this election so high on our list.

That is why we want to protect the jobs of the Pacific community already here in New Zealand.

That is why we lifted wages, looked after our seniors, introduced free healthcare for under sixes and will do so much more in the future.

We need the Pacific community to succeed so the Pacific region can succeed. It is after all our neighbourhood and succeed we will.

That is our promise to you if you give your support to New Zealand First.


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