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David Cunliffe Speech: Leading Labour in the Waikato

Leading Labour in the Waikato

Speech to Waikato Labour members

5 September 2013


Ngā Mana Whenua: Nga iwi Tainui waka; tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

It’s great to be here in the Waikato – I am a Waikato boy. I was born not too far from here in Te Aroha, my Dad was the vicar of Frankton, my Mum nursed at Waikato Hospital, and my primary school years were in the heart of the King Country at Te Kuiti. So when the Blues get the blues I am more than happy to celebrate the magnificent Chiefs!

I want acknowledge your fabulous local MPs Nanaia Mahuta, my running mate the last time around, and Sue Moroney who is doing an outstanding job in our caucus.

You know, as well as politics, Sue lives and breathes horses. And we are all part of an historic three horse race.

Shane reckons he’s a stallion, and is trying to make up ground with the geldings. Grant’s been doing the heavy lifting in the Leader’s stable – that makes him our Clydesdale. I am here to convince you that I am both your sprinter and your stayer. Your presence proves that the Party is winning by a country mile!

So let’s start thinking about this race from the outside in. What is best for our fellow Kiwis. Then what our Labour Party needs to win. Then what kind of leader we need to get Labour across the line in 2014.


The Waikato is the undisputed world champion of milk.

When I was door knocking a while back I came across a young Mum bringing her three sons home from the doctor. The youngest had weak bones – he was calcium deficient. When I asked her if milk might help, she cried. She was ashamed. She could not afford milk.

Paula Bennett used to be a solo Mum. She studied and found a way up using the Training Incentive Allowance. When she became a minister, she pulled the ladder up.

John Key says he grew up in a state house. In 2008 campaigned in a state housing street, not far from my electorate. As Prime Minister he scrapped the state house build at Hobsonville. He pulled the ladder up.

I won’t pull the ladder up. I will make sure it is there for everybody who needs it.

You know, we spend more hours working, have less time with our kids, earn less money, and pay more for the basics, have more stress.

Like the taxi drivers who are work 14 hours a day for $5 an hour.

Or the cleaners in my own Service Workers Union, who clean John Key’s office on $14 an hour all though the night and get beaten down every time the contract changes hands.

Or the rest home workers, loving and caring for our elderly on the most shocking terms and conditions.

John Key’s been attacking workers’ rights, bit by bit, for the last four years.

John Key thinks bosses don’t need to sit down and negotiate with workers.

Now he’s taking away your smoko and lunch breaks!

As your Prime Minister, I promise John Key’s attacks on workers will be gone by lunchtime!

No more fire at will. No more undermining unions. No more selling holidays.

I will make sure we have fair employment laws, starting with industry standard agreements.

I will raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. In the first 100 days of a Labour Government.

John Key wasted over $2 billion on tax cuts for rich people who did not need them.

I will invest in a living wage for all Kiwis, by ensuring our government sets the standard.

I want full employment. My aim will be that every New Zealander who is ready, willing and able to work is either in a job or training for one.

We all know jobs don’t grow on trees. That’s why the Labour government I lead will drive economic development in all our regions.

It will be trusted with the public purse and will not run away with the chequebook.

But I will get Government off the side-lines and into the game; into new partnerships with communities, regions and business that will create jobs and lift incomes.

Growing Good Waikato Jobs

There are many reasons I love the Waikato.

Not just because I was born and went to school here.

Not just because the last time I visited was for a snapper meeting where 300 angry fisho’s booed local National MPs and swore they were changing their votes to Labour.

Not just because it is the fourth largest regional economy in New Zealand: the top in dairying and minerals; big in forestry, pulp and paper, meat and horticulture. When I was management consulting, before politics, I spent time working in many of those sectors.

I love it for its can do attitude and its laid back smarts – in everything from agri-tech to aviation.

And I am absolutely gutted that John Key just threw 180 scientists out of work at Ruakura. Can you believe that?

On top of 130 people now out of work at NZ Post and 95 miners from Huntly, part of a trend where over 5000 Kiwis have lost good government jobs up and down the country.

When Labour left office unemployment in this region was 3.8%, now its 7.3%.

The future of the Waikato cannot be left in John Key’s hands.

The Labour government I lead will invest more in research and development so we can have the high value, high tech future we need to produce good high wage jobs right here.

And today I announced my commitment to an urgent inquiry into safety standards in the forestry industry so we don’t maim more Waikato workers.

So in the Waikato and around New Zealand, we need a strong Labour Government to get us off John Key’s road to nowhere and back on the ladder of success.


To get a Labour Government, the Labour Party needs to win in 2014.

To do that, we need three things: urgency, unity and strategy.


We have less than a year to go to lift our numbers to a win.

John Key will spend billions of your money in next year’s Budget to get re-elected.

He is ready for battle and armed with the best spin money can buy.

Labour has consistently under-estimated John Key.

I won’t. I know I can beat him. I’ve got his number and he knows it.

But time is short. We must make the right call right now. We don’t have time to kick tires.


We simply must be united in order to win.

I will bring the entire party together to work as one team.

Everyone must put the interests of the party and the country first.

That is our duty to all of those New Zealanders who need us to win, so that they can get back on the ladder to success.

These are both talented men and I would be proud to have them on my team.


You know that at the last election, the one that we lost so badly, nearly 1 million people didn't vote. Over 800,000 people: a fifth of the population didn’t vote.

Why our people didn't vote Labour, or didn't vote at all, is simply that Labour failed to inspire them that it was a credible alternative to National. Labour was not relevant to their lives.

When National is saying that they are going to chop New Zealanders off at the knees, our people don’t want to hear from us that we would too, just a little nearer the ankles and with more anaesthetic.

The Labour party I lead will be crystal clear what we stand for. We will be a true red Labour party not a pale blue one. We will give New Zealanders a reason to vote Labour.

So to win, Labour needs urgency, unity and strategy. It needs a leader that is ready to win.


All our good intentions, all our policy, our principles and our new strategies, will be worth nothing to our people unless we win office.

I have the experience, skills and economic credentials to lead Labour to victory in 2014 and beyond.

I can make tough calls when needed, even against powerful vested interests. As a senior minister I busted the Telecom monopoly and kicked out a dodgy health board.

We need a leader who is grounded the in struggles of our families; but also skilled in making government smarter, able to talk the language of business and technology, and to operate on the world stage.

I am ready to lead Labour to victory now.

I am ready to win.

And I am asking for your support.

You have an incredibly important decision to make.

The future of New Zealand is literally in your hands.

Choose wisely.


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