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Shaw: Climate change, the future of work, and pay equity

Climate change, the future of work, and pay equity - James Shaw

James Shaw MP on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 15:32

James Shaw's speech to the Council of Trade Unions' conference, 25 October 2017

Kia tau te rangimārie o te Rangi e tū nei

o Papatūānuku e takoto nei

o te Taiao e awhi nei

ki runga i a tātou.

Tīhei mauri ora!

(May the peace of the sky above, of the earth below, and of the all-embracing universe rest upon us all. Behold, the essence of life!)

E rere haere ana ngā mihi ki ngā mana whenua o tēnei rohe a Te Ātiawa

(I send greetings and thanks to the home people of this region, Te Ātiawa)

He mihi hoki ki a koutou o Te Kauae Kaimahi (CTU); ngā rangatira, ngā āpiha, ngā kaimahi, koutou katoa kua tae mai i tēnei rā

(I also greet all of you of the CTU; the leaders, the officials, the workers, all of you who have arrived today)

Ko James Shaw tōku ingoa. Ko ahau te kaiārahi o Te Rōpū Kākāriki

(I’m James Shaw — co-leader of the Green Party)

Kia ora tātou katoa

Good afternoon.

I want to start by thanking those of you in the union movement who supported the Green Party in the lead-up to the election.

For the first time – and due, in no small part, to many of your own efforts – the Green Party will hold Ministerial posts in a Labour-led Government.

We have spent the better part of 30 years working towards being in Government, to be in a position to deliver transformative change for our people and for our planet.

We have a new government because you voted for change; from a government whose highest priority was to stay in government, to one ready to tackle the long-term challenges facing our families, our communities, and our country.

Today I want to touch upon three issues that the Greens know we can deliver on: climate change, the future of work, and pay equity.

Climate change

There’s a saying, that you may not be interested in climate change, but climate change is interested in you.

Whether you’re a cleaner, or a carer, or a coal miner, we all affected and we all have a stake.

National treated climate change as a problem that other countries and other generations had to face.

As of today, that all changes.

Today, our Prime Minister elect, Jacinda Ardern, asked me to be her new Minister for Climate Change.

She made climate change a central plank of her own campaign and so I can say it will be at the top of our new government’s political agenda.

We will act decisively, and we will act now.

Within the first 100 days of taking office, this Government will introduce the Zero-Carbon Act, which will create a binding goal of making New Zealand a net-zero emissions economy by the year 2050.

The Act will also establish an independent Climate Commission, which will set five-yearly carbon budgets across the economy.

This sets a clear direction and creates a politically neutral and stable policy environment for industry to be able to make long-term investment decisions.

And that means new jobs. Lots of them.

We are going to set up a new Environment and Climate Change Cabinet Committee, bringing together all relevant Ministers, including those holding economic and industry portfolios.

And, we will establish a Climate Change Board of Chief Executives of Government departments and ministries in related areas, including Transport, Energy and Resources, and Primary Industries.

By joining up Ministers and Ministries in this way, we’ll be able to marshal the resources of Government to drive change across the economy far more effectively than has been done in the past.

And our whole intent will be to flip climate policy from being seen as a threat and a cost, to being seen as an opportunity and an investment in the future.

And, as I say, that means we’ll be creating tens-of-thousands of new jobs, paying decent wages, for workers and families all over New Zealand.

Not just high-tech city jobs, but out in the regions as well.

Here’s one example: trees.

We are going to plant hundreds of millions of trees to soak up New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.

These trees, we’re going to plant them in the cities. We’re going to plant them in the towns. We’re going to plant them in in the National Parks. We’re going to plant them in the regions.

That’s going to be tens of thousands of jobs. That means lower unemployment. Lower poverty. Lower crime. Cleaner rivers. More native species.

It would be worth doing even if we weren’t saving the world.

We’re going to create good jobs in the regions for young people, not only planting trees but doing the pest control, and building the walking and cycling tracks, and reintroducing the native wildlife.

We need to plan for a revitalised plantation forestry sector, providing enough wood for biofuels, high end manufactured goods and – yes – houses.

Lots and lots of houses.

So change is coming. Both technological and climate change. But the change has to happen with workers, not to them.

Workers need to know that they are going to be offered a just transition to the new, clean economy.

Our Government intends to plan this adjustment over the long term, to ensure that people are brought along with these changes instead of left out in the dark.

That’s where our partnership with you is so vital. The work you’ve already done on “just transitions” will be critical to making all of this work.

There’s no point telling a coal miner they can get a new job as a tour guide.

We need to invest in new, like-for-like industries that use peoples’ existing skills and talents and offer them even better pay and conditions than they have at present.

For example, there are plenty of jobs mining silica deposits in Southland, so we can create all the solar panels we’re going to need.

There’s plenty of jobs in geothermal energy in the Central Plateau, or Northland, or the West Coast, for the people currently working the platforms off the Taranaki Coast.

But these jobs need to be unlocked.

The Green Investment Fund, announced in our agreement, that I will be responsible for establishing as Associate Finance Minister, will direct hundreds of millions of dollars towards these new industries and into the homes of everyday New Zealanders.

Future of Work

Which brings me to my second point, which is about the future of work.

Climate change isn’t the only force working its way through the economy.

Much of the disruption we face in the coming decades will be driven by automation and other factors.

600,000 New Zealanders currently rely on work that, at times, isn’t there.

Seasonal work, like picking apples, short term contract work, and casual on call work, is how lots of people put food on the table for their kids and keep a roof over their heads.

But if it rains all week, or the boss just doesn’t like you, what happens then?

These people are sometimes known as “the precariat”, where there is a fine line between casual work and being on benefits.

Many people are reliant on a social safety net that successive Governments have undermined. More and more people are falling through the holes in that net.

There is something deeply, deeply wrong with our welfare system and how we treat the families who depend on it.

For example, having a 13 week stand-down period to access a benefit seems unnecessarily cruel and counter-productive when you’re trying to lift people out of poverty.

It is due an overhaul, and our agreement with the Labour Party says there will be an overhaul – in this Parliament.

It has to be easier for people to access the help and entitlements that they need.

We will also ensure that our public services, like health and education, are properly funded, so that workers and their families have access to the support they need, when they need it.

Every child growing up in New Zealand under our Government is not going to be held back by poverty.

These kids will wake up in a bed, not the backseat of a car, they’ll go to school with bellies full of breakfast, they will spend their weekends going on bike rides not in hospital with bronchitis.

Pay equity

The third issue that I want to talk about today is pay equity.

This is how we will get to the fair and equitable country that we have been crying out for nine long years.

When I was last here, addressing the CTU conference in 2015, I made a commitment that half of the Green Party Ministers in the next progressive government will be women.

Well today, we have done one better.

Today, it was announced that four Green Party MPs will hold ministerial and undersecretary roles in the new Labour-led Government.

And three of them are women and one of them, Julie Anne Genter, will be the new Minister for Women.

Getting a better deal for women is a priority for the Green Party in government and Julie Anne will be leading the Government’s programme of work to finally, finally get this done.

I mean, c’mon, it’s 2017.

There has been a calculated decision to pay some people less than others, and women deserve to be paid more than they currently get.

The Government only needs to look as far as its own ministries to find somewhere to start.

We can close the gender pay gap in this country and ensure that every woman is paid what she’s worth, but we need a real commitment from the Government to make it happen.

At the moment the Crown Law Office pays men 33 percent more than women.

The State Services Commission pays men 22 percent more than women.

We will ensure concrete progress towards equal pay by showing leadership through the public service.

Being underpaid has serious consequences.

Over a year or a lifetime, the difference in women's ability to participate in society, put a roof over their heads or feed themselves and their kids is profound.

Now is the time for a Government to decide to pay women more, and level the playing field.

Climate change. Just transitions into the future of work. Pay equity.

These are just a selection of the things that your new Green Ministers and the new Labour-led Government are going to be getting to work on – starting tomorrow.

Our agreement with Labour is built on shared values and principles, today we celebrate those.

This will be a truly transformational Government for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Thank you for your support.

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