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Labour Offers Stability And Certainty - Remarks Prepared For Mood Of The Boardroom

Grant Robertson:

  • I want to begin by acknowledging the work that each and every one of you has done to navigate through uncharted territory this year. I know many of you have fought hard to weather the storm, and protect your business and staff from Covid-19. None of us expected this but the resilience, innovation and empathy that I have seen right around the country has been inspiring.
  • I have read the survey carefully. You’ve told us that we’ve done pretty well as a Government so far in the fight against this virus. You’ve also told us that you need certainty and confidence as we continue our fight and recovery from this pandemic. And I can tell you that we hear that and that stability, continuity and competence is what we bring to the table as we deal with a one in one hundred year economic and health shock.
  • We have also been decisive, evidence-based and pragmatic as we have gone along. We have had a plan since March, and we have stuck to it. It’s not possible to get everything 100% right in these unprecedented times. There was no playbook for this situation. But our approach has been clear since March. Go hard and early to stamp COVID-19 out in New Zealand, and then continue to stamp out further outbreaks.
  • We focused on ensuring cashflow and confidence through the wage subsidy and other support measures such as the Aviation package that has kept export routes open. Yes, our Level 4 lockdown was strict, but it allowed us to come back quickly too. Today the Oxford University Stringency Index shows us as one of the most open countries in the world, ahead of Australia and most others. We showed with the growth in the economy in June and July that the best economic response is a strong public health response.
  • This is backed up by the PREFU that shows the near-term economy performing stronger than expected off the back of that domestic performance and the resilience of our exports, which are holding up across the board. But there are still tough times ahead, especially with a weaker global economy.

Labour’s plan

  • My pitch to you today as we look ahead is that a vote for Labour is a vote for stability and certainty for you and your business. That might be a new message to hear, and I want to come back to it at the end of my remarks. But the recovery is already underway and we have a balanced plan to back it. Any plan needs strong and clear leadership, and through Jacinda Ardern and our team we have that too.
  • Firstly, we must continue to fight COVID-19 and manage our border securely. We have steadily built our capability at the border and have had more than 50,000 people through with limited issues. We are expanding further the number and range of people who can come to New Zealand and have committed at least 10% of places for businesses to bring in essential workers and executives. We are also expanding access for workers in agriculture, horticulture and fishing and facilitating more work visa holders to stay longer. We’ll also launch an Investment Attraction Strategy to encourage targeted and high-value international investment into New Zealand.
  • Meanwhile, work goes on the Trans-Tasman Safe Travel Zone, and our Vaccine Strategy, including signing up to the global alliance that aims to meet the needs of at least 50% of our population. Further agreements are being worked on as we speak.
  • Secondly, our Five Point Economic Plan is about creating jobs, investing in people, supporting our small businesses positioning NZ globally and future-proofing our economy.
  • We’ve invested to create thousands of jobs on crucial infrastructure projects, building thousands of new houses, and by targeted sector investments, along with almost 11,000 new jobs right around New Zealand to protect our environment and clean up our waterways.
  • Labour is backing small businesses by extending the Small Business Cashflow Scheme for three years and extending the interest-free period, regulating Merchant Service Fees, and creating a new $2,500 Digital Training Voucher.
  • We’re pushing out into the world, backing our exporters through the direct support of freight flights, but also $250 million for NZTE to support and expand its offerings. And we are not taking our foot off the pedal when it comes to trade agreements with UK and EU among others.
  • We’re investing in people through strong public services, education reform, mental health support and active labour market policies that get people back to work and support them to start a business.
  • Our future proofing of the economy is designed to support prosperity and higher wage jobs, and is built on four core pillars:
  • Modern Infrastructure: We have laid the framework with the Infrastructure Commission, Infrastructure Funding and Financing Act, RMA Reform and NPS on Urban Development. Now we push on with Transport, three-waters, Housing and more.
  • Sustainability: Move to 100% renewables by 2030. Significant investment in green hydrogen, and the primary sector plan, Fit for A Better World.
  • Productivity: Huge investment in Skills and Training ($1.6 billion), but also R&D. Industry Transformation Plans starting with Agritech and the Digital Sector. We are investing in growing the Maori economy, especially through use and enhancement of whenua Maori.
  • Labour will take a balanced approach to control and reduce debt, with careful management and analysis of our spending, growing the economy sustainably and ensuring all New Zealanders have the health, education, and other essential services that they rely on. This does require asking the top 2% of earners to contribute a bit more, but I consider that to be the responsible thing to do at this time.

National in Disarray

  • This is an election year, and you do have a choice. I am putting to you today that as business people, you should be voting Labour. For some of you that might be a first time endeavour, so hear me out. Off the back of our stable, consistent and careful leadership, there is a contrast.
  • National have been utterly disorganised, chaotic and inconsistent.
  • They’ve been through three leaders in four months. They have had an exodus of 19 MPs, including Bill English, Steven Joyce, Amy Adams and Nikki Kaye – and with them, decades of experience. It should come as no surprise that they are in no shape to lead us through this pandemic or run the economic recovery.
  • They have flip-flopped on some of the most important decisions we have had to make on the border, alert levels and the whole elimination strategy. Consistency breeds confidence and they have been totally without it.
  • And now their economic approach is in disarray, with a plan riddled with basic errors.
  • Paul Goldsmith admitted to a $4 billion error in their fiscal plan. He called that “irritating”. Judith Collins called it “entirely inconsequential”.
  • Then he admitted to another sloppy error - this time a shortfall of $88 million. Judith Collins said “yes” she still trusts him.
  • Then we found out they had double-counted some of their transport spending. Another $3.9 billion blunder and no answer of how to fix it.
  • And they simply have not put aside the funding needed to cover the basic needs of our hospitals, schools and other essential services.
  • National’s numbers just don’t add up. They have boxed themselves into a fiscal Bermuda Triangle. We all know you can’t have higher spending, lower tax and dramatically lower debt. The holes in their books show it.
  • When you’re in Government you don’t get to flip-flop on matters as important as these. It has real life consequences and real life costs. The total cost of their errors is now larger than the estimate for an additional Auckland Harbour Crossing. That is not inconsequential.
  • There is too much uncertainty in the world already at this moment. The last thing you and your businesses need is an unknown, inexperienced, unprepared team being thrust into Government and that is what you have with National and the economy.

Conclusion

  • So, in this year of unprecedented events, I am saying to you to think about another one: that of a vote for Labour to give you security and certainty. We may not agree 100% on everything, but Labour offers stability and a plan. You’ve seen us deal with multiple crises through our time in office, and the one we currently face is far from over. The economic response needs continuity and a steady hand.
  • You know me and you know how I work. And you know we can work together. We need to do that, and do more of it to help navigate COVID-19 and build our economy and country back better.
  • This is a tough time. What we need now is continuity, consistency and balance. That is what we have shown, and that is what we will deliver.

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