NZ For Sale
Rt. Hon Winston Peters
Leader NZ First
Address to: North Canterbury
RSA Lounge, Victoria Street, Rangiora
Date: 3rd September
“NZ For Sale”
Thank you for the invitation to be here today.
This is a good time to talk to you about the direction New Zealand is heading or not heading (depending on the way you look at it) and how this will impact on senior citizens.
For a start let’s emphasise that the senior citizens of New Zealand have made their contribution, and many are still doing so.
They held down jobs, raised families, supported their local good causes, served on school committees, helped out with children's sport and did thousands of hours of unpaid help to build their communities.
It was the done thing and New Zealand was a better place for the work of those community minded citizens.
At the same time this was happening they entered a social contract with the governments of the day – whatever their political colours.
Everybody had a job, they paid their taxes – and quite high taxes we might add – they ran their communities and in return they trusted their governments to look after them when they grew old.
Sadly, no such political philosophy exists today – except within New Zealand First.
Some political parties will throw crumbs from the table to the elderly but that is driven more by electoral fear than any deep concern for humanity.
The elderly are not a complaining lot.
There are organisations like GreyPower and Age Concern but they exist to represent the interests of members in a restrained and responsible way and they have the best interests of the country at heart.
So what should the senior generations expect? What are their rights?
For a start, they have the right to retire in dignity with their basic needs of food, shelter, and health care met by systems that they have paid for many times over in the course of their lives.
The latest group to join the ranks of the retired are the so-called “baby boomers”. This generation born after the horrors of World War Two.
For many decades governments in the Western world have known that one day the baby boomers would reach retirement age and that there would be a change in the social needs of the population.
This was inevitable but the issues were either ignored or placed in the too hard basket.
New Zealand First has always been acutely aware of the demographic changes and in our first term in Parliament tried to set up systems to deal with an ageing population and to make things easier for the retired.
Unfortunately some of these initiatives were discarded and the National Party actually started reducing pensions after the coalition broke up because of that party's unacceptable privatisation plans.
History is repeating itself because the present government has stopped contributions to the Cullen superannuation fun – which we supported – to help meet the superannuation costs of the baby boomers.
This was an incredibly shortsighted move and it has set the stage for increased demands to change the retirement age, reduce pensions and/or means testing.
These measures are being floated by a key adviser to Government’s Welfare Working Group speaking openly about means testing superannuation.
So, if you receive a bit extra from investment sources or interest on your savings be especially vigilant because all sorts of economic excuses for means testing or reducing super will emerge after the next election.
The National party has a recent history of hitting pensioners where it hurts and history has a habit of repeating itself.
The National party is infamous for its cutbacks to social services and remember it was the same National minister of finance who reduced your pensions in 1998.
You know the chap – the highest paid housing beneficiary in New Zealand. The one who was paid tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money for living in his own home.
A few weeks ago the prime minister wrote to superannuitants (at great expense) to tell them how well they are doing financially and how much better off they will be after the tax cuts and GST rise in October.
The letter mentioned that you will be benefitting by a special one off rise of 2.02 percent to compensate for GST going up to fifteen percent.
Wow! What cause for celebration!
What the letter did not say is that the cost of living is going up by about six percent as a result of the extra charges resulting from the Budget.
Your power costs are rising, the license fee for your car is rising, your rates are rising.
In fact the cost of everything is going up and we in New Zealand First estimate that you will be losing the equivalent of one day's food a week – when all the extra costs kick in.
Spare a thought for the prime minister though. On his parliamentary salary alone he will be getting an extra $300 a week! That's right – an extra $300 a week.
That's what a single pensioner gets to live on.
But, as John Key pointed out, do not be envious because we have to reward the winners.
To that we say “Yeah Right”!
One of the main reasons why New Zealand is in a predicament financially is because so many of our assets are now in the hands of foreign owners.
Overseas owners don’t worry much about the economic and social wellbeing of pensioners whose country they have invested in.
They are here solely for profits – big profits - and they make sure they make them and send the money back overseas.
You can see it in just about every industry in the country – and now a large scale campaign has started to take over our dairy industry – one of the few jewels left in our economic crown.
There is another big money spinner that has attracted a lot of interest overseas – and that is the eldercare sector.
We poured hundreds of millions of dollars into care for the elderly when we were in a supply and confidence agreement with labour.
It was important to see that standards were maintained for the elderly and we have always been a party that regarded care for senior citizens as a top priority.
It was revealed in an article in the NZ Herald last month that the majority of rest homes were in the hands of foreign owners, who are receiving huge sums of money in subsidies from the New Zealand government.
In other words, care of the elderly has been internationally privatised and sold off overseas.
Here are the figures:
Seventy five percent of the 870 rest homes are run by overseas companies.
Last year alone the Overseas Investment Office approved sales of aged rest care facilities worth $1.5 billion dollars.
There are 34,000 residents in rest homes – many provided by chains such as Radius, Ryman, Metlife, Bupa Care Services and even the Kuwait Finance House.
These homes will not be running entirely for the benefit of the residents – they will be running to enrich the pockets of their foreign owners.
There are a billion dollars in direct subsidies from the government and input from 18 Ministry of Health and associated agencies.
Subsidies and fees are about $47,000 a year for each person – that's nearly $1000 a week and those who can pay their own way do so.
Labour costs are cheap. Caregivers receive on average $14.40 an hour and the minimum wage is $12.75 an hour.
Staffing ratios in many cases are high with one caregiver looking after 13 people.
It is not fair to tar all the rest homes with the same brush.
Obviously there are good rest homes with caring staff who give good value for money but in some others the standard is poor with old people rationed in the number of showers they can have each week.
But it is attractive for foreign owners to come, buy our rest homes and use enterprising tax accountants and lawyers to use excessive transfer pricing, tax losses and other means of milking the system.
Eldercare was deregulated a decade ago and like many cases of deregulation it has worked chiefly for a few at the top of the food chain.
You only have to look at the leaky homes disaster – another bright idea of National's – to see the huge social and financial cost of deregulation.
But the eldercare sector will be in for some surprises when we return to Parliament.
We will not allow unlimited exploitation of New Zealand citizens in their declining years to line the pockets of unscrupulous foreign operators.
And New Zealand First will continue to keep looking after our senior citizens – just as we have always done.
We are updating our policies in preparation for next year and one of those we have already announced. Just to remind you - it is an extension of the SuperGold Card into health benefits.
Your GoldCard will entitle you to one free medical checkup a year and it will cap following GP fees at ten dollars a visit.
We know that a lot of elderly people are inclined to put off going to the doctor before it is too late so we believe that one free medical check up a year will help. So will cheaper GP costs.
The best time to pick up potential health problems is at the start, so medical conditions can be treated before they get serious.
It's another small step towards better care for the elderly but we feel it is needed, especially with all the extra costs and charges you are facing.
You know – New Zealand is still making the same mistakes that have threatened to cripple us economically over the past 25 years – and that is why you are being disadvantaged now.
We keep selling off big chunks of our land, our industries and our services – like the eldercare sector just touched on.
Capital markets in this country have been poorly run. Shareholders have been at the bottom of the commercial food chain while those at the top have done very well.
Because these companies have performed so poorly they have been ripe for takeover bids from overseas.
Australians get the profits from our banks and our supermarkets.
The Chinese do brilliantly from our forests and now they are moving into the dairy sector.
Just about everywhere you look there is a foreign owner hiding under the sign on the side of the truck.
We are losing our country from under our noses and the prime minister says “gee, this is not good” – or some other phrase that a focus group has thrown up. But he will do nothing.
Make no mistake - We are gradually losing our sovereignty and our right to own the land we stand on and the shores that surround us.
For years New Zealand First has been warning New Zealanders about the dire consequences of unchecked foreign ownership of land and other strategic assets.
Sadly those warnings went largely unheeded.
Now the collapse of the Crafar dairy farms empire has finally brought home to people just how urgent the issue of foreign ownership is.
The Crafar fiasco means that 16 farms in the Crafar group could easily end up being owned overseas.
They will then be added to all the other land that has been alienated from local ownership.
More than 150,000 hectares (yes that is hectares) has been lost to foreign ownership over the past five years alone.
The Government has no actual policy – just mumbled words – a bit of spin but no commitment or determination to stop our land being sold.
This level of irresponsibility borders on the treasonous.
Selling our land to foreigners in nearly every case creates nothing – it adds no value and it does not lead to more jobs.
What it does mean is that the fruits of our land – the profits - go to foreigners.
This is not an economic policy – it is madness.
Look at the countries where there is large scale foreign ownership.
Without exception they are economic basket cases and their people exist to serve their foreign masters.
You know, none of these developments was in the National Party's election manifesto.
There are many things happening now that were not spelt out in public in the circus of 2008.
We were not told that National and the Maori Party were going to set up separatist systems.
We were not told that the Maori Party flag would fly next to the New Zealand ensign on Waitangi Day.
What an insult! Now the Maori Party wants to fly its separatist flag on the flagpoles at all the prisons in New Zealand.
If that is not an insult to Maori let alone you, what is?
New Zealand is one small country at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. We have a history of pitching in together and trying to do the right thing but under the present government, the rot is really creeping in.
It was truly astonishing to see the Maori Party creep off secretly to the United Nations and sign up to an indigenous peoples declaration that we had earlier rejected.
This declaration, designed by the white, liberal, silly ideas department at the UN, is a separatist document that could eventually be transposed by the courts into New Zealand law.
If you find this hard to swallow just take a long hard look at the proposals for the foreshore and seabed.
It will be owned by no one, according to the apologists behind the scheme.
But Maori will be able to claim customary title over it.
And the Maori Land Court will be able to grant that title and nobody, I repeat nobody will be able to go to court to challenge this.
The only people represented in court will be Maori and their lawyers.
We in New Zealand First believe this is not fair and that is why we took the word “title” out of the present legislation.
We believe the Crown owns the foreshore and seabed on behalf of all New Zealanders and all New Zealanders should share in any benefits that might exist in the way of mineral deposits or other natural resources.
We believe that Maori have customary rights over parts of the foreshore and seabed and we made provision for this in the existing legislation.
But the way is being paved now for customary title – then privatisation. Nothing is surer.
There is an answer to the problems I have outlined.
Bring people back to Parliament who have the interests of New Zealand and New Zealanders at heart.
You need someone fighting for you – on your side against the forces that will reduce this once proud country to penury.
Our policies have stood the test of time.
Our policies are more relevant today than ever, and needed more than ever.
We will never arrest NZ’s economic and social decline with the failed policies of a quarter century.
Ignoring exporters, neglecting a sound savings strategy, exporting much of our brightest youth whilst topping up population losses often from the third world.
It's long since time we pulled down the “NZ for Sale” sign and began to rebuild our land again.