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Attitude Matters: By Connor English

Attitude Matters

Opinion – By Conor English, CEO, Federated Farmers.

Recently Social Development Minister Paula Bennett issued a challenge to New Zealanders on how we could get our terrible child abuse statistics down. The Minister was looking for solutions, any solutions. It struck me that part of our solution, not only for our terrible child abuse statistics, but also for our economic, social and environmental challenges, is attitude. As Winston Churchill said, "attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference."

If all parents had a positive rather than negative attitude towards children, saw them as an asset not a liability, saw the best in them not the worst, were proud of them not ashamed, supported not humiliated or criticised them as they learned by making mistakes, and wanted the best for them - then we would be better off. If they simply just said to their children that they thought they were great and that they were valued, I suspect our crime statistics would be less and many people would be happier.

But while we may have concerns about attitudes to children, what about our attitudes on other fronts. If we changed the word "children" above to "business person", "exporter", "farmer", "manufacturer" or "wealth creator" - can we say New Zealand has a different attitude than some parents have towards the children they abuse? Is this harsh but fair? Maybe, maybe not?

If we want to remain a first world country, someone has to make some money somewhere in this country to pay the bills. The attitudes of those who contribute to make that money, and of others towards them, is critical. Wealth creators are like children - there is no future without them. Everyone has their part to play, but someone has to start the money go round.

If human capital is the sum of knowledge x attitude x action, then attitude is critical. We need people with the right attitude to take risks with capital. Recently Massachusetts Institute of Technology Bill Aulet said there are two kinds of people; "those who make excuses and entrepreneurs". And our attitude to savings saw 91.87% reject compulsory savings in September 1997, so now we have thinner capital markets from which to draw.

Attitudes matter in our public sector. There are many excellent people making a contribution in the public sector at national and local level, but the focus needs to be on enabling, not disabling; on doing stuff, not stopping things happening for the sake of it. We need regulation, but it will only work if it makes sense to both those regulating and those regulated. You can't regulate success, but you can regulate to prevent it.

In Wellington there has been recent controversy around a proposal to erect a Wellywood sign to gain global recognition. Democracy is important but it has been the attitudes displayed by those on both sides of the argument that has been instructive. For some nothing is better than something, no risk is worth taking, and anybody who wants to try something new to advance the city is almost seen as an enemy who needs torn down. Nowhere is there a sense of humor, sense of adventure or sense that the city needs to make progress by taking some risks. Again as Winston Churchill said - a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.

Let's back ourselves in whatever we each do in life and the contribution we each make. Let's take a positive attitude towards others who also back themselves, but maybe in different ways than us. If we want New Zealand to be a place where talent wants to live, then we simply need more people who see the glass more than half full, weather regarding our children or wealth creators. So why don't we just each decide to be more positive. While we can't control others attitudes, we certainly can control our own. So are we up for it?

CONOR ENGLISH CHIEF EXECUTIVE

Federated Farmers of New Zealand

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