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Cunliffe Maintains He's Still Loyal to Shearer

Cunliffe Maintains He's Still Loyal to Shearer

Labour MP David Cunliffe believes the party can get ahead in the polls.

Speaking this weekend on TV3’s “The Nation” Mr Cunliffe said he rejects the argument that they can’t.

“We’re going to work together as a team, “he said.

Asked specifically if he would have a crack at the leadership if it came up he said: “I have made clear on a number of occasions that I am loyal to my leader, I am loyal to the leader of the Labour Party, and I can't see that changing.”

Asked what would happen if the leader wanted to go, he said: I can't see that changing, and if the presumption is that we're not going to succeed in the polls, I reject the presumption.”

Mr Cunliffe has returned from a trip to Scandinavia researching policy ideas for his economic development portfolio.

The trip follows on a speech earlier this year which was widely perceived as a call for the Labour party to return to its traditional left wing roots.

“I guess what that speech was really about was looking back at recent history, and particularly focusing on the global financial crisis, and saying, you know a lot of the old rules have been proven to be wrong,” he said.

“Unregulated free market capitalism has failed the world.”

Now Mr Cunliffe said that what impressed him about Scandinavia was the focus on innovation.

“I think that they are fantastic about innovation,” he said.

“They're fantastic about government and business and community partnerships. 

“They take a long view, they have measurable targets, and unlike the current government they have policies that they know will get them there, they don’t just print glossy brochures and hope it's all going to go away.”

Asked how much support he had for this approach from within the Labour caucus he said the party was still going through the policy development phase.

“I'm proud of the fact that we have a democratic tradition in our party and that means that passionate people will engage in policy debate, and sometimes they will do it in public,” he said.

“I’m not going to be pigeon holed, I do care about traditional Labour values, but I also know that we live in a modern world and we're going to have to find new ways of applying that, and above all I'm a team player, and I'm part of the caucus that is determined to make New Zealand better, and I support our leadership team that is doing that.”



Interviewed by RACHEL SMALLEY

Rachel Welcome to the programme this morning Labour MP, David Cunliffe, thank you for coming in. Firstly I guess I'll get your reaction to the Tribunal's recommendations overnight. What do you make of it that they’ve essentially said, you have to consider the rights of Maori with fresh water.

David Cunliffe – Labour MP
Well I guess someone's sort of seen this coming really. Treaty rights go back a long way, and one would have thought that in all the advice the government took for its asset sales programme, Treaty rights would have been high up there. This is a shambles that the government's making and now it's got a problem.

Rachel Do you think still the government will proceed and float that first asset?

David Well if I were in the government, and I imagine they’ve got advice to this extent, they'd have to think very very hard before they ignored the advice of the Waitangi Tribunal. Following that advice would at the very least require a further consultation process and that will delay the programme. But I think this throws us back on a bigger issue. If you're a National government and you think the only way to economic salvation is mining national parks, taxcuts for rich people and flogging off assets, and one of the legs of the stool is kicked away, it starts to make the rest of it look a bit thing, and I guess that’s our broader discussion.

Rachel Okay well let's talk about Labour's philosophy then. The traditional philosophy has always been summed up from each according to abilities, to each according to needs. Is that still relevant?

David I think it is of course.

Rachel Do you think Labour still follows that now?

David Yes I do.

Rachel Quite strongly feel that?

David Yes I do, I think it's a guiding philosophy for us and you know what do we want? We want a society that’s fair, that’s equitable, where every Kiwi kid gets the chance to make the best of themselves and their lives, and every family can blossom. We want a sustainable environment where we continue to be a place where smart people want to live, and we want a prosperous and productive economy that can you know deliver a good wage, or a good salary to all Kiwi families.

Rachel I want to raise something that you said in your speech in New Lynn, that famous speech now in New Lynn, that the government is there to protect people from the greed of business. Is that how you see the world, business versus people?

David No, I think that business has a really important part to play and in the end this is gonna be about all of us, all of New Zealand including the business sector. But I guess what that speech was really about was looking back a recent history, and particularly focusing on the global financial crisis, and saying, you know a lot of the old rules have been proven to be wrong. Unregulated free market capitalism has failed the world. The great bust of 08/09 has left us with a decade of debt to try and crawl out from under, and the housing bubble in New Zealand didn’t help us. Those finance companies that went bust didn’t help any of us. And so we have to have a relationship with business that’s both a positive partnership and as government we have to protect the public interest, and we have to look at how the world is changing and we have to adapt to that.

Rachel So where do you draw the line with business, what behaviour is unacceptable?

David Oh look when markets work well, when there are plenty of buyers and plenty of sellers and markets are competitive you generally let the market get on with it. As Robert Wade said, when there are imperfections that can be corrected, government has a responsibility to try and correct them, and sometimes like in the global financial crisis, markets fail altogether, and then governments as they did with central banks, have to stand behind the public interest. So that’s if you like a market failure analysis. I think increasingly, and this is for me one of the lessons of the Scandinavian economies is an upside as well. Government in partnership with business can try to help bring buyers and sellers, producers and markets, local central government together, and get quicker to a good outcome. Help a new business start and grow faster, encourage innovation. So we are considering ways of getting to that upside faster, helping that as well.

Rachel Give me three ideas then in the first term of a Labour government, that you would introduce that would guarantee to trigger growth.

David Well we've already talked about it in the macro side, pro growth tax reform, a strong universal savings policy, so there's more capital available for business. Sustainable superannuation, and a monetary policy framework that allows our exporters to enjoy a more stable and more competitive exchange rate. Those are important on the macro side. On the micro side, which is my day job now, as Economic Development Spokesperson, we want to make sure we are really driving innovation in partnership with the business community, that we have a strong vital high performance manufacturing sector, that we have good productive work places, and that we have lifelong learning to support that. So there's heaps of work going on in those areas, and we're excited about the opportunities.

Rachel You're big on green growth too as well too aren’t you?

David Yeah, absolutely.

Rachel I find that intriguing because doesn’t that move you away from the core Labour voter, who you know mines, digs, drives, constructs, they're not green industries.

David Well let's not have a false polarity here, even Russel Norman's come on TV and said that they wouldn’t abolish mining, and sure Labour grew out of the mines of the West Coast and we're proud of that tradition. But we can't rely on mining, extraction, or primary commodities to guarantee the kind of future that New Zealanders aspire to. We have to add value, we have to add smarts, we have to develop unique products, and we have to strengthen our brand in the world. That is how we will be an innovative first world economy.

Rachel Okay what's the difference then between the Green stance on mining and Labour's.

David Well that will be a case by case analysis won’t it? And I mean I think the Greens have a more black and white approach to…

Rachel I think they oppose all fossil fuel mines don’t they?

David Well I'm not sure that Russel Norman has put it that way. I mean I think they're moving actually.

Rachel He has. He has confirmed that he would oppose all new fossil fuel mines.

David Well all new fossil fuel mines. Well that may well be the case, and I don’t think Labour would oppose a responsibly managed high value coal operation, but that would be a case by case analysis.

Rachel It's my understanding that Labour's stance on mining isn't that really far from National's really.

David Oh I think that there would be some significant differences and nuance, but it would be a matter for the regulatory framework, in a case by case analysis.

Rachel Okay, I want to bring you back to Scandinavia, you’ve just come back from there. What would they be doing that we should be doing?

David Well they are first off much more serious about innovation, and that’s reflected in the level of investment. Denmark spends about 2½ - 3% of its GDP on R&D, Finland over 3%, New Zealand barely 1%. Now isn't it interesting in the last two weeks the government has come out and said they want to increase exports from 30% of GDP to 40%. Great goal, we support the goal, but almost no plans for how to get there, and in innovation frankly they're tinkering, and we need to go a whole lot further than they are.

Rachel Where would Labour then find the money for R&D, where does that money come from?

David Well we are going to manage within a careful value for money fiscal parameter, but you’ve gotta take a long term view of investment, and ensuring that your CRIs, you're universities, your R&D tax credits are in place, and that you have the partnership structures that can bring innovators together with those who can commercialise that. Very very important.

Rachel How would you then, as we've seen from Steven Joyce, outlying his plans to increase exports, how would you look to increase exports?

David Oh well I think we're talking about not only getting the macro settings right that we've talked about with tax and savings and monetary policy. We're also talking about new partnerships with regions and sectors, particularly those high value sectors that probably haven’t enjoyed the currency swings that get reflected in our dairy prices. The innovative companies that are in our regions, helping them to navigate getting capital, getting the consents they need, getting the partnerships they need to get into offshore markets, helping them into those markets, making sure that we have the skills, the training for our workplaces, making sure that we have a high value manufacturing strategy in place that will help develop that sector. And those are all ideas that were gonna be bringing to the country and talking about more and more over the next few months.

Rachel What the Scandinavians are particularly good at is adding value to their exports.

David They sure are.

Rachel We're not.

David We are not. We are not. Denmark and New Zealand, classic case in point, have about $9,000 per capita exports from primary industry, from agriculture, but they have another 15,000 in manufactures and we have about another 3,000. That’s the difference.

Rachel But the issue here is that nothing's really changed since you know the end of the Second World War. Successive National and labour governments have always said we need to add value to our exports, we're still exporting raw wool, pine logs and now milk powder, and now milk powder, and reimporting it as a product, it's crazy.

David It is crazy.

Rachel Why can't we add value then?

David Because we haven’t had a strong enough joined up manufacturing and innovation strategy at world standard, and look the world is getting more global. We have to specialise, we have to get over the idea that we can just leave it 100% to the free market and try and do everything. We have to get together as a small country and say what are we gonna be best in the world at, and we're gonna have to line up our resources around that, and we're gonna have a new partnership between government and business to deliver it.

Rachel Isn't the reality though that China will always be able to do it cheaper?

David Yeah so why would we try to be a low cost economy? That’s nuts.

Rachel But we still need to add value to our exports.

David We do, and that’s through brains, smarts, intellectual property, high skills, high value manufacturing.

Rachel Okay, tax. Do you support a progressive tax system?

David Sure do.

Rachel Should the rich pay more?

David More than what?

Rachel More than they are.

David Well that is probably a fair thing given that they’ve had massive taxcuts in the last four years.

Rachel And you would stand by Capital Gains Tax?

David Absolutely.

Rachel Okay, you are clearly I guess, from what you’ve outlined here, you're clearly traditional Labour.

David Well that depends on what you mean by traditional Labour.

Rachel Well you talked a lot about their values, bigger role for the government, progressive tax.

David Yeah, and a partnership with business and the community.

Rachel A greater level of regulation.

David Where it's appropriate.

Rachel Some of that correct you know, you would be traditional Labour?

David No I don’t like the word traditional as such, because you know coming back from the Scandinavians I'm enthused about new opportunities, new ways of achieving traditional Labour values. I wouldn’t want to be painted as looking backwards, I want to look forward, and I believe our Labour team wants to do that, and I am absolutely confident that we as a team can do it, and I'm part of that broader team.

Rachel Traditional Labour though isn't necessarily looking backwards though, it's just staying strong to your core values?

David Yeah sure.

Rachel How can you personally, how can you convince New Zealand then that these ideas that you’ve brought back from Scandinavia, how can you convince them they are the right ideas for the country?

David Because I believe that they will put money in the back pocket of Joe Average out in Eketahuna, or the solo mum struggling to raise her kids in the back parts of my electorate. And look this isn't about me, it's not even about us, the politicians. It's about us, the country, and making a better life for our kids, because at the moment, we're just losing so many of them. And what gets me up in the morning, and what gets my Labour colleagues going, and why we are still in this crazy game, is that we refuse to give up on New Zealand's future. We refuse to join the queue at the departure gate. We believe in this country and we're saying New Zealand is not getting a good enough deal from the current government.

Rachel On the standard blog at the moment there is a pretty clear debate Mr Cunliffe between Labour's pragmatists and traditionalists. Where do you sit in that debate?

David Well look, I think it was Winston Churchill who said democracy is the worst of all forms of government, except all the others, or words to that effect. You know I'm proud of the fact that we have a democratic tradition in our party and that means that passionate people will engage in policy debate, and sometimes they will do it in public. I'm not gonna be pigeon holed, I do care about traditional Labour values, but I also know that we live in a modern world and we're gonna have to find new ways of applying that, and above all I'm a team player, and I'm part of the caucus that is determined to make New Zealand better, and I support our leadership team that is doing that.

Rachel Is it responsibility to conclude though and David Shearer and you would share a different view for the future of the party?

David No I think we share exactly the same values. He is my leader, he has my support, and we're part of a team.

Rachel He's more of a pragmatist though.

David I don’t think those labels are helpful. I don’t think they're helpful.

Rachel No they're not helpful, but they may be a reality.

David Well look, I've just before coming on this programme, reread a speech that he gave about the Heartland, about our regions, and there is nothing in that speech that I disagree with. He's talking about new partnerships with regions and sectors, to get growth going, and why are we doing that? Because we want to make life better for New Zealanders. We want to give them a little bit of relief from the pressures that they're under. God knows it's hard to make ends meet, and we are passionate about the future of our country. We are a team. I'm proud to serve to as his Economic Development Spokesperson, and he is my leader and I'm loyal to him and our caucus.

Rachel How much support do you have within the caucus, for these ideas that you’ve brought back with you from Scandinavia?

David Well, this is not about me, this is about us,

Rachel No, but they're ideas that you want.

David Absolutely, and I think they're very similar to David's ideas. I think David has been talking about the importance of innovation for some time, and I utterly share that drive. I'm very pleased that he's entrusted with me the mandate for developing the clean green and clever stuff, the cleantech mandate, and that’s also something I'm really passionate about. So you know I don’t think there's a difference on that stuff at all.

Rachel You think the caucus backs you on all these ideas that you’ve brought back with you?

David Well we're still going through a policy development process, and I'm not announcing Labour policy today. You're asking me what impressions I gained from Scandinavia, and I'm being upfront. I think that they are fantastic about innovation, they're fantastic about government and business and community partnerships. They take a long view, they have measurable targets, and unlike the current government they have policies that they know will get them there, they don’t just print glossy brochures and hope it's all gonna go away.

Rachel You have been grabbing a number of headlines of late. If the leadership did come up on offer again in future, would you put your name back in the hat?

David Look I have made clear on a number of occasions that I am loyal to my leader, I am loyal to the leader of the Labour Party, and I can't see that changing.

Rachel But if the leader wants to go.

David I can't see that changing, and if the presumption is that we're not gonna succeed in the polls, I reject the presumption. We're gonna work together as a team, not for ourselves, but for the people out there who need hope, who don’t want to queue up at the departure gate, who do want New Zealand to be a place where there are smart kids, can get good jobs, and put down roots and raise a family. Those are things that we all in the Labour caucus believe that, and I am fighting for that cause alongside colleagues that I like and respect.

Rachel -David Cunliffe, we have to leave it here, Labour MP, thank you very much, very much appreciate analysis this morning.


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