Debate on the Prime Minister’s statement 2013

Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei


Mr Speaker,

To quote Bill English – “Is that it? Six weeks over summer to think about new policy, and the Government has comes up with precisely nothing.”

There is nothing in today’s speech that offers tangible solutions to the big issues facing everyday New Zealanders. Worse, the direction set out by this Government does not reflect the intrinsic character of New Zealand or the underlying values of New Zealanders. Their hands-off economic conservatism benefits their wealthy backers and runs counter to our country’s proud history of economic egalitarianism and fairness.

Their cold hearted social policies run roughshod over our decades-old social contract, of supporting people when they need help and our loving commitment to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. And their short sighted view of our beautiful environment, our rivers and beaches, forests and National Parks, as nothing more than irritating impediments to their exploitative economic agenda, is like stabbing a knife into the heart of our national identity. It’s not who we are. And it’s not who we want to be.

It’s not who we are

New Zealanders have a strong and proud national identity. At our best we are a unique mix of environmental guardians, social reformers and economic innovators. New Zealanders also have a proud tradition of leading and forging an independent path. We weren’t the second country to give women the vote – we were the first. Hillary wasn’t the second person to climb Mount Everest – he was the first. We said no to nuclear even though it damaged our relationship with the greatest superpower on earth, because it was the right thing to do.

We are gritty fighters who regularly punch above our weight. We are constantly striving for a better future that is economically, socially and environmentally richer. But John Key and his Government do not reflect who we are. Instead of making us richer in the things that matter, they make us poorer. Because on every important measure this Government is failing. And in their failure they undermine our heritage, our identity and our potential.

Economic failure

So let’s look at that failure further, and what better place to start than the economy.

New Zealanders are finally waking up to what Americans learnt four years ago. If you want to destroy an economy, hand it over to an investment banker to run it. All of John Key’s Wall Street insider knowledge has been used to dazzling disaster on the New Zealand economy. The Merrill Lynch playbook of destroying good, everyday jobs, fuelling an unaffordable housing crisis, and damaging our long term viability, just so the rich can get richer quickly has been expertly implemented here.

The fallacy that National Governments are good managers of the economy has proven to be wrong again. The facts speak for themselves. When the National Government took office, the unemployment rate was 4.5 percent. It is now 7.3 percent. There has been a net reduction of over 40,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector alone. When National took office, Government debt was $40 billion. It is now $82 billion.

When National took office, the national savings rate was a modest 2.1 percent. It is now 0.7 percent. While John Key continues to blame the global financial crisis for his Government’s poor economic performance, most other OECD countries have been getting on and managing it.

IMF data shows that the New Zealand economy has performed worse than the majority of countries in the OECD since 2009. The data shows New Zealand scored 18th out of the 34 OECD countries for GDP growth, 22nd for unemployment, 30th for the current account deficit, 28th for national savings growth, and 23rd for government debt. By nearly all measures of traditional economic success – growth, employment, the current account deficit, national savings, and government debt – New Zealand has performed poorly when compared to the rest of the OECD.

This is a bleak picture. Economic measure after economic measure tell a story of missed opportunities, that left unresolved will leave generations of Kiwis permanently worse off. It’s not who we are. New Zealanders are proud economic innovators. We have transformed our economy many times over to respond to the world around us and seize the opportunities of the future.

The best opportunities for the New Zealand economy lie in transitioning to a truly green economy, yet there was not a single mention of these opportunities in the Prime Ministers speech today. The Pure Advantage group’s report, released last year, tells us we have natural global advantages in geothermal energy. But the Government wants to hock off our best launchpad into that lucrative energy market by selling Mighty River Power.

We need to stop the Government’s ideologically blinkered asset sales so all New Zealanders can benefit from the huge geothermal opportunities Mighty River Power has before it. But today’s speech attempts once more to make the unwinnable case for asset sales. The Prime Minister is still trying to convince New Zealanders that asset sales are a good deal for the country. We know that selling our power companies doesn’t add up – that’s why over 360,000 New Zealanders have signed the petition calling for a referendum to stop the sales.

The report the Green party commissioned from BERL proved categorically that asset sales would cost the government more than they bring in. Even Treasury’s projections now confirm that the sale process alone would cost hundreds of millions. The costs of selling our assets would go on forever. The sales would leave a $100m a year hole in the government’s books, long after the revenue is gone.

Environmental failure

The Government’s failures don’t stop there – they are undermining a key part of who we are as a country when they undermine and devalue the environment of our beautiful country.

We all remember being able to swim in rivers when we were growing up but now we can’t because a lot of them are full of, um, effluent. The Government seems to have a pathological opposition to any measure that seeks to protect our beautiful country and make our claims to 100% Pure a reality. Bringing in Nick Smith for a spot of Greenwash window dressing won’t change that. The so far under told story of this Government is their failure as environmental guardians.

Their approach to the environment runs counter to our history and who we are. The Government’s environmental policies do not share the values of everyday Kiwis who want to love and protect our amazing country. Again when we look at the environment, the facts speak for themselves. New Zealand has plummeted from the top spot overall to 14th in the most recent Yale Environmental Index.

Our Maui’s dolphins are on the brink of extinction. In 2005 it was estimated that the population of Maui’s dolphins was 111. Now it is estimated there are only 55 adult Maui’s dolphins remaining. And yet the Government still hasn’t implemented the interim measures to protect Maui’s dolphins that DOC proposed in March of last year.

What would it say about us if we allowed the Maui’s dolphin to become extinct? How will we explain to our grandchildren we were more prepared to stand up for the interests of commercial fishing than a tiny dolphin that was relying on us for its very existence? What would the Maui’s dolphin’s extinction say about National’s actual commitment to the environment?

And let’s not forget about climate change. Our agricultural nation relies on a stable climate for prosperity, and yet this Government has pulled out of Kyoto and gutted the ETS. And while our gross emissions continue to increase under this Government and we do a disservice to our local economy, what does it say about our commitment to our Pacific brothers and sisters?

What does our withdrawal from tackling climate change internationally say to our nearest neighbours whose islands are going under water? We are a Pacific nation with a significant Pacifika population here, but we don’t care enough to do the heavy lifting on climate change to tackle this serious issue playing out in our own backyard, to our own family.

That’s just not who we are.

Social failure

I wouldn’t want to be a child growing up in New Zealand today. The support that my daughter and I received, that helped me to get to where I am today, has been stripped away by this Government.

This Government’s social policies have been a disaster for New Zealand families, especially children. On official measures, income inequality in New Zealand is now the highest it has ever been. Low and middle income earners are feeling the squeeze while the best-off continue to increase the share of wealth in their control.

At the same time, more of our kids are now living in poverty, from 22 percent prior to the election in 2008 to 25 percent at the end of this Government’s first term. National crows about its rheumatic fever program but allows more and more kids to suffer from it because they ignore the housing crisis. Everyone deserves a secure roof over their heads. But our rates of home ownership have plummeted with less than two-thirds of homes now owned by the families living in them. The recent Demographia report, showing that New Zealand has some of the most unaffordable housing in the world, was met with more inaction by this failed Government.

So much for all of us being in this together. For many New Zealanders the ability to lead a good life is cut off at the knees by the lack of opportunity and support at an early age. The Government’s mean spirited approach to poverty and hardship does not reflect the values that have shaped our more egalitarian past. We can be a more caring country again, one that protects our most vulnerable citizens and offers an equality of opportunity for all.

No new ideas

The Government has lost touch of who we are as a country and have no new ideas to get us out of the hole they have dug.

The desperate cabinet reshuffle embeds that failure; it rings only a change of personnel, not policy. And the Prime Minister’s plan, set out in a speech last Friday and again today, offers more of the same blame and excuses. A boring plan by a bored man.

It’s the Government’s worst ideas of 2012 repeated, it’s Groundhog Day. Adverse asset sales that will make the Government’s books permanently worse off, and lose the clean energy potential of these companies.

A shonky SkyCity convention centre funded by the proceeds of gambling addiction, human misery and money laundering.

Dangerous deep sea drilling that puts our beautiful beaches at risk of a Gulf of Mexico scale oil spill.

Today’s speech from the Prime Minister is most telling for what it doesn’t mention. The plans the Government is not making.

Not a word on the crisis in manufacturing and the 40,000 jobs lost under their watch.

Not a single word on climate change. Not mentioned once.

Just a sentence on child poverty, and only a vague reference to looking at other peoples work and recommendations.

Not an utterance on the Auckland CBD rail loop and the Government’s plans for support of it.

Where are the plans to tackle youth unemployment, the exodus of New Zealanders to Australia, restocking the empty earthquake fund or rebuilding our billion dollar 100% Pure brand after recent criticisms of it?

All the Government is good for is name calling, untruthful slander and school yard jibes that seek to ridicule real work the opposition is undertaking to address big issues like unemployment and housing affordability.

You know a Government is tired when all it can do is attack good ideas that are popular with the public.

John Key has been relegated to the Prime Minister for making excuses. Deep down he knows they’ve failed and under National the future is blighted rather than brighter.

The Government’s long holiday from running the country needs to end. If they won’t act we all need to step up instead if we want a better future.

Green priorities for 2013

Unfortunately 2013 isn’t an election year. But New Zealanders can’t wait until the next election to stop the dangerous direction the Government is taking.

This year the Greens will step up the fight for decent jobs, elimination of child poverty, and our defence of our environment.

We will do this through generating fresh thinking and new ideas, and through building a movement of people to stop the worst of the Government’s agenda.

At Ratana last week, I announced our plans to help families achieve the kiwi dream of owning their own home, or being more secure in a rental home.

This initiative will have lasting impacts. It will give young families a real shot at owning their own home. It is also great for our environment as we build more sustainable, compact homes, and on child health and family well-being. It will also create thousands of jobs.

The Green Party will continue to develop smart solutions to our modern problems. We will offer New Zealanders real alternatives to this tired, bored and unimaginative Government.

But as well as new ideas, we will also offer New Zealanders the opportunity to take action.

The Green Party has launched an initiative to draw together new constituencies of New Zealanders disillusioned with the direction the Government is taking.

We are committed to giving New Zealanders a political voice and the opportunity to be involved in politics outside of elections and without having to join a party. We think this is essential for our democracy.

Opposing a tired old Government, developing new ideas and giving Kiwis the chance to get active in politics. Those are our priorities for this year.

It is clear that the Key Government is resorting to the politics of fear and hate to try and hold onto power, but it won’t work because that’s not who New Zealanders are.

The Government may have given up on making our country a better place but the people haven’t.

Andrew Campbell | Communications Director
Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand
14:05 Bowen House, Parliament Buildings
04 817 6793 | 021 243 8573 | [email protected]

Authorised by Metiria Turei and Russel Norman, Parliament Buildings, Wellington

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