[Sitting date: 23 May 2012. Volume:680;Page:2307. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
HONE HARAWIRA (Leader—Mana) to the
Minister of Finance: What are the Government’s fiscal policies doing to stop the loss of New Zealanders to Australia, which has now hit an 11-year high?
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance)
: The Government’s policies are taking the appropriate longer-term view of turning round the 30-year problem of a wage gap with Australia. Current migration patterns reflect significantly different growth rates over the last few years, where the Australian economy has been sustained by a one-in-100-year minerals boom, with record high coal and iron ore prices. As Australian growth flattens out and New Zealand growth picks up, we would expect the growth gap in the shorter term will close, while we continue to focus on the kinds of high-quality policy decisions that are needed for the next 20 years to close the historical wage gap.
Hone Harawira: Does the Minister recall asking the question in 2008: “Does the Prime Minister agree that the fact that thousands of people are leaving for Australia—in fact, in record numbers—means that she failed to do what she said the 1999 election was about, which was to ‘build an economy that can retain our talented and skilled people’?”, and what would be his answer to exactly the same question being asked of him, only 4 years later?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: If the member says I asked that question, I almost certainly did. I think it is a lesson in that period from 1999 to 2008 that despite the best global economic conditions in a generation, New Zealand actually went backwards relative to Australia. The damage done by those policies is the damage that we have to get on and fix.
Hone Harawira: Does the Minister accept that his Government’s record of having 160,000 people unemployed, 107,000 people who cannot get enough work, 500,000 people on less than $16 an hour, and 200,000 kids and their families living in poverty has anything to do with the fact that nearly 1,000 Kiwis are leaving for Australia every single week, or does he think it is because in Australia the wages are higher, there are heaps more jobs, and the first $18,000 a person earns is tax-free?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: As my colleagues are pointing out, that member’s party is totally opposed to the kind of mining activity from which New Zealand could benefit, and which almost alone is sustaining growth rates in Australia. Given his interest in higher wages and more jobs, we look forward to the support of the Mana party for the offshore drilling programmes and the coal and goldmining operations that want to expand in New Zealand.