[Sitting date: 19 September 2012. Volume:684;Page:5375. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Māori Party—Waiariki)
: I move,
That the House take note of miscellaneous business. Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Kia ora tātou katoa. I want to take a bit of time in the general debate this afternoon to talk about the closure of one of the two Norske Skog mills—confirmed in Kawerau—thereby halving the production of that particular mill. At its peak that mill had 2,000 workers employed every day. I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Could we just stop our clock to allow those who are moving out just to vacate the premises?
Mr SPEAKER: I think the member—and if the member would not mind resuming his seat for a moment—makes a perfectly fair point. I would ask members who are moving out of the Chamber to please to do it quietly. [Interruption] Order! That is just discourteous to the member with the call.
TE URUROA FLAVELL: Thank you, Mr Speaker. That is appreciated. As I was saying, the mill at its peak, a few years ago, had 2,000 employees, and now it employs 290 workers, and it is estimated that, with the closure of one of these mills, there will be about 120 jobs lost. That follows in the wake of 120 redundancies at Solid Energy’s Huntly mine. I was up there about a week ago, and 400 jobs are under threat at Spring Creek Mine, and another 100 jobs are on the line at Tīwai Point aluminium smelter. So these are tough times, especially for the smaller towns that have already been through more than their fair share of difficulties over the years. Kawerau is no different. But the difference in Kawerau is that it means a hell of a lot more, and it is not just about the loss of jobs.
Many will remember the large lay-offs in the 1990s. What we know from the time is that the Government needed to give support and respond appropriately in order to alleviate the burden on that particular community. My plea is that we have nothing less
than that for the township of Kawerau. In Kawerau the mill is the major employer, and as with every sort of major recession small towns with one major employer are hugely impacted upon. It creates huge issues for the community. The local community is heavily reliant on the mill, and the losses are going to have a massive effect on Kawerau. We need definitely to protect local jobs and keep our people at home, not just joining the flight of people heading overseas to Australia, and we need a high-wage economy. The Government needs to take a more active role, I believe, to build on the assets in the town.
The predominance of Māori in these types of small towns is very typical—Kawerau, the likes of Murupara, and so on—and it happens for two reasons. The first one is cheaper and more affordable housing, and, in this case, an ability for people to own their own homes. Secondly, people are able to live in their own tribal rohe and their own tribal boundaries. Without a major employer to support the very fabric of the community, these small towns become pretty much a waiting time bomb when recession and other economic effects start to bite. They eat at the very heart of the community, and it is pretty much a straight recipe for disaster.
With now over 19,000 Māori unemployed nationally, of whom over a quarter are Māori youth, we have to think about Kawerau as both a crisis—yes, absolutely—and our greatest opportunity to do something. It is pretty good to hear the Minister for Economic Development, Steven Joyce, talk about creating new opportunities through the concept of a Primary Growth Partnership. We can either think about the downstream effects, such as the heightened sense of poverty, more welfare dependency, and the lack of opportunities, or, on the other hand, we can provide opportunities and some solutions within that community, and that is why the Māori Party has been very much looking at the development of a marae central business district as a way forward.
I will not deliver too much about that, but the general focus is to aim to support marae to support their whānau, hapū, and iwi to undertake their aspirations with a particular focus on employment and education, and possibly into housing. It is about conceiving of developmental opportunities that are based around marae as focal points for their communities. We want to see pathways to employment be the focus of the agenda of every marae and every board meeting, right up through to the Cabinet table. But Māori need to take a leadership role in looking at finding our own solutions to employment, along with, obviously, other stakeholders.
The role of Government could be to facilitate and to enable joint ventures to focus on increasing employment opportunities with Māori collectives, incorporations, and other enterprises, and we hope that that will happen. We also know that the knock-on effect of job losses and the announcements flow into other industries that support Norse Skog in the wider Eastern Bay of Plenty region. That is going to be huge, and we need to consider that. For example, the demand for pulp from Carter Holt Harvey will force a reduction in revenue and, ultimately, jobs with them as well. Thank you.
Hon JUDITH COLLINS (Minister of Justice)
: It is always a pleasure to follow the member Te Ururoa Flavell, who has just resumed his seat. He is always a thoughtful member, and, although we do not always agree on things, he is a gentleman and, I think, a valued member of this House.
I acknowledge that today is Women’s Suffrage Day and I am going to indulge myself by actually mentioning a few stunning women in New Zealand. Obviously, I acknowledge our head of State, the Queen, and her 60 years of service. I would like to acknowledge all women members of Parliament across the House for their contributions. I would specifically like to mention two women leaders in the House, and that is the Hon Tariana Turia and Metiria Turei, who is very keen on “Planet Key”—and who can blame her? I also acknowledge the women members of Cabinet: the Hon Hekia
Parata, Paula Bennett, Anne Tolley, Kate Wilkinson, Amy Adams, as well as Jo Goodhew, our Minister of Women’s Affairs, who does a sterling job. I also acknowledge in the judiciary the heads of bench: the Chief Justice, Dame Sian Elias; the Chief High Court Judge, Helen Winkelmann; and the Chief District Court Judge, Jan-Marie Doogue—all appointments by a National-led Government. And can I acknowledge all the hard-working mothers and grandmothers who help make all things possible.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the very first woman Prime Minister New Zealand has ever had, the Rt Hon Dame Jenny Shipley. I must say that Jenny Shipley is a woman of strength and vision—a woman I am proud to call a friend. I would like to acknowledge Jenny for the contribution she has made to this House and for what she has done since.
Unfortunately, today we have had the Labour Party mired in muck all the way through question time. Were those members talking about the things people want to talk about? Were they talking about the work that Te Ururoa Flavell talked about? Did they care about the people of Kawerau? No, not one bit. What they cared about was wallowing down in the muck. Actually, whatever happened to David Shearer leading a Labour Party that supposedly does not want to talk about “gotcha politics”? Whatever happened to that? Whatever happened to the “Mr Clean” Shearer? Well, he has gone. The entire Opposition should resign. In fact, what those members should do is put the Greens in there, because they are far more competent than the Labour Party, even though they have half the number of members. Frankly, even Winston Peters is starting to look pretty good after the Labour Party, and that is saying something.
What I can say is what this Government is doing. We are just getting on with the business—we are getting on with the business. We have a 30-year low in crime, which is down to 1982 levels. We have tougher sentences for criminals and for crimes against children, and we have brought in legislation to help save the community from our worst recidivist violent offenders. We have done all of those sorts of things.
We have got the health system working. The health system is working. We have put $2 billion extra into it since we have been in Government and we have got the health system working.
Mr Flavell made a very good point about the economy. This is the Government that kept the
Hobbits in New Zealand. We kept them away from the
haters on the other side of the House—the people who wanted to destroy our film industry in New Zealand by scaring away the little hobbits. Well, they will be the first people on the red carpet, turning up to the premiere, trying to get their photo with Peter Jackson, will they not? Gosh, I hope he cannot be bothered with them, because, quite frankly, that is what they are.
One of the other points that I heard today in the House was about inflation and what has happened to inflation. Let us have a look at this: we have the lowest inflation rate since 1999—yes—and the lowest interest rates in 40 years. What does that mean for ordinary New Zealanders? It means that if they have got a $200,000 mortgage, which for most New Zealanders is actually pretty standard, they are actually now paying $200 a week less on their mortgage than they were when Labour was in Government.
I have heard the people on the other side suggesting that we drop the exchange rate and that we do all these sorts of things as though it would actually be effective. Well, I will tell them what it would do: interest rates would go up, the cost of living would go up, transport would go up, and oil would go up. Everything would go up, and that party over there, represented by Mr Peters, would be turning round and saying “Well, why aren’t you doing something about it?”. That is, in fact, the answer.
This Government is getting on to the business. The other side is talking and whingeing and moaning. We are doing the job, and that is what New Zealanders want us to do.
SUE MORONEY (Labour)
: Well, 119 years ago today New Zealand women won the right to vote, and we were the first in the world to win the right to vote, so I think it is timely to ask what Kate Sheppard would think. What would she think of question time today, with John Key slipping and sliding all over the place in order to defend John Banks? He is a Prime Minister who cannot even be bothered to read a police report. What would Kate Sheppard think of a Prime Minister running this country who is pretending now that he cannot even read? He cannot even read about what his Ministers have been up to, and he is not taking any responsibility. I do not think that that is what Kate Sheppard had in mind when she cycled all around Canterbury, getting signatures on that petition to uphold our democracy. I think she would be ashamed of the performance from the Prime Minister today.
I also think she would be ashamed of that Government, the National Government, blocking the extension to paid parental leave. I do not think that is what she had in mind either when she did all of that work, led those women and very good men, to ensure that women had the right to vote in New Zealand. I am pretty sure that she would be ashamed that a Minister of Women’s Affairs in the year 2012 spoke against and voted against extending paid parental leave to 6 months, and that this Government thinks it is OK that women, for financial reasons, have to leave their 14-week-old babies behind while they go back into the paid workforce. I do not think that is the vision that Kate Sheppard had for this country.
I also think that she would be ashamed, as the United Nations was, actually, about this Government’s record in closing down the pay and employment equity unit. National had barely taken charge of the Treasury benches when one of its first acts was to close down that opportunity for pay and employment equity to be addressed in this country. As a report of the Government Administration Committee recently noted, the only work now being undertaken by that Government to address the gender pay gap of 12 percent in this country is to say: “Well, women just have to go off and get men’s jobs.”
That is the only answer that the Government has, and this is what the multiparty select committee had to say about it in its report
2010/11 financial review of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs: “We are concerned that the ministry has ceased work on pay equity in those occupations and professions dominated by women. We were informed that the ministry’s only strategy for closing the gender pay gap is to encourage women into male-dominated occupations and professions.” Well, that just lacks the sort of vision that Kate Sheppard and her contemporaries had 119 years ago—that the only way forward for women in terms of closing the gender pay gap in this country would be to go and do men’s jobs.
Then there is the rate of female unemployment. This year it reached 7.2 percent under that Government. That is the highest rate since the last time we had a National Government in place. It is the highest rate of female unemployment since 1998. The other thing that the Government did was reduce its ambition for having women on boards. Under Labour we had a target of having 50 percent women membership on State sector boards by 2012. But this lazy Government would not go down that path, and has reduced it to 45 percent by 2014.
Then there is the issue of how the Government treats education. The Government got the class sizes issue wrong because it does not understand how strongly women feel about education for their children—not only having an education and access to it but the
quality of the education for their children. The Government also does not understand the importance to New Zealand women of early childhood education and the priority that that should be. Again, that was one of the first areas that this Government cut into. In Budget 2010 the Government cut $400 million out of the early childhood education budget. The Government not only cut it out of the early childhood education budget but it did it in a way that would affect women’s employment, because it cut the funding for gaining 100 percent qualified staff in early childhood education.
Hon Anne Tolley: This member never gets it right.
SUE MORONEY: That Minister did it when she was in charge. Being a qualified teacher in early childhood education is a great career pathway for women, and it was specifically the funding that underpinned it that the Government cut.
Hon SIMON BRIDGES (Minister of Consumer Affairs)
: Over the last several days I have been disappointed in the Labour Party, even by my own exceptionally low standards for that party—even by my own low standards. I will tell you, they had David Shearer stutter his way through
Q+A on Sunday. Do you know what the real tragedy in that was? In a country where we should have a viable democracy, we would hope to have a Leader of the Opposition who could at least front up and give us an alternative viewpoint on the issues, on the big issues that New Zealanders want to know about and want a straight answer from the Opposition on. They are not getting it from David Shearer.
There is water. Not everyone may agree with our solution on water and what we say and what the position is, but at least we have got a position. David Shearer equivocated his way through several minutes of interview on that issue, and the people of New Zealand expect and demand an answer from the Opposition. We saw the same on the issue of jobs, and so on—no answers to the issues that this country has.
In Parliament over the last couple of days there has been a growing issue about decorum in the way things go in this Parliament. We have seen a party on the other side where the only things that excite its members are the salacious, the trivial, the petty, and the rude. They come to this House like performing seals, wanting to perform for Kim Dotcom, who seems to be in town. They come here, and that is the best they can do. Those are the issues that excite Trevor Mallard, Chris Hipkins, and Kris Faafoi, rather than the real issues that this country has. There are real issues—we accept that—and this party has answers to those real issues. On the real issues, even the solutions that they claim to have are an embarrassment.
Dr David Clark: What are they?
Hon SIMON BRIDGES: David Clark asks: “What are they?”. Well, I will give David Clark his dues. At least he has got a member’s bill—at least he has got a member’s bill. But let us look at that member’s bill—$15 minimum wage. Well, look at our record. We have incrementally put the minimum wage up, but to put the minimum wage up to $15 at this time would mean up to 5,500 jobs down the toilet, Dr Clark. I have talked to cafe owners in my electorate of Tauranga in Greerton. They have told me that they will be laying people off if the minimum wage goes up to $15. So he thinks that he has a solution, but it is a sham and a shameful solution to that problem.
And then we come to New Zealand First, where we saw today at question time what I thought was a competition between a couple of gentlemen for the deputy leadership of that party. My money is on Prosser—my money is on Prosser, actually. He did not get a question. He is the silent, thoughtful one in that party. Again, to give them their dues, the Rt Hon Winston Peters got a member’s bill in today on a very real issue: the exchange rate. But will it work? Will it work? Quantitative easing—he refers to America and what they are doing over there, where they are putting $50 billion of new money into the economy, I think, every month. Is that going to work? It is a bit like
drugs, or in Grant Robertson’s case a sugar rush. You have got to keep on feeding the habit, otherwise there is the comedown. It is at best only a temporary solution.
Yet even if we said that it does work—even if we said that it does work—could this country of 4.5 million compete with a big country putting in $50 billion a month? Could we compete? Could we have any effect on the exchange rate? No, we could not. It is snake oil economics from the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and I ask him to expand on and answer those points that I have raised.
But on this side there is a Government focused on the real issues, on balancing the finances in 2014-15, on doing that over time, and on absolutely working on a more productive and competitive economy. And that is why today I put out a discussion document on vehicle licensing reform. Actually—they laugh, they laugh—hundreds of millions of dollars potentially could be saved for ordinary Kiwis. Let me tell you that that is what ordinary Kiwis care about, not Kim Dotcom coming to town and the performing seals on that side of the House, who want to wallow in the mud and the salacious issues. This is a Government focused on the real issues, and that is why we will still be the Government in another few years.
Hon ANNETTE KING (Labour—Rongotai)
: Today, Women’s Suffrage Day, was a chance for the Government to put up some strong women speakers to praise the women of New Zealand, and to congratulate them on 119 years since we received the vote and the work that women have done in this country. But what did we get from the National Party? We got “Crusher” Collins, who stood up and insulted everybody, and then we got the member for Tauranga, Simon Bridges, whose only role in this House is to have patsy questions asked about issues that no one has any interest in—lots of insults, yelling, ranting, and raving.
Well, I want to say that some of us are celebrating women’s suffrage today. I started with a celebratory breakfast in good company and lively discussion, because 119 years since New Zealand women got the vote is worth celebrating. We were the first country in the world to give women the vote, and it is something that we as a nation have been particularly proud of. You only need to look at a country like Switzerland, which did not give women the vote until 1971, to know that New Zealand has been a leader in social and economic reforms throughout our history. You only need to go back to the first Labour Government of 1935, which put in place our health system, our social security system, and our education system, much of which has survived today, even though we have had periodic attacks by right-wing Governments in the past. We have been international leaders in many issues—nuclear-free New Zealand, smoke-free legislation, and human rights legislation. For a small country, we continue to show leadership in many fields, driven by committed, compassionate, and determined Kiwis.
But it is not good enough to wallow in the past, or to rest on our achievements built up by others who have been prepared to make the right decisions. It is time to look to the future for New Zealand women, to look forward, say, 50 years, when a 15-year-old young girl today would be going into retirement. I know that some politicians in this House like to live in 3-year election cycles and to find out if they can get themselves back into power, but we should start looking at the growing signs that we have of future problems that are appearing right now that are going to affect young women in the future.
One of them has to be the cost and the availability of housing for single women. There has been a rise in the homelessness of women. Women are sleeping rough in the streets not just in the big cities of Auckland and Wellington but in places like Nelson. The warning signals are being sent out by those social agencies right now. They are the people who are on the street and who are seeing what is happening day by day. For decades we have had homelessness amongst men. We have accommodated them in
night shelters. But now we have a new problem emerging: homelessness amongst single women of all ages. In fact, the problem has got so big in Nelson that the Salvation Army is undertaking a major piece of work to focus on why single women are becoming homeless and what plans it could have for housing in the future. It has found increasing numbers of single women are sleeping in cars, are couch surfing, or are in short-term hostels.
One of the reasons it has found is housing affordability. It is getting worse. There are fewer low-income homes available. Here in Wellington there is a growing number of homeless women, and it is being put down once again to the cost of housing, a housing shortage, and a lack of jobs. Contrary to the popular belief, many of these people are well-educated women. They are not the stereotypical dropouts or checkouts of society that some people may think.
Look forward 50 years, and we are looking at women living to almost 89 years of age. Women will retire on less superannuation than men. Women will still have student loans outstanding when they retire, and many of them will not own their own home at retirement age. Combine that with the growing crisis of a lack of affordable housing, and the picture is one of poverty in older New Zealanders, particularly for women, in the not too distant future. Is that a legacy we want to leave to the women of New Zealand?
Hon AMY ADAMS (Minister for the Environment)
: I am very happy to rise and take a call in this general debate, on what is the 119th celebration of New Zealand women becoming the first in the world to have the right to vote. I want to acknowledge the hard work of our suffragette forebears—
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Suffragist.
Hon AMY ADAMS: —suffragist, thank you—and, actually, also to acknowledge the role of members of this House who at the time worked with those women to ensure the legislation was passed through the House, including Sir John Hall, whom I have referenced previously. I think it is important, actually, and timely on Women’s Suffrage Day to look back to where we have come from, but also to look forward to where we are going.
We have said often from this side of the House that what we are focused on is making a real difference on the things that Kiwis care about, and I tell you, in my view, that is jobs, incomes, and opportunities. The difference between this side of the House and our opponents is that we understand that to create those things, you have to get the conditions right for businesses to create those jobs, because at the end of the day there is no getting away from the fact that Governments do not create jobs; businesses do. If we are going to be serious about creating jobs, creating more opportunities, and creating a better future for our New Zealanders, we have to play our part in setting those conditions right.
Time and time again we hear shrieking, volume, and derisive put-downs from the Opposition. It is masking a complete lack of policies and ideas. Thos members are quite happy to sit there and shriek “Where are the jobs?”, but they block every single opportunity to come up with more jobs in this country. They block the advancement of agriculture. They block the advancement of our mineral exploration industry. They block our manufacturing issues. They block Minister Wilkinson’s labour market reforms. They want to stop everything that will create jobs. So when they stand in this House and say they want jobs, I would say to them that if they are serious about wanting jobs, they need to get serious about supporting the policies of this Government that will create the conditions for businesses to create jobs.
We are focused on the things that businesses need for them to be successful. We are focused on export markets, recognising that New Zealand will only ever be successful if
it trades with the world. We make our living by trading with the world. We are not going to become prosperous from looking entirely inwardly, and so we are developing strong export markets, led very ably by Minister Tim Groser. We are working on a capital markets reform and ensuring that businesses have the access to capital that they need. We are developing the strong, resilient infrastructure that is needed, including the fantastic work that is going into the Ultra-fast Broadband Initiative and the Rural Broadband Initiative. We are focusing on making sure that our workplaces have access to skilled labour and that they operate in safe environments. We have a strong focus on innovation and we have an active work programme on how we can develop and use our natural resources better.
One of the things we have to do is manage the Government finances far better. Minister English is driving an excellent programme to ensure that Government debt remains below 30 percent. If we do not do that, we risk losing the ability to trade efficiently in the world, to access capital, and to provide businesses with the stable framework that they need. This Government understands that to get to that point and to maintain our trajectory—to remain under 30 percent—we have to make some tough decisions, and we are prepared to front them. What we are not prepared to do is preside over a borrow-and-spend regime that we have seen too often from the opposite side.
It is working. We have seen more jobs created as a consequence of the reforms that we have made to date. We have seen an efficient tax structure put in place. We know wages are up 20 percent since we have taken office. We have inflation and interest at their lowest rates for some time. These are the conditions that create jobs. This is the work of a productive National Government. This is why we are seeing jobs created. This is why New Zealand is in a far stronger position than its international compatriots. We are not saying it is easy. These are tough times internationally. But if you look around the world at the countries we benchmark ourselves against, New Zealand is in a much stronger position. We have a strong position. We are attractive to other entities, and that is because of the sensible reforms of this Government.
New Zealanders know they need to work harder, they need to be productive, we need to play to our strengths, and we have to earn the money before we can spend it. It is very easy to stand up in this House with a myriad of policies that involve putting it on the credit card, keeping on spending the money, throwing it around, and making sure the voters turn up with the promise of everything you are going to give them in the lolly scramble. We are not going to do that. We are going to make sure we run a robust, resilient economy, and we are going to continue to do that because we know that at the end of the day that is what matters to New Zealand—more jobs and more opportunities. That is what this National Government is delivering.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)
: There sits a member, Amy Adams, who is totally oblivious to the explosion in the current account deficit that was announced today. Is there a person in this House who does not believe that the dollar is seriously overvalued in this country? No. Is there a serious economic commentator who does not believe that the dollar is seriously overvalued? No. Yet the Government has its arms firmly folded and is resisting all attempts to reform and update the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act. The Government is locked into an outdated economic orthodoxy. The fixation is that inflation is public enemy No. 1, and every other economic policy has to be subordinated to that cause. That thinking is from another era.
Right now, inflation is not the No. 1 problem. The main economic issue we are facing is a chronically overvalued exchange rate. That overvalued exchange rate is crippling our international competitiveness and undermining our economic prospects. That overvalued dollar is massively damaging in the area of competitive devaluations, as countries around the world strive to protect their export sectors in the wake of the
global economic crisis. With a backdrop of global economic uncertainty and weakness, countries that rely on exports, as we do, are exploring every chance and opportunity and mechanism to stay competitive. That is why we seek to amend the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act—to have an Act that meets the needs of current conditions and removes a brake on our economy. This bill, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand (Amending Primary Function of Bank) Amendment Bill, will mean the Reserve Bank can pursue a balanced macroeconomic policy, in which price stability, although important, is no longer the overriding policy objective.
In the face of the damage being done by an overvalued exchange rate, the Government has its head firmly in the sand. The Government asserts that there is nothing to be done and it cannot take any action. It is sticking to its conventional wisdom that the exchange rate is beyond its power to influence, and it is demonstrably wrong, as over 50 countries around the world are proving now every day. Meanwhile, international competitiveness deteriorates. We are falling behind in our efforts to pay our way in the world, and for New Zealand there is a debt time bomb ticking. We need to start the task of defusing that bomb with urgency, because the latest figures show that at the end of June—the figures announced today, which the member completely forgot about—the deficit is 72 percent of GDP. How is that? Net international debt stood at $148 billion. That is up $12 billion in 1 year—massive figures.
But how are we going to pay this massive debt while we are eroding our export capacity? From Tīwai Point to Tauranga, to Auckland and all points north and south, businesses are closing monthly because they can no longer compete internationally. The means we have of eventually paying off the debt are being sacrificed on an altar of economic theory. The export businesses that are closing are not coming back. No magic wand will bring them back now. Instead of tinkering with deckchairs, such as the reorganisation of Government agencies, the Government should have as its priority creating the conditions in which our exporters can grow.
This legislation will give the Reserve Bank of New Zealand Act the flexibility it needs to promote growth, employment, and our export base. Is the bill perfect? No. Can it be improved in the light of debate and scrutiny? Of course it can. The bill does not purport to have every last detail of monetary policy settled. What we seek to do is provide progress towards an exchange rate that reflects New Zealand’s economic fundamentals. It provides for positive action and a way forward, and a rational Government would admit that the current Reserve Bank is not working and that change is definitely needed. There will be a change of views on how that change is best achieved.
But I want to say this to those who have doubts over there today: remember the famous words of Oliver Cromwell when he said “consider you may be wrong.” Consider you may be wrong. We will go to US90c before too long, we will go further down the OECD, and very soon we are going to be in a trough, from which this Government will never take us out. That is when it is going out of power, far sooner than it thinks, because around New Zealand, provincial New Zealanders—country voters—are beginning to wake up to the fact that the party they voted for through all these years, and in which they placed their trust, does not give a damn about them and cares only for the paper shufflers and the paper movers of Queen Street and of foreign boardrooms.
SHANE ARDERN (National—Taranaki - King Country)
: Being from the heartland, rural New Zealand, it is always interesting to follow on from a speaker like the Rt Hon Winston Peters, and it is also interesting for someone who is actually in the export industry and in the agricultural sector, as well. Clearly there are some inflationary pressures on that export sector, but what is the answer? That is the question.
What is the answer? Tinkering at the edges in the way suggested by those who have just entered into the debate clearly is not the answer. When you look at what is being achieved, what is tangible, and what can be measured; when you talk about after-tax wages being up by 20 percent since 2008; when you talk about the lowest inflation since 1999; and when you talk about the lowest interest rates in 45 years, these are measurable, tangible actions taken by our Government. It is not a lot of hot air and puffery from those who have had their chance, who have had their day in the sun, and who have achieved nothing in their time.
I see a major threat on the horizon, if you like, to the growth of the New Zealand economy. I see a major threat. It is the misinformation, the lack of understanding, and the inability to want to read and understand some of the concerns that are facing our major export industries, like some of the things that we have read and seen in recent times. One such thing is a submission by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, for example, during the recent select committee process on the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill at the Finance and Expenditure Committee, suggesting that agriculture should be included in an emissions trading tax. That is based on an assumption that approximately 50 percent of New Zealand’s greenhouse gas comes from that sector. Mr Speaker, I know that you would know, with your education, probably better than anyone in this House that that is demonstrably challengeable. It is absolutely challengeable. In fact, the science around that is substantially flawed.
To continue repeating the lie that was generated by the previous Government and continued ever since that up to 50 percent of our greenhouse gases come from the agricultural sector, when over the time since that was first commented on—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The only reason for making this point of order is to underline and make clear what has just been said, and to say that pursuant to the discussions that occurred in and out of the House yesterday, I am pleased that the new standards are being applied.
Mr SPEAKER: The member—
Hon Trevor Mallard: He called us liars.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! He did not accuse any member—particular member—of lying. The member should not—
Hon Trevor Mallard: Collectively—the previous Government.
Mr SPEAKER: He referred to an issue as being a lie; that is a totally different context. The members should not interrupt the 5-minute speech.
SHANE ARDERN: The member knows no better, and has consistently—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Not to break up the speech, but I just ask you to ask the member, once you have ruled, not to comment on your ruling, as he just did.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! The member is breaking up his speech. It does not help the good order of the House.
SHANE ARDERN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. I will refrain from commenting in response to that. Here is a member who was in the House yesterday crying crocodile tears over the closure of schools in Christchurch, when he closed more schools in Taranaki with one stroke of a pen than any other member in this House, and there was no justification for that. So that member knows no different. He has always been the same. That is about where I will leave that.
Going back to the issue of climate change and the environmental effects brought about by our primary sector, it would be so helpful to this debate and so helpful to the economy of New Zealand if, at some stage, a few facts were introduced into the
discussion. So far, there has been a range of events in this discussion that have not been able to substantiate those facts.
If we do accept—and I do not—that 50 percent of the greenhouse gas from New Zealand comes from agriculture—and it certainly is challengeable in science—then what would introducing a tax on that achieve in terms of climate change? What would it achieve? What it would do is drive production from one of the most efficient production systems offshore. Therefore, you would have those levels of production being produced in countries that have higher greenhouse gas emissions from their production systems, and less production in New Zealand. Explain to me how that would help the New Zealand economy, given the dependence of the New Zealand economy on agricultural exports.
It is without the slightest bit of rationale or logic that we would introduce a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from our agricultural sector. Those who promote that clearly have no interest in watching “New Zealand Inc.” improve or grow, and have no interest in improving the standard of living of New Zealanders.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Labour—Christchurch East)
: Women’s Suffrage Day celebrates women’s right to vote. As we have heard a number of speakers say, New Zealand was the first country in the world to allow that to occur. This is a day that we should be able to celebrate. This is a day where we should all be able to join together and celebrate the wonderfulness of having been that first country that acknowledged the role of women in our country’s democracy.
I think the other place that we should be really thinking of today is Christchurch, because, of course, Christchurch was home to Kate Sheppard and those other suffragists who really led the way. We memorialised them in a wonderful memorial in Christchurch, which, unfortunately, is not in a location that we can access, due to the earthquakes.
But not everyone in Christchurch is actually feeling like celebrating today, because democracy is something that has been challenged. People are feeling demoralised. People are feeling powerless to act in the face of what they see as an erosion of democracy. When we look at what has happened in Christchurch—our city, our schools, and our environment—all of the democratic institutions around those three fundamentals of where I come from have all been challenged. The democratic voice of the people has been stilled by the Government.
I want to remind the House that democracy is more than the right to vote. It means a lot more than that. Sure, we have the expression of democracy—representative democracy—when we cast our vote, and we come to this place to represent those who send us here. But it is about guaranteeing basic human rights. It is about the separation of powers, it is about freedom of expression, and it is about good governance. That is what a democratic country looks like.
I am afraid that every single one of those features of a democracy that I have spoken of has been threatened in Christchurch today. These were all things that the suffragists actually stood for when they petitioned Parliament for the right to vote. I want to remind the House that nearly a quarter of all adult voting-age women in this country signed that petition at that time. It was extraordinary. Over 30,000 women signed the petition for the right to vote. What we are challenging the Government to do today is to trust the people. Go back those 119 years to when this Parliament trusted the people. It trusted every single one of its citizens of voting age with the right to vote. Let us see that we can trust the people today as we, hopefully, restore democracy to Environment Canterbury, restore democracy to the Christchurch City Council, and restore democracy to our schools.
At 5.30 p.m. tonight at the Bridge of Remembrance in Christchurch there will be a gathering where there will be a new rebuilding suffrage petition launched. That petition is designed to restore democracy to our city, to our schools, and to our environment. The purpose of the petition is to renew the great democratic legacy of Christchurch for our children. That is whom the petition aims to support. Vote Canterbury Kids speaks to our proud history of universal suffrage in New Zealand, it speaks to the loss of democracy that we have suffered in Christchurch today, and it speaks to the future for our children. That is what the petition is all about.
It is wonderful that Christchurch sees the launch of this modern suffrage petition, with its call for democracy. I want the Government to listen to the people. Many Christchurch residents are hurting. They are bewildered. They are struck by bombshell announcements around their land, their homes, the Earthquake Commission, insurance, and, now, school closures. Nobody is saying that these are not hard decisions, but they are impacting on people through the way they are being presented to them as final decisions, with the people not being empowered to have a say about their future.
At the school meeting I attended the other night one person said that the announcement had done what 10,000 aftershocks had not done. If that school closes, his family leaves. I do not want anyone to leave Christchurch because they have not had a say in rebuilding its future.
MELISSA LEE (National)
: It is a great pleasure to rise to speak in this general debate. I join my female colleagues across the House in congratulating all women and celebrating the 119th Women’s Suffrage Day. I remember the centenary celebrations in Auckland. That was probably the first time I had actually heard about the suffragettes, because, as a migrant, I had heard that New Zealand had in fact given the vote to women first around the world, but I had not actually heard the stories about Kate Sheppard. So I feel very proud to be a New Zealander. But, having said that, I would like to comment on a couple of things that were actually said before by Sue Moroney.
Miss Moroney talked about how Kate Sheppard would be ashamed of our stance on the extended paid parental leave that Labour proposed. I have to say that in my view Kate Sheppard would be ashamed of Miss Moroney. She stood for ambition. She stood for equality. I do not know, but back in those days, I would have thought that the suffragettes would have actually carried their babies, fighting for equal rights, on their backs or on their fronts. They would not have actually sat there and said that they wanted 6 months’ paid parental leave. I have to say, as a mum who actually went back to work, who actually took responsibility for my own child, I actually went back to work and I should not be made to feel embarrassed or ashamed that I went to work and that I was not a good mother, which is what the Opposition tries to make us feel.
We are proud parents. We are proud mothers. We are women. Do not say in this House that Kate Sheppard would be ashamed of us. I think she would be ashamed of Sue Moroney for saying that women should cower and say “We are women. We should have more. We actually deserve more than this.” I do not think so. Kate Sheppard stood for equality. She stood for ambition and aspiration for women. That is not what she actually asked for.
Annette King was talking about homelessness and single women. Of course, none of us celebrate that. We all want to make sure that all New Zealanders, including women, have better opportunities and do not have issues with homelessness. But I have to say I am surprised that she commented on that, because the Labour Opposition has opposed every single initiative that this Government has proposed to improve the lot for New Zealanders, including things like more mining for oil and gas exploration. What about making welfare work? The Opposition opposed a 90-day probation period for new employees. It actually opposed that. Thirteen thousand new jobs were created as a result
of that particular policy, and 60 percent of the employers would not have gone out there and given that new person a job had it not been for that particular policy. Thirteen thousand new jobs is a lot of new jobs.
Foreign investment is another initiative the Opposition actually opposed. What about foreign investment? Let us talk about Mr Cameron, the Canadian film maker. James Cameron moved and bought a farm, a big, big, big farm, in the Wairarapa. He invested millions and millions of dollars in the Wairarapa. The Opposition opposes foreign ownership. Let me say, Mr Cameron just announced, I think, that he is going to be making a sequel to
Avatar, which will create 1,500 new jobs.
Avatar haters, I say let us actually celebrate these kinds of investments. They provide investment in New Zealand, and they provide more opportunities and more jobs for New Zealanders.
What about the public sector reform? What about the health service? I have to say that I love the fact that we have more doctors, we have more nurses, and we have more midwives remaining in New Zealand instead of going overseas, because we have created an opportunity for them to stay here. The bonding scheme has meant that we have, in total, 1,800 more nurses—1,800—263 more doctors, 218 more midwives, and 13 more radiation therapists who have stayed in New Zealand since that scheme was introduced in 2009. I remember back in—
JAN LOGIE (Green)
: Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I join my colleagues in rising to speak to Women’s Suffrage Day and the status of women in our country at the moment, 119 years on from achieving universal suffrage in this country. Just a quick note: I am surprised that none of the men have spoken in this debate on the benefits of having our voices in Parliament.
Grant Robertson: I wanted to.
JAN LOGIE: Thank you, Grant. I join my Labour colleagues, very strangely, in wondering what Kate Sheppard and Meri Mangakahia would be thinking of our democracy and our society today. I do not need to have a séance to know that they would be expecting more from this country and more from this Government, because I expect more, and I do not think even I am as radical as they were back in their day. They were some pretty fierce women. They were obviously fans of democracy and women’s involvement in decision making. To quote Kate Sheppard, one of her goals was that “All that separates, whether of race, class, creed, or sex, is inhuman, and must be overcome.” In particular, she was concerned about establishing legal and economic independence of women from men. She was not wholly occupied with advancing women’s rights, however, but also found time to promote political reforms such as proportional representation and the wider movement for democracy.
Meri requested not only that Māori women be given the vote back at that time, but that they be eligible to sit in the Māori Parliament, thus going a step further even than her Pākehā contemporaries of the European suffrage movement. Although I do not believe that it is my place to comment on the processes of tino rangatiratanga, I would like to point out that whom the Crown chooses to consult with and how it consults makes a difference. I really doubt that Meri Mangakahia would approve of the proposed process of consultation around asset sales. This is not consultation; it is tokenism. That is not too dissimilar from the reality of the time when she was speaking out, when women could speak but they could not be heard. I also think she would be pretty angry that over 120 years after she spoke out to affirm Māori women’s leadership, Māori women’s leadership has been eroded by systematic issues such as violence and gendered poverty.
To speak more to Kate’s issues, I note again, with my colleague Lianne Dalziel, that Kate was a proud Cantabrian and a fighter for wider democracy. So today to see that
loss of democracy in her place of birth and her site of struggle is a particularly sad thing, and not a reason for celebration. As we see the closure of schools and mergers that threaten to take away the heart of so many communities, we know what she would be saying. When we see the powers of the city council being taken over by the unelected Government body of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, with no plan in sight for how this power will be returned, we know she would not be happy. We may not all have always agreed with the council in Christchurch, but to rebuild Christchurch without democracy threatens to rebuild structures but not communities, and Kate would not approve.
Today I went to the Women’s Suffrage Day breakfast and heard the Minister of Women’s Affairs speaking about the status of women. She noted that New Zealand continues to be well regarded internationally for our gender equality. Well, that may be true, except for, you know, the 50-plus points that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women suggested that our State needed to work on. The Minister did acknowledge that we still need to work towards greater economic independence, improved safety from violence, and increased representation in all levels and types of leadership for our women, but thinks the Government has committed to doing its part.
SIMON O’CONNOR (National—Tāmaki)
: It is probably a bad start on Women’s Suffrage Day that I have interrupted one of my female colleagues, Jan Logie, in her speech, but there is process. Can I acknowledge 119 years since women received the vote in this country. I think it is important to begin, joining with my colleague Judith Collins, who spoke at the start, by acknowledging important New Zealand women and their contribution, and in doing so to acknowledge our head of State, the Queen of New Zealand,
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, for her 60 years of service, all of those women who sit on the executive—my colleagues who are in Cabinet—those across the House who sit here in Parliament from all parties, those women who lead in the judiciary, those who are in the Civil Service, and, of course, those women who are our mothers, our friends, and so forth, and the contribution they bring. When it comes to women’s voting, my mother has always proudly voted, and certainly now with me in Parliament she is never shy of an opinion to be shared, and she never hesitates there.
I want to turn to some of those who have spoken in the House about what Kate Sheppard and others would think. I always think it is an injustice to their voices to add our presumption to them. I just want to repeat that for the sake of those listening: when we try to add our voices presumptuously to what Kate Sheppard and others did, we do them an injustice. We do not know what Kate Sheppard would think about what we do today, and I think there is a certain arrogance in doing that.
But as we turn to the modern day, I think it is really great as a Kiwi and as a Kiwi bloke to stand here to acknowledge all that women are doing in our society. I think it is the women, certainly within the National caucus and the body as a whole, who are getting on with the business of getting things done. We need only look this week at some of the great announcements that have been put forward, including within welfare and within education. We have had some also within the conservation area, and so forth. Some really great initiatives are being led by women in this National caucus.
We are busy with getting on with the job. We are busy as a National caucus and a National Government with getting on with the job. I found in recent days sitting on the Education and Science Committee that we have been looking at the element of digital literacy. How do we encourage young girls and boys to learn to be the future of this country? We have had some amazing examples of men and women who are working to enhance the digital understanding of our young people, and I mention this because there is a great initiative happening within the electorate of Tāmaki known as the
Manaiakalani project, led by Russell Burt and the great team at Pt England Primary School. They are getting on with the job, and they are getting on with the job on their own initiative but also with that wider support of a Government that understands that you empower individuals to be the best that they can be. And I may be presumptuous, therefore, to suggest that that was the spirit of the suffragettes—to empower people to be the best that they can be, operating within this New Zealand democracy.
I want to acknowledge too people such as Desley Simpson, Kit Parkinson, Colin Davis, and Mark Thomas of the local board in Ōrākei, also within my electorate of Tāmaki. They are getting on with the job, be it our local sports fields so that boys and girls, men and women, can get out and about, or making sure places like Tāmaki Drive are open and accessible for all New Zealanders to enjoy and to celebrate. These are Kiwis working hard. They are men and women in our community working hard and getting on with the job. And it is the National Government that is standing there in support, as well, so that the job gets done for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
I turn finally towards our business. I have been meeting with the business association managers across my electorate: Sally in Ellerslie, Wendy in St Heliers, and Gary down in Glen Innes. Again, these are people supporting Kiwi businesses to get on with the job, as new businesses are opening and there are opportunities. It has been the National Government that stood behind them in many ways. We have talked about the 90-day trial period that we have put out, creating more than 13,000 jobs. We reduced the business tax to 28c in the dollar, absolutely supporting Kiwis to get on with the job. We reduced ACC levies. In fact, that was Minister Judith Collins, one of the fine women of this House. New Zealanders are getting on with the job. We have had great opportunities, and if I draw it, certainly, from the people of Tāmaki, and those whom I have mentioned, they are getting on with the job. They are getting on with the job with the support of this Government, which is absolutely committed.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.