Hansard and Journals
- Debate resumed from 18 May on the Appropriation (2006/07 Estimates) Bill.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON (National—Pakuranga) : I am delighted to continue with the call I had the other night in the Budget debate, and it will come as no surprise to members of this House that I want to concentrate on one specific part of the Budget—that is, the part to do with transport. I will say as a straight up-and-down statement, so that the Minister of Finance hears it, that I am very pleased he has allocated some more public money. But does that fix it? No, it most certainly does not, because a multiple number of facets to roading are crying out for assistance. This Budget helped with one small element of that, because it has improved the amount of public money that will go to the National Land Transport Fund.
Interestingly, we have been trying to get this Minister of Finance, through a number of campaigns—including our billboard campaign—to say that he should spend all the money on the roads. Michael Cullen pooh-poohed that idea, and now he has actually brought in a scheme where, if we read his Budget speech, he stated that he would allocate more than the petrol tax, the motor vehicle registration, and the road-user charges to the National Land Transport Fund, and he will ensure that there will be a continuing 5-year programme of this. Even without levying a capital charge and so on, this means the days of retaining any petrol excise duty in the Crown bank account are over.
I say to the Minister of Finance that if it looks like a duck, it walks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, then it is either a duck—or a mallard. I tell people that in this case it is a duck—that is, the Minister has basically implemented the National Party’s policy of moving all the petrol tax, road-user charges, and motor vehicle registration fees to a dedicated account and making sure it has some longevity, which means it is year on year, on year, ongoing. The National Party claims an enormous amount of credit for having moved Michael Cullen. Tony Gibbs might have moved him on the capital gains for foreign shareholding tax; we have moved Michael Cullen to move at least the public amount. But, as I have said, that will not be enough, because if we look at all the projects and at what Dr Cullen actually claimed was going to happen from all this money, we realise that there are still massive problems out there with our roading network. For example—and this is one of my personal favourites—Dr Cullen talks about bringing the Auckland - Manukau Harbour crossing forward by 1 year. Well, that means it will still be halfway through construction when the Rugby World Cup takes place. If people think that the brief closures on the Māngere Bridge the other day that caused turmoil in Auckland were quite catastrophic, they ain’t seen nothing yet compared with that.
I say to the Minister that members on this side are not asking for any more public money to go into roading—we think that he has that about right—but a huge amount of more money is required for roading. People might be asking themselves what I am talking about, if I am saying that enough public money is going into the roading account, but I am talking about something that Labour members cannot say—even in the privacy of their own bedroom, under their duvet with the torch, they cannot say it—the private sector. That is what I am talking about, and that is what every other civilised jurisdiction we could name is talking about. All three states on the eastern seaboard of Australia—Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria—have huge amounts of private sector funding going into their roading, as well as the level of public funding that is around about the level we now have from this Budget. Where is the move here to let the private sector take part? There is none.
We have a Land Transport Management Act that is so restrictive and so prescriptive that it was said at the select committee: “If you pass this bill as it is, the private sector will never participate.” Guess what? It never has, and it never will. Helen Clark actually said to John Banks, while he was Mayor of Auckland: “I regret that we let the Greens have so much influence on that piece of legislation.” Well, good on the Greens for having had that influence at that time but they were wrong, and now it is time Helen Clark admitted they got it wrong and the Land Transport Management Act should be gutted to allow the private sector to participate.
I was in the UK in March and I went up to Birmingham, where I saw one of the best new roading projects that the UK has done in years. It is called the M6 toll road. Guess what? It has been built totally by the private sector. Macquarie Bank put up the whole funding. The British taxpayer did not have to put up 1c, and that road is now producing huge relief to motorists travelling through the Midlands, North-South. The English Minister said there was just no way the Government could afford to build those big chunks of infrastructure any more. That was the British Government—it could not do it; it was too big.
Dr Don Brash: The British Labour Party?
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: It was a British Labour Government, actually. Don Brash makes a very good point. Also, in the Australian states that are doing this, Queensland has a Labor Government; New South Wales has a Labor Government; and Victoria has a Labor Government. So it is not the mad monk of the new right advocating this. It is something that is done by Labour Governments up and down the world. Tony Blair’s Labour Government has said that the only way it can get new roads of the level it is talking about now will be from the private sector. They will never come from public funding. So whereas Dr Cullen came up with the right amount to get public sector money into the accounts, there was not a mutter, not a murmur, not a whisper about how they would get the private sector.
I tell members opposite that if the Labour Government stays with 35 years as the concession period, there ain’t a project in this country that will be workable. That has to go, as do the restrictions on what percentage must be private, what must be public, and so on. It should be done contractually. The Minister for Roads in New South Wales asked: “Why does your madcap Government have rules about this in legislation? Why don’t you do it contractually?”. That was said by a Labor Minister. Members should ask him. His name is Carl Scully and that is what he had to say.
Then there is the third leg to the tripod, which this Government has done nothing about—that is, the process of trying to get the consents to build a road. Anybody who travels around Auckland and down to the Waikato area must be appalled at the rate of progress on State Highway 1. There have been orange cones and speed-limit signs there for years. We can drive through there any time we like and see workers standing there breastfeeding their shovels and doing very little else, and now we hear that this Budget will advance the Longswamp to Rangiriri safety improvement project at Meremere by 4 years! It will bring it forward, which means that something that should have been done really quickly, really fast, and be finished and opened and running will be brought forward from its planned time frame by 4 more years. We can tell it will last that long. The red tape that surrounds building new roads in this country is just grossly unacceptable.
Hon Judith Tizard: Rubbish!
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: Judith Tizard would not know. Let me tell her what the chief executive of Transit said to the select committee. This is the Government’s man. This is the chief executive of its roading company. He said that it now takes longer to consent a new road in New Zealand than it does to construct it. I went: “Whoa! Is that the case anywhere else?”, and he said: “Absolutely not. The average around the world would be about 9 months.” He pointed out what was probably the worst example that he raised with the committee, but there are others. The worst example he raised was the Albany to Pūhoi realignment stage 1, in which case the consents took 7 years because of the legislative framework and the fact that the Resource Management Act requires that every Uncle Tom Cobbleigh be consulted. It allows anybody to lodge objections. They are funded with legal aid money so that people can keep running the process. Until those other two legs of the tripod are done, this Budget will be worthless if it carries on taking 7 years for a new road to be given consent.
The Connect East motorway in Melbourne, which is 39 kilometres of three lanes either way, will take 3 years to build—from go to whoa. The Westlink M7 motorway in Sydney, which is 40 kilometres of three lanes either way—a massive project—was finished in 3 years. It opened at Christmas last year. It was started in 2002 and finished in 2005. We have not seen anything like that, and will not see anything like that, while the roadblocks such as the Land Transport Management Act and the Resource Management Act stay in place. I say to the Minister that there is no point in just throwing lots and lots of public money at it when the solution requires several more pieces. The National Party will move as fast as it can once it is in Government to tidy up those two Acts—
Hon Trevor Mallard: It’s a long-term plan.
Hon MAURICE WILLIAMSON: No, it is not a long-term plan. It will happen very soon. Here is the question that we need to ask motorists in Auckland, and it is a simple one: has congestion got better or worse since Labour came to power 7 years ago? Members do not need to start going into history, like Peter Brown does, and blaming previous National Governments. The roads in Australia that I was talking about took 3 years, from go to whoa.
PETER BROWN (Deputy Leader—NZ First) : I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I seek leave to table the Hansard from the Hon Maurice Williamson whilst he was the Minister of Transport, where he said that if more money was injected into roading through Transit he would not know how to spend it.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): Leave is sought to table that. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Minister for Economic Development) : Before the Leader of the Opposition departs, I challenge him to have a look at the email I have in my hand. I am happy to table it now, because this email shows that the National Party was the beneficiary not of half a million dollars but of $1.2 million of Brethren money. He can run, but he cannot hide.
I have an email from Ron Hickmott, who was writing on behalf of Andrew Simmons, Phil Winn, Matt Goudie, and himself. He states that he represents a group of Christian businessmen concerned with the course and direction of the current Government: “Accordingly we have put together an election programme with a budget of $1.2 million with the goal of ‘getting party votes for National’ ”—
Hon Bill English: How much did the unions spend?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It was about $50,000, I think. This email is from Ron Hickmott, who continued: “Our programme involves extensive publications throughout New Zealand with a theme showing and demonstrating mistrust in the current government and building trust in a Brash led National Government. We write seeking clarification … re the election funding issue, specifically that anything that we do does not compromise Nationals funding position. Typically:—1. Does it compromise Nationals position if we communicate to MP’s …? 2. Does it compromise Nationals position if we show them draft publications before they are published? 3. Is there any legality prohibiting us printing ‘Vote National’,”—
Hon Maurice Williamson: What page is that on?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is probably in the section dealing with serious crime, actually. I continue: “Is there any legality prohibiting us printing ‘Vote National’, ‘Vote Brash’ and including a photo of Dr Brash on DLE’s? Can this be done”—Mr Hickmott asks—“without compromising Nationals funding position?”.
Bob Clarkson: Who wrote this memo?
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It was Ron Hickmott, one of the leaders of the Brethren—the person who collected $1.2 million in order to assist the National Party campaign.
Hon Member: Patron saints!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: He might be the patron saint of the National Party, but that clearly does not work. It does not work, even to the extent of having a leader with a backbone prepared to stay in the House and listen to it. They are not even a solid Opposition—[Interruption]
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): The member knows that he cannot refer to the absence of members. Please withdraw that remark.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I am sorry; I withdraw. It is a pity that in the House at the moment there is not anyone with a backbone to sit in the Leader of the Opposition’s seat and say that he or she refutes that—because it cannot be done. Opposition members know they cannot refute that, because they have been caught. We all thought, and we knew, that they had their hands in the Brethren’s pockets for $500,000, but it is clear that they actually had their hands in there for $1.2 million. In fact, in the case of Gerry Brownlee, it sounds as if he had both hands in the Brethren’s pockets at the same time, to get a cheque for that sort of amount for the National Party.
Gerry Brownlee: Don’t be so pathetic, you lying little turd.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): The member knows that that language is not acceptable to the House. He will withdraw and apologise.
Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise—[Interruption]—for both of them: “liar” and “turd”—both of them.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Madam Assistant Speaker, are you going to deal with that, or not?
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): I remind the member that when he withdraws and apologises, he does not make comments about the issue he has been made to apologise for, so he should stand up and withdraw that remark that he made.
Gerry Brownlee: I withdraw and apologise. I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I withdraw and apologise, and I withdraw and apologise.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: We can see now why John Key has promised Murray McCully the position as deputy leader of the National Party.
Hon Maurice Williamson: John Key!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, it is not that funny. Bill English has promised the position to Nick Smith. Yes, that is why Nick Smith was going around the week before last asking for votes for Bill. That is why Nick was doing the numbers.
Hon Bill English: No.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Does the member mean that Nick Smith was doing the numbers without being promised the deputy leadership? I do not see why he would. I do not see why anyone would want to support Bill English without being offered something like that. Do members mean that he was doing it off his own bat with no rewards being promised? [Interruption] The member is more generous than I thought Nick Smith was, but then, maybe—once again—Nick is slightly off balance.
Gerry Brownlee: That’s an interesting thing to say.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): No, no. That is not a proper reference to make. I ask the member to withdraw that remark.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Which remark?
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): The remark he made about the member.
Jill Pettis: Just say he is dizzy!
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): No, the matter is being dealt with. I have asked the member to withdraw that remark about the member.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw. I will have a good look at my Hansard later on to work out what I withdrew for. All I am saying is—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): No, no. Please be seated. The member knows, just as I corrected a previous member for the same reason, that he cannot make a comment about his withdrawal of a remark, so please withdraw and apologise.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I withdraw and apologise. It is clear to me that Nick Smith has lost his sense of balance and proportion, again. I am not suggesting he will go and hit the senior whip this time—in fact, the senior whip is quite a bit smaller than the previous whip, so I do not think he will do that again this time. But it is clear that Nick Smith has again lost some sense of reality, if he is running around getting votes for Bill English. Although, I must say, it is a close call. You know—who does one give the leadership to? Is it to the person who had the worst loss in 70 years—
Darren Hughes: In 100 years!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD:—No, they are only 70 years old, to be fair—or is it to the guy who does not even know where he lives when he fills out an enrolment form? What should those members do? Who should they give the leadership to? Do they give it to the guy who knows where he lives, or to the guy who had the worst result? I think the man with the marginal left testicle is the one who is more likely to be in the leadership position, by the way National is going. I think that Mr Clarkson is one of National’s brighter members; he is one of the members with more character. I think National will be digging back to that generation and, if not, to John Hayes—the young man who used to do trade. Is that John Hayes?
Darren Hughes: It’s hard to say.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: It is hard to tell. Of course, this Budget is a very, very good Budget. We all know that it is a Budget only Labour could deliver.
We all know the sort of Budget that National wanted to deliver. The coalition Government in Australia is going down the drain—Australia’s interest rates are going up and the Government’s poll ratings are going down, but that is the Don Brash approach. He is the former Governor of the Reserve Bank who put up interest rates and did not care about poll ratings. That was his approach when he was governor.
I want to know on whose side are Mr Tremain, Mr Bennett, the guy who used to be a principal in Auckland—I have forgotten his name—and the doctor from the North Shore, over there. Eventually, when they work out that they will never ever be in Government with Don Brash—
Hon Maurice Williamson: This is a failed teacher!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Maurice Williamson knows that National will never be in Government with Don Brash. I want to know when those new members are going to get off the fence and decide whether it is Key or English, because they need time to get in a bit of practice, in order to finish their work.
I seek leave to table the email from Ron Hickmott, indicating that the Exclusive Brethren raised $1.2 million to support the election of the National Party.
- Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.
GERRY BROWNLEE (Deputy Leader—National) : I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. I wonder whether you could clarify the following matter for me. Looking at today’s Order Paper, I understand that we are debating the Appropriations (2006/07 Estimates) Bill. The Associate Minister of Finance has just spent 10 minutes talking about everything other than the Budget. Are we actually on that particular bill today, or are we able to range widely across all sorts of things, including some of the misleading and ridiculously silly material with which Mr Mallard has taken up the House’s time this afternoon?
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): The Budget debate is a wide open debate, as we have already seen.
JOHN KEY (National—Helensville) : I always thought this Labour Budget would sink faster than the Titanic, but even I did not think that the Government would dispatch its chief head-kicker—or the person who used to be its chief head-kicker—down here to try some diversionary tactic. The only question that members over here are asking is, what baby vomited on his shirt? I thought he used to be a duck, not a chicken.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The member would know the difference well—this is a Karitane colour, not vomit.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): OK, that was not a point of order.
JOHN KEY: Government members have come to the Chamber on day 2 of the Budget debate, and in the first Government speech all the member could do was raise some spurious email of people who went to the Electoral Commission months earlier. This Government has nothing to say about its Budget whatsoever. Trevor Mallard, the man who begs Helen Clark week after week to let him be the Minister of Finance, is so ashamed of that Budget—
Hon Bill English: At least he’s getting somewhere.
JOHN KEY: Well, he is getting somewhere, and here is the reason. We are in an interesting position now. When Helen Clark is awaiting a Michael Cullen Budget, she wakes up every day and looks forward to that Budget about as much as a rabbit looks forward to getting myxomatosis. She is not happy with a Michael Cullen Budget, and I will tell members why.
What happens is that year after year the Budgets are shockers. I did not personally think that this year’s Budget could be worse than last year’s—which was the Budget that nearly cost Labour the unlosable election. In private circles the Budget is not referred to as “Labour’s Budget”, or as the “chewing gum Budget”, as we affectionately know it; they refer to it as “Michael’s Budget”. Michael put that Budget together. What is interesting is that it is not a Budget—
Hon Tau Henare: He’s gone.
JOHN KEY: That is right. It is a death warrant. Last Sunday I picked up the Sunday Star-Times, like many people in my caucus, and what did I see? I saw the list of people on the execution list. They are gone, for the new talent. They are gone because they lost their seats, and they know exactly why they did—because Michael Cullen, year after year, comes into this House and delivers Budgets that are so shocking and sink so quickly that the chief head-kicker has to come to the Chamber with some diversionary tactics. Mr Mallard did not even mention the word “Budget” until 8 minutes into his speech. That is an absolute shocker. My deputy leader referred to Mr Mallard the other day as “stuffing looking for a shirt to fill”. I think Mr Mallard has found the shirt. I do not know where he bought it; it must be unique. I do not think I have ever seen one that colour before. Trevor Mallard is an embarrassment.
What can we say about the Budget, other than that it has cost yet more Labour back-benchers their seats? The first interesting thing was the response received by the Labour back bench when this Budget was read out. I note that when my leader got up to say a few words on the Budget, within 30 seconds he had three claps and he had the three lead items on the news. That is what happened when my leader spoke for 30 seconds. Michael Cullen went for 14 minutes before he even got a clap, and he got it for saying that the blowout in the student loan bribe would be slightly less than Labour originally thought it would be. He got only two other claps—one was for sitting down and the other was for kissing Helen Clark. I do not blame him for getting a clap. Those were the three things he got a clap for. [Interruption] That is because they are members of a back bench who know when they are toast and when they are out.
Let me raise a few questions. The first is a serious question for Michael Cullen. If current conditions do not make tax cuts affordable, when there is an $8.5 billion surplus, a $7 billion operating balance excluding revaluations and accounting changes, and a $1.7 billion cash surplus, and that size of surplus has been running every year for at least the last 4 years, exactly when will tax cuts be affordable? What are the conditions? Michael Cullen has tried to play a game with the financial media of this country and he has lost as badly as he lost to Tony Gibbs at Guinness Peat Group. As my honourable colleague Mr Williamson rightly pointed out, when it came to Guinness Peat Group and Tony Gibbs, Michael Cullen lost and Tony Gibbs won and Michael Cullen will have to eat that.
The point is that if we cannot have tax cuts under conditions when tremendous surpluses are running across the board—an $8.5 billion surplus, a $7 billion operating balance excluding revaluations and accounting changes, and $1.7 billion of cash—and every operating surplus and capped loan has been paid for, when can we? Maybe Michael Cullen would like to answer this question for the people of New Zealand. Why does the Government, in these good economic conditions, get to keep everything? Why will New Zealanders who on their way home tonight will fill up their cars, pay more than double what they paid 12 to 18 months ago? Why are New Zealanders paying energy prices that have substantially risen, and why are they paying the highest interest rates in the OECD? According to Michael Cullen, he needs all the money and the people of New Zealand do not get anything. I think the people of New Zealand know shared prosperity when they see it, and they know they are not getting that from a Labour Government. I predict quite firmly that when the poll results come out in the next few months we will see the response of the public of New Zealand to this Budget.
The second question I have for Michael Cullen is a pretty simple one. Can he explain why, in 2005, he came to the House and read that shocking “chewing gum Budget”—a Budget with billions raised, spent, and wasted, like in every single Budget that Michael Cullen reads out? He told the people of New Zealand in no uncertain terms that in 2008 they would get the chewing gum—they would get the indexation of their personal taxes. Now, they might have had to wait 10 years to get that. They may have got to the situation where 5 percent of New Zealanders used to pay the top rate and now 13 percent do. They might have had a situation where the amount of tax they are paying has doubled, gone up by 50 percent, in the last 10 years. There are many conditions, but Michael Cullen finally relented and said we can have a bit of the chewing gum in the “chewing gum Budget”. The interesting thing was that when he came back after the election and did not have the numbers to pass the tax he wanted on climate change, the first thing he told the people of New Zealand was that what was in Budget 2005 was not to be believed.
The interesting question is whether what is in Budget 2006 is not to be believed. The interesting thing is this: if tax cuts were unaffordable and if the situation were so dire that having got rid of the carbon tax he was forced to renege on the indexation situation in 2005, why 2 hours after he delivered the Budget did he wander out of the debating chamber, down to Campbell Live, in his office, and tell that tax cuts might be on the agenda and might be affordable? Two hours after he delivered a Budget that said tax cuts were not affordable, he said that in 2007 or in 2008, miraculously, they could be, though we do not know what will happen in those years. Michael Cullen had had a little word from Helen Clark, and from the back bench that refused to applaud him, and from everybody else that this Budget is sinking like a stone.
This is the last question I have for Michael Cullen and Clayton Cosgrove and a few others who have had a go at the National Party for being unpatriotic about New Zealand. Let me ask them this question. How many people need to leave New Zealand before this Government gets its head out of the sand and admits it has a problem? At the moment 680 a week are leaving New Zealand for Australia. That is net 20,000-odd. So if it is not a problem at 680, is it a problem at 980, or 1,280, or 1,580? As I said on Eye to Eye with Willie Jackson, yes, 150,000 Māori did get a tax cut—the ones who live in Australia. It is wrong when a Budget keeps so much and gives so little to everybody else.
I simply want to finish on this note. Over the weekend my deputy leader Mr Brownlee announced to the conference what I thought was some very interesting information. It was a background document to the Otago/Southland division of the Labour Party regional conference, and it gave advice in relation to tax. I want to read a little bit of it out. The first thing it said to do is to tell the truth: “When you are talking about tax, tell the truth.” Maybe Michael Cullen should take a bit of that advice. There was another bit of advice in the “don’ts”. I do not think Michael Cullen got to this, but some of the major “don’ts” were: “Don’t be confrontational. Don’t buy into the language of other side.” A “do” was: “Ask open-ended questions you don’t have to answer.”, and another was: “Practise with your family, friends, and colleagues before you go down there.” So we know that when this Budget was put together with those famous words of investment, it was done with the compliments of Language Matters, the latest spin document from the Labour Party. No wonder it sank like a stone.
Hon JIM SUTTON (Minister of State) : It is with some pride that I rise to speak in the debate on the Appropriation (2006/07 Estimates) Bill. The pride I feel is felt by all of us on this side of the House. It is not pride of office; it is pride in our nation. It is pride in the results of 6½ years of forward-looking, bold—even visionary—policies that are successfully delivering a better life for our people.
The unemployment rate is at a historic low. It is the lowest in the Western World. The Opposition members do not like that. They like to have a decent-sized core of unemployed. It helps keep wages for the peasants down. But bigger pay packets are a fitting reward for participation in a successful economy; particularly, increasing household income, net of tax, is a reward for families raising the next generation of Kiwi workers. It is a reward coming via the Working for Families package, which surely reflects the policies of a Government that wisely puts investment in people and their futures as its prime responsibility. For the same reason, we are putting aside money now to meet the rising cost of superannuation in the future.
We know these policies infuriate the Opposition. The Nats and their ragtag, pathetic parliamentary allies abhor increases in wages. They despise tax rebates being targeted on the basis of family need rather than the aspirations of some—who do not currently have the same family responsibilities—to minimise their own contribution. Labour’s wise, forward-looking policies, which are delivering real benefits to our communities right now, are not paid for by reckless overexpenditure. This Government is fiscally prudent. We are investing and have been investing for an even more successful future. With steadily rising wages and other incomes, we are investing and have been investing—
Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. For the entire time the Minister has been speaking, he has been subjected to a constant conversation that has not let up once. The Minister and members on this side do not mind interjections, but there has been a constant conversation and commentary during the Minister’s speech, and I think members ought to be able to make a contribution to the Budget debate.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): I think everybody is entitled to hear the speech. Certainly, there has been a level of noise—it is more than interjections—that is not acceptable, and I ask members to give other members the opportunity to hear the speech.
Hon JIM SUTTON: Thank you, Madam Assistant Speaker. The Government is investing in a culture of innovation and rising productivity in the New Zealand economy. We are investing in ever-improving public services, especially health, education and training, law and order, environmental quality, and a better work-life balance. We are building an asset in the Superannuation Fund, which, of course, is already generating excellent returns. We are investing big-time in the infrastructure that will make continuing economic growth possible.
But we are doing this while keeping lower marginal tax rates than most comparable economies—lower, even, than the remaining high marginal tax rates in that nation so much more preferred by Dr Don Brash than our own country. Australia, of course, is the example National wants to emulate, although I suggest to Dr Brash that he is getting a little old to invade Iraq. He will have to cut his coat according to his cloth. He could invade somewhere smaller perhaps, somewhere closer. Perhaps he could invade Bondi Beach. That is a horrible thought and I would not wish it on the Australians myself.
Dr Brash admires the recent Australian tax cuts. I want to quote what these recent, much-admired Australian tax cuts deliver. They deliver a top personal tax rate of 45 percent—45c in the dollar. Any further bid? That is down from the previous, exorbitant 47c in the dollar. That is a slashing cut!
It will give those Australians with incomes of $150,000 a year, almost $120 extra a week. To those on average incomes it will return almost $10 extra a week. To those on the lowest incomes it will deliver $7 extra a week. That is Dr Brash’s brave vision for New Zealand—tax cuts of $7 a week for low-income workers and $120 for rich earners. That is certainly a National vision. I should mention some other comparisons. The rate of stamp duty in Australia remains—
Darren Hughes: What is it?
Hon JIM SUTTON: In Sydney, for example, the stamp duty is 2.5 percent, which would add $20,000 to $25,000 for the average family buying their first home. But what does $20,000 matter, if one is getting a $7 a week tax cut! Goodness me! We ought to see these things in perspective. What do the Nats say about that? They say they want more. They say we can have stamp duty. What is the rate of stamp duty in New Zealand?
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Zero! No stamp duty.
Hon JIM SUTTON: It is a pathetic zero. Where is the boldness in that? Dr Brash is so disappointed in New Zealand’s zero stamp duty rate. What about Medicare levies in Australia? What do we pay in Medicare?
Hon Lianne Dalziel: Zero!
Hon JIM SUTTON: Zero! We do not have to pay Medicare levies. Australians have to pay 1.5 percent of their income, which is on top of the top marginal tax rate of 45c in the dollar. Of course, it is at the same rate for the poor, so that is perhaps not as bad as it would have seemed at first sight. What about payroll taxes in Australia? Australians pay 3.65 percent to 6.85 percent, depending on which state they work in. So those prepared to go to a state that is unbearably hot might get away with a lower rate of payroll tax. What is the rate of payroll tax in New Zealand?
Darren Hughes: Zero!
Hon JIM SUTTON: Zero! My goodness, how are accountants supposed to earn a living in this poor country when there is no range of additional taxes to be calculated? Oh, it is so unfair on accountants! What about accident compensation charges in New Zealand? They are less than 1 percent, on average. Australia has a different but equivalent workplace insurance scheme, but its charges are 2.47 percent—or 2½ times, in general terms, what accident compensation costs workers in New Zealand.
What about annual leave in New Zealand? Well, we have been a bit slow but we are catching up. We are moving to 4 weeks’ minimum annual leave. The Australians already have that. However, under the present Australian Government workers will have the opportunity to revert to 2 weeks’ annual leave. They can sort of sell the other 2 weeks back to their employer—perhaps to help pay for their Medicare levies. I suppose they will have to do that. But we are going to end up with 4 weeks’ minimum annual leave, and the Australians will be back to 2 weeks. If it is the answer, maybe that will set them on the road to recovery.
But it is not the answer in the views of the New Zealand Labour-led Government. This Government believes people are entitled to a better work-life balance. They are entitled to higher incomes and a progressive Government.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (National—Clutha-Southland) : I think that member is headed for a better work-life balance! Listening to Jim Sutton has made me realise that there is no room for rising stars in Labour, because Jim Sutton is already up there. It is no wonder that Helen Clark wanted that car to get to Christchurch so quickly, so she could get out of it.
I want to address the fiscal strategy that Dr Cullen has followed in this Budget. My colleague John Key pointed out to the House that there appear to be no conditions under which Dr Cullen will accept that tax cuts are a good idea. That is absolutely evident in reading the Fiscal Strategy Report, which I know that everyone will have read from start to finish. What is striking is that the discussion about the fiscal strategy shows absolutely no understanding of the connection between where the Government gets its revenue from—ordinary, working Kiwis—and the effect tax has on the incentive to get ahead and on the dynamics of growth. There is no mention of it, whatsoever. One would think that the Government’s revenue just fell out of the sky and turned up on the Minister of Finance’s desk, and that he then got to spend it all. That is what it seems like.
John Key: It was in the incoming briefing, so they weren’t allowed to write about it.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: I am not surprised. That is the nub of the problem. Dr Cullen has absolutely no understanding that tax is paid by people who work and earn, and that the payment of that tax affects people’s incentive to get ahead and to grow the economy. He does not regard that as at all relevant to the massive increases in revenue that are showing through the Fiscal Strategy Report.
In fact, it is very telling that the focus now of the fiscal strategy is on building the Government’s asset base. That is now the focus. That is what it is all about. It is not about using fiscal policy as a tool for growth. It is not about a better tax system. It is all about building the Government’s asset base. That is why the Government has picked up on the word “investment”, as my colleague Mr Key has said. It is all laid out in a background paper to the Otago/Southland Labour Party regional conference, Language Matters, which states that the word “investment”, not “spending”, should be used. At least Treasury told the truth in the Fiscal Strategy Report. Treasury called it spending, because that is what it is. The Government does invest in the New Zealand Superannuation Fund, but when it is running a “help” telephone line for beneficiaries and the staff of that line are answering three calls a day, then that is spending—at the rate of $56 a call. That is not investment. When the Government sent people off around the world on the hip-hop tour, did any New Zealander regard that as an investment? No, they did not. They regarded it as spending. Out of all the people of New Zealand, only the 50 people in the Labour Government believe that every dollar the Government spends is some kind of investment.
Dr Cullen now has a real problem in getting the trust of the New Zealand people, and I will say why. I read these Fiscal Strategy Reports every year when they come out. When Dr Cullen first came into Government his target was the operating balance, but that became too big. He said we could not have tax cuts because the operating balance was not big enough, but it became too big. Then he changed his focus to the operating balance excluding revaluations and accounting changes, which is a swept-up version of the operating balance, but that became too big. Then he changed the goalposts to the cash balance, but that became too big. He still could not give tax cuts. He ran out of excuses not to give tax cuts. So now he has changed the target to the Crown’s asset value and net worth.
John Key: That’s positive now, too.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: That is positive now, too, so that has become too big. That is the key to it. The public no longer listen to what Dr Cullen and Labour say about tax, because there are no conditions under which Labour would give tax cuts—none whatsoever. Every dollar is the Government’s dollar. It knows how best to spend it, and it will never give tax cuts.
But there does seem to be misunderstanding about the “chewing gum” tax cuts, because nothing in this Budget indicates that the “chewing gum” tax cuts will be given, except on page 48 of the Fiscal Strategy Report, where Treasury states:“In practice, taxes will tend to grow somewhat faster than GDP as the growth in personal incomes pushes individuals into higher tax brackets.” Then comes this mysterious sentence: “Our decision to inflation-index personal income tax rates reduces this effect, …”. Well, actually, no decision has been made to inflation-index personal income tax. Anyone reading the Fiscal Strategy Report would think Dr Cullen had conceded that point. He has not. How did Treasury get to produce Budget 2006, which contains the Executive Summary, the Fiscal Strategy Report, and the Economic and Fiscal Update, and include reference to a major tax decision that has not been made?
Interestingly, that part of the document is signed by Dr Michael Cullen. Maybe the reason he was confused when he went on Campbell Live and when he said to the media that maybe there should be tax cuts is that he finally read his own Fiscal Strategy Report, which states that he has decided to inflation-index personal income tax rates. Does this man know what he is doing? Does he know whether the Government has made that decision? Somebody had better ask him.
I turn to this ridiculous idea that every Government dollar spent is an investment. I discovered something that horrified me a couple of weeks ago—the Government spends $140 million administering our tertiary education system when, just 4 years ago, it used to spend $40 million. Four years ago it cost $40 million to run our tertiary education system; now it costs $140 million. The Government is not investing in education; it is spending on bureaucrats, plans, strategies, reviews, workshops, launches, trips, conferences, seminars, and back-patting, not education. The most important matter in education today is that 20 percent of our young people are failing to get sufficient literacy and numeracy skills to become competent citizens. They are failing. What does the Minister of Education say about it? When the Education Review Office told New Zealand in its annual report that 20 percent of students were failing, Steve Maharey said he thought the office’s chief executive “would want to say: ‘Look, you’ve got the wrong end of what we wanted to say.’ He was talking about a group of kids who weren’t doing as well as we would like them to …”, but that that did not mean they were failing. That is the fundamental dishonesty of this Government.
The Government is out there spending money flat out, with no appreciation of how it is earned, and the public knows that it is not getting to grips with the real issues. In education that real issue is about basic standards that every child ought to meet. If Steve Maharey spent a fraction of his new money in this Budget on bringing in national standards and on making sure that every school taught every child to make progress towards those national standards, then that might be regarded as an investment. But he certainly will not do that, because he will not acknowledge that 20 percent of our young people are failing. We know they are failing. In National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 1 literacy, 27 percent of young New Zealanders failed the literacy standards—and I can tell members that the standards are not sophisticated, complex, or difficult.
This is why the public does not trust Dr Cullen. They do not believe him any more. They do not trust the line about investment because they know that the money is not being spent on things that matter but on the usual suspects under a Labour Government—bureaucracy and waste.
Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party) : Last Friday, Masterton District Council ditched its usual practice of recognising citizenship in favour of a move that accorded respect to the mana whenua of that rohe. About 40 residents who have become naturalised New Zealanders in the past 2 years were welcomed on to Te Ore Ore marae, a marae steeped in the rich traditions of that area. The whare whakairo at Te Ore Ore was erected by Paora Te Pōtangaroa, a leader and prophet of Ngāti Kahungunu. It is a marae that epitomises the unique character of tangata whenua. It is a marae that reflects our national identity—that is, until last Thursday, when the Budget 2006 introduced a new national identity, one that the minority Labour Government wants us to take pride in. It consists of arts, culture and heritage, defence, foreign affairs, foreign aid, and our land and environment. Belatedly, Dr Cullen’s Budget speech included as an afterthought: “and, in some respects, the place of Māori in our nation as the original inhabitants”.
National identity is a concept core to my heart, yet this minority Government wants me to believe that our roles in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and the Sudan tell me who I am as a New Zealander. It wants me to believe that the $4.6 billion for upgrades of the Orions and Hercules will get my heart pumping with patriotic fervour. It is telling me that I should take pride in Aotearoa as a result of the $4.6 billion defence sustainability initiative and not to worry that not one dollar was assigned to Māori Television, not one dollar to Te Whakaruruhau o Ngā Reo Irirangi Māori—Māori radio—and nothing to Te Māngai Pāho. And while it is telling me about the $305 million part-payment on new helicopters, or the $16 million to enhance border security measures, this minority Labour Government is forgetting to tell me about the closure of the Treaty of Waitangi Information Unit at the end of next month.
In April 2005 District Court and Waitangi Tribunal Judge Richard Kearney was reported as saying: “New Zealanders generally had a staggering, almost criminal, lack of understanding of Treaty issues”. Yet, a little over a year later, has this minority Government done so well that it can disestablish the very unit it set up to facilitate improved understanding and great public knowledge of the Treaty? This is familiar ground. Just like Te Wānanga o Aoteraroa, when outcomes are exceeding expectations, when New Zealanders are actively seeking to further their knowledge, the Government slams the door shut.
According to what we heard on Budget day, we will get a better understanding of our country and our history through excessive expenditure on artillery and armoury. Yeah, right! I contend here that nationhood is learning how to understand and speak, from the position of strength in knowing our own background, our history, and our traditions. Te Tiriti o Waitangi provides us with the context that can provide a foundation for living in Aotearoa. I am not talking about the piffling amount of money that the Budget has allocated to its own Government department—$5 million only, for the Office of Treaty Settlements.
The challenge before us is to look to the peoples in this country and celebrate our unique national identity that is grounded, firstly, in the indigenous story. If we are truly to develop a rich and sustainable national identity, we need to understand the meaning of Treaty justice. Every New Zealander has the right to understand the history that shapes our present—a history that talks about colonisation, assimilation, and self-determination, as well; a history that brings the land wars of sovereignty into every living room. The experiences of the coloniser and the colonised, of the conquests, of resistance, of renaissance must be a part of the living imprint of our ancestors, yours and mine.
The Treaty is a mechanism for building relationships, not a recipe for destruction, which some forces would make it out to be. The Māori Party is tired of the worn-out platitudes that Treaty grievances should be settled “for the good of the nation”, and that they should be settled “to meet Government’s target of having all claims lodged.” The implication is: “Let’s put an end to these claims and the Treaty, so we can get on with the job of being good Kiwis.” Well, what about settling Treaty grievances as a matter of justice? Also, what about supporting the claim of successive Governments that the Treaty of Waitangi is the foundation document of this country’s nationhood; and why can we not work positively to embrace our national identity? National identity is much more than border control or even the Royal New Zealand Ballet can offer. A gun is a gun is a gun, whether it is in Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Solomon Islands, or Waiōuru. An AK-47 retains its spots wherever it is located, but a pōwhiri, a marae, and a Pākehā are unique to this land—unique to Aotearoa, to New Zealand—and we must celebrate that, not shy away from it.
We can build a really strong nation but first we must attend to the disparities that exist between Māori and non-Māori. These disparities involve not only issues of performance but matters of justice. We all have to face these issues. But when I talk of institutionalised racism, when I speak of the poverty of 230,000 children, and when I reveal the horror of Māori prison statistics, I watch the expressions on the faces. When I mention the Treaty of Waitangi as being a positive mechanism for building relationships, I watch. And when I talk of justice, when I describe the legacy of colonisation, and when I insist that there is much unfinished business to attend to, I watch the faces. I watch the faces because they tell me that they really do not want to know this stuff. The faces say, oh no, not again. They say, oh God, Māori this, Māori that. The faces want to say to me that I should give it up. I should leave things where they are and go forward. That is what the Government and all these Ministers are saying. That is their party line: “We’re moving forward. We’re not dwelling in the past.” How glib. How easy, how naive, how ethnocentric, how ignorant, and how simplistic.
The fact is that we do reference the past, to determine our future. We believe in hope and we believe in justice. We celebrate our ancestors who served in the First World War and all the wars since then, and it helps us to value peace and to know justice, and to determine our current position within the conflicts of the world. So the Māori Party will continue to raise the issues pertinent to Treaty justice and to the disparities that exist and that inhibit true progress as a nation, whether they reference the past and/or the present. I repeat that we can never advance our nationhood without Māori, Pākehā, and all our communities moving together.
In summary, the Māori community, once again, will be devastated by this Budget. Dr Michael Cullen has outpaced all his opponents in directing funding away from Māori initiatives, as part of his Government’s underlying agenda to make Māori invisible. Is the big question how a caucus can be so arrogant as to ignore its own Māori members’ hopes and aspirations for their people? Or is the question, rather, how the Māori members of this Government, half of whom hold ministerial portfolios, can allow themselves to be so blatantly ignored by their Pākehā counterparts. The Māori Party will continue to challenge the logic that permeates the Budget decisions every step of the way.
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL (Minister of Commerce) : The Prime Minister, in her statement to Parliament at the beginning of this year, said that as part of the economic transformation agenda we would also be taking a fresh look at regulatory frameworks. Feedback from business suggests that higher-quality regulation will lead to more growth in investment, and we want to engage with business on how to achieve that.
I was very pleased to announce last night the detail of the Quality Regulation Review, which, as Michael Cullen said in the Budget speech last week, confirms our commitment to a regulatory environment that promotes economic growth, business confidence, globally competitive companies, and social well-being. The Quality Regulation Taskforce will be led by Peter Mumford from the Ministry of Economic Development, and its first meeting is scheduled for next week. Its focus is practical and its aim is on achieving results. The task force has been given comprehensive terms of reference in order to drive an ambitious and in-depth programme of action across Government, in partnership with business. That means involving business owners and representatives of the workforce as well, and it means including community leaders and local government representatives, too. I will get a weekly report on progress from the task force, and it will report to the high-level ministerial group I chair, on a 6-weekly basis. We have established strict time lines for reporting to Cabinet—namely, at the end of October, and at the end of March and the end of July next year. The task force will focus on regulatory frameworks that overlap each other at the level of the firm. We have invited sectors to bring their issues to the table, and we are promising a fast-track option to allow practical solutions to be implemented quickly.
The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. Peter Townsend from Christchurch, the home of the champion Crusaders, was asked on the radio last night about “… lots of promises but still some pretty horrible language around this—an inter-departmental Quality Regulation Taskforce is being set up for the part of the whole-of-Government look at this, do you understand?”. Peter Townsend replied: “Well, we’ve got multilayered regulations, and we’re going to have a multilayered review. So long as we get the right outcome, and as long as it’s action-orientated and efficient, then I’ve got no objection to it. In fact, I strongly support the Minister in her quest to reduce regulatory difficulties for business.” Business wants to get on with business, and they want to do it in partnership with the Government.
I want to respond to the concerns of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions that this review risks diversion from the real challenge. The real challenge is for businesses to invest in research and development, new technology, advanced technical processes, modernised plants and equipment, and innovation-related training for their staff. Let me say that we will not be diverted from the real issues, and I look forward to the business tax consultation document that is coming from Peter Dunne and Michael Cullen, so that we can talk about the investment in business we need in order to grow.
We cannot be diverted from the real issues, either, because the Council of Trade Unions will be in the room. It is important to have the right people in the room when these issues are discussed. It is vital that the representative voice of the workforce is heard in the debate about regulatory frameworks, because some frameworks are designed specifically to protect workforce interests. Health and safety in employment is a classic example. Some regulatory frameworks are specifically designed to protect consumer interests, and some are designed to protect economic, social, or environmental interests, but other regulatory frameworks are out of date. Some of the information gathering done by different departments that do not talk to each other is a problem for business. We want to hear what business is saying so that we can address those issues.
The National Party’s response to this review was to say that the “collective groan from business was audible”. The only groan I heard was from the Opposition. That is because Opposition members have no idea what business thinks, because they have stopped listening to business and business has stopped listening to them. The Opposition cannot stand that business has switched off from National—and I can tell National why. The reason that business people are sick of the National Party and its members is that they are negative, their behaviour is appalling, they make personal attacks on people, and they have that nasty, anti - New Zealand sentiment that wishes people would go overseas and live in Australia. They are more proud of Australia. In fact, some Australians, in a meeting I was at the other night, said they had listened to the National members’ speeches and thought they were listening to speeches on the Australian Budget, because they had not heard so much good stuff being said about Australia.
National was a once-proud party that used to stand for business; now it stands for the Exclusive Brethren. I have business leaders telling me they are embarrassed to admit they voted National, because they have had a much more positive response from a Labour-led Government and a Prime Minister who is committed to economic transformation and to families young and old, as well as to our national identity, not that of another country. Why is Don Brash telling people that it is better over the other side of the ditch?
Let us look at the World Bank Doing Business database, which provides objective measures of business regulations and their enforcement, across 155 economies. Where is New Zealand on that list? There are 155 economies. Is it near the bottom? Is it in the middle? Is it near the top? Or is it none of the above? It is none of the above, because New Zealand is No. 1. New Zealand is ranked by the World Bank as No. 1 for ease of doing business.
So why are National members telling people to go to Australia? The Australians have now reacted to what National members said was the Budget they would have delivered if National had won the last election. Cuts would have been the order of the day, and we know that would have meant $11 billion of cuts to health, housing, and education—the list goes on. The Labour-led Government has chosen investment over cuts—investment in roads, health, and education—and delivery on the commitments it made during the election campaign.
The Quality Regulation Taskforce is another investment in business growth by this Labour-led Government. Labour already has a Minister for Small Business. Was there a Minister for Small Business under National? There was not. Labour introduced the Small Business Advisory Group. National did not take any notice of what small businesses were saying, yet those businesses make up 96 percent of businesses in New Zealand. Labour has begun the task of implementing the recommendations it has agreed to. We have delivered on significant reductions to compliance requirements, through the Ministerial Panel on Business Compliance Costs. Our members are those who are inviting business to be part of any consultations the Government engages in, with a website that is now able to be used for the Quality Regulation Taskforce, as well.
Darren Hughes: What’s the address?
Hon LIANNE DALZIEL: For anyone who is listening, it is businessconsultation.govt.nz. We welcome people wanting to be part of our going forward together. Labour has said that it will lift the quality of its game going forward—with a regulatory impact analysis that is real, with serious cost benefit, with all the options on the table, and with real consultation with stakeholders. National members have not come up with one fresh idea about what they would do, except to take even more rights off workers than they stripped away with the Employment Contracts Act.
This review has come from the business community itself. Significantly, there has been a lot of noise from the small end of town, because that is where the weight of compliance is felt. I say “weight” rather than “burden”, because it is often the cumulative effect of rules that makes a difference, and we know that if we get rid of the little things that make a difference, then we really will make a big difference. One of the things I have discovered in talking to businesses is that some people do not know that the rules have changed or are going to change, but we can communicate better to businesses about how things are improving all the time.
This Government is business-friendly. The Opposition used to be business-friendly, but it has lost its way. The Opposition spokeswoman on economic development, Katherine Rich, is completely invisible. She is never to be seen anywhere and has given hardly any speeches since she has had the role. I do not understand why National has given up its traditional support.
Helen Clark is universally admired by business leaders, because she believes in New Zealand. She wants us to lift our game, because she wants New Zealand to do well. I am glad we have a Labour-led Government, a Labour Prime Minister, and a Budget from a Labour Minister of Finance. It would have been appalling if it had been any other way. We have a great future in this country, and I am glad we have a great Budget to debate in this House today.
Hon TONY RYALL (National—Bay of Plenty) : I wonder how many people in this House believe what Lianne Dalziel just said. Is she the Minister who told lies to the media and got dumped from Cabinet? How can we rely on what she says? Is she the Minister who told lies to New Zealanders and got dumped from Cabinet? Frankly, I have to say I agree with—
Darren Hughes: I raise a point of order, Madam Speaker. The Government understands that the member is slightly embarrassed about his behaviour on Morning Report yesterday, when he was not completely honest, but he cannot accuse another member of using unparliamentary words—
Hon TONY RYALL: That is not a point of order. Sit down.
Darren Hughes: I am on a point of order, I say to Mr Ryall, so he should sit down. Members cannot use unparliamentary words like he just used about another member.
Hon TONY RYALL: It is true.
Darren Hughes: Plus he has continued to interject during my point of order; he has just done it again. He needs to be brought to order.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Ann Hartley): The member is quite right; he cannot accuse another member of lying. He knows that is unparliamentary. I also make the point to Mr Ryall that he must not interject when a point of order is being heard. I ask you to withdraw and apologise.
Hon TONY RYALL: I withdraw and apologise. Lianne Dalziel did not tell the truth when she was Minister of Immigration and was asked specifically whether she leaked documents to TV3. She said no, but she had.
I agree with Katherine Rich, a person whom members can believe and who would not not tell the truth to the media. Katherine Rich said: “Whoop-de-do, another review.” I tell Lianne Dalziel—and this is the truth—the public have heard all this before. She has had a couple of good write-ups from Fran O’Sullivan, so she thinks she is on her way back. The fact is that Fran O’Sullivan gave Paul Swain a great write-up when he had his small-business group. Fran O’Sullivan also gave John Tamihere a great write-up when he had his small-business group. We know that nothing ever came out of them.
Do members want to know the most telling comment made by Lianne Dalziel in her press conference? It was that we could not go there because the Government was elected on those policies. Anything that Labour has done, it was elected on, and there will not be any changes to those policies. That is a joke. Of course, a few sector groups will welcome it; they are hoping they might get something out of it. But, frankly, I say whoop-de-do; here we go again.
I am sure many New Zealanders would have thought the same about health in this Budget. There was absolutely nothing in this Budget about the most pressing issues facing the health sector today. Where was the leadership and direction on trying to secure and train a sufficient health workforce in New Zealand? Where was the leadership to say we will get more general practitioners so that we can have family health-care closer to where it is needed and at a better price? Where was the leadership to have more general practitioners and more nurses in our community? In fact, how can general practitioners—and those wanting to be general practitioners—have any confidence at all in this Government, when we have a Minister of Health who calls leading surgeons in this country unethical, who cannot even negotiate cheaper doctors’ visits for a whole bunch of New Zealanders, and who will not even condemn the disgusting pictures that a union printed to try to exploit public opinion in favour of its wage claim. He did absolutely nothing.
There is no leadership whatsoever from the Minister of Health—the hapless health Minister Pete Hodgson. There is nothing from this Government to deal with the general practitioner crisis. There is not a word on increasing the number of training places in our medical schools for general practitioners, with additional rural and community training. There is not a word from this Government about trying to provide some loan write-offs to get general practitioners to areas that are hard to staff. And there is not a word on doing the single most important thing to keep our health workforce here, which is cut personal taxes.
Another most pressing issue facing the health sector today is the cruel contradiction in our health service that the Government wants more people to go to the doctor, but if they go to the doctor and are found to be sick it does not want them anywhere near a hospital waiting list. Tens of thousands of New Zealanders are being dumped from hospital waiting lists in this country every day. Senior medical specialists have described the Government’s policy as dangerous and risky. Senior medical specialists have said it is being done for financial, rather than medical, reasons. Would members ever expect that under a so-called caring Labour Government, senior medical specialists would be saying that the Labour Party is putting finance before patients? I am not surprised. We had women dying of breast cancer, and the woman Prime Minister and the woman who was the previous Minister of Health did nothing. The woman Prime Minister and the woman who was the previous Minister of Health allowed women not to get treatment for breast cancer. They did nothing for months, until National Party members said the women should be treated. They were sent to Australia. Our woman Prime Minister and the woman who was the previous Minister of Health did nothing, until National Party members said those women should be given care. That is how Labour responds in the health system. The only reason it is doing anything is that the National Party is holding it to account. Members should expect some action from the Government—a few plans—on the general practitioner workforce within months. Because we are going on about it, the Government will act on it. Members should expect some further action on elective surgery within the next 6 months. We are going on about it, and it will have to happen because this Government worries about it.
I tell the Government that the next area of waste that the “Prime Money Waster” and the “Wastemaster-General” should look at is the huge, bloated bureaucracies in New Zealand’s public health system. Here is the other deceit: before the 1999 election Helen Clark said Labour would strip out layers of management from the public health sector. The fact is that there have been 2,000 extra bureaucrats in the last 6 years. But the Government tells us that it has employed 5,500 more doctors and nurses. One does not need a new manager for every two nurses, but that is what Labour has done. What is worse, that waste—and so much of it is waste—now totals over half a billion dollars. [Interruption] There are a couple of little chirps from the person who lives in Pētone and wants to be the MP for Gisborne. The fact is that Labour has no idea of the value of a dollar. We desperately need as much money as possible to deal with the hundreds of patients who this week alone have been dumped off hospital waiting lists. The worst part is that those people had been to see their general practitioners, who said they needed to see a specialist. But they are being sent back to the general practitioner—the very person who said they needed to see a specialist.
The most appalling list being culled is the one of people who, according to the specialist, need an operation and meet the points to get an operation. But the Government will still cull those people from the waiting list, because the money is being wasted on a whole lot of Treaty nonsense, political correctness, and a whole lot of bureaucrats who are unnecessary—$500 million. Talkback radio callers went stupid on this issue, and I do not blame them. There is $500 million of health manager bureaucracy in this country, and Damien O’Connor said it was all about transparency, accountability, and efficiency. There is nothing efficient about employing one new administrator for every two nurses. There is nothing efficient about there being two administrators for every new doctor. It just does not make sense. This Government—
Hon David Cunliffe: Face us when you talk to us.
Hon TONY RYALL: Maybe we will hear from Mr Cunliffe. I bet that he will not talk about Telecom.
This Budget offered nothing to the health sector. New Zealanders were looking for some vision. The Minister of Health has tried to redeem himself from the clumsy and foolish 8 months he has spent not being able to get on the front foot in health, but there has been nothing. The most pressing issues include the general practitioner crisis that is befalling this country. Very soon there will be 2, 3, or 4-day waits to see a general practitioner. People in Gisborne cannot get on a general practitioner’s roll, people in Timaru are having trouble, and several hundred people on the Kapiti coast cannot get to see a general practitioner. The Government has done nothing about that, nothing has been done about the blowout of the hospital bureaucracy, and there has not been a word from this Government about dealing with the tens of thousands of New Zealanders being dumped from hospital waiting lists.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Minister of Immigration) : It is pretty hard and pretty disappointing to see a National Party that has so totally lost its way, that has lost its passion for New Zealand, that wishes it were Australian, and that has a great feel for cultural cringe. The National Party has forgotten that 150,000 Australians left Australia last year. Roughly the same proportion of Aussies said: “Strewth, mate, I’ve had enough, I’m packing off out of here.”, and left Australia as New Zealanders left New Zealand—many of whom, it is true, went across the ditch or elsewhere. We know—and I as Minister of Immigration can tell members—that three-quarters of those Kiwis come back again.
But the Opposition has never let the facts get in the way of a good argument. Tony Ryall said we were not training enough people. That is just a joke. This Government has invested more money in skills training and workforce participation, including in the health sector, than any other Government in New Zealand’s history. The proof of the pudding is that since we took office we have increased resources for health by close to 80 percent, and we have nearly doubled spending on health. What do National members say? They say they would rather be in Australia. Well, those members should go to Australia. We do not particularly want you; why do you not try to raise the IQ—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Order!
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Not you, Mr Assistant Speaker, I do apologise.
That is enough about National members; let us talk about us. This really is a good Budget—a great Budget. It delivers on the Government’s promises. This might seem strange to the Opposition, but we are in the habit of saying what we will do and then doing what we say. This Budget funds interest-free student loans, Working for Families, the biggest transport spend-up since Vogel borrowed for the railways, an expansion of industry training and skills training, a massive increase in health spending, and continued expansion in our education services so that we train our young people.
Why are we doing this? It is because New Zealanders voted for it. They elected this Government on a platform of investment, of carrying New Zealanders into the future as proud Kiwis, and of making sure that nobody is left out. They rejected tax cuts for the rich mates of members opposite, and they rejected an approach to life that says: “I’m OK, mate, and you’re down the drain.” That is not the New Zealand way. This Government represents fair, decent Kiwis who say that they want to go forward and want others to go forward, too. They want a Government that takes the whole country forward.
Economists would say that the best way to do that is by getting productivity up. We all know that there are two parts to productivity: how hard we work and how smart we work. New Zealanders are working harder now than when Labour took office; they are working as hard as any workforce in the OECD. New Zealand has the lowest unemployment rate in the Western World and very high labour participation rates. Where we need to drive now, and where this Budget takes us, is in working smarter and in making sure that our tools are up to scratch, that we have the technology we need, and that we have the teaching and skills training to deliver on worker productivity.
As Minister of Communications and Minister for Information Technology, my part of that has been to support the Prime Minister and Cabinet in respect of technology. In advance of this Budget, at a timing not of our choosing—and, I suggest, not of Telecom’s choosing—we released what I think is a historic change to the telecommunications environment. Unbundling the local loop is just a small part of this package. This is a comprehensive package that brings non-discrimination to the local loop through a combination of local loop unbundling; wholesale provisions; unbundled bitstream, or UBS; and naked DSL, which is the opportunity to buy line separate from voice. The package also takes us forward with intermodal competition, which is the ability for modes other than copper to reach more New Zealanders with more bandwidth—fibre, wireless, and mobile. It future-proofs the regulatory system so that we will not be playing catch-up. We are 3 years behind the OECD mainstream; we are in the bottom third—22nd out of 30. That is no way for a small, smart country to face the future. The package delivers faster, cheaper broadband for all New Zealanders. Will it happen tomorrow? No, it will take some time. It is important for us to align expectations. It will take 2 or 3 years for this to settle into the market. But it will deliver—we said that from day one. It is in the Cabinet paper, and I suggest members opposite read it.
What counterarguments have been raised by members opposite and their old mates at the Wellington Club? The first argument relates to property rights. That is a lot of crock, because every Western country, apart from Mexico, has already done what we said we would do 2 weeks ago, so that cannot be a problem. I think Maurice Williamson suggested that the only reason we have low broadband speed is that we have low incomes. That is complete nonsense; if one correlates those things, one will find there is no relationship between them, at all. Even if there were a correlation, to say that we are poor and will never get better is no way to encourage New Zealanders forward. That is a party that has given up; this is a Government that is making positive change happen for all New Zealanders.
What has National come up with now? It is really interesting. In the opening of the Budget debate, Don Brash stated that National would support the Communications Legislation Bill, at least as far as sending it to a select committee. He said National would support a change. Well, good on him! If National members have to expend their energy attacking this Minister rather than attacking the policy, I will gladly pay that price. They have had three goes in the last 2 weeks, so let us just note for the record what they were. Firstly, they said that Minister Cunliffe was responsible for the leak as it must have come from his office. That is wrong; I am not and it did not. In fact, no policy official was responsible for the leak at all, and it was certainly no one under my command.
Secondly, those members say that this Minister was responsible for driving down a company’s share price. I have never heard such disrespect for a statutory body. The Securities Commission is looking at this matter, and I welcome that. I want the facts on the table and I want them considered objectively. I will cooperate fully with that process. What I will not do is what the Opposition is doing—pre-empting the results of that process—because I think I know who will have the last laugh, and it will not be the Opposition.
Thirdly, today those members came up with the supposed coup de grâce. They said that this Minister’s integrity has been called into question by the High Court. Well, that is very, very interesting because that matter was reported publicly at the time. The court has corrected its records to make it clear that the confidential information was not presented to the Minister in the meeting where it was passed to officials. The Minister acted always on advice from his department, and the department has since said that the advice could have been better. But, most important, Vodafone New Zealand has indicated to this Minister that it is shocked that the Minister’s integrity could have been impugned and that in no way was that the substance of its concerns. So if the best the Opposition can do is to attack me, then that is the price one pays for doing good things for New Zealanders.
This Government is making change happen for telecommunications. We are giving New Zealanders a freedom they have not had before. A wave of investment, both on the loop and off the loop, is poised to happen over the next few years. More important, New Zealanders know that it is OK to innovate, OK to bring new products and services to the market, OK to face the future, and OK to be dynamic. There will be no more Opposition cringe, no more tall poppy syndrome, and no more sell-out to the Aussies. It is time we all became proud New Zealanders and it is time we stood up to be counted for New Zealand. That is what this Government is doing and what this Budget does. It is a great Budget. It will not be the last Cullen Budget and we are very pleased about that.
JUDITH COLLINS (National—Clevedon) : I want to make it plain to the House that I will not attack the Hon David Cunliffe. He does such a good job of it himself that I really could not outdo him on that one. My goodness, when we have one of those speeches delivered in the third party, where one talks about oneself, we always know one is in deep trouble—and he is.
Seven years ago small business made up 85 percent of business in this country, and this afternoon we heard Lianne Dalziel, Minister for Small Business, say it is now 96 percent of all business. Frankly, that says it all. That is what has happened to business in this country: it has become smaller. Seven years ago Australians earned 20 percent more than New Zealanders did in their take-home pay. Now Australians earn 33 percent more in their take-home pay than New Zealanders do, and that is a travesty. Seven years ago Helen Clark said this about the 20 percent gap: “We can no longer stand back and watch our best and brightest leave and take their ideas, and now even their business, with them. That recent TV1 Assignment programme on New Zealanders migrating to Australia conveyed the message that the last person leaving New Zealand should turn out the lights. That means it is time to act.”
Helen Clark said that 7 years ago. Apparently, according to Helen Clark, that message was true when there was a 20 percent differential between the take-home pays of Australians and Kiwis—and I say it is more true now. Yet, when the National Party in Opposition brings that issue to the fore, it is accused of being unpatriotic. National members are accused of wanting to live in Australia. Today I heard Helen Clark tell Don Brash to go and live in Australia. That is what she said, it is what she says to New Zealanders, and that is what the previous speaker said. He told us all that if we did not like it here, we knew where to go: we could go to Australia.
But I think that perhaps Mr Cunliffe may not have remembered what Helen Clark told the Contractors Federation conference in her speech in August 1999. Here is another thing Helen Clark said in July of that year: “I, for one, would prefer New Zealand to have rates of growth and living standards akin to”—oh, the member has guessed it! I ask the member which country she thinks it is.
Paula Bennett: Australia.
JUDITH COLLINS: —“Australia’s.” Helen Clark said that. That was very unpatriotic, Dr Mapp. [Interruption] What did the member say?
Dr Wayne Mapp: Vanuatu.
JUDITH COLLINS: No, unfortunately, Miss Clark said the A-word—Australia. Was Miss Clark being unpatriotic? Well, perhaps not. Perhaps she was just referring to the fact that New Zealand has for some years been lagging behind Australia in its after-tax money, and New Zealanders want that situation to change but they do not want it to change for the worse.
Darien Fenton: They want higher wages.
JUDITH COLLINS: Yes, I think Ms Fenton has correctly pointed out that we do need higher wages in this country, but I say to the member that makes a difference only by increasing our take-home pay.
One of the ways to get higher wages into people’s pockets is to cut taxes so that they have an incentive to work, because, unfortunately, not everybody earns $140,000, has an iPod, and can text their kids to tell them to come to the dinner table—as this Government seems to think is the normal standard for a family. That is the Government’s version of the Working for Families family: the family with parents who are so disengaged from their children that they have to text them to come to dinner, as nobody can be bothered to walk across the room, because—gosh—that might require effort. Those are the people whom this Government is targeting. It is not targeting people on $58,000 a year who are trying desperately to get some more money for their family in order to pay off the mortgage, or even to get a mortgage in the first place. It does not help first home buyers to buy a house, does it? Nor does the Government help the single person who is struggling and working in a shop in Botany Downs, just across from my electorate, who is trying to get ahead on an income of $12 an hour. It does not help those people to want to do some overtime or to take on a second job. It does not help them to go off and get extra qualifications, or to ask their bosses to pay them a better wage.
One of the reasons this Government does not do those things is that it thinks people should have a relationship with the Government rather than with their employer. One of the things this Government has done, through introducing the Working for Families package, is to take the heat off those employers who do not want to pay people a decent wage. That package says that employers do not need to look at pay rates, because the Government will just top up employees’ wages. It says that as long as employees have lots of kids, the Government will just top up their wages. Well, I say that is not good enough. And that is one of the reasons Lianne Dalziel has today admitted what has happened to medium business in this country: medium business has become smaller, and big business has flown—apart from Guinness Peat Group, which apparently receives special treatment. What sort of pork barrel politics is that? It is absolutely disgraceful.
This Budget should have had some good welfare policy provisions in it. Unfortunately, we are still awaiting the single core benefit. That benefit proposal has been around since 1989—it is 17 years. It is so old that in another year it will be able to vote. That policy has been brought out as a proposal every now and again, to make up for the fact that this Government simply will not accept the fact that we have welfare dependency in this country. I have heard Ministers of the Crown, particularly Ruth Dyson, say there is no such thing as welfare dependency and ask what it is, anyway. I suggest that she takes the shades off her eyes, gets out there, and has a look around. I am sure she can see it in her electorate. I am sure many of us can see it in our own electorates. There is intergenerational welfare dependency, and nowhere is it worse than in the Māori community. The people who suffer are the people who have been conned into thinking all they can get is a welfare cheque.
Anne Tolley: It’s patronising.
JUDITH COLLINS: It is worse than patronising; it writes off people’s potential. That is simply not good enough. To take a benefit, shove it all together, put a little pink bow around it, and say it is something new will not make it anything more than what it is: welfare dependency.
We hear a lot about the rate of unemployment in this country. I am pleased there is a low rate of unemployment, but I am disgusted at the way this Government has shifted so many people off the unemployment benefit and on to the sickness benefit or the invalids benefit. That says to those people that they are just too sick to work. I do not believe for a moment that 112,000 New Zealanders of working age are too sick to work. I think that is an absolute disgrace. As fast as the unemployment rate has been going down, the sickness benefit and invalids benefit numbers have been going up. That does not solve anything.
Another very tricky little thing this Government has done is to merge the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services with the Ministry of Social Development. That was a disgrace. The way that took place was extraordinarily deceitful. When the State Services Commission was asked about the proposal in December of last year, it said a merger would not benefit either Child, Youth and Family Services or the Ministry of Social Development—that it would not help them—and that it would make the chief executive’s job almost untenable. One month later, the State Services Commissioner had completely changed his mind, and a merger had become the best thing since sliced bread. What happened? I wrote to the State Services Commissioner and asked him what had happened. Well, he said he had changed his mind. It was Christmas. I wonder what was in the little stocking that made him change his mind. It was a most extraordinary response. I asked the Minister what the reasons were, and the Minister said he had changed his mind. That is not a reason; it is a statement.
Dr Wayne Mapp: Is that Benson-Pope?
JUDITH COLLINS: No, the Minister of State Services is Annette King. Did the member not know that? It is the same sort of thing.
Nowhere in any of the reports that have been released has there been one statement about the benefit of the merger to our most vulnerable children. Frankly, to this Government those vulnerable children are just numbers. Unfortunately, for those of us who work in the area it is a very real and damning situation that a country like New Zealand has the most appalling rates of child abuse. That is absolutely unacceptable, and just shoving a department like Child, Youth and Family Services into the Ministry of Social Development to create an uber-ministry will not save the life of one little child.
Anne Tolley: What’s that?
JUDITH COLLINS: An uber-ministry is a big ministry. I can use big words, just like David Cunliffe can.
DARIEN FENTON (Labour) : I am proud to have the opportunity to speak in the Budget debate. Budget 2006 is a fair and responsible Budget that only a Labour-led Government could deliver. It is a Budget that invests in our future; it builds on the progress of our country over the last 6 years; it delivers on our promises; and it provides solutions that will help drive the economy to the next level of transformation. We on this side of the House are loyal to our country. We put it first. We have pride in who we are, and confidence in our people and our future. We work together for the good of everyone in a society that is fair. We build on our core values of fairness, security, opportunity, and reaching down and giving those in need a hand up.
But what do we see from Dr Brash and the National Party? We see Australian envy, ocker jealousy, foreign-poppy syndrome, and talking New Zealand down again. Well, first it was America and now it is Australia. If Dr Brash wants to put up billboards around the country about Australia, let us at least have the truth. Australia’s tax cuts are good, but only if one is rich. What about the little people—the Aussie battlers, as John Howard likes to call them? Working people earning up to $70,000 a year get only between $7 and $10 a week, and that is on top of $1.50 to $6 a week in tax cuts under his previous two Budgets.
The National Party should come clean. Are those the kinds of tax cuts that Dr Brash plans for New Zealanders—lots for the well-off and nothing much for everyone else? Australian families are getting only an extra $5 to $10 a week, unlike New Zealand families under the Working for Families package. There are no plans to tackle Australia’s skill crisis, and, on top of that, the nation is facing one of the worst assaults on workers’ rights in its history, under Australia’s ironically named Work Choices legislation. Miserly tax cuts mean nothing to the workers who are seeing big drops in their take-home pay. Tax cuts mean nothing to workers who are getting the sack. Australia has come late to the Employment Contracts Act, but we will see the same devastating consequences as we saw in New Zealand. Real take-home pay will drop, jobs will increasingly be casualised, and the gap between rich and poor will grow further.
Most serious of all the new Australian industrial relations laws is the one that allows employers who employ fewer than 100 workers to sack them for no reason. In the first days of Australia’s new laws, there was a rash of sackings, and these have continued right across all spectrums of work. Workers are being fired, and re-employed as casuals on lower wages, with no sick leave, no paid annual leave, and no public holidays. One worker was sacked by text message. Another worker was fired, then rehired on a contract that pays $200 less a week. Another worker had his pay docked for doing a whip-round for the widow of a mate who was killed on the job. All around the nation Australians are feeling firsthand the real costs of their Government’s new industrial relations regime.
So are Dr Brash and the National Party seriously suggesting that New Zealanders will up sticks and head off to Australia for a miserly $7 a week tax cut, where if they are unfortunate enough to find work with an employer who employs fewer than 100 workers they could be sacked, for no reason, with no warning, and with no come-back? It is a little bit like Dr Mapp’s forlorn belief that his 90-day probationary period bill will promote growth and productivity—yeah, right! No skilled worker will leave a secure job knowing that he or she could be sacked from his or her next job without reason.
The Australian Government’s tax cuts have been targeted largely at high-income earners—[Interruption]
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I am sorry to interrupt the member but I say to members on my left that, as we all know, politics is the art of possible. The possible today is good order. I refer members to Speaker’s ruling 57/3, which states that running commentaries are out of order.
DARIEN FENTON: The Australian Government’s tax cuts have been targeted largely at high-income earners and have provided little relief from rising prices for average working families. In fact, low-income Australian workers with average incomes of around $35,000 a year are paying proportionately more of their income in tax than they were 5 years ago. During the same period, working families with high incomes that average more than $140,000 a year have enjoyed cuts in proportion to the income they pay in tax.
The message I hear from Aussie mates asks why any thinking New Zealander would want to go to Australia right now. In fact, I think the Australian industrial relations laws will drive many Australians over here, and many of our own back here, as well. I think Dr Brash draws a long bow in saying that tax cuts will mean New Zealanders head for Australia. New Zealanders emigrate for a variety of reasons, and Australians emigrate, too. As we heard from my colleague, the number of Australians emigrating has reached the highest level ever. The interesting thing about those statistics is that overwhelmingly the Australian-born who are emigrating, are emigrating to New Zealand. Of the overseas-born emigrants from Australia, 83.7 percent were New Zealanders returning to New Zealand.
The trend for immigration is affecting all countries and is likely to continue as a result of the increasing internationalisation of labour markets and the global demand for skilled workers. New Zealand has had a net outflow from New Zealand to Australia almost every year since 1960, so to suggest that this is a new phenomenon is disingenuous. We continue to gain population from migration. We replace departing New Zealand citizens with immigration of non - New Zealanders, and our immigrants are higher-skilled than our existing population. Studies show that those going to Australia are not concentrated in the higher-skilled categories. As Treasury stated in a 2001 paper about migration to and from Australia, rather than a brain drain, the evidence seems to suggest a “same brain”—a consequence of a common labour market with Australia.
A large community of New Zealanders and Australians live offshore on a permanent or long-term basis, and these people are important to New Zealand as well. Relatively speaking, this group are prosperous, well educated, well connected, highly employable, and well disposed to New Zealand. They have not turned their backs on New Zealand. They play their role in the world, heading up business, international organisations, cultural institutions, and teach at some of the world’s best universities. That is as much about our national identity in the face we show to the world as anything else. It is also about our economic wealth. Our expatriate population projects our image offshore. They help to develop links between New Zealand and its trading partners by facilitating access to overseas markets for New Zealand goods and services, and when immigrants return to New Zealand they often bring back new skills, knowledge, and productivity.
So rather than seeing migration as a threat, as the National Party does, we need to see it as a reality in a modern world of highly mobile people and labour markets. I suspect that many of us in this House at some stages in our lives, particularly when younger, decided to travel overseas. I, for one, left home for 2 years and lived and worked in England, Hong Kong, and India. My son, who is a highly skilled computer scientist, is planning his OE right now. He is not leaving for more money or a tax cut, he is leaving because we live in a little country at the bottom of the world, and it is in our genes to explore the rest of the world. He will come home again.
New Zealanders are proud of their country. They do think we are doing well. They like the fact that this Budget invests in the things that matter most to Kiwis. Most of them are not clamouring for tax cuts—except, of course, the National Party’s very rich friends—and they do not want to see tax cuts at the expense of everything else we hold dear. They do not want services cut while the rich grow even richer. But just like a broken record, National members continue to play the same old tune—no new ideas, just last century’s failed policies and the politics of envy. They are out of touch; but this Labour-led Government is not, and this is a Budget to be proud of.
Dr WAYNE MAPP (National—North Shore) : For the benefit of listeners, that was Darien Fenton’s strategic vision. Her strategic vision, which she spent hours and hours working on, was all about the merits of the Labour Government’s policies of exporting New Zealanders. That is the big plan—the great merits of sending New Zealanders offshore to build up the expatriate community for the everlasting wealth of New Zealanders. I guess that when one has 38,000 people leaving New Zealand for Australia this year, one would try to make a virtue of that, would one not? Actually it is a good thing for New Zealand if half its population went to Australia; they benefit, we benefit, we all benefit! That is the big strategic vision of the Labour Government—to send New Zealanders to Australia.
Well, New Zealanders actually say no to that. That is the point Labour has missed about National’s concerns. We are saying that the Labour Budget is sending New Zealanders to Australia. Labour thinks that is a good thing. Labour has just spent the last several minutes saying that that is a good thing. I have something to say to the Labour Government: it is a bad thing. That is the point we were trying to make. We say that the future of this country does not depend on exporting all the best New Zealanders to Australia. We want to keep those people here. We want them to have a future in New Zealand, and that is the point I wish to make.
I draw members’ attention to the tax issue. Labour goes on about its Working for Families package. It says how wonderful it is. It has been saying that families get this and families get that, and so forth. Obviously it is a good thing for people to get extra money. Labour even calls it a targeted tax cut. Do members know what the real problem of the package is—and this problem was really the point of National’s attack on it? For example, there is a family with a couple of kids that earns $38,000—an average income, probably a bit on the low side—and the principal earner receives a big promotion to $60,000. One has to work damn hard to get a promotion or new job that takes one from $38,000 to $60,000. Do members know what would actually happen? That family would get an extra $2,000. That is the problem, is it not? That is the incentive killer of the Working for Families package. The package kills incentive, it stifles initiative, and that is why New Zealanders are saying that, actually, there are better opportunities in other countries.
We are not saying that one should not have any sort of family tax credit, but one has to deal with the issue of the marginal tax rates. When there are 90 percent marginal tax rates—because that is what the Government’s package delivers—we say that that is wrong. There is a better way, and that is a package of an overall lower tax rate. When one has an $8.5 billion surplus, which is 5 percent of GDP—
Anne Tolley: How much is it?
Dr WAYNE MAPP: Five percent of GDP—it works out to $2,000 for every person in the country. When is there ever a better time to have a tax cut—an overall, across-the-board tax cut that does not kill incentive? I ask members who agrees with that? The Prime Minister. She said that the conditions that were required was a 1 percent GDP surplus. We have 5 percent, yet she says that now is not the time. She has actually sold out to Michael Cullen. She actually said that today, did she not? What was her answer to Dr Brash? “Well, actually, I got rolled by Dr Cullen. I really wanted to have a tax cut in the last 2005 Budget, but I got rolled by Dr Cullen, and I defer to him.” She got rolled again last week. I have to ask who rules in that party? Is it the Prime Minister or is it the Deputy Prime Minister? Normally in that kind of contest there tends to be one ultimate winner, and it is not usually the Deputy Prime Minister. So I have to say that he is on the way out because he just about killed off this Government.
Do members know how good it got for the Government? One of its big catches was Darien Fenton because that was the great success of the Cullen Budget last year. Do members know who else Labour could have got? They could have got Charles Chauvel. They could have got Louisa Wall.
Hon Tau Henare: They might get them!
Dr WAYNE MAPP: Well, actually they might. Unfortunately Darien will not be resigning, however, but there you are. But that Budget destroyed their own future. That Budget destroyed their own renewal. So the Prime Minister is now desperately going around saying: “Mr Russell Fairbrother, we’ve got a great job for you. Perhaps the Law Commission.” Actually he would be a very good person on the Law Commission, he would be excellent, and I tell Russell that it pays more, for that matter.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Would the member please use the member’s full name.
Dr WAYNE MAPP: I want to turn to a specific issue, and that is this. Lianne Dalziel was given a big opportunity yesterday. Last Thursday the Minister of Finance said that on Monday there would be a special announcement by Lianne Dalziel on compliance costs. It was her big opportunity to make a really big splash, and she did that last night. She had a special conference, speeches, press releases and all that sort of thing. Do members know what she announced?
Hon David Carter: A committee!
Dr WAYNE MAPP: A committee, another review—yet another review. That is as good as it gets under Lianne Dalziel. In her speech she talked about rules. She does have rules, and these are the rules: rule No. 1, do not talk about employment law; rule No. 2, do not talk about the Resource Management Act; rule No. 3, do not talk about occupational safety and health. So what is left? What can one talk about? Well, apparently one can talk about shop trading hours—a big issue. One can talk about the Sale of Liquor Act. I know there are thousands and thousands of retailers who say that the Sale of Liquor Act is the top of mind issue for them; that is the big issue they want to focus on.
There was one good thing. They said that they would talk about the Holidays Act. Does that mean Lianne Dalziel will deal with the real issue in the Holidays Act? Does that mean she will deal with the issue of relevant daily pay? Air New Zealand’s 2004 annual report said pay would cost the company $17 million per year. The figure for the meat industry is $50 million. The reason for that is that it actually pays to be sick. A person gets more money by being sick than working. Darien Fenton knows that is true. It was discovered in a plant in the South Island that there was an unofficial roster of sick days. People had worked it out. They all wanted a slice of the pie; they all wanted to be paid more for being sick. So there was an unofficial deal and sick days were shared around. That is not what the legislation is intended for, so I ask the Government whether this review of the Holidays Act will deal with the real issue, which is relevant daily pay.
The Small Business Advisory Group gave the Minister a mark of zero out of 10 on employment issues. She wants to do better; in her speech she said that last year her mark was 5.3, which was not too good, and she wanted to do better. The employers—the Small Business Advisory Group—said that the biggest single issue for small businesses was employment law, and she got zero out of 10. But employment law is not on the list of things that are allowed to be talked about. No, it is totally banned.
Darien Fenton spent a bit of time talking about employment law, and she talked about Australia and all sorts of things. She talked about a bill I have promoted that is about probationary periods for new employees. The Small Business Advisory Group wanted a 12-month probationary period, but I suggested a 3-month one. The reason for this is that in every single country of the OECD there are probation periods. These are not the sorts of probation periods that currently exist in the legislation, but a real probation period that does not lead—as soon as the employment does not work out—to a tariff of thousands and thousands of dollars to pass go. It is a genuine trial period. I chose 90 days for the very good reason that it is a moderate and reasoned approach; the period is the norm in the OECD. I acknowledge that 12 months is probably a bit long. I looked seriously at a 6-month period and there is a big argument around a 6-month or 3-month period. A lot of businesses would prefer 6 months, but I understand there is a range of views in Parliament under MMP, so 3 months was chosen as a reasonable proposition.
I say to Government members—and to Lianne Dalziel specifically—that they should take their heads out of the sand and do something worthwhile for small businesses by giving them a decent probation period.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour) : For the benefit of those listening to this debate at home, I say that the previous speaker was Dr Wayne Mapp, the “exterminator”. Once again, as we have heard in all these Budget speeches, he was searching for any possible reason as to why we should not target tax relief to those people who need it the most. It is targeted for the very logical reason that if we do that, we can give those people more because we are not spending hundreds of millions of dollars on giving tax cuts to people who do not need them.
Of course, if National had been giving this Budget, the National MPs and all their mates would have benefited by about $100 a week, and they acknowledge that. But they were willing to make that sacrifice for the sake of the people of New Zealand—to take one for the team. They would have taken the $100 tax cuts even though they did not really want them, because that was the only fair way to do things. Had this Budget been delivered by a National Government, we would have been sitting here and listening to National members tell us about how good it was for the workers of New Zealand, who would have received practically nothing. Any benefit would have then been obliterated by interest rate rises and by some of the things we have seen happening in Australia.
The National Party has no idea what motivates people, and that is what has struck me as I have sat here listening to all the Budget speeches. The National Party thinks the way to motivate rich people is to give them more money, and the way to motivate poor people is to give them less money. That is why, when National was in Government in the 1990s, in just about every policy area it was an abysmal failure. One of its policies was to treat beneficiaries so badly that they would get off the benefit. That policy worked; beneficiary numbers went up! Under Labour, 100,000 fewer people overall are on benefits, compared with when we came into office in 1999. We have had a drop of over 70 percent in the number of people on the unemployment benefit, yet National still tells us that we are not doing it right. If Labour is not doing it right, then I would hate to see what doing it wrong is.
We heard from Dr Wayne Mapp that our expats living overseas have no role to play in New Zealand. This is what I mean when I talk about the National Party not understanding what motivates people. Labour members know that people will go off on their OE. It is part of our culture and our national identity that our young people will go off on their OE and then will come home. The challenge for a Government is to work with that, and to ask how we can make sure those young people do come back here, bringing back with them all the skills and experience they have gained while on their OE. It appears to me, from Dr Wayne Mapp’s speech, that National’s solution is to ban the OE—that if we get rid of the working holiday visas, then we will get rid of the problem. He thinks that if people do not go overseas, we will not have to worry about bringing them back.
I am very proud to stand up in this House and talk about Budget 2006. This Budget is about investment for New Zealanders. It is about stability. It is about saying to New Zealanders we have done well for the last 6 years—we have grown our economy, and more people are in jobs than ever before—and the Government is not going to turn track suddenly in mid-course, as has been the case so often in the past. We have heard a lot about economic transformation. This Labour-led Government is absolutely committed to that agenda.
In transport, $1.3 billion will be given over 5 years for infrastructure development. We have known for a long time that one of the bottlenecks in our economy is infrastructure, because successive Governments of all shades and colours have not invested enough in New Zealand’s infrastructure. Now we are at a crisis point, but this injection of cash—this bold move—will make a real difference to infrastructure, and therefore to the economy.
Bob Clarkson: You’ve only had 6 years.
MOANA MACKEY: Mr Clarkson is going on, but his area is to receive a whole lot of funding. He should be thankful. But no, National is never happy. If Labour puts more money into something, National is not happy. If we do not put enough money in, National is not happy. National is calling for $11 billion worth of tax cuts, and it still wants us to double, triple, or quadruple the spending in every single area.
I ask members whether we will ever see an alternative Budget from National.
Darren Hughes: Not a chance.
MOANA MACKEY: No, of course, we will not. National is the party that went into a general election without a health policy. The biggest area of Government expenditure is health, and National had no policy on it. National’s policy was that it would review health after the election. How can National put out an alternative Budget, when it has no policy in the single biggest area of expenditure? The Hon Tony Ryall gets up in the House every day and talks about health, but he has never once told us what National would do. We have never seen National’s health policy.
National says it will get rid of bureaucrats following the next election. Who do National members think will carry out the reviews in every single area of policy? They said they would review each area of policy after the election. Who do they think carries out reviews? We know that in terms of health policy, the doctors and nurses do that. The Hon Tony Ryall has told us that National wants doctors and nurses to have flexibility. We know what flexibility means: it means doctors and nurses will answer phones, schedule operations, and do their own typing. That is what flexibility would mean for the 5,500 extra doctors and nurses that this Labour-led Government has delivered since 1999. In that context, 1,500 extra administrators are needed to cope with the extra workload. There are 20 percent more case-weighted discharges now than there were in 1999, and the extra workload that comes from having more doctors and nurses requires additional people to answer phones, schedule operations, and type, so that doctors and nurses can get back to the business of actually treating patients.
That contrasts with the 1990s, when doctors and nurses spent all their time doing administration for the overly bureaucratic Crown health enterprises. Yet National members now stand up with a bold face in this House and accuse us of being bureaucratic in the health system. There is a word for that—[Interruption] Oh, waste! National was unable to tell us its policy during the entire election campaign. It came up with a small amount of funding that it could save, and in order to pay for the $11 billion worth of tax cuts it needed to find only another $10.999 billion. The National members have never told us who would lose their jobs or where the cuts would be made.  Oh, the highly cerebral David Carter’s interjection is up to his usual high standard, but he is enjoying himself and that is what is important. Where were the cuts to be made? They could not tell us. When we asked whether cuts would be made to various things, we were told no or that there would be a review after the election, done by the people whose jobs were to be cut.
We should expect more in a Budget debate than we have had from National, and expect more in an election campaign from the major Opposition party than we had from National in the last election campaign. In the last election campaign National hoped that just saying it would provide $11 billion worth of tax cuts, without telling people how it would pay for them, would be enough for it to win, and it was not. National needs to look seriously at where its vote came from. It did not come from mainstream New Zealanders; it came at a cost to National’s support parties. That is where that vote came from. Mainstream New Zealanders were not sucked in by the National Party in the election campaign. That was probably because they saw that what was meant by “mainstream” was the Exclusive Brethren, and they suddenly thought they should reconsider whether they formed part of that mainstream.
Is it not funny that race relations was a major plank in National’s campaign policy last year? National members have a real problem with the status of women in Māoridom, but they do not seem to mind as much about the status of women in the Exclusive Brethren, do they? They are happy to take $1.2 million off the Exclusive Brethren, and not to help out from their handbags at any meeting involving the Exclusive Brethren.
This is an excellent Budget for New Zealand, and it looks even better when we consider what the alternative would have been had Labour not formed this Government. We are putting money into infrastructure and into upskilling our workforce. In 20 years’ time, when we are in a position to pay for all our retirees because of Dr Cullen’s Superannuation Fund, we will be at a serious strategic advantage over the rest of the developed world, which is not making the plans we are making now. Although National members say they support that fund now, I am not so sure about that. I have been burnt by National in the past.
New Zealanders are not moving to Australia in any greater numbers than they did in the 1990s under a National Government. They are not leaving for overseas in any greater proportion than that of the Australians who leave Australia. I have friends in Australia. I talked to them over the weekend, and they said that if the National Party thinks tax cuts for the minority of people—the minority who earn the most money—will bring people back to New Zealand, it is dreaming. If National ever gets into Government, it will be to the detriment of the future of this country. May that never happen.
Hon DAVID CARTER (National) : When Michael Cullen delivered what I understand was his seventh Budget last Thursday, he at least got one thing right. He said his Budget would be boring. That is what most New Zealanders have accepted is the truth. I looked at the Sunday Star-Times of this last week, and it talked about the dead wood in the Labour Party that is about to be removed. Dover Samuels over there can chuckle, but he is on Helen Clark’s list. The ones mentioned were Jill Pettis—the “paint stripper”—Dianne Yates; Mr Russell Fairbrother, I think his name is; and, of course, our old mate in agriculture, Jim Sutton. But the name that was not there, because Helen Clark has already told him he is on his way, was Dr Michael Cullen. She knows that the previous Budget delivered by Dr Michael Cullen very nearly cost Labour the election, and she now knows, when she judges the commentaries written over the last week, that his last Budget, delivered on Thursday, his seventh attempt, will again cost Labour at the next election.
What Michael Cullen came into the House and said was that with an $8.5 billion surplus, New Zealanders could not afford to keep some of their own taxes. New Zealanders right across the country now know that that is not correct. A report by an Australian thinktank was released a couple of days before the Budget. I knew that the Labour Party had increased taxes dramatically over the 7 years it has been in Government, but even I did not realise that over that time it has actually increased by a massive 50 percent the amount of taxes it takes off New Zealanders. So it is easy for Michael Cullen to come into this House and crow about his fiscal ability and his ability to achieve Budget surpluses of that magnitude. But the question that needs to be asked is what it is really doing to this country. I well remember election night of 1999.
Darren Hughes: I bet.
Hon DAVID CARTER: I do. I remember it well, and I remember the speech made by one Hon Jim Anderton. He got up, puffed out his chest, and said: “I’m going to be part of a new Government that will bring New Zealanders home. Come home, New Zealanders.” That was Jim Anderton’s message, and today in this Budget speech we heard from Dr Wayne Mapp that currently 38,000 New Zealanders are leaving this country each and every year because they do not see a strategic vision. What they see is what Peter Costello, the next Prime Minister of Australia, sees—that people will be substantially better off in Australia than in New Zealand. I think that is a shame because, I say to Darren Hughes, I have young kids. I have four young children, and I want to see New Zealand good enough for those four young children to choose as their country. But I suspect they will not stay.
Dianne Yates: You can go if you like.
Hon DAVID CARTER: They will not stay, because the sorts of policies Dianne Yates stands for will drive those people to another country where they can build a better standard of living, they can earn more money, and they get to keep more of their earnings. We have just had a contribution from a Labour member of Parliament whose name—I do apologise—I cannot remember as she has spoken in the House only once or twice. She said the debate was about whether the Government was going to give back some money to New Zealanders. That is how the Labour Party thinks of this tax debate. This is not about the Government giving money to New Zealand; it is about setting tax rates, I say to Dianne Yates, where New Zealanders do not have to give as much to the Government in the first place. That is what it is all about.
Dianne Yates: Oh!
Hon DAVID CARTER: Dianne Yates finds that surprising. Well, I am not surprised that she is surprised, because she has not been the sharpest bottle in the pack. But that is what this debate is about. New Zealanders know their wage rates are now lower than Australia’s. But what they find incredible is that, unless one earns $150,000 a year or more, the tax rates here in New Zealand are substantially higher, meaning that average people are far better off to go to Australia, earn higher wages, pay less tax, and develop a far better standard of living.
But I want to take my time in the Budget debate to talk about my two portfolio areas. The first is agriculture. Can Darren Hughes tell me—because he listened intently to Dr Cullen’s speech—how many times the word “agriculture” or the word “farmer” was mentioned by Dr Michael Cullen?
Darren Hughes: Not as often as the word “jobs”, that’s for sure.
Hon DAVID CARTER: Well, I can tell Darren Hughes that it was less than that. It was a fat zero. Agriculture was not mentioned at all, and farming was not mentioned at all, and I do not think any farmers would actually be surprised by that. They know how they have been treated by this Government—with absolute disdain. Yet Jim Anderton, in a speech to the Auckland provincial Federated Farmers’ AGM the day after the Budget, said that we have to find a way of making it easier to do business: “We need solutions that enhance your businesses, not saddle you with greater compliance costs.” That was what Jim Anderton said, and he was laughed out of the room because only last week that man’s vote was the one vote the Opposition needed to get rid of an additional compliance cost—a measure that will achieve nothing. I am talking, of course, about Labour’s decision to microchip dogs. Jim Anderton talked about reducing compliance costs, but $3 million more is being imposed. The bill was passed in Parliament by one vote—the vote of the one and only Jim Anderton, Minister of Agriculture.
We got rid of the previous Minister, the Hon Jim Sutton, who was a disaster as Minister of Agriculture. He was replaced by Jim Anderton, but he has achieved even less. When we look at the Budget documents, we ask what happened to Vote Agriculture. It has been reduced substantially, but then I look at the one achievement of Jim Sutton—that is, the establishment of the Sustainable Farming Fund. On the whole, it has been a very successful measure, and I congratulate him. It received $17.9 million in the previous Budget under Jim Sutton, but under the current Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton, it has been almost halved to $9.6 million. What we see is a man who truly has no knowledge of farming, no interest in farming; and he is the best that Helen Clark could offer in the portfolio line-up, because she had no other talent to choose from.
In my closing minute, I want to talk about tourism. Damien O’Conner put out a press release stating that the Budget had given $63 million to tourism. Straight away I went and had a look at the Budget document, and in fact Vote Tourism drops every year from now on, and if we look out 5 years hence, it drops by a cumulative $55 million. There was no additional money for tourism, despite Damien O’Connor’s statement that there was. That is what we see with the Government: it is all smoke and mirrors, all rubbish, all decoys, and nothing about what Helen Clark promised to deliver—that is, transparent, accountable Government. There is a stench of decay on the Government benches, and the New Zealand voting public will remember the last 3 years of the Government as a dirty, smelly, desperate attempt to stay in Government. I say: “Bring on the next election.”, because in that way we will see an alternative Budget presented by National, as requested by the last Labour speaker.
Hon LUAMANUVAO WINNIE LABAN (Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector) : Kia ora, talofa lava, and warm Pacific greetings. Thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker, for the opportunity to contribute to the Budget debate. This Budget is another step in Labour’s long-term programme of transforming New Zealand’s economy and society. It needs to be seen as one more step on a path towards improving the quality of life for all New Zealanders.
When I first entered the House in 1999 the Opposition pushed the line that a Labour Government would not be able to manage the economy safely, and that Dr Cullen’s credentials as a finance Minister were suspect. One good Budget was considered to be lucky, and two a fluke. But, as Dr Cullen’s prudent, fiscal management and sound Budgets continued, the Opposition’s criticism has sounded increasingly hollow. Seven years and seven Budgets later, Dr Cullen has proven to be an outstanding finance Minister. He has managed the economy well, delivered surpluses, maintained growth, established and invested in a superannuation fund, and paid off the mortgage. Dr Cullen has demonstrated his comprehensive, long-term vision for the health of New Zealand’s economy—a vision that is in sharp contrast with Dr Brash’s meddlesome tax cuts as the universal economic panacea.
The proof of Dr Cullen’s prescription is self-evident. For the first time in New Zealand’s history, our total financial assets exceed our financial liabilities. Our economy is in good health. The Budget is another in a long line of Budgets that build on each other, transforming New Zealand’s economy and raising the living standards of all New Zealanders. I am sure Dr Cullen’s prudent fiscal management will continue well into the future. The choices were clear at the last election: tax cuts that would benefit the rich more than the poor, or targeted tax relief that would benefit working New Zealanders with families. The country made its choice. It chose targeted tax relief, Working for Families, and interest-free student loans, not tax cuts.
On Saturday mornings at the Porirua market in my electorate, many ordinary Kiwis come up to me and tell me how the quality of their lives has been changed by the policies of this Labour-led Government. The housing renewal project in Porirua East is improving the quality of daily life for many families, large and small, and for elderly people.
This Government is making our families more safe and secure. Fundamental to that is having a decent home. More than 2,000 homes will be added to the State housing stock over the next 4 years, and we are increasing the investment in housing partnerships with local government and community organisations. The primary health organisations are providing affordable, accessible health-care. Families can now afford the medicines prescribed for sick children or the elderly. Working for Families is putting more money in the pockets of families who have been finding it hard to make ends meet. The lowest unemployment in a generation means more families have parents who are in work, and fewer people are on benefits. Most important, young people are going to school feeling happier and more confident as a consequence of that. Sound Budgets over 7 years have made those improvements possible.
When I became the MP for Mana, I was appalled at the number of Porirua students who were leaving school without qualifications. That has changed. There has been a startling turn-round. Last year, 77 percent of Porirua secondary school students left school with a qualification—up by 20 percent since 1999. What made the difference? When I spoke with Susanne Jungersen, the principal of Porirua College, she told me that students are coming to school ready to learn, because their parents are in work. There is money at home because of family support and the Working for Families package, they have access to affordable health-care through the primary health organisations, and housing is improving and affordable. Kids are feeling happier because their families feel safe and secure. The improved quality of family life has contributed to Porirua College topping the National Certificate of Educational Achievement exam results for Mana. It was a great pleasure for me to visit Porirua College recently with our Minister of Education, Steve Maharey, to announce a major rebuilding programme that will bring the facilities at that college up to a good standard.
This Government is investing in education. Total funding for New Zealand schools is now over $4 billion. Over the next 4 years we will invest another $361 million in our schools, delivering more teachers, new classrooms, and new buildings, and boosting the operational funding. In the 1990s, Governments were more interested in delivering tax cuts to the wealthy than in investing in schools. Then, school funding did not keep up with inflation. Since 1999 the Labour-led Government has addressed National’s deficit with a 31.7 percent funding increase for schools, in real terms. Our Labour Government is managing the economy carefully, and the people of Mana and all New Zealanders are benefiting from that.
In the Budget debate the Prime Minister said this is an investment Budget—a Budget that invests in New Zealand and New Zealanders, and that delivers on the promises Labour made to New Zealanders at the 2005 election. In Porirua City and up the Kapiti coast, we are seeing the transformation of our economy. Business is doing well in Mana and Kapiti; my colleague Darren Hughes is from there. High-tech businesses are developing new products and exporting globally.
Last week Brent Albiston and Richard Thompson of Radiola Aerospace Ltd won the emerging gold business award for smaller enterprises. With fewer than 10 employees for the majority of last year, that company is shining beyond its size. Radiola Aerospace is just one example of the growing, innovative, high-tech industries that are developing in the Porirua Basin. Brent Albiston also expressed his appreciation to me and our Government for the support that New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has given to his business. The sound economy is building opportunity and security for our families in Porirua City and up the Kapiti coast, and for all New Zealanders. And what a great investment that is by our Labour-led Government!
The Whitireia Community Polytechnic has developed a wonderful performing arts group, which is developing a worldwide reputation and contributing to our unique Kiwi identity.
I also want to acknowledge the tremendous contribution that local sportspeople have made to New Zealand’s identity. Michael Campbell and Jerry Collins are just two local boys who are making a big impact on the national and international sporting scene. I highlight Michael Campbell and Jerry Collins, because they are two great examples of sportsmen who have maintained their connection with the grassroots at the same time as they have achieved international success. When Jerry Collins is not playing for the Hurricanes, he turns out for Porirua’s Norths in the local competition. He is a great inspiration to many young men and women in Porirua East. And Michael Campbell just had to come back to Tītahi Bay Golf Club after his US Open victory last year. He also contributes financially—and generously—back to New Zealand and to the Tītahi Bay Golf Club, by investing in the development of our junior golfers. Those two young men are humble high achievers. They are great role models of New Zealand’s unique identity. This Budget puts support into a range of programmes aimed at building our unique New Zealand identity and celebrating our values and our proud-to-be-Kiwis identity.
In finishing, I want to say that Dr Cullen’s seventh Budget delivers on Labour’s election promises and guarantees solutions to key regional issues, including transport. Our careful fiscal management and investment allows us to maintain spending as the economy slows, without jeopardising our debt targets. Transforming New Zealand’s economy and caring for our families, young and old, makes us very, very proud to be Kiwis and New Zealanders. To our Labour-led Government we say thank you, and we thank all New Zealanders.
Hon TAU HENARE (National) : I say Fa’afetai lava to Winnie Laban. I have to say, in all honesty, that I appreciated the speech made by Winnie Laban because it actually spoke about the Budget. It spoke about her people in her area, so I say kia ora to her.
I want to play a game called “Who said this?”. It is a new game. Who said this of New Zealanders: “They are tired of being led by aimless focus-group polling, the only intent of which is to keep Labour in power…”? It was Winston Peters. Here is another one. We will go for 10 points here.“Where are the policies that will reverse the trend of importing welfare recipients while exporting our educated young?” Who said that? It was Winston Peters. “We have net debt spiralling out of control. We have a current account deficit reaching epidemic proportions,”. Who said that? It was the Rt Hon Winston Peters. Here is a good one. It will test members’ minds, but it is a good one: “There is a Minister in this Government whose heart drips icicles. He is, of course, the heartless Minister of Finance,”. Who said that?
David Bennett: Winston Peters.
Hon TAU HENARE: The member goes to the top of the class. Here is another one: “New Zealand First says to those people out there in heartland New Zealand—who are stifled by rising interest rates, rising taxation on the roads … to hang on, because help is on its way.” Who said that?
Bob Clarkson: Doug Woolerton.
Hon TAU HENARE: No, it was not Doug Woolerton. I am sure Doug Woolerton would want to have said it, but it was the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
Finally, here is the crunch. This question is for $1,000,000. It is about United Future: “They never miss a trick—until it comes to coalition negotiations, then it is roll over, play the poodle, put out the welcome mat, and become a doormat.” Who said that? The Rt Hon Winston Peters said that. Do members know what? He is right. He was talking about the Labour Government last year, which is the same Labour Government that we have now staring at us for the seventh year—and this will be its last term.
But let us get serious. I have some documents here—a sorry saga of how a once-proud union, the Service and Food Workers Union, stole $200,000 off its members and did not tell them what it was going to do with it. I have documents showing that it gave that money to the Labour Party for its election expenses. Over $200,000 was stolen off the cleaners, off the people who can least afford it—the poor people—and given to the Labour Party. How do I know this? Somebody in the Service and Food Workers Union has given me all the documents. How about the election process of the secretary of that union, one Darien Fenton, who now is a member of Parliament?
Anne Tolley: A pay-off.
Hon TAU HENARE: It was a pay-off by the union—$200,000. If we look through the accounts of the union, we will see it under the heading “Capitation Fees”. [Interruption] It is like a racket.  Here we go. I tell Darren Hughes that the Brethren do not vote. I say to him: “Hello! Knock on wood. Is there anybody home in Darren Hughes’ homeland?” There is absolutely nobody home. It is all vacant. The lights are out and no one is home, but the mouth is still talking.
Anne Tolley: It was the hotel workers union.
Hon TAU HENARE: Well, we could talk about the hotel workers union—and in the old days it was called the Hotel Workers Union. It was a good outfit, until Mark Gosche and Rick Barker came on the scene. Both those people are now in the House.
I am pleased the Waitangi Tribunal got $500,000 extra. But what good will it do? The mechanisms are still the same. We will never settle all the claims in the time the Government has, or in the time it has given us. The reason is that the mechanism itself is wrong. We could throw a billion dollars at it and still not get anywhere.
R Doug Woolerton: Tuku’s happy.
Hon TAU HENARE: Of course he is happy. He will finally get an apology from Trevor Mallard, and it will be a Crown apology, not just an apology from one member to another. It will be a Crown apology to Tuku Morgan for all the grief those people over there gave him for 3 years. Not one of the darker-skinned people in the Labour Party ever got up and said: “Hey, enough of that.” Oh, no! But when their mates get it—mates like David Benson-Pope and David Parker—they all say how terrible it is. How about going under the knife for 3 years? Maybe then they could gripe about it. Those members are a sad sackful of people who moan and groan about people having a go at their member.
Here is a good one: kura kaupapa Māori. There are to be no new schools. Well, that is OK; there is nothing new about that. The real issue about kura kaupapa Māori is that there is absolutely no funding to actually teach the teachers. There is no money to train new people to teach in those schools. Of the $350 million that the Minister of Education put aside, not one cent will be spent on the training of new teachers, or on professional development for kura kaupapa teachers. So what is in the Budget?
David Bennett: Nothing!
Hon TAU HENARE: Absolutely nothing! There is nothing in it for education. There is nothing in it for early childhood education—except the 20 free hours. But the Government still does not know how it will implement that. It still does not know how much it will cost. In fact, because the Government does not know, it has limited those hours to 6 per day. First of all, the Government said before the election that it would provide 20 hours free. Steve Maharey now says that time will be limited to 6 hours a day. How will that help?
Anne Tolley: It doesn’t help.
Hon TAU HENARE: Of course it does not help. The Government does not know how much it will cost, and it is true that the money will come from the early childhood sector in the sense that the parents will be the ones to pay. They will be the ones to pay because of the over-regulated, over-bureaucratised, and over-heated early childhood sector. Where is the money for the training of early childhood teachers? Everywhere I go in the early childhood sector, people are crying out for more teachers.
I visited a Montessori unit in Kūmeu the other day that has been trying for 2 years to get somebody qualified, and can they find someone? Absolutely not. It is a crying shame, and do members know who the losers are? The losers are the children at the centre. This Government wants to close centres down by not offering training for new childcare workers. Dozens upon dozens of centres cannot get qualified teachers because there are not enough of them to go round.
I turn to Māori Affairs. In anyone’s language, $23.9 million is a bit of a dollop. But wait—where did the $23.9 million come from? It is not new money.
David Bennett: A Lotto ticket.
Hon TAU HENARE: It could have been. The people of Kaeō could have blimin funded it.
But it is not new money. The Government had programmes that cost $23.9 million running for the last 6 years. That has not worked out. Nobody has yet worked out what the hell they were supposed to be doing, and now three more programmes have been set up, all based on what the officials and Parekura Horomia said—if one could understand a word he says. He must be the only person in this country whose English—or Māori—no one can understand. One cannot understand his English, and one cannot understand his Māori. For goodness’ sake! He has been the Minister of Māori Affairs for the last 6 years. He was on $185,000, but he said that no, no, he was on $195,000. Well, the fact is that those fellers over there are getting paid $216,000. I tell members, he is a bright boy! He is a bright boy—and he will be the Minister of Māori Affairs for the next 2½ years? I do not think so.
This Government will fall before the next election. That is my prediction. Dover Samuels will go offshore. He will go and live in Queensland so Charles Chauvel can come in—the French man whom Labour loves. Then Louisa Wall and Lesley Soper will come in. And that is the new talent? If that is the new talent, we are all in trouble.
This is a do-nothing, nothing Budget for everybody in New Zealand. So everybody should be happy, because everybody got nothing. I leave it to that side of the House to tell us exactly what is going on. There is a $8 billion surplus and not a single skerrick of a tax cut. There is not even a hint of a tax cut. There is nothing for nobody, and this is a nothing, nobody Government.
- Sitting suspended from 5.54 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Hon JUDITH TIZARD (Minister of Consumer Affairs) : It is an enormous pleasure to get up in the House tonight to support Budget 2006, because it is a Budget that only a Labour-led Government could have delivered. It is what New Zealand wants. I say to the National Party members, who have started chipping already, that I looked at the Australian Budget too, and I thought it was interesting that John Howard is doing what he won the last election for. He is carrying out the policies that the Australian people voted for in the last election. I point out that, unfortunately, two-thirds of Australian voters are now against them and are saying they want investment in infrastructure, people, education, and health. What this Government is doing is not worse; it is different. This Government is doing exactly what it was elected less than a year ago to carry out. New Zealanders said they did not want tax cuts but wanted investment in their children and families, in our communities, and in the nation. I am really proud to be part of a Government that is doing exactly what it promised to do at the last election, which it won. I am delighted to be part of a Labour-led Government. Over the ditch, Australians have said that ten bucks a week for ordinary taxpayers is not enough to justify the loss of working standards, infrastructure and investment that Australians could put into their country.
But I do not want to talk about Australia. I speak of it only because National Party members have been going on, interfering in our trans-Tasman partner’s ability to do its job, and actually promoting that New Zealanders should leave this country. I think that is despicable. I truly think it is awful that those people across the House do not care about and have the interest in their own grandchildren’s well-being so as to be prepared to stay and fight. They may well leave the country—and, as one of National’s earlier, much more enlightened, leaders said, that would be a net benefit to both Australia and New Zealand, given the IQs of those who are doing this analysis.
I am proud to say that Australians envy our Budget. I was talking to a group of Australian businessmen on Friday who said they would love to have New Zealand’s accident compensation scheme. They would love New Zealand’s investment in both exporting and skills development. They would love to see in Australia the sorts of programmes that the New Zealand Government is running for cultures, communities, families, and businesses. They would love to do business in New Zealand—they think it is fantastic we can get a phone on and open a bank account easily. They have looked at the fact that the World Bank has stated that New Zealand is the easiest place in the world to do business. But this Government is not sitting on its laurels; it is saying it can do better.
I particularly want to talk about Auckland because, as an Aucklander born and bred, as the MP for Auckland Central, and as Minister with responsibility for Auckland Issues, I am really proud of what Labour has done in the last 7 years to make up for the appalling neglect of Auckland. Auckland is New Zealand’s main international city. If it is not internationally competitive, then New Zealand suffers. A dollar wasted in Auckland is 66c, on a population basis, that is not available for the rest of New Zealand. I thank New Zealanders for the work they are doing and the investment they are making. I will be proud when Aucklanders can say—and it will be quite soon—that the rest of the country should not worry about them, that they can pay for their own public transport and the local roads they need, and that major investment can be put back into the rest of New Zealand, where it has been for many years.
I am really proud of what Labour has done in transport. Do members know that this Government has embarked on New Zealand’s biggest-ever road-building programme, boosting overall funding by 134 percent in the last 7 years? Before Labour took office in 1999, the National Government had slashed spending. I asked Maurice Williamson, who was ranting this afternoon, how easy it would be to fix roads. His answer was to privatise—yet again. Private companies, construction companies, investment companies, and all the rest have a vital role in building infrastructure. But what did Maurice Williamson want to do with New Zealand’s roads in 1999? Do members recall Better Transport, Better Roads? What was that going to do? It referred to privatising our roads. New Zealanders would have to pay for power poles, for parking outside their own houses, and for footpaths and berms. That is what Maurice Williamson’s answer was. What did he do in Auckland in the 9 long years of the National Government? He told people with disabilities they should just get in taxis, and that they should not expect buses that they could actually get on. He did not want Aucklanders to get around. This man was part of a Government whose Minister of Local Government told me that if Auckland ever got its act together, it would be a serious threat to central government. I am proud to be part of a Government that says that Auckland is part of the solution. I am delighted to see roading and public transport at the top of the agenda for Auckland.
A whole lot of other things that the Government will do will have a magnificent effect on Auckland—for example, it will unbundle the local loop so that we have faster and better broadband services. I am stunned by the range of people who say this is fabulous. From the local bootmaker in Ponsonby, who is a gamer and who has seen what his friends in Australia can get in terms of price and service and who wants that here—and he is entitled to it—to the man who is designing websites internationally and needs to send massive—
Hon Marian Hobbs: Things.
Hon JUDITH TIZARD: I thank the member for Wellington Central. He needs to send massive broadband digital data internationally and he cannot do it with the present system, which the National Party wants to endorse—or has it changed its mind? Where is the National Party on this issue? I think it has been on both sides on this issue, as it has on so many others. We are moving on our regulatory framework. We are working to increase the language skills of New Zealanders and of people who have chosen to come to New Zealand from all around the world. We are investing $2.9 billion into operational expenditure for the tertiary sector over the next financial year, because the best things we can invest in are our people and their skills. We are investing $10.6 billion in the health sector. That is a 66 percent increase since the first year of this Labour-led Government.
This Government is trying to stop from people getting ill. National Party members have been ranting and raving about how all this money has gone into health and how in some cases operation numbers have gone down. I spoke to people from the Counties Manukau District Health Board. The lovely young surgeon who was dealing with people with diabetes was asking: “What do they want me to do—cut off healthy feet? Do they seriously want me to cut off feet that are not gangrenous because people are now getting good public health services so are not getting diabetes?”. It is a fabulous investment in Auckland and in the people who will make Auckland internationally competitive, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
This Budget has also been great for the cultural sector. Creative New Zealand, which looks after major organisations and projects across New Zealand, is getting another $2.5 million per annum. This means the Government’s baseline funding has increased by $10 million over the last 6 years. I am really proud that the Government is now putting $15.5 million into Creative New Zealand, up from $2.4 million under a National Government. We are putting money into the Historic Places Trust because we believe that our whakapapa, our heritage, is absolutely vital for every New Zealander—Māori and Pākehā. We all—right down to the people who got off a plane last week because they want this sort of future for their children—need to know the story of the astonishing people who created this country, who built it, and who are our ancestors.
I am delighted that we are putting more money into Te Ara, which is the fabulous online encyclopaedia that every member of Parliament should see. In 2 weeks’ time we are releasing the second section of work, which is about the land, the sea, and the sky. It is absolutely fabulous. As Minister responsible for the National Library, I am very proud of the money we have been given for the extension of the National Library so that it can do the work it needs to do. We are also preserving the Alexander Turnbull collection, which is the jewel in New Zealand’s heritage collection.
It is a great joy to me that the Government members went to the country last year and said that they believed in investing in New Zealanders and wanted to put the money that the Government collects, on behalf of all taxpayers, into New Zealand families, into our infrastructure, into transforming our economy, and into our national identity. I am proud to go on doing those things, because we won the election. New Zealanders said that was what they wanted, and that is what this Government is delivering. I am delighted to be part of the Government that is moving this Budget, because New Zealanders are telling us it is a great Budget and to get on with it.
PANSY WONG (National) : That was another rehearsed speech. Like this year’s Budget, it fell far short of Labour’s much-trumpeted vision of creating a national identity, bringing about economic transformation, and building strong families. When we take away the election bribes, the long-overdue funding for roads, and the payments made to the Greens, United Future, and New Zealand First to have them stay in Government, we are left with nothing—nothing more than a bland shopping list.
There has been much speculation about whether the Budget statement was Michael Cullen’s last speech—and it may very well be so, judging by his lacklustre performance in the House, and his inability to get the tax cut issue off the agenda of public debate. It is no wonder that, ever since Michael Cullen delivered the “Bondi Budget” last week, Helen Clark has mused publicly about his future. Even the websites of the New Zealand embassies in China, Argentina, Korea, Japan, Spain, and Thailand list Jim Anderton as the Deputy Prime Minister. I say “Bring back Jim!”—at least he is promising company tax cuts.
Although all of Cullen’s Budgets have been sleep inducing, he has stayed true to his dislike of tax cuts—we have not seen any. It must be frustrating for Kiwis that they have not been given anything back, despite a record $8.5 billion surplus. Labour gushes that 350,000 families will receive through Working for Families, when it reaches full speed, what Labour spins as targeted tax relief. But what about those who do not get anything at all? What about the bureaucracy that Labour will set up to collect tax from those families, only to repackage it and give it back to them? Cullen has said that this year is forecast to be the last year that New Zealand will have a cash surplus, but that is no excuse, because he always likes to talk down the massive tax machine that Labour runs. When Labour went into Government, the total amount of tax collected around the year 2000 was $34.9 billion. That figure has now increased by 60 percent to around $56.7 billion. This is all part of Labour’s ideology that the State knows best and should be in control of everything.
I can demonstrate that by referring to the Minister of Communications, the Hon David Cunliffe. He was not satisfied with losing the spotlight over Telecom, so he stepped right outside his ministerial boundary to comment on Telecom’s dividend policy, and that wiped another $200 million off the company’s value. The New Zealand Exchange referred those comments to the Securities Commission for investigation after complaints from market participants. This afternoon we have learnt that the Minister has already been told off by the High Court for releasing confidential information. David Cunliffe, in his position, should have known better. He clearly believed that nanny State was now in command of publicly owned companies, as well.
Michael Cullen commented that lower net migration has been looked upon as a factor in the downturn in our economy. So where is the new, ground-breaking initiative in the Budget? Yet again, another immigration review is under way, but we do not know its completion date or the results it will bring. One has to ask why the New Zealand Immigration Service is issuing working visas to guardians of international students in the first place. That service does not even know how many work visas have been issued. Is that not astounding for a supposedly competent organisation? [Interruption] New Zealand First keeps making all those empty promises, but it behaves like a puppy.
The drop in the number of international students coming to New Zealand has also been quoted as one of the reasons for the slow-down in the tax take, etc. It is true that 16,000 fewer student permits and visas were issued between 2003 and 2005. The next financial year will see an increased focus, we are told, by the Government on fixing the problem by employing more education counsellors based overseas, but I fail to see how that will help the sector. We have not seen any tangible results from the counsellors who have been employed so far, and there does not seem to be any performance measurement. So how can we know we should invest—Labour likes to use that word—further in something, if we do not even know that it works?
Last week, when Michael Cullen presented the Budget, he also added some hype about yesterday’s announcement by the Minister of Commerce, Lianne Dalziel, of the so-called long-overdue review of our regulatory framework. But, actually, before the Minister of Commerce had the opportunity to sell her so-called dynamic review, Michael Cullen was already discounting it by saying that the problem was not really to do with policy, that it might have something to do with the implementation, and that the Government would conduct more reviews on the implementation issue. Well, we have already been told that the policies are out of bounds, so we cannot talk about the No. 1 recommendation of the small-business panel—which was set up by the Labour Government—that employment law be made more flexible by having a 90-day flexible probation period for new employees, to encourage employers to give work to young graduates, young people looking for jobs, and new migrants. That is out of bounds, as polices are not to be reviewed. So all we will end up with are suggestions that tinker with the so-called implementation.
Of course, the Minister of Commerce said that businesses throughout the country welcomed the review. Well, what can businesses do? They have no choice but to hope for the best and express support. But I hope they have learnt from previous experience, and watch out carefully for the temperament of the Minister of Commerce. When she was the Minister of Immigration, in the last term, whenever there were problems with immigration issues she always jumped on her department, and blamed everybody. She fell out with the association of immigration consultants because it dared to take her to court over retrospective changes to immigration policy that were introduced in 2002. So I hope the business associations will not be treated so appallingly when they demand action.
This Minister of Commerce also states that she will review the merger and acquisition provisions in order to increase our international competitiveness, but the scope of the review, apparently, has yet to be decided. Well, all the public spin had led us to believe that the Minister already knew the issues, and would issue the terms of reference for the review, so we will not hold our breath.
With Helen Clark as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, more funding has been found for New Zealand On Air, National Radio, and the Office of Treaty Settlements. She believes that putting millions of dollars of extra funding into public institutions will somehow build national identity. Labour believes that national identity is somehow tied up with public institutions and a Government mandate, but national identity is that indescribable feeling we all have about being unashamedly Kiwi and not having to go overseas to seek better opportunities. Right now, every week over 600 Kiwis are doing just that, and Dr Cullen’s latest “Bondi Budget” will do nothing to bring them back.
SUE MORONEY (Labour) : The member who has just finished her speech criticised the 2006 Budget for not being exciting enough. I offer her our apologies, because we could go back to the exciting Budgets of the last National Government. Many New Zealanders still remember those Budgets; they did not find them very exciting. Without warning, superannuation and benefits were cut under the very exciting Budgets of that National Government. I am very pleased that we do not have that type of excitement going on in the 2006 Budget.
Dr Cullen’s Budget, which invests in the economic transformation of New Zealand, could have been delivered only by a Labour-led Government—a Government that truly understands the needs of a small country at the bottom of the world. This country needs to be innovative, nimble, and able to make the best use of its people, who are its best resource. It needs all of its people to succeed if it is to succeed. This country has forged a special place in this world because of its independent and principled stance on key issues.
It is absolutely obvious from the response of National members to the 2006 Budget that they would rather we just follow Australia’s lead on how we run our country. National’s billboards about the Budget looked like a tourism promotion for our friends across the Tasman—the only thing that gave it away was that Tourism Australia, had it actually put out the billboards, would have chosen a more attractive photo to put on them. That was the only thing that gave it away that the billboards were not put out by Tourism Australia.
That also raises the question of who is funding National’s billboard campaign this time round—we still do not know who funded it last time. Is the Australian tourism board funding the campaign this time? Just where is that funding coming from? It also raises the question of what other Australian decisions National would have us follow. Would National also send troops to Iraq? That is still an unanswered question. Would it follow that Australian decision? Would it follow Australia’s race relations policies or its stance on nuclear issues? The wheels would really start to fall off when National had New Zealand pinning its economic hopes on digging up enormous quantities of diamonds, iron ore, and nickel, as Australia does.
National has no vision and no ideas of its own to contribute. It is a one-trick pony. The only plan it has for New Zealand’s future is tax cuts. That must be embarrassing for back-bench National MPs, because they stand up in this House, day after day, week after week, and argue for more spending here and more spending there, knowing all the while that it could never happen under a National Government. National’s only plan for the future is to cut the income of this country through tax cuts.
Hon Judith Tizard: So that the rich people get more.
SUE MORONEY: That is right.
So what will resolve the challenges that currently sit in front of New Zealand? What are the key issues that face us—and what would National’s answer be? What about the issue of climate change? National thinks a tax cut will fix that. What would deal with the issue of our need for investment in infrastructure? Quite clearly, if one is a National member, the answer would be to cut taxes. What about the increasing demands on our health system that will not go away? National’s answer would be to cut taxes. That is a great answer if one is in the National Party. How can we improve productivity in this country? Oh, well, National’s answer to that would be a tax cut, as well. What about improving work-life balance for ordinary New Zealanders? Gosh, National thinks the answer to that must be a tax cut, too. National is a one-trick pony with one answer only, and it gets that answer from across the Tasman in Australia.
By contrast, it has been a great week to be a Labour MP in the Waikato area. On Friday I had the privilege of joining with my colleagues in the Waikato to announce an additional $215 million in funding towards tackling Waikato’s critical transport needs. I congratulate my colleague Martin Gallagher, who has worked tirelessly and positively to deliver that result to the Waikato. I also congratulate our far-sighted local government leaders, who joined us on Friday to congratulate this Government on delivering that package to the Waikato. That funding is in addition to the $1.3 billion for transport that had already been announced in the Budget the previous day. People talk about economic transformation—that funding for the Waikato will make a huge difference to all the businesses, and all the people working in those businesses, in the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty, and the rest of that very strategic part of our country. The priorities that the $215 million will be spent on include State highway safety, local road safety, State highway improvements to enhance long-haul arterial performance, rail improvements, improved walkways and cycleways, public transport, and transport demand management. It is exactly what the Waikato public need and what the Waikato economy requires.
That was one thing that happened in the Waikato on the wonderful day after the Budget was announced. Earlier that same day I met with the Waikato agricultural advisory committee and informed it of the very important measures introduced in Dr Cullen’s Budget that would improve the agricultural sector. Those measures include an increase in funding of $100 million for research and science, which is so vital to the ongoing growth of the agricultural sector in the Waikato. From that amount, $15.6 million will go into pastoral research, $34 million will go into supporting world-class research—we know how good we are at doing that in New Zealand, and we will get better at it with this Government at the helm—$11.7 million will go into energy research, and $15.6 million will go into protecting biodiversity and enhancing biosecurity. Those people were smiling from ear to ear when I told them about those results in the Budget.
But that was just the start of the list. I also informed them about $64.2 million going to assist New Zealand firms that are trying to crack key overseas markets, $60 million going to boost young New Zealand firms with high growth potential through the Venture Investment Fund, and $58 million going into industry training, which is so vital to all the activities carried out in the Waikato area. Also, $166.4 million of new operational funding is going to the tertiary sector and $16 million is going into improving border security, which are also areas that are vital to the agricultural sector.
Later that day I met with trade union representatives and talked to them about the Budget, which they welcomed with open arms. They were particularly pleased about the funding boost to health, education, and industry training. They told us how much of a difference the Working for Families package is making for the low-paid people whom they represent. They remind me, though, that National is not, in fact, a one-trick pony, and that National has one other idea apart from cutting taxes.
Hon Mark Gosche: It’s half an idea, anyway.
SUE MORONEY: Hopefully, it never gets to be fully baked. It is that even though the biggest problem facing businesses in the Waikato is that they cannot get properly skilled people at the right time and in the right place, National would to give everyone less job security by introducing a probationary period bill.
Hon Judith Tizard: That’s bright.
SUE MORONEY: That is bright, and it will not fix that problem. It is as daft as saying that tax cuts fix everything. My speaking with the trade union movement in the Waikato area reminded me about that.
Later that day I met with members of the Waikato District Health Board. They were very pleased to welcome the $750 million of extra funding going into health, including $80.4 million of extra funding going into child health. I will talk a little about that, because it has not been given much airtime. There is funding of $40.8 million for a strengthened child and adolescent oral health service, $23.6 million over 4 years to create a school-ready health check for 4-year-olds and to expand the well child checks for preschool children, and $16 million for the creation of a universal newborn hearing screening programme. That continues the good work that this Government is doing for families. Aged care is to receive $126 million, and $76 million more is going towards fighting the obesity endemic. As a member of the Health Committee that is conducting an inquiry into the obesity issue, I can say that it makes our job an awful lot easier knowing we have some money backing us up.
I have not yet even touched on the benefits to the Waikato of interest-free student loans, but that is an issue for another speech. The Budget is great news for Waikato’s agricultural sector, for working people and their families, for the health sector, and for the business sector. Those people welcome the investment in Waikato’s infrastructure. But the good news this week has not finished. Just today, figures were announced showing that Waikato had the highest job growth—4.4 percent—in the whole country for the year ended March 2005. Coupled with that, it had higher wage growth than the national average, as wages have increased by 4.1 percent. The combination of these two factors—high job growth and high wage growth—will contribute significantly to the Waikato economy. I was particularly pleased to see that wage growth in the accommodation, cafe, and restaurant sector in the Waikato is running at 6.4 percent. That is particularly pleasing because it is traditionally an area of low pay. We are making a big difference, and it makes me proud to be a New Zealander.
PHIL HEATLEY (National—Whangarei) : I was under the understanding—and I think most of New Zealand was under the understanding—that the only thing coming out of the Budget, in terms of the Waikato, is an argument over who will get the Waikato River. We know that Tainui are distressed and are trying to avoid backroom deals with Helen Clark. Tainui are distressed because they are not quite sure whether Labour is offering the carrot of the Waikato River to them for votes in 2008. So Tainui are distressed. We know that local Waikato residents are distressed because they are concerned that the Government is giving away control of that river—a national icon, and, in particular, a North Island icon—to Tainui in order to buy votes in 2008. Everyone is distressed. Labour Party Māori MPs are distressed because they do not know whether they can tell Tainui that they will get the river under this Budget. It is all up in the air. For people in the Waikato, the only issue during this Budget week is what will happen to the Waikato River.
The issue that the previous speaker, Sue Moroney, did not touch on was the great Budget announcement. I was impressed by the member who announced the great Budget announcement and developments since—that is, the Hon David Cunliffe. He made the Budget announcement about the unbundling of Telecom. He was involved in that and he pushed it along a bit more by making comments that affected the sharemarket after that. I congratulate David Cunliffe on grabbing the key Budget announcement—well done.
I would like to address housing issues this evening. I know that the Minister of Housing, Chris Carter, has a bundle of cash that he can spread around the Housing New Zealand Corporation. Members on this side of the House and, I know, the general public are intrigued as to how the Minister could possibly waste more money within the Housing New Zealand Corporation. We have heard the stories in the last few months. We have heard the stories about the rooms the Minister was having built on to State houses that cost $105,000 each. I was intrigued by this. I asked the question of the Minister and he came back to me and said the cost was $105,000 per room. I went back to him and said: “Look, that’s excessive, Minister. I am wondering whether it was $105,000 per room, or did you spend a bit of money on the bathroom?”. He came back to me and said that the Housing New Zealand Corporation did actually upgrade bathrooms. I said: “That’s fair enough, but it’s still a bit short. Did you spend any money elsewhere?”. He said: “Well, actually we did some work on the kitchen.”
So I went away and did some work on the figures. In this country it costs about $1,600 a square metre to build a house. A good bedroom—and members can pace it out afterwards—is about 20 square metres. A bedroom is 5 metres by 4 metres. So 20 square metres at about $1,600 per metre is $32,000. Look, with a bit of licence I will say it is $30,000. The Minister did up some bathrooms. Let us say it was a brand new bathroom and 20 grand was thrown at it. That is $50,000. The Minister said the kitchen was done up. Let us say it was a brand new kitchen at $30,000—and I can tell members that my family would be pleased to have a $30,000 kitchen—and we are now up to $80,000. Let us paint the house for $5,000. That is $85,000. We are still $20,000 short—and I have been generous. The Minister talked about $105,000 rooms. I have chucked in a bathroom and a kitchen, and I have painted the house, and I am still $20,000 short. How could the Housing New Zealand Corporation possibly spend that amount of money?
Darren Hughes: How about 42 IQ points short?
PHIL HEATLEY: Then we discover that Darren Hughes, even with the way he tosses money around in pubs buying votes, could afford to live in a State home, because people on $118,000—whether or not they are earning it, like Darren Hughes—can stay in a State house. We discovered that there are people in this country on $95,000 after tax, which is about $130,000 before tax, living in State houses, and it is absolutely appalling.
I would also like to bring the attention of the House to the appalling issue of the gagging order that stopped a Housing New Zealand Corporation employee from talking to his member of Parliament, to the Minister, to the media, and to his colleagues. How can people working in the public service in New Zealand be gagged from talking to their local MP, a Minister, the media, or colleagues? That is an appalling abuse within our democracy. We asked why the chief executive was not stood down during the course of that inquiry. The person’s middle manager was stood down, but we know from the gagging letter, which has been tabled in this House, that the chief executive had to give her approval for the gagging letter to be served on that public servant.
Darren Hughes: This is an old story. Give us a new story.
PHIL HEATLEY: Here is news for Darren Hughes. My sources in Housing New Zealand tell me that the chief executive was overseas at the time and the acting chief executive signed off on the gagging-clause letter. That gagging-clause letter was designed to shut that public servant up. He could not talk to his member of Parliament, to the Minister, to the media, or to colleagues. Housing New Zealand Corporation sources say that the chief executive was overseas when the gagging clause was signed, and that the acting chief executive approved the gagging clause. As that was obvious to all insiders in the Housing New Zealand Corporation, why was the acting chief executive not stood down during the Auditor-General’s inquiry?
I have one more question for members on the other side of the House. We asked why the chairman of the Housing New Zealand Corporation did not tell Chris Carter and the Prime Minister when he first heard about the gagging-clause issue. The Minister said, in the House, that the chairman of the Housing New Zealand Corporation actually discovered it at the same time as him. The Prime Minister disagrees, it appears that Newstalk ZB disagrees, and it appears that the Christchurch Press disagrees. I think the chairman of that board, Pat Snedden, is for the high jump, because I know for a fact that the Minister of Housing met with the deputy chairman today, in his office this afternoon, and spoke to him at length. Why would the Minister meet with the deputy chairman of the Housing New Zealand Corporation on the eve of the release of the Auditor-General’s inquiry? He might meet with the chairman, or he might meet with the entire board, but it is highly unusual that he would meet with the deputy chair.
I think the chairman has gone, because he broke the no-surprises policy by not telling the Minister of Housing about the gagging clause when he knew about it. That gagging clause was signed in December. I understand from a source in the Housing New Zealand Corporation that the chief executive was overseas. Therefore, the acting chief executive must have signed it off. He was never stood down, and the chairman of the board is obviously for the high jump, because that is the only explanation one can have for the deputy chairman to be meeting with the Minister of Housing today without the chairman present.
We know that there is a cover-up within the Housing New Zealand Corporation. We know that the Minister is protecting his people. There should never have been a gagging clause in that contract. I will say this to the House: I asked the Minister whether there had been any other gagging clauses within the corporation, and he said that that was not its policy, but he did not deny it. There is a cover-up in the Housing New Zealand Corporation, and the Auditor-General will inform the public of that in due course.
Hon MARK GOSCHE (Labour—Maungakiekie) : Is it not amazing that a member from the far north got up and made a speech and did not mention his electorate of Whangarei once? Did he talk about the need for broadband in his electorate, or roads, or more money for the families in need?
Darren Hughes: Not one word.
Hon MARK GOSCHE: No, not a single word. All he was worried about was covering up the fact that the National Government sold 11,000 State houses, and this Government is about to add another 2,000 back into the stock as a result of this Budget—and there was not a word from that member over there. No wonder he is sitting on the back bench! It is just sad that the National Party still sees housing as so irrelevant to New Zealanders that it put Phil Heatley up as its spokesperson.
But I want to talk about this Budget. It is a wonderful Budget for New Zealand. It is a wonderful Budget for Kiwis who are proud to be Kiwis. It is a wonderful Budget for our grandchildren, and I will tell those members opposite why. There is a need for economic transformation. I want to tell the House about the experience of people in the electorate of Maungakiekie who try to get modern telecommunications in today’s environment. The Mount Wellington exchange, which I plug into, still has not got faxability. How long has that been around? And of course, quite a number of Maurice Williamson’s constituents in his electorate of Pakuranga have that same difficulty—let alone broadband!
So what has been happening in the years of privatisation of the telecommunications network that we rely on to run a modern economy? In the case of my electorate, nothing. We are still waiting for faxability. I have finally had broadband installed at home and it works 5 out of 7 days a week. Why? Because I dare to live about 4 kilometres away from the exchange, and the signal cannot get through. So I wait, not for an hour to see whether I can get fast broadband or slow broadband, I wait for 2 days to see whether I get it at all. I have had Telecom around twice, and they still have not fixed it. So I welcome the unbundling of the loop—
Darren Hughes: And so does Eric Roy.
Hon MARK GOSCHE: And so does Eric Roy because he is 20 kilometres away from the exchange and he has no show. But what did Phil Heatley talk about? He talked about nothing of any relevance to anybody out there. This Government is getting on with the job of saying that New Zealanders have to have a Telecom that works and have to have broadband. Just around the corner from where I live is one of the biggest developments in New Zealand’s history, called Sylvia Park and Carbine Road industrial development. How can we expect those companies that are at the leading edge, such as Rakon, which has just listed on the New Zealand Exchange, to progress economically with that sort of service from Telecom?
So my challenge to that communications company is to get with it, and do what this Government wants. The Government wants modern-day facilities, and that is also what the people of my electorate want. We want to be able to get broadband when we need it, and we want to have simple things such as faxability that the rest of Auckland has had for years and years but Telecom has not spent the money on the exchange to upgrade it. That is a disgrace.
I also want to talk about transport—something that Phil Heatley seemed to forget, even though we are building that road up to Whangarei as fast as we can go. My mate, Paul Chalmers, is up there—living there and coaching the rugby team—door-knocking while Phil is wasting his time down here ignoring his own electorate. He did not even mention it in his speech. But look at this Budget when it comes to transport. There will be $13.4 billion over the next 5 years—an extra $1.3 billion. Poor old Maurice Williamson—I was watching him during the debate, and he was crestfallen. Because under the tax cut policy of the National Party, $11 billion was going to be handed out, but the funding for transport that we delivered in this Budget is actually there now, and if one looks at the National Party policy it was going to take 6 long years.
Well, Maurice is used to long waits, because for 9 years while he was the Minister of Transport—he shared it with Jenny Shipley for a little while—not a single piece of motorway was built in Auckland City. Not a single piece of motorway was built in Manukau City. Not a single piece of motorway was built in Waitakere City. The only bit that I can find that was built was on the North Shore, and it was heading out of Auckland up to Whangarei. That was the only piece of motorway that the National Government built in Auckland in 9 long years. So Maurice’s policy of waiting 6 years before he could get his hands on the petrol tax is understandable. It is hopeless, absolutely hopeless. They would have done the same and said to rich people: “Here’s your 100 bucks a week, and by the way, we’ll build your roads maybe in 6 years’ time if we can find the money, but at the moment we can’t because we’ve given it all back to you in piddling tax cuts for low-paid workers”—
Bob Clarkson: What about the eastern arterial?
Hon MARK GOSCHE: The eastern arterial is an arterial road paid for by the ratepayers. That is what that member needs to understand. It was not a State highway, nor is the one out in Manukau. Poor old Bob will learn one day that there is a difference between local roads and State highways. What this Government is doing is adding to the pool of work that in Auckland’s case is in this wonderful document about the many, many projects under way already in Auckland, and more to come, such as State Highway 20. We are also going to build roads up in Warkworth. We are going to build roads in Tauranga. We are going to build roads in Christchurch. We are going to make sure that the Manukau Harbour crossing is built quickly. And, of course, that is in addition to all the other spending.
Whilst I hear some moans about public transport, I just want to remind Aucklanders that when we became the Government back in 1999 there was a whole $18 million going on public transport in the City of Auckland—$18 per Aucklander! Well, what is it in this Budget? It is $172 million this year. That is $154 million more. We had figures that said that in Auckland in 1955 more people were travelling on public transport than there were in 2000. So the year I was born, there were more people using public transport in Auckland, with a population much smaller than it is today, than there were at the end of the reign of the National Government.
Darren Hughes: What does the member for Tamaki think about that?
Hon MARK GOSCHE: The member for Tamaki does not think about that, because he has not noticed the roadworks. Like all the other National Party members he has not noticed the roadworks, the public transport system, the fact that we have had to buy back the rail, and the fact that millions and millions of dollars have been put into the purchase of new buses. Aucklanders like that. They are out there using buses, trains, and ferries in greater numbers than ever before, and we will continue that trend. But we are also going to fix up those roads that Maurice Williamson and Jenny Shipley forgot about for 9 years.
I want to talk about our children, and I want to talk about education. In this Budget—and I am talking about adults in this case—there is $33.5 million to improve literacy, numeracy, and language in our workplaces. That will add to the productivity of enormous numbers of workplaces. These are not the children whom Bill English supposedly is concerned about, who he claims are failing in our school system now. These are the adults who were failed by the education system in the past. I am sick and tired of Bill English rubbishing the National Certificate of Educational Achievement. I heard him say that one in five children in New Zealand is failing. Well, under School Certificate, one in two had to fail. That is how fair that system was. It was ridiculous. In areas such as Ōtāhuhu where I come from, there was no equal distribution of marks under the old Sixth Form Certificate system. It did not happen in low-decile schools in low-income areas. Those children were told: “You are dumb because you go to that school, and if you want to do anything about it, shift out of the area.” The National Party believes in that load of nonsense.
When I hear Don Brash say that our grandchildren are going to grow up to cheer for the Wallabies, it shows one how out of touch he is with real New Zealanders. If Don Brash did what I did on Saturday night and watched the Warriors play and beat the Tigers, he would have seen every Kiwi in that place cheering for the Kiwi team. When I watched the programme showing the Warriors play in Australia, every Kiwi in the stadium was cheering for the Warriors; they did not forget where they had come from. They are proud New Zealanders, no matter where they live, but Don Brash would have us believe that they will forget they are Kiwis. That shows members how little he knows about the average New Zealander.
I am proud that this Budget will put money into early childhood education, new teachers in our schools, and an extra $154 million—I think it is—into property. My grandson is labelled by Don Brash as not mainstream because he happens to have a brown skin. He is very proud of his skin; he is a Kiwi, a Cook Islander, a Samoan, a German, and has English blood running through him. He is the mainstream Kiwi of the future, and he will not be cheering for the Wallabies in the future, I assure members. He will be cheering for the Kiwis and the All Blacks, because he will have the education and the opportunity this Government gives in this Budget. Don Brash and his National mates have not got a clue about it. While they crow on about Australia, average Kiwi are saying that they do not know what National is on about. New Zealanders are proud to be Kiwis, anywhere in the world, and especially here in New Zealand. This Budget is a wonderful Budget for New Zealanders and that is why I am proud to be part of this Government.
ERIC ROY (National—Invercargill) : The debate we are having right now is on the Appropriation (2006/07 Estimates) Bill; it is the debate that follows the Budget. The only thing National can say about this Budget is that it is a Budget in which the Government appropriates more than its share of the hard-earned cash of the mums and dads, the workers, and the investors of New Zealand. That is absolutely the case with this Budget.
I represent Invercargill. Signs leading into Invercargill state: “Invercargill, a place where dreams are possible”. There is a photograph of Burt Munro on the billboards. He is a man who had a dream and achieved things. Burt Munro was around in the 1950s and 1960s, and I have to say that the dreams are still there. Invercargill achieves in so many ways, not because of the Government but in spite of it. Its Southern Institute of Technology is fee free. This coming Friday, the only covered velodrome in New Zealand will be opened there. I bet that a whole host of Government people, including the Prime Minister, will be falling over themselves to try to be a part of the success that is Invercargill. Not one thing in this Budget will help Invercargill. Invercargill has done things on its own initiative.
I have read the Budget Speech. I listened to it, and then I read it again to see if I had missed anything. Before delivering the Budget, Dr Cullen said it would be a low-key Budget. He exceeded his own low standards; it was an extraordinarily low-key Budget, if we were looking for something to get excited about.
I will give the Government credit for two things in the Budget. The investment into roading infrastructure is a plus. Government members are trumpeting that as some great stroke of generosity. I have to say that this is the Government that imposed the 5c tax on the people of Invercargill in order to pay for Auckland’s roads. In the 6 years since it did that, not one road has gone into Auckland. It was all very fine for the previous speaker, Mark Gosche, to criticise other members, but we in Invercargill—the city where dreams are possible—are paying for Auckland roads, and not one road has gone in since we started paying for that. If we are to say that this roading shift is a huge, positive thing that has occurred, let me just say that in the last year the tax take for the Government from the price-increased GST on petrol has increased 10.5c a litre. The Government is trumpeting this as some stroke of generosity in the Budget. This is just another measure whereby the mums and dads, the investors, and the hard workers of this country are indeed overtaxed. But the Government is investing into the roading infrastructure, and that is a positive thing.
There is another thing in this Budget that I would say the Government got half right. Socialist Governments in the past overtaxed and overspent. This Government is now only overtaxing; it is certainly not overspending in relation to the tax take. So it is a positive thing that the Government has not overspent.
Let us look at the first page of the Budget Speech, which we have all heard. I want to make a comparison. The Government is extolling its virtues in terms of the prosperity we have had in the last 5 or 6 years—and yes, we have had that. Certainly, it has been the most prosperous time in my working lifetime, I acknowledge that. But the Government is certainly inferring, alluding, and even saying that it created that prosperity. The Budget Speech states that there will be a lessening of the pace of economic growth, and it refers to growth coming down to 1 percent. If the Government created the prosperity of the previous 5 years, it also created the downturn; it cannot have it both ways.
History will judge this Budget and this Government. It will judge the Government’s fiscal management and its vision. I believe that history will say that this Government goofed. It presided over this country at the time of the greatest prosperity for half a century, and what is the legacy it has left? There really is no legacy. The legacy the Government has left has been to draw out of the mums and dads, the working people, and the people of Invercargill—where dreams are possible and people have an expectation—more money than it needed. I consider this to be hugely immoral.
The previous two speakers from Labour talked about the investment into research and development. That is good, but Government research institutions are not the only entities that invest in research or in the future. Just as 20,000 or more young people are leaving each year to live across in Australia, we have companies now that are finding it more attractive to invest in research outside New Zealand. They are finding that it is much more prosperous and better for them to do business outside New Zealand, so they are moving offshore, as well. The kind of growth the Government is extolling itself for has come largely out of the increased price for exports, which is something this Government has had nothing to do with. For Government members to stand in this House after years of prosperity and declare a $8.9 billion surplus is a disgrace.
I make another point. If the Minister of Finance was in control and this great prosperity was due to him, how come at the last fiscal update he predicted a $5.6 billion surplus? We have had a blowout of over 50 percent in the surplus, which illustrates again that the Minister of Finance is not in control. Because of factors outside of him and what he is doing—in fact, in spite of him—we are having this very prosperity.
It is of concern to me that the legacy of this Government will be to have grown the public sector at the cost of the private investor. This Budget is taking us nowhere. There is no expression of vision. Yes, the Government talks about the transformation of the economy, but the transformation of the economy has been to overtax, to limit the individual, and to say that it must be the Government, or the State, that controls all of the investment into research and that dishes out the money in the Working for Families package. It just has to have that area of control.
This is an immoral Government. It has created a dependency for our families. There are now 350,000 more dependent families. The Government has carefully tried to couch Working for Families as some kind of targeted tax relief. It is not tax relief, and there is no way of saying that it is tax relief. It is the creation of dependency. If it were tax relief, then taxes would have been reduced, and all of the people who make up the bureaucracy that manages this Working for Families package, with all the handouts and dependency, would not be necessary. Again, that would be a saving for the taxpayer of New Zealand, but it would be targeted at the individual. The Working for Families package takes away initiative. It kills initiative. It creates thresholds that are above where people are actually sitting. There is no incentive to work harder, to invest more, to achieve greater, or to earn more, because the Government now gives out a great dollop of money. If there were tax relief, every single dollar earned after that point would go to the individual families, the working mums and dads, and those who are creating the wealth of this country.
There is another way, other than the Government handing out money. This is about creating a cake that gets bigger. If we really want to help New Zealand in health and education, and if we want to deliver those things that are crucial and important, then it is absolutely essential that we grow that cake. We see a diminishing cake, and all that is happening is that the wedges of that cake are being changed around. By far, the biggest slice now is the slice of tax that goes to the Government. This is immoral, and it really is a lost opportunity. This Government has had the most prosperous time. It has sat on its hands, and its legacy is that it has done nothing with the prosperity that has come to this country.
DIANNE YATES (Labour) : That speech was all whinge, whinge, whinge, moan, moan, moan. I am pleased to start on a positive note. I congratulate Tourism New Zealand, I congratulate the young New Zealand designer, and I congratulate New Zealand, because the New Zealand garden at the Chelsea Flower Show has just won the silver gilt medal. So there is something positive about New Zealand. New Zealand is clean and green and is succeeding overseas. New Zealand has won a silver gilt medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, and that is something to be proud of. We can be proud of it because it is a New Zealand endeavour, because it is an investment by Tourism New Zealand, and because a young person is doing well for New Zealand. New Zealand is doing well. So I tell the member opposite to get off the grass and look at what is positive. He should praise his country and not be like his leader, who is a total whinger and moaner.
I will read a letter to the editor in the New Zealand Herald today. It is headed: “Don Brash and patriotism”. Wayne Beverley from Auckland Central states: “As a loyal National voter I have one message for Don Brash—shut up. I am unimpressed by the anti - New Zealand rhetoric and offensive tax-rate billboard campaign. Let me give Don Brash some perspective.”
Chris Auchinvole: Signed “Labour voter”.
DIANNE YATES: This is a National voter. “I have family in Sydney. The husband left a $45,000 job in Auckland for a $70,000 job in Sydney, yet the family is saving next to no more than it was in New Zealand. The reason”—says Wayne Beverley from Auckland Central, a loyal National Party voter—“is simply a myriad of user-pays fees, expensive sports club fees for the children, huge stamp duty on house buying, hugely expensive insurances and so on. The result? Five more New Zealanders will be coming home sooner rather than later. National’s tax-rate campaign is disingenuous at best, dishonest at worst. Are you actually trying to make us feel bad for staying in this great country on purpose?” That letter was written by Wayne Beverley from Auckland Central.
I will also quote someone I met recently—an Aussie who is living in Wellington. He said to tell Dr Brash to go to Sydney if it is so great—he should just get the ticket and go now. He said to me that to rent outside Sydney the equivalent of a State house in Lower Hutt is $800 a week. Sure, he will get $10, but he said that the $10 tax cut will go on paying the fare to work, because he has to travel at least 20 kilometres to get to his job. He said it ain’t so great in Sydney and that he had seen the lay-offs and the working conditions in Australia, so he told Dr Brash to get real.
Another person, who is a fellow MP from another party in this House, said to me today that under National he would receive about $250 a week as a tax cut. He spoke about his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren, and said that under Labour, with the family allowance, it is his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren who will benefit. He said he did not need a $250 tax cut but that his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren did. Labour’s Budget is getting to families.
I heard the member opposite going on about mums and dads in New Zealand. That is what Labour is about—the mums and dads of New Zealand. My mother used to tell me that we cannot have our cake and eat it, too. National members cannot have their tax cuts and sit there, like Tony Ryall, bleating every day about more money for health, more money here, and more money there. Where are those guys going to get it from? They should get real. They cannot spend unless they have the sort of Budget we have here. Labour is putting money into New Zealand families—Labour is real about New Zealand families.
I heard a member over there talk about housing. Let us look at all this stuff about weathertightness and leaky buildings. Where did we get the problems with weathertightness and leaky buildings from? Not from Labour. We got them from the deregulation brought in by the National Party, which created a multitude of problems.
Bob Clarkson: Oh, what rubbish!
DIANNE YATES: The member for Tauranga need not look at me and say: “Oh, dear!”, because I know that the ex-chairman of the National Party was the ex-chairman of the Building Industry Authority when this problem started. I know which party brought in deregulation. I know which party got rid of apprentices and brought on the problems we have now. That member should be thanking Michael Cullen for the roads in Tauranga and not screaming at me. He should thank Michael Cullen for getting New Zealand exports overseas, and he should thank Michael Cullen for looking after the Tauranga electorate, because he does sweet-all for it. That is what the member for Tauranga should be saying.
Thank you is what a lot of people in New Zealand are saying today. They are thanking Michael Cullen for the family allowance and thanking him for the roads. We in the Waikato are saying thank you for the roads. Not only is $1.3 billion going into roads but $215 million is going into Waikato roads, and that is very important. I thank my colleague Martin Gallagher for the work he has done on that. I thank the members of Environment Waikato. I thank the members of the Joint Officials Group for the continued work they have done on that roading. As we know, we need roads for both Auckland and Tauranga. We need roads to keep us going, and we need roads to get exports out of Tauranga, where that member comes from. So I say a big thank you for the money that is going into our area and into the roads. One or two people on the opposite side of the House need to stop whingeing and say a thank you now and then for what is happening.
Tony Friedlander, who is not known for being a great supporter of the Labour Party, has said that he thinks that getting $1.3 billion over 5 years, in addition to what is being spent now, is a very good step in the right direction. Simon Lambourne of the Automobile Association said that he thinks the Government deserves praise for this Budget. He said it was a fantastic Budget for transport, it was the very best news that New Zealand motorists had had for a very long time, and it invested in the infrastructure of our country.
We have heard Maurice Williamson bleating over there. Maurice Williamson is envious. I have heard a few negative comments from Jeanette Fitzsimons, but I say to Jeanette that there is $32 million for the Kōpū Bridge.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): The member must use the member’s full name.
DIANNE YATES: Jeanette Fitzsimons. There is $32 million going towards the Kōpū Bridge, and I thank you, Mr Assistant Speaker, for the opportunity to stress that. The other important investment is money going into the Maramarua expressway. We have seen some dreadful accidents on that road, and, thankfully, we are getting that sorted out straight away.
I turn now to research and development. I come from the Waikato, and I am particularly pleased with the money that is going into research and development. I am particularly pleased with the money that is going into scholarships and into doctoral scholarships. Money is going into Crown research institutes and environmental research. An amazing amount is going into development and into growing this country.
I have just read an email from the Royal Society that outlines the money that is going into science. It states how pleased the society is that the money is going into endeavours that are building up the country and building up our exports. Members opposite need to stop their negative whingeing and moaning, and their constant running down of our country. They should be praising New Zealand. I would find it embarrassing if I were a member of the National Party.
The Budget is putting more money not only into health but into education. We are providing 455 more teachers. When did a National Government ever deliver anything like that? We are providing 3,000 more apprentices. When did a National Government ever deliver anything like that? We are putting $100 million into science. There is one more thing that I am particularly pleased about. When Labour members think about “overseas”, they think of their responsibilities—unlike the National Party, with its grab-grab, greedy-greedy, me-me kind of philosophy. We think about our Pacific brothers and sisters. A member opposite is yawning and thinks that is tiresome. That just shows the sort of attitude members opposite have toward the world, this country, and other countries near us. I am really pleased that over $84 million is going toward overseas aid. Most of that aid will go to the Pacific area, and I am very pleased about that.
MARK BLUMSKY (National) : I thought it was timely, after many hours of debate, to remind myself of the amendment that was moved by Dr Brash at the start of the debate: “That all the words after ‘that’ be omitted and the following inserted: ‘this House has no confidence in this Labour-led Government because for seven years it has demonstrated a lack of vision, and a lack of the policies to transform New Zealand into a high-income, high-growth nation, and has instead wasted the opportunities provided by buoyant international conditions by over-taxing New Zealanders and wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars on low quality spending programmes.’ ” That amendment is fully supported by the National Party, and I urge the other parties in the House to support that amendment, as well.
There are some very key phrases in Dr Brash’s amendment—“lack of vision”, “lack of policies to transform New Zealand”, “over-taxing”, and “wasting billions”. Those phrases are key, because they describe exactly the behaviour and activity of the Labour-led Government for the last 7 years. The debate gives me the opportunity to send a very clear warning to New Zealand. If people believe that this country is running smoothly and all is well, they are being lulled into a very false sense of security. If they believe that, then they are becoming complacent. New Zealand is developing into an uninspired society.
The Labour-led Government has no vision. It is an old and very tired Government. The Budget introduces new policies and initiatives that will take New Zealand backwards, not forwards. I will give a real-life example of exactly what I am talking about, and it concerns the Working for Families package, a programme that captures then holds New Zealanders in a frame of mind that is truly dangerous. Three weeks ago I had the joy of being in Christchurch, and I met up with a close relative. He said to me: “Hey, it’s really good, you know. I didn’t realise it but I now qualify and get a cheque every week for 127 bucks. It’s great. I love it.” Then he said to me: “What was interesting, though, was that just the other day the boss asked me if I wanted a promotion. I said: ‘Done! I’d love a promotion.’, and he said the promotion was worth five grand. But then I said that I didn’t want that promotion because I would lose my 127 bucks a week.”
I tell the House that I had a real go at that young guy. I asked whether he realised what he had done. He said no, because he was getting 127 bucks a week. But I said to him: “But you turned down a promotion!”. He repeated that he would get to keep the 127 bucks a week, but I said: “Had you not thought that if you took that promotion and the pay rise, maybe, after that promotion there might be another promotion and you would start getting ahead?”. Then his wife piped up and said: “But it is nice to get the $127, because we can now buy a Lotto ticket every week, and we could not before.” I thought: “My goodness me! You have now lost your aspiration, you have now lost your drive, and your entrepreneurial spirit has gone.” That 127 bucks is locking them into a benefit, yet they think they are lucky because they can buy a Lotto ticket every week. It shows that no longer are there incentives to work harder. The tragedy is that hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders will probably be as easily trapped as that young man and his family. Just where is his future? Where is our future?
In my maiden speech I talked specifically about why I entered Parliament. I want my daughter and her peers to stay in New Zealand when they grow up. For sure, she is allowed to go overseas for an OE, but I want her to return to New Zealand and live here because she believes this is the country she wants to live in and because it offers her opportunities. But the 2006 Budget gives me no confidence that the Government understands the incentives needed for us to get ahead and for us to have a country where my daughter and her peers will end up wanting to live.
If National had won the election, its first Budget would have been totally focused on the measures needed to make sure that incentives were built into the economy through affordable tax cuts that would allow hard-working Kiwis the chance to get ahead because of their own efforts. Our Budget would have seen 85 percent of taxpayers paying a tax rate of 19 percent or less. We would have put a heck of a lot more money into desperately needed infrastructure, and we would have ferreted out the waste in the Public Service. Budgets are about long-term planning. Budgets are about focusing on the kind of New Zealand we want in the next 20-plus years, not a whole lot of little Band-Aids to fix problems and to score some fast points in the polls.
In the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of travelling around New Zealand meeting those working in local government and those working very hard in small business. We all know, I am sure, that those two sectors make a huge impact on New Zealand, and, more important, they have a big impact on our future.
Lindsay Tisch: We’re a nation of small businesses.
MARK BLUMSKY: We are a big nation of lots of small businesses.
Both local government and the small-business sector have serious issues that the Government needs to address now and has not taken the opportunity to address. The rates of most local authorities are going berserk. The reason is the compliance costs, the standards that have been imposed by the Government on local government. The Government says: “Do this please local government. And we want you to do that, please. We need you to do this, and you have to do that. Oh, and by the way, when we tell you to do this and that, we ain’t going to give you a cent to do it with. You have to fund that out of the ratepayer’s pocket.” That means that in many local authorities in New Zealand rates are going berserk. In terms of the standards imposed, councils that have delivered tap water of high quality are now having to spend millions of dollars to make the water meet a standard that the Government has decided is a better standard, and most of that spending will probably, in many instances, be put on lawns and gardens.
As I said, I visited many small businesses. Two significant issues arise. The first is compliance and regulation, because 95 percent of small businesses that I spoke to, which would be 100-plus, in the last few months have all said to me there is far too much compliance, far too much regulation. The Budget had an answer—let us have another review!
Lindsay Tisch: Another committee.
MARK BLUMSKY: Another committee! Maybe it will be a case of third time lucky.
So much for the Budget in terms of helping small business. The second issue was the risk they face employing staff. Small-business people pay staff out of their own pockets, and there is a huge impact if they get it wrong and pick the wrong staff member. Small businesses are saying that the 90-day probation period would help immensely. By the way, business tax cuts would add real value to a small business. It would really help the pain. But what was there in the Budget? Nothing.
The danger is that New Zealand is becoming complacent. We are developing an uninspired society. We are not developing a future we can look forward to. We are not developing a future for our best and brightest, because, unfortunately, they are leaving.
STEVE CHADWICK (Labour—Rotorua) : I am sad to follow that rather watery rhetoric from someone who was once a charismatic mayor and leader of the Wellington region—someone who looked excitedly at regional initiatives. This Budget is all about this Government delivering on its commitments, and that is a great thing in terms of integrity. Above all, it is about investing in our future, and as a Labour member from the regions, I am proud to see us investing in our future in the long term. We will be transforming New Zealand’s economy into a dynamic, knowledge-based, innovative economy. The Opposition knows that and it cannot stand it.
I will talk about economic transformation. We accept that building on the strong economic growth of the last 6 years is not enough. This Budget is about announcing more of what we will do. In fact, there is $2.1 billion more operating funding—not nothing—and $1.5 billion more capital funding. We are investing in an infrastructure that will be absolutely world-class. The Opposition knows it. The National Government did nothing about roading for 9 years. This Budget is about roads, roads, and roads.
We are going to spend 8.4 times more on infrastructure and roading than members opposite ever spent or ever committed to spending. This will lead to roads to somewhere, not to nowhere. [Interruption] That member of the Opposition fell into using the rhetoric of his leader, who talks down this economy and thinks tax cuts will cut the mustard. He talked down the economy, and there he was—not “Bondi Bill” but “Poor old Bondi Bill, over the hill”. Two-thirds of Australians say that, rather than have tax cuts, they would have preferred their last Budget to spend more on services.  One has to listen to Australia. I am not saying those members should go over there, although perhaps it might be good if some do.
These roads to somewhere happen only as a result of astute fiscal management. The sum of $1.3 billion is to be spent on State highway development, and the good thing is that that funding is guaranteed for 5 years. It places those of us in the regions in a great place. In April I was at a regional Bay of Plenty MPs and mayors forum. Participants said that what they needed for planning in their neck of the woods, in the Bay of Plenty—and Mr Clarkson will be delighted, as I know his mayor will be—was long-term funding. This Budget provides for 5 years’ security of funding. We get on with it, and what do we get? We get completion of the Tauranga Eastern Motorway and the Pyes Pa Road. It is a great thing. It will get our goods to market. And not only that—this Budget will help with developing export markets. What more can one do? People will be thrilled about the funding security, and they will not be repeating the rhetoric that this Government is doing nothing about promoting goods to market.
The focus, though, is not only on infrastructure, roads, and hospitals but also on investing in people and in workers. It is on health, education, and families. The—my paper in Rotorua—asks: “Budget 2006—What are you going to get out of it?” I am not referring to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, although I am sure there is something in the Budget for everybody, including the Deputy Speaker. The paper takes a personal approach, and in the regions we are getting a great response. I will tell members what people are saying. The Rotorua Chamber of Commerce was thrilled with the extra funding for Modern Apprentices, which would allow it to achieve an additional 3,000 apprentices and hit its target of 14,000 by 2008. Margriet Theron, the President of the Rotorua Chamber of Commerce said: “It’s great news for us.”.
I ask members to listen to this: “That cannot come soon enough”, the funding for jobs growth. [Interruption] We have jobs growth in the Bay of Plenty, I tell Mr Clarkson—the highest in the country. It is up today to 4.3 percent. Job growth in the Bay of Plenty and the Waikato is the highest in the country. What did we need to do to meet the jobs growth in the Bay of Plenty? We needed to look at skills-based training. “It cannot come soon enough, considering the skills shortage that exists here in Rotorua.” Who said that? That comment came from the chamber of commerce in Rotorua. Members should listen to this: “This sounds like a very good investment budget.”
Hon Ruth Dyson: Who said that?
STEVE CHADWICK: That was on the front page of The Daily Post, and it was said by the chamber of commerce in Rotorua.
I ask former Mayor Blumsky to listen to what the Rotorua District Council said. Mark Rawson of the economic development unit said: that $8.1 million for the Gateway programme in all schools is so encouraging for schools to showcase primary industry in our region, such as forestry. One hundred and thirty thousand students in 400 schools will benefit. Who can say that this Budget did not deliver? Another great issue covered on the front page of The Daily Post was the comment by Dr Tom Richardson, the chief executive officer of Scion, our Crown research institute. He said that $100 million to science, research and technology, including $1 million for energy, biodiversity, and biosecurity research was fantastic. But there is more—$13 million is to be spent on commercialisation of research. This is what he says about it: “It would bring stability in the form of ‘a streamlined and contestable funding process.’”
One cannot rebut that. Our own Crown research institute has said that at long last the contestable funding model, which gave us no long-term security in funding in science, research and technology, has been ditched, and now it can get on with the business of developing our biomaterials future and biofuels. Bring it on! This is so exciting—it is front-page news in The Daily Post—as is the boost of $16 million a year for tourism, in a tourism town, to a total of $63 million. That funding has been welcomed by Rotorua Tourism marketing manager. Don Gunn in Rotorua said, on the front page of that this is very encouraging and they could do even more.
Well, I was in New Delhi a month ago, and what did I see the night I arrived at the New Zealand embassy? I saw 16 entrants, from the Department of Tourism in India, into the World of Wearable Art Awards competition here in Wellington. It was absolutely amazing to see that in New Delhi. What was that all about? It was about the New Zealand identity, and India wants to be part of it. It is a prestigious event, and it is about building the national identity. When I got home I heard about Air New Zealand opening up flights direct from India to New Zealand next year. This is what we are getting on with doing. We are opening up our economy to a global economy. It is front-page stuff. As well as the national identity, I am really proud to see money going into Creative New Zealand and The Royal New Zealand Ballet. I am also pleased to see the increase for Official Development Assistance.
In conclusion—one cannot take the midwife out of me—families young and old benefit from this Budget. The measure of any society’s value system is the measure of investment in the young and the elderly, and this Budget tops it off. The sum of $23 million is allocated for school-ready checks for 4-year-olds. If children cannot see or hear, they cannot learn, and this will help fix that. The sum of $16 million is allocated for a newborn hearing screening. Above all—and the icing on the cake—is the $126 million allocated for home-based support carers in the aged-care sector. This is a thumping good Labour Budget. I am proud to be a Labour member, and I am proud to go out to my community and sell this Budget.
ALLAN PEACHEY (National—Tamaki) : The 2006 Budget is Michael Cullen’s seventh, and probably his last. We now know that all Michael Cullen will be is a footnote in history. When they write the chapter about how, in the early years of the 21st century, a socialist Government in New Zealand tried to create a complacent and uninspired society, somewhere at the end of that chapter, in an unread footnote, there will be a asterisk that will say something like this: “The Minister of Finance was Michael Cullen. He spent 7 years squandering the opportunity that a strong economy gave a Government to make New Zealand better.” We know, and future generations will know, that that Minister of Finance and his Prime Minister spent 3 years in the Lange/Palmer/Moore Government, where they undermined the beginnings of the work that, carried on in the 1990s, created the strength in the economy that for the last 6½ years they have chosen to squander.
Members should listen to the Minister of Finance’s comments about the Budget and just reflect on what he thinks of New Zealanders. When challenged to explain why average New Zealanders are better off in Australia, all he could say is that Australia digs itself up and sells itself to China. That is all he could say. He was not capable of seeing the good and the potential in New Zealanders. He was not capable of saying that New Zealand, like a number of countries in the world, cannot dig itself up but that it has, in its people, the capability, the drive, and the ambition to be competitive internationally and to build a strong economy. He could not bring himself to say that, because his old socialist view of New Zealanders does not allow him to recognise that. He will leave the job of Minister of Finance always believing that he knows better than we New Zealanders in terms of what is better for us.
Longer-serving members than myself have told me that there was a time when the Minister of Finance was a man of some wit. He strikes me, today, as being a man reduced to sarcasm. He needs to learn that sarcasm is no substitute for knowledge. It is no substitute for experience out in the economy—for employing people, making a dollar, and knowing that other people depend on one’s own efforts and entrepreneurship for their jobs. Sarcasm is no substitute for that. But, then, we all know that Mr John Key is smarter than Michael Cullen. We know that Dr Cullen cannot match Mr Key’s experience in, and knowledge of, the international money markets and the international economy. Never was that more apparent than in this House today. Dr Cullen must get the message. The New Zealand people will no longer accept sarcasm passing for wit as a substitute for explaining himself and his policies in this House.
The 2006 Budget continues the trend of the last six Budgets. It means government getting bigger and bigger. The bigger government becomes, the greater the obstacle it becomes to opportunity, because bigger government means less freedom for individuals. It means negating the qualities of individual initiative, of innovation, of creativity, and of self-reliance—qualities that are valued by the people of Tāmaki, whom I represent. Those are the qualities on which they have built their lives and which they see being undermined by this Government. The New Zealand economy cannot compete internationally as long as we devalue those qualities. This Budget means more intrusion in the lives of New Zealanders. It means more coercion upon them. It means more meddling in their lives, and it means less effective government. That Government over there thinks that if we spend more, that is all we have to do. The Government’s increased spending is waste.
I turn now to education. According to the Education Review Office, 20 percent of our children are not experiencing success at school. I have a message for the Minister of Education. He cannot spin his way out of that. That Minister will be held accountable for the failure of his Government, and for its squandering of the millions and millions of hard-earned dollars it has taken from New Zealanders. I must mention the health system and the dumping of sick citizens from waiting lists. Those people, who paid their taxes all their lives in the belief that the hospitals would be there for them when they needed them, are being dumped off waiting lists daily.
The people of Tāmaki understand—and it does not matter whether they live in the prosperous suburbs of St Heliers, Kohimārama, or Mission Bay, or Ōrākei, or whether they are welfare dependent in Glen Innes—that the cause of their problems lies here in Wellington. I listened to the Government members boasting about the extra State houses they are going to build. They have a word for that in Glen Innes. The Tāmaki electorate has the second-highest concentration of State housing of any electorate in New Zealand. Do members know what those people are saying to me down there? They are asking why their landlord is intensifying housing there when already they live in crime-infested streets and the Government seems powerless to do anything about it. [Interruption] Those Government members opposite who choose to challenge that should be warned. Those people punished the Labour Party in Tāmaki at the last election, and they will punish it further next time.
One thing we can take from the Budget is the fact that the nanny State is alive and well. It was very interesting this afternoon to hear the Associate Minister of Finance speak. He is the man who aims to be the next finance Minister. He brought a mean-spirited vindictiveness to his speech. How can anybody who aspires to be the Minister of Finance use 8 minutes of valuable speaking time in this House before even mentioning the 2006 Budget? The only good thing I can say is that his oppressor’s jackboot has been removed from the education sector. For that, the education sector is most grateful. The Prime Minister has made many mistakes during her premiership. Surely she will not make the greatest mistake of all and appoint Trevor Mallard as the Minister of Finance.
I congratulate the Hon Jim Sutton and Ms Yates, two members who, clearly, gave their last Budget speeches today in this House. We know that they lost their electorates in the last election and we know that, with four or five others, they will be gone by Christmas. Who cares? No one—except when one looks at the Labour list and sees more of the same dismal, narrow, tired, unimaginative politicians, which this country does not need.
MARTIN GALLAGHER (Labour—Hamilton West) : We should bring back Clem Simich. Sir Robert David Muldoon would turn in his grave if he realised that Allan Peachey is now representing the electorate of Tamaki. There was once a rumour that the previous speaker, who has just sat down, shares the same name as a former principal of Rangitoto College. I do not believe they are one and the same person, because I do not think the board of trustees—let alone the Minister of Education—would have tolerated that performance at Rangitoto College. I could never imagine that kind of delivery at a morning assembly. I believe that principals in this country would turn in absolute shame as a result.
I will also comment briefly, for those who were listening, on the speech made by the once-proud Mayor of Wellington Mark Blumsky. Indeed, I have to say it was sad his being reduced to reading a speech from the National Party research bureau. He talked of a lack of vision and policy, of wasting billions—I will talk about the so-called wasting of billions in a minute—and of the $1.3 billion spent on roading. It was a speech all about selling down New Zealand. Would he have sold down “absolutely positively Wellington”? I think not. I want that former mayor to reflect on his time as mayor when he boosted Wellington and when he spoke up for a community that he was proud of. Why is he not similarly and equally proud of our great country, New Zealand?
I now turn to the positive. “On behalf of New Zealand motorists, the Automobile Association congratulates the Government and Dr Cullen on the Budget 2006. There is now more money being spent on transport than ever before, and the benefits will be seen for years to come.” In an official statement from the Automobile Association, Mike Noon, Automobile Association Motoring Affairs General Manager, said: “the AA is delighted the government has provided an additional $1.3 billion of funding to improve the country’s transport infrastructure. Today’s Budget really is fantastic news for all New Zealand motorists … We are thrilled to see our Members’ taxes being fully invested in the transport programme and in our roads.”
During the last election, National produced a poster that read “What’s your petrol tax for?”. It had a less than complimentary picture of our Prime Minister on it—although it was still a nice picture—and attributed quotes to her. On the other side of the poster, Dr Brash was talking about roads. I read from the National Party’s 2005 roading and transport policy: “The solution to our roading problems is to spend more money on road infrastructure. Over our first …”—not one term—“… two terms in office, we will move all the petrol tax that currently goes into the consolidated fund to the National Land Transport Fund.” In the Dominion Post on 18 May 2006, Maurice Williamson said: “When it comes to roads, National is very concerned about the infrastructure deficit that keeps growing. We committed at the election to moving all petrol tax over to the road fund over a period of six years.” A period of how many years? Not 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, but 6 years.
We had the billboard in the city of Hamilton and we had the pamphlets from National’s good, close allies, the somewhat exclusive group the Exclusive Brethren, whose members were trying to act as the political shock troops for the National Party. I am very proud of the effort we made to build the Labour Party vote in Hamilton and also to win the Hamilton West seat. We have not waited 6 long years to have that petrol tax transferred to the roading fund. Indeed, I say that 6 months is the most appropriate answer.
Quite frankly, I cannot believe the “h” word being demonstrated by the Opposition, particularly by the Waikato members—with the exception of David Bennett, who cannot be blamed for past non-performance. The “h” word is alive and well. I cannot believe the temerity of the Waikato members of Parliament in the Opposition who moan and groan about the lack of transport funding for the Waikato region. I cannot believe the “h” word and the temerity of them talking about dangerous stretches of road. What did National do in the 1990s? I know that when the member of Parliament for Hamilton East, David Bennett, first came to the House he was shocked. I know in his heart of hearts he was shocked and, frankly, he is the only member of the National Party in the Waikato who has at least shown some fight in terms of roading. I will at least acknowledge that. There was only one member in the 1990s in the Waikato who really fought tirelessly for roading, and that was the member for Waikato the Hon Rob Storey, who was Minister of Transport. But what did National do to the Hon Rob Storey? It sacked him. He was the honourable exception.
Members should look at the reaction in our region and consider other comments. Michael Barnett, Chief Executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Industry, commented on the western ring route announcement—again, that was some important, wonderful news for the Auckland region—“This is exactly the package the business community has been requesting for some time.” The Mayor of Auckland was quoted in the New Zealand Herald the other day as saying that, fundamentally, Auckland and Hamilton are joined at the hip. In terms of the intertwining of the Waikato economy and the Auckland economy, that is absolutely correct. Members will never hear me making critical comments on the amount of transport infrastructure investment in the Auckland region, because we in the Waikato region need the Auckland economy to do well for us to do well—just as the people in Auckland need the Waikato to do well, in terms of it being a major export region.
After the wonderful announcement of the $1.3 billion extra in roading, and the $215 million special Waikato roading package, I take this opportunity to thank the region’s leaders for their hard work. In particular, I single out and praise the good leadership role of Jenni Vernon, who is the chair of Environment Waikato. I also praise and acknowledge the contribution of the three mayors of the jobs working party. I thank Mayor Stent from Taupō. Has Taupō not done well? The bypass is back on track, and thanks go to Mark Burton, who played a good role in that, along with Mayor Stent and the people in Taupō. I also acknowledge Mayor Barriball from Thames-Coromandel, and my own mayor from Hamilton, Michael Redman. I acknowledge mayor Peter Harris of Waikato District, and mayor Alan Livingston from Waipā District for the very good and sound leadership they have shown. I acknowledge also the Hamilton City Council and councillor Dave MacPherson, who chairs the transport committee.
There is so much about this Budget that I can be so positive about. It is a Budget for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Someone on that side of the House claimed to be some sort of historian and talked about the history books being written. I tell members that the history books will look back on this time as a proud time for our country. They will look back on Dr Michael Cullen as one of the great Ministers of Finance of our time. They will look at a Budget that invested in our children and our children’s children and that did not go for the cheap bribe the Opposition has been engaged in. They will look on the Budget as one that showed that the Government cared about much more than short-term, cheap political advantage and showed that it loves and values our country and that it will invest in its long-term future. This is a country we can be proud of, and only a Labour-led Government could have produced such a Budget.
I acknowledge our Progressive party member and confidence and supply partners, New Zealand First and United Future. I thank New Zealand First for the work it did with Labour on rolling out the extra police. I thank them for that wonderful announcement. I acknowledge my colleagues in New Zealand First. They are positive and they have a constructive role, along with United Future. They are not carping and whining. In their heart of hearts, the Opposition members know that all they can do is whinge and whine and be terribly, terribly negative. That is a sad way to spend one’s political life. I am proud of this Budget. I am delighted to represent the Waikato. This Budget has been really wonderful news for our region.
JO GOODHEW (National—Aoraki) : I rise in support of the motion expressing no confidence in the Labour-led Government. Far from whingeing and whining on the Opposition side of the House, we are simply pointing out the realities of this Budget and the state of New Zealand at the moment, under a Labour-led Government. We are in big trouble.
As a newcomer to Parliament I had a plan, which was to come to Parliament and advocate not only for the people of Aoraki but also for all hard-working New Zealanders. Who are the hard-working New Zealanders? Mums and dads are hard-working New Zealanders. Sometimes one of them is in the paid workforce and the other at home with the child or children, and sometimes both are working. So are sole parents, who sometimes juggle work with the vitally important role of raising children. There are also hard-working couples and individuals without children who go to work and endeavour to get ahead in life. That is a very important point; let us not forget about those people. Older people, whose children have left home and who are trying desperately to put aside some money for their retirement, are also hard-working people. I include in the list students, who often work part-time and strive to complete higher education in order to get good jobs and reap the benefit of their graft.
Some New Zealanders, through no fault of their own, find themselves on a benefit—a sickness, invalids, widows, or unemployment benefit. Some of those people will never move from those benefits, and that is why our caring New Zealand society provides for them. However, some New Zealanders desperately want to be free of their dependence on the State. Those people, under Labour, are not optimistic about being able to do that, and the Budget did not make them feel better. Employment law under Labour does not encourage employers to take the risk of taking those people on—to give them a chance. The Budget gave those people no more hope that would happen.
Even more insidious is the growing number of beneficiaries. Some members on the Government benches may dispute that claim, but I will explain that according to the March 2006 benefit data, under Labour the aforementioned beneficiaries—sickness, widows, invalids, and unemployment—number almost 191,000 people. Of those, 104,046 are on the domestic purposes benefit. Members may add to that the approximately 350,000 families that have signed up for the benefit called Working for Families—that extra benefit. Those are hard-working New Zealanders, but Working for Families is their handbrake. No, it is actually worse than that; it is a brick wall.
Members can take the example of a family that earns $40,000. Improved skills and longer hours give that family a chance to add $10,000 to its income. But members should wait for this. Ordinarily the family might rejoice at that, but instead it finds out that because the parents are Working for Families beneficiaries, no less, the difference that $10,000 will make to their income—to their take-home pay—is only $2,000.
Simon Power: That can’t be right.
JO GOODHEW: Unfortunately, it is right. So it a case of whack! That family hits the brick wall that the Labour-led Government has created in the form of the benefit called Working for Families. Members should not get me wrong. I do not dispute that those hard-working families need to be given a break. But they do not need a benefit; they need a tax break. They need the opportunity to keep more of what they earn in their hands.
But there are more disincentives out there. Several of the hard-working groups I mentioned before are feeling seriously left out, as the Government pours billions of dollars into benefits for families, as a leg-rope or a shackle. Those who are feeling left out include older people who no longer have children at home but are still working hard. Those folks do not matter. Also left out are the trapped beneficiaries who pay high marginal tax and feel helpless and hopeless, and couples and individuals without children—because they do not matter, either. Those people could well feel they are lesser beings than others. Why do they not matter? They still work hard, but they continue to pay too much tax and they are sick and tired of it. Those groups are looking hard across the Tasman and feeling that a short jump across the ditch may prove to be better for them than staying here. Does saying that mean I am not patriotic? Am I happy about that? I am not promoting Australia. Those people simply recognise that living in Australia may be better for their families and for them as couples than living here. Whom do those people owe their allegiance to? To themselves, of course. I would ask them to please stay, but what can I offer them? Nothing—not until National is the Government.
My spokesperson roles are in aged care and rural health. What has this Budget offered to those sectors? Not much—not much to show any true commitment that this Government is dealing with the real issues. I will sum up those issues, firstly in aged care. New funding has been described by the aged-care sector as a drop in the bucket. The exact wording from HealthCare Providers New Zealand was: “We strongly disagree with the Minister that this funding increase will allow a significant increase for those working in the sector.” It seems that even though the figure was dressed up as many millions of dollars over 4 years, the sector was not fooled. The New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services welcomed the money, but added there was “still much to be done.”—and how right it was.
The union that represents many of the workers was stronger than those organisations in its condemnation of the Government. I will dare to quote from a union, which is amazing. Its press release is entitled: “Budget leaves aged care out in the cold”. Letting the unions down is a bad sign. It seemed that the Minister was on a different planet from that of the sector when he described the new funding as a “heavy investment in aged care”. Workers will still be poorly paid, and the future will still be bleak and uncertain. Hundreds will still leave the sector each time the petrol price rises.
I turn to rural health. The people of Twizel are worried; so are the people of Waimate and Kurow. For many years those towns have struggled to recruit general practitioners to their practices. For too long they have faced the reality that general practitioners do not usually want to come and work in those places, and that because there is a shortage of general practitioners they do not have to. The New Zealand Doctor magazine reported last week: “The Government says it wants more people in the rural health workforce, then turns a blind eye to the struggles faced by those trying to train that workforce.”
What is the problem, exactly? The Government has funded 40 extra places at the Otago and Auckland medical schools for students from rural backgrounds. That sounds well and good, but the Government forgot to get those 40 students back into the rural general practices, to give them some experience there. If they do not have such experience by the time they are in their 5th or 6th year, then they are much less likely to go back to those particular practices. The director of Te Waipounamu Rural Health Unit at Otago University, Dr Pat Farry, is feeling really, really unhappy about that, and he expressed his dismay in the article: “This looming crisis in health care in the rural area and the rural workforce is not being addressed in a serious manner by the Government.” What did the Budget bring the rural sector? Nothing—unbelievably, nothing. The Government has not noticed there is a huge risk to its primary health strategy associated with not making sure there will be general practitioners in rural practices in the primary health area.
The other thing Dr Farry articulated in that article was something that gave him some hope. The only problem was that he was articulating hope before the election—hope that National would win it. He wrote about expanding the postgraduate training programmes for general practice to include an additional 38 places for general practitioner registrars—the difference being that they are further along in their training—and for rural hospital registrars, as well as a student loan write-off for health professionals in designated hard-to-staff areas. But, still, the Minister sits on his hands.
Added to that is the crisis in elective surgery. Thousands of New Zealanders have recently received a “Dear John” type of letter, telling them they will not be able to have their first specialist appointment. That is enormously worrying to them, as they have been sent back to a general practitioner who will have to find some other sort of health care to give them.
This Government is intent on hiding its wasteful, spendthrift ways. It is happy to accept the problems in the health sector, and it wrongfully believes in throwing in more ill-targeted dollars at the problem—$10 billion, so far, and people tell me they cannot see where that money has gone. This Government and its boring Budget, which is short on ideas, have not achieved anything for the sectors that I care so much about. In my parents’ day Budgets were exciting things, but this Budget was a boring one. I have no confidence in the Labour-led Government.
GEORGINA BEYER (Labour) : It is always a pleasure to rise and speak in the annual Budget debate, and 2006 is no exception. I reckon the National Party has taken the pip. After 6 years of a Labour-led Government, the National members have not been able to come up with one decent idea regarding the Budget, except for tax cuts. That is right. The Leader of the Opposition has sold this country out, and I am in disbelief that the new members across the way are falling in with that tired and lacklustre line.
I dare to suggest we will never find members from that side of the House sitting on the Government benches while the kind of rhetoric that they go on with prevails. The attitude those members have is that people should pack up and go off to Australia. All they think about is being more self-centred and greedy, whereas members on the Government side of the House want to raise the standard of living for all New Zealanders. And we are doing that. This Government, over the last 6 years, has delivered consistent fiscal responsibility under the leadership of Dr Michael Cullen. That is why there is certainty in this country and in this Budget. What has this Government proved in its time in office? It has proved that it delivers. At the end of the day, that is what matters in this country.
I will remind the Opposition members of some of the history of the National Party when it was in Government and of why this Government is successful now. This Government has, I say to Mr Peachey and to the many other members over there who have mentioned this, made the greatest use of whatever one could say was the legacy of the last National Government. But we have carried on from there. I ask the National members which of the measures, reflecting the fiscally responsible attitude this Government has taken, they would wind back. Would they wind back our student loan policy, or close the hospitals—as National used to do in the past—that we have opened since we have been in Government? I know darned well that I would prefer the benefit of hospitals staying open rather than the fear endured for 9 long years in the Wairarapa, as we stood with hands around our hospital. That happened elsewhere in the country at the time, too. I can honestly say this Government has not only satisfied the people of the Wairarapa that it does care about them and their health care, by providing the means by which they could maintain their hospital, but it has given them a new one—
Mark Blumsky: And they love John Hayes.
GEORGINA BEYER: I would like to know what Mr Hayes is achieving at the moment. Under my tenure, we have managed to save our polytechnics, save our hospital, and complete roading projects.
This is where I will give one former National member, the Hon Wyatt Creech, some credit. He was a decent National member of Parliament—a man with talent—and how that party dismissed that important knowledge, just like that. My goodness me, how I do recall the nuclear policy that National was going to establish. National sent Mr Creech off to do the bidding for it, and to do all the research, and what did he get in return? He got a slap in the face, a flick back from the National members, as that policy fizzled. My colleagues will remember it fizzled at the time, did it not?
I would like New Zealanders to consider this. If the National Party was on the Treasury benches right now, could they trust it to deliver what it says it would deliver? Do people trust National not only to deliver the tax cuts it promised but also to compensate for what would not be going into the health budget, the education budget, and the transport budget—and into the infrastructure of this country, which will move us forward and take us into the top half of the OECD, which we all so proudly want to achieve? Well, at least members on the Government side of the House want to achieve that, but the Opposition members, who are devoid of ideas and vision, can only sit there and get the pip with the Government. Like headless chooks going around and looking for their food out there, those members can only chip away in negativity. I tell those members that New Zealanders are over it—they are over it. They are looking forward, as this Government is, to transforming our economy, retaining and understanding what it is to be Kiwi, and investing in our national identity, culturally, and in our infrastructure. Yes indeed, we wish to deliver on that vision, and this Budget of Dr Michael Cullen and the Labour-led Government is certainly achieving that.
I may as well enlighten some members on some of the key features of this Budget. We were elected on a platform of social spending, because Working for Families, interest-free student loans, and other priorities—not tax cuts—are what New Zealanders re-elected this Labour-led Government for. Members of the Opposition are picking away at Working for Families, to no avail—not when somewhere in the region of 350,000 families will gain by $1.6 billion in total every year. That is tax relief of $88 a week, on average, which is not bad going by my reckoning, and we can maintain all the investment that we have boosted up. The baselines have been lifted, and billions of dollars are going into roading—$13.3 billion is going into transport infrastructure. I remind the Opposition members, and Mr Blumsky in particular, of something with regard to better transport and better roads. They should remember which Government has delivered the Wellington inner-city bypass and delivered on Transmission Gully, which is finally to happen. This Government, I tell Mr Blumsky, has taken responsibility for those projects. For 9 long years—and that member should remember this as Mayor of Wellington at the time—how often we tried, as a region, to fight for the meagre pickings we received from the last National Government. Goodness me, it was a great shame that we had to wait so long before we had a responsible Government on the Treasury benches.
I pause for a drink, Mr Deputy Speaker, because the disappointment is too much—I say it is clear water we drink here, just to inform the public about that. [Interruption] Well, we will not go there. The National members rave on about Australia, so much so that I am almost prepared to table some of my own air points in order to help their leader to go—and by the way, could he drag the Exclusive Brethren off with him? In fact, why do the Exclusive Brethren not pay for the airfares of all the Opposition? It seemed to pay for an awful lot more—
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order!
GEORGINA BEYER: Is my time up?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: No.
GEORGINA BEYER: Anyway, I have been cautioned by Mr Deputy Speaker, so I shall obey and get on to the real business of this Budget debate, which is to inform the country of what we have delivered in the Budget.
I make the comparison between Labour and National with regard to the Working for Families package. Our Working for Families package is far more effective in giving targeted tax relief to those who need it than Australia’s tax cuts, which give $52 a week to someone who earns $100,000 a year. The Working for Families package gives a family on $51,000 a year with one child an extra $70 a week in tax relief. To do that through a tax cut would cost $5.2 billion a year. Well, that would be a big chunk out of the transport package we are just boosting, would it not, I ask my colleagues? Would it not also be a big chunk out of the health budget, if it was to come from there? And how does the member who has just resumed her seat think that care could be provided for anybody if there was a tax cut—as well as providing everything else that those members seem to want to go shopping for and keep asking this Government for?
No, the members on the other side of the House deserve to be on the Opposition benches, because they lack vision, they are leaderless, and they all seem to want to pack their bags and go to Australia. The members of this Government believe in New Zealand. We will always believe in New Zealand and New Zealanders, and in becoming the greatest country in the world—and we know we can be.
Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN (National—Northcote) : It is a pleasure to speak in this debate on the Budget, and especially to speak to the motion of no confidence in this Labour-led Government, which was put so aptly by Dr Brash last Thursday. After the ranting and raving we have heard from the members of Labour’s death row caucus—the “third XV”—tonight, I think it is quite apt that we restate this motion of no confidence. The motion is as follows: “… this House has no confidence in this Labour-led Government, because for 7 years it has demonstrated a lack of vision, and a lack of the policies to transform New Zealand into a high-income, high-growth nation, and has instead wasted the opportunities provided by buoyant international conditions by overtaxing New Zealanders and wasting billions of taxpayers’ dollars on low-quality spending programmes.” That is the gist of this whole debate.
On Thursday Michael Cullen delivered his final Budget. As Dr Brash said, it is the “Bondi Budget”, and we know why that is. It is because there are no incentives in the Budget to keep decent, hard-working New Zealanders here within the shores of New Zealand. People want to stay here but this Labour Government is driving them offshore through economic necessity. The Budget was devoid of vision. It was devoid of leadership.
The “third XV” members opposite are right when they constantly state that only a Labour Government could have delivered this Budget. That is dead right. We would not see a Budget like this from the National benches. The reason is there are no incentives in the Budget to get people working. It is criminal that, in this country, if the salary of someone earning $38,000 and married with two children goes up to $60,000, he or she takes home only another $2,000 a year in the pocket. There is no incentive for people to do anything—to look for promotion, to work harder, and to do something with their lives to better their role and the position of their family in society.
The sad reality running through this whole debate, as we have heard Labour member after Labour member recite the Budget figures, is that Labour members really do not understand what is necessary to get this country going. They think we can pour millions of dollars, dollar after dollar, down the black hole of health, education, or whatever, and it will fix the problem. What we really need is leadership and vision. We need a Government that understands the big-ticket items that will grow the economy, that will achieve step changes. It is about improvements in education, improvements in infrastructure. It is about providing the incentives for people to work harder. It is about providing company tax rates that mean people want to build their businesses in this country.
It is a real shame that the Minister of Health will not be taking a call in this debate. He had plenty to say immediately after the Budget, and he released plenty of statements about spending on health, but the reality is that, despite the 66 percent increase in health spending over the past 6 years, no one can tell me that one New Zealander is healthier because of it. The country is sicker. Our children have diabetes. Our children are fatter. The people of New Zealand cannot get the operations they need. This is despite an extra $4 billion of spending under this Labour Government being put into health every single year.
Mr Hodgson probably thinks he has left behind the nightmare of the New Zealand health system. He probably thinks he has left behind the 24,000 people who have been waiting more than 6 months for an operation, the 7,000 New Zealanders who have been waiting more than a year for an operation, or the 3,000 people who have been waiting more than 18 months for an operation. He probably thinks that at the moment he can forget about the 14,000 New Zealanders who have been returned by the hospital to their general practitioner without even seeing a specialist. He is probably trying to put out of his mind the 8,100 people who had been given certainty about having an operation but were sent back to their general practitioner.
In fact, on Monday he was probably enjoying a few days away from the blowtorch. He was probably sitting around the swimming pool in Geneva, at the World Health Organization—probably chatting to a Minister of Health from North Korea, Cuba, or some other far-left State. But suddenly he gets a call from Sean Plunket. It is Sean on the line and he is saying that National has found out that the salary bill for health bureaucrats has topped half a billion dollars for the first time—that is, 1 percent of Government spending each year is being spent on health bureaucrats. There has been a 23 percent increase in spending on health bureaucrats over the past 6 years. Frankly, Mr Hodgson can run to the other side of the world but he cannot hide from the facts on health.
The fact is there is nothing in this Budget to address the crucial health issues facing New Zealanders. There is nothing in here to address the shortage of medical staff. We are having to import doctors and nurses because we cannot keep our own here. There is nothing to address the criminal waiting-lists for surgery that our hospitals are experiencing. The state of health in New Zealand would be funny if it were not so serious. After 7 years of waste and bureaucracy in the health sector under Labour, we now have a Government that will pour another $750 million a year into it after this Budget, and it does not even know whether it will have any effect on the health of New Zealanders.
I can tell members how dumb this Budget is. This Government is pouring $76 million into obesity—it does not say that it is actually over 4 years—and it does not even know how it will spend it. That $76 million is supposed to make our population slimmer, but the Government has not got a clue how to spend it. If that is not wastage and misdirected spending, I do not know what is. That really sums up for me what is wrong with this Budget.
Let us look at what is happening in the transport sector. It is a good example of how National is now dictating the agenda. Suddenly Labour is putting all the tax from petrol into transport. It is something we have been hammering on about for ages. Labour is playing catch-up football on transport—there is no question about it.
Ron Mark: That has been New Zealand First policy for 9 years.
Dr JONATHAN COLEMAN: If Mr Mark looks right through the Budget, he will find out that there is nothing in it that will actually improve traffic congestion in Auckland. My constituents in Northcote will still be sitting in their cars every morning for an hour as they wait to go down Ōnewa Road; that will not change under this Government. There is no leadership under this Government in regard to transport. There is no plan. Transport in Auckland is a mess; it is an uncoordinated mess. The Minister of Transport does not have any plan for getting out of this mess, other than trying to pour whatever money Dr Cullen will give him down the drain to further his own ends.
If one looks at the root problem with this Budget, one sees that it does not provide the incentives for people to stay and build a life and earn their living in New Zealand. It is indeed the “Bondi Budget”. When it comes down to it there is a severe lack of understanding of what is needed to make the economy grow. The problem is we are not going to get that from this Labour Government, because it does not have the talent on its benches. There is not the depth of knowledge in the Labour caucus to get this economy growing again. It is devoid of ideas. There are no policies. Having a tax cut is absolute anathema. Labour members will not do it. They are ideologically dug into a trench. They know that a tax cut is something they need to do to get the New Zealand economy going, and just before the next election they probably will face the music and acknowledge that that is what they have to do to have even a glimmer of hope.
But I can tell members that they do not have a chance. They are going out big time at the next election. They can throw all the rhetoric at us, but really they know that they are on death row. If one looks at those people, one knows that not too many of them will come back in 2008. National’s time is coming. New Zealanders are aligning with the vision we have for growing this economy, and for making this country a great country in which our children and grandchildren can earn their living and grow their families.
LYNNE PILLAY (Labour—Waitakere) : Who was that man? He should hang his head in shame. He was somebody who worked in the health system—a general practitioner, I understand—and who saw the major boost in funding, the increases, and the absolute improvements in primary health care under this Government, and he has the audacity to come in here and bleat, whine, and grizzle about how bad things are. I pity any one of Jonathan Coleman’s constituents who went along, feeling just a little bit down, to talk to him as their general practitioner. Such people would be feeling suicidal by the time they left.
I think it is appalling the Opposition does not recognise and will not acknowledge the things this Government is doing for good, hard-working people in this country. The Government is transforming New Zealand’s economy into a dynamic knowledge-based, innovative one—something National members would know nothing about. The Government is improving the quality of life for all Kiwi families, both young and old—even those as old as the members on the other side of the House. It is building pride in New Zealand and its unique national identity.
New Zealand has much to be proud of. It has talented artists and musicians—I have to say they are overrepresented in Waitakere—but even right throughout New Zealand there is so much talent. That talent has been nurtured and supported by a Labour-led Government. There is a myriad of diverse and exciting cultures in this country that are participating, being made to feel welcome, and are really contributing to making this country the wonderful country it is. New Zealand’s innovation, talents, and skills are second to none; they are what makes this country strong. The Labour-led Government is proud to be the Government that is nurturing and supporting all these great initiatives.
I know my other colleagues have talked about the great targeted tax relief for hard-working families through our Working for Families package. As a former nurse—before I was a trade unionist—I celebrate the enormous boost to primary health care. There is an exciting new initiative in west Auckland. In Glen Eden we have what is known as the “WOW bus”—which stands for Wellness Out West. That bus is taking health checks out to the people and the communities.
Steve Chadwick: Marvellous.
LYNNE PILLAY: I agree with my colleague. This can only happen with sharp, innovative doctors, nurses, primary health organisation and Government. I guess the medical—
Steve Chadwick: Fraternity.
LYNNE PILLAY: —fraternity, I thank the member, was not too perturbed at losing some of its members to this House, because I do not think those members were that innovative. I do not think they made the most out of promoting primary health care in our country.
On Monday, I attended the 20th birthday of the Community Organisations Grants Scheme. It was so wonderful to hear of those community organisations that took ownership of getting grants out to community organisations. This scheme started again under a Labour Government. It was a wonderful thing to acknowledge.
This Government certainly looks after people from the cradle to the grave, or, as we say now in a more PC way—I apologise to Dr Mapp—from birth to later years. Paid parental leave was opposed by the National Party and we have now extended it to self-employed people. A policy of 20 hours of free quality early childhood education for every 3 and 4 year old in New Zealand is in progress and will be introduced in 2007. I go on about apprenticeships a lot and they are something the union movement lobbied for. I still remember when Helen Clark spoke at a union meeting before Labour became the Government and said that we would return an apprenticeship system. She got a standing ovation and everyone said how dreadful the National Government were when they scrapped the Apprenticeship Act. The return of apprenticeships is wonderful and there is more for young people. There are the interest-free loans, and the KiwiSaver. These things are making life so much more exciting and they are making young people think this is a great country to be educated in, to start a business in, and to raise a family in.
I have to acknowledge Chris Carter, my westie colleague here—who is looking so attentively at me—for the wonderful innovation in housing projects in this country. I acknowledge the investment in housing right in Glen Eden. I acknowledge the Friendship Centre Trust, a wonderful organisation that has worked with the Government in west Auckland and Glen Eden to provide, firstly, emergency housing—
Hon Chris Carter: $1.2 million.
LYNNE PILLAY: —yes, $1.2 million—and has now entered into a partnership arrangement with this Government to provide good quality housing for families in west Auckland. Why did they do it? Because, like this Government, they care about people. They care about families, and they know that if children have a good start in life—if they have a good home—then the rest follows. They perform at school and they just go from strength to strength. That is what we are seeing under this Government.
I cannot go past talking about transport. We know that under this Government over eight times as much is being invested—not spent, invested—in public transport. Nothing happened under the National Government, and now we see eight times as much being invested. Then, last Friday, the Auckland Labour caucus, a group of very hard-working and conscientious MPs—
Lindsay Tisch: Who?
LYNNE PILLAY: “Who?”, asks that member. The National caucus never goes anywhere. They sit under the desks, sucking their thumbs, worrying about what else they will bleat and whine about. Well, we do not do that. Our caucus went out and visited the transport projects in Auckland. What an exhausting day! There was so much to see and so much to do. It was incredible. Those transport people were so excited about the extra funding they had with which to push forward their projects. There is so much to celebrate.
I look across the House now at that poor, sad, pathetic group of people over there that they call an Opposition—the grizzlers. I try—because I am not a negative person; we all know that—to think of something positive to say about that group of whiners. I tried to think of something, and then I thought that maybe there was something positive I could say. I could acknowledge that the Leader of the Opposition is at least multinationally committed. He is multinationally inclined and very committed. What does he say? He says: “My wife is from Singapore, my policy is from America, and my future’s in Australia.” So at least we can acknowledge that the leader, “Bondi Bill”, has an interest.
But the problem with that party is it has so much interest in looking overseas and no interest in what is happening here. National members cannot see what is so exciting and innovative about the New Zealand identity. Instead, they are looking overseas—where people from other countries are telling us they think so much of us. They say we have such a strong, extraordinary leader, and that we can hold our heads high on the world stage. They say we have so much to be proud of. Instead, those members wallow, wallow, wallow. I cannot even hear, from this side of the House, the—what do I call it? [Interruption] I could never call them interjections.
Darren Hughes: Rabble.
LYNNE PILLAY: The rabble. I cannot hear a coherent word from any of them.
- Debate interrupted.