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Volume 651, Week 1 - Tuesday, 9 December 2008
[Sitting date: 09 December 2008. Volume:651;Page:7. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Election of Speaker
To which His Excellency replied as follows:
I have further to report that I also addressed His Excellency as follows:
To which His Excellency replied as follows:
I desire to repeat my respectful acknowledgment to the House of the high honour it has done me in electing me to be its Speaker.
Authority to Administer Oath
Michael John Minogue QSO
Mr SPEAKER: I regret to inform the House of the death on 27 November 2008 of Michael John Minogue QSO, who represented the electorate of Hamilton West from 1975 to 1984. I desire, on behalf of this House, to express our sense of the loss we have sustained, and our sympathy with the relatives of the late former member. I now ask members to stand with me and observe a period of silence as a mark of respect to his memory.
- Honourable members stood as a mark of respect.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Labour—Ikaroa-Rawhiti) : Tēnā tātou. Ki a tātou katoa ngā kanohi Māori i konei, e mihi kau ana. Ki a rātou e mau ana i te korowai o te mana whenua, o te hau kāinga nei, e mihi kau ana. Ki a koe te Kaiwhakahaere o te Whare nei, e tū atu mātou katoa, e mihi kau ana ki a koe. Ō tātou o ngāi Māori mai i Aotearoa me wētahi o tātou e tū kaha, e mau i te manaaki atu ngā kōrero, ngā awhi o ō tātou o Aotearoa, e mihi kau ana tēnei mō tātou katoa ngāi Māori mai i Aotearoa. Tēnā tātou.
[Greetings, one and all. I extend my greetings to all the Māori members gathered here, as well as to local iwi, our guardians of the region. To all of you who wear the cloaks of your various tribes staunchly, I greet you. Mr Speaker, we acknowledge you. Māori throughout New Zealand stand with me as I extend blessings and support to you and all of us here. Greetings to us all.]
- A message from His Excellency the Governor-General desiring the immediate attendance of honourable members in the Legislative Council Chamber was delivered by the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod.
Accordingly, Mr Speaker and honourable members, preceded by the Serjeant-at-Arms, proceeded to the Legislative Council Chamber, and, after a short absence, returned.
Mr SPEAKER: I desire to report that when the House did attend His Excellency the Governor-General this day in the Legislative Council Chamber, His Excellency was pleased to make a speech, the text of which was handed to me by His Excellency, and I now lay such text on the Table of the House. The text of the speech is:
Deputy Speaker and Assistant Speakers
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : Further to an agreement reached by the Business Committee last night, I seek leave for the motions appointing the Deputy Speaker and Assistant Speakers to be taken as one question.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is no objection.
Mr SPEAKER: The question is that the motion be agreed to.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Mr Speaker—
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am at the very start of my apprenticeship in this job, you will understand, and I think I have procedurally misled you. I thank my colleague across the road for recognising that. Might I move again notices of motion Nos 1 to 3 in my name appointing the Deputy Speaker and Assistant Speakers.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Labour) : The member moved and sat down. He moved, presumably, a debatable motion, which is now able to be debated. He cannot now say: “Well, sorry, I made yet another mistake, following my failure yesterday to tell Mr Key to get up and speak after your appointment, Mr Speaker; can I carry on from here?”. I think I did my hardest yesterday, in the Business Committee, to sort things out for the gentleman opposite, who did not know what to do.
Mr SPEAKER: Order!
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is a bit rich for him now to expect to be—
Mr SPEAKER: When I am on my feet the member will sit down. Points of order are meant to be quite brief. The member made his point well. The Hon Gerry Brownlee.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I am sure that points of order should be made briefly, but also it is normal for the Speaker to give a ruling on them, not just to pass on as though the point of order had not been made.
Mr SPEAKER: I thought that I had made clear to the member that his point was well made. His point was correct. I come back to the Hon Gerry Brownlee to speak to the Government motion that he has moved.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. If the point was well made, then presumably I now have the call to speak to the previous motion, which was that these matters should be taken immediately.
Hon Rodney Hide: I think it is correct that Dr Cullen rose to take the call, but the call was not granted. It is actually up to the Speaker to grant a call. I think Dr Cullen would agree with me that if the call had been given, he would have it, but, in fact, the call was not given.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Speaking to that point of order, Madam Speaker—sorry, Mr Speaker; the wig confused me—I think the point needs to be made at this stage, rather obviously, that if a person has called for the call, it is not sufficient for somebody else on the other side of the House to stand up and move another motion; something has to happen at that stage. If Mr Brownlee was seeking a call to speak to the actual motion, he could do so, but having moved a motion and sat down, he cannot then stand up and take the call. He either moves the motion and speaks, or moves the motion and sits down.
Mr SPEAKER: Thank you, Dr Cullen. Your point is well made. You are correct. The honourable member has forfeited his ability to speak to the motion he moved. Is any other member seeking to take that call?
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Labour) : I now seek leave—without losing my right to speak—for Mr Brownlee to speak. I would hate this Parliament to start off without the chance for the Leader of the House to actually move a motion and speak to it as he was supposed to do.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course of action? There appears to be no objection.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : Well, thank goodness for Methusaleh on the other side of the House knowing so much about these procedural things! I think it is fascinating that although I can admit a mistake, the reason why those members are sitting on that side of the Chamber is that they never did. Anyway, having dug myself out of a small amount of difficulty, with the assistance of the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, it is my honour to move the appointment of a Deputy Speaker and two Assistant Speakers. I will mention those people in order: firstly, the nomination for Deputy Speaker is Mr Lindsay Tisch, who is a member of the National Party of long standing—
Hon Member: Short standing.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: —no, long standing—and the nominations for the positions of Assistant Speaker are Mr Eric Roy of the National Party and Mr Richard Barker of the Labour Party. The idea, Mr Speaker, is that these people support you in your effort to maintain order in this House. Might I take this opportunity, at a somewhat disjointed point, to congratulate you on your success in being elected Speaker of this House, and to pledge my support to you in that role, given that your role is, in fact, to support the best interests of the House, on behalf of the nation.
Collectively, these gentlemen have about 39 years of service in this House. More important, each of them has been a party whip and therefore is very, very familiar with the processes that guide the way in which Parliament operates. I am sure that they will bring not only those long years of service but also that very tangible experience of the parliamentary process to the work that they do. Each of them has, I think, the strongest possible support from his own party, and I am confident that each will receive that support from the other members inside the House.
I take the opportunity at this point to recognise H V Ross Robertson, a gentleman who was an Assistant Speaker for the 9 years prior to this Parliament, and who made a significant contribution in that regard. I know that Mr Robertson, by his own choice, was not available for appointment to that office in this Parliament, and we respect that, but I do want to record the Government’s considerable respect for the dignity that he brought to the job, and to express the view that those who take up the role that he is exiting are able to do exactly the same.
In conclusion, Mr Speaker, I say that we strongly support the appointment of Lindsay Tisch as your deputy, and the appointment of Eric Roy and Richard John Barker to the Assistant Speaker positions, to also support your work.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Labour) : The Labour Party will be supporting this motion. We recognise the right of the new Government, with a clear majority, to move the motions regarding these appointments in the fashion it sees fit. I do want to make a few comments. The first, obviously, is to join with Mr Brownlee in congratulating you, Mr Speaker, on your appointment. We look forward to working cooperatively with you on many occasions and to assisting you from time to time with points of order, as they may prove to be either necessary or desirable—the two, of course, not always being the same thing within Parliament.
The second point I want to make is that the House has just seen an example of what we have already become familiar with previously from the members opposite—in the Business Committee and elsewhere—which is that the new Government has not yet actually learnt how to run its own business. Indeed, as at 8.30 this morning, it was still unable to tell us what business it was taking under urgency this week, but one could hear the stress in the voice of Mr Brownlee as he conveyed that news to the senior Opposition whip. We look forward to helping him further on these matters, as we have with these appointments today. It had been originally intended to move these appointments during urgency rather than before urgency, which would have invited the Opposition to debate each of these motions down to closure, which, I believe, would not have been in the best interests of good order in the House.
There are one or two additional points I would like to make. It is unfortunate, I believe—but perhaps inevitable, given certain changes—that for the first time for many years there is no woman amongst the four presiding officers within the House. I hope that that situation can be changed as expeditiously as possible—without suggesting that anybody should undergo any drastic changes in that particular regard. Secondly, I think it is slightly unfortunate that the Government did not decide to follow the precedent set following the last election, whereby the two most senior positions were shared between the two major parties within the House. But I understand that the Government has the right to move in that regard.
I should also say, without wanting to cast any aspersions upon Mr Tisch, who is a person I greatly respect in terms of his performance within the House over many years, that I personally would have preferred to see Mr Roy as the Deputy Speaker, because he has had long experience in the Assistant Speaker’s role. He has very large respect on this side of the House in terms of his abilities, his breadth of knowledge, and, indeed, his very wide experience in terms of reading and other matters. But that is not to be the case, and, Mr Speaker, it is good to see that you have both a small hand and a large hand to help you in the two presiding officers from the National Party. The Hon Rick Barker will be happy to assist in those matters, as well, as we move forward.
With those few remarks, I say I am very happy that we are supporting these motions. We look forward to working with the new presiding officers.
Hon HEATHER ROY (Deputy Leader—ACT) : Mr Speaker, I rise to speak on behalf of the ACT Party to support the appointment motion, and I join other members of this House in congratulating you on your appointment.
As I said, we support the motions. We look forward to the appointments of the Deputy Speaker and Assistant Speakers and their helping and assisting you to keep a fair and balanced overview of the proceedings of this House. We look forward to each of you allowing within these walls the freedom of speech that we have become accustomed to and that is fair and proper in a democratic society.
The ACT Party also acknowledges the huge contribution that H V Ross Robertson made to this House. We think he did a fine job as Assistant Speaker over the last 9 years, and we always found him to be very fair in his rulings during proceedings and also during points of order. In this short call I acknowledge the contribution he made; I congratulate you, Mr Speaker, on your appointment; and I say that we look forward to the appointment of the Deputy Speaker and Assistant Speakers to assist you.
I stand on behalf of the Māori Party to support the motion to appoint Lindsay Tisch as the Deputy Speaker, and Rick Barker and Eric Roy as Assistant Speakers. These roles are crucial to the House and enable the Speaker to carry out the role with great distinction. We require those in the Chair to be absolutely clear in their judgment, impartial, and fair, and to uphold the dignity of the House. In this respect, I would like to acknowledge the honourable Ross Robertson for his care in the House as an Assistant Speaker, particularly with regard to Māori language—his coming forward and using it openly and consistently. I hope that practice might be followed by the new Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and Assistant Speakers.
The Māori Party is proud to have been a signatory to the code of conduct pioneered by four parties in this House—United Future, ACT, the Māori Party, and the Greens. We believe that the code of conduct actually assists MPs to carry out their duties, and helps the public to have confidence in their parliamentary representatives.
I would just like to acknowledge the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, and the Assistant Speakers. Thank you.
- Motion agreed to.
Business of Select Committees
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is no objection.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : I seek leave for the time by which each select committee must finally report the 2007-08 financial reviews of the performance and current operations of departments and Offices of Parliament, the annual financial statements of the Government for the year ending 2008, and the 2007-08 reports of non-departmental appropriations to be extended to 31 March 2009.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is none.
- Sitting suspended from 12.18 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Air New Zealand—Airbus Crash, France
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is no objection.
Hon JOHN KEY: I move, That Parliament expresses its sorrow at the tragic death of five New Zealanders in the Airbus A320 crash in Perpignan, France, that it extends its condolences to the family and friends of Brian Horrell, Murray White, Michael Gyles, Noel Marsh, and Jeremy Cook, and that it acknowledges the excellent work undertaken by Air New Zealand and the French authorities in the post-crash investigation and recovery process. The tragedy off the coast of France came as a massive shock to the new Government and to all New Zealanders. Since then our thoughts have been with the families and friends who have lost loved ones. We can do nothing to lessen the grief, but we deeply feel their loss, and on behalf of the Government and all members I extend our sympathies to them. The deaths of senior staff of Air New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority have been significant losses to those organisations. This tragic accident came 29 years to the day after the Mount Erebus disaster and is a harrowing reminder of that earlier tragedy.
I would like to briefly acknowledge the leadership of Rob Fyfe, who, I think, has done an outstanding job given the very, very difficult conditions. I spoke to Rob late on Saturday night, and say that he was obviously physically exhausted. He has done everything possible that he can do. I would also like to acknowledge all the staff of Air New Zealand who have rallied around in these difficult circumstances.
To New Zealanders, Air New Zealand and its koru symbol are more than just an airline. They are part of who we are; they are symbols of this country that fly far beyond our shores. The men and women who work for Air New Zealand are, in many ways, our ambassadors. They greet and care for thousands of travellers and show them a touch of the great Kiwi spirit of adventure. This tragedy has been a real blow, but we trust, with the good work of Air New Zealand and the Civil Aviation Authority, the Kiwi spirit of adventure will live on.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) : On behalf of the New Zealand Labour Party, I would like to express our sympathy and condolences to the family and friends of all those who died in the Air New Zealand Airbus A320 crash off the coast of southern France. Our hearts go out to the families of the Air New Zealand crew, of the Civil Aviation Authority representative on the plane, and of the two German pilots.
I think that the sense of tragedy was highlighted to me by the grief expressed by the expectant wife of one of those who was killed, and by the parents who, against the whole natural course of events, had to go to France to recover and bury the body of their son. As New Zealanders, all of us would have been affected by seeing the picture of the tail fin of the Airbus, with the koru emblem on it, floating in the ocean. It brought back the memory of a crash, 29 years earlier, of an Air New Zealand plane on Mount Erebus, in Antarctica, where we saw the very sad picture of the koru on the tail fin embedded in the snow. Some years later I had the opportunity to fly over the site, and see the koru, still on the mountain.
I would like to pay a tribute to the actions of Air New Zealand, its chief executive officer, Rob Fyfe, and the Civil Aviation Authority, who, I believe, responded in an open and a concerned manner. I also pay tribute to the French authorities who have worked in cooperation with New Zealanders in the recovery operation and the investigation.
Again, I offer our deepest condolences to all those who suffered the loss of family and friends in this tragedy.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) : On behalf of the Green Party I express our sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of those who died. On a personal note I say that I understand what it is like because I had a family member who was killed in a flying accident and it is the most shocking and tragic of events. On behalf of the Greens I say that our hearts are with those people and we have been thinking of them.
I also hope that something comes out of this accident and we learn something about what caused it, so that flying can be made safe. All of us rely on safe flying, and if we learn what caused this accident, at least something positive will come out of it. Once again, on behalf of the Greens I express sympathy and condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) : On behalf of the ACT Party I join the other parties in this Parliament in paying our respects, and in recognising the grief of families, friends, workmates, and, indeed, people right around New Zealand. When Kiwis lose their lives overseas in tragic circumstances we all feel it, and we realise what a small country we are, because we have a connection to the families or the friends at times such as this.
Five New Zealanders died: pilot Captain Brian Horrell, engineers Murray White, Michael Gyles, and Noel Marsh, and Civil Aviation Authority inspector Jeremy Cook. Along with them died two German pilots, whose families and friends we should also pay our respects to.
I think that it is proper, with the other parties, to say that the leadership of Air New Zealand, and in particular of chief executive Rob Fyfe, has been outstanding. The colleagues and the crew at Air New Zealand have had to continue on in their jobs, and they have done so. As tragic as this accident is, it actually reminds us how safe Air New Zealand has proved to be over the years for all who fly with that company. Indeed, it was a check on the safety of a plane that led to this accident. I think, too, that we should also acknowledge the international help that has been provided to Air New Zealand in this accident—in particular, that of the French authorities, who have done everything that one could ever expect. Thank you.
Hon TARIANA TURIA (Co-Leader—Māori Party) : Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā tātou katoa. The 28th of November will be etched in our memories forever and a day, and a very sad day in the life of our nation, when we take into account an Air New Zealand flight crash on Mount Erebus 29 years ago, killing 257 people on board, and now this fatal crash of the Airbus in the Mediterranean Sea. It is a tragedy that has touched us all. It moved us last Friday as we travelled around New Zealand, noting that staff were wearing black ribbons to mark their grief. Airports had come to a standstill to observe a minute’s silence, flags flew at half mast at nearby hangars, and tears were shed; hei mau maharatanga.
Today we pay our respects to those who lost their lives: senior pilot Captain Brian Horrell, engineers Murray White, Michael Gyles, and Noel Marsh, and Civil Aviation Authority inspector Jeremy Cook. While we at home mourned, on the beach at Perpignan near where the plane crashed Andrew Baker, cultural ambassador, performed the haka as the ultimate and unique national tribute to those who were lost.
We remember them, and we express our sympathies today to their families in Tuatāpere, Christchurch, Pakuranga, Auckland, and Wellington. We hope that in days to come the families and the friends of those who have suffered will remember them with pride, and remember the high esteem with which New Zealanders have regarded these people, who have given so much to the aviation industry and who have paid the ultimate price for their distinguished careers. Tēnā koutou.
Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) : United Future joins with others in expressing deep sympathy to the families, the friends, and the work colleagues of all who died in the tragic Air New Zealand crash just offshore from Perpignan. I am loath to draw too many comparisons with events at Erebus 29 years ago, not because both are not huge and significant events in New Zealand’s aviation history that we should respect but because each is unique, each saw a significant loss of life, each left families deprived of loved ones, and each left people suffering in its wake, and I think the dignity of each of those events should be respected separately.
I want to say a special word about the families and the loved ones who have had to endure the public gaze—inevitably, in a situation like this—as they go through their private grief. I guess for them the hardest part at the moment is coming to grips not just with the loss of a very special person in their lives but also with the fact that uncertainty still remains as to what caused the event. My hope is that the authorities, who I think are doing a superb job, are able to come to some relatively clear conclusions within a defined period of time in order to give those people the certainty and the comfort of knowing what happened, so that they can get on with their grieving process and the next stage of their lives as they adjust to the loss of that special person. My thoughts are with them today, and I am sure that all New Zealanders would wish them every comfort as they resume their lives with these enormous gaps, which have now been thrust upon them.
- Motion agreed to.
Barack Obama—Election as President of the United States
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : I move, That the House convey its sincere congratulations and warmest regards to President-Elect Barack Obama on his historic election win as the next President of the United States, and to Vice-President - Elect Joe Biden on his election win, and in doing so expresses its desire to work with the Obama administration to continue building on New Zealand’s already strong relationship with the United States. The election last month of a new President of the United States came at a very challenging time for us all. The world faces an economic crisis and growing threats to the security and well-being of people in many nations. President-Elect Obama and his running-mate campaigned on a message of hope and change. This message was embraced by the American people, who elected Mr Obama as their first African-American President.
Hon Member: What does Bill think?
Hon JOHN KEY: The member will get over it. We congratulate him, wish him well, and look forward to working with his administration. No President has come into office, arguably, with greater challenges and greater expectations than President-Elect Barack Obama does.
New Zealand and the United States are indeed very, very good friends. We have a strong relationship and share many common values. The new Government will seek to build on this relationship in order to further our mutual interests and to promote peace and prosperity throughout the Pacific. In particular, we believe that strengthening trade between our two nations and within the region will have significant benefits for all of our people, and will help our economies recover from the current crisis. With this in mind, we have welcomed the desire of the US to join the P4 free-trade agreement between New Zealand and other Pacific nations, which has extended to become the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership. We encourage the new President and his administration to give added momentum to this process.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) : The New Zealand Labour Party also congratulates Barack Obama on his election as the President of the United States, and looks forward to the new era in United States’ politics that his election will open up. I also acknowledge the unsuccessful candidate, Senator John McCain. John McCain is a person who I believe is a very decent person, a person of real integrity, and a person who has been a good friend of New Zealand, and he who will continue to be, as a member of the United States Senate. We should acknowledge his contribution to New Zealand - American relations.
What happens in the United States, being the world’s pre-eminent economic and military power, is clearly very important to us, and for New Zealand. A positive relationship with that country is also very critical. There have been some clear areas of disagreement between New Zealand and the Bush administration. Notwithstanding that, the relationship between the two countries has actually moved in a very positive direction over recent years. To quote our ambassador from the United States, Bill McCormick, the relationship is probably the best it has ever been. We have certainly sought to maximise our cooperation in areas of mutual agreement. John Key mentioned the P4 agreement, the trade agreement that I was involved with helping to negotiate. That will be very important to New Zealand, and we have worked closely together where we have perceived common areas of genuine security threat.
What the Obama administration does in coming months to counter the economic downturn is clearly vital to us, and we need to maintain a close relationship and discussion with that country. But I also believe that we will find new areas of cooperation. Barack Obama, of course, was much closer to the Labour Government in terms of Iraq than the current US administration was. We will also, I think, more readily be able to cooperate in areas of disarmament, human rights, and climate change.
I note Barack Obama’s very strong speech promoting a “cap and trade” system for carbon emissions, which I guess is roughly similar to New Zealand’s emissions trading scheme. About climate change Barack Obama said, and I quote: “Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.” What a pity it is that when we have this new administration with its progressive view on climate change, here in New Zealand the National-ACT agreement is offering, in fact, nothing other than delay and denial. I hope Mr Key saw the little note on the front page of the Dominion Post:“John—Obama called looking for allies on climate change. Realised he’d got the wrong number! …”.
KEITH LOCKE (Green) : The Green Party will join with the other parties in this House in offering its congratulations to the new Obama administration. We think that this Obama presidency will open up a new and better chapter for American and world politics, and we are all looking forward to change we can believe in.
Hopefully, the Obama presidency will provide a broader basis for cooperation with New Zealand on vital global issues like climate change, as Phil Goff has just mentioned, where Obama has promised a “cap and trade” system; on human rights, where he said he will be closing down the Guantanamo Bay hellhole; and in the area of conflict resolution, where Mr Obama is putting talking to countries ahead of dropping bombs on them. Hopefully, in such foreign policy the new administration will go further and accept and embrace New Zealand’s nuclear-free policies, which are a beacon to the world and should not be seen as a restriction on good relations with anyone.
Exactly how far this progressive change under the new administration will go is yet to be determined, because it is a reality that there are also strong conservative forces within the American body politic, and the Green Party does not necessarily agree with the comments of Mr Key and Mr Goff that the response to the global downturn means just opening up channels for global trade and investment. Even more, I think the crisis from the Green point of view is a crisis of under-regulation, not over-regulation. But that said, there is a challenge for our new Government not to get left behind by the Obama administration in making changes for the better. Thank you.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) : I rise on behalf of the ACT Party to also congratulate Barack Obama on his election as the 44th President of the United States of America. I think that whatever members’ political views are, they could not help but be excited and impressed by that election result in the United States of America. I also pass on our respects to Senator John McCain, who ran a fantastic campaign. Also, I share the hope—I think, of all members of this Parliament—that we have success in the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement and that President Obama does actually keep to a commitment to free trade all around the world, particularly with the pressures that are upon Governments and economies now.
I hope that the new President of the United States will follow the approach, given his campaign of “Change we can believe in”, that we have seen from Prime Minister John Key here in New Zealand, which is very different from what we are used to here. It is one that accepts that people can have differing points of view, that a person is not necessarily always right, and that it is as well to have regard to differing points of view and to hear them. That is what Prime Minister John Key has done with the ACT Party and on the emissions trading scheme, in contrast to what we have seen from the previous Government, under which anyone who had a different point of view from its view was to be shut down, abused, and not heard from. I am proud to be part of a Government that is prepared to hear the arguments, is prepared to hear from the scientists, and does not say that politicians decide everything, but actually has a debate on the issues. I hope the new President of the United States of America will likewise be open-minded, because what we saw here in New Zealand for 9 years had a very chilling effect on the proper debate that should occur about policy. Thank you.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party) : Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Tēnā tātou e te Whare. When one enters the Barack Obama website, there is a simple statement that says it all. I quote Barack Obama’s words: “I’m asking you to believe not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington. I’m asking you to believe in yours.” It is a profound affirmation of faith: faith in a future that saw millions of Americans stand up to proclaim “Yes I can”. It is an action of celebration and pride, which has had its ripple effects right throughout the world, including here in Aotearoa.
The motion describes the Obama election win as historic, and it is historic on many levels. Obama will, of course, become the first African-American President of the United States—a fact recognised by the Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, who immediately declared a national holiday to acknowledge his Kenyan whakapapa. Indeed, the African-American President-Elect inspires the whole world to celebrate as we collectively reflect on the shame of a history of slavery, segregation, racism, and discrimination—a history we must never forget. Obama has broken through the highest ceiling in the land. What greater statement is that? But he is also the first person of colour to govern a country with a white majority.
For indigenous peoples across the world, the election of Barack Obama has heralded a new dawn of hope that we can find our own solutions. The man named by the Crow Nation as Barack Black Eagle has told American Indians: “You will be on my mind every day I am in the White House”. But his commitment goes further, and, again, I quote: “My Indian policy starts with honoring the unique government to government relationship between tribes and the federal government and ensuring that our treaty obligations are met and ensuring that Native Americans have a voice in the White House. Indian nations have never asked much of the United States, only for what was promised by the treaty obligations made by their forebears. So let me be clear: I believe that treaty commitments are paramount law, I’ll fulfil those commitments as president of the United States.”
I wanted to honour the new President’s commitment to the American Indians as just one of the many attributes that are based on the ideal of creating a better future; transforming the political culture so that it is responsive to the people and not what he describes as the corporate fat cats. Variously described as this generation’s political rock star, there is no denying that Barack Obama is a transformational figure. And although his campaign inspired people like Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen, and even Colin Powell to publicly endorse him, his greatest wealth, quite literally, lay in the millions of Americans who opened their hearts to come together to heal the divides that have hurt their nation; opened their minds to the possibility of change; and opened their wallets to invest in his campaign.
The Māori Party is proud to stand with the House and convey our congratulations and our best wishes for the Obama administration, and we can do no better than end with the vision articulated in the election night address of the man himself: “The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.” Thank you.
Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) : I want to join with others who have spoken in this debate in congratulating the United States President-Elect Barack Obama on his historic achievement, and in wishing him well as he embarks upon his tenure of office from next January.
Although it does not behove any one of us in this House to lecture the new President and his administration about what their priorities ought to be, lest the burden of expectation that New Zealand places upon them becomes just that much too great to bear, it is nevertheless important to note that this new administration takes office at a time of unprecedented international instability, and, I suspect, at a time when America’s reputation in the world has probably not been as controversial as it is at present. President-Elect Obama faces the challenge not only of healing the United States internally—the political geography of that country is extremely divided—but also of restoring the United States’ reputation in the world and showing that the country, which for long times has prided itself on being the world’s greatest democracy, is, in fact, able to live up to that challenge. I think it is significant that the President-Elect has drawn from his mentor Abraham Lincoln. There is a delicious irony in that, but in terms of Lincoln’s commitment to democracy, to freedom, and to emancipation, the same words and virtues that we see represented in President-Elect Obama give us encouragement about the future.
Although New Zealand will be a side player at the very best, it is important that we enjoy a good and strong relationship with the new United States administration, that we embrace the values that the President-Elect will advance, that we work constructively on the relationship with the United States—politically, economically, and socially—and that we remember he has based his campaign upon the fact that the greatest strength each of us has is the commitment of our people.
I join with others in congratulating President-Elect Obama, Vice President - Elect Biden, Michelle Obama, and the two girls on the challenges that lie ahead. I wish them every success in their roles, and I look forward to the day when the President comes to New Zealand to enjoy the hospitality that I know this country would love to shower upon him.
- Motion agreed to.
New Zealand Sports Teams—Successes
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course being followed? There is no objection.
Hon JOHN KEY: I move, That this House congratulates the Kiwi rugby league team on the outstanding achievement of winning the Rugby League World Cup tournament in Australia, and the All Blacks on successfully completing the Grand Slam of test victories over Scotland, England, Wales, and Ireland on their recent tour.
- Motion agreed to.
Address in Reply
PESETA SAM LOTU-IIGA (National—Maungakiekie) : I move, That a respectful Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General in reply to His Excellency’s speech. I offer my congratulations to you first, Mr Speaker, on your election to the prestigious role of Speaker of this Parliament. Your years of service in Parliament have been rewarded well. I state how proud I am of becoming a foot soldier in a strong caucus team led so capably, so practically, and so effectively by our new Prime Minister, the Hon John Key.
'E mua ia ona o`u taia,
le tu tafa’itoa,
i paia o le as’o,
ma o’u faatulou atu ,
i le mamalu o le saofaiga a le Palemene,
le paia faa-tafafa o le Maota Fono,
ma lau tapuaiga Aotearoa.
Ua mata-lupe le se-uga o le as’o,
aua o lea ua fesila-fai,
sega ula o le faamoemoe,
i le alofa o le Atua.
In Samoan I greeted everyone by requesting your indulgence, Mr Speaker, so that I can acknowledge the sacredness of today. I asked for everyone’s grace so that I can acknowledge this sitting of Parliament and the sacredness of the four corners of this parliamentary Chamber, and pay tribute to those in attendance, as well as acknowledge the prayers and thoughts of all New Zealanders. I say that this day is rich, plentiful, and climactic. The day is also important because of the sega ula or beautiful birds—a reference to important or ceremonial people or groups—are now meeting under the banner of God’s love.
Nō reira, e ngā rangatira, e ngā waka, e ngā karanga maha, tēnā koutou. Tēnā koutou i runga i te painga o tō tātou Matua Nui i te Rangi. Ahakoa he tangata Hāmoa kē ahau, he mihi tonu atu ki a koutou, arā, te Rōpū Māori. Nō reira, tēnā koutou.
[So greetings to you leaders, canoes, and the many callings. Greetings under the goodness of our Great Father in Heaven. Even though I am a Samoan person I acknowledge you, the Māori Party, with great respect. Greetings.]
I stand before members today as the member of Parliament for Maungakiekie. I am humbled by an enormous debt of gratitude to the people of my community who have put their faith and trust in me.
I stand before members today because of the love, support, and encouragement of my family. To my father, Lotu; my mother, Usuga; siblings, Kenneth, Oleta, and Brigitta; and my wider family, I say fa’afetai and thank you. To my wife, Jules, for allowing my dream to become our dream, I say fakaue lahi and thank you. Finally, to our late daughter, Samaria, although you are not here with us today, I know that you hear my voice, and I say that I miss you and I love you.
I stand before members today because of the hard work of my campaign team under the disciplined leadership of Mark Thomas, the shrewd counsel of Simon Lusk, and the industry of Josh Beddell, and with the support of many, many supporters, many of whom are here today to be with us. Finally, to the National Party president Judy Kirk, regional manager Alastair Bell, and their respective teams, I say thank you for putting your confidence and trust in me as a candidate in this year’s general election.
The Maungakiekie electorate forms the geographic heart of Auckland. Literally, it means the hill of the kiekie vine. Of course, that is the Māori name for One Tree Hill, which is a symbol of great importance for both Māori and Pākehā. In pre-colonial times Maungakiekie was one of the most important of Māori pas. Its strategic placement within the isthmus of Tāmaki-makau-rau afforded the people the rich variety of seafood from two harbours. For European New Zealanders, One Tree Hill and the surrounding Cornwall Park is an important legacy left by Sir John Logan Campbell. The adjoining parklands provide about 540 acres of some of the most idyllic urban public green space in this country.
In Maungakiekie 149 different ethnic groups are represented. Over one-third of our residents were born overseas and a third speak foreign languages, 70 percent have a religious faith, and our schools range from decile 1 to decile 9. The Maungakiekie electorate is at the heart of Auckland’s diversity, with the iconic Maungakiekie as its jewel. It spans the Auckland isthmus from the Manukau Harbour in the west to the Tāmaki River in the east. In Auckland City, outside the central business district, the largest number of people employed in any single area is within Maungakiekie. Maungakiekie is middle New Zealand. Its roots are further reflected in the sports we play and host. We provide a home to Oceania Football, the New Zealand Warriors, and, of course, the world-champion New Zealand rugby league team.
Maungakiekie represents the emerging, bustling change of metropolitan Auckland, and it is a pointer to the diverse influences that are sweeping across our country. Yet despite its very individualistic diversities, many of the social and economic issues facing our people are shared by our fellow countrywomen and men across this nation. Everyone is concerned about our economic future and prosperity. All people desire first-class educational services, safe and secure neighbourhoods, and bountiful employment opportunities. Some of these goals are under pressure at this time of recession; others have still not been achieved, despite our coming through one of the longest sustained periods of growth in a generation. This country needs the changes that National campaigned on, and of course part of these changes will be appropriately diverse policy responses to take account of our more diverse peoples. I believe that the minority-led, increasingly diverse National Party and Government, together with our range of support partners, are very well placed to effect these changes.
My personal story is borne of the fabric of the community I represent. Born in Samoa, I migrated to New Zealand when I was a child and I lived in Māngere with my family. We lived in a three-bedroom home with a double garage, where our custom to care for our extended family sometimes meant that we had up to 16 people living in our home at any one time. My father, in particular, made huge sacrifices. The stories he told of shifting from the warm climes of Apia to the snow and sleet of Bluff move me. The stories he told of having to walk from Ponsonby to Parnell to save the bus fare in order to have some lunch humble me. My parents suffered and endured a great deal just so that we children could live better lives. We were not a wealthy family but we were rich in spirit, resourceful, and determined to succeed in this country. My family continues to be the cornerstone of my life. My parents instilled in us strong family values, Christian principles, and a diligent work ethic. The values are of honouring our elders, respecting others’ opinions, and treating others as we ourselves would like to be treated.
I was taught at a young age that education was a key to a successful future, not only for me but also for my wider family. I am grateful to my parents, who sacrificed and saved in order for my sibling and me to attend reputable State schools and universities. For me, education was the key to unlocking so many of the opportunities that I have enjoyed in life. Education allowed me to travel, meet new people, and experience different cultures. Those cultures also taught me that the best teachers in the world can—and should—be our parents. Our parents should encourage aspiration, and teach core values and an honourable way of life. I was taught that success is ultimately defined by doing our best in the area of our choice. If we set out to be the best that we can be in any role, and apply ourselves diligently and honestly, then success will be the fruits of that labour. A solid education gave me employment opportunities in finance, law and commerce, and a chance to enjoy these varied experiences. Education blessed me with the many lifestyle choices that I have today. I was taught that my success will not be based on my bank balances, assets or looks; success will be based on the breadth and the depth of relationships, and the ability to positively impact on and love others. I am proud and humbled to live in a country that has offered me so many opportunities; I want to apply all my effort so that future generations of New Zealanders get those same opportunities.
Throughout my life I have taken the notion of aspiration into my work endeavours, within both the private and public sectors. As an Auckland City councillor I have seen how local government works, and how it strives to improve the lives of its citizens. In critical times like these, it is crucial that the Government proceeds with caution. This implies the notion that fiscal prudence and accountability will be prioritised, and that bureaucracies are to be challenged to produce the desired outcomes for our people.
I am also acutely aware of the importance of the private sector in building the future of this country. Of the jobs in my electorate, 70 percent are provided by the private sector. Its health is their lifeline. The aspirations of business people and entrepreneurs are critical to the success of our economy and our country. Creating employment opportunities and improving productivity can arise only from having an educated workforce, with an attitude of being the best. This attitude is not only that we can be the best in our neighbourhoods, our cities, our region, or our country, but also that we can, and will, be the best in the world. Fundamental to the health of the private sector in these difficult times are lower taxes, less bureaucratic red tape, and legislation that encourages fruitful investment into our productive assets and industries.
Aspiration has also driven my desire to understand the views and opinions of my community. My involvement in various community organisations stems from a passion to serve the interests of both individuals and groups within our communities. As the Government, we must stay in touch with all New Zealanders who aspire to get ahead, and encourage those whose motivation falters. Building communities must not be solely left to the Government, though; the voluntary sector plays a huge role in addressing our communities’ issues. I am proud to be involved in the social services organisation Great Potentials, and the impact that its parenting and mentoring programmes have on the lives of parents and their children.
The private or philanthropic sectors can also contribute to the advancement of communities. I am proud to be involved in one such organisation, the I Have A Dream Charitable Trust. This trust motivates and empowers children from low-income communities to reach their education and career goals. I believe that solutions to many of our problems lie within the communities that combine to make up our society. This Government will promote front-line services over back-office administration. Bigger Governments do not produce better solutions. It is bold leadership that usually produces a brighter future. Governments may build taller buildings, stronger bridges, and safer roads, but ultimately the state of a nation’s wellbeing is based on the nature and the depth of relationships between individuals and groups.
Finally, I would like to mention my personal belief in the notion of public service. We have a Samoan proverb that says “O le ala i le pule o le tautua.” Loosely translated, the proverb means “The path to leadership is through service.” To serve means to listen, respect, engage, and sometimes even disagree. It is a verb, and therefore one should always act. I look forward to implementing change in Maungakiekie, and within this Parliament, through service to its people and its institutions. Yesterday I pledged my loyalty through God to Queen and country. Today I affirm my loyalty to the leadership of this Government. To the best of my abilities, I will also serve my fellow Parliamentarians in select committees, meetings, and other fora within which we will congregate. I am here to serve the people of Maungakiekie and, through them, the people of New Zealand. It is their best interests that I will have at the top of my mind when I serve in my role as a member of Parliament.
I leave you, Mr Speaker, as I began. Although I arrived here as a migrant 35 years ago from Samoa, carrying with me rich pride in my culture, my language and my values, today I stand here as a New Zealander to carry this pride, and all I have learned since, to serve the needs of all New Zealanders. I salute you all. I am honoured to serve in this, the forty-ninth Parliament of New Zealand. I thank you for the opportunity to deliver this, my maiden speech. May God bless you, this Parliament and the people of Aotearoa New Zealand. Soifoa, and good day.
- Pese, “Faafetai i le Atua”
MELISSA LEE (National) : I second the motion that a respectful Address be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General in his reply to His Excellency’s speech. I begin my maiden speech by congratulating you, Mr Speaker, on your election to the Chair. I wish you, your deputy, and the Assistant Speakers my very best. From a journalist’s point of view of how this House has operated in the past, your job is one that requires the patience of a saint. If the little time I have spent speaking with you in the past few weeks is any indication, I have no doubt we will benefit greatly from your vast experience in Parliament.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge the Hon Anand Satyanand, our Governor-General. It is an honour to be giving my maiden speech under his watch. I pay tribute to our Prime Minister, the Hon John Key, for delivering such a fabulous election result for the National Party and New Zealand. He is indeed the fresh leadership the country has demanded, and I am privileged to be a part of the future he envisions. I acknowledge the members of the National caucus and other parliamentary colleagues; it is indeed my great honour to be here with them all and to call them my colleagues. I particularly acknowledge our very first Asian member, and now the first Cabinet Minister of Asian origin, the Hon Pansy Wong, who has encouraged and supported me. She has my gratitude.
I pay tribute to our National Party President, Judy Kirk, who has shown me that a powerful woman need not lack grace or style. I say thank you for her guidance and love. I also thank the National Party northern region’s Alistair Bell, Alan Towers, Kate Graham, and Peter Kiely, who were there to help me with a friendly ear and ready advice whenever I needed it. I also acknowledge the former Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Helen Clark, who has been a great supporter of the television programme Asia Down Under and the Korean Cinerama Trust over the years—thank you.
It is with great honour that I deliver my maiden speech, not only as the first MP of Korean descent in New Zealand but also as the first woman of Korean descent to become an MP outside of Korea. It is indeed humbling. It is truly a sign that the world has come of age in a global sense. It is also a step towards realising our Prime Minister’s, and the National Party’s, vision to make our Parliament more diverse, and truly representative of the population that now makes up our country. I am also very pleased to be giving my maiden speech in this House at a time when New Zealand has chosen to say no to a particular party whose policy gained support from people who dislike me simply because of my ethnic heritage. Call it irony or just a fortunate turn of events, but with the exit of that particular party comes the first Minister of Asian origin in Cabinet! New Zealand has come of age, it seems, by saying we have no room at this particular inn for racists. It is the dawning of a new era, and it is my privilege to be a part of it.
Ka mihi atu ki te tangata whenua, otirā, ki ngā waka huhua katoa i whiti mai i Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, mai i Hawaiki nui ki Aotearoa. Nā rātou te ara i whakatakoto, otirā, nā rātou te ōhaki i ea ai te kōrero, he iwi kotahi tātou. Pērā i a rātou, i haere mai au ki konei mā runga i tētahi waka i te tau waru tekau mā waru. Engari, ko ngā hoe o tōku waka he parirau kē, ā, i tere ake te haere ki tērā o ngā waka o ngā tūpuna. Ka awhi au i a Aotearoa, ka awhi mai a Aotearoa i au, i tēnei rā ko au tēnei kua puāwai. I tēnei rā, ka minamina au ki te kī nōku anō hoki tēnei whenua, nōku hoki tēnei tūrangawaewae. Nō reira, kua tae mai te wā hei whakahoki ki te motu i tāna i hōmai ai ki a au.
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[I pay homage to the tangata whenua, and indeed to all the canoes that crossed the Pacific Ocean from Hawaiki to New Zealand. They paved the way, and they initiated a unity that has made us who we are today. We are one people. Like them, I too arrived on a waka, in 1988. The only difference was that my oars were replaced with wings, and it travelled much faster than that of the ancestors. But as I embraced New Zealand, it embraced me back, and nurtured me into what I have become. Today I can honestly identify myself as being a New Zealander, and Aotearoa as my home. Therefore, the opportunity to give back to New Zealand what it has given to me has come to hand.]
New Zealand is indeed a land of many people of diverse cultures and heritage, and I am proud to be representing the third-largest Asian population in New Zealand—the Koreans. It was reported before the election that only 2 percent of the 40,000 Korean population had voted in previous elections. If the support I received during the campaign is any indication, I would say that 100 percent of Korean Kiwis—also known as “Kowis”—voted on 8 November. I would like to thank them, regardless of which party they voted for, because voting is the ultimate realisation that we live in a democracy.
Korean settlement in New Zealand has not been for long, and often I am confronted by people’s misconception of Korea formed out of ignorance, and by television programmes like MASH. When people have preconceived ideas about what others are like, settlement into New Zealand can be paved with tears. I remember a Korean migrant who had a visit from the police when the stench from dried cuttlefish—a Korean delicacy—raised the curiosity of her neighbours, who jumped to the conclusion that she must have killed her Pākehā husband to have produced such a foul stench. But now when I look around New Zealand—our cities—I am pleased to see restaurants offering food from different cultures. And it is not just we black-haired people who frequent these premises; I have even been told our Prime Minister likes kimchi, which is literally fermented bok choy full of chilli and garlic, and according to one of my European friends smells like sewage. That is rather strange to me as it smells comforting to me. I am grateful New Zealand’s taste buds and sense of smell are evolving. The variety we have now makes us more interesting than in the era of big boil-ups. Thankfully it is not only our taste buds that have evolved.
When my parents first left Korea more than 30 years ago to provide my brother John and me a brighter future, it took a lot of courage—the pioneering spirit New Zealanders value. Courage was what ultimately brought them to Aotearoa. Through failed businesses and lost opportunities, my parents worked harder than anyone I know to provide a good life for my brother and me. Never once did they complain about not getting a handout, nor did they ask for one from the Government or anyone else. They took personal responsibility for our family. It is something we learned from our childhood, and are in turn instilling in our own children to value.
I still remember my early days in Auckland. My day at the Sunday News as a young reporter would finish around 5 p.m. and, while others went to the pub, I would head for my parents’ dairy in Grafton. We would all work as a family until the shop closed at 11 p.m. and then have supper together and drive home. A strong family bond was always fostered and maintained through my mother’s strong leadership. My story is not unique; it is the story of thousands of Asian migrants who have come before me and who will also come in the future, and who now make up about 10 percent of New Zealand’s population. Family is also the foundation on which New Zealand was built.
As a mother raising a 10-year-old boy, I have become frightened for all children growing up in New Zealand in recent times. I wish there were more parents like mine who would go the extra distance. But New Zealand has had a shameful record when it comes to our children, and there have been some pitiful examples of parents and caregivers. I was overjoyed to hear of the convictions of Wīremu and Michael Curtis at the Rotorua High Court recently, for the murder of 3-year-old Nia Glassie, and of the conviction of Nia’s mother, Lisa Kuka. No child should have gone through what Nia did, and no child should ever do so in the future. More shocking to me than the abuse and the murder of Nia was the fact that the neighbours, friends, and family who knew what was going on turned a blind eye to the horrific abuse this innocent child suffered at the hands of these monsters. It is indeed a sad indictment on our country.
It is also very pleasing to read about the arrest made for the killing of octogenarian Madam Yang, who died in her home earlier this year. What she must have gone through—the fear, the violence, and the eventual death—I can only imagine. As a victim of a home invasion myself, who was confronted by two men wearing balaclavas, with a gun and a hammer, I do not feel safe in my own home, let alone in the streets. More than 10,000 people took to the streets to march against violence in South Auckland earlier this year. It is my hope that their voices are heard and repaid with a tougher stance against criminals in this country. It is not right that Madam Yang had to die in her own home, where she should have had her safety guaranteed. It is not right that little Nia Glassie died at the hands of people who should have protected and cared for her. It is our duty as a nation to provide safety in our homes and in our communities. It is a priority that we must deliver as lawmakers, in my view.
Our children are our future but instead of teaching them to become achievers, we are teaching them that it is OK to become losers. Instead of teaching them the values of hard work and the satisfaction that comes with it, we are teaching them not to bother because the Government is always there with an open purse, promoting a Government-funded dependence. Instead of reporting unspeakable crimes like that inflicted upon Nia Glassie, people are cowering behind closed curtains for fear they will be accused of meddling.
Instead of celebrating our New Zealand identity, our children are growing up lost between American, British, and Australian television programmes, which dominate our airwaves because we are too frightened to put a stake in the ground to say “This is who we are.” As a child, when I needed to find some information I turned to the Encyclopaedia Britannica; now children turn to Google. We must use technology to foster the New Zealand identity our children so lack and need. We must use television, radio, and the Internet to empower them, and to make them understand who they are and where they stand in the world, in order to make them stand proud to be Kiwis, regardless of what their ethnic heritage may be. There must be a mandate to provide and support local programming to foster these identity issues, because without it our children will never be empowered. Take a look at South Auckland—it seems absurd to me that people who should feel proud of their Pasifika and Māori cultures feel proud to display the ghetto cultures of America.
New Zealand is a young country compared with the country I was born in. Korea has a 5,000-year-old history, but that does not mean that New Zealanders cannot feel proud of their heritage. I may not have been born here, I may not even have been brought up here, but I made a commitment to become a New Zealander and I am a proud carrier of a New Zealand passport. This is a privilege, and I am proud to call myself a Kiwi. But not all New Zealanders would accept that I am a Kiwi; because of my skin colour, I will forever be a foreigner. This must change. We are far too small a nation to be divisive. We must work together to decide who we are as a nation, and work together to achieve where we want to be in the future.
We have had some brilliant moments in history, when we have led the world. New Zealand was the first country to give women the vote. It was a New Zealander, Ernest Rutherford, who split the atom, and there was the late Sir Edmund Hillary. We have also produced bands and actors over the years, some of whom Australians insist are theirs. There are many others—far too many to name them all—who are placing New Zealand on the map. We should not only applaud their successes; we should celebrate them, and build a nation these global Kiwis would feel proud to come home to.
Many people have asked me why I put my name forward to be selected by the National Party. As a journalist over 20 years, it was not possible for me to show my true colours. Although close friends and family have known for a long time, I decided to “come out”, so to speak, because I felt the need to have a say in the shaping of the future of New Zealand. With my 20-year career in journalism and business, I feel I come equipped with just a little life experience.
To close, I would like to thank some very special people in my life: my mother, Min-ja—thank you. Thank you for always—I always do this when I talk about her—encouraging me that there is nothing I cannot do; my dad, Peter, for his hard work to give John and me the very best opportunity in life; and my son, Ethan. Your campaign impressed me, boy; I did not ask you to do that. I love the “I’m a Key person!” T-shirt that you took to school every day. I want to work hard so that I can become a good role model for you; I hope I make you proud.
To the Korean community in New Zealand, and to Koreans all around the globe, thank you for your support and encouragement. Your emails and phone calls of support came simply by virtue of the shared culture and heritage. I am truly humbled. I am grateful that the Korean community is always behind me to support me as I take my baby steps as the very first New Zealand member of Parliament of Korean heritage.
Last but not least, to my God: I know You are always beside me to guide me. It is a great honour and a privilege to be in this House as a member of Parliament, and I pledge to do my very best.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Leader of the Opposition) : I move, That the following words be added to the Address: “and expects, over the next 3 years, to see a closing of the wage gap with Australia; reduced serious crime, including family violence; reduced waiting time for elective surgery, with twenty new dedicated elective surgery theatres; fewer people on working-age benefits; lower greenhouse gas emissions; increased investment in infrastructure, including rail and public transport; the extension of the fibre network to nearly all homes; all sixteen and seventeen year olds in education, training, or employment; no cuts to public services; expanded availability of subsidised medicines; a police to population ratio of 1:500, with all new sworn police officers committed to general duty roles; a doubling of the number of prisoners receiving drug and alcohol treatment; and the settling of half of the remaining historic Treaty of Waitangi settlement claims”. I moved that motion because those were the expectations raised by the National Party when in Opposition. I say to Mr Key that we on this side of the House will be holding him to account to deliver on the promises that formed his mandate for Government.
There was a time in this country when successive Governments could get away with making promises in order to be elected, and later disavowing those promises. One of the things about the fifth Labour Government of which I am the most proud is that we honoured the promises on which we were elected. We not only honoured those promises but we, in fact, after each election, over-delivered on promises that were made. We under-promised and over-delivered. The challenge to this new National Government is to do likewise. I say to Mr Key that he will be judged on his ability to do that.
I congratulate the new Government on its election, and I take a moment to congratulate the two new members of Parliament who moved and seconded the Address in Reply. I acknowledge the quality of their contributions, and I wish them well in this House. I tell the new Government that Labour has left National an economy that is well-placed to deal with the impact of the international financial crisis. Members opposite can laugh at that statement, but that is not a statement that was made by this Opposition; that was a statement made last week by Fitch Ratings, the international credit-rating agency. It gave this country a AAA credit rating.
This is what Fitch Ratings told New Zealanders about the record of the outgoing Government: “the longstanding record of fiscal prudence, marked by reductions in the general government debt and net public external debt, will leave us well-placed to weather the economic downturn.” That is the legacy that the Labour Government has left for the incoming National Government. Under the fifth Labour Government we did not squander the good years by simply spending the surpluses. I utterly reject the empty political rhetoric that Mr Key put in the Speech from the Throne that talked about missed opportunities.
I will tell members about some of the missed opportunities. The Labour Government, under Michael Cullen, reduced Government debt from 35 percent of the GDP down to 17 percent. As Mr English borrows heavily to deal with the downturn, he will be very grateful for the sound fiscal management of Michael Cullen, the former Minister of Finance. The same former Minister of Finance put into the Cullen superannuation fund $14 billion, which the National Party is now so keen to invest. That was what the Labour Government did. It was opposed by the National Party, but National is very grateful for the legacy it has received.
Then we had the lie in the Speech from the Throne that talked about the fact that we did not achieve the same growth rates as other countries. Mr Key, I refer you to the document presented to your Government and your Minister of Finance by Treasury—the briefing document for the incoming Government.
Hon Bill English: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member is an experienced member and knows he cannot address the Chair in that way.
Mr SPEAKER: Mr Goff, I just mention that you did use language that is not very helpful a few moments ago, but I let it pass. I just warn you.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Mr Key will see from reading the document presented by Treasury—unless, as Judith Collins says about the police, Treasury is a Labour-loaded organisation; and that would take some imagination—that, in terms of growth rates, over the period of time measured, New Zealand was in fact ahead of Australia, ahead of the United States, ahead of Japan, and ahead of the average of the OECD countries. The legacy we have left to the National Government—but, more important, to our country—is a country well placed to deal with the international economic difficulties.
We have left other legacies that may be under threat from this new Government. One is KiwiSaver. It is the single most effective saving programme in New Zealand’s history, with 827,000 New Zealanders having signed up to it. It is a programme that has been more successful than any action by any Government over 30 years in ensuring that New Zealand acquires a savings record, which enables and motivates New Zealanders to save, and ensures that we have the money to invest in the future of this country.
The incoming National Government talks about investment in infrastructure. I remind that Government that we increased the investment in infrastructure by 190 percent—190 percent in the rail networks, the electricity generation, and the roads, and that can be seen all over New Zealand. What is more, we promoted the creation of a 21st century economy with lower corporate tax rates. [Interruption] I say to Mr English that we were the only Government in 30 years to lower corporate tax rates, and to create tax incentives for research and development.
One of the threats we see from this incoming Government is the threat to demolish the 15 percent tax credit for research and development. At a time when we want to create an economy that is innovative, creative, and can compete in the world, research and development is essential. Yet the incoming National Government is promising to slash the basis on which we can achieve that innovative and creative economy.
One of the things that we are all proud of on this side of the House is the fact that Working for Families—the programme that Mr Key said was communism by stealth—has lifted out of poverty tens of thousands of New Zealanders and children. What I expect from the incoming National Government is all the rhetoric in McGehan Close, all the rhetoric in the Speech from the Throne about the underclass to be translated into action that does even a fraction of what the outgoing Labour Government did, which was to lift our children out of poverty.
I noticed that Melissa Lee, in her speech, talked about the appalling rate of child abuse in this country. It is appalling, but to stop that abuse from happening we will have to do a lot more than simply double the prison sentences for abusers. One way we can stop abuse from happening is to create an environment in which each and every child in our country can grow up in a family that has the economic means and the social skills to provide that child with a stable, secure, caring, and loving environment.
I say to Mr Key that among the other missed opportunities must have been, of course, the rescuing of our national airline. Air New Zealand was bankrupted by the private sector board that National put in charge of it. It is now a thriving and viable national carrier for New Zealand. I could mention, too, Kiwibank. The bank that was opposed by every National member is now providing lower mortgage interest rates, and performing better than its Australian-based competitors. We gave New Zealanders the choice to go to that bank instead of a foreign multinational. I could add, of course, bringing back KiwiRail to ensure a sound and properly integrated national transport system.
One thing that the National Party did give credit for—although not explicitly to the outgoing Labour Government—was, this year, the achieving of the basis of market access to our key international markets: the signing and bringing into effect of a free-trade agreement with China, the fastest-growing market in the world; the conclusion of a free-trade agreement with the ASEAN countries, a $4.6 billion market for New Zealand; and, just a couple of months ago, the initiation of negotiations for a free-trade agreement involving the United States and New Zealand.
I say that there were no missed opportunities. We are very proud of what the Labour Government, under Helen Clark’s leadership, created for this country. The record is clear, and no amount of obfuscation by National in the Speech from the Throne will deny that record—independently commented on by Treasury and by credit-rating agencies—as leaving New Zealand in a strong position.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell us about the Electoral Finance Act.
Hon PHIL GOFF: Labour left a positive legacy for the incoming Government and one, I say to Dr Smith, that the National Government should not squander. Labour’s commitment in Opposition is absolute in terms of working to protect and promote the jobs, the living standards, the social services, and the well-being of everyday Kiwis in this country. We will work to preserve the legacy of a fair and inclusive society that provides opportunity for all.
We reject the ideological Treasury prescriptions for New Zealand, which were put out in its recent document. It is totally unacceptable for a Government agency to talk about slashing the tax rates of the wealthy and the most affluent at the same time as it advocates the undermining of minimum wages and working conditions in this country and promotes a “fire at will” legislative provision, which the National Party has picked up.
My challenge to Mr Key is this. He talks about opportunity for all, and he talks about the underclass. Will this National Government do better than its predecessor National Government, which over 9 years raised the statutory minimum wage by 73c? It was raised by 73c, I say to Mr Key. I would like an indication from the Prime Minister and his Minister of Finance as to whether the rhetoric is empty and meaningless.
Will the National Government continue to protect those hard-working New Zealanders who go to work every week in our factories, our hospitals, and our offices, or will it again leave those people to languish on a wage that they cannot possibly live on? I think we know the answer. I say congratulations to Mr Key on his Christmas present to New Zealand workers who are under stress and in fear of losing their jobs—he is saying to New Zealanders that in the first 3 months of their employment they can be sacked and that they have no redress to challenge the validity, the legitimacy, the fairness of that sacking.
That policy was not outlined by the National Party as a priority for its first 100 days. It did not even find its way into the Speech from the Throne. It was not mentioned by National Party members as they campaigned on television during the election period. It was hidden away. That longstanding and fundamental right of New Zealanders will now be repealed under urgency by this Government, without notice and without ordinary New Zealanders having the ability to come to a select committee at Parliament to say what they think about the legislation.
Mr Speaker, you will know that there is scarcely a bill that comes before this Parliament that does not go to a select committee. Every member of this House knows the value of putting legislation before a select committee. It is to find out the flaws in rushed legislation, and by God we have seen flaws from this Government in just 2 weeks—flaws that cost it $700 million over KiwiSaver, and flaws that left New Zealanders stranded in Bangkok. We could go on and on. I believe that this is an ominous sign for the future direction of the National-ACT Government.
Those National and ACT members opposite when in Opposition talked so much about the right of people to be consulted and the right of New Zealanders to come to their Parliament to make submissions on vital legislation. This National Government is denying the right of every New Zealander to have his or her voice heard on legislation that takes away the rights of every New Zealander. That is what Geoffrey Palmer would once have said was a constitutional outrage. It is a sign of how quickly that Government has become arrogant. It is a sign of the future direction of the National Party, which, when campaigning, was keen to persuade New Zealanders that it was benign and that it would do what Labour was doing, but rather more nicely. The real face and the secret agenda of the National Party, I say to Mr Key, is being revealed in this House over these last 2 days.
That legislation will be strongly opposed by the Labour Opposition, and I suspect by other Opposition parties in this House, because it denies New Zealanders the rights that they properly deserve. In this last week we have seen the case of two New Zealand women who were sacked because they were pregnant. They had the chance, under existing law, to put in a claim for unfair dismissal, and they won. They will in future not have that right in the first 90 days of their employment, and that is simply a disgrace.
The other legislation that will be rammed through Parliament is the tax bill. From what I have seen of the intent of that legislation, it is legislation that will benefit some people in our society. People like Mr Key will get $120 a week out of it—I am sure it is needed. The chief executive of Telecom New Zealand will get $500 a week out of it. But if we do the figures, we will see that a person who is on a low income will be worse off under that legislation. Let me give an example of the sort of person who will be hurt by it. I will mention the person by name. His name is Hada Robadi.
He works in a factory in Porirua. His income is $35,000 a year. His wife works as a hospital cleaner. She earns $22,000 a year. They have three grandchildren. They have custody of them and responsibility to care for them. Under National’s tax plan, that family will lose $14 a week.
Hon Members: What?
Hon PHIL GOFF: They will be $14 a week worse off. I do not care that John Key gets $120 a week more under this plan. That does not worry me too much. I do care that this family—on a low income, with both people working and contributing to New Zealand through their work and through their care of their grandchildren—will be worse off under this tax bill, which is meant to make New Zealanders better off. That, frankly, is unacceptable.
Every one of the people who have joined KiwiSaver will be worse off, because National wanted to rip $3 billion out of savers’ accounts—which would in the long term and medium term be good for New Zealanders—to meet short-term tax cuts. I cannot believe that the ACT Party’s Sir Roger Douglas would support that programme. Everything I thought that member stood for was about long-term planning, not short-term electoral bribes. Yet we see, in this legislation, a short-term electoral bribe at the expense of the long-term need of this country—that is, for savings. This is absolutely unacceptable. A low-income family with a child, earning $50,000 a year and saving with KiwiSaver will, under the National Party’s tax plan, lose up to $70 a week.
Hon Members: What?
Hon PHIL GOFF: A low-income family on $50,000 will lose $70 across that family. How is that equitable for the everyday New Zealander?
I hear today that National has a new plan, and that is to transfer the cost of the KiwiSaver plan—which the Government is meeting as an incentive for people to save—and load that on to the saver. That means a further $200 million will be ripped out of the savers’ accounts to meet the Government’s costs. That is a case of robbing Peter to pay Bill English, and it is simply not good enough.
Labour members when in Government worked, over the last 9 years, to advance positively the interests of Kiwis and a fairer society. In Opposition we will continue to do so. We will hold this National Government to account, expose its inadequacies, and oppose any secret agenda—which we have already seen emerging over the last couple of days. Mr Key, the Prime Minister, might have had a plan for being elected, but the Speech from the Throne offered no vision, no plan, and no carefully developed mechanism for dealing with the challenges facing New Zealand or for seizing the opportunities ahead. The Speech from the Throne indicates that there is no plan to protect everyday Kiwis from the potential risks they face, caused by the international economic situation. To the contrary, all we have seen out of this Government to date has been backward steps.
Let me direct this comment to the Minister of Housing, Mr Heatley. When he was the Opposition spokesperson on housing he stood on this side of the House and condemned Housing New Zealand for failing to meet the housing needs of 10,000 New Zealanders on the waiting list. We did point out that that may have been because 13,000 State houses had been sold, and not replaced, under the last National Government. Yet Mr Heatley, in his first pronouncement as Minister of Housing, now says that National is going to stop adding to State housing stock. What about the 10,000 New Zealanders about whom he was crying crocodile tears just a matter of months ago in this very Chamber? At a time when the building industry is at the lowest point in housing construction in 16 years, surely one would take advantage of that unutilised labour and resource to build the houses that children and needy families require.
Mr Key talked about infrastructure, but I tell him to start by making sure that New Zealanders can be housed at a time when, at last, we have the unutilised capacity to house them. If that were not enough, the big announcement made by the National Government on being elected was that it would scrap the $1 billion investment in retrofitting houses so that New Zealanders could have more comfortable, safer, and healthier homes. They have scrapped that programme—in the very week when the Business Council for Sustainable Development said that such a programme would save $4.75 billion in wasted energy over the next decade.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Where is the money?
Hon PHIL GOFF: Dr Smith asks where the money is. That is the cost accountancy approach of the National Party—it knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
The Business Council for Sustainable Development said that that programme by Labour and the Greens would, each year, have kept out of hospital 18,000 people suffering from respiratory illnesses caused by damp and unhealthy homes. That would have stopped 180,000 absentee workdays each year because people were living in unhealthy homes.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Where is the money?
Hon PHIL GOFF: That would have saved $4.7 billion over a decade, and Dr Smith keeps prattling on about the money. Not only would that measure cut ordinary New Zealanders’ power bills, and keep them healthier, out of hospital, and in work but it would also be an investment in a job-rich scheme. That is the very sort of scheme that is needed at a time when the international economy poses that challenge to New Zealand. There are two examples.
The last example I want to give is about the Government’s suspension of the emissions trading scheme. I remember—and every New Zealander remembers it—Shane Ardern driving his tractor up the steps of Parliament because the National Party was fundamentally opposed to a carbon tax. The National Party went into the election campaign promising New Zealanders that it would have an emissions trading scheme but with a few alterations. Within days, and because of the ACT-National agreement, National has dishonoured its promise about the emissions trading scheme and started talking about the carbon tax, which it told the country it was fundamentally opposed to.
Mr Brownlee might know about the Kyoto Forestry Association. He used to talk about that in very high terms of regard. I tell Mr Brownlee that the Kyoto Forestry Association said the move by the National-ACT Government cost—immediately—$125 million in investment and scores of jobs across provincial New Zealand. The National Government talks the rhetoric about stimulating the economy, and has, so far, done exactly the reverse. Its Housing New Zealand policy, its insulation policy, and its emissions trading scheme policy have cost this country the investment and the jobs that we need.
I wind up by saying that the Government has been elected on expectations of what it promised to deliver to New Zealanders. We will hold this Government to account for delivery of those things. Where it acts in a positive way on behalf of ordinary New Zealanders and their well-being, you will see constructive support from the Opposition. Where, on the other hand, you break your promises, you have hidden agendas, and you work contrary to the needs and well-being of New Zealand, you can expect this Opposition to absolutely hold you to account for what you do.
Mr SPEAKER: Before I take the next call, I just remind members that robust debate is healthy and to be expected, but things run off the rails when the words “you” and “your” are used, and experienced members should know that that brings the Speaker into the debate. I did not want to interrupt the honourable member because when one loses momentum in a speech, it is most unfortunate. But I do remind members that “you” and “your” are not to be used in debate. and I want to establish that at the outset.
Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister) : Can I be the first in this House to congratulate Mr Goff on his position as Leader of the Opposition, but I say what a lethargic speech that was, I think, as a starting point. If there were any take-away points from it, I guess one of them was that Mr Goff seems to think that the 90-day trial period for small to medium sized enterprises was part of a secret agenda. You see, the only minor problem with that was that not only was that trial period in National’s manifesto but it was in every newspaper in the country. The problem was that it was not in the Melbourne Age, which is where most of the Labour caucus were actually reading the news!
Mr Goff tried to talk about tax cuts. The problem for Mr Goff was that to his right was the previous Minister of Finance, who is a man not known for being a serial tax cutter. No one should have believed that Michael Cullen would ever have delivered on those promised tax cuts—they would not have happened. Michael Cullen was not a man to deliver on his promise of tax cuts.
Election 2008 was an election where New Zealanders voted for change. The country elected a new Government, a vibrant Government, an ambitious Government, a young Government, and, I might say, a very determined Government. But Labour also had change. Phil Goff replaced Helen Clark. It was a case of out with the old and in with the old. Poor old Mr Goff has been waiting, waiting, and waiting for 9 years to get the top job, and what is he doing now? He is waiting, waiting, and waiting for Shane Jones and David Cunliffe to stab him in the back. I understand that the talk around the Labour Party caucus is that the leadership of Phil Goff is so transitional that he is known as “Phil-in”. But enough of the tired Labour Opposition!
I acknowledge you, Mr Speaker, for your 24 years of dedicated commitment to this institution. I acknowledge your intellect, and your respect for this institution. You will make a fine Speaker of this Parliament, and we all wish you the very best. I also offer my congratulations to Deputy Speaker Lindsay Tisch, who will also make a great contribution to this House. We have borrowed him from the racing industry. I congratulate Assistant Speakers Eric Roy and, of course, Rick Barker.
I take this moment to congratulate the mover and seconder of the Address in Reply debate—in particular the mover, Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga, a young man who is indeed a real mover, and who I thought gave a very moving speech in the House this afternoon. He is a man who talked about the diversity of our Parliament, a man who believes very deeply in family values, and a man who I thought had a great line this afternoon when he said that bigger Government does not always produce better solutions. I acknowledge Melissa Lee, the first Korean member of Parliament. I confirm that she was correct: I am a kimchi lover, and if she is going to brew up a batch in her flat, I will come over and try a little bit of that.
I congratulate all of the new MPs in the House, and I wish them the best for their maiden statements, which are, of course, a window into their journey of why they are here, and their beliefs. My thanks go to the National Party MPs—a fine group of individuals, all 58 of them. I particularly thank the new MPs: Steven Joyce; Amy Adams; Hekia Parata; Kanwaljit Bakshi, the first Indian member of Parliament—my congratulations to him—Paul Quinn, a man who will be making a significant contribution to the parliamentary rugby team; Michael Woodhouse; Simon Bridges, who showed us that a massive win in Tauranga was always on the cards and possible; Louise Upston; Todd McClay, who along with Jonathan Young comes to this House with a family pedigree in history; Tim Macindoe; Aaron Gilmore; and, lest we forget, Nikki Kaye, who delivered Auckland Central for National, which is something that had never been achieved in our party’s history. With each Parliament our Chamber becomes more diverse and more reflective of modern New Zealand, and the forty-ninth Parliament has not disappointed in any way, shape, or form. We have a new-look Parliament, a more diverse Parliament, and one that will reflect, I believe, modern New Zealand.
We are, of course, a minority Government supported in confidence and supply by three parties. I acknowledge, firstly, the ACT Party, its five MPs, and Rodney Hide. It will bring to the Government a serious focus on economic development, economic growth, and solutions to the problems that our economy will need at a time when our economy is desperately in need of that. I congratulate Rodney Hide and Heather Roy for their promotions to their portfolios.
I acknowledge the United Future leader, Peter Dunne, who once again will make a tremendous contribution to this Parliament, as he has done in previous Parliaments. He is the man known as “Mr Common Sense”, and he will need to bring all of that common sense to the select committee he will be chairing on climate change.
Last, but by no means least, I acknowledge the historic and special relationship with the Māori Party. In particular I thank Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia for their courage, their leadership, and their belief that this was a relationship worth investing in. I know that this relationship will benefit not only Māori Party supporters but indeed all New Zealanders.
The ninth of November 2008 was a new dawn for New Zealand. It was the day after the country rejected the tired old policies of the Labour Government, its lack of direction, its years of distractions and sideshows, and its decade of missed opportunities. It was a Government that had forgotten who put it there, and, frankly, after a period of time it had forgotten why it was there. On 8 November 2008 the New Zealand public elected a Government they wanted to be focused on the issues that matter.
But we have assumed the mantle of Government in arguably some of the most difficult economic conditions seen in a generation—maybe in the lifetime of New Zealanders. This is a global financial crisis that threatens to put the world in recession. It is a global financial crisis that has seen the global banking system put on life support—a system that has required an injection of capital right around the world. We have seen a pretty extraordinary situation, where a bank such as Citigroup, worth just under US$300 billion, collapsed into a value of around US$28 billion before it was bailed out by the United States Government. So the challenges that my Government faces are very different and very difficult ones. They are certainly very different challenges from the ones that the Labour Government of the last 9 years faced, when the hardest decision for Labour was how to spend New Zealand taxpayers’ money. That was it—how to spend taxpayers’ money was the hardest decision—but that will not be a luxury our Government will have.
People can imagine how we reacted, when, knowing conditions would be immensely tough, we then found the ticking time bomb called the Accident Compensation Corporation—a $2.3 billion hole that Phil Goff did not talk about in his speech. I simply say this: for a party that campaigned on trust, to leave a $2.3 billion hole in the accounts is nothing short of a disgrace. But I guess that is why that party was thrown out of office: the New Zealand public did not trust it. We will be undertaking a ministerial inquiry. I cannot tell the House whether that inquiry will find that Labour Ministers broke the fiscal responsibility Act and broke the law. But I do not need a ministerial inquiry to tell me this.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: There is no such Act!
Hon JOHN KEY: They do not want to hear about it. They are very chipper and very chirpy, but that was not the case when they were writing to each other about the $300 million yearly ticking time bomb. They were not quite so vocal at that point. You see, I do not need a whole ministerial inquiry to know that the Labour Government defeated the spirit of the fiscal responsibility Act. Those members knew there was a billion dollars required for the non-earners account alone, and they were as quiet as little church mice. They were busy making lots of noise out there, but they were very quiet when it came to accident compensation.
We have assumed the Government benches in very difficult economic times. In the middle of December Mr English will release the Half Year Economic and Fiscal Update, and I think New Zealanders know that that update will contain a lot of red ink. Well, my message for New Zealanders is that they should not take this as a time when their Government should overreact. We have a plan for this economic problem; we will reach through the recession. This is not a time for slash-and-burn; this is a time for the Government to show some strength, and it is time for the Government to look beyond what are some pretty short-term difficult numbers, because we know we can take New Zealanders out of this and make New Zealand stronger. But we should be under no illusion: the only hope for the finances of the Government, the only hope for our young people, and the only hope for our country is—
Hon Chris Carter: A new Labour Government.
Hon JOHN KEY: —not a Labour Government, as Chris Carter would say; we all know that. The only hope is economic growth. That is the only hope to get us through. If there was a decade of deficits when Dr Cullen had not even taken into consideration the worsening 6 weeks, or the billion dollars of the Accident Compensation Corporation’s non-earners account, it is fair to assume that the deficits of the decade will be considerably larger in the way that Treasury is forecasting them. The Government actually—
Hon Chris Carter: Is this a speech, or is it stream of consciousness?
Hon JOHN KEY: Well, you see, the difference between our Government and Mr Carter when he was in Government is that we are actually going to have to do things. We are going to have to actually get out there and not just spend money, not just create more inter-departmental Government working groups, and not just have more strategies and more sessions; we are actually going to have to do more with less. That is what we are going to have to do as a Government. We are going to have to eliminate waste. We are going to have to get on top of the huge growth in bureaucracy we have seen in the State sector. Again we picked up the paper today to read about the Government Shared Network—yet another experiment that the Labour Party commissioned. That has failed. There was no mention of that in Labour’s speech. There was no mention of the fact that there were no tax cuts for 9 long years under a Labour Government until it was staring down the barrel of defeat. It was much keener on lifting the bureaucracy and much keener on spending other people’s money. It was only in the dying days of a dying Government that there was any commitment on that.
Our Government will lift the cloak of red tape and compliance costs on the suffering small businesses in New Zealand. I can tell members of the House that out there amongst small businesses there is a real sense of excitement and encouragement that help is on its way. But we will not be passing a new law or a new regulation, or finding a new way to slow them down; we will be backing them. There was Mr Goff, in his speech, back again on the politics of envy. We stand for the politics of aspiration. We believe in New Zealanders doing well and supporting themselves. There are tens of thousands of those small to medium sized enterprises out there, and I know they welcome the change of Government.
One of the big challenges for the Government over the next 3 years—and then in the terms beyond—will be to build infrastructure in this country, because we have a major infrastructure deficit. That is why my Government has appointed not just any Minister as the Minister of Infrastructure but the second most senior Minister in Cabinet—if I can say that—Mr English. He will be the guiding force as we look to build infrastructure across the country in roading, in energy, in public transport, and in broadband. My good colleague here, Mr Brownlee, sent me a fascinating stack of information about the increase in electricity prices overseen by that Labour Government over the last 9 years. I think it was a rate of 86 percent, was it not, Mr Brownlee—83 percent? There was an 83 percent increase in power prices over the last 9 years because that previous Government failed to invest in our national grid, failed to reform the Resource Management Act, and failed to bring enough new generation on stream.
As I go around the country, I see the excitement in the eyes of New Zealanders when they know they will have ultra-fast broadband delivered to their homes.
Hon David Cunliffe: Yeah, right!
Hon JOHN KEY: They are the sorts of people that David Cunliffe hangs around with in the weekend, the sorts of people who are actively encouraging Shane Jones to challenge for the leadership so early on, and the sorts of people that Stuart Nash knew in his former career as a business person—they are out there; they want ultra-fast broadband. That will be delivered under our Government, and New Zealanders will be in the 21st century with ultra-fast broadband. But it will not happen with a bit of pixie dust or by snapping our fingers; it will happen because this Government is committed to reforming the Resource Management Act. That is a top priority for this Government.
And, yes, we have a high-level task force to assist the Minister in that regard. That is actually a very interesting point. The difference between our Government and the previous Government is that when we get advice from people who know what they are talking about we listen to it. OK, that is a big difference. Can I say, by the way, that while I was listening to Mr Goff’s 30-minute speech, never once did I hear the very first words I heard out of his mouth when he became the leader: “I’m so sorry about the Electoral Finance Act. I didn’t really believe in it. Helen made me sign up to it, and I’m really sorry. OK? I’m really sorry.”
Hon Member: And what did Annette say about it?
Hon JOHN KEY: Annette said: “I’m really sorry, too.” She is really sorry that as Minister of Justice day after day, week after week, she had to be pulverised by Bill English in the House when she said that the law of common sense would resolve it all. Even the Law Commission could not understand the law of common sense. I want Mr Goff, in his temporary leadership role, to know that we will reach out to the Labour Party and consult on the new legislation that will repeal and replace the Electoral Finance Act. I cannot remember whether it was in the Otago Daily Times—it may have been in the Dominion Post—but in one of the editorials in the last couple of days a very good point was made. It said the new National Government should leave that legislation in place for 3 more years so that Labour could suffer even longer under its own legislation. But on this side of the House we are not so cruel; we are an inclusive Government, we are reaching out, and we will be doing that.
In relation to the Resource Management Act, I say there will be more money and more capital expenditure going into infrastructure. Public-private partnerships are something Labour talked about but under Labour they were like white rhinos—we never saw them. We heard about them, but we never saw them. Members will see some public-private partnerships under our Government.
One of the very, very important things our Government will be doing is lifting education standards in New Zealand. What a fine job Anne Tolley is going to do in leading that charge, and what a contribution Pita Sharples is going to make to that tail of underachievement—of lifting up that tail to opportunities. Today we heard the story of two young people who have come into this House. Both of them mentioned the value of education, the difference education made to their lives, and how education was a liberator. Every one of the 122 members of this Parliament, we can assume, has enjoyed the benefits of a good education, while one in five young New Zealanders do not enjoy the benefits of a good education. Their literacy and numeracy skills are so poor that they have no future—
Hon Chris Carter: What are you actually going to do?
Hon JOHN KEY: I say to Mr Carter that I recall that when one of the major school principals was sitting next to me on a plane a few months before the election, he told me: “I’m going to do something I have never done in my life. I’m going to vote National.” I said: “Why is that?”. He said: “Because Mr Carter has been the worst Minister of Education in this Parliament’s history and he has failed to lift education standards.” Labour had 9 years and they squandered that opportunity; that will not be lost on our Government. Our Government will be legislating for national standards. We will be legislating for national standards, and we will be ensuring that youngsters have literacy and numeracy skills. We will be ensuring that that benchmark is there. We will be making sure that parents can understand exactly where their child is, in terms of literacy and numeracy, against the national standard. Most important, we will make sure there is an action plan to resolve those issues. That is how a Government makes a difference to a country. It is when everyone has equality of opportunity, and that comes through education.
But it will not start and finish with national standards; trades and skills will be a very important part of the agenda for our Government. There will be world-class trade academies built in our schools across the country to give young New Zealanders an opportunity—a pathway to trades and skills. There will be the Youth Guarantee for 16 and 17-year-olds. Mr Goff was kind enough to talk about it in his opening remarks. [Interruption] That is right—for 16 and 17-year-olds. Not all of them will want to stay at school. They will be there enjoying the opportunity of free fees so they can go to the wānanga, the private training establishment, or the polytech to get those foundation skills and to go on those courses, to ensure that they can achieve in life.
The fact has already been mentioned in the House today that law and order is not at a level where New Zealanders feel comfortable, or feel it is acceptable. My Government is going to have a real focus on lifting law and order and ensuring our communities are safer once again. That will involve quite a lot of legislative changes. They will include changes to the bail laws, they will include changes to parole laws, and they will include tougher sentences for those who commit crimes against young people. Why did it take 9 years of failure for the previous Government to address the issue of young people? There was not a peep, not a squeak, and not a word. Those members were like church mice; they were very busy changing the Electoral Finance Act or worrying about Winston Peters. They were too busy worrying about those things to get on with the core basics such as national standards or crimes against young people. Our Government will change that.
A very important issue for our Government is making sure that we crack down on the serious end of crime. Something that will not be going under a National Government is the Serious Fraud Office. It will stay, and it will investigate some very interesting crimes—I would suggest white collar crimes—over the next few years in New Zealand. Those who have broken the law—mainly those who have defrauded New Zealanders out of their retirement savings with all sorts of dodgy schemes—will know that the Serious Fraud Office will be there with all of its powers to investigate them.
We will be dealing with the issue of gangs. Again, Phil Goff was 9 years in Government and there was not a peep, not a squeak, not a word, about gangs. On the campaign trail 4 weeks before the election he was despatched to say, all of a sudden, that he was going to do something, and that he might outlaw gangs, or that he might ban gangs. I can understand why he might want to ban Shane Jones’ gang—but, no, in 9 years there was no change. We will be changing that. And we will be delivering 600 police. It was great to see George Hawkins today when I was walking over the Parliament House bridge going into the reception, and I said to Mr Hawkins that, yes, 300 police would be coming to his community, to Counties Manukau, and to Judith Collins’ and Pansy Wong’s electorates, and we will be making those streets safer.
We will be dealing with the issue of climate change. I guess if there was one change in Mr Goff’s speech it was this: it took him 29 minutes to debate the issue of climate change. It certainly was not the world-leading carbon neutrality—
Hon Member: Same with you!
Hon JOHN KEY: Well, you see, we have always taken a balanced view to climate change, our environmental responsibilities, and our economic opportunities. We are not prepared to wave goodbye to New Zealand businesses; we are going to do something, and this Parliament, in a proper and mature way, will be debating that. When we despatch our Minister of Trade and Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues (International Negotiations) to Poznán in Poland in the next few days, he will be fighting for our corner when it comes to agriculture and land-use change and the ability to keep our economy strong, and we will be investing in technological solutions.
My Government will be focused on fixing the health system—and what a mess Mr Cunliffe left in his short period of time there! There are stories of district health boards with exploding budget deficits. One of the very first moves—and we will be making an announcement on it this week—will be to take the financial stress off those New Zealand women who are currently paying for Herceptin. We are standing up as a Government and paying for 12 months’ treatment. Mr Cunliffe said it could not be done; Mr Ryall has been in the job for fewer than 3 weeks and it will be done. That is what an action-focused Government is about.
Thirty minutes is just not long enough when there is so much to talk about as a new Government—whether it is the investment of 40 percent of the superannuation fund in New Zealand, whether it is the fact that we will be holding a referendum on MMP, whether it is the fact that we will be setting new standards for Government, or whether we will be in a situation where we are prepared to tackle the hard issues. We could spend so much time—
Hon Pete Hodgson: Move an extension of time, John, if you want to say more.
Hon JOHN KEY: I am more than happy to take more time, I say to Pete Hodgson, if he likes. I am more than happy to take more time. But, you see, in the end we really left that to the people of New Zealand who, on 8 November 2008 said very clearly through the ballot box that it was time for a change. And that change is about to be delivered.
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green) : Mr Speaker, I offer my congratulations on your election. The Green Party will support you in your efforts to raise the standard of debate and behaviour in the House. It is time.
On behalf of the Greens, I extend a welcome to new MPs. I hope they succeed in making the difference that they came here to make. I offer our congratulations to all returning MPs on their re-election.
The Greens are proud to be the third-largest party in the House and to welcome three new members—a 50 percent increase in our numbers. We look forward to serving on more select committees, asking more questions, and covering more issues. So I am happy today to introduce to the House Kevin Hague, Catherine Delahunty—who yesterday became a grandmother—and Kennedy Graham. We have no backbenchers in the Greens. They all received a raft of portfolios on the day they arrived, and we know that all of them will make a big contribution to Parliament.
As the third voice in Parliament, the Greens are neither in Government nor Opposition; we are an independent voice for those who have no other voice here—for the natural environment, for sustainability, for children born and for children to be born in the future, for those who suffer discrimination, poverty, and violence, and for all the creatures that we share this beautiful planet with. We are not part of any voting bloc. We have no agreement or defined relationship with the Government, but we do not see ourselves as a professional Opposition whose job is just to oppose. We will vote for good legislation. We will seek to amend bad legislation, and we will vote against it if we cannot amend it sufficiently. We are not opposed to any people or any parties, but we are opposed to poor policies, wherever they come from, and to bad legislation.
We made it clear before the election that we would not give our confidence and supply votes to National, as its stated policies and programmes are just too different from ours. But we said that if it became the Government we would seek to work with it wherever we had common ground. Where that common ground might be is still to be established, but we will be talking before Christmas.
I offer my congratulations again to John Key on becoming Prime Minister. It is a time of huge challenge, and he must be feeling the burden of that. I also acknowledge Helen Clark, who has made a big contribution to the history of this country. I say to Helen that her Government made a difference to many families who were struggling. She kept us out of an illegal war in Iraq. She embraced sustainability too late in her 9 years to deliver on it, but she may have eased that path for the future. We hope she finds another role in which to further the causes she believes in.
It is commonplace now to say that this is the worst crash of the financial markets since the Great Depression. Last year’s panic over inflation and an unsustainable bubble in the housing market has given way to a different panic, with nearly a year of economic contraction, lower commodity prices, people losing their savings with the collapses in the financial sector, people losing their jobs, and people losing their homes through mortgagee sales. The path out of this scary situation will not be quick or easy.
We are in this mess because of greed, because of speculation, and because of individuals, corporates, and nations living beyond their means. Compulsive consumerism combined with a lack of regulation and safeguards around financial markets have been an explosive mixture. It is unrealistic to expect that the same behaviour will get us out of that mess. The invisible hand of the free market has shown what it can do, and it is not pretty. The freedom to sell what one does not own, and to lend what one does not have, results in the freedom for others to lose their homes, their jobs, and their families’ security. What will get us out of the mess is a return to the values of cooperation, sharing, and sustainability.
The financial markets create no real wealth; they just move around the wealth created by others. They trade in what they call products, which are really just shadows of the real economy—they have no intrinsic value. It is a zero-sum game: no one can make money in the financial markets without someone else losing it. That is not a recipe for social progress. But we are in a bind: if there is no credit, the modern economy cannot function, yet the more we bail out those who are failing, the more we use the savings of the prudent to reward the reckless.
Of course, it is mainly not those who caused the mess who are suffering from it—it never is. Even the high-flyers who go bankrupt have very comfortable lives stashed away in trusts. The chief executive officers of companies announcing mass lay-offs still arrive for talks in their individual jets. Those with money do very well out of snapping up forced sales of companies, shares, and houses. So for every action we try to take to deal with the mess, we must ask who is paying for this, who will benefit from this, and what kind of behaviour this is encouraging for the future.
We now have as Prime Minister a man who has come out of those same financial markets that have overreached themselves and crashed. I say to John that I guess we are all hoping that after spending all that time among them, he has some insights about how the international community could control them and ensure that this never happens again. Most of all, we are hoping that he will not allow this financial mess to disguise the much more fundamental mess that underlies it. Professor Peter Barrett, one of our most distinguished scientists, put it very clearly in the Dominion Post on Friday: “Markets recover in a few years—climate takes millennia.”
Our society is now so divorced from its relationship with the natural world that many people cannot see that our economy and our markets are totally reliant on the environment, which provides resources and absorbs wastes. We cannot balance environmental responsibilities and economic opportunities, as the Speech from the Throne suggests. The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. If the parent company collapses, so does the subsidiary.
We note with disappointment that the only mention of the environment, even obliquely, in the speech was as an obstacle to development, requiring the weakening of the Resource Management Act. We hope this will not become known as the generation that saved the banks but let the biosphere collapse. It is not just climate. Demand for oil, gas, fresh water, food, and some minerals is outstripping supply, thus causing price rises that have contributed to financial collapses, at least for homeowners who could no longer afford to pay their mortgage as well as fill their tank and their pantry.
The world economy has grown so fast that environmental processes are breaking down. That tells us that unless we make radical changes in the way we do business and live, more growth will mean more pollution, more resource shortages and rising prices, more inflation, and, eventually, more ecological collapse.
There is a very direct relationship between oil prices and the recession. Oil prices of over US$150 a barrel have stretched household budgets and pushed people further into debt. World recession has seen oil drop to a 4-year low, because demand can now be met from the old onshore fields, where it costs US$5 to US$10 a barrel to extract and process it. Growing demand requires tapping the new fields in deep water or in the Arctic, where it costs US$70 to US$90 a barrel to extract and process. The surest sign that the recession is not yet easing is that fuel prices are still so low. If demand starts growing again, they will be back up to US$150, but a lack of refining capacity will mean scarcity and price rises. This will show up in food prices and in the inability of our markets to afford our exports.
Nations are right now in the middle of a life or death negotiation in Poland on whether to act collectively to preserve a liveable climate for all of the world or to hold out for our individual, short-term interests—and so all go down together, because we are all on the same ship. It is sad and embarrassing that New Zealand is not on the side of those arguing for clear, binding targets for all OECD countries and financial instruments to enable developing countries to cut their emissions, too. Instead we are arguing for taking food production out of the Kyoto Protocol. We are seeking an exemption for 50 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions before we even start trying to reduce them at all. The climate will respond to what we put into the atmosphere. The climate does not care whether we are food producers. After all, the world needs more cars, but Japan is not arguing for steel and coal in vehicle production to be outside the climate change agreement. We have to be realistic here: all emissions change the climate, and all emissions must come into the agreement.
It is significant that New Zealand has sent its Minister of Trade to the talks to fight our corner. Trade negotiations are never about the collective good; they are always about individual country interests. They stall for years over trivia. They demand special exemptions for demanding political constituencies. We cannot afford to let Kyoto become another Doha.
A few months ago we passed legislation—many years too late—that put a price on carbon emissions. It was a weak economic signal to clean up, but at least it was a signal. Part-way through, the Government got cold feet and delayed the entry of transport for another 2 years. I ask Labour members, when they look at fuel prices now, whether they wish they had held their nerve on transport. Next January would have been the perfect time to bring transport in while fuel prices were so low—as originally planned—to keep up the momentum towards lower fuel consumption.
The emissions trading scheme has many loopholes, exemptions, and delays, but it was a start. Now, no one can figure out what is happening, and that is a recipe for a loss of business confidence and a loss of investment—and it is already happening. The Prime Minister tells us that he will put the emissions trading scheme on hold. I ask him how. Energy, transport, and agriculture have had no obligations for ages, anyway. But foresters who planted over the winter of 2008 are legally entitled to credits in January 2009. Is this Government of property rights and business telling them that there will not be any credits in January 2009? Is a bill coming before the House during this urgency session to wipe out forestry credits and obligations? We hope not, because that would usher in a new season of clear-felling forests and converting to dairying with no penalty. I would have to drag out Nick Smith’s old speeches that went on for months and months, blaming the Government week after week for creating just that situation in 2007. That would also see an enraged Roger Dickie climbing the steps of Parliament, and I would be supporting him.
Perhaps putting the legislation on hold is just a figure of speech, and nothing will actually happen. But business does not know, and business is worried. We already have a number of investors having second thoughts about investing in New Zealand. Now we have ACT—the party that believes that climate science is wrong and that human-induced climate change is a myth—trying to delay and confuse for another year by demanding a carbon tax. That is one more year of business offloading the costs of its emissions on to the taxpayer. The select committee will be instructed to consider that, and even to consider the bizarre suggestion that politicians should review whether the international science community has it wrong. That is still in the terms of reference, in code. I say to John that he cannot afford to waste public funds educating Rodney on 20-year-old science, and he cannot afford to let Rodney pull the National-led Government into fantasy land. It is time to take serious action to reduce our emissions and to join the global effort to reach an effective agreement.
The Government is proposing an infrastructure investment package to stimulate the economy. The Greens proposed such a package early in the election campaign, before other parties did. However, the packages are not the same. It is vital that the infrastructure we build prepares us for the very different world of oil depletion, climate change, and resource scarcity. We need more and better public transport and a rebuilt rail system, not new motorways. We need more affordable housing built to high standards of energy efficiency, and close to public transport and workplaces. We need the Greens’ billion-dollar home insulation programme that this Government is going to axe. The programme would be the fastest source of new jobs in a recession, and would reduce people’s power bills and keep people with asthma out of hospital. If John wants value for health dollars then he should insulate cold, damp houses. The Greens would be happy to work with him on that, and the money for it is already there in the dividends the energy companies will pay under the emissions trading scheme.
I now hand over to my co-leader, Dr Norman, for the rest of our time.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER: I remind new members that they must refer to their colleagues by their full names rather than by just their first names.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) : The Green Party has a vision for Aotearoa New Zealand as a place where people respect each other and the natural world that we share. It is a vision for our country as a healthy, peaceful, and diverse place. We aspire to build an Aotearoa New Zealand in which we know our different histories and we are secure in our identity—an Aotearoa New Zealand that honours Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The Greens are seeking to build a country in which our children, our elders, our families, and our communities are at the centre of national life, and where each person’s unique contribution is valued. The Greens come to this Parliament to strive for a future in which participation, justice, and quality of life for all are valued over the individual attainment of wealth. We come here to transform our economic system into one that enables people to meet their needs from the bounty of the earth, within nature’s limits. We are here because we have seen the damage that is being done to our beautiful country, and we believe that indigenous ecosystems need to be restored and replenished.
We are here to support all New Zealanders, so that life in our country is a celebration of diversity and creativity. We have a vision of a future in which all are able to participate meaningfully in the decisions that affect both them and future generations. In coming to this House, we recognise the rights and interests of those who cannot speak or vote for themselves, and we will continue to be the voice for those who have no voice. The Green Party exists so that we can play our role in making these islands a shining light in the world for peace, justice, sustainability and democracy. That is our vision, and that is the vision we will promote in this Parliament over the next 3 years.
The Green Party has a tradition in this place of listening to the arguments of others. We have a tradition of working constructively where we find common ground with others, in order to make progress towards our vision. These are traditions that we will hold on to in this new Parliament. We also have a tradition of being vigorous advocates for our vision, and staunch opponents of those who seek to take our country and our planet in the wrong direction. We will continue to be a staunch voice, and those who have come here to oppose sustainability, peace, justice, and democracy will find us formidable opponents. We represent 160,000 New Zealanders—about 7 percent of the votes cast—who expect us to behave respectfully in this House. But they also expect us to tell the truth about the state of the world. If that means upsetting some of those in the old, grey parties, then so be it.
This Parliament is, of course, significantly different from the last: the old, grey parties have swapped sides. To National, I say congratulations on forming the new Government. National received the votes of 45 percent of New Zealanders; it is an awesome responsibility. We are fortunate to live in a democracy where we can change Governments peacefully, based on the will of the majority. With our hearts we hope, for the sake of the future of our country, that National will use its new-found power wisely and judiciously. With our heads, we have doubts as to whether it will have that wisdom. But if National puts up sensible proposals, then we will happily work with National to improve them, just as we promised to do before the election.
To Labour, I say congratulations on getting 34 percent of the votes. We had a difficult, but sometimes productive, relationship with Labour while it was in Government. The negotiations were often ruthless, the Government sometimes lacked vision, and, truth be told, many Labour MPs are in awe of the new right. But many Labour MPs are fine people, trapped in what seems to us to be an old grey suit. Perhaps we should ask which party the young idealist Michael Joseph Savage would have joined, if he had turned up here today. I hope the relationship with Labour can be productive, but let Labour make no mistake; the Greens are an independent party of principle, and we will not be participating in any shadow Cabinet, unlike the Progressive Party.
To the Māori Party, I say congratulations on winning five of the Māori seats. I know those members wanted to win more seats, and the Greens did our best to help them. But that is still a strong foundation. We have a disagreement about tactics with the Māori Party, as those members have decided to hitch themselves to the National Government, or what should now be called the National - ACT - Māori Party - United Future Government. Every time this Government does something stupid, like opposing progress at the climate change talks in Poland, its support parties will wear some of that. Time will tell whether the decision to go with the Nats was the right one. We hope the decision will help the land and the people of the land, and we wish the Māori Party well.
We have worked with ACT cooperatively and respectfully as an MMP party, and I hope we can continue to do so. However, the ACT ideology does really seem to represent the right wing of the US Republican Party in New Zealand, as far as I can tell. The climate change denial, the opposition to science, the “three strikes” policy, the taxpayers’ rights bill, and the war for oil are all Republican Party policies that have failed in the United States, and ACT is now trying to import them into our country. The US Republicans have just been ousted after the most disastrous presidency in memory—a long, long dark night. They left that country staggering from a financial crisis due to financial deregulation, a massive prison problem, a massive crime problem, an unresolved, illegal foreign war, a massive debt, and so much more. Surely it is time to move on from the policies of the Republican Party.
I give greetings to the Hon Jim Anderton and the Hon Peter Dunne, and I hope that we can have a constructive relationship with them.
In the election campaign the Greens campaigned for our children’s future. The Greens come to this place to be a voice for generations to come, and for those who do not have a voice—those who are yet to be born, but who will bear the consequences of our actions. To paraphrase Shakespeare from Henry V: “And some are yet ungotten and unborn that may have cause to curse the Government’s scorn.” Unborn New Zealanders will live to curse this Government if it decides to go into climate change denial. We have already had one ineffective Government on climate change—emissions increased by over 10 percent over the course of the last Government—and we cannot afford to have another one. So New Zealanders as yet ungotten and unborn will curse this Government’s scorn if it continues to stand by, as the last one did, while our rivers, lakes, and beaches are polluted. The Resource Management Act is so weak that it provides little protection. Yet this Government so far bleats the mantra of industrial agriculture that it says we must weaken the Resource Management Act and cut out community participation in decision making. The weakening of environmental protection is not in the interests of our society or our economy.
The Greens are the voice for the brand of New Zealand—clean and green, 100 percent pure. It is a brand that is worth upwards of $1 billion a year in export earnings, according to a study commissioned by the Government in 2001. Let us think of the millions of dollars spent on promoting “100% Pure New Zealand”, and of the generations of New Zealanders who fought to achieve a nuclear-free New Zealand—our nuclear-free status being the underpinning of the clean and green branding. Why are we trying to throw it all away? It will not work as a tourism strategy to say: “Welcome to New Zealand, but don’t swim at our beaches or you’ll get a case of diarrhoea, or a skin, ear, or eye infection.” How can it possibly be in our long-term economic interests to lose our clean and green brand?
The problem with the last Government was that it was too scared to take on Federated Farmers and industrial agriculture in order to clean up our rivers and lakes and constrain greenhouse emissions. Is this Government similarly scared? Will this Government sit on its hands while things get worse? Economics and the environment are joined at the hip. To paraphrase Bill Clinton: “It is the environment, Stupid.” When we think about where the next wave of innovation and jobs will come from, we realise New Zealanders will either lead the world in developing innovative ways to protect the environment or find themselves once again being technology takers—paying for technology developed overseas to reduce greenhouse emissions and clean up rivers.
The Republican “Governator” of California talks about the green revolution—the economic transformation that is creating millions of green-collar jobs around the world. New Zealand can be part of the green revolution, or we can once again fall prey to the laissez-faire anti-science brigade who say that the market knows best. Well, the “market knows best” brigade has just collapsed the global financial system. Smart green solutions that face the science honestly and use innovation and the creativity of ordinary New Zealanders will be our future if the Green Party has anything to do with it. Bright, green ideas that deal with the environmental challenges, while building new businesses that employ New Zealanders in worthwhile occupations, will be the future that the Greens offer to our country.
There are those who say that the Greens should speak only about what they call environmental issues, but there is no simple division between social and environmental issues. Climate change is the biggest social-justice emergency that this country faces. Millions and millions of inhabitants of planet Earth will die if we do not act. It is an environmental issue; it is a social-justice issue. Protecting our children from violence has been a Green priority from the beginning, and it will continue to be so. We make no apologies for that. Sadly, the referendum that is coming up on so-called parental discipline will add little to the debate. Poverty will continue to preoccupy the Greens. Even the Treasury briefing to the incoming Government acknowledged that poverty is an obstacle to economic development, because the abilities of poor children are never utilised as they never get the chance to do so. Our Prime Minister got a hand up through the welfare State and State housing, and now he says he wants to cap that opportunity for others. We need more social housing, not a cap on social housing. A society that is divided on itself, a society that treats people as a means to an end for the sake of someone else’s profit, and an unequal society where the rich eat the future of the poor is not a society that will be able to deal with the challenges of environmental sustainability. By dealing with the environmental challenges we can have a more prosperous society, with a better quality of life. That is the virtuous circle.
We will also continue to campaign in this Parliament for safe food and country-of-origin labelling, just like that of our trading partners. If we do not know where our food comes from, how will we avoid a Chinese melamine scandal?
Lastly, I want to talk about our democracy. The Greens are now firmly established as the third party in our democracy. There are those who would silence the voice of the Greens. During the campaign we saw a shameful collaboration between Labour and National to keep the Greens out of the televised leaders’ debates. The result was a rather uninspiring debate. There are those who are frightened by what the Greens have to say, and there are those who are threatened by our truth-telling about the state of the planet and the state of Aotearoa, but we will not be silenced. There are those who want to try to silence the Greens by abolishing our proportional voting system and replacing it with some form of undemocratic elected dictatorship, like the supplementary-member representation system. If the last election had been run under that system, then the Greens would have one seat, or possibly two seats, in Parliament instead of nine, and that is exactly what the enemies of proportional voting want. It is not very different in that sense from first past the post.
MMP brings not only a diversity of views but a diversity of people into Parliament. We have more women, more members from a Māori background, more Pacific Islanders, and more Asians in this Parliament as a result of MMP. The enemies of MMP and proportionality want to return us to a time when Parliament was made up of white men in suits. But I warn those with aspirations to silence dissent and diversity that their attempt to get rid of proportional representation will fail. Enough people remember what happened last time. We had an elected dictatorship. Our economy was wrecked and our society was ripped asunder.
The Greens have come to this place to progress our vision of an Aotearoa New Zealand that is peaceful, just, democratic, and sustainable. We will be both constructive and staunch, as we need to be in order to achieve those goals. It is indeed, as Shakespeare would say, a case of “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more”.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) : Let me begin by paying my respects to the Rt Hon Helen Clark, who led this country for 9 years. I disagreed with many of the policies of her Government—I am not a socialist—but I do not think any of us can doubt that Helen Clark worked hard, was committed to New Zealand, and is a ferociously intelligent politician. I believe that Phil Goff has big shoes to fill in taking over from Helen Clark, but I believe that he and Annette King will be up to the task. Let me also congratulate John Key and Bill English on their success and say how much I have enjoyed—already—working with John Key, particularly in negotiating ACT’s supply and confidence agreement with National.
I want to thank the people of Epsom for putting their trust and their vote with me. I will continue to work hard each and every day to be the best MP that I can be for Epsom.
I want to thank the loyal ACT workers who have worked for many, many years to hold our party together, to build our support, and to deliver a better New Zealand. On election night we increased our vote to go from two MPs to five MPs. I think it is fantastic to have Heather Roy back, and to have Heather Roy as a Minister. I am so pleased that Sir Roger Douglas is back with us in Parliament. I am proud that we have John Boscawen, who led such a fantastic campaign against the Electoral Finance Act. If he had been a bit more successful, maybe the police would not be investigating me for my yellow jacket, but hopefully we can deal with that. I am also so pleased to have with us David Garrett, who will work to make New Zealand a safer country for everyone, which is something we all want.
On election night 2008, clearly, New Zealanders voted for a change. They voted for an end to the nanny State, to the idea of politicians and bureaucrats telling us what we can do, when we can do it, and how we can do it, to the extent of making our showers dribbly and telling us what light bulbs we can have. I believe they also voted for an end to the politics of envy. They wanted an economy that was growing, and a tax system that rewards success rather than punishes it. John Key did an amazing job of putting together in 8 days the support that he has for his Government in this Parliament. That was unprecedented, and I have to say that if his ability at doing that is anything to go by, John Key is going to make a fine Prime Minister.
For our part, we concentrated on the big picture. The ACT Party is not a party that is there just to get a few extra policemen or extra spending on this or that—what we were concerned about was all of New Zealand. We saw, and we continue to see, the key task to be building a stronger economy. That is why we have in the agreement the commitment to catching and matching Australia in the income stakes by 2025. That is a big, ambitious goal. We have set that goal in our agreement with the new Government. We realise that it is not enough to just set the goal, we actually have to measure it and adjust our policies on the basis of our achievement. To achieve that parity would require a lift in productivity of 3 percent a year. That does not mean Kiwis working harder. In fact, as we increase productivity, we can afford to work less. What it does mean is working smarter, with more.
We have in the agreement the establishment of an advisory group to advise the Government and measure our performance annually on that goal. We are proud of that. It was made possible only by John Key’s commitment to the relationship, and by the shared vision and philosophy that National and the ACT Party have. Indeed, if members saw the piece on the news last night about a poor family living in a garage, they would realise that our economy is underperforming and the costs of housing are too high. The answer to that is not for the Government to spend more money, it is actually to build a stronger economy, and get the costs of building and renting a house under control.
We achieved other successes with National on behalf of New Zealand. The first was to get ACT’s “three strikes and you’re out” policy to a select committee for consideration. I heard other parties pooh-pooh that legislation, but those parties need to answer the question of what is wrong with having a law on the statute book that would see 78 New Zealanders who were murdered—viciously cut down—still alive today. What is wrong with such a law? Do those parties value innocent lives so poorly that they would rather let their ideological blinkers say that law does not work?
Our review of the emissions trading scheme has come up for discussion here. It is very clear that ACT’s position is that we should not have an emissions trading scheme. National campaigned on keeping one. We managed to negotiate, in the best interests of the country, a proper review of New Zealand’s response at a high level. I have to say it would have been a lot better if the previous Government had done that at the start, rather than never doing it. I see those members of the previous Government continue to say they are in favour of diversity, but anyone who disagrees with them has to be shut down and shut out, and we cannot have the proper debate.
We also have a commitment to reviews on spending, and the medium-term goal of reducing the top rate of tax to 30 cents. It is clear to us and to New Zealanders that over the last 10 years spending has got out of control. We are pleased that we have a commitment to send ACT’s Taxpayer Rights Bill to a committee. We are pleased that we have a new position of Minister for Regulatory Reform, a commitment to look at the Regulatory Responsibility Bill, and, indeed, to look at a productivity commission in New Zealand.
We are pleased about the taskforce on the Resource Management Act, because even if one was a committed greenie one would have to say that that Act is disappointing. It is certainly disappointing for the frustrations that it causes over silly things. I think everyone should agree in the House that we can do better. On education, I say that I look forward to working with the National Party, the Māori Party, the Green Party, and the Labour Party on an inter-party working group looking at what is wrong with having greater choice and diversity in education, and why we have such a monolithic, one-size-fits-all view on education.
But, most important, on election night the people voted for a change. With John Key and the National Party, with the support of Peter Dunne and the United Party, with Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples and the Māori Party, and the ACT Party, change will be delivered. Thank you.
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES (Co-Leader—Māori Party) : Tēnā tātou. The Māori Party stands to congratulate the Hon Dr Lockwood Smith on his election to the prestigious role of Speaker of the House of Representatives. I would also like to acknowledge the magnificent job done by the past Prime Minister Helen Clark over the last 9 years, and her achievements over that period.
In his first words to the House as Speaker-Elect, Dr Lockwood Smith drew our attention to those who have taken the call of duty offshore—the place names are up here on the Chamber walls—and fought in the battlefields of North Africa, Egypt, Greece, Crete, Europe, and Asia; those who died in honour for Aotearoa. We remember them, and we think of that proverb: “He toa taumata rau”—bravery has many resting places. Bravery is found in the actions of a man who fled persecution in Afghanistan, who survived a disaster at sea, and who sought refuge in New Zealand to build a home for himself and his five children. But bravery is also found in the homes of some 16,000 New Zealanders who are the new unemployed, in the homes of 230,000 children who did not benefit from the in-work tax credit of Working for Families, and in the homes of the 23 percent of Māori children who are living in poverty.
It is a brave nation that tackles the crime of poverty, the injustice of inequality, and the offence of violence. We in the Māori Party are proud to rise to the challenge, to be part of the solution, and to take up the opportunity to contribute to a better future for all. The Speech from the Throne is a road map ahead to guide us to that future.
The Māori Party is honoured to be taking a turn in the driving seat, advancing our kaupapa, articulating a strong and independent Māori voice in the best interests of the entire nation. We are profoundly aware that just because someone is in the driving seat, that person does not have to run people over. That is why we welcome the opening statement in the Relationship and Confidence and Supply Agreement between the National Party and the Māori Party. It is a statement that recognises that mana maintenance and enhancement are important for both parties to the agreement.
The word “mana” is variously described as leadership, influence, prestige, power, authority, and control—many things. This type of arrangement did not need the numbers to happen. The arrangement was one that transcended voting power to recognise the importance of acting in accordance with Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Treaty of Waitangi. The Māori Party has spoken freely of its desire to act as an instrument for the Treaty partner—not as the Treaty partner but as the link to bring the voices of the signatory to Te Tiriti o Waitangi into this Chamber. I make that distinction. The opportunity given in this arrangement is an opportunity that was endorsed by our people in the fast, full, and frank consultations schedule that we entered into some 3 weeks ago.
Hon Pete Hodgson: How many turned up?
Hon Dr PITA SHARPLES: My smallest meeting was 50. My largest was 250. We must ensure that we all use this time wisely.
The Māori Party brings to the arrangement with National a clear focus on Te Tiriti o Waitangi, whānau ora, and investing in the economy to lead the productivity on a grander scale. We will be working hard to ensure that in all developments the impact on our people is clearly recognised. Our ministerial responsibilities in health, education, justice, social development, Māori affairs, and the community and voluntary sector emphasise our priorities for the next term. We seek significant outcomes in whānau ora through working to eliminate poverty, advocating for social justice, and advancing Māori social, cultural, economic, and community development in the best interests of the entire nation.
None of us can ignore the warning given in the Speech from the Throne that we are entering into very difficult times that have not been seen since the days of the Great Depression. But there are other tensions that we must address. Treasury’s advice to the Minister of Finance described these medium-term economic challenges as globalisation, international integration, technological change, natural resource pressures, demographic changes, and increasing expectations on the State. As Minister of Māori Affairs, my concern will be to ensure that there are policy levers in place that advance Māori economic development in areas such as aquaculture, energy, forestry, tourism, Māori land, and agribusiness.
Māori agribusiness on its own already contributes over $1 billion to our economy, with another 450,000 hectares of Māori land to be further developed. Michael Ahie, chief executive of Shirlaws has challenged us to: “release the economic potential of Māori, particularly on the land, where most of the assets are held.” He described this as the Māori edge, the resilience and flexibility with an inherent, acquired trading ability. We might call this mana Māori, derived from the strength of our relationship with the land, and the legacy of our ancestors who adapted to, and adapted, the natural resources handed down to them, to sustain themselves and future generations. Such factors—mana—are not only of value in Māori commercial and economic development. We must stay focused on the pivotal goal of whānau well-being and cultural resilience.
We are pleased to hear the Speech from the Throne give weight to vulnerable New Zealanders, to those who work hard but who may suffer redundancy or add to the unemployment queues. This House must take as a starting point the fact that 22 percent of young Māori aged between 15 and 19 are currently unemployed, compared with the national average of 14 percent. We must hold that 22 percent in our vision; we must look into their faces and make a promise to their future that they will not be left behind. Our future growth and prosperity depends on them.
My colleague Tariana Turia will be dedicating her efforts across health and social services towards achieving whānau ora. We know that the solutions are far more likely to be successful when owned and determined by the people themselves. We know, too, that Māori cannot afford to be spectators. We must actively engage with all our whānau to revitalise our time-honoured traditions that have held us in good stead until now. We must live by kaupapa that enable us to restore good health and well-being to all of us.
The Speech from the Throne identified a host of areas in which the Māori Party has an active interest. We will be participating in the review of the emissions trading scheme to ensure that we encourage environmentally responsible choices, including encouraging the biggest emitters to change the way they do business. We have a strong interest in ensuring the relevant sections of the Resource Management Act that recognise and provide for the relationships of Māori and our culture and traditions with our ancestral lands, water, sites, wāhi tapu, and other taonga are taken into account in giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.
Tangata whenua have a vital interest in water—the rivers, the lakes, the springs—the mahinga kai that are an integral part of their tribal mana. We are delighted to hear that the Government will demonstrate fresh energy in resolving and achieving durable Treaty settlements, as well as having the courage to review the Foreshore and Seabed Act and to initiate a constitutional review to critically examine Māori electoral participation. We are all desperate to curb the so-called long tail of underachievement that stigmatises many of our schools, and in particular the underwhelming outcomes that have featured as an indictment on Māori education for far too long. As Associate Minister of Education and Minister of Māori Affairs I will be channelling considerable energy into the literacy and numeracy programmes that have proven to be so successful.
It is time to be brave on many fronts. The Māori Party is prepared to step up and do the work necessary to ensure that a strong and independent Māori voice is heard in every debate, on every issue, and in every home as we, as a nation, unite in our resolve to invest in a brighter future for all. Tēnā koe.
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Leader—Progressive) : I would like to begin by congratulating the Government on its achievement in winning the general election and the confidence and trust of many New Zealanders. The responsibility that the public has handed to it is enormous, and though I strongly oppose some of the plans it has made for New Zealand, as a loyal New Zealander, the Government has my very best wishes for success in its stewardship of the economy and our country.
I hope that its promises come true. National promised to make significant reductions in crime; it promised that New Zealanders would stop leaving New Zealand to live in other countries; it promised that our wages would equal or surpass the wages of Australians; it promised that it would radically cut taxes on ordinary working families, and that it would increase spending on all of our social services—all at the same time.
It promised that a National Government would not overtax New Zealanders with fiscal surpluses nor project deficits into the future, but it would, instead, berth the fiscal super-tanker precisely on a low-tax, high-spending button every single Budget. The Prime Minister, when in Opposition, travelled to many disadvantaged streets and promised that we would no longer have pockets of deprivation in our cities where some kids are left behind in poverty. He promised that all our children will be able to read and write, because the testing that National would introduce to the education system will make all the difference in the world. He promised us world-class infrastructure, the fastest broadband in the world, an end to disputes over water allocation, instant resource management decisions, and new motorways where today there are only broken dirt tracks.
The Prime Minister spent the election campaign travelling to many marginal seats, and making solemn pledges of unbudgeted “think big” spend-ups totalling hundreds of millions of dollars. In all those towns and cities they are now waiting patiently, expecting him to deliver. I wish the Government good luck with all of that.
There was not a single item on that list that I would not wish the Government to succeed in delivering. As promises go, they are slightly more ambitious than I would have been, however. I would have recommended that promising absolutely everything to absolutely everybody risked disappointing someone, sooner or later. However, I will be the first to congratulate the Government if it pulls off a significant portion of its stunningly immodest programme.
The Government will start its term this week with a swag of legislation. It will not send those new laws to select committees, however, as democracy and good government would require. This is a Government whose members campaigned in Opposition against what they said then was the end of democracy. In Opposition, those members promised a fresh new standard of good government, and the Government’s very first act was to throw out those democratic standards it supported in Opposition, such as select committee hearings on its proposals.
The Government is entitled, of course, to put in place the policy it has a mandate for. But the Government makes a mistake if it thinks every bill it drafts will be perfect at the outset. Many Governments have done that. So it has started with a defining combination of mediocrity, weakness, and arrogance. It is too weak to hold public hearings on its laws, too insecure in the strength of its ideas to truly believe that they will hold up under scrutiny, too arrogant to admit its ideas could be improved, and too mediocre to deliver on the promises it has made to New Zealand.
Already in the short month since the election, we have seen one example of a weak, arrogant Government in action—its reaction to the potential Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) budget blowout. I have listened to Ministers bumble through this issue, with growing amazement that anyone could enter Government so little prepared for its challenges. Confronted with a change in the actuarial calculations facing ACC, Ministers panicked. This is an inexperienced Government that has yet to understand that officials will come to it every month, perhaps every week, and even on most days, demanding more money for something they say faces a crisis. This week it is ACC; next week it will be the hospital system. Will they panic again when district health boards report their annual deficits? They had been reporting them to the Government I was a member of for 9 years.
Let me make some predictions. Some defence and information technology projects will suddenly develop cost overruns worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some State-owned enterprises will reduce their profit projections from rosy to deficit levels. They will demand huge capital injections to remain viable. The new biosecurity scare will need tens of millions of dollars to eradicate or control something. The previous Government had plenty of ammunition fired at it by the National Party about that. Every week other mundane crises will come before Cabinet Ministers. Ministers need to be strong enough to deal with them. But what did we get in this ACC episode? Did we get strength? Did we get sophistication? Did we get wisdom that says, yes, ACC actuarial calculations go up and down? No, we saw the sort of arrogance that is already beginning to look like the colour of this Government. There was a massive overreaction. We are to have a ministerial inquiry. We will be having a lot of those if every time there is an overrun in someone’s budget, there is a ministerial inquiry.
The Government needs to toughen up, even at this stage. It needs to toughen up because it cannot have a free lunch, with the policy it has promised. It will have to make some hard choices. In 1999 the previous Government was elected with a Crown net debt of over 20 percent of GDP. By last year, the net debt had gone. We had positive net financial assets. This National Government wants to blow that again. Treasury will not report its current set of forecasts for Crown debt until after the Government’s new laws have been passed under urgency. In other words, the Government will spend the money before it knows whether it has it. That is what National Governments seem to me to always do. They take from the future, for the short-term advantage of today.
National’s rushed increase in overseas borrowing is not to strengthen our economy. National is not going to fund more research and development. It is going to cut those things. National is not increasing borrowing to invest in higher education standards, and it is not increasing borrowing to promote exports as a proportion of GDP. Actually, I did not hear the words “exports”, “science”, or “agriculture” mentioned once in the Speech from the Throne today. That is extraordinary for a National Government. The Government is not increasing overseas borrowing to strengthen our regions or to create more jobs. The increased borrowing is to fund additional personal tax cuts. Those cuts are more generous to the most affluent, rather than to those people who are the most vulnerable in a global economic downturn.
Someone in the future will have to pay for National’s irresponsibility. When we borrow from overseas to splurge on tax cuts for people who need them the least, someone has to pay for it. Someone in the future will pay more tax. Someone in the future will have his or her services cut. The problem is being compounded because National is reducing the ability of Kiwis to create their own nest eggs. The party that used to say it was all about personal responsibility is slashing KiwiSaver to pieces.
At the very same time that we need most to strengthen New Zealand for the future, the National Government is doing the opposite. It is a mediocre Government with mediocre ideas about how we will meet the challenges that New Zealand faces. How mediocre is it? Well, the very first bill the Government announced today is a tax bill. At the centre of that bill is the largest-ever increase in tax on businesses in New Zealand. The very first thing this Government has done is increase tax on innovation. The very first thing it has done is to say that we have too much innovation in New Zealand and we are going to kill it off by taxing it. If I had more time, I would expand on that, but there will be time during the course of the next week or two.
In conclusion, I say that there is one area where we have much to do, and it is poverty, both here in New Zealand and globally. I heard the Government’s pledges, in the Speech from the Throne, to end the cycle of disadvantage. That is a worthy ambition, and I support it. But I listened hard to how it will do it. The cupboard of ideas is as bare as the food cupboards in some of our most disadvantaged homes. I have watched with fascination the speed with which Governments around the world have been able to act to bail out huge companies and banks when they have been in desperate need. They have shown that, with goodwill, action is possible to help in an emergency. Governments can act to help when it is needed.
That leaves a question for all of us in this Parliament. If that can be done for big companies and big banks in times of crisis, why cannot we do it for people in crisis? Why cannot we do it for the hundreds of millions of people who do not have enough food to eat, who do not have clean water, and who cannot have basic medicine? Why cannot we bail them out? New Zealand should be a voice for them internationally, and a voice of compelling new ideas that are emerging internationally to solve these global problems. At a time when the global crisis threatens to deepen global poverty and darken even further the skies over the lives of the world’s least privileged, we should be saying that if the world could offer crisis help to the strong, then we must also offer emergency bail-out to the weakest and the poorest.
I call on our Government to work constructively across party lines to see how New Zealand can use our almost unique position in the world as an efficient food producer to make a difference. I will pledge my support for any efforts the Government makes to do just that.
Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future) : Mr Speaker, may I begin by congratulating you on your elevation to the Speaker’s Chair, and also the Deputy Speaker and the Assistant Speakers on their appointments. I wish them success in the roles they are about to undertake. I want also to pay my respects to our Governor-General, the Hon Anand Satyanand, and his wife Susan, for the tremendous job they do as our vice-regal representatives. They bring a dignity and a style to the role that befits the modern face of New Zealand. I look forward to the day in this House when we can pay tribute to our head of State as the head of the republic of New Zealand, not still as a British dominion and colony. But that is for another time.
I also acknowledge the contributions made by the mover and the seconder of this debate. What struck me during their speeches was not just their experiences and their tone, but the fact that they represented very much a new face of New Zealand. All of us in this House and across this country will have to come to grips with what that new face means and what its implications are for the development of policy, for the delivery of government, and for the expectations of our people over not just this 3 years, but 3 years and beyond, many times after that.
I express my congratulations to the Prime Minister on his election victory, the stunning nature of it, the way in which he has smoothly and seamlessly put his Government together so quickly afterwards, the confidence that he brings to the role, and the assurance that demonstrates that he will be a Prime Minister who will make New Zealanders feel proud of their country once more.
I also want to join with other members in paying a huge tribute to the previous Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Helen Clark. I think she has served New Zealand with extraordinary capacity, passion, and commitment over the last 9 years. She is widely regarded in international circles, and she has a huge contribution still to make. I for one fully support her in whatever her next endeavour might be, because she has been a great and loyal servant of this country.
I also pay tribute to the previous Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, with whom it was my privilege to work closely over a number of years. I just want to say to Dr Cullen that although we had some disagreements at times, we actually had a very robust relationship—a good working relationship—and I value what we were able to achieve during those years. I wish him well for whatever the future may bring for him, in that regard.
I also acknowledge the Hon Phil Goff as the new Leader of the Opposition. It has been said many times that he “fits big shoes”, and all those sorts of clichés. I just simply know that Phil will bring a commitment and a dedication to the role, and one will never be left wondering where he stands on issues. I wish him well in whatever he carries forward.
The election that just passed was not a particularly good one for United Future. I would be the first to acknowledge that. I lament the loss of my colleague Judy Turner, and I acknowledge those members who have said kind things to me about her performance over the last little while, but I am confident there is a future for her.
There is also a future for a party like United Future, with a strong and explicit commitment to all of the freedoms and the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to promoting human dignity and freedom, to respecting the role of parents and families—a party that says that the National Party is too conservative but the Labour Party is too socialistic, and all the others are simply too dogmatic or extreme, and a party that is fundamentally committed to making New Zealand the best multicultural nation it can be. While that flame flickers, I will be here to fan it.
In the agreement that United Future concluded with the Government after the election, there are a number of significant points I want to go over, because they are beneficial for a wide category of New Zealanders. I am delighted that our policy of income splitting for parents with dependent children, which we were able to advance during the course of the previous Government, will now be given legislative form and sent to a select committee where the whole issue of household income and the way in which second-income earners in households, in particular, are acknowledged by the tax system, can be carefully and thoroughly examined. I look forward to that legislation in about 18 months’ time.
I am also pleased that we were able to conclude in our agreement greater use of the private sector in the provision of surgery, particularly elective surgery, to help reduce those waiting lists in the public sector. It is simply crazy to have large waiting lists in the public sector while we have surplus private sector surgical capacity. I will be looking forward to working with the Minister of Health, and others, on a formula by which that balance can be redressed and that surgery provided in a more even way to the vast number of New Zealanders who currently miss out. I would like to see us, ultimately, moving to the objective of guaranteeing everyone over the age of 65, as a first instance, access to elective surgery within 6 months of diagnosis. I think that is an attainable objective. I think it is one that would give people a sense of hope and a sense of commitment that is currently lacking.
I am pleased also that we will be advancing further the work on Medicines New Zealand, the National Medicines Strategy, which was developed during the previous term of Government to give us a better balance between cost of medicines, access to medicines, and the supply of those medicines to the New Zealanders who need them. In particular, there are some immediate priorities that I want to focus on, in that regard. The first is the issue of funding for Pharmac. At the moment, Pharmac’s funding is determined in a very ad hoc manner—basically what is left over in the health budget after everyone else has had their say.
Hon David Cunliffe: That member knows better; he was an Associate Minister.
Hon PETER DUNNE: One of the things that Medicines New Zealand focuses on is moving to a principles-based approach to funding, which is something Mr Cunliffe will know all about, because he agreed with it when he was Minister of Health. In fact, that will be delivered during the course of this year and it will ensure that we have a better balance in how funding is determined, so that issues such as the Herceptin argument, for argument’s sake, will not have to be addressed in the way that they are at the moment.
Looking forward, beyond that, there is the issue of the much greater involvement of the pharmacy sector in the provision of medicines and pharmaceutical care, and work is already under way in terms of discussions with the Pharmacy Council, the Pharmacy Guild, and others, about how that better integration can occur. I am looking forward to significant progress in that area over the next term of Parliament.
I want to say a word about the issue of public-private partnerships, and I am pleased that in the agreement the question of Transmission Gully has been addressed and its eligibility for a public-private partnership acknowledged. I am not at all convinced that that is necessarily the way to go, at this stage, but I am convinced—and I see that Mr Hughes nods and agrees with me—that the highway needs to be built and that we need to make some decisions during these 3 years about the way in which this is funded and the way in which that development occurs, and I see a public-private partnership as a potential option. I am pleased that, in the agreement, we have provision for that occurring, and I am certain that, as a result of discussions that are about to get under way, we will see progress and we will see some certainty delivered on what has been a festering sore in Wellington’s transport regime for many, many years.
I want to make a few comments about the issue of the emissions trading scheme. What is important is that the review that is being proposed to be carried out by a select committee is seen as being a way in which we ensure that this country meets its responsibilities in a proper way. This is not the time to try to reinvent the wheel in terms of some of the science. I certainly do not see it as appropriate or competent for a select committee to try to second-guess a lot of the international evidence that has been available, but it is a time to look at whether the regime that has been put in place for New Zealand is, in fact, a workable one, is, in fact, constructive, and does not impose too many costs on New Zealanders and New Zealand households. I believe that the review that has been announced, and the terms of reference that have been foreshadowed, will enable a select committee to come to grips with that work in a relatively coherent and quick way, and to recommend a way forward, so that this country puts in place a regime that is sustainable in the environmental sense, sustainable in the economic sense, and sustainable in the political sense as well.
This Parliament has a very large workload ahead of it, and I say to the new members who have joined us that they are coming to Parliament at an extraordinarily challenging time in our country’s history, because, as I indicated in response to the speeches from the mover and the seconder of the debate, we are seeing a new tide here, and I am sure it will be reflected in the speeches of other members. A new generation, effectively, has come to this House and they expect their requirements to be met. They expect their interests in terms of the broad sweep of policy to be addressed, and I am sure that within the various parties they will be urging all of their leaderships to reflect their interests to a much greater extent. So I think the next 3 years will be exciting. I think they will be challenging, I think they will be stimulating, and, overall, I think they will be positive for New Zealand—and it will be the members of this House who will contribute to making that so.
|Ayes 68||New Zealand National 57; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.|
|Noes 52||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 8; Progressive 1.|
|Motion agreed to.|
Business of the House
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : As agreed in the Business Committee last night, I seek leave for the time allocated by the Business Committee to maiden statements to be deducted from the 19 hours of the Address in Reply debate.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : I move, That urgency be accorded the introduction and passing of Government bills dealing with taxation, employment relations, bail, education, and sentencing; Government notices of motion Nos 4 and 5; and any maiden statements to be made at times determined by the Business Committee.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Labour) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I raise just two issues. Firstly, the Business Committee was informed yesterday that there would be separate bills for taxation and for KiwiSaver—both of them to be taken through all stages. I assume from that motion that since yesterday evening at 5.30, the Government has amalgamated those two bills into one. The second point I would raise is that there was a general reference to bills dealing with certain subjects. Do I take from that that some of those bills have yet to be drafted, and therefore their titles are not yet known?
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE (Leader of the House) : The indication from me yesterday was that there would be two bills; there now is just the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill. There also is the Employment Relations Amendment Bill. Matters relating to changes to KiwiSaver are contained in both those bills; there is no separate bill. Further to that, the Opposition has been supplied with a list of the names of the bills that the Government intends to advance. The motion does not need to specify them, as the honourable member well knows.
|Ayes 63||New Zealand National 57; ACT New Zealand 5; United Future 1.|
|Noes 52||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 8; Progressive 1.|
|Abstentions 5||Māori Party 5.|
|Motion agreed to.|
Points of Order
Question Time—Leave to Hold in Urgency
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Labour) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek leave for question time to be held according to the standard rules at 2 p.m. tomorrow and at 2 p.m. on Thursday, so that the Ministers of the new Government can be held to account, as they should be.
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought. Is there any objection? There is objection.
Reinstatement of Business
Allocation of 2008/09 financial reviews
Other matters referred to committees
In doing so I simply say that it has become somewhat of a tradition in this House that most—
Dr Michael Cullen: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The notice of motion is laid out on the Order Paper. I know that it is somewhat lengthy, but it should actually be read in full, because that is the motion that is being moved.
Mr SPEAKER: I think the point of order is a little unnecessary at this stage, Dr Cullen.
Hon GERRY BROWNLEE: The Hon Dr Michael Cullen does make an interesting point, and that is that a significant amount of business is being carried over from the last Parliament to this one. Of course, a significant amount of business was carried over between the end of the Parliament before that, in 2005, and the start of the new Parliament in 2005. Interestingly, a number of the bills from that pre-2005 Parliament are still here, and, even more interestingly, some bills that were around in the 1999-2002 Parliament are also still here. It will not surprise people who know how this place works that at least one bill was here pre-1999.
The convention has always been that most business does carry over, so that the new Parliament can make its own determination. For the last two Parliaments there has actually been a Standing Order that requires that, rather than this debate being held at the end of a Parliament’s life, at the beginning of a Parliament’s life consideration is given to what should be carried over. There is also a provision that means that new Ministers who do not wish to progress a bill have an opportunity to ensure that the bill takes no further steps. None the less, bills in progress do get dealt with by the House, which is right and proper.
We consider that three things on the previous Order Paper should not progress. Two of those were interim reports on bills that have already been passed, so they were totally superfluous, and the other was the Education Amendment Bill (No 3), which we have decided not to progress, and therefore it has been omitted from the notice of motion. By and large, the Government is happy for this body of work to carry over, but I signal that Ministers will be terminating much of the business mentioned here, when they start to deal with the Order Paper in a more formal manner.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Labour) : Could I begin by congratulating the Leader of the House on successfully moving a motion and speaking to it, which in the short life of this Parliament is a first for the Leader of the House. That is not to say, of course, that there were not a great deal of disasters along the way, because we have seen already in the motion on urgency that the Government has had to change its mind—it has bills not yet drafted, with titles not yet known and content yet unknown, which are still being negotiated between the members of the various factions within the National Party.
I want to say also that, with the Standing Orders having changed some little time ago, this is an important motion because it is constitutionally important. It is the incoming Parliament that determines whether to pick up the business of the outgoing Parliament, not the outgoing Parliament that tries to determine for the incoming Parliament what is done. I have no objection to the matters that have been deleted from the outgoing Order Paper. The Leader of the House is quite correct that those matters do not need to be concluded any longer.
But could I ask a few questions, perhaps—and some of my colleagues might want to take part in this debate. We did offer the Government the opportunity to have the motion taken before lunch time. There would have been one very brief speech, if that, on it and it could have been passed. But for some reason the Government decided to move this motion in urgency, as the first and most important item of business in urgency on the first real sitting day of the Parliament of this new National - ACT - Māori Party Government. This particular motion could have flown through the House at about 12.15 this afternoon with nobody even noticing. But that, of course, is the result of the rather strange way the National Party manages its business.
First of all, could I ask, since the member who moved this motion asked me so many times about the Conservation (Protection of Trout as a Non-commercial Species) Amendment Bill, what the Government’s position is. Will it be passing this bill? For week after week, month after month, I dangled this bill in front of the National Party Opposition. Almost every week those members bit. The little fly-fisher Dr Cullen pulled out his little rod and Mr Brownlee bit almost every week, and I thought: “My God, how am I going to hang on to this rod with Mr Brownlee on the other end of it?” Luckily he lacked the energy and very quickly let go again, and he went into a sort of a quiescent state. So I would like to know whether the Government will be passing the Conservation (Protection of Trout as a Non-commercial Species) Bill.
The second question is: what is the intention of the National Party’s coalition partners the Māori Party in respect of the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill—a bill that the Māori Party consistently avoided putting to the House week after week, month after month as a member’s bill, even though it was the sole reason for the formation of that party? But when it came to the Order Paper, it ran away, so far inland, indeed, that it had to scale mountains to avoid the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill. I am told that Mrs Turia was on television on Sunday saying that Māori own the foreshore and seabed—news, I am sure, to Mr Colin King. I can see his intelligent mien showing a great deal of interest in that prospect. It will be very interesting for him in the Kaikōura electorate explaining to people that Māori own the foreshore and seabed, particularly because the relevant Māori disagree about where the boundary is between the various iwi within his particular electorate. That is going to cause a particular problem in that regard.
Hon Tariana Turia: Oh, how shocking.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: It is absolutely true, I have to tell the member, that there is a conflict over the rohe between Ngāi Tahu and the north of the South Island iwi in terms of those boundaries.
Indeed, what the member was reported as saying was that the only real issue now is what the conditions of access for Pākehā to the foreshore and seabed will be. So is that what this review is going to be about, and will this bill be passed in this form with only relatively minor amendments? Is that what the brave National Party, after all its talk on the Foreshore and Seabed Act, is going to do, or will it allow the processes that I have secured for Ngāti Porou—a very significant recognition of rights—to proceed? Mr Flavell thinks they are not significant recognitions of rights. If they are more than what is in that bill, there will have to be something like freehold ownership, and if that is what National is saying the outcome of this review will be, it is going to be a very, very short-term Government indeed because that is not what middle New Zealand thought it was getting when it voted for a change of Government but no change in policy.
Finally, there is the Education (National Standards of Literacy and Numeracy) Amendment Bill. What is going to happen to that? We are told that as long as parents are told by teachers how little Johnny is doing, even if little Johnny is failing—all they have to do is tell them little Johnny is failing—productivity is going to magically rise in the New Zealand economy within a matter of months, or at least in a very few number of years. So this bill is going to be crucial, and I want to know whether this bill is going to be passed in the form moved by Mrs Tolley, who, at one of her first briefings with officials, had to ask them: “What does a vice-chancellor do?” She asked this of education officials. She thought it had something to do with vice. She thought the vice-chancellor was the moral supervisor within a university. She asked what he or she does. We want to know whether this bill is going to be passed, and, if so, in what form. On that note we are happy to support the motion.
METIRIA TUREI (Musterer—Green) : I just want to make a short call on the motion concerning the reinstatement of business. In particular I want to raise an issue referred to by Mr Cullen—that is, one of the pieces of legislation tabled in the House after the House rose. It did not have its first reading. It was the Ngā Rohe Moana o Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Porou Bill—a bill that concerns the negotiations that arise out of the foreshore and seabed legislation between the Crown and Ngāti Porou. A number of other iwi are intrinsically affected by this legislation. One is Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti. I remember them coming to the Fisheries and Other Sea-related Legislation Committee in 2004 where they talked about their mana moana being taken over by Ngāti Porou, how they were struggling to get any recognition of their mana whenua and their mana moana in negotiations with Ngāti Porou in the settlement legislation that was already under way, and how they were being locked out of any right to have a say over what was their rohe and their mana.
That was one of the major issues that continued throughout the debate on the foreshore and seabed legislation: that those smaller iwi, those smaller hapū, would continue to be locked out because the Government would negotiate with the big boys, like Ngāti Porou, and continue to lock out those smaller ones. Those larger iwi who were negotiating were themselves not respecting the rohe of these smaller and less well-resourced iwi and hapū. Therefore, the situation was going to be exacerbated not only by the foreshore and seabed legislation, which would strip away their rights to take action in the court, but also because of the ability for those big iwi to negotiate directly with the Government. We have seen that exact result. That exactly has played out, as was feared at the time by those smaller iwi.
This legislation should be taken out of the reinstatement motion. It should not be continued with in this way, at least until after the review is done. The Green Party believes that it should be taken out because it is unfair legislation, and that the foreshore and seabed legislation should be repealed. What should be here instead is the repeal of that legislation. It should also be taken out, at least until the review is completed, because there is no concept yet as to what is likely to happen as a result of the review.
I have made no secret about my extreme disappointment that the Māori Party failed to get the foreshore and seabed legislation repealed as part of its negotiations, and that it took ministerial positions in those negotiations, even though it failed to get the foreshore and seabed legislation repealed. I would have thought that that would be an absolute priority, and I am very disappointed it was not, as are the 4,000-odd people who wrote submissions on that legislation and who wanted it repealed, the 2,000 who wanted to be heard by the select committee but could not be heard, the majority of the 200 who were able to be heard—and Tariana Turia was on that select committee; she heard those submissions and knows the strength of that—and, as we saw, the 20,000 people at the front of Parliament on the day that that legislation was passed. So it is extremely disappointing that that has not happened so that this issue would itself be resolved, because then this legislation would not be necessary.
I do not believe that the foreshore and seabed legislation gives hapū or iwi any greater right to negotiate with Government. The settlement legislation is there to make that happen. But in this case, given that there is an apparent review of that legislation, there still remains the remote possibility of its being repealed. The continuance of this legislation is inappropriate at this time, and we continue to support those small iwi directly affected by this bill and all other iwi and other Māori who support the repeal of the foreshore legislation and the elimination of the confiscation of property rights that the foreshore and seabed legislation was.
Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) : I would like to address a couple of questions to the Leader of the House in respect of the Government motion under debate. In particular, I would like to ask why the Government has decided to carry forward the Education (Establishment of Universities) Amendment Bill, which, as I recall, is in the name of a former New Zealand First member of Parliament. I recall that it was voted against by all members of the Education and Science Committee, except for the New Zealand First member of that committee. Noting that New Zealand First is no longer able to be with us, it seems to me that there is not really a case for proceeding with that bill.
I note also that the purpose of the legislation is to allow for the possibility of there being more than eight vice-chancellors in the country. I let the Minister of Education know—because the language is, of course, a little confusing—that “chancellor” actually means Minister of Finance, the “pro-chancellor” is the private sector helper who is to come in to do a line by line analysis of all of the budget of the Government, the “vice-chancellor” is the Associate Minister of Finance, and the “pro vice-chancellor” is the little private sector helper whom the Associate Minister of Finance may want to bring in. I hope that makes it clearer.
Over the page I notice that the Serious Fraud Office (Abolition and Transitional Provisions) Bill has been carried forward. Only 2 hours ago the Prime Minister of the land told us that the Serious Fraud Office would continue, yet the Serious Fraud Office abolition bill has been allowed to go forward. Why would the Government take that decision? I note the Leader of the House’s comments that Ministers may take a fresh look at legislation and decide not to proceed with it on a case by case basis. But here is a case that is very straightforward, because the Prime Minister has told this House that there will be a Serious Fraud Office and therefore to abolish it will not be necessary. But we have a Serious Fraud Office abolition bill in front of us, which tells me that either the Government did not look very carefully at this list or the Prime Minister of the land got it wrong. I would like some assistance on that, if the Leader of the House can help.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I am very rarely speechless on occasions like this—very, very rarely speechless. But the idea that a Government, when serious questions have been asked—some of them are very serious questions—has not made a single attempt to reply and has then moved the closure motion, is a continuation of the ineptness that we have seen right from the beginning, especially from the Leader of the House. We have seen today the opportunity to pass this motion in, probably, 30 seconds, and I think the Opposition could have got some criticism for not properly scrutinising it in the way that is occurring now, but we certainly want to do that over the next 2 or 3 hours as we work our way through it.
Some bills in this motion are particularly important, and I am very surprised that the Government is continuing them in their current form. Without wanting to bring you into the debate, Mr Speaker, I would have thought that the Government would be better briefed in the immigration area—around the Immigration Bill and its intentions with regard to that—and that it would be able to give us a clear steer on its views. That is something National was previously able to do, with a very able spokesperson in the immigration area, but the new Minister is clearly, clearly not up to speed and prepared to comment at this stage.
As for the Electoral Finance Amendment Bill, I thought the Government had signalled an intention to introduce legislation in this area. I think the Prime Minister, somewhere in his speech, or maybe the Speech from the Throne—both of them were rambling, badly written affairs, but on one of those two occasions—indicated the intention of the Government to bring in electoral finance repeal legislation. So why are we being asked here by Mr Brownlee to put on the Order Paper something that he knows is not going to progress, that he does not want to progress, and on which there would not have been any opposition from this side of the House if it had been left out of the list? If it had been left out, no one on this side of the House would have been too concerned about that.
I am interested in the position of the member for Taupō. Does the new member for Taupō support the Conservation (Protection of Trout as a Non-commercial Species) Amendment Bill? Yes or no—we will take a yes or no answer. The member would not lose her virginity by saying yes or no; she would still be a maiden. No, the member for Taupō has no view on the trout issue, and the Taupō newspapers will be very interested in that. The Taupō newspapers will be very interested in the fact that that member, who is somewhat of a fraud given the photos she put on her billboards, has no view on that issue at all.
There are some other issues—for example, the Franklin District Council (Contribution to Funding of Museums) Amendment Bill. I understand there is a new member in that area as well, and we would like to be told that member’s opinion. We would like to know the member’s opinion as to—[Interruption]—No, no, it is Franklin, I say to Mr Brownlee, not Frankton. There is a difference between the two places: one is in Auckland, and one is in Hamilton. Mr Brownlee may be a Christchurch member, but there is no reason for him to be ignorant in that area.
There are two bills relating to marine reserves—very, very contentious legislation. My friend the previous Minister of Conservation found that marine reserves were not the easiest thing to progress; they required a lot of consultation and a lot of discussion. But are these the bills that the Government wants to be put on the Order Paper to progress? Mr Brownlee says they are, but my understanding is that quite a few of his fellow Ministers do not think they should be there at all, and that they certainly think the time of the House should not be spent on debating this motion, which is something that could have been sorted out before the House went into urgency.
The Protected Disclosures Amendment Bill addresses the question of whistleblowers. Again it is important legislation and will be controversial, with a lot of debate. But is that the stuff that is core to the Government’s business and vital in terms of its 100-day agenda, or even something that needs to be on its agenda at all?
Craig Foss: There’s a lot of whistleblowing going on now.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: There is a lot of whistleblowing. We had the whistle being blown on the Minister of Education, who asked what a vice-chancellor was. For goodness’ sake—a Minister of Education who asked what a vice-chancellor did! It is just unbelievable that the Governor-General would give a warrant to a person who is so ignorant in that area. I would have thought that was a case where the Governor-General could send the advice back for another opinion. I am sure former Ministers of Education—there are at least three of us in this corner, and four of us if we count the tertiary education area—would never have contemplated having to ask a question like that, which is very relevant, of course, to the bill that was formerly in the name of Mr Donnelly and that no one appears to want other than Mr Brownlee, who, under urgency that is heading into days and nights, wants us to debate whether the Education (Establishment of Universities of Technology) Amendment Bill should be something that we focus on.
There are some other important bills. I am sure my friend Mr Cosgrove will be very interested in the view of the National Party on the Building Amendment Bill (No 2). The members of that party made a lot of noise about it when they were in Opposition. It would be good to hear Rodney Hide say whether he thinks it is a proper vehicle for his reforms in that regulatory area.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: The problem is, they’re all dwangs and no studs.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: I think the comment Dr Cullen has made, which will get into the record, is something I could not possibly say, but I am sure that he will. Do we have an opinion from Rodney Hide or Tariana Turia on these matters? They are Ministers, they should be on top of these issues, and they are clearly not. Clearly those people were consulted. I am absolutely certain that if there had been proper consultation on this issue with the Māori Party, this list would be considerably different. And that is just another example of the Māori Party being stepped on, walked over—
Hon Nanaia Mahuta: Mana-enhancing.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Well, it is hardly mana-enhancing not to be consulted in this area—not mana-enhancing, at all. But then, a lot of things that this Government is proposing to do with the support of the Māori Party are designed to hurt Māori—to hurt people at the bottom of the heap. Those members were just so keen to get into Government, and so keen to get the big cars to drive them back and forth between Wellington and Wanganui that they did not care what they were signing up to. The generous approach would be to say they did not know what they were signing up to. The less generous approach would be to say they knew what they were signing up to, but did not care.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) : This motion is important because it proposes to carry over a wide range of bills that were before the House, some of which are extremely important. The Opposition would like clarification from the Government on several of them that appear to have been impinged upon by matters announced in the Speech from the Throne.
One bill—and I will relate it to another part of the motion on the Order Paper—is the Climate Change (Transport Funding) Bill. We seek clarification as to whether that bill will proceed, given the proposal to set up a separate select committee to revisit, I understand—contrary to the motion that appears on the Order Paper—the science of climate change in order to establish whether it is really happening. Commentators around the world will be waiting with bated breath to hear the conclusions that Mr Hide and others come to about whether the planet is actually warming. But, pending that outcome, will that bill proceed? It is a very important question.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Amendment Bill is a bill integrally related to the proposal of the previous Government, along with our colleagues from the Green Party, to invest a billion dollars in improving the energy efficiency of our homes. Very interestingly, the Business Council for Sustainable Development analysed that idea and said there was about a 4:1 return on that investment. If I recall correctly, around $4.3 billion of return could be accounted for from the $1 billion of investment in improving the thermal dynamics of our homes. So will that bill proceed?
The Immigration Bill, Mr Speaker, is one that I know you have supported in your past roles and know well, and, as you know, it is very important legislation that commands bipartisan support and has been in gestation for some while. We hope that that bill will proceed apace.
Of some interest to me in my former role was the Public Health Bill. It is landmark legislation, a once-in-30-years rewrite, and it has been the subject of extensive consultation. It really is important that the new Government comes clean here. There was much debate on the non-communicable diseases provisions and the ability, over time and subject to due process, to set standards for non-communicable diseases and, in particular, to target the obesity epidemic, which is rife in our communities. What is the new Government going to do with that bill? Will it carry it over? Is it going to amend it? What price has been paid for the support of the fast-food and big-sugar industries?
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: Gerry will know about that.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: I am sure Gerry will know about that.
There is the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill. When National was in Opposition it was responsible for one of the greatest double-crosses in my time in Parliament. Having at one point indicated that it would support a trans-Tasman approach to the regulation of therapeutic goods, it finally said that it would not. So we have a bill in the motion on the Order Paper whose future needs clarifying. The existing legislative base is some 30 years old, and is in dire need of an update. If that bill is not to proceed, what, then, will happen?
There is the Regulatory Improvement Bill. This really gives a very clear picture to the public of the very busy agenda that was being run by the former Government. It was a surprise to some to hear in the Speech from the Throne that regulatory improvement, or cutting unnecessary red tape, is somehow a new idea that just arose in a road to Damascus sort of way. I acknowledge the work of the member for Epsom in co-sponsoring and contributing to that bill. It was worked out across this House and contains many provisions that all members would agree to. There are times when we need strong regulations, but there is no point in having regulation for its own sake, and unnecessary red tape would be opposed by members across the House. If this bill is to proceed, what, then, was the content of the Speech from the Throne on this issue about?
The Minimum Wage and Remuneration Amendment Bill will be of interest to working New Zealanders. In the previous decade of a National-led Government, the minimum wage was raised by some 70c. That was about 7c per annum. It was an insult to working New Zealanders and far less than the rate of inflation. Will the Government carry over this latest increase to the minimum wage? One hopes that it will, because we know that, even on $12.75 an hour, many New Zealanders are struggling. Will Government members continue the record of the current Opposition in continuing to increase minimum wages by a substantial margin, year on year? These are important questions to which New Zealanders deserve answers.
I could go on, but I will not, in view of the time. I think this small sample of the bills that are in the motion on the Order Paper is sufficient—[Interruption]—well, it will be rather a long conclusion, then—to show New Zealanders that life did not start on 8 November, and that good ideas in Government did not just come down as manna from heaven, albeit they have been put forward this morning by our highly esteemed Governor-General. Much good work was going on, which brings us to the point that the platform that the current Government inherited from the outgoing Government was one of the soundest in the Western World. I particularly wish to acknowledge the outgoing Minister of Finance, the Hon Dr Michael Cullen, who left New Zealand with roughly half the gross debt per GDP that we had inherited from the previous Government—from 35 percent down to 17 percent. Of course, that will come up after the dinner break, when we consider the scurrilous taxation bill. What exactly are the projections for that debt going forward? Will they go all the way back to 35 percent, where they were the last time we hauled those members’ collective butts out of the mire? That is what New Zealanders want to know. Will those members turbocharge debt levels? Will it be mana-enhancing for New Zealanders to be so far in the shtook? That is what we want to know, ladies and gentlemen.
What will happen to this minimum wage bill, what will happen to this taxation bill, and how can the new Government, in the face of this comprehensive panoply of work, create the impression that somehow all things begin anew, that somehow all good things came along on the campaign trail, like some road to Damascus experience? What did those members promise New Zealanders? They promised New Zealanders that every good thing in the motion on the Order Paper will continue; that everything from the previous Government that they want will remain in place, just with a new face hopping from cloud to cloud, as I believe some people described it. Well, it will not take long for New Zealanders to realise that that hope is a faint one. It will not take long for the sheep’s clothing to slip from the wolf—I would say about 5 minutes after the dinner break. It will not take long before we get the first hints of the true agenda. Was it not interesting that the Speech from the Throne did not mention the 90-day sacking bill?
Hon Darren Hughes: Why was that?
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE: Why was that bill not front and centre? Why was the issue of employment relations not on the list? I am sure that Rodney Hide proposed it. Why did it get dropped from the Speech from the Throne? I ask why it is not on the 100-day agenda, but somehow it has occupied the first day of business in this House. Is it a case of favours to be repaid? Is it constituencies to be recognised? Is it a forewarning of things to come from this Government?
Ladies and gentlemen, I commend the motion on the Order Paper to public attention for two reasons. It shows the solid programme of work that this incoming Government has inherited. It shows the strong state of the economy, which has been able to fund the minimum wage increase, the business tax reductions, and the investment in home rebuilding and insulation—all of those good things.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
TE URUROA FLAVELL (Whip—Māori Party : Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker, ā, kia ora tātou e te Whare. Ko tāku noa ake he tautoko i ngā mihi ki a koe e te Kaihautū o te Whare. I mihia koe e tō mātou kaihautū a Pita Sharples, ko tāku he tautoko ake. Ka mutu, ka huri ngā whakaaro ki te hunga kua ngaro. Waiho rātou kia moe. Anei te hunga ora e hui nei i tēnei pō, tēnā koutou, kia ora tatou. Ko tāku paku wāhanga nei e te Kaihautū he mihi ki ngā mema Māori hou kua tae mai ki roto i ngā pakitara o te Whare. Ka mihi ki ngā maunga, ka mihi ki ngā awa. Kai mahue ake tētahi me pēnei rawa te kōrero, e te iti, e te rahi kua tau mai, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
- [An interpretation in English was given to the House.]
[Greetings to you, Mr Speaker, and to us, the House. I want to simply endorse the tributes to you, Mr Speaker of the House. Our leader Dr Pita Sharples acknowledged you, and I support it. Further to that, thoughts turn to those who have passed away. Let them rest there. Gathered here tonight are the living, so greetings to you and to us. A small part for me is to acknowledge the presence of new Māori members within the confines of the House. I acknowledge the mountains and rivers. In case someone is left out, let me say to the meek and the mighty who have arrived here, greetings to you, greetings to you, and greetings to you all.]
The Māori Party is pleased to support Government motion No. 4 to reinstate an enormous amount of work—a huge programme of legislation to be carried over to this Parliament. We are genuinely pleased that the work programme is crammed full of important issues to occupy this House of Representatives. There are a number of significant matters that we seek to advance and progress during this term of Parliament.
Within the Māori Affairs portfolio there are four Māori Affairs bills for consideration. The bills of immediate priority are the Māori Trustee Amendment Bill and the Whakarewarewa and Roto-a-Tamaheke Vesting Bill. These are both areas that are of great interest to my constituency. The Māori Trustee Amendment Bill is designed with the aim of creating a stand-alone entity, and we think that is a pretty good idea. However, there is still more work to be done. The other priority is the intention to progress the legislation vesting Whakarewarewa Valley land and the Roto-a-Tamaheke reserve. These are issues of considerable interest to Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao and Ngāti Whakaue tribal nations of the Te Arawa confederation.
We are obviously keen to advance the legislation to progress the Port Nicholson Block (Taranaki Whānui ki Te Upoko o Te Ika) Claims Settlement Bill. There is considerable interest, of course, in progressing the Waikato-Tainui Raupatu Claims (Waikato River) Settlement Bill, particularly in view of the interest this legislation will have in regard to the wider issues of water ownership and claims by various iwi. To that end, I acknowledge Dr Cullen for his work as the previous Minister in charge of Treaty of Waitangi Negotiations and the work he did in advancing claims.
I want to make particular reference to the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill and the Nga Rohe Moana o Nga Hapu o Ngati Porou Bill. We came under attack from the Opposition prior to the dinner break, so I want to make a few things clear. The Foreshore and Seabed Act of 2004—if members did not know—remains a festering sore in the hearts and minds of tangata whenua throughout the motu. Indeed, it was the issue on which our party was established, and the issue on which 40,000 New Zealanders marched to Parliament only to be greeted by a Government that treated these people with an element of disdain. It is an issue that still continues to motivate our artists and our writers to speak out about the injustice dealt to Māori on that day; injustices that kapahaka teams in competition throughout the country still immortalise on stage; injustices that our young generation is speaking out about in the Ngā Manu Kōrero Speech Competitions to those who will listen. E hoa mā, do not worry, it is not going away.
Some members of the Opposition seem to want to chuckle and criticise this notion of mana enhancement. For the benefit of members, mana enhancement is recognising that another party has a valid point of view—a different point of view. Māori Marsden described three broad interpretations of the notion of mana: mana atua, God-given power; mana tūpuna, power from the ancestors; and mana tāngata, the authority derived from personal attributes. When mana whenua took the initiative to hīkoi in opposition to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill, there was much at stake. The least that the Government could have done was to listen. Instead, and unfortunately to their shame, their leader chose Shrek and the rest is history, as you know. That is not a concept of mana enhancement that the Māori Party wishes to be a part of.
I want to put on record that the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill is still, very much, significant legislation on the Order Paper. This bill is about a due process for Māori to verify ownership of the foreshore and seabed, the principal of equality before the law, and righting injustice. It is also about principle, leadership and property rights. It is a bill that arose out of a decision made on 20 June 2003, when the Labour Government announced that steps would be taken to ensure absolute Crown ownership of sea and land not privately owned. It claimed to do this in the interests of all New Zealanders, yet “New Zealanders” excluded tangata whenua. Our bill—the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill—provides us with the desperately needed space in our nation to truly open up the debate, to listen to each other, and to recreate equitable access to justice. Talking together is vital to our progress as a nation. Hearing our different views is the way forward in leading us to a better nation.
That, e hoa mā, is precisely what happened in negotiating the relationship in the confidence and supply arrangements; that is, a commitment to review the Foreshore and Seabed Act. As a previous speaker, Dr Cullen, made an allegation that the Māori Party had failed to progress the repeal bill in the last Parliament, I want to set the record straight. The Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill was selected for debate on 12 October 2006. Towards the end of 2006 my colleague Tariana Turia was invited to speak at an international conference on the day that the bill was scheduled to come up for its first reading. A request was made for leave to reschedule the bill at the next available appointment. That timeslot was never to appear. Each fortnight we would watch with amazing regularity as somehow our bill would slip further down the Order Paper, and who ran the Order Paper? The Labour Government. Who slowed the bill down? The Labour Government. One has to wonder why the control of graffiti in Manukau, the vesting of Lancaster Park in Christchurch, the Bishop Suter Art Gallery in Nelson and the Auckland Domain tennis courts were accorded greater importance than the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill, as the bill kept getting shafted to the bottom of the pile.
That is not to say by any means that these matters I just mentioned were not important. Every issue that comes to Parliament has a special relevance to its community, but our curiosity as a nation must surely be adjusted and we have to wonder why it is that the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill kept being relegated to low priority. In the light of this experience can I say how positive it has been to be invited to participate in a Government that has not been afraid to face the tough issues. Mana enhancement allows us to work together through differences, rather than shut the door. As part of working through differences, we welcome the opportunity to review the application of the legislation to ascertain whether it adequately maintains and enhances mana whenua. It is a rather dramatic turnaround of events that no one could have predicted; from continually sliding down the Order Paper and priorities in one Government to now working together with the Government to prepare agreed terms of reference for review by 28 February 2009. That is mana-enhancing.
If repeal is necessary, the Government will ensure that there is appropriate protection in place to ensure that all New Zealanders enjoy access to the foreshore and seabed through existing and potentially new legislation. That is mana-enhancing. I want to assure the member for the Greens Metiria Turei that the repeal of the Foreshore and Seabed Act is still a very firm fixture in an ongoing number of our priorities, and we look forward to their support as we work through the review. The policies of injustice do not fade away over time. They exist, they persist, and they remain until rectified, and we intend to follow that through.
We are seeking the goodwill and courage of Parliament to open up an opportunity for the nation to debate a fundamental issue of human rights, property rights, and access to justice. We celebrate the significant achievement we have made in negotiating an agreement in which the review of the Foreshore and Seabed Act is up front—an absolute priority. Our people have shown in the past 168 years that they respect the courts of this land, because they have taken, and continue to take, their land rights issues through this process. It is a sad day for this country when our property rights’ access to justice through due process is denied by Parliament. We have the chance to right the wrongs. We sincerely and genuinely believe that the agreement we have achieved with the National Government will allow us to succeed in the outcomes that we seek as a nation. Kia ora tātou.
Hon NANAIA MAHUTA (Labour—Hauraki-Waikato) : Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. I too take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment to your position in this House, and to congratulate your deputy and assistants. We look forward to your impartiality in navigating through the debates yet to come.
In taking a brief call on this carry-over motion in relation to the business of the House, I make a number of comments. Firstly, I am pleased that the carry-over motion includes a number of Treaty settlement bills, because I know that the progress made by Dr Michael Cullen in that regard has received widespread support amongst iwi throughout the country and that they would like to see those bills progressed. I am also pleased that that was referred to by Mr Key in the Speech from the Throne.
I also wish to highlight an area that may need some clarification by the Government in regard to the Waka Umanga (Māori Corporations) Bill. When that bill was going through the House, it was objected to by both National and the Māori Party. I think it would be of interest to a number of members in the House for those parties to clarify their position on the bill, because if the fund that was proposed to be set up as a development fund to aid and assist Māori, going forward, was to be clawed back by, perhaps, Māori affairs or by National Government interests for other purposes, that would be a matter of great interest to members, and certainly to members of the Opposition.
I will briefly allude to the comments made on the foreshore and seabed issue. We have learnt from minority parties that no amount of dancing on a pinhead can get away from the fact that the reason why the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill was deferred in the last Parliament was that it was at the request of the Māori Party. No amount of posturing in the House and setting some history to that matter can get away from the fact that at the request of the Māori Party, the bill was deferred. Indeed, the bill was not supported by National in Opposition at the time. It will be very interesting in Parliament, going forward, to see whether the Government intends to pick up that bill, or whether it intends to implement the Nga Rohe Moana o Nga Hapu o Ngati Porou Bill, which represents an agreement reached with iwi under the existing legislation aimed at protecting the interests and rights of iwi in the foreshore and seabed. Ngāti Porou too would be very interested if the Government intended to pull away from that. So although points have been made by the Māori Party that it is the independent voice of Māori in this House, that is contrary to the position put by iwi on that bill that they are the Treaty partner, that they see some gains in protecting and preserving their customary interests under the bill, and that the bill must go forward.
Let us also be really clear, as the Māori Party has made a point of stating its position on the bill, that it has the ability, under this ACT, National, and Māori Party agreement, to negotiate some support for its repeal bill if it believes so strongly in it. The Maori Party is obviously unable to do that, so no amount of posturing in the House can get away from the fact that there is no support for the repeal of the legislation.
We too would support a review of the foreshore and seabed legislation, because we see iwi taking up the opportunity to reach agreements that protect their customary rights under the existing legislation, and only time will tell whether the positive implementation of legislation in this area will assert rights for Māori. So although the Māori Party may dance on a pinhead on the issue of the foreshore and seabed, quite clearly it is up to this National Government to state where it is putting its stake in the sand on that issue. Thank you.
Hon DARREN HUGHES (Senior Whip—Labour) : The Government has chosen to put the reinstatement motion into the urgency motion, thereby inviting a much higher level of scrutiny by the Opposition parties than would ordinarily be the case on a procedural motion such as this. The point the Labour Party has been making is that we are looking for some rationale for how these bills have been chosen to be part of a reinstatement motion. I think it is important that we have the opportunity to go through that, and to make sure that the work of this Parliament, when it is set out by way of this motion, is appropriately done.
Before I get on to the substance of my contribution, I want to pick up on some of the points made by the Māori Party whip, Te Ururoa Flavell. He made a number of assertions—many of them derogatory towards the Labour Party—and I think it is important that we set the record straight. The most important thing about the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill that sits as part of this reinstatement motion is that it is a member’s bill in the name of the Hon Tariana Turia, who now of course is a National Government Minister—the bill will have to pass into the name of a non-member of the executive. But the bill is a member’s bill. It sat on the Order Paper as a members’ order of the day.
So when Te Ururoa Flavell said that the Labour Government controlled when that bill came up he was absolutely 100 percent wrong. Every second Wednesday the members’ orders of the day are entirely within the purview of members of the House. Every single bill that he mentioned as coming in above Tariana Turia’s bill came in as a members’ order of the day. It was not within the purview of the Government, and I think it was very unfair of him to imply that somehow Labour played a role in the priority given to the bill.
The reason the bill kept being pushed down the Order Paper was that the member in charge of the bill, the Hon Tariana Turia, continually deferred the bill from coming up for debate. Once the bill had been deferred, other bills went in front of it on that day, which is how parliamentary procedure works. Te Ururoa Flavell shakes his head, but the records of the Business Committee will show that the reason that bill was never voted for by the previous Parliament was that the Māori Party chose not to have it debated on the floor of the House.
I understand why the Māori Party chose that. The reason the Māori Party chose not to have the bill debated on the floor of the House and brought to a vote was that it knew it would have lost that vote. The reason it would have lost the vote is that John Key, when he became the Leader of the Opposition—
Hone Harawira: But you would have voted against it.
Hon DARREN HUGHES: —gave the Hon Pita Sharples and the Hon Tariana Turia the impression that as the new leader, after Don Brash had gone, he was prepared to support the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill. The Māori Party co-leaders acted on that premise, and it was not until the last minute, when John Key flip-flopped on that and refused to support the bill, that the Māori Party then decided to deny it.
I heard the member for Te Tai Tokerau, Hone Harawira, call out defiantly that Labour was going to vote against the bill, anyway. He misses one important point: Labour was a minority Government. If National had supported the Māori Party along with the Green Party, and if other parties like ACT had supported the repeal, it would have got the vote in the last Parliament. The reason the Foreshore and Seabed Act (Repeal) Bill was never passed was that the National Party double-dealt the Māori Party. That is why I wanted to raise that matter in rebuttal to Te Ururoa Flavell, because when he talks about the mana-enhancing agreement, let me be clear. The Labour Party believes that there can be mana-enhancing agreements, but we find it a little bit rich to be told about mana atua, mana tūpuna, and mana tāngata, and then be told that the evidence of this mana enhancement is to abstain from voting in Parliament. I find it hard to believe that it is a mana atua arrangement when one’s vote is to abstain behind the National Party, so let us not have that.
When that was going on, the National members were all in support of what Te Ururoa Flavell was saying. I called out earlier to the Attorney-General, the Hon Chris Finlayson, and I asked: “What about one standard of citizenship?”, because that used to be how most of the existing National MPs were elected. They were elected on the back of one standard of citizenship, which was an anti-Māori position. Chris Finlayson smiled and said: “That was ages ago.” Only 2 weeks with a ministerial warrant, and the National MPs have already forgotten why they are there.
But I want to come to the reinstatement motion, because a lot of bills have been chosen to go into this motion but we cannot see the rationale.
We were told today in the Speech from the Throne that the past 10 years was a decade of missed opportunities, yet everything on the Order Paper is going to be what the Labour-led Government was proposing in office. The National Government is picking up every single bill that Labour had, even though National has said it was a decade of missed opportunities—and that, of course, misses the point that every party policy on which it campaigned on November 8 was a Labour policy.
Let us go through some of the bills for which we are asking for a rationale from the Leader of the House and his key supporters sitting over there. The first is the Climate Change (Transport Funding) Bill. This bill does not need to be picked up by the Government, because the New Zealand Government is going to have a committee to decide whether climate change exists, and the whole world is going to stop and wait while the New Zealand Parliament, and the 3 percent ACT Party that is driving this, decides whether the world is going to learn whether there is global warming induced by humans. I cannot see why this bill is needed when the world is waiting for the bright lights of the National-led Government in New Zealand.
Then there is the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill. I cannot understand why the Government is picking this bill up, because we were always told that the Electoral Integrity Act was a terrible control mechanism by political parties. The only reason I can think that the Government is picking this up is that it does not believe it can hold all the members inside the National caucus during this term of Parliament. I believe that is why the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is getting a second wave of life out of the National Party. When we start to go through some of the disappointed people, we can understand why that might be. Tau Henare is in the House tonight purely to make sure the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is not picked up, because he is ready to walk. He is ready to make the big hīkoi over to the Māori Party, where he believes his enormous talents—self-described—will be recognised as a consequence of the Government formation. He will cross the floor tonight against this reinstatement motion to make sure the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is not picked up. I ask who else will not be in the caucus. Well, I see David Bennett in the House. Now, how David Bennett is not on the front bench—
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: Who?
Hon DARREN HUGHES: Members ask who, but that is very unfair. He is a very distinguished member who should have been included in the executive, because he made big promises about transport in the Waikato area. In fact, he got his figures wrong by $400 million, but that will not bother the Minister of Finance—he is constantly getting the numbers wrong in this respect. He should have been included, and I think the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Bill is aimed at him.
It is hard to believe that Allan Peachey was not included as a member of the executive. He wrote a book about education, and whether Anne Tolley has even read a book about education remains to be debated. Allan Peachey wrote one, and that shows that he may be looking for this bill. We want a rationale from Government members about why this should be. And the Government whips—I ask why the Government whips were not put into LTDs and driven around Wellington at the present time. They are constantly telling us what talented parliamentarians they are. I ask why they were left out of the executive. I think this bill is a control mechanism by the Government to try to make sure it can keep control of its parties. I want to know why that bill is being introduced.
I want to know why the Oaths Modernisation Bill is part of this reinstatement motion. We heard Hone Harawira’s oath that he authored yesterday, and I think this bill is being put in here to make sure that he can give effect to what he was saying in regard to his swearing in yesterday. There are other bills on which I want to know whether local members of Parliament have been consulted. I see the member of Parliament for Palmerston North in the Chamber tonight, my friend Iain Lees-Galloway. I ask whether he was consulted on the Palmerston North Showgrounds Act Repeal Bill. I suspect he was not consulted on this bill, and he is the person with the local knowledge to know whether the new Parliament should cover that.
Then there is the Public Health Bill. This is of enormous interest to the Government, because this is a bill that Jackie Blue—I believe—and Jo Goodhew raised all sorts of matters about in the last Parliament, because they were concerned about hairdressers. If I remember, that was the big issue for them before the election, and covered by the Public Health Bill. That was obviously a confidence motion for the Government in its caucus, and that should be covered by that point. I know that the Public Health Bill with regard to hairdressers will be of enormous interest to the Minister of Defence at the present time, because Dr Wayne Mapp is sporting a slightly different appearance than he had before the election. He may well want to take an interest in that provision; it could be the real issue he wants to take care of.
The Rail Network Bill is of enormous interest to the Labour Party, because of its commitment to public transport, and making sure that we get those issues and, particularly, the State-owned assets requirement of the rail network that we need to make sure New Zealand has a 21st century rail network. We have had no view from the National Government as to whether it is supporting KiwiRail. We have not heard a rationale for why that bill should be coming in. The previous Government was told by Bill English, now Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister, that if we bought the railways back, a National Government would immediately sell it. So we are waiting to see whether the “for sale” sign will go up now.
There are two other reports of select committees that I want to mention. The first is the report of the Guardians of New Zealand Superannuation—the Cullen fund. Of course, that was one of the missed opportunities of the decade—apparently! However, that report formed a key part of the Speech from the Throne today in terms of the economic stimulus that the Government was mentioning it wanted to undertake. Secondly, I am very surprised the Government has picked up the report of the Commerce Committee in respect of New Zealand Post Ltd, because that report mentions in glowing terms the contribution of Kiwibank to the New Zealand Post Group.
Now, Kiwibank is something that the Labour Party is very proud of having introduced, with Jim Anderton’s Progressive party, to make sure that there was a banking option for all New Zealanders. Not one single branch of any bank anywhere in New Zealand has closed since Kiwibank started up, because we have made sure that we have been able to put together real choice for New Zealanders in the banking system, and that is part of the report of the Commerce Committee. I want to know from the National Party why it is picking that up, because we want to see those issues debated fully before we get onto the work of the forty-ninth Parliament.
|Ayes 68||New Zealand National 57; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.|
|Noes 52||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 8; Progressive 1.|
|Motion agreed to.|
- Motion to reinstate business agreed to.
Hon RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Look, I realise that the Hon Shane Jones is still grieving for not turning off all of our showers, but I think you should send a very clear message—
Mr SPEAKER: The member will resume his seat. Points of order are meant to be terse and to do with order in this House. The member has not made it clear what the point of order is, and I am not sure his opening words had much to do with order. I will invite the honourable member to make it clear what his point of order is.
Hon RODNEY HIDE: I would like you to make it very clear to the Hon Shane Jones that we do not call out against another party when they are calling their vote, as happened. The votes are to be taken in silence, and certainly the sort of abuse that we heard from Shane Jones is totally unacceptable in this Parliament.
Mr SPEAKER: What the honourable member has just said in his point of order is of course correct. I did not hear what transpired. If the Hon Shane Jones said anything for which he should withdraw and apologise, I invite him to do so, but not having heard it, it is difficult for me to rule that he should do so.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Deputy Prime Minister) : I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it was less to do with whether it was unparliamentary—the language was not offensive in that way—I think the member is drawing attention to the fact that votes are taken in silence, and critical remarks shouted across the Chamber are not part of the voting procedure.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : It is a very basic point of order. You had ruled on the point of order, and therefore my question to you is whether you should have heard the Hon Bill English after you had ruled. That was disputing your ruling, and not a good way for the Government to start.
Mr SPEAKER: That is sufficient. I think the point that was originally raised by the Hon Rodney Hide was a perfectly valid point, even though I criticised the manner in which Mr Hide originally raised it, and it is an indisputable part of our Standing Orders that votes, when they are being taken by the Clerk, must be taken in silence. I ask all members to respect that Standing Order, and I am sure the Hon Shane Jones will do so in the future, as will all other members. I think we should leave the matter there.
Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance) : I move, That the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill be now read a first time. This is crucial legislation at a time when New Zealand has elected a new Government, the world economy is in turmoil, and New Zealand’s economic outlook is more uncertain than it has been for several decades. There has been an extensive debate in New Zealand about taxes, tax levels, tax rates, and tax cuts. What has been clear in election year is that, essentially, the argument for lower taxes has been won, and won to the extent that the former Government introduced its own tax-cut package.
This bill will outline the changes in income tax rates and thresholds. The new independent earner credit for low and middle income New Zealanders is aimed at people earning between $24,000 and $44,000. The bill also includes changes to KiwiSaver, which National campaigned on, to make KiwiSaver more affordable, fair, and more durable, and I will come back to that. The bill also includes the repeal of the research and development tax credit.
I want to deal with one issue regarding the fiscal cost of this package. In the 2008 Budget the previous Government outlined a set of tax cuts. This package, including the recent change to KiwiSaver that was announced today, is fiscally neutral compared with the 2008 Budget. The cost of extra tax cuts has been offset by the other changes that are included in this bill.
I want to pick out a couple of the features of the bill that will be important. The first is the independent earner tax credit. As anyone who has dealt with tax scales will know, lower income earners in New Zealand already pay quite a low rate of tax, and any shift in those low thresholds costs a lot, because a shift in a threshold that is $9,500 or $10,000 applies to taxpayers who earn $100,000 as much as it does to those who earn $20,000. The independent earner tax credit is a method by which individuals who earn lower incomes—that is, from about the minimum wage of about $24,000 to about $44,000—will receive an increment to their income equivalent to quite a significant shift in the tax thresholds, but in a way that targets the assistance to that group rather than passing it on to income earners at the high end of the income scale. About 630,000 people will qualify for this credit in the first year. It covers a group of people who, in 9 long and wasted years under Labour, received no tax reductions whatsoever, primarily because they did not have children. That is what happened in the last decade.
The independent earner tax credit will not be paid to people who are receiving benefits, pensions, Working for Families tax credits, or national superannuation. I would point out that as a result of the tax changes national superannuitants will have quite a significant uplift in their income, and it will take some time for that particular message to filter through.
The other significant change in this bill, apart from the tax cuts themselves, is related to KiwiSaver. It has been the view of the National Party that a long-term savings programme ought to have broad political support. It needs to be durable, it needs to be affordable, and it needs to be fair. The reality is that over the next 5 years or so, the fiscal capacity of the Government will be significantly less. KiwiSaver and its extensive range of subsidies were introduced when the Government was probably at the peak of the fiscal surpluses that it will see for maybe another decade, and certainly for the two decades before that. So those significant incentives were introduced at, probably, the highest point in Government finances that will be seen in a generation. It was National’s view that they may prove not to be sustainable, and I think events in the last 6 months have borne out that judgment.
So we have made some changes to KiwiSaver that preserve the incentives that are paid into the savers’ accounts and that make a number of other changes such as the abolition of the employer tax credit and the abolition of the member fee subsidy. The main change has been to reduce the minimum member contribution rate to 2 percent. We believe this will allow a good deal more New Zealanders to be able to stay in the scheme for a start when times are tough, and for many others to be able to enter the scheme because of the lower contribution rate. [Interruption] Well, Labour members had their chance in the election campaign; as far as I know they made no coherent case in respect of KiwiSaver, and that is one of the reasons they lost the election.
We are also abolishing the research and development tax credit. This is a decision that has been greeted with a little bit of commentary. The fact is that it was an expensive scheme that in our view was not well targeted, because many businesses that are already able to deduct 100 percent of their research and development expenditure were spending a great deal of time reclassifying existing expenditure so that they could get the deduction. [Interruption] I say to Dr Cullen that when he sees the mess that the previous Government has left in our fiscal track this will look like one of the more obvious and simpler decisions that the current Government will make. That is the backdrop against which this tax cut package ought to be seen.
The fact is that the fiscal outlook is showing at least a decade of ever-rising deficits and consistently rising public debt, and there is a number of reasons for that.
Hon Darren Hughes: So why cut taxes?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: So the Opposition is now against the stimulus package? Opposition members are against it. They will have to make up their minds, because this is part of National’s plan to get New Zealand through a recession and to lift our long-term economic prospects. The combination of the tax cuts that were passed by the previous Government, and these tax cuts, will over the next 2 years put about $7 billion into the economy. That will certainly help save some jobs, it will certainly help to create some more jobs to replace the thousands that are likely to be lost, and in combination with our plan to bring forward infrastructure, we believe we can protect New Zealanders from the sharpest edge of recession.
Despite this plan we cannot avoid the effects of recession, but we can make sure that our short-term decisions are consistent with the need to raise our economic prospects in the long term, and lower taxes certainly do that. This bill will help to put cash in peoples’ pockets when they need it, when they can make their own choices about their own money, instead of being told what to do by the Government as to how to spend every dollar they have. It will, in the longer term, improve incentives, productivity, investment, and job creation in the New Zealand economy. That is why this legislation has such widespread public support.
Hon Darren Hughes: Rubbish!
Hon BILL ENGLISH: It does. People want to see these tax cuts. Of course there is the challenge to the previous Government to now vote against its own policy, because this is a tax package that incorporates significant amounts of the previous Government’s policy. But we made a series of further decisions that take account of the reality of the economic outlook, because they are prudent and responsible but give New Zealanders the kind of hand-up they need when they face the most challenging economic outlook in a generation.
Hon DAVID CUNLIFFE (Labour—New Lynn) : Quite clearly the honeymoon is already over for those New Zealanders who thought they had voted for a kinder, gentler kind of National Government. This morning the Governor-General graciously read the Government’s agenda-setting Speech from the Throne. The Government’s overriding goal is to go for growth by turbocharging productivity, while at the same time protecting the most vulnerable! That, of course, reflected the lines recited by the National Party during the recent election campaign: “Vote for us—none of the good stuff will change, but you will all be better off.”
As a loyal Opposition we see our role as being to encourage that which is good for New Zealanders, and to oppose robustly that which is not. Today, on this first business day of this new House of the forty-ninth Parliament, New Zealand already has the opportunity to test whether National’s rhetoric matches its reality. Patently and sadly, it does not. Badly designed tax cuts benefit upper and middle-income earners, while the losers are low-income families. National is undermining KiwiSaver at a time when the world is facing an unprecedented credit squeeze. Go figure! While targeting productivity and, supposedly, innovation, National guts the research and development tax credit that has almost universal support by people who actually design things, build things, and export things. Go figure!
The problem with this bill is essentially twofold. Firstly, equity: who gets what? This is Robin Hood in reverse—taking from the poor to give to Bill English. But, perhaps even more important, it is design. There is no logical link between the measures contained in this rushed bill and the Government’s own self-described priorities. It will not work. It will not contribute to growth and productivity. It is the wrong tool at the wrong time, for the wrong problem.
What will it cost? National’s tax plan will cost about $12.3 billion, once we take into account the October tax cuts from Labour’s plan that have already been instituted over 5 years. It is about the entire health or education budgets. Of course it is partly offset by the $3.5 billion that is being sucked away from KiwiSaver, or the $1.5 billion from our innovative firms. But, even so, due to the Government’s self-confessed snafu around the contribution to KiwiSaver, it is not fiscally neutral. The extra $700 million has tipped it into the red.
That is despite Treasury’s advice that there is no problem to solve—that the level of fiscal stimulus in Labour’s earlier package was sufficient, given the level of borrowing and the international environment. It is timely, therefore, to consider Labour’s economic legacy to New Zealand: the longest postwar expansion; real incomes up a quarter after inflation, over the decade; gross Government debt cut in half, from 35 percent to 17 percent; net debt in surplus for the first time since Sir Julius Vogel borrowed to build the railway system in the first place; $14 billion contributed to the Cullen fund; inflation at moderate levels and falling, allowing an official cash rate cut of 1.5 percent last week; and huge investment in infrastructure, roading, and rail, around ten times that invested by the previous National Government. That is not to mention the buy-backs of corporate failure, like Air New Zealand and KiwiRail, or promoting a New Zealand - owned Kiwibank.
National knows that things do not look good internationally. Last week Bill English issued a press release to announce that 2009—shock, horror, probe!—would be “challenging”. Yesterday John Key took time away from directing money markets on where the exchange rate should be to say that the forecasts do not look great. But that has not stopped the Government from launching tax cuts that are badly designed and a profligate waste of money that will only build up debt by borrowing to fund household consumption, rather than contributing to the drivers of productivity, which the Government says it is espousing.
So how far into debt is this going to drive us? The answer is that we simply do not know. The Government has not yet published the forward debt track projections. The Government knows what they are. My bet is they will take us all the way back to what we inherited in 1999. I would be surprised if they do not clip 35 percent again. The decade of prudence under Labour was gone on the first day of the new Government’s profligacy.
So who gets what? What about the equity of this package? National’s tax plans state its true priorities. Rewarded are the highest paid, by getting the top marginal tax rate dropped from 39c to 37c in the dollar. But almost as important is the fact that someone on three quarters of a million gets $240 a week, whereas the average income earner gets about $2 a week. Even more important than that is the disadvantage to working families who are caught by the threshold changes that they do not get, which were in Labour’s package. By 2011 anyone earning from $14,000 to $20,000 will be paying 21c in the dollar under National, but they would have been paying 12.5c under Labour. Those are hard-working families who are not being compensated in any way in this package. They are the real New Zealanders who are bringing up kids, in a recession, and are worried about their jobs, but they are being hit by this tax package. It is Robin Hood in reverse—giving to the top income earners.
It is a scandal. But more important, it is the truth of what National stands for. Forget the election rhetoric, forget the flimflam. On the first business day of the House the real agenda has surfaced. I thought the Government would have had a more decent pause, but on the first business day we see what it is about.
Just to put into practical terms what this means for families, let us take under the Labour and National packages the two families who were mentioned in the Inland Revenue Department’s briefs. Under the Labour plan, Meg and Jack, who are both 35, have two kids. Jack earns $45,000 and Meg earns $20,000. By 11 April they would have been $85 a week better off. This is an average family with two kids. Under National, its poster couple Dave and Diane have three kids. They are earning $30,000 and $50,000, around the same, and are receiving Working for Families. They are $26 a week better off, or roughly $60 worse off than they would have been under Labour. These are official Inland Revenue Department figures.
So let us be really clear about who is getting what. Ordinary working families are not getting anything, and top income earners are. Why are we not surprised? Does it help the economy? I am afraid not. It is a huge spend-up that will do nothing to address the underlying drivers of growth and innovation. It does not boost productivity. It guts the research and development tax credit. It is no wonder the manufacturers and exporters associations say that that credit was essential to level the playing field with Australia. This is from a Government that criticised us for the fact that people were crossing the ditch. In its first day the Government has gutted the competitive advantage of our most innovative firms that employ more, export more, and earn more on average, and grow faster.
What is the sense in that? Will it boost savings or increase liquidity in the banking system? It will do quite the reverse. Stunning logic, is it not? When international banking is under threat and is having to give guarantees to get wholesale deposits into the system, the Government is undermining the best savings scheme ever designed in New Zealand’s history. Are we surprised? No, we are not surprised, because the last time we free-funded superannuation, Muldoon came and took it away in his first year in the House.
This is déjà vu, ladies and gentlemen. I hate to say: “We told you so.”, but we did tell you so. Unfortunately, we are all going to have to live with the consequences. It does not matter to us—we are happy to serve as Her Majesty’s loyal Opposition—but it sure as hell matters to New Zealand families who are struggling and worrying about their jobs and about the household budget. Those are the people most at risk from this ill-conceived, inequitable, hurried, wolf-in-sheep’s clothing, Robin Hood in reverse shambles of a tax plan.
Hon PETER DUNNE (Minister of Revenue) : From the time that the Business Tax Review announced in 2007 a cut in the corporate rate, effective from 1 April this year, to 30c in the dollar, it was inevitable that there would have to be substantial movement in the structure of the personal income tax scales. The measures that were contained in the Budget this year started us down that path.
The Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill does two things in that regard. Firstly, it takes us a step further along that path, by introducing a second set of changes with effect from 1 April next year; and, secondly, it also starts to address some of the issues raised in the briefing paper from the Inland Revenue Department, which noted that one of the consequences of the structure of our taxation system over the last few years had been, because of the high top marginal rate, an increasing tendency by high and upper middle income earners to seek to shelter their income through various devices, in order to limit their liability. It is important to see the types of changes that this bill makes to the personal income tax scales, because that starts the process of lessening the attractiveness to those income earners of the types of sheltering schemes that they have been involved in over the years. I say it starts the process, because it is by no means an end in itself.
In that regard, the objective is stated in the coalition agreement between the National Party and ACT that United Future’s long-term goal is a 30c in the dollar corporate rate, a 30c in the dollar trust rate, and a 30c in the dollar top personal rate. That has to be what we now aspire to, in order to completely remove the anomalies that are currently within our taxation system. At that point we would probably need to look to an intermediate rate of 10 percent, and a rate of 20 percent at lesser levels of income, to make a top rate of 30 percent work. But that objective is not inconsistent with the approach contained in this bill, and it has to be where our tax structure is headed in the long term. The issue is not just about the integrity of the system in New Zealand, and already we have seen the example of our system starting to lack integrity. It is becoming complicated; it is becoming a disincentive for people. But the reality of getting a flat top rate of 30 percent actually starts to make it a much more internationally competitive system. That has to be the goal that we work to.
The other part of this bill that is less attractive, and which I will not be supporting when it comes to a vote in the Committee stage, is Part 2, relating to the research and development tax credit. I think that the removal of that provision is a mistake, for all the sorts of reasons that I have heard various groups state. I think they are absolutely correct. It is important to note that the scheme actually took effect only from 1 April this year, so a massive claim against it is not likely until the end of the current revenue year, and that is actually protected by the provisions of this bill. So I do not see much point, long term, in the elimination of that scheme.
I also make the point that one of the incentives behind reducing our corporate tax rate, which, as I say, set off this process of taxation reform, was the need for competitiveness with Australia. One of the areas where Australia has a huge competitive advantage over New Zealand is the area of research and development. The tax credit that was introduced at least brought us to parity in that respect. In these days of a single trans-Tasman market and all of the initiatives that have been talked about in respect of that, I think it is a retrograde step to be getting rid of that credit at this stage. I think a far better step would be for all the Government’s research and development, innovation, and enterprise policies to be subject to a significant review, to make sure that they meet the objectives that have been set for them. But when we look at that matter alongside the changes being made to personal taxes, I think we see that the bill, overall, does deserve support.
This bill also brings in the confirmation of the annual tax rates for this year. It introduces the new independent earner rebate, and that deals with an issue that has been of concern for some time. It is available for those people who do not benefit from Working for Families or equivalent packages, but who see themselves as being in a disproportionately unfair position in respect of other taxpayers. It is the same sort of argument for single people that I might, in another forum, advance in respect of income splitting. There will be some complexities around the independent earner tax credit scheme, but I think they can be addressed, and we have had advice that that can be done adequately in the context of this bill.
The question of KiwiSaver is, I think, one that will be controversial in some areas, but I have never seen the changes that are being proposed as gutting the scheme or reducing its effectiveness. The fact that over 800,000 New Zealanders have already signed up for KiwiSaver, and the fact that compared with other saving schemes on the market at the moment, even in its revised form it still remains competitive and attractive, I think will ensure its future for a long time ahead. We are starting to see now the development of a voluntary savings culture in New Zealand—something we have sought to achieve for the last 30 years, without success. I do not see the changes in this bill, given the momentum that there is in place already, as detrimentally affecting that to any great extent. I think we will need to address in due course the issue of whether KiwiSaver at some point should be converted from the currently voluntary savings scheme into a compulsory scheme, but that is another debate, for another day. I do not see these changes as affecting that issue one way or the other.
This bill is timely. I think it is appropriate that it be passed before Christmas, so that the changes that it intends with regard to personal tax changes can take effect from 1 April next year. That would then give us a three-stage package—a four-stage package if we include the 1 October tax cuts this year—coming in on 1 April 2009, 1 April 2010, and 1 April 2011. But even at that point, when the top marginal rate has come down to only 37 percent, a further reform programme will still be needed to make more substantial change, in order to continue to ensure the robustness of our taxation system. As I said when the previous Government’s measures were introduced on Budget day this year, they were, in my view, a transitional step towards the type of change that I have spoken of. I see these changes tonight in a similar regard. They are good for New Zealanders. They will be welcomed by those who will benefit from them, and I am very happy to give them my support.
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Labour) : The Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill enacts the policy that the National Party released then tried to bury—in terms of the details—as fast as possible. National’s tracking polling would have shown exactly the same result as ours showed. The one point in the campaign when National Party support started to fall was straight after it released its tax policy, and that was because the details were so unpopular.
This policy is a tax increase for low-income earners and low-income families. It is a reduction, in terms of incentives, for many people. It is a destruction, in terms of savings, for many people. It is an undermining of private sector research and development. It is a policy for a dumber society, with lower growth, lower productivity, and marginally lower tax rates—and even those by not very much. It increases tax compared with the current law—not current policy, but the current law. It increases tax on all low-income earners earning between $14,000 and $24,000 a year. I hope ACT votes for those tax increases. It means second-income earners in families. It means all beneficiaries with some additional work income. It means all superannuitants with some additional income, whether from savings or from employment. They will all face higher taxes under this bill.
Secondly, this policy increases tax for all low-income families with children that earn up to $44,000 a year, and for many middle-income families that earn up to as much as $80,000 or more a year. Why? Because they do not qualify for the independent tax credit. The example that Mr Goff gave this afternoon is absolutely right: a two-income family on $55,000—one income of $33,000, one income of $22,000—will lose $14 a week, or $730 a year, compared with the current tax scales for the next 3 years, which have already been legislated for. Indeed, a family with a combined income of up to close to $90,000 a year may lose under this policy.
It reduces incentives. Economists tell us that what is important in terms of incentives is the marginal tax rate—not the average tax rate, but the marginal tax rate. I have never agreed with them completely. But what does this bill do? It increases the marginal tax rate for people on between $14,000 and $20,000 a year, and for people on between $20,000 and $42,500 a year, it lowers it by 1 percent. That is going to cause a mass outbreak of productivity increases across the country! For those on between $42,500 and $44,000, this bill lowers the marginal tax rate by 13 percent. Crafty Kiwi workers will strenuously work hard until they are on between $42,500 and $44,000, so that they get a 13 percent marginal lower tax rate; then they will suddenly stop working hard. It will have to be very carefully judged to achieve that kind of success. Those on between $44,000 and $70,000 have the same marginal tax rate, those on between $70,000 and $80,000 have a 4 percent higher marginal tax rate, and for those on $80,000 - plus it is 2 percent lower. Will Gerry Brownlee suddenly burst into a sweat, sprinting to work, because his tax rate goes down from 39 percent to 37 percent?
It is stupidly complex, with the new independent tax credit. Why? Because National members promised the average wage worker that it would be 50 bucks a week on top of—but then they said it would include—what Labour was promising, and the only way that they could do that and make it affordable was to invent a new, clumsy independent tax credit that was abated out. That daft thing will cost the best part of $10 million a year to administer. And who will do that? Bureaucrats—the very people whose numbers are going to be cut! Some bureaucrats somewhere will get chopped to pay for people to administer the independent tax credit.
What happens to KiwiSaver? Well, I tell Mr Dunne that this policy does gut that scheme. It cuts the employee contribution from 4 percent to 2 percent, and National has not budgeted for any increased uptake. National says that that cut will lead to more people taking up the scheme, but it has not budgeted for anybody taking it up. It does not believe that more people will take it up. Why? Because National members are also going to legislate to allow the employers to shift their 2 percent on to the employees. The employers will end up paying 4 percent to get 4 percent, instead of paying 4 percent to get 8 percent as they would have done under the current scheme.
But it is worse than that, because National is also lowering the cap on the employer superannuation contribution tax exemption, which I am sure Ms Bennett has never heard of. Contributions up to 4 percent are tax exempt, and that is the current KiwiSaver contribution rate by employers. It goes down to 2 percent. If employers choose to pay 4 percent, they will be taxed on the remaining 2 percent, and that will be a reduction of what goes into the employee’s account. Anybody in this House who is on the post-1993 member superannuation scheme knows about that particular aspect of the scheme. Instead of 4 percent, it becomes 3.4 percent, but, more than that, it is a direct incentive to employers to cut their contribution to 2 percent, if they are giving 4 percent at the present time.
The next point is what is going to happen to portability with Australia. We negotiated it on the basis that the two schemes were comparable. In Australia the employer pays 9 percent and the employee pays nothing. The employer pays 9 percent of a wage or salary into a scheme on behalf of the employee. Our scheme—”4 plus 4” plus the tax credit—equates to about the same level overall. It was on that basis that we were able to negotiate portability between the Australian mandatory scheme and KiwiSaver. Have Government members checked with the Australians? No, judging from the smiles on their faces. Are they checking that the Australians are happy to proceed with portability on the basis of a 9 percent scheme versus a 4 percent scheme? I think not. I do not think they will be. I think that portability is running out the window. It was a major policy to encourage high-value Australians in the professional and managerial areas to come here for a period of time, because they would not lose their Australian superannuation entitlements and the ability to contribute.
We have the abolition of the research and development tax credit—dumber companies. Who welcomed this policy? Briscoes, the well-known exporter, producer, manufacturer, and icon of New Zealand business! This is a policy—a bill—about consumption. If the member opposite wants to encourage consumption purely to stimulate the economy, then why has he got a new structural tax change, which he himself admits will lead to ever-increasing deficits being forecast into the future? He would have been better to follow something like the Māori Party policy, and, indeed, what the Australian Government has done, in terms of one-off payments to stimulate the economy in the short term.
He knows he is in a huge budgetary hole now with no way out. The Speech from the Throne today was simply his throwing in the towel. It basically said “Well, as long as we’re the Government there are going to be huge deficits. Somehow or other this policy will stimulate sustainable growth and growth in productivity.” It may stimulate consumption, but because the Government will be borrowing more and more, it will lead to a structural increase in New Zealand interest rates, which will be a cost upon New Zealand business. Companies that want to expand research and development will not be encouraged, and productivity will not grow. What is the National Government’s answer to all of this? A tax cut of a maximum of $15 a week for anybody on an ordinary income. That is all it is at its maximum—$15, the value of the famous block of cheese at the time of the Budget this year. Parents will be told by teachers that Johnny may be failing, and somehow that is meant to increase productivity in the New Zealand economy. On top of that, there are some minor changes or something or other to the Resource Management Act.
This is an economic programme? This is about a brighter future? No wonder Anne Tolley is the Minister of Education. She is the personification of the National Party’s brighter future. No wonder Paula Bennett is the Minister of Social Development and Employment, and no wonder poor Gerry Brownlee, whom I have already had to help hour after hour in this Parliament, is the Leader of the House. This policy is not about a brighter future. This is about an obsession with one issue and sacrificing everything else—savings, investment, research and development, incentives—on that one crucible, that one anvil of an obsession with trying to lower tax slightly at the margin. If that is an economic policy, God help us. This Government, we are told, is still in the honeymoon period; well, as far as I am concerned it is looking like nascent necrophilia over there, and I look forward to burying the body sometime in the next 3 years.
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green) : The Green Party believes that we in this country need to look at who we are taxing and why. Does our tax system really provide the incentive framework to encourage a civilised, fair, and sustainable society? Taxes are used both ways—they are revenue for important Government activities, but they also create economic signals that encourage some activities and discourage others. We in the Green Party generally believe in taxing the bad things, like pollution and waste, but not the good things, like people’s efforts at work. We also believe in progressive taxation. Those who can afford to pay should pay. We believe that that is a fundamental principle in a decent society.
The Green Party will be opposing this bill because we believe it makes our current tax system worse, not better, and I would like to explain a bit about the background to the Green Party’s approach to tax policy. We would like to shift some tax off wages and enterprise and make up the difference by taxing pollution and waste. New Zealand needs a tax shift. We need to tax incomes less and tax polluters more. This bill is not about an ecological tax shift, sadly.
We urgently need, for example, a resource levy on commercial water-use. If we want to use resources more efficiently, then resource levies make sense. This would reward those commercial water-users who use water well and put the heat on those who waste water. It would set up the right kind of incentive to use the resource efficiently and, in fact, increase productivity in the way we use natural resources—a word that was used often in the Speech from the Throne this morning. We think we have to use these kinds of tax signals to create market mechanisms to achieve environmental goals and economic goals.
Tax shifting takes taxes off incomes, which we support, but it puts them on to resource use. There has been a big growth in commercial water-use over the last decade, and there should be a resource levy around that. About three-quarters of fresh water is used for irrigation for intensive agriculture and about 10 percent is used by large industrial users. As a general rule, no price is paid for that. We are not proposing that there should be the privatising of water or tradable water rights, but there should be a charge. That is the kind of tax shifting that the Green Party subscribes to. If we want to use a public resource for commercial profit, then the public should be paid a rental on that.
A resource levy is not an extra tax. It is fiscally neutral, and we believe in a fiscally responsible approach to tax. It is not an approach to tax that cuts the money available to health and education; nor does it lead to more Government borrowing, as it seems National’s and Labour’s tax cuts inevitably will. We believe that a fiscally neutral approach is actually much more responsible. That is our approach to tax shifting.
Contrary to what is often said, New Zealand is not a high-tax country. It has tax rates that are below the OECD average, and there is not a huge pressing need right now, when we look at the international tax situation, to immediately cut New Zealand’s tax rates. There is a lot of talk in the regulatory impact assessment about the international situation, but internationally New Zealand does not do too badly in terms of taxes.
I would also like to say that tax gets a bad rap. Nobody likes paying taxes, yet, if we are honest we will say we all need and want the things that taxes pay for: decent hospitals, public schools, and the ability to look after the environment. These are the building blocks of a civilised, fair society. There is no shame in taxes. “Tax” should not always be seen as a bad word. Even though nobody wants to pay taxes, we all want what they deliver. In fact, we wonder whether the people of New Zealand really value a tax cut ahead of improving our schools, cutting our hospital waiting lists, and cleaning up our environment. We challenge any party that advocates a tax cut for the rich to first prove that our public services are adequately funded and provide a fair go for all Kiwis. The Green Party did not bribe its way back into Parliament off the back of tax cuts that our nation cannot afford.
Kiwis pay their tax in the expectation that it will be used to deliver a decent society. People out there want a society in which there is safe housing for all those who need it, but it costs money. We cannot keep making spending promises without telling people where we are going to get the money from. People want a society where their kids and other people’s kids get a chance at a decent education and where rivers are cleaned up so they are safe for swimming in. When people get sick they want a hospital with enough resources to provide them with a bed if they need it, doctors, nurses, and all the rest of the staff, and even bureaucrats—those evil bureaucrats who book the appointments, answer phones, and give doctors and nurses time so they can actually treat patients. That is why people pay taxes.
In general, cutting taxes means having less for spending. This Government has already announced a pretty expensive programme of spending, and it seems it is being added to all the time. We have to assume either that there will be cuts somewhere else, aimed perhaps at those who are least able to speak in their own defence, such as the poor, the old, the young or—or, perhaps, and/or—that our national debt will increase very significantly. That, of course, means that future generations will have to pay interest on whatever money we borrow today for our tax cuts. So if we borrow to pay for tax cuts today, the next generation will have to pay taxes to pay the interest on the debt we build up to pay for our tax cuts.
It is also true that many of our social services need more funding. Look at residential aged-care. Surely one of the marks of a civilised society is how we look after our vulnerable elderly when they can no longer fight so well for their own rights. I do not know that we can say we are a truly civilised nation unless we fund aged care properly. The horror stories that come out of our rest homes are too tragic and too unacceptable and should make one pause before suggesting that the first thing this country needs is a tax cut.
Do our vulnerable families need less support? Do those kids who get moved from crowded, damp household to crowded, damp household—sometimes deadly households—often having to change schools and having their education disrupted, need less support than the rest of us? I think that, actually, they need more. I think they deserve more. The challenge to this Parliament is to actually deliver more, and that costs money. Kids with asthma and glue ear from damp houses never get a chance to participate in the greatness this country has to offer.
When it comes to KiwiSaver, the Green Party has supported a policy that supports an increased level of savings, both to control inflation and to improve our balance of payments account, and also to strengthen investment in local communities. It was for that reason that we supported KiwiSaver. We had some doubts about KiwiSaver. KiwiSaver is far from perfect. We were dubious to some extent as to whether it would really increase overall savings or simply move some private savings into KiwiSaver, which would happen anyway. We were worried about the impact of KiwiSaver on Government savings due to the cost of funding the scheme. We were also worried that basically we were using taxes to subsidise inequality in retirement income between those who could save and those who could not afford to save and therefore never got any of the tax benefits.
None the less, in spite of our reservations about KiwiSaver it seemed a sensible approach to try to increase savings. We did want a 2 percent rate as an option, and, actually, we are pleased that the 2 percent rate is coming in. We are also pleased that the Government has ensured that low-income earners get the full $20 a week. But, overall, the problem with the bill is that it reduces incentives to save. So we do have tax shifting. We move taxes off income and put them on to savings. I am not sure that this is really a very wise long-term strategy for a nation with a chronic account deficit.
I also question whether this is really the best way to deliver an economic stimulus package. These tax cuts will either be spent or be saved. If they are spent a good proportion of them will be spent on imported goods—that is, we will borrow money from overseas in order to stimulate someone else’s economy, because we will be purchasing their goods. If the tax cuts are saved they will not have a stimulatory effect on the economy. It is not a very good way to stimulate.
Infrastructure spending makes a much better stimulus package, especially if it is infrastructure that can be built using local goods and services. Housing and home insulation are a much better option if we want to have an infrastructure spending programme to stimulate the economy. They can be sourced locally, so we do not, effectively, stimulate someone else’s economy. Sustainable infrastructure is a much better stimulus package. Public transport, sewerage schemes, trees on eroding land—there is so much more we could do.
I would like to mention that the Buy Kiwi Made campaign would make a significant impact on protecting Kiwis’ jobs. I would also like to touch on the regulatory impact assessment, which, according to the bill itself, is completely inadequate. The Government has made a great deal about regulatory impact assessments, so there is a tremendous hypocrisy in the fact that the first bill this Government introduces states that it has an inadequate regulatory impact assessment because of inadequate time.
I hope that the Government will bring up in much more detail the regulatory impact assessment as the bill goes through the House over the next day or so, so that it can stand by its election promise to make sure that all regulation it introduces has a proper impact assessment.
Hon Sir ROGER DOUGLAS (ACT) : ACT welcomes this Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill as a small step in the right direction. This bill is in marked contrast to what we saw from the Labour Government over the last 9 years—a Labour Government that refused to adjust the tax brackets or to index them. As a result of that we saw a marked increase in the average amount of tax paid by average wage earners, so much so that low-income workers did not receive a real increase in wages during those 9 years after taking tax into account.
This bill restores the tax threshold position of 10 years ago for those who are on 21c in the dollar or those who are on low to middle incomes. It does not restore the relative position of those on the 33c or 39c index. In other words, those on the higher income are still in a relatively poorer, or worse, position than they were 10 years ago. The arguments that have been put forward by the Labour speakers in relation to the bottom tax rate of 12.5c simply do not hold water. If we analyse the people who pay only 12.5c we find that around 90 percent of that group actually come from high-income families. They are the wives or the husbands of high-income earners. They are the children of high-income earners. What the Labour Government did in its tax legislation of last year was to encourage income splitting so high-income earners who had the capacity to do that said “Thank you very much Labour” and the poor suffered, and the low-income and disadvantaged paid for that.
A real negative of this bill, however, is its failure to flatten the tax scale and, thereby, its failure to gain the opportunity to promote growth in this country. But when we talk about tax we are really talking about Government expenditure because taxation, in the end, is all about expenditure. What a Government spends, a Government must take from the public to pay for that expenditure. If the Government takes $50 billion, it has to tax $50 billion. If it takes $100 billion, it needs to tax $100 billion. We need to recognise that, and we need to pay a lot more attention to it.
The Government is, in fact, no different in that respect from any household in New Zealand. It is therefore important and vital that any dollar the Government takes from taxpayers is spent effectively and that a dollar spent by a Government returns to the nation at least as much as it would have returned had it been left with individual New Zealanders. We know with absolute certainty that that did not occur under a Labour Government over the last 9 years. The fact is that over the past 9 years core Government expenditure increased by $18.2 billion, over and above inflation. This increased level of expenditure cost every New Zealander on average $1,000 per month or $12,000 a year.
I have listened to the speakers from Labour cry wolf about how they want to help the poor and the disadvantaged, but over the last 9 years they took $18.2 billion in extra taxation from average New Zealanders or $1,000 a month. The fact is that had we left that extra $1,000 a month with low-income families in particular, they would be a whole lot better off than they are at the moment. The fact is that Labour spent that extra tax, that extra $1,000 per family, on dubious programmes and failed social experiments that have not benefited New Zealand households by anywhere near the $1,000 a month it took from them. Labour would have been far better to leave the money with them. For families, that $1,000 per month represented books for children, meals in restaurants, carpets, clothes, and extra savings. For the economy it represented lost jobs in shops, factories, and service industries right across the country. That $1,000 that a Labour Government took from, on average, every household in New Zealand over the last 9 years was in large part redistributed via, as I said, dubious programmes. A large percentage was spent on extra bureaucrats and the bureaucracy. New Zealand’s living standards over the last 50 years have slipped from third to 38th and in no small part has that been because over the last 50 years much of the money that we have taken from individual New Zealanders has been largely wasted on poor programmes.
One of the things we need to do if we are to get through the recession we are in, and if we are to grow and to catch Australia over the next 20 years, is ensure that Government expenditure bears fruit and returns to the nation at least as much as it would have had the money remained with individuals. In these circumstances, it is a nonsense to pretend, as Labour speakers have, that reducing waste, for example, is somehow seeking heartless efficiency at the expense of equity. The fact is that waste consumes resources that would otherwise be available to improve equity levels throughout the community. The fact is that every dollar of waste—and we saw billions of dollars wasted by the previous Labour Government—that can be eliminated is a dollar that is available for another programme, in particular to help the disadvantaged, rather than there being a cost imposed on them.
So how should we mark this particular legislation? At best I believe it is a work in progress. Having said that, it is not bad, given that the Government has been in office only 1 month and the fact that it inherited a pretty damned awful fiscal situation. But the fact is that marginal tax rates in this country are too high, particularly for families. Although I support the aims of the Working for Families package, it was delivered in a terrible way and the marginal tax rates that it imposed are creating a situation where growth will not occur. We have too much wasteful private sector effort once again being devoted to devising ways around New Zealand tax laws. Mind you, the Labour Government in its last Budget helped the affluent to do that.
The system, I am afraid, is seen to be increasingly unfair. This particular legislation will help that but it will not overcome that problem. The tax scale is far too progressive, which is a disincentive for people to work harder and increase their income. If we are to create a structure for growth we will have to do a lot more than we are doing at the present time.
I will finish by saying that in a global economy New Zealand’s tax system needs to be as competitive as possible. If it is not, we will continue to slide as we did for the last 9 years under a Labour Government.
Hon PETE HODGSON (Labour—Dunedin North) : I was not going to take a call in this debate but a few things have occasioned me to. The first is that there has been a very long gap between National speakers; they are not showing up to defend this legislation and I am not sure why. That will not stop this Opposition laying out why we think this package is wrong, in the wrong time, and designed in the wrong way. The second reason I got to my feet is that I have just heard the speech from the ACT member Sir Roger Douglas, and that is a speech I have heard for 20 years. That is a speech I have heard for 20 years—where the member says that he cares for the low paid, and then votes to put up the taxes compared with what they would be in law already on our law books. This is a man who says he cares about the working classes, and when he was Minister of Finance and was followed on by Ruth Richardson this country saw the biggest rate of increase in inequality in the Western World. As measured by the Gini coefficient we became the second most unequal country in the world, behind the United States.
So when the member for the ACT Party gets up to say he is going to vote down more progressive legislation—as far as low-paid people are concerned—and vote for something that does low-paid people in the eye, and he is going to justify that by saying that low-paid people are actually very rich, and that they are part-time spouses of very rich people, then I think that that is a bewildered analysis and it needs to be laid to rest.
Generally speaking, people who receive small amounts of money are poor, and people who receive large amounts of money are not. That is roughly how it goes. No matter how many times over how many decades some sort of bewildered analysis says the opposite, it does not make it true.
I have another reason for getting to my feet, and that is that we have a global downturn coming, it would seem, and the question is how it will be distributed in this land. How will the downturn be distributed? Who will be taking it in the neck? Here is the beginning of the answer, and later this week we will have more of the answer. We will be going after the low paid. There will be a lower tax cut for the low paid under the National Government’s plan between now and 2011 than there would have been under the Labour Government’s plan that is already on the statute book; that is already in law. So we are about to strike down law this week that would give low-paid people a better deal, and high-paid people not such a good deal, and put in legislation this week that will give low-paid people a worse deal, and high-paid people like me a better deal—and that is wrong. It is wrong because it means that the distribution of the forthcoming recession will be meted unequally on those who can least afford to stand that decrease in their living standards.
But I have another reason for getting to my feet. This legislation removes the research and development tax credit that came into force on 1 April this year. It does not reduce it; it removes the research and development tax credit that came into force on 1 April this year—and that is really, really dumb. That is a very, very dumb thing to do.
Let us look at what the tax credit did. It said to folk that if they spent money on research and development attributable to the tax credit, they would receive a 15 percent tax credit, whether or not they were loss-making. If they were loss-making, the Inland Revenue Department would actually send them a cheque if they undertook research and development that qualified. The reasons the tax credit was put in place are several-fold. One reason, which the economic purists have to acknowledge, is that research and development is risky, and, therefore, having a 100 percent deductibility does not cut it. The second reason is that even if the research and development succeeds, it tends to be taken up by firms other than just the firm that undertook the research and development. In other words, it is not entirely appropriable to the firm that undertook the research and development.
That is the basic economic theory behind having a tax break for research and development. That is why nearly every Western nation, in some form or another, has some sort of contribution by the State to a research and development investment undertaken privately. That is why nearly every Western nation does that, and I am sad that the previous Government took so long to get a research and development tax credit in. We were opposed by Treasury; we were opposed by the Inland Revenue Department. Time and time again they came up with their view that the rest of the Western World had it wrong, and that somehow New Zealand had it right. Finally we prevailed, and I acknowledge the work of Dr Michael Cullen in that respect.
The tax credit goes to those businesses that, I assert, are more likely than businesses in general to pull us through this downturn. Let us look at companies that undertake research and development. They are more likely to be high-growth companies; not always, but as a group—there are about 3,000 of them—they are more likely to be fast-growing companies. As a group, they are nearly all involved in the real economy. We do not find appropriable research and development undertaken by money traders; we find it undertaken by people who are involved in information and communications technology, in engineering, in biotechnology, or in whatever it is to be.
We find that those people who work in companies that undertake research and development are more likely to be well paid. Do we not want a high-wage economy? And what is more, we find that companies that undertake research and development are much more likely to be exporters. So here we have it: a rapidly growing cohort of businesses, a cohort of businesses that is inclined to employ people at higher wages, and a cohort of businesses that is inclined to export. These businesses—and only these businesses—are to get a tax increase as a result of this legislation, and that is dumb. It is really dumb.
What is more, these businesses as a group—roughly, generally—are more inclined to want to reinvest into their company, and less inclined, on average, to want to take the earnings out of the company. Generally speaking, they are on a high growth because they have a high level of reinvestment, and that level of reinvestment can go up with a tax credit, which means that the growth will slow if the tax credit is removed. That is just simply the case.
But wait, there is more. Research and development travels. Research and development moves across borders. Research and development moves freely across borders, and research and development will move freely across our border. It will go substantially to Australia—not so much in the engineering sector, and to a lesser extent also in biotechnology, but certainly in information and communications technology. It will go to Australia. But wait, there is more. The research and development tax credit that came in on 1 April of this year was actually a little better than the one that was in Australia already, so research and development was moving from Australia to New Zealand until National announced its policies. We had some movement of high-wage, high-tech, high-growth personnel from Australia to New Zealand, and from Britain to New Zealand, but no more—no more. They have stopped coming, they will start leaving, and we will become dumber. And what is more, because our economy will grow more slowly as a result of the tax credit being removed, National will have a lower economic base to tax in the first place. So this is a dumb policy. If Australasia is to ever become a smart part of the world, New Zealand will become a dumb part of Australasia. It is a dumb policy. It is a stupid policy, and the Government’s excuse for saying it is that it cannot afford it. Well, I tell members what: when it is fully in place it will cost $332 million a year. If we divide that by 4 million people, it works out at $1.60 per citizen, per week, available for tax cuts somewhere—$1.60 per person per week. That is what we give New Zealanders, and the price we pay is a dumb economy. This bill is a bad bill for that reason alone.
CRAIG FOSS (National—Tukituki) : First, let me acknowledge the election of the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker, and the Assistant Speakers—including you, Mr Assistant Speaker. I also acknowledge my returning colleagues and new members. I look forward to hearing maiden statements from new members on all sides of the House, and if what we heard today from the two members who made maiden statements is anything to go by, then I say we are in for a great period. I look forward to hearing those statements. I also thank and acknowledge the 20,103 people of Tukituki who re-elected me to represent them in Parliament, the 17,904 people who voted with their party vote for National in Tukituki in Hawke’s Bay, and the more than 1 million New Zealand voters who voted for National’s 100-day plan. It is a plan of tax cuts—simple tax cuts. It is a 100-day plan of commitments—an economic plan for New Zealand.
One of the first things the previous Labour Government did when it came into office was to raise taxes. One of the first things the Labour members did was to take the top personal tax rate from 33c in the dollar to 39c in the dollar. It was 3,231 days later when they decided to cut taxes, in the face of lower poll ratings, and to try to rescue themselves from absolute oblivion. The first measure of this incoming National Government, 21 days after being elected, is to introduce on the Table, in front of members now, the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill. It is an absolute pleasure to be speaking and voting for this bill, and to be part of the finance team of this National-led Government, which is committed to putting on the Table an ongoing programme of personal tax cuts. We have waited for 9 long, wasted years to get an ongoing programme, a committed programme, of personal tax cuts back into New Zealand, so as to back New Zealanders. We will not really take as much in personal taxes in the first place; we will leave the money there with people. After 9 long, wasted years we finally have some certainty with regard to personal incomes. After-tax incomes are going up; personal tax cuts are coming in. National members are committed to National’s core policy, and it is an absolute pleasure to be committed to it.
The members opposite who spoke earlier seem to have forgotten what happened a few weeks ago, and why this programme of tax cuts was core, open, public policy. Over 1 million New Zealanders voted for this policy. It is very tempting to repeat the words of the previous finance Minister after the 1999 election. It is very tempting to do so, but I will not. The anger will dissipate after a while—perhaps after the next 2 weeks. I did note the applause the new finance spokesperson for the Labour Party got; I think one person was clapping. The previous finance Minister had rousing applause from his colleagues on that side. I thought that was quite interesting, even though it was a somewhat angry speech.
It is such a pleasure to speak to this bill. After 9 years this bill shows a massive investment in the best part of the infrastructure of New Zealand, which is the people of New Zealand. We want to reward them. We want them to stay here and have a viable future in New Zealand, and we want the young people at varsity who are coming out with student loans to have the ability to pay for those loans. This measure makes it very much easier to give them a chance and an opportunity to choose a viable future in New Zealand. The members on the other side of the House seem to have forgotten—I did not hear this in any of their speeches—that over the past 9 years 70,000 to 80,000 Kiwis have been leaving per annum to go to other countries. Of those, 40,000 have been leaving for Australia because, quite simply, they could enjoy higher personal after-tax incomes there.
Households are suffering and under stress. Household balance sheets are suffering; they are under stress and strain. Many people are suffering from the effects of the higher fixed mortgages that rolled over in the past 18 months to a year, when interest rates effectively doubled under the previous regime. People are struggling, and that is why we need them to enjoy a higher after-tax income. Then at least when they are negotiating with their bank, as they are suffering from the effects of the higher fixed mortgages costs they have had for the last few years, the bank will see that they have a forward track and an ability to fund their mortgage through this tough recession time.
I did note that at the last Budget the previous finance Minister said, I think, “We’ve spent the lot. It’s out. The cupboard’s bare.”, or something like that. What he failed to mention is that not only did he think he had spent the lot but also he had dug a few holes and put a few ticking time bombs in the back of the closet. One of the terms he used, which may have been in the media, was about some kind of “hospital pass” to the incoming National Government. It was actually a hospital pass to Labour’s new finance spokesperson. After his speech—written by whom I do not know—half his colleagues were nodding off to sleep. We are in for a fun time with that new spokesperson.
We talk about Australia and its 7-year programme, I think, of ongoing personal tax cuts. After-tax incomes in Australia are one-third higher than those in New Zealand. There are 500,000-odd Kiwis now living in Australia and enjoying that, and we wonder why they left New Zealand. We have speeches from members on the other side of the House that are static, boring, and stuck in the past. To use the previous speaker’s term, those members are dumb. They lack the vision we are trying to show them here: a commitment by an incoming Government. Twenty-one days after being elected, the first legislation on our timetable is right here. We are rewarding New Zealanders, and we are trying to offer them a better, viable future.
Hon Lianne Dalziel: So why are you cutting KiwiSaver?
CRAIG FOSS: I will just touch on KiwiSaver for a minute. The previous speaker from the Greens mentioned it. This legislation brings in “2 plus 2”. I was on the Finance and Expenditure Committee when Business New Zealand and the combined trade unions both argued for “2 plus 2”. Both argued for “2 plus 2”. The Labour members on that committee also asked for and agreed with most of what they were saying. The Green member, as was previously acknowledged, said that the Greens also wanted “2 plus 2”. Yet the word came down from Dr Cullen’s office upstairs that there was no way it was going to happen. The unions wanted it, business wanted it, and the Green Party wanted it. The Minister drove the present scheme through, for whatever reason we do not know. The change is right here, and this bill will make KiwiSaver more affordable and more robust. It will make it last for longer, and will give people certainty. As we know, many New Zealanders cannot afford to save. When we are No. 22 in the OECD, our ability to afford our expectations of 2008 is very, very limited. This only starts to go some way towards moving us back up the OECD, by trying to recover some of the opportunities that were lost over the last 9 years.
This bill also deals with the research and development tax credits that previous members have spoken about, as well as KiwiSaver—which we will be talking about in the coming hours—and, of course, the changes in the personal tax rates, which we will get into more detail on. One thing I will mention, because it seems to be forgotten, is that we hear the term “borrowing from overseas” from members over there on the other side of the House. Over 70 percent of Government debt is owned by overseas-registered institutions. The previous Government borrowed an awful lot from overseas. In the last Budget, $6.7 billion of extra borrowing was announced by the previous finance Minister. When that party over there was in Government, $6.7 billion of sales of financial assets were also announced in the same Budget. Those members cannot come into this House and rave on about overseas borrowing and debt blowing out, because the people responsible for that are right there on the other side of the House. In the June 2008 Budget there was extra borrowing. In October 2008 a decade of deficits was announced in the Pre-election Economic and Fiscal Update. In November 2008 the Accident Compensation Corporation’s blowout was revealed; it is about $2.3 billion at the moment, and rising. In terms of the Government Shared Network, the Labour members say it is only $25 million, but it is $25 million of money that is not theirs to be wasted.
I look forward to speaking further on this bill as we go through it, and I say it is about time, after 9 years of waiting, for us to finally have a constant, consistent, ongoing programme of personal tax cuts for New Zealanders.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE (Labour—Waimakariri) : Before I get into the cut and thrust of the bill, I recall the member said that people had forgotten what happened a few weeks ago in the election. I recall in this Chamber, some weeks before the election, putting it to Mr English that if he was re-elected—and he was—he would engage in Muldoonism, as Muldoon did by pulling the rug out from under every Kiwi who was saving at the time, in the 1970s. I looked up Hansard and I termed it would be the second-biggest example of economic vandalism that would ever come into this Chamber. I was heckled, even by old hothead over there. He was a hothead in Opposition, and is a hothead in Government. I was heckled by him and his ilk that it would never happen. They said I was telling porkies. Tonight this legislation was confirmed by old tumbleweed and by Mr Foss, whose greatest claim on the Finance and Expenditure Committee was to go before it—as committee members do—and get tax advice from officials. The only problem was that in his case he was asking specific questions about his own personal tax returns.
Tonight is a very, very serious evening for this country. It is a pity that Mr Hide did not take a call, because I will pick up on a comment that was made before. I read page 10 of the explanatory note of the bill, which states: “However, due to the timeframes involved, the RIA consultation requirements have not been met.” I looked over, in front of Sir Roger Douglas, and I saw something akin to a—
Hon Annette King: A dried arrangement?
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I would not say that, but something that had a tan was sitting in front of him. It was the “Minister for Regulatory Busting”, or whatever he is called today. Mr Hide is the man who went on Close Up and said “Send me your problems. Send me all your regulatory problems. Here is my address, care of Parliament.” Rodney Hide said that he would fix them. There was not a whimper or a comment. This is the first piece of legislation to come into the House today and it does not meet the regulatory impact statement threshold. I say that if that is Mr Hide’s work ethic, if that is how he is going to fix things, then goodness only knows what will come in, in further legislation.
The people have judged, they made the call on 8 November, and as of tonight the people will make the call again. I look forward to Mr Hide and his robust ways. He is the man who will fix everything. He will get rid of the red tape, and get rid of regulation. But he could not even read up to page 10 of the explanatory note of the bill. Was he not consulted? Who knows. Maybe he is not worth consulting. Maybe he has become just a sort of lapdog of the National Party and he is just not worth it. Maybe Rodney Hide will sign it off and it does not matter what is in it.
I say to the National Party tonight that the truth about this bill is that when Labour was elected in 1999 it inherited economic archaeology from National. Labour inherited an economic graveyard from National. Labour has left National with an economy where debt is slashed, where debt is halved, and where we are one of the best placed countries in the world to deal with an economic crisis.
Then, of course, we had the Speech from the Throne. As Dr Cullen said tonight, we had the admission from Mr Key that fiscal prudence is surrendered and debt, borrow, and hope are on. The Speech from the Throne stated: “The Government will run an operating deficit this year and is likely to do so for some years to come.” For how many years? As my colleague Mr Cunliffe said, where are the debt track documents? Where are the projections?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Tell us about your projections on ACC!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I will get to accident compensation with that member in a little while.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, good!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: We will get to the member, do not worry. Where are the debt tracks? Where are the projections for when the deficit will end? Government members do not have them. They have not done the work. They have presented a bill to the House that is the old-fashioned Tory ethos on life. It is a bill that Mr Foss would do well to read because if he read it he would know that those at the bottom are worse off. Those at the bottom will have a tax increase, and those like Mr Key and his lofty crew over there—the million dollar men and women—are 120 bucks a week better off.
As a small scholar of history, that to me is just the usual Tory legislation. Before the election we heard the slogans. If one reads National’s tax policy, which is an interesting document, it says this: “National also knows that New Zealanders want a tax system that is fair.” What is fair about a mum and dad, with three kids, on 55 grand, losing $14 a week? But National said: “Choose a brighter future”. Members will remember the slogans—the warm fuzzies—“Choose a brighter future”.
Then the tax policy goes on: “National’s tax package will give households confidence and some cash back in their pockets.” Well, it will for Mr Key. It will for the chief executive of Telecom, to the tune of 500 bucks a week, but a family on 50 grand that is in KiwiSaver, with one child, loses $70 a week.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Back to the politics of envy!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I say that the politics of envy is this—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: The politics of envy!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Is it envious then for a family with one child to lose, because of that member, $70 a week because of his policy?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Oh, the politics of envy!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: He says that is envy. He says that when a family on $50,000, with one child, loses $70 a week, thanks to his Government, that is the politics of envy. No, I say that is the politics of despair for that family. That arrogant puffball over there who now sits in his ministerial car, and is paid a huge salary, will not lose $70 a week, but he says that when a family with one child, earning 50 grand, loses $70 a week it is the politics of envy. Does that not show the typical Tory at his best? It is envious to get upset about a family that loses $70 a week—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Get over it, Clayton!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: Like hell I will get over it. I will bring that back to the member every day in this Parliament for 3 years. We should get the family in—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I’m terrified!
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: The member might be terrified if the family comes to Parliament. He can explain to them why they lose $70 a week. He can explain why he took it. He can explain why he calls that the politics of envy. What will the member say to the family that loses $70 a week?
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I’ll say the politics of envy is dead.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: I did not think this could get any better. I hope the Hansard people got that verbatim.
This is the plan to deal with the recession. The plan to deal with the recession is to give tax cuts to those at the top end, to give tax increases to those at the bottom end, and to gut KiwiSaver completely. I am no expert but I would have thought that in a recession, if there was ever a time that we wanted people to save and to incentivise them to do so it is now. The Government has gutted research and development tax credits. We know that business people flew from all over the country to Auckland to work over Mr English before the election when he made that announcement. We know what he said to them. He said: “Oh, we’ll deal with it some other way. We’ll make it go away. We’ll deal with it some other way.” I would have thought in a recession that if there was ever a time to have research and development tax credits where we incentivise businesses to produce new and innovative products and services, thereby creating new and innovative jobs, it is now. But that is gone, or it will be under National.
Tonight we have had what I and every other colleague on this side the House predicted would happen if National got in. We predicted that the rug would be pulled out from under every saver—800,000 of them. Mr Foss says that people do not want to save. Dr Cullen’s package—
Colin King: They can’t afford to save.
Hon CLAYTON COSGROVE: If they cannot afford it, why are 800,000 - plus people in it, you plonker? That is not the politics of envy, it is the politics of common sense. People are very smart and that is why 800,000 of them are in KiwiSaver. I say to the member opposite, Nick Smith, that his words tonight have been very helpful and I thank him, because they will hang like a noose around his neck for the next 3 years. When we go and talk to families and we listen to them, and they explain to us why they are losing money and that the Government is now taking money from them, we will point them in the direction of the Hon Nick Smith and he will say that it is the politics of envy.
CHRIS TREMAIN (National—Napier) : Tihei mauri ora. Whakataka te hau ki te uru, whakataka te hau ki te tonga. Kia mākinakina ki uta, kia mātaratara ki tai. E hī ake ana te ata kura, he tio, he huka, he hauhunga. Tēnā koutou. E te Kaikōrero o te Whare, tēnā koe. Kei te mihi ahau ki a koe. Ki ngā mema Pāremata, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.
[Behold the sneeze of life. Cease the wind from the west, cease the wind from the south. Let the breezes blow over the land, let the breezes blow over the ocean. Let the red-tipped dawn come with a sharpened air, a touch of frost, and a promise of a glorious day. Greetings to you collectively, and to you, Mr Assistant Speaker of the House. Greetings. To members of Parliament, greetings to you, greetings to you, and greetings to us all.]
We have just heard a speech from the ex-honourable Clayton Cosgrove. It was an angry speech. He started his speech by saying that this bill—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Cosgrove is the Hon Clayton Cosgrove. To describe him in the way the member did is an insult to the House and to the Prime Minister, who has written to Mr Cosgrove to indicate that that title continues.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I just point out to the Labour Opposition that continuously during Mr Clayton Cosgrove’s speech he referred to members on this side of the House as plonkers and called them all sorts of other derogatory names. For Opposition members now to get all precious because the member did not use the term “the Hon Clayton Cosgrove” is rather rich and unnecessary.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): No, if the member took umbrage he should have raised a point of order at the time and had the matter clarified then. It is far too late now. The point of order has been well made and I ask the member to keep that in mind when he addresses the House.
CHRIS TREMAIN: Members of the public will be interested to hear the speech made by the Hon Clayton Cosgrove, who stood up and said that this bill was the second-biggest example, in his small scholarly history, of economic vandalism that he had seen. He said that the KiwiSaver changes would be economic vandalism. I want to understand what part Mr Cosgrove does not understand about taking the entry level from 4 percent to 2 percent. Taking the entry level from 4 percent to 2 percent is what the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions representatives stood in front of the Finance and Expenditure Committee and asked for, right from the word go. What will happen is that it will promote more people into KiwiSaver.
It should be understood that of the 800,000 people Clayton Cosgrove so diligently referred to, only one in five are employees. In fact, a heck of a lot—over 120,000—are under the age of 18. This Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill will get more Kiwis, more hard-working New Zealanders, into KiwiSaver, and it will actually promote saving. Perhaps members might want to reflect on the claim that this is the second-biggest example of economic vandalism in the world. I think it will promote saving in this country and take this nation forward.
As I commence this speech on the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill, I acknowledge and congratulate you on your role as Assistant Speaker. I also acknowledge the election of the Hon Dr Lockwood Smith, and I am sure he will take this House forward. I also acknowledge the election of Assistant Speaker Eric Roy and Deputy Speaker Lindsay Tisch.
In my opening whakataukī I used a proverb that sets the scene for this first legislation under this new National Government to hit the floor. The proverb, as translated, says: “Cease the winds from the west, cease the winds from the south, let the breezes blow over the land with a sharpened air, a touch of frost, and a promise of a glorious new day.” Just over 4 weeks ago, New Zealanders elected a new Parliament and a new Prime Minister. Interestingly, the Opposition has not quite got the hang of that yet. John Key brings a fresh, aspirational approach to this country for which many people have been looking for 9 long years. Even people who were misguided by Labour’s “you can’t trust them” message are waking up to the fact that this is a leader who will really drive our country forward. Here we see legislation on the floor within 4 weeks of our entering into Government, taking this nation forward.
I take the opportunity to thank the people of Napier and Wairoa for placing their trust in me for another 3 years. It is indeed a privilege and an honour to be representing the people of Napier, and to be here tonight introducing legislation to the House that we committed to over the election. It is about building trust. It is about doing what we say we will do. I stood on platforms throughout the Napier seat, and in other seats, talking about introducing tax cuts, and this is what we are doing. Within a short period of entering this Parliament, we have brought tax cuts to the table, and we are building trust, and it is going forward—fantastic.
It is not the first example of our getting on with the job quickly, because we have been doing it from day one. Within 2 weeks of the election, we held negotiations with three other coalition parties, and put together a historic agreement with the Māori Party—an excellent start. We delivered a new Cabinet, with six women—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is the first reading debate of a tax bill. I know that it has been slightly wider than that occasionally, but this member now, for about the last 2 minutes of his speech, has not mentioned the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill, and appears to have borrowed someone’s notes for the Address in Reply debate. I ask you to bring him back to the bill.
CHRIS TREMAIN: This is a wide-ranging debate, a first reading speech, and I believe I have the scope. I have been referring to the bill throughout.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): It is a wide-ranging debate, but it is about the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill, and I think the member could speak a little bit more about that.
CHRIS TREMAIN: This is the first tranche of a range of legislation that we are bringing to the House. The Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill delivers on the first part of our plan. It totally contradicts the campaign run by the Opposition, which said that a new National Government could not be trusted. Well, here we are building that trust, delivering quickly upon what we said we would. We will continue to build that trust, delivering upon a package of commitments through our 100-day plan, further building trust.
This bill is critical legislation at a time when the world economy is in turmoil. It is the first step of many to bring New Zealand back on track to a high-growth economy. I cannot overstate the importance of a tax regime that is functional, fair, and that encourages growth. Coming back to the Hon Clayton Cosgrove’s point about being fair, here we are with tax legislation for 600,000 hard-working Kiwis in the engine room of this nation, who have not had a tax cut until the last few months, who over the last 9 years have gone through bracket creep, and who have crept into higher tax brackets and paid more and more tax. This is fair legislation. This is delivering tax cuts to the engine room of this country. I cannot overstate the importance of this legislation going forward. Taxes affect people’s decisions to work, to save, to spend, to invest, to migrate, or to immigrate. There is no doubt in my mind that taxes have a huge impact on economic growth and future prosperity. Here we are today, once again in short time bringing together new tax legislation to the House. In my province of Napier, we are really feeling the pinch at the moment.
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: It’s not a province.
CHRIS TREMAIN: In my province of Hawke’s Bay and in the city of Napier, we are really feeling the pinch at the moment. Did you guys actually go around during the election and talk to businesses and people in your electorates? Clearly, you did not.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that you did visit businesses, but I think that that should not be brought into debate by that member.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): The point is made. Mr Speaker spoke about the use of “you” during debate.
CHRIS TREMAIN: In the city of Napier, we are really feeling the pinch. Businesses are hurting. When I walk down the main street of Napier, businesses and retailers are 8 to 12 percent back, and really hurting. Our exporters out there have had orders cancelled and even orders sent back. It is hurting. We have a choice in life. We can take a defeatist attitude and say that everything is outside our control, or we can take a proactive attitude and start doing a range of things that address the financial crisis we currently face.
The bill takes a proactive approach in four key ways. Firstly, it adjusts the income tax threshold. It delivers on our promise to hard-working Kiwis to allow them to keep more of their hard-earned money. That is what we stood for at the election and promised, and what we have talked about for the last 9 years. And here we are, within 4 weeks of being elected as the Government, delivering on our promises. What the Opposition does not like is that we are building more and more trust as we go on, and delivering upon our promises. The Opposition is really struggling with that. The effect of the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill will be to reduce personal taxes from April 2009. This new legislation will be passed by Christmas, and it will equip New Zealanders with some much-needed extra cash in tough economic times. I certainly know that in my city of Napier, and in my province of Hawke’s Bay, these tax cuts will provide some extra fiscal stimulation. It will not be the silver bullet, but it will be a step in the right direction. Personal taxes will be reduced on 1 April 2009.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD (Labour—Hutt South) : I do not intend to spend much time dealing with that speech from Chris Tremain. It was the typical bumbling incompetence that we have seen from the National Party. I would like to refer to an earlier speech, one which I found much more disappointing.
As much as Sir Roger Douglas and I have, over the years, grown to disagree on many issues, I have always thought that he was a person of principle. I thought he would have carefully examined this tax package, but if he had done that, he could not possibly vote for it. I will soon refer to Hone Harawira, and the fact that I am getting a call because the Māori Party has chosen not to take one, but the very people whom he says he cares about—those people who are on not much more than the minimum wage, those people who have got kids—are the people whose taxes are increased as a result of this package. It is unfair. It is inequitable. At a time when some people get a $500-a-week tax cut, there are other families that, when the KiwiSaver changes and the tax changes are combined, will get a $60 or $70 tax increase—when the packages are compared—in 2011. That Sir Roger Douglas, who says he cares about marginal tax rates, can vote for a package that puts them up by as much as that shocks me, because it goes against everything that he has said over the years about fairness and equity.
Hon Darren Hughes: Over 42 years!
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: Over many, many years.
The other point that I want to make is that I also do not understand how the person who was the architect of the Norman Kirk superannuation scheme can vote to gut the closest thing we have had to it since then. I ask Dr Cullen to excuse me for saying this, but I think the scheme that Sir Roger Douglas designed was better than KiwiSaver. I think it was a better scheme, I think we should have kept it, and I think the country would have been better off. It probably is not politically acceptable in current times, but it certainly is one of the two best arrangements, yet Sir Roger Douglas is taking his troops—like lackeys—into the lobby to support something that cuts New Zealanders’ savings, that cuts investment of New Zealanders in New Zealand firms and, for that matter, overseas firms. That will mean that we own less and less of our own country, and are subject more and more to balance of payment deficits as the profits of the overseas-owned companies are stripped out of New Zealand and we have nothing coming back in the opposite direction. So it is not fair.
I say to Hone Harawira that I am gravely disappointed that the Māori Party has chosen not to stand up and say why it is voting for legislation that disproportionately hurts Māori. If one thinks of the families who are in the $20,000 to $30,000 bracket, the families whose combined incomes are around $50,000 and include kids, one finds that they are disproportionately Māori families. And he is voting to put their tax up, if they are in KiwiSaver, by about $60 a week. What is mana-enhancing about a tax increase of $60 a week for a low-income family? What good does it do those people? How do they feed their kids? How do they get the clothes they need? How do they give their kids Christmas presents?
Hon Dr Michael Cullen: They can own the foreshore and seabed.
Hon TREVOR MALLARD: They might own the seabed and the foreshore, as Dr Cullen says, but if they cannot put food on the table, they cannot buy the occasional treat for the kids, they cannot occasionally buy them some new clothes or even some second-hand clothes, what is mana-enhancing about that? It is absolutely shocking.
I want to make a comment or two about KiwiSaver. Every single person who is in KiwiSaver—800,000 New Zealanders—is worse off as a result of the legislation we are debating today. Bill English says that more people will go in the scheme. If he were telling the truth, he would have budgeted for $1,000 for every person who enters the scheme—the increase in numbers. Has he done that? No, he has not. He knows that it is likely that, as a result of this measure, fewer people will join KiwiSaver or stay in KiwiSaver. It is a much less attractive scheme as a result of the changes that are proposed.
There is another point. Some of us have been sick to death of John Key talking about the brain drain to Australia. Well, one of the things that Dr Cullen negotiated with the Australians, in an attempt to reverse that brain drain, was portability of superannuation. It meant that people in Australia who were later on in their careers could come back to New Zealand and have a leadership role over here. He did a lot of work on it. It was not easy. He had to convince the Australians that the schemes were near compatible. To be fair, “4 plus 4” plus the tax credit gets to 9 percent, but the sources are different. Of course, in Australia the 9 percent is paid by the employers. But the schemes were pretty close. That was the basis of the negotiations to have two-way portability. What is the story now? The National Government has walked away from it. National has walked away from something that makes it easier for high-achieving Kiwis to come home to work in New Zealand. I think that is disgraceful.
What is worse is that National did not have the courtesy to pick up the phone and tell the Australians that it was doing it. National did not pick up the phone and say that it was walking away from the portability deal. Well, the Australian Government might be a Government of a different hue; there is a Labor Government over there and there is a National Government over here. But in the past it did not matter. It did not stop Michael Cullen from talking to Peter Costello. It did not stop Helen Clark from picking up the phone and saying to John Howard: “Well, we’re planning to do something that might affect you. What do you think?”, or at least informing him of the direction we were taking. I think that it is a sad indictment on the National Government and its arrogance, and that it shows a lack of coherence in its policy.
I come back to the point that so often we have heard of the brain drain to Australia. We work hard to get something to reverse that, especially for people who have some assets, who are likely to have higher incomes, and who are likely to make a leadership contribution in New Zealand, and what does the National Government do? For reasons of ideology that none of us can work out, it decides to cut it out. I ask Hone Harawira about the Māori who are currently in Australian superannuation schemes and want to spend some of their later years here at home with the whānau. What will they do? It will be a lot harder, as a result of this measure, for people to come back to New Zealand and for families to be together. I want to know whether that was explained to Mr Harawira. Will he come with me back to the National Distribution Union? He and I had a very good session with the Northern Distribution Union. He made a pile of commitments. He did not commit to put up the taxes of nearly everyone in that room. He did not commit to cut their KiwiSaver, to cut their ability to save a bit for their old age. I say to him that they treated him with respect, they treated him as someone who had integrity, and he is failing them now.
DAVID BENNETT (National—Hamilton East) : Mr Assistant Speaker, congratulations on your appointment to the role and welcome to a new Parliament. I also thank the people of Hamilton East for re-electing me to this role.
Today’s tax cut legislation was one of the strong points of the National Party campaign, and it is essential to rebuilding this economy. The New Zealand economy is in a state such that it needs some serious help. The serious help is on its way, through the National Government and through the 100-day plan that we will bring into play over the next little while.
The key part is the tax cut programme. It is important because it will give the right signals and incentive to hard-working New Zealanders. It will give hard-working New Zealand families some relief. It will give individuals some relief. That is just part of what this Government and this country need to see happen.
This Government intends to go out there and look after the New Zealanders who are in work and who see the right things and the good things they need to do to make their country and their families stronger. This programme of tax cuts is the first step that this Government will introduce in order to send that signal and provide that incentive.
It is tough out there. New Zealanders are in a tough situation. The previous Labour Government has left us the legacy of an economy that is down the tubes. This Government will have to turn round that situation, and this package is the first part of that turn-round. [Interruption] The Labour members sitting over there are all so prim and proper. They have all come out to fight, have they not? Well, it is too late.
In a few days’ time, on Thursday night, the new members of this House will see only four or five Labour Party members in the House, because they will have given up the ghost. They know it is all over. I see Michael Cullen over there—the sight of his face! It is not as red as it used to be before the election campaign, but he will not be in the Chamber on Thursday night. Most of those members will not be sitting there and fighting on Thursday night. This is the last fight of the Labour Party, and they know it. This is the old guard who have come out to show what they are made of. Well, it is too little, too late. It will not work, because there is a new plan, a new agenda, and a new direction for New Zealand. That is what the public wanted. The public of this country voted for that, and the public of this country will get that. I say to New Zealanders that we will deliver, not what you did for 9 years, sitting there looking at yourselves, trying to make yourselves look better, and going—
H V Ross Robertson: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I know that the member has been in the House for just a short time but he again referred to you, and he cannot do that. Using the word “you” refers to the Chair. I think you should ask the member to remember that.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): The member is correct. The matter was spoken of by Mr Speaker earlier today.
DAVID BENNETT: If we look at the Labour Party members we see that this is their last fight. This is the last we will see of those Labour Party members, because they know that it is over for them. The New Zealand public will see a new direction, and it will be something they like and something that delivers for them.
Let us look at the economic legacy of the Labour Government. The leader of the Labour Party said today that Labour left New Zealand in a good financial condition. Well, what was the rate of inflation? It was one of the highest in the OECD. What were interest rates? They were some of the highest in the OECD. Why does New Zealand now face a decade of deficits? He said he left this country in great shape! No, he left it in a recession. The American and Australian economies are trying to avoid a recession, and we have been in a recession because of the attitude of the Labour Government over the last 9 years.
Today we heard from the new Opposition spokesperson on finance, David Cunliffe. His line of the day was “the wrong tool for the wrong time”. I tell new members that they will soon come to understand that the Labour Party has one line a day, and all its members are told to come into the Chamber and use that one line all day long. Well, Mr Hodgson could not even remember his finance spokesperson’s line for the day, and he had to stop halfway through his speech and ask what it was and what they were talking about today. They do not know what is going on on their side of the agenda.
Let us look at what Labour members have been saying today. They say that tax cuts are bad for working New Zealanders. They say that tax cuts are hitting ordinary New Zealanders and hurting them. But Labour introduced major tax cuts this year, so how can tax cuts be bad now but be fine 3 weeks ago? How can tax cuts suddenly change, within a month, from being in the best interests of New Zealanders to not being in the best interests of New Zealanders?
How can the Labour Party suddenly change from being in favour of tax cuts to being against them? What is the difference? So did Labour’s tax cuts not affect ordinary, hard-working New Zealanders? Is that what they are saying—that their tax cuts were somewhat different from other people’s tax cuts and this party’s tax cuts? Well, they are not, because they are tax cuts, and tax cuts are good for all workers, especially the people the Labour Party should be looking after. Labour members were voted out because they were not looking after those people.
Hard-working New Zealanders knew who was going to look after them. They knew what the right approach was and they voted it in—and it was the National Party’s approach. One cannot say yes to tax cuts before an election and then say no to them after an election, as the Labour Party has done over the last month.
One of the previous leaders of the financial sector in this Parliament, Sir Roger Douglas, made a very good speech, I thought. It was quite insightful into the possibilities of the tax realm. He made a very good point about economic management and about the fact that the Labour Government frittered away the good years of New Zealand growth. It would be quite interesting to add up how much the Labour Government lost in the last month. I wonder how much it lost through investments—money that was not invested in New Zealand. I am referring to those superannuation fund investments on the US stock exchange, those Accident Compensation Corporation investments on the US stock exchange, and the investment in buying the rail network.
If we added all that up we would probably be looking at a Labour Government that lost $4 billion or $5 billion worth of New Zealand’s great growth over the last 9 years. It flushed down the toilet what this economy needed to get it through this time of economic dependency. That is not the kind of economic management that one would expect, and the New Zealand people have better economic management now.
The final issue we need to touch on is the research and development issue. The Labour Party went through the election campaign talking about research and development and saying that it is the party for research and development. Well, let us look at it this way. What was it doing for AgResearch, which was going to lay off staff just before the election? It did nothing. Labour members were going to let people in AgResearch lose their jobs at the same time as they were saying how rich Labour was about research and development. The people in the industry who need help with research and development are looking for venture capital. They are not looking for Labour Party tax credits.
This measure is the first of a programme that will deliver the economic growth that New Zealand needs. The National Party will do it. We support this legislation.
|Ayes 68||New Zealand National 57; ACT New Zealand 5; Māori Party 5; United Future 1.|
|Noes 50||New Zealand Labour 43; Green Party 6; Progressive 1.|
|Bill read a first time.|
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Minister of Finance): I move, That the Taxation (Urgent Measures and Annual Rates) Bill be now read a second time. If we learnt anything from the first reading of this bill it is that Labour does not realise it lost the election. I think that is the real problem in this debate; that somehow it does not—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Rick Barker): I am sorry to interrupt the honourable member, but the time has come for me to leave the Chair.
- Debate interrupted.
- Sitting suspended from 10 p.m. to 9 a.m. (Wednesday)