[Sitting date: 15 August 2012. Volume:682;Page:4392. Text is incorporated into the Bound Volume.]
Dr RUSSEL NORMAN (Co-Leader—Green)
: I move,
That the House take note of miscellaneous business. This week we have seen the economic incoherence at the core of this National Government. If you recall, the asset sale programme was justified on the basis of reducing debt. The Government told us that it had to sell these energy assets, which were returning 18 percent total shareholder return, according to Treasury, to raise about $6 billion to avoid accumulating $6 billion worth of debt.
However, what we have found out over the last few days is that the Government intends to actually take on more debt, possibly in the order of $5 billion or $6 billion, according to the briefing to the incoming Minister of Transport, in order to build new, uneconomic motorways. These are the motorways that were decided on by National before it went into Government, as Bill English told us in May. These motorways were chosen for political reasons, not economic reasons. These are motorways that have very low rates of return or, in some of the cases, negative rates of return. In some of the cases, the motorways cost a billion dollars to build and the return is only $600 million, which is the Warkworth to Wellsford motorway. The Government wants to borrow $5 billion to $6 billion in order to build these motorways, which have low or negative rates of return.
It told us that we had to privatise the energy companies, which have very high rates of return—about 18 percent total shareholder return, according to Treasury—in order to reduce debt. Now it has told us that it needs to borrow about the same amount again to invest in motorways. This Government does not have a coherent economic agenda. Watching this Government in action is watching people who have no idea how to pull together a sensible economic policy. It is not surprising that since it took office, New Zealand has slipped from having the eighth-lowest unemployment in the OECD to the 14th lowest unemployment in the OECD. There are 65,000 more people unemployed than when it took over, because it seems that the economics of “Planet National” are extremely damaging to the economics of New Zealand.
We have a Government that does not understand some basic fundamental economic realities. By throwing billions of dollars of borrowed money at new motorway projects that do not have an economic case, the Government is increasing our oil dependency and hence our oil bill, so making our current account deficit worse. It is increasing the
greenhouse gas emissions, because we will have induced traffic on those motorways. Of course, we are causing higher oil imports, which will affect the external balance of the New Zealand economy, which is our No. 1 problem.
The Government has not taken a rational economic approach, which would be to get these motorway projects and put them through Treasury’s guidelines for capital spending—and that has never happened under this Government. If you were taking a rational approach to building new motorways, you would put them through Treasury’s guidelines. The Government has never done that. The reason it has never done that, as Bill English told this House in May this year when I asked him about it, is that these motorways were chosen during the 2008 and 2011 election campaigns. So they were chosen for political reasons, rather than for economic reasons. This is a political and ideological strategy, by the Government, to borrow billions of dollars so that it can spend them on motorways that do not have a business case—motorways that have never been put through Treasury’s guidelines for capital expenditure.
If we had a smart Green economic approach, we would be investing in transport options that actually reduce congestion. They take freight off the highway system and put it on railways. Let us remember that about a third of all our exports already travel by rail. Rail is critically important to the New Zealand economy. If the Government had a rational, smart Green economic agenda, that would be the priority. We would actually invest in public transport, walking and cycling, compact urban form in our major urban centres to reduce congestion, so that those people who need to use the roads to get around—the plumbers whom Michael Cullen was always so very fond of telling us about—would have roads that were less congested, so that people who needed to use the roads could actually use them. That is the cheapest way to reduce congestion. That is the smart Green economic opportunity that this Government is turning its back on.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE (Minister for Economic Development)
: I think we should thank the “Leader of the Opposition” for that contribution, because at least it was an argument, even if it was an incoherent argument. For Mr Norman’s benefit, the roads of national significance are not there necessarily for political reasons; they are there for congestion reasons—they are there for congestion reasons. The reason that we do not build motorways in small regional areas is there is no congestion. In Auckland, weirdly, there has been congestion. The Victoria Park Tunnel project has actually already been successful, the
Waterview Connection is being successful, and the Waikato Expressway is hugely important for the New Zealand economy. That is because these roads are—
Hon Trevor Mallard: How about
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: Yes, the
Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway still carries more traffic every day than the entire Auckland rail network. It still carries more than the entire Auckland railway network.
So here we are, with the Greens’ incoherent economic policy. Of course, the other problem for Mr Norman is that he says we should have a “smart Green economy”, which means we just subsidise jobs with taxpayers’ money. He should visit the communities where his policies are having the most negative impact, where the Greens are out there arguing against economic growth in places like Northland and places like Gisborne. He should go there and actually tell them to support oil, gas, and mineral exploration, if he really cared about jobs in this country. But he does not; he cares about them elsewhere.
But at least they have an argument. At least the Greens have some form of argument. In the Labour Party the argument is amongst the Labour Party about that vexed question of which David should lead the Labour Party. The continuing saga of David, and David, and David continues. We have, of course, “Denying David” in the House right now—Mr Parker. Mr Parker is “Denying David”. He has actually gone on to become “Mr
Deluded David”. He is now “Mr Deluded David”, because he actually thinks that Labour has an orthodox economic policy. He actually thinks it has a positive pro-mining policy. He has not spoken to its energy and resources spokesperson, who says that oil and gas should stay in the ground. He has not spoken to Mr Shearer, who thinks that mines should be banned—I have seen the placards that Mr Shearer was carrying. So that is “Deluded Dave”.
Then, of course, we have “Dark Dave”.
Mr SPEAKER: Order! Members should be referred to by their correct names.
Hon STEVEN JOYCE: I am just getting there, Mr Speaker. Mr David Cunliffe, I was referring to—the Hon David Cunliffe. He has been wearing quite a scowl—at least, I thought it was a scowl, but I suspect it may actually be 5 o’clock shadow—since he did not get the leadership. I do not want to cast aspersions, but I think we now call him “Denuded Dave”, because he has indeed had the shave. He has had the shave, and, of course, it was a close shave that he did not get the Labour leadership. We always said that if he had a shave, that meant that the challenge was on. Indeed, the challenge is on, because he turned up at Parliament yesterday with the three musketeers, with Ms Dalziel,
Su’a William Sio, and Ross Robertson. The interesting thing about it being
Su’a William Sio who turned up with David Cunliffe is that he was the one who ran the criticism of the Labour Party’s policy last week, and completely tripped up the pro tem leader of the Labour Party, David Shearer. Right when he was trying to do something, there was Mr
Su’a William Sio. He turned up in Parliament yesterday alongside David Cunliffe, who was grinning from ear to ear and saying,
Arnie Schwarzenegger - like, “I’m back. I’m back. I’ve had my shave, and I’m ready for the challenge.”
Then, of course, there is the third Dave—what is his name? I cannot remember his name. But, anyway, he is the one who is not
not having an impact. He is not
not having an impact, that David. We are just not quite sure who he is, but I suppose it is true that it is better the David you know—or the David you do not know. Maybe it is better the David you do not know than the one that you do not know even worse. That is possibly the issue.
So we have, at least with the Greens, some sort of argument. It is a very, very poor argument, and it is a bad argument for New Zealand. In Labour, the argument is all within the Labour Party. Meanwhile, on the Government side of the benches, we are focused on one very, very important thing: the massive opportunity that exists for New Zealand, if we want to take it up, for our exports over the next 20 years. The opportunity in Asia is absolutely phenomenal. It is absolutely phenomenal.
Hon DAVID PARKER (Labour)
: That was a very shallow contribution from the Minister for Economic Development, who did not even get around to talking about economic development.
Grant Robertson: No, there is no plan.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Well, that is right. There is no adequate plan for that. He misrepresented David Shearer as being out there with a placard saying “anti-mining”. Actually, Mr Joyce, he was with a placard, protesting against mining in national parks.
Grant Robertson: With 50,000 other people.
Hon DAVID PARKER: That is right—with 50,000 other people. The National Government eventually admitted its error and reversed what was the major part of its economic plank for the last term.
You know the National Government is in trouble in the regions when a National member asks a Minister a patsy question, like in question time today, about how things are in the regions, and the Minister quotes a business confidence survey. Why is the Government doing that? Well, we know that the polling of the National Party is declining quite markedly in just about every region in New Zealand—just about all of
them. Why? Why? Well, because record numbers of New Zealanders are leaving New Zealand and leaving the regions. And the sad reality is that National does not seem to know about it—either that or it does not care. Why do I say that it does not seem to know about it? Well, I asked a primary question of Bill English a couple of weeks ago about whether the numbers of people leaving New Zealand are being replaced by people coming from overseas, and he said in answer: “as I understand it, there are no regional statistics that specifically isolate the number of people leaving any particular region to move overseas.”
Unfortunately, he was wrong. There are. There are Statistics New Zealand—
Hon Parekura Horomia: How many? How many?
Hon DAVID PARKER: —series that show who is moving from each district council area and each regional council area. Parekura Horomia asked me how many. Well, the answer is record numbers. Of the 53,000 people who left from New Zealand to go to Australia last year—and that is just Australia—on a permanent basis, a lot of them go from the regions. Some of our greatest rates of population growth are from the regions.
The saddest part of all that is that 40 percent of them are between the ages of 18 and 30. We have got to ask ourselves why it is that so many 20-year-olds no longer have hope and opportunity in New Zealand, but, instead, feel that they have got to go to Australia. The answer is because our economy is not performing and they have not got jobs.
Today the National Government said that it advanced another part of its export agenda.
Grant Robertson: Another plan.
Hon DAVID PARKER: Another plan. Well, you know, this is the last in a long list of them, and none of them seem to make any difference. I am going to tell the House why, in my opinion, that is the case. It is because the Government is not addressing the issues that need to be addressed. It says that it has a plan to develop the export economy, yet it is not removing the tax bias that fights against investment going into there. And then the Government is surprised that people go to Australia. The Government says that we need more money in those industries, yet it opposes improvements to KiwiSaver to make sure that everybody saves. It says that it wants to make improvements to the innovative sector, yet it opposed a research and development tax credit. Its actions speak louder than its words, and the consequences are visited upon our young people, who are voting with their feet.
The regions are feeling ignored. They are also right to feel ignored on roading. We had questions today about all this money going into the roads of national significance, some of which are of marginal economic benefit. There is no doubt about that. The Government’s own cost-benefit analysis shows that these are a poor spend, yet it insists on spending billions there, to the detriment of the regions. The mayors in the regions are now complaining that they are not getting enough money to maintain and improve their roads because it is all going to these roads of national significance—and it just about all is. It is an exaggeration to say that it all is, but there is a huge predominance of that money—
Hon Maurice Williamson: But which one would Labour can?
Hon DAVID PARKER: —going into those—what was that?
Hon Maurice Williamson: Which one would Labour can?
Hon DAVID PARKER: We would can the
Pūhoi to Wellsford road, because—[Interruption] Yeah. We would instead spend about $1 billion less—about $1 billion less. We have been saying it for about a year. The National Government still does not
understand it. We would spend $400 million and fix the road, but we would not waste the other $1 billion.
New Zealand is not being held back by a lack of infrastructure; we are being held back by the lack of a decent economic plan.
Mike Sabin: You come trotting up there for fish and chips at Maunganui. Send us a copy of that
Hon DAVID PARKER: Fish and chips in Whanganui are as good as it gets under the National Government. That is an economic plan under its watch.
Hon HEKIA PARATA (Minister of Education)
:Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker.
Tēnātātouhurinoaitōtātou Whare. I want to talk about the brighter future that this side of the House is committed to and is working on. I want to talk about how we see the central importance of education, because we understand both its transformative power in terms of building a strong and productive economy, as well as how it contributes to strengthening the cultural and social backbone of our community. We have one of the best education systems in the world, and it must remain so, because we are part of a very competitive international community. New Zealand’s education system must continually strive to get better and better. At present, on average, four out of five of our students do very well, and we should thank the principals and teachers who, in classrooms up and down this country every day, make that possible.
But we are not a Government about averages. We are committed to five out of five students being successful, and we understand that that takes investing in. In order for that brighter future to be available to all New Zealand students, they need to leave school with secure, good quality education—something this Government is committed to working on. Unlike Labour, which when it was in Government spent all its time wringing its hands and crying over the litany of poor statistics, we are doing something about it. How do we know that? Because this is the fourth Budget in a row that this Government has increased Vote Education—$9.6 billion for 2012-13. Despite the tough fiscal times, this Government has invested more, because we want to build a brighter future for New Zealanders. We know that early learners who start behind stay behind. We are committed to 98 percent of all new entrants in 2016 having participated in good quality early childhood education. We know that it is more affordable now—32 percent more affordable now—than it was in 2007. We are committed to getting 3,000 more early learners into quality early childhood education over the next 4 years, so that they can go on to primary school and have the strong platform of general education built there.
In order to do that, we know that one of the characteristics of a high-performing system is good quality data and information. That is why, last week, I launched the 5-year plan to build Public Achievement Information—that is right, Public Achievement Information. It will include, but not be confined to, national standards. National standards will be core to that, because we know that understanding how well our children are doing at school as they are doing it—not waiting until they get to year 9, nor waiting until they get to year 11 or year 12, but much earlier—means that parents can be empowered, alongside their children and their teacher, to know how they can invest to make a difference.
We are not afraid of information. We are not afraid of driving up good quality. We are committed to achievement for absolutely every one of our students. We do not deal with myth and slogans; we deal with an evidence-based approach, and quality information is part and parcel of that. We want to work with parents, and that is why on the back of this brochure are the five basic questions parents should be able to ask their teacher about how well their child is doing.
Then on to secondary school, where we know that we need to have more and more students—actually, about 10,000 more over the next 5 years—securing National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2 or equivalent. Why? Because without it, these young people do not have a passport to a quality life and they do not have the learning that allows them to earn. This Government is committed to making a difference. We will not continue to turn a blind eye to the statistics that the previous administration produced in the 9 long years it had to do something about it—but it did nothing. This Government is committed, and we know that this should be learner-centred, responsive education, where the parents are respected. The parents should be respected as companions in this drive to raise achievement for their young people. This Government does not tell them what to do; we work with them so they know what to do. Information does that, together with these targets, which we are prepared to hold ourselves accountable to. Those targets are—just one more time—98 percent of all early learners going on to primary school having done quality early childhood education, and all of our young people through years 0-1 to 8 having quality data and information about themselves so they, their parents, and their teachers understand.
BRENDAN HORAN (NZ First)
: Rail is a critical—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! I apologise to the honourable member, but the previous debate has concluded. I want to hear from Brendan Horan.
BRENDAN HORAN: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Rail is a critical part of New Zealand’s transport infrastructure. Right now its future is being compromised and undermined. New Zealand First considers that there is a strong case for a public inquiry into the state of the rail network, because of a long list of issues that need to be addressed.
Considering that this is Rail Safety Week, let us first consider safety. New Zealand First has brought to the public’s attention and to this House the issue of rotting rail sleepers. A lot of people do not really understand what that means—what is a rotten railway sleeper? Well, sleepers were brought in from Peru. There are thousands of them, and the truth is that they do not know how many are really out there. They have workers coming into the yards, they have had them coming into the yards, and they have had work outsourced, so contractors have been going into the yards, grabbing sleepers, and then going and trying to do maintenance.
Yesterday I spoke in the House and alerted the House about the safety issues involving sleepers that may be at many of the road crossings in New Zealand. But what does that mean? It means that if we have a fully laden train coming to a road crossing, and let us say that road is running parallel to the railway line, and those sleepers collapse, we will have a derailment. We could have a catastrophic derailment if that happens in peak hour. I can say to those people from Tauranga who are watching today that you need only think about the Bayfair Drive roundabout and the roundabout that is a little bit further down, near
Baypark. There you have a kilometre, and in peak hour traffic you could have hundreds of deaths. This needs to be investigated.
Let us look at some of the other issues, and the locomotives. Of 20 brand new locomotives, only one is actually working to its potential. The main distance between the failure rate of those locomotives is 14,800 kilometres, whereas some of the 50-year-old locomotives that KiwiRail has go for 80,000 kilometres before they have to have that essential check. We have locomotives that do not work, and one of those 20 brand new locomotives has not been seen on the railways tracks—no, they have turned it into parts. They are using a brand new locomotive for parts.
Then we take a look at the wagons, which are an absolute disaster. These wagons were designed, apparently, by some KiwiRail people, and they have a bubble in them. They have the bubble because when they put a container on it, the bubble lowers and
you have a flat platform, then they use the locking levers and lock that container into place. But if you have light material within the container, they cannot lock it because the bubble is still there. What KiwiRail workers are having to do is to drive a large forklift on top of the container to squash it down, so they can then lock it. This is unsafe. This is ridiculous. It is quite simply a mistake in the design of these 500 railway wagons that were brought from China. It is ridiculous. We are getting a lot of damage within KiwiRail because of this. You have these locking mechanisms breaking, you have brake failure, and you have bearings failing. All of these are very, very important safety issues.
Things are so bad that when they are doing maintenance on a locomotive, they have to leave the engine running, but they cannot open the engine bay doors because they are extremely worried that they are going to have fans disintegrating—more safety worries. Let us also look at the job losses that we have, with 181 KiwiRail workers being made redundant by October. This is part of a 3-year plan to get rid of 370 jobs. How can that be good for the economy? What happens to those families who have been made redundant? Well, some of those workers will be able to go into the workforce, but others will end up going on welfare.
The list of issues I have mentioned today—I have a whole lot more—all add up to a compelling case for a full inquiry into the state of New Zealand’s railways.
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN (Minister of Internal Affairs)
: It is an exciting time to be in Government, I have to say—an exciting time. I think that the opportunities that are ahead of this nation are unprecedented, and certainly unprecedented in my lifetime. I am privileged to be part of a Government that is taking up those opportunities with both hands and going forward.
When I talk about those opportunities, firstly, I ask members to just think about where we sit in the globe at the moment. It is just an unprecedented position. We are on the precipice of major trading nations that are growing ahead of many other nations around the world. Secondly, we are close to those nations. And, thirdly, those growing middle classes want our export products. They want our high-value exports. So we are in a wonderful position in that regard. What is great is to be on this side of the House at this point in time and to be part of a team that is making a huge contribution in that regard—a huge contribution.
When we came into Government at the start of this term we had four major objectives—four key priorities. The first was to rebuild Christchurch. What have we done? We delivered a central business district rebuild plan, just a couple of weeks ago. The second key objective was to responsibly manage the books. We saw a Budget that will bring us back to surplus by 2014-15 and not take Government debt any higher than 28 percent. We have committed to delivering better public services. The Prime Minister in that regard has rolled out 10 key result areas, and we heard just a couple of them from the Minister of Education, Hekia Parata, such as focusing on getting 85 percent of our kids to National Certificate of Educational Achievement level 2, and 95 percent of our kids into early childhood education. These are the things that will make a difference.
But what is exciting about today is that fourth priority area, where we have committed to building a productive and competitive economy, and I have got to hand it today to Ministers Tim Groser, Steven Joyce, and Bill English, who are out in the Hutt Valley launching the
Building Export Markets report on the new Business Growth Agenda. That is part of the agenda that we are taking forth—part of six key parts of the agenda—with export markets being the first one that is being launched. The others are innovation, skilled and safe workplaces, capital markets, natural resources, and infrastructure.
These are initiatives that set the progress of this Government, and what I hear from the other side of the House is: “Where’s the plan?”. “Where’s the plan?”. This is a progress report, and if you turn to the back of the document you can see that we hold ourselves accountable. We are bringing together all the streams of work that we are doing here. We are actually holding ourselves accountable through all the initiatives that we are implementing, as we speak, to drive a better future for this country. It is absolutely fantastic. But where I want to focus on—
Kris Faafoi: Where’s the cycleway in that book?
Hon CHRIS TREMAIN: I am glad you have brought up the cycleway. That is something I definitely want to focus on. One of the key initiatives within this export markets initiative is tourism, and tourism is our second-biggest industry. It is a wonderful industry that has continued to grow through the global financial crisis, and we are seeing significant changes in this. New markets are expanding into Asia. There is the Chinese market. If you look at the agenda here, in terms of the increasing value from tourism, you see that we have got a focus on increasing value from that Chinese market because we know there are going to be a lot more tourists coming from China. We need to understand how we can look after them better and actually improve the value added through that market.
On top of that we have got a major focus here on investing in major events. Major events are a huge revenue earner for this country, and we are investing in that. That is pulled together in the work stream: $10 million there. There are things like the World Masters Games coming in 2017, and the FIFA U-20 World Cup in 2015. They are a huge opportunity to bring export dollars into our market.
The cycleway—I am glad the Opposition has mentioned that because they love the cycleway, over there. I have to say I am passionate about the cycleway, and you can hold me to account anytime you want on the cycleway. We have got 18 rides that we are rolling out. We have clearly seen, from the Otago Central Rail Trail, what value that cycleway can add. It has taken 10 years for that cycleway to build to the level it is at. It will take time for each of the cycle trails to build value, but there are genuine businesses that are being built around each of those cycle trails. There are people who are coming to cycle, not only from around the country but from around the world. It is an exciting proposition and opportunity for this nation—an exciting opportunity.
On top of this we have investment in
Māori tourism and I think that is a wonderful opportunity in this country, growing on from what is available in Rotorua, and bringing that stream of tourism and offering it throughout the country. I think we can really do a big—
PHIL TWYFORD (Labour—Te
: It is always a pleasure to follow the member Chris Tremain, the member whose hair is his finest political asset. But the member, I am afraid, is going to be in trouble in 2014. He is in trouble because he is supporting the amalgamation of Napier and Hastings. He has no regard for the wishes of his constituents. He does not care what the local people think. He favours amalgamation and he is going to be in trouble in 2014. The member Chris Tremain has, I think, come out in favour of retaining the Gisborne to Napier rail link. I think he might have come out publicly in favour. Would the member like to nod if he is in favour of retaining the Gisborne to Napier rail link? Because this is an issue that is very much at the top of the minds of the people in his constituency. Like all over New Zealand, they are losing jobs under National. They are losing public services. Their economy is suffering because this Government has no economic plan for the regions. They are suffering because they are having to pay more rates because National has cut the funding for local roads in their electorate.
I want to talk briefly about how the roads of national significance have taken away money from almost every provincial region in New Zealand. They have squeezed every provincial council and every local council. They now face the choice of either subsidising the roads of national significance or shelling out from their own pockets to fund local roads, whose funding has been cut, or they have to let the local road network fall into disrepair. This Government has committed $12 billion to the roads of national significance, and now, for the second 3-year period, it is
flatlining the funding for local roads, which means, in the face of inflation and rising costs for things like bitumen, that local roads budgets are facing real cuts.
Ask the ratepayers and ask the councillors and the mayors in any rural and provincial councils. In the last few weeks I have been to Southland, Clutha, Gore, Central Otago, Queenstown, Waitaki, Timaru, Ashburton, Invercargill, and Dunedin, and I am here to tell you that every single mayor in those council areas is angry with the National Government for what it has done in cutting the funding of local roads. In many of those councils, the budget for local roads amounts to half the operating budget of those councils. In places like Ashburton, which has got 2,600 kilometres of local roads to maintain, it has only 12,000 ratepayers. That is an enormous burden that this Government has placed on those communities in New Zealand’s provincial heartland, by forcing them to either subsidise the roads of national significance or let their local roads fall into disrepair. I want to quote Mayor Angus McKay of the Ashburton District Council, who said recently: “We are frustrated that the Government appears to have chosen to focus their expenditure on city motorways”—the roads of national significance—“at the expense of the rural areas that generate a significant proportion of income for the country.”
When I was in Timaru last week they told me about the two roads in and out of the
Clandeboye Fonterra plant. That plant at
Clandeboye accounts for 5 percent of this country’s export earnings. That is a massive amount of our export wealth as a country, yet the 12,000 ratepayers of Timaru have to fund and maintain that road and all the heavy traffic on it out of their rates. They have been put in a position where they are literally begging this Government to declare the roads in and out of
Clandeboye as a road of national significance. That is what you have to do in this country under this Government to get any sort of serious attention and get the resources needed to keep those roads in good nick—you have to make them a road of national significance.
Drummond dairy farmer Geoff Lindsay a few weeks ago at the Southland District Council long-term plan hearing had this suggestion. He suggested that the Southland District Council dig up the road outside the finance Minister’s sometime residence in Dipton as a way of conveying the plight that the people of Southland feel—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: His holiday home.
PHIL TWYFORD: His holiday home—thank you, Mr Cosgrove. They are so angry in Southland about the neglect of their local road network that they want to dig up the road outside the finance Minister’s holiday home in Dipton. That says something about the mood in provincial New Zealand. They are losing jobs, they are losing public services, and they are having their local roads funding cut. Why does National treat provincial New Zealand with such utter contempt?
MELISSA LEE (National)
: I am actually recovering from a comment that the previous speaker, Phil Twyford, made. I always thought of Mr Phil Twyford as a gentleman, and I could not believe that he was attacking somebody with lots of hair, especially since he is slightly follicly challenged. Maybe that is what happens in Labour, because—
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: Order! A point of order has been called, and it will be heard in silence.
Hon Clayton Cosgrove: If anybody is follicly challenged, it is me on our side, not Phil Twyford. I take that title.
Mr SPEAKER: It was no point of order, but let us get on with the member’s speech.
MELISSA LEE: That was very noble of you, Mr Cosgrove. Maybe that is what happens, as I said. I always thought of Mr Twyford as a gentleman, but that is what happens in Labour. Those members have to have venom within their caucus and actually show it in the House to actually get somewhere.
It is generally accepted that the other side of the House lacks credibility. Those members focus on sideshows, obviously—and we have seen that performance in the House—and often those kinds of sideshows fail miserably. I can remember a particular case of a bus that went around the country and was supposed to have public meetings, which nobody turned up to. It was such a sideshow. It was so memorable that nobody remembers what it was about. Perhaps Mr Cunliffe will have a better chance. He has turned up to the House, you know, to Parliament, without his moustache. It has been shaved off, and he is clean-shaven, with a new look, and a new tan. Perhaps he might be the success story of the Labour Party by toppling Mr David Shearer as the leader. Perhaps the House boxes of the Labour members are in fact the telling signs. I do not know whether other members have noticed, but the Labour members’ House boxes do not have their normal signage. The signage has all been removed, and it seems that perhaps a new label is required, because of the imminent new leader—maybe. But, those sideshows aside, let us talk about—
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I think it is one of the rules of this House that you are not to be brought into debate. My understanding is that the things were taken off our boxes at your recommendation.
Mr SPEAKER: Well, the Speaker is not going to be brought into the debate. But neither should the member’s speech be interrupted.
MELISSA LEE: Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. Let us not actually ponder about what is happening over on that side of the House. Let us talk about the priorities of this Government. Previously the Hon Chris Tremain talked about the four priorities of this Government. They are responsibly managing the Government’s finances, building a more competitive and productive economy, delivering a better Public Service, and rebuilding Christchurch.
I want to talk about the Government’s finances. In an economic climate where New Zealand is, like, one-quarter of 1 percent of the world’s economy, I mean, we are affected negatively or positively by what is happening around us. Countries that traditionally actually did better than New Zealand are suffering in this economic climate, and we can see that in Europe. But in New Zealand we are actually on track to getting back into surplus in 2014-15. That would mean that we will become one of the very few developed economies not increasing public debt in these difficult times. To me, that is fantastic management. How are we actually achieving this? Well, by better management skills, I guess, on this side of the House, compared with the other side, and also by building a more competitive and productive economy.
Budget 2012 forecast economic growth on average of around 3 percent. I think Chris Tremain talked about our neighbouring countries, the growing countries in Asia—for example, Indonesia, which has 245 million people. It has a market that is 60 times bigger than New Zealand’s, and it is growing way faster than New Zealand. We need to actually entice their investment and their tourist numbers into New Zealand to spend their money in New Zealand. I think it is actually very, very important. On average we will grow 3 percent in the next 4 years, with 154,000 new jobs created. That is on top of
the 60,000 new jobs already created in the past 2 years. National is increasing annual spending on science and innovation by $385 million over the next 4 years to more than $1.3 billion a year by 2015-16.
Earlier this afternoon we were talking about investment and
Crafar farms. Well, I have to say that I cannot believe that we have had xenophobic rhetoric coming from the Opposition. Shame on them. Grow up.
MOANA MACKEY (Labour)
: Apparently, according to Melissa Lee and the National Government, everything is just going great in New Zealand at the moment.
Melissa Lee: It is.
MOANA MACKEY: Oh, it is! Everything is fantastic! People are not finding it hard to pay the bills! People are not finding it hard to put food on the table! Everything is hunky-dory in the National Party. Well, it might be hunky-dory as they sit there on their parliamentary salaries, and their ministerial salaries, but they may have forgotten that there are an awful lot of New Zealanders out there who are finding it incredibly tough going at the moment. That kind of speech, claiming that everything is going great and the Government has got all the answers, just shows why New Zealand is going further and further backwards, and why New Zealanders are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.
I want to talk particularly about provincial New Zealand and how hard people are finding it in the regions of New Zealand. We have seen a mass exodus over the last year from provincial New Zealand. New Zealand is already one of the most urbanised countries in the world. That is not a healthy state of affairs for a country that relies on agriculture and its primary industries as the backbone of its economy. We need strong, growing regional economies. We need them there so that we have the schools, the hospitals, and the infrastructure that those regional communities need to survive. This National Government, just as it did in the 1990s, is undermining the very backbone of our country in the provinces. Two and a half thousand people left for Australia from Gisborne and the Hawke’s Bay last year alone; 4,000 left from the Bay of Plenty. How is it good for the New Zealand economy to have a mass exodus of young people, in particular, from provincial New Zealand?
Then you look at what the Government is doing in roading. Melissa Lee defended motorways. We know why she likes motorways—she thinks they are part of National’s law and order and crime prevention package. But the reality is that the National Government has taken money out of the regional roading fund, which used to go to support and help small provincial councils pay for their local roading, and put it all into roads of national significance, which are mostly around Auckland. In the eastern Bay of Plenty we have a Fonterra factory at Edgecumbe. The local mayor has actually tracked the movements of the trucks that service that Fonterra factory and found that 70 percent of those truck movements are not on State highways; they are on local roads paid for by the local councils—70 percent. So when you undermine that roading network, you are undermining the very businesses that keep those provincial communities going. I invite any member of the National Party, including our local MP, to come to Gisborne and to have a look at the state of the roads in Gisborne. In the city of Gisborne the roads are full of potholes. It is absolutely appalling how the roads have degraded over the last few years, and how our council is struggling to pay to repair those roads.
We have a rail line in Gisborne that the Government is about to close. I am fairly certain it is about to close it, from the answers that it has been giving and the fact that it blocked our petition at the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee. Mayor
MengFoon and 10,000 people signed a petition calling on the Government to save the Gisborne to Napier rail line. Government members have not even bothered to contact our mayor to tell him that they have stalled that petition, because they do not want to
deal with it because they are about to close our rail line. Well, do you know who one of the biggest users of our rail line is? It is trucking companies. It is counter-intuitive, but it is trucking companies, because it is so uneconomic to run trucks from Gisborne down to Napier because of the state of the roads, because of the difficulty of the terrain, because of the wear and tear on the wheels, and because of the cost of fuel. So it is trucking companies that are putting their containers on to our rail line.
Until we had the washout of our rail line we had added four extra trains a week at the beginning of the year. The Hawke’s Bay Regional Council was given a report that said that the Gisborne to Napier rail line cannot cope with demand—it has got nothing to do with lack of demand—because the Government will not provide it with locomotives to run even more trains on that rail line. It is economically viable. It is fixable. For $4 million we could save the Gisborne to Napier rail line and those companies that rely on it to get freight in and out of Gisborne—one of the most isolated parts of the country with one of the most vulnerable roading networks. There was a point in which the road north through the
Waioeka Gorge was closed. Because of bad weather the road south was closed, the road around the coast was closed, the airport was closed, and nothing could get in or out of the port. For a few days our rail line was the only link in and out of the Gisborne district, until a washout took out the rail line as well. That washout happened because culverts were not being cleaned and so the water was forced through under the rail line instead of where it should have gone. That rail line needs to be saved. It is an integral part of the provincial infrastructure. This National Government continues to undermine regional economies.
TIM MACINDOE (National—Hamilton West)
: What a wonderful time it is to be a citizen of the mighty Waikato. Last time I spoke in this House I celebrated the stunning “come from behind” win of the mighty Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic over the Melbourne Vixens in this year’s ANZ championships—the first New Zealand team to win that competition, and they did it in style. Had I not been speaking in the context of the Joint Family Homes Repeal Bill that afternoon—some might say it was more the contortion than a context—I would have treated the House to a rendition of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet”, because what a privilege it was to be at Waikato Stadium just about 10 days ago to watch the Chiefs thump the Sharks 37-6—37-6 it was—and I was there a week earlier for that heart-stopping semi-final against the Crusaders. In fact, I have to say that that night I empathised with the bloke who wrote to the
New Zealand Herald
demanding, after the Rugby World Cup final, a refund of three-quarters of his ticket price on the grounds that he had been sitting on the edge of his seat for the whole night and had not used most of it.
Well, what a great battle that particular game was between the two best teams in New Zealand. I want to say congratulations to Craig Clarke, Liam
Messam, Dave Rennie, and all the players and the support crew of the mighty Chiefs franchise. I am very proud to be the “MP for Waikato Stadium” and in fact Minogue Park, our netball centre, in this House. We are all so proud of our Magic and our Chiefs players.
But wait, there is more. Our Olympic successes have been widely celebrated, and nowhere more so than in the Waikato where our rowers train at that superb, high-performance centre we now have at Lake Karapiro. We are so proud of
MaheDrysdale, Hamish Bond, and Eric Murray, Juliette
Scown—of all of them—and also, in fact, of Mark Todd. That maestro of an equestrian rider, the remarkable Mark Todd, is also a Cambridge boy. And so it goes on. Did they not all do so well, and we in the Waikato are so proud of them.
Well, it is no coincidence that in such a successful region every electorate is held by the National Party. Ours is a region of doers and grafters and achievers, and ours is a party and a Government that backs these people, backs those who work hard, and
believes in them. Unlike the negative and divided bunch opposite, we are focused on what needs to be done in very challenging times, just as our Olympians and our top sportspeople dug deep through those very challenging times of their various seasons and showed what hard work can achieve.
We see that spirit every day in Canterbury, as those who have suffered so much roll up their sleeves, cope with the cruel blows that they have suffered since September of 2010, and work towards rebuilding that beautiful city of Christchurch and their wider region. This Government stands shoulder to shoulder with those people of Canterbury. Our commitment to Canterbury’s recovery is unwavering, notwithstanding the very challenging times in which we all live. We have committed to the most ambitious goals imaginable for delivering better public services for New Zealanders, and already we are seeing some spectacular results, particularly in the health sector where we are seeing shorter waiting lists and less time in the emergency rooms. We are getting people through, and they are getting the operations. We are not having to send cancer patients over to Australia. There is so much more being delivered for the health dollar, thanks to the impressive leadership, the vision, and the strategy, and we are proud of it.
But we can do even better, because getting better public services is all about the prudent use of finite resources. It is not, as the Opposition would tell us, particularly those on “Planet Labour”, that there is money aplenty and you just keep on finding it from somewhere, but actually realising that we are in the real world and that we have finite resources, and that it is clear vision and good leadership that are required.
Well, what do we have opposite? We have a leader—I think he is a leader—who has disappeared somewhere in the regions. Do you know, the extraordinary thing about it is that his colleagues have not even noticed that he is missing, so they have not yet sent out a search party for him. Ms Mackey just told us that we need stronger regional economies. Well, absolutely! So we do. So why does she and every one of her colleagues over there oppose every measure that this Government has put forward in order to achieve that? Every one of them—
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North)
: I have seen more coherence in a French back line than I saw from the speech of that member, Tim Macindoe, over there. What a rambling mess. Could he tell us what the National Government has done for Waikato? No. Could he tell us about regional development from this Government? No. Could he tell us about economic development from this Government? No. All he could talk about was the success of other people—other people who have done things that have got nothing to do with the National Government at all. All he could do was ride on the coat-tails of sportspeople and Olympians, because he has nothing positive to tell his electorate or the country.
I would like to point out to that member that I appreciate the win by the Chiefs. I appreciate the fact that Aaron
Cruden did most of the work—a good
Manawatū man. You can have him, as long as he keeps winning for you, and he is coming back, to keep winning for us, as well.
I visited Hamilton in the Waikato, and I got exactly the same message there as I get from people in the
Manawatū and the
Rangitīkei. When I talk to small businesses in the regions, I hear two stories. One is that there is no work. There is no work out there, and businesses are struggling to stay afloat because this economy has stalled. This Government has done such a pathetic job of getting the economy moving that there is no work out there for small businesses, and they are struggling to keep people on. But I hear another story, as well. There are some businesses out there that are starting to recover, and they want to take people on. They want to employ people in the regions. But guess what? They cannot find the people with the skills they need to grow their businesses.
That is why we end up with graphs like the one I am holding up, which was in the
on the weekend. The top line is the unemployment rate, which is remaining stubbornly high. But the bottom line, the blue line, is the job vacancies. There is an increase. This goes from 2009 through until today. Job vacancies have gone up by 72 percent, yet people still are not employed. Why is that? It is because this Government is not investing in the skills that are required to grow the regional economies of New Zealand.
So what do you think the Government should do? I think it should invest in tertiary education, and particularly invest in teaching the skills that are required to grow our regional economies. In my area, in the
Manawatū, we have got the Universal College of Learning, or UCOL. It has had its funding cut by $4.4 million. That is a 12 percent cut for the Universal College of Learning. But it is not just us. Our friends over in Taranaki have had a 13 percent cut to their institute of technology. Worst hit of all is Aoraki Polytechnic down in South Canterbury. It has had a 20 percent cut—one-fifth of its funding has been cut. It is the same across the regions of New Zealand, because this Government is not interested in investing in skills.
This Government is not interested in backing New Zealanders. This Government is not interested in growing the economy. All it is interested in is roads of national significance. That is the only item on the agenda.
Hon Member: And the cycleway.
IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY: Oh, and maybe a cycleway—a jobless cycleway. Sell a few assets and build a few roads—that is it. I find it fascinating that this Government is selling off profitable assets in order, it says, to keep down debt, but it said today it is happy to borrow money to build roads of national significance.
What the Government should be doing is allowing the regions to play to their strengths. In my region of
Manawatū we want to build our capacity as a transport hub. But, guess what? The
Manawatū Gorge road has been closed for nearly a year because it is not a road of national significance. The Government is taking away the Capital Connection because it lies alongside a road of national significance, so it will not get any funding. It is great! A railway that has a benefit-cost ratio of between 1.6 and 3.0 cannot be funded at a rate of $300,000 a year, but the road next to it, which has a benefit-cost ratio of less than 1.2, is having millions of dollars spent on it, and the Government is going to borrow to put the money into that road. It is ludicrous—it is absolutely ludicrous.
Manawatūwe have the defence forces. Because of the mess that this Government has made of the change programme in the defence forces, we have lost 293 of our defence personnel from Linton and
Ōhākea. Again, it just does not seem to matter which portfolio it is, this Government is overlooking the regions.
ALFRED NGARO (National)
: I just want to acknowledge the previous speaker, Iain Lees-Galloway, and I want to acknowledge that he talked about rugby. In fact, I was honoured to play with him over in Palmerston North. He played there, and he played such a great game. He represented Labour greatly in that game. It was great. The unfortunate thing was that he was the only one from the Labour Party there, which is a true reflection of the party. Rather than being a team party, it is a party of loners, of lone individuals going off and doing their own little things. But, I must admit, he did a great job, a sterling job.
There is a saying about this: “Success has many fathers, but failure is often an orphan.” We have talked about the rugby, and we have talked about Waikato. In Waikato the Chiefs coach, David Rennie—and everyone wants to claim someone from there—is actually a Cook Islander. So it was great to have that success. Who was the one who coached them to get over the line? It was a Cook Islander.
How that fits into this speech is that last week was an adjournment week. It was a great opportunity for us to be able to get into our constituencies and to see our people. On Friday was the celebration at the end of Cook Islands Language Week. We began to celebrate those things we celebrate as our successes as Cook Islanders. It was great. The celebration on Friday night was epitomised by a young woman called
PhillisMeti. She has a long list of achievements in the sporting world, and it was great to be able to see her there. She summed this up very well when she talked about vision and hope for the future. She said this: “You simply need to have a plan, and you need to have small steps that achieve that goal.” That is what we look for in leadership.
How apt it is, then, when we talk about a plan. The other side says we do not have a plan. We have this plan, and this is a plan that is taking us forward. These steps of achievement are what we also want to talk about. Here is the interesting thing: at the end of that night the conversation moved into politics. People began to ask what is happening in the Labour Party. They were asking what is happening to poor Mr Sio. He is talking about these things that are important. He is beginning to shake the Pacific community. All of a sudden, people began to ask the question of whether the Labour Party is the party they wanted to choose to follow.
In 2005, when the Labour Party won the election, Mike Williams, the then President of the Labour Party, said that if it were not for the Pacific votes, it would not have won the election. In that very community, which has become the heart and the lifeblood of the Labour Party, all of a sudden they are quiet—like they are now. Why? It is because the truth is beginning to sink in.
Kris Faafoi: You want to speak? We’re listening to you.
ALFRED NGARO: Thank you, Mr Faafoi. Thank you. That is right. You speak on behalf of the party. Why? It is because the truth is beginning to sink in. What is that truth? Labour is not a Government-in-waiting. It is not a Government-in-waiting. It does not give confidence that it has a plan, that it even has goals, that it even has little baby steps to achieve those goals—not even a step at all. But, hey, we should say that on “Planet Labour” you know when things are getting bad: when they start eating their young. That is right. This is how it goes. Where do we look for that evidence? Here it is. Brian Edwards says: “David Shearer has been branded ‘invisible’ by the commentators, while his opposite number, John Key, continues to bask in the warm sun of electorate approval.” Let us go a little bit further. Chris Trotter, a left-leaning political commentator, says: “Above all other things, a political leader must be a communicator—and Mr Shearer isn’t. Not surprisingly, the major public opinion polls are all now registering”—hear this—“declining levels of public support for both Mr Shearer and his party.”
But it gets even better. Here are the
Ginsu knives, Mr Mallard. Here it is: Matt McCarten, political organiser and activist. What a beautiful article he wrote on Sunday. This is what he said: “Here’s the real question: Do Labour front benchers look like they are ready to govern?”. Do they look like it? I will tell you what, all of New Zealand is asking that. And, guess what? They are not. Matt McCarten asks “Have they earned the confidence of the public?”. They have not. So for all the bantering and for all the waving around and attacks on the National Government, have we declined in support? No, we have not. In fact, we have increased. But it gets even better. At the end, this is what he says: he says his point is that most of the caucus is not up to the task. No one knows who the members of the front bench are. No one knows who they are.
I could continue to lament on, but let us talk about positive things that we are achieving in this Government. Why? Because we are busy working on four priorities. Let us just name what they are. Let us see the four plans: responsibly managing Government finances, building a more competitive and productive economy, delivering
better public services, and—let us wait for it—rebuilding Christchurch. We do not forget Christchurch. The general public get it; they know that we are simply trying to live within our means. We are simply being responsible and managing Government finances. Thank you.
- The debate having concluded, the motion lapsed.