Tuesday, 11 February 2003
Mr Speaker took the Chair at 2 p.m.
Donna Awatere Huata
Mr SPEAKER: I have been advised in writing by the leader of ACT that Donna Awatere-Huata has been suspended from the ACT caucus. This is an internal disciplinary matter for the ACT party, and what it entails in respect of ACT caucus activity is a matter for ACT to determine, not for me as Speaker. As Speaker, I am concerned with the House’s rules relating to parties. A suspension of a member from caucus effects no change in a party’s parliamentary membership. For parliamentary purposes, Donna Awatere-Huata remains a member of ACT. She is to be seated within the area of seating allocated to ACT—though precisely which ACT seat she occupies is a matter for the leader of ACT to determine. She is also to be included in the party vote totals cast for ACT, unless she votes contrary to ACT. In that case, she may cast a separate vote—see Standing Order 145(1)(d). In sum, as far as the Standing Orders are concerned, a member’s suspension from a party caucus has no effect on the party’s standing in the House.
Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2)
Referral to Local Government and Environment Committee, referral back to the Local Government and Environment Committee
Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN (Leader of the House)
: I seek leave for Government order of the day No. 40, relating to consideration of the report on the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2) to be discharged and the bill referred to the Local Government and Environment Committee for further consideration, and that the committee have the power to consider, and, if it thinks fit, adopt any amendments relating to the control and care of dogs.
Mr SPEAKER: Is there any objection to that course being followed?
Dail Jones: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. We would prefer to have this matter dealt with by way of Supplementary Order Paper, and I have prepared a further motion.
Mr SPEAKER: Objection has been raised, and that is the end of the matter.
Dail Jones: No, no. I am not objecting to it; I am just saying that—
Mr SPEAKER: Please be seated. Someone has raised objection. That is the end of the matter.
Points of Order
Donna Awatere Huata
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. You have mentioned the position in respect of the ACT party in this House. I would be curious to know whether we have a chance to reflect upon what you have said, and to revisit it with you. It is a simple matter. This is the first day of the House’s sitting. You have given a ruling—or it sounds like a ruling—from the very start. There was a part of it that, from my own experience, I personally could not agree with. We would therefore like to raise the matter with you at another time—and would like to know whether it is still open for that to happen.
Mr SPEAKER: I am quite happy for members to reflect on anything I say, and for them to come and see me at any time about anything I have said.
Prime Minister’s Statement
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call on the Prime Minister I want to say that this statement, of course, has already been given to party leaders, and I require that the statement and the following addresses from party leaders be heard in relative silence.
Rt Hon HELEN CLARK (Prime Minister)
: The Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament on this first sitting day of the year provides a formal opportunity to review public affairs and outline the Labour - Progressive Coalition Government’s legislative and other intentions for the next 12 months. As recently as 27 August last year the priorities for the second term of the Government were set out comprehensively in the Speech from the Throne. Today in this statement I will comment on the current state of the economy, on the Government’s key areas of activity for the year, and on the international crisis over Iraq.
The Government begins the year very positive about the prospects for New Zealand and for its own policy programme. The economy’s performance has been strong, even in a challenging international environment. New Zealand over the past year has been one of the OECD’s star performers, with annual average growth for the year to September coming in at 3.9 percent. Although the economy is projected to come off that growth peak, commentators are predicting a soft landing, with growth slowing to just below trend. Given the state of most Western economies, that would be a very credible result. The Government, however, will continue to work alongside stakeholders in the economy on policies and initiatives to lift growth to a sustainably higher plane. Currently, our unemployment rate stands roughly equal to that of the United Kingdom, lower than that of either the United States or Australia, and significantly lower than that of the Euro area—and I note today’s unemployment rate of 4.9 percent for the December quarter.
Net migration remains strong, fuelled by fewer New Zealanders leaving and by more returning home. Twenty-five percent fewer New Zealanders left to live elsewhere last year than did in 2001, and the number of Kiwis coming home on a permanent or long-term basis rose by 8 percent. New Zealand continues to be a very attractive destination for migrants.
Other key indicators are also encouraging. Retail sales are healthy, and consumer confidence is solid. Overall business confidence reflects the international uncertainty, but businesses’ own investment and employment intentions are solid.
The strong economic performance has had a very positive effect on the Government’s fiscal position. While that is, of course, welcome, the Government will be maintaining a strong fiscal policy. Our aim is to build and sustain solid levels of economic growth, and to fund good public services and infrastructure sustainably. Spending that grows unsustainably inevitably ends in the heartache of structural deficits and / or cutbacks. That is a feature of New Zealand’s modern history that should not be repeated.
The appreciation of the New Zealand dollar over the past year has put pressure on the export sector. That pressure reminds us of the ongoing challenge to the New Zealand economy to reposition up the value chain as a supplier of highly desired and higher-valued goods and services, which are less vulnerable to currency fluctuations. While the open nature of the New Zealand economy requires all our businesses to be internationally competitive, the maintenance and improvement of our living standards requires us to be innovative and to compete on quality and value. There is no future for New Zealand in a competition to produce the cheapest products with the least concern for labour and environmental standards.
Growth and innovation was the focus of the economic policy framework released at
the time of my Prime Minister’s statement last year. Since then, many initiatives have been taken in line with the framework to strengthen the economy’s capacity to grow, and we will continue to build on them this year. Moving ahead on workplace skills supply, on increasing New Zealand’s research and development capacity, on practical initiatives to speed up regional, business, and export growth, on sector strategies, and on infrastructure is at the heart of the Government’s economic programme. That programme is reinforced by our commitment to strong leadership, a stable policy framework, and to opening up world markets to our goods and services, and by the priority we place on social cohesion, participation, and opportunity, so that the benefits of progress can be widely shared. In that way we can best build a shared vision and national consensus around the goal of lifting New Zealand’s economic performance and improving our social outcomes.
The very foundation of a dynamic economy and society lies in the talents and skills of its workforce and people. Our Government has set out to open up opportunities for New Zealanders to gain higher education and skills qualifications. Tertiary education has become more affordable, and participation in skills training has soared. Even so, employers still report skills shortages at a level that constrains our ability to grow. It is sobering to hear that those skills shortages are often as basic as an inability to read and write properly. We will continue to work with industry to overcome skills deficits, both through more funding of education and training, about which I shall say more later, and by continually retuning the immigration system to meet our workforce needs.
In the past year the introduction of the work to residence policy, which includes the talent visa, and the priority occupations work permit, the increased English language requirements, and a points premium for job offers relevant to migrants’ qualifications and work experience have all aimed to lift the economic contribution that immigration makes to New Zealand. Changes designed to meet that objective will continue to be made. The Government will continue to promote the benefits that migrants with relevant skills bring to New Zealand, and to promote the values of tolerance, inclusion, and respect, which characterise all successful harmonious and outward-looking societies.
Innovative economies and societies place a high value on science, research, and creativity as springboards for growth and development. The past year has seen exciting initiatives in those areas. For example, the seven centres of research excellence have been established in areas of major importance to New Zealand’s economic and social development. The centres are operating collaboratively across tertiary institutions, and for the most part also have links to Crown research institutes. Excellence, specialisation, and collaboration are all characteristics that the new tertiary Education Commission has been set up to drive in the tertiary sector, and we have high expectations for the increased contribution the tertiary sector will make to New Zealand’s well-being.
Funding for industry-led research consortia was also introduced in 2002. To date, $33 million of public funding over 5 years has been more than matched by $44 million from the private sector. Those research groups bring Crown research institutes and universities together with private sector companies, to pursue opportunities with commercial potential. Among the consortia approved to date are those working on biomedical compounds, pastoral greenhouse gas reduction, and wood quality. More are in the pipeline.
In the creative sector, the reputation of our film industry continues to be boosted by the box-office success of
Lord of the Rings. Most encouraging also is the early success of the first film to be funded by the Film Production Fund, established by the Government in 2000.
has won critical acclaim in film festivals in Europe and North America in recent months. Its success is positive for Māoridom and for all
New Zealand, based as it is on a novel by Witi Ihimaera, and filmed in an East Coast community with its full backing and participation.
’s success lives up to the vision the Government had for New Zealand film-making when the Film Production Fund was established. More films are in various stages of post-production and planning, from the fund.
The New Zealand music industry has also had a good year. More New Zealand music is being broadcast locally, with commercial radio stations exceeding the targets set for local content in the voluntary code. New Zealand music is now making up almost double the share of total music sales in the country, compared with 5 years ago. The Music Industry Commission, with the support of Trade New Zealand, has led successful delegations to major international music fairs, and hosted a very successful New Zealand music showcase in association with America’s Cup activities late last year.
Trade New Zealand and Industry New Zealand have worked proactively over the last year to promote business, industry, cluster, regional, and export growth. Many hundreds of companies have been assisted by their advisors and funding. Trade New Zealand alone provided export development services to more than 700 new clients in 2002. In terms of results, Trade New Zealand’s customers estimate that its assistance to them resulted in an additional $2.41 billion of foreign exchange earnings.
More than a decade ago Professor Michael Porter’s prescription for New Zealand advocated the development of industry clusters to boost growth. Now, Industry New Zealand is backing 22 clusters, which assist key business suppliers and related organisations to take advantage of growth opportunities. They range across sectors from health information technology in Auckland to Waikato’s biotech, Wellington’s creative manufacturing, Nelson’s seafood, and Dunedin’s engineering. Over the past 3 years the Government has helped to establish and / or fund 26 regional groupings, to develop economic strategies and regional specialisation. From that work, new regional centres of excellence have emerged in the past year. Hawke’s Bay has the centre of innovation for food processing, Marlborough has the research centre for viticulture, Rotorua has the centre for excellence in wood processing and training, and Hamilton has the Waikato technology park to promote commercialisation of intellectual property.
In the cities, and generally attached to tertiary institutions, are 15 incubators that have been funded by Industry New Zealand’s incubator development unit. The start-up companies in the incubators benefit from the collegial work environment, and from the mentoring and practical business advice available to them on site. New Zealand has been a latecomer in incubator support for start-up companies, and we are running to catch up now, including the addressing of their needs for capital.
In 2001 our Government decided to get involved, in order to ensure that start-up companies could access early-stage capital. Venture capital is recognised internationally for the key role it plays in commercialising innovation. The Venture Investment Fund now has co-investment arrangements with three privately-managed seed funds, and is currently finalising documentation with two more. The focus for those funds will be early-stage, innovative businesses with potential for high growth. Already, for example, one of the funds has invested in an early expansion - staged software company, recognised as an industry leader in business intelligence and data-visualisation solutions. Further investments are expected to be made by fund managers in the next few weeks.
Other programmes rolled out in the past year include World Class New Zealanders, which helps businesses to get access to international expertise and innovative technology. Through the programme, businesses can set up networks and strategic partnerships with successful overseas businesses, through international missions and
exchanges. It also encourages links to successful expatriate New Zealanders and their networks. A recent example of that programme in action saw representatives of the Petone-based Black Arrow Company, which manufactures Racetech racing seats, visiting the US to meet with Daimler-Chrysler engineers, and that led to a contract being signed.
Last year the Government established four task forces in innovative sectors with the potential to have significant spillover effects for growth in other sectors. The information and communications technology task force has already produced a draft report with ambitious targets, and the biotechnology, design, and screen production reports are due shortly. The blueprints that emerge will help to guide the Government’s investment in education and infrastructure, and the sectors’ ability to exploit market opportunities. This year Trade New Zealand and Industry New Zealand will be merged, to service the needs of New Zealand businesses better through a single agency. Last year the investment services of the two agencies were joined together to form a strong Investment New Zealand, to attract foreign direct investment. Resources for the combined operation were increased by more than $6 million in the current year. The new Investment New Zealand is working to get better alignment between investment, recruitment, and industry sector strategies.
In order to be successful in attracting both foreign and domestic investment into areas with high potential for growth, New Zealand needs to have infrastructure that can meet the needs of both industry and society. For the Government this year, in this term, that means planning and action on transport, on energy supply, on the quality and allocation of fresh water, and on the high-technology infrastructure of broadband.
The New Zealand transport strategy, launched in December, will guide Government decision-making across all transport modes. The Land Transport Management Bill, due for passage this year, provides for a broader land transport focus than has been encouraged in the past. Effective land transport planning must address public passenger transport funding and management systems, along with the roading and rail networks. The strategy overall will ensure that a more balanced and sustainable approach is taken to developing transport infrastructure. The Government is also increasing its spending on roading, public transport, and alternatives to roading. Auckland’s transport needs are getting long-overdue attention in order to relieve the congestion there, which impacts adversely on the whole economy.
New Zealand’s growth is putting pressure on our energy supply. So are the earlier-than-expected expiry of the Maui gas supply and the effects of longer-term climate change on the critical hydroelectricity supply from the South Island lakes to the east of the alpine chain. The Government is not satisfied that the inherited energy policy settings can ensure the provision of adequate supply quickly enough. Ensuring that New Zealand has a secure energy supply, that our energy use becomes more efficient and less wasteful, and that our renewable sources of energy are developed and maximised are key objectives of the Government’s recently released programme of action for sustainable development.
The Government announced yesterday proposals to amend the Resource Management Act to give greater weight to the benefits of renewable energy. The sustainable development programme of action also addresses the need for new approaches to freshwater allocation and use. New Zealand has taken access to clean, abundant water for granted, and it is vital to our agricultural economy and to the functioning of our communities, yet in some parts of the country the pressure on water resources is already acute. Our work programme addresses how to allocate and use water in more sustainable, efficient, and equitable ways, how best to maintain its quality, and how to ensure that water bodies with nationally significant natural, social,
or cultural heritage values are protected. Lake Taupo is an example of a situation where past and current activities are threatening the long-term water quality status and the sustainable development of the lake and its environs.
In the telecommunications sector a new Act, a new commissioner based in the Commerce Commission, and an updated Kiwi share obligation are in place. Now the Government’s key focus is Project Probe, the initiative to roll out broadband to the regions. Commercial tendering is under way, and project completion has been targeted for the end of 2004. Fast Internet access is an essential precondition for economic modernisation and it needs to be available throughout New Zealand, so that our rural industries can benefit from it along with our cities.
The Government continues to work to leverage advantage for New Zealand from major successes like
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and the hosting of the America’s Cup. They and our vanguard export industries, large and small, are redefining the New Zealand brand as smart and innovative, creative, technologically advanced, and in tune with the 21st century. That is working for New Zealand tourism, which bounced back speedily from the tragedy of September 11. It is working in our favour for net inward migration, both in retaining and attracting back more of our own people and in recruiting the best and brightest from elsewhere. We need that updated brand to work in our favour consistently across our range of exports, and to attract high-quality investment to help to drive our future.
The export orientation of New Zealand’s economy leads the Government to prioritise getting greater market access for our goods and services. New Zealand is more adversely affected by protection in foreign markets than any other developed country. A successful World Trade Organization round, especially on agricultural access, would deliver big gains for New Zealand. Opening up markets through the Dohar round is our top trade policy priority this year and until its conclusion. The Government will also continue to push at APEC for the achievement of the Bogor goals. Within APEC we already have open-trade agreements with Australia, with the 20th anniversary of closer economic relations this year, and with Singapore. This year we begin talks with Chile and Singapore on a three-way agreement, and we have stepped up our promotion of free-trade negotiations with the United States, following the positive reference to New Zealand in the US Trade Representative’s letter to Congress on his intention to negotiate with Australia. The Government is working closely with the private sector, locally and in the United States, to press the New Zealand case.
Last year the Government set the objective of returning New Zealanders’ per capita income to the top half of the OECD rankings over time. There is no magic wand to be waved to achieve that, but there are many steps that the Government, economic stakeholders, and the broader community can take to make it possible. The path that the Government has chosen sees us implementing smart, active policies to encourage and facilitate growth and development, and forming partnerships across the economy and society to make it happen. Improving workforce productivity will be a central element in achieving improved sustainable growth rates, and this year the Government wants to work with both business and unions to make progress on lifting productivity.
The path we have rejected is the discredited direction of the 1990s. That path held families and communities back through a repressive social and labour-market policy, and crushed the spirit of many. Then, through ideological extremism and economic policy, the Government of the time had neither the resources required to invest in our common future nor the leaders needed to promote a vibrant, sustainable economy.
Now I believe that there is a new optimism about New Zealand’s potential. New leaders, achievers, and entrepreneurs have emerged. The country’s sights are higher. We New Zealanders have a greater belief in our ability to succeed in the global economy,
and to have the basis for an unparalleled quality of life here. The country’s ability to grow, even in tough times, can no longer be dismissed as just good luck. There are smart and entrepreneurial people making that luck, and a Government that is prepared to play its part in backing the development of the smart and sustainable economy. What makes all the effort worthwhile for our families and communities is to see a social dividend flow from New Zealand’s success, especially in the areas of health and education.
Priorities for this year in those areas will include the continuing roll-out of primary health organisations as an integral part of the primary care strategy. Already primary health organisations are providing a broad range of primary health-care services to over 500,000 New Zealanders, with the majority being guaranteed lower costs for primary health-care and all being assured of access to comprehensive and coordinated primary care. A further 25 primary health organisations are due to start up by 1 April, by which time it is estimated that 1.4 million New Zealanders will be enrolled in primary health organisations. Then there is the progressive introduction of population-based funding for district health boards as part of our ongoing population focus for the health system, to ensure the increased funding we have made available for boards is allocated according to the population needs of the district, rather than simply on an historical basis. That enables boards to meet the health needs of their communities better.
The continued implementation of the blueprint for mental health services remains a priority. Prior to Christmas the Minister of Health announced her decision to bring forward planned additional funding for Auckland and Waikato mental health services, to bring them more into line with the services available in other parts of the country. That is just part of the ongoing expansion of mental health services nationwide, which will see spending increase from around $524 million 5 years ago to an estimated $900 million by 2003-04.
In education, work will continue on increasing participation in and the quality of early childhood education, in line with the strategy released last year. We will be working with the sector on ways in which the funding systems could be altered to encourage better participation. In the compulsory sector this year, the Government is funding more than 700 teaching positions over and above what would have been required for roll growth alone. We will continue to invest in increased teacher numbers.
This year begins a comprehensive examination of ways to improve teaching and learning. We know that New Zealand’s future success will depend on our ability to apply knowledge across the economy and society. How well we are able to educate our children will directly influence our competitive ability. We also value education for its intrinsic value in building a tolerant, knowledgeable and outward-looking nation. More information and communication technology initiatives will be funded in schools. Project Probe will see broadband rolled out to all schools over the next 2 or 3 years. The cluster-based approach to the use of information and communication technology in schools has worked well and will be expanded, as will initiatives aimed at getting more computers to teachers. A task force has been set up to look at issues relating to secondary teacher supply, teacher qualifications, and professional development. Its report will help to shape Government policy.
The Tertiary Education Commission has been formally established from the beginning of the year, and is now responsible for steering the development of the sector. This year will also see the introduction of performance-based research funding. The development this year of a system of maximum tuition fees for students, effective from 2004, along with triennial tuition funding for institutions, will provide a lasting solution to the problem of unpredictable fees for students and income for providers. A review of student support will look at ways to bring more students into the student allowance net,
while at the same time setting out fair rules for determining the contribution students make towards the costs of their study.
Strengthening and expanding opportunities for people to learn in the workplace is a top priority this year, too. By the end of the year we intend to have 6,000 young people in modern apprenticeships – an increase of 100 percent since the middle of last year. We will also continue to increase the number of industry trainees, and have adopted a target of having 150,000 workers in industry training during 2005. This year we are extending the Gateway programme, so that senior students in another 39 schools will be able to experience structured learning in the workplace and will leave school better equipped to move into paid work and further training.
The legislative and policy agenda for this year is very full. In the coming weeks and months, important bills we will be looking to progress include the Television New Zealand Bill, to enable TVNZ to proceed to implement its charter for quality public television and to separate out BCL Ltd as a profitable State-owned enterprise. The Responsible Gambling Bill aims to control the growth of gambling, in order to minimise the harm it causes and to see that the community funding available from it is both publicly accessible and accountable. The Racing Bill merges the Racing Industry Board and the TAB into a single statutory body, so as to simplify the governance of the racing industry and to make it largely responsible for its own affairs.
The Resource Management Amendment Bill will reduce delays and costs in the planning process, strengthen provisions relating to national policy statements and environmental standards, and enhance the provisions for historic heritage. New holidays legislation will replace the old confusing law with new provisions that are easier to understand and more appropriately recognise the relationship and balance between the demands of work and of life outside employment. The War Pensions Amendment Bill (No 2) enables veteran pensioners to earn income additional to their pensions on the same basis as others on social security benefits. The Supreme Court Bill provides for New Zealand’s final court of appeal to be located in New Zealand, and marks the coming of age of New Zealand’s judicial system. The Land Transport Management Bill is due for report back on 9 June and has a high priority for passage thereafter.
Major legislation to be introduced includes amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, which are scheduled for passage prior to the expiry of the moratorium on applications for genetic modification in October. An aquaculture reform bill will be introduced to put in place a new framework for the development and regulation of aquaculture. It will give regional councils more involvement in the regulatory process and will give both industry and the public more certainty about where aquaculture development can and cannot take place. The Families Commission legislation will give effect to the policy announced at the end of last year. The passage of that legislation will implement a key part of the confidence and supply agreement reached with United Future, and reflects the important role of families in our society. Legislation on asset testing will also be prepared.
New legislation regulating the building industry will be introduced, and will address issues highlighted by the leaky-building saga. The hands-off regulatory regime introduced in the 1990s clearly has not worked satisfactorily. New legislation should allow for appropriate flexibility and innovation in design, while still giving customers confidence that their homes will meet acceptable standards.
Other significant areas of policy review and development will include the review of the Employment Relations Act after its first 3 years of operation, policies to promote a work-life balance in line with the coalition agreement between Labour and the Progressive Coalition party, and consideration of expansion of the paid parental leave scheme. Work is under way on policy to improve support for low-income families, and
to provide further assistance to families to move into employment and build better futures for themselves and their children. This year’s Budget will see us take the first steps in the change process, with further major changes being planned for the 2004 Budget.
Last week an OECD report covering the situation of young people made for grim reading. Some of it was out of date, and in respect of youth offending the report was inaccurate. Youth suicide figures are down significantly on the 1998 figures quoted. None the less, the Government believes that child and youth development is a critical area for attention, and has identified it as one of the four priority areas in the sustainable development programme of action. The Agenda for Children and the Youth Development Strategy Aotearoa, both released last year, provide clear direction on the way forward. The challenge now is to get a coordinated approach across Government agencies, and to work effectively with non-governmental organisations. Our children and young people deserve to grow up in supportive families with adequate incomes, to have a secure home, to have their health and education needs met, to live lives free from violence and crime, and to be able to fulfil their potential as human beings. Children and young people are our future, and we neglect them at our peril.
Following the horrific dog attack on a young girl last week, Government and public attention is again focused on the state of our dog laws. I believe we must ensure that animal control officers have the powers they need in order to take dangerous dogs out of circulation. Parliament should consider whether it is practicable to designate dangerous breeds and their crossbreeds, and then to ensure that they are leashed and muzzled whenever they are out of containment. Increased penalties for breaking the law should be considered, and enforcement of the law needs to be stepped up across the country.
Of particular interest to Māoridom this year will be the launch of the new Māori Television Service, the development of legislation to implement the fisheries allocation decisions, and the completion of negotiations on more treaty settlements and the passage of legislation to effect them. Some Opposition parties have signalled their intention to focus on issues relating to Māoridom and the Treaty of Waitangi this year, in a way that, I believe, is divisive and destructive. The Government will be continuing its partnerships with Māoridom for economic and social development. The Hui Taumata Matauranga facilitated by Ministers and the leader of Tuwharetoa, Tumu te Heuheu, is an example of the positive relationships that are being built. Across New Zealand there is enormous activity in Māoridom focused on development, and that momentum and renaissance should be celebrated by us all.
The Government will also be ensuring that more information about the Treaty of Waitangi is made available, so that the public can debate its significance in an informed way. It is unfortunate that so many of us know so little about this aspect of our country’s history, and about how it relates to the nation we are building. At a minimum, the Treaty of Waitangi enabled two peoples to coexist. At the maximum, it provided the basis for building relationships of respect and recognition that can endure down through the generations. It is in that positive spirit that I believe we must continue to build our unique and special nation, which is now home to the peoples of many lands. It is unfortunate the Opposition does not want to be part of that building.
In recent months the focus of the international community has been on the crisis over Iraq. Last November, in resolution 1441, the United Nations Security Council determined that Iraq was in material breach of its disarmament obligations under a series of Security Council resolutions, and warned Iraq of serious consequences if it did not comply with the new resolution. After passage of resolution 1441, UN weapons inspectors returned to Iraq. Their leaders reported to the Security Council on 27 January. Under the resolution, the onus is on Iraq to provide answers to unanswered
questions. Evidence has not been found in those inspections of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. But, because Iraq has not adequately accounted for material that was left unaccounted for in 1998, suspicions remain that it has retained a capacity to produce chemical and biological weapons.
The head of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Hans Blix, reported on 27 January that Iraq was cooperating on process, but not on substance, with the UN’s requirements. He wants answers to specific questions about materials and missiles related to chemical and biological weapons, he wants unimpeded access to scientists who may be involved, and he wants guarantees that U2 surveillance planes will not be shot down if used. Iraq should meet his requests in full. Meanwhile, the United States has positioned large numbers of forces and equipment in the Middle East for use against Iraq. A small number of other countries, including the United Kingdom and Australia, have also done so.
Last week, United States Secretary of State, Colin Powell, address the Security Council. He did not present further concrete evidence of Iraq’s weapons programmes, but he did present a case based on intelligence that strongly suggested a pattern of deception and concealment of such programmes. Following that presentation, Mr Blix and the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mr ElBaradei, have returned to Iraq to impress on it that only full compliance with the UN’s requirements that it disarm and be seen to disarm will prevent the serious consequences warned of in resolution 1441. They will report back to the Security Council this Friday.
The New Zealand Government, like most Governments, has sought to uphold the principles of multilateralism, the international rule of law, and the authority of the Security Council throughout this crisis.
We do not support unilateral action against Iraq. We place considerable weight on the inspection and disarmament process that has been established. We have a strong preference for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. We recognise that the Security Council can authorise the use of force, as a last resort, to uphold its resolutions. We do not believe that such authorisation would be justified while the weapons inspectors are still engaged, fruitfully, in their inspections with the objective of disarming Iraq, and we support them continuing their work.
The reality is, however, that unless there are now dramatic developments within Iraq itself and in its level of cooperation with the inspectors, there is likely to be armed intervention, with or without the backing of the UN Security Council. I repeat, today, our Government’s call to Iraq to move rapidly to prevent the catastrophe that war would bring to its people. If the Security Council were to sanction the use of force, New Zealand, as a United Nations member, would be obliged to uphold the resolution and would consider what contribution it could make. That contribution would most likely be in the form of humanitarian, medical, or logistical support. It could probably most usefully be made at the end stage of the conflict, when the huge task of meeting Iraq’s needs for reconstruction and humanitarian support would have to be tackled by the international community. Government officials are now looking at how New Zealand could work with the international community to meet those needs, subsequent to military action. The New Zealand Defence Force’s engineering and mine-clearance expertise is well regarded in the United Nations, and may be called on. Some kind of peacekeeping operation could also be established by the UN.
By this time next week, the world will have a clearer picture of whether there will be war in Iraq. The New Zealand Government supports the weapons inspectors continuing their work, if they report that they believe they can continue to make progress. That has to be preferable to the consequences of war on the people of Iraq, and to the implications that war could have for the wider Middle East, for international terrorism,
and for the United Nations itself.
Iraq is, of course, not the world’s only trouble spot. North Korea’s admission of a nuclear weapons programme, and its intention to withdraw from the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, are of great concern. The nuclear stand-off between India and Pakistan last year heightened concern about nuclear weapons proliferation, and reinforces the need for New Zealand to be proactive on disarmament issues internationally. Progress on an Israeli-Palestinian settlement is badly needed, and our Government will continue to press for more resolute Commonwealth action on Zimbabwe.
The gravity of those issues leads New Zealand to be engaged in the international consideration and resolution of them. But, as I have outlined in today’s statement, this Government has a very heavy domestic programme. Our sights are firmly set on lifting New Zealand’s economic performance, on ensuring that the rewards of that are widely shared, and on building a cohesive, inclusive, and both forward-looking and outward-looking nation.
This minority coalition Government’s success owes much to the commitment of the Progressive Coalition party to stable and progressive Government. It also owes much to the stability provided by United Future as a confidence and supply partner, and we will continue to build on that relationship this year. The working arrangements we have with the Green Party are also important in progressing legislation, which is critical to this social democratic Government. I look forward to a year of steady progress on the agenda outlined today, as we work to offer more opportunity and security, and a better quality of life, to all New Zealanders.
Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement
Mr SPEAKER: Before I call the Leader of the Opposition, I want to say that the 14-hour debate starts when he commences his speech, and points of order are included in that 14 hours. So I would ask members to allow as many members to speak as possible so that we do have a full debate.
Hon BILL ENGLISH (Leader of the Opposition)
: I move,
That this House expresses no confidence in the Labour - United Future minority Government because it has done what it came to do and now lacks vision and purpose, because it has outlined a legislative programme which undermines New Zealand’s ability to grow an economy that supports business and high-quality health and education, and because the Prime Minister refuses to explain her Government’s policies on the Treaty of Waitangi and the future role it will play in our nation.
No wonder she did not want to give that speech! What went wrong with her instructions to the whips when she made them get up and clap to a speech that she said was boring and lacking in vision? I do not often agree with the Prime Minister, but I did on that occasion. Last year I said that the Prime Minister’s speech about innovation was like a body bag for a good idea. This year she has exhumed the bones and polished them up. There is a simple test for that speech. One would think that a Government that had just been elected would come to the opportunity of a Prime Minister’s statement with some conviction, with some purpose, and fresh in terms of a larger view of what it was trying to achieve.
Did that speech ask and answer the big questions for New Zealand? No. It asked one question, and that was the question about how to grow this economy in a sustainable way. It did not answer it with any conviction or with credibility. That speech should have asked the following questions: how to close the gap with the average Australian earning over $200 a week more than a New Zealander; how to rescue hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders from dependency; how to build a common understanding
of our citizenship; and how to educate our children so that they can fulfil their potential.
Before I get on to those matters, I shall first just make some comments on the upcoming likely Iraqi war. Let us be honest. This is a choice between bad and worse options. Much will be said over the next few weeks, and I will just make some brief comments. We have supported, as I believe the Government has, the US in its efforts to get a UN resolution. At times, though, it has been unclear just how determined the Government is about that. I think the swings in the Prime Minister’s rhetoric show the need to meet two requirements: on the one hand to try to maintain the friendship she has built up with the US, and on the other to keep her own caucus in line. At times she has been realistic—such as today—in making the comment that unless Iraq makes some dramatic move in the direction of disarmament, war is likely, and calling on Iraq to make that move. I support that. At other times she has been opportunistic. At other times the Prime Minister has sounded more like a commentator than a participant.
I just want to make this statement as the difficult choices confront us. In the end we should make our own foreign policy. Multilateralism is not an excuse to have our foreign policy made by France and Germany.
Secondly, I ask that the Government’s stance will take account of our relationships with our traditional allies, because they are so precious. That may come to a difficult choice, because our traditional allies seem to be lining up on a different side of the argument from the multilateral side.
Finally, we want to see openness and honesty about the policy. I hope we do not go through the charade we went through with the Government’s policy on the SAS in Afghanistan. A frigate is heading to the Gulf. We want to know how it can possibly operate there in a way that will not connect it to the Iraq war.
This is not a political or partisan point. It is simply a matter in which the New Zealand public has taken great interest. We want to know how that use of New Zealand’s Navy will continue to be regarded as having nothing to do with the Iraq war, because on the face of it, that seems to defy common sense. I invite the Prime Minister to explain that aspect of her policy over the next week.
I come back to the economy. One thing that was striking about the speech was that no reference at all was made to the general conditions in which our businesses operate. This Government sees nothing in the economy, except through the lens of Government programmes and committees, and we have seen more of them. The vast majority of businesses that do not apply for grants, that are not in the favoured sectors, may as well not exist. They include, for instance, the agricultural sector of the New Zealand economy, the primary production sector, and the export sector, which gets mentioned only because two export agencies will be merged. That is what will happen.
Let us look at what has happened to some of the initiatives from last year. Last year, four sectors were picked out amongst the blaze of hype. One of them has produced a draft report, and that is the
Path to Sustainable Growth. The Prime Minister noted that that draft report has ambitious targets. That speech tells us that the Government has now given up on the ambitious target it set last year. It says that growth has peaked, and growth peaked at a rate that takes us not one whit in the direction of moving us up the OECD ladder, which is the target set by Helen Clark. So today the Government has given up.
One other point about the economic bit of that speech is that it showed a fundamental misunderstanding of what has happened in New Zealand in the last 15 years. For the Prime Minister to say that she is not returning to any of the discredited policies of the 1990s, simply shows that she does not understand that the open, flexible economy the country has, of which her Government has enjoyed the benefit, as have many other people, was built on 15 years of sometimes difficult decisions, including ones in which
she took a key role. If she does not understand that, then she has no concept of what is really required to lift our sustainable growth. What we saw today was another instalment in the public relations strategy. It is not an economic strategy.
When the Government approaches those issues, there is a singular characteristic that we oppose. The key to sustainable growth is innovation: the unpredictable and the uncontrolled entrepreneurism in innovation. Every move this Government makes, in respect of business, strangles uncontrolled innovation, and every policy move it makes is about innovation that bureaucrats like, and that the Government can have its photo taken with. That is what happens. There was nothing in the speech about the general conditions of business that will promote the innovation and entrepreneurism that we have.
The Government made a small flick at welfare. We have had 4 or 5 years of strong employment growth. National will talk about that issue, because the Government has decided that that does not matter. Even by the Government’s projections, the number of New Zealanders in dependency on welfare benefits will rise to 370,000 over the next 3 years. That number will rise. Five years of strong employment growth have barely made a dint in the total number of New Zealanders who are locked into dependency.
Let us take the invalids benefit and the sickness benefit. Over the next 4 years, invalids benefit and sickness benefit beneficiary numbers are projected by this Government to rise, not by 5 percent or by 10 percent, but by 25 percent. That is a 25 percent increase on the back of the policy package that the Government has outlined today.
I have come to one conclusion: the Government does not care, because the beneficiaries will vote for it. I say that that is wrong. I say that we should—and National does—have a belief in the capacity of every New Zealander to contribute. Systems that pat them on the head, and Ministers like Steve Maharey who say “We’re getting on fine, we really like you, please vote for us.”, are betraying hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders, and the children of those New Zealanders who are born into that dependency. He laughs. There is no mention of that in the Prime Minister’s statement, which is a singular and glaring policy failure.
I want to move on to the issue of our common citizenship. What we have been seeing in the last few weeks is a most peculiar, and, I believe, unique occurrence in New Zealand politics—a Prime Minister who, for reasons she cannot explain, will not talk to the New Zealand public about the role of the Treaty of Waitangi. There has not been a Prime Minister who has deserted that obligation of New Zealand leadership, in my living memory.
Hon Roger Sowry: She would probably have to talk too early in the morning.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: She is not a morning person, so she could not turn up then! That is the level of debate. We had a wonderful service in the beautiful grounds of Waitangi on the morning of Waitangi Day, in the meeting house, which has carved into its walls the stories of the iwi of New Zealand, and the leader of our country said: “I’m not going. I’m not a morning person.” But who did she send? She sent the Hon Chris Carter. She sent the water boy. It was one of those occasions that happens very rarely in public life.
Hon Annette King: Did you sleep in this year?
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Labour members know they will be very embarrassed by what I say, but I suggest they listen, because there is a sharp lesson in it. Chris Carter summed up in 10 minutes the deep-seated problem between Labour and the Māori it claims to represent. He gave a speech that was arrogant, patronising, and cringingly politically correct. In doing so—
Hon Annette King: It wasn’t politically correct.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Those members think it was a joke, because they were not there. Dover Samuels was there, and he made the wise decision not to get up to do what Chris Carter said at the end of his speech, which was to sing a nice Māori song. They sang “Pokare Kare Ana”, and it was terrible. Dover Samuels would not join them. We will offer the resources to the Prime Minister—[Interruption]
Mr SPEAKER: There will be no further interjections during the member’s speech by members of the Labour Party, or they will leave the Chamber.
Hon BILL ENGLISH: We will offer to the Prime Minister the resources to mount a national marae tour for Chris Carter, because, in making his speech, he walked all over, literally, the Kotahitanga flag that had been put on the floor of the meeting house to be respected. He actually walked all over it. Well, that is Labour members: pat them on the head, keep them nice and quiet, and feed them cash, patronising them—and it is insulting to see it in the flesh; it is not the New Zealand we want.
That is why we must talk about this issue. That is why it is not good enough for the Prime Minister to skate around, saying that she is not now going to run a Treaty of Waitangi education programme. That is why it is not good enough for her to talk about the treaty in such abstract terms that it is meaningless. There are real issues, and we will keep raising them.
So many New Zealanders are uneasy about the separatist direction in which the Government is taking the role of the Treaty of Waitangi, and that uneasiness must be heard. The Prime Minister is the only one who has said that that is divisive. When I went to Ratana and to Waitangi, I did not get that response from Māori; what I got from them was some disagreement, some of it vigorous, and some people saying to me: “Isn’t it good. A Pākehā politician is coming along and doing better than the kind of bland rubbish they serve up every year.” Because if a marae is about anything, it is about robust debate, as this Parliament should be. The Prime Minister even said that it was culturally inappropriate for me to raise these issues at Ratana.
Labour’s attitude to Māori is a big part of the problem—of solving this problem—because I have found Māori attitudes pretty open, pretty aggressive, and pretty robust, and one can deal with that. I say to the Prime Minister that to pass by the obligation of a New Zealand Prime Minister to talk about the treaty is an utter dereliction of leadership, and it is not enough to say that those who raise it are racist, divisive, and Māori-bashing. That is easy. The hard bit is to tell the nation what one thinks; to tell it why it will work to progressively separate off aspects of Māori life and culture from the rest of New Zealand.
So this year we will be advancing our agenda, because the Government does not have one. The public will be talking about our issues, because the Government does not have any serious ones that it wants the Government to talk about. We will be talking about one standard of citizenship; we will be talking about what is really needed to lift our sustainable rate of growth. We will be talking about the hundreds of thousands of people Labour says it represents but whom it is trapping into dependency, actually liking to keep them there and having policies that guarantee more of them, by their own measure. We will also be talking about how to educate our children properly.
Finally, it is actually quite hard to run a Government without a sense of purpose. I have been in a Government in which that happened. It gets messy. The management is difficult, the people get pretty fractious, and it starts feeling like the early years when one is in Opposition. Without a sense of purpose, this Government will mire itself in endless minor and some major scandals. It is gradually opening up the credibility gap between what it says about the economy to the business community, and what it actually does. It is leaving a huge credibility gap already between what it is doing about the Treaty of Waitangi and what it is willing to say to the public it is doing. I just want
to say to the Māori members: as this Government that looks like a three-term Government already, lumbers on through the year—
Rt Hon Helen Clark: Ha, ha!
Hon BILL ENGLISH: Well, it does. She has given only three Prime Minister’s statements, and she has had enough of doing it! I believe that the Prime Minister’s qualities as a foreign affairs commentator are admirable, and I believe that is where her interests lie. I believe that is really what will drive this Government over the next few years.
I say to the Māori members that we are willing to engage in discussion and debate, even if their own party is not. We are willing to take the future of this country seriously, even if their own party is not. We are willing to get down and debate the difficult issues that arise, even if their own party is not. That is why I move a vote of no confidence. There is no purpose, no direction, and no challenge to New Zealanders about the issues that really matter to them.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS (Leader—NZ First)
: The National Party might be thinking it is looking at a three-term Government, but we in New Zealand First know we are not. That is the first thing I want to say. We are back in 2003—[Interruption] It is no use those members waving their hands like that; the reality is that the Labour Government is in serious trouble in many areas of our social and economic life, and no amount of flimflam, public relations, and massive taxpayers’ expense will change that.
Before I start, I want to move an amendment to the amendment that has just been moved. I move,
To omit all the words after “this House has no confidence” and substitute the following words: “in the Labour minority Government because of: (a) failure to support New Zealand’s exporters and hence exports are declining; (b) its failure to provide proper training and education for New Zealanders resulting in excess immigration to New Zealand; (c) its failure to resolve issues surrounding the so-called principles of the Treaty of Waitangi; (d) its failure to recognise social ills in New Zealand resulting in increased youth suicide, lack of skills for youth in New Zealand, and a decline in self-respect for youth; (e) the breakdown of law and order and the failure to support our police force with adequate resources; (f) the decline in conditions for the poor in New Zealand highlighted by the increase in fees for the NCEA and decline in housing and health standards; and (g) its lack of support for agriculture in New Zealand.”
The Prime Minister this morning said that if it were up to her, she would not bother to make that speech. We in New Zealand First totally agree with her. We totally agree, at the start of the session, that if she was going to put Mogadon out of business, she could not have found a better speech than that one there—the most turgidly boring speech I have ever heard from a Prime Minister, or read from any Prime Minister. It was a long, slow-burning, suicide note.
Members can laugh all they like, but this present Government has this record. Between 1990 and 1999—three terms in Opposition—they could not crack a majority. In May 2002, with the enormous forces of Mr Anderton, they still could not crack a majority in this House, and the Labour Party is dependent on three other parties to remain in Government. Its luck will run out because the speech that we heard today will not raise the hearts, hopes, and aspirations of the New Zealand people.
Today I want to assure all New Zealanders that, unlike others who are losing their heads when all about them is a matter of chaos; unlike other parties that have leadership problems; and unlike other parties that have all sorts of internal difficulties; we in New Zealand First welcome the start of the new parliamentary term and the challenges that lie ahead. We do not, as a party, need focus groups, telephone polls, media consultants, team-building exercises, “touchy-feely” sessions, caucus retreats, policy rethinks,
strategies, frameworks, visions, or mission statements.
Rodney Hide: That’s because it’s a one-man band.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: We in New Zealand First know what we believe in, and we know who we are, and we know where we are going, and we know what we will do when we get there. [Interruption] I know Mr Hide is out to try to roll Richard Prebble by March. Everybody in the commercial world in Auckland knows it. Everybody in the commercial world knows it because he has been telling everybody. But how that improves the chances of ACT, I do not know. I mean, it would be out of the frying pan into the ashes—not the fire. Does Rodney Hide have charisma, is he a great orator, is he great visually, does he excite people when he speaks? No, he does not. He does most of his addresses to telephone booth audiences, and even then it is a packed house.
The next person behind him is Deborah Coddington, the woman who said on the question of ethics—very much paramount in the mind of ACT—about the wine box conspirators: “Well, it doesn’t matter, because they are going to spend the money on the New Zealand economy, anyway.” That is the party that pleads on ethics. That party would not disclose its party funding as required by law in 1996, has pyramid selling schemes, important investor conferences, all sorts of scam shams, and, all of a sudden, we have Ned Kelly talking about banks. It is unbelievable.
New Zealand First will have a great year. My colleagues are ready for it. We know where we are going, and what we are going to do. Our job in 2003 is to first make and then keep this disparate ragtag of a Government honest. It is a big mission, but it is not impossible. Some strange people are on the Government benches. Mr English is right about Chris Carter at Waitangi. I have never seen such an appalling display of cultural ignorance. First of all, he stepped on the 1835 flag—he did not know what it was—and then he gave a speech about two tribes having an attack, which was not very relevant to the Treaty of Waitangi. One of the reasons this treaty was signed was to stop that sort of thing. Then he sang “Pokare Kare Ana” and he made Jim Anderton’s version sound like John Rowles.
They suffer from a collective identity crisis. This bunch of gender-bending political do-gooders are selling out this nation that generations of past New Zealanders were prepared to sacrifice themselves for. Today the Prime Minister admitted it. Labour has forgotten where it came from. The people on the other side of this House have lost their roots and betrayed their party, and Dover Samuels, and every working-class man and woman knows it. They focus nothing on the workingman and workingwoman, the poor, the halt, the lame, the maimed—those deprived in our society. Oh no, Labour is the Blair third way. Its members think they will somehow reach across the divide, forget our past, and with flimflam and handouts they will sell-out our people and stay in power.
That is the party that once preached social justice, as members will remember. That is the party that is now the party of the rich and powerful. Helen Clark cannot wait to get to the America’s Cup. She cannot wait to be associated with everything to do with wealth, even though she has no record of creating any of that in our country in her whole political career. But if at the bottom of the heap we have the poor, who are seeking a better deal, they had better look elsewhere, because no one in the present Labour Party will help them.
In the Prime Minister’s statement today there is a lot we need to be bothered about. She said the economy was strong. Well, no, it is not. In fact, the Deutsch Bank forecasts of July last year are coming true as we speak. They said in July last year that by this year and the end of it we would progressively slow to around 2 percent at the end of 2003, and they are right. That is why she produced the September figure, because it
looks better. She could not give the December figure. With all of Treasury and the Reserve Bank at her disposal she could not give us the updated figure because it would belie her message.
Then she talked about the good things that are going on with respect to the economy, none of which have anything to do with the Labour Party, whatsoever. They are to do with a low dollar, initially, which New Zealand First is responsible for; farming returns, which we are responsible for, in terms of greater encouragement; and favourable weather, which even we cannot take credit for.
Do members know the scariest thing about today’s statement? If I asked any businessman or woman in any main street, or any important rural export town in this country, what the Government’s export plan is, they would not know—which is no surprise, because the Prime Minister does not know, either.
Any Government of any country with no plans to export—to treble, and multiply by five times, its exports—in order to lift us into the First World, has no plan, and it is bound to fail. We have 33 months to expose this Government, and we will take every minute of every hour of every day and do just that.
The exchange rate is rising. What does the Labour Party do? What does Jim Anderton do? Nothing, because it might get out of step with “business opinion”. The value of our exports is sliding. Where is the plan to reverse that? The Labour Party does not have one. Today we had the most boring, unimaginative speech I have ever heard from any Prime Minister. When will the Government learn that New Zealand is totally dependent on what we earn overseas? When will exporters get a taxation policy for exports? When will they have an incentivised policy, such as we see in Australia, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Ireland—in every other First World country? In New Zealand there is donuts. There is nothing whatsoever in respect of our long-term interests.
It is hard to take the Prime Minister’s statement seriously when we had the revelation this week that Jim Anderton, the “Minister of Meetings”, has squandered more taxpayers’ funds on another fascinating study by the Ministry of Economic Development. Do members know what he asked the ministry to do? He asked it to calculate the benefit to New Zealand of having an additional 1 percent growth per year since 1970. How is that for a study? We have universities all over the place, and all sorts of economists, but he had a whole study done to find out what 1 percent growth extra per year since 1970 would mean, if our economy had achieved that. Does Mr Anderton know what it would have meant if we had done that in 1984, when he was a Labour member, and when all those people over there on the Labour benches were selling out this economy? We would be in the same position as Australia—with a growth rate one third faster than New Zealand’s since 1984, when the great Labour experiment began, and which was later taken up by National and ACT. If we had 1 percent more growth, we would be an “Australia” today in terms of competition. But today New Zealand’s economy is languishing. It should not take a taxpayer-funded study to work out what that means in spending potential for social services.
But the most deceptive thing about the Prime Minister’s speech today was her statement that the net migration rate remains strong, fuelled by fewer New Zealanders leaving and more returning home. That is demonstrably not true. I have Immigration Service figures here for the year ending December last year. Do members know how many non-New Zealander permanent arrivals came here last year? It was 70,500. Do they know how many Australia took? Australia is seven times our size and it took 83,000, and has done so for every year for the last 10 years. But little New Zealand is taking 70,500. Every Māori member knows what that means. It is a sell-out—an utter betrayal of the working people of this country, and of every patriotic New Zealander.
The Government, of course, is predicating an economy on consumptive immigration, and it is bound to burst as it has done elsewhere. The Prime Minister is advised by one Lianne Dalziel, the Minister for Immigration, who is so darn ignorant that she thinks immigration is the difference between outflows and inflows—in other words, the net figure. Now, any kindergarten child can tell us that those who come here to stay long-term are immigrants. Those that leave long-term are emigrants—beginning with an “e”—and the net figure is not immigration. When will some dumb group of journalists get through their heads that the number of people who came here last year—non-New Zealanders; long-term permanent arrivals—was 70,500. That total is far greater than the population of Rotorua, and the Government has the audacity to say that it has a Minister for Auckland who will solve that city’s transport infrastructure problems. Forget it! Even if we employed half of that total in Auckland every year, no structure would work or transport problem be solved. The immigration figure disguises the state of our economy, because we have all of these consumers coming in. It is a short-term binge with a long-term cost. When mistaken decisions are made about immigration, they are permanent mistakes.
Members should look at the UK or Europe today. I challenge the Member for Whanganui to name just one country that is doing just one fifth of what we are doing in immigration per capita. There is not a syllable or a sound—not a mutter or a murmur. Can that new member down the back who took over from Judy Keall—whose name is not known to us yet; what is his name?—
Opposition Members: Darren.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Darren. Darren Hughes.
Mr SPEAKER: The member knows to refer to a member by his Christian name and surname, not just by his Christian name, and he should do so.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: I apologise. I am struggling to remember. It is Darren Hughes. He is a new member, so I ask him to tell me which other First World country is doing one fifth per capita of our immigration?
Darren Hughes: Tauranga.
Rt Hon WINSTON PETERS: Oh, I can see how he won the nomination, and he is one of Labour’s brighter ones.
In the past few weeks the Labour Party has displayed just how it feels about the education system of this country. Do members realise that if they were at secondary school now and wanting to go for Sixth Form Certificate, their fees would have just doubled? The fees are up to $150 for every secondary student who wants to sit that exam. This is the Labour Party—the party of Fraser, who believed in education—of Savage, of Kirk, and of Nordmeyer. But no, that party can get away with it, so it is imposing that sort of cost on the young of this country. When we get back into Government, we will repeal that cost, and we will be back in 2005, or whenever the Labour Government cannot hold it together. [Interruption] The member for Whanganui does not really matter because she has never really been a performer around here.  She should go and explain that to the people in Wanganui—the working-class city and export powerhouse that it is.
I want to say something on the question of the Treaty, which was raised by the Prime Minister in her speech. She is going to have another hui. This time it is a Hui Taumata Matauranga, facilitated by the Ministers, and by the leader of Tuwharetoa, Tumu te Heuheu. I thought that that was funny. Can members guess what we had down here in Parliament back in October 1984? We had a Hui Taumata. It pretty soon ended up as a hui “no matter”, because nothing happened. Māoris were taken for a ride, over and over again. Are imprisonment figures for Māori falling? No. Is Māori performance in education rising? No. Is the quality of Māori employment improving? No—only in
Australia. Can anyone tell me whether Māori development is really returning per capita incomes a magnum higher for Māori? No. So what do we want another Hui Taumata for? Because it looks good. It will be put on at enormous expense—like, for example, the Prime Minister’s breakfast at Waitangi, to which she never had the decency to invite other party leaders. [Interruption]
Oh no—just her. They are still laughing. Do members know why? They were desperate in the closing hours. They had to ring everybody to try to fill up the place, because nobody wanted to come to a free meal—and being Māori, they are all morning people. We are night and morning people.
One last question I want to raise is on the issue of Iraq. It is important. If there is a war next week with Iraq, I want to know from this Prime Minister whether we are in it or out of it. It is a simple question. This Prime Minister has access to intelligence. Her statement today that she thinks that there will be war within a week, or that the issue will be resolved within a week, tells me that she has been given information. Every New Zealand citizen, and every mother and father of a boy or young woman who is about to be committed over there—for we are deployed there now, and in my book deployment means that we are involved—needs to know. Are we going to be at war, or are we not? Are we perceived by Iraq and the Arabs as in or out? The Prime Minister owes the country that knowledge. She owes it—not to try to placate the Americans, or curry favour to try to get some free-trade agreement—but, first of all, to the security of this country and to New Zealand citizens. We have been involved in many wars—far too many that are not justified—and we in New Zealand First want to know from the Prime Minister why has she not shared that information with the rest of the New Zealand people. It is their lives that will be lost. It will be our lives that will be lost if terrorism happens here. We should know as a country, and she should be taking this House with her—not in that pristinely arrogant, maternalistic way that has recently been her penchant to display. Let us have that information known to everybody.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE (Leader—ACT NZ)
: I rise on behalf of the ACT party to respond to the Prime Minister’s statement to Parliament. Can I, in parliamentary tradition, respond to the remarks of the right honourable gentleman. What I found interesting was that Mr Peters normally is quite willing to tell us his views on anything, but when he sat down I could not work out whether he was for or against support of the American position on Iraq. In fact, he made some very strong statements but actually failed to make any statement. But in that sense he is no different from the Leader of the Opposition or the Prime Minister. If we read the Prime Minister’s statement, we are not really any wiser as to the Government’s views with regard to Iraq.
I would like to start with that issue and say to the House that we are one of the few Parliaments in the Western World that has not debated this issue. I can remember when the Kuwait issue arose, and the then Government brought us all back and we had a special debate on the Kuwait-Iraq issue, but this Parliament has not had a proper debate on Iraq. I have written to the Prime Minister, saying that there should be one. Instead, we had a page at the end of her speech, on a major issue facing New Zealand—and it is.
Let me just put in a nutshell what the Government has done, over January. Over January our Government has casually decided, for the first time in our history, that we are going to turn down a request made to us by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. We can put it this way: if we look at the last century, it has been the coalition of English-speaking nations that first freed us from fascism and then communism, and we have now decided, casually and without any debate or discussion, that we are not part of that coalition. I believe that a decision of that magnitude should at least have been debated and discussed.
Let me just put the issue to the House this way. Do we want a United States of
America, the world’s only superpower, that is prepared to use its muscle and its manpower, and to shed lives, in order to take action against rogue States? Do we want that? Or would we prefer to have a United States of America that says: “No, we’re going to be isolationists. We’re going to react only in our own narrow interests. We are not prepared to be the world’s policemen.”? That appears to be the position of continental Europe.
I have seen statements by our Prime Minister, saying that she aligns New Zealand’s interests with continental Europe. I just say to the House: “When did continental Europe ever give a continental about us?”. When did continental Europe ever stand up for the needs of small democratic States? When did continental Europe ever stand up for our needs in the South Pacific? Who in this House thinks that Germany will ever come to our defence? No one! Yet our Prime Minister, guided no doubt by focus groups and polling, has decided to tell the United States: “No thank you, we are not going to help.”
Members will say: “What difference can we make?”. Be under no illusion. We could make a huge difference. Just as there are people in New Zealand reluctant to get involved with this far-away nation, so there are Americans who are reluctant. Every poll in that great democracy says that the American public are prepared to take action against rogue States, but only if other nations are prepared to stand beside them. It is the standing beside them, not the numbers that we can contribute, that makes the difference—and our Prime Minister will not even hold a debate on the issue, and will not tell this House today the very serious consequences of the decisions that she has already made.
Will the United States remember? Will Britain remember? Will Australia remember? Of course they will. Yet I read in this statement that the Government’s foreign policy objective is to have a free-trade agreement with the United States. Why on earth should the United States have a free-trade agreement with a nation that is not prepared to stand up when it requires courage to do so? Of course it requires courage. I have seen John Howard. He is showing courage. I have seen Tony Blair, a Labour Prime Minister. He is showing courage—and what are we doing?
Every member knows that what I am saying is correct. I say to members opposite that we will regret the decisions that this Government has taken with regard to Iraq. We all know that Saddam Hussein is in defiance of the UN. I read this rubbish in this report, saying that the Government is only prepared to take action with the support of the Security Council. There are already in place Security Council resolutions authorising force, I say to the Prime Minister. They are already there. When did we have this new international law that says somehow or other they have expired? What a load of nonsense! The international law says that the allies, the coalition of the willing, are already entitled to take action, and the Prime Minister knows that. But, of course, she would have to put out leadership to be able to make that statement.
Well, the ACT party is prepared to provide leadership, and we say that we should stand by the United States, stand by the United Kingdom, stand by Australia, and stand by freedom when we are asked to do so. We know—and we can look around these walls and see it—that the cost of freedom is being prepared to fight for it. Every generation has to do it, and so do we.
Now let me turn to another aspect of this report, and let me say some good things. The Prime Minister has actually devoted more attention to the economy, and I think that that is quite good. If we look at her first statement we can see that there was nothing about the economy, so I guess one does learn from experience. But then, when we have a look to see what the Government is actually going to do about the economy, we see that it is flimflam. There are statements about innovation, and the like—things that no one can speak against—but do we think they will make a fundamental difference? No,
they will not.
Even though I strongly disagree with many of the statements made by the Rt Hon Winston Peters, he is actually right in this respect: we have gone from an export-led economy, which this Government inherited—an economy that was being driven by our export industries—to one that is now being driven by consumerism. The facts are overwhelming. I say to the Prime Minister that dairy income last year fell by 18 percent. Where is the growth coming from? It is coming from the city of Auckland. What is motivating that? A housing boom! What is motivating that? It is being driven by immigration.
I support immigration. Immigration is a good thing, but the idea that we can run a whole economy on immigration is absolute nonsense. Anyone can see that it is unsustainable. We now have an unsustainable bubble in our economy, and it must fail at some point. What members opposite should also realise is what they have done to the economy. I shall make a comment about immigration, as well.
Dail Jones: Oh.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: These are some statements that are actually in support of the member’s party. The Government talks about net levels, and indeed Mr Peters is dead right; 87,300 New Zealanders in the last 3 years have left permanently. In the last year we saw a net loss of 16,700 New Zealand nationals. If we have a look at their skill levels, we see that that is a very serious matter. If Mr Peters were to talk about those sorts of things instead of some of his other xenophobic rubbish, he would have more support.
But I want to come to this point: it is a question of tax and families. This Government is using inflation to see people’s tax levels increase. Over the summer I got the Parliamentary Library, which all members know to be a very reliable and reputable source, to do some figures on the net position of the average working family—that is, how much money they have after tax. The library came up with some quite alarming figures. The average net wage has fallen, since Labour took office, by 2.4 percent, or almost $14 a week. I know that that is right, because Dr Cullen has a habit of putting out statements refuting mine if he thinks I am wrong. I put out that statement earlier, and the silence from Dr Cullen has been deafening. He clearly knows, even if his back bench does not, that average New Zealand families are worse off today than they were 3 years ago. One might say: “Well, how are they sustaining their standard of living?” Then we get to a very, very alarming situation, and that is the level of debt. New Zealand families have never been in more debt than they are today. What has happened is that lower interest rates have led people to believe that they can take on more debt to compensate for the fact that their incomes have fallen. When we come to look at the level of debt of the average family, we can see that, again, it is completely unsustainable.
Let me give just a few statistics to the House, and I will quote the source. Dr Neville Bennett, the Canterbury University economic historian, said last year that New Zealanders now have the highest debt-to-income ratios in the world—I am waiting for some Labour politician to say that we are leading the world in indebtedness—and borrowing is increasing rapidly. The Westpac household savings indicators report in November last year revealed that households now owe $80 billion. It went up 8.6 percent in just 1 year, and if we go back we discover that New Zealanders owed just $10 billion, 16 years ago. On top of that, they have $3 billion of credit card debt, and that figure does not include the splurge in spending that apparently occurred this Christmas.
Household borrowing in the 1990s increased from 57 percent of disposable income in 1990 to 112 percent in 2002. That is not sustainable. We keep reading about the level of indebtedness of the US consumer, but the level of debt of the New Zealand consumer
in percentage terms is higher. This Government has created a bubble that cannot be sustained, and there is going to be a collapse. And, of course, we can add student debt to that debt. I also say that we need to have a look at how it has been financed. It has been financed by our banking sector—and where did it get the money? It borrowed it from overseas. We are not even saving enough to lend to ourselves, so we are in a situation that I find thoroughly alarming.
Then I look at the Prime Minister’s statement, and I see not a word about the fact that the average indebtedness of the average Labour voter—and National voter, and ACT voter, and New Zealand First voter, and United Future voter—has gone up over the last 3 years and their real household income has fallen.
The ACT party says we need tax relief for middle New Zealand, and we need it now. We will certainly be promoting it vigorously in the upcoming session. Members should look again at the McLeod report, as ACT members are the only people who seem to have read it. McLeod pointed out that for the amount of money in our surplus, we could afford to give every working New Zealander a tax cut. Where is the advantage in the Government boasting that it has a surplus, and no one else in New Zealand having it? How did the Government get it? The Government has this surplus after putting us all into debt. Where is the sense in such a policy? We need a change in policy.
There are a number of important issues that this paper does not really look at. If we look at the concerns of ordinary New Zealanders we find they are most worried about health. They are worried about the length of hospital waiting lists, and the fact that half of the hospital boards in New Zealand have not had their financial plans approved, and we are halfway through the financial year—
Hon Annette King: No, you are wrong.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: Well, I am pleased to see that the Minister is now ticking a few of these off. The real level of indebtedness of hospitals has gone up—
Hon Annette King: Seventeen of them.
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: The member says I am wrong, but I will ask her to have a look through the Prime Minister’s statement and tell me where the statement is about the hospital waiting lists. I have had a look, and the statement made about health and the biggest issue facing New Zealanders is only three paragraphs. One paragraph tells us about primary health organisations, the second tells us about population-based funding—that is of course code for cuts for half of New Zealand—and the third tells us that they will do something about mental health. I have heard the Government say that it is going to do something about mental health—not just under this Government, but under successive Governments, for years. There are three paragraphs on health in the Prime Minister’s statement.
Hon Annette King: What would ACT do?
Hon RICHARD PREBBLE: The member asks what the ACT party thinks. The ACT party is putting up some real, new thinking on health. We want to know why we do not have a patients’ guarantee. Why do we not offer people on hospital waiting lists, once they reach a certain waiting time, a place in a private hospital to have their operations? That might be a terrible idea, but the Accident Compensation Corporation does not think so. The corporation switched from using State health to using the private sector, and slashed the waiting lists. As can be heard by the screams from the Minister of Health, she is opposed to that proposal because she believes that the average patient would rather suffer than—oh dear what a horrible thought—being treated in a private hospital. This just goes to show how out of touch this Government is. She screams because she knows that what I am saying is right.
The next major issue is education. What are people actually worried about right now in education? They are worried about the National Certificate of Educational
Achievement (NCEA), the meaningless exams and the fact that they are having to wait. I see by the headlines that people are worried about the NCEA. Not a word was mentioned about this in the Prime Minister’s statement. The ACT party believes we need to have education standards. We need to have external exams. We may be the only party opposed to this experiment, but we remain opposed to it. This experiment will fail because this type of politically correct education has never worked anywhere in the world, and it will not work here.
This brings me to another issue, which has not been mentioned. There was some mention of a dog, but there was nothing else about law and order. That is interesting, because during the election campaign, the Government thought that law and order was important. This is a Labour Government. Three months before an election, Labour thought that law and order was a serious issue, but the moment the election is over, they go back to their namby-pamby politically correct views. What they really believe is that there are no criminals in New Zealand, that the criminals are the real victims, and they themselves are bleeding hearts. Once again the ACT party is not going to give up. We believe there should be zero tolerance for crime and we will be raising this issue again.
I will finish by saying that I thought the comment made by the Leader of the Opposition was very pertinent. What is really wrong with this statement by the Prime Minister? There is absolutely no vision. I think the term the Leader of the Opposition uses is that it has “no purpose”. I believe that there is no intellectual rigour behind it. This is an itsy-bitsy paper. Why is that? It is because this is a Government that was elected on a credit card and a group of meaningless slogans. The disadvantage is that we end up with a Government without a programme, without a vision, and I say that it is out of time.
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS (Co-Leader—Green)
: I move,
That the amendment to the amendment be amended by omitting all the words after “this House has no confidence” and substituting the following words: “in the Labour-led minority Government because of its determination to allow the release of genetically engineered organisms, exposing our health, our environment, and our economy to significant risks; because, despite there being some positive elements in the Government’s programme, its economic policies fail to address poverty and inequality; because it has failed to demonstrate any significant leadership in its programme of action on sustainable development, fails to invest in our young people with a tax funded tertiary education system, continues to perpetuate treaty grievances in areas such as Ngawha; and continues to erode New Zealand’s sovereignty by using New Zealand forces to support US-led operations in the Gulf, by trading away New Zealand’s rights through secret GATS negotiations, and by supporting corporate globalisation policies which endanger our unique identity.
As we sit here in the safety and comfort of this House, all our debates and deliberations are overshadowed by the horror of an imminent attack by the world’s mightiest military power on what has become an oppressed, poor, and suffering Third World country. Yet while New Zealand and the world talk of war, the Prime Minister remains fixated with abstract concepts like “growth”. What is not recognised is that this Government’s No. 1 goal of 4 percent cumulative annual growth in the size of the economy—a goal shared by all Western nations, and many others as well—leads inevitably to resource wars, of which this war to grab more oil is just one example. What is missing from the Government’s agenda today is a recipe for growth in human and ecological well-being. Surely that is the task of Government, but instead it is replaced with an abstraction—growth in gross domestic product (GDP). A number has been placed on that abstraction—4 percent a year. Over the last 3 years that number has become the overriding goal of this Government. Improvements in human and ecological
well-being, reduction of poverty, and sustaining the planet are now to be allowed only if they contribute to meeting that 4 percent.
The transition has been very subtle. The incoming government in 1999 seemed to have a genuine desire to work for real social and ecological goals. Economic growth was a means, not an end. That is why the Greens supported it on confidence and supply. That has subtly changed, so that 4 percent annual cumulative growth in GDP is the end and everything else must serve it. GDP is both too narrow and too generalised to measure anything useful. It does not tell us whether the poor are getting poorer, and if most of society’s wealth is held by a few. It does not tell us if we are paying more and more to control pollution and crime, rather than for real goods and services. It does not tell us if we are plundering the environment to produce short-term monetary returns. That message, on which Green parties around the world were founded, and on which many eminent economists have written, has been distorted by those who wish to ridicule it—including, I am sad to say, by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance. They claim that the Greens are anti-growth. We are, of course, anti the growth of poverty, pollution, war, working hours, child abuse, diabetes, heart disease and the rest. But those kinds of growth all contribute to the growth measured with the simplistic GDP ruler. The sort of growth all other parties are striving for is increased by oil spills, smoking, car crashes, murders, dog attacks and toxic wastes.
Let me now tell the House about a Green recipe for growth. We need growth in education and training for our young people. We need growth in preventive health-care; in low-cost, affordable housing and public transport; in the minimum wage; in the use of rail and coastal shipping for freight; in solar wind and wood energy systems; in a huge range of organic growing techniques to reduce the use of pesticides and add export value to our food products; in cleaner production technologies in industry; in waste recycling and reuse; in more diverse forestry species; and in clean and employment-rich ways of processing the wall of wood. These things will not happen as a result of a generalised goal to grow GDP. They will only happen if they are targeted directly. Alongside that growth, we must accept that there needs to be shrinkage in some industries—fossil fuels, pesticides, long-distance trucking, armaments, tobacco, one-trip containers and other products designed for obsolescence. There have been many attempts to quantify the effects of continued growth in resource consumption and pollution. They all show that we are near the end of the line.
A 4 percent compound growth rate gives a doubling time of less than 18 years. So unless we are very careful about what we allow to grow and what must shrink, we are talking about twice our present demand for energy by 2020 and four times by 2038. Can we double our roading, sewage, and water systems in 18 years, then quadruple them in another 18 years? Where would we put them? Can we double our use of pesticides, plastics, steel? What will our cities look like in 2020 with double the area of asphalt? What would they look like in 2038 with quadruple the present paved area? What do we do with the mountains of obsolete products and the myriad of useless plastic junk that plagues our lives? Do we seriously not care whether our garden grows weeds or vegetables, so long as it grows fast? When we look at it like that, it is patently absurd to focus solely on growing the physical economy. Even services use stuff. Twice as many lattes use twice as much water and detergent to clean cups. Quality of life is what matters, and on some level we all know that no amount of television, fast food, or even good coffee can substitute for clean air, clean water, and safe food, or for the sense that how we earn our livelihood is also helping create a better world.
If we target all the social and ecological improvements we need and ensure that all of them can occur within the limits of the biosphere to produce resources and absorb wastes, we will have a sustainable development strategy. This Government cannot have
a sustainable development strategy because it has specifically made it subservient to that abstract goal of 4 percent. Instead, the Prime Minister talks about sustainable growth, which means growth that never stops rather than growth that sustains human society and ecological systems. So I was deeply disappointed, but not at all surprised, to read the document that purports to be an action plan for sustainable development, released at the end of January. It is basically a rewrite of existing documents like the growth and innovation strategy. It has no time frames, no targets, no practical steps, and no plans to change the culture of the public service to understand and practice sustainability.
We are pleased to see some targeting of good growth in the Prime Minister’s statement. We welcome statements about making more students eligible for the living allowance, help for low-income families, more information and opportunities for education about the treaty, and more funding for mental health, but they are broad statements with no specifics, and we will have to wait to see whether they mean anything real. So many aspects of our well-being will be denied the growth they need, while the dominant goal is just to make the economy 4 percent bigger every year. The list is long—the rights, protections, and opportunities that New Zealanders are being denied, and will be further denied, as this Government continues selling out the country’s right to control its own destiny to the transnational corporations that pull the strings behind the scenes at the World Trade Organization. The Prime Minister makes much of the success of the film festival in making triumphs like
Whale Rider possible. What a great film, yet her Government, secretly negotiating further giveaways in the latest General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) round, may be about to give foreign film companies the same access to State assistance for film making as New Zealanders. That is what the National Government did in the 1990s when it refused to make GATS reservations on radio and television services. That means that the current Labour Government is not able to implement the Labour Party’s policy on local content quotas for broadcasting because it would breech our GATS obligations.
The current round of GATS requests made of New Zealand includes the whole category of environmental services. That includes nature, biodiversity, and landscape protection services. In other words, foreign corporations are seeking the right to replace our Department of Conservation and gain control of, and profit from, the care of our natural heritage. That would be truly selling New Zealand’s birthright, and for what? Every time we give a foreign corporation the right to provide, and to profit from providing, public-good services like water supply, education, conservation, research and development, health, and broadcasting on an equal footing with New Zealand public providers, we effectively deskill and disempower ourselves. We also worsen our economic situation as these corporations repatriate surpluses that were once available for reinvestment in New Zealand. We further narrow an economic skill base that has already been shrunk by our obsession with exporting agricultural commodities because we can batter open markets for them via the World Trade Organization rather than diversifying into knowledge-based primary and secondary production and producing quality rather than quantity, and high-value rather than high-volume exports.
The Green Party will continue its efforts this year to prevent the release of genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals into our environment, our farms, and our food supply. We will also continue to explain to the people of New Zealand why this Government cannot see the obvious economic truth that New Zealand’s future prosperity lies in supplying what the world market wants, and that is GE free, clean, and natural food. As the Prime Minister has just said, it is repositioning up the value chain as a supplier of highly desired and high-value goods and services, except that the Government is about to close the door to that opportunity in October by lifting the moratorium on the release of genetically modified organisms. It cannot see it, because
in its pursuit of perpetual growth it has set its sights on a free-trade agreement with the United States, and it knows that a precondition of that is free entry for US GE crops and products, and no labelling of GE foods. The New Zealand public has made it clear in survey after survey that it does not want our farming, our exports, our food, or our environment compromised in this way, but that is non-negotiable for this Government because of its prior commitment to pleasing a foreign power.
It was that desire to please President Bush that committed us to joining a war against the people of Afghanistan—a fruitless war in terms of its supposed objective of catching Osama bin Laden. Now the focus has shifted from Afghanistan, and the promised reconstruction is not happening. A destroyed country is largely being left to rot while US adventurism turns elsewhere. The obsession not just of New Zealand but also of other countries—particularly the US—with growth is about to plunge us into yet another and worse war against an already impoverished and suffering people. There are two reasons for that. First, there is nothing like war to boost the economy. There is no activity that wastes stuff as fast as war does. It wipes out buildings, water supplies, farms, communications systems, ships and aircraft, and uses up weapons that are nearing their use-by date. That stuff has to be replaced, and replacing it will grow the economy. It is no surprise that some economists have concluded that the United States economy cannot keep growing without war to fuel that growth.
Secondly, I want to refer to a very insightful comment by US energy guru Amory Lovins. He said: “If we had put our kids in energy efficient cars in the seventies, we would not be putting them in tanks today.” He said it in 1991 about the Gulf war, but it is just as true now. The US economy, serving 4 percent of the world’s people, uses a quarter of the world’s oil. That is not just because Americans are rich, but also because they are wasteful. If the US had used state-of-the-art energy efficiency technology in its vehicles, the US would still have been self-sufficient in oil, and would have had no need to try to control Middle East politics. The so-called leader of the free world is a man who apparently would rather accept hundreds of thousands of dead children than drive a smaller car. Put as starkly as that, our moral compass ought to be clear. We should make no mistake, this proposed invasion—I refuse to call it a war, it takes two to fight—is about control of oil. It is about a refusal to adopt a sane energy policy to use it more frugally and develop renewables. Why else would the US treat Iraq so differently from North Korea? Even by the Bush administration’s own surreal standards, this sends a bizarre message to rogue States: disarm, at least partly, allow inspection, and be invaded; acquire weapons of mass destruction and be treated with kid gloves.
The brutality of Saddam against his own people and his possession of horrendous weapons was simply not an issue when the US was funding and arming him against Iran. What has changed? The weapons search and the demand for evidence has become a charade. It must be intensely frustrating for the US not to be able to say publicly to Saddam: “Look, we know you have the weapons because we have the receipts.” John Pilger points out that the reason the US wanted to edit Iraq’s weapons declaration to the UN is that it contains the names of 150 US, British, and other Western companies that supplied Iraq with its nuclear, chemical, biological, and missile technology—many of them in illegal transactions.
So where should New Zealand stand? Let us remember for a minute what is really going on here. A few men in a room on the other side of the world have decided to drop 800 Cruise missiles on Baghdad in 48 hours. There are not 800 military targets in Baghdad. It is blanket-bombing—carpet-bombing—they are planning. The World Health Organization has estimated that that will produce half a million injured needing hospital treatment, which will not be available—and that is not counting the dead. More than half the Iraqi population is under the age of 14, so that is a quarter of a million
primary school children and babies burned, mangled, and shattered. Those men making the decision, and the pilots of the planes, will not have to look at them; neither will our TV screens dare to show them. Instead, people will talk of “collateral damage” and “unfortunate civilian casualties”. Those in this House who do not want to think graphically about what that will mean should leave now, as I intend to read a sentence from John Pilger’s personal experience of a village bombed out by B52s: “The children’s skin had folded back like parchment, revealing veins and burnt flesh that seeped blood, while the eyes, intact, stared straight ahead. A small leg had been so contorted by the blast that the foot seemed to be growing from a shoulder. I vomited.” Those were not Arab children. They were Vietnamese. They were the reason our Prime Minister and many of the present Labour Government marched in the street against another US attack on a third world country. Where will they stand now?
I have been puzzled at the Prime Minister’s stance so far. We can be relieved that she has not supported Howard’s rush to war alongside Bush and Blair, but neither will she condemn it. We have not even seen a condemnation of President Bush’s stated intention to use first-strike nuclear weapons. She has behaved more as a media commentator assessing the likelihood of war than as an actor in the drama capable of influencing it. It is not enough to say that we will go with the UN. Even if the US can arm-twist another eight nations—four of whom themselves possess weapons of mass destruction, and four of whom may be dependent on the US for aid or trade—that is not international endorsement. It is a breach of the UN charter, and it does not make an immoral war moral. There is still no concrete evidence that the weapons exist. The sole grounds for attack seem to be the breach of the UN resolution in terms of cooperation with the weapons inspectors. Israel has been in serious breach of a UN resolution for a very long time, and the five permanent members have themselves been in breach of UN disarmament resolutions, but no one is suggesting invading any of them.
This afternoon Helen Clark has called on Iraq to move rapidly to cooperate with the weapons inspectors to prevent war. That is fine, but why does she not also call on the US to follow the spirit of the UN charter? Why does she not call on Israel to comply with UN resolutions? Why does she not call on the nuclear states to comply with UN disarmament resolutions and the non-proliferation treaty? What sort of one-sided message is New Zealand sending? Germany and France are using some imagination and trying alternatives. A greatly stepped-up inspection, backed up with UN peacekeeping troops, has the potential to disarm Saddam without killing the Iraqi people. We should support their initiative. What the US wants is our moral support for invasion, and whether the people we send are military or medical does not matter. Only strong and public diplomatic efforts to prevent an attack, and complete condemnation of it if we fail, will uphold the values on which Helen Clark and the Labour Party campaigned in the Vietnam days. It would be great to see the Prime Minister join us in the streets on Saturday, when in most New Zealand cities and many countries of the world, massive public protest about a brutal and unnecessary war will erupt. Let us hear it now from our Government—an unequivocal condemnation of this proposed butchery, a refusal to have any part in it, a refusal to see it as inevitable, a commitment to peace and justice, and a recognition that unless we develop our economy in a sustainable way, war will always be inevitable.
Hon PETER DUNNE (Leader—United Future)
: I too want to begin my comments this afternoon by talking about the situation in Iraq, not because I agree with the sentiments that have just been expressed but because I profoundly believe that, whatever the course of events in that troubled State over the next few weeks and months, the impact on the dreams and aspirations that have been expressed by various leaders in the House this afternoon for this country will be influenced by that course of
I want to make United Future’s position clear with regard to this issue. We do not favour unilateral action against Iraq by any State. We believe very strongly that any action should be on the basis of a specific and fresh UN mandate dealing with the issues at hand. I have no doubt at all about the evil, the treachery, and the savagery of the Hussein regime. I have no qualms at all about saying that it needs to be removed in the interests of democracy and of the freedom of the people of Iraq. But since 1945 our world has been developing a rules-based approach to international conflict, to try to avoid a repetition of the horrific events of 1939-45 and 1914-18. Because we live in a rules-based system under the aegis of the United Nations, it is appropriate that every State, from the biggest and most powerful to the smallest and the weakest, abides by that structure. Otherwise, if we accept the point of view being advanced by, for example, the leader of the ACT party—the Donald Rumsfeld of the South Pacific—that the United States has some moral superiority to be able to embark upon an unsanctioned invasion simply because of its power and its prestige, we are one very short step away from saying that we sanction, in effect, a return to international anarchy.
I think that would be an extraordinarily retrograde step for this country. New Zealand was there at the birth of the United Nations. The great role that Peter Fraser played looms large in the history of that organisation. The contribution we have made over the years, through the work of successive New Zealand diplomats, foreign ministers, and Prime Ministers, to the work of the General Assembly and the Security Council makes us a United Nations State. We are proud of that, and we ought to be confident enough now to say that we place our faith and trust in the structure we have had so great a part in establishing, and in the place in which we have reposed so much confidence over the years.
If there is a specific mandate issued now by the United Nations Security Council and / or its General Assembly, in the light of the Blix reports or other reports about the situation in Iraq, then yes, as a good United Nations member, we have a responsibility to play a part. But that part needs to be in relation to our traditional capacities in medical aid or the provision of logistical support, or in the areas that we have shown in recent years we do very well—peace making and / or peacekeeping, such as we did in Bosnia and East Timor. But, having said all that, it now seems patently obvious that all of us are uttering mere words, because the decision has been made. An invasion is imminent, regardless of the attitude of the United Nations General Assembly and regardless of the attitude of other States. When reputable European States can be dismissed as “old Europe”, I think we are at the start of a very deliberate slope towards international conflict.
Two issues loom large from this potential crisis, even assuming that the most optimistic assessment is correct that a quick—I think the term is “surgical”—strike can be made, the offending parties removed, and life returned to a semblance of order in that troubled State.
The two issues that remain—and no one is really talking about them—are, firstly, what actually happens then. Who will lead the recovery in Iraq? Will it be an American-led mission—a sort of General MacArthur of the first years of the 21st century, imposed as a proconsul because that worked in Japan after the war—to bring Iraq back to the path of democracy and freedom, or will there be a role for the United Nations in forging a new tradition in that country? I believe there is a role for New Zealand to play in arguing strongly, forcefully, and effectively for a concerted United Nations effort to lead the rebuilding of Iraq, not for a supporting role to be played in retreat of an American position.
The other question—touched on briefly, I think, by the previous speaker, but then
moved away from—that has been utterly untested during this whole crisis is whether the United States, which has taken such a strong and definite leadership position in respect of the horrific situation in Iraq, will be prepared to take an equally strong and definite position in respect of the fundamental issue that underpins all the strife we have seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in the fears about al-Qaeda and its links to international terrorism, etc. Will the United States be prepared to use its influence, power, and prestige to bring about a lasting settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis? It is that tension—that festering sore, from whatever perspective one views it—that is giving rise to a whole range of other issues that we now confront, firstly, in the aftermath of September 11, secondly, in Afghanistan, and now, by association, in Iraq.
I say that if we were really serious, if we were really determined to bring this thing to an end, we would be using our diplomatic persuasion in New Zealand, and the United States would be using its political power and prestige, to ensure that that fundamental issue was addressed and resolved, and that we do not spend our time fighting around horrific side issues in the future—as I fear this one is about to become. It is sobering to think that we might be a few short days away from conflict, but there is still time for people of goodwill, common sense, and clear heads to have some influence in terms of preventing horrific tragedy, and also ensuring that the problems in Iraq, in the first instance, and in the wider international community, in the second instance, are dealt with.
Turning to the remainder of the statement this afternoon, I have been intrigued to note that already this year we have seen a great deal of comment about political direction. A move to the right, an end to welfarism, or our getting back into the top half of the OECD have all been slogans paraded around as offering the vision and the hope for this country, and the direction for its future. But I have to say that every single one of them misses entirely the point. A political vision only has relevance if it is achievable, and if it actually relates to the immediate reality of people’s lives.
The vision that United Future has—of “home” being a great place to live in—is relevant, because it talks to people about a common experience for all of them, not just an abstract concept that floats through the media airways. We know that strong and successful families do lead to strong and successful communities, and from there to strong and successful cities and nations. By recognising in that way the critical role of families, we also, more importantly, recognise the type of country that they deserve, and thus we set the climate for the way we will act and the policies we will seek to follow over a whole range of areas. For too long we have actually put the cart before the horse: we have worried about the policy and the point we are trying to get to, before we decide what we are trying to achieve.
I say that our challenge for New Zealand is to make this country one that every single Kiwi, whatever his or her origin, status, age, or gender, is proud to call home. Wherever Kiwis may be in the world and whatever stage of their life they are at, this is their home because of the values it espouses. We will therefore back any policies that will achieve that sense of purpose amongst New Zealanders, and contribute to building that sense of home being important and the family being critical, and we will oppose measures that do not give effect to that.
Against that background I want to consider a few specific issues that have been raised already today, because they all impact upon our ability to have strong and effective communities and a strong and effective nation. The first one is the issue of transport. New Zealand’s transport infrastructure is not just a mechanical thing but is about the way people live their lives and do their business; and—as I think the Minister would be amongst the first to acknowledge—it is horribly out of date and stretched to its limit at the present time. Our roading network is inadequate, and the debates we saw
over the summer period about funding levels, priorities, and everything else simply reinforced the point that significant change is required. The road transport legislation, on which we have cooperated with the Government, and which is before the House at the moment, will go part of the way to achieve that. But also we need to be much more proactive locally in terms of determining what the visions are, what the priorities might be, and how they might be achieved. We need to look both locally and nationally at more innovative solutions for bridging the funding gaps.
The crisis we perceive with our rail system is another issue that needs to be addressed, not just in terms of the issues about who owns the track or the network, or whether we renationalise Tranz Rail—something that United Future does not support, incidentally—but also in terms of the critical role of urban passenger transport in allowing people to commute and go about their daily lives safely, efficiently, and effectively. That package must also be brought to pass this year.
The issue that will become a big one over the next couple of months is the question of the future of our international airline. I know that submissions to the Commerce Commission on the Qantas – Air New Zealand proposal will close this week, and the implications of that decision, whichever way it goes, are massive. Are we to have a genuinely competitive international aviation environment in the Trans-Tasman market and domestically, or are we to be bound to a high-cost monopoly that may well provide efficient services, but at huge costs and with a lack of competitive opportunity for New Zealanders? That issue is one that we will need to focus on particularly strongly this year.
In recent days an associated issue is becoming clear: what is our strategy to be post the Maui gasfield era? I was somewhat worried this morning to hear the Minister of Energy speaking, I thought quite effectively, on radio—maybe it was yesterday morning—about some of the issues that will spin off from that. When he talked about the fact that in order to meet the shortfall in Maui production over the next few years, till its phase-out, we will be looking at something like a 7 percent net increase in electricity costs, I began to wonder about the implications of that, not just for the well-being of families but for our whole social infrastructure.
It seems to me that in the critical area of transport and energy we have a huge amount of thinking to do, in terms of what the future picture will look like and how we will get there, and also in terms of both the trade-offs that will be necessary between transport modes and energy sources, and the capability of taxpayers and individuals to meet any additional cost impositions. I think that that will have a huge impact in the medium term on what we might loosely describe as social cohesion, community unity, and our ability to deliver effectively for New Zealanders.
A related issue—of a short-term nature, I suspect, but equally important—is the continuing run-down of the ambulance services in rural and provincial New Zealand. Mention was made by an earlier speaker of the relevance of the health issue for many New Zealanders. For many people that is not so much in terms of the big issue but how the system responds to a particular crisis. If the ambulance service is not available to whisk someone to the accident and emergency department when he or she needs it—and for many people that is the level of their involvement with health—our failure to be able to deliver that will impact upon that person’s perception of the achievement of the health sector.
Time will run away from me, but I want to pick up one issue that was touched on in the statement from the Prime Minister. I was very pleased to hear the reference late in the speech to the work the Government intends to do this year on what is described as the work-life balance. I think that also goes to the heart of the way in which our communities will be structured—the relevant worth of work and leisure time, how that
balance can be effectively struck, its impact on families and communities, and the consequent need for resources. I believe, in terms of future thinking, that that will be a particularly critical area of our society.
One issue of community safety that is contemporary today is the issue of dangerous dogs. I support the move that was foreshadowed by the Government to refer the legislation back to a select committee. But I want to put a somewhat novel solution forward that we might consider. It seems to me that muzzling dogs is fine, but we should treat dogs in the same way as, for instance, we treat a motor vehicle in the possession of a drunk driver, and say to the owner of a dog that maims a little child that he or she, not the dog, has perpetrated a serious assault, and that that is the charge he or she will face for owning a dangerous animal and not having it on a leash or whatever. If the owner is charged with assault with intent to injure, or something of that status, then maybe we will start to deal with the problem. It is easy to destroy a violent dog—I have no problem with that—but that lets the owner of that animal escape relatively scot-free. We could shift the onus to say, just as we say to a drunken driver who drives a car into someone that he or she has effectively committed a serious assault or manslaughter, then so too the same parallel applies in the case of the dog owner. Maybe then, just then, we might start to get some action, and maybe we might start to see an end to the nonsense we see, every time there is an horrific attack of this nature, of a public clamour for tougher action and a knee-jerk reaction from people who say things like it was a poor, dumb animal, that did not know any better, and we should not be mean to the dog. I think we have to put this issue into a much greater perspective if we are serious about our need to promote community safety.
My final observation is this. United Future has committed itself to a confidence and supply agreement with this Government to last a full 3-year term, because the last thing this country needs is another MMP hiccup. I believe that the arrangement we have made has worked effectively thus far. We will continue to do what we can this year to make the arrangement work effectively, in order to ensure that New Zealanders get not only the Government that they voted for at election time but a Government that is stable and is able to deliver on its commitments. In the process of doing so, we do accept the challenge of therefore having the obligation of keeping the Government honest. I see the Minister of Social Services and Employment looks anxious at that. But he knows that we have worked amicably to achieve that end over the last few months, and we will continue to do so in the future. When the next election comes New Zealanders will be able to test this Government on its full 3 years of achievements and on the extent to which all the members of this Parliament have made our MMP system of Government work effectively. We are determined to play our part in achieving that, and we look forward to fulfilling that objective in the year ahead.
Hon JIM ANDERTON (Minister for Economic Development)
: Last week the executive council of the Progressive party met for its bimonthly meeting, and was informed by its general secretary that the new party now has 2,000 members. I believe the party is on target to have 2,500 members by the time of its inaugural annual conference in spring. In my view the Progressive party is growing because it is staking policy positions that have long-term benefits for all New Zealanders. Like Peter Dunne, the leader of the United Future party, I say New Zealand clearly needs, at this time, strong, resolute, but visionary Government that gives the people of this country a sense of stability and a sense of security. We are building a living, relevant, political organisation where practical thinking is nourished. Two thousand people have joined the Progressive party already because they see that it is getting things done. Progressive members share our vision for New Zealand, and more people are coming on board.
My parliamentary colleague, Matt Robson, and I—dare I say it—left the New
Zealand Labour Party in the late 1980s, along with a few others, because we wanted an independent and effective progressive voice in Parliament. We wanted to create a movement totally committed and focused on advancing towards an economy based on full employment. Under first past the post that was a pretty hard road. With MMP it is an achievable goal, and it is being achieved by the Labour - Progressive Coalition Government.
Above all else, the party I lead wants to satisfy New Zealanders with well-paid, valuable jobs for everyone who wants to work. Progressives want a Government that has full employment as its constant underlying objective, informing every policy and investment decision that it makes. My role in this Government in the first term, and in the second term, is to achieve exactly that. We want every young person to be in a job, in training, or in education, and not abandoned to the poverty cycle of welfare. We want an economy that befits those New Zealanders who want to utilise their talents—and New Zealanders are talented people. Everyone benefits from a fully employed economy. The more jobs that New Zealand produces, the more wealth we have in order to pay for health care, education, and policing our streets. The more jobs we have, the fewer demands there are on the public purse to meet the social costs of unemployment, crime, ill health, and underachievement, as well as the cost, of course, of paying benefits to the unemployed themselves.
If New Zealand had averaged—and I understand that Mr Peters addressed this, although I noticed he used the findings of the Ministry of Economic Development in his speech—just 1 percent higher growth a year than it has managed since 1970, the average wage in New Zealand would be $175 a week higher than it is now. We would have delivered $3,700 million more a year for health care in New Zealand than we do, and we would have been able to invest another $4,200 million a year in the education system—an additional $3,500 per student in the whole education industry. Of course, one does not have to be a rocket scientist to work out that that would mean a free tertiary education system.
Back in the 1980s the parties argued over the role of regulation or deregulation in creating employment and prosperity. There were claims that more or less regulation, or more or less liberalisation or privatisation, would produce more or less jobs, depending on one’s point of view. In my view those are the debates of the past, and that is where they belong. It is true that some particular regulatory approach may be required from time to time, but basically tinkering with regulation alone will never be enough to make this country wealthy. A fully employed economy is the outcome of an intelligent partnership between central government, industry, local government, and local and regional communities. Only the most fringe-dwelling fanatic still believes that rule changes alone are enough.
The evidence for that is in the wasted decade of hands-off National Party – led rule. National, supported by its allies at the time, delivered more welfare dependency than ever before in New Zealand’s history. It delivered more unemployment than ever before. National delivered a growth rate that lagged behind the developed world, because that Government stifled innovation and creativity. That was a legacy of waste. Now, National comes back into the House, and does not offer anything other than the tired rhetoric that we have all lived through before. It seems to me that National’s is a regressive political agenda—the antithesis of the optimistic and progressive vision shared by most New Zealanders whom I meet.
I will compare the track record on the economy in the 1990s with what we have today. Statistics New Zealand has just reported that employment growth over the December quarter—and I, with others, recognise that those quarterly statistics can be unreliable—helped to push New Zealand’s unofficial employment rate down to 4.9
percent, with employment at the highest levels for many, many years. Now 123,000 more New Zealanders are employed than were employed when Matt Robson and I entered into coalition Government with Labour just over 3 years ago. Is the Progressive party proud to be a constructive partner in a Labour-led Government? The answer, of course, is yes. Our official unemployment rate has fallen to levels not experienced since March 1988. We now rank ninth amongst the 27 nations with standardised unemployment rates in the OECD group of wealthy nations.
In my view, opting out of the responsibilities of Government is not moral, is not right, and is not progressive. If one does not want to do things for people, then one can do one or two things in the parliamentary arena. One can elect a National-ACT Government, which will take us back to the tired arguments of the 1980s and the failed do-nothing policies of the 1990s. The other alternative is to sit on the sidelines and wish that things were different. For a progressive party, there is no difference between those two positions. A party that does not want to be in Government advocating for progressive policies is not progressive. The challenge for the six minor parliamentary parties in New Zealand is to meet the challenge of being relevant to Government policy-making. Bringing down a Labour-led Government would retard, not advance, what we are trying to achieve.
Supporting Labour on confidence and on the Budget, but standing outside the coalition Government as a supporting partner, would be another option. That may be an honest, honourable, intelligent position for a centrist political party. But a centrist party is open to shifting support between Labour-led or National-led Governments over time. The Progressives are not open to such alternatives. We know exactly where we stand in the political spectrum, and we are serious about getting things done. Being inside a Labour-led Government ensures a Progressive viewpoint is expressed at every Cabinet meeting. It means we always have our voice heard in the decision-making process. If we are serious about getting things done to improve the position of the people whom we represent, then we have to be serious about being part of the Government.
The Progressives will continue to push for more action on achieving full employment, whether that means investing more in training and education, or pulling down unnecessary obstacles to growth. There are many times—and my colleagues know this, and I imagine anyone else who has been around the Cabinet table will also know this—when we disagree with this or that priority or policy within the Government. That is democracy, and that is MMP working, because we have a full and frank exchange of views. I believe we have been able to work those issues through in a way that satisfies and represents the people whom I represent in this Parliament. But we will work in good faith, and will continue to work in good faith, to make the political system work for the people in a world of rapid change, and I am confident that we will succeed.
Yesterday I was at the investment regatta in Auckland, with many of the world’s wealthiest corporations and business people. It is not an environment that I always frequent. However, after listening to their views of New Zealand—and they were unpaid, and therefore independent—I realised it was remarkable how much unanimity there was in what they said about how magnificent a country this is, how fortunate we as New Zealanders are to live in it, and how most people around the world would give their right or left arm or leg to live in a country like ours. The commitment they were making to the New Zealand of the future, both as the long-term residents that many of them have become or as people who see the opportunity for investment here, together with other New Zealanders who are proud to be here, makes the heart warm, and I am prepared to commit myself to more years of that.
Hon STEVE MAHAREY (Minister of Social Services and Employment)
: It is a
pleasure to follow on in this debate behind the Hon Jim Anderton He has worked tirelessly in this Government not only to be a good coalition partner but also around the regions, and the regions are a testament to work, because they have come alive again after 3 years of this Government.
This is my 13th year in the House now, and I know that members tend to look forward to each summer as a time to refresh, re-energise, and re-think—to get out there, get a little bit of sun on their skin, and think about what they are going to do in the year ahead. I know that at the end of last year National MPs were really looking forward to their break. They needed the chance just to go out there and do a little refurbishment, if one likes, of what the party was on about. I imagine that over their last week before coming back into the House they were already wishing that summer could start again. In fact, they must be here in the House now already looking forward to next Christmas for an opportunity to be able to refurbish.
Today in the House the member who calls himself the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bill English, got up and moved a motion of no confidence in the Government—a motion that sounded as though it was describing the National Party. He said there was no purpose, no direction, and no challenge. I thought—and I guess everybody in the House thought—“That’s about the National Party!” Then he made one of the clangers of the year, already, while his members sat behind him shaking their heads in disbelief. He said: “This is a 3-term Government.” Well, we know that. In my speeches I often tell people that we intend to be a long-term Government, and “honest Bill”, who once, a long time ago, leaked a paper that told us we were on the right economic track, has confirmed that. He cannot help telling the truth. Today, he is here, to the stunned amazement of those MPs who were hoping to come back and get a bit of a roll-on again. The Bill English nostrum for the year is that it is all over and that the Government has won the next election already.
What do those MPs do? Well, Gerry Brownlee has been testing the waters already. He has been telling us that he wants nuclear ships back in the harbour. He thinks that the Treaty of Waitangi gives special rights to Māori, and he shares the view that seems to be coming through from the National Party now that everybody in this country must live like Gerry Brownlee in Fendalton—that if they want to be part of this country they all have to fit the same large jacket that fits him. They are not allowed to be diverse, they are not allowed to be different, and they are not allowed to be part of any society that tolerates, celebrates, and wants diversity. According to Gerry Brownlee, they have to look like those folks from Fendalton. I say to Mr English that I am told that Gerry Brownlee was seeking the limelight. Gerry Brownlee says that he was not. Who does one believe? We are starting off down the track again this year—
Hon Jim Anderton: Who cares?
Hon STEVE MAHAREY: As my colleague says: “Who cares?” Maurice Williamson, who has been described as the “fourth Bee Gee” is the enfant terrible from the other side of the House. He sits back and comments on what is going on. He says that Mr Brownlee is OK by him. He has already endorsed him as leader. We know that he thinks Mr English lacks charisma. Mr Williamson has been leading the charge for the National Party, to become a niche player in the system. He wants to become offensive to more and more people—“You offend everybody,” according to Mr Williamson, “because you want to focus only on those pure right-wingers who can fit in the phone booth near you for party meetings.” That is the kind of National Party that he wants—pure, but small. Well, ACT and New Zealand First already are that, are they not, so I do not know quite where they will fit in.
However, National does have Mr Brash. Mr Brash outlined his vision—and I stress those words, “his vision”. He is a man who came on to the front bench of his party. He
is its spokesperson on finance. He gives us “his” vision. He tells us what “he” personally thinks. We know that only he personally thinks it, because as soon as he told us that the future was for unemployed people to have no dole but to line up at a post office, if they can find it, and work on a sort of “cash for service” basis, getting paid off at night time, going to the local government folks as an employer of last resort, if they want to—time-limited benefits, and the whole horrific scenario we thought we had got rid of around the world and in this country—Bill English and Katherine Rich said: ``Well, it’s interesting, but we’re not going to do it.”
Do those folks not talk to each other? Does the person who is the “Minister of Finance in waiting”, he hopes, not talk to anybody? Does he not have to say to Mrs Rich, as the spokesperson on social services, that: “By the way, I intend to announce that we ought to have something like no dole.”? But she gets no say in it. What we are watching is a National Party in which no one leads or talks to each other, and in which everybody has his or her own crackpot idea. No one is operating as a member of a team—and it is no wonder; they think we are a three-term Government! Mr Brash, on the back of saying he wants those things, today has to face the fact that there is a 4.9 percent unemployment rate in this country.
Why do we not hear some policies from the National Party about growth, jobs, how to get skills, how to get regions going, and what to do with businesses? No, National members want to spend their time bashing beneficiaries, again. They say that beneficiaries vote for the Labour Party, and will carry on doing so. Well, hell, they have just guaranteed that every single one of them will do that! Not only do we respect those people, but we want to give them real opportunity—real jobs. The National Party will thank them by giving them work for the dole, rather than committing to getting them real, paying jobs so they can buy houses, bring up their kids, and have a future, as New Zealanders should have. Mr Brash has just guaranteed us every single one of those votes in perpetuity, by the thoughts he has raised.
On this side of the House, we have a very clear idea that we are a party for this nation and a Government for every single person who lives here. We do not want to be a niche player. We do not want to talk to just a few people who agree with our weird right-wing ideas, as Mr Brash wants to. We want to represent this nation. We want every single New Zealander to achieve his or her potential. We stand for growth through innovation and a knowledge-based society, where knowledge is used and applied in every aspect of our lives so that we have smart businesses, families, communities, and individuals. That is how we will make our living, prosper, and afford social justice in this century. It is unequivocal and very clear. That is what we stand for. We have clear values: fairness, tolerance, respect, and inclusiveness; recognition of tangata whenua as the first people of this land, of families, of whanau, and of communities; and the wisdom of having strong public institutions and of working together as a nation to make the best of all our talents to give us the kind of future we want.
We stand for a Government that gives practical, strong, and smart leadership. We will not wash our hands and walk away. We will not let the market decide everything in this society. We will provide a Government that gets its sleeves up, goes out there, and does things with New Zealanders. We believe that we can best be effective if we work with New Zealanders—with local government, with Māori, with Pacific Islanders, with business, and with students. We want partnerships. We do not want to be isolated. We do not want to do what Maurice Williamson says—offend everybody so we can be pure. We want to work with those groups to get the best for our country. We think that economic growth is great, but it is not enough on its own. We want environmental sustainability and social justice in this country. Those words mean something to us. We
are committed to every single person, so he or she can achieve that kind of future, and we welcome diversity.
Mr Brash is here today. I say to him that members on this side of the House do not fear a debate about the treaty, or any other aspect that might surround those kinds of issues, because we are clear that we welcome diversity. We contrast ourselves with a party that is becoming so small-minded that only a few similar people can even fit into its vision of the future. We want diversity. We celebrate the differences between people, and those people will share a future in this country, because they are all New Zealanders and we respect what they have to bring to this country.
This will be a great second term. I am enormously excited about the prospects of this Government being a three or four-term Government. We have a lot of work to do, from building our cultural identity, to getting our economy going, to improving our security, and to reducing inequality in this country. We have an agenda. What we know after today is that we are the only grouping in this Parliament that cares about this nation. We are a nation-building Government. Every other party—ACT, New Zealand First, National—is for the few. We are for the many.
Dr DON BRASH (NZ National)
: I had initially thought that I might need to respond to what Mr Maharey said, but, on reflection, there was not a lot of substance in his speech, so I propose largely to ignore it and focus on the Prime Minister’s speech. In particular, I want to focus on her statement that last year the Government had set an objective of returning New Zealand’s per capita income to the top half of the OECD rankings, over time. I want to highlight the fact today that there is not the slightest sign of that happening, either now or in the foreseeable future.
About 2 years back, two Treasury economists, by the names of Scobie and Mawson, said that in order to achieve the average level of OECD living standards within one decade, on reasonable assumptions about how fast those other countries would grow, we would need per capita growth of 4.5 percent to 7 percent annually for that decade. In the year to September, as the Prime Minister pointed out, the economy grew by 3.9 percent in total—not per capita. That was described by the Prime Minister as the peak of the cycle. Yes, she was correct in saying that that growth was quite good by international standards, but it was good for reasons that have little to do with this Government’s policies. It has to do with the strongest export prices in more than a decade and the fact that the exchange rate fell through 1998 and 1999, reached an all-time record low in the year 2000, and stayed low through most of 2001, so that New Zealand dollar export prices were even better—the best ever in New Zealand’s history.
We had good weather down on the farm. We had a strong upsurge in net immigration. Why? It was largely, I suspect, because the rest of the world was a pretty scary place last year, and people came back from overseas to what was regarded as a safer place to be. I may also say, as an aside, that we had strong growth last year because the then governor of the central bank cut interest rates rather aggressively last year, as well. Let me also say that, most important, the growth in the last year or two was the result of the reforms of the late 1980s and early 1990s, which the Prime Minister, once again, described in very negative terms. It is simply nonsense to describe those policies as discredited or failed. They have been hugely successful, and this Government has been the beneficiary of those policies. I could argue the case at length, but it is perhaps simplest just to list the big policy changes of the late 1980s and early 1990s that this Government has not reversed. The monetary policy focus on keeping inflation under control—
Opposition Member: No change there.
Dr DON BRASH: —the liberalised foreign exchange market—
Opposition Members: No change.
Dr DON BRASH: —the liberalised banking sector—
Opposition Members: No change.
Dr DON BRASH: —the GST introduction—
Opposition Members: No change.
Dr DON BRASH: —the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the fiscal surpluses leading to a major reduction of public sector debt—
Opposition Members: No change.
Dr DON BRASH: —the total abolition of import controls—
Opposition Members: No change.
Dr DON BRASH: —the very substantial reduction of tariffs—
Opposition Members: No change.
Dr DON BRASH: —the privatisation of Telecom, the Bank of New Zealand, PostBank, Rural Bank, the Forestry Corporation, and the Shipping Corporation; and liberalised shopping hours—none of that changed, at all. The Government has not even reversed the reduction in welfare benefits of the early 1990s, which it so decried at the time. It has had more than 3 years to do that. If the Government really objected, why did it not do something about it? It has done nothing about it.
So let us be clear. The big policy reforms of the past were hugely successful, and this Government has been a major beneficiary of those changes. But what do we have now? We have new obstacles to growth at every turn—for example, business compliance costs. Business New Zealand has just estimated that the recent policy changes of this Government will add about $44,000 a year in compliance costs to a small business employing only 20 people. We now have the highest company tax rate in the Asia-Pacific region. We have no sign of any serious welfare reform. Mr Maharey can talk about the fact that National wants to bash beneficiaries. On the contrary, we care about those people. We do not want to see them rotting on the benefit system. There are nearly 400,000 of them, and that number has not changed much over the last 3 years—and I am bound to say that advocacy for that welfare reform goes way beyond the people who traditionally support the National Party.
I have had emails, letters, and phone calls from people right across the political spectrum over the last week or two, when we have made it clear—Katherine Rich and I—that we both support a major reform of the welfare system. I have had an email from a man who described himself as having been on the unemployment benefit for 4 years, and he said: “You’ve got to scrap that system, because I was seriously damaged by that unemployment benefit.” We have seen nothing from this Government that would lead us to believe that it has any positive measures at all in mind to reform that system; nor is there any serious attempt to improve early childhood or primary school education. Yes, we can talk about its tertiary education policies—with which I must say I do not agree—but as I was driving from Wellington to Auckland over the holiday period I stopped off in Rotorua so I could ride the luge with my young 9-year-old son. I requested 10 tickets, each costing $3.50, and suggested that I pay $35. The young person behind the counter, who, I may say, was not Māori or Polynesian but Pākehā, said: “Just a minute. I need to check that.” So she keyed in $3.50 ten times, and said: “Yes, that’ll be $35.” We are not getting to the basic problem in this country, which is illiteracy among our adults and young people.
It is little wonder that just prior to Christmas, when the
New Zealand Herald
surveyed 120 chief executives across the country it found that only three of them believed that this Government had any credible growth strategy—only three out of 120. That is what they felt. So we had growth of 3.9 percent in the year to September 2002 described as a peak, and that is consistent with the view of every other commentator I know of, which is that gradually, from this point on, the growth rate will slow. Treasury
forecast the economy slowing from its present level down to about 2.1 percent over the next decade, and every other economist sees that kind of growth slow-down. But even if we achieve 3.9 percent, the per capita growth is only about 2 percent. It is less than half the minimum estimated to be needed to begin to bridge the gap between us and the average of OECD countries. So, in my view, this was a very disappointing speech indeed, with no sign at all of the Government having any policies that will be needed to lift New Zealand’s standard of living back to the level of the average of the OECD.
Mr English pointed out in his speech that, in practical terms, that means New Zealand’s per capita income is more than $200 a week lower than Australia’s. On one point I agree with Mr Anderton—who has just left the Chamber. If we had more growth we could have more health spending, more education, better housing, better jobs, and a greater number of our kids staying here. It is the big challenge, and sadly this Government shows no sign at all of rising to that challenge.
Hon PHIL GOFF (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade)
: I guess it is hard for an Opposition when unemployment has just fallen to 4.9 percent, which is less than half of what it was under a National Government through most of the 1990s, and when growth is at 3.9 percent—the highest rate of growth in this country in decades. It is even harder when that Opposition is a rump of a once-fine party, and when the Leader of the Opposition has so patently failed that we will see in this House member after member of the National caucus stand up in the hope that the leadership position could be his or hers.
I say to Dr Brash that I am sorry but it will not be his. It is sad that those years of monastic existence in the Reserve Bank have led somebody who had some level of ability to be so totally out of touch and so divorced from the reality of ordinary New Zealanders that he went back to the 1970s for a failed employment policy to promote to New Zealand as a new idea to deal with the lowest-ever level of unemployment in the last decade. It was interesting that as soon as Dr Brash did that, he was contradicted by Katherine Rich. I heard her voice on the radio saying that that was no part of National policy and that it was rejected by Bill English. The National Party, in a futile attempt to regain power some time in the next millennium, decided to move further to the right. That will be reflected in ever-diminishing support for that once-proud party.
I want to talk about the situation in Iraq, which is set to dominate international affairs in the coming weeks and months. New Zealand’s position on Iraq is clear, consistent, and explicit, and I believe that it has the overwhelming support of the majority of New Zealanders. I note also the consistency of the Government’s position with the statement made this week by a group of seven prominent church leaders of all denominations.
New Zealand strongly supports UN Resolution 1441, which demands that Iraq disarm in accordance with previous Security Council resolutions going back to 1991. As a country, we have long been one of the strongest voices in the United Nations for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, and I am proud of that. The process for enforcing Resolution 1441, however, must be multilateral, involving a clear United Nations mandate. We are opposed to unilateral action. At the end of the day, of course, the United Nations must be able to sanction the use of force. Not to have that ultimate sanction would mean that it would be unable to gain compliance with its resolutions, and could never achieve the purpose for which it was established. But the use of force is very much a last resort. It should be contemplated only when all other options have failed.
That point, in our opinion, has not yet been reached. We believe that options other than military action are still available to achieve the disarmament of Iraq. Inspections have only just resumed over recent months, and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission has only just reached its full personnel
strength. Albeit under pressure, concessions with regard to surveillance methods and investigation, including the use of U2 planes, are still being wrung out of the Iraqis.
New Zealand has demonstrated its commitment to the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission process with the contribution of 13 personnel, a fact singled out by Hans Blix in his report to the United Nations Security Council. We want to see that inspection process continued for as long as it can be effective in helping to secure disarmament. If the point comes where it can no longer be progressed, because of the lack of Iraqi cooperation, and force has to be considered, we believe that a further resolution by the Security Council should be moved to explicitly authorise the use of force. A further resolution would most clearly provide the authoritative and sound legal basis for direct action.
New Zealand is a small country. As such, it recognises the need for the rule of law internationally. Since 1945 and Peter Fraser at the United Nations, New Zealand has put great store by the role of that body as the pre-eminent group empowered to resolve international conflict. It has contributed and continues to contribute to international peacekeeping in areas like East Timor, Bosnia, and the Sinai, and to international security operations, such as Operation Enduring Freedom. However, it is not acceptable that the procedures of the United Nations and the rules of international law should be observed only when they suit the purposes of, or have the agreement of, a particular party. A country is bound by the law, just as a citizen is, whether or not it agrees with it.
It is ironic that those who have most strongly condemned the United States for unilateralism, such as some in the Greens, are now promoting their own form of unilateralism, arguing that if the United Nations mandates force, we should not support its actions. A Security Council decision has the force of international law, and it must be complied with. In supporting a UN resolution, however, it is up to each individual country as to what practical form that support takes. New Zealand has indicated that in the event of such a United Nations resolution, its support would likely be confined to medical, humanitarian, and logistical assistance.
New Zealand’s view of Saddam Hussein is unequivocal. Iraq is a regime that denies democracy and is guilty of the most appalling abuses of human rights. It has a track record of using chemical and biological warfare against its own people and against the Iranians, and it has committed unprovoked aggression against Kuwait. The condition of its peace settlement in the early 1990s was its disarmament. Although it has allowed weapons inspectors back, it has, as Hans Blix has commented, cooperated only in process and not in substance. There are serious unanswered questions about chemical bombs and biological weapons that it was known to possess and has not accounted for. Iraq must meet the requirements of Resolution 1441, or face the ultimate consequences if it continues to fail to do so.
The Iraqi Government can prevent war by taking the actions it is legally obliged to. Our belief is that war should, if at all possible, be avoided. Let us be frank. War means that people will be killed. It means that homes and infrastructures will be destroyed. The UN estimates that 600,000 to 1.4 million refugees would be created, and that there would be up to 2 million internally displaced people within Iraq. Tens of thousands of lives could be lost directly or, as a consequence of war, through famine, disease, or landmines. Already, half the Iraqis cannot meet their basic needs, and hundreds of thousands suffer from malnutrition. A war extending over months would dramatically worsen their position. The victims would be ordinary Iraqi people, not Saddam Hussein and his clique, who would likely escape with hundreds of millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts.
There is also the risk that war will destabilise the Middle East and undermine the solidarity of the coalition against terrorism. A war judged by Middle Eastern and
Islamic peoples as unjust, risks creating sympathy and support for terrorists who would otherwise be condemned. A war in Iraq would also take attention from the primary threat to international security, which is terrorism, and from the pressing need to find a lasting solution to the injustices in the Middle East conflict between Israel and Palestine. It is for those reasons that common sense dictates that all alternative avenues of achieving Iraqi disarmament should be exhausted before war is considered.
New Zealand has a proud role in meeting its responsibilities internationally. In the event of a war with Iraq, New Zealand will have a role to play. That role, however, will focus first on emergency relief to save lives. In the aftermath of conflict New Zealand would have a role to play in the areas of mine clearance and peacekeeping—areas in which we have a strong track record—and on reconstruction and development assistance. Although time is running out, there is the opportunity to prevent war. Iraq can do so by complying with its obligations, and the United States can do so by staying within the multilateral framework and allowing time for current efforts to achieve disarmament without the loss of innocent lives.
JUDY TURNER (United Future)
: On 5 February the media in New Zealand were abuzz with the latest youth statistics for suspected involvement in juvenile crime, suicide rates, and teen births. While many debated whether we really were to be ranked first, second, or third among OECD countries with these appalling indicators, most of us agree that we must not get comfortable by winning any of these prizes. We ask ourselves why unacceptably high numbers of our young people live their lives so close to the line regarding the law; why so many of our children are subject to abuse and neglect; why, despite vigorous sex education programmes, too many young men and women engage in unsafe sexual activity; or why—if one is to believe some people—there are still large numbers of young women who have so little faith in their ability to carve out a future for themselves that teen parenthood is their preferred choice. Why do large numbers of our young people lack the essential strategies needed for dealing with disappointment, so that suicide becomes a perceived option? The danger I see is that we allow ourselves to be defeated by the complexity and scale of the issues facing young people. We resort to oversimplifying things and focusing on single issues, or we throw our hands up in dismay and just hope that our own family can somehow remain unaffected.
At a time when parents, schools, and communities struggle to identify causes and bring about the much-needed change, the role of Government is obvious. We have to relook at the way we shape and determine the environment in which families and communities operate. We must never give the impression that Government is any better than the rest of the population in meeting the challenge of family life. However, we do need to change the culture so that seeking advice and help when it is needed is not seen as failure but as the action of concerned and responsible parents.
The proposed Families Commission is an opportunity for a mechanism to be put in place that monitors the combined impact of all Government departments on the family and on the communities from which the family draws its support. Nobody, for a minute, is suggesting that any Government is deliberately family-unfriendly but it is vital that, as we go about the business of Government, we check that the plumb line of New Zealand families is telling us that we are building in a sound way. The vast majority of New Zealanders live their lives in the context of family and community. It is this background of relationships that helps determine our honesty and our hope for the future, and equips us with the necessary strategies for coping with the ups and downs of life.
The Families Commission will proactively advocate for the family as the building block of society, encouraging New Zealanders to be more deliberate about the parenting
skills that they have and more skilled in their significant relationships. The commission will highlight not only the rights and responsibilities of families but also the rights and responsibilities of the Government towards families.
Last week I attended a gold star award night put on by my local volunteer fire brigade for two men, in recognition of the 25 years’ service they have given to this vital community organisation. This brigade, like many others, is a community of families who train together, work together, and socialise together. These people are ordinary New Zealanders who have discovered there is something intensely rewarding in helping others. I have also seen that, this week, at a local marae, as a community grieved the loss of a young man through an accident.
The pulling together that families can depend on when the going gets tough is the hallmark of the Aotearoa New Zealand that I want to live in. United Future agrees with the Prime Minister’s statement today in the House, that our children and our young people deserve to grow up in supportive families, that they are our future, and that we neglect them at our peril.
PAUL ADAMS (United Future)
: As members of Parliament we are called to serve all New Zealanders, irrespective of race, gender, religious beliefs—and, can I add, generations. I add “generations” because our legislation will affect up to four generations at any one time. The four generations will be very different in age, and, no doubt, in viewpoint. Any parent would know what I am speaking about. They are four generations who will have to learn to live, work, play, and to love each other and the nation we have chosen to call our home, if New Zealand is to be again the best place in the world in which to live and to raise a family. We should be doing this without fear or favour. To do it effectively will require some absolutes and some values, which really are just plain good old common sense. Otherwise we will be doomed to fail, and failure is not a word I like to hear.
So to govern effectively we need to understand that we are primarily dealing with legislation, yet, in reality, we are always dealing with people. Within every person there are three basic requirements, and these never change. These requirements burn within the heart of every person who has chosen New Zealand as the place he or she wants to call home. As we hear today what the year may bring forth, I think it is wise to remind ourselves of these three basic human requirements.
The No. 1 requirement is the desire to believe. Every one of us has a desire to believe in something. Would it not be great if this year, by our collective example, we could show the public of New Zealand that politics had matured to such an extent that again they could believe in, and even trust, us? I smile because I do believe in miracles. They could learn by our example how to deal with challenging issues, by debating the issues heartily but avoiding pulling down the person involved in the debate. The young ones could sit in the gallery to see how to handle themselves correctly, while receiving some positive input. I personally believe that if we cannot look any of these young ones in the eye, it is time we started to deal with our junk. Let us set a goal that by the end of this year the majority of New Zealanders again will believe that 120 MPs are genuinely doing their best to set an acceptable standard for all New Zealanders to follow. If we cannot learn to work together, how can we expect them to?
The No. 2 requirement is the desire to belong. Why are many young people gravitating to gangs? It is because in every one of us is that inbuilt desire to belong. That is why as a United Future MP I am so looking forward to the Commission for the Family. History clearly shows us that the best place for us to belong is within a loving family. A society with the family in order has far fewer problems. Strong families lead to a strong society. Building the families of New Zealand will do more to boost our economy than any other single issue will.
The No. 3 requirement is the desire to become. All New Zealanders, deep within them, have a desire to become. We all want to improve. As politicians, it is our responsibility to set a pathway for people to become—to reach their full potential. Young people in particular need to be given a positive hope for their future in this nation. They do not need handouts; they need good role models to follow. They need to be shown that this is a nation of great potential. They deserve better than to be paid for doing nothing, as that will ultimately only destroy them, and I, for one, want to build them. They need to know that the greatest stories are yet to be written, the best buildings are yet to be built, the best music is still to be composed, the greatest paintings are still to be painted, and the best politicians are still to enter this House. They need to know that their future can always be better than their past. They need to know that there is no place like home, and when home is in New Zealand they are living in the greatest place on earth. We collectively have the responsibility of making New Zealand a great place, where people can believe, they can belong, and they can become.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Clem Simich): The Green Party will take two 5-minute slots. There will be a bell at 1 minute.
NANDOR TANCZOS (Green)
: There is a basic contradiction at the heart of this Government’s approach. For all of the Prime Minister’s talk in her speech about a commitment to participation and innovation, we actually saw, and see, a fragmented and incoherent approach that seeks to ameliorate the problems caused by the right hand, by trying to do some good things with the left hand. That is a fundamentally flawed approach to policy making. Our Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons has already talked about the contradiction at the heart of the growth strategy, and I would like to focus my speech on a couple of more specific areas.
The first one is tertiary education, because the Prime Minister said that making tertiary education more accessible was a priority for this Government. She talked about two ways of doing that. The first was capping, or putting a maximum limit on student tuition fees, using the mechanism of the fees maxima Supplementary Order Paper passed as part of the Tertiary Education Reform Bill last year. The Green Party supported that bill, and of course we support capping student fees.
The second thing is a review of student support. That is interesting, because the review of student support is the same thing we hear from Steve Maharey every time he is questioned in this House about the lack of commitment to a universal student allowance by the Government. Maybe the Government is just stalling this promised review so that in election year it can pull out a plum to show for students, and bolster up student votes. That is fair enough; it is the Government’s right to do that. But if we look at the wording in the speech, it is quite telling. The Prime Minister talks about the review setting out fair rules for determining the contribution students make to the costs of their study. That reveals an ongoing and deep commitment to the student loan scheme, and a refusal to question the basic assumptions at the heart of that scheme.
It is interesting that yesterday it was mentioned in the
New Zealand Herald
that there was $71 million in arrears in the repayment of student loans. That is something that was predicted, and was predictable. It is also interesting to note that last year, student debt reached $4.75 billion, and is projected to grow to $11 billion by 2010.
So that debt is huge, but the problem is the student loan scheme itself. The Government has to be prepared to question the wisdom of the student loan scheme in its entirety. The Green Party has been talking about pathways away from the student loan scheme since before the 1999 election. We talk about ending the student loan scheme, and some of the proposals that we put forward have already been partially adopted by the Government and by other parties as well. We talked about capping student fees, and, as I said, the fees maxima Supplementary Order Paper is a mechanism to do that, and
we fully support that. We talked about investigating bonding as an alternative to student loans, or as an alternative mechanism to pay back student loans, and I have seen other parties start to pick up that idea.
But the one thing we have been talking about that has not been picked up is a universal student allowance, and we think that that is probably the most significant thing that could be done to ease the hardship on students. It would clear up the dilemma faced by many young students, and particularly by young women, who, when unable to find work on leaving school, are faced with a real difficulty. Do they stay on a benefit and guarantee a regular income and support in order to survive and stay alive, or do they go into massive debt to get an education, with the prospect, when they finish it, that they still might be unemployed or in a kind of job in which they have no chance of paying back their student loans anyway?
It is interesting that over half of that student debt is to pay for living costs. The Labour Government’s superannuation scheme has already put hundreds of millions of dollars into the Debt Management Office, where it is paying less than the cost of the borrowings the Government is making, and we will see over the next few decades billions invested in the overseas casino economy, when a much wiser investment would be to invest in our young people, in our education, and in ourselves as a nation, in order to be able to come through with the innovation and creativity that the Prime Minister is talking about.
METIRIA TUREI (Green)
: Kia ora koutou katoa. I want to mention first the three little paragraphs on the Treaty of Waitangi in the Prime Minister’s long speech, and her unfortunately rather vague reference to treaty education. But as this is the first day back at school for all of us I will be generous. E iti noa ana, nā te aroha. Her gift is small but I accept that it is given in kindness. The Greens have been asking for this commitment from the Government for some time and are pleased to hear it mentioned finally. But treaty education cannot consist solely of Government agencies, on a public relations campaign, promoting the Government’s treaty principles. A treaty education campaign must be firmly set in the context of the treaty at the time it was signed, with reference to the declaration of independence, which confirms the independence of the rangatira, and the Māori text, Te Tiriti o Waitangi, which was signed by the majority of the Māori rangatira at the time, and with the political and economic analysis that recognises that iwi and hapū had long-established and effective social and political institutions. Anything less than that is simply an exercise in sensitive integration.
This treaty education process cannot be Crown controlled, nor Crown defined, if it is to be effective, broad-based, and durable. The Greens have long been saying that the first step is to resource the training of Māori and Pākehā treaty educators. There are just not enough skilled educators to do this work effectively. The Government needs to be responsive to the developing federation of treaty educators—an existing network of Māori and Pākehā educators already committed to working in their communities and who have the expertise and the skills to communicate the complexity of the issues to diverse communities with diverse concerns.
But perhaps I might kindly suggest that the Labour Government begins with its own caucus. The honourable Mr Carter’s belief that seeing Māori sports stars on the telly is the treaty partnership in action, clearly is in desperate need of some treaty-based deconstruction.
The Prime Minister also mentioned education in her speech, and waxed lyrical about how our young ones are our future, how they are to have their education needs met, and should be able to fulfil their potential. Well, only if they can pay for it! “Sorry Johnny, front up with the fee, mate, or you’re out on your ear—no matter the year’s work you have invested, and no matter that you have virtually no job prospects without your
qualifications: if you do not have the cash, tough titty!” It seems that under this Government, young people can fulfil their potential as human beings, only if they can afford it.
But of course it is worse, because not only is our own Ministry of Education undermining our children and our families, but the Government has opened our education system to the whole world for exploitation. I refer specifically to the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The Government recently, and belatedly, released its discussion document on the next round of GATS talks, with the public having only little more than 2 weeks to make submissions. The document itself provides virtually no information on anything, and actually is a wicked cut and paste job.
The goal of GATS is to remove all restrictions on international trade in services, including education. GATS treats education purely as a commodity, not, as the Prime Minister has said, as having an intrinsic value, not for the purpose of building a tolerant, knowledgable, and outward-looking nation, but as a tradable, commercial, money-making commodity. Even the investment bankers Merrill Lynch have predicted that through commercial pressures and GATS all education worldwide will be privatised over the next 10 years.
Do not be fooled by the Government’s response that Government services are excluded from GATS, because they are not. Government-provided services that are supplied on a commercial basis or in competition with another service are not protected. This Government subsidises private schools. How can this not be provided on a commercial basis? How can we possibly say that our public schools are not in competition with private schools? It is devious to suggest so to the New Zealand public.
The Greens completely oppose GATS and are only too aware that the inclusion of public services in GATS will lead to their increased privatisation. Through GATS, this Government is leading us not to more opportunity, security, and a better quality of life, but towards the destruction of our remaining fragile sovereignty.
Dr MURIEL NEWMAN (ACT NZ)
: The Prime Minister’s speech was big on rhetoric and spin, but very short on substance. There was no vision, no strategy, and no programme to lift the fortunes of working New Zealand families. Today this “credit card” Prime Minister presented a jumble of ad hoc initiatives designed to buy off voters. Labour has identified over 1 million New Zealanders as potential supposed supporters, and its goal is simply to seduce them into supporting its socialist agenda—removing asset testing to keep the superannuitants happy; changes in tertiary education to hook in the students; promises of greater support for beneficiaries; and a raft of initiatives to retain the Māori vote, such as Māori television, introducing race-based funding in health, and strengthening the treaty. The Prime Minister announced new spending on the arts, to keep her friends happy. Changes are signalled to keep Labour’s paid activists, the unions, happy as well. There were even sweeteners for the parties that Labour relies on for support—the radical Greens, the lapdog United party, the has-been Jim Anderton’s Progressive Coalition—with initiatives that are designed not to improve the country but to ensure that Labour stays in power, because power is the only goal of the Labour Party as it takes New Zealand to the left.
In her speech, the Prime Minister takes credit for growing the economy, but she forgets to mention that growth was export-led after the dollar fell when Labour took office back in 1999. It is now buoyed up by immigration and consumer spending, not by good management. Since Labour has been in power, the costs on small business have escalated. In spite of all the empty rhetoric about cutting red tape, Labour has been responsible for introducing more than 20 new taxes, charges, and levies that, along with the industrial relations law changes, have increased the costs on small business by almost $30,000 a year. Meanwhile, workplace stoppages have risen from 9,000 days
lost in the year 2001 to 55,000 days lost last year. What is that doing to increase the economy and help productivity? The Resource Management Act is being ignored by Labour—in fact, Labour is making it worse—and meanwhile it is damaging thousands of businesses every day and costing the country billions and billions of dollars in lost opportunity. Jim Anderton’s corporate welfare machine dishes out hundreds of millions of dollars every year to mates of the Government, cementing cronyism into New Zealand’s culture and damaging competition and our free market, which are the real drivers of economic growth.
The ACT party believes that the Government is absolutely nuts not to put a bonfire under regulations and red tape that hold back small business. Small business is the engine room of any economy, and freeing up small business from those constraints, enabling it to be more productive and more profitable, should be the absolute priority of any responsible democratic Government. But I forgot: this is not a democratic Government really; this is a socialist Government. It wants greater control, to nationalise industries, regulate businesses, and tax everyone to the hilt.
It is absolutely inexcusable—in fact, it is despicable—that after 3 years of a Labour Government, the wages of working families have fallen. In spite of the so-called great economic conditions, New Zealand’s average net wage has fallen. Families are struggling. They are working harder and they are going backwards. In fact, Labour has turned its back on working families. ACT says that is wrong. The Government should reward workers for their efforts, not penalise them. That is why ACT stands for lower taxes. That is why, as a party, we see lower taxes as a key to economic growth. Lower personal and business taxes would give New Zealand businesses a competitive advantage and lift us onto a path to prosperity. It is the sort of stuff that Labour talks about but does not do.
I listened to the Prime Minister’s statement, and I noted her gloating about the unemployment rate. I challenge the Prime Minister to explain to the nation how she can claim employment success when the measure that she uses—the household labour force survey—identifies 5,600 people who have been on the unemployment benefit for more than 2 years, but information from her own Minister’s office shows not 5,600 people on the dole for more than 2 years but 42,000. How can she claim that the figure is 5,600 when, obviously, that measure does not count 37,000 real people who have been on a benefit for more than 2 years? In fact, if we look at the whole welfare area, we see that right now there are reports from moteliers that they cannot find cleaners. They cannot find people to come and clean for them, at a time when 400,000 people are receiving welfare support. Thirty years ago there were 28 working New Zealanders for every one person on a full-time benefit. Today that ratio has gone to four working New Zealanders to every one person on a full-time benefit. Not only is that figure unsustainable, it is a sign of the abject failure of our welfare system, and the failure of a Government that has gone soft on welfare. This Government has put in place laws to expand the welfare State. Government forecasts show that within 4 years almost 30,000 more people will move onto welfare benefits. So rather than doing what other Western nations are doing, which is to reduce dependency on the State, this Government is doing the opposite. It is incentivising welfare dependency, and it is growing its block of voters.
What this Government is doing is absolutely immoral, and that is why the ACT party has opposed relaxing requirements for the domestic purposes benefit—a move, I have to say, that was supported by United Future. ACT opposes that move because on its own it will mean that an additional 1,000 families, who at the moment are not on the domestic purposes benefit, will move onto the domestic purposes benefit each and every year. There will be 1,000 extra sole parent families a year. Most people do not know that New Zealand already leads the OECD in sole parent families. In New Zealand, 29
percent of all families with children are sole parent families. That means that 230,000 children live in families with only one parent, at a time when all the evidence tells us that children who live in sole parent families fail to do as well in all areas of life as children who live in families where two parents are supporting them.
Last week the OECD came out with a report that depicted a devastating picture of life for young New Zealanders, whose rates of juvenile crime, youth suicide, and cannabis abuse are the highest in the developed world, and whose rate of teenage births is the third highest. I say to this Government and the parties that support it that until New Zealand has a commitment to welfare reform, those statistics will get worse, and this Government will be there, helping those statistics to get worse. That is simply not good enough. Members of the ACT party have been advocating welfare reform since we first entered the New Zealand Parliament. I have to say how pleased we are to see that the National Party is now supporting us. It is absolutely disgraceful that Labour has an agenda that is going to make the problem worse, and, as a result, will damage more and more New Zealand children every single year. Those OECD statistics will get worse, because family breakdown is at the heart of the problem. Labour can throw all the money it likes at the symptoms, but until it addresses the issue of family breakdown, the kids of New Zealand will continue to suffer. Labour members can shout and yell, but they know that I am absolutely right.
Welfare reform should be a national priority. When, in years to come, the parties in this Parliament look at the figures, they will rue the day that they put in place policies that made the problem worse so that New Zealand will lead nations in the Western World in negative statistics for children. That is simply not good enough. Welfare reform is at the heart of helping vulnerable families in New Zealand to succeed and have the chance of a better life. Under this Government, they are being condemned to failure.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA (Minister of Māori Affairs)
: Mihi kau ana ki a koe, ki a rātou mā o te motu e rongo ake anō ki te kōrero. Mihi atu anō ki a koe, tēnā koe, tēnā koutou.
[Greetings indeed to you and to those of the general public listening to the address. Greetings once again to you, and to you listening in.]
I think we have just been subject to what has been worrying me regarding the pathway forward for Māori. We have heard both divisive and destructive connotations on what Māoridom is about. Before I forget, I need to inform that member who has just resumed her seat that the OECD has since retracted its summaries on the youth debacle that it invented. I remind the member of that.
Today we heard the Prime Minister give a very concise speech, setting out the Government’s key activities for this year. This year will be a very exciting and important time for Māoridom. It will be about progress. It will be about consolidation, and, most certainly, it will be about finishing off activities and developments that have never ever been finished by successive Governments. Earlier we heard a plethora of suggestions about conviction and purpose. The conviction and purpose of this Government is, first, to the development of the tangata whenua. There is one tangata whenua in this country, and that is Māori. The purpose, most certainly, is to progress Maori through the intergenerational adjustments that are needed.
One person over here talked about the four lots of generations. In the history of this country over the years, Māoridom generally has been forced into generations of atypical, minor labour market positions. We want to be more than motel cleaners. We want to do more than just answer to Pākehā employers. We want to be part of the management groups. We want to be part of owning the businesses, and we want to make sure that we are recognised as such. In the sense of both developments that that
member talked about, social dependency and benefit dependency is not where modern Māoridom wants to be. That situation has been orchestrated and adjusted to make sure that Māoridom stays there, and that is something that this Government is doing something about.
The member wants to talk about the unemployment rate. Today it is at 4.9 percent. Māoridom’s rate is down at just over 10 percent, one of the lowest rates in this country for years. In the sense of the mismatch, and the skills that are needed, Māoridom needs time to work through issues and get there.
The member who has just resumed her seat was dwelling on the economic development of this country. It is important to understand also that Māori-owned commercial assets produce more export revenue—$650 million—than New Zealand’s overall wine, wool, kiwifruit, or fisheries industries, and the time is nigh for the nation to be reminded of that. Māori want to turn up the usage of those assets. There are flaws in the management of them, and issues arise that our people struggle with, but it is no different from what happens in Pākehā businesses. We talk about measures and cost. We talk about the $20,000 that was wasted in the Mercer area on some discussion about a spiritual being in the river. Nobody talks about the $17.5 million wasted by senior managers and organisations on the road going to nowhere at Mercer. Take a ride and have a look on your way back. See where the bridge is and work it out. There has not been any mention about the money wasted on the road in the same area. Nobody talks about it.
In terms of our economic development, I want to remind members that Māori people are consolidating their assets, and they do want to be in the run of things. There has been a lot of talk about the treaty. My learned colleague over here has become an expert, and other people are discussing it. The one surety about the treaty is that there are two partners to it. The reciprocity that is required in the treaty is not one-way, as some people are hinting—suggesting that only Maori are using it. It has been used through statute and legislation to do other things, too. The treaty has two partners. It was the founding document of this country. We respect the law of this country—LAW—which generally mirrors Westminster practice, but I also remind members about the lore—LORE—of this country, which is about our tangata whenua rights. It is about time that everyone understood that. The divisive and destructive suggestions the previous speaker made need to be put under the blanket and put to sleep. What a lot of nonsense!
We have been talking for some time about treaty information developments. We will make sure that that happens. The problem with talking about education is that it gets confined within narrow mindsets. Generally, only the academics and the upper levels of the purported intelligentsia of this country seem to harbour the definition and usage of the treaty. The treaty is a living document. The treaty has a role in modern society. It is important to build on releasing our people from the shackles of dependency. In any society where the tangata whenua is settled and its nationality is understood, there comes a time when there is an upturn. With our very young population—a totally different demographic to non-Māori populations—we are on a run. Watch this space for where Māori people are going in the next 5 to 10 years. Māori economic development is critical.
One of my learned colleagues in this House, who is a Pākehā, talked about the Hui Taumata in 1984. I wrote a paper then that does not say too much that is dissimilar about the needs that are required today. Certainly, in the sense of what we need, the Hui Taumata is not about treaty information. It is part of it, but the partnership that has built up over the past 2 years is more important. We have had 40-odd different hui talking to Māori about education and recognising that it is the cornerstone for the advancement of
Māoridom, so that we can get into the upper-level sciences, so that we can make sure that we run our businesses for ourselves, with reliable partners, and make sure that our people benefit from that.
Professor Mason Durie said that although education had a number of other goals—including enlightenment and learning for the sake of learning—three particular goals had been highlighted relevant to Māori and their troubles over the last 2 years. One enables Māori to live as Māori. People seem to have a real problem with that. I do not have a problem with how the Welsh, the Irish and the Chinese want to live. We should be facilitating participation as citizens of the world, which is critical to any New Zealand family. We should be contributing towards good health and higher standards of living, including housing, and whatever else. Some might argue that that goal is more important than the other two, or that less emphasis might be afforded to another goal, but those goals were presented in discussions with our people around the country. It is important to understand that what we are on about is the partnership in this country. Some of us do not need scribes to write speeches. Outside the bastions of this building, some of us are very capable of standing on our marae and talking to our people. Some people outside the House can make members feel very uncomfortable when they come to the marae and make mistakes.
Hon Georgina te Heuheu: Obesity!
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: Obesity. I am trying very hard. Let us be careful about treading on people’s toes about that.
Gerry Brownlee: We’re both doing well on that, Horomia.
Hon PAREKURA HOROMIA: I hope that is the only thing we are doing well on.
There are organisations in this country, hapū and iwi, that are really getting on with asset development. The Māori wardens who are at every hui do not get paid. Does the Māori Women’s Welfare League, which cares about the people, get paid? No. There is a lot of voluntary support in this country. Do we need to encourage wānanga? Yes. Do we need to support them more? Yes. Are we the tangata whenua in this country? Yes. The divisive, nonsensical, destructive suggestions from people like that member make one really struggle in this country. Whānau is the cornerstone of our development. Watch the Māori people going forward. They are in this country, and this Government supports them. This Government has the guts to stand up and do that. It does not play the mealy-mouthed, scratch-scratch games that go on with some members of the Opposition.
GERRY BROWNLEE (NZ National—Ilam)
: That was an interesting speech from the Minister of Māori Affairs. I would like to ask the Minister one question: if the words “He iwi tahi tatou.” mean “We are now one people.”, how on earth can one people also be partners? The concept of partnership in the Treaty of Waitangi is a big nonentity—it simply does not exist. The problem in New Zealand is that we have strayed away from the reality that on 6 February 1840 two peoples became one. Any concept that somehow there are two nations operating inside this country must stop. I ask members to consider that if the treaty conferred rights on all of us as New Zealanders, why do those rights particularly have to mean something extra for Māori in many pieces of legislation? Why should the Resource Management Act be required to treat Māori property or Māori spiritual values any differently to mine? The Minister sits there dumbfounded with no answer to that, because he is quite happy that the concept is growing in this country that Māori will be treated in a feather-bed fashion, as some sort of exalted, iconic people, when in fact they are part of us and we are part of them. New Zealand is one nation and one people.
There is only one party in this Parliament that has a chance to do anything about that problem, which is growing in the hearts of middle New Zealand. I want to compliment Bill English for having the guts to stand on marae around this country and make it very
clear that the nonsense that has been perpetrated by so many Māori for so long is going to stop. He will lead a Government that will demand one standard of citizenship and one nation. [Interruption] I suggest we get someone in to settle the Minister down, so that we can get on with the business of dissecting the incredibly appalling speech delivered by the Prime Minister in the Chamber today.
You would expect, would you not, Mr Assistant Speaker—well, I know Mr Robertson would, because he is a man who has been around Parliament a long time—that a Prime Minister’s speech might in some way be inspirational. One would expect it might be a little bit uplifting, and might tell people that there is great hope for a big future in this country. But what we got from this Prime Minister was just what her comment to the media yesterday had suggested: this was to be a boring speech so they should not cover it, and because she was not going to say anything exciting they should not look for that. That seems to typify the message the Government gives to New Zealanders. Government members say they want to be in Government, and people should give them their votes, but people should not expect anything from them and should not ask anything of them. They say they will lead people nowhere, and people can be happy with that. That is not the recipe for a long-term Government. Government members are tired, are out of ideas, and are out of time. We will see them march through to 2005, sadly pulling themselves to bits as they face the wrath of the voter.
I look at that speech and I see the Prime Minister desperately trying to appeal to some sector of the Minister’s community, by saying she understands the concepts advanced by Professor Michael Porter, a very able fellow who had a view on how New Zealand should develop itself. The Government is picking up on one little bit that he suggested would be a good idea 12 years ago. I want to tell the Prime Minister that Michael Porter also said that it was appropriate for a Government, and, in fact, essential for a Government interested in economic growth, to establish a stable and predictable macro-political and legal environment. What did we get from the Prime Minister today? We had a commitment to dismantle the legal structure in this country. It is a legal structure that is paralleled in Britain. It is a legal structure that has given foreign investors and others huge confidence in a country like New Zealand. The Government wants to replace that legal structure with a sort of Supreme Court of New Zealand, entirely appointed by none other than Margaret Wilson. That will be good for business!
The next thing Michael Porter said was that we should improve the availability, quality and efficiency of our general-purpose imports, our infrastructure and our institutions. What did we get from the Prime Minister? We had a few more commitments about roads, and more commitments to discuss a bit of an idea that, maybe by the middle of the year, we might have an idea about where the transport legislation is going.
Quite surreptitiously we see here in the Prime Minister’s statement that the Government is to work towards a form of legislative control around the allocation of fresh water. That brings me to my portfolio area of energy. At the moment that looks to be an area where this Government will fail quite considerably, and I will relate fresh water to that in a few moments. But I will read here a very interesting comment released from the Sustainable Energy Forum the other day with regard to the Maui gasfield, which this Minister has known for 15 months would run out sooner than had been expected. He has done nothing to encourage extra exploration and has sat on his hands for 15 months, knowing that there was a problem coming. He would probably have come in here to the House and said he is aware of things that we are not, and he cannot tell us about them. That is the sort of thing we get from this Government all the time, and it leads to comments from the Sustainable Energy Forum, such as: “Gas availability data has become a farce of mismanagement. By failing in its duty of care for the
public’s interest in this nation’s resource, the Government has led New Zealand into a crisis of confidence in the energy industry.”
The Prime Minister talks about growing the economy, but at the same time says that it will not grow as fast as it should because the Government really does not know how to make it do so, and then the Government puts in place all sorts of road blocks to prevent that happening. The thing that will drive an economy—the energy available to our industries—is facing a crisis of confidence in our Government. I support the motion moved by Bill English. We all have no confidence in this Government, and that will become clearer and clearer as we go along.
I suspect that the allocation of fresh water talked about in the Prime Minister’s statement is code for the Government deciding to control fresh water in this country, which means that we will not see further development of the hydro potential. If one reads further through the speech one discovers that fresh water is described as somehow being a taonga. We will be in big trouble there, because the energy potential of most of the lakes will probably be classified as unusable. On the other hand, the gas industry is now admitting that there is a huge crisis of confidence and it does not know where to go. What consumers in this country can expect from the Government in the short term is cold houses because there is no gas to heat them, and much, much higher prices. I find it amazing that people are talking about the price of gas at the well head going up from $2.15 to $6. If I am wrong, the Minister should come down to the House and say so. But he will not do that, because he knows it will happen. He knows that he has waited and done nothing for 15 months, and the situation has come as no surprise to him.
I will add to the whole picture of this Government not knowing where it is going by running through a few of the things that it has said it wants to do. Let us take last year, when we were going to have sustainable growth at 4 percent. We got to 3.8 percent by good luck, and, I suspect, on the back of debt-driven consumerism. We are now in the position of saying that growth will slip back a bit. Rather than doing something to speed it up, the Government is to introduce holidays legislation that will come down heavily on employers.
I have talked about the Supreme Court. That will remove a lot of the confidence that foreign investors have. I have talked about the fact that the Government has no idea at all about where to take infrastructural issues inside this country. Then we see the other little thing in this statement that I think everyone should be worried about: amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, to coincide with the expiry of the moratorium on genetic modification. That should send shivers up the spine of every scientist in this country who thinks that he or she has some research that might advance the economic prospects of this country.
We are left with a document from the Prime Minister that was cleverly written to be as boring as it possibly could be, so that no one would have a decent look at it, and the concept being advanced that the Government knows what it is doing, and people should not ask questions or expect anything, because the Government will not give them anything. I repeat what I said before: Mr English is absolutely right; no one should have any confidence in this Government.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First)
: I have often commented that in the area in which I grew up, to fly a blue ribbon, either on one’s car or on one’s person, on election day, was tantamount to suicide. That is because it was a working-class area, and during those years the legacy of the first great Labour Government between 1935 and 1949, the Savage and Fraser Governments, served the working-class families of New Zealand extremely well. Had it not been for the policies introduced by that Government in health and housing, and most of all in education, I certainly would not have had such a positive upbringing. I learnt the mantra that “Labour looks after working-class families.” before
I learnt “Baa baa black sheep.”, because Labour was the party of working-class families. The actions of the fourth Labour Government between 1984 and 1990 challenged the validity of that mantra, and I for one at the time felt a deep sense of betrayal when Roger Douglas, aided and abetted by many of those occupying Government front benches nowadays, brought in policies that were disastrous to working-class families.
This Labour Government claims that it has gone back to its roots. Last week I was made aware of a decision by this Government that I believe makes a mockery of that claim. The decision I am talking about is the increase in the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) fees from $80 to $150. It is an increase of almost 100 percent, and it is totally unjustified. I ask members opposite what possible justification there can be for a cost increase of that magnitude. The Government has a monopoly on New Zealand qualifications. Parents have no choice. It is either pay up or do not gain the qualification. That may seem a pretty small and insignificant matter when within 48 hours the world might be plunged into a grotesque war, but to the families affected it is not insignificant. To the children who end up without their school achievements recognised, it is certainly not insignificant.
When I heard the information, I have to say that I was gobsmacked. How could a Labour Government treat low-income, working-class families with such callous disregard? It is nothing more than a parental tax. It the reversal of the old family benefit, which was of such importance to my mother during lean times. In those days the Government provided £3 per week per child to parents. This Government expects parents of year 11 to year 13 children to pay it $3 a week for the privilege of being a responsible parent. What is so offensive about that qualification tax is that it will be most taxing on low-income working-class families—the battlers on Struggle Street.
- Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 7.30 p.m.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY: Prior to the break for dinner I was talking about what I consider to be an appalling decision—to almost double the NCEA fees. I claim that it is appalling because the very people it will hurt most of all are the people the Labour Party purports to represent. The thesis is that it can no longer claim to be a party that is friendly to the working classes. It is a party that is friendly to the non-working classes, but certainly not to the working classes. As Richard Prebble has said, from the research he has done through the Parliamentary Library, the average New Zealand family’s income has dropped by $14 per week since this Government took over. Now we are imposing upon some of those families who happen to have children, and who are responsible and want them to have a good education, an additional $3 per week, purely and simply as a tax to fund the qualification.
The Government will tell us that there are financial assistance grants for those facing hardship, but they will not tell us that these apply only to those people who are on benefits or have an annual income equivalent to benefits. During the break the Hon Rick Barker publicly stated that the amount the Government gives beneficiaries is the bare essential only. Those people have to pay only $35, but anyone who happens to be earning anything more than the bare essential has to pay the whole $150. They do have a choice: their child does not sit NCEA. Their child does not get the qualification.
In fact, Trevor Mallard, the Minister, has said: “Oh you can still sit it if you like, but you won’t get your qualification until you pay the fee.” What is that going to mean? It will mean a whole lot of people who think they will try but if they bomb out they will not pay the fee and then it will not cost anything. The whole thing is fraught with extreme difficulty.
What about the family with three children, one at each level? What about the family with triplets? What will this mean to those families? Let me tell members here and now
that the Child Poverty Action Group has done research on the implications of the fees for 2002, and this shows that there were dramatic effects on average to low-income families, and people were simply not paying the fees. There were kids who were too scared to go home and tell their parents, so they came to the examination day and had not paid.
We have quotes from schools: “We had about 20 students withdrawing altogether from everything. They did have credits, but they did not pay the bill, and at least half of those because they could not pay the bill.” Here is another quote: “In some cases, the kids had got the credits and they still wanted to wipe them out. That was one of the saddest things. I was so depressed that day when I walked out of here, because so many students had come in to make me reduce their bills so they could afford them.” These were students who had already achieved the standards, but their families could not afford them, and that is on $80 per NCEA stage, not on $150. So I am saying to members of the Government that they should take note of the effect this will have upon average and low-income working families.
Today the Prime Minister was crowing about centres of excellence and what the Government has been doing with those, but how are these young people ever going to get into the centres of excellence when they cannot get past stage one of NCEA? They cannot get their qualifications recognised, because their parents are simply not able to pay. I agree with what the Prime Minister said today, but unfortunately it was hollow rhetoric. She said the nation has to make full use of its capacity and the talent within its widest society. We totally agree with that in New Zealand First, yet this policy is shutting people out. It is shutting the gate before they even get into the first paddock. That is the effect that this policy will have on people.
The Minister of Education has said that NCEA actually costs more to administer. He has said that it is more expensive and therefore we have to recoup some of the losses. I ask the Minister of Education why, if that is the case, parents whose children are doing the transitional Sixth Form Certificate qualification—a very cheap qualification to run, because the teachers do the grading, and the schools do the allocation of the grades—are also paying $150. It has nothing to do with the costs of NCEA. It has to do with the fact that the implementation of NCEA was done on a shoestring. The Minister knew that that shoestring was there in 1999, when he took over, and he did not make adequate moneys available. In other words, we have a Rolls Royce of a qualification system that is being run on a Lada budget.
That is why the New Zealand Qualifications Authority has used up all its reserves in trying to implement the NCEA, and now parents are having to pay for it and pick up the cost. This is nothing more than a parents tax, and it is a parents tax that is going to hurt people on average and low incomes most of all—working-class families. It will be their children who will not be able to get their qualifications recognised because they will not be able to afford it. Need I say that this will be a terrible burden on families from the Pacific Islands and Māori families, particularly larger families. For many of them there will be only one choice—either they have food on the table, or the children get their NCEA qualification.
What sort of system is that? Members of the Government should be embarrassed that they have allowed their executive to come up with this sort of decision and to drop it on people at the beginning of the 2003 academic year. The schools themselves are worried that some of their capable students will now not get past NCEA stage one, and we well and truly know what that means in terms of their futures. They have no futures. The futures of young New Zealanders are dependent upon their getting on that ladder of learning, and that starts with NCEA. This decision is an appalling indictment on this Government.
Hon CHRIS CARTER (Minister for Ethnic Affairs)
: Members of the House have tonight probably heard some very unusual music for Parliament, echoing around the chambers here in the old Parliament building. The reason for that is the Government is hosting a Chinese New Year function at Parliament tonight. I would like to make reference to that function and to the words the Prime Minister used in her address to the House earlier today, when she said that this Government values diversity in New Zealand, and values diversity in our society. Tonight, over 400 members of the Chinese community, the diplomatic corps, members of Parliament, the Chinese Ambassador, and the Singaporean High Commissioner, have gathered at Parliament to celebrate the lunar festival, or, as we commonly call it, Chinese New Year. This week ushers in the Year of the Goat, a year that is well known for its celebration of the arts and for good fortune. Hopefully, everybody who has been enjoying the festival has a good year coming up.
Indeed, the members of the Chinese community deserve a good year, because they have been very valued migrants to our country. Chinese communities have been coming to New Zealand for over 100 years, and they have brought to this country the ethics of hard work, commitment to education, and strong families. They are a very law-abiding, peaceful people. Their statistics in crime are very low, and their employment figures are traditionally high, although we have had some issues with new migrants accessing employment, because of their lack of English language skills. Chinese migrants, like the many other new communities that have been coming in recent years, are very welcome additions to our community.
Diversity is a good thing. Some members of this House have spoken against diversity. They are fearful of it and they have played on prejudices about it. I believe that diversity is very good for our community for a number of reasons. First of all, it is good economically. The sorts of people who travel to the ends of the world to live in our country—we are a very remote country—have been marked out as people who are ambitious and hard-working. In fact, the ancestors of all Kiwis fall into that category, whether they came as migrants from tropical Polynesia—the ancestors of the Māori people—800 or 900 years ago; from Europe, probably as did your ancestors and mine, Mr Speaker, over 100 years ago; or more recently from tropical Polynesia, as did the Samoan, Tongan, and other Pacific communities. In more recent times there has been a new wave from Asia and from the Middle East.
All these migrants are ambitious people who work hard and have contributed to the building of our economy. They have also provided links for our country to other nations. The growing economies of Asia, particularly the very dynamic Chinese economy, can link in with their own ethnic communities in our country to provide bridges where trade and investment can flow between ourselves and those critical economies, just as in the same way 100 years ago my ancestors, when they came from Europe, built close links with the motherland, and continued to trade and exchange ideas and people. That is a very positive thing. It is good for the economy.
But the greatest of all contributions that the new and diverse ethnic communities have made to our cities, and increasingly to the rest of our country, is an awareness by the young people who have come from older established communities in New Zealand that the world is a diverse and colourful place. The changes and growth in technology, and the breaking down of borders, mean that distance is no longer the barrier it once was. The diversity of the world is now a global market, and if young people in New Zealand are aware of cultural difference, and appreciate and celebrate other cultures, they are enriched and stronger in embracing those cultures. They should inevitably do that because of the way barriers are breaking down in the world.
The Chinese community has brought a diverse new colour to the Parliament tonight,
and I am very proud, as Minister for Ethnic Affairs,along with the Prime Minister, to have hosted tonight’s function. I wish everybody who is listening, and members in this House, a very happy Chinese New Year.
Another issue that came up in Parliament today was dog control—the need for a law to protect people in this country from attack by dogs. There have been a number of cases in recent weeks of very savage dog attacks on young children, and other citizens, going about their peaceful business or just enjoying themselves in public. That is totally unacceptable. As Minister of Local Government—another portfolio I have the privilege to hold—I am working as hard as I can to ensure that people are kept safe in our community.
But something happened in the Parliament today that has made my job a little bit harder. We had been given an indication from other political parties in this House that we would have cross-party support to deal with this issue. I would like to thank the National Party, the Green Party, and United Future for their acceptance of the need for quick action on this issue. But today New Zealand First and the ACT party stopped a Government bill, in my name, on the Order Paper from being referred back to a select committee.
That bill deals with banning specific breeds of dogs. I do not think that is the whole answer, it may not even be part of the answer, but it was a vehicle by which we could send that issue to a select committee so that the community, and those interested in this issue, could make submissions. We could have begun today the process of fixing up the law. Because we were stopped from doing that, we now have to draft new legislation. It will have to go through the process of being drafted, it will have to go through the process of its first reading, and then be referred to a select committee. I say “Shame”, because we had the chance to take some quick action on that issue.
Tomorrow, the father of a young girl, Carolina Anderson, is coming to Parliament. He is coming to meet the Prime Minister. He is coming to meet me, in my capacity as Minister of Local Government. He is coming to meet members of Parliament to tell us about the personal anguish that his family has suffered, because of this horrific attack on his little girl. I wanted to be able to tell him, tomorrow, that we are doing something about it—now. What am I going to have to tell that father tomorrow? I am going to have to tell him that the ACT party and the New Zealand First Party stopped that legislation from being open to the public of New Zealand to be able to make submissions on it. I say: “Shame on the ACT party! Shame on New Zealand First!”
I hope the members of those parties come to my office tomorrow—because there is an open invitation to all MPs to come and meet that father—I hope they come and explain to him why they stopped that bill from going to a select committee, and give us some reason.
Attacks by dogs have been a problem in New Zealand for a very long time. We have to have effective law to keep people safe. The only way we can make effective law—law that will help to protect people—is through a process of good lawmaking. That means sending a bill to a select committee, and having experts, and people interested in the issue, coming along, making submissions, letting MPs act in a responsible and sensible way. Actually, every member of this House knows that mostly at select committees, people do contribute in a very positive way. There is cross-party support for making good law. We could have begun that process, on this issue, in the next week. Now we will have to wait some time, and I say that that is sad. But we will do it.
Finally, I want to mention that I did something else very special in the adjournment. I opened the first marine reserve for New Zealand in 4 years, in the Auckland Islands. We have protected, the biodiversity of 484,000 hectares of marine environment in the southern ocean. It was a proud moment for me, in my role as Minister of
Conservation—another portfolio I am privileged to hold—to be able to do that. I would like to serve notice to this House that the extension of marine protection around New Zealand will be my highest priority, as Minister of Conservation. I pledge to this House and to the people of New Zealand that the establishment of more marine reserves around New Zealand, protecting our unique environment and providing opportunities for people to learn and to carry out tourist activities, and just enjoy themselves, will be a very, very important activity that I will be engaged in over the next 2 years.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY (NZ First)
: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek to make a statement under the relevant Standing Order to correct an inaccuracy that the Minister repeated several times in his speech, about some proceedings that occurred in the House earlier today.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): The member needs to seek leave to do that, realising of course that any time comes off the debate.
Hon BRIAN DONNELLY: It will be very brief. I seek leave to do so.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): Leave has been sought. Is there any objection to that course of action being taken? Leave has been denied.
Hon DAVID CARTER (NZ National)
: I am pleased to have the opportunity to follow on from the Hon. Chris Carter, who, unfortunately for me, shares the same surname, and I take this opportunity of assuring the public of New Zealand that in no way am I related to that man. I also completely dissociate myself from the stupid, ill-conceived comments he made at Waitangi late last week.
I want to comment on the speech he has just made, in which he referred to an instance today regarding legislation to cover what clearly is a problem with dangerous dogs. I say to Chris Carter that if he is the Minister in charge—and he is part of the Government—he should come to Parliament with legislation to fix the problem, but he should not abuse the parliamentary process by trying to tack something on to legislation that, clearly, has already been through the select committee process. Chris Carter has assumed the role of being the Minister in charge of fixing this problem. There is, indeed, a problem, so he and his Government colleagues should quickly prepare legislation, present it in this Parliament, get it through the parliamentary process, and get it passed, to the satisfaction of the people he is attempting to bring to Parliament tomorrow—simply for a stage-managed situation for himself.
The third point I want to raise is his opening comments about having just hosted a Chinese New Year celebration, and then he went on to make patronising, condescending comments about the contribution the Chinese people had made to New Zealand.
Jill Pettis: Don’t be pathetic.
Hon DAVID CARTER: They have made a tremendous contribution to New Zealand, even though Jill Pettis says their contribution is pathetic. But I say that, instead—
Jill Pettis: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I have a voice that carries. That member knows exactly what I said. I said that he should not be pathetic.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): That is a debatable issue.
Hon DAVID CARTER: Jill Pettis is attempting to interrupt yet again. I say to her and to Chris Carter that, instead of making condescending comments like that about the Chinese people and their contribution to New Zealand, they should do the Chinese people a real justice and start to treat them the same as all New Zealanders. They should strive to have one standard of citizenship in this country, instead of having one rule for one race and another rule for others. Jill Pettis and Chris Carter should not come into this House and make those sorts of comments when they do not mean them.
When a parliamentary session starts, there is time for the Prime Minister to make an important contribution to initiate the parliamentary year. She got one thing right in her
opening statement: she knew her speech would be a bore so, yesterday, she went to the newspapers and, with the help of Mr Munroe and the ninth floor, spent some time trying to tell New Zealanders that it would be a bore—and she was absolutely right. She had 40 minutes and she should have taken the opportunity to fulfil the Standing Orders. Standing Order 338(1) states: “On the first sitting day of each year, the Prime Minister must make a statement to the House reviewing public affairs and outlining the Government’s legislative and other policy intentions for the next 12 months.” After that 40-minute speech, can anybody in this House say that the Labour Party outlined a vision of where it wants New Zealand to be during this parliamentary year?
Lindsay Tisch: No.
Hon DAVID CARTER: I agree with Mr Tisch. There is no vision in that statement, because Helen Clark has not taken the opportunity to realise that this country has severe problems, and we will lose much of the next 2½ years in tackling them. The Labour Party’s opening statement given by the Prime Minister today does not do a thing to address the underlying problem of New Zealand, which is that New Zealand is not doing well enough.
I want to say right from the start that Helen Clark was able to chime on about how well this country is doing because of the achievement of 3.9 percent growth in gross domestic product. That needs to be put in perspective. For 3 years we have had the best export prices we have seen for 30 years. We have had a relatively benign interest rate regime, and that has existed for the last 3 years. There has been a buoyancy in this economy that New Zealanders have not seen for some period of time. On top of that, if one looks at the historical chance of getting benign seasons following one after another for 3 years, one has to acknowledge that the foundations were there for New Zealand to grab the chance to do something to get itself back into the top half of the OECD. But the aim of the Labour Party last year, and the year before, as it kept saying, was that it must do at least 4 percent, consistently, to get back into the top half of the OECD. What do we see? I concede that we almost made it at 3.9 percent, but the Prime Minister had the audacity to say in the House that 3.9 percent is as good as it will get. We ask the Prime Minister what she will do, first, to recognise the problem, and then to advance policy that will do something about it.
Let us look at the legislation the Government talked about, in order. The Responsible Gambling Bill, which was introduced by the hapless Mark Burton, went to the Government Administration Committee when I was a member of it. I recall Mr Burton giving a personal guarantee that that legislation would be back to the House and passed through Parliament by mid-2002. That personal guarantee from Mr Burton has counted for nothing. But the more important question is: what will the Responsible Gambling Bill do to assist New Zealand’s long-term growth rate? Nothing! And not one member of the Labour caucus in the House tonight disputes that.
The next listed piece of legislation, the Racing Bill, is the brainchild of the Government. That Racing Bill completed its process through the select committee a long time ago. It is supported by the majority of the House and it is desperately wanted by the racing industry, yet it is still sitting on the Order Paper because the Government has not bothered to progress it. Then there is the Resource Management Amendment Bill. The original bill, again, was one that was advanced by the National Government before the 1999 election. It is back from the select committee and it is still sitting on the Order Paper. That bill, if it were advanced sensibly by Labour, would be the one that could do something about our growth rate.
In my closing minutes, I want to speak specifically about challenges within my portfolio area of agriculture. As I have said, the Government has resided over 3 of the best years that I can recall in farming, and I have been farming most of my working life.
But what in return has the Labour Government delivered to farmers? What has Jim Sutton, as the Minister of Agriculture, done for the farmers of New Zealand?
Ian Ewen-Street: Good weather!
Hon DAVID CARTER: I do not think that Jim Sutton can claim credit for that. I can tell Ian Ewen-Street what Jim Sutton has done: he has done a lot of damage. The Government renationalised accident compensation, and, to date, costs to most farmers are now up 60 percent. Last year the Government passed the Local Government Act. Not only does that give special treatment to Māori but, worse than that for farmers, it has decreased farmers’ representation.
Hon Rick Barker: Ha!
Hon DAVID CARTER: Rick Barker laughs. The Canterbury Regional Council acknowledged in a briefing to parliamentarians that there will now be less representation for rural constituents. Mr Barker laughs, because either he denies it or he does not know about it. But he voted for it. Those farmers—about 40,000 of them—pay 20 percent of the rate bill in this country, and their costs will now go up. In 2 weeks’ time, Statistics New Zealand will release the farm expenses price index. That again will have risen, and it will be the continuation of a rise that has occurred in every quarter since this Government has operated. It has done nothing for the New Zealand primary producers.
Hon RICK BARKER (Minister of Customs)
: I want to say how interesting it was to listen to David Carter speak, and I make the observation that that speech showed how little his opinion is worth. I will refer to one minor matter—before going on to the substance of some other issues—in relation to representation for the agricultural sector. I tell David Carter that in Hawke’s Bay there are five councils, four of which are chaired by farmers. That is 80 percent, and farmers represent much less than 80 percent of the population.
I do not necessarily see that there is anything to change about that; it is just that there is good quality representation. The people respect that, and they will elect councillors where they see good quality representation, whether they are farmers, schoolteachers, business people, or whatever. The member is barking up the wrong tree completely.
The second issue that the member completely missed was the substance of the Prime Minister’s speech. Yes, it might have been boring, but when there is a speech like that I like boring. What did the Prime Minister talk about in her speech? She talked about growth, skills, research and development, clusters for growth, innovation, exports, transport, improvements in health, improvements in mental health, communications, broad-band Internet access to rural communities, and early childhood education. The list goes on and on, and it must have been so disappointing to the Opposition that in every sector there have been improvements and advances made by this Government in 3 short years.
I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition, Bill English, say, on the basis of the Prime Minister’s speech, that we are here for at least 9 years. Well, I have news for him. We will do better than 9 years because this is a very energetic and hard-working Government. [Interruption] I want to make the observation to Lindsay Tisch that he should not be so demeaning of good results. He should not be like that. He should accept success and say: “Hallelujah sisters and brothers, this is a great job, and a great Government.”
He should listen to the statistics today. Unemployment is down to 4.9 percent. Lindsay Tisch should be celebrating that and saying that this Parliament and this Government are doing a great job to reduce the scourge of unemployment.
I urge Lindsay Tisch to listen to some figures; he will like them. On 7 January 2000 there were 195,000 unemployed people in this country. On 5 January 2001 the figure
was 182,000. On 4 January 2002 the figure was 166,000. On 3 January this year the figure was 147,000. Mr Tisch should celebrate the fact that when this Government took office, for every four people who walked through the doors of a Department of Work and Income office to get the unemployment benefit, only three do now. Unemployment has fallen by 25 percent in this country, and this Parliament should celebrate that. It should say that that is fantastic. I am sure Opposition members will try to decry that. However, if they were honest, they would say: “Great job.” Members should look at the headlines in the Taranaki newspaper: “Taranaki has more work than workers”. When have we seen a headline like that? “Taranaki has more work than workers”. Some fantastic work is going on in Taranaki.
I pay tribute in part to the staff of the Department of Work and Income, and particularly to the policies of this Government. Under the leadership of Steve Maharey, Work and Income has changed dramatically. Yes, the tables, chairs, and the decor might look similar, but what goes on in there is radically different. One of the things that has changed under this Government is that instead of saying that all knowledge and wisdom comes out of Wellington, we have decentralised. Now we require regional commissioners to develop plans for improving employment prospects in their region with their staff and to develop initiatives that are suitable for their particular area. We have regionalised many of the activities.
Steve Maharey in his leadership has said that he wants the regional commissioners to take initiative, to be active, and to move more and more to individual case management. We want case managers to look at resolving issues for individuals and to try to assist them to get the necessary wherewithal to get into employment. We are looking at improving skills training, education, mentoring the unemployed to give them in-work support, providing financial and other resources, and making sure that they are capable of taking up the work available.
There has never been any shortage of work in this country. There has always been plenty of work, but we have not been able to match the workers to the work available. Work and Income today is dedicating itself to making that happen. We are trying desperately to shift the unemployed to the employed. I shall give some examples. I came across one example in Nelson that I thought was fantastic and I have asked the service to put it across the country. If one walks into the Work and Income office in Nelson, one is not automatically signed up to the unemployment benefit. One is asked to go to a seminar the next day. The first question people are asked when they get to the seminar is what are they doing there. People say that they have not got a job, and they are asked why they have not got a job. They are asked where they worked before and what were the issues. The service is working with the unemployed in those areas directly through case management to enhance people’s opportunities to get employment. Signing up on the dole if they cannot get a job is the second worst option for them. The best option is to get them into employment, and Nelson has been spectacularly successful at that. We are approaching several other initiatives like that around the country.
Don Brash said in a speech the other day that he wanted the unemployed to line up outside a post office. The post office has gone, if someone has not already told him that. The second most important part about that statement is that to line up every day to get a money handout will not solve the issue. We have to identify what the issues are for those individuals that prevent them from getting a job. Very often it is health issues, sometimes it is skill issues, and sometimes it is a whole range of issues. However, we have to try to get those people into a situation where they can get a job.
I shall give another couple of examples. I spoke to people from the Methodist Mission in Christchurch. Work and Income and the Methodist Mission in Christchurch
have a strategic relationship. The Methodist Mission has people whom it calls community advocates. They take on individual unemployed people to help them resolve their personal issues or barriers to getting a job. Those issues can be mental health, health, or a whole range of things. They have been spectacularly successful. A very high number of people who were seen by Work and Income as not finding it easy to get into employment have transited from unemployment to employment. That is working to solve the problem, and I support that 100 percent.
Another fantastic example I saw was in Dunedin North with Presbyterian Support. The Knox Church down there said it was concerned about the level of unemployed in the north-east valley. So it found itself sufficient money to buy a nursery. By having a nursery, propagating plants, and wanting to get into some very interesting things such as the export of saffron, it is employing people who were formerly unemployed, paying them the minimum wage, and then giving them work skills and resolving other issues that those people have so that they can move on to being employed. It has been spectacularly successful in helping to reduce unemployment in Dunedin North.
Another strategic relationship between Work and Income and the 4 TRADES trust in Dunedin is helping to get people into apprenticeships. In west Auckland, Work and Income officers identify opportunities where there will be work in the future, and we have seen a spectacular jump in that area in the number of people employed in apprenticeships in the boat-building industry.
What is happening is that Work and Income officers are taking it as their personal challenge to help reduce the level of unemployment in this country. They are working directly with the individuals on their books to help them resolve the issues they have and make them more suitable to employment. They are giving people the skills, knowledge, and confidence to get jobs, and they are succeeding beyond my expectations. I have travelled around the country and spoken to many people in Work and Income offices. Almost universally I found them to be good, ordinary Kiwis who are dedicated, hard-working, and professional about their job. They want to make this country a better place to be. They are responding positively to this Government’s challenge to them to come to work every day and look at creative ideas and initiatives that can improve the quality of life for the people they are there to look after. They do not treat the unemployed as simply another statistic. They are working hard to ensure that they do their best to get those people into employment and a positive future career.
The situation is completely different from that portrayed by Dr Brash. I have written to Dr Brash inviting him to go any Work and Income office throughout New Zealand—or, if he does not want to, I will organise a tour for him—to see how good things are happening in Work and Income in New Zealand.
DEBORAH CODDINGTON (ACT NZ)
: That was a fine, half-pie, sort of ACT speech from that member, but I take issue with the Minister of Conservation, who accused ACT of subterfuge. We do not actually pass laws because the
Sunday Star-Times states that we should—we actually respect the Westminster process. It is a cheap shot for the Government to use the tragedy of that little girl. Nobody in this country has anything but sympathy for that family.
Jill Pettis: Support the bill then.
DEBORAH CODDINGTON: That member should not accuse us of not campaigning for children. I have spent the best part of the last 10 years campaigning for the safety of children, in order to protect them from sex abusers and child abusers, and I have used the parliamentary process to do that properly.
I would like to move further to the matter of child abusers of the mind. At the moment, according to an international survey, 1 million New Zealanders are ranked on the lowest level of literacy, and that leaves them with a very blighted future. Imagine if
1 million people left school after having been physically maimed through sporting activities at school—so physically maimed that they had to spend their lives on a sickness benefit or the unemployment benefit. There would be an absolute outcry. Where do all those illiterate children who leave school in New Zealand go? They go on to benefits, and many of them end up in prison. There was absolutely nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement today about the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA), one of the most dangerous experiments ever foisted on New Zealand children.
It is totally untried. It is teaching to standards, not context. Last year’s year 11 students were guinea pigs, and to add insult to injury, they now have to pay extra for that exam. This Government blithely says that grants will be available to poorer students. [Interruption] Exactly—a parental tax. Once more, the children from low-income families are the ones who will be hurt most by this Government, and they were already hurt when the Government introduced such an appalling national “qualification”, as it likes to call it.
There is debate over how the assessment is done, and there was nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement to address that problem. She thinks that if we ignore it, it will go away. Education begins at birth. The Prime Minister said that the Government will be working with the early childhood sector. The early childhood sector actually wants this Government to just butt out. It was getting on fine before this Government stuck its nose in and introduced pay parity for kindergarten teachers. The Government is trying to force all early childhood educators through the same one-size-fits-all teaching qualification, which gives no recognition to the experience or skills that have already been attained. Already, too many good teachers are leaving the system. What will this Government do? It thinks: “Nanny knows best” when it comes to the delivery of education in New Zealand. The politicians decide on the best school for a child to go to—it has to be the nearest one. If a parent does not like the NCEA but the local college has embraced it, it is tough. The State education system says that one’s child must go to a particular college and graduate with an anti-competitive, politically correct, standards-based assessment qualification.
I spent 18 months on the board of trustees of a popular Auckland school. We had to knock on doors at 7.30 in the morning to check out what we thought were suspicious enrolments, so that we could carry out what this Government decreed in the education legislation. Those poor parents were falsifying their addresses so that they could get the best for their children. They had decided what they thought was the best school for their children to go to. All sorts of excuses were offered by those angry and pleading parents, but we had to carry out what this Government decided would be best. Meanwhile, due to zoning, the real estate prices went up, and if members think that that is just an Auckland problem, I tell them that it is not. Zoning is dividing communities as far south as Cromwell. The principal of Cromwell Primary school was quoted in the paper last week as saying that it is splitting up families. The principal said that it has the potential to split families, the ability to create community divisiveness, and that it denies parents a choice of where to send their children to school.
Why should those parents not have choice? We allow the parents of international students to choose which schools their children go to. Why do we not afford the same dignity to New Zealand parents? The feminists in that Labour Government supported women’s right to choose when it comes to abortion. I applaud that, but what about the right of mums and dads to choose which schools their own, living, children go to? Members should think about that. They should cast aside the status quo and use their imaginations. Imagine if we could give every child $10,000 a year, tattooed on his or her forehead, if one likes, figuratively speaking. Those children would suddenly look
very attractive to schools. They would look as attractive as the international fee-paying students, and parents would be able to choose their children’s school. We allow parents to choose which houses and cars they buy, but, for some reason, we do not let them choose which school their children go to. Of course, members are thinking that parents would all send their children to Auckland Grammar, Epsom Girls Grammar School, or Wellington College, but if I buy a hamburger in south Auckland it is exactly the same quality as a hamburger in Epsom, so why should the parents of children who live in Otara and Mangere not have access to the same standard of education as the parents of children who live in Epsom and Remuera? It is an irony, is it not, that the ACT party is the party that promotes that, and the Labour party is the party that says—
Jill Pettis: You had vouchers.
DEBORAH CODDINGTON: What is wrong with vouchers? Why can we not give parents some choice? If the Prime Minister had any vision about education in New Zealand, she could have used her statement this afternoon to promote a radical, exciting, stimulating vision of a system that rewards New Zealanders. It could actually be done without involving a lot of upheaval or revolution. How? Just introduce choice! Imagine if I went to the supermarket here in Thorndon and somebody was wandering around—an inspector or someone from the board of directors of the supermarket—to check that I lived in the supermarket’s zone and was not travelling to the supermarket from out of the zone—Lower Hutt, for instance. There would be an absolute outcry. But for some reason, this Government will not allow parents to have the same choice.
We could look at giving schools autonomy. We could have faith in parents’ ability to choose best. Mums and dads know best. We could start treating teachers like the professionals they are. We could give them the choice as to who will be their employer. We could give them competition for their services. We could allow them to be self-employed. We could allow teachers to set up schools, just like Dawn Jones and John Graham did in Auckland with The Senior College. After 9 years, it is a spectacular success, because they did not have to pour money into bricks and mortar. Instead, they used the money and the little resources they started off with to employ the best teachers at higher rates.
If we look at articles in the
Spectator, we see that countries like India and countries in darkest Africa are introducing school choice for parents so that the poorest parents can send their children to independent schools. They know what is best for their children. But in New Zealand, we insist on going backwards. Also, we could start by raising the entry and exit levels for teacher training. The standard is appalling at the moment. We insist on A bursaries for students to get into law school. We should also raise the standards for students to get into teacher training. After all, who teaches the future lawyers and the accountants the skills and the knowledge they need to get the A bursaries?
There is no silver bullet for education. It has to be improved in conjunction with welfare reform and increased prosperity. I challenge this Government to do something for the parents out there, who do know best where to send their children to school and what the best education for them is.
STEVE CHADWICK (NZ Labour—Rotorua)
: It was memorable today to hear the Prime Minister outline very serious and inspirational issues. I take it this Government will be a three-term Government. That gives us great confidence to move on our economic reform programme, and on our programme based on growth and innovation, education, and health as key cornerstones of where we are going.
I want us to reflect on a summer that was hardly contentious. In fact, it was a somnambulant summer of content. However, it was definitely a summer when mad dogs and Englishmen came out in the noonday sun. Let us focus on some of those mad
and bad dogs, and on irresponsible dog-owners. It was absolutely vital to see that the Prime Minister has picked up that issue and emphasised the need for urgency in reviewing and amending the Dog Control Act. In this Westminster system we do have bills, and one of them was brought to the attention of the House today. That was the Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2). I was simply appalled that leave was not granted today for its discharge and referral to the Local Government and Environment Committee. There is no carping on why leave was not given for that in the House today. If all of us cared about that bill and cared about what is going on out in our communities, that seeking of leave would have been granted with unanimous support. The situation will reflect very badly on those parties that did not support that bill being referred back to the correct select committee.
The Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2), however, does very little about mongrels and unregistered dogs, and their irresponsible and thoughtless owners. The “Dog Seizure Amendment Bill” that I proposed, which has been in the ballot in this Westminster system of government, gave the very powers to strengthen the Dog Control Act that local body dog control officers have been asking for over the last 2½ years. I am very pleased to hear the Minister of Local Government, Chris Carter, with the support of the Prime Minister, affirm today that we will take this issue seriously. That will give some comfort to Carolina’s parents. It is a cheap shot to actually delay the process and hide behind the Westminster system. That is pathetic, when we could have got on and done something about the issue today.
Also, I have to say, there have been a few mad-dog ideas floating around this summer. We will leave Mr Prebble to be dogged by Donna Awatere Huata until things are resolved appropriately, and I support her for waiting her time. Let us look at Don Brash, a forward-thinking policy dynamo—the best the Opposition can come up with—asking people to queue outside the postshop to pick up rubbish. What a pooper-scooper idea that is! He would rather the unemployed go out and walk the streets and do something absolutely pathetic called “work for the dole” than give them meaningful training and meaningful skill development, so that they can get jobs. I applaud the record low level of unemployment of 4.9 percent. I have seen people in our community turned round because of getting their first job. In fact, they are coming into the office to tell us they have got their first job. For one gentleman, it was his first job for 15 years. Why did he get it? The reason is that he was given some skills to go out and get a job.
I want to cover another issue that, as a midwife and mother, I find simply appalling as a policy-float idea. It came from Katherine Rich, the Opposition spokesperson on social policy. She said: “I’m not your DPB-bashing sort of person ... Most of the people I meet on the DPB are pretty motivated people who have the same dreams and aspirations as the rest of us. Beneficiary bashing is a most unsatisfactory practice. It doesn’t really take you anywhere.” She said that in August 2002, and the next thing she has come out with are concepts of time-limited benefits and vaccination requirements limited to beneficiaries—“No pricks, no money.” What an absolutely appalling link-up it is to put that on to beneficiaries.
Let us go back to what Katherine Rich said: “Most ... people on the DPB are pretty motivated people who have the same dreams and aspirations as the rest of us.” Well, those mothers, too, know the importance of vaccination, and it is certainly a disincentive to say that they will not get their domestic purposes benefit unless they get their babies vaccinated. If the failure to vaccinate babies is a problem, then we need to fix that in another way. It is appalling for a woman—one woman in a party with very few women—who has had the privilege of comfortably taking maternity leave, supported by her colleagues, to come out now and absolutely attack young mothers who are doing the best for their babies and who are motivated. That stigmatises them and is
simply appalling, and the women of New Zealand will not buy it.
If the rate of vaccinations is an issue, let us look at how we can resolve it. The Opposition does not even understand that vaccination can be managed through primary health developments. In our community we have a 95 percent rate of cover of young babies who have been fully vaccinated. Let us work now on the conscientious objectors who worry about vaccination: the intelligentsia who refuse vaccinations because they are well informed and have made the choice that vaccinations are not for their children. That is the population group we need to look at, not at young mothers on the domestic purposes benefit. I am appalled at that, and so are other young mothers whom I have met.
It is really interesting to see the roll-out of primary health organisations. That is something the Opposition just does not accept—
Hon Ken Shirley: Rolled it out.
STEVE CHADWICK: It is rolling out. By 31 July there will be 36 primary health organisations in this country, and they will cover 1.4 million New Zealanders. Primary health organisations are on a roll, all right, and that cannot be avoided.
Let us now look at the leadership bid, which is another rather odd mad-dog thing that happened from Gerry Brownlee over the summer holidays. Looking at that, we can see it is actually Bill English who is firing all the blanks. It is really rather sad. There was obviously a leadership bid, with Gerry Brownlee proposing a treaty bill—an intellectual approach, I am sure. Or was it the “Dumping of Bill Bill”? If we listen to what people are saying about the National Party’s stance on Māori issues, we hear them saying they have never thought National regarded them with much respect or interest. Opposition members are actually saying that themselves. One standard for all—is that what they want? Is that why Wira Gardiner walked from the National Party? Did he walk away despondently because the party had decided it would no longer focus on Māori? We suffered the dogma of “one people” for one decade, and we are now having to clean up the problems resulting from that. Attempting to broaden the base of the National Party in order to include Māori on an inclusive basis has simply failed.
I want to finish by mentioning some positive happenings in in my electorate. Tourism is booming, and it is helping the economy. We have opened one more Māori tourism venture this summer. We now have an established centre of excellence in wood technology and training. There are huge training opportunities in added-value timber industries. On Friday I am opening a wood products biotech industry called Tree Lab, which is focusing on biotech for woody plants, rhododendrons, grapes, and avocados—huge revenue, huge investment, and more jobs.
Hon Ken Shirley: More GM.
STEVE CHADWICK: It is nothing to do with GM; it is biotechnology. The member should get it right. The Prime Minister is coming at the end of February to open Damar Industries on an industrial park. It is the first huge outfit on the industrial park and is focusing on research and technology, providing more jobs in our community. The Minister of Conservation opened the Mamaku block Pakeke, and added it to the conservation estate this summer. That is a huge plus for our community. We had the summer arts festival, where we had the lake-side concert and Opera in the Pa, with community engagement and not one kerfuffle. This is a community on the move, out in the regions, reflecting and covering everything that the Prime Minister proposed in her speech today.
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (H V Ross Robertson): I inform the House that the Green Party intends to share its 10-minute slot. The first call will go to the honourable member Sue Bradford.
SUE BRADFORD (Green)
: As the Hon Rick Barker has just pointed out, we all
have reason to celebrate the slight drop in unemployment announced in the household labour force survey today. However, the same statistics reveal, for example, that we still have nearly 173,000 people in the jobless category, that male underemployment is actually going up, and that the Māori rate of unemployment is at 11.4 percent, which is nearly four times that of Pākehā. I am also well aware that there are many people on various benefits and on no income at all who do not show up in those figures. The one thing on which I do agree with Dr Don Brash is that the true unemployment rate in this country is at least around the 300,000 mark.
Alongside that, we have the Ministry of Social Development itself acknowledging that nearly a third of our country’s children live in poverty. We have a massive and growing accommodation deficit in many districts, and core benefits, which were cut by National in 1991, have still not been raised after 3 years of a supposedly liberal-left Government. While we welcome the small rise in the minimum wage to $8.50, that is still far below a survival level, and the Green Party unequivocally supports the demand of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions for an immediate rise in the minimum wage to $10 an hour. It is a disgrace that as a country we accept large Budget surpluses and a massive Superannuation Fund while our poorest people continue to live lives beyond the imagining of most members of this House.
We should not continue any longer with a welfare system in which many beneficiaries and working people are forced to rely on ramshackle and inequitably applied third-tier benefits, just to scrape together a few more dollars for food each week. It is high time that Labour addressed benefit reforms seriously, rather than just tinkering at the edges, by making sure that benefit levels are enough for people to live on and are equitable across all types of benefit. We call on Labour to seriously consider introducing a universal child benefit—similar to the old family benefit—not only as a way of at least beginning to address child poverty but also, potentially, as a way of enabling low-income families to capitalise on the benefit, so they can raise a deposit for a house.
As the housing need continues to worsen in many districts, we also believe it is high time that the Minister of Housing stopped mucking around with highfalutin promises about being willing to work with the third sector in order to provide housing for families in places like the Hokianga and Auckland, and actually worked with groups on the ground to get the houses built. Provision of sufficient and adequate housing cannot be left to the public and private sectors alone. The Government needs to find a way to work in a mutually respectful manner with the community sector so that it, too, can play its rightful role in helping to meet the huge unmet needs that currently exist.
Unemployment, too, must be addressed by more than minor changes in the benefit system and Jim Anderton’s regional strategies. I do not know where all the money allocated for regional strategies goes, but not much, if any, seems to reach the grassroots groups that could do much to create jobs for unemployed people in their districts. Instead, it seems to be directed towards businesses that already have capital, and into endless surveys and consultations—
Stephen Franks: Or the Warehouse.
SUE BRADFORD: And the Warehouse—and the pokies, I believe. People who are on low incomes or on benefits, or who are unemployed, and their children, need action now. The Prime Minister has talked today about the discredited direction of the 1990s. I would like to remind her and her colleagues that, in fact, they have only begun to touch the edges of what needs to be corrected as a result of their own actions in the 1980s, and of National’s and its friends in the 1990s, and that the most disadvantaged people in our society, to whom Labour theoretically pledges its support, expect a lot more—and soon.
IAN EWEN-STREET (Green)
: Earlier today the Prime Minister, Bill English, and
Winston Peters all talked about sustainable economic growth. Tonight I want to talk about why they are wrong and why sustainable economic growth is a physical impossibility. It is impossible, basically, because of how we measure it.
When we talk about economic growth we talk about gross domestic product (GDP). GDP measures everything that we spend money on in the economy. It does not differentiate between positive things that we spend money on, like providing housing, clothing, education, food, and other things like that, or bad, negative expenditure like wars, keeping people in prison, environmental disasters, and the cleanup thereafter. But the worst thing about GDP is what it does not measure. It does not measure, for instance, the value of volunteer work and of parenting, and in an environmental sense it does not measure the value of clean air, fresh water, minerals in the ground, or the existence of virgin fisheries. Those things are treated as externalities by our economic processes. At the other end of the economic scale, after the clean air, fresh water, etc. has been through our economy, it is churned out at the far end as thousands of tonnes of waste every week. It comes out as pollution, toxics, global warming, and the overcrowding of humans. Except for the cost of depositing pollution, those outcomes have no value.
As the economy grows—this will be a revelation for some people—it gets bigger. As it gets bigger, the externalities also get bigger, so the stress on the environment also becomes greater. One of the characteristics of economic growth is that it has a doubling time. That is because it is an exponential function. For the benefit of the intellectually unemployed amongst us, I say that it is not a linear growth but growth at an increasing rate. So if we have 4 percent economic growth, which the Prime Minister was rabbiting on about today, we will have a doubling time of 17 years. In other words, the economy will be twice as big as it is now in just 17 years’ time, and if we have 5 percent economic growth that time will reduce to 14 years. So as the economy grows, the pressure on the environment becomes greater and greater. One cannot have exponential growth into a finite environment—not unless the radius of the earth starts getting bigger. It is not possible.
Today the Prime Minister talked about the need for more power stations. She said that yes, the economy is growing, we need to keep it growing at 4 percent a year, and we need more power. If we follow the analogy through, then if we have our economy growing at 4 percent every year, by the year 2020 we will need twice as many power stations as we have now. By 2037 we will need four times as many power stations, and by 2054 we will need eight times as many. So in 51 years’ time we will need eight times as many power stations as we have now. That is absolutely farcical.
For those people who cannot visualise what I am talking about, I want them to think about the old quiz about the bacterium in a bottle: if a scientist puts a bacterium in a bottle at 10 o’clock in the morning, the bacterium replicates itself every minute, and at 11 o’clock in the morning the bottle is full, when was the bottle half full? The answer, of course, is at 1 minute to 11. At 2 minutes to 11 the bottle was a quarter full, at 3 minutes to 11 it was one-eighth full, and at 4 minutes to 11 it was one-sixteenth full. [Interruption] If somebody smart—like my colleague, Lynda Scott—went to her fearless leader at that stage and said there would be a space problem, her boss would say to her that she was intellectually unemployed and had a psychiatric problem, but not a space problem, though. He would tell her the bacteria had been there in the bottle for 56 minutes, and fifteen-sixteenths of the space was still left. But in another 4 minutes the space would be gone.
DAVID CUNLIFFE (NZ Labour—New Lynn)
: As I rise to speak in the first debate of the year, I acknowledge the ideals of the speaker two removed who has resumed her seat, Ms Bradford. Her concerns for the poor and oppressed are also our
concerns, and Labour offers the hand of cooperation so that together we might work to achieve those ends. I say, though, to the Greens’ shadow Treasurer, Mr Ewen-Street, who offered the insight that economic growth makes the economy get bigger, that growth is not an end in itself but simply a means to the ends that Ms Bradford herself described. Simply put: “If you cannot earn it, you cannot spend it.” Help us to earn it for all New Zealanders, rather than just a few.
Mr Speaker, what a day today has already been! It was the first day back at school for the Opposition members, and already their “former leader” has declared that Labour will be at least a 3-term Government. I believe that Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with that slip. Today, National denied leave for a bill that would muzzle mad dogs from eating our children alive. “Who is advising them on political strategy?”, I ask myself. It is certainly not Mr English’s former adviser, Sue Foley. Today, Bill English proved himself, yet again, to be so in tune with public opinion that he summoned his courage to support the great leap backwards to the failed policies of the 1990s. We asked ourselves whether he was appeasing Maurice Williamson, or whether he was smoothing the way for Don Brash, who timed his call to send the unemployed back to post offices in the very month we have the lowest unemployment rate in 20 years. Who does advise these people? I know not—but what a start to the National Party’s self-immolation.
It was an unusual day, a day when “Et tu, Gerry” did not utter a single word to undermine his leader.
What a day, indeed, when Winston Peters decided to present himself as a politician of principle. He is a man who enjoys Opposition so much that he was Labour’s gift to the National Party—a kind of internally targeted Scud missile. As Parliament’s once-mad, perhaps now rather gummy, old dog said earlier today: what did Mr Peters ever stand for anyway? He is full of sound and fury, signifying, sadly, nothing. To Mr Peters I say that Labour has defended the interests of all New Zealanders, and especially those of our traditional constituencies—the working people and the underprivileged. We have raised the minimum wage, we have repealed the harsh Employment Contracts Act, and we have renationalised accident compensation to protect those who need it. We have strengthened occupational safety and health laws, and we have protected holidays from the National Party’s grinch, who was going to steal Christmas. If Mr Peters does not think that those actions represent traditional Labour values, then he should do us a favour and go and tell the Employers and Manufacturers Association.
The Government’s economic strategy is clearly working, with a growth framework that targets high value sectors like biotech and information and communication technology, and not just for the growth they in themselves produce but for the leverage they give all sectors of the economy, including our ability to substitute environmental capital for technical capital and thereby make growth sustainable. [Interruption] It is a strategy that works with all key sectors, and, I say to Mr English, especially with the key primary exporting sectors like dairy, with the Fonterra bill; like forestry, with the Central North Island settlement; and like fisheries, with the Sanford’s and Sealord’s work. It is a strategy that is both “top-down”, to remove structural impediments, and “bottom-up” to encourage entrepreneurship at the workplace level. It is a strategy that means there are more real jobs for real people.
I am sick and tired of hearing the Opposition say that what is happening to the economy is just good luck. What? Have there been 3 straight years of unprecedented good luck, despite the fact that there have been 3 straight years of strong growth, and despite the fact that the rest of the world economy is going to hell in a handbasket? If that is good luck, Dr Cullen is the luckiest finance Minister alive. It is not good luck; it is called balance and policy alignment. It is called balancing growth, industry,
employment, and finance policies so that the whole package is sustainable and works together.
I have saved my concluding remarks for one of the media’s sharper commentators, Mr Colin James. In today’s
New Zealand Herald
he asked what it is that Labour supporters want of their party. I tell Mr James that I came to Parliament to try to help grow this economy without repeating the heartless and antisocial mistakes of the 1990s. I came to Parliament to support fair and far-sighted social policy that gives equality of opportunity for all, regardless of race, colour, creed, orientation, or gender. I came to Parliament to serve under an incredible, gifted Prime Minister who has given New Zealanders reason to be proud again, to build a sense of nationhood, and to dream of a future for our children that is even better than the present we enjoy today in the “God’s own” that we are privileged to live in. I am proud to say that this Government is making change happen—not in a big bang, not by revolution, but by steady progress, day by day, with an evolution towards a better future for our kids and a more inclusive, tolerant society where every New Zealander matters. Let us not stop now; let us carry on along that path.
Dr LYNDA SCOTT (NZ National—Kaikoura)
: I would like to respond to some of the attacks that Steve Chadwick made on Katherine Rich. I think that this National Party has every right to talk about mutual obligation when it comes to welfare. I will give members a little story about something that happened over the summer. Unemployment is down a little bit, and that is great. Marlborough is growing—it has been for decades—and we need workers. So what happened? A group of young men were sent over to Marlborough from Wellington and put up in the district’s best motel for 2 weeks. Did they respect that? No, they did not. One of them ended up under curfew, having been charged with assault. Did they go to work for the time they were supposed to be there? No, most of them were back at 10.30 a.m., having been picked up at 7.30 a.m. What happened when they left that motel, because it was only paid for for 2 weeks? The next place they went into they smashed up, and they were out in 3 days. Some mutual obligation is required. If people are to be paid, given motel accommodation in one of the best motels, and taken to a place where there are jobs, then there is an obligation on them to actually do some work. This party will stand up for that again and again. I back Katherine Rich in standing up for the need for mutual obligation.
But what I want to talk about today is health, which this Government made an awful lot of promises about. I also want to talk about broken promises. Promise No. 1, for the people of New Zealand that expected so much from this Labour Government, was that waiting lists were to be reduced. I reckon that most people in New Zealand actually thought that would be done by more patients being treated. But, no, the lists are to be reduced by just bumping patients off them. In south Auckland alone, 5,000 people were just bumped off the list. They were not treated in public or private institutions; they were just bumped off the list. New Zealanders expected improved access, and more treatment. They have not received it. We can ask Rosslyn Green, who is waiting for a first appointment with a cancer specialist after her surgery. She has been told she is not an urgent case.
No wonder New Zealand cancer patients die at higher rates than Australian cancer patients. Not only does the situation put huge stress on Mrs Green by her not being able to get her first specialist assessment; it is also false economy. With cancer patients who have had surgery and who are waiting for further treatment—radiotherapy or chemotherapy—one has to consider the window of opportunity available to treat them in order to prevent a recurrence. If Mrs Green does not get treatment on time she risks recurrence, and that costs her. It costs her family, it costs society, and it costs the health
system of New Zealand. That is why there are set times in which one is supposed to see people. Ask Ida Gaskin what she thinks about Labour’s delivery in health. She has been a Labour Party stalwart for 50 years. What happened to her? She got bumped off the list for a hip replacement. She was on the list, but the financially sustainable threshold went up, and off she went—“Sorry, Ida, no surgery for you; you’re off the list!”.
I have to say that acute care in New Zealand is excellent, and I experienced that a little bit over the summer holidays, having had to take two members of my family to accident and emergency. One went back repeatedly for dressings after an accident, and the care was excellent. I want to thank the doctors and nurses at Wairau Hospital who worked so hard on the front line over the Christmas holidays. They do an excellent job in the face of adversity. But the pressure points in New Zealand are those of elective surgery and waiting lists. The current system is doing nothing to make hospitals more responsive to patient need. There are ways to achieve that, but this Government is failing to consider them, and it is failing to deliver. The 21 district health boards are taking short-term views because of their deficits, and that leads to another broken promise—that there will be no cuts. The move from one funder, the Health Funding Authority, to 21 district health boards would be more efficient, we were told. How can 21 district health boards doing the job of one authority be more efficient?
The hospital deficit last year was $238 million. Why does that matter? It matters because the human cost of those deficits is district health board after district health board making cuts to services. MidCentral District Health Board is planning to not give some cancer patients treatment and is raising the threshold for elective surgery. Otago District Health Board plans to bump 1,200 people off its waiting list, including those waiting for hip replacements, before June. Counties Manukau District Health Board put up the points for eligibility for hip operations and gynaecology. Those hospitals cannot invest in new equipment. They are not able to pay staff competitive salaries, or to fund new medicines.
Having 21 district health boards increases bureaucracy and is less efficient. I ask members whether it is sensible to have 21 different contracts for pharmacy, instead of one national contract. The 21 district health boards cannot get agreement. There are six of them still out there that cannot agree with the community funds. I think there should be centralised national contracts for some of those. We are only a small, small country, the size of Melbourne, and we have 21 different district health boards. That is not efficient.
The Minister of Health said she would revert to a national contract if the boards could not settle their contracts by the end of January, but that has not happened. It is causing a waste of time and money. Mr Cullen stated that he would have the deficits down to $80 million in this financial year. Well, the Auckland district health boards alone have deficits over that. It will not be that easy when we have the system that has currently been set up. Financial management is not occurring, and the Government’s answer is just to throw more money at it. That will not work. There need to be structures in place to improve delivery.
We heard that this Government would reduce bureaucracy. That was another promise, and we heard it time and time again. Over the last year, $8 million went out the health door in redundancy payments. That would have been OK, and I would have been the first person to applaud if that meant a reduction in bureaucracy, but we know it was not. The people leaving are casualties of restructuring, and their jobs will be filled by others or restructured to another name. The ministry and the Minister of Health said that the ministry’s numbers would decrease by 20 to 25 percent. When the Health Funding Authority merged, the Minister of Health said: “We’ll reduce the bureaucracy. We’re going to cut it by 20 percent.” That is the first time I nearly applauded her. Has
she delivered? No, she has not. The numbers have increased, not decreased—and that is health dollars spent. That is not delivering services to patients.
I come to promise No. 4—income and asset testing. While this Government has not given a single dollar to geriatric hospital-care—not one dollar in 3½ years—the Prime Minister stated in her speech that legislation on asset testing would also be prepared. I hope Grey Power has seen that. For two elections this Government has promised to introduce asset-testing removal. Now we find that legislation has not even been prepared. That is the plan for this year. What about the Government’s promise to introduce asset-testing repeal in its first term? It is a broken promise. Then, come the next election, the Government said: “We’ll definitely have that legislation before the House at the end of 2002.” Where was it? No, we have not even seen it. It has not even been prepared. The legislation has not been delivered, and now we find that it is not even on the Order Paper. It is nowhere to be seen. It is another broken promise. So why should older New Zealanders believe anything this Government wants to promise?
I could go on. I have quite a few examples, but there is not enough time. There are many more examples. Nothing in this plan for health delivers more surgery to more patients. Nothing in it tackles the serious epidemics of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Nothing in it delivers access to new medications. Nothing in it delivers new technologies and treatments, or more doctors and nurses and allied health professionals to the front line. Nothing in it delivers to rural health services. Ask Kaitaia Hospital and Kaitaia-Northland what they think about the promises to keep surgery up there. That is another broken promise. There is everything in this plan to deliver more bureaucracy and less care, more wasted health dollars, more divergent health delivery with the 21 district health boards rather than national consistency, and more broken promises. Labour must do better, and I will hold it to account.
DIANNE YATES (NZ Labour—Hamilton East)
: I heard this afternoon in this House an absolutely amazing speech by the Leader of the Opposition. In fact, we used to call him the “English patient”. I think he has now become part of that book set in Tasmania called
English Passengers. In fact, we on this side were even wondering who the new leader of the National Party will be. I have just heard it is going to be someone called William Pākehā, or Wiremu Pākehā. The speech made by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon must have been an absolutely total embarrassment for the Opposition. All I can say is that Bill English is an optimist because he believes in New Zealand, and he is a realist because he stated that Labour would be a three-term Government at least. I think that was very good of Mr English, but oh how embarrassing for the Opposition—just so totally embarrassing.
Opposition members spend more time fighting each other than the Government because, like their leader, they realise what a waste of time that is. It is gaffe after gaffe after gaffe from the Opposition—an Opposition not worth worrying about. I listened to the Prime Minister’s speech today and I was proud. I was proud that she was ticking off the boxes of Labour policy on what this Government had delivered and what it would deliver on health, education, housing, jobs, and economic development.
I want to talk about my electorate of Hamilton East, because I like to talk about Hamilton East in this House. It is an electorate that I am very proud of, and an electorate that produces a good deal of this nation’s export dollars. In the health area I want to thank the Hon Annette King for the undertaking to produce a neurosurgical unit in the Waikato, at Waikato Hospital, and for the negotiations that are going on there between Waikato and Auckland to produce that service—a service that is badly needed in a growing area of our country and an area that will serve people who are particularly subject to road accidents and head injuries. In relation to housing, I want to say how much the improvements in housing, and doing away with income-related rents, has
added to our community. Some people pointed out during the election that they had not realised that having a good housing policy affects families. It means that children’s lives are more stable. Children are staying on at the same school longer because their parents have—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Rubbish. It’s worse than ever.
DIANNE YATES: It is not rubbish. I have contacted the local schools, and we would be pleased for the member to come to Hamilton to see that the principals of the schools are saying there is greater stability.
Can I also talk about jobs. We know that unemployment is below 5 percent. But I also want to point out something that came out of the leaky buildings inquiry, and that is how good the Modern Apprenticeships scheme is going to be. We suffered for 9 years under a National Government that wanted to get rid of apprenticeships, and what happened? There was a lowering of standards in the industry and deregulation that brought about a lowering of standards in building.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Not true.
DIANNE YATES: I defy Mr Smith to get up and deny that. I want also to talk about education, and I want to thank Trevor Mallard—
Hon Dr Nick Smith: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. The member challenged me to deny the fact that National reduced apprenticeships. In fact, during National’s term the number of apprenticeships—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Clem Simich): No, no.
Hon Dr Nick Smith: Well, the member invited me to do so. Her exact words were—
The ASSISTANT SPEAKER (Hon Clem Simich): That is not a point of order.
DIANNE YATES: I want to talk about education and to thank the Minister of Education for a new school in Hamilton East. The city is growing, particularly in the north-east, and I am pleased to say that we have a brand new school with new students starting this February. I particularly want to thank the builders for getting the school finished on time. I want to thank Phil Cowie,
the new principal of Rototuna School, and his new staff for the wonderful job they have done, and the Ministry of Education for getting the school up and running, and all the efforts that have gone into improving education in the Hamilton East electorate.
I want also to talk about Innovation Park, which has had the go-ahead, and I want to thank Jim Anderton for the work he and Industry New Zealand have done on this regional development project, which has the buy-in of people in the electorate and in the Waikato region. Innovation Park is going to create around 2,500 jobs in Hamilton, and we are particularly pleased that we have had the help of, and have worked in partnership with, Industry New Zealand, the Hamilton City Council, the local WEL Energy Trust, and with people working together to bring about a change that will create jobs that will bring about innovation in our city. I know that Doug Woolerton will agree with me in saying that this will be a real boost for Hamilton.
I have travelled to Auckland many times over the summer, and it has taken about half an hour longer than usual. The reason it has taken over half an hour longer than usual is that there are numerous roadworks on the way—I see other members nodding in this House—as the four-laning between Hamilton and Auckland progresses at a very fast pace. The bridge to nowhere is now actually going somewhere. There has been a lot of fuss about taniwhas, but I take the taniwha as a symbol of the difficulties of trying to build a road through a swamp. It is extremely difficult. Local people know that; we all know that. I congratulate the engineers who are working extremely hard to find ways of making that road through the swamp. A tremendous drainage system is going through there, which has created added costs. I once again thank Transport Ministers Mark Gosche and now Paul Swain for the work that is being done there. If members do not
believe me they should take a little detour at Ohinewai and see the massive road works that are going on there.
I also want to talk about a couple of other issues, one of which is the Responsible Gambling Bill. I particularly want to praise George Hawkins, the Minister of Internal Affairs, who has been working on the bill. Peter Dunne started off an inquiry into gambling about 15 years ago, I think, and nothing happened. There were several bills under National, and they went to select committee, but they died a natural death in this House and nothing happened. We now have a bill, the Responsible Gambling Bill, before this House. We have had an inquiry, and the Minister of Internal Affairs, George Hawkins, has seen that there is actual progress on the bill. It is moving ahead. It will be back in this House, and it will be passed this year. That has been called for by many people in relation to casinos and in relation to the proliferation of pokie-machines, which many people, particularly in the Hamilton East community, are very concerned about. There is grave concern about that growth, and I am pleased to be able to thank George Hawkins here tonight for the work that has been done on that legislation, and for the fact that this Government is actually producing legislation that has been in the too-hard basket for many people for a good deal of time.
Once again, I say that good things are happening. Hamilton East is a symbol of what this Government is doing. We have an Innovation Park that is working on economic issues and on science and research, turning ideas into money. We have a new school, which shows the growth in education and the provisions that we are making. New roads are being built in our electorate. We have an addition to Waikato Hospital in that a neurosurgical unit is on the way, and we have new jobs. We have jobs not only because of growth in the economy but, once again, because of this particular regional development in the Innovation Park. I am particularly thankful to the Ministers who have listened to my advocacy on behalf of people in the electorate, and for the good work that Labour has done in producing legislation, in producing growth, and in listening to the people of this country.
R DOUG WOOLERTON (NZ First)
: I would agree with Dianne Yates, the member for Hamilton East, as I do with Martin Gallagher, when they are speaking on behalf of Hamilton—East and West. I would back them in that role as often as I could. However, I have a brief in New Zealand First, as the agricultural spokesperson. I come from the heart of the Waikato. My brothers are or were farmers, as was my father, and as I was. It hurts me that agriculture barely got a mention in the Prime Minister’s speech today. That, perhaps, should not surprise us because in fact Labour has only one farmer in its caucus, and that is the Minister of Agriculture, Jim Sutton. Obviously, he cannot win against those sorts of odds, so farming, unfortunately, is a low priority for this Labour Government.
It is true that the Prime Minister mentioned water and the need for cleanliness in water. She made a few mentions of the World Trade Organization, but mostly, and unfortunately, she spoke about movies like
The Lord of the Rings. She spoke about contributions to music, about the America’s Cup, and all those sorts of things. Those things were supposed to portray New Zealand as a dynamic, growing economy, when in fact what makes New Zealand wealthy and what drives New Zealand is the produce and the products from our farms. It is those products that should be nurtured and cared for, it is that industry that should be looked after, and it is that industry that should take up a lot more of the time of this House than it does at present.  Well, there is only one farmer in the Government, and that is the Hon Jim Sutton. It is outrageous when we have an agricultural economy such as New Zealand does.
We are hearing about incubator industries. We are hearing about the big conferences to talk about all the trick new things that we are going to do in the economy, but in spite
of all that, and overriding all that, is the produce from the farms. We in New Zealand First know what keeps that industry healthy, and it is heading the wrong way at the present time. Above all else, it is the dollar. When the dollar was down to around 40-something cents compared with the US dollar, it became known as the export-friendly dollar. That is exactly what it was and it is rising at the present time, on the backs of people shoving their money into New Zealand to take advantage of our interest rate. That is something that is in the Government’s control, and is something that the Government should attend to, but it was not mentioned anywhere at all in the Prime Minister’s speech today.
Farming is still the backbone of this country, and dare I say it, a farmer strolling across a paddock in the Waikato or anywhere else in the country is doing far more for the economy than the entire Labour Party caucus. That is, admittedly, a biased view, but I am sure it is a view that would meet with approval far and wide, and certainly in the rural communities of New Zealand.
While I am talking about farming I want to put to bed a nasty little slur that came out in the name of the Hon Chris Carter. He said that New Zealand First was not supporting legislation to deal with killer dogs—or bad dogs and mad dogs, perhaps. That is not correct. In fact we have proposed, and want to put in place, dog control legislation that will beef up the Act hugely. We want to introduce a Supplementary Order Paper that will increase the penalties. It would provide for imprisonment of the owners, death for the dogs, and it would deal with the problem once and for all. Just because there was a mistake in the House, where an objection from the ACT leader was thought by Chris Carter to be from one of our people, I think it was very wrong of him to put out a press statement, or whatever he did, in that name.New Zealand First will deal to this evil dog problem, if given the chance.
I return to the business of farming. It concerns me that it is a fashionable thing. We hear that the wine industry and technology will be the saviours of New Zealand. The trouble is that this leads us to worship false gods. I have an interest in motorcars. It is an interest that I cannot afford to pursue to any decent degree, I might add; I just read the motorcar magazines. I would like to make a comparison with what is happening in Australia at this point in time—some of my colleagues will know what I am talking about. There is a model of car called a Mitsubishi Magna, made in Australia. The head office and the people who own the company are Japanese, and they have done a deal with the Australian Government and the state Government. The Australian Government supplies $100 million, and the state Government provides something approaching that, plus other incentives, to encourage Mitsubishi to introduce—not new companies or anything like that—one new model of an existing car. In Australia that is the sort of back-up we can see to an industry that we do not have in New Zealand.
But for our farming industry, our farmers would like to know that the Government is behind them all the way. Farmers do not ask for subsidies. They do not ask for support. They do not ask for the sort of support we have seen in Australia with the fires, where the population of Australia has made contributions to the farmers because they, and their Government, realise the need for the Australian farmers and the contribution they make to the community. The contribution in New Zealand is far greater, yet it was not even mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech to the nation on the first day of Parliament. That is shocking, and it is something we will have to address. New Zealand First will be far more outspoken on agricultural matters in this term. Farmers can rest easy that we are on their side. We know how to support those people who supply most of our foreign exchange.
RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER (NZ Labour—Napier)
: I support the Prime Minister’s statement this afternoon. What impressed me about that statement, as I
listened eagerly to it, was that it carried on from the Speech from the Throne at the beginning of this Parliament and demonstrated the wise leadership and strong government that emerged during the last term of this Government and has been a feature of the last 7 or 8 months of this present term.
I was so swayed by the Prime Minister’s speech, and I was pleased to see that the Leader of the Opposition was equally overwhelmed and persuaded when he conceded that this was at least a three-term Government—“at least” being my term. That was a moment of honesty by the National Party—reflected in the fact that there is probably only one National member in the House tonight, as the rest of them have retired to consider how they will deal with a fourth term of this Labour Government.
The wise leadership is reflected in the Napier electorate that I represent. The Napier electorate is something of an unusual electorate. It is a great electorate in which to live and to raise children.
R Doug Woolerton: An unusual member.
RUSSELL FAIRBROTHER: An unusual member does not talk about the products of bulls, as the last speaker for New Zealand First did. Napier is a good electorate in which to be educated. It is an electorate that centres on the town of Napier and has a rural surround. Both the rural sector and the town sector pool very well in tourism, the quality table produce, the innovative manufacturing, the advanced technological developments, and the degree education supplied by the Eastern Institute of Technology. Māori , Pacific Island, Chinese, and other immigrant cultures are now being supplemented by a number from Iraq, who bring with them education, skills, and an earnestness to contribute to the community. This reflects the general tenor of the spirit of Napier at present.
Napier has not always been as well served as it is under the current Government. It has been ravaged by the whims of overseas capitalists, and survived. It has weathered through the discredited policies of the 1990s. It has survived climatic storms and droughts, to now be the fruit bowl, the wine centre, and the art and cultural centre of New Zealand. That was demonstrated only two Saturdays ago at a jazz concert where 6,000 people sat on their blankets and listened to a jazz performance, including a singer from New York. A crowd of people, who were well behaved, enjoyed the wine, the evening, and the good weather. Still to come is our concert at the Mission in 2 weeks’ time, and that follows a series of events that tie in with our Art Deco weekend. I am pleased to say that the Prime Minister will be enjoying some of that activity.
The Prime Minister’s speech, which showed the theme of a stable Government and strong leadership, made me reflect on the leadership that Napier currently enjoys. It has a city council that is now working together, under the strong leadership of the mayor, Barbara Arnott. It has a port that is one of the busiest in the country, and is becoming one of the largest. The Port of Napier exports produce right around the world and is the offload point for much into New Zealand. The Eastern Institute of Technology is gradually growing into a tertiary education institute of high repute. It offers stage one courses for some of the major universities in this country. We of course have our vineyards, which are well known and are bringing overseas capital into the area, and the area is enjoying the produce of that.
Any community, whether it be a country, a city, a town, or any association of people, will prosper only with wise, stable, and strong leadership. On Waitangi Day we saw that leadership through the Ngāti Kahungunu. Ngāti Kahungunu of course surrounds Napier and Hastings. These two major cities are in the heart of Ngāti Kahungunu, which extends from the Wairarapa through to Gisborne. At the Clive River, the scene of the landing of the first settlers in Napier and Hawke’s Bay was re-enacted by the Ngāti Kahungunu. The iwi waka welcomed the settlers, and a day of food, culture, and sport
was provided. The event was attended by perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 people.
What was significant about that day was that it was not just a Māori day. It was a day on which those attending, both Māori and Pākehā in Hawke’s Bay, recognised that the treaty is not just a Māori document. They recognised that the treaty is also a document for Pākehā , because the treaty is being recognised as our founding constitutional document, which gives the basis of Pākehā existence in this country. While we continue to refer to the treaty as being a Māori document, we diminish not only the treaty but we diminish ourselves by our arrogance. So at the Clive River on 6 February we saw a celebration of the treaty, which was truly multicultural. It is a pattern that has been developing at that riverside for the past 7 or 8 years.
However, not all is well in Hawke’s Bay. Not all organisations in Hawke’s Bay reflect the leadership of so much that I can point to. The tragedy is that just before Christmas an organisation that we hold as dear as our police and fire service held an extraordinary meeting among its staff. The management of the Order of St John, an organisation now managed out of Hawke’s Bay, called its staff together and made the surprising announcement, without any prior discussion with anyone else, that eight of its staff faced the prospect of redundancy. All the staff of the Hawke’s Bay organisation faced a Christmas not knowing whether they and their families would be the product of redundancy or whether they would survive, at the expense of a colleague. That uncertainty exists right down to today.
The biggest surprise about that announcement is that if there was any valid reason for those claimed prospective eight redundancies, and if it was a Government cause, then one would have expected the leader of the St John organisation to call together the five members of Parliament who are affected by that decision. Not one of my colleagues Janet Mackey and Georgina Beyer, or my colleague the Hon Rick Barker, heard about this move until after the decision had been announced. No meeting was held with St John’s until my colleague Georgina Beyer organised such a meeting and we met the chief executive.
We asked why this announcement was being made, and how he could justify it. He confirmed that Government funding to St John’s in the Hawke’s Bay had increased successively over the past few years. He stated that the reason was that an accident trauma experiment had been established in 1995 and discontinued in 1998, leaving a number of surplus staff. But if one were to ask those staff how they manage to load patients into an ambulance in a remote rural area with only one member in attendance, one would realise that they would be hard-pressed to describe the organisation as having surplus numbers. These are the same people who attend the most horrific tragedies on our motorways, and the domestic and industrial accidents that are an embarrassment to all of us. Those valuable members of the Order of St John are the first on the scene, and have been most poorly treated. My colleagues on this side of the House are pursuing that matter to see where the truth really lies, but it is not a Government problem; it is a lack of clear leadership.
We have seen leadership in Napier in the development of the roads. We have a motorway now that will open in a few months’ time that will take one from the airport, around the outskirts of Napier, past the vineyards and some most attractive country, out to Hastings and beyond, so that people can enjoy the fruits of the Hawke’s Bay as they head down to the Wairarapa and my friend Georgina Beyer’s country. There are some complaints, of course. Because so many good roads are provided, people can identify one area that is not so good. We have a flyover over Kennedy Road that has been a problem point for years and years and years. The focus in Hawke’s Bay and Napier now changes to the Taradale and Meanee Road intersection, which is a danger spot. There has been an increasing focus on it, because it is one of the few danger spots left. The
Hon Rick Barker and I will be working on Transit New Zealand to ensure that the area receives the attention that the motorway did, as a result of the good efforts of the Hon Rick Barker in years before I came to this House.
There is one area of leadership that I must touch on before I finish, and that is the leadership provided to victims. This is relevant to Napier because the area has had a high crime rate in the past. In fact, Hawke’s Bay has one of the largest prisons in New Zealand. Last year, in December 2002, the Victims’ Rights Bill was passed. This is a time now when the rights of victims have been recognised as they have never been recognised before. Every criminal offence has at least one victim, and that victim never understands why he or she is the victim of the offence. The leadership of this Government is reflected in that Act. I am proud of this Government and proud to represent Napier accordingly.
Dr PAUL HUTCHISON (NZ National—Port Waikato)
: There is a time in the term of a Government when it becomes palpably arrogant, if not intolerant. When I read in the paper this morning that the Prime Minister said, with regard to the Prime Minister’s statement, that if it were up to her, she could not be bothered, I knew that that time had come for Helen Clark. Indeed, most New Zealanders have had a taste of Helen Clark’s arrogance and intolerance, and perhaps under a bit of stress and strain when John Campbell has been interviewing her, we could forgive her. But then what about when she said, up in the peace and beauty of that wonderful historical site at Waitangi: “I’m not a morning person. I’m not turning up to the dawn service.”?
The setting out of a Government’s programme in the prime ministerial statement is part of the Standing Orders. It should be an incredibly exciting moment for a Prime Minister to outline her vision. But what did she say? She said: “If it were up to me, I couldn’t be bothered.” Not only is that downright arrogant, but also it looks as though she might have become bored—that she does not feel the huge excitement that should go along with any progressive Government’s programme. Progressive this Labour Government is not, when one looks at the welfare dependency it has created in just 3 short years. As the Prime Minister indicated, it is likely that the economy peaked at 3.9 percent, as set out in the economic review released the other day. It is certainly likely that she too has peaked. Let us just look at the economic review I picked it up on my way from dinner tonight. I certainly accept that economic growth in the last year has gone from 2.1 percent to 3.9 percent. But I remind the House that 3 years ago economic growth was 4.2 percent, and the conditions have been good. We know that commodity prices have been high. We know that the exchange rate has been low, and we know that there has been good weather.
But let us go on a little further. What about unemployment? It was 5.2 percent at the beginning of last year; this year it is 5.4 percent. The rise is only marginal, but it has gone up. Let us go further on. Inflation was 1.8 percent at the beginning of the year before; it is 2.7 percent this year—a massive 50 percent increase that probably has not taken into account the incredible effect of the massive house prices right around New Zealand. The current account has gone down even further, from 3.6 to 3.7 billion. A year ago interest rates were 4.86 percent. By February 2003 there was a 20 percent increase to 5.94 percent. We have enjoyed relatively good economic conditions in New Zealand over the last 3 years—not because of the Government, but despite it.
I took great note a year ago when Helen Clark outlined her innovation and growth programme. The Government, reasonably correctly, decided that it would focus on three things—biotechnology, information and communication technologies, and, of course, creative industries. Let us just look at biotechnology and see what the Government did in reality. It brought in the amendments to the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act and made it harder for researchers to go through the application process.
It was going to cost more, take more time, and the bureaucratic hurdles were undoubtedly much tighter in the vital fields of horticulture and agriculture that are so important to us. Tomorrow we will hear a statement from Marian Hobbs. That statement will be pivotal in terms of whether this Labour Government really means what it says about focusing on biotechnology. Unless it is conscious of the huge hurdles our researchers have to overcome in New Zealand, compared with the international community, then there will be an exit right across the board.
What else has the Government done in biotechnology? It presided over a large number of jobs being lost in horticultural research in the very area of plant genomics it professed to be supporting. That is the reality. Even further, in December last year, the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology said that the stated Government policy in research and development was to try to achieve 0.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) spending on science by 2010. What has the Labour Government done? It has gone in the other direction. It has gone from about 6.63 percent to 0.6 percent in 3 years. A Labour Government that professed to focus on research, development, innovation, and change has created hurdles and barriers.
Finally, I want to talk about the tragedy we have seen in the last few weeks relating to dangerous dog attacks. It is not just the last few weeks. Over the last 2 years 300 people per year have been admitted to hospitals as inpatients as a result of such attacks. That compares with about 180 in 1988—and that is not to mention thousands who have been treated and gone home. The Local Government Law Reform Bill (No 2)—the dog control bill—has been languishing on the Order Paper for 3 years. It had 54 submissions and was reported back to Parliament in late 1999. Today Dr Cullen moved a motion to send it back to the select committee. I say to Dr Cullen that that is just not good enough. That bill should go as top priority on the Order Paper. We have the evidence. It is time to increase dog ownership responsibility and monitoring. The system must be tightened up. The powers of dogcatchers must be strengthened. The penalties must be made palpably deterrent. I say to Dr Cullen that it is quite simple—that bill can be the template to do what is necessary. The evidence of the last 10 years shows an increase in dog attacks, and the Government must act. The Prime Minister did mention a change to the dog laws in her speech. But when? “Some time at the end of the year” was what I heard. That would mean another 300 preventable attacks—40 percent on children.
The Prime Minister’s statement should be important, but what did she say? She said if it were up to her, she would not be bothered. The National Party will hold this Government to account on economic growth. It has had a holiday over the last 3 years, but things are getting tough, and this will be the test of its ability. The National Party will be holding this Government to account to ensure it progresses bills like the dog control bill expeditiously, because this Labour Government has demonstrated that it has become arrogant, intolerant, and quite lazy. The Prime Minister has peaked, and so has her Government. They are on the way down—the indications are there. The Prime Minister and her Government are now past their use-by date. We look forward to seeing a very strong emergence of, and an accountability kept by, the National Party.
Hon MARIAN HOBBS (Minister for the Environment)
: I rise to support our Prime Minister’s statement today. I found it full of pragmatism that mapped a way forward for us. It lined up with where we had been before and where we are moving towards. In particular, I want to draw Ms Fitzsimon’s attention to something the Prime Minister did mention: the sustainable development programme of action. I understand that the co-leader of the Greens said—and I have a copy of her speech here—that that was not even mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech. It was.
There are four initial emphases in the sustainable development programme of action. There is an emphasis on renewable energy and on ensuring that New Zealand has a
secure energy supply. That, too, was raised inside the Prime Minister’s speech today. She did not mention urban sustainability, but we will have to deal with that problem if we are to have a culture where 85 percent of people have quality lives living in the cities, where 85 percent of us live.
The Prime Minister did talk about child and youth development, and it is quite real to imagine this scenario. We have a population study that states that in, I think, 2035 we will have a declining population in natural terms. That means that unlike the 1960s, when I was brought up, every child currently in school now must succeed to the absolute limit of his or her ability. When we are talking about child and youth development, we are talking about a real effort to ensure that no child can fail. We cannot have the automatic thing that I grew up with, whereby there were 100 of us in the third form, going down to 60 in the fifth form, to 13 in the sixth form, and to five in the seventh form. It was expected at that time that 50 percent of students would fail and that we would have industries where the unskilled could go to. If we are to have a skilled society no one can fail today, and that is very much part of this Government’s objective for the immediate and longer-term future. The other area that we have brought on—and it is to this Government’s credit—is that we will have doubled the number of apprenticeships and will be going all out for 6,000 apprenticeships. In order to help us along the way towards having no failure by students, we have already put in 700 new teachers this year. We are working hard to make those words and plans a reality.
The fourth area of sustainable development, which again was mentioned in the Prime Minister’s speech, is about fresh water and water allocation. I could not help noticing at the time that a number of people were grinning when the Prime Minister talked about Lake Taupo. Lake Taupo is a very real issue for us here in New Zealand. Already, in the last 13 years, we have lost 1 metre of visibility in its water; visibility has dropped from 15 metres to 14 metres. If we continue to have farm and sewage runoff into that lake, we will lose the visibility of its water. We will lose that icon that earns us so much in tourism, and we will lose something that is very important for the Tuwharetoa people. We are working very hard with Environment Waikato, Ngāti Tuwharetoa, the councils around Taupo, farmers, and agencies such as Landcorp and the Department of Corrections, which have farms in that area, to find a way through so that we ensure we have better water quality.
Water allocation is another issue. We have the water conservation order as a mechanism to ensure that our in-stream values are protected. But we have some other interesting things happening, and I think about the member from New Zealand First who talked about farming. We have competing interests for our water, other than the in-stream values interest. We have competing interests from irrigation, from dairying, and from energy, and we have no mechanism for allocation because we have always said, “First in, first served.” We have to resolve that real problem in the coming months, if not years.
But the major problem that I found in the speech given by the co-leader of the Greens was the assumption that because we as a Government want to grow by 4 percent, that means we cannot have sustainable development. Some claims were made in the speech that we would double the amount of asphalt by 2020 and that we would double the demand for energy by 2020. Why, then, do we have the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, which is working for energy conservation, if we are not working to overcome the assumption that is in there? Why is it that although I grew up in a State house sited on a third of an acre, we never have such a large amount of land around houses in our cities now? It is because we are working on infill housing, because in our urban planning we are not going for ribbon development, and because we are trying to consolidate the use of asphalt and the use of sewerage pipes. We are trying to
work for a sustainable life and to accept that we are growing at the same time. Yes, we want to grow; I am not ashamed of that.
Because of my portfolio responsibilities I have actually travelled to a number of places in Third World countries. On one list Kenya is said to be the most optimistic nation in the world. It had a wonderful election and changed the direction of its Government around, without loss of life. It is a tremendously optimistic country. Are the Greens saying to Kenya that it cannot grow, that its people have to remain in their slums, and that there is no way it can grow or that its Government can get the money needed for hospitals and schools? If they are not saying that to Kenya, why are they saying it to us, while at the same time asking us to have better education, which we want, better health services, which we want, and better services in housing and all sorts of other areas, which we want—and which I think the Greens want. If we have to have those things, we will get them through growth.
The issue, therefore, is about sustainable development and about how we grow. It is not about growth or no growth. It is about how we grow, how we avoid engaging in ribbon development in cities, and how we undo congestion by providing both improved and popular public transport—and that is about not just putting on buses for the sake of it, but having them operate in such a way that they serve the people—and safer motorways to move freight and people. I met with mayors in Wellington this morning to find a way forward that meets the needs of the whole community and that does not pose an either / or but a both / and solution.
There is the issue of how we provide financing for alternatives to the car, and for better cycleways. We must provide for pedestrians and walking school buses—something I find very attractive as a person responsible for school buses. But that does not mean that all our trucks therefore have to be bicycle-drawn drays. We have to have a way to move the trucks and to move the produce from Palmerston North into our ports. Whether it is by rail or road, we have to have the means to do that.
The issue is about how we grow our new industries. It is about never assuming that environmental damage is the automatic consequence of a new factory. Sustainable development is about growth. It is compatible with the dream of our children’s children having the same choices as we do, as well as having improved water and air quality. To the speaker before who asked what we are doing about biotechnology, I say that when I assumed the role of Minister for the Environment we had an Act—the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act—that had not dreamt very much about the future. We have had to do a lot of what might be called after-the-event relooking at the legislation, in order to bring forward improvements so that we could do what the royal commission set out for us to do—that is, to proceed with caution. That is what we will be doing.
I also strongly endorse what the Prime Minister has said today about our role with regard to Iraq. I stand here in the House as a Quaker. I do not get time to go to meeting for worship very often, but I do have a strong passion for peace. We are absolutely for disarmament, and we are working for the disarmament not only of Iraq but also of other nations around the world that have weapons of mass destruction. We will continue to work for that, but we will work for it in a multilateral way. So we have not got in there and supported one country deciding that it is the police person and the judge for the world, and that it will go in and drop bombs. It is very much our position to support diplomacy rather than bombs. Our job has been to ensure—and this was indicated by the Prime Minister today—that should, and please God it does not happen, war break out, innocent people lose their lives, and the situation continue in the horrible way that has gone on so far, it will be us, working with the United Nations just as we did in Kosovo, who will come in and work to clean things up.
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH (NZ National—Rodney)
: Marian Hobbs, speaking on the issue of growth, has certainly brightened up the evening somewhat. I think she said to us, just a moment ago, that it is not a matter just of growth but of how we grow. Did I get that right? Let me give the honourable Minister a little bit of advice. If the Cabinet she is a member of carries on implementing the policies that it is currently implementing, she will not have to worry about how we grow, because we will not be growing. I will come back to that in a moment.
This afternoon I could not help but wonder, as I listened to the Prime Minister’s rather sad dirge, what a visitor to this Parliament might think. We had the Prime Minister of our nation making her annual statement to the Parliament. Where were the vision, the policy framework, and the leadership? Why is it so wrong, in Helen Clark’s view, to actually dream of something?
I must be a tiger for punishment, because I reread her speech. After listening to it this afternoon, I went away and reread it. I want to quote a couple of bits from the Prime Minister’s speech. I ask members to forgive me because I probably cannot quite match her voice, but I will try. “The Government, however, will continue to work alongside stakeholders in the economy on policies and initiatives to lift growth to a sustainably higher plane.” She went on to say: “Growth and innovation was the focus of the economic policy framework released at the time of my Prime Minister’s statement last year. Since then, many initiatives have been taken in line with the framework to strengthen the economy’s capacity to grow, and we will continue to build on them this year.”
I recognise that Helen Clark has never been involved in business; that fact is obvious. But she is not an unintelligent person. I think she needs to understand a few things. First, Jim Anderton’s little handouts to favoured businesses will not create growth. Setting up the four task forces in chosen sectors that Helen Clark referred to on page 5 of her speech was the one time that she became a little excited. She said: “The information and communications technology task force has already produced a draft report”. So she was excited about that. One of the four task forces to improve and enhance growth has produced a draft report! Merging Industry New Zealand and Trade New Zealand will not enhance growth. Those things are all just tinkering around the edges of it.
Growth is enhanced where there is maximum freedom—economic freedom—for people to invest in areas of high market return and to work with their employees in increasingly productive ways. That is how one gets real growth. While the Government claims it wants to lift growth to a sustainably higher plane, most economic commentators, including the OECD, say that the economic programme this Government has outlined is negative for growth. It is not just Lockwood Smith and the National Party who are saying that; the whole OECD membership says that. I will go through just a few of the issues. One does not get increased growth by raising the tax burden, because there is then less money to invest and one chases away one’s most skilled people, who do not like paying half their income in tax. One does not get increased growth when one renationalises workplace accident insurance and the monopoly resulting from that puts costs up.
One does not get increased growth when one increases regulation across the economy right from the workplace through to telecommunications. Just before Christmas the Government passed the new local government laws, which will delay procedures and inevitably increase rates. That will not enhance growth. The Government has passed new occupational health and safety laws to make employers liable for stress in the workplace. Unlike most members of the Government, I am an employer. I run a company, and I cannot comply with that law. There is no way, as a
member of Parliament, that I can comply with that dopey law. That law will not enhance growth. Also just before Christmas, the Government foisted the Kyoto Protocol on to New Zealand business—more bureaucratic costs.
But let us look to the year ahead. As if what has happened in the last couple of years is not enough, we have the Government’s proposed amendments to the Resource Management Act. They will not fix up the compliance costs that are such an imposition on business. Sure, the Government will lower taxes for Māori businesses, but not for anyone else. That is pretty divisive. The holidays legislation will increase the costs for business. The Prime Minister did not mention continuity of employment and pay equity moves. Those nasty little ones were hidden, I suspect, in the Prime Minister’s statement that the Employment Relations Act will be reviewed. There are huge compliance costs for business around the continuity of employment stuff that will apply on the sale or contracting out of a business, and around the pay equity moves. That will all impose more costs on business.
In fact, Business New Zealand—that is, the organisation of most of the businesses in this country, which I guess the Prime Minister has not worked out do actually create the growth—has estimated that the policy moves of this Government will impose $43,000 more costs on a small to medium sized business next year.
Dr Paul Hutchison: How much?
Dr the Hon LOCKWOOD SMITH: Forty-three thousand dollars more in the costs of doing business in just 1 year. The Prime Minister has the gall to stand in this Parliament and say that her Government and its policies seek to lift New Zealand’s sustainable growth rate. That would be laughable if it were not so serious.
I would be in breach of privilege if I were to refer to the detail of the submissions I have been reading this evening for the Finance and Expenditure Committee meeting tomorrow. They have not been tabled yet, so I cannot refer to them in detail. However, they are submissions on the Government’s Budget Policy Statement from the business sector in New Zealand. Without revealing any detail, I can say they all point out that the policies of this Government are negative for growth.
I reread the Prime Minister’s speech, and tried to find something that might be positive for growth. I looked at the section on international trade policy. Sure, the Government says that it will support the Doha round. However, one would expect the Government to do that, so it is no big deal. She also said it would support APEC. She mentioned that we have a free-trade agreement with Australia, which a previous National Government negotiated. We have a free-trade agreement with Singapore that, in fact, I initiated. She said the Government was about to initiate a three-way trade agreement involving Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore. Whoop-de-doo, I initiated that concept way back in 1999. In the last 3 years the Government has not done a damn thing on it. Helen Clark comes to Parliament and tries to claim that that is her big trade initiative.
Where was the inspiration this afternoon from our Prime Minister? It is little wonder that the
New Zealand Herald survey of 120 business leaders found only 5 percent of them believe that this Government has a coherent strategy for growth. Like my leader Bill English, I have no confidence in this Government at all. It is time for a little honesty. When Helen Clark stands in this House and says that the path we have rejected is the discredited direction of the 1990s—on page 7 of her speech—it is time that she became a tiny wee bit honest and admitted that a lot of the recent growth performance of New Zealand is a direct consequence of the policy reforms of the late eighties and the early nineties. It is time that Helen Clark spoke the truth on that.
LYNNE PILLAY (NZ Labour—Waitakere)
: It is a pleasure to speak in our second term of strong, stable government. It has been acknowledged and accepted by
the leader of the National Party—for now at least—that we will be a 3-term Government. He is right, and members should wait—there will be more. Our economy is the strongest performer in the OECD, with increased economic activity of 3.9 percent in the year to September. Unemployment fell to 4.9 percent. We now have 123,000 more New Zealanders in work than were in work when members of the current Opposition were in power, and they are real jobs. Three thousand young people have been placed in apprenticeships, and another 3,000 will be placed in apprenticeships by the end of this year. That is 6,000 young people. Need I remind this House that a National Government scrapped the Apprenticeship Act in 1991? In contrast, we now have innovative training schemes in all sectors of our industries. We have increased the minimum wage. We have provided support for business and industry. We have a solid commitment to work with business to reduce compliance costs. This is a Government that sees value in job creation—real jobs. We do not see value, or merit, or any sense in loony ideas such as standing outside the Post Office to get work for the dole. I ask Mr Brash why we should promote it. Because that is what happened when he was a boy.
With the introduction of improved health and safety laws New Zealand workers will be safer at work—that is a fundamental right of every worker. Of course, there is the repeal of the Employment Contracts Act—yet another National failure—and its replacement with fairer laws that work for workers, and work for employers. Remember that there was the same old sad rhetoric from the Opposition benches: “Those dreadful unions will ruin our workplaces. We will lose jobs. The economy will suffer. Employers will leave in droves. Productivity will fall. The sky will fall in.” Well, it did not—quite the opposite! Opposition members were wrong.
Good jobs cannot happen without a good start in life, and our kids are getting just that. Paid parental leave is in place, with a commitment to build and improve on that in the future. There has been a boost to early childhood education, creating over 1,300 new places for our kids in centres over the coming year. There is increased funding for schools, and an extra $9 million for secondary teachers. There is no interest on student loans while students are studying, and there are stabilised tertiary fees. There is hope and a future for our young New Zealanders.
We have got smarter with health. There is support for primary health that will ensure that we get affordable health-care when we need it. The Government’s primary health strategy is supported by health boards, primary health providers, and New Zealanders who recognise that by education and top-rate primary health-care, we can build a healthier nation.
We can hold our heads high on the world stage. We committed to ratification of the Kyoto Protocol because it was in our environmental and economic interests to do so. We believe in working multilaterally to achieve a more peaceful and stable world. Unlike the Opposition, we in Government are proud to work in partnership with Māori. No country can get ahead if it ignores segments of its people, treats them as one, and leaves them behind.
Through working together under the principles of the treaty, we have achieved much. There is still much to achieve, and we, as a Government, are committed to doing just that. We celebrate major progress on Māori television. That will be unique and enrich the cultural fabric of New Zealand.
New immigrants have made our country richer, both culturally and economically. Opposition parties may chase votes by dividing communities for their own political ends. Such rhetoric is offensive to immigrants, New Zealanders, and to this Government. It simply does not work. This Government enjoys 50 percent support because it has earned it.
- The House adjourned at 9.56 p.m.