Speech To Labour Party Conference 2010
President of the Labour Party, Andrew Little
Annette King, Deputy Leader
My wife Mary, who I am indebted to for her tolerance, love and understanding
Labour members, friends and supporters,
And to each and every one of you, thank you for your hard work, your commitment, and the time you devote to our cause.
You are the heart and soul of the Labour Party and I deeply appreciate your efforts.
Last week I saw two New Zealand’s.
The first is the one we know.
This is the place where people work hard, they pay their taxes and look after their families.
This is the place where they buy good second hand cars - nothing too flash but with good Ks, and go camping every January.
This is the place where Friday night means fish and chips and a dvd, or the rugby on TV.
This is the New Zealand of many colours and languages.
This is the New Zealand I grew up in, the one I know and love.
But things are getting harder here.
And I don’t like that.
In this New Zealand your pay doesn’t go as far as it used to because prices are going up.
There’s not as much left over at the end of the week as there used to be.
People are worried about their jobs.
Some of their friends have lost their jobs.
The tax cuts John Key promised them have disappeared because their food costs more, their power costs more, going to the doctor, rents – everything costs more.
On this side of town, it’s tough and getting tougher.
I also experienced the other side of town.
It was a dinner and cocktails at a high-class hotel.
For this New Zealand, things are much easier and getting better still.
And there’s plenty left over at the end of the week.
In this New Zealand, overseas holidays and luxury cars come easily.
Good on them for doing well.
But in this New Zealand, it’s getting better for them because they’re getting the lion’s share of tax cuts.
And therefore the other New Zealand is getting a smaller share.
John Key chose to put them first and everyone else second.
That’s not right.
It’s not fair, and we will change that.
Labour will make the tax system fairer.
We will grow a stronger economy that works for all New Zealanders - not just a few.
I saw a comment from John Key that said NZ is doing fine.
A year ago he said by now we would be aggressively coming out of recession.
I saw a comment from the Finance Minister that the fundamentals are strong.
I saw the Prime Minister say that unemployment isn’t going up, it’s just that the statistics are volatile.
You know they’re wrong.
I know they’re wrong.
And I am telling you they are not being straight with NZ.
Jobs are being lost.
Unemployment is up 20,000 in the last quarter.
The finance minister says this is ‘a necessary rebalancing’ and the unemployed are ‘collateral damage.’
They aren’t - they’re people.
I reject a ‘rebalancing’ that means throwing people on the scrapheap.
I reject a ‘rebalancing’ that means higher prices, lower wages and job losses.
How about rebalancing that’s not at the expense of working people?
Family budgets are under pressure.
Prices are rising faster than wages.
And in 2010, two years into their term, that’s National’s fault.
Median incomes are down $9 a week.
This is the worst result since June 1999.
That was the last time National was in government.
National has put the recovery on hold.
I opened a new supermarket in my electorate a few weeks ago.
You know how many people lined up for 150 jobs there?
Two thousand seven hundred.
And people from retailers to building firms right across the country tell me that business has never been worse.
The reason: When working people don’t have money in their pockets, that affects everyone.
National has no idea how to create the jobs we need, nor any commitment to do it.
National has created nothing but excuses and gimmicks.
Cycle-ways, jobs summits and mining National Parks won’t do it.
John Key’s latest claim is that summer will save us.
In 2008 we faced a global financial crisis.
It’s now behind us.
But instead of things getting better in New Zealand, our recovery is stuttering.
It shouldn’t be.
Two years of a National Government, we’re going backwards when we should be going forwards.
Australia and China are our biggest trading partners.
They’re growing strongly.
Export prices are at an all-time high.
But New Zealand is not growing, and the incomes of Kiwi households are falling.
And it’s National’s fault.
Baycorp is predicting a massive spike in the number of people who can’t pay their bills.
But National put GST up when families could least afford it.
They moved the tax burden off the top, but a lot of New Zealanders have ended up worse off.
National has cut jobs and kept wages down.
And they legislated to cut working conditions.
And that’s why one of the first things Labour will do in Government is scrap the 90-day fire at will law and restore fairness at work.
Labour will never accept a law that allows people to be sacked for no reason and with no means to challenge unfair dismissal.
No one should lose their livelihood without good cause.
It’s wrong and we will get rid of it.
If you want to know why most families are working harder and not getting ahead, it’s because National gave 42 per cent of the tax cuts to the top ten per cent…and gave two per cent for the bottom twenty percent.
The Government has hundreds of dollars a week for tax cuts for ministers.
But they don’t have money for yours.
Those who get huge tax breaks need to pay their share so that middle and low income New Zealanders can pay less tax.
Next month the people of Mana will choose a new MP.
It will be a judgment on John Key and National’s failure to produce jobs, their failure to lift wages, and their failure to make the future better.
And that’s why they’ll send Kris Faafoi to Parliament.
It starts in Mana, and it goes on until we’re the Government, and then Labour will put this right.
We will make the essentials more affordable.
We will stop using the power companies as cash cows for the government.
And with the world’s third highest rate of obesity, we will axe the GST from fresh fruit and vegetables so that people can afford to make healthy choices.
Taking the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables could save a typical family three or four hundred dollars a year.
Bill English says $300 a year isn’t much - but he was happy to get more than $300 a week in his own household tax cuts and demanded $20 a week more from the Government to get his house cleaned.
The reason the recovery has stalled and people are struggling is that Bill English and John Key gave themselves and their mates big tax cuts , they also kept their tax breaks and left the crumbs for the rest.
For those who do the work… for the hardworking families: NZ can do better than this.
Let me tell you where my values were created.
I am a product of a family with a modest income that worked hard.
That’s where I grew up.
We weren’t a poor family, but nor were we privileged.
Dad worked as a railway tradesman.
Mum worked hard at home to give her kids the best start in life she could.
Our house was just like hundreds of thousands of others in the towns and suburbs of New Zealand.
We were raised to believe that in New Zealand you could make a good life for yourself.
If you worked hard you could get ahead.
You helped out at the local school and sports club, met your responsibilities and expected a fair go.
This was the Kiwi dream.
It offered families like ours a good education, affordable health care, a home to call your own, and security in old age.
The Kiwi dream involved a basic sense of fairness - that the rungs of ladder reached down to where everybody grew up.
There were jobs you could get if you trained and worked hard.
Those jobs would pay well enough for you to get some other parts of the Kiwi dream too.
Homes and small businesses were within reach of those who worked and saved.
This is the New Zealand I am from, and I say to the families working their guts out in the towns and suburbs - I am a product of a family just like yours.
That’s why I’m Labour.
And when I’m prime minister you won’t be forgotten any more.
Those who are working hard and trying to get ahead have been forgotten.
Hardworking families have been overlooked.
Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost.
Businesses have struggled to compete because we haven’t had enough savings to invest in technology we need to increase productivity and incomes.
Wealth has become concentrated in fewer hands.
Farm and house prices have got so high that we’re risking a New Zealand where who owns what is decided by how much wealth you inherit, instead of by personal effort.
It’s not just a widening gap between the top and everyone else - it’s also a widening gap between the young and everyone else.
Younger New Zealanders are being shut out of home ownership. It’s fallen sharply.
They take on debt when they start out in their education, and they get swamped in more debt when they try to buy a house, or a farm or a small business.
But the government keeps piling more costs on the next generation.
They will have to pay for our future retirement costs because National has stopped contributing to the Cullen Fund and cut KiwiSaver.
National has landed us as taxpayers with the costs of carbon emissions - $110 billion worth, not the polluters and taken away the incentive to stop polluting.
And National is tearing gaps in social services, which will create long-term costs.
Mental illness rises, teen pregnancy increases, substance abuse, obesity, poor health get worse.
Growing inequality as the rich get richer and the rest fall behind will make people feel less safe, less confident in their own community, because crime increases, and fear increases faster.
Unfair, unequal countries cost everyone, not just those at the bottom.
Unfairness makes the boat go slower.
We all lose when any of us are denied opportunity and the chance to contribute.
Delegates, it’s time to renew the Kiwi dream.
A country where every child gets the best possible start in life.
Where everyone gets access to health care, education, a decent job and a home to call their own.
Where this country becomes again as Annette said the best place in the world to raise your children.
A New Zealand where we can make a better life for all New Zealanders.
We are going to make our country the country it was meant to be.
But we have a lot of work to do to get there.
I want to tell you about someone I know that we need to offer hope and optimism.
He has just lost his job, when the firm where he works went bust.
It was a good job and he worked hard.
He and his wife are in their early thirties, have a couple of kids.
But I have to tell you they voted National last time because they thought we were trying to tell them how to run their lives.
We have to rise to this challenge.
We have to be honest about why we lost their support, and we have to challenge ourselves to change to win them back.
Changing ourselves might not make us comfortable, but if we are to govern after the next election they need to know that we are offering a clear alternative and that we are on their side.
It’s not about changing our values.
It is about ensuring that what we are talking about what matters to them.
So, Delegates, we will get back into government by persuading families like theirs that we can help them achieve their Kiwi dream.
We are going to campaign on a promise to put their interests first.
We will show we are not the party of “You can’t do that”.
We must be the party of “We can do this.”
We can do this.
Let me be clear about how we want to govern.
We want to be the party that helps people get ahead.
We have to be the party that helps those on lower incomes, and also those on middle incomes - 60-thousand, and 70-thousand, and 80-thousand dollars a year.
They are not rich, and we need to deliver to them as well.
We can do this.
We must must be the party that stands for Kiwi families working hard to achieve their dreams.
The party of New Zealanders who want someone to speak out for them.
And that’s why I am fighting to create high-paying jobs.
That’s why I’m fighting to make sure every New Zealander goes to work confident their wages are going to get better, not worse.
Last month while New Zealand was shedding jobs, Australia added 50,000.
They’ve added a quarter of a million jobs so far this year - mostly full time.
John Key said he would close the gap with Australia. We won’t close that gap while we are under-investing in skills training and education.
We won’t close the gap with Australia when Australia is spending more on research and development and we’re spending less.
Australia saves more than us.
And that’s why, when I’m prime minister, Labour will increase our savings for the future, not cut them as National did.
Labour is going to make some tough calls to make sure our exporting businesses are competitive; some big calls.
We will change monetary policy.
We will make the Reserve Bank more supportive of employment and exports.
We will work alongside industry and universities to grow our research and development.
We’ll boost skills training, unlike this government, which has just cut funding for 55-thousand industry training places.
The future for New Zealand is in the connected, global, high wage, high skill growth industries of the twenty-first century.
Our growth will be clean, green and clever.
It won’t be about mining in our pristine National Parks.
It will be consistent with our branding of a New Zealand which is striving to be 100% pure.
New Zealand companies are at the forefront of innovation in clean technology.
We have to back them if they are going to unleash their potential.
Labour is developing good ideas to back them.
If you want to use your savings to support innovative and entrepreneurial Kiwi exporters who are creating jobs and competing - then we’re going to help you do it.
We need more savings, and our innovators and exporters need more New Zealand capital. We will bring them together.
Labour will go to next year’s election with clear plans that go further than New Zealand has gone before in lifting our savings and investment.
We have to, because we need to own more of the wealth generating economy.
New Zealand cannot spend our way to prosperity.
We cannot borrow our way to higher incomes or to better jobs.
Instead of selling New Zealand off, what we need to do is make it more attractive for New Zealanders who have something to save to put more into New Zealand.
We will back Kiwi firms.
When we build new trains for Kiwirail, we will look first to build them in Dunedin and the Hutt Valley by Kiwis who have the skills to do it.
Increasing our savings will allow us to own more of our future.
It is time we reconsidered what we get from the sale of farm land offshore, and what are the costs.
Kiwi farmers are the most efficient in the world.
We are not going to make them more efficient by making more of them overseas owned.
Selling off our farmland won’t increase production or export earnings.
There are big overseas buyers with money to burn who want to control and own the supply chain for food production.
Instead of adding value to production here in New Zealand, they could decide to do it overseas.
That would cost us jobs.
They’re coming here to buy what’s currently ours and they will be doing it more often.
We are more vulnerable as land values fall.
Assets like the Crafar farms have been put up at the behest of banks.
But what is in the banks' interest is not always in the wider interests of New Zealand.
We are at risk of our land being priced on an international market beyond the reach of New Zealanders.
When New Zealanders have to compete against overseas buyers, we have to ask ourselves - what will happen if the prices paid lock us out of owning our own land?
Where does it end up if we say to ambitious young New Zealanders that you can only buy into our best and productive assets if you come from overseas or you are born into a wealthy family.
That is not the New Zealand I want.
No overseas person has the right to buy our land - it is a privilege.
It is a privilege we have granted too easily.
Today you have my commitment that Labour will turn the rules on selling land to foreigners on their head.
We’ll guarantee that New Zealand’s interests are put first.
We will reverse the presumption that any foreign purchase of our rural land is good for New Zealand.
This will mean that rather than most applications from foreign buyers going through, most will be turned down.
Buyers will have to prove that selling land to them will be good for our economy.
We will force would-be buyers of New Zealand rural land to invest in New Zealand and our people by bringing jobs, transferring technology, increasing exports or bringing other benefits for New Zealand.
These rules will apply to sales of rural land over 5 hectares.
We will also introduce new rules around investment in monopoly infrastructure to guarantee these crucial assets, such as airports, seaports and water services remain in New Zealand hands.
And of course, Labour will stop the privatisation of our public assets.
We’ll keep them community-owned and therefore New Zealand-owned.
We don’t believe the sale of our farmland or monopoly infrastructure is in our interests.
But other foreign direct investment is and we encourage it.
If you want to buy into New Zealand, then you will have to bring something to offer New Zealand.
If you do, we will welcome you.
And if you don’t, we won’t let you.
I’ve spent many years representing New Zealand around the world, and no country I can think of would find the rules I am proposing unusual.
This is a change for Labour and a change for New Zealand.
It is part of reassessing what hasn’t worked.
We must be bold enough to say what isn’t working, and strong enough to change it.
Maori-owned assets are some of our biggest industry sectors.
Maori are the biggest meat exporters in New Zealand, and Maori businesses are some of the biggest players in energy, fishing, and forestry.
And they offer opportunities for jobs and higher incomes for New Zealand, if we can better align training and skills development with their needs as they grow.
There are tracts of marginal Maori land that could be afforested so they can take advantage of carbon farming and biofuel opportunities.
That will need skills in trades and technology. They’ll need management and enterprise skills.
That’s why Labour will rejuvenate and strengthen modern apprenticeships.
We’ll have a specific focus on modernised Maori trade training, aligned to the needs of industries where there is a strong Maori asset base.
We will work with people who keep ownership and jobs onshore in New Zealand rather than exporting jobs overseas.
We’re looking at providing specialist training institutions and schools that could raise educational achievement and equip our young people with the skills needed for huge opportunities in our regions.
We must do better, when nearly half of all teenage Māori and Pasifika women, and a third of young Māori and Pasifika men are not in a job, training or education.
That is not just a personal disaster, it is an economic and social disaster for New Zealand.
Delegates, the best policy we have to provide a future for the 38-thousand unemployed teenagers,
...the best policy we have to keep home our best and brightest,
...the best policy for bringing down crime and alcohol and drug abuse,
Is an expanding smart economy of high wage, high skill jobs.
Labour is fighting to put government back on the side of hardworking New Zealanders, so that we don’t have two New Zealands any more.
And that is why Labour is fighting for parents trying to raise their kids to give them with the best possible chance in life.
That’s why we’re fighting National’s cuts, $480 million worth to early education.
National is dropping standards and increasing costs to struggling parents.
Labour is proud of the progress we made in early education, and we’re in Government we will once again give early education the priority it deserves.
Labour is fighting so that our next generation has a future to look forward to.
National came to power promising a brighter future for everyone, and they only delivered more for the privileged.
They came to power promising higher incomes, and they delivered higher GST.
They came to power promising more employment, and they delivered more unemployment.
John Key has no game plan for our cities and our farms so that we can compete and win in the global economy.
He won’t stand up for Kiwi workers who want their wages to rise faster than their prices.
John Key won’t break the stranglehold that privileged interests have on our government.
But I will.
John Key won’t take on the big foreign investors who are trying to buy up our farmland and our assets.
National won’t bring unemployment down.
But Labour did.
We gave young people skills and brought unemployment down to record lows.
And John Key’s National Government has never achieved a budget surplus.
But in our last nine years Labour did.
Jobs, higher wages, a break for families.
These are not just our commitments.
These are our Kiwi dream.
We are the party of New Zealanders’ dreams for a better life.
We are the party that stands against two New Zealands.
We are the party of a stronger economy that works for the many, not the few.
Surely New Zealand deserves leadership that asks what we can do to make the future better for everyone.
Leadership that will call for a place at the table for every New Zealander.
Leadership that will call on each New Zealander to join in a common endeavour, lift us all up, reward hard work and responsibility.
I believe this.
We can do this.
And I want to lead New Zealand there.