Not the Speech from the Throne

Published: Tue 27 Aug 2002 02:39 PM
Tuesday 27th August 2002
Not the Speech from the Throne
The Alliance today released its own “Speech from the Throne” top ten priority list, highlighting the lost opportunity to deal with the chronic under funding of health and education services and increasing inequality.
“Today’s speech does not address the fundamental challenges facing New Zealand as it struggles to increase growth in the face of huge inequalities and the decimation of basic services” said Alliance Leader Laila Harré.
“The tragedy is that this situation is of Labour’s own making. Despite having a huge electoral advantage over the opposition before the election and a number of coalition options after the election, they promised almost nothing and look set to deliver just that.”
The Alliance has identified ten urgent priorities that it would have wanted included in today’s speech if it had been in government:
1. Education
The Student Debt crisis will continue to escalate and is unsustainable. Steps must be taken to reduce the impact of the debt on our young people and to remove the causes of the debt:
a. Canceling interest on existing loans so that the debt doesn’t continue to balloon.
b. Introduce a universal student allowance so that students are not literally borrowing to live
c. Reduce and, eventually eliminate, tuition fees
The cost of this would be just over a half of the projected 2.4 billion “surplus”. There is no real surplus while we continue to burden our youth with debt.
2. Health
The massive increase in Health Board deficits over the past year has well and truly exposed the chronic under funding of our public health system. With twenty out of twenty one Health Boards reporting deficits up until June 2002 it is obvious that a substantial increase in investment is required to avoid major cuts in services. There is also a danger that any additional health resources will be tied up just holding the hospital system together.
Increased investment in primary health care is required to improve the health of New Zealanders and reduce, in the long term, the burden on our hospital system:
a. Boost funding to DHBs to eliminate current operating deficits and reduce surgical waiting times.
b. Movement towards a comprehensive free primary health system with:
 free doctor’s visits
 free prescriptions
 increased funding for rural health services
 increased funding for mental health services
Labour has, with promises of no increases in taxes and through coalition arrangements, placed itself in a fiscal straightjacket and will find it very difficult to respond to growing needs in the state sector.
3. Four Weeks Annual Leave for all workers.
4. Further increases in the minimum wage to protect the lowest paid workers and provide a greater incentive for those moving off benefits.
5. Reintroduction of a $15 per week family benefit for every child.
6. Introduction of 15 hours free childcare per child each week
7. Introduction of a low deposit, low interest housing scheme for first home buyers
8. Pay Equity legislation.
9. Extending Paid Parental Leave to 14 weeks.
10. A State Sector pay fixing mechanism to prevent the Secondary Teacher’s pay debacle being repeated across the public service.
“The new government’s lack of commitment to any of these priorities is the most compelling reason why the Alliance will have an important and ongoing role in New Zealand politics” said Laila Harré.
(The Alliance Council is meeting in Auckland this weekend to discuss the future activities and priorities for the party.)

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