I think that the leader/s of the Opposition get a copy of the Prime Minister’s Statement in advance so they can prepare their response.
Labour leader Andrew Little began:
…this is a Government that has given up on the future, that has no plan to prepare New Zealand for the future, that is more interested in scoring political points than solving the big problems facing our country, and that is letting the Kiwi dream slip away.”
And then went on to try and score political points against Key and various Ministers.
He seemed to be trying to outpoint Key on negativity. I call it a depressing draw.
ANDREW LITTLE (Leader of the Opposition): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for getting my name right.
I move, That all the words after “That” be deleted and replaced with “this House express no confidence in this National-led Government, because this is a Government that has given up on the future, that has no plan to prepare New Zealand for the future, that is more interested in scoring political points than solving the big problems facing our country, and that is letting the Kiwi dream slip away.”
It is great to be back after a wonderful summer. It is a bit disappointing to see that the Prime Minister is less tanned and is more red in the face, but that is what happens sometimes with a Christmas break where you fret about what is actually going on.
I am very pleased to see that Michael Woodhouse has returned—that we have got through a summer with not a single worm farmer suffering a fatality or a serious harm incident and that the lavender cutters have got through their summer as well in good shipshape.
And I want to congratulate Judith Collins, because what Minister of the Crown has come back to Cabinet, made such a return, and in such a short space of time had such a dramatic impact not only in New Zealand but internationally? Because within a month of Judith Collins coming back to Cabinet, our ranking in the Corruption Perception Index went down two places. And so for a Minister who knows all about conflicts of interest, it is amazing to see the contributions that she has already made.
The Prime Minister made a reference to Taranaki and the roads, and I was very pleased to be in Taranaki this year swimming at Ōākura Beach, driving on its roads—and it does need better roads, because if there is one thing that the unemployment figures have told us about Taranaki, it is the rapid rate at which people are leaving that province because there are no job opportunities there, and 4,000 people have left in the last year alone. Thank you, National Government—thank you, National Government.
I was very pleased to be at Waitangi on the weekend just gone. They are very pleased, actually, that we had an extended Waitangi weekend.
Thank you to the fine work of David Clark MP, Grant Robertson, who drafted the original bill, other MPs on this side of the House, and, of course, Peter Dunne, who very generously supported that, bill because he, at least, is in touch with middle New Zealand and the holidays that they need.
It was very good to be there, because that was a very important place to be on a very important occasion, and I say, Prime Minister, that it is a place for the head of Government to be on the day that we celebrate the founding of this nation and the founding document.
I would repeat Te Ururoa Flavell’s plea—prayer, in fact—that he gave that the Prime Minister return there to be part of that important national celebration. That was a statement—if you could call it that—that has absolutely no vision and no plan for New Zealand at a time when we desperately need one. It was reheated, recycled, and nothing new.
We had the big announcement. The big state of the nation address was the City Rail Link—it is the City Rail Link; it does not go by any other name. It is a policy that the Labour Party has supported from the outset, championed, argued for, and supported.
And the new Mayor of Auckland at the end of this year will be the next great champion of it, and he will do a fantastic job in it.
But what is interesting to see is that as that cause has been put up and argued for, what former Ministers of Transport from that Government have said—let me count the ways. Let me count the ways. There was a Mr Brownlee who was a transport Minister, and he said at one point: “I take big issue with the suggestion that the City Rail Link is helpful or popular.”
And then he went on to say: “this valiant attempt to make the City Rail Link stack up struggles to make the case.” Something has happened in the meantime, because the case has been made and the City Rail Link is on its way. There is another position, from another Minister, a Mr Joyce—
Hon Member: Or Little?
ANDREW LITTLE: —Steven. I think it was Mr Joyce not a Mr Little. No, it was Mr Joyce—a Steven Joyce—and he is the master of flip-flops, let us face it, after Friday. Mr Joyce, the master of flip-flops said: “That’s not smart transport; that’s pouring money down a hole.”—“That’s pouring money down a hole.” The man who took 21 years to get his degree in zoology, he knows about pouring money down a hole, and so he would know all about that.
So there is no plan, there is no vision.
The National Government has reheated the City Rail Link policy because it knows that that is what Auckland desperately needs. And it knows that the right-thinking people—the sensible thinking people—have been championing that cause for many years now.
And at long last, the Government has been dragged, kicking and screaming, up the purple cycleway of Auckland to get to the point where it now has to support it. But that is not the first flip-flop.
That is not the first flip-flop from this Government either—in Government or in Opposition. We know what its track record is like. Remember its opposition to interest-free student loans? Absolutely diametrically opposed to it, and mysteriously, once they are in Government, nothing happens.
Then they were opposed to KiwiSaver, that thing that 2.5 million Kiwis are now signed up to and that is helping millions of Kiwis build up their little nest egg.
Hon Member: “It’ll never work.”, he said.
ANDREW LITTLE: “Never work”, “don’t want it”, “deeply opposed to it”. What happened when they got into Government? Nothing changed.
Then there’s Working for Families. Remember “communism by stealth”—remember “communism by stealth”? Shocking stuff—vile stuff that was going to be gone by lunchtime. They got into Government and 8 years on they are still waiting. They know that it is good for New Zealand.
This is the multi-positional, flip-flopping National Government. It does it all the time, and it is doing it again.
It is time we had a Government of visions: not the visionless, passionless lot we have got over there, but a Government that understands the issues facing New Zealanders.
What New Zealanders are looking for now more than ever before is a Government that is principled, a Government that can look out to the long-term future, see what the issues are, and understand what needs to happen today to build a better future for tomorrow.
That is what New Zealanders are looking for, not the pussyfooting around, the mincing, the politicking, or the point-scoring all over that we get on that sort of side.
Those members crow about the unemployment rate. What they will not tell New Zealanders is that the reason unemployment has gone down is that thousands and thousands of New Zealanders have just given up. They have stopped looking for work. They are no longer part of the labour force, according to the household labour force survey. They have just given up; they have lost hope.
That is one easy way to reduce your unemployment, but what a dreadful way to treat New Zealanders, hard-working New Zealanders who want nothing other than to get an opportunity to work and to get ahead. Well, that is what Labour is about.
The single biggest issue facing us is the issue of the future of work, and the conference that Grant Robertson went to was, funnily enough, the same conference the senior Ministry of Social Development official went to.
Grant Robertson: You paid for that, John. Paid for them to go.
ANDREW LITTLE: They went to it and the Government paid for them. They went only after weeks of asking the Minister of workplace relations and whatever else he is whether they were going to go, whether they should take this issue seriously.
He was not going to go and somebody from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was not going to go, so the Government sent somebody from the Ministry of Social Development.
But that is an important issue, and countries around the world are getting to grips with it—Germany, the United States, and other wealthy countries with good progressive leaders who are thinking about what it means, thinking about what we need to do today to build a better future tomorrow so that our people can fulfil their dreams.
That is not what that Government cares about at all—it does not care about it at all. It was interesting when we announced the first of our major policies, which is about investing in people and investing in their futures: our education policy.
Well, if you want to talk about multi positions, let us go through them. Mr Joyce—the Mr Joyce—first of all says: “Well, spending on tertiary education won’t do anything.” Whoops! He is the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, so that line did not last long.
He had to change his position again; he spends over a billion dollars on it already, so he had to change that position. Then he said “Oh, it’s going to cost too much—it’s going to cost too much.”, but then he realised, of course, that the Government wants to buy tax cuts. It is going to pay for tax cuts somehow, so that argument was not going to wash.
So then he goes on to the third position, which was: “But the money’s not there.” But Bill English knows that it is there, because he has set it aside in future budgets—$1.5 billion.
They are all over the place: no plan, no idea, do not care about the future of New Zealanders.
Then, of course, the Prime Minister’s response is to talk about waitresses, because, apparently, waitresses do not have a future. Apparently, they do not get tertiary education, in spite of the fact that a good quarter of them are already people who are studying. Apparently, on ”Planet Key” waitresses do not do education or training.
Fortunately, he has now promised never, ever to talk about waitresses again for the whole time he is Prime Minister, and I simply make this point: it is not the talking about them that has been the problem.
I want to comment briefly on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, because there are a lot of misleading statements coming out of the Government. If there is one thing that is absolutely clear, it is that the Government does not want a genuine public debate on that agreement.
I want to point out that the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is not a strategy. It is an agreement, and there are experts now around the world who no longer even describe it as a free-trade agreement. They are calling it a “managed” trade agreement, because at the end of it—15 years into the agreement, if it comes live—we will still have tariffs, we will still have quotas, and we will not have free trade throughout that trading bloc.
The genuinely independent economic analysis says the benefits for New Zealand are slim. Whether you look at the Tufts University economic analysis or the Peterson Institute for International Economics economic analysis, the benefits for New Zealand are slim.
Let us not kid ourselves: it is interesting that the Peterson Institute for International Economics says that the bulk of the value of that agreement will go to the US, but even in the US it is not expected to generate any new jobs. It is saying: “Let us get prepared for the transition: there are a lot of people who are going to be out of work.”
One of the more dismal analyses for New Zealand even said that we should expect about 6,000 jobs to go under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. I hope that does not happen, but here is the point: there has been an absolute and abject failure of political handling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement by that Government.
It has been diabolical. It would not keep New Zealanders informed while it was being negotiated—would not keep New Zealanders informed while it was being negotiated—dumped it on New Zealand at the end of last year.
Anybody who raises the most mild criticism is shouted down as somehow not knowing what they are talking about.
The Government is a disgrace. For a Government that has been in 8 years, it lacks the confidence of the people to know what is going on and to have a genuine debate, and that is no good at all.
Let us just remind ourselves too about the promises that were made about the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement: we are going to have a great deal on dairy. There is no deal on dairy, which is why the value to New Zealand of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement has been downgraded so much. And it is not much better on meat.
It is a managed trade agreement. It locks in agricultural subsidies for the big powers for a longer period of time yet.
That is just the economic stuff, but it is not the economic stuff that is of greatest concern to me. It is the stuff that is nothing to do with free trade. It is the fact that we now have to sign up to other people from other countries having a say on our lawmaking; the fact that under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement our Parliament cannot pass a law to deal with land sales, which, we know, is a major issue for many, many New Zealanders.
It is not just the economic stuff; it is the non-economic factors. And I make no apology. I make no apology for drawing a clear distinction between economic interests and non-economic interests, and they are not tradeable. You cannot set one off against the other.
There is no such thing as trading off the constitutional rights of every New Zealand citizen against the economic interests of others, sparse as they are.
Statecraft has two dimensions to it. It is about the nation States that the Government of the day is in charge of, and it is about our relationship with other nations.
Statecraft does not involve selling out the interests of the nation State that you are responsible for, for the interests of other nations that we interact with. It is a failure of statecraft, not a good thing about it.
I want to say this. I am proud to say that on this side of the House there is a new generation of leaders now emerging who are principled and who reflect the demands of a new New Zealand, whose citizens are looking for leadership that is about doing the right thing for all New Zealanders—[Interruption]
And that just demonstrates how sadly out of touch that miserable Government actually is. It does not care about the people. It is a party of the elite; it is a party of the self-interested. It is not a party of New Zealand’s best interests.
New Zealanders are looking for a party and for a leadership that will talk about the real issues, the long-term issues, the dreams that Kiwis hold dear, and their hopes, and their ability to get ahead and to get an education and to look after themselves and their families, and for them to be part of strong communities so that they can continue to be part of a great New Zealand.
New Zealanders are looking for a new leadership that is about governing for physical and personal security and for economic security as well. Doing that does not require selling out to other, more powerful States than our own.
It is a generation that understands democracy as a process that involves and engages all citizens that does not capture it for the special, the privileged and the elite. That is the challenge we have.
I am proud to lead a party that does have a vision for New Zealand, that is positive about the future of New Zealand, and that does care about the people of New Zealand and the future that they face.
The single biggest issue facing us is the future of work and we are going to deal with it. New Zealanders want to know that we do have a process, that we do have a plan to deal with those whose jobs are facing obsolescence.
The experts tell us that 46 percent of jobs today will be gone in 20 years’ time. This Government knows that; it is getting the same advice. It does absolutely nothing about it—in a last desperate measure.
We are seen to take the issue seriously, and we are talking to our international counterparts, we are talking to international experts; the Government does not care. And its failure to do anything about it, its failure to rise to that issue and to that occasion, speaks volumes. It tells New Zealand that they do not care about ordinary New Zealanders and their future.
Work is changing: technology is emerging now that is going to affect every job, and we need to be doing something about it now.
We need an education system fit for the 21st century —and we will make that investment.
We need an economic strategy that is focused on New Zealanders and what they can do, that attracts investment, that does not kowtow and tug the forelocks to the powerful in hope that some crumbs might fall off the table of other countries, that actually supports New Zealanders and their ambitions—and that is what we are doing.
We need a country whose economy is strong enough to make sure that New Zealanders do get the health care that they need; that everybody does have a warm, dry, and safe home to live in.
You cannot work, you cannot excel at work, you cannot fulfil your dreams, and you cannot look after your family when the roof over your head leaves you cold, damp, and sucking in bacteria and mould because you have a Government that does not care about the quality of our housing.
That is the difference between our two parties. That is the difference between the Labour Party and the National Party.
Ours is a party that understands New Zealanders: their ambitions, their hopes for the future.
Ours is a party that is prepared to invest in that future, to rebuild New Zealand, to rebuild the dreams of New Zealanders and give them confidence and hope for the future.
I look forward to that debate. I look forward to the debate over the next 2 years, as New Zealanders see that there is one party that not only talks to New Zealanders but understands New Zealanders, and reflects their aims and ambitions—and that it is us. And I am looking forward to this year.