Ardern’s adjournment speech

Jacinda Ardern, buoyed by Labour’s resurgence, led the Opposition with her adjournment speech in Parliament yesterday.

In part at least she was relentlessly positive: “Now, as far as I am concerned, yes, they say in politics that campaigns are lost by those Governments that are in charge, but this time this election will be won by us because this is our moment. ”

It certainly seems to be her moment, at the moment at least. We will see whether she can maintain the momentum for the next five weeks.


JACINDA ARDERN (Leader of the Opposition): Them there are fighting words, and I have to say I take the fact that the speaker who just resumed his seat spent 80 percent of his time talking about the Labour Party as some kind of awkward flattery. But an adjournment speech does come with some tradition and so I do want to spend some time acknowledging, as is tradition, those who support us in this House over the course of a term.

Mr Speaker, you are amongst those, as is the Clerk of the House, the Office of the Clerk staff, the Table Office, the Bills Office, Hansard, interpretation, select committee staff, parliamentary relations—basically, to everyone who is forced to listen to MPs and their words and their discourse, we, of course, owe our thanks. There are the buildings team, contractor staff, the Serjeant-at-Arms, security, our wonderful messengers, Parliamentary Library.

A special thanks to the Datacom team who I know share my relentless positivity in the face of great adversity—of great adversity. There are Epicure staff, the cleaning staff, Parliamentary Service, and my team of Clare-Louise Chapman, my senior private secretary who has gone through dramatic change in recent times; Neale Jones and the leader’s office team; Emma Williams, the whips and whip’s office team, MPs, executive assistants, and our out-of-office staff. They are a group of people in this country who are the front-line of democratic services. They are the ones without whom people’s voices would not be heard.

We own them our debt of thanks and we say to all of them “We’ll see you soon, even if it’s on the other side of the House.”

Today marks the end of the parliamentary term but the beginning of the campaign of our lives. This campaign is not about victory for the sake of it. Campaigns have never been about just the race or the run/walk, because winning is not the destination. Campaigns are about change. They are about what is possible, and 23 September marks opportunity and the 24 September marks the beginning—it marks the beginning.

Now, as far as I am concerned, yes, they say in politics that campaigns are lost by those Governments that are in charge, but this time this election will be won by us because this is our moment. This is our moment to show that even if the odd New Zealander feels OK or even if they feel indifferent we can be better. This Government has achieved what it came to do and now it is time to do things differently.

That means we do not have to accept having the highest homelessness in the OECD. We do not need to accept that. We do not have to accept declining homeownership, as the Government has done. We do not have to accept that it will be a given that children, particularly in winter, will do their homework in a car by torchlight. We also do not have to accept that there will be families who are now at Te Puea Marae—and I acknowledge the work that they do, but they have families, and a family there in particular, a mother of nine, who thinks it is her fault that she has lost her rental accommodation. That is a family in work who cannot find housing. That—we do not have to accept. We do not have to accept the highest teen suicide rates in the OECD or children not being able find mental health care, and we certainly do not accept 70,000 young people not being in employment, education, or training. It will never be a given for this party that 60 percent of our rivers will be degraded and unswimmable. That will never, ever be acceptable on our watch.

We believe things can be better, and under Labour they will be better. We can make homeownership possible again by building homes, by banning foreign overseas buyers from investing in our residential market and by closing tax loopholes. We can house the homeless. That means stopping selling State houses and actually building some State houses and making sure we have emergency beds. We can give young people work and hope through Ready for Work and through investing back in employers to take on apprentices again. It is a simple initiative but one that they have supported and asked for. On mental health, something I feel particularly strongly about, why cannot we start with nurses in every school and 80 full-time professionals in Christchurch working with kids who need it most? Why cannot we do that? When it comes to our rivers we will not accept that it is too hard. We will not accept that and we will not accept a position that we simply sit back and allow this degradation to continue. We have set our standards and our sights higher no matter how hard that proposition might be.

While we will continue to talk about what is possible on this side of the House and how we can be better, you are probably going to hear a little bit of scaremongering during this campaign. In fact, you may or may not have just heard 10 minutes of it from the previous speaker, Mr Brownlee. There is not only scaremongering—I do not mean to use such disparaging language about Mr Brownlee—but you will hear policies that do not even exist being thrown around this House and thrown around this debate.

You will hear, as well, that lifting everyone will come at the cost of the economy, and that our view that we can lift everyone and have a more prosperous nation will come at the cost of the economy. From us, you will hear different. We do not have to accept falling GDP per capita. If you want to talk about the economy, Mr Brownlee, let us talk about the economy.

We have to make sure that a strong economy means people feeling better off. Currently having two-thirds of people in work, with wage packets that are not keeping pace with inflation is unacceptable to the Labour Party—that is unacceptable to the Labour Party. A strong economy is not just measured by GDP, it is measured by how people fare. And if you ask New Zealanders whether or not they feel better off and whether they are going forwards or backwards, I can predict the answer that they will give you.

If you want to talk about the economy this election, then “game on”—”game on”. On the Labour side, we actually have an intention to lift our economic sights and, Mr Brownlee, that starts by talking about productivity. In fact, the Governor of the Reserve Bank, Brian Fallow, and Bernard Doyle from JBWere, just in the last week, have all raised the fact that productivity in New Zealand is hugely problematic, and this Government has done nothing about it—absolutely nothing about it. This is where our weakness and our vulnerability lie. Where is the investment in lifting the skills of our workers? Where is the focus on the threat that automation presents for our workforce?

We should be making sure that education is not just a destination but a conveyor belt that we dip in and dip out of. That is why Labour has promoted 3 years of free tertiary, polytech, apprenticeship, or industry training for our workforce, because of our failure to improve our productivity. It is about educating our workforce.

It is about investing in our regions—they are our forgotten voters Mr Brownlee. They are absolutely our forgotten voters. I ask you: when was the last time you visited Gisborne? When was the last time you asked there, Mr Brownlee, about the investment in regional economic development? We will partner with councils and economic development agencies to deliver projects that will deliver jobs.

Finally, some of the worst investment in innovation relative to other countries we compare ourselves to—and that is another reason why our productivity is not lifting. We need an R & D tax credit. That will give certainty to businesses when they are investing in their future and in our future.

We can do all of that together—all of that together—and I do not accept that when it comes to the economy that the status quo is acceptable. We have lifted our sights higher. We want to work with business, with employers, and with employees on making sure that our economy delivers for everyone. We are not satisfied. New Zealand can be better. We can all be better. The Government can be better. And our intent is, on 23 September, we will show just how much better we can be, so “Let’s Do This”.

4 Comments

    • Trevors_elbow

       /  August 18, 2017

      Metira effect is just as apt as a caption… little to do with Labour

  1. PDB

     /  August 18, 2017

    Or after failing to sway previous elections against John Key is this the rarely seen ‘MSM’ effect?

  2. Missy

     /  August 19, 2017

    “It is about investing in our regions—they are our forgotten voters…”

    Are these the same regions that Labour are going to hit with the water tax?

    She talks a good talk about the ‘regions’ but the policy of the water tax which will hit farmers and wineries is a tax on the regions, so she really needs to look at what her words are vs party policy.