Contrasting takes on Bridges: Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement

Following an embarrassing poll result Simon Bridges came out firing in his first speech of the year in Parliament yesterday, in response to the Prime Minister’s statement.

It was the best of speeches, it was the worst of speeches, depending who is describing it.

Predictably Winston Peters, who spoke immediately afterwards, slammed and ridiculed the speech and Bridges.

Nice wasn’t on Winston’s agenda, and Jacinda Ardern laughed alongside him.

And the opposite was also claimed.

Here is Bridges’ speech:

Did it do enough to lift his leadership? One speech does not make a leader.

All the speeches can be seen online here: https://www.parliament.nz/en/pb/hansard-debates/rhr/combined/HansDeb_20190212_20190212_20/tab/video?page=5

And Hansard transcripts: DEBATE ON PRIME MINISTER’S STATEMENT

 

Parliament resumes today

Parliament kicks off election year today with a Debate on Prime Minister’s statement

For those wanting an exciting day listening to leaders outlining their plans for the year – which are likely to include rubbishing their opponents – all ‘specified party leaders’ have up to 20 minutes to convince everyone (or at least those who listen) that they desrve their votes.

Other members 10 minutes

Whole debate 13 hours

Little’s reply to Prime Minister’s Statement

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.

 

Draft Transcript:

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.

Prime Minister’s Statement

John Key kicked off debate in Parliament for the year with the Prime Minister’s Statement.

As usual Key sets out a modest programme for the year and put more effort into getting a few digs in at Andrew Little and Labour. It looks like pettiness and bitchiness is resuming where it left off.

But Labour had left themselves wide open on the Trans Pacific Partnership – Key said that as far as Labour was concerned TPP meant Two Position Party.

And he said a lot more negatives about Labour, while saying he didn’t have enough time to mention all the things the Government will be doing.

But what he did say about that his party will be doing was more of the same, there was nothing much new on offer.

Draft transcript:

Debate on Prime Minister’s Statement

Rt Hon JOHN KEY (Prime Minister): I move, That this House express its confidence in the National-led Government and commend its programme for 2016 as set out in the Prime Minister’s Statement to Parliament. Mr Speaker, is it not great to be back?

I hope that you had a good holiday and members did, and what a wonderful time it was for New Zealand. What a great display of cricket yesterday afternoon by Brendon McCullum in the Chappell-Hadlee series. New Zealand up against Australia one more time under a National-led Government—what a wonderful result.

And, of course, the Sevens—a tremendous result by the Kiwis, not only just here in Wellington but in Sydney—the Warriors, of course, at the final; and then Lydia Ko back in New Zealand on Friday to defend her New Zealand Women’s Open.

But it is not just sport that has the country in good; so it is in so many other economic forums.

We had a record number of tourists come to New Zealand this year—3.15 million tourists came to New Zealand to enjoy our country. No wonder they are coming, because many of them are coming to live here as well. They can see New Zealand is a great place to live under the policies of a National-led Government.

We are seeing more carriers flying direct to New Zealand. Emirates is deciding it is not enough just to fly all those times through Australia to New Zealand but it is coming direct to Auckland. Of course, Air New Zealand is doing tremendously well, bringing people from the United States through its new Houston leg and through Buenos Aires in Latin America.

Let us just look around and see what is happening in the data that we see in the early part of the year. The ANZ business confidence survey saw confidence rise to an 8-month high, with a net 23 percent of firms being confident. When it came to consumer confidence, we saw record sales over Christmas, and the Roy Morgan survey having us up at 121.4—a very strong result for consumer confidence.

Manufacturing activity—the December business numbers were stronger than in any other month in March of 2015, and the BNZ – BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index saw the fastest rate of expansion since October 2014.

In fact, when one looks at the BNZ – BusinessNZ Performance of Manufacturing Index and the expansion of manufacturing, this has gone up every single month since the moment Labour declared there was a crisis—38 consecutive months in a row. And was that not great?

Of course, when it comes to business optimism, look no further than the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, which said “What a great result. What’s happening out there?

Very strong—people looking to hire.”, and hired they were. Last week we were greeted with a new unemployment rate here in New Zealand: a dramatic fall to 5.3 percent. That is a very strong performance. We have the third-highest employment rate in the OECD , we have very strong results of growth for young people, and, of course, wages are rising faster than inflation.

That was greeted with absolute joy by New Zealanders, with one exception—one exception. It was a great annoyance to the Labour Party and, in particular, to Grant Robertson, the doom merchant when it comes to employment. Grant Robertson is worried about a robot taking his job.

A cynic could say: “Too late, one already did.”—the job he wanted—but, never fear, he has got his people working with every editor of every women’s mag around the country, getting Jacinda Ardern nicely positioned on the front of all of those, just waiting.

But Grant is so worried about work, he decided that when Parliament packed up he would go off to Paris to the OECD to learn about work and the future of work. He is going to base his commission that he is setting up on that.

Here is how it went. It started at 10.30, a nice little break of an 1 hour and 45 minutes for lunch, than a quick 20 minutes for afternoon tea, all done and dusted by 6 o’clock, 1½ hours for cocktails. That is the future of work under the Labour Party. Job done. It was a big day.

Of course the big issue—the big issue—is the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, the “TPP”. What a tremendous trade deal this is for New Zealand. What a tremendous trade deal: 93 percent elimination in tariffs, 40 percent of our markets covered, 800 million middle-income consumers, $2.7 billion of value to New Zealand.

So it had, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, significance for the Labour Party. Do any of us know why? Well, when we think “TPP”, we think Trans-Pacific Partnership; they think “two-position party”—that is what “TPP” says to them.

This is because when it comes to David Shearer, he rightfully said to the New Zealand Herald—before he got a good spanking from the leader—“I’ll be voting for it. There’s no change there. Nothing’s changed my mind and the international interest analysis—fantastic.”

Phil Goff, he is definitely voting for it, because it is, to quote Phil, the same as the China free-trade agreement taken under Labour.

Helen Clark, she is a tremendous supporter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

In fact, every Labour leader in the last 20 years supports the agreement except the current one. Well, that actually is a bit debatable. So when you look at Andrew Little’s positions—and I will grant you he has had more positions than the Labour Party has had leader in the last 5 years—he says he hates the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

He got asked a pretty simple question by Mark Sainsbury: “Will you withdraw New Zealand from the TPP?” Do you know what his answer was? It was: “We won’t.” He is going to kick up bobsy-die , but no, no, he will not.

So then they asked him: “Will you vote against it?” A pretty simple question. He went: “Yeah, well, we already said—aah—if there—yeah—er—aah—if this legislation—aah. We don’t get to vote on TPP,” he said.

What about pulling out? That apparently is incredibly difficult to do, even though the text, of which he has read 500 of 6,000 pages, says you can just do it by simply putting in notification for 6 months.

When he was asked “Why won’t you pull out of TPP?”_—this was my particular favourite for the summer—he said: “Because we are the free-trade party.” Yeah, right. “We are the free-trade party.”

So when you look at his opposition it seems to be around sovereignty. So what he thinks is the problem is that other people, other corporations, other Governments can come to New Zealand and they can put a submission in against our law. That is apparently the problem.

Here is a little technical issue. The first issue is, quite right, they can do that. In fact, anybody is free to come to New Zealand and put in a submission at our select committees. It is called open and transparent Government.

But what did Andrew Little do at the end of last year? I know. He rushed off to Australia to go to put a submission in against its legislation and last night he was telling me to give David Cameron a ring, so I could put in a submission about their legislation. So he has got a massive problem with everybody else doing it except himself.

So let us just go through one or two of the myths of Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Sovereignty—I think you all agree we have covered off. Anyone is free to come and put in a submission about New Zealand, but this Parliament determines its law and this Parliament on its own.

There is a theory out that somehow this affects Māori. Well, it does—positively—because the text says the Treaty of Waitangi is specifically excluded and when it comes to Wai 262 that is excluded as well.

And, by the way, the wording in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is basically the same as the wording in the China and Korea free-trade agreements. There is nothing new and you did not see the protestors out there then, but funnily enough you see them now.

Apparently, the problem is that it was behind closed doors. That is what Andrew Little said at Rātana: the whole problem was that it was behind closed doors, expect the only minor technical problem was that, one, it was exactly the same in one form as any other free-trade agreement we have done, including the China free-trade agreement that was concluded by Phil Goff, sitting over there, and the Labour Party.

But what is more than that, for years the Government has been undertaking consultation on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. We did not wait for the text to be completed. We did not actually wait for the national interest analysis to come out. What we actually did was we went up and down the country, including to substantial groups of iwi, including to the Federation of Māori Authorities.

In fact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade tells me there has been more consultation on the Trans-Pacific Partnership than on almost any other free-trade agreement that it can see or any other things that we have done.

The last issue is theoretically we can be sued under the provisions of investor-State. Well, do not accept my word for how difficult that is. Let me quote this for you, from Phil Goff who said, and quite rightly so because he actually understands what he is talking about when it comes to this area: “The barrier to get investor-State dispute is very high, and the chance is very unlikely.”

We have had investor-State in this country for 30 years. Forget about a case being won. There has not been a case taken in 30 years.

Andrew Little came out with quite a little doozy when he was trying to summarise his position, and, to be granted, his press secretaries must have had quite a field day with that. He put up: “TPP highlights divisions in New Zealand.” The right heading, I should have pointed out to them, was: “TPP highlights divisions in the Labour Party.”

David Shearer and Phil Goff might be prepared to say what they think, but quite a lot of MPs are out there, talking to people in the business community. Names are getting named about who is quietly supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Labour Party ranks.

We know why Andrew Little is not. It is because every single union came out pretty much in opposition to it. We know who elected the Labour Party caucus. It was not the people sitting over there, but the union movement of New Zealand. They are opposed, and that is what it is. They are the two-position party.

It is not just when it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I remember in this House a very spirited debate about sending our guys, our men and women, over to Iraq to train people. I remember that spirited debate. What great work they are doing. We saw Ramadi taken back over Christmas—people trained by our men and women. I remember that debate.

At Christmas, despite Andrew Little telling us he did not want to send traitors, by Christmas he wanted to send the SAS. They are the two-position party.

When it comes to the flag I am not even going to bother. It is still on their website. Their position is still a change of flag by a referendum.

Let us get to the Government’s agenda. It is long and varied. Employment law will be an important piece of legislation passed this year, and important work done by the Government.

When it comes to pay equity, the Government is dealing with the issues of Terra Nova—the court cases there. We are working with the stakeholders. I think we are working very constructively there. We are looking for sensible and practical guidelines that can be implemented, and good progress is being made. Good progress is also being made on the minimum wage.

There is more to come from the Government on that front, but every year this Government has encouraged and put up the minimum wage, and of course we are seeing wages growing faster than inflation.

When it comes to legislation around minimum employment standards, that too is going through this Parliament in 2016 along with work around the zero-hour contracts.

When it comes to the costs for employers and employees, ACC, we are going to see those costs fall by $450 million in 2016. There is great work being done by the Minister and by the ministry.

When it comes to average motor vehicle costs for ACC, they are being cut by a third, down to, on average, about $130.

The Business Growth Agenda—it was good to see Winston Peters coming along and supporting Steven Little, our man—well, Steven Joyce. That would be Andrew Little. I forgot his name; he has had so much attention recently.

But the Business Growth Agenda, what is it going to do? There will be more of the regional programmes, more initiatives around tertiary education, more for ICT, more graduates in ICT, the roll-out of three graduate schools around the country, and the lifting of the number of engineers. It is about skills and innovation.

When it comes to apprenticeships, there has been a big increase in both the number of apprenticeships—those being trained—and particularly pleasing, a very big increase in the number of Māori and Pacific students doing well in our education system.

We can see that with the increase in the NCEA level 2 levels, we can see it through the numbers going through our universities in the successful completion rate, we can see it in our apprenticeships, we can see the growth in the Māori economy—and all of this happened on the back of the Business Growth Agenda, with more science and innovation, and certainly the National Science Challenge is helping to drive that.

I do not have a huge amount of time to go through all of the initiatives for education and health, but it is fair to say that the Government will invest more money this year—more money in both the infrastructure supporting our education and health systems, more availability for drugs in our community, more choice for people when it comes to education, and better opportunities to equip youngsters for modern New Zealand, providing access to not only world-class education but world-class health systems.

Infrastructure will be a big part of the Government’s programme for 2016. This year the Government will alone spend $6 billion in infrastructure.

What is fair to say is we build the infrastructure, and the Labour protesters lie in the middle of it—but at least it is providing some use for them from time to time.

But we will be at the table with the City Rail Link, we will be there with the East-West Link, doing work on that, the Waikato Expressway, more roading for Christchurch, and more regional roading projects. They are still cheering in Taranaki about Mt Messenger—still cheering about what has been happening there.

When it comes to housing affordability, Resource Management Act reform is high on the Government’s agenda. And for those parties who want to talk about housing affordability, the costs on business, and the costs on households, there is a simple solution: come to this Parliament and support sensible Resource Management Act legislation, and the Government will work with you. Connectivity is a big part of this Government, with the world with free-trade agreements but also with ultra-fast broadband—for that initiative of 80 percent, and also rural broadband.

And as I said, when it comes to housing there will be work in a number of areas including more land being released, work on withholding taxes and their implementation—and almost certainly for foreigners there—and of course, more work on the special housing areas.

When it comes to rental properties, legislation will be introduced in relation to the installation of smoke alarms in rental properties.

When it comes to the environment, there is the important legislation around the oceans sanctuary of the Kermadec Islands: 620,000 square kilometres going into an ocean sanctuary twice the land mass of New Zealand and the equivalent of the land mass of France—what a great way to preserve our environment.

And for the least well-off in our community, benefits will arise by $25 per week for beneficiaries with children from 1 April, there will be more obligations on sole parents, a major review of Child, Youth and Family—the review has been completed, the work has been done, and the Minister is now working on that.

When it comes to social housing we will see the transfer of social housing to social housing providers in Invercargill and Tauranga, new places in Auckland.

When it comes to Māori, there will be more work when it comes to Treaty settlements so that by 2017 all iwi who want to settle with the Government can. There is enormous work happening in the Te Ture Whenua Māori Act reforms.

When it comes to security legislation, the Government is working hard on the reforms being proposed in the new report by Patsy Reddy and Michael Cullen in relation to the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Security Bureau.

There will be the small issue of the flag referendum in March.

This is going to be a very, very busy year for a National-led Government. We are hungry, we are energetic, we are ready to go, and, unlike the Opposition, we are united. We know what we stand for and we know what we stand against.

We have many policies but we are on the same pages. We are the one-position party, and with great momentum for New Zealand.

Meanwhile the two-position party can spend the rest of 2016 arguing with each other, because they are the only people who are going to be listening to them—themselves.