Ardern’s ‘state of the nation’ speech to Business New Zealand

Jacinda Ardern gave a speech to Business New Zealand yesterday. This is described by some as her ‘State of the Nation’ speech. Here is the Beehive transcript:


PM speech to Business New Zealand breakfast

Good morning everyone.

I want to start by thanking Kirk and his Business New Zealand team for the invitation.

It’s good to have this opportunity to join you as another year starts.

While this is my first economic speech of 2019 here at home, there has been plenty happening internationally since the year kicked off. I want to reflect on some of that this morning, but before I do, I’d like to take stock of our economic and business landscape, set out some of the challenges we face here and in an international context, and then outline our Government’s plan to address those over the coming year.

First though, I want to take a moment to reflect on the events in Tasman. Twelve months after facing a cyclone, the rain in Tasman has been replaced with a fire that when I visited yesterday, was 22km in parameter, and covered 1900 hectares. It has led to the evacuation of hundreds of homes, and roughly 400 people.

I have been in regular contact with our civil defence team, and evacuations are still happening as they try to predict where the wind movement may take the fire, all the while creating a parameter around it and using fire retardant to try and contain it from spreading across an area that is bone dry, and surrounded by forestry.

I spoke to a few people who had been evacuated yesterday. They told me what it was like to evacuate with only a few hours warning. But they didn’t dwell on that.

Mostly they reflected back to me the amazing work being done by emergency services, MPI, council, civil defence and others. So many who I met yesterday were volunteers. One of the coordinators of the many helicopters hauling water over the fire for eleven hours at a time was from Feilding and had travelled through the night to get there. He also happened to be colleagues with my first cousin – it was a true New Zealand moment.

Situations like this always reinforce to me something that you will intuitively know, we are a nation of extraordinary people. And I don’t separate out situations like this as being a one off example of who we are. The traits we have as a nation are there 24/7, and in many fields of work.

You see it in our social sector, our business community, and in our young and older citizens. The trick is to remember that, and for us as Government to bring together the many groups who want to tackle the big challenges we face regardless of which sector of our society that they may work within. We are not a nation of discrete compartments, so we should be facing our challenges together.

And when it comes to the economy, and the business environment, there are challenges.

There are also good reasons for us to be optimistic though.

Last year I talked about the elephant in the room. Pleasingly, the elephant has gotten a little bit smaller in the past 12 months. Perhaps it got to know its company and decided it wasn’t quite as scary as it first thought…

Either way, it’s pleasing progress and it is based on some strong fundamentals.

  • Yesterday’s employment data showed wages are growing and unemployment is at 4.3%, the second lowest in a decade. The lowest was of course last quarter, and we are confident that we’ll reach our 4% target by the end of our term.
  • Growth is relatively strong at around 3% and is forecast to stay close to that level in coming years. That looks particularly strong when compared to the IMF’s recently released forecasts for advanced economies that predicts average growth of about 2% a year.
  • Inflation is tracking at 1.9%, and food price inflation remains low.
  • And it is encouraging that one of the Big Three rating agencies recently gave our economic and financial management the thumbs up. Standards & Poor’s have revised its outlook on New Zealand’s AA foreign and AA+ local currency credit ratings from ‘stable’ to ‘positive’ – its strongest verdict on New Zealand since September 2011.
  • The latest Crown financial statements, released just yesterday, show that core Crown revenue and expenses are in decent shape and delivering a better than budgeted surplus. Running surpluses of course gives us the room to make important capital investments while keeping debt under control and importantly provides a buffer against external shocks and international headwinds.  

As you can see, on key economic measures the Government is delivering. There is good cause for the elephant shrinking.

But there is a shift in mood globally. While global economic growth remains strong, it is beginning to slow.

The IMF is projecting worldwide growth to ease from 3.7% in 2018 to 3.5% in 2019 due to rising trade tensions, political uncertainty and less stimulatory monetary and fiscal policy.

As I mentioned earlier, advanced economies are forecast to grow at only 2% a year.

The finger of blame for the slowdown in global trade growth is generally pointed at countries pursuing increasingly protectionist policies, which are naturally affecting confidence and investment plans.

Trade tensions in the wake of tariffs imposed by the US on Chinese imports dented the strong growth seen in 2017. And the worry for us is that further reductions in Chinese exports could cause a material slowdown in its economy, with adverse effects for New Zealand exporters.

And then there is Brexit.

As all of you will have no doubt seen, the final form of Britain’s exit from the European Union is yet to be decided.

Clearly, the risk of a no-deal scenario remains high. There is a lot of uncertainty around what such a scenario would mean, and while we are doing our best to create a buffer through, for instance, our recently signed mutual recognition agreement, a no deal Brexit could still do harm to EU economies or disrupt financial markets.

Political tensions are beginning to present serious risks to international institutions and the rules-based order that we rely on for security and prosperity. The World Trade Organisation, for example, and other multilateral organisations, are facing challenges to their legitimacy that undermine their effectiveness.

At Davos, a significant conversation revolved around how we could ensure the reform of these institutions, whilst not seeing them blamed for the current political environment which, ultimately, they didn’t cause.

But where does all of that leave a country like New Zealand? We have strong fundamentals and are well prepared, but we need to be realistic that if the global economy slows, it will affect our economic growth.

Now is then the time to take the foundations we have and to build on them. Now is the time to ensure we not only build greater resilience into our economy, but that we modernise it too.

This is a message that we have been sharing for some time, but that I recently heard reinforced by the IMF executive director Christine Lagarde.

We were at APEC in Papua New Guinea when I first heard her reiterate the message that policymakers need to make greater efforts to prepare for the slowdown, and that is a message we are heeding.

That’s why our economic plan includes the following key planks:

  • Doubling down on trade and broadening our trading base to protect our exporters and economy
  • Reform of skills and trade training to address long-term labour shortages and productivity gaps in the New Zealand economy, and to make sure we are prepared for ongoing automation and the future of work
  • Changes to tax to make the system fairer
  • Addressing our long-term infrastructure challenges
  • Transitioning to a sustainable carbon-neutral economy
  • And of course investment in wellbeing, because this is inextricably linked to our economic success too.

Trade

On trade, our experiences in the 1970s and early 1980s taught us there are no winners in trade protectionism.

By taking an active role in WTO reform efforts and by committing ourselves to diversifying our export markets through new and upgraded free trade agreements, we are strengthening our safety net.

At all the international forums I have spoken at in the last year I have made the case for the retention of an international rules-based trading system. I believe it’s incredibly important that we continue to be a leading voice on this, in order to retain a system that allows New Zealand exporters fair access to international markets.

With the CPTPP coming into force, 65% of our exports are now covered by FTA preferences which buttress and build on the WTO disciplines.

The Pacific Alliance and RCEP are making steady progress.

The upgrade of our agreement with China is ongoing and we are about to commence the same negotiations with ASEAN.

But a top trade priority this year is a positive conclusion to the EU free trade negotiations and the launch of free trade talks with the UK in the event of Brexit occurring.

On my recent trip to Europe I received assurances from the EU leadership of their desire to conclude an agreement by the end of this year. It’s an ambitious plan, and one we will pursue whilst also being mindful of getting a quality deal.

In the UK, Prime Minister Theresa May expressed her desire for New Zealand to be amongst the first nations they negotiate with, and for our part we made the case that given New Zealand’s expertise in this space we would make a logical partner to establish a benchmark for a high quality model agreement for the UK.

As importantly as the political assurances I received we also got positive backing from leading British business leaders for a high quality free trade deal as soon as practical after Brexit.

And at home, we are working to rebuild the social licence for trade. The Trade for All Advisory Board will continue meeting this year to look at how our trade policy works with other economic policy to deliver the benefits of trade to all New Zealanders.

Through this combination of trade and foreign policy initiatives we will strengthen our resilience to the risks we face from the uncertain global economy.

Of course it is not just in the international scene that our economy faces challenges.

Domestically we are seeing both short and longer-term issues that could constrain economic growth if left unaddressed.

Education and training

One such issue that the Government has big plans for in 2019 is around skills training.

Whenever I talk to business I hear a recurring theme around skills training and the gap between what business needs and what our training organisations provide.

Businesses are facing a constant struggle finding the people with the right skills at the right time to do the jobs that need to be done. Many of you here today have spoken to me about this issue.

In the past our economy has been too reliant on buying skills through immigration. Immigration is vital, but we need to get the balance right. I want us to focus on how we can be better at growing the skills our economy needs.

Without change, the challenge for businesses and Government is only going to increase.

We know the future of work will look very different than it does today.

A future when, by some estimates, a full one third of jobs in New Zealand are likely to be significantly affected by automation. That’s a million jobs.

For us as a government and you as a business community we cannot afford to let the skills gap continue to drift.

We need to act now.

The Coalition Government has already taken steps to make post-school education and training more accessible, with our fees free programme, which provides 2 years of free industry training and apprenticeships, or one year of free tertiary education.

We also announced changes to allow greater use of micro-credentials to ensure our system is more accessible and responsive to business needs.

My Business Advisory Council has also set skills as one of its key priorities. One of the ideas it has put forward which we are working through is how business themselves can take the lead in committing to reskilling their workforces.

The Government has also done some deep thinking on reforms that are urgently needed to the vocational education system.

The Minister of Education will next week announce proposals for consultation. They are far reaching. But we firmly believe they must be.

We currently have a vocational education system that is in many cases, struggling.

Take the building sector for example. We know we need more tradies and they are just not coming through fast enough.

That’s absolutely no reflection of the people who are involved in the sector – far from it. What it is, is a damning statement that the system has been left to drift, to muddle through.

How is it, for example, that at a time when we’re facing critical skill shortages, our polytechnics and institutes of technology are in many cases going broke?

Over the last two years this Government has been forced to spend $100 million to bail out four polytechnics, and that is a pattern that started before we took office.

That is not the sign of a healthy and sustainable sector.

We need to move away from the cycle that sees course delivery at institutes boom when the economic cycle turns down and then dive when the economy improves, while on-the-job training providers face the opposite cycle.

Instead of our regional polytechnics and institutes of technology retrenching, cutting programmes, and closing campuses, we need them to expand their course delivery throughout the country.

We want a sector that meets the needs of our economy. But the current system faces three major structural issues we need to fix.

It is not well coordinated or integrated. It is not easy for business to engage with and it delivers variable results across the country.

We have a duplication of courses and lack of consistency across the sector.

Many of the institutes face an issue of scale and insufficient capital to grow and respond. All of this is unsustainable.

Here is our vision – I want the vocational training system to be the backbone of our productive economy, and of our regions. I want students and parents to proudly choose a career in the trades and I want businesses to have confidence that the system is flexible and preparing a workforce for the future of work.

We need a model where businesses, iwi and local government in every region play an active role in driving skills development. We need a system of training and skills development that is more flexible and more nimble so we can get people with the rights skills into the right jobs much faster.

As I mentioned, we will be putting out some significant ideas in this area in coming weeks. Alongside our education sector, you have a crucial role to play in this matter and I do look forward to hearing your response to what will be some big new ideas.

But we haven’t just looked to the education sector to upskill our workforce, we have also looked for ideas to support you directly.

We are providing assistance in this regard through the Mana in Mahi training initiative, which provides a wage subsidy to businesses who employ as apprentices young New Zealanders who have been on a benefit for six months or more.

This policy is constructive for both businesses and workers, linking employers who need labour with young people in need of a career path.

I’ve met some of the young people in programmes like Mana in Mahi and He Poutama Rangatahi. They are our best salespeople for these types of initiatives.

Recently in Kaikohe a young woman told me all her friends want to join the course she was on. She is learning and earning and it was, in her own words, better than the street. Especially since she had become a supervisor.

Building a sustainable economy

In addition to skills the Government will use 2019 to contend with bigger, longer-term trends that will have a transformational affect on our economy. 

As I have said before, climate change is the defining issue of my generation.

We know that we all have to adapt now to avoid catastrophe for the generations to come.

We have a plan for a just transition to a low-emissions economy based on a more sustainable growth model. We want to ensure that this transition is phased and signalled early to give businesses and workers certainty and flexibility.

The Government will soon announce plans for legislation to establish an enduring institutional framework for managing the long-term transition to a low-emissions economy.

This legislation will contain legally binding emissions’ reduction targets and it will see the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, which will recommend emissions reduction budgets and provide advice on policy development and initiatives in transport, energy and primary industries.

The Government’s Just Transition work programme will assist New Zealand to successfully transition to a low-emissions economy.

The work programme includes looking at energy, regional economic development and workforce planning. It has a strong connection to education and skills development to create new jobs.

A Just Transition Summit in May this year will kick-start a national conversation about what the Just Transition means for New Zealand.

But it won’t just be a local conversation. We will be testing ideas that the world is interested in too. The conversations I had in bilateral meetings and conferences increasingly demonstrated to me that the world is not only looking for ideas, it is hunting for them. And New Zealand is on its list.

We recently announced a $100 million capital injection to New Zealand Green Investment Finance Ltd to stimulate new private sector investment in low-emissions industries. More and more investment dollars globally are looking for clean, sustainable ventures to invest in.

New Zealand Green Investment Finance Ltd positions New Zealand to attract its share of that investment capital, and will provide businesses with a pathway to being part of efforts to confront the greatest challenge facing the planet.

Another issue currently confronting the Government is inequality, and our commitment to bring fairness into our tax system.

We have long foreshadowed that we will deliver this year a response to the Tax Working Group.

There has been a lot of speculation on this topic of late, some of it feverish and not always accurate.

But my message to you this morning is succinct.

Yes, we have received the report of the Tax Working Group and, as we have shared publicly, it will be released on Thursday 21 February.

That report is now being pored over by officials, and discussed with Coalition and Confidence and Supply partners. Our plan is for the Finance and Revenue ministers to release the Coalition Government’s full response to the report in April.

Importantly though, the Working Group’s report will be shared with the public. There will be time for everyone to see that work, to debate what they have said and to share views. Anything we subsequently decide will also go through a consultation process before legislation and ultimately will be put to voters at the next election before it comes into force.

As we enter into a period of discussion and debate, I hope it’s guided by the overriding goal of fairness, and building an economy and system that works in the best interest of New Zealand and its people.

The Wellbeing budget

Finally though, a few words on what has become a significant topic of debate and discussion internationally. In fact I saw just yesterday the issue of wellbeing economics being discussed in a Swedish newspaper. I can’t tell you what it said but I am sure it was eminently sensible.

Our starting point for the Wellbeing Budget is that while economic growth is important, it alone does not guarantee improvements to New Zealanders’ living standards.

We want to take a much broader approach that uses the full range of factors that affect the quality of people’s lives.

So there will be measures that track the progress of our country based on what enables people to live fulfilling lives – things like material wealth; our capability as individuals, families and communities; and the health of our environment, such as the cleanliness of rivers.

We can all agree that New Zealand has seen solid rates of GDP growth over the past few years, and of course no one is suggesting we get rid of this indicator. But we also need to ask questions about the quality of that growth. An everyday New Zealander – hearing of the “rock star economy” while their housing costs are skyrocketing, or they can’t afford to send their kids to school with a proper lunch or their mental health is strained – tends to have their faith in the system and in institutions undermined.

So embedding wellbeing will require us to shift to a wider definition of success for our country, one that incorporates not just the health of our finances but also our natural resources, people, and communities.

It will represent a shift away from government departments thinking of their Budget bids in terms of their own appropriations, towards a focus on the outcomes they can achieve in collaboration with others.

All Ministers and departments have been asked to consider what they can contribute to the delivery of each of the Budget priorities.

This in itself is different and was the source of great interest when I was at Davos.

While deep reform will take time, the Government has already made significant strides. Treasury has created the Living Standards Framework, we are reforming the way the state sector works to give effect to a more collaborative way of working, and we will amend the Public Finance Act so that priorities around wellbeing are set each Budget. We are giving effect to the new approach in this year’s Budget.

The five Budget priorities this year are:

  1. To create opportunities for transitioning to a sustainable low emissions economy;
  2. Lifting Maori and Pacific incomes and opportunities;
  3. Supporting a thriving nation in the digital age through innovation;
  4. Reducing child poverty, improving child and youth wellbeing, including addressing family violence; and
  5. Supporting mental wellbeing for all New Zealanders, particularly those under 24.

In Davos the OECD Secretary General advised the Finance Minister and me that they would be reviewing the Government’s wellbeing approach and Budget in their country review this year, an indication of how closely the rest of the world is looking at this new model and what it can offer other countries.

The Wellbeing Budget is not only about improving the livelihoods of New Zealanders, it is key to ensuring we are protected from the international headwinds the economy may face. It will ensure that those closest to the margins are protected and that no one is left behind.

I want to conclude today by affirming the Government’s strong desire to continue partnering with business wherever we can. We will be using forums such as the Small Business Council, the Future of Work Tripartite Forum and my own Business Advisory Council to develop and test initiatives that can help improve business productivity and workers’ wellbeing. But more than that, to continue to work together.

As a country we face challenges on a number of fronts, but in these challenges the Government sees opportunities to build a more resilient economy and I know we are not alone in that.

By diversifying our trade opportunities, upskilling workers, leading the transition to a low carbon economy, ensuring fairness in the tax system and delivering our Wellbeing Budget we have a clear plan that will protect and improve the wellbeing of our people, our businesses, our communities and our environment.

I look forward to working with all of you in delivering on this in 2019. And perhaps along the way that elephant might keep getting a little bit smaller.

Trump’s State of the Union speech

President Donald Trump has given his ‘State of the Union’ speech.

RCP: Full Replay/Transcript: President Trump Delivers 2018 State Of The Union Address

It will please some, who would have been pleased regardless.

It will dismay some, who would have been dismayed regardless.

It will have angered some, who would have been angered regardless.

I really can’t be bothered checking it out, but here’s something on it from Politico: Trump offers same policies in new bipartisan packaging

In his first State of the Union address, the president positions immigration and infrastructure proposals as unifying initiatives.

In his first State of the Union address to Congress, President Donald Trump struck an upbeat, optimistic tone and promised to move forward with a “clear vision and a righteous mission — to make America great again for all Americans.”

Much of the speech sought to paint a portrait of a country moving ahead in a united fashion to ensure Americans a better political and financial future — a contrast in tone to the president’s often divisive rhetoric during the 2016 presidential campaign where his opponents received derogatory nicknames.

But Trump focused largely on familiar policy proposals, including on immigration and infrastructure, which he positioned as common-sense, mainstream ideas — even though Democrats have been cool or outright rejected them.

Nowhere has that been clearer than in the immigration plan outlined last week by the White House, which Trump said “generously” outlines a path to citizenship for 1.8 million undocumented immigrants, twice as many as are currently covered under President Barack Obama’s DACA program. He committed to ending the visa lottery system and eliminating immigration preferences for extended family in favor of what he described as a merit-based system, ideas Democrats say upend the tradition of immigration laws in this country.

“It is time to reform these outdated immigration rules, and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century,” Trump argued.

But the immigration policy details spoke to the hawkish side of Republican party — breaking with the speech’s theme of bipartisan cooperation.

Trump devoted the first part of the speech to the historic tax legislation passed in December along a party-line vote. He spoke fondly of its details, including a doubling of the child tax credit and an increase in the standard deduction; and of a skyrocketing stock market that he said has helped pad Americans’ 401(k) accounts, pensions, and college savings plans.

“The era of economic surrender is over,” he declared.

Absent from Trump’s speech was any direct mention of his predecessor — even though much of Trump’s work over the past year has involved undoing Obama’s legacy, or defining himself in contrast to his 2016 campaign rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump also made no mention of Russia or the ongoing investigations into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, a probe that has expanded to include the question of whether Trump or people close to him obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey.

The format of the speech played to Trump’s strengths by blending policy promises and prescriptions with stories of real Americans affected by the changes his administration has made — in an attempt to turn a prime-time speech into one slightly more connected to average Americans.

The Hill: Trump makes case he’s stoking American dream

President Trump called for bipartisan action on immigration and infrastructure in his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, asking a deeply divided nation to come together after a tumultuous first year in office.

The president said his agenda is working, arguing a growing economy that he linked to the tax-cut bill passed by Congress in December has created “a new American moment.”

“To every citizen watching at home tonight, no matter where you have been or where you come from, this is your time,” Trump said. “If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve absolutely anything.”

The address comes against the backdrop of a partisan divide in Washington that has deepened since Trump’s inauguration.

Democrats, many of whom brought “Dreamers” as guests to the president’s speech, booed and hissed when the president mentioned his plans to slash the number of people who immigrate to the U.S. through family connections — a practice Trump has decried as “chain migration.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), a key Democratic negotiator on immigration, shook his head when Trump mentioned his plan to eliminate the via lottery, which allows people

Virtually no Democrats applauded any aspect of Trump’s plan, which he called a “fair compromise — one where nobody gets everything they want, but where our country gets the critical reforms it needs.”

Representative Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) delivered the Democratic response.

 

Salvation Army ‘state of the nation’

The Salvation Army has put out their 10th annual ‘state of the nation’ report. They have titled it “Off the Track.


Executive Summary

The title of the 2017 State of the Nation report is, in part, inspired by the famous Robert Frost poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’. The final verse of this poem reads:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I— I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This poem describes the choice of which route or track to take, and acknowledges that this single choice made all the difference to what happened subsequently.

And so it is with our national life—the policy route chosen by a Government can make all the difference to what happens subsequently in our collective and individual fortunes.

The National-led Governments of the past eight years have made it very clear that their priority was economic growth and the increase in job numbers and the expansion of incomes that may attend this growth. And this has occurred —especially over the past five years. Such success should be acknowledged both as social progress in its own right and for the opportunities it offers for other sorts of social progress.

However, it is the lack of these other sorts of social progress that most concerns The Salvation Army and, no doubt, many other New Zealanders. This concern has given rise to the focus of this report. We ask: Are we still on the path or track to a shared prosperity as a national community, or have we started to wander off this track?

Three stark conclusions emerge for us from the data and analysis offered in this report:

  1. We have failed to put a dent in rates of child poverty over the past decade.
  2. Our efforts to reduce the prison population have failed and we are planning to expand the already record high prison population by a further 18%.
  3. Housing investment and speculation have been allowed to distort the economy, make us still more indebted, and create levels of homelessness unseen in more than a generation.

We believe the evidence to support these three claims is clear and unequivocal, and some of this evidence is offered in this report.

No matter how we choose to measure child poverty, the emerging conclusion is that nothing much has changed in child poverty rates despite continued economic growth and political rhetoric. A commonly used child poverty measure suggests that 20% of New Zealand’s children (or 212,000 children) live in relative income poverty, while perhaps 8% (or about 85,000 children) face severe material hardship. These numbers are little changed from a decade ago.

salvationarmy-the-children

While a reliable way of measuring crime rates continues to elude us, it does appear that levels of offending are falling. For example, the number of adults convicted of an offence fell from 90,700 in 2010/11 to 64,600 in 2015/16. Despite this fall, New Zealand’s prison population has grown from 8,400 at the end of 2011 to almost 10,000 by the end of 2016. Furthermore, in October 2016, Government announced a $1 billion plan to expand prisons by a further 1,800 beds.

salvationarmy-crime-and-punishment

Auckland’s housing bubble continued to grow during 2016, with the median house price jumping 12% to almost $854,000. Median house prices New Zealandwide grew 12% during 2016 as well, indicating that Auckland’s housing pressures are spreading elsewhere. Alongside these price increases, rents have also increased—growing by around 25% over the past five years, while average wages have risen by half this amount. There is considerable regional variation in these rent increases, with Auckland rent increases slowing recently, while rents in the Waikato have suddenly jumped.

As could perhaps be expected, this rapid increase in house prices has been supported by growing household indebtedness. By September 2016, household debt amounted to 96% of GDP and 160% of disposable household income—both are record highs.

The Government’s strategy has been to drive economic growth, and through this expand job opportunities and incomes. Over the past five years, it has delivered on this strategy—with jobs growing by more than 12% to over 2.5 million and average weekly incomes of employees growing 9% to $987 per week at the end of 2016.

But more jobs and better incomes for those with jobs are not the only contributor to social progress. It is difficult seeing social progress if homeownership rates continue to fall and homelessness becomes more prevalent. A growing prison population is the antipathy of social progress. It is difficult seeing social progress in persistent rates of child poverty—even as the economy grows robustly.

As Robert Frost deduced, the choices made in the past make all the difference to the life we end up living. This is as true of nations as it is of individuals. It appears to The Salvation Army that, either by neglect or silence, we have made political and social choices that have paid scant regard to the interests and future of thousands of New Zealanders —especially our young. This neglect or silence needs to be recognised and addressed if we are to get back on track.

Alan Johnson | Social Policy Analyst Social Policy and Parliamentary Unit

> Download the 2017 Off the Track Report (PDF, 2.37MB)

> Download the 2017 Off the Track Report Summary (PDF, 40.5KB)

Little on leadership and English

This is the ‘latest’ on the Labour Party website (they post more often on Facebook), a critique of Bill English’s state of the nation speech by Andrew Little:

My thoughts on Bill English’s State of the Nation speech

This afternoon, Bill English delivered what was supposed to be his first major speech as Prime Minister. But instead we got a skinny version of a Labour policy, and no new ideas for the biggest challenges facing New Zealand.

That’s rather ironic given that Little announced no new Labour policy in his state of the nation speech.

And it reaffirmed to me that he is no leader.

A real leader wouldn’t ignore the housing crisis, the single biggest issue facing thousands of Kiwis struggling to buy their first home. There wasn’t one mention of it in his entire speech.

Leadership is about looking out for the future and braving the big decisions – not ignoring problems because they’re hard. I know there’s a housing crisis, and Labour has a comprehensive plan to fix it.

And a real leader would’ve announced the funding of extra police officers last year, like I did. Instead, Bill English signed off on a four year freeze on police numbers – and less than a year later, he’s backtracked. He’s a follower, not a leader.

One can easily see this as cynical timing in an election year, but calling it a backtrack by a follower sounds quite odd.

Labour has known there’s a crime problem for a long time and we’ve come up with a solution. Making the right decisions at the right time, not months afterwards – that’s what real leadership is about.

It’s time for a Government with vision, energy and a real plan to make New Zealand a better place.

Let’s change the Government. You can read my State of the Nation speech with our vision of New Zealand here.

That’s the speech without any new policy.

Real leadership would show more vision than a fairly lame attack on the current leader. Rather than putting so much emphasis on trying to belittle his opponent Little should, well, act like he can be a leader.

Bill English to actually speak today

Bill English has had an inauspicious start to election year. He has been hammered this week for his tardiness and lack of response to Donald Trump’s immigration orders. As Prime Minister he needed to be careful, but he needed to be seen to say something, much faster.

Yesterday he got some attention when he announced the election date – September 23. He also gave some hints about his approach to the election and it’s aftermath.

Vernon Small:

Meanwhile some of the themes – and be prepared to be bored by them before too long – have started to emerge.

English’s one word summary was “growth”. But he also hammered the leftward drift and policy-free plans of Labour and the Greens … and seemed to love the suggestion that they were all about the “vibe” – though that was one reporter’s commentary on the Labour-Green state of the nation speeches, not something the parties themselves were saying.

On the other side, Labour and the Greens are hammering English’s lack of “leadership” – on anything from his limp response to Donald Trump’s immigration announcements to not going to Waitangi and not standing a candidate in Mt Albert.

It’s a two-pronged message; to make English look weak and remind voters that the leader they liked so well – Key – is no longer there.

Sam Sachdeva at Stuff: Economy to take centre stage at September 23 election, PM Bill English says

Prime Minister Bill English saying the economy will be at the heart of National’s bid for a fourth term.

That’s very unsurprising.

“New Zealand is well placed compared to many other countries. That’s down to the hard work of households and businesses across the country, backed by the National-led Government’s clear and successful plan for our future.

“The challenge for our country now is to sustain that growth and build on it to deliver more again for all New Zealanders.”

Asked to sum up the election in one word, English replied, “Growth”.

He believed it was unlikely immigration would be a major issue at the election, with all forecasts indicating there would be a slowdown in the number of immigrants arriving.

English said National’s preference was to work with its current partners – UnitedFuture, ACT, and the Maori Party.

While describing Winston Peters’ party as “an inward-looking party who believe in a closed-up New Zealand”, English would not “rule in or out” choosing Peters as deputy prime minister.

Today English will give his ‘State of the Nation’ speech, and he promises a contrast with Labour and the Greens, saying he will actually announce major policy.

Tune into Prime Minister Bill English‘s Facebook page from 12.30pm today as he live streams his first speech of the year.

This is Bill’s first big test as a lead campaigner. Expectations are that he will be competing with Andrew Little on boredom.

Labour-Green ‘State of the Nation’

Today Andrew Little and Metiria Turei gave a joint Labour-Green ‘State of the Nation’.

I’ve been away and haven’t heard or seen anything about it so for now I’ll rely on RNZ: Labour, Greens deliver joint State of the Nation speech

In a symbolic move, Labour and the Greens have launched their election year campaigns with their first joint State of the Nation event in Auckland.

The speeches, delivered by the Labour leader Andrew Little and the Greens co-leader Metiria Turei contained no new policy, but send a clear message to voters the two parties will work closely this year.

We have already had the signal that they will work closely this year, up until the election.

No new policy is odd.

Both emphasised the “shared values” of the two parties, while launching an attack on the National-led government and new Prime Minister Bill English.

Mr Little laid out his party’s campaign priorities of jobs, affordable housing and a better standard of living.

Same old.

Mr Little criticised Mr English, calling him a “competent bean counter” and saying since taking office he had “failed the first tests of leadership” by refusing to commit to fighting harder to reduce poverty, or solve the housing crisis.

He said Mr English should front up in Waitangi next weekend, and that he should have sacked his friend and Cabinet colleague in last year’s reshuffle.

Not sure that going negative on English is a smart move, bashing Key for a decade didn’t seem to work very well.

Ms Turei acknowledged the former party co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons for her environmental campaigns and the battles of the late Helen Kelly for employee rights.

That doesn’t have much to do with this year’s election.

She talked about the walk out in Parliament last year by female Green and Labour MPs in response to accusations by then-Prime Minister Jon Key that opposition MPs were “backing the rapists” during a debate over New Zealanders held in detention in Australia.

“That was a moment when our parties stood together and stood up for our values.

“I don’t need to ask the values of the people here. Or to look up feminism in the dictionary, unlike Bill English.

Speaking to an audience who already support her by the sound of that. I don’t think it’s attractive to a wider audience.

I can’t find Little’s speech on the Labour website or on their Facebook yet, but The Standard has the transcript: Andrew Little – State of the Nation speech

Turei’s speech transcript is here and The Standard are discussing it : Labour Greens joint State of the Nation livestream and discussion

Quite a bit of trouble with the streaming apparently.

NZ Herald: Highlights: Little and Turei’s big speeches

 

ACT on housing, housing and housing

David Seymour gave his first ‘state of the nation’ speech yesterday. It doesn’t seem to have attracted a lot of media attention, with most political focus on the annual party pilgrimage to Ratana.

It is all about housing and associated issues like the Resource Management Act.

Video:

Stuff: ACT leader David Seymour calls for action on housing affordability

ACT Party leader David Seymour has told the Government to “get some guts” and stop tinkering with housing policy.

Giving his “State of the Nation” speech in Auckland on Monday, Seymour said everyone knew housing had become a problem but nothing had been done.

In the past 30 years the number of homes built per capita had halved and created an asset bubble that was a risk to New Zealand’s economy, he said.

NZ Herald: David Seymour: Kiwi politicians need to have ‘guts’ to address housing affordability

New Zealand’s politicians need to get the “guts” to introduce major reform aimed at tackling housing affordability, ACT Party leader David Seymour says.

…he said ACT would boost housing supply by making it easier to build new homes and shortening approval times.

“We can’t just tinker … we need to act,” he said.

“If ACT holds the balance of power after this year’s election, we’ll be ensuring that the government accepts the housing market is dysfunctional and reforms the fundamentals.”

Speech notes: David Seymour: State of the Nation Speech

ACT’s policy summary:


The House Price Problem

ACT believes that the cost of housing is unacceptably high. Auckland has a significant housing shortage. The price of an average house in Auckland is nearly ten times the income of an average household. Internationally, three times the median income is considered ‘affordable’. The high price of houses means mortgage payments and rents are higher. Household budgets feel the pressure.

The high cost of housing is widening the gap between people who own houses, and who don’t. People who own houses have increasing wealth as house and land values increase. People who don’t are paying more in rent and their income is not keeping pace. It is getting harder for renters to save for a deposit on their house. High rents are a cause of deprivation for low-income families.

The housing shortage is placing costs on taxpayers as well. The high cost of private housing means the Government spends more on social housing through the Income Related Rent subsidy, and funds more support in Accommodation Supplements.

The Resource Management Act:

ACT believes that the major cause of the housing shortage in our cities is the RMA. Council plans and policies under the RMA determine whether enough houses will be built.

The Act gives too much power to councils to restrict development. It requires councils to provide for environmental protection and conduct consultations, but doesn’t require them to consider property rights of owners, economic growth or provide for an adequate supply of housing.

The number of new dwellings consented nationwide each year is still well below its peak of 39,000 in 1974. The Government’s Housing Accords and Special Housing areas have been a band-aid on a broken planning system but they do not address the fact that the RMA in its current form is not fit for purpose to deal with a major housing shortage in our main urban centres.

ACT’s Housing Affordability Policy

ACT believes that the shortage of housing can be filled by private developers, when local and central government get out of the way. We would change the planning law that controls development of cities, and we would give councils the funding incentives to approve more consents. We care about the social impacts of high house prices, and believe the shortage of housing is a problem that can be solved by making our planning and building laws fit for purpose.

Take Cities Out of the Resource Management Act.

ACT would rewrite the Resource Management Act, and introduce new supply-focused urban planning legislation for cities of 100,000 people or more. Urban environments, and areas at the edges of our cities should not be regulated and protected in the same ways as undeveloped natural environments.

ACT’s urban development legislation would prioritise supplying land and infrastructure, in response to demand. We would set price thresholds above which land would be automatically released for development. It would include obligations to set out future infrastructure corridors.

We would make zoning less restrictive, with fewer levels and types of zoning. We would strengthen property rights for existing owners by limiting objection rights to people who are directly affected, rather than allowing third parties to have a say.

Share GST Revenue to Build Infrastructure.

ACT would share a portion of GST revenue collected from the construction of new housing with the local council to incentivise them to approve planning of new homes.

The shared revenue would help cover the cost of infrastructure like roads, water and sewerage which councils must build to support new development. The cost of this infrastructure currently disincentivises approval of new houses and subdivisions.

We also allow councils to use more flexible funding mechanisms for infrastructure. This could include permitting special targeted rates on new developments, to pay for the new infrastructure. Councils need both more flexibility and stronger incentives to plan for more housing.

Compulsory Insurance for New Buildings.

ACT would reduce the cost of compliance for builders, and reduce the financial risk on councils, by removing council building certification, in favour of a compulsory bond or insurance over new buildings. Requiring insurance for the replacement of the building would ensure standards are upheld while reducing the time spent on council inspections and red tape.

Replacing council building certification with compulsory insurance would incentivise insurers to find the most reliable builders and best building supplies to insure. The builders’ incentive would be to get the best premiums and service, by proving they are building high-quality homes. Insurers could sign-off on building materials that are certified overseas, where councils are reluctant to today.

This is an agenda to fundamentally reform the housing market. Our great country deserves nothing less from its politicians.

David Seymour – ACT Leader

Andrew Little’s speech – 3 years free education

Andrew Little will give his ‘State of the Nation’ speech today, now at the earlier time of 1 pm.

Counting down to my speech at 1pm (note new time). Exciting times ahead, excited to be talking about big vision, bold policy

From Facebook:

If you’re in Auckland, come along to Albert Park with your friends and family from noon. Bring a picnic blanket and some food and make an afternoon of it.

Earlier:

This Sunday at 2pm in Auckland, I’ll be delivering my State of the Nation speech.

I’m announcing an exciting new initiative that will make a huge difference to New Zealanders and will play a major role in rebuilding the Kiwi Dream.

It has been suggested the new policy is related to reducing tertiary education costs.

During the speech, my team will be providing updates through Facebook and Twitter — and you can watch a live stream on my Facebook page.

Make sure that you like us on Facebook (here and here) and follow us on Twitter (here and here) to get the latest.

I’m really looking forward to sharing our vision with you.

http://thestandard.org.nz/andrew-littles-state-of-the-nation-speech/

This is an important speech for Little after the TPPA ructions this week.

UPDATE: I can’t find how to get live streaming but there’s reports on Little’s belated speech on twitter. And Newstalk ZB reports:

Labour pledges free tertiary education

The Labour Party have announced they will give people three years free tertiary education or apprenticeship funding if they got into government.

The scheme would be made available to people of any age who don’t already have a degree or other qualification.

Labour claims it will cost $265 million a year from 2019, rising to $1.2 billion when it is fully implemented in 2025

While people hold off getting tertiary education in the hope that Labour will get to form the next Government and will have the necessary support to pass this. It’s unlikely to address NZ First constituency.

More detail from NZ Herald: What does the policy contain?

• Three years of free post-school education over a person’s lifetime.

• Can be used for any training, apprenticeship or higher education approved by NZQA and can be used for full-time or part-time study. The three years don’t have to be used all at once.

• Will cost $1.2 billion a year by 2025, with the first phase funded from money earmarked by the government for tax cuts.

• Would be introduced in phases, with one year’s education available from 2019, two years from 2022 and three years available from 2025. It will not affect the existing living allowances and course-related costs.

• The first year will be available to all new school leavers from 2019 for all NZQA approved courses, including all apprenticeships, and to every New Zealander who has had no previous tertiary education.

• There will be no age limit, reflecting the increased importance of lifelong learning in the 21st Century economy.

• To be eligible for the second and third year, graduates will need to pass more than half their courses in the first year.

The Herald also has Labour’s supporting documents.

 

Metiria Turei’s State of the Nation Speech

Metiria Turei gave Greens annual ‘State of the Nation’ speech yesterday. It was more a State of the Greens speech, which is fair enough.

The worst part was the last line – “Together we are heading towards a beautiful tomorrow.” Her Green fans will probably love that but I doubt if it’s a new vote winner.

The best part was a proposal to establish an election policy costing unit in Treasury.

Today, the Green Party has sent a letter to each party leader, asking for support from across the House to establish an independent unit in the Treasury to cost policy promises.

Political parties could submit their policies for costing to this independent unit, which would then produce a report with information on both the fiscal and wider economic implications of the policy.

This was well reported and applauded. More about this in a separate post.

She promoted Green policy successes from outside Government over the years and tried to overcome one of their problems.

And I hear the same doubts expressed about the Greens as they said to Savage. We like you. We like your ideas. We’re worried about the future. But you’ve never been in government before, so how can we trust you with our vote? It’s a Catch-22.

So today I want to talk about these reservations people have about us and tell you why you can trust us with your vote and with the responsibility of helping to govern the country.

She tried to dispel the notion that Greens were radical, trying to attack that label to National.

The first thing I want to talk about is this idea that the Greens are too radical. Too outlandish. We have all these audacious ideas that won’t work in the real world.

There are two lessons here. The first is that ideas that are attacked as radical when the Greens propose them become conventional, sensible solutions very quickly when other parties adopt them. That tells us something about the gap between perception and reality when it comes to the Green Party.

The second is that if you still think Green ideas are too radical for government then you have a problem. Because no matter which party you vote for, a lot of the new ideas and new solutions still come from us.

It’s not radical to stand against the disintegration of our environment and our society. It would be radical not to do so.

The solutions to the problems we face are not radical, or outlandish, the solutions are transformative.

Instead she claims the current and previous governments have been radical.

We think that the economic experiment imposed on our country over the last thirty years is radical. We think that doubling the number of dairy cows and the increasing pollution killing our rivers and streams is radical. We think a government that wants to mine our national parks is fanatical. We think the steep rise in child poverty and poverty related child death is radically irresponsible.

However most people won’t read about this attempt at a radical shift in radicalism. It’s a hard argument for Greens to make.

Saying ‘radical’ ten times in speech trying to dispel a perception of Greens being radical is unlikely to dissociate them from the term.

But Turei got some useful headlines, on a practical policy suggestion – costing policies – that is a good approach from a party from Opposition.

So overall it was a useful speech that had an impact, padded out with most parts that are unlikely to reach any new voters let alone swing them towards the Greens.

Most people won’t even care about costing policies, there’s a lot of scepticism of election promises regardless of who has costed them.

“Together we are heading towards a beautiful tomorrow” sounds like wistful Green dream of utopia if only the people would listen and understand. Most of them never will.

Full speech: Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei’s State of the Nation speech

 

State of the Nation speeches

Today there will be two State of Nation speeches.

Metiria Turei will give a State of the Nation today, at 12:30 pm today at the National Library in Wellington.

This will be live streamed: http://livestream.com/nzgreens/StateoftheNation

No mention of this on their website but it is on their Facebook page.

Winston Peters will also give NZ First’s State of Nation speech tonight, again not on their website but details are on their Facebook page:

The Rt Hon Winston Peters will be giving his state of the nation speech at the Orewa Rotary Club at 6pm.

Orewa Rotary Club
Rotary House
War Memorial Park
4 Hibiscus Coast Highway
Silverdale

This will compete for media attention with another political event tonight in which another NZ First MP will be speaking:

NZ First Trades Spokesman Fletcher Tabuteau – NZ First MP will be part of a political panel about the TPPA at Auckland Town Hall at 7pm.

Auckland Town Hall
Queen Street
Auckland Central
Auckland

I get the impression that the TPPA event will be in Auckland.

Metiria will also be on the political panel at the TPPA meeting.