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Andrew Little's Speech to Green Party AGM 2016

Thank you very much.

I have accepted the invitation to speak to your conference out of a profound sense of responsibility.

I am here because I believe those on the progressive side of politics owe it to New Zealanders to offer the hope that change is possible.


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We must show that there is a real alternative. A credible alternative.

An alternative government that can transform our economy, end our housing crisis and restore a sense of hope and optimism to Kiwis who have been struggling.

One that will ensure all New Zealanders get a fair reward for the work that they do and that no one is left out or left behind.

An alternative government built on a new politics of inclusion, ambition and optimism.

One that builds on the things we are proudest of about our country, and that removes the barriers which stop us living up to our potential.

I want to sincerely thank you, and the leadership of the Green Party for this invitation.

I want to particularly acknowledge your co-leaders Metiria Turei and James Shaw. I have to say I have learned a lot from working with them.

I have learned from James the importance of matching your tie to your political colours. He really does have every shade of green in that wardrobe.

And from Metiria, that you can live in a castle and still be a republican!

In all seriousness, I have thoroughly enjoyed working together. As members of the Green Party you can be genuinely proud of two talented and dedicated leaders, backed by a hardworking Caucus.

After eight years, the current government has lost touch.

With an economy tilted in favour of those at the top, with rising unemployment and declining real wages, it’s time for a change.

With a deep housing crisis, plummeting homeownership and children forced to sleep in cars, it’s time for a change.

With a health system stretched to breaking point and an education system going backwards, it’s well past time for a change.

We owe it to the young couples worried they’ll never be able to buy a home because our housing market is out of control.

We owe it to the elderly who’ve paid taxes all their lives only to be told they can’t have the surgery they need because there’s not enough money in the health system for them.

We owe it to our kids – I owe it to my son – to do our part in the fight against climate change – because they don’t have a future if our planet doesn’t have a future.

And here in Canterbury, we owe it to the thousands of people who this government has let down.

People like Loretta Te Paa who I met on a visit here a few months ago.

When the earthquake struck, Loretta and her family were living in Woolston. Their home was ruined so they had to move into a cold, tiny flat in the Linwood temporary village.

They were told they’d be there for 26 weeks.

They were stuck there for three and a half years.

People like Loretta and her family, they deserve better.

They need a government that will back them and stand up for them.

They won’t get that from the current government.

We saw this clearly just last week – they produced a budget that did nothing to solve our housing crisis.

That cut money from health in real terms while freezing spending in our education system.

It’s a budget that actually forecast falling wages in the years ahead.

And look at the way they’ve slashed the social safety net and thrown people on the scrap heap.

They sell off state housing and say community providers can do the job instead – and then they cut the funding to those providers.

They say their social investment approach will target programmes at people most in need, and then they underfund those programs.

They say it isn’t economic to provide emergency housing – so instead they pay hundreds of dollars a night to put some of our most vulnerable people in motels – and then give them the bill.

Just look at the issue of rising homelessness we are now confronted with.

More than 40,000 people sleeping in cars, in garages, in severely overcrowded houses. Sleeping on the street.

Children as young as 11 living under bushes in South Auckland.

That’s not New Zealand. That’s not the country we are proud of.

And the Government’s only response, when not blaming others, is blaming homeless people themselves.

So this week they say the homeless don’t want to be helped, they quite like being homeless.

And this from a Government eight years in office.

When did we decide that was the kind of country we wanted to be?

When did this kind of poverty become ok?

Because we all know it’s wrong.

We’re a wealthy country.

This kind of thing doesn’t have to happen.

It happens as the result of political choices.

Well we can choose a better way.

We can choose to lift people out of homelessness.

And together that’s exactly what we’ll do.

So here’s my message to the Prime Minister: You’ve had eight years. Take some responsibility. Act like a grown up and stop blaming others.

But this isn’t the only issue they’re failing New Zealanders on.

Take their absolute lack of ambition on climate change.

On protecting our environment.

On standing up for our neighbours in the Pacific.

Look at the way this government ducks any moral responsibility on the world stage, from the refugee crisis to the treatment of Kiwis on Christmas Island.

Look at all they’ve done in the last eight years and think about the all the damage they could do if we give them another three.

We can’t let that happen.

We can’t be a successful country when more and more of the gains from our economy go only to the few at the very top.

We can’t be a successful country when the dream of homeownership is slipping away.

After eight years, it is very clear, if we want New Zealand to succeed, we have to change the government.

More and more New Zealanders are telling me there needs to be a change.

But they are cautious about the alternative.

New Zealanders might have real concerns about the current government, but they aren’t going to blindly vote for a change without reason to believe they are trading up.

And if we are serious about being that change, then we’ve got to earn it.

We can take nothing for granted.

We have to be disciplined and focussed as well as bold and courageous.

New Zealanders won’t trust us with the responsibilities of government unless we show them we are ready.

18 months ago, I made the decision to run for the leadership of my party because I could see that things had to change.

I saw a country in which more and more of the nation’s wealth was going to those at the very top, and those who worked for a living were struggling to get a fair share and struggling to get ahead.

That’s not the New Zealand I want to be part of. It’s not the kind of country I want to leave to my son. We’ve got to change it.

In the last 18 months, Labour’s made great progress.

Our caucus is working well together.

We’re reforming our party.

And we’re building a policy platform that can serve as the core of the next progressive government’s agenda.

But in an MMP environment, that alone isn’t enough.

In our country, under our system, governments must be built on lasting, mature relationships between different parties that share a common vision for the future.

That’s why we’ve been strengthening our relationship and cooperation with the Greens.

We’ve worked closely on issues like our Manufacturing Inquiry and the future of our education system.

We’ve worked together to get the government to agree to devolve more power over the Canterbury recovery to smart local people on the ground.

And we attended the Paris Climate Conference jointly as opposition members of the official delegation.

It’s against that background that this week Annette King and I signed the memorandum of understanding with the Green Party.

We are building a stronger relationship because that’s what the future demands. That’s what New Zealand needs.

This won’t always be easy.

We won’t agree on every issue.

We are different parties and we come from different movements, each with our own approach and our own traditions and our own way of seeing the world.

There will be points of real difference and debate and disagreement.

But we can deal with them respectfully and maturely.

I know this because I know that together, we share a vision for a stronger, fairer New Zealand.

It’s a much more hopeful and optimistic vision for our future than the one the current government is pursuing.

The leadership I bring to the next progressive government will deliver a better future for our country.

The government I lead will operate under the principle that the economy is not an end in itself, but a means to the end of delivering a good and decent life to our people.

For us in Labour, at the core of our political tradition, at the core of my own beliefs, lies the dignity of work. The ability to earn so you can stand on your own two feet and chase your dreams and ambitions.

That’s what we stand for. Every New Zealander having that chance.

We stand for a responsible state which ensures no citizen is denied the basics that allow them to participate in our society and reach their potential.

What are those basics?

A warm, dry, safe home. A quality education. Healthcare that’s there for you when you need it. And a safe and secure community.

We know that wealth must be created before it can be shared.

We support an economy that creates the next generation of jobs, which adds to the nation’s wealth, which modernises our economy and improves our standard of living.

And we know that development that contaminates the air we breathe, that chokes our lakes and waterways, or that damages our planet doesn’t serve our people and that we can and must do better.

Those principles will guide the Government I lead and they will guide me as Prime Minister.

We will reform our economy so it works for everyone, not just the few at the very top.

That means more good jobs, higher incomes and everyone getting a fair reward for their effort.

It means fixing this housing crisis.

After eight years we will do what this government has just never been able to get the hang of:

Build. More. Homes.

We will restore the Kiwi dream of homeownership.

We will address the housing crisis and we will build state houses so that every Kiwi can have a roof over their head.

Under the government I lead, older people won’t need to wait for years in pain.

We will end the cuts in health and make sure Kiwis get the care they need.

And we will recommit our country to the principle of free education.

We will put money back into our struggling public school system and we’ll stop shovelling money into charter schools that are more interested in making money off kids than teaching them.

And we will deliver three years free post-school training and education. Because lifelong education is the path to a better future.

The government I lead will make our country a leader in the fight against climate change.

And the next government will stand up for people in Christchurch that this government has forgotten about.

We’ll get cracking with the central city development, and we will sort out the mess at Southern Response and EQC.

People have waited too long. They deserve better.

And let me be very clear on one more thing: the government I lead will make fighting child poverty a top priority.

We will not accept children going to school hungry or going to sleep in bedrooms that make them sick.

We’ll feed hungry kids in schools and we will bring in proper rental standards so that every child in New Zealand grows up in a home that is warm and safe and dry.

We won’t listen to the cynics who say the problem is too big or too hard. Who say that poverty is just a fact of life.

We won’t give up on lifting every child out of poverty.

I won’t give up. It’s not who I am.

Next year, New Zealanders will have a clear choice.

On one hand a tired, out of touch government that is increasingly looking after only the few at the very top, and that has presided over a stalling economy, growing inequality, and an endless housing crisis.

Or they can choose a new, progressive government – our government – with a better plan for the future.

Our government will back people to get ahead, and reward their effort and ambition.

Our government will deliver a better, fairer New Zealand.

In the next 18 months, let’s send a simple message to New Zealanders:

There is a real alternative.

It’s time for a change.

Together let’s change this country.

Let’s build a better New Zealand.

Let’s do this.

And we can do this together.

Thank you.


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