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Andrew Little: Speech to Labour Party Conference

E nga mana

E nga tapu

E Te whanau o te roopu reipa

Tena koutou katoa

Talofa lava

Kia orana

Malo e lelei

Nǐ hǎo

Namaste

Jacinda, thank you so much for that introduction.

Can I acknowledge party president Nigel Haworth, and all of our hard working New Zealand Councillors.

I want to thank our wonderful MPs. You are well served by your caucus. There’s only one problem – there isn’t enough of them.

Winning Mt Roskill and getting Michel Wood adds one. Next year, we add more.

I also want to acknowledge the great team who’ll be leading the campaign next year. Our wonderful new General Secretary and campaign manager Andrew Kirton, and Campaign chair Phil Twyford.

I especially want to thank my deputy Annette King. You know, last year a journalist described Annette as a cross between your favourite grandmother and a Mafioso boss. I make no comment on that, but Annette’s doing a great job.


Watch Andrew's Speech:


Last, and most of all, I want to acknowledge you, our fantastic party members.

I’ve had the chance to see many of you over the last two years.

Those of you who saw a certain rug probably got a chance to see more of me than you wanted.

Honestly though, I was very flattered by that rug’s depiction of me.

They really made my arms look much bigger than they are.

I think the style of art for that rug is called socialist realism. I’m just thankful it wasn’t cubism.

Delegates, we’ve had a fantastic conference.

Yesterday we launched out Future of Work report, which yet again proved Labour is the party of ideas in New Zealand. Grant Robertson thank you for leading this very important project.

For over 100 years now, Labour has been New Zealand’s party of ideas. No organisation in our country’s history has the same record of delivering progress for our people.

From building the welfare state to restoring the mana of the Treaty of Waitangi;

From going nuclear free to winning marriage equality;

From our first sovereign wealth fund to tackling the future of work, Labour is the party that has done the things that define us as a country, and that laid the foundations for progress for our great nation.

That is our legacy. It's up to all of us to build on it.

Section One: Helen Kelly

I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to Helen Kelly.

The Labour movement has lost a warrior.

New Zealand has lost one of its greatest daughters.

And many of us have lost a friend.

All our thoughts are with Steve, Dylan, Cath, and Max as they come to terms with losing Helen.

To them, Helen was a partner, a mother, a daughter, a sister.

To all of us, Helen was a champion, an advocate, an agitator. She was an inspiration.

Whether she was fighting for fair wages, safety at work, or for access to medicine, Helen epitomised the best of New Zealand values.

When she saw others in need, she offered to help.

When she saw wrong, she strove to right it.

Helen stood in no one's shadow, and we will miss her greatly.

But, delegates, Helen would say:

“Don’t mourn, organise.”

The best way to honour Helen’s memory is to keep fighting without tiring, without flinching. To never give up and to make the changes  we need.

Delegates, I’ve been the Leader of our Party for nearly two years now.

In that time, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some incredible New Zealanders.

Kiwis who are doing amazing things, leading the world, helping others.

People like Peter Beck of RocketLab whose passion for outer space and sheer determination will see New Zealand as one of the few countries in the world offering commercial services in small satelite deployment. Which for me was unthinkable as a 15 year old bopping to Mi-sex singing Space Race.

People like the senior boys at St Thomas College in Christchurch who, every year, enter the nationwide young enterprise scheme, and insist on an entry that has social benefits, not just commercial benefits. And who every year win recognition for the quality of their entry and the compassion behind it.

People like the young couple who ten years ago started an online retail business in their garage selling baby clothes, who now, have a staff of 15, and insist that no one gets paid less than the living wage.

It comes down to this. We are a great country because we are a great people.

We’re fair minded.

We are not, by nature, mean-spirited.

We’re ambitious and we grab opportunities with both hands.

If you give New Zealanders a fair chance, a decent shot, there’s nothing we can’t achieve.

Delegates, that’s what our party has always believed.

For 100 years now, we’ve stood for that fair go. For everyone.

Our time in government has been about building a country where everyone can live up to their potential and no one is left out or left behind.

And right now, that is the approach we need more than ever.

Because there’s another side to our country today.

For all the great things Kiwis are doing, too many people are missing out.

Inequality and poverty are rising.

The housing crisis is raging on.

And the things people rely on to give them opportunity – the health services to keep us well, the police to keep us safe, and the schools for our kids – all those things are under pressure. 

So while more than ever goes to those already doing very well, it’s getting harder for everyone else to get ahead.

It’s like there’s a party on the top two floors in New Zealand, but no one else is invited.

Delegates, we have the opportunity in front of us to change all of that.

Section three: The choice we have to make

In my speech last year, I talked about the Kiwi Dream.

It’s pretty basic stuff.

A decent job, more money in your pocket at the end of the week, a warm, dry home, a good school for your kids and a healthcare system that’s there when you need it.

This year, I want to tell you about the chance that’s in front of us to make that dream a reality for every New Zealander.

We meet this weekend at a time of real opportunity for our country.

We’ve come through a rough time economically.

Fortunately, New Zealand was in a better position than most to weather that storm.

Thanks to successive governments, our banking system was in better shape than many in Europe and North America.

And thanks to Sir Michael Cullen, our public debt in 2008 was virtually zero. Zero.

So when the crisis hit, New Zealand was ready.

Our good position means we’ve come out of the shadow of the GFC faster and in better shape than most other countries.

That means we are now in a position to finally address many of the challenges we face as a country. We have billions of dollars of new debt to repay.

Contributions to the Super Fund were stopped and we are way behind what is needed for the future cost of superannuation.

And there is the urgent need to invest in our people, and invest in their future.

Delegates, it’s time that every New Zealander got to benefit from the good times ahead.

That’s the choice in front of us. That’s the decision we have to make.

Do we choose to stick with business as usual? Do we keep throwing more money at those already doing well.

Keep running down our schools and our hospitals. Keep eroding the things that give people the foundation to get ahead.

Or do we invest in people?

Invest in the things that give people opportunities.

Better schools. Better healthcare. Safer communities.

An end to the housing crisis that’s causing so much misery.

That's the choice we have.

Delegates, that is the fight in front of us at next year’s election.

If we want to change what’s happening now, we have to change the government.

We have to win.

The last two years has been about getting our great party ready to do just that.

The results of the local elections show we can campaign to win. The polls show it’s a neck and neck race between the centre-left and centre-right blocs.

This is a straight fight, and I’m up for it, we’re up for it and I’ll tell you this:

We’re going to win.

We’re going to win because New Zealanders know it’s time to back our people.

It’s time to invest in the future.

It’s time to put people first.

Section Five: National’s Plan

And look, we can do so much better than what this Government is offering.

They’ve been very clear about the path they want us to take.

We should give them credit for that, they’ve been very up front about it.

No, I’m serious. They’ve been straight up about what they’d rather do.

They’re proud of their plan. Really.

Do you know what it is?

It’s pretty simple:

Tax cuts.

That’s it. That’s their answer.

After eight years, it’s pretty much all they’ve got left.

At next year’s election, they’ll be asking you to believe that shaving a few points off the top tax rate is the height of what we can achieve as a nation.

They’ll be asking you to believe that moving from the fifth lowest taxes in the OECD to the fourth lowest is the best we can hope for.

And look, I get that this government’s never met a tax cut they didn’t like.

The economy is in trouble in 2010? Well, time for a tax cut to get things growing again! Because you know, trickle down and all that.

The economy’s on the rebound in 2016? Thank god, now we can do tax cuts!

Here's the reality about the last lot of tax cuts: it didn’t actually make that much of a difference for most people, while the ones already doing well got a big boost.

That’s the problem with tax cuts – those who already have the most always get the most.

And when National’s talking about three billion dollars a year in tax cuts, that’s a lot of money to give away to the very rich.

And to pay for that, they'll keep running down our schools and our hospitals. They'll keep underfunding the very things we should be investing in.

This is an empty, small minded vision for our future. And in this election, together, we're going to show New Zealand a better way.

Delegates, Labour offers a much more hopeful vision for our country.

While National looks to give more than ever to those at the very top, we will invest in people.

We’ll build on everything we love about our country and together we will leave it even better for future generations.

A country that is more prosperous. That is more just. That has more opportunities for all our people.

Let’s start with housing.

Everyone except National agrees we have a housing crisis in New Zealand.

Not a housing “challenge,” or a housing “issue.”

It’s a crisis.

It’s a crisis when home ownership is at its lowest level in 65 years.

It’s a crisis when speculators are having a field day but nurses and teachers and police officers can’t afford to buy a home in Auckland.

And it’s a crisis when more and more of our families are having to sleep in garages and in cars.

You’ve all heard about the family living in a van in South Auckland, with an 11 year old girl struggling to do her homework in a dimly-lit back seat.

That’s a tragedy but they’re not alone.

Lynette Haines lives in Tauranga.

She’s 69, she’s worked all her life and she’s been forced to live in a campground for the last six months because she couldn’t afford a home, and now she faces being evicted from there as well.

69 years old, a lifetime of work, and you end up living in your car.

How the hell does that happen in a country like ours?

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

We never voted for that.

That’s not the New Zealand I know. That’s not the country I love.

Well, I say: no more.

We're not going to let people languish in poverty like this.

We're not going to let our families be shut out of the housing market any longer.

We're not going to sit on the sidelines, we're going to roll up our sleeves, get stuck in, and fix housing once and for all.

That means 100,000 new affordable homes for first home buyers.

And we'll establish an Affordable Housing Authority to work with developers, cut through the delays and get those homes built fast.

And we will end the tax loopholes that the big property speculators use to rack up their super-profits.

We’ll scrap the negative gearing tax break they use and if they buy a property to flip it within five years, they’ll pay the full tax on it.

That’s my message: no more free rides for the speculators and a fair shot for first home buyers at last.

With our plan, the difference is clear. We are the party of homeownership.

If you’re trying to save to buy a home, Labour will help make it happen.

And if you want to see an end to homelessness in New Zealand, Labour is the party that'll do it.

No child in our country should have to do their homework in the backseat of a car because they don’t have a home.

It’s wrong and under Labour, those days are over.

We’ll build new state houses and invest in emergency housing as well, so every Kiwi family can have a roof over their heads.

Delegates, the next part of our plan is about investing in our future.

It’s about restoring the things that give people opportunity.

It starts with making sure we’re giving all our kids the best education we can.

I remember the first day Leigh and I sent our son Cam off to Island Bay Primary.

Letting your child go for the first time, watching them walk through those school gates on their own, it can be anxious time for every parent.

But I remember the peace of mind that came from knowing he was going to a great school, where the teachers would do everything they could to give him the best start.

Finding a good school for your child shouldn’t be a lottery.

Every Kiwi kid deserves a world class education, no matter how much money their parents have.

So we’ll turn around National’s legacy of failure on education.

That means saying no to bulk funding and larger class sizes.

It means no more public money for dodgy charter schools.

It means ending the funding freeze for our public schools.

We have some of the best teachers in the world, and we’re going to back them to do what they do best: change children’s lives.

Delegates, we’re also going to undo the damage that National has done in health.

You all know the old saying that health cuts don’t heal.

Well, National has underfunded health by $1.7 billion over its time in office.

The health budget simply hasn’t kept up with a growing population and rising costs.

And that means people are missing out.

Get this, in the last year 45,000 New Zealanders were told they needed hospital treatment, but when they got there the local hospital told them they couldn't afford to treat them.

Every one of those 45,000 waited to see a specialist.

And they waited.

And they waited.

And you know what?

They’re still sick and they’re still waiting.

Heather Stevens was one of those people. She’s working in a dry cleaning business in Dunedin, and she desperately needs surgery on her hip.

She’s in agony, she’s not sure how much longer she can keep working.

But she’s been waiting for four years with no end in sight.
That’s so wrong, and we’re going to fix it.

We’ll restore the funding that National has cut and we’ll give our doctors and nurses and health professionals what they need to keep people well.

And there’s one more public service Labour is going to invest in.

Our police.

Our police do a really tough job, keeping our communities safe.

But years of underfunding have made their job much much harder.

This year, the Government signed off on a four year freeze in police numbers, even though we have a rising population.

And when police aren’t on the beat, crime goes up.

Just recently there was the dairy in West Auckland, held up three times in three weeks.

One store. Three weeks. Three robberies.

That’s not what we should expect in a peaceful country like ours.

That’s why Labour is going to put 1000 extra front line cops on the beat.

It’ll mean fewer crimes being committed and more crimes being solved.

It’ll mean more people able to live their lives free of the fear of violence.


Section Five: Labour’s Youth Jobs Plan.

And delegates, today I want to tell you about the next part of our plan to take our country forward.

In Labour, we know that investing in our young people, in giving them the opportunity to succeed and live up to their potential is the best thing we can do for the future.

As Leader, I’ve made this a personal priority because I know how much it matters.

I’ve already announced some major policies in this area:

  • Three years free education after high school.
  • Helping businesses meet the cost of a new apprentice.
  • Professional careers advice at school to help young people make good decisions about work or further study.
  • Grants for young Kiwis who want to start their own business.

And today, I want to add the next plank.

Right now, we have 74,000 young people in New Zealand who aren’t just out of work, but aren’t in training or education either.

74,000 young people with nothing to do, wasting away on the scrap heap.

Think of all the talent we are wasting.

Young people with forty years of their working lives still ahead of them, but who aren’t getting any skills, who aren’t getting any experience.

Think of the thousands of young people with no prospects, with no hope, who feel like everyone’s given up on them.

Well I’m telling you this: we’re not going to give up.

I’m not going to give up.

Not now, not ever. 

It’s not who I am.

As a parent, as a politician, as someone who gives a damn, I won't give up on our young people.

Everyone has potential. Everyone deserves an opportunity to live up to it.

That' why today I am announcing that the next Labour Government will introduce a jobs scheme to put those young people  to work in our communities.

We won't let them waste away, we'll give them a job. We'll give them opportunities. We'll give them the fair shot they need.

My commitment is this: A future where every young New Zealander is earning a living or studying towards a career.

Here’s how it’s going to work:

Rather than pay young people the dole, we’ll set them up for six months with a job working in the conservation estate for DOC, or with a local charity or non-profit.

We’ll put young people to work serving the community, getting the work experience they need.

Now these won’t be flashy jobs, but they will be a first step on the ladder.

And every young person will be paired with a mentor, someone who can help them learn new skills and get them ready for the job market.

I’ve seen for myself how programmes like these can work.

I’ve seen courses where they gave young people who have been out of work for a while a chance.
And its hands on stuff, they make sure they get to work, they make sure they bring a lunch, and they work in horticulture, they work on the land.

And by the end of the course, they’ve learned how to stick to a routine, how to pick themselves up when things get rough, they’ve learned habits that will last a life time.

They’ve got experience, they’ve got a reference, they’re providing for themselves.

They’re ready for work.

That’s the change we can make in the lives of thousands of people.

This is about saying to our young people: we’re not giving up on you. We see the potential in you, and here’s opportunity to make the most of yourself.

Delegates, we're going to change the lives of thousands of our young people.

We're going to restore opportunity.

We're going to restore hope to people.

Section Six: Conclusion

New Zealand, we have a once in a generation opportunity in front of us.

And next year's election is about whether we can seize it.

We have a chance to make a difference.

A chance to rise to the challenge, win this fight, and make this a better country.

Delegates, that chance is in front of us, now let’s go make it happen.

Let’s organise and campaign and win the changes we need.

Let’s fight for the young people who need a chance, who need a job, who need hope.

Let’s fight for the young couples who are trying to buy their first home.

For the children who want to learn and the families who need better healthcare.

Let’s fight for Helen Kelly and all the changes she wanted to see.

Let's fight for young people like Taylor and PPV who we saw on Friday. Young people with immense talent who can do anything if we give them an opportunity.

Let's fight for a Government that puts people first.

New Zealand, It’s time for a better way.

It’s time to raise our sights as a nation

 Time to restore hope to our people.

Together, let’s rise to the challenge.

Let’s change the government and then let’s make this an even better country together.

Thank you.

Factsheet: Ready for Work

LabourVoices on November 06, 2016

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