Thank you for the invitation to speak this afternoon.
I want to acknowledge your local president Graham Adams and Whanganui Deputy Mayor Hamish McDouall.
Today, I want to talk about New Zealand’s tradition of standing up for our values and interests on the world stage.
The issue of how we should do that, rearing its head in a few different ways, has been behind some of the biggest questions in politics this year.
- What should we do about offshore speculators flooding our housing market?
- What’s the right level of foreign investment in our productive land?
- Should New Zealand sign up to the TPPA?
- What’s the best way to react to climate change?
- Should we start taking more refugees?
Today, I want to tell you how the next Labour Government will approach these matters, and the principles that will guide our thinking.
A tradition we can be proud of
New Zealand has always been a force for good on the world stage.
As Kiwis, that’s something we are proud of.
We’re a small country with an outsized influence on world affairs. That’s because we’re true to our values of democracy, equality, openness, and tolerance.
We’re a country that has engaged with the world without fear and on our own terms.
That’s who we are, and it’s the history we’ve inherited from those who came before us.
People like Prime Minister Peter Fraser who saw the carnage left in the wake of World War Two, and so helped to establish the United Nations. He knew that a different kind of international order was needed to break the cycle of global conflict.
Peter Fraser saw that the job of securing a better world couldn’t just be left to the great powers. He believed that small states, like New Zealand, also needed to play an active role in promoting peace and tolerance around the globe.
So did Norman Kirk, who saw that in New Zealand’s own backyard, powerful countries were using the Pacific as a nuclear testing ground.
He was clear that this injustice could not be tolerated.
Kirk took the action, considered radical at the time, of sending a New Zealand frigate to bear witness to illegal French nuclear tests at Mururoa. His goal was “to bring alive the conscience of the world,” and to protect the citizens of small Pacific states. He succeeded.
His legacy is one we can all be proud of.
We’re proud of David Lange’s legacy as well.
In the face of the scorn and derision from the most powerful nation in the world, Lange stood up against the madness of mutually assured destruction.
He showed that a small country could forge its own path, even in the face of much more powerful interests who wanted to hold it back.
He showed us that New Zealand could be an example to other nations, that we aren’t bound by the inescapable flow of history.
That we don’t just have to accept the world that is.
That we have the power to shape our own destiny.
That we could, in his words, “restore to humanity the power of decision.”
The power of decision.
That’s what I want to talk about today.
My belief in the importance of that power of decision and the power to make our own future is why Labour has taken the positions we have on foreign ownership and investment this year.
The truth is the great leaders I’ve mentioned today – the people whose legacy we are so proud of – didn’t just do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
They did it because they had made a decision that the best thing for New Zealand was to engage with the world on our own terms.
New Zealand’s history of positive engagement on the world stage isn’t an accident.
It’s because for a small country at the bottom of the world, one that doesn’t possess all the natural resources or the large markets to support a first world standard of living on its own, engaging with the world’s economy has been a vital part of securing our own prosperity.
We engage globally through trade and good international relations because for a country of just four million people whose army would be no match for a great power, the best way to secure our own borders is an international community committed to peace and the rule of law.
We are blessed by the fact we are a nation not divided by ethnic, religious or sectarian conflict.
New Zealanders are proud that our country has a history of doing the right thing, for our people and the world, no matter what pressure we are under.
But today, I believe that tradition is under threat.
National: A vacuum of moral leadership
Under National, New Zealand is retreating from our role as an international leader and when powerful overseas interests come calling, we are less likely to stand up for ourselves.
Take climate change, the greatest threat to the world since the spectre of nuclear fallout.
It’s an issue demanding clear moral and political leadership.
And where is New Zealand under John Key’s Government?
Huddled away in the middle of the pack.
We’re doing so little that we’ve been branded a laggard on climate change by a respected global watchdog.
They said we were shirking our obligations to the people of the world.
That’s not who we are. That’s shameful.
But this is not the only example of the Government abandoning our tradition of moral leadership.
Right now, the world is in the middle of the largest refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War.
Last year,13.9 million people fled from their homes due to conflict around the world.
Half of those refugees are children.
Millions of children live in some of the most gut wrenching, heart breaking conditions you can imagine, with no end in sight.
Just two weeks ago, 70 refugees were found suffocated to death in the back of a truck in Austria. Four children were among them.
We all saw the awful images of Syrian toddler Aylin Kurdi’s body washing up on the shore in Turkey. Those images jolted consciences all around the world.
At this moment in history, the most vulnerable of people are looking to countries like New Zealand, countries with reputations as good global citizens, and hoping to see us show some courage.
With our seat on the UN security council, we are meant to be an example to the world.
And when it comes to refugee resettlement, we can set an example – it is something we do exceptionally well, we just need to do more of it.
The New Zealand I’m proud of doesn’t shirk from our responsibilities.
We’re better than this.
We’re meant to be the country that stands up for what’s right.
Labour stands for a New Zealand that reclaims its place as a global leader, and as a country with a conscience.
A country where we chart an independent path again, because it’s the right thing to do.
That’s why we are proposing that New Zealand’s climate change targets should be at least comparable to what the EU has undertaken to do within its overall target of a 40 per cent carbon dioxide emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2030.
That would bring us in line with the countries currently leading the fight against climate change.
It’s also why Labour pushed so hard for an emergency increase in our refugee intake for the year and why we will continue to fight to raise our refugee quota so New Zealand is doing its bit.
Who we are as a country is about what we do, not what flag we wave.
With Labour, New Zealand will lead again.
National: Selling out New Zealand’s interests offshore
But we’ve lost more than just our moral standing in the world under this Government.
Increasingly, we’re losing our ability to decide our own future here at home as well.
That’s what happens when the Government flogs off major strategic assets to foreign buyers, or puts large quantities of farmland on the block to foreign owners, or lets offshore speculators drive up interest rates and lock New Zealanders out of the housing market.
That’s also what happens when the government risks trading away the strength of Pharmac in a secret trade deal which could cost us billions of dollars and drive up the cost of medicines.
No government has ever traded away New Zealanders’ access to healthcare in the name of a trade deal before, but that’s what John Key has refused to rule out in order to get New Zealand into the TPPA.
Time and time again, National is ignoring the interests of New Zealanders in order to pander to powerful forces offshore.
That’s never been the New Zealand way.
We can do so much better.
That’s why Labour will stop foreign speculators from driving up house prices and shutting out New Zealand families.
It’s a common sense policy, one adopted by Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and others.
I want to be very clear today.
The only thing that is radical is National’s determination to set aside New Zealanders’ interests when making important decisions about our economic future.
The only break from the Kiwi tradition is National’s insistence we are powerless before global economic forces.
The only unusual thinking is National’s belief that the best way to get ahead in the world is to send more money offshore.
National also believes it’s wrong for a Government to ensure foreign buyers of our farm land are actually creating the new jobs they promised when they bought the land.
For years we’ve been rubber stamping consents, never following up on whether the investment worked as promised.
The only way that makes sense is if you don’t like accountability.
Because National doesn’t think it’s important to hold foreign investors in our farm land to account for the promises they make, it is estimated that over 10% of New Zealand’s productive land has been sold without any apparent long term economic or social advantage to New Zealand.
Labour will ensure foreign investors are keeping their promises. That’s common-sense to most New Zealanders, but National says if you’re for any constraints on foreign investment, you must be against all foreign investment.
That’s crazy, but that’s also why from 2012 to 2014 New Zealand approved all 296 applications for foreign interests to buy sensitive New Zealand land. They turned down exactly zero. Not a single one.
National thinks that if we want to be respected in the international community, we have to give up our independence.
They say if we want to be part of global trading pacts, the first thing we need to trade away is the national interest.
New Zealand should stand up for itself on the world stage.
Labour believes, and has always believed, that New Zealand’s interests are served when we engage with the rest of the world.
But we can and should do that in pursuit of what is best for New Zealanders, even if it doesn’t suit the needs of big money offshore.
Opposing unlimited foreign money pouring into Auckland housing doesn’t prevent us attracting capital to support growing Kiwi businesses.
Opposing trading away Pharmac for the TPPA doesn’t mean we can’t negotiate free trade deals that help our citizens, as Labour did with the China FTA.
Engaging with the rest of the world does not mean abandoning what’s best for New Zealanders.
Telling our people that these are the rules of the game, and there’s nothing you can do about it, isn’t the Kiwi way.
We’re better than that.
The project of the next Labour government will be to expand economic opportunity to every New Zealander.
To grow our economy, create jobs and give everyone the chance to live the Kiwi dream.
Yes, that will involve negotiating trade agreements. But not selling our right to make decisions in our own interests.
Yes, it will involve foreign investment, but investments that generate jobs and wealth in NZ, not wealth that gets sucked offshore.
New Zealand is not a tiny boat bobbing aimlessly on the ocean, tossed this way and that by the whims of global powers.
We have the power to make our own way in the world and chart a course that’s best for New Zealand.
We have the power to shape our own future.
The future that the next Labour Government will build for New Zealand is one where we never hesitate to do what is right and never hesitate to provide leadership.
Where our Government puts the interests of our people ahead of the demands of powerful forces overseas.
Where we are a prosperous nation, fuelled by investment and innovation.
Where we create wealth and harness the energy and talents of a new generation of New Zealanders to build a sustainable, diversified economy.
Where home ownership is affordable again and young families can start their life together by owning the roof over their heads.
Where we stand up for ourselves on the world stage, stand up for what’s right and stand up for what is best for New Zealanders.
Where we are not afraid to step up to the challenges facing us and the world, no matter how big or how hard.
We have the ability to choose that future for ourselves.
We have, we have always had, the power of decision that David Lange spoke of.
I believe we should use that power to choose a better future for our people, together.