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Annette King: Speech to Labour Party Conference

Kia ora tatou nau mai haere mai

As I told you last year delegates, I have something in common with Hilary Clinton, I’m the same age!

Come Wednesday she will, hopefully, be the 45th President of the United States – their first woman president.

Come September next year (or there about), I will be proud to be the Deputy Leader when we win, and Andrew Little becomes the Prime Minister of New Zealand.

It is good to visit one of our great New Zealand cities, especially since my old mate Phil Goff has been elected Mayor.  We sat beside each other for over 20 years.

Phil, our political equivalent to the Energizer bunny, I suspect has another 20 years of political energy left in him.  So look out Auckland, you are in for a long ride!

I would like to congratulate and thank Andrew Kirton (our General Secretary who is doing a fantastic job), and his team for organising this conference.

A special thanks to Auckland Labour for your contribution.  I know it’s involved long hours, hard work, and pretty lousy pay!



And thank you to all our delegates for not only turning up, but turning up to get stuck in.

It’s been a good Conference – hasn’t it?  The vibe we had at last year’s conference in Palmerston North has followed us to this Centennial Conference in Auckland.

It’s been a Conference in the tradition of our Party.

Full of ideas, debate, argument (constructive of course!), policy, endless energy, raffles, and more raffles, and we even had fun!

Compare our Conference to National’s recent one – it was brought to you by the letter B – bland, boring, and full of blatherskite, and that was just Steven Joyce!

We are the Party of ideas, but we are not just about ideas, we are about making ideas happen.

You saw that yesterday when Grant Robertson, our outstanding Finance Spokesperson, released his report on the Future of Work – two years of work providing long-term solutions to long-term issues – a framework for decent work.

Compare that to National’s short-term, u-turn, out-of-ideas, out-of-touch, poll-picked policies.

Seems to me the only policy that’s new is Murray McCully’s first class travel of sheep to Saudi Arabia!

We have had some very good contributions over the past two days delegates.

Nigel, our President, who emphasised the need for a Government with a moral compass.

He urged us to do what Helen Kelly would do – organise, and to fight for a Labour victory with everything we have to give.

James Shaw (co-leader of the Greens) we were pleased to have both James and Metiria join us on Friday night.

Andrew and I have formed a very good working relationship with them.

James set out Andrew’s strengths, and said these are what is needed in the next Prime Minister.

Richard Wagstaff said the Council of Trade Unions is committed to working with us for a Labour-led victory.

He said workers want a strong wind at their back.  We are prepared, and are ready to provide it.

But we are also prepared to provide the breakthrough at the front as well.

Justin Lester, Mayor of Wellington - we are so proud of him.  He reminded us why we are in the Labour Party.

Compare those contributions to National’s conference - Nick Smith, Jonathan Coleman, and Maggie Barry.

I was told their speeches were the sad, the bad, and the ugly.  I will let you decide which was which.

Shortly delegates, we will have the final speech of the Conference – from Andrew Little, Leader of the Labour Party.

I want to take just a few moments to share some insights into Andrew, gained from working beside him for two years.

Andrew has a united, and focussed our Caucus and Party in a way not seen since Helen brought us together and healed the hurts in the late 1990’s.

We went on to win the 1999 election, and we were in government for three terms.

He has shown his grit and determination that the party he leads will rise to the challenges facing New Zealand.

He has repeatedly said our focus will be on building a better country because we can do better.

Andrew is no frills.  He is what you see – a straight talker, a determined fighter, a man of principle.

And, Delegates, I’m told he can sing all the verses of Bob Marley’s Redemption song!

Give me that person over the sweet double speak of the ponytail pulling “I’m comfortable” PM!

Andrew has said we are ambitious, but for all New Zealanders.

We want kiwis to get ahead and fulfil their ambitions – in business, sport. Community.

We are ambitious to invest in our infrastructure, and economy.

We are ambitious to build strong, safe communities.

And we are ambitious to reassert the values of opportunity, fairness, and social justice.

New Zealanders are fair-minded people, creative, hardworking.  We do take care of each other.

Most people just want the opportunity to have a good life for their families, and themselves.

They don’t want much – they want the chance to grab a piece of the kiwi dream.

But National, to steal words from Noam Chomsky, has been writing the requiem to The Kiwi Dream.  You see, the Kiwi Dream starts with our children.

295,000 children in poverty in the land of plenty – shameful statistics – every one a real child.

110,000 children living in houses that have a major problem with dampness and mould.

As health professionals said earlier this year, Government inaction over respiratory disease – arising from poor housing – is a National scandal.

We have a government that has announced they will spend millions to measure how many stoats, and possums they have killed, but to refuse to officially measure how many children live in poverty.

They prefer to live in ignorant denial, while at the same time trumpeting their “Social Investment” approach.

According to the Government, Social Investment is about applying rigorous and evidence-based investment practices to social services.

How can you take a rigorous evidence-based investment approach in our kids when you wear ignorant and ideological blinkers!

In 2014, Jacinda Ardern released out Best Start for children policy.  On Friday at the policy sessions we reaffirmed that policy.

In the words of Nelson Mandela –

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul that the way it treats it’s children”

This government lost its soul.

We also want opportunities for the 74,000 young New Zealanders not in employment, education, or training.

The numbers have increased under National.  Bill English called them “pretty damn hopeless”.  John Key labelled them lazy, and drug addicts.

You will soon hear what Labour’s policies are.  We are not prepared to cast them on the scrapheap of life.  We value fairness.  Everyone should have a fair go in life, a fair go at work.

But, women in New Zealand don’t get a fair go at work, and we have a Minister for Women who lets the Prime Minister speak for her!

Women earn $4.13 an hour less than men.  For every dollar a man earns women get 86c.

This gap increased by 25 per cent under John Key.

The majority of workers on the minimum wage are women.

Richard Wagstaff raised the struggle with this government on pay equity.

Andrew Little has made pay equity a priority for him in government.

He has spent his working life making sure labour markets operate in a way that ensures people have secure jobs, decent work, and opportunities to get ahead.

Andrew said the next fight we must win is pay equity.

This is his commitment –

  • “We need a government fully committed to equal pay for work of equal value”.
  • “The government that I lead will make closing the gender gap a priority”.

And he will.

We are not greedy, but we want fairness in our education system too.  For preschoolers, for special needs children, for state schools.

We want fairness in housing, warm, dry, affordable housing – not facing a future where the average cost of houses in Auckland in 20 years’ time is $3 million.

We want fairness in health.

Labour brought a public health system to New Zealand, and we are determined to keep it.

We want access to health services when people need them.  We want to improve the health of people through prevention, and early intervention.

No New Zealander should have to cash in their Kiwisaver, or mortgage their house to get the health service they need.

If there is one area about to join the crisis in housing it’s health.

Now we are reading daily reports of failure because this Government has cut $1.7 billion out of health budgets over the past eight years.

They have not met all the cost pressures, population growth, and wage pressures.

Dr Coleman’s approach is to say the sticking plaster he put on the broken leg has fixed it!

The myopic Minister needs to heed the letters he gets from desperate New Zealanders.

He needs to read his newspaper, and watch TV.  He needs to even believe those who work every day in health.

Like the ophthalmologists who told him 18 months ago there was a problem providing timely public eye clinics.

They told him they needed more staff and resources.

Jonathan Coleman’s blind eye has led to New Zealanders losing their sight waiting for service.

More people are waiting in more pain to get elective surgery.

There are major treatment delays for some types of cancer.

There are mental health failures reported weekly.

We do need a major review of mental health.

It happened before in the 1990’s under National.

It took Labour doubling and ring-fencing the budget, training more staff, and making mental health a priority to turn the failure around.

And we are going to have to do it all again.

The latest headlines yesterday said “One in nine kiwis can’t afford a visit to a GP”.

In government we brought down the cost for New Zealanders.

We are going to have to do it all again, and when it comes to dental treatment, adult New Zealanders are priced out of care.

Delegates, we will stop the rot!

We have committed, in government, to fund cost pressures, population growth, and wage pressures.  And, we have committed, over time, to back-fill the missing $1.7 billion.

When the naysayers ask “where’s the money coming from?” I say it’s about priorities.

Tax cuts versus health, housing, education, jobs, and safe communities.

I know what I choose.  I know what Labour chooses.  Now let’s ask New Zealanders.

The only way we can have fairness, opportunity, and social justice it to change the Government!

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