Speech: New Era - New Solutions
David Shearer | Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 13:30
Wainuiomata Rugby Football Club
Tēnā koutou katoa.
Greetings everyone and thank you for being here together on a Sunday.
It’s great to see so many friendly faces.
It’s wonderful to see so many of you prepared to give up some of your summer break to talk about the future of our country.
There is nothing more important. And nothing more urgent.
I can tell you that today I’m refreshed, I’m fired up, and I’m raring to go.
This year will be a big year for Labour – a year where we not only hold the government to account, but also show there’s a better way.
A way of hope, where there is a place for everyone and where we fight for a world class NZ that we can all be proud of.
Today I want to lay out the challenges before us, the need for change and our focus for the year.
NEW ZEALANDERS WHO INSPIRE US ALL
A book I was given for Christmas tells the stories of 50 inspiring New Zealanders – artists, scientists, musicians, business people, some well-known, some less so.
Reading about their lives, they share the same passion and pride in their work and in their country. The ambition to be world class.
As scientist Ray Avery says: ‘we have no respect for the status quo’.
These people never say it’s too hard – we’re not big enough, we’re too isolated, we don’t have enough money.
Instead they say, “To hell with it, I’m going to do it anyway”.
New Zealanders have always achieved what wasn’t supposed to be possible.
Sir Edmund Hillary’s idea of what was possible took him to the very top of the world.
Kate Sheppard’s idea of what was possible made New Zealand the first country to give women the vote.
Alan MacDiarmid’s idea of what was possible took him from Masterton to winning the Nobel Prize.
We’ve always dreamed big and succeeded.
I see that same attitude in families and schools, businesses and sports teams as I travel up and down the country.
People overcoming adversity, dreaming of something better.
When I see a single mum put herself through polytech to build a better future for her kids, I’m inspired.
When I meet New Zealanders well into their retirement, who after a lifetime of service are the first to volunteer come Daffodil Day, I’m inspired.
When a kid, who the stats say should fail, becomes the first member of their family to graduate from university, I’m inspired.
It’s inspiring because Kiwis don’t lie down.
From the most famous to the most humble, courage and determination is the common bond.
They deserve a Government that backs their hopes and inspires them to succeed.
A Government that says: you do your bit, we’ll do ours.
That’s what a Labour Government will do.
That’s what a government I lead will do.
NATIONAL’S EXCUSES ARE HOLDING US BACK
But this Government’s low expectations are holding us back.
For 4 years we’ve been fed skilfully spun excuses for why we can’t get ahead.
It’s the Global Financial Crisis, the Canterbury earthquakes, the global outlook that is the problem.
We are told we have to accept second best.
There is always an excuse for why we can’t get ahead. For why we can’t be a leader in this field or that.
For example, the National government aspires to being a fast follower when it comes to climate change.
Hold that thought. What is a fast follower exactly?
Does it mean that if we follow too fast we become ... what…an accidental leader?
But a leader with no clue about where they’re going.
That’s not good enough with an issue that is so important to our planet, and our country.
We deserve better than that.
I refuse to accept that for New Zealand.
And so do the Kiwis I meet.
FORGOTTEN NEW ZEALANDERS
But this Government has forgotten the hard-working and inspiring people I come across every day.
In a pub in Napier, a guy came up and said to me “I’m working harder than ever, I pay my taxes, we’re trying to bring up our kids the best we can, but we simply can’t seem to get ahead”.
He went on to say: “I just feel nobody is standing up for me”.
So many others I have met feel the same.
They’re busy helping organise school galas, donating their time to charities, running the sausage sizzle to fundraise for local sports clubs.
They are at the heart of our communities helping make our country the great one it is.
I’ve run into that spirit amongst many small business owners.
They’re the kind of people who pay themselves for 40 hours but work 80 just to keep the doors open.
They’re not asking for an easy ride or a hand-out.
But like thousands of others across this country, they’ve been taken for granted.
They feel the Government has forgotten them.
Kiwis across the country are working harder than ever.
They’re doing their fair share. Playing their part.
We all have that responsibility.
But they feel let down.
My promise to you as Prime Minister is that I will always stand up for the hardworking, forgotten New Zealanders.
You’re doing your bit, it’s time you had a Government that did its bit too.
NEW ERA – HANDS ON GOVERNMENT
We desperately need real leadership now more than ever.
The Global Financial Crisis has exposed the frailties of the old economic wisdom.
The National Party believes the financial crisis is just a blip to get over. Their solution is to apply their failed ideas of the past over and over.
They are wrong.
The hands-off, simply leave it to the market approach has failed all over the world.
We are on the cusp of a new era – when new thinking and leadership is needed to build wealth we can all share in.
The world has changed. National hasn’t. It’s stuck in the past.
We need a government that recognises times have changed.
We need a Government that finds the courage to act, not better excuses for why we can’t.
We need a government prepared to stand up for hardworking forgotten Kiwis.
We need a smart, hands-on Government.
A government that is prepared to be a player, not a spectator.
That will be a Labour Government, and the Government I will lead.
It’s about getting our priorities right, being thrifty about our economy.
Bringing our debt under control.
But being smart about how we tackle the massive challenges ahead.
Above all, this country needs a government that chooses to act.
Let me tell you what I mean.
When a young couple is putting off having kids until they buy a house, and yet despite saving hard, prices always slip beyond their reach, it’s time to act.
That’s why I’m committed to putting 100,000 families into new homes.
It’s ambitious, but New Zealanders can see right through the Government’s hands off approach that leaves it to the market.
They see through the tinkering with the RMA.
They see through the latest excuse – to blame the local Council.
It’s just not credible.
It’s also why Labour will introduce a Capital Gains Tax to move investment into business and away from property speculation that is pushing house prices through the roof.
When a student graduating from university faces 7.3% unemployment and little chance of getting a job, it’s time to act.
They’ve done their bit, we need to do ours.
It’s heart-breaking watching parents waving goodbye to their kids at our airports.
People want to work – they just need the jobs.
Two days ago, John Key had an epiphany: We have a youth unemployment problem – we need apprentices.
Good on him. I thank the focus group that brought that to his attention.
There are now 20 per cent fewer apprentices today than when he took office. We are now importing foreign labour to meet skills shortages in the biggest rebuild in our history in Christchurch.
Is he just waking up to this now? Is this government asleep at the wheel, completely out of touch?
You don’t need to answer that. The answer is obvious.
I have been serious about youth unemployment from the day I was elected leader.
Labour’s plans are out there. I’d be delighted if this government picked them up and ran with them.
We’ll pay employers the equivalent of the dole to take on apprentices.
We’ll back Kiwi businesses to get their slice of the $30 billion dollars the Government contracts out every year – but we will require them to take on apprentices and trainees in return.
We’ll give tax breaks to companies doing world-leading research and development, so the innovations – and the jobs – they create stay right here in New Zealand.
When I see talented people forced to leave their home town because there’s nothing on offer for them, it’s time to act.
That’s why we’ll work with councils on projects that support their provinces. Projects like the Gisborne to Napier rail link to boost economic development and create jobs.
When I hear of high value manufacturers shedding jobs because our high dollar cuts them off at the knees, it’s time to act.
We’ll make changes to monetary policy so that our job-creating businesses aren’t undermined by our exchange rate.
When a 5 year old girl falls asleep in class because she had no breakfast before she left home, it’s time to act.
Labour will put food in schools, to make sure all our kids get the same chance to learn.
When a mum and dad work long hours but still can’t afford healthy food for their kids, it’s time to act.
We’ll lift the minimum wage and champion a living wage to make sure hard work can provide a decent living.
This is what I mean when I say we need a smart Government prepared to act.
A Government that says we will back you if you’re prepared to do your best.
Yes, we face huge challenges, but by being hands on we can turn our biggest challenges into opportunities for the future.
Since we announced KiwiBuild last year, excitement is growing. Architects, construction companies and designers around NZ have been in touch.
They see an opportunity to build affordable, energy-efficient – even energy generating – houses.
Houses that use home grown sustainable materials.
Houses that families will be proud to call home.
This is an idea the country is embracing.
More than 70 per cent of Kiwis support our KiwiBuild programme to build 100,000 first homes.
New Zealanders are also behind our other new ideas and those numbers are growing.
Most people see the need for a Capital Gains Tax on investment properties.
Nearly six in every ten New Zealanders support our idea to make KiwiSaver universal.
And nearly two-thirds of you back our pledge to protect universal superannuation for future generations by gradually lifting the age of eligibility.
The forces of conservatism said that reforming Super wasn’t the right thing to do.
It wouldn’t be popular – so we shouldn’t do it. They were wrong.
New Zealanders are forward thinking and are prepared to do what it takes to create a better future.
National has a big idea of course – it’s to sell our best assets.
And, with them, goes another chunk of our future.
That is their plan.
Most Kiwis hate it. And we are behind them fighting that idea all the way.
HANDS ON – A GLOBAL TREND
Labour isn’t alone in knowing the time has come for active government.
A movement of leaders and people across the world have realised the old hands-off solutions take us nowhere.
It’s a new way of thinking and it’s evolving.
New Zealanders are looking to a government that will roll up its sleeves and back them.
You do your part, and we the government will do ours.
In 2014 that’s the Government I will lead.
AGENDA FOR 2013
Kiwis won’t have to wait until the election to find out what I stand for and what I’ll do about the issues that matter to them.
I’ve already put clear stakes in the ground on housing affordability, quality education, growing jobs and the economy.
There’s more to come.
For Labour, this year is about preparing for Government.
We want New Zealanders to know that we’re ready to govern.
That’s why today I’m setting out my agenda for the year.
Number one is jobs. It is our most urgent priority and cuts across everything we do.
Labour’s plan to build new affordable homes will create thousands of new jobs and apprenticeships.
A job is more than a weekly wage, it’s gives people a purpose and pride in themselves.
That’s why I’m focussed on jobs.
Our housing proposals are at the cutting edge of urban design and energy efficiency.
This year we will bring together the best ideas of architects, designers, urban planners and others to a housing conference.
I want KiwiBuild ready to roll on Day 1 when we take office.
First-home buyers shouldn’t have to wait.
Jacinda Ardern, my Social Development spokesperson, will produce an alternative white paper this year, setting out our direction to help lift kids out of poverty.
There are 270,000 children in hardship in this country, and the government is failing them.
Kids deserve the best chance in life regardless of their parents’ wealth, and with Labour they will get that.
Their best opportunity is from a world-class education system.
We’ve already set out our plan to put food in schools and extend reading recovery so our kids aren’t destined to be drop outs from their first day at school.
This year I’m asking my education team to look at ways to improve transitions from school to further training and high-skill jobs.
85,000 young New Zealanders are not in work, education or training.
It’s a flaw in our system.
I want to see our schools seamlessly connect to further training opportunities.
I want every child to go through school with a purpose and plan of where they’ll end up.
Because every young Kiwi deserves a shot at a career that excites and motivates them.
Without this we’ll continue to see kids, without the right skills to get a job, falling through the cracks.
And our employers will continue to struggle to find the skills they need.
That’s not a future I want for my kids or yours.
I’ve spoken of a clean, green, clever economy many times.
We need our environment to drive our economic success and our economy to keep our environment clean.
The reality is we will not create more better paying jobs by simply exporting more milk powder.
We’ve been talking about it since Mike Moore invented lamb burgers.
Our future prosperity will be carved out by backing the talent of businesses working in high tech, or the innovations of those adding value to our natural resources.
It will be built by those that see the promise and opportunity of a clean, green future.
Great ideas are emerging from organisations like Pure Advantage, and from thousands of innovative can-do Kiwis.
A thriving manufacturing sector is at the heart of my vision. That’s why our manufacturing inquiry that starts tomorrow is an important first step.
But the commitment is lacking from government.
Well I am committed to this future.
There is simply no other option.
That is why I have asked my colleagues to develop a clear plan to diversify our economy.
A plan we can put in front of New Zealanders, not airy fairy concepts.
All of these areas – jobs, education, housing and building a new economy – are critical to rebuilding our second largest city.
I am committed to rebuilding Christchurch from the grassroots up, not the Beehive down.
That’s why I’ll be talking to Cantabrians about how they see their future.
To ensure their voices are heard.
That’s what we’ll work on in the coming months.
These ideas will make a difference.
These are ideas National simply can’t see.
The difference between the forces of conservatism and the need for change has never been wider.
Come 2014, New Zealanders will face a choice more stark than any in a generation.
A choice in the direction of their country.
A choice between staying as we are and managing our decline, or being part of a hands-on Government that’s backing hardworking New Zealanders.
A government that chooses action over excuses.
A government that understands the world is entering a new era and we need to change with it.
One that shares the determination and passion of those Kiwis who inspire us most.
That’s the Labour Government I will lead.
But I can’t do it alone.
Today, I am asking for your help.
I want you to be part of my team and play a part in the next government.
I want to hear your hopes for this country and your ideas of how we get there.
I want each of you to take the Labour message out to your neighbours, your co-workers, your congregation, and your friends.
Tell them yes, we in the Labour Party are committed to making a real difference in people’s lives.
We will not accept the status quo.
A tide for change is building.
Change that guarantees everyone gets ahead, not just those at the top.
Change so we once again stand tall as a country.
A country where we strive to be a leader – not a follower.
A country where the Government is hands-on and backs its people.
A country we can be proud of.
Friends, join with me to build that future.
Because, together, that’s what we will do in 2014.