Today I launched Labour's election campaign at the Viaduct Events Centre, Auckland. Here is the speech I gave.
E rau rangatira ma
E te whanau o te roopu reipa
Piki mai, kake mai haere mai
Te tangi a te pipiwharauroa
Whiti ao - whiti ao - whiti whiti Ao
Hello New Zealand
Today is about you. It is about the launch of your future, your vision, your belief in creating a better New Zealand.
This election is going to be about a choice – probably one of the clearest that we have had as a country in a generation.
And it’s not just about two leaders, or even a contest between two parties.
This election is fundamentally about two very different pathways to two very different futures for New Zealand.
It’s a choice between prosperity for all, or only for a few.
It’s a choice between a new path to a higher value, more sustainable future, where every person matters. Or the current path of selling ourselves short and deepening the divides.
I believe - every one of us in the Labour Party believes - that it is people that matter most.
That, at the end of the day, we are all worth exactly the same.
And I believe that our people are a community, and are not commodities.
I believe that when the least fortunate of us does better, we all do better.
I believe that in this country nobody should be left out or left behind.
But I also believe that New Zealand has lost its way.
That after another 3 years, heading in the direction we’re heading, we just won’t know this country.
Our rivers will be dirty. What’s left of our assets will be sold. And so will vast tracts of our land. We will be tenants in our own country.
Is that the choice we want to make?
I don’t think so.
Labour refuses to stand by and let this generation of young New Zealanders become the first to do worse than their parents.
It wasn’t that long ago that we were considered to be the small, smart jewel of the South Pacific.
A creative, plucky country punching well above our weight. Where everyone could dare to dream the Kiwi dream, where if you worked hard and played by the rules - everyone, not just some, could get ahead.
We need to reclaim that vision, and make it our own again.
We can and we will.
We will do it for the mother of two teenage boys who works 60 hours a week cleaning and cannot sleep from worry that she doesn’t have enough time to keep them on the rails.
We’ll do it for the little kid in West Auckland admitted to Starship because of respiratory disease caused by the black mould growing in the bedroom in his cold, damp home.
We’ll do it for the professional couple in Christchurch who’ve been waiting for three years for the insurance cheque that means they can finally move on with their lives.
And for the grandmother who sits in her cold flat wrapped in blankets because she cannot pay both the power bill and the doctor.
We’ll do it for the small manufacturer who is laying off workers – his own mates – for the third time as his business slowly, but surely, goes under, due to the high Kiwi dollar.
A Labour government will make New Zealand a fairer place, and a better place.
By strengthening the right of every New Zealander to have a warm, dry, comfortable home.
By strengthening, not neglecting, support for our schools, hospitals and universities.
By building, not deferring, a high-value, high knowledge, sustainable economy that will create good jobs.
It’s called a better New Zealand.
Decent jobs are at the core of any decent society. It’s what we in Labour have always stood for.
And with decent jobs come decent homes. Strong and stable communities.
Where Kiwis can bring up their families – where they can thrive.
It doesn't get much more basic than that.
That's what matters to New Zealanders. That’s what matters to us.
The Government I lead will put people first. It will make sure every single person matters. That together we all do well.
We want jobs for all New Zealanders, not just some. We want good schools for all New Zealand kids, not just some. We want decent healthcare for all New Zealanders, not just some.
Nowhere is the choice we face clearer than in the economy, and the jobs it creates.
The world is recovering from what is probably the largest global financial crisis of our time.
You were told that everyone had to tighten their belts - and that everyone would get their fair share of the so-called “rock star” recovery.
In fact, that party was short and not everyone got invited, but the hangover will be experienced by the vast majority.
Dairy prices are plummeting. Interest rates, mortgages and living costs are rising faster than incomes.
A few did live like rock stars: the top 10% now owns 90% of the wealth.
The wealthy got massive tax cuts that they didn’t need, while GST was raised on everyone - even though they said they wouldn’t.
The IRD tells us half the richest 100 Kiwis aren’t even paying the top tax rate.
Privatisation made inequality worse. They sold half of your energy companies even though you said no. Now only a few New Zealanders own those assets that we all paid for.
Now they want to sell our land from under us too: over a million hectares have been approved for overseas sale by the current government - sixteen times the size of Lake Taupo!
What’s going to be left if they get another three years to sell off and sell down our future?
Safe hands, clear thinking
New Zealand needs a clear plan for a prosperous, sustainable future where the benefits actually do flow to all New Zealanders.
Only Labour has that plan.
A coherent and future-focused economic upgrade that is built on firmer foundations than milk prices and insurance cheques.
We have a robust fiscal plan, that will run surpluses every year, that will pay off National’s record debt in our first two terms, and will get unemployment down to 4% by the end of our first term.
Labour is being open and transparent about what we are doing and how.
We’ve released our fiscal strategy early. It’s clearly costed and affordable - thank you David Parker.
Our policies are all banked and paid for.
In our alternative Budget, we showed that we had more policies costed and ready to roll out during the campaign - including the ones we’re announcing today.
And we’ve got some more important ones still to come.
You can afford to do a lot of good in government when you’re not spending all your cash on tax cuts for the very wealthy.
And when you back New Zealand and New Zealanders to create wealth.
And Labour will.
We will drive investment, we will drive innovation.
We will back industry on its journey from volume to value.
Universal KiwiSaver will build investment in our businesses.
Our monetary policy will make our exports more competitive.
Enhanced research and development will boost innovation.
We will back Kiwi businesses with pro-growth tax reform
We will back them by getting government to Buy Kiwi Made.
And by growing New Zealand’s wealth and opportunities.
And we’ll back every region and every sector in this country.
That’s what our $200 million regional development fund is for.
To boost infrastructure to create jobs.
And with Labour’s economic upgrade, all New Zealanders will benefit - not just the privileged few.
We will raise the minimum wage by $2 an hour to $16.25 in our first year of government.
That will put another $4,000 a year into the pockets of hardworking Kiwis. And that means more money in circulation to rebuild local businesses and our economy from the ground up.
It will raise the living standards of a quarter of a million New Zealanders and their families.
We’re also going to restore those work rights that this government has taken away. Rights that give Kiwis the ability to negotiate a decent deal.
You know what? The Government has made it very clear that one of the first things they want to do if they get back is take away your lunch break and your smoko!
Right now there’s a housing crisis in New Zealand. We have the lowest home ownership in 50 years, and rents are outstripping incomes.
For a whole generation of New Zealanders, the Kiwi dream of home ownership is slipping out of reach.
Talk to any young New Zealander these days. They’ll tell you it feels like no matter how hard they work and how hard they save they’ll never own a home like their parents did.
Our plan means putting people to work building 100,000 affordable new homes with KiwiBuild.
That will give so many young families an opportunity they don’t currently have to get into a home of their own.
On the current path Education is being undermined.
Undermined by charter schools.
Undermined by league tables.
Undermined by fiascos like Novopay, like unlawful school closures, like paying hundreds of millions of dollars to take good teachers out of their schools and turn them into middle management.
We know the best education is critical. That’s why we stand for a strong, affordable, world-class state education that is there for every Kiwi kid.
To achieve that we’ll ensure our kids have access to digital devices and 21st century learning spaces.
We’ll offer schools $100 per student so that parents - and even kids - are no longer pressured to pay so-called “voluntary” donations.
And we will make sure that class sizes are smaller and kids have more one on one learning by hiring 2,000 more teachers.
Our education policies are about excellence, opportunity and fairness.
We’ll make sure that every student, no matter where in the country they are from, or how wealthy their parents are, gets the education they deserve.
That’s how we will get the society where everyone can have opportunities to get ahead.
But we all know kids don’t leave their lives at the school gate. They can’t learn if they’re hungry. They can’t learn if they don’t have a warm, dry home, or if they’re sick.
Our health - and the health of our families - is our greatest treasure.
But right now our health system is forced just to be the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, because too many people can’t afford to get the care they need.
We will take a different path. We want people to be healthy, and to make sure they can access the best care when they get sick.
It’s why we won’t just pay to treat diseases like rheumatic fever; we’ll actually deal with the overcrowding and the cold, damp housing that causes it in the first place.
That’s why we’ll make sure every rental is warm and dry with our Healthy Homes Guarantee.
That’s why we’ll bring in the Best Start payment. $60 a week so new parents have enough money to look after their babies’ needs. And we’ll tackle child poverty by increasing the minimum wage.
It’s a Kiwi value, a Labour value, that it is your need that should determine the healthcare you get, not the size of your wallet.
I know this first-hand. When I was growing up, my Dad got desperately ill. He had a series of heart attacks starting when he was 55.
Dad got great care from our public health system and that meant he could go on caring for me, for my family and others for another two decades.
That drove home to me how important strong public healthcare is to making sure we get well and stay well.
But that is being lost on the path the current government is on.
Despite what they will tell you, health funding hasn’t kept up with population growth and inflation.
There’s been a real cut of $200 million per year since 2008.
Last year more than half a million New Zealanders needed to see a doctor, but couldn’t afford an appointment. That is a disgrace.
And a quarter of a million New Zealanders didn’t fill their prescriptions because they couldn’t afford it.
These are people who went to the doctor, who were found to be sick and needing medicine, but who didn’t get treatment because they didn’t have the money.
This is not the New Zealand we believe in. We’re a better country than that.
The Labour Government I lead will back quality, affordable, universal healthcare for all.
We’ll make sure the health budget keeps up with rising costs and our growing population with a billion dollar annual increase for health and education.
That means any new funding we announce is real money that will make a real difference in New Zealanders’ lives.
For example, last week I announced a $60 million boost for primary healthcare.
That will give 700,000 more New Zealanders free or heavily discounted GP visits.
Because getting to the doctor early means not waiting until things get desperate.
Building on that, today I’m going to lay out a step-change in our health system.
We are going to radically reduce the cost and improve the quality of healthcare for hundreds of thousands more New Zealanders.
And we’re going to focus most on those who are most in need, because that’s the right thing to do.
That’s why I’m proud to announce Labour will make doctors’ visits and prescriptions free for all New Zealanders aged 65 and over.
These are people who’ve paid taxes all their lives, who face some of the greatest health needs and who are most likely to have fixed incomes.
It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do – getting early care can stop a lot of harmful and expensive problems down the line.
Free doctors’ visits and prescriptions for over 65s will make a real difference in the lives of nearly 700,000 older New Zealanders.
Labour will also make GP visits, prescriptions, and dental care free for all pregnant women.
International evidence, including Sir Peter Gluckman’s work, shows a direct link between the health of expectant mothers and that of their children.
Investing in good maternal health will pay dividends throughout the life of a child.
But our highest health needs are not just limited to the young and the old.
Labour will be there for New Zealanders who have long-term health conditions.
On the current government’s path, it’s just not fair that those with the highest health needs have to pay the highest bills. So we’re going to change that.
We’re going to bring a quarter of a million Kiwis into Care Plus and give them four free GP visits a year - and free prescriptions too.
Labour will also make GP visits and prescriptions free for children aged under 13, and increase funding for youth health centres.
The Labour government I lead will invest to make doctors’ visits and medicine free for the Kiwis that need it most – our children, our mothers to be and our senior citizens.
All up, Labour’s health package will give nearly 40% of New Zealanders free doctor visits and prescriptions.
These policies, like all our policies, have been carefully costed as part of our fiscal plan.
It’s budgeted, it’s paid for, it’s there in black and white.
So when our opponents try to claim that we can’t afford better healthcare for New Zealanders – and they’ll try - they won’t be being honest with the public.
And they know it.
Labour’s vision for New Zealand is to build the fairest, most decent society in the world.
The choice to come
What this election is fundamentally about is a choice. And it’s all of our choice.
New Zealanders, we can choose decent jobs for all.
We can choose great education for all.
We can choose kids growing up healthy, warm, and well fed.
We can choose an economy where people can pay their bills, and meet their mortgages and get ahead.
And of course we can choose decent healthcare for those who need it.
Together we can choose to build a society where there is fairness for all New Zealanders, not just the top few percent. Where everyone has the opportunity and aspiration to reach all our potential.
But, sadly, the path our country has been on won’t get us there.
It cannot. It will not.
The current path doesn’t live up to the truest Kiwi values of fairness, decency and respect. Those values that made our country great.
We need to apply those values to the new world of the 21st century so we can build a future where we all succeed together.
I know it’s easy to be cynical about elections. About the sideshows, about the relentless negativity.
And every election we hear voices telling us that there is no alternative and nothing will ever change.
That the problems are all someone else’s fault, or they’re all too hard to solve.
That we should just be happy with what we’ve got because fairness and decency is too much to ask for, and we shouldn’t rock the boat.
We’ve seen where politics as usual gets us.
We’ve seen more children in poverty, more people locked out of home ownership, more families finding their incomes cannot keep up with the rising cost of living.
We know that we can do better. We know we can deliver change for a better New Zealand.
In this election, we can change all of that together.
This election is going to be very close. The choice is here, the choice is now, the choice is real, and it’s ours to make, starting today.
If we want to change the path our country is on, we have to change the government first.
In this election we can chose to lift kids out of poverty, to put our people back to work, to create new businesses, to harness new technology. We can choose to build new homes, support our families and, together, build the fairest, most decent society in the world.
We can choose to do this. We can do this together.
If you want to build a better future for your family and your country.
If you want an end to politics as usual and to build a New Zealand that works for everyone.
If you won’t settle for the past and you want to reach for the future.
Then it’s time to vote for change.
It’s time to Vote Positive.
It’s time to Party Vote Labour.
To download a PDF of this speech, please click here.