I want you to imagine the year 2030. It’s not a hard ask, I think we’re all quite happy to imagine a year other than this one.
So imagine if you will that it’s 2030.
Some things are the same.
New Zealand is still one of the first countries in the world to see the sun each day.
Still the first nation to have conquered the world’s highest peak.
Still the country in which our women were the first to win the right to vote.
We’re still nuclear free and still with a universal system of social support for those who need it.
But some things have changed.
We are now a country where children living in poverty has halved.
Where we’ve ended our housing waitlist.
Where health inequalities based on race, wealth and geographical location no longer exist.
Where every New Zealand child knows their history, and our nation’s history.
Where we’ve overcome the digital divide and Damien O’Connor has finally figured out Zoom.
We’re a country that runs on 100 per cent renewable energy.
Where we can swim in our local river.
Where our farmers have been reducing their greenhouse gas emissions for five years now, and we’re selling that IP to the world.
We are officially the first place in the world to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.
And now, in the year 2030, we have long eliminated Covid-19 too, and our economy and country has built back better.
And while we have faced new and unexpected challenges over the past decade, we have overcome them, as we did the decade before when faced with natural disaster, terrorism and a global pandemic.
The decisions made, the consensus built, the unity shown, the action taken together has grown our country, grown our people.
We have new free trade agreements with even more countries that are paying top dollar for our clean, green, safe products, and are investing in our safe haven too.
We have grown our pride in who we are as a nation.
Grown our economy.
And determination, unity, and innovation has brought forward genuine, long-lasting change to improve people’s lives.
It hasn’t been easy.
It’s taken endurance, hard work, and it’s taken a team of 5 million.
It’s a future that is not so distant, if we stick together, and if we stick to our plan.
And we’ve already begun.
But while we rightly look beyond 2020 to the opportunities that can be harnessed for our growth and to improve our standards of living, we also won’t shrink from honestly facing the conditions of our country and the conditions of the world around us right now.
Because it has been and continues to be confronting, anxious-making and full of tough choices.
What started as a summertime conversation this year has led to more than 30 million cases and 1 million deaths, and it’s not over yet.
Here at home we have lost 25 loved ones and managed 1864 cases.
As we’ve travelled around the country campaigning this election with only limited restrictions, it hasn’t been lost on me how lucky that makes us.
One day I popped in to see a small business owner who worked in retail. She’d experienced the ups and downs of lockdown and post-lockdown recovery. I was discussing with her how hard it has been for businesses like hers when she said, “I have a family member who has had to work from her small apartment in Canada for three months now. I have another family member in the Netherlands and I’ve seen how hard it has been there too. I know how different it could have been for New Zealand.”
I have been humbled as I have travelled the country to hear from those who have been feeling the full economic effect of COVID 19, but share our view that putting people first, has ultimately meant putting them first too.
While there was no playbook for Covid-19 we went hard and early and committed to a strategy of elimination which has meant that when we’ve had new cases, we’ve circled and stamped them out and opened up our economy faster than others.
I will always maintain that it has been and will continue to be the right thing to do.
But there is no doubt that a continuing global pandemic will be an overlay to everything we do now.
But it won’t change what we were elected to do in 2017.
Covid didn’t end child poverty. Covid didn’t end the housing crisis. Covid didn’t make climate change disappear. In fact, it has the potential to make each so much worse.
But thankfully, before the pandemic arrived on our shores, we sowed the seeds of change. Because change was so desperately needed.
After nine years of a singular focus on GDP, coupled with neglect for critical investment in our services and our people, the actual result was too many families sleeping in cars, too many New Zealanders suffering from poor mental health and too many of our waterways polluted.
And so, in our first 100 days, we brought in the Families Package. It boosted the incomes of some 384,000 families. It included the Best Start Payment, the first time New Zealand had a universal payment for kids since the 1990s.
We extended paid parental leave to 26 weeks.
We increased the minimum wage to $18.90, which means an extra $126 a week for a full-time worker.
We created 5300 more public housing places, including 4100 new homes.
We’ve built over 600 Kiwibuild homes, with 920 more on the way, and introduced a progressive home ownership scheme, a papakainga housing scheme, a healthy home guarantee, a residential development response fund, retrofitted state houses, stopped foreign buyers purchasing residential housing and gave tenants more security.
We indexed benefits to wages, and lifted them by $25 week.
We increased school funding so parents don’t have to pay school donations, scrapped NCEA fees, and are rolling out lunches in schools and period products too.
We introduced the Winter Energy Payment, with over a million New Zealanders no longer having to make the choice between a warm home and food on the table.
We made visits to the doctor cheaper for over half a million Kiwis, increased nurses in schools, employed more doctors and nurses and midwives and mental health workers. And we began rebuilding our run-down hospitals and health facilities.
We increased PHARMAC funding to buy more medicines for New Zealanders, including new cancer drugs. We set up the Cancer Control Agency and funded new radiation machines.
And we made the biggest investment in mental health ever seen in New Zealand, with new, free, frontline services being rolled out around the country. Already this has delivered 33,000 sessions of support.
We worked with farmers and environmental groups on freshwater reforms and invested in riparian planting, fencing of waterways and sediment control.
We said climate change was my generation’s nuclear free moment.
And so we stopped new offshore oil and gas exploration, we passed the Zero Carbon Act, we established the Climate Commission, we invested in our goal of 100 per recent renewable energy and reached an historic, world-first, deal with farmers to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
We trained more Te Reo teachers in our schools, invested in Kohanga Reo and Whanau Ora, and are making sure that New Zealand history is taught in schools.
We ran budget surpluses, reduced net debt to below 20 per cent of GDP, and got unemployment to the lowest rates in over a decade.
Before Covid, there was change.
And during and after it there will be too if we keep going.
That’s why, if we are re-elected we will see:
- 1 billion dollars more invested in our health system to make mental health support available to all primary and intermediate students,
- We will see double the number of cochlear implants and triple the funding available for dental grants.
- We will see more children lifted out of poverty and free lunches at school for 1 in 5 kids who can’t learn because they’re hungry.
- We will see 100 per cent renewable electricity generation brought forward to 2030.
- We will see thousands of jobs created through free trades training, reskilling, and bring back the Training Incentive Allowance.
- Ad we will see Matariki as our 12th public holiday
Over the past three years we have had success, we have had tragedy, we have had it all.
But through it all we made the decisions that I absolutely believe are the right ones for New Zealand. Right for both the health of our people, the health of our nation and the health of our economy.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last three years though, it’s what you do when the unexpected hits that count.
We can all campaign on long lists of policies and ideas, but you truly get to know your government when disasters strike.
When Covid-19 circled the globe, once again we rolled up our sleeves and put in the work, together.
We now have one of the most open economies in the world, where global businesses say they would most entrust their investments, and we have a head-start on our recovery and rebuild.
We quickly put in place the wage subsidy to support 1.7 million workers through a lockdown and beyond.
And now that we’re here, discussing the future, I’m reminded that is it still what you do when the unexpected hits that counts but it’s also what you do in spite of it that counts too.
In our recovery, we have choices. We can choose to just continue on the way we were, or we can choose to keep laying the seeds of change.
That means investing in our people with opportunities to retrain through free apprenticeships and vocational training.
Creating jobs, through shovel-ready infrastructure projects that grow and support our communities like community pools and sports facilities, and investment in environmental projects that are a win-win for our people and the planet.
And it means making sure our investments are taking on our long-term challenges by building more state houses, waste processing facilities and energy options that mean New Zealand can be powered by 100 per cent renewable electricity, and all of the exciting opportunities that brings.
It means supporting small business with interest free loans and R&D support that support innovation and job creation.
And it means retaining our place as a strong trading nation by providing practical support for our exporters, while also working hard to improve their access into new markets.
So today I am asking you to make a choice.
To choose to turn this time into an opportunity. To choose to speed up the change we’ve started. To choose stability, unity and a plan.
The alternative is an opposition party that is focused on itself, that has lost its focus on economic responsibility and produced a plan with an $8 billion dollar hole. Mistakes like that cannot be laughed away, they threaten our economic recovery and put health and education at risk.
Labour’s plan, our plan stacks up.
But more than that.
It builds on our seeds of change but also says “there is more to do”. As Ta James Henare said, “We have come too far not to go further, we have done too much not to do more.”
So today, I am asking you to make a choice. But I am also asking you to act on that choice.
To work every day we have left to keep telling our story, to remind everyone what is at stake, to turn out every single vote, to take nothing for granted.
So for the next 6 days, let’s stick together, let’s keep rebuilding.
Hoake Tonu Tātou, let’s keep moving