Speech: Chris Hipkins - Wellington Rally, 24 September

Check against delivery

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā iwi, e rau rangatira ma.

Tēnā koutou tēnā koutou tēnā koutou katoa.

Thank you Wellington, and thank you for being here today.

We’re at the crunch point now, with only 7 days until voting opens.

And with every day that passes we see more and more reasons why this election matters so much.

New Zealanders have a clear choice between Labour and progress, or National and their coalition of chaos and cuts.

You don’t take our country forward by winding things back. And that’s all they’re offering.

You don’t deal with the climate crisis by sitting on your hands.

You don’t make housing more affordable by bringing back foreign millionaires.

You don’t help with the cost of living by cutting jobs and critical public services.

And no where is that more relevant than here in Wellington.

Can I start by acknowledging our fantastic Wellington MPs and candidates.

Here in Wellington Central Ibrahim Omar.

In Rongotai Fleur Fitzsimons

In Ohariu Greg O’Connor

In Porirua, Barbara Edmonds

In Hutt South Ginny Andersen

And of course your list candidate and my friend, let’s hear it for Grant Robertson.

This week we found out New Zealand is not in recession and never was.

Our growth rate is higher than Australia, the UK, US, Canada and Europe.

In fact we’ve currently got the second highest growth in the developed world, with only Japan in front of us.

And a big part of that is down to the hard work and careful economic management of Grant.

Over the past six years Grant and Labour have prioritised growing jobs, increasing wages and protecting New Zealanders from the COVID pandemic and the rough edges of a global cost of living crisis.

New Zealand has some of the lowest unemployment in the developed world, and has sat under 4 percent for the last two years.

That’s only happened once before in the past three decades.

Not only that, in the last quarter there were 69,000 more New Zealanders in work than forecast in the budget.

After a difficult three years, our economy is now turning the corner – we’re growing jobs, tourism’s returning, exports are solid, inflation is coming down and wages are going up.

That’s not to say times aren’t tough right now.

I know how hard it is on households at the moment.

But the way to get to better times is by growing our economy and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

But growing the economy is just one part of the equation.

Making sure working families get a fair share of a growing economy is critical too.

I’m proud Labour’s increased the minimum wage by nearly $7 an hour since taking office, delivering a fulltime low paid worker $278 more a week.

I’m proud that we’ve increased the pay for Registered Nurses at the top of their scale by $40,000 and teachers at the top of their scale by $27,000.

Im proud that wages have grown by 32 percent since we took office, higher than inflation.

Our low rates of unemployment alongside solid wage growth are essential to helping insulate Kiwis from the roughest edges of the cost of living crisis.

At a time we’re making so much progress, now is not the time to turn back to the failed approach of the past of cuts and neglect.

The Coalition of Cuts are lining up to take a razor to public services and are now even boasting about layoffs before Christmas.

That’s cruel to the families that rely on those jobs.

It’s cruel to the New Zealanders who rely on those services.

And it will be an economic blow to Wellington just as it’s getting back on its feet.

I honestly can’t believe Christopher Luxon’s so proudly campaigning on policies that will make unemployment rise.

They want to see 6.5% cut out of public services – and they’ve said that’s on top of savings we’ve announced.

We know that will inevitably mean jobs and services go.

For example National’s proposal of an additional 6.5% cut, to the Department of Conservation is impossible without taking an axe to front line conservation efforts.

Even if National got rid of DOC’s entire policy function, all their communications staff, and stopped all advertising and public communications, they’d still fall nearly $40 million short.

Or take National’s proposed cuts to Inland Revenue which cannot be done without deep cuts to areas other than policy advice.

Their target for cuts is $61m in spending – you would have to cut all provisions of policy and advice in IR more than four times over to make their savings.

As well as giving tax cuts, it seems National are looking to cut investigations and audits into tax avoidance…
A tax break isn’t worth diddly squat if you don’t have a job in the first place.

National’s Nicola Willis is set to be the Grinch who stole Christmas with her mini budget and public service layoffs.

My message to the voters of Ohariu is clear – vote for Greg O’Connor for jobs and a plan to grow the Wellington economy – not one that guts it.

And of course, National’s plan is only the base line for possible cuts.

They are the minimum.

Their Foreign Buyer hole guarantees they’ll go further.

ACT will push for more.

One thing I will say, at least David Seymour is up front with voters and says he wants to make 15,000 public servants unemployed.

Such extreme cuts will have serious run on effects nationally.

National unemployment would rise again to over 4 percent (4.1).

Because these people don’t just work in Wellington but also in the high streets in many of our regional towns.

Whether its Conservation staff in our regions protecting our environment for great tourist experiences or social development staff connecting horticulture and ag businesses with workers.

Our Fisheries officers in our coastal towns stopping poaching.

The people who deliver successful programmes that get people into work, like Mana in Mahi, are giving our young people skills so they can enter work and lead decent lives and support themselves and their families.

Our public servants who have stepped up in regions hit by Cyclone Gabrielle to make sure funding gets out to businesses and councils, and those affected are adequately supported.

With cuts at the level being proposed – it’s clear national and regional services would be decimated.

It would be a Government that couldn’t even be do the basics of its job.

Now as much as I could spend the whole day setting out what is wrong with the opposition I actually want to talk about Labour’s track record and plans for the future.

As I said earlier New Zealand is turning a corner.

After the toughest three years in living memory we’re now coming out the other side stronger.

Now for those with a mortgage who are being hit with interest rate rises, or those struggling to meet food, petrol and power costs good economic stats might be meaningless.

I get that.

But to get to better times we need a growing economy and New Zealanders in work and that is exactly what we offer.

And it’s exactly what’s at risk with a change of Government.

The National Party tax plan would turbo charge inflation, mean higher interest rates for households, and a spike up in unemployment which would accompany that.

It’s now 24 days of National keeping New Zealanders in the dark on how they will fund their inflationary tax cuts now that economists across the political spectrum have confirmed they have a gaping hole in their fiscals.

Christopher Luxon has a fiscal hole and a credibility gap to contend with.

I know as Prime Minister I need to be honest with Kiwis. It’s what you expect from your leaders.

It’s worrying that he won’t level with you. Because if he can’t be honest about his costings, what else won’t he be honest about?

Christopher Luxon’s current position of just trust us, “were rock solid” is like telling kiwis that 1 +1 = 3.

Well trust is earnt, so if the plan is so rock solid, why are you hiding?

What is it that he and Nicola Willis don’t want you all to see?

We will not stop challenging our opponents to front up with facts - in the same way we expect them to do that to us.

New Zealanders deserve the truth. Because I believe people will be considering what kind of country they want New Zealand to be, who they can trust and rely on to be there for them, and how we can be better, together.

I’ve already outlined a few of our Government’s achievements earlier.

But now I want to talk to you about some of the things we will do next.

A re-elected Labour Government I lead will:

Provide Free Basic Dental care for under 30 year olds.

By the end of our next term in Government 40 per cent of all Kiwis will have access to free dental care – and we’ll open the door to Labour’s long term goal of making basic dental free for all ages in the future.

We will remove GST from Fruit and Vegetables. We know every dollar counts in the family shop for so many.

That’s why we’ll make it cheaper at the checkout by about at least $5 a week for New Zealanders and their families.

We’re extending free ECE for 2 year olds, families will receive 20 hours of free early childcare education. This will save parents $133 a week from March next year.

We’ll also be boosting Working for Families, meaning an additional $25 per week for 160,000 working families by 2024 – helping with the cost of living pressures.

Labour will also add another 300 new frontline Police to the force on top of the 1800 additional Police we’ve already delivered in Government.

And we’ll introduce four weeks paid parental leave for partners.

Of course that isn’t all - we are committed to the policies already in place, like free prescriptions and cheaper public transport for under 25s - both of which National have promised to get rid of.

And over the campaign we’re rolling out a range of other policies that are important to New Zealanders and will take us all forward as a country.

One area I think Labour has made a huge difference on is infrastructure.

I know the National Party likes to say Labour hasn’t delivered anything over the last six years but that’s another example of their untruths.

It’s also a bit rich coming from a party that ran down our schools, hospitals and houses over the nine years they were last in Government.

The truth is Labour is the party of infrastructure and nation building.

Over the next five years we will invest $77 billion in infrastructure, up from $26 billion in the last five years of the National Government.

There were actually two years where National didn’t put any new money into the health capital budget.

That’s indicative of the types of choices they make when times are tough and what we could see again.

In contrast Labour has consistently invested in the public buildings and infrastructure New Zealanders rely on every day.

Like our schools.

As Minister of Education I was shocked by the state of our schools.

When we came into Government in 2017 our kids were learning in leaking, damp, and mouldy classrooms, learning in hallways and temporary rooms.

Labour has turned that around..

Over the last six years Labour has opened 2,250 new classrooms across the country - delivering modern, warm and dry teaching spaces for our children.

We’ve opened 24 new schools since the beginning of 2018.

On top of that nearly every school in the country was upgraded through the School Investment Package – a stimulus programme to boost jobs and the economy, and where better to direct that investment than schools.
But our infrastructure investment has been wider than that.
Take health.

We’ve increased annual health infrastructure funding from a miserable $150 million in 2017 to $1.3 billion in 2022.

We’ve spent six times more on health capital in six years than National spent in nine.

That’s what Labour does. We clean up the mess left by National. We’re still doing it – and with the pause we had to put on many things while we dealt with the pandemic, we’re still working to unwind the previous cuts which were made.

And in health it was a literal mess, with sewage in the walls of our hospitals.

Despite the challenges with COVID and our borders shut for years we have continued to make progress and have set up a number of key hospital projects.

That includes the re-development of Nelson Hospital, and the development of the new Dunedin Hospital which is the largest health capital project in our history.

And just this week we announced our commitment to a new hospital in the Hawke’s Bay.

We’ve purchased 12 new Linear Accelerators for radiation therapy, of which 7 are now in place, and we’ve put them in hospitals they weren’t previously in.

We’ve invested nearly $1 billion in 16 new or upgraded mental health facilities – four of which will open soon.

And where National funnelled nearly all the Government’s infrastructure investment into a handful of highways, we’re spending more on roads than they ever did – while also making record investments in health and education too.

Progress is being made.

Nation building is occurring. Up and down the country New Zealanders can see for themselves the upgrades we’ve made to airports from Bay of Islands to Invercargill, the redevelopment of 28 fire stations, town centre renewals, tourism facilities like cycleways, trails and museums, sports hubs and busways, creating thousands of jobs in the regions.

Which brings me to housing.

Labour has a proud and principled history of striving to provide warm, dry and affordable homes to every New Zealander.

Our housing polices have helped over 80,000 first home buyers in their first home via the First Home Grant.

The Warmer Kiwi Homes programme has seen 110,000 insulation and heat pump installations, ensuring more low-income families have healthy homes and lower power bills.

We’ve backed renters by banning letting fees, limiting rent increases to once every 12 months, introducing the healthy home standards and removing “no cause” 90-day termination notices.

We changed the law to ban foreign buyers, so first home buyers weren’t losing out on gaining access to the property market – something National wants to see happen again.

And our house build programme has been historic.

We’ve broken the record for consents issued in a single year by 10,000 – issuing 50,736 building consents in the year ended June 2022.

We’ve funded 21,000 public and transitional homes, of which over 13,000 public homes and over 4,000 transitional homes, have already been delivered.

Most of our additional public homes are new builds; we are delivering more than any other Government since the 1950s..

With another 4500 under construction right now we’re not slowing down, in fact we’re speeding up.

Our record is in stark contrast to National which decreased the number of public homes, leaving New Zealand 1,500 fewer state houses than when they started.

If they had just built at a similar rate over their last nine years in government as we are now there would practically be no public housing waitlist.

To be frank, only Labour is really committed to increasing our public housing stock to the level needed.

Which is why today I’m announcing Labour will supercharge our public housing programme by building an extra 6,000 homes throughout New Zealand.

This is a $6.2 billion investment in housing that will see Labour deliver 27,000 public homes by 2027.

We’re on track to deliver 21,000 public and transitional homes we’ve already funded by 2025, and this promise adds to that work.

Our goal is to eliminate the public housing wait list.

Delivering over 27,000 additional public and transitional homes by 2027 will be a significant step in achieving that goal.

This pledge is a stark contrast to National which left government with 1,500 fewer public homes than it started with, and sucked out hundreds of millions in dividends from our state homes.

In this election they have reluctantly said they would complete the number of homes we’ve already funded, but that’s where their promise ends.

Their commitment expires in 2025 – only two years into the next term.

A National Government won’t add any more homes after that, with history repeating and the state house shortfall escalating again.

After Labour has done so much to rebuild our decimated public housing sector, and working closely with Community Housing Providers to achieve that, National’s plan to build no public houses after 2025 would simply be a disaster.

Because building houses is the progress we need.

It’s where our housing focus should be.

Not selling $20 billion worth of properties to overseas buyers over the next four years.

I head into the last three weeks of this campaign proud of our track record, realistic about the challenges before us, and incredibly optimistic about New Zealand’s future.

We will secure a better future for every New Zealander. We need to keep building on the progress we’re making despite how tough things are feeling right now.

We’re turning the corner on so many fronts – now is not the time to turn back.

Unshackled from the pandemic, the next Labour Government can turbo charge that progress.

I am dedicating every last minute before election day to keep New Zealand moving forward.

But we need your help too.

We know there are many more of us, then there are of them.

So this campaign is about reaching those people and getting them out to vote.

That means knocking on doors, discussing with friends and families, or getting out in your community with a few pledge cards in tow.

We need people to know that only Labour has their back, and how important it is this election to get out and vote.

Because Labour is in this for them.

We’re in it for New Zealand families.

We’re in it for New Zealand communities.

We’re in it for housing and infrastructure

We’re in it for you.