It’s wonderful to see you all.
Can I acknowledge our Prime Minister and our Deputy Prime Minister, the President, Party Board, Party management, can I acknowledge Ministerial and Parliamentary colleagues and fellow candidates, and fellow passionate New Zealanders.
This last week in politics has reminded us that we are heading into an election campaign. Election campaigns are tough. No order is given, they’re never smooth sailing and the Labour Party, we also learned last week, will stop at absolutely nothing to succeed; and we’ll come back to that.
I want to talk about what we’re fighting for. We’re fighting for this country, taking a new and modern approach to the world that is delivering for New Zealanders, that’s what we’re fighting for.
In the last four weeks, I have been around this country talking to people about a certain budget – Budget 2017, so far I’ve done around 32 different speeches to business groups, to social services, to communities and to iwi.
It’s been a great experience to take a pulse of this country. And can I say this, New Zealand is shaping globalisation to its advantage. New Zealand is doing magnificently.
I’ll put it this way, we are up on our foils, we’re going faster and stronger than our competition, that’s what this country is doing. Let me take you through a couple things.
First, economic progress. We, last year, were the fifth fastest growing economy in the developed world. And that’s good because I can remember those conferences in the early 2000s that a certain former Prime Minister would run when we were 22nd in the world and then eventually did nothing about it.
So that’s a good story. We are growing faster at this moment, and expected to over the next couple of years, faster than the UK, faster than Europe, faster than Japan, faster than Canada, faster than the US and faster than our very close friends who we like to beat every now and then on the sports field, and now in economic terms, the Australians.
And that’s good, but actually economic growth is not a mean in itself. I don’t expect to walk into a house in Lower Hutt, knock on the door with Chris Bishop and say “good news, the economy is growing well!”
They would rightly say, “Well, what’s in it for me?”
And what’s fundamentally in it for them, is job growth and wage growth, that’s what it’s all about, and you can’t have those things without economic growth.
You can’t have job growth, you could maybe do in a quarter or two, but you can’t have it without economic growth, and this country is growing jobs like it never has before. We are growing employment in this country at the rate of 10,000 jobs a month.
I met the Reserve Bank of Australia governor a few weeks ago, he was over here for the séances that Reserve Banks have from time to time. He was sitting there and he asks how’s it going? I said “it’s good, we’re growing at 10,000 jobs a month.” He said really, we’re not doing much more than that in Australia, 15-16,000 a month, and he’s right, over the last year they’ve been growing at 15-16,000 jobs a month and they are five times the size of New Zealand.
So don’t underestimate how important that is.
We now have more than three quarters of the New Zealand population between the ages of 15 and 65 in work, 76.2 per cent if you want to be precise. That is not only the second highest rate of employment for adults in the OECD, it is the highest rate of employment we have ever had in this country.
And we have wage growth, our average wage is around $56-57,000 and it’s going to go through to $63,000 over the next four years, and that’s good steady growth but it’s not as big in dollar terms as sometimes it was in the past, but it’s much bigger when you adjust for inflation.
And that’s actually what it’s all about, it’s what I can afford, my purchasing power. So yes, people were getting pay rises at 5 per cent back in 2008 and inflation was 5 per cent in 2008, so they were saying, how are we getting these pay rises and not getting ahead?
The answer was inflation and the cost of living. And last year the cost of living was nil and the average wage increase was 2 per cent and it all goes to the purchasing power of New Zealanders, that’s what it’s all about.
If you talk to the OECD they’ll tell you that we have faster real wage growth than the US and Europe and it’s not often that we can say that.
The other thing that’s really important is how much we owe the world, how much the world funds our growth. And many of you have been in these rooms, coming to these conferences will know that at various times it’s been a big subject of discussion.
In fact in the later part of the last decade when Labour were in office, a fair bit of that growth was funded by increase in what we owed the world. We effectively borrowed from the world to fund our growth.
When we came into office in 2008, New Zealand’s international liabilities, what we owe the world, was around 82 per cent of our GDP. And the ratings agencies around the world were saying that that’s a bit high. Well I can tell you that’s been coming down since.
Under this government, we have a steady growth record now of six years of growing every quarter all but one quarter, ever since the GFC, and what that means is now our international liability is down to less than 60 per cent.
That’s important, because the fact that it’s down to 58.5 per cent of GDP indicates that we are becoming a much stronger economy.
There’s a politician who’s been around for about 40 years, can’t remember his name, who rails about this stuff, and what really gets him wound up is how much everything has improved under this government, and that’s why he’s so grumpy. He’s had 40 years in politics and he hasn’t achieved anywhere near what’s been achieved by this National Government.
Why is this happening?
It’s happening because Kiwi companies and Kiwi entrepreneurs are getting out there and taking on the world and winning. They’re showing through their innovation, grit and determination that this country can compete on the world stage and get ahead, and create greater prosperity for New Zealand.
Last night I met a couple young guys at the Bay of Plenty Export Awards who won the ‘best emerging exporter’ category and I said to them, “how are you going?”
They said, we’re good, it’s really cool this business, what we’re doing is making stuff we’d like to be able to buy ourselves, and we’re now selling it to the world. I said, well that’s great.
They’re just 25-26 years old, and they’re not interested in hearing how we should shut this country down and stop growing, they’re not interested in how we should keep immigrants out and skilled workers to come help them with their businesses, they’re not interested in people who turn up and say we need to be tougher on trade deals because they’re getting out and showing New Zealanders how to do it, and doing a fantastic job.
And all of that work that these companies are doing are flowing through the Government’s Budget.
Our current Prime Minister and former Finance Minister has brought us back into surplus.
This government has been one of the first, if not the first, in the developed world to get back into a structural surplus which is sustainable in the years ahead, and that has allowed me to walk in through the door and act like Father Christmas.
It has allowed me to work with colleagues to come up with a Budget 2017 that delivers for New Zealanders, with a big investment in public services, $7 billion over the next four years.
Now these numbers get pretty big pretty quickly, especially when you talk to Jonathan Coleman, because the health budget goes up by nearly $4 billion over the next four years.
When we first came into office this country was spending $11 billion and change on health, this coming financial year we will be spending $16.8 billion a year on health, and that’s a massive increase in investment.
Our little friends in opposition are spending a lot of time telling us that it’s a cut, and there’s no way that $11 billion to over $16 billion is a cut, it is growing the health sector of New Zealand and this government is investing in the health of New Zealanders.
We are also New Zealand’s infrastructure government.
We are investing billions in infrastructure. When the Budget came out, people noted that we put an extra $4 billion into infrastructure this year and it was a debate for five minutes whether that was enough until they realised that the investment we’re making in infrastructure.
The Government alone over the next four years is $32.5 billion which is if you don’t know how that looks is 40 per cent more than the last four years, and double what is was a decade ago. That is a big increase.
We have the capacity to deliver all that infrastructure over the next four years. And that actually is a big part of what we have to do. Then we’ve got to be thinking about the four years after that because it’s going to be even bigger after that as this country grows.
And the other thing we were able to do in this budget was the family incomes and that is the bit that makes me the most proud.
When I was standing with the Prime Minister on Budget night watching the TV news and seeing those families in West Auckland and South Auckland and around the country saying hey this budget will help me get a chance to help my kids get ahead.
That’s what made it all worthwhile, the last eight and a half years work that we have all done to get this economy into shape so these families can be better off to bring up their kids and provide for their kids and that’s what’s important.
Those packages delivered the Accommodation Supplement changes, it delivered the tax changes and it delivered Working for Families changes that will ensure these families have a great opportunity over the next few years, we want to do it again if we have the opportunity.
What I still don’t understand is how the New Zealand Labour party, a party that might be chosen voted against that Family Incomes Package – I do not understand that at all. It’s just politics at all costs, it’s got nothing to do with Kiwis, it’s got nothing to do with families if they hadn’t they would have voted for it.
Of course we know they don’t. We know they don’t have a compass because they’ve been caught red handed this week in absolute scandal, no doubt about it.
Bringing international students on sham courses, saying they’re going to be doing courses on politics, not paying them, putting them up in substandard accommodation and making them sign non-disclosure agreements so they can’t talk about it to anybody.
I’m sorry, but that’s appalling.
Imagine how they would have attacked us if they weren’t the Labour Party, if it wasn’t the Labour party doing it. Well they sort of attacked us, they’re trying to get us to believe that it wasn’t them.
It’s nothing to do with us, it was set up by a rogue former staff member – right, Matt McCarten, the former Chief of Staff you’re referring to.
The guy that’s not worked for the Labour Party for about 18 days? “It’s nothing to do with us, it wasn’t the Labour Party.
And if it was, it was the Auckland Labour Party, nothing to do with us.
It’s nothing to do with us, we’re solving the problem. We’ve discovered it, and we’re sending in senior officials to sort out these other individuals.
It’s nothing to do with us; but we should get brownie points for admitting to it.
Ok, that’s reasonably low bar.
It’s nothing to do with us but yes it has got the former Prime Minister as one of its speakers, it has got the current leader and deputy leader named on the sheet, but that was nothing to do with us, it was over exuberance.
People got carried away. That’s what the Labour Party are trying to tell you – it wasn’t me, it was our little friend Matt McCarten who we are completely disowning and we have nothing to do with.
Well, let’s be clear, it’s a scam.
And the Labour Party leadership are now exposed as massive hypocrites.
We can’t take them seriously on immigration, on education or on standards of housing ever again. We have confirmation that that Labour Party of 2017 has no principles at all.
As Paula said, they only want to be in government because it’s their turn. That’s what they’re saying, they want to be in government because it’s their turn and they’re sick of being in opposition.
Well, I’m sorry but the New Zealand public, business owners, workers, mums and dads, retired people, they all deserve much better than that.
So delegates, we have a lot of work to do.
All we have done in the last few years is prove to ourselves that if we operate a good, sensible, consistent, reliable economic policy that values the contributions of individual New Zealanders that this country can go much faster and achieve much more and provide much more for its people than it has in the past.
That’s what we’ve proved to ourselves in the past few years.
Our job now is to keep delivering that for New Zealanders over the next three years.
We have to invest more in R&D, yes it’s growing, yes we are showing ourselves that we can build rockets off the Mahia peninsula and we can have clever yacht designers who can take on the world and win, fingers crossed.
We need to keep simplifying our tax system, and keep improving the rewards to Kiwi families. We need to keep growing and keep paying down our debt to the world.
We are here at this conference to set ourselves up for an election in 91 days’ time.
Where we are going to fight for kiwi businesses who come up to me every day and say you guys better stay in; because my business is growing, I’m employing more people, I’m providing for my family, you guys have to stay.
We’re here to fight for those people. We’re here to fight for the 10,000 people a month who have a new job, in construction, in hospitality, in farming and in IT.
We are here to fight for families who will get a tax break on 1 April next year – and who won’t get one under Labour because they’re already sidling away from their commitments.
We’re here to fight for the vulnerable people who need our help and we can only do that from a position of strength.
And we are here to fight for a positive aspirational New Zealand.
I have two young kids, I’m younger than I look.
My daughter is nine and my son is seven and for the first time in my life, I’m absolutely sure that both of those kids have a positive future in this country.
And I miss them a lot when I’m away, but I do it because I reckon if we all work together we can deliver that future, in a way we haven’t been able to do since our friends in Great Britain went off and joined the European Union – which they’re now leaving but that’s a different story.
I reckon this country over the next four years has the ability to be internationally connected, take advantage of all the opportunities in our region.
Turn into a place with the highest quality services and the cleverest technology and cleverest ideas happening in front of our eyes, there are hundreds and hundreds of kiwi companies doing this all around the country, and we have the ability with ultrafast broadband, and the way the world is connected to us these days, to do it from a New Zealand base.
Any young person who wants to do it can give it a crack.
That’s what we are able to deliver for this country over the next twenty years.
And I think we are on track to be one of the fastest growing and one of the most technologically savvy little countries in the world and definitely the best place to live.
And that’s what we’re fighting for, in the election on September 23.