Thank you for having me here.
My time as Economic Development Minister underlined for me the importance of the primary sector and regional New Zealand.
There can be a lot of talk from politicians about diversification away from primary industries – moving away from farming into areas like IT and finance.
Promoting other industries is good, but we must remember that you are the engine room of the economy.
Other industries could take lessons from how the primary sector operates.
It is full of people that are outward looking and back themselves.
People who constantly innovate so they can be the best at what they do.
People who care about conservation and the environment.
People who know that if you put in the hard yards, you reap the rewards.
These values are at the heart of what it means to be a New Zealander.
These attitudes are part of the reason why New Zealand is filled with fantastic opportunities right now.
They’re why in the two years before the last election, 10,000 new jobs were being created every month.
Why the average annual income increased by $13,000 between 2008 and 2017 – twice the rate of inflation.
They’re why the proportion of Kiwis in work is the third highest in the developed world.
New Zealand is a successful, prosperous, confident country, filled with people and businesses that can foot it with the best in the world.
I know that as Leader of the Opposition I’m supposed to complain about everything.
But that’s not my style.
I genuinely believe we are doing really well as a country, although we can always do better.
This success wasn’t always the case – ten years ago 30,000 people were leaving New Zealand every year to move to Australia, because that’s where the opportunities were.
As of last year there are more coming the other way.
We’ve made great progress – but we must keep pushing hard to ensure all Kiwis enjoy the gains.
I’m concerned that more and more of the Ardern-Peters Government’s policies will put those opportunities at risk.
While they talk a lot about good intentions, the policies like higher fuel taxes and a reversion to 1970s style pay agreements are anti-growth. They’ll shut down opportunities for our young people to get a job, and they’ll increase costs on New Zealand families.
Almost half of businesses believe the economy will deteriorate over the next six months. Half. That’s not an environment where people are hiring another employee or investing for growth.
I talked about values earlier, and there is one other value that I believe makes New Zealand so special.
And that’s our belief in doing the right thing, in giving a helping hand to those in need.
People like the single parent who needs taxpayer support to help raise their children.
And the worker who has just been laid-off and is trying but struggling to find their next job.
Most recently we’ve seen it in the primary sector too, with the M Bovis outbreak.
This is an extremely challenging time for farmers and the rural community.
These are animals that you have bred and cared for, and now your livelihoods are on the line.
I’m not going to dwell on how we got where we are, but I am pleased that farmers finally have certainty.
I feel for those who are having their stock culled – truly taking one for the team
For National’s part, we’re not going to play politics with this issue. That’s my commitment to you.
Our primary sector team of MPs, led by Nathan Guy, is here to support farming families and to advocate for you through this painful process.
I want to talk about more than just M Bovis today.
You know we always have to look ahead – to next year and the year after, to how you want your farm to be operating in five years’ time, and perhaps even to how your children and grandchildren could take over one day.
Just like you, much of what I do is driven by what I want for my kids when they grow up.
My wife Natalie and I have three amazing young children. Emlyn who is six, Harry who’s four, and little Jemima who is a whole six months old.
As a politician sometimes there are sacrifices you make, and that includes spending less time with your children.
But it also means that when I go to Parliament, I’m driven by the desire to make New Zealand an even better place for all our kids when they grow up.
One of the big long-term challenges we face is protecting the environment.
In a hundred years, when we’re all long gone, I want to be sure our grandchildren will be living in a New Zealand that is still the envy of the world because of its stunning natural environment as well as its prosperity.
I want them to live in a pristine New Zealand, where they can take their children to swim at Piha, or tramp in the Waitakere ranges like I did growing up.
I want our grandchildren to know that all of us have done what we can to protect the environment - our most precious natural resource.
I doubt there are any New Zealanders who don’t think like this.
We can have the best sportspeople, the finest scholars, and the most innovative entrepreneurs.
We can have a world class economy and the prosperity to pay for education, hospitals, infrastructure, social services and care for our vulnerable.
But none of that is worthwhile if we haven’t protected the natural environment as well.
I’ve charged our environmental MPs, led by Scott Simpson, Todd Muller, Sarah Dowie and Erica Stanford with the task of modernising our approach to environmental issues. To run a ruler over our policies. To ask the questions and to push us harder.
And that is also true of climate change.
I know there might be some surprises about a National leader talking about climate change at Fieldays.
But I know this sector is committed to conservation and environmental sustainability.
You don’t get enough credit for that.
We’re not doing anyone any favours if we can’t have a robust conversation about the steps we need to take to protect our natural resources.
New Zealand feeds the world. We produce more food per person than any other OECD country.
Unfortunately being a large food producer means our per capita emissions are high.
But we are also the most efficient food producers. The world needs to be fed and we know how to do it well.
But simply being the most efficient isn’t enough. We need to do more to reduce emissions further. I know that, and every farmer I talk to knows that too.
Despite our small individual profile of one fifth of one per cent of global emissions, our size does not abdicate us from our responsibility.
National recognises the importance to New Zealanders – present and future – of addressing climate change, and playing our part in the global response.
We’ve made good progress recently, but we need to do more.
We implemented the world-leading Emissions Trading Scheme, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining economic productivity.
When I was Transport Minister I implemented a significant package of measures to increase electric vehicle usage, so that we use fewer fossil fuels.
New Zealand is a great place for electric vehicles, because almost 90 per cent of our electricity is renewable. That’s the fourth highest in the developed world.
There are now as many new electric vehicles in New Zealand each year as there have been in Australia, ever.
I want us to do more of that.
Since 2008 our greenhouse gas emissions fell, despite a growing economy and growing population.
That is a big deal. In the previous 18 years emissions increased by 25 per cent.
But we now need to wrestle them down further.
I am proud to have been a part of the previous National Government which signed New Zealand up to the Paris agreement with its ambitious challenge of reducing our emissions to 30 per cent less than 2005 levels by 2030.
I was there in Paris as the Associate Minister for Climate Change Issues and I stand by our commitment.
It will be challenging to achieve, and will require an adjustment to our economy. But we must do so.
In order to drive long-lasting change, broad and enduring political support is needed for New Zealand’s climate change framework – on the institutional arrangements we put in place to support a reduction in emissions.
Both the Productivity Commission and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment were clear about this.
Stability is required to allow people and businesses to plan and respond.
It requires a consensus between the major political parties on the overall framework through which we address climate change issues.
Today I have written to the Prime Minister and James Shaw, offering to work with them to establish an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission.
I want to work with the Government to make meaningful bi-partisan progress on climate change.
This will be challenging. It will require compromises on both sides.
It will require us all to listen and engage respectfully.
But the prize is too great not to try, and the consequences on our economy, jobs and the environment are too serious if we don’t do so responsibly.
The Climate Change Commission would support New Zealand’s emission reductions by both advising the Government on carbon budgets, and holding the Government to account by publishing progress reports on emissions.
The Commission would be advisory only, with the Government of the day taking final decisions on both targets and policy responses.
There are a number of details I want to work through with the Government before the Commission is launched – such as ensuring the Commission has appropriate consideration for economic impacts as well as environmental, and that the process for appointments to the Commission is also bipartisan.
But I am confident that we can work constructively together to establish an enduring non-political framework for all future governments when considering climate change issues.
But just getting the institutional arrangements right isn’t going to be enough – the question is the steps we take to reduce emissions over time.
And of course there will be ongoing debate about what is and isn’t appropriate. It is right there will be different views on this.
National want practical, sensible solutions, not extreme policies that could damage the economy and unnecessarily drive up costs for Kiwi households.
National has five principles that we believe should guide New Zealand in moving to a low carbon economy, to help ensure economic growth and improving the environment go hand in hand.
Firstly, I want New Zealand to take a pragmatic, science-based approach to tackling climate change.
We will get better results focusing on what works.
Success comes in tangible improvements to the environment, not how closely we can stand by a particular ideology.
Our second principle is that innovation and technology will be crucial to meeting any target.
Technological change will drive much of the solution to climate change – and a National government I lead will invest more in this.
We are already seeing opportunities to shift our transport sector to renewable energy through the uptake of electric vehicles.
Households can generate renewable energy themselves with micro-hydro, solar and wind.
And at Oxford University they’re developing natural gas electricity generation that actually strips carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Our third principle is that we need to get the incentives right to drive long-term changes rather than imposing short-term shocks.
Households and businesses, scientists and entrepreneurs should all contribute to a low-carbon solution.
The best way to do that is to continue to use market-based price signals such as the ETS where it helps to drive behaviour change.
But we should also recognise that where technology does not exist to mitigate emissions, adding a tax just makes that industry worse off without reducing global emissions.
Fourth, New Zealand must act, but never in isolation.
Climate change is a global issue that requires a global response.
Moving ahead of other countries risks pushing industries from New Zealand to overseas – meaning we simply export emissions offshore rather than driving global change.
That’s exactly what we’ve seen with the Government’s oil and gas decision – ending natural gas exploration here will simply result in more coal being burnt in China, actually increasing global emissions.
And finally, we must always consider the wider impacts on the economy – on jobs and incomes for New Zealanders.
The solution cannot be limited to driving up costs on New Zealand households so they use less energy.
We can and must ensure that the environment and the economy are mutually supportive.
These five principles:
- technology driven
- long-term incentives
- global response, and
- economic impact
will inform the work we do on policies to reduce emissions.
That applies to future targets for emission reductions.
The previous Government set an ambitious 2050 target for emissions reductions, which will already be challenging to achieve. Any change would need to meet the test of the principles I have set out.
Similarly, those five principles are the tests that need to be met before agriculture faces costs under the ETS.
The policy doesn’t currently meet that threshold.
On science, the main emission from agriculture is short-lived methane, not long-lived carbon dioxide. The two gasses should be treated differently – as recommended recently by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment and the Productivity Commission.
On incentives, the current lack of mitigation options means the only behaviour change it will likely drive is the culling of herds – which risks simply moving food production overseas, where taxes haven’t been imposed. Moving from efficient Kiwi farmers like you, to offshore farms that pollute more.
Each of these factors may change over time – so while it doesn’t meet the threshold now, it may do in the future.
Ladies and gentlemen.
I am very upbeat about the agriculture sector’s capacity to deliver a less carbon intensive future, and continue to showcase our innovation to the world – if we stick to a science-based, technology-driven, global response.
I believe Government should partner with the primary sector to develop practices and technologies to improve our environmental footprint
Addressing climate change isn’t easy. We all know that.
But if we are all pulling in the same direction we can make a difference and ensure that our beautiful natural environment is preserved for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.
There isn’t a silver bullet solution to environmental problems. It’s always complex, but there’s never any answer unless you prioritise the problem.
I will be doing that.
Today in a keynote speech at the 50th Annual Agricultural Fieldays Opposition Leader Simon Bridges has taken a significant step toward a bipartisan approach to climate change policy.
“Today I have written to the Prime Minister and Minister for Climate Change offering to work with them to establish an independent, non-political Climate Change Commission which would support emissions reductions by both advising on carbon budgets and publishing progress reports on emissions,” Mr Bridges says.
“National recognises the importance to New Zealanders – current and future – of addressing climate change and responsibly playing our part in a global response.
“Long-lasting change requires broad and enduring support, so I want to work with the Government to make meaningful bipartisan progress on climate change.
“This will be challenging and require compromises on both sides. But the prize is too great not to try, and the consequences on our economy, jobs and the environment are too serious if we don’t do so responsibly.
“The design of the Commission will be critical, but both the Productivity Commission and Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment have offered a clear steer as to what they see as an enduring model to drive long-lasting change.
“I am confident that we can work constructively together to establish an enduring non-political framework for all future governments when considering climate change issues.
Mr Bridges also said that simply getting the institutional arrangements such as carbon budgets right isn’t enough – we also need to address the specific policy choices that will be taken to reduce emissions over time.
“Of course there will be ongoing debate and differing views about what steps are appropriate. National want to see sensible, practical solutions, not extreme policies that would damage the economy and unnecessarily drive up costs for Kiwi households.
“National have a core set of principles that will guide the work we do on climate change:
- taking a pragmatic, science-based approach,
- utilising innovation and technology,
- getting the incentives right to drive long-term change rather than short-term shocks
- acting as part of a global response, and
- considering the wider impacts on the economy, jobs and incomes
“Addressing climate change isn’t easy. We all know that.
“But if we are all pulling in the same direction we can help ensure that our beautiful natural environment is preserved for our grandchildren and their grandchildren,” Mr Bridges says.
The Government’s hapless handling of its ‘justice reforms’ has continued, with incoming Prime Minister Winston Peters now saying Three Strikes might still be axed, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Just two weeks ago, Justice Minister Andrew Little said Three Strikes was going and he had the full support of Labour’s Coalition partners to axe it. Then in an embarrassing back down yesterday he said it wasn’t happening because he’d spoken out of turn.
“Then when it looked like it couldn’t get any messier, this morning the Prime Minister said in one media interview it wasn’t happening only for Mr Little to say in the next that no, it still might be - in spite of NZ First saying it was off the table.
“That might have been the end of it, and if the Government took the safety of New Zealanders seriously it would be. But in Parliament this afternoon Mr Peters changed his mind and said the policy is in fact still up for future consideration.
“He went on to admit that decisions like repealing (or not repealing) Three Strikes and banning oil and gas exploration were typical of this Government – decisions made on the fly, without expert advice or consultation.
“Well that’s hugely worrying because this is not how you should make decisions which affect peoples’ lives.
“What an incompetent shambles.
“With confirmation from the incoming Prime Minister that Three Strikes is back on the table, we can be sure this Government will be moving towards loosening up our bail, sentencing and parole laws too.
“That’s going to make New Zealanders less safe. It’s clear that despite the previous rhetoric from NZ First, only National will be tough on crime and put victims first.”
The Prime Minister is misleading New Zealanders by falsely claiming prisons are full of low level offenders in order to try and justify the mess her Government is making on law and order and its refusal to build a new prison, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Government’s handling of proposed changes to our justice system has been nothing short of incompetent, as it tries to find an excuse not to build a new prison to lock away our most serious offenders.
“Things have gotten so desperate that to try and paper over her hapless Justice Minister’s broken promise to repeal Three Strikes, the Prime Minister is falsely claiming New Zealand’s prisons are full of low level offenders. That’s simply not true.
“The Government’s own figures show that 98 per cent of prisoners are locked up for Category 3 and Category 4 crimes. These are offences punishable by two years in prison or more. These include murder, manslaughter, rape, aggravated assault and sexual violence.
“These are not low level offences and the Prime Minister is wrong to say otherwise.
“It is also worth noting that people on remand or serving sentences in New Zealand prisons have an average of 46 convictions on their criminal record.
“The fact is only our most serious and repeat offenders are locked up and they must continue to be, and the only way that will happen is if the new prison is built.
“If the Government chooses not to, Mr Little has made clear that he will instead make it easier for criminals to get out of prison and harder for our police and courts to put them there in the first place.
“That is only going to make New Zealand communities less safe.
“We know the Government has made a decision on whether or not to build Waikeria Prison but the Prime Minister has said she won’t tell us yet. So what will it be, Prime Minister? Waikeria Prison, or making Kiwis less safe?”
The Government’s embarrassing back down on Three Strikes has underlined the cracks in the Coalition and shown just how little thought is going into decisions which directly affect the lives of New Zealanders, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Just days after defiantly promising to repeal the Three Strikes law, Justice Minister Andrew Little has been hauled into line and revealed to have been making promises he simply hadn’t done the work to be able to keep.
“And what is genuinely concerning is the embarrassing back down comes a week after it was confirmed the Government hadn’t even bothered to seek advice or follow due process before axing oil and gas exploration.
“It’s policy on the hoof and shows why Labour is so reluctant to make decisions and is instead sending everything to working groups – 122 and counting.
“When they do try and make a decision they make a mess instead.
“All along the Government’s approach to law and order has been reckless. It has promised to cut the prison population by a third because it doesn’t want to build Waikeria Prison but it has no plan aside from making it harder to send offenders to prison and making it easier for those already there to get out.
“Now the Coalition parties have been found to not even be talking to each other and Andrew Little’s comments about Three Strikes have been shown to be ill-advised bluster.
“These are incredibly serious matters but this is amateur hour stuff from a Government quickly proving its incompetence. It’s an unacceptable way of making decisions which will have a real impact on the lives of New Zealanders – in this case making them less safe.
“National will be tough on crime. We will hold offenders to account, we will build Waikeria Prison and we will ensure we make decisions, and do the work, in the best interests of New Zealanders.”
Plummeting business confidence should be sending shivers down the spines of Government ministers, with Auckland businesses sending a clear signal that Government policies are taking the economy in the wrong direction, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Almost half of Auckland businesses surveyed by the Auckland Business Chamber believe that the economy is going to deteriorate over the next six months.
“That’s compared to just 8 per cent this time last year under the National Government.
“This ‘free fall’ in business confidence is a direct result of the poor decisions and uncertainty created by the Ardern-Peters Government which has done nothing to give businesses a boost.
“With 122 working groups or reviews set up in the last eight months, it’s easy to see why businesses don’t have confidence in the Government’s ability to make decisions.
“When it does make decisions, they’re bad. Anti-business and anti-growth policies continue to mount – like giving more power to the unions at the expense of workers, taxing more for petrol, or slashing foreign investment.
“For the last few years, New Zealand’s economy has been the envy of the world.
“But deteriorating business confidence will mean lower investment, fewer jobs and less money for public services – undoing all the good work of hardworking Kiwis over the last decade.
“It’s well past time for the Government to start listening.”
The Prime Minister must urgently revisit her Government’s decision to end oil and gas exploration for the good of New Zealand, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The Government didn’t want the advice before making the decision to end oil and gas exploration in New Zealand, but the advice from officials shows that it will have significant consequences for people’s jobs, the economy, and the environment.
“In light of this, the Prime Minister must go back to the drawing board and come to a new decision based on evidence and advice about what’s good for New Zealand.
“The oil and gas decision was based on an assumption that it would be better for the environment, but the advice shows the Prime Minister was wrong – it will in fact be worse for the environment.
“That’s why the Prime Minister must rethink the decision – she will have realised by now that abruptly ending oil and gas exploration means we’ll have to either import gas from overseas or turn to coal, both of which will mean higher emissions.
“Official advice shows that the effect of our largest gas user, Methanex, scaling back its operations in New Zealand will be higher costs, significantly higher emissions, and methanol produced from coal in China which has up to four times the emissions of methanol produced from gas.
“Not only that but without exploration there will be no more investment in our oil and gas sector or downstream industries, which means significantly fewer jobs for New Zealanders.
“This is already having an effect on business confidence which continues to decline month on month. Loss of confidence is a warning sign for lower investment, fewer jobs, and less money for public services.
“If business confidence continues to deteriorate we risk undoing all the gains hardworking New Zealanders have made in the last 10 years.
“The Prime Minister needs to do what’s right for New Zealand and put the oil and gas decision at the very top of her list for urgent reconsideration.”
The Government’s obsession with working groups has at least a $114 million price tag but the real cost comes in the form of lost opportunities, Opposition Leader Simon Bridges says.
“The cost so far of less than half of the Government’s 122 working groups and reviews is over $114 million which says a lot about the Ardern-Peters Government’s priorities.
“While staffers in the Prime Minister’s office get plum roles reviewing the health system, designated mental health and Māori development funding have been cut by $100 million.
“While former Labour Ministers are being paid big bucks to run panels, children’s camps in Roxburgh are being shut down.
“And while Clare Curran sets up an advisory group to recommend the establishment of a commission to recommend distribution of public media funding, education spending promises are being broken by the millions.
“What’s worse is the Government doesn’t even know the costs of at least 45 of its reviews, with Treasury classifying the various working groups as a specific fiscal risk.
“The Government needs to shelve its reviews and get its priorities straight – the $114 million could hire 2,100 extra teachers or pay for an extra 20,000 elective surgeries. Instead, the Government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars for others to do the work for it.
“Its underwhelming Budget also shows what we’ve known for a while – Labour, NZ First and the Greens can’t figure out their priorities, weren’t ready to govern and are out of their depth.
“Whether it’s the broken promise on cheaper GP visits for all New Zealanders, the broken promise on affordable KiwiBuild housing, or the broken promise on school donations, the message is clear: New Zealanders cannot rely on Labour to deliver.
“National won’t repeat Labour’s mistakes. We’re working hard in the interests of Kiwis and we’ll be ready to implement our plans and policies if we earn the right to govern again in 2020.”
The Government’s naïve and muddled decision-making is hurting business and investment confidence across the economy, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Officials’ advice revealed today that banning offshore oil and gas exploration would have a ‘chilling effect’ on investment in that sector was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bad decision-making.
“While the Finance Minister trumpets economic conditions gifted to him by a competent and careful Government, New Zealand’s changed country risk profile just eight months into this Government means investment in productive sectors is essentially on negative watch.
“This Government’s reckless pursuit of ideology over common sense, such as today’s announcement of an intention to bring in so-called Fair Pay Agreements – which really signals a return to National Awards – is having a marked effect on business confidence.
“Week after week Grant Robertson cherry-picks the narrow elements of each business confidence survey he thinks he can positively spin, despite the headline feedback being clearly negative and New Zealand’s reputation as a good place to do business suffering.
“It’s not only issues like the short-sighted nature of the Government’s decision on offshore exploration, but also the callous lack of regard for due process in making it.
“In that case we’ve seen ideology and cheap headlines trump common sense in a move that won’t lessen global emissions – ironically it will probably make them worse – while a similar lack of thought on restricting residential land to foreign investors, regardless of the value their wider investments would have brought to New Zealand, is also hurting our economy.
“Property developers with links offshore can’t fund new subdivisions and apartments lest they get caught by the impending Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, meaning first-home buyers are getting stiffed by a Government that promised them salvation.
“Meanwhile only risk-takers with very deep pockets will be investing in primary industries with a myriad uncertainty over water taxes, stock numbers and a Government that doesn’t support large scale water storage.
“And all the while the trades unions rub their hands with anticipation at the prospect of cross-sector collective bargaining, which if implemented will entrench workplace disruption and rob our exporters of their competitive edge.
“Returning to 1970s-style union-dominated collective bargaining will hurt the 82 per cent of workers who aren’t union members by reducing their employment flexibility and will add unnecessary costs to their employers.
“Only a National-led Government which understands the importance of stability, a productive economy and enhancing rather than harming our international relationships can put New Zealand back on the right track.”
National Party Leader Simon Bridges has congratulated Sir Bill English on being honoured for his immense contribution to New Zealand over a 27-year career.
“Sir Bill steered New Zealand through very tough times and oversaw one of the fastest-growing economies in the developed world, to the envy of governments across the globe.
“As Finance Minister, Sir Bill guided New Zealand from heavy deficits to get us back into surplus, all while contending with the GFC and the Canterbury earthquakes.
“This achievement cannot be underestimated – it is what has given the previous and current governments the opportunities to make a positive difference to the lives of New Zealanders.
“He is recognised as one of the greatest finance ministers in New Zealand, and indeed the world. But more than that, Sir Bill has been dedicated to helping the most vulnerable New Zealanders to live better lives.
“After getting the books in good shape, he was able to increase benefits in real terms for the first time in 40 years.
“Sir Bill also pioneered the groundbreaking Social Investment approach, which gives us the greatest opportunity in a generation to transform the lives of New Zealanders.
“He devoted almost three decades to serving New Zealand in Parliament and today’s honour recognises not only his service to our country, but the support his wife Mary provided him over that time.
“Sir Bill would be the first to acknowledge the hundreds of other exceptional New Zealanders who have been recognised for their contributions today. I also extend my warm congratulations to each of them and thank them for their service to New Zealand.”