Good afternoon, it’s great to be here again at Fieldays.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging ANZ’s Commercial & Agri general manager Lorraine Mapu.
It’s also great to see Nathan Guy here, Nathan has been leading an able team of rural MP’s including the likes of Barbara Kuriger, Todd Muller, Parmjeet Parmar, Tim Van de Molen, Hamish Walker and Lawrence Yule, who are all in attendance.
Last year at Fieldays I gave a speech about climate change where I talked about taking a pragmatic, science-based approach that is in line with our global partners and doesn’t result in harming our rural communities.
At the moment I’m concerned that well-meaning incentives are driving perverse outcomes. The Government is proposing an onerous methane target with no scientific backing, and farmers are not going to be able to meet it. Hill country farmers are concerned about the One Billion Tree Programme and its impact on rural communities. The arbitrary target is overriding best land use resulting in trees being planted in the wrong place. Government needs to be cautious of subsidising forest plantings and skewing the overseas investment rules against pastoral farming.
We will not let rural NZ fade into a sea of trees.
This year, I have another important speech, this time about our Primary Sector Discussion Document. Unlike the current Government, we’ve been using our time in Opposition wisely. Last year we released our ‘Have Your Say’ Rural campaign. From this we learnt the huge concerns that our rural communities have around accessing services, attracting enough skilled workers, more taxes and excessive regulation and red tape.
We’ve used the information to feed into a discussion document which will ultimately help form our election policies.
We’re running the ruler over all of our policies. This year we are launching our discussion documents, phase two in our policy development.
We’re focused on being a constructive and hardworking Opposition, holding the Government to account and putting forward ideas to improve the lives of New Zealanders.
So today we’re launching National’s third discussion document – the Primary Sector Discussion Document.
New Zealand has natural resources that position us as efficient and sustainable producers of food and fibre products. Our hard working innovative farmers are world leading. Demand for our products is set to grow and our policies are about allowing New Zealand to make the most of these opportunities.
The primary sector contributes $45 billion in export revenue and employs over 350,000 people. We must continue to support the sectors growth and ensure our policy is fit for purpose.
We understand that farmers and growers are concerned about mounting workforce shortages, employment law reforms, climate change and environmental regulations and increasing taxes.
Rural communities deserve access to top quality education and health services, and reliable infrastructure and connectivity.
Our experienced and dedicated team of rural MP’s have worked hard to come up with a series of ideas and proposals that we think can address these issues, and we are excited to hear your feedback.
This document is part of the biggest policy development process by an Opposition in over a decade.
National holds every rural seat in Parliament except one… but I can assure that we’re coming for West Coast Tasman. Damien O’Connor, the man who said ‘The Government is no friends of farmers’ and who told farmers to ‘suck it up’ when talking about increasing costs - should look out.
We’re proud to represent rural New Zealand. We’re working hard to ensure we’re ready to govern in 2020 should we have the opportunity.
What are we proposing?
Our biosecurity system is under immense pressure with 5.5 million passengers entering the country each year, along with increasing imports.
We’ve seen the devastating effects that can happen from things like M-Bovis, the Queensland Fruit fly and the brown marmorated stink bug.
We want to toughen up on those bringing in items which could put our biosecurity at risk.
This would mean increasing fines from the current $400 to $1000 for those found to have risk materials, and giving Ministry for Primary Industry officials the power to immediately deport those who are found to knowingly conceal concerning items.
National also wants to ensure importers are held accountable for signing off Import Health Standards on goods that aren’t free of biosecurity risk items. These measures will go a long way to better protecting our border.
The National Party understands the issues that the rural community faces around worker shortages more than any other party in Parliament.
That’s why we’re proposing a Primary Sector Visa to help provide workforce certainty for employers in the primary sector.
Our primary sector is growing rapidly as we feed an increasing global population, so it’s important that we have the workforce to manage, develop and maintain New Zealand’s agricultural and horticultural businesses.
Farmers and growers are crying out for skilled labour but there isn’t enough workers to meet demand. Many are experiencing serious implications of food rotting because of a lack of labour stifling growth and will have to downsize. A solution is needed now.
The Primary Sector Visa would act as an avenue for skilled and experienced migrants to help get residence and build their futures here.
It would work alongside other National initiatives such as supporting vocational education and agricultural training, extending the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme and promoting the sector as an attractive career prospect to turn the tap on the waning workforce.
But we know we can’t rely on immigration solely. We need to train New Zealanders to work in the rural sector.
Last year the Government announced the closure of Taratahi, the leading vocational training establishment.
This will have far reaching effects on the industry. A lack of skills will mean a lack of workers. We propose to increase vocational training opportunities in the primary sector.
We also know the health pressures that are facing our rural communities. Hamish Walker has done a great job of fighting for the Lumsden Maternity Unit.
Despite how vocal he’s been, we’ve still seen women give birth on the side of the road. National will reinstate funding so services can resume in Lumsden and we’ll do it in our first hundred days.
We’re also proposing a mobile rural health clinic to administer ‘WOF’ style health check-ups in remote areas to ensure those in rural communities have easy access to quality healthcare.
More than 600,000 New Zealanders live in rural communities, and while it’s accepted not everyone in rural New Zealand can live next to a hospital, it’s important they have access to modern healthcare.
National wants to pilot some mobile health clinics serviced by health practitioners which will travel to remote rural communities on a regular basis, where they can administer general health check-ups for busy locals.
This initiative has the potential to make a tangible difference to those in isolated areas who too often simply ignore potential health warning signs because of their busy lifestyles and the lack of convenience.
These are just some of the ideas that we’re canvassing in this document. We also want your views on Landcorp, the M-Bovis response, climate change, food safety, RMA, water storage and Shane Jones’s one billion trees programme.
Today is a chance to hear your thoughts on our proposals.
What could go further, or what needs more development.
We appreciate and respect the impact our primary sector has on New Zealand.
So thank you for coming today. We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback and developing our policy further so that come election 2020, we’ll be ready.
The botched budget is just another example of the Government failing to deliver in its self-proclaimed year of delivery, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“This is not a wellbeing budget. Most New Zealanders will be left asking themselves what’s in it for them. Families want more money in their weekly budgets for food, petrol and rent. Instead, their taxes are going towards rail, the defence force and trees.Read more
The National Party can this afternoon reveal more details of Budget 2019, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“In addition to what we released this morning, we now have details of funding for Vote Agriculture, Biosecurity, Fisheries and Food Safety.
“There will be $4 million for the Minister of Fisheries for policy advice, but no sign that there is funding for cameras on fishing vessels. It seems the wellbeing of our oceans isn’t a priority for this Government, nor is keeping the Green Party happy.
“This Vote will see an additional $37 million pumped into Wellington bureaucrats for ‘policy advice, implementation of advice and Ministerial servicing’. This is millions of dollars for people to advise Ministers, which does not fit into the Government’s five wellbeing measures.
“The ‘Wellbeing Budget’ was meant to be transformational but it’s all spin and no substance.”
National can reveal key details from the Government’s so called ‘Wellbeing Budget’ ahead of its release on Thursday, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“The Government will announce a total of $1.3 billion for the purchase of assets in Vote Defence Force in 2019/2020, up from $641 million last year. This has nothing to do with the Government’s wellbeing priorities. It shows the Prime Minister has yet again had to throw her principles out the window to buy off Winston.
“Vote Forestry has doubled. There will be an extra $139 million, for a total of $277 million in the first year. Again, this doesn’t fit in with the Government’s five budget priorities of wellbeing.
“It makes a mockery of the Government’s inability to settle the teachers strike and refusal to fund more for dentistry – there’s money for tanks but not for teachers, there’s money for trees but not for teeth.
“In Vote Official Development Assistance, there will be $740 million for International Aid in 2019/2020. We can confirm that this is $47 million more than last year. Yet, the Government couldn’t find the $62 million to fully fund ambulance services.
“There will also be $744 million for DHBs. That will be barely enough to cover business as usual cost pressures including deficits, let alone new initiatives. This clearly won’t be enough to cover all of the promises made by the Government.
“Grant Robertson said we’d have to wait until Christmas Day to unwrap all of the presents but National has had a peek under the tree and it’s disappointing. It’s not the Wellbeing Budget – it’s the Winston Budget.
“The Wellbeing Budget was meant to be transformational but it’s all spin and no substance.”
With growing reports of gang tensions, drug crime and shootings, National can reveal the number of serious harm cases before the courts has increased by 25 per cent since the election, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Serious harm cases include rape, sexual assault, murder, manslaughter and drug crimes.
“As a former Crown Prosecutor, husband and father, I find these figures completely unacceptable. Our communities are now being directly affected by a Government that is more focused on reducing prison numbers than reducing serious crime in our communities.
“The statistics show crime is increasing and cases aren’t moving through the courts as quickly. Slow moving justice has the biggest impact on victims and that’s not fair on people who have already been through serious trauma.
“Despite the fact that more serious crimes are happening at the same time the prison population is decreasing. Labour’s soft on crime approach means fewer serious offenders are being held to account. We also know there are fewer Police on the beat than was promised
“Nationally, cases of serious harm are up 25 per cent, in Auckland 20 per cent, Waitakere 35 per cent, Wellington 32 per cent and Christchurch 40 per cent.
“The Government has taken its eye off reducing crime and is focusing on just getting numbers in prison down. I’m hearing from the frontline that youth offenders in particular are being caught by Police for serious offending, and are sometimes back on the street within hours, committing more serious offences.
“The focus National had on early intervention and stopping crime before it happens just isn’t there under this Government.
“The Government isn’t doing its job properly if there are more serious and violent offenders in our communities.
“Being safe in your home and community is a key part of wellbeing.
“National is tough on crime and we put victims at the heart of our criminal justice system.”
It’s great to be here today. Can I first of all acknowledge the Right Honourable Sir Anand Satyanand for that generous welcome, and also Melanie Thornton of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs and the whole team there for hosting this event today here in Parliament.
Can I acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues here today – in particular our international affairs experts Todd McClay, Mark Mitchell, Gerry Brownlee, Tim Macindoe, Simon O’Connor and Chris Penk.
I would like to welcome all the Ambassadors, High Commissioners, and representatives from embassies, high commissions and missions from around the world here today. We are delighted to have you with us and appreciate you taking the time to be here.
And to our panellists – Charles Finny, Tracey Epps, John Martin and Anna Powles – thank you for taking the time to help us today with your expertise. I look forward to hearing your contributions later on.
As you may be aware, National is currently running the ruler over all of our policies. This year we are launching our discussion documents, phase two in our policy development.
We’re focused on being a constructive and hardworking Opposition, holding the Government to account and putting forward ideas to improve the lives of New Zealanders.
Today we are launching National’s International Relations Discussion Document. It covers our approach to Foreign Affairs, Defence, Security, Trade, and Overseas Development Assistance.
It is tempting, as a small country, to look at the geopolitical and trade tension between the great powers, conclude that there is little we can do to affect the global environment, take fright and duck for cover.
As Fran O’Sullivan noted in her Herald column last week, the risks and threats of a prolonged trade war between the United States and China “will have huge ramifications for New Zealand business, the economy and global harmony”.
The risks and threats are real, but as a country we must look beyond them. Where there is uncertainty we mitigate by doing what New Zealanders expect us to do. We just have to confidently roll up our sleeves and seek out new opportunities.
I am unapologetically optimistic about what New Zealanders can continue to achieve on the world stage, and what the Government can do to represent our interests.
Every day, New Zealanders seek out opportunities to travel, work, and play in every corner of the globe. The New Zealand passport is among the most powerful in the world. Our reputation as honest, friendly, engaging, unthreatening people carries over to our privileged position on the world stage.
We have fought hard for this position, and we must work hard as a country to maintain it.
One of the features of New Zealand's foreign policy is its consistency. We have always preached the virtues of democracy, human rights, a liberal trading system, the rule of law, and a robust multilateral rules-based order as the best mechanism to promote peace, prosperity and security.
There has been broad consensus between the two major political parties on these values. In turn, our international partners generally know what we will say. We will stand against aggression. We will aim for global collaboration on issues that can only be advanced globally. We will push for free and fair trade rules.
Those values are rooted in our country's long history of unbroken democracy, embrace of political and economic freedoms, tolerance, a staunch defence of fundamental human rights, and a recognition of the need to provide security and safety to our people at home and abroad.
Our friends, partners, and allies need to know where we stand. And so do New Zealanders.
National's positioning on international relations issues is anchored in our values. We don't need to consult with ourselves for days and weeks to determine our position on Russia's aggression on Ukraine. We don't need to pause and think about our response to Syria's use of chemical weapons against its own people. We don't need to anguish over whether we recognise the illegitimate re-election of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. These are reflexive positions that the Government should be able to speak out on immediately.
International relations is not a great game. It is not a subtle art of hoodwinking competitors and saying as little as possible. It is not a shadow-dance. In its most simple form, it is about achieving greater security, prosperity, and benefits for New Zealanders. It is about engaging with like-minded countries to focus on mutually positive outcomes. It is about speaking out for, and acting on, the values and concerns of New Zealanders.
We believe that as a Government we can and should demystify international relations. Our foreign policy interests are straightforward. It is up to Government to constantly articulate what our interests are, and what we are doing to deliver gains for New Zealanders.
The balancing and prioritising of competing interests is the basis of any effective foreign policy.
We acknowledge that as a political party, and when in Government, we need to continue to make the case with New Zealanders for our economic and diplomatic relations with other countries.
And we also have to be much clearer with our friends, allies and partners on where we stand.
There have been recent examples where the present Government has not delivered a clear position to our friends and partners. I will not dwell on those, except to say that we must continue to use foreign policy as a vehicle to improve the opportunities for New Zealanders, and must continue to anchor our policy positions in our values. We must be clear about those positions.
If New Zealanders do not understand our interests, then we cannot expect our friends and partners to understand them.
And if our positions are confused, as long as we are explaining and clarifying those confusions, then we are not advancing our relationships. We do not have the luxury of having Washington, Beijing, Canberra or London waiting on the end of the line until we’ve decided what it is we want to say.
We should be seeing more information, debate and dialogue in our country about our international activities.
We’ve shown how this could be done. We launched roadshows around the country to discuss the text of the TPP and Trade Agenda 2030 and we opened Parliament for debate on the deployment of troops to Iraq.
This dialogue is a necessary part of our democratic system and helps to bring New Zealanders with us as we act internationally.
We must also be prepared to stand against those who would seek to undermine these values.
Over the past few years, we have seen the emergence of new threats to our freedoms and liberties.
This is why National is proposing to pass legislation empowering New Zealand to autonomously sanction organisations when the United Nations is unable or unwilling to do so.
For too long, New Zealand has lacked the ability to act autonomously in defence of democracy, freedom and human rights.
The previous National Government introduced legislation to empower New Zealand to sanction those who seek to undermine these principles.
That legislation should be passed as a priority to allow us to be an active player in condemning actions and aggressions that seek to make our world a less peaceful or tolerant place.
New Zealand has played a leading role in the World Trade Organisation, and led the world in developing strong bilateral and plurilateral free trade rules.
This trade architecture facilitates hundreds of thousands of jobs across our country, brings about higher incomes for everyday Kiwis, and ensures our economy remains resilient in the face of global and domestic financial movements.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a world class trade deal. It is identical to the revised TPP in all but a few small areas. Tariff reductions and market access are identical between the two agreements. They will deliver billions of dollars to our economy, create jobs, give New Zealanders access to new markets, upholds labour and environmental standards, and maintains our right to regulate in the national interest.
But it is not sufficient for governments to sit on their laurels. We must be ambitious and strive to break new ground when it comes to trade.
This is why National is committed to pursuing an ambitious trade agenda.
We want to see our relationships with our core partners like Australia and Singapore deepen and grow.
We will focus on forging new partnerships. National wants to see new agreements pursued in South America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.
The United States of America is already an important partner for New Zealand. They are our fourth largest trading partner and one of our most important partners for foreign investment.
Our relationship has been forged in a shared history of defending a common set of values. Our people have sacrificed together, worked together, and traded together.
The next National Government will commit to launching, negotiating, and concluding a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the United States. We are convinced that the architecture of such an FTA already exist in the Trans Pacific Partnership. It does not have to be a drawn-out negotiation. But we do have to win Washington's trust and attention, and we do have to have the political will to see it through.
We are also committed, in Government, to continuing to deepen and broaden our economic relationship with China. According to the World Bank, China’s economic rise over the last 40 years has lifted 850 million people out of poverty. In doing so it has created the fastest-growing middle-class in human history.
New Zealand’s resilience through economic shocks such as the GFC in 2008 has largely been dependent on supplying tradeable goods to this important market.
This is why we have set a goal of doubling our two-way trade with China by 2030.
Security and defence
We also must acknowledge that, in this changing world, new threats against our values and our security are emerging.
The tragedy of Christchurch shows we must be vigilant in protecting our values of tolerance and freedom at home. We must ensure our security services are able to provide for the safety for all New Zealanders.
We are not immune from the emerging ideologies of terror, violence and hate that we have seen in this world. We must continue to stand with the global community to battle terror and to ensure the safety of our people across the world to live, pray, work and travel is secured.
New Zealand is committed to working in our Pacific region and across the world to help support the development of countries. This is why we invest in development programmes through our Official Development Assistance.
But, like all our actions overseas, we must ensure what we are investing in reflects the values of New Zealand.
Our Official Development Assistance is a significant contribution from the taxpayer, so we need to ensure we are focusing on delivering value for money in the investments we make, not simply focusing on throwing money at problems.
We want to ensure our development assistance continues to deliver results to our partners around the world and see an enhanced role for our companies and NGOs to be involved in that process.
In climate change, you'll see that in the document as well. We're proud of the bipartisan approach we are taking to that issue as we seek to work with the Government in the interests of New Zealand and from a values based perspective.
Today is a chance to hear your thoughts on our proposals.
What could go further, or what needs more development.
We know international affairs is important and we want to ensure all New Zealanders are benefitting from our actions overseas.
So thank you for coming today and participating in our panel discussion. We’re looking forward to hearing your feedback and developing our policy further so that come election 2020, we’ll be ready to forge a stronger path for New Zealand internationally.
Today National launches our second policy discussion document, on International Affairs. It shows how important our actions overseas are to Kiwis, and how we can ensure those actions deliver for all New Zealanders, National Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Our international relations policy outlines a plan for ensuring our presence internationally acts in the best interests of New Zealand. That means advancing relationships, promoting our values, enhancing security, and extending trade partnerships to create growth and opportunities for all New Zealanders.
“We will ensure trade continues to deliver new opportunities for New Zealanders.
“We are committed to launching, negotiating and concluding a comprehensive free trade agreement with the United States of America.
“National will prioritise our relationship with the United States, and leverage the strong security, economic and political ties with them to bring this important initiative into action.
“National will also further the strong and dynamic economic relationship with China. We will set an ambitious goal of doubling two-way trade between China and New Zealand to $60 billion by 2030.
“Strong trading relationships are valuable to our island nation. Free trade supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across our country and brings about higher incomes for everyday Kiwis.
“In foreign policy, National will ensure we reflect New Zealanders’ values clearly on the world stage. Over the past few years we have seen the emergence of new threats to our freedoms and liberties. We should be prepared to stand against those who would seek to undermine our values.
“That’s why we’re proposing to pass legislation to empower New Zealand to autonomously sanction organisations when the United Nations is unable or unwilling to do so.
“National will also ensure our foreign policy services the public and is accountable to New Zealanders. New Zealanders should be included in our foreign policy. We should be seeing more information, debate and dialogue in our country about our international activities.
“Whether it be in our development assistance or the agreements we seek internationally, our international engagement reflects the values that we project as a nation. To do that we must be more open and transparent with New Zealanders about what it is we are doing on the international stage.
“We would seek more Parliamentary debate, more accountability in our spending, and raise the question of whether Parliament should approve trade deals before they are signed.
“Our International Affairs document outlines an ambitious approach to deliver for all New Zealanders through our relationships with our international partners. Through our relationships overseas we can deliver new opportunities and provide better security for our people.
“National is committed to putting forward policies that will improve the lives of New Zealanders. Today’s launch is part of the biggest policy development process by an Opposition in over a decade.
“We’re working hard now so that should we earn the right to govern again in 2020, we will hit the ground running.”
A link to the International Affairs Discussion Document can be found HERE.
On behalf of the National Party I send my heartfelt congratulations across the Tasman to Prime Minister Scott Morrison after his election victory last night, National Party Leader Simon Bridges says.
“Prime Minister Morrison and the Liberal Party have shown that great campaigns, policies and people matter.
“This is a great victory for quiet Australians, they have been rewarded for their faith and positivity.
“Australia is our closest friend and our countries coordinate on trade, economic matters and defence and security.
“We have a close bond with many historical, cultural and sporting connections. Whether it be ANZAC Day or the Bledisloe Cup.
“When I met Scott and his wife Jen, I was struck by how familiar they were with New Zealand, and knew they were strong friends of ours.
“My best wishes to Prime Minister Morrison and the Australian Government, I look forward to the continued growth of our countries’ relationship and am excited to work with you in the future.”
The Government is failing more patients than ever with at least 10,000 more people than last year on track to miss out on much-needed surgery, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Ministry of Health figures for the nine months to March show the total number of patients discharged from elective surgical specialties was nearly 6,500 procedures behind where it should be at that point in the financial year.
“When you add this to at least 1,500 cases that Health Minister David Clark said were cancelled due to the junior doctors’ strike in April, the number of unperformed elective surgeries is almost certain to be about 10,000 fewer by year’s end.
“The Government promised to do more in this area, but on current progress 10,000 people are going to be turned away from the operating table.
“This is a serious problem. These procedures include cancer, cardiac and neurosurgery operations, so they are more than minor.
“District Health Boards are currently 179 cardiac surgeries behind where they should be. It would be a tragedy if anyone was to die while waiting for an operation that should have been performed by now.
“On current projections more than 1,800 fewer gynaecology procedures and 1,500 fewer orthopaedic procedures will be performed by the year to June 30.
“Despite calling for more to be done while in Opposition, Labour didn’t even mention elective surgery in its election manifesto and removed targets at the first opportunity. This is the result.
“This is what happens when a Government talks about need but does nothing to meet it. The Health Minister has to step up to the plate and ensure this doesn’t become the first year in the past decade where fewer elective procedures are undertaken than the year before.
“This Government criticised the previous National-led Government for setting targets, saying they created perverse incentives. I cannot think of a more perverse outcome than the significant downward momentum in the health sector after they were removed.”
Table showing acute and elective surgery discharge numbers for the financial year and previous two full financial years attached. To be on track to meet last year’s figures, health boards should be at least 75% of where they were this time last year.
The Government has been caught out making up an entire work programme in answer to plummeting business confidence, Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges says.
“Last year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a business audience that business confidence ‘was not the elephant in the room, it's a flashing great neon sign with giant lights and fireworks going off behind it’.
“In answer to this, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Grant Robertson launched the ‘Business Partnership Agenda’ which they said ‘brings together the strands of this Government’s economic strategy’.
“Since then the Prime Minister and her Finance Minister haven’t mentioned the agenda once. Not in a speech, a press release or even a tweet.
“The website hasn’t been updated since it was launched. It still lists the Chief Technology Officer as a Government initiative, despite the idea being axed in September last year. Eleven of the website links on the page don’t even work.
“This is a Government with no economic plan which is slowing New Zealand down. The Business Partnership Agenda was clearly made up on the hoof and then forgotten about after the daily news cycle. As usual, all talk, no action.
“If this is how the Government treats the business community – it’s no wonder confidence is so low. It’s stayed at rock bottom levels since the August speech. The Prime Minister and Grant Robertson need to explain what’s happened to its Business Partnership Agenda so businesses can start to have some confidence again.”