CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the press. It is often very important to stage political State of the Nations at appropriate venues. Ones that chime with the message that is delivered. So while others have chosen Rotary Clubs, Auckland Business Meetings or even the hallowed ground of Waitangi, I am delighted to welcome you, today, to the Judith Collins Memorial Mudhole.
We live in uncertain times. A Government of the entitled and privileged continue to insist that we are basking in sunshine, despite the downpour engulfing many in our society. The contrast between where the money is needed in our society, and where it is being transferred to through the entrenchment of economic and political power, is now a legitimate drag upon the growth of our nation and the aspiration of our society. And while we are promised a surplus, it’s clear that the problems which face our nation cannot simply be solved by the removal of a minus sign from a balance sheet.
At home, and abroad, we are reaching a time where decisions within our control must be taken, and decisions out of our control could reshape our lives. We have weathered the first Global Financial Crisis of the first century, but the world economy remains fractured and fragile. The Eurozones ongoing problems are not so far from influencing our economy, and the unreformed international financial services still pose more of a threat than working people asking for enough money to live comfortably on.
And while we currently experience a fluke of global oil prices, as OPEC battles shale oil for market share, we must take care not to accept this as a new constant in our lives. We have been here before, in the 70’s, the 80’s and the 90’s. Eventually the price trend will reverse, the tide will turn and, if we are not careful, hull many shallowly floating economic boats.
Now is not a time to be reckless, to declare the worst over. If we are to learn from our past, then our relief at one crisis passing must not become a belief that we are in the clear. But we must also not let our consideration of the challenges we face stop us from making the calculated choices to invest in our immediate, and long term future. As the Prime Minister can tell you, investment, carefully managed, is not a gamble. That’s why he has a fortune awaiting him in three years.
One of the concerns expressed most clearly by many, a tremor that runs through our society’s discourse, involves migration to New Zealand. As a migrant myself, it’s not hard to explain why this glorious country appeals to many seeking both the chance to achieve more, in a society that rewards that or the opportunity to escape to, quite literally, a better and beautiful part of the world.
But again we must consider how we channel our newest arrivals. The horror of the Australian policy, a fresh bloodstain upon their national identity, cannot be countenanced by our ‘Fair Go’ society. We must consider that while we extend our opportunities to those seeking to live here, the fair chance of success must extend beyond Auckland to our regions. Our current system awards extra points for those with employment outside of Auckland. By raising the points value of our nation south of the Bombay’s, by encouraging those with the money to invest to look beyond the Sky Tower, we can ensure that no one part of our country is denied the chance to grow.
And growth does not simply come from abroad. New Zealand is a nation of nigh on limitless potential, and if we can invest wisely in our future we will be rewarded. Infrastructure, from road to rail to sea to sky, must connect our nation to extend the benefits to every corner of the country. We must not allow one region, or city, become a sponge for our nation’s prosperity. The distances involved are vast, but so are the talents and ingenuity of Kiwi industry. The descendants of those who drove the trainline up the Raurimu Spiral and along the Taieri Gorge have learned a few tricks in the last century, and we’re well overdue their fruition.
All of this takes power, and as a nation we must consider the future of our power needs. We are possessed with an embarrassment of riches in generating potential, with impressive landmarks of sustainable power from Manapouri to the West Wind Project. A drive to develop the monuments of engineering, to harness the great power of our country while protecting it’s integrity is the challenge we must not shirk from. Ending a reliance on coal and gas would prepare our nation, see it ready to face the uncertain future on its own terms.
And what better way to invest in the certainty of tomorrow, than to invest in those who will lead us then. It is unthinkable that the potential lying in every child from Invercargill to Cape Reinga should be wasted because of base economic barriers to learning. Knowledge and skills are vital towards our progress as a nation, and delivering free primary, secondary and tertiary education and skills training for those who will follow us is an essential foundation for a future where Kiwi know-how leads both at home and abroad.This isn’t a plan for three years, or three terms. But it’s been thirty years since Roger Douglas presented his vision of a renewed New Zealand leading us to inequality beyond his imagining, forty since Robert Muldoon attempted to Think Big but not beyond his own lifetime as Prime Minister; and it’s been eighty years since Michael Savage decided that New Zealanders deserved a nation that both promoted their aspirations, but recognised the pitfalls and outrageous misfortune of life as well.
It is all too simple to discuss the state of our nation as it is; to offer short term solutions that do little more than hand off problems to others and then wring those hands when it goes wrong. But I speak of the state of nation to come. A nation that might be, that could be and that, if we desire it, will be.