David Shearer’s speech to conference was everything that it needed to be – and more. The headlines will be about KiwiBuild, as they should be, it’s a stunning policy. But just as important for the future of the country is the strong commitment to active government.
It’s pretty simple. The “small government”, passive, leave everything to the “invisible hand” approach to government has failed. It has failed globally. It has failed in NZ. The last wasted four years this country has been going backwards on just about every social and economic measure. It’s time for a change. A real change. David Shearer promised to deliver:
I promise that from the day we take office, you will see big change. Right across the economy we will make fundamental changes. We will replace a simplistic hands-off approach with a smart hands-on one.
Monetary policy will change.
So when the high dollar is killing our exporters we will give the Reserve Bank tools to act on the exchange rate. Our manufacturers are our job generators. If they’re doing their bit, we should do ours with intelligent government.
The R&D policy will change.
Most of what New Zealand exports today was known to the world before the industrial revolution. This government treats Research & Development as ‘nice to have’. We will treat it as absolutely vital to grow our smart businesses so they can take their products to the world.
We’ll change our tax system for the better.
We will bring in what this economy desperately needs: a capital gains tax. We want people to invest in houses because they need a place to live, not because they get a tax free investment. To shift investment instead into productive businesses to grow jobs.
The savings policy will change.
We’ll enrol everyone into KiwiSaver. That will support our retirement, but also build an investment pool to power our best businesses. That means companies like F&P Appliances can be owned here, not sold off-shore.
We’ll change the approach to productivity
Kiwis work longer hours than just about anywhere else in the world. But you wouldn’t know it looking at our pay packets. That’s because the hands-off approach says: “pay low wages, cut back on conditions and ramp up casualization”.
That has to end. We’ll be hands-on. The Minimum Wage will go up. A Living Wage must be our goal.
And Labour laws will be reformed to restore decency. We are proud of our unions and our origins. We thank them for what they do in standing up for workers’ rights, but we need to be in government to back you up.
The procurement policy will change.
The government spends $30 billion a year on contracting goods and services. The simplistic hands-off approach says “forget about Hillside Railway workshops, forget about local jobs. Go for the cheapest offshore price.”
The intelligent hands-on approach says: “we get much more from each government dollar by investing in a Kiwi company”. So wherever it’s the smart thing to do, we’ll prioritise the local supplier.
The approach to education will change.
I started my working life as a teacher. So I have an appreciation of the valuable job teachers do. And I know a gimmick when I see one.
Bigger classes, unqualified teachers, charter schools and performance pay will achieve nothing. The intelligent approach, the one I will follow is the one that asks: what will it take to make this education system the best in the world?
That’s a government that I want to see. In 2014 we have our chance.