The text of David Cunliffe’s speech to the 2014 Labour Party congress.
Tena tatou e te whanau o te Roopu Reipa i tenei ra.
Tenei te mihi kia koutou katoa.
It’s 2014. It’s election year. And we are going to win.
President Moira Coatsworth, ALP Leader Bill Shorten, Deputy Leader David Parker and colleagues, delegates, invited guests, ladies and gentlemen, New Zealanders.
I’m standing in front of you today and I’m asking New Zealanders to make us the next government of New Zealand because we believe in the Kiwi dream.
I believe that New Zealand can be the fairest, most decent society in the world.
I believe that New Zealand can be a country where everyone who wants to work can find a job with decent pay and fair conditions.
I believe all our families can live in homes that are warm, safe, and affordable.
I believe New Zealand can be a country where child poverty is a story about the bad old days, not a daily scourge on too many of our families.
I’m a great believer in hard work, and making the most of the opportunities available to us.
These are the values the Labour Party was founded on.
These are the values that ordinary Kiwis like me grew up with.
They are the values I want to pass on to my own children. They speak to the opportunities that all our children should have.
Over the past months, I have been around the country, talking with people about their lives – their concerns, their successes, and their hopes for the future.
Two weeks ago I was in Northland. I was talking to an exporter who was in danger of losing his business.
His job, and the jobs of all the people who work with him, are under threat because the high dollar is making it too difficult for Kiwi businesses to compete, no matter how hard they work.
We are seeing New Zealanders lose their jobs and factories shut their gates all the time, with a devastating impact on families and communities.
The point is there are still too many New Zealanders who are doing everything right – they work hard and they make sacrifices – but they just can’t seem to get ahead.
The odds are stacked against them.
Challenging the Status Quo
On September 20th we will change that. Because New Zealanders deserve more. They deserve better.
The current government has no plan for a better future for hard working New Zealanders.
This year alone, they’ve said no to raising the minimum wage to $15. No to fair pay. Instead they tried to steal your smoko breaks and your lunch breaks, the protections you deserve for the fair day’s work you put in every single day.
An economy can’t succeed for all if it is run just to benefit the wealthy few.
As Kiwis know, an economy doesn’t grow from the top-down – it grows from the hard work of the middle and from the grassroots up.
We all do better when we put people first. When there is a fair go for all.
That’s the New Zealand way.
That’s what I believe in.
That’s what Labour believes in.
That’s what we’re all fighting for.
And that’s why on September 20 we will win.
This election campaign should not be about dirty tricks or dodgy deals; smear campaigns or a personality cult.
Let me be clear what it is about.
It is about you. It’s about your families. It’s about your friends and your communities.
These are the kinds of things your Labour team fight for every day in Parliament.
It’s what all politicians should be working together for, because these are the things that matter.
Election 2014 is about challenging politics as usual.
It’s about restoring New Zealand to being the fairest, most decent society in the world.
Today too many of our kids are living in poverty.
Too few of our families have decent housing.
And too many of our people can’t find secure work.
Let’s look at the facts:
New Zealand was founded on the idea that everyone – no matter where they came from, poor or rich, city or country, older or younger, new New Zealander or Kiwi of many generations – that each and every one of us would have the opportunities to get ahead and make the most of our lives.
But today our society is more unequal than it has ever been.
The top 10% own more than the other 90%.
Between 1984 and 2011 the incomes of the top 1% rose nearly 10 times as fast as the bottom 10%.
I have said it before and I say it again: trickle-down economics – neoliberalism – does not work.
It has failed around the world. It has failed New Zealanders. And the government I lead will close that chapter for good.
Investing in our future
What we must do is build a better, fairer and more prosperous future.
One where every New Zealander matters, not just the privileged few.
The Sixth Labour Government will be true to New Zealand’s core values.
We will build a fair and just society.
We will transform our economy to create better jobs with higher wages.
We will protect and preserve our beautiful environment.
We will nurture a diverse, creative, exciting culture.
We will not tolerate tax dodgers or greedy monopolies or racism or unsafe streets.
And it is possible to do all of this and to balance the books… David Parker.
A positive vision, smart policies, driven by decent values will mean the public – including business – will have confidence in our shared success.
Investing in work
Only Labour has a powerful strategic plan to forge a path for New Zealand’s future econmy.
We will build new partnerships with our regions, businesses and communities to deliver.
You know the last Labour Government paid down net debt to zero, increased savings, and rejected the short-sighted clamour for unaffordable tax cuts.
We saved for a rainy day. It came, and we were ready.
And we ran nine fiscal surpluses out of nine.
National won’t tell you that all that is propping up the so-called recovery is Canterbury rebuild insurance cheques and dairy exports from the deal Labour cut with China.
Exports that have been falling in price for nearly six months now.
That’s their plan right there – milk and disaster.
But just ask most New Zealanders: Where is your recovery?
Are you really feeling better off?
Or are rising housing costs, power bills and school donations making it harder for your family to get ahead?
Labour will make sure our economy works for all New Zealanders.
We know that secure, skilled, well-paid jobs are at the core of a decent society. Without jobs our progressive vision remains just that – a vision.
Labour has a long term plan to upgrade this economy from low value commodities to focus on high value goods and services.
Labour will create an economy where the best way to make money is to innovate and invest for productive growth, rather than speculating on houses and locking young families out of owning a home.
We will boost investment through universal Kiwisaver, pro-growth tax reform, and channelling foreign investment into productive business where it can do the most good.
We will lift Innovation through R&D tax credits, centres of research excellence, and boosting small business growth.
We will drive Industry development in all of our regions, and support businesses’ journey from volume to value.
We will support this Economic Upgrade with modern monetary policy that uses saving rates as well as interest rates to stabilise prices with lower mortgages.
And we’ll do it on firm fiscal foundations that deliver budget surpluses – and pay off National’s record debt by the end of our second term.
We will make taxation fair by cracking down on avoidance, and asking trusts and those earning over $150,000 to pay an extra 3%.
And will crack down on multinationals and others that have been avoiding tax.
If we want a fair society we need to make sure that everyone pays their fair share.
The result of these transformational changes will be better jobs and higher wages.
In our first 100 days we’ll raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and we will lift it again in April 2015.
And it’s why we’ll also be changing employment law to make sure that the Kiwi workers who generate the wealth get their fair share of it.
The next Labour Government won’t just work for New Zealanders. We’ll work with them, because we’re not going to change our nation for the better unless we do it together.
Investing in housing
Our homes are the foundation of our lives: and not just the buildings, but the earth they stand on, and the communities they’re part of.
Housing is a huge issue for New Zealand. Indeed, for many young Kiwis the idea of owning a home has become an impossible dream.
That’s not good enough.
Home ownership is a cornerstone of strong communities, strong families, and for making sure all our kids can get ahead.
But it has fallen to its lowest level in over 50 years. And as that’s happened we’ve seen communities fragment, we’ve seen kids’ education suffer.
How are kids supposed to learn when they shift from school to school or live in cold, damp rentals?
Since 2008, more than 40,000 children have been hospitalised due to poverty related illnesses. That is not acceptable.
That’s why we’ll build 100,000 affordable homes with our KiwiBuild policy.
Our Capital Gains Tax will reduce speculation on homes.
We won’t let offshore speculators drive up prices.
And for those that still rent, we’ll introduce the healthy homes guarantee so that rental properties must be warm and dry.
We want Kiwi families to have a healthy and secure home to grow up in.
Investing in learning
Nelson Mandela wasn’t speaking lightly when he described education as “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
I know the power of education in my own life. I am only here because of the opportunities created by great state schools and high quality teaching.
That’s not just my story. It’s the story of my colleagues and many other New Zealanders who have succeeded because of the opportunities given to them by our education system.
I passionately believe that the same opportunities must be available now for every Kiwi kid.
I commit to you today that the Labour Government I lead will restore strong, first class state education to maximise the opportunities for every Kiwi kid.
Labour will reinvigorate education by:
Throwing out national standards – that are neither national nor standardised – and we’ll replace them with flexible, reliable, appropriate information for parents.
We will end the nonsense of charter schools and ensure that all schools using public money teach the curriculum with fully qualified teachers.
We will resist the drive for league tables and performance pay that is set to rip the heart out of the state education system.
Instead of these internationally discredited ideas, Labour will ensure schools are able to equip our kids for the future.
That every child, no matter what their background, can benefit from a 21st century education.
That’s why part of our plan to balance the budget includes putting aside a billion dollars a year, every year, to ensure that the real value of education and health services is maintained.
That’s why Labour will make it a strategic priority to upgrade our schools over the next 15 years so that they are all modern, healthy and warm places to learn.
And that’s why yesterday I announced that we will ensure every child from Year 5 upwards has access to a portable digital device in the form of a laptop, tablet, or similar.
And Labour will make sure that these tools will be affordable for all.
We will end the digital divide in our schools.
Alongside this, we will provide professional training for all teachers so that they can do the very best for our kids.
Labour will not only fix the digital divide, we will fix the other major divide in schools, the one between haves and have nots.
Too many of our schools are having to put pressure on parents for donations that they cannot afford to make.
No public school should have to ask parents for help to keep the lights on and no child should be stigmatised because their parents can’t afford to pay. It’s wrong and were going to stop it.
So this week we’ve announced we will offer $100 per student per year to schools that drop donation demands to parents.
And today, I’m making a further firm to commitment to our children’s education.
The current government’s policy of taking good teachers out of their schools and creating a competitive, part-time bonus-driven teaching environment will not help New Zealand’s children.
We are going to put that money to better use.
Today, I am proud to announce that Labour will reduce class sizes by employing 2,000 more teachers. This will help all our kids get a world-class education.
This policy will reduce secondary school class sizes from 26 students or more per class to just 23. Year 4-8 classes will shrink from 29 students down to 26.
It is a far better use of our education resource to increase the number of educators we have and make sure they receive the best training possible, that more money for performance pay and part-time principals.
That’s backed up by a wealth of academic evidence and it’s something parents know instinctively. One of the best things we can give our kids is more one to one time with their teachers.
A Labour government will mean smaller classes, up to date equipment, modern schools, and a better education for all our children.
Our promise to all New Zealanders
In a couple of years, our Labour Party reaches its centenary.
It was formed with a single, united purpose: To fight for and realise the dreams and aspirations of New Zealanders. Labour was formed by ordinary Kiwis and it remains the party dedicated to the values that all New Zealanders share.
The theme of this Congress is that people matter most. That’s the reason we are all here today.
As I look out across this auditorium I am immensely heartened by the strength, the dedication, the common purpose and the raw talent of the whole Labour movement.
We’ve got the best ground game the Labour Party has ever had. Our voter outreach has massively increased over 2011, and our party is the biggest it’s been in decades.
We often say that National campaigns with money and Labour campaigns with people – well this year our campaigning power has doubled.
And I back our thousands of people against their millions of dollars any time.
We reckon we can increase our result by two to three percent just through the work of ordinary Labour members on the ground.
In a tight campaign, that’s the difference between being able to make the changes that our country needs or watching the New Zealand we love slip away.
It will be a tight campaign. That’s something both sides agree on. In the last two elections National has shed six percent in the three months running into the election.
National are nervous. And they should be.
They are tired, they lack vision and ideas.
Labour is fresh and growing in membership.
We have strong and focused affiliates.
We have support from decent, progressively-minded New Zealanders across the country, and of course, our staunch and immensely capable caucus and candidates.
We are ready to win. We are ready to govern.
I am so privileged to lead this team of brilliant, innovative, passionate New Zealanders.
And even though our opponents will fight to divide and distract us with ads and attacks from now till September, I truly believe that we have the power to win and to change this country for the better.
We’re going to run a positive campaign because people matter most. We will campaign on decent work and better wages. On a strong, smart economy.
We will campaign on warm, dry homes for all.
And a country we can once again be proud to live in.
We will campaign for our families, lifted today by progressive education policies that will restore our world-class public education system.
Let’s make this election about what matters. This election is about people. This election is about New Zealanders’ hopes and dreams, and their right to live in a society where they are valued and respected. This election is about our children and your future.
This is what we are fighting for in these next 76 days.
For New Zealand to be the fairest, most decent society in the world.
To dare to dream the Kiwi dream.
That’s why this election we will be asking New Zealanders to vote positive; to vote Labour.
Let’s do this for a better New Zealand.
And let’s do it together.
lprent updated: This is the final delivered version of the speech.