Today we’re posting the first of our “Interview the leaders” segments – where you get to ask the leaders the questions you want to hear the answers to.
We asked that answers be kept to 300 words and undertook to post them verbatim. We also warned the leaders that they were writing for a politically informed audience and could expect some debate.
Here’s what you asked Jim Anderton of the Progressives:
Of which of your achievements in politics are you most proud?
I am very proud to have been part of a government that produced the lowest rate of unemployment in a generation.
When this government was elected, the forecasts of mass unemployment stretched out forever. I argued then that New Zealand didn’t have an unemployment problem as much as an unemployment instead of a full employment policy.
The best political decision I have ever made was the decision after the Taranaki-King Country by-election in 1998 to persuade my colleagues to work with Labour towards a co-operative, progressive government. It was not an easy choice for us, it took a lot of work to persuade Labour to come to the party and it came with considerable political costs for my own party.
But it also made possible the election of a government committed to a proactive, partnership approach to the economy, the longest run of economic growth in decades and the largest cuts in child poverty since the Great depression.
The greatest source of improved living standards and higher incomes for the most vulnerable New Zealanders has been the 365,000 new jobs created in that time.
Low unemployment has delivered opportunity and better incomes for tens of thousands of New Zealanders. It has strengthened our communities and improved everything from our crime rate to health statistics.
From reader Daveo: Why should left-leaning NZers vote Progressive rather than Labour or Green?
You should vote for the party that aligns most with your principles and is credibly going to do its best to put those principles into practice.
Left leaning voters should consider the Progressives because we want a New Zealand that has the strength to care.
There are many principles we share with other progressive parties. But I think the value of MMP is that you can promote your own priorities within the mix of a government’s policy range. For example, we were able to push up the agenda policies like paid parental leave and four weeks minimum annual leave.
We won those policies by convincing our colleagues to move them up the agenda, not by making them adopt policies they oppose. Co-operation and rational advocacy is the engine of a successful coalition. I disagree with the Greens’ refusal to state what they will do after the election.
Just as we won gains like the Ministry of Economic Development by concentrating on achievable gains and persuading our colleagues, this year we are focusing on four priorities:
If left-leaning New Zealanders want to see this government re-elected, and also pick up these gains, then they should vote Progressive.
From reader Gobbler: Can you demonstrate that Government investment in initiatives such as the ‘jobs machine’ the Ministry of Economic Development or New Zealand Trade and Enterprise generates a greater return to ‘NZ inc’ than say Government investment in a national fibre-optic network and additional overseas fibre optic cabling? – Just as one example
It’s not a choice between creating the agencies or adopting some particular development initiative. The real choice is between doing something and doing nothing.
Before 2000, there wasn’t any agency whose job was to ask, ‘What do we need to grow New Zealand?’ Instead, economic policy was run like the All Black coach selecting a team according to how many blazers the rugby union could afford.
Now we have agencies working to make New Zealand stronger.
Now that MED has been created, we have a ministry able to look at what our innovative businesses need in order to grow and connect to the world – and if the answer is better fibre optic cabling, for example, then it can make the case for that investment. (If Telecom had not been given away, it would be easier to solve the issue now!)
Assistance through the Jobs Machine is aimed less at capital contributions than at helping businesses to get access to expertise and networks. Often, for medium sized firms, ‘Jobs Machine’ investment is not the difference between success and failure. Rather it helps to bring forward the date of successful expansion.
In some cases, private sector investment in regional New Zealand went ahead because the government provided leadership. It was a catalyst to get communities working together. The wood processing centre of excellence in Rotorua and seafood centre of excellence in Nelson are very successful examples. Decisions on these projects are not really about trade-offs against other good ideas, but of getting communities to agree on the highest priority for development and building on their strengths.
Imposing major projects from the top (for example telling communities their highest priority is an infrastructure investment) seldom works.