Aroha mai, Aroha atu.
When love is given, love is returned.
Green Party Co-leader Metiria Turei
Address at the Green Party Election Campaign Launch 2014
AUT, 17 August 2014
Aroha mai, Aroha atu.
When love is given, love is returned
This is the Aotearoa that I love.
The Aotearoa where thousands of Kiwis worked to save our most treasured wild places, protecting the birthright of our children and grandchildren.
The Aotearoa who fought the asset sales to stop others from stealing from our children the gifts of our grandparents.
The Aotearoa that warmed up the homes of thousands of our children, so they and their families could be warm and dry and above all healthy and well.
That is the Aotearoa that I love.
I am proud to be here today – standing before you as one half of the best leadership team of the best political party in New Zealand.
My friends, there has never been a more important time for the Green Party to be in Government.
Because as much as we love New Zealand, she’s in trouble.
Today as a nation we face twin crises – an environmental crisis and an inequality crisis.
Earlier this year, at our AGM, Russel outlined the Green Party’s plan to tackle what I think we’ll all agree is the biggest environmental crisis of all – climate change.
Our Climate Tax Cut – a charge on pollution, the revenue from which all goes back to families and business – will ensure New Zealand is part of the solution to global climate change, rather than part of the problem.
Today, I am going to outline our solution to New Zealand’s second pressing issue – inequality.
This is a matter very dear to me.
I entered politics because I wanted to ensure that everyone, no matter their ethnicity, class or background – had much better opportunities than I had.
I have learnt, through my experience of poverty, the value of safety nets, what you can achieve if you are not left to fend for yourself.
At the beginning of this year I stood in front of many of you at our annual Picnic for the Planet and declared that inequality will be the defining issue this election.
It was really important for me that my daughter Piupiu was there that day.
Piupiu was born in 1993.
At that time, New Zealand was in the grip of a free market fever that saw our country become more unequal faster than anywhere else in the developed world.
The rate of child poverty swelled from 11 per cent in the late 1980s to nearly 30 per cent of all New Zealand children by the time Piupiu was born in 1993.
Ever since then, throughout Piupiu’s entire life, successive Governments have tolerated shocking levels of deprivation and poverty among our children.
Aside from a bit of tinkering here and there, they’ve done nothing really to solve it.
So now, with just 34 days left to vote, I say it’s time to demand an end to child poverty in New Zealand once and for all.
The Green Party wants to make sure that every child in this country has enough of what they need to thrive.
Child poverty can be eliminated. We have the tools and techniques. It is now, simply a matter of choice.
I know what National will say. We can’t afford to help kids. We need to grow the economy first.
How many times over the last 25 years have we heard this?
If National was right, how come GDP grew by 38 percent between 1988 and 2013, yet child poverty doubled in those same years?
We have had nearly three decades of rock solid proof that wealth doesn’t trickle down, especially not to our kids.
Over the past six years under National, half of all New Zealanders have seen no rise in their incomes at all.
Yet the wealth of the top ten percent doubled in the past ten years.
There are now 35,000 more children in severe poverty in New Zealand than there were before National came to power.
That’s the equivalent of the city of Gisborne populated by these kids living in severe poverty.
A total of 205,000 New Zealand children living in severe poverty.
More often than not those kids are going without the basics, like fresh fruit and veges, raincoats, medicine.
They’re three times as likely to be admitted to hospital, five times as likely to die of cot death, and twenty seven times as likely to have rheumatic fever, be a sick adult and die young.
We’ve got to the point where families work two or more jobs, and still live in poverty, still live in homes that are wet, and cold and their children go without.
It does not have to be this way.
It’s time, today, right now, to demand an economy designed to work for everyone, not just a few.
I am proud to announce today that in Government the Green Party will implement a billion dollar plan to reduce child poverty, paid for by a new top tax rate of 40 percent on the highest incomes.
Our plan will roll the Family Tax Credit and the In-work Tax Credit together to create a more simple child payment that goes to all low and middle income families in New Zealand.
But the difference is our new Children’s Credit will deliver an additional $60 a week, $3000 a year, for these families who currently miss out.
This additional payment will in no way affect those low and middle income families currently receiving Working for Families payments, but it will mean more support for those children who currently miss out.
This money will transform life for these kids. It’ll mean the difference between having warm clothes, school books, lunch, and turning on the heater when they are cold.
This is the quickest, simplest and most cost-effective way to reduce child poverty – and one that has majority public support.
The Children’s Credit will represent a dramatic reversal of 22 years of discrimination against the poorest children that started with the scrapping of the universal family benefit in 1991.
But we won’t stop there. We will also remove another discrimination that denies support to the poorest new-born babies.
The Green Party believes all babies deserve to thrive. We will extend payment of the Parental Tax Credit to the 13,000 newborns whose parents are reliant on a benefit or student allowance.
They too will have help with the costs of a new baby.
The Parental Tax Credit will be worth $220 a week for 10 weeks, $2,200 for these families.
This payment provides support to those parents who don’t qualify for Paid Parental Leave.
I was stunned to recently discover that the Minister had rejected her own officials’ advice that babies born to beneficiaries had the most to gain from this financial support. They said in their first weeks of their life such a payment could improve these babies long term wellbeing.
But, Paula Bennett said no, leave the poorest, tiniest babies out.
We won’t leave these babies out in the cold. We will support them.
Raising the incomes of our poorest families through the Children’s Credit and the Parental Tax Credit is at the heart of the Green Party plan to tackle child poverty.
For a quarter of the price of National’s tax cuts to the wealthiest New Zealanders we can reduce poverty and its effects on the poorest children.
We will also invest $500 million per year in new children’s health and education programs to reduce the harm caused by poverty.
It’s clear that as well as reducing poverty at its source, schools need better support to address the impact that hunger, illness and a lack of resources has on children’s ability to learn.
We’ll establish schools in lower income areas as hubs, where the health, social and welfare needs of children and their families can be met, all on the same site.
Kids at these schools will be fed through a national school lunch fund; cared for when sick by dedicated school nurses; and their parents will get the support they need to work, further their own education and be engaged in their kids learning.
We’ll provide free after school and holiday care in decile one to four schools.
We’ll extend free healthcare to all children up to age 18, ensuring over 290,000 teenagers can see their GP without having to worry about the bill.
And we will help struggling parents by providing 20 hours free early childhood education to two year olds, saving families up to ninety five dollars a week.
What a plan!
Make no mistake, this billion dollar investment in the health, education and financial welfare of children and families will reduce poverty in our country and loosen the grip poverty has on the lives of our kids.
Tackling inequality is a moral imperative.
We cannot pause, we cannot wait, we cannot do this by halves.
As I watched Piupiu grow from a child into a young woman, I saw poverty spread like a virus in the 80s and 90s as a direct result of decisions made in the Beehive.
Now is the time for political decisions that end poverty.
National’s inaction over child poverty stands in stark contrast to its decision to find $4 billion to cut the taxes of the wealthiest ten percent of New Zealanders.
Just as we will use the tax system to tackle climate change through our carbon charge, we will also use the tax system to tackle child poverty.
Today I am announcing that in Government the Green Party will bring in a new top tax rate of 40 percent on incomes over $140,000.
Every cent raised will go directly into our plan to alleviate child poverty.
This will affect only 3 percent of all taxpayers, but the revenue raised will make the world of difference to the hundreds of thousands of children who need it.
We’ve set the tax threshold at $140,000 so MPs’ salaries are captured.
I want to make sure that I, and my parliamentary colleagues, old and new, are part of this solution.
We will be proud to be part of it. Because it is a good thing.
My family will still live well – And so will other families.
My daughter will still have security and a good education and a chance at a great future – and so will other kids.
We will also raise the trust tax rate to limit the risk tax avoidance that can arise when you raise the top tax rate.
It is only fair that those who earn more progressively pay more – this is what countries with low rates of child poverty do.
Our tax system is the key to solving poverty. If we want a fairer society we need a fairer tax system.
New Zealand currently has one of the least progressive tax systems in the world.
Our top rate of income tax is the fourth-lowest in the 34-member OECD – it’s much lower than Australia and the UK, which sit at 47%, the USA and Norway at 48% Canada, 50%, Denmark, 56%, and Finland 57%.
Plus we have no inheritance tax, no gift tax, no death duties and no general capital gains tax. That’s why we will introduce a capital gains tax, excluding the family home.
The reality is, we are failing to properly tax wealth and our poorest kids are paying the price.
I want to be clear, the Green Party has no bone to pick with wealth – the problem in New Zealand is not that some people earn more money, it’s that the benefits need to be shared more fairly.
We can earn increasing amounts as a country but still be poorer if our wealth is not shared around. The last 25 years have demonstrated that fact.
I didn’t get into politics to watch the divide between the haves and have-nots grow ever wider.
Hundreds of thousands of kiwi kids will be much better off under the Greens bold plan – and those children need us in Government right now.
We will unleash the potential of thousands of children, and send a message to every child that every single one of you matters.
These are practical, effective solutions ready to go.
It is just a matter of choosing to put children first.
Friends and colleagues, in 34 days time, we can make history, by becoming the first ever Green Party in Government in Aotearoa.
We have lead the opposition for the last three years and we are ready to lead in Government.
We have the experienced leadership needed to take our country forward.
We are the political voice for a strong and growing Green movement in Aotearoa.
We have a group of united MPs and new candidates ready to serve.
We have the policies to transform our economy and build a stronger New Zealand – one in which we are mindful of others and mindful of our ecological limits.
The Green Party is ready to step up and with at least 15% of the party vote we will have a major influence in a new progressive government.
Voters have a real choice on September 20.
A Government prepared to tackle the two greatest issues of our time, climate change and inequality, or a Government in denial of both.
It is time for cleaner, fairer, smarter New Zealand.
Now is the time to say: Aroha mai. Aroha atu.
We are more than just individuals, little islands of our own.
We are a country of people, a community at the bottom of the world that cares for one another, looks out for one another, and provides for one another.
That returns the love we are so generously given.
Let’s show our love for New Zealand on September 20.
Party vote Green.