New Zealanders want their country back

Today, we are united and ready to win, not for ourselves, but for every New Zealander who needs a new beginning and wants their country back.

I got into politics because I believe that all New Zealanders, regardless of their background or circumstance, should have the same opportunities.

I grew up in a New Zealand where if you worked hard and played by the rules, anyone could get ahead. It was a country in which Kiwis could trust that the government worked more or less in the interests of all its citizens.

Nation in a Nation

Sadly, those days are gone. We are confronted by a government clearly ruling in the interests of a few at the expense of the many, and creating two types of New Zealand; one for the rich and powerful, who do not pay their fair share of tax because they have smart accountants to ensure they avoid it, and another New Zealand in which people struggle to put food on the table for their families, where children go to school hungry, and senior citizens shiver in their homes.

Middle New Zealand is working harder than ever. Their families cannot afford the rent or mortgage because of National’s housing crisis. They cannot afford power bills from the profiteering companies that National is determined to sell. Many families cannot afford clothes or a treat for the kids, because under National, their wages just have not kept up.

Now for the first time, a generation of hardworking parents are faced with the shocking prospect their children will do worse than them.

That is why our best and brightest young people are leaving.

All these did not happen by accident. National deliberately chose this for New Zealand, because they still believe in outdated policies that reinforce privilege.

Pragmatic policies

In the last few weeks, my team and I have visited families in Rotorua and Shannon whose lives have been shattered by the closure of their saw mill and their tannery.

They need an economy that works for all New Zealanders.

We will reward innovation. National scrapped Labour’s R&D tax incentive and hence our best and the brightest took their ideas offshore. The journey we need to be on is one from thinking about volume to thinking about creating value.

Our Labour Government will give preference to Kiwi-made timber for the Christchurch rebuild. When we create value, we need more of it to stay in New Zealand so that all of us can share it.

Balancing books

Our economy is being hollowed out because we do not have enough capital.

Our banking, finance and insurance industries are almost all foreign-owned, which is why we always run an external deficit and build up international debt.

A Labour Government will address this fundamental problem; by strengthening KiwiSaver, by building up Kiwi Bank and by restarting contributions to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund.

All of these things will help build an economy we own.

Of course we will balance the books, as we did every year in the fifth Labour Government.

But that is not enough to turn around long term economic decline. Our pro-growth will help local Kiwi businesses access the investment they need to thrive.

David Cunliffe is Leader of Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition in Parliament. The above is a highly edited version of his speech at the Labour Party Conference held in Christchurch on November 2 and 3, 2013. For full text of his address, please visit

The above and the preceding report on Prime Minister John Key demonstrate our policy of independence and offering an open view of ringside politics.

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