What sort of a country do you want New Zealand to be in the future?
What opportunities do you hope will exist for your children and grandchildren here?
These are the questions that every politician should keep in mind.
I want New Zealand to be known internationally as clean, green and smart – a place where everyone has an equal chance to achieve their dreams.
It used to be that way. Our education system was among the most egalitarian in the world: it did not matter whether you came from Remuera or South Auckland as I did; you received a world-class education.
This was demonstrated to me a few years ago, when I was leading a team in West Africa, advising the Sierra Leonean government on its elections.
We were sitting around a table one day when someone asked, “What schools did you go to?” As people started to answer, I realised that everyone else in the team had attended incredibly prestigious schools: Eton, Harrow and private schools in the US.
When it came to my turn, I said “Papatoetoe High School.” Then I sat back and thought, “You might have all gone to flash schools – but I’m your boss.”
The New Zealand education system had done very well by me.
Unfortunately these days we’re seeing greater inequality: bigger gaps between rich and poor. It is no longer the case that our children have a more-or-less equal start in life.
I am in politics with the aim of reversing that.
Another thing that strikes me as very important for New Zealand’s future is diversifying the economy.
Our economy still operates the same way as it did in the 1960s – we send largely unprocessed goods overseas.
The future for high-paid jobs lies in a smarter way, involving green technology and added value. It is not one or the other, it’s both.
A world-class education system, and exciting modern economy, that is the future I want for our children and grandchildren.
David Shearer is Member of Parliament elected from Mt Albert Constituency in Auckland and is Labour Party’s Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Consumer Affairs.