Russel Norman- General debate speech, 23 July 2014
Together, it is possible to build a cleaner, fairer, smarter New Zealand.
A New Zealand in which our rivers are clean enough to swim in and our precious beaches are safe from oil spills.
A New Zealand in which every child has enough to thrive.
And a New Zealand built on a smarter, greener economy that benefits every one of us.
However this vision of a truly richer country is not the New Zealand that National has left us after six years in Government.
John Key’s brighter future has fizzled into one of dim prospects.
Under National nearly two thirds of our monitored river swimming sites are now considered unsafe for swimming.
Swimmable rivers are the birth right of our children.
But the opportunity to swim in our sea and our rivers isn’t the only birth right National is denying our children.
There are now 35,000 more children in severe poverty in New Zealand than there were before National came to power.
And fifty percent of all New Zealanders have seen no real increase in their net income at all once housing costs are factored in.
It’s really no surprise that only the wealthiest New Zealanders are getting ahead under this Government. National’s pollution economy is jobs poor and favours low value simple commodities over high value innovations.
Evidence of National turning their back on an innovative economy is their plan to cut research and development spending by 21 percent in real terms over the next 10 years.
Three more years of National is not a safe option for New Zealand. Three more years will put our environment, our children and our economy at risk.
Cleaner, Fairer, Smarter
The Green Party has a comprehensive plan for a cleaner, fairer, smarter country.
We will make our rivers clean enough to swim in again.
In Government, the Greens will establish a protected rivers network to permanently safeguard our most precious rivers.
We protect the best of our landscapes and habitats in National Parks and we can do the same for our best rivers.
We will also keep our wild rivers wild by not building any new dams on them.
And we will put in place proper water rules that ensure that no New Zealand river is allowed to degrade further and that our rivers and lakes are clean enough for swimming.
New Zealanders have a choice: the Green Party’s plan for river that are clean enough to swim in, or National’s plan for polluted rivers that you can only dip your toe in.
I know which option I prefer.
Persistent and damaging poverty and inequality grates with the sense of who we are as a nation. But child poverty can be eliminated. We just need a plan.
We have a credible and costed plan to ensure every New Zealand child has enough to thrive.
For a start, in Government, the Green Party will extend the 20 hours early childcare subsidy to every two year old.
For parents of the 40,000 children aged between two and three who currently miss out on the 20 Hours funding support, this will mean they could be up to $95 a week better off.
At the same time as reducing the cost to parents of ECE, we will embark on an ambitious plan to improve the quality of early childhood education for all our children, starting with restoring full funding to those centres who employ 100 percent trained teachers .
Good quality ECE has profound, lifelong impacts on a child.
It can mean starting school ready to learn and in a position to get the most out of education.
Research shows that investing in early childhood education is one of the most effective investments a society can make. For every $1 spent on ECE, between $3 and $16 is returned.
The Greens will invest in our kids to thrive, and free our children from National’s poverty trap.
It’s time to get serious about building a smarter economy.
If we want to provide for our social needs and aspirations, we need to be at least as innovative as other affluent nations.
That means making high value-added manufactured goods and services, not simply selling commodities like raw logs and milk powder.
To kick-start a transformational shift in how our economy creates wealth, the Green Party will invest $1 billion of new government funding into research and development.
We will fund an additional 1,000 places at tertiary institutions for students of engineering, mathematics, computer science, and the physical sciences – nurturing our future innovators.
These policies will help secure our long-term prosperity by significantly ramping up our investment in innovation.
Innovation and know-how can enable us to do more with less, better protecting the natural world we all love whatever our political hue, while allowing us all to live prosperous, fulfilling lives.
The Greens are now solidly established as a major party.
We have stable leadership and have consistently led with fresh thinking.
Now, more than ever, the Greens need to be in Government to combat the environmental, social, and economic challenges facing New Zealanders.
This election is the opportunity for all of us to build the cleaner, fairer, smarter country we all want.