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Parliamentary Address - 24 April 2015

Our focus remains front and centre on ensuring the economy continues to perform well. That’s because it’s only through a strong, growing economy that we’re able to create more jobs, lift wages, and deliver better public services.

On the other side of the House, we will find Members doing their very best to minimize the achievements of this National led government.

  • Real business investment has increased by around $8 billion in 4 years, and 80,000 jobs were added to the economy last year.

Mr Speaker – When we first came into office in late 2008, New Zealand’s economy had been in recession for nearly a year – well before the global financial crisis.

  • Government spending had climbed 50 per cent in just five years.
  • The Treasury told us that if we didn’t change course we faced never-ending deficits and net Government debt would exceed 60 per cent of GDP by the early 2020s.
  • The unemployment rate was forecast to come close to 10 per cent.
  • Average floating home mortgage rates were nearly 11 per cent and inflation had been above 5 per cent.

But Mr. Speaker … under this Government

  • Another 80,000 jobs were created in the past year and 217,000 more people are employed than five years ago.
  • Of course the Labour opposition always … always forget that since they left office, the world has been through the worst economic recession in sixty years.
  • The unemployment rate is presently 5.7 per cent. While it’s still higher than we would like, it is below Australia’s 6.1 per cent (March seasonally adjusted) and our rate is forecast to fall below 5 per cent in the next couple of years.
  • As a comparison … the Euro area’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate during this same period was 11.3 % in February 2015, down from 11.8 % in February 2014.
  • Our labour force participation rate – the proportion of the working age population in work or looking for work – is at a record 69.4 per cent. This is around five percentage points higher than in Australia and another sign of confidence among New Zealanders.

A critical component of reducing long term unemployment, is enabling New Zealanders to engage in the modern economy, through better qualifications and skills.

This is a challenge right around the world as we face this next revolution to the workplace.

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution, which took place from the 18th to 19th centuries, was a period during which predominantly agrarian, rural societies in Europe and America became industrial and urban.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, which began in Britain in the late 1700s, manufacturing was often done in people’s homes, using hand tools or basic machines. Industrialization marked a shift to powered, special-purpose machinery, factories and mass production.
It had the effect of taking people out of rural locations and concentrating people into cities.

It also had the effect of lifting productivity. I.E. Less man hours for the same output – or arguably, far better output.

We are now in the midst of a significant Technology revolution.

The Digital Revolution, known as the Third Industrial Revolution,

This is the change from analog, mechanical, and electronic technology to digital technology which began anywhere from the late 1950s to the late 1970s with the adoption and proliferation of digital computers and digital record keeping that continues to the present day.

Implicitly, the term also refers to the sweeping changes brought about by digital computing and communication technology during (and after) the latter half of the 20th century.

Analogous to the Agricultural Revolution and Industrial Revolution, the Digital Revolution marked the beginning of the Information Age.

What this has the power of doing is again lifting production at an unprecedented level and quality through digitally controlled manufacturing, outputting more and better for less man hours.

This is where advanced economies presently are – with its associated challenges on employment opportunities.

Scientific advancement has the power to create some significant economic advantages, but not without some significant social challenges as well as.

With the increase in urbanization, we see mega cities like New York and London, nearly becoming independent economic islands to their host countries - as more and more people make their living from information technologies and financial services.

London itself represents over 40% of England’s GDP.

The challenge we face is to help New Zealanders engage with this digital world.

There are some obvious stand outs, like NZ’s movie industry and NZ’s ICT industry – with a large center of gravity here in Wellington.

But for young people coming into our educational system, they need knowledge and skills that will enable them to engage.

New Zealand and the countries similar to us, will not have a large number of highly paid, unskilled employment opportunities.

Our education system is tasked with preparing our young people for a future that is under constant revision and change.

Two of the highest values our young people need are:

  • Dexterity in learning and determination in achieving. There’s a good chance that if you get those two correct, the rest will follow
  • Yesterday we heard of the project in Northland, funded by MBIE under this government

A joint project between Pehiaweri Marae and NorthTec is set to benefit the Tikipunga and Northland community and could spark a generation of digital entrepreneurs.

A government grant of $180,000, announced last week by Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce.

The grant will be used to employ a Research Educator who will build digital literacy in the community. The Research Educator will be employed and supported by NorthTec and based at the marae, which already acts as a hub of the community.

After a needs analysis has been carried out, the Research Educator will run community workshops on computer technology.

The aim of the project is to teach mechanical literacy, giving an understanding of how computers work; cultural and ethical literacy, to understand cultural sensitivity and safety in a computing context; and coding literacy, for application development.

These are the sorts of initiatives that reduce income inequality, by creating opportunity for people to engage in this digital revolution we are living in today.

The opposition simply want to tax people more and redistribute income to close this gap.

That is the very worst thing that a government could do. Because it mutes and depresses the need to change.

It takes away the symptoms without every significantly addressing the underlying challenge.

In Taranaki we have an initiative called “Taranaki Futures” … a concept which I developed as the MP for New Plymouth, now run by a board of highly competent industry and education leaders from our region.

Taranaki Futures ensures that our educational institutions are understanding the contemporary demands of industry and are creating appropriate programs and pathways that lead to effective employment and that employers are equally engaged by ensuring those opportunities exist.

Last year 17 high school students built a bach, with all compliances met, which sold at auction last November. This year two are being built – and they are achieving a significant number of NCEA level 2 credits in these projects.

A key concept of this initiative is called “line of sight” – where young people can start to see and experience their future. And industry can see their future employees.

Too many young people stand at the precipice between education and employment. Employment is changing, and so must education in order to build an effective bridge between both.

Mr Speaker …

I started by saying that “Our focus remains front and centre on ensuring the economy continues to perform well …”

This Government is committed to the success of every New Zealander. We have been given the incredible privilege to lead and we take this responsibility very seriously in a fluid and changing world.

Our Minister of Education is relentless in her goal that 5 out of 5 children need to succeed.  

Their future and our future literally depends upon it.

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