28 February 2009
Job Summit: Concluding Remarks from the Prime Minister
First I want to thank you all for coming today.
You have put a tremendous amount of time and thought into the day's discussions.
As a result, there have been ideas galore generated by groups, subgroups and, in many cases, sub-subgroups of people talking to each other over a cup of coffee.
To paraphrase what Alan Bollard said this morning, if you laid all the ideas discussed today end to end, they would reach to the Sun and halfway back again.
Mark and the chairs have just presented on the 20 or so proposals that the Summit has collectively identified as amongst the most promising ideas.
You all know that there are at least a couple of dozen quality ideas lying behind those.
If anyone doubted that this process would generate practical, concrete ideas, they were sorely mistaken.
That's what this day has been about; that's why we had this Summit.
As Alan Bollard and John Whitehead made clear this morning, we are in a very serious global recession which is going to get worse before it gets better.
To get through it in reasonable shape, and out the other side growing strongly, will take a fair bit of pragmatism, goodwill and flexibility on the part of everyone.
You have demonstrated that sort of pragmatism, goodwill and flexibility today.
I want to especially thank the chairs of the work streams, who have put in a huge amount of effort over the last few weeks and months, despite having very busy and important day jobs.
And in particular I want to thank Mark Weldon whose boundless energy and organisational skill has made today possible.
One of the key reasons for calling this Summit was getting people to focus not just on what the Government can do, but what different sectors, different organisations, and different businesses can do to maintain and generate jobs.
I have therefore been delighted that discussions have not just been about Government actions but also about what businesses can do themselves.
I have been very pleased to see what has been coming through from employers and unions around increased flexibility in workplaces, particularly around working hours. It is in everyone's interests to see jobs continuing through a flat patch, with people maintaining their skills and work attachment.
I was interested to hear what local government is considering. I think it is vitally important for local government to keep reviewing expenditure, to continue to think about reducing compliance costs and red tape, and to maintain investment in infrastructure. In that way, councils will be doing their bit for enhancing growth when the recession eventually ends.
I welcome the contribution of Maori to the Summit. I sat for some time with the Maori work stream and I look forward to further development of the ideas about how iwi and Maori organisations can use their assets, including Maori land, and enhance the skills of their people.
I welcome the banks' stated commitment to New Zealand and, at a more personal level, to looking after their customers who are facing financial difficulties. Needless to say I was delighted with ASB's decision earlier this week to set up a $1 billion fund for job creation loans. That is a great example of a business stepping up to the plate.
Of course, this Summit has also been about what the Government could do.
In that regard, a lot of ideas have been proposed today.
We are going to consider these over the coming weeks and respond to them. You'll be able to follow their progress on the Job Summit website.
Some of the ideas discussed today will result in real changes to Government policy. I said at the outset that I wanted this Summit to be a do-fest, not a talk-fest, and that's what's going to happen.
Some ideas will become part of longer-term processes that will take time to sort through. You may well see these ideas come to fruition at some stage in the future.
Others won't make it - as you all no doubt know, the marketplace of ideas is very competitive.
But I can tell you there are some things that have been discussed today that I am particularly keen to get working on, and which could start having an impact very shortly.
I am keen to determine just what we can do to keep up or increase levels of industry training during this recession. I've heard a number of proposals today that aim to do this and I want to work through those without delay.
As part of this I want to look at what the Government can do to make it easier for employers to provide industry training for staff who are on reduced hours.
I also want to look at whether there is anything else the Government can do to remove some of the barriers to working temporarily on reduced hours, within current employment law. Some interesting ideas have been discussed today and I want to have a careful look at them.
But discussion today has not just centred on people who are currently in work, it has also been concerned with people who are entering, or about to enter, the workforce.
I think youth employment - and the converse, youth unemployment - is extremely important.
We are entering a period where there will be fewer jobs for lower-skilled school leavers. Those young people need to know that there are educational options available to them, they need to develop skills to make them employable and productive when the economy picks up, and they need to see that there are opportunities in front of them.
I am therefore very keen to fast-track the implementation of the Government's Youth Guarantee, as has been suggested today. This will provide options for young school-leavers with lower-level skills to study at polytechs, wananga and private training establishments. They won't have to stay at school studying Shakespeare to further their education.
The skills and transition work stream also pointed out that there is a huge opportunity to grow the business of education. International student numbers are slowly growing but we could attract many more students here than we do now, to quality courses.
This would allow us to ‘tack on' direct marketing of our country's tourism assets to a captive and identified overseas market, thereby creating jobs in both the education and tourism sectors. The possibilities are exciting, and should not require significant amounts of extra funding - just innovative thinking, and co-operation between providers and the Government.
The skills and transition work stream also proposed improving the support for people coping with redundancy or unemployment. For people who lose their jobs in this recession, finding new jobs as quickly as possible is going to be very important.
Here it's best to work from what we have already. There are a number of existing government programmes which, for example, aim to match unemployed people with jobs, and to provide financial assistance to relocate to where there are available jobs.
I think we need to have a good look at those sorts of programmes to determine whether they can be made to work better by, for example, changing some of the levels of support that are offered.
A number of work streams have mentioned infrastructure projects that will create jobs and have positive benefits out into the future. Many of these are environmental projects of one form or another.
What I am particularly keen to investigate are some energy efficiency projects around home insulation, and I am going to ensure that these are progressed as quickly as possible.
I have heard a lot of good ideas from firms today about regulation, and how the Government could ease this burden. I want to say that we are right behind that.
In particular I want to endorse the recommendation made by one of the work streams that the next two years is not the time to be adding to business costs through regulation. There has to be a very high hurdle for new regulation and we need to be thinking much harder of removing and refining existing regulations.
We have kicked that process off with the first stage of reforms to the Resource Management Act. A further, more comprehensive review of that Act will be starting before too long. In addition, Rodney Hide yesterday announced reviews of the Building Act and the Overseas Investment Act.
We will shortly be in a position to announce further reviews of key pieces of legislation, as well as some quick gains that can be made relatively soon.
Today's discussions have really confirmed to me that these are important steps for the Government to be taking to prepare the economy for a more productive future.
I have heard ideas today about how the Government could boost the tourism sector and I can report that the Minister of Tourism is very keen to progress these.
In part that is because the tourism sector is an important part of the New Zealand economy and is a big employer.
But also getting people from overseas to come here and spend money is about the best form of economic stimulus I can think of. When visitors come here and spend money on food, petrol, accommodation, transport and entertainment it's an injection of money into the New Zealand economy.
Finally, I agree with the work stream on firm funding that one of the most crucial factors in getting out of this recession is a well-functioning credit market. Firms need access to finance to make the investments that will lead to new jobs and growth.
That work stream deserves the chocolate fish award for robust discussion. If people thought this Summit was going to be tightly scripted they only needed to sit in on the discussions with and between the banks.
As a former banker, I congratulate them for their ingenuity in developing the idea of a co-investment equity fund where both the Government and banks put in money to provide equity support for New Zealand companies over a prescribed time frame.
For non-bankers this means providing a pot of investment money to help New Zealand companies get the access to share capital they need to grow and create jobs.
This is the sort of really innovative idea that would never have happened without today's Summit.
Many of the other suggestions around the development of capital markets look promising and will be considered as part of a longer-term review of capital markets, where the recommendations of the Capital Market Development Taskforce will be particularly valuable.
So, where to from here?
We are going to look at the ideas that have been suggested today and, as I said, we will be responding to them publicly on the Jobs Summit website.
To make sure this work gets done promptly, I am going to give my own department the responsibility for coordinating activity across government. They will report directly to me.
I would like to continue the co-operative process that led to today, and therefore I am keen to involve the work stream Chairs in this process, without making it too onerous for them. Others of you may well be involved as ideas are developed further.
To make sure things are progressing, I am going to invite the Chairs to meet with me in around 6 to 8 weeks to review where we have got up to.
I want to finish by making an observation. We are doing something here that most countries could never do - we have got everyone together in the same room to feed off each others' ideas.
Granted, we are a small country; and granted, this is a rather large room. But we have got a group of people together today who cover most sectors of the economy and most interests, to work together with a collective sense of New Zealand and the people who make up New Zealand.
Just that alone gives me a great deal of confidence that as a country we can work together and find solutions to some very difficult problems.
Thank you again for your participation.
27 February 2009
Opening Remarks: Job Summit
You are all here, in this room, taking time out of your everyday lives to do something for your fellow New Zealanders.
You are here at this Job Summit because you know how important jobs are to the country, and to every person and every family who loses one.
You know we face some big economic challenges and that unemployment is rising, but you're not just standing by and saying nothing can be done.
You are here because you are doers.
You are ready to commit to doing something, either by yourself or with others, to protect and create jobs in New Zealand.
I don't want to spend much time talking about how difficult economic conditions are at the moment.
You know that. Many words have and will be spoken about it. I'm here to do something about it.
Neither do I want to spend too much time talking about what might be coming down the pipeline. About how many jobs might be lost, how many could be gained, or how we will count the jobs saved by our efforts.
This is not a convention of forecasters.
We will not gain anything today or in the months ahead if we become lost in hand-wringing and crystal-ball gazing about how bad things are or could be.
What we do know is that we are in uncharted waters.
The world is experiencing the most dramatic economic downturn we have seen in our lifetimes.
While New Zealand is in a better position than many other economies, we are feeling the effects of the global recession and we will continue to do so.
I do want to remind you all today about what New Zealand has to be grateful for.
Our banks are in a stronger financial position than those in many other countries.
We have not witnessed the wholesale collapse of productive sectors of our economy.
We have come through hard times before, and we know how it's done.
I also want to remind you of the reality of the challenges.
New Zealand has a small, open economy, we sell our goods and services on global markets, we raise significant amounts of finance overseas, and we can not hide from what are extraordinary international events.
The global downturn will have a flow-on effect for our country, no matter what the participants at this Summit do.
So our job today is not to promise the impossible.
Unemployment will rise over the next year. We can all acknowledge that.
But we can all play a part in lessening the blow.
Each of us can do something that could save someone's job, create a new job for another person or help someone else find a new job as soon as possible.
We can take steps to ensure that young people who cannot enter the workforce are able to up-skill in the meantime.
We can help those who lose their job get ready for the next one, so that if they do take a hit they can come back fighting.
We can make small sacrifices today that will keep our fellow Kiwis employed tomorrow and in the months ahead.
Whether you are here today representing a big employer, a small employer, a bank, a union, a social organisation, an iwi, a council, a training organisation or any other group of New Zealanders:
What you do counts. It counts for Kiwi jobs.
And those jobs count for real people.
They matter for the families and loved ones who depend on them.
They matter for the small and large businesses that rely on people having money in their pockets.
And they matter for the growth prospects of our country as a whole.
What we achieve today can make a difference to the security and opportunities available to New Zealanders both now and in the years ahead.
I know most of you have already invested hours coming up with contributions to the Summit. You've put your heads together with your colleagues, listened to the people in your staffrooms, done the research, done the numbers and committed pen to paper.
Many have been working behind the scenes with workstream chairs and officials.
Some of you have been co-operating with chief executives you might normally view as the competition, others have put aside your political affiliations, and many of you have been working with those you normally see at the other end of the negotiation table.
You are here because you are willing to be part of the solution to the challenges New Zealand is facing.
I am here as Prime Minister and we are here as a Government because we know we don't have all the answers. We want your ideas about what could make a real difference.
That's why today is so important. Because we're all here in pursuit of a shared goal.
We know that if we work together New Zealanders will reap the rewards.
Our task today is to come up with practical, achievable steps we can take to save and create as many jobs as possible.
Those steps fall into three main categories.
The first are policy initiatives that will need to be funded through the Government books.
I'm open to policy proposals of this sort.
But let me be clear, there are limitations to what the Government can responsibly fund.
The country's books are in the red. Debt is forecast to rise dramatically over the next few years.
We have to get on top of that debt. If we don't our children and grandchildren will pay with reduced living standards.
So proposals with a price tag for the Government must pass a high hurdle.
We have to be sure that they can be justified in light of the borrowing needed to finance them. And that they will not undermine New Zealand's long-term economic prospects.
The second set of ideas is around changes the Government can make to
laws and regulations. Changes that will make it easier for businesses to setup, expand and take on more staff.
I am keen to remove red tape, lower barriers and generally give some backing to the entrepreneurs and employers who, with a little bit of consideration from the Government, could do more to keep staff and create new jobs.
What can we do to unlock new investment?
What can we do to give you some breathing space?
What can we do to make it easier for you to take on a new worker or apprentice?
Tell us, we'll act.
The third set will be changes that don't require Government action.
They will be ideas employers and other organisations can act on alone, or that they can act on together with their staff and wider communities.
Today is an opportunity to gauge support for new initiatives, to forge compromises with each other or to band together to make your ideas a reality.
I can't promise you that all the proposals generated will make the cut.
It would be irresponsible of me to do so.
What I can promise you is that I don't come here with any ideological blinkers or any foregone conclusions.
I have my eyes and ears open.
I fully expect the Government to take prompt action in response to some of your proposals.
Others might require the passage of legislation or the release of new funds in the Government's May Budget.
Some will need to be looked at more closely, and may require more work and refinement before the Government can act.
Some may not be viable now, but could warrant further consideration if economic conditions worsen.
What I am absolutely committed to is action and results.
I view this Summit as the springboard for the next phase in the Government's rolling maul of Jobs and Growth initiatives.
In our first 100 days of office my Government took several steps to ease the sharpest impacts of the recession, to promote jobs, and to prepare our economy for future growth.
- We introduced a ReStart package to lessen the financial shock of unexpected redundancy.
- We passed legislation to introduce personal tax reductionson 1 April.
- We introduced a major bill to reform the Resource Management Act, to remove some of the barriers to new development and to reduce costs and compliance for Kiwi businesses and families.
- We announced a package of tax changes to lighten the load on small and medium-sized businesses, to ease cash flow for all businesses and reduce compliance costs.
- We fast-tracked more than half a billion dollars of Government infrastructure projects, including new schools, the Kopu Bridge and new state houses.
I stand by my record of action, and I will continue it.
My Government understands how important these actions are to building confidence in the economy, and what a difference responsiveness can make.
So you can be sure that your efforts today will be taken very seriously by me and my team.
But in the end, today is not about the Government. It's not about what I have to say.
It is about you, the participants in this Summit, and the millions of New Zealanders you represent.
I want to thank Mark Weldon for chairing this Summit, for his drive, his imagination and all the work he has done and will do today to make the Job Summit a success.
I want to thank the workstream chairs and co-chairs and all the participants for your positive, constructive approach.
Your presence, and the actions you will commit to, speak volumes about the Kiwi can-do character.
You are mucking in and putting your hands up for what could be a tough job.
That's what Kiwis do.
We are not a country of whiners.
We are not a country of slackers.
We are not a country of selfish individuals.
We are a gritty country with the smarts and determination needed to weather this storm.
We are people who know how important it is to look after each other and give back to the communities that make us.
We are people with big aspirations and the will to see them through.
This is a small country, and I'm confident we can get our arms around the problems before us.
So let's roll up our sleeves, pull together, and get going.Tweet
26 February 2009
Key Notes No.43
THE WORLD’S MOST HEARTBREAKING AND REWARDING JOBS
Every now and then I get to do something that is really special, something that brings home just how lucky most of us are and how amazing this country can be.
On Tuesday morning I was in Auckland to help launch the mobile phone appeal for the Starship Foundation at Starship Children’s Hospital. It was fantastic to be part of such a fun event and to donate one of my old phones to the Foundation.
But what made the event really special was to spend a bit of time with some of the children who are battling serious illnesses or have recovered from them. The courage and joy you can see in their faces is truly humbling.
I have the greatest respect for the doctors and nurses who are helping these kids. They have some of the most heartbreaking and rewarding jobs in the world.
For more information about the appeal, and how you can donate an old mobile phone, click here http://www.starship.org.nz/index.php/pi_pageid/1659
Picture: The Prime Minister with former Starship patient Ethan Rae – (c) Patrick Bellett Photography
KEEPING OUR PROMISES – OUR FIRST 100 DAYS
The new Government has been in office for 100 days. During the election campaign we pledged to put in place a post-election action plan, covering our first actions on the economy, law and order, education, health, and electoral law. All these have been delivered as promised in our first 100 days.
I’m proud to lead a government that has kept its word. And I’m proud we’ve done it in the timeframe we set.
But this is just a start. Our post-election action plan covered only the first of our goals in government. Our next steps will be to deliver on the rest of our election promises, implement our Jobs and Growth plan to combat the global recession, and help build a brighter future for all New Zealanders.
Click here http://www.national.org.nz/files/2009/Our_First_100_%20Days.pdf to read more about the promises we delivered in our action plan and our next steps in government.
GRADUATE BONDING SCHEME
One of the big concerns I hear when I travel around the country is that too many of our communities have a shortage of basic services. Some people just can’t get in to see their local GP. Mothers-to-be can’t find a midwife. Schools can’t find teachers, hospitals don’t have enough nurses, and farmers can’t find vets to treat their sick animals.
I’m determined to fix that. That’s why on Monday we delivered on our election promise to launch a voluntary bonding scheme for graduates in professions that have serious shortages.
The scheme provides student loan write-offs and cash payments to graduate doctors, nurses and midwives, teachers, and veterinarians who agree to work in hard-to hard-staff areas or specialties for three-to-five years. It will encourage graduates to work and settle here in New Zealand and help reverse the exodus of young Kiwis leaving overseas.
When the scheme is fully operating it will include up to:
- 500 graduate doctors, and 1250 graduate nurses and midwives working for up to five years in hard-to-staff specialties or areas.
- 1800 graduate teachers working in hard-to-staff schools or subjects.
- 150 graduate vets working in hard-to-staff rural areas.
Our graduate bonding scheme will bring a boost to communities all around the country. It’s just one of the many steps we’ll be taking to improve frontline services for the public.
For more information see:
- Graduate doctors, nurses and midwives http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=29396
- Graduate teachers http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?articleId=29394
- Graduate vets http://www.national.org.nz/Article.aspx?ArticleId=29395
JOBS AND GROWTH PLAN – THE JOB SUMMIT
I’m really looking forward to Friday’s Job Summit in Auckland.
We’re bringing together around 200 people from throughout New Zealand who are at the coalface of the economy – in business and industry, training, trade unions, iwi, central and local government – people who can make a real difference as we find our way through these difficult times.
The summit is not just about what the Government can do. It’s about how we can work together to maintain the highest possible levels of employment while we weather the downturn.
That’s why I was really pleased to see ASB’s announcement earlier in the week that it will provide a $1 billion loans facility targeted at keeping and creating jobs in small and medium-sized businesses. It’s this kind of innovative thinking that I hope we’ll see more of on Friday.
We need to be realistic. This summit won’t be a ‘magic bullet' – a single meeting can’t hope to resolve the complex challenges we face. But it will be an important contributor to the initiatives we need to boost jobs and growth across our economy.
You can keep in touch with the Job Summit and our progress here http://www.beehive.govt.nz/feature/summit
I’d like to thank those of you who have posted comments – positive and negative – on my website and my Facebook page over the last month. Your views on the recession and our response to it have given us some great insights – especially in the lead up to tomorrow’s Job Summit. Please keep your comments coming. We are reading them and they are helping to guide our thinking.
You can comment on this newsletter here www.johnkey.co.nz.
Hon John Key