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