General Debate - Economy and trade

Thursday, September 24, 2015

STUART SMITH: I think we just witnessed a late run for deputy leader of the Labour Party. I am very privileged to be one of the 14 new entrants in the class of 2014 for the National Party. This 51st Parliament is building on 6 years of fantastic work by the National Government under John Key. To be one of the new entrants into this parliament—it is a great privilege to be here and build on that work.

It is all about a sustainable plan that is working. We have had average weekly wages go up by 15.8 percent in the last 5 years, and 3.2 percent in the last year, when inflation has just been a miserly 0.3 percent. That is a fantastic amount of money in the pockets of average New Zealanders—far more than inflation. Their dollar goes a lot further.

Job growth, as we have heard, there has been 200,000 jobs created since 2011. That is on the back and in spite of record numbers of migrants coming into New Zealand. We saw in 2011 the Prime Minister standing in the middle of Westpac Stadium saying that we were losing a stadium full of people a year to Australia; they are now coming here. New Zealanders are voting with their feet, and that is a vote of confidence in the National Government.

We have record labour market participation: 69.3 percent—the third highest in the OECD. We have an outward-looking economy. It is all about trade.

Our opponents say that it is all about dairy. Well, really, let us look at some facts. We have had 18 quarters straight of economic growth, as we have heard, despite low dairy prices. Dairy prices, fortunately, are starting to rise again, so things are on the way up. The medium to long term outlook for our primary sectors is fantastic. It looks like we will grow by 17 percent, reaching $41 billion over the next 4 years.

So it is all about trade, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership is what I want to speak about this afternoon. It was started by Labour—let us give credit where credit is due. It is fantastic, but at the moment Labour is sitting on the fence. I am going to challenge it to get off the fence and make a decision. Twelve Asia-Pacific countries—Australia, Japan—[Interruption]

Mr SPEAKER: Order! The level of interjection, particularly from one member—I do not mind interjection in a general debate, but when it gets to that level it creates complete disorder. That is the last warning I am giving to three particular members of Labour during this general debate.

STUART SMITH: Thank you—it is great I could draw a bit of life out of that side. Twelve countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, Japan, the US, Canada, and New Zealand, with a combined GDP of NZ$40 trillion and 800 million people—it is about trade. It is about having a larger market.

That is through increased specialisation and greater competition. Old views of trade where countries produce goods and sell them to other countries have changed. They are no longer valid. Instead, goods and services are made in the world. Final products are assembled using intermediaries from different countries around the world. That is the way of the world.

If we do not get involved in trade in larger markets, we will have a very poor outlook. That is demonstrated by exports to countries that we do not have free-trade agreements with. Our exports have declined by 2.6 percent. In contrast, with countries that we have free-trade agreements with, our trade has increased by 10 percent.

Diversification is what is, indeed, happening in our economy. Our Government is all about providing a framework, and I really challenge people to say why they would oppose a trade deal that is so good for New Zealand. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research report on Investor-State Dispute Settlement said that those risks are overstated, categorically.

It is about political expediency, I suspect. It is certainly not about the good of New Zealand. So get off the fence and get in behind the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and let us make New Zealand a better place. Thank you.