10 February 2012
Key Notes: Looking forward to the year ahead
In this edition of Key Notes I talk about our plans to strengthen the economy and the four priorities we've set to accomplish that.
Click here for more pictures of the Chinese New Year celebration at Parliament
Looking forward to the year ahead
Parliament resumed this week for 2012, and it's going to be another very busy year for the National-led Government. We have a full legislative programme as we press on with our plan to Build a Brighter Future.
A stronger economy
The next three years will be about strengthening our economy. Despite ongoing global uncertainty, we are in a good position compared with many other nations.
As I outlined a fortnight ago, we've got four key priorities for our second term in Government. These are:
- responsibly manage the Government's finances
- build a more competitive and productive economy
- deliver better public services
- rebuild Christchurch.
We're working hard to create a platform for stronger economic growth to help our businesses to grow, and hire more staff. The fall in unemployment to 6.3 per cent is evidence the economy is heading in the right direction. This is encouraging given the challenges the country has had to face over the past few years with the Global Financial Crisis and the Canterbury Earthquakes.
In 2012 we'll be delivering on our 120-point economic development action plan, which I released during the election campaign. Our plan is about taking New Zealand forward so businesses can grow and compete in the global marketplace. A number of the steps in our plan are already complete, and this year we're going to make further progress across the economy.
Reducing debt through mixed ownership
We're also working hard to reduce the level of debt New Zealand owes to foreign lenders. That's one of the reasons we're extending mixed ownership to four state-owned energy companies, and Air New Zealand. We'll keep a majority share in each company - at least 51 per cent - and New Zealand investors will be at the front of the queue for shares.
Mixed ownership will free up $5 billion to $7 billion, which we can use to buy new assets like schools, without having to borrow more from offshore lenders.
This is a smart policy that will strengthen New Zealand's economy and help get us out of debt faster. We're working hard to get out of debt because we don't want to end up in the same situation as many European countries. Getting out of debt faster will help us build a stronger economy with more jobs, higher incomes, and the high-quality public services that you and your family need.
Boosting links with China
Last week I launched the Government's China strategy to help build on our already strong relationship with China. The strategy sets out ambitious medium term goals towards our target of doubling two-way trade between our countries from $10 billion to $20 billion by 2015. China is an important market for New Zealand exporters. We're working hard to help our businesses tap into the enormous potential of China.
It is fitting that I launched this strategy during Chinese New Year celebrations and as we mark 40 years of diplomatic relations with China. The strength of our relationship is underpinned by our vibrant Chinese community, who make a valuable contribution to New Zealand.
Green paper on vulnerable children
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has been busy meeting communities throughout New Zealand to get their views on the Green Paper for vulnerable children. The Green Paper outlines a number of ideas to help prevent child abuse in our country. Submissions close on February 28, so make sure you have your say at http://www.childrensactionplan.govt.nz/.
Health targets updated
National's successful health targets have been updated to better reflect a focus on preventive health care. We're changing our child immunisation target so that 95 per cent of eight month old children receive their scheduled vaccinations by the end of 2014. We are working hard to protect our youngest children when they are most vulnerable.
There's also a new health target of "More heart and diabetes checks" - which is a commitment we made to New Zealanders at the election. Health Minister Tony Ryall has also announced that we're strengthening the cancer treatment target by including chemotherapy to the Shorter Waits for Cancer target. From 1 July this year, all cancer patients ready for radiation or chemotherapy treatment should begin this within four weeks.
From my diary
This week I celebrated the Chinese New Year at Parliament. It was a great opportunity to officially welcome the Year of the Dragon.
I also attended the annual Halberg Awards in Auckland, which was a great evening celebrating our elite sportspeople. 2011 was a big year for New Zealand sport, and I'd like to congratulate all the winners of Halberg Awards.
Next week I'm heading back to Wellington for another busy week in Parliament.
Rt Hon John Key