29 June 2007
NEWSLETTER: KeyNotes # 13
Putting Trades and Industry back into our schools
Technology training in schools is in crisis. Schools are being forced to cancel or reduce their trades training programmes. There is a shortage of teachers, and a lack of resources and direction from the Government. School kids keen on developing their practical skills are missing out.
At the same time, our skills shortage gets worse. This stops many firms expanding their businesses. It creates bottlenecks in the economy. While industry cries out for workers to fill highly-skilled, highly-paid positions, employers report that many school leavers don't have the basic skills they need.
And so last week I announced some initiatives that we will pursue to improve trades and industry training in our schools. These include:
- Piloting a school-based apprenticeships scheme, similar to the one run successfully in Australia.
- Working with teachers and industry to increase the pool of people able to teach trades and technology classes.
- Encouraging business and industry to help provide schools with resources for trades training.
- Funding a select group of schools to run "Trades Academies" – centres of excellence that specialise in providing students with learning opportunities relevant to a career in trades or industry.
- Giving schools more flexibility to offer their students trades and industry training outside the school gates.
These are just some of the things we are looking at, and you can expect more details in coming months. Read the full text of my speech and comment here.
Labour's bracket creep
Click here to listen to my interview with Wallace Chapman on Kiwi FM about wage growth, bracket creep and why real wages are growing more slowly here than in Australia. I'd appreciate your feedback on these issues.
Balancing the environment and the economy
Last weekend I spoke to Forest & Bird about how I want to grow our economy while protecting the environment. We can do both, but we need to get our priorities right and make sensible decisions about what is important to us.
National's 50 by 50 policy sets a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, compared to 1990 levels, by 2050. The electricity sector offers significant potential to cut emissions, but we need to make it easier for generators to invest in renewable energy.
At present, sensible hydro, windfarm and geothermal developments are mired in red tape, while state-owned power stations burn more coal and gas than ever before. This makes a mockery of Labour's climate change credibility.
That's why I support restarting the Dobson Dam hydro project on the West Coast. The flooding of a small piece of land seems a small price to pay for the long-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that will result.
Trade-offs are a part of sensible environmental and economic decision-making. They are tough and they carry a cost, but if we want to lift our economic game and protect our environment, we can't shying away from making them.
Read my full speech to Forest & Bird and comment here.
20 hours free - for a fee
At the last election Labour promised to provide 20 hours free early childhood education (ECE) to all 3-and-4-year olds by July 1 2007. Parents assumed free meant just that – free, at no cost, without a charge.
But while some 3-and-4-year-olds will receive 20 hours of ECE funded by the government, many parents will be obliged to pay "optional" fees to cover the true cost of this "free" education.
This is not the 20 hours free ECE that Labour promised. It is 20 hours for a fee.
Add to that the tens of thousands of Kiwi parents whose kids can't get into an ECE centre because there's no space, and it's clear that '20 hours free' is a fraud – and yet another of Labour's broken election promises.
National will do a better job of pre-school Education. We will clean up Labour's mess. We will deliver the $140 million the Government has allocated to the sector in a way that is fair and honest. And, if we promise that something is free, we'll make sure it doesn't come with a fee.
Are you a parent of a 3-or-four-year-old? What do you think of '20 hours free'? Let me know your thoughts here.
John Key MP
Leader of the National Party
25 June 2007
AUDIO: 25 June - Radio Dunedin
24 June 2007
NEWS: Environment, economy a balancing act
Balancing environmental protection with the need for better economic performance will be a major consideration for a National-led government, says National Party Leader John Key.
"New Zealand can be prosperous and have a protected environment," Mr Key told the Forest and Bird conference in Upper Hutt today.
"I want to grow our economy so New Zealanders have the choices, security and opportunities that prosperity brings; be that better healthcare, low-carbon technology, or wages that are high enough to stop our children departing for Australia."
The balancing act is shown up in National's climate change policy.
National has a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50%, as compared to 1990 levels, by 2050, and the electricity sector offers potential to significantly cut emissions.
"To ensure New Zealand takes up this clean technology we have to make it easier for generators to invest in renewable energy," says Mr Key.
"As it is, sensible wind-farm and hydro developments are being caught up in red tape, while Government-owned power stations are burning more coal and gas than ever before.
"I can't understand how New Zealand can carry on like this while simultaneously making a claim to climate change credibility.
"That is why I recently voiced my support for restarting the Dobson Dam hydro project on the West Coast. The flooding of a small piece of land seems a small price to pay for the long-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that would result from it.
"Trade-offs are an intrinsic part of environmental decision-making. They are tough, and there is often a cost to bear, but shying away from making the call isn't an option."Tweet
24 June 2007
SPEECH: Environment, economy a balancing act
Address to Forest & Bird Conference, Upper Hutt
I want to begin this speech by congratulating the dedicated people in this room.
From your President, Peter Maddison, to your executive members, council members, branch leaders, and all the other volunteers that give life to the Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand.
It's men and women like you who help ensure our country is a great place to live. You are community minded, you are patriotic and you get things done.
You could be at home right now, but instead you are listening, for the second time in one weekend, to a politician's address. That takes a kind soul.
You are optimists who exercise your power to make a difference. Whether by planting trees, clearing rubbish from water ways, helping with the management of one of your 30 public reserves, bringing public attention to threatened species, or joining in working bees.
You have rejected complacency in favour of action and aspiration.
I want all New Zealanders to take that approach. To get on and make good things happen for themselves, their communities and their country.
This year 40,000 New Zealand individuals, families and companies will make good things happen for New Zealand's environment by being members of Forest and Bird.
For more than eighty years the support of your members has drawn attention to the plight of New Zealand's flora and fauna, and provided the resources to preserve the unique features of our physical environment.
During those years, while Governments and political parties have come and gone, you have built up an iconic brand grounded in strong values.
The National Party proudly shares many of your values: Like you, we want to protect our unique and iconic native species. We want our children and grandchildren to be able to swim in our rivers and lakes. We believe in sound environmental science. We are committed to high environmental standards.
These shared values provide our two organisations with a good platform from which to jointly pursue a range of conservation and environment objectives.
In the last year National has worked hard to share our ideas on “green” policy with our voters. Our Environment Spokesman Dr Nick Smith has led a team of MPs who have travelled up and down the country holding public meetings about our Bluegreen environment discussion paper. Nick tells me that Forest and Bird members have taken an active interest and have participated in almost all the meetings.
That's really encouraging. National looks forward to continuing this engagement and working with you to refine our environment and conservation policies, both in the lead up to the next election, and in the years ahead.
But no matter how hard Nick works or how many speeches I give I can say, with quite a great deal of certainty that Forest and Bird and the National Party will never agree on all of our policies.
That's because National will never prioritise environmental objectives above all others.
My mission is to create a more prosperous New Zealand that improves the quality of life enjoyed by every New Zealander.
I want to grow our economy so that New Zealanders have the choices, security and opportunities that prosperity brings; be that better healthcare, low-carbon technology, or wages that are high enough to stop our children departing for Australia.
Unashamedly, and necessarily, the pursuit of that objective requires a complex balancing of goals and priorities.
By contrast, Forest and Bird is mandated with a purely environmental focus. Your sole mission is to preserve and protect the native plants, animals and natural features of New Zealand.
Our different mandates will sometimes bring us to different conclusions.
But our goals are not mutually exclusive. New Zealand can be prosperous and have a protected environment. In fact, in our rapidly changing world, New Zealand's outstanding physical environment will be a key to our prosperity.
That is why the environment is one of the three major areas that National will focus on to secure a better quality of life for all New Zealanders. It sits alongside the economy and education.
Our environment is one thing we really have over our rivals. Imagine what Australia would do for our fresh water supplies? What England would do for our mountains? What Canada would do for our temperate climate?
New Zealanders enjoy these things and by and large we don't take them for granted.
We value them as part of our history, identity, way of life and international reputation. It's not the wages that lure young people back here from their OE, more often it's the open spaces, easily accessed beaches and native bush.
Any political party with an eye to New Zealand's future success must pursue policies that protect and promote our environmental assets.
Our environment is also an asset that differentiates New Zealand's products.
Increasingly, people note this as a negative, saying that some of our important industries won't survive in a carbon and environment-conscious world. Under this scenario, the day of environmental reckoning is coming for the agriculture sector.
National is more optimistic than that.
We see New Zealand agriculture as a sector with enormous growth potential. We know it gets a bad environmental rap from time-to-time, but we don't think it's always justified.
What's more, we think that farmers' track record of adjusting to changing markets bodes well for their ability to adjust their farming practices to meet higher environmental standards.
However, to maximise this potential we think Government must tread carefully and pursue policies that improve environmental practice, not through cuts to production or efficiency, but though innovation and smart investment.
When it comes to climate change for example, limits to current technology mean that the only way farmers could significantly reduce their emissions is by getting rid of stock. At the same time, the Food Miles debate is looming ever-larger.
National will steer a careful course through this issue. We will not risk a key export earner by making agriculture the short-term fall guy in terms of climate change. This would have dreadful consequences for our farming sector, our rural service industries and many of our small towns. It would send a shudder through our cities and into the hip pockets of Kiwi families.
Instead, National's approach will be to ensure significant investment is made in the research, technology and development that will reduce agriculture's environmental impact in the long-term.
In the agricultural example, as in many others, National shares Forest and Bird's end goal of a protected environment. We may just disagree a little about the steps that we should take to get us there.
My hope is that we will build a strong enough relationship to withstand any disagreements and can continue focus on the shared objectives.
Turbo-charging community conservation
I can assure you that a National-led Government will respect your advice and will get in behind the great work you do in your 50 community branches.
I don't think the Government should have, or ever seek to have, a monopoly on conservation works or environmental protection.
A Government I lead will turbo-charge the work of community groups like Forest and Bird.
You have a record of success and the outcomes you get for every dollar are outstanding. But then it's no wonder – when you have to raise every dollar yourself through subscriptions, bequeaths, donations and community fundraising. You quickly gain an understanding of just how important every dollar is, and just how hard every dollar is to come by.
The importance of this should not be taken for granted by Government. A report by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that for every $1 provided to a voluntary agency, between $3 and $5 worth of services are delivered in the community, or in your case the environment.
People donate to groups like yours because they can trust you to make their money matter.
That's why earlier this year I announced National's policy of removing the cap on tax rebates for charitable donations. I want to make it easier for Kiwis to donate more of their hard-earned cash to community organisations like Forest and Bird.
Steve Maharey has said that this sentiment of mine amounts to nothing more than “Tory charity”. While Michael Cullen said in a speech recently that only “the active and redemptive power of the state could make a real difference in society”, rather than “random acts of charity, however well meant”.
Not surprisingly, I don't share this view. I think it's a sign of a mature and caring country that individuals and businesses choose to contribute their money, efforts and passions to private organisations working for the betterment of society and the environment.
I'm pleased to see for example, that the National Bank, Vero Insurance and other Kiwi businesses have formed partnerships with Forest and Bird to further select conservation and environment projects. That's a win-win. And National wants to see more of it.
Last week, I had the privilege of visiting the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary in Nelson. The sanctuary is situated in mature beech forest with over 250 species of plants and rare birdlife including New Zealand falcon, weka and yellow-crowned parakeet and will eventually extend over 715 hectares.
The Charitable Trust in charge of the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary intends to make it a year-round attraction with a range of low-impact tourist opportunities. So not only will the sanctuary provide a pest-free oasis to preserve our native flora and fauna, but it will also bring thousands of people in touch with the joys of New Zealand's wildlife. It's a privately run initiative in pursuit of a very public and long-term goal.
A Government I lead will work to encourage and support initiatives like this. We won't presume that the Government is always the best to run them, but we will do what we can to help them along.
There are obviously some environmental initiatives that require more than just a little Government help and a National Government would continue to fund them.
Our biggest push will be behind the major environmental challenge of our time: global climate change.
I want to focus on this issue today because I see it as the mother ship policy issue that will cast a shadow over all other environmental policy for many years to come.
The National Party will ensure that New Zealand acts decisively at home and abroad to confront this challenge.
We have already committed to honouring our Kyoto Protocol obligations and pursuing further global alliances for the post 2012 era. We will also take concerted action to reduce New Zealand's domestic greenhouse gas emissions profile.
I have committed National to an achievable emission reduction target for New Zealand: A 50% reduction in carbon-equivalent net emissions, as compared to 1990 levels, by 2050. In shorthand, 50 by 50.
This target is internationally credible, it takes our unique economic profile into account and it's time-bound. If I am Prime Minister I will write this target into law.
By contrast, Helen Clark talks about a much vaguer goal of carbon neutrality.
I make no apologies for promising less than Labour in this area, because National will deliver more.
When Helen Clark talks about achieving carbon neutrality, Kiwis need to remember her track-record.
The reality is that for the past eight years New Zealand has seen a revolving door of climate-change interventions: the fart tax, the carbon tax, negotiated greenhouse gas agreements; each got quietly dropped when the going got tough.
The result has been uncertainty, confusion and a lack of shared commitment by all concerned. Labour has claimed credit for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol with one side of their mouths and talked themselves out of action with the other.
Business and industry have been saying “we'd like to act, but we won't until we have policy certainty”. Government has been saying “we'd like to act, but we're not prepared to lose votes over it”'. Consumers have been saying “we'd like to act, but where are the government and business on this issue?”
The result is that between 2000 and 2005 New Zealand's emissions grew by 6.8 million tonnes. They're now growing faster than ever. For the first time in decades our forest estate has shrunk. In an increasingly carbon-conscious world our emissions profile is getting steadily worse. There is no valid excuse for this. It represents a failure of leadership.
This lost time won't be compensated for by any of the policies Labour has announced this term. Take for example the flagship scheme of getting six government departments to go carbon neutral next year. The emissions that will save over one year will be wiped out in just half a day by greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation alone.
And the 180 tonnes estimated to be saved from Parliament's proposed fuel-efficient cars – that will go in less than half an hour.
Meanwhile, National has announced six major steps we will take to reach our ‘50 by 50' target, including a comprehensive ‘cap and trade' greenhouse gas emission permit system and encouraging tree-planting by sharing carbon credits with foresters.
I encourage you to visit our website to read more about these initiatives.
I'd like to turn now to a particular area of National's climate change policy that I think Forest and Bird may be anxious about, and that it's worth explaining our thinking on. That area is electricity generation.
This is a sector where New Zealand has the potential to very significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. Technology has come a long way and clean electricity-generation is becoming more and more affordable and practical.
To ensure New Zealand takes up this clean technology we have to make it easier for generators to invest in renewable energy.
As it is, sensible wind-farm and hydro developments are being caught up in red tape while Government-owned power stations are burning more coal and gas than ever before.
I can't understand how New Zealand can carry on like this while simultaneously making a claim to climate change credibility.
That is why I recently voiced my support for restarting the Dobson Dam hydro project on the West Coast. The flooding of a small piece of land seems a small price to pay for the long-term reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that would result from it. I accept there would be short-term harm to the immediate physical environment, but I think the resulting long-term benefits would be overwhelmingly in the national environmental interest.
At a time when such a large proportion of New Zealand's energy emissions are coming from non-renewable sources, I simply couldn't turn down a clean option like this.
We can't keep rejecting renewable energy options and get our emissions down. Something has to give.
Trade-offs are an intrinsic part of environmental decision-making. They are tough, and there is often a cost to bear, but shying away from making the call isn't an option.
For too long we have had leadership that has vacillated over these decisions. I intend to take a different path.
I am hugely hopeful about New Zealand's ability to maximise the opportunities presented by an increasingly environmentally conscious world.
Our businesses, farmers and communities have proven themselves again and again to be adaptive and nimble in response to world trends. We need to ensure that our policies don't undermine that.
Too much time is spent hand-wringing about how climate change will work against us. We need to focus on how we can make it work for us.
National will be on the lookout for new and innovative solutions to environmental challenges.
For instance, I'd like to see a lot more work done on evaluating our geothermal reserves in New Zealand.
Geothermal is the only renewable not affected by the weather. It probably has the lowest environmental impact of any renewable and it's the only one that can provide guaranteed base load power.
The Ministry of Economic Development (MED) thinks this could cost about the same as the new combined cycle gas turbines that power companies been installing of late, but with about one fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions.
But while MED has spent millions on acquiring seismic data that they've freely released to try to bolster oil and gas exploration, they've done little comparable for geothermal.
It's been off the radar screen for a decade, despite having the potential capacity to meet 15 -20 years of our predicted growth in electricity consumption.
In Europe they are developing geothermal despite having nowhere near the resource we do. In Australia they are drilling kilometres deep to try and find something that might give them Geothermal. We've got it there sitting to be tapped.
Usually we talk about Australia being the lucky country. In geothermal, we are the lucky country. It's time to put it back on the radar.
I think that the next 20 to 30 years will unquestionably be the best years this country has seen in living history. If we get it right.
We are in a new century with new and more complex challenges. More than ever before those challenges are environmental. But these are not the environmental challenges of the seventies, eighties or nineties. The stakes have been irreversibly raised.
Government policy decisions over the next few years will have consequences that keep reverberating not just for the next ten or twenty years but for the next fifty and beyond. So it's vital we get them right. We won't get them right by applying old thinking to new challenges.
New Zealand has a great hand to play. We have good reason for confidence and good fuel for our ambition. We should back ourselves to live up to our environmental promise.
I'm excited by what we can achieve and I look forward to achieving it with you.Tweet
21 June 2007
AUDIO: John Key - 21 June - Farmingshow
|21 June. Interview on Hokonui Gold's Farmingshow with host Jamie Mackay. Discussion opens with some questions about John's recent emphasis on meeting with the rural community and the enthusiastic welcome he received at Fieldays. After a brief discussion of developments in the Fay-Richwhite case, conversation moves onto why National doesn't support ring fencing of property investments. Jamie then asks John about Jim Anderton's accusations that, despite its recent policy announcements in the area, National undid the apprenticeship and trades training programmes when it was last in Government.|