Budget 2019 Speech - James Shaw

E te Māngai o te Whare, tēnā koe.

Ki a koutou ōku hoa Pāremata,

huri noa i te Whare,

ngā mihi o te tau hou ki a koutou katoa.

1.         The Wellbeing Budget is based on Green Economics

Mr Speaker, for years – many years – the Green Party and our predecessor, the Values Party, have advocated an approach to economics that delivers human prosperity within ecological limits.

A growing Gross Domestic Product does not, by itself, deliver a fair society or a healthy environment.

Our economy has grown even while homelessness increased dramatically and our waterways became too polluted to swim in.

But GDP growth has been treated as the ultimate goal for decades.

Members of this House who have been around for a while will remember my predecessor, Dr Russel Norman, talking about a smart, green economy that works for everyone.

Well, there’s a saying: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

And Mr Speaker, we are winning. New Zealanders are winning.

Because, fundamentally, the way the Wellbeing Budget has been put together is, at its heart, what the Greens have been talking about all this time.

What gets measured, gets managed.

This Wellbeing Budget starts to change how we think about our economy.

Every single bid considered for this Budget not only had to pass the usual business case.

It also had to stack up against a set of environmental, social and economic indicators, as outlined in the Green Party’s Confidence and Supply Agreement.

The Green approach to sustainable economics is finally starting to take shape through this first Wellbeing Budget.

I want to acknowledge and thank the Minister of Finance, Grant Robertson, for his leadership in bringing this thinking to this – and future – budgets.

I have to say it is a sign of how things have changed over the years that this way of thinking is becoming mainstream.

The Crown has a duty of care to all New Zealanders – and a responsibility to tangata whenua under Te Tiriti o Waitangi – to deliver on policies that support wellbeing and enable us all to thrive.

Now I have to say, we are still a long way away from a genuinely holistic approach that places the wellbeing of our environment, our communities and our culture at the heart of decision-making.

But Budget 2019, the Wellbeing Budget, is a critically important first step on the journey.

Mr Speaker, earlier this month the UN published a report telling us that there are a million species at risk of extinction around the world as a result of human activity.

Humans are the source of the single greatest mass extinction event since an asteroid destroyed three quarters of all life on Earth 66 million years ago.

Our growing horror at this ecocide has sparked its own movement – Extinction Rebellion.

Here in New Zealand, there are 4,000 species threatened or at risk of extinction.

Yet the Department of Conservation has to look after a third of the country’s landmass plus marine protected areas on just one percent of the Government’s budget.

So last year we increased Vote Conservation by $181 million over four years. That was the largest increase in DOC funding in at least sixteen years.

This year, we estimate we’ll be able to double that commitment, with another $180 million in Conservation funding through the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy.

Mr Speaker, the Green Party campaigned in Opposition for a tourism levy to help protect the natural heritage that people travel all this way to see.

I have immense pride in knowing that, in Government, we have delivered it.

Add in a new marine protection area the size of Auckland on the south east of the South Island.

Add to that the biggest addition to a National Park in New Zealand’s history – the 64,000 hectare Mokihinui addition to Kahurangi National Park.

Mr Speaker, there has been an extraordinary showing of commitment to climate action by the School Strike for Climate.

Tens of thousands of our own teenagers have taken to the streets to protest thirty years of dithering over climate change by the very adults who should have exercised a duty of care over those teenagers’ futures.

Mr Speaker, it’s time for the dithering to end and the doing to begin.

By the end of this year, New Zealand will have, in primary legislation for the first time, a commitment to living within 1.5 degrees of global warming.

Today’s Budget 2019 provides $107 million to transition our economy towards a low carbon future.

We will have independent, expert institutions to guide the way there.

There is $42.7 million for the Climate Change Commission to provide the advice, guidance and monitoring New Zealand needs to reduce our emissions.

Mr Speaker, over the past 18 months I’ve visited farms all over the country.

Everywhere I’ve been, farmers have told me they dearly want to help clean up our rivers and cut our greenhouse gas emissions.

But they don’t feel they have access to the information they need or the tools to actually do so.

Our Confidence and Supply Agreement says that we will, “Provide assistance to the agricultural sector to reduce biological emissions, improve water quality, and shift to more diverse and sustainable land use including more forestry.”

Over half of the $229 million dollar Sustainable Land Use package will fund exactly the kind of support farmers and councils have been asking for. 

It includes on-the-ground advice and tools to support farmers making the change to more environmentally sustainable and higher value production.

Once again, Mr Speaker, the Wellbeing Budget delivers.

Over a third of a billion dollars, in fact, on climate change, clean water and sustainable agriculture, the Wellbeing Budget delivers.

Mr Speaker, on the campaign trail in 2017 I was struck by the breadth and depth of feeling right across the country about mental health.

The term ‘mental health crisis’ kept coming up again and again, in a way it hadn’t in previous campaigns I’d been a part of.

The Prime Minister has already devoted almost her entire budget speech to this today. It is the first priority of this year’s budget.

Our Confidence and Supply Agreement commits us to increase funding for addiction services, to treat drug use as a health issue, and to ensure everyone has access to timely and high quality mental health services for all New Zealanders, particularly 18-25 year olds. 

I want to thank the Honourable Dr David Clark for working with us to get those services, such as the mental health pilot Piki, off the ground.

The Greens are proud to be part of a government that has committed fully an extra $1.9 billion dollars of both operating and capital expenditure over the next four years to turning the tide on this crisis.

The road will be long. It will be hard. But – from this day – it gets better.

It also gets better for families affected by the plague of domestic and sexual violence so prevalent in our society it’s frequently referred to as New Zealand’s shame – a plague closely associated with the mental health crisis.

Mr Speaker, on top of the $1.9 billion going into front-line mental health services is a significant programme for ending the cycle of violence in our communities.

Mr Speaker, the package to break the cycle of domestic and sexual violence highlights how the Wellbeing Budget pioneers the way Government Ministers and agencies collaborate to deliver significant social and environmental outcomes.

The Domestic and Sexual Violence package is $320 million investment in a joint venture of no fewer than ten different agencies and Ministers, led by my colleague Jan Logie.

It is a ground-breaking approach to joined up government where the focus is on the outcome, not on the individual agency or budget appropriation line.

We’re very proud that this was the prototype for the rest of the Wellbeing Budget approach.

Mr Speaker, not long before we received the Mental Health report, we also received the report of the Welfare Expert Advisory Group.

The Greens negotiated the review of the welfare system in our Confidence and Supply Agreement. 

We knew that the social safety net had frayed and broken over the years.

The Advisory Group’s report confirmed that.

It made for heart breaking reading.

Mr Speaker, a couple of weeks ago Phil O’Reilly, former head of Business New Zealand, said in an interview, “If you look at the evidence on benefit payments, we’re simply not paying people enough to survive.”

Mr Speaker, if there was an award for the person least likely to be a secret pinko socialist, it would go to Phil O’Reilly.

But he’s right.

We have become a nation with a group of people so disadvantaged and so excluded not only have they had no hope of getting ahead, many of them have had no hope of getting a roof over their head.

The Greens are really pleased that this budget includes over half a billion for re-introducing the indexation of main benefits to the average wage, removing deductions and changing abatement thresholds.

These are three of the most important changes we campaigned for in Election 2017.

This $535 million commitment builds on the $5.5 billion Families Package this government introduced in the post-election mini-budget.

But we have a long, long way to go.

The Advisory Group’s report tells us that this can only be the start of a sustained campaign over the coming years and future budgets to ending poverty in this country.

Mr Speaker, the Green Party’s Confidence and Supply Agreement with the Labour Party is fundamentally different from most arrangements between parties in previous governments.

Previous agreements have ring fenced a handful of priorities important to the support party and given that support party ministerial responsibilities and budget support to deliver those priorities.

In return, the support party has signed up to the major party’s policy programme as the basis of government.

Our Confidence and Supply Agreement goes much further.

It outlines twenty priorities, only a third of which the Greens have Ministerial responsibility for delivering.

The other two-thirds of our programme are delivered by Labour and New Zealand First Ministers.

Our Confidence and Supply Agreement is a policy programme for the Government – not just the Greens.

In fact, several priorities appear in both the Greens’ Confidence and Supply Agreement and New Zealand First’s Coalition Agreement, as well as in the Labour Party Manifesto – such as the massive investment in rail being led by the Honourable Shane Jones, a $1 billion investment in freight and commuter services all over the country.

I want to sincerely acknowledge and thank our partners in Labour and New Zealand First for working with us to deliver both the Greens’ priorities and our shared priorities as a Government, through this Wellbeing Budget.

Our people – and our planet – will be better off as a result.

Mr Speaker, of the twenty policy priorities outlined in the Greens’ Confidence and Supply Agreement, sixteen are seeing new funding through Budget 2019.

The Budget Initiatives across the Government that deliver on the Green Party’s Confidence and Supply Agreement total up to $2.7 billion of Operating Expenditure and $2.2 billion of Capital Expenditure.

Mr Speaker, if anyone had any doubts about whether the Greens would be able to make more of a difference in Government than in Opposition, Budget 2019 removes such doubts.

Mr Speaker, fundamentally the 2019 Wellbeing Budget is based on an approach to economics that delivers human prosperity within ecological limits.

It has been a long time coming. There’s a long way to go.

But this is an incredibly important first step.

I’ve spoken today about this Budget’s investments in conservation, clean water, climate change, sustainable agriculture, mental health and tackling family violence and poverty.

But this Wellbeing Budget goes so much further than that.

Members of this House who have been around a bit longer – like yourself Mr Speaker – may remember Jeanette Fitzsimons, calling for our success to be counted,

“…not by the size of our GDP and our incomes, but by the warmth of our relationships with each other and with Nature; by the health of our children and our elders and our rivers and our land.

We want more people to share the secret of real happiness and satisfaction in life, which comes not from having more but from being more, and from being part of a society that values all its members, and values the land, the water and the other species with which we share them.”

Mr Speaker, against those measures, this Wellbeing Budget delivers. 

No reira, kia kaha. E tu. Kia mau.

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