Audrey Young

Audrey Young is the New Zealand Herald’s political editor.

Shearer: Poverty 'no issue to play politics over'

Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour Party leader David Shearer. Photo / Mark Mitchell

New Labour leader David Shearer asked National to reconsider its decision to exclude Labour from the poverty committee it will set up under the confidence and supply agreement with the Maori Party.

He made his call in his first major speech in Parliament since being elected last week.

He said the other day a woman came into his office - she was educated and motivated, wanting to work. But for a variety of reasons, she had fallen on tough times.

"She came into my office hungry. Hungry. She was forced to swallow her dignity to visit her MP to ask for help.

Everyone else had turned her down - or couldn't help in time.

"This is not what anyone expects in NZ. "

Mr Shearer said the Maori Party had been right to force poverty into the Government's line of sight.

"And today I repeat my invitation to the Government: Make that committee a committee of this House.

"The Prime Minister should know this is not an issue to play politics over."

Mr Shearer, a former humanitarian worker for the United Nations said he had and there as no excuse for poverty in New Zealand.

"So this is a sincere offer and I hope the Government sees fit to revisit its position.

"Just as Labour will embrace good ideas when we see them, I urge the Government to do the same.

"It's what New Zealanders want from us. "

Mr Shearer said that in the wake of the election, Labour was ready to turn the page.

"Labour Opposition put our ideas in front of the people of New Zealand, and our side didn't win.

"And therefore Labour will be different in these coming three years.

"We will turn a page."

Mr Shearer spent a large part of his speech talking about economic leadership.

He said Labour would put "growing the pie for all New Zealanders" at the front of its agenda.

"We cannot be content dividing an ever shrinking pie. It means growing the nation's wealth."

New Zealand had to build an economy that produced good jobs and decent incomes, that generated wealth and opportunity, without sacrificing natural assets, lifestyles or communities.

He himself has kept the spokesmanship of science and innovation.

He said he had given economic development, and small business, and regional development, and skills and training, and also environment and education to his senior team, all on the front bench.

While agriculture and primary industries were the backbone of the economy, the dairy industry could not be multiplied to catch Australia's economy.

The Government's strategy of meeting the growing demand from Asia for protein was more a hope than a strategy.

"It's a hope that we won't have to change so that we can keep doing more or less the same thing we've done since the 1960s," Mr Shearer said.

He wanted to unleash New Zealand's innovation and see New Zealand create global businesses and he referred to specific example.

"A couple of years ago, I bumped into Sean Simpson a guy who had founded a company called Lanzatech.

"It had developed some clever technology to turn waste gas from steel mill smoke stacks into liquid fuel.

"The potential is huge. "

If China converted just half of its steel mills to use Mr Simpson's technology, it would generate 20 per cent of their liquid fuel needs.

"That's worth billions and it's a New Zealand company."

"The potential is amongst us. We just don't recognize it - unlike other countries."

- NZ Herald

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