Yesterday Finance Minister Grant Robertson released the Coalition Government's Economic Plan. This pulls together a whole suite of initiatives that are well under way, but it does more than that — it lays out our blueprint for a 30-year collaboration with business to help transform the economy for the benefit of all New Zealanders.
The initiatives in this plan will advance our wellbeing agenda, to grow and share New Zealand's prosperity more fairly across communities and regions, and to better protect our natural heritage. This plan will drive better fiscal, social and environmental outcomes, rather than emphasising one over the other.
Our economic reality is in flux, and we don't shy away from that fact. We know that the nature of work is changing rapidly. The response to climate change will entail industry transformation worldwide.
We're in the midst of a technological revolution. The economic norms of yesteryear are being rewritten daily.
The near-term economic headwinds are strengthening, too, on the back of fears around fallout from Brexit and from ongoing trade disputes involving the US and China. Our trading partners and the countries we compare ourselves to are facing slowdowns. Australia just reported its lowest rate of growth since 2009 last quarter. In the same quarter, the German and UK economies contracted. New Zealand's growth rate continues to outperform against this volatility.
We're seeing stronger than expected export profits, and lower than expected unemployment, showing that businesses are confident taking on new staff. In New Zealand we're running ahead of many of our peers, but while the economic ground everyone's running on is getting rockier now is the time to prepare for the future.
We need to invest in infrastructure, because it's the springboard for future growth. This Government is investing record amounts in hospital and school building programmes, alongside large investments in transport safety, regional roads and public transport, and we've done that while maintaining a responsible budget surplus.
We're improving the efficiency of our construction sector, through the Construction Sector Accord and Building Act reform, and improving urban development frameworks to better meet future needs. And we're addressing the infrastructure deficit we inherited in our health and education systems.
These initiatives create rewarding, skilled jobs across our economy at a time when stimulus is also needed.
We'll also keep tackling the long-term challenge in housing. Our economy works for everyone only when everyone has a warm, dry home, and a decent standard of living. That's something I ultimately believe people from across the political spectrum want to see.
That's why we've stopped the state house sell-off, stopped offshore speculators from driving up house prices, and built over 2000 state houses in the last year.
As our economic plan lays out, there is a strong role for both government and business to play in growing the economy. By uniting behind this plan, we will demonstrate what we can achieve when government and industry work together towards a common vision of higher living standards across New Zealand.
Business leaders agree that growth in New Zealand has been predicated too much on capital returns, and not enough on productive investment. To build an economy that works for all of us, we need to focus on productivity and innovation, especially through small businesses.
Growing the value we generate from our outputs — from kiwifruit, fashion, to screen production and space exploration — is the best way to make sure we all share in the benefits of growth. It also means we're not relying too heavily on any one part of our economy, which means we're less vulnerable to shocks.
To achieve that we need to encourage enterprise and creativity. We're doing this is by increasing the returns to research and development through our R&D tax credits. And we're pursuing ambitious trade policy to create better opportunities for New Zealand businesses overseas.
We must also make sure people can train and re-train for the jobs of the future. We've always been an exporting country, but I hope to see a shift in the way we think about what we have to offer.
One of the most valuable things New Zealand can offer the world is skills and knowledge, from our farming sector to our creative industries. That's why we're reforming the vocational education sector to ensure our polytechs are viable, create more apprenticeships and enable New Zealanders, no matter where they live, to participate in and benefit from our transforming economy.
Now's the time for us to future-proof our economy, and that's why the Government's plan provides leadership and certainty for our business community. This is about setting out our vision, as well as the steps to achieving it, and getting on with the job.
I want to see growth that brings New Zealanders along with it. I want to see the rising tide truly lifting all boats. We achieve that by giving every New Zealander the tools they need to participate fully in our changing economy.
Our economic plan sets out an ambitious vision, and together with the business community we're getting on with making it a reality.