Goldsmith Update - November 2015
The political scene is much like the spring weather: changeable and stormy. It has always been that way, with a focus on who said what to whom yesterday, or the day before.
Meantime, it’s worth not losing sight of the genuinely big news of recent weeks, in particular two events that have the potential to improve New Zealand’s prospects.
First, Bill English announced recently that the Government ran a surplus in the 2014/15 financial year. Why is that important? Because it signals strong, prudent and sustainable economic management in a time of continued global uncertainty. Demonstrated economic competence from Government builds confidence in the private sector, which leads to investment and ultimately jobs.
Second, despite significant challenges, agreement has been reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. This is New Zealand’s biggest ever trade deal: massively increasing our market access to the United States and Japan. Twelve countries in all, 800 million consumers and 36 per cent of global GDP.
Let’s put it context. New Zealand enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the world for the first 70 years of the Twentieth Century, when we had open access to the UK market. We lost that in the 1970s when the UK joined the ECC and our living standards fell.
It’s a tough world out there. Nobody has to accept our trade freely. We’ve battled against tariffs and other barriers for decades.
Progress has been slow and painful. First, CER with Australia in the early 1980s, then slow progress through the WTO. The FTA with China in 2007 was a huge boost to this country and helped sustain our economy through the Global Financial Crisis. But we don’t want to become overly dependent on one economy.
With the TPP, New Zealand is well and truly back in the game, with a path to virtually open access to another huge part of the global marketplace. The only exceptions are some limitations on dairy, and the retention of much-reduced tariffs on beef into Japan.
Better access to the protected European Union markets is the next great challenge, and I’m confident we’ll make some progress there too.
All this represents a golden opportunity for New Zealanders over the next few decades. I spoke about this and other things in the General Debate last week. You can view the speech here:
As Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs last week I released for public comment a draft Bill to review the Incorporated Societies Act, 1908. I thought it was timely. There are more than 23,000 incorporated societies operating throughout New Zealand (including a hefty number within the Epsom electorate, such as the Remuera Heritage Incorporated, the Mt Eden Hockey Club, the Newmarket Old Folks Association and the Blind Foundation in Parnell).
These groups, large and small, make a huge contribution to our communities, and things usually go well. However, the legislative framework is silent on a large number of issues which can lead to problems when disputes arise, or conflicts of interest, or when a sports club, for example, with only a handful of members but substantial assets winds up.
This is part of the general maintenances of the laws that govern New Zealand. We’ve allowed plenty of time for people and societies to give feedback on the proposals.
We also recently introduced the Geographic Indications (Wines and Spirits) Registration Amendment Bill to the House, which falls under my responsibility for intellectual property policy. A geographic indication demonstrates that a wine or spirit comes from a specific region and possess particular qualities or characteristics as a result – think Champagne, or Côtes du Rhône.
The Bill will allow us to set up a registration regime for wines and spirits produced in New Zealand. Being able to register regional names for our wine and spirits, such as Marlborough or Gimblett Gravels, will reinforce the qualities and reputation of those products and will help our winemakers protect their integrity in New Zealand and internationally.
In Epsom, I had the pleasure of selecting Auckland Grammar fifth former, Jacob Lerner, as my Youth MP, for next year. Jacob has a keen interest in politics and debating. He is the captain of the Premier Junior debating team and recently won the AGS Martin Sullivan Speaking trophy.
The Youth Parliament occurs once every three years. Jacob will join 120 other Youth MPs, from across the country, will come to Parliament on 19 and 20 July 2016, where they will learn about the government decision-making process and share the views of New Zealand youth with the country’s decision makers. They will have the unique opportunity to step into the shoes of an MP for two days while they debate legislation, sit on select committees and ask oral questions of Ministers. Between now and then Jacob has the opportunity to engage with the community to gain an understanding of the ideas and concerns of youth in our area.
Visiting the Waterview Connection project, one of the Government's Roads of National Significance which is crucial to dealing with congestion in Auckland.
Hon Paul Goldsmith
National List MP based in Epsom
P: (09) 524 4930