Beyond the Farm Gate Lurks Separatism

Thank you for your invitation to be here, after yesterday's budget, and for the opportunity to talk with you.

In the economic and social turmoil following the arrival of COVID 19 in New Zealand many concerns emerged.  How would we keep our economy going and maintain our exports which are so critical in underwriting the economic and social life of our country?

Your industry has historically been described as the backbone of the country and as a critical exporter.  We came through the crisis of COVID 19 because of your contribution and today, again, the New Zealand First Party wishes to acknowledge that and thank you for it.

There were some that looked to you at that time of economic crisis, but how quickly have they forgotten you and the policies that you need?

There are some in this room who can remember former politicians describing your enterprise as “a sunset industry”.  Almost forty years later the sheer lack of wisdom in that description must now at least be obvious to all.  To feed the world of the future, we must grow over forty percent in our food supply, and you are food suppliers. 

This season has been tough with 15% on farm inflation, rising interest rates, reduced product prices and adverse weather. It will have been a tough financial year for most.

Many of you have complained that this government has imposed a lot of poorly thought out regulation. The tragedy is that farmers generally accept raising the environmental standards but don't appreciate the heavy bureaucracy. There is huge uncertainty. A lot of regulation, especially in the freshwater space, has had to be walked back as it was clearly unworkable. There has been a lot of policy coming down the pipeline, freshwater rules, significant natural areas (SNAs), emissions pricing, RMA reform, animal welfare. It's been impossible for the average cocky to keep up. There is a need to slow down on new regulation until the above mentioned concerns are met.

Today all manner of new demands are being placed on your industry without regard to just how much your industries have modernised.

New Zealand is a country that has lost much of its “can do mojo”.  We were once at the top of the world's economies and our agriculture took us there.  Not only in production but with efficiency.  The “Corporate Farming Family New Zealand”, that is mum dad and the kids, could out strip in agricultural production, an English landowner with four adult workers. 

And we did all that with politicians, few of whom had been to university, but were gifted with commonsense and learned wisdom.

Today the very industries, which sustained us through the COVID economic crisis, are under constant attack, as though stopping production here will see production stop overseas.  It's long since time for a reality check and respect for the significant progress you're all making to respond to global climate change.

We have to set targets at the low end which are achievable and make a credible contribution to international climate change targets.  We already have the tools.  We have identified low-methane genetics, now commercially available in both sheep and dairy.  There has already been an increase to our on-farm sequestration.  So if we can reduce our emissions further without compromising production, we have a great story to tell whilst escaping the low-price commodity trap by a real focus on added-value before sale offshore. 

Critical will be a change in central governments attitude.  We need to incentivise the uptake of low-methane genetics which will be far more successful than just taxing emissions.

Reflecting on this, when people talk about emissions, there are 100 million kangaroos in Australia – almost four for every one Australian. But kangaroos are low methane emitters and we have much to learn from such examples and adapt them for your industry.

If we are to restore this country’s agricultural production whilst reducing methane emissions, then we can’t keep on repeating the mistakes of the past.  All business enterprises are about making profits and ensuring that we have the people with the right skills, and remuneration, to do so.  However, there is no use trying to fix up one part of your industry if we don’t understand the need to extract every added value dollar out of it before we export. 

And some blunt facts have to be faced up to. Here are just three. 

  • First, how did Silver Fern Farms end up in Chinese ownership? And why were there countless deceits leading to that sale to China, and only one political Party, New Zealand First, challenging what was going on here?
  • Second, why was infant formula developed from the world’s leading per capita milk producer, allowed to fall under the control of a foreign economy?
  • Third, how did Fonterra end up being virtually bankrupt by investments in another economy over which they had no real control?

Where was the inquiry and accountability in all of these recent developments?

Ladies and gentlemen, we will get nowhere if we continue to excuse an appalling lack of industrial and political leadership that has so often in recent times failed your interests.  In the coming four months these are the issues which your industry has to sort out, and whilst doing so, when politicians start making all numbers of promises, remember Henry Ford's famous quote, “You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.”

One is very much aware that working for your industry are hundreds of thousands of associated industries and workers and we must never lose sight of their interests as well.

Budget 2023

In just five years from 2018-2023 government spending has gone up from $106 billion to $161 billion – most of which was in the last two years.  That’s more than a billion dollars extra being spent every week. 

Revenue is up 34% but spending has ballooned by 41%.  That equation means our country sadly is simply going broke. 

The cost of additional expenditure will require far more debt than the so-called experts expected.  We have huge rising debt going forward and those who think that we will get the books back into surplus in just the next six years, on the present policy settings, are simply dreaming.

We have a huge current account deficit, in real terms one of the worst amongst developed countries.

There was virtually nothing in yesterday’s budget to earn our way out of this economic dilemma.  And one more external shock, with our deficit trade balance with the world, will simply see us hit the debt ceiling. 

And ominously yesterday, the government introduced a higher tax rate in the form of a trustee tax rise to thirty-nine percent.  That is just a portent of things to come.

In all the hoopla in yesterday’s budget debate was again more optimistic predictions from Treasury, such as a pathetic one percent economic growth rate next year, and well less than three percent for 2025, 2026 and 2027.

The ominous picture going forward, is that while we neglect a rapid expansion of our exports and wealth creation, we are tumbling to second world status.

Political Extremism

If this continuing bad news is not alarming enough there is something more sinister in New Zealand’s present day politics, which will influence our economic plans going forward and frankly present a picture of hopelessness.

Immediately after the last election in October 2020, we have seen the rise of naked political extremism both in some political parties but also in the bureaucracy itself.  Extremism whether it be on the far left or the far right is equally destructive. 

The Maori Caucus of the Labour Party and the Maori Party are in a race to the bottom.  Typically, they are supported by the Greens.  They are proposing to put their version of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi into a written constitution.

Like the UK, this country presently has an unwritten constitution with many strands going back centuries.  These extremists want to jettison all that and replace it with their views of how we constitutionally go on.

The Treaty has three clauses, but go to any university today and ask them what the principles of the Treaty are, and you will get scores of different interpretations.  Despite this mindless confusion, there are many MPs who want to see a constitutional change embedding the special status and privilege of those with Maori descent. 

They are arguing that anyone who can recite a Maori ancestor is therefore a Maori, even though they may only have 1/4th, 1/8th, 1/16th, 1/32nd or 1/64th of Maori blood or even less.

On any intellectual level, this is duplicitous stupidity. 

Their version of ethnic construction enables them to manipulate numbers.  They are claiming that Maori are seventeen percent of our population, when we simply are not seventeen percent, or even seven percent, under the 1975 legal description.  Back then, if one was to be included on the Maori Electoral Roll one would have to be half Maori or more.

This special status and privilege, conferred on this nebulous number will see two types of citizen in this country; first, Maori, second, all the rest.

If such an artificial description becomes part of our constitution, two standards of citizenship will be guaranteed into our future.  And this change can not be able to be repealed by the voters because it would be a matter for the courts.  By these nefarious means over ninety three percent of people living in New Zealand will become second class citizens in their own country of birth or choice.

The point here is that up until now our parliament has been sovereign and the people by means of the electoral ballot are still the masters.  If New Zealanders don’t like what the government is doing they can vote them out.

The objective of the Maori Party and their ilk, is to attack the very principles of democracy and the supremacy of the voter and parliament by a changed written constitution.  They want their views of the principles of the Treaty regarded as the highest law which parliament would be subject to and no future majority of voters would have the power to change that. 

The judiciary, unelected, would now decide that the Treaty principles are above politics and cement the separatist agenda which is now so extreme in our country’s politics.  As the leader of the Maori party has said, “it doesn’t matter if there is a left government or a right government they have to do business with us; so you become a permanent Party in government.”

Ladies and gentlemen, we are all here at your AGM worrying about how this critical industry will proceed forward into the future and play its role as New Zealand’s leading export wealth creator.  Your concerns should be of major interest and at the forefront of political dialogue.  However, what is more critical now is for this Federation to realise that if these political extremists win in the next election then all of your hopes and dreams and aspirations and those of millions of other New Zealanders will become secondary.

Beyond the Farm Gate Lurks Separatism

This is not being alarmist but extremism wherever it sits in our political settings must be resisted on every occasion and at all costs.  We have as a country no future if we end up with two standards of citizenship based purely on race.  We cannot afford a small group of self appointed elitists in the Maori, or any other world, to determine the future of your industry, or your country, or our democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a democracy, you have every right to vote any way you think, however on this matter please look at those parties and politicians in this election who have a record of defending your rights as a New Zealand citizen.

To return to Henry Ford’s famous quote “You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do”.  On this most important matter, please ask yourself when politicians are talking, but what is your record?  I am confident that when you do that we can together take back our country and in doing so take our country forward.