Monday 2 May 2011

The Business of Ageing

West Foyer, Parliament, 5.30 pm

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Tuesday 15 March 2011

Statement to Parliament that state of national emergency has been extended

Mr Speaker

I wish to make a ministerial statement under Standing Order 347 in relation to the fourth extension of the state of national emergency over Christchurch City.

On Sunday 13 March, I further extended the duration of the state of national emergency over Christchurch City, under section 71 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002. This was the fourth extension of the state of national emergency since it was first declared on 23 February. I have considered the extensions necessary to enable the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management to continue exercising his powers and functions under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act.

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Minister of Civil Defence - Statement to Parliament in relation to the extension of the state of national emergency over Christchurch City

I wish to make a ministerial statement under Standing Order 347 in relation to the extension of the state of national emergency over Christchurch City.

On 23 February I declared a state of national emergency for Christchurch City under section 66 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002. This was as a result of the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that had struck Christchurch on 22 February and the continuing aftershocks. It was the first time in New Zealand’s history that a state of national emergency had been declared as a result of a civil defence emergency event. That declaration meant that, under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management could "control the exercise and performance of functions, duties and powers of Civil Defence Emergency Management Groups and Group Controllers." It ensured the maximum possible coordination and cooperation between central and local resources and international assistance.

Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act "A state of emergency expires with the commencement of the seventh day after the date on which it was declared," unless it is further extended or terminated earlier. I considered it necessary to keep the state of national emergency in place, due to the ongoing coordination and resources required to respond to this disaster. I therefore extended the duration of the state of national emergency on 1 March 2011, and further extended it on 7 March 2011, under section 71 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act. The extensions have demonstrated the Government's ongoing commitment to helping people in Canterbury to respond to this event. I will continue monitoring the situation, and will make further extensions as required.

I would like to pay tribute to the international urban search and rescue parties, which included teams from Australia, Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, and China. Those international teams have worked tirelessly, alongside New Zealand teams. I also acknowledge the disaster victim identification assistance we received from Australia, Thailand, Japan, Israel, the United Kingdom, Singapore, China, and Korea. Offers of other various types of assistance have also been received from many other countries around the world.

Our thoughts are with the people in Canterbury who have suffered from the disaster, particularly those who have lost loved ones.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Minister of Civil Defence - Statement to Parliament that State of National Emergency declared

Mr Speaker

I wish to make a ministerial statement under Standing Order 347 in relation to the declaration of a state of national emergency.

On the advice of the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, and in consultation with the Prime Minister and the Mayor of Christchurch City, at 10.30am I declared a state of national emergency for the Christchurch City under section 66 of the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act 2002. This was as a result of the magnitude 6.3 earthquake that occurred in Christchurch yesterday at 12:51pm, and the continuing aftershocks.

It is the first time in New Zealand history that a state of national emergency has been declared as a result of a civil defence emergency event. I took this step because I considered the emergency is of such a degree that the required civil defence emergency management will be beyond the capacity of local civil defence emergency people to respond to on their own.

Under the Civil Defence Emergency Management Act, this declaration means the Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management may control the exercise and performance of functions, duties, and powers of CDEM Groups and Group controllers. There are no other differences between the powers under a state of local emergency and a state of national emergency.

The declaration of the state of national emergency will ensure the maximum possible co-ordination and co-operation between central and local resources, and international assistance. It also demonstrates the Government's commitment to help people in Canterbury to respond to this disaster.

I would like to pay tribute to the Australian search and rescue parties who are already on the ground in Christchurch. Teams from the United States, Singapore, United Kingdom, Japan, and Taiwan will be deployed as soon as they can get here.

Offers of earthquake and rescue specialists have also been received from Belgium, Israel, EU, Greece, Malaysia, Argentina and France. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has offered assistance and International Search and Research Advisory Group (INSARAG) teams have been mobilised. An offer of assistance has also been received from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

Our thoughts are with the people in Canterbury, particularly those who have lost loved ones or with loved ones still missing.

Monday 11 October 2010

Speech to Judicial Control Authority for Racing Annual Meeting

Thanks to Kristy McDonald, Chair of the Judicial Control Authority for Racing, for inviting me to speak to you today.

I would also like to acknowledge Associate Professor David Gerrard, from the University of Otago, who will be talking to you about some of the drug related issues that affect racing and sport.

One of the decisions I have made as Minister for Racing is to support the New Zealand Racing Board in its moves to improve integrity, across the board, for the racing industry. I will talk to you today about where some of this work is at.

I also want to talk about what improving integrity means for the overall health and future of the racing industry, not just in New Zealand.

Worldwide, the industry is taking issues of integrity seriously and putting systems in place to address it. New Zealand is at risk of isolation if our racing industry doesn't work as one to improve integrity.

My comments on integrity are not designed to slight the many honest and hard-working people who make their living out of racing.

However, some of those people will be grappling with integrity issues.

It may be that they are aware of things going on in other stables that they think aren't their business, but this may be behaviour that affects the impression the punting public has of racing.

Or at an administrative level, someone may know something that doesn't feel quite right. Again they may think it is nothing to do with them.

But ultimately, if integrity issues in racing are not vigilantly addressed, everyone who makes their living from this industry is adversely affected. Every time another person turns their back on racing because they perceive it is not a "clean" sport, that move impacts on the money supply chain.

Participation is critical to the viability of racing. That is, people owning horses, people attending race meetings and people wanting to bet on horses with the TAB.

So one of the key reasons for constantly improving the integrity of racing is an awareness of how the outside world looks in at this industry.

I was pretty much an outsider when I took over this Ministerial portfolio, so I am a good example of how people get introduced to racing.

On a Sunday I look through the Sunday Star Times. In doing so, I can see how it has come to half the New Zealand population having a negative impression of racing and betting on racing in New Zealand. This statistic was the finding of a recent survey undertaken by Nielsen. The survey tackled public perceptions of the racing industry and the results were disturbing.

Let me show you what I am talking about. Sunday 19 September has these two headlines on one page:

Exclusive: TV Frontman Gone. Geurin in credit betting scandal.

Row over second hearing into Collett's "psycho" episode

The following Sunday it's: Credit betting "dirty secret" says former agent. The article says: "Harness racing's prime Trackside presenter Michael Geurin lost his job last week for betting on credit. Barry Lichter checks out what one former agent calls the TAB's ‘dirty secret'."

And the Sunday after there is a whole page with the very prominent headline: Snake Venom Fears Mount. "The racing industry is abuzz with talk of snake venom being used on our racehorses to mask pain."

I think I can be forgiven for sometimes feeling that the racing industry is not so different to the way it is portrayed in the fictional novels by Dick Francis or John Francome. Both were former jockeys who turned their hands to writing crime fiction with a racing theme. I get the impression they may have had some real life experiences to draw on in creating their fictional works.

Picking the Sunday Star Times as a newspaper that has a lot of racing coverage and is likely to be read by all sorts of people who have more time to look through the newspaper on a Sunday, it paints a fairly bleak picture of racing for the general public.

My office analysed the racing coverage from January 2009 until now in this newspaper. There were at least 27 articles relating to racing integrity issues falling broadly into three categories - drugs (that is drug use by industry participants or horse doping); issues around gaming machines; and violence within the industry.

Drugs made the front page on 13 June 2010 under the heading Riding High. The article detailed the rise of a "drug subculture" in racing.

To quote the legendary popular culture magazine Rolling Stone in one of the most successful advertising campaigns of modern times: "perception is reality".

It is very clear to me that perceptions around the racing industry and corruption need addressing.

It is at best, burying ones head in the sand if the people who make their living out of racing want to believe this is an industry without integrity issues.

As I'm sure Associate Professor Gerrard will tell you, drug use is not peculiar to racing. Performance enhancing drugs are an issue for all professional sports. And illegal drug use is across society. Racing is not being singled out. However, it is entirely appropriate for industry leaders to want to address drug use and other integrity issues.

Industry leaders have agreed there is a need for an over-arching strategy to turn public perceptions of racing around and work is underway on this.

Undeniably, the New Zealand racing industry needs to improve its performance. It needs greater participation from owners, race goers and punters. Racing faces a wagering decline of $1.2 billion in the past 25 years.

At the heart of moving racing into a profitable future is image. People will not invest in an industry - with time or money - if they don't believe in its integrity.

But to successfully present racing as a sport of skill and reward, free from corruption, everyone who participates in and/or makes their living out of racing has to want to see perceptions change and has to understand why they need to change.

The industry's leaders have decided it is time to act and a decision was made in June this year to establish a new, independent Racing Integrity Unit.

This new model of integrity services will give more independence to the "policing" of racing.

Making the rule-making, policing and the judicial systems independent and transparent is critical to the integrity of racing.

There must be no suggestions of cronyism. Indiscretions must not be ignored because of the value to the industry of the people involved. Integrity issues must be addressed in a professional and independent way. And there must always be an independent judicial system for a fair trial.

The Racing Integrity Unit has been incorporated as a limited company and its shareholders are the three racing codes and the New Zealand Racing Board.

Recruitment of key personnel is underway and those setting up the unit are working to a timeline that sees it operational from February 2011.

It is essential that the industry backs its leaders on all matters of integrity, because I certainly do. They have a passion for racing and they want to see racing flourish.

There is a lot of magic on the racetrack and I want to see more of the great stories of racing in mainstream media.

There are so many tales I'd love to see told of triumph against the odds, of great friendships forged, of mighty athletes both human and animal. These are the stories I hope to be holding up before you if I address you at next year's conference.

Thank you.

Friday 30 July 2010

Address to Harness Racing New Zealand's annual conference

Chairman Pat O'Brien and Harness Racing New Zealand board members, club delegates, and invited guests, thank you for the invitation to address Harness Racing's annual conference.

I would like to acknowledge the other speakers here today, New Zealand Racing Board chairman Michael Stiassny and chief executive Andrew Brown; as well as Geoff Want, from Harness Racing Australia.

I would also like to acknowledge Kristy McDonald and Guy Sargent and to note Jim Wakefield's retirement as the New Zealand Trotting Owners' Association representative on the Harness Racing New Zealand executive.

Jim is a respected racing stalwart who has contributed significantly to racing's leadership as a former chair of Harness Racing New Zealand, representative on the New Zealand Racing Board and as a member of the committee that drafted the current Racing Act (2003). Thank you Jim and I wish you all the best.

Today I'd like to cover off some issues that have been raised with me, as well as some of the positive things happening in racing.

It seems too easy for people in this industry to focus on the negative. From where I am sitting it feels like the industry has an attitude of "can't do", rather than having the "can do" attitude New Zealanders are so renowned for.

This seems contradictory to the fact that you are involved in racing because of your love of horses and your passion for the thrills of the racetrack.

Interestingly, those who race horses expect them to go out onto the racetrack and rise to all challenges; to be winners.

The racing industry faces many challenges. How you choose to meet those challenges will determine the future shape of your industry.

I'm going to start with the positive and I'm sure you'll have some questions for me at the end regarding some of the issues.

I believe the work being done around integrity across the racing industry is vitally important in positioning racing for future investment and participation.

At a meeting I called in Wellington in June, leadership from the New Zealand Racing Board and the three racing codes agreed to develop a new model of integrity services. There will be one integrity unit covering all codes.

This will give independence to the "policing" of racing across the industry.

This new independent integrity unit will be governed by an independent board, made up of four people independent of the racing industry. That board will be appointed by a panel made up of the chairs of the three racing codes and the New Zealand Racing Board chair.

The racing integrity unit board will appoint a general manager, who will in turn, appoint employees to undertake the unit's duties and responsibilities. These duties and responsibilities include investigating and prosecuting breaches of the rules of racing.

Separating responsibility for making the rules, and responsibility for policing those rules, removes any possible conflicts of interest.

Completely separating the responsibilities for racing's rule-making, enforcement and judicial functions mirrors what happens with law and society. Simply put, laws are made by Parliament, enforced by the Police and adjudicated through the Courts.

This new integrity services unit should be up and running early next year.

People will not invest in an industry - with time or money - if they don't believe in its integrity.

As we in politics know, perception can be everything. You don't have to agree with the perception, but if it is the majority view, you have to take it seriously.

A survey the New Zealand Racing Board did recently, through Nielson, showed that nearly half of participants had a negative impression of racing and betting on racing in New Zealand. Most of the negativity centred around gambling. Associations between the industry and drugs and corruption need addressing.

Andrew will detail this survey more in his presentation.

A high level of integrity makes marketing racing as fun and exciting, and making a positive contribution to the New Zealand economy, more viable.

To get increased participation - from people going to race meetings and betting with the TAB, through to racing horses or making the racing industry their career - the industry needs to raise its profile in a positive way.

You cannot expect everything to go on as it did 20 years ago. No business can.

Now I'd like to talk about economics and the Government's position on racing.

This Government is focused on limiting the effects of the global recession, putting in place measures to grow the New Zealand economy, and getting the government's finances into a sound position. We have introduced a growth-enhancing tax system, with personal tax reform and lower company taxes.

The Government expects changes in racing to address economic issues and allow for revenue growth to be industry-led. It is up to the racing industry, not the Government, to determine what change is required.

Racing is not the only business in the world faced with making changes, possibly radical changes, to ensure future viability. Your industry is essentially made up of a whole lot of small businesses and in a tough economy, small businesses have to be smart operators.

As Minister for Racing I am here to support you, not direct you. This is clearly stated in your governing Act, the Racing Act 2003. Wide industry consultation went into writing this Act and in fact, it was largely written by the industry, relatively recently.

The Government makes a financial contribution to racing through the Racing Safety Development Fund, of $1 million per annum. This money is to support racing club projects that improve safety at racecourses.

$1 million has been secured for the 2010/11 season, and I encourage you to think about applying for funding. The current funding round opens this year, on 1 August.

The safety of drivers, spectators, officials and others involved in harness racing, as well as the health and safety of the animals, is imperative. This is particularly important when trying to re-build a positive image for racing. New Zealanders are passionate about animal welfare. So track accidents can have a very negative impact on public perceptions of racing.

Now I'd like to talk about some of the issues and misconceptions. The Government has no silver bullet for racing. We are focused on fixing the economy. How businesses take advantage of that is entirely up to them.

The racing industry has been in decline for at least 20 years. The issues you face are not so different to any other business. The biggest and most debilitating issue I can see, and the one I get the most contact about, is a lack of trust in each other and in your industry's leaders.

And that doesn't seem to be a new complaint either. Past leaders seem to have come under exactly the same flak. It's a complaint that is getting tired, especially given much of that leadership is elected by the industry, from racing club committees through to boards.

I have been working with the four leaders at the top - the chairs of the three codes and the racing board - and I back them. I think it is essential that the industry does too. They all share a passion for racing and they want to see racing flourish.

They want to act. They want to get people back onto racetracks and into the industry. It is ridiculous to suggest they are self-interested when I see how many hours they spend on what can at times be an extremely frustrating cause.

I have found, with my recent re-appointment of Liz Dawson to the racing board that board appointments are never going to please all the people, all the time.

There are a variety of considerations when Ministers appoint people to boards. There are guidelines in the Cabinet Manual and directives from the Cabinet Office, including that the government wishes to see a more diverse range of people appointed to government bodies.

I would also like to note that Cabinet approved this appointment.

Liz Dawson's background in sport is particularly valuable given the growth in sports wagering with the TAB at a time when wagering turnover has been falling.

I am pleased that Liz Dawson is available for a second term on the board and I am comfortable that this appointment followed the appropriate process.

I have a say in appointing only a few racing leaders; the rest are elected by the industry. The New Zealand Racing Board chair and members are appointed by the Minister for Racing.

In closing I would like to say I believe that negativity is a destructive force. Anyone who spends any time working with me will know I like to focus on the positive.

There is a lot of magic on the racetrack and I want to see more of the great stories of racing in mainstream media. I think Harness Racing is particularly good at doing this I might say and I am impressed with the way you promote your young drivers and your equine stars.

My final comment would be to ask you all to remember why you love racing; why you might get up on a frosty morning and go and do something with horses; or why you might spend many unpaid hours trying to make your race meetings the best they can be.

If you can share that passion and enthusiasm, and forget past woes, you will be well on the way to increasing participation in the racing industry. With increased urbanisation, many young people have never been near a horse. It's up to you to tell them what they are missing.

Thank you for listening to me and I have time to take a few questions before you hear from the racing board, with more detail on the business side of your industry.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

Opening of Retirement Income Policy and Intergenerational Equity Conference

Good evening ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to thank Jonathan Boston from the Institute of Policy Studies and Retirement Commissioner Diana Crossan for the invitation to speak to you at this conference on Retirement Income Policy and Intergenerational Equity.

I would also like to acknowledge and welcome the two keynote speakers who have travelled to be here, Professor Kent Weaver from Washington DC and Professor Peter Whiteford from New South Wales.

When I see Rolling Stones vocalist Mick Jagger still strutting across the stage aged 67, he epitomises a generation taking the world in a new direction as they age.

I am sure with that image, you can all think of someone who defies our traditional view of what might be "age appropriate".

Not so long ago, we thought about a person retiring from the work force in their 60s to put their feet up for a few good years before "retiring permanently".

For the rush of baby boomers - the generation born between 1946 and 1965 - about to start turning 65 from next year, the "slippers, pipe, reclining chair" scenario couldn't be further from reality.

We are living longer more active lives and we are healthier than ever before. In living rooms and garages around the world there are Mick Jagger fans, of a similar vintage to Jagger, still playing air guitar and feeling like they are 25.

The baby boomers have re-written the rules throughout their lives, so why should their older years be any different?

Of course I'm a lot younger, at 60, but I am also fit and active. I still play rugby and I want to one day in the future be playing on the same field as my son and my grandson.

I am a 20-year-old in a 60-year-old body and it has to keep up!

Like many other countries that have enjoyed relatively settled health, social and economic conditions since the 1950s, New Zealand has an ageing population. You, in this room, will be instrumental in giving advice on how to manage this.

I don't subscribe to the view of our senior citizens as an economic burden. That is certainly not the view of this Government.

I want to talk about the opportunities that are coming with, and for, the almost 1 million baby boomers in New Zealand who will start turning 65 from next year.

It is interesting that you have Professor Kent Weaver from Georgetown University here as a keynote speaker.

In the US, huge amounts of time and money are being spent on the market for ageing well, as well as on marketing to the well-aged. They are those who want to travel, have active leisure pursuits, who want to look good, who garden and cook and entertain, who want to date online, or who have maybe fronted a rock band since the 1960s and still want to look like a rock star.

A whole new language is emerging among groups who are "turning silver into gold". Older people who set up businesses later in life to market to their peers are termed olderpreneurs, rather than entrepreneurs.

Most importantly, a shift in thinking is occurring. There is a realisation of the economic potential of older people.

Of course the government is aware of population projections and the fact that population ageing is important fiscally.

But compared to the rest of the OECD, New Zealand probably has one of the most sustainable pension systems in the world.

This government has given a commitment to maintaining Superannuation payments at 66 per cent of the after-tax average wage, from the age of 65.

What will enable the government to keep paying Superannuation into the future, despite an ageing population, is a healthy, growing economy, with a budget in surplus and low government debt.

That is why this government's focus has squarely been on limiting the effects of the global recession, putting in place measures to grow the economy in the future, and getting the government's finances into a sound position.

As our demographics change, older people's interests will increasingly be the interests of the country.

How we manage this unprecedented shift in age demographics requires thinking outside the square.

This ties in very much with two of my key priorities as Minister for Senior Citizens:

  • Encouraging employment of mature workers; and
  • Promoting positive attitudes about ageing.
Baby boomers will be healthier, better educated and have more spending power than any other generation reaching 65 in New Zealand's history.

They may choose to stay in paid work, or contribute in other ways. Our contribution and value to society doesn't end when we stop work.

But choosing to continue working beyond 65 provides for a larger income, is linked to a greater sense of wellbeing and keeps people connected socially.

New Zealand has one of the highest labour participation rates for older people among OECD countries. This makes for a more productive economy; a more varied and skilled workforce; and most of all, it makes for a more open-minded and inclusive society.

By viewing our ageing population in a positive light, we can see they will continue to contribute to the economy - as tax-paying workers, as community volunteers, as teachers and mentors, and as consumers.

The government believes our citizens 65 and over deserve recognition for their contribution so far and that is why we have New Zealand Superannuation.

The government also believes in letting people take responsibility for their own lives. So how they plan for their retirement, or how long they want to stay in paid employment, or if they want to combine the two, is up to them individually.

Of course, how those retirement years shape up, how well we as a nation save, the challenges we rise to and the choices we make are of interest to you all when looking at retirement income policy.

We need to stop thinking that today's youth won't have an "equitable" retirement to say, their grandparents. We really don't know what retirement will be like for them, or even if the term "retirement" will be used 50 years from now. And we should think about what "equitable" means. Surely being alive and healthy and having a good time holds some "equity"?

Our ageing population is a challenge but the best and most creative thinking comes in the most challenging times.

I hope you have a productive conference and will be creative in your thinking. It will all contribute to the Retirement Commissioner's three-yearly review of retirement income policies.

I now have great pleasure in introducing Professor Kent Weaver, Professor of Public Policy and Government from Georgetown University in Washington DC.

It has been 10 years since Kent was last here and it is great to have him back. I'm sure you are all aware of his interesting work and are keen to hear him speak. Over to you Kent.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Speech to New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Association AGM

Thank you for inviting me to your AGM and for the opportunity to talk to you.

I'm taking a positive approach to the challenges racing faces because I believe in your industry. I'm impressed by the passion shown by people throughout the industry and I back your industry's leaders. You are going to be the first to hear about the positive steps your leadership are going to take to improve racing's profitability.

As Minister for Racing, my goal is to see racing flourish, not languish. Racing is part of our history. It makes a positive contribution to our economy. It is dynamic and exciting to be part of.

As breeders, you lay the foundation stones for racing. In the marketing speak of today; you determine the quality and the quantity of the "product". Many of you also race horses and are involved in racing administration at some level, so you have broad interests across the industry.

Some of you have said to me, "Racing Ministers come and go". And that is true. You might sigh and say "we've heard all this before". But I hope you will appreciate that I have every intention of seeing positive change in racing in my time as your Minister.

One thing I am sure of, it is time for change. And by this, I am very clear that means change from within; not changes mandated by Government. The industry needs to work together, as one business, with common goals, if it is to seriously compete for leisure time and the leisure dollar.

It is time to act. The talking seems to have been going on for 20 years with each year showing more decline that the previous one. In dollar terms, that's a wagering decline of $100 million in the past 20 years. I don't know too many, if indeed any, businesses that can sustain that kind of hit and expect everything to go on the same as it did 20 years ago.

Most of you here run businesses so I know you understand this. Like any business in a tough economic environment worldwide, racing must constantly assess its viability. In the past couple of years every organisation that is still in business has taken a long, hard look at where costs can be cut and efficiencies can be made. Racing cannot be exempt from this reality. Government - both at local and central government levels - certainly hasn't been.

I come from Northland and I have been in Parliament for 23 years. I've got a good pedigree when it comes to "horse trading". I'm at my desk pretty early every day and I'm still doing this job because I believe in effecting change.

The way I like to do things is to get all interested parties to sit around a table and talk until they can agree on common ground. Once that happens and a good foundation of trust and shared goals has been laid, moving forward is a matter of course.

Getting this to happen in racing has been a challenge. But I believe your industry is at the point of finding a way forward that will increase participation and profitability and ultimately, benefit you all.

I know there are many issues you are interested in as thoroughbred breeders, including races for fillies and the level of stakes. But these more detailed issues can't be addressed until the core issues that determine the future of racing are fixed. In a nutshell, more people need to be interested in racing - all forms of racing - and more people need to bet on racing - all forms of racing.

As you may be aware, yesterday there was a meeting in Wellington of the leadership of the three racing codes - thoroughbred, harness and greyhounds - and the New Zealand Racing Board. We all sat around a table and we reached some agreements.

Under the Racing Act 2003, as Minister for Racing I have no jurisdiction over the thoroughbred, harness or greyhound codes. The Act gives me a relationship with the New Zealand Racing Board and my role is largely one of guidance.

But I believe these four organisations - the board and the three codes - are all part of the same puzzle. The pieces need to fit and they all need to be in place for the puzzle to be complete.

I asked everyone in that room yesterday to forget about past history, suspicions and grievances and to only look forward. History may shape us, but it shouldn't block our way forward. I know that's a big ask, but I'm asking anyway.

Let's be clear, the meeting was NOT about One Racing. One Racing is not palatable to two of the codes and while that is the case, it isn't on the table. I am not interested in hearing any more conspiracy theories about One Racing. There is no conspiracy. There is a group of people - your industry leaders - each and every one of them, who want to improve the profitability of racing so everyone benefits.

The meeting agreed on two major things. The integrity services model currently operating needs to change. And the industry needs to be marketed as one functional unit, offering an exciting menu of entertainment, to increase participation.

It was a positive meeting. Getting a positive focus in racing has been a surprising, and at times extremely disappointing, battle for me.

Regarding integrity, making both the policing and judicial systems of racing independent and transparent is critical. People will not invest in an industry - with time or money - if they don't believe in its integrity.

And there are some integrity issues. We all cringe when we see big articles in the paper about P use in racing or things being "not quite right" in the trusts that administer pokies.

This Government has taken a tough stance on P specifically, and drugs in general, and your industry should too.

As Minister, I have made it clear to the racing industry leaders that I think it is wrong for people on racing boards or in racing administration to also be on the boards of trusts administering the proceeds of pokies.

And while I know it is within the current law, I want to see the racing industry's dependence on pokie money for stakes phased out. Any money received from these trusts should be used for infrastructure. Racing clubs need to improve their facilities if they want to get more people along to the tracks.

The idea of improving overall profitability of the industry is to be able to feed that money into stakes.

Rightly or wrongly, there is a public perception issue that racing is not always run with integrity. A high level of integrity makes marketing racing as one brand more viable. At the moment there is a tendency for the industry to operate in silos without the benefit of an overarching plan.

The Racing Board has an overarching plan; it's strategic plan. I'm excited by this strategic plan; it's aspirational, but so it should be.

Maybe I'm the eternal optimist, but what I see is all good. People won't go to the races if the racetracks don't offer facilities as good, and preferably better, than other entertainment venues. They won't even know about the races if the excitement of seeing and being part of the action on the track isn't marketed to them. They won't go into a TAB if they don't feel welcome or don't understand how the systems work. They won't want to race or buy or breed horses if they have no idea about the magic of this sport. They won't have a bar of the industry if they don't see it as being run with integrity.

I would love to see the great stories of racing - the stories of triumph against the odds, of great friendships forged, of mighty athletes both human and animal - given coverage by mainstream media. It's up to you to get out there and tell them.

Everyone in the industry needs to back the Racing Board; you all benefit from this. As a simple example, if the pie (that is, the money available to the industry via wagering) gets bigger, then each code's share will get bigger and everyone's prospects will improve.

Thoroughbred racing has a representative on the Racing Board and that gives you a voice to shape the industry. Use that voice. This is my eighth term in Parliament as the MP for Northland and I believe I continue to win my electorate seat, with increased majorities, because I listen to my constituents and I do my best to get their voices heard in Wellington.

I'm not interested in dictating terms, agreeing to submissions that don't have industry-wide buy in, or messing with racing's governance structure. I am interested in the industry working together to find solutions to its own problems and plans for growth. If there is majority agreement and it fits in with the end goal, then I will back it.

It is early days yet, but there is every intention of having the highest quality racing industry in New Zealand. I sincerely believe that this is the objective of those tasked with managing the industry at the board and code levels.

In closing, I'd like to bring you back to my belief that pretty much everything can solved by people sitting around a table and talking about it. Good communication has been lacking in racing. I urge you to think about how you communicate with each other. How you make your issues know. How you ask for change.

I urge you to talk TO your industry leadership, not ABOUT them. And I will share with you what we in politics know only too well; if you are not being heard, then think about how you are delivering the message. Listen to other views. Sit down and talk about it.

Monday 12 April 2010

Address to Grey Power AGM, Christchurch

It is my pleasure to join you at your annual general meeting. Thank you for inviting me.

I would like to acknowledge your organisation's office holders and board members.

For years Grey Power has been working with key people in government to see that the collective voice of the senior community is heard. It is a testament to your leadership that Grey Power has this kind of influence.

Critical to that influence is one of Grey Power's goals and that is, "to be non-aligned with any political party, and to present a strong united lobby to all Parliament and statutory bodies on matters affecting New Zealanders".

In light of that, I was surprised to see Grey Power announcing last week it would be working alongside Labour and the Greens to hold a nationwide investigation into the state of aged care.

As Health Minister Tony Ryall pointed out immediately after this announcement, last year an Auditor General's report strongly criticised aged residential care under the previous Labour Government. The National Government is now sorting out the nine years of neglect.

We have increased funding for better nursing supervision, introduced spot auditing, put in third party checks on the auditing agencies, and made more information available to residents and their families by publishing audit results.

In New Zealand, one million baby boomers start turning 65 from next year. As our population ages the role of Grey Power will become even more important and its influence will only remain strong if the organisation maintains political neutrality to best represent all its membership.

As there has been some recent media coverage of this investigation, I thought it was important I talked about it first. The rest of my speech will cover other areas that I know of concern to Grey Power, as well as outline the things this Government is doing and my priorities as Minister for Senior Citizens.

We must show New Zealand that ageing is a positive thing.

I have three priorities to champion positive ageing: employment of mature workers; changing attitudes about ageing; and helping to protect the rights and interests of older people by raising awareness of elder abuse and neglect. And I will go into more detail about these.

But before I do that, I'd like to address some concerns Grey Power has raised with me.

I'm sure you're all keen to hear about what's going on with transport.

The Ministry of Transport's review of free off-peak travel with the SuperGold Card isn't about revoking entitlements in any way – it's about finding a fair balance of costs between public transport operators and Government.

The Prime Minister said on TV One's Breakfast Show that he is committed to continuing the Card's transport services. The Minister of Transport, as well, has confirmed that the current free off-peak transport scheme will not be altered in any way.

The review was put in place to ensure a fair balance between taxpayer dollars and operator contribution.

Continuing on the subject of transport, I know there is some concern about the loss of courses for older drivers. The Ministry of Transport found that the Safe with Age courses did not reach enough older drivers. The decision to cease funding of the courses is a result of Government's current focus on value for money, and more cost-effective alternatives are being explored.

The Office for Senior Citizens is working with the Automobile Association Driver Education Foundation to develop safety tips for older drivers. These are expected to be distributed through AA centres and directly to AA members by August this year.

After a particularly horrific Easter weekend on the roads, I'm sure we can all agree that keeping everyone on the road safe is a priority. Fitness to drive is a concern. You all know that drivers must renew their licence once they turn 75 and 80, and then every two years after that. Part of this assessment includes a visit to the doctor.

This isn't a personal affront; it's simply a way to ensure that New Zealand roads are safe and that you are safe. Sometimes a health problem exists without anyone knowing about it. Without proper testing, the problem may not be discovered until something tragic happens on the road. This is something we want to avoid so all drivers have confidence.

Fortunately, people can combine the request for the medical certificate that they need to renew a driver licence with their regular doctor's appointment. Testing for road fitness doesn't exist to hinder a person's independence; it exists to keep everyone safe.

As Minister I am discovering many interesting aspects to our population ageing. As New Zealanders grow older, they are doing more than previous generations. We're slowly breaking stereotypes and showing an undeniable and growing contribution to this country.

Of course, the most obvious contribution to society is by bolstering the nation's economy. We need to think about ways to support the employment of mature workers, expand commercial opportunities to mature consumers, and boost the senior tourist market share – both domestically and internationally.

New Zealand has one of the highest labour participation rates for older people among OECD countries. This makes for a more productive economy; a more varied and skilled workforce; and most of all, it makes for a more open-minded and inclusive society.

The participation rate for older workers increased last year, reaching 43.6 per cent for the year to December 2009. This was higher than the 42.7 per cent for the year to December 2008 and up strongly from a decade ago, when the rate was 30.1 per cent for the year to December 1999.

By encouraging employers to offer flexible working arrangements, mature workers are rightfully valued and employers gain and retain experienced staff members. Experience is priceless.

Smart businesses are recognising and responding to the demands of an ageing nation. They're creating innovative products and services to appeal to this increasing group of consumers. They recognise that older people are getting savvier when it comes to using technology, both to keep in touch with family members and to get information. The Ministry of Social Development's Senior Services website (www.seniors.msd.govt.nz), for example, has seen a 74 per cent increase in the number of people accessing information since April 2009.

Older people are also using the internet to discover exciting new places. Many older people choose to spend their retirement fulfilling lifelong dreams of travel – both within New Zealand and overseas. It's a fact that older people are significant contributors to the tourist industry, both at home and overseas. Tourism in New Zealand can also benefit from older travellers from around the world choosing our beautiful country as their dream holiday destination.

Of course, you don't have to travel any further than your neighbourhood to make the most of retirement, if that's what you choose. Some older people who choose not to carry on in the paid workforce are keen to work with younger generations in a mentoring role. Programmes that utilise the skills of older people to assist families' manage budgets and learn life skills, and where older people mentor children in schools, are creating communities that bridge generations. They're changing attitudes about how different generations relate to each other.

It's only once we learn about and appreciate each other that change happens. It's communication among communities that generates that change. It also helps to have cohesion among central, regional and local government to get out a consistent message and trustworthy information.

I'm pleased to see that government agencies are working a lot more effectively to do this. We all know that good local government policies make the greatest difference to the quality of older people's lives.

A prime example of a coordinated community approach is Neighbourhood Support New Zealand. This group works closely with the police and many other community organisations to reduce crime, improve safety, and prepare for emergencies and natural disasters.

On a much broader level, the recent tsunami alert and earthquakes in the Pacific have highlighted the vulnerability of older people and carers. I can't emphasise enough how important it is to be well prepared in case of an emergency and to have made a plan in advance. I've asked my officials in the Office for Senior Citizens and at the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management to work together to develop information for carers and seniors about what to do in a natural disaster. This should make a real difference and it will be distributed in the Civil Defence information pack.

Part of watching out for the safety of the older people in the community means speaking up when something's not right. It also means sharing the message of what to watch out for. I feel very strongly about preventing elder abuse and neglect in New Zealand. The best way to eliminate this abuse is to join forces with others who feel just as strongly.

As part of the It's Not OK campaign, a booklet was developed called Take the Time… Value Older People. It was created to share the message that all older people should be treated with respect and dignity – end of story. The booklet is simple and direct. It gives a guide to identifying signs of elder abuse and provides information on what to do to get help.

I like to keep a copy of this booklet on-hand so that I can share this message. Working together, we can share this message with the whole country. Sometimes information is all a person needs to really make a difference and keep older people safe.

We're also working to ensure that Work and Income and Senior Services staff have the information they need so they know what to do if they have suspicions of abuse or neglect. My goal is that everyone in New Zealand knows how to spot elder abuse, and how they can deal with it. On World Elder Abuse and Neglect Awareness Day, 15 June this year, I will be emphasising the importance of working together to address this significant issue that needs to be talked about more publicly.

Positive ageing starts with citizens, their families and communities.

I think this is an interesting time to be a senior citizen. The active older people of today have a feeling of empowerment. They're part of healthy communities full of people who understand their worth and the power of their contribution.

Older people today have more options to choose from in the pursuit of a fulfilling life. People are living longer and are healthier than ever before. What's important is that they have the freedom to make the most of this.

Choice is a powerful thing. It could mean the choice to retire and take time to volunteer; the choice to work with members of younger generations to share hard-earned knowledge and wisdom; or the choice to continue working.

As a group advocating the rights of older people, we need to make all the choices known. We need to continue to support and strengthen these choices. For example, if employers work with their mature workers – offering flexible hours or part-time work – there are many benefits. Not only is more money injected into the economy, but it opens conversation between generations of workers and paves the way towards personal fulfilment.

It's my belief that good communication is the best way to clear any misunderstanding. Only by talking to each other, and listening to each other's stories, can people of all generations begin to understand what each has been through. By vocalising the contributions of older people and making these opportunities evident we can dismantle the stereotype of an older person who won't so much as venture from their house.

Projections are that our older population will double by the year 2028. As this slowly happens year by year, Grey Power represents a growing proportion of the overall population. As I said earlier, your collective voice is becoming ever more important.

You can show New Zealand that every older person should be valued for the contributions they've made in the past, but even more importantly the contributions they make in the present.

There are some really exciting opportunities ahead. I look forward to seeing what we make of them.

Friday 5 March 2010

Opening address at 3rd New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame dinner
Ellerslie Racecourse

Chairman of the Racing Hall of Fame Gerald Fell; Hall of Fame board members; distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen, I am delighted to be here tonight for the induction of 10 more champions into New Zealand's Racing Hall of Fame.

It is important that we celebrate the highest achievers in this industry. The stars, whether equine or human, bring people to the racetrack or get them into the TAB and those actions are vital to the industry. Increasing participation and increasing betting turnover are imperative.

The Racing Hall of Fame has a significant role to play in marketing thoroughbred racing; recording its rich history and helping to generate the excitement that surrounds the industry's current brightest stars.

This evening we celebrate the third group of inductees. They are joining the equine greats such as Phar Lap, Kindergarten, Tulloch, Sir Tristram and Sunline; and the people who have become household names because of their feats in breeding, training or riding, such as Sir Patrick Hogan, Ken Browne, Colin Jillings, Bill and Bob Skelton and Lance O'Sullivan.

It must be a tough call for the selection panel and I am sure there was plenty of lively debate before tonight's 10 horses and people were chosen. I congratulate the selection panel on their choices. Racing supporters will all have their personal favourites, but I am confident that everyone will welcome this year's selections.

It is fantastic that we have the Racing Hall of Fame and can acknowledge the achievements of people who have chosen this industry to make their mark. It is a tough game that requires long hours and being outdoors in all seasons.

It is a life that comes with the heartbreaks of horses not fulfilling their promise for one reason or another. But it is also a life with huge rewards. There is camaraderie peculiar to racing. There are some fantastic rags to riches tales of horses being bought for a song and racing to win a fortune.

And there are the horses that end up being honoured here; the ones who genuinely deserve the title of champion. If you asked Sir Patrick Hogan how much Sir Tristram changed his life, it is the greatest of stories.

This evening we also acknowledge racing's valued place in New Zealand's heritage, its importance to our economy, and its potential to play an even greater role.

The Government acknowledges that horses earn New Zealand about $130 million in exports each year. They support about 18,000 full-time jobs and contribute about $1.5 billion to the economy each year.

Racing is important to many communities throughout our country - whether it is the benefits a small town reaps from an annual summer meeting; \the likes of Cambridge that is the service town for many breeders, trainers and jockeys; or Auckland city that will benefit from the week ahead that sees the running of Auckland cups for thoroughbreds, harness and greyhounds. Think of the clothes sold, the hotel rooms booked, the dining out and the entertaining that is associated with this week in Auckland.

As Minister for Racing I know the economics of racing are significant to all of you in this room. It is an industry facing challenges, but they are not insurmountable. People in the industry need to work together to map the best way forward. It may be time for some tough calls, but many of you are people who do that every day.

The Government expects industry led change. As Minister for Racing I am providing guidance and support, rather than direction.

There are some positive signs. With spending up more than 20 percent and top international buyers seeking the catalogue stars, the national yearling sales last month showed the intense demand for New Zealand thoroughbreds is unabated, regardless of tough economic times here and in our off shore markets.

We have reason for optimism on the eve of one of the most significant weeks of racing in New Zealand where tomorrow's champions may be discovered.

Tonight, however, we are here to celebrate another 10 champions of New Zealand racing.

Gerald and the Board, best wishes for the continued success of the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame.

Thank you and enjoy the evening.

Friday 19 February 2010

Speech to Grey Power Kaipara

It is my pleasure to join you in Dargaville today. Thank you for inviting me here, and special thanks to Constable Anderson; Grey Power Kaipara President June Klenner; and Secretary Ken Cashin. And, of course, thanks to Shirley Faber for bringing us together.

This is my first time addressing Grey Power Kaipara as Minister for Senior Citizens.
I continue to appreciate what Grey Power does for older New Zealanders, and, as always, I'm keen to listen to you because as a national organisation you have important insight into the concerns and needs of older New Zealanders.

As Minister for Senior Citizens I have set three key priorities to work on around employment of older people; changing attitudes about ageing; and protecting the rights and interests of older people by raising awareness of elder abuse and neglect. I know these are areas we have common ground on.

Most of you can consider yourselves in a position to show future generations what it's like to be an older person today.

One million baby boomers start turning 65 from next year, and older age for them will be unlike any generation before.

Our idea of an older person today is someone who loves to travel, is eager to help their community, and embraces life to the fullest. They are someone who is likely to use modern technology to keep up with family, or someone who's willing to learn. An older person today wants to be involved in their community, either through volunteer work or paid employment. Right now, 85 percent of New Zealanders 65 years and over are fit in mind and body and want to continue making a tangible contribution to the country in a way of their choosing.

Greater numbers of older people are opting to stay in the workforce longer. This choice benefits everyone; older people who keep working don't just have more income, they have more opportunities for social connectedness and a greater sense of wellbeing. The employers they work for gain the skills, knowledge and experience of all their years in the workforce. In short, the contributions of older people have always made, and continue to make, this country stronger and better.

There are some uplifting statistics to back this up. The labour force participation rate for workers 55 years and over has increased over the past year, reaching 44 percent for the year to December 2009. This is up more than 13 percent from a decade ago.

Workers in this age group have accounted for 51 percent of the total increase in employment since December 1999, and New Zealand has one of the highest labour force participation rates for people 55 years and over among OECD countries.

In economic terms this means a more productive economy: money spent on consumer goods, more money going into the tourist industry, and more quality workers contributing to the New Zealand work force. Businesses who support older workers by offering flexible hours and work conditions gain more than can be listed on a spreadsheet.

The Government is looking at ways to further recognise that contribution and weave it into how we do business in New Zealand.

Grey Power has an exciting opportunity to get that message out. There is an opportunity to work with diverse organisations around New Zealand to explain what the shifting demographic means to them.

For one thing, mature consumers are the fastest growing group in the market, and smart businesses are responding to that. They're creating innovative products and services to appeal to older consumers.

Some older people who choose not to carry on in the paid workforce are keen to work with younger generations in a mentoring role. Intergenerational programmes such as SAGES and LinkAge are creating communities that span age-groups to make meaningful connections. They're changing attitudes about what it means to be ‘Generation X' or a ‘Baby Boomer'.

SAGES is a community-based programme through which people can develop their skills in home management, cooking, budgeting and parenting. LinkAge is a resource for schools, promoting older people to help out with reading, in the school library, on school trips, coaching sports and in many other ways.

Older people today have more choices as to how they want to live a fulfilling life. They're living longer and are healthier than ever before, and they have the freedom to make the most of this.

The active older people of today have a feeling of empowerment. They're part of healthy communities full of people who are aware of the importance of their own well-being.

As older people become more involved in their communities, they become part of a supportive group that can keep an eye out for things such as elder abuse and neglect.
This means that older people have more people to turn to when they need help. It also means that they're more aware of their own worth, and less vulnerable to abuse.

In the next two decades, more and more Kiwis will turn 60 and our older population will likely double by the year 2028. You represent a growing proportion of New Zealanders, so Grey Power's opportunity to positively influence New Zealand will only continue to grow. The country is looking to you as we navigate this new territory.

Like any new venture, there are certainly challenges – not least of all the idea that older people don't contribute to the economy. I think the best way to create a shift in thinking is to let everyone know how much older people do across all levels of society, and to explain why some pre-conceived notions of older people as powerless and non-contributory are just not true.

I know that you are interested in the economy and will be aware of recent announcements around GST and possibly have some questions for me. What I can tell you is that the Prime Minister has made it clear that any increase in GST would be accompanied by across-the-board reductions in personal taxes, as well as up-front increases in benefits, NZ Superannuation and Working for Families payments.

The Government is acutely aware that a rise in GST would have an impact on lower and middle income New Zealanders – so we are not interested in tax changes that adversely affect these groups.

And no decision has yet been made about increasing GST – the Government has asked for more work to be done on this.

In conclusion, I look forward to a New Zealand where every older person is valued exactly as they should be. Because the facts are, older people today contribute to the economy, to strong communities, they teach younger generations by example, and they take responsibility for their own lives.

As the demographics change, older people's interests will increasingly become the interests of the country. It's up to us to show all of New Zealand exactly what this group is capable of.

We already know. It's up to us to share what we know with the rest of the country.

Thank you.



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