Goldsmith Update - March 2016
The three week Parliamentary session has just finished and was dominated by concerns about the potential effects of ongoing relatively low prices for dairy products.
No one doubts that those farmers who are heavily indebted will face increasingly difficult trading conditions if the prices stay lower for longer.
The point that Government Ministers have been making is that, while of course we are concerned with the welfare of farmers, this doesn’t detract from the fact that we are seeing continued growth across many parts of the economy. Despite the fall in dairy prices, exports actually increased by almost $2 billion in the past year.
Tourism is performing well, with a record 3 million international visitors achieved for the first time in 2015. Annual beef exports are now $3.3 billion – up one third in the past year. International education was worth $3.1 billion in 2015, supporting 30,000 jobs.
The broader economic picture remains strong. After a weaker patch in the first half of 2015, gross domestic product (GDP) growth picked up in the second half of the year. Statistics New Zealand also reported that New Zealand’s net external debt has fallen to 55 per cent of GDP – down from 83 per cent when National took office and the lowest level since 2003. These figures represent good progress in improving a longstanding imbalance in the economy.
What I found a little galling was having to watch all the Opposition parties calling for the Government to ‘do something’ for the farmers, when they have consistently opposed everything we have tried to do to help our exporters in recent years.
No government can control international dairy prices or the exchange rate. Similarly most developed countries have not thought it was wise for politicians to set interest rates for the past 20 or 30 years. However good governments can fight hard for international agreements that reduce barriers to trade and domestic costs. Yet Opposition parties have opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Resource Management Act (RMA) reforms.
The past couple of weeks I’ve been around the country fronting roadshows on the TPP, on behalf of my colleague Todd McClay, the Minister of Trade. These roadshows are designed to allow open debate, informed discussion, and a clear path forward for businesses that can recognise the benefits of a market that comprises 36 per cent of the world’s GDP.
While there have been a handful of noisy protestors, I’ve been struck that most Kiwis get it. We’re a small trading nation in a big bad world; if we can gain better access to more markets then that’s a good thing.
The wine industry is one of several export industries thriving. It’s amazing to think that it was only in the late 1990s that New Zealand wine exports were less than $100 million a year. This year, those exports broke $1.5 billion. Our biggest market is the United States. Prospects of future growth look good, especially given the better exporting conditions in the US and elsewhere that TPP will bring.
I was pleased this week to be able to help the industry in a small, but not inconsiderable, way by bringing the Geographical Indications (Wine and Spirits) Registration Amendment Bill to Parliament.
This Bill will give New Zealand wine and spirit makers the ability to register regional names as geographical indications.
A geographical indication is a name (usually a regional name) that is used to identify the origin of goods where a quality, reputation or other characteristic of the goods are related in some essential way to their geographical origin. Examples in the New Zealand market are terms such as ‘Marlborough’ and ‘Martinborough’ and internationally the term “Champagne”.
Further, being able to register geographical indications makes it easier for New Zealand exporters to promote and protect their product in competitive overseas markets.
Commerce Commission Animations
I’ve spoken frequently of the work underway to improve financial capability and money skills in our communities. The Commerce Commission is one of the key agencies that works in this area. It has produced a new series of animations that attempt to bring greater awareness around consumer rights and explain key law changes.
The series, called Its All Good, focuses on common situations that many of us will find ourselves in at some stage in our life. The first five episodes focus on credit issues such as getting a loan, being a guarantor, as well as hardship and repossession.
The trailer and primary three episodes had more than 140,000 views in the first week. I encourage you to check them out – it’s much easier than reading your standard detailed fact sheet!
I’ve been out and about at the many community events that fill the weekends at this time of year.
I was pleased to pick up a monkey (pictured below) at Parnell Inc’s Year of the Monkey exhibition. Artists and celebrities added their creative genius to the monkeys and their creations were auctioned in support of the Starship Foundation’s National Air Ambulance Service. Well done Parnell!
I was also excited to receive a call from organisers of the Mt Eden Village Little Day Out a couple of days after the event to say that I’d won the raffle. I’ve bought countless tickets over the years and never won anything. It was rather bemusing however, to learn my prize was a bunch of fair-trade bananas!
Hon Paul Goldsmith
National List MP based in Epsom
P: (09) 524 4930