Good progress is not possible without greater equality,
Dunedin North MP Dr David Clark said in his maiden speech in
David Clark at the Star Meet the Candidates Forum before
last November's election. Photo by Linda Robertson.
Government will always be with us. And as citizens, we
must decide what kind of government we want.
In my view, Governments are elected to provide moral
leadership, not just to manage the economy to achieve things
like "market discipline" and "efficiency gains". Markets make
excellent servants but terrible masters. Good regulation can
harness markets to support people and their needs, rather
than the other way around. We must take our destiny into our
own hands and shape the economy to benefit all of New
Zealand. In recent decades those benefits have been shared
Politicians are elected to a life of public service. The
service they are elected to - is leadership.
Leadership involves listening, discerning, assisting and
Service should never be confused with servility.
Politicians ought not hide behind the term "service" awaiting
a mandate of majority support on every issue, forgetting, or
perhaps never realising, that the public have elected the
politicians to do a job in good faith on their behalf.
Politicians do not exist to rubber-stamp what the electorate
has already decided, but to articulate and share a vision of
a better society.
I will describe the better society to which I aspire. It has
similarities with what founding members of the New Zealand
Labour Party described as an "applied Christianity".
It is a society where accident of birth does not dictate
one's station and prospects. It is a society where every
citizen can get ahead by dint of hard work that builds on
their natural endowments.
It is one where all have free and equal access to high
quality education: a society where all have the ability to
develop their talents sufficient to ensure fulfilling and
It is one in which choices are not driven by fear, but are
afforded by opportunity.
In which everyone has access to legal representation
regardless of their means.
And the society I wish to live in recognises that prevention
is better than cure. It has a health system with universal
access: a trip to hospital doesn't require insurance or a
Mr Speaker, I believe that more careful attention needs to be
given to the prophylactic benefits of public health as
compared to the resources required to attend to the illnesses
of the dying, and the diseases of the worried well.
And to support our objectives, our economy must change and
grow. We must recognise our dependence upon the primary
sector, treasure and enhance it. But we must also diversify
if we wish to be a prosperous nation.
As a small country far from markets, we must make some
strategic decisions about the types of industry we wish to
promote and support. The OECD recognises that we educate our
kids well. We must leverage this learning for research, for
innovation and for New Zealand's commercial gain.
Dunedin is already a base for firms with a strong technology
component. Taylormade and Scott Technology are two of the
most well-known. But there are other weightless exporters
locally, like Pocketsmith, Trunk.ly and 1000 minds. Squid
gel, DNA sequencing and probiotics illustrate potential to
commercialise science developed at Otago. We need more of
this if we are going to prosper as a country.
I wish to concentrate the burden of my speech on one thing
that is something of a pre-condition to good progress:
Sadly, New Zealand has rushed towards greater inequality over
the last 30 years.
The truly wealthy have grabbed a disproportionately large
slice of the economic growth pie - at the expense of other
New Zealanders. There is an urgent need to level an ever more
slanted playing field. We need a broad-based and progressive
taxation system that preserves the Kiwi dream of a country
where a little talent and much hard work provide real
opportunities to better one's lot.
Disparities in wealth create strange distortions and
inefficiencies. My Christian upbringing instilled in me a
strong sense of social justice. My theological education and
my time as a Presbyterian minister have cemented that. That
some people have many opportunities while others have few -
just doesn't feel right. For me, this is a gut level response
rooted in firmly held values.
A growing body of literature shows a correlation between
societies with large inequalities and poor health, longevity
and other social statistics. A more equal society means
better quality of life. Generating the conditions for a more
equal society is the right thing to do.
But it increasingly seems that it is also the pragmatic thing