Kia ora koutou katoa.
Ko Raf Manji tōku ingoa.
Well, here we are, finally! This is a great honour and privilege. It's not often you get to lead a new political party into Parliament. In fact, there hasn't been a new one for 20 years and I feel it’s about time for a democratic update/upgrade and time we rebalance the system to work for everyone.
We are in a time of turbulence, of uncertainty, of fear but also a time for change, for new direction, for optimism and for hope. As the cycle of the last 30 years stutters to a close, it's time to reimagine what the future might look like and, more importantly, what we would like it to be.
COVID-19 continues to cast a shadow over our lives and Omicron looms over us. The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated existing inequalities and has reinforced the need for change.
Our social contract is broken. The general idea was that you should study hard at school, enter the workforce, get an apprenticeship, or go to a polytechnic or university. Then maybe settle down, buy a home, raise a family and so on, usually on a single income. That's gone out the window for many, and even those families with two incomes are finding it hard to get ahead and survive.
At the same time, we see absurd/maddening headlines that there are not enough homes for sale over $10m in Auckland. This is a headline from October last year: “Auckland mansions sell for $11m, as wealthy buyers run into budget problems?”
I mean seriously? Is that really what things have come to? Is that our measure of success? Every month we are bombarded by statistics exclaiming another record for both house prices and the public housing waiting list. Too many people are struggling to put food on the table and deal with a myriad of government agencies just to survive.
It's clear that we are on an unsustainable trajectory and fiddling at the edges is not going to help shift direction.
Something needs to change and that’s why I’m here, that’s why I'm getting involved and why I’m committed to getting The Opportunities Party into Parliament come 2023.
We need to build safe, supportive and cohesive communities, living within a vibrant, healthy and flourishing environment and supported by a productive, innovative and resilient economy.
Underneath that needs to lie a financial system, powered by a monetary and fiscal framework that helps to deliver those outcomes for all. For too long the focus on government debt has outweighed the basic needs of people. The system is seriously out of balance and that needs to change and that's what TOP will deliver when it gets into Parliament.
We need to rebalance the system by taxing housing properly, introducing a universal basic income and investing in climate resilient infrastructure. We can’t build a productive and innovative economy if our savings and investments are going into housing.
Incremental change is not going to help us deal with the structural issues. This is actually a time when we need action. Sustained moderation is not a viable policy.
TOP is about real change, about dealing with the issues that matter and will make a real positive difference to people's lives. If we are going to build a more cohesive society, that needs to start now with a new social contract that puts people first and creates a sense of community and belonging. This recognises that everyone has a stake in society and a part to play, whether they are in paid or unpaid work. It should acknowledge the wonderful diversity in our communities and our rapidly changing demographics.
These are issues that I've been thinking about for a long time: How to create a more sustainable society where all can belong, feel part of, contribute to and be valued? How to build cohesive communities, a healthy environment, a productive economy, and a financial system that works for all?
The reason I’m here today is I believe that TOP has the policies and the approach to help in achieving that goal. We are happy to work with anyone to make that a reality.
But to make real change we have to get into Parliament. So here’s my challenge to you:
If you want change that matters, if you want change you can believe in, and change that works, then join with me, become a member or volunteer, and support TOP to make it into Parliament in 2023!
Raf Manji, Party Leader, The Opportunities Party