Commerce to Community - On the Way to a Decent Society

  • Deborah Morris
Youth Affairs

Grand Hall, Parliament, Wellington

Professor Neil Quigley, Commerce Graduands, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning and welcome to Parliament.

Today will be a very proud moment for you all. I'm sure that you are all approaching your graduation with a sense of celebration and achievement. And so you should. This is a chance to reflect on your successes in the past few years and plan for your future.

You'll be disappointed to know that I've only been given five minutes to speak to you! In that short time I want to encourage you all to consider the role that business can play in the community.

In a few years some of you are likely to be "the" movers and shakers of the business world. You will have a responsibility not only to your share holders and customers, but to the community you operate in as well.

New Zealand business people already contribute to society in many ways; from corporate sponsorship to voluntary mentoring, to partnerships with schools, and stimulating debate on specific issues.

Pioneering business people, like Dick Hubbard, are finding new ways to provide useful support to society. They realise that a decent society is the responsibility of business, not just government, families and community groups.

Dick Hubbard has a personal commitment of putting about 10 per cent of his company's profits into projects benefiting young New Zealanders, such as Outward Bound and local schools.

He has come in for some criticism from groups like the Business Roundtable. Only people who never try to achieve anything get away without criticism. Mr Hubbard, and others like him, are trying to achieve for others as well as themselves.

Business gains from the community, and I feel that it is only right that it gives something meaningful back.

Businesses have a direct contribution to make to society, by creating wealth and jobs. A thriving business sector making profits and paying taxes means there is more prosperity for all New Zealanders to share.

The policies that the Coalition Government has been promoting are in line with that kind of thinking.

We realise that we need to be responsible both economically and socially. That is why New Zealand put New Zealand First where it is.

People wanted a slowing down of the ideological dogma that had driven previous Governments.

We have created a government with a human face that reflects the people's wishes.

I want to warn you that parties like the ACT Party would wind all this good work back.

The ACT Party has said that it would cut health services by 80%, welfare by 30% and education by 60%. You thought your student loans were bad now! They'd be twice as big if ACT had anything to do with it. No matter how much hype, glitz and money is used, the people won't fall for policies like that.

To organisations such as the Business Roundtable these policies might seem attractive. They would claim that it is best to roll back the state and cut taxes. Let people defend for themselves they say.

However, the people of New Zealand are saying something else.

I have spent much of the past year listening to communities describe what's going on for them. Most of them say they've had enough of the economically pure philosophies that bear no resemblance to real life. They want policies and politicians that can strike the balance.

That is why we should reject the slash and burn policies of ACT.

So, why political propaganda so early in the morning?

Quite simply, because you matter.

As I said earlier, some of you will find yourselves in very powerful positions. Some of you will be directing billions of dollars of resources, in charge of thousands of workers and with the responsibility of keeping shareholders happy with their investments.

As qualified commerce students entering the job market you need to have the widest possible view of the world. To know that the potential to make your mark lies in making a difference for people. And in so doing, you can still make a profit.

Social capital profits everyone - not just a select few.

Of course, none of us have got to where we are by ourselves. Your family, your friends, and all New Zealanders have played a part in your education.

You are now in a position to start to give a little back.

As you operate in the world of commerce I make a plea for you to think about how you can best help your community.

Finally, I know that as you march from the Law School through Wellington to your graduation ceremony that you can all be proud of what you have achieved.

You have achieved a lot and you are in a privileged position.

Congratulations and well done.