These are just some of the policies outlined in the recently launched Democratic Party manifesto, which party leader Tina Browne describes as “matter of fact and down to earth”.
Split into four sections broadly dealing with the Cook Islands people, economy and infrastructure, with a fourth section focussed on government accountability, the manifesto was launched on Saturday morning by Browne with Demo co-president Tupou Faireka, opposition deputy leader James Beer, and CEO for the opposition office Wilkie Rasmussen.
Browne said the party’s policies were about realising “the Demo vision of a strong community and a healthy economy, the Demo mission for a better future for our people, and the party’s belief in the fact that people must always be the first priority of government”.
“A number of policies in the Demo manifesto are basic common sense things to improve the lives of Cook Islanders,” she added.
"We are not trying to be overly smart but just matter of fact and down to earth.”
Notable policies outlined in the manifesto include a promise to increase the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour by the end of 2019 and to work towards an increase to $10 by 2022.
There would also be a move to “develop first homeowners and home renovations affordability schemes for eligible Cook Islanders”.
The Demos also plan to “make land ownership a reality for more homeowners through a full upgrade of land court records, including new standardised user-friendly procedures and guides”.
In their economic policy section, the party says they will stop borrowing from the ADB and China “until a full investigation and transparency of our foreign debt has been carried out”.
Other economic policies include a five-year income tax exemption for local growers and farmers, a phase-out of purse seine fishing, and a plan to “ensure that foreign workers will only be employed in labour shortage areas”.
Steps will also be taken to “reduce the reliance on these workers by developing the trade training sector and investment in apprenticeships”.
On the infrastructure front, the party says they will re-establish a subsidy on rainwater harvesting, establish an independent regulatory body for telecommunications, “get a better and more viable shipping service working for the Cook Islands”, and initiate bans on certain plastic products.
And as far as government accountability goes, the Demo Party plans to “examine the cost and effectiveness of all government boards, committees and agents”, while also enacting a “code of conduct” for all government ministers.
This code would be enforced by a newly established body that will oversee the conduct of ministers and impose sanctions on any who violate the code.
Finally, an Independent Commission Against Corruption will be established, with the express goal of combatting serious crimes and corruption to “improve the integrity of the Cook Islands community and the public sector”.
The full five-page manifesto plus an additional longer, more detailed document will be made available on the Demo website later this week.
Meanwhile, finance minister Mark Brown has said that he believes this year’s election will focus around infrastructure development and “managing the economy prudently”.
But also making sure that we address the issues around social development and ensure that the social balance is maintained, so that as the country prospers we are also able to ensure those that are most vulnerable are well looked after.
“Like the elderly, the young, those in need.”